Fear, Hype and the Zika Virus

If you look up fear in a Bible concordance you will find hundreds of     entries. Mentions of fear can be divided into two categories: things we should not fear and the instruction to fear God.

Recently the zika virus has been in the news. Photos of babies born with microcephaly are being shown on TV and social media. Pregnant women are being urged to avoid mosquito bites.

It is helpful to get a little perspective on microcephaly. Many people are unaware but the cytomegalovirus has been linked to microcephaly for decades. Because of my nursing knowledge I looked for recent articles about cytomegalovirus. This article was published in February of this year. You can read the complete article here.

In the US, about 1% of the 4 million babies born every year are infected with CMV, per the Congenital CMV Disease Research Clinic and Registry at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. While most of them—about 90%—won’t show any symptoms, the rest may have at least one of a variety of abnormalities, including hearing loss and microcephaly. That’s around 4,000 affected babies.

For perspective, only 17 of the roughly 400 microcephaly cases confirmed by Brazilian health officials so far have conclusively tested positive for Zika infection, according to the latest data (pdf, pg. 3) from the World Health Organization.

So what about all the media attention on zika and mosquitoes?

zika and mosquitoes

It makes sense to use mosquito repellent and to get rid of standing water around our homes. But we don’t need to live in fear. We still do not have a complete understanding of the zika virus and its role in birth defects. An article in the Tech Times suggests that the outbreak of microcephaly in Brazil could have been caused by the use of a neurotoxic pesticide that got into the water supply. Read the article here.

Suggestions are being made in the media that microcephaly is a reason to support late term abortion.

We live at a time when we value individual autonomy and complete control over the events in our life. The truth is that we don’t have absolute control. The Bible gives guidance for sanitary and dietary measures that support health. At the same time it teaches us that we don’t have absolute control.

We should be informed and wise in the actions we choose.   For the     Christian, security is found in God. We fear and trust God. If we are touched by disease or crisis, God will help us.

Here are the words of Isaiah:

Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold your God will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind will be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

Isaiah 35: 4-6

This post is being shared with Tuesdays with a Twist,  Mom to Mom Mondays,  Word of God Speak,  Thought Provoking Thursday and the Christian Blogger Link-up

World Breastfeeding Week and Learning from History

This week is World Breastfeeding Week. Since 1992 the benefits of breastfeeding, for women and their infants, have been promoted during the first week of August. I admit that I was fortunate. My mother breastfed all of her babies, even though formula feeding had become popular by the 1950s. So, I was on track to breastfeed my babies, too.

In the June 12, 2016 issue of the Wall Street Journal, an obituary for one of the founding members of the La Leche League appeared. Here is a quote from Mary White’s obituary.

In the 1950s, breastfeeding was widely considered backward and unsanitary. Around 80% of U.S. mothers chose formula instead, according to the league. Views gradually changed as researchers piled up evidence of the health benefits of natural feeding. As of 2012, about 80% of mothers were at least attempting to breastfeed, according to the latest government     survey results.

I am thankful that my mother persisted in breastfeeding, even though she was discouraged in doing so by hospital staff. I am thankful for Mary White, and the six other women that joined her, in forming the La Leche League.

The women pressed forward, learning and supporting each other. They were persistent when the medical field did not realize the benefits of breast milk. Eventually Mary White helped write The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.

Mother Rose Nursing Her Child

As a nurse I can attest to the challenge it has been to recover from the trend of offering formula to infants.   Marketing and financial gain is    involved.

In the years 1929 to 1932, formula companies were limited to advertising their product to doctors. A doctor needed to have a medical reason to substitute formula for breastfeeding.    After 1932 advertising to          consumers was permitted. The market grew and breastfeeding declined.

Before long formula companies were stocking hospitals with gift packs containing sample formula. According to an article in the American     Journal of Diseases in Children(1991) the U.S. formula industry had      developed into a $1.6 billion market.   According to data collected by the  Centers for Disease Control only 33.5% of babies born in 2007 were      exclusively breast-fed for the first three months of life.

We have had to relearn trust in a woman’s body. We are still learning about the negative effects on breastfeeding caused by interventions in childbirth.  Epidural anesthesia and cesarean section may have an         impact.

Breastfeeding
engraving courtesy of wellcome images via creative commons

Women need support and guidance in the days following birth. Here are some guidelines for successful breastfeeding:

  1. Placing the baby skin to skin with mom in the first hour after birth is helpful in getting breastfeeding off to a good start.
  2. Feeding the infant on demand (8 to 12 times in a 24 hour period) builds a mom’s milk supply.
  3. Positioning the baby tummy to tummy with mom, facing the breast, allows the baby to achieve a good latch on the breast.
  4. Good nutrition, plenty of oral fluids and adequate rest support a woman’s milk supply.
  5. Encouragement and support from family members enhances a woman’s efforts.
  6. When difficulties arise a lactation consultant can help.

Medical practice can never be static. It is both a science and an art. In health care, our medical system needs to assess current practice, change where necessary and continue to do research. Economic gain should never be the driving force of medical advice.

Photo by Carin Araujo: courtesy of free images.com
Photo by Carin Araujo: courtesy of free images.com

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Linking with Tuesdays with a Twist, the Art of Homemaking and Mom to Mom Monday

Lacy Loveliness of the Elderberry Bush

Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are familiar. We see them in the grocery store. God has created a multitude of other berries. I feel blessed to have elderberry bushes in my backyard. After reading about the benefits of elderberries I ordered bushes from nursery catalogues. Now I have four bushes and enjoy the different phases as these bushes produce fruit.

In June white lace flowers appear on the branches.

Elderberry flower

In July the berries begin to form.

Elderberries developing

The berry clusters ripen at a staggered pace.  This bush has berries in     different shades of ripeness.

Elderberry Bush

When fully ripe the berries are a deep purple color—almost black.

Elderberries

When the berries are used for jelly or juice, all of the little stems must be removed first.

Harvested Elderberries
Harvested Elderberries

I pick the berries, remove the stems and freeze them until I have enough quantity to make a juice/syrup for the winter.   My recipe for canning       elderberry juice is here.

Linking with A Little R & RHealthy, Happy, Green & NaturalTuesdays with a TwistSue’s Wordless Wednesday, Nature Notes and Seasons

Lost! I Need a Map

The traffic on the expressway was light and I was enjoying the book on tape.  Suddenly a road sign for a town that was past my destination      appeared. I had missed my exit. I had to keep driving until another exit came up. Then I pulled over to a small shopping center to figure out where I was.

My husband has reminded me many times that my i-phone has a map application. So I pulled out my phone and typed in the address of my destination.  I had two choices:  turn around and back track on the       expressway or reduce the mileage by taking county roads. I chose the county roads.

The scenery was nicer than the expressway. The road wound through farm country and trees that made an archway across the two-lane road. I became anxious when the weather changed. Dark clouds rolled across the sky and a sudden down pour obscured my vision.

I had to check the map periodically. I am directionally challenged and can easily turn left when I should turn right or vice versa. So I went along with periodic pauses, pulling over when it was safe to verify my route. I breathed a sigh of relief when I began to recognize the street signs. I was so glad to reach my sister’s house safely.

Isn’t this like the believer’s life? Events in life can take us to a confusing place. We don’t know what is true or how to respond. We feel like God is far away. We need to take out God’s word and spend some time in prayer. We need direction from the Lord. The Psalmist expresses this for us.

Give me your lantern and compass, give me a map,
So I can find my way to the sacred mountain,
To the place of your presence,
To enter the place of worship, meet my exuberant God,
Sing my thanks with a harp, magnificent God, my God.

Psalm 43: 3-4   The Message

Send out you light and your truth,
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill and your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
And I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.

Psalm 43: 3-4 ESV

Linking with Grace & TruthThought Provoking Thursday,  Sitting Among Friends and Word of God Speak

Favorite Gluten-free Muffins (and they are easy to make!)

Why are so many people choosing to eat gluten-free? What is the problem with gluten? People with celiac disease experience a change in the intestinal lining as their body tries to digest gluten. Other people have a gluten sensitivity.

A number of theories suggest the reason for the increasing number of people experiencing a gluten sensitivity. Research studies show that children born by cesarean section have an increased rate of allergy.

Parents in Europe sought the advice of Dr. Wakefield (a gastroenterologist) when their children had changes in their digestion following the MMR vaccine.

Another theory is that the biotechnology involved in producing large crops may be changing the quality of wheat.

My family began pursuing a gluten-free diet when our twins (born by cesarean section) had food intolerances. Their problems increased after the MMR vaccine.

I have experimented with gluten-free baking over the years. These muffins are a favorite with the grandchildren.

½ C. melted butter
2 eggs beaten
1 C. almond milk or rice milk
1 Tblsp. lemon juice
1 + ½ C. gluten free flour
(A gluten free flour blend by Namaste Foods is available at Cosco)
½ C. sugar
½ C. almond meal (available at Trader Joe’s)
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 C. raspberries or blueberries

Preheat the oven to 375° Grease the muffin cups—preparing for 16 muffins (eighteen if you stretch the batter for smaller muffins). I like to put the muffin tins in the oven about 5 minutes before I add the batter. This procedure (melted grease in hot muffin cups) seems to make it easy to remove the muffins after baking.

In a medium size bowl combine the melted butter, eggs and milk. Add the tablespoon of lemon juice.

In a large bowl combine the flour, almond meal, baking soda and salt. Mix well. Mix in the berries, coating them with the flour mixture. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring just to combine. Then spoon the batter into the hot muffin cups. Bake at 375° for 20 – 25 minutes.

Linking with A Little R & R,  Tuesdays with a Twist, the Art of Homemaking and Mom to Mom Mondays

Seeking Truth with Prayer

Each day, as I listen to the news I am deeply saddened. What is happening in our country? The reports of violence and death shake our sense of security. I think about my grandchildren and the world they are growing up in.

Social issues and politics have become so divisive. It seems to me that it is hard to get to the truth on polarized topics.

Yesterday I posted a link on Facebook to an article about the HPV        vaccine, stating one of the researchers disagreed with widespread use of it in the U.S.  The vaccine prevents a sexually transmitted infection,       human papillomavirus.  Almost immediately a friend posted a link with an opposing opinion.  So I did some more internet searches and found an article written by Dr. Harper, the researcher in question.  The article, Next Generation Cancer Protection: The Bivalent HPV Vaccine for Females, details the medical research and includes this paragraph:

Prophylactic HPV vaccination will have little cancer-reducing effect in the general screened population, but may prevent cervical cancer among those with no screening opportunities.   Prophylactic vaccination may help       decrease the numbers of women who develop abnormal cytology screens among those who are screened. Modeling indicates that HPV vaccination will prevent potentially 17% of the abnormal Pap tests based on current knowledge of HPV type distribution (Figure 3) [73] and only a very few cancers that Pap testing would not have detected [74, 75], not enough to lower the population incidence of cervical cancer lower than what screening already accomplishes [76].

I believe that knowing the truth about vaccines (benefit and the risk), and making informed decisions is important. In so many areas of life we need to pursue truth.

While Jesus was on earth he talked about truth many times. His counsel and prayer with the disciples in John 17 speaks to my heart and gives me courage.

I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. John 17: 15-21

Jesus prayed in the days leading up to his sacrifice for us. We have the opportunity to lift our prayers to the Lord. Thomas R. Kelly highlights the importance of prayer throughout each day.

Use what little obedience you are capable of, even if it be like a grain of mustard seed.  Begin where you are.  Live this present     moment, this present hour as you now sit in your seats, in utter, utter submission and openness toward God. Listen outwardly to these words, but within, behind the scenes, in the deeper levels of your lives where you are all alone with God the Loving Eternal One, keep up a silent prayer, “Open Thou my life. Guide my thoughts where I dare not let them go. But Thou darest. Thy will be done.” Walk on the streets and chat with your friends.   But every moment behind the scenes be in prayer, offering yourselves in continuous obedience.*

* Thomas R. Kelly “Holy Obedience” (lecture, 1939)

Linking with Word of God Speak, Let Us Grow and Thought Provoking Thursday

Berries, Cherries and a Beetle Infestation

It is a good year for berries and cherries. I have been harvesting cherries, raspberries, currants and gooseberries. My cherry tree and berry bushes have been delightfully full of fruit.

It is also a good year for the Japanese beetles. I have had some every year.

Japanese Beetle

 

It has been my practice to check the bushes and knock the beetles off into a container of soapy water. Typically the beetles have been on my raspberry bushes and rose bushes.

The leaves on the raspberry bush are a tell tale sign.

Beetles & Berry_3998

A couple weeks ago I looked out of my kitchen window and noticed that the leaves on the upper branches of my cherry tree were all eaten. Whoa! !

Beetle trap_5403

 

I tried my method of knocking beetles into soapy water. I stood on a chair and used a long stick. Some times the beetles fell in the water, sometimes they fell on my head or on my clothes. I enlisted the help of my son. We picked off hundreds of beetles.

My husband said we needed to find an additional method. So after doing an on-line search I bought a beetle trap that has floral scents and a pheromone lure. The reviews of such a trap were mixed.

I followed the directions and hung the trap on a pole away from the cherry tree, away from the raspberry bushes and rose bushes. To my amazement the trap began to attract beetles immediately.

Beetle trap_5409

In one afternoon the trap had a large heap of beetles.

Japanese Beetle Trap

So I wonder, is this a banner year for the beetles? Or can I expect this to happen again next year? I looked up the life cycle of Japanese beetles and discovered that the females burrow in the ground after dusk and lay eggs that hatch into pupa, become grubs and emerge as beetles the next season. We may need to treat the lawn. Grubs feed on the roots of grass, tomatoes and strawberries—and of course I have all of these in my yard!

The infestation is discouraging—but I have much to be thankful for. My freezer is filling up with berries. The elderberry bushes are full of blooms.

Elderberry Bush in bloom

 

I will have lots of elderberries in August (and the beetles aren’t touching those bushes). I will be canning elderberry juice for the winter months.

Linking with Tuesdays with a Twist,  Sue’s Wordless WednesdayNature Notes,  Seasons and the Art of Homemaking

Ezekiel on Heart of Stone and Heart of Flesh

It was good to hear President Obama quote from Ezekiel 11:19 during the memorial service for the slain Dallas police officers. He was expressing the hope that the people of this country can come together and put aside past hurts and prejudice to resolve our problems. I share this hope. It is helpful to look at the larger context for this verse.

The prophet Ezekiel is speaking to Israel.

Thus says the Lord God:  I will gather you from the peoples and      assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. And when they come there, they will remove from it all the detestable things and all its abominations. Ezekiel 11:17-18

God is our redeemer and healer. We need to turn to God for help. We cannot solve the problems of this age on our own.

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds on their own heads, declares the Lord God. Ezekiel 11: 19-21

Repentance. We need repentance. We need to see where we have strayed from God’s precepts and direction for living.  We are self-centered by     nature, yet God asks us to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is easy to carry a grudge,  but Jesus instructs us to forgive as we have been         forgiven. Life is a precious gift given by God—do we honor all life in word and deed? It has to begin within the Church. It has to begin with me.

Search me and try me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:16

Show me my prejudice and my lack of love. Forgive my sins, and tenderize my heart towards the hurting. Be at work in my life so that I can be an agent of healing.

Linking with Tell It to Me TuesdayWord of God Speak,  Let Us GrowSitting Among Friends and Thought Provoking Thursday

A Bluebell Bellflower & the Rocks and Waves of Lake Superior

“Grandma, come see the blue flowers I found.”

I followed my granddaughter along a rocky path, as waves pounded the shore of Lake Superior. A light wind brushed against my face. The leaves on the birch trees rustled gently.

There they were, bluebells, growing in a crack between the rocks. God created the majesty of Lake Superior and the delicate beauty of the blue flowers—setting them side by side.

Bluebell Bellflower & Lake Superior
Bluebell Bellflower

I was so blessed to spend time at a favorite park with the grandchildren—exploring the rugged coast of this great lake. It was time to pause and take in God’s creative power.  It was a break from the news of sad and   violent events taking place in our country and throughout the world.

Esrey Roadside Park

The Psalms come to mind and the beautiful rhythm of faith displayed in the words of the Psalms. We read heart wrenching prayers and confessions. We are instructed to spend time in the Word. Still, the Psalmist takes time to pause and observe God’s power and sovereignty. He sees God’s majesty in nature giving him the glory.

Lake Superior

Psalm 93

The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty;
The Lord is robed in majesty
and is armed with strength.
The world is firmly established;
it cannot be moved.
Your throne was established long ago;
You are from all eternity.

The seas have lifted up, O Lord,
the seas have lifted up their voice;
The seas have lifted up their pounding waves.
Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea—
the Lord on high is mighty.

Your statutes stand firm;
Holiness adorns your house
For endless days, O Lord.

Linking with Thankful ThursdayTuesdays with a Twist,  Seasons, Sue’s Wordless Wednesday,  Let Us Grow and Word of God Speak

Decision Was a Sad Day for Women’s Health

This letter was first published on the editorial page of the Daily Herald on July 3.  I was sorting through my thoughts about the Supreme Court decision when I wrote this:

Is it a victory for women? The Supreme Court overturned a Texas law that would have required safety regulations for abortion clinics.

Two years ago Joan Rivers was in an outpatient surgical clinic that did have safety regulations that were violated, and she died. The outcry was huge, and rightly so. The director of the clinic stepped down and a large settlement was made with River’s family.

What happens when an abortion clinic—which is an outpatient      surgical clinic— doesn’t have to meet safety standards?  What     happens when a woman is injured or dies at this clinic?

Abortion providers aren’t concerned. They are profiting from women in difficult circumstances.   Poor women or desperate women are more    likely to seek care at a Planned Parenthood clinic. Are we comfortable with the idea that these women deserve less?

I have to wonder if Justices Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayer would feel comfortable having a surgical procedure in a clinic that is unregulated and unsafe. Justice Ginsburg wrote in her opinion that abortion is safer than childbirth. That is a blanket generalization. I have been a childbirth nurse for more than 30 years, and I disagree.

Childbirth ranges from a normal physiologic birth (which is safer than abortion) to high-risk pregnancies and births that require medical intervention. I think I can assume that Justice Ginsburg has never seen the tools that are used in a surgical abortion. Nor is she aware of the medications that may be involved.

It is a sad day for women. Five Justices struck down a Texas law that     established common sense safety practices for abortion clinics.