Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Modern Medicine May Not Be Doing Your Microbiome Any Favors

I subscribe to NPR's Fresh Air podcast, and an episode came up recently that really rang all of my bells.

Since autism invaded our life, I've been doing an insane amount of research. Much of what I've learned has pointed back to gut flora, and how crucial it is that we have healthy and diverse good bacteria in our guts.

Just for a very basic introduction, we all have good bacteria and bad bacteria in our guts (known collectively as our microbiome). Many things affect what bacteria is in our guts and which of those strains thrive inside us, including our mother's gut flora, how we were born, whether we were breastfed and for how long, our diet, our hormones, and the medicines we take. Unfortunately, the bad bacteria is stronger and more aggressive than the good stuff, so it tends to take over easily.

So much of Terry's interview with Martin Blaser, author of Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues (affiliate link), reinforced what I'd already learned about the gut. I was blown away, though, when he started talking about how babies born via c-section had different (and poorer) gut flora, because they don't get exposed to the good bacteria that other babies get when they pass through the birth canal. He said his wife is researching something that I've only every heard extreme hippies talk about, which is the importance of, in a c-section birth, swabbing the mother and transferring that good bacteria to the baby manually. I was just so excited to hear that a real scientist is studying it! If you are pregnant or ever hope to be pregnant, you really don't want to miss this interview!

My one critique of this interview is that he doesn't mention diet as a factor in our gut health. As a doctor who is an expert on the human microbiome, I have to assume that he is aware of this, but his focus for this book and interview was limited.

Regardless, another interview from NPR, this time on Science Friday, makes a good companion piece to the Blaser interview. If you are interested in learning more about how diet affects your microbiome, I'd highly recommend reading or listening to this interview with Michael Pollan about his new book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (affiliate link). I heard this interview several months ago and it has really stuck with me.

I'm so encouraged by the things that we are learning about the gut microbiome and its importance for health. I'm so eager for this information to make its way through the medical community and through the population at large. There is so much that needs to change about the average American (or any developed country, really) lifestyle if we are going to be healthy people and have healthy children and grandchildren.

If you are interested in a really beautifully made and easy-to-understand introduction to all of this, then you may enjoy this video below. I've watched it probably a dozen times now, and I still enjoy it every time.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Giving up Facebook

I've never given anything up for Lent before, but I decided to quietly give up Facebook for Lent this year. I had Josh change my password to something I didn't know, and logged out on all of my devices. I didn't even announce that I was doing it, because I was afraid I wouldn't make it. But the longer I went without it, the happier I was.

There are so many good things about Facebook. I love the ability to keep in touch with friends and family who don't live near me, and to know what is going on in your lives. I love the support I've found and wisdom I've gleaned from several groups there: one for local parents of kids with disabilities, one for people on the GAPS diet, one for our homeschool group, etc. I love how easy it is to share pictures and videos with my parents who have yet to get smartphones, but are on Facebook.

But I've realized that Facebook has a way of tempting me to sin in ways that are already struggles for me.

Selfishness and pride are fed as I constantly check to see who has liked my pictures or posts, and if there are any new comments on them.

Covetousness and seeds of doubt about God's goodness toward me fill my heart every time a new pregnancy announcement pops up, or I scroll past a video of a typically developing kid doing or saying things that Jude can't.

Laziness creeps in as I think, "I'll just check Facebook really quickly," and then suddenly realize I've been sitting on it for an hour, ignoring my son and my home.

Those are not pretty things to admit to, but there they are.

A clean kitchen is still not always easy for me to achieve, but was almost impossible before giving up Facebook.

I just wanted to share all of that in order to show that I'm not saying Facebook is inherently bad. I don't think you are sinning for being on Facebook. I have plenty of friends who don't struggle with these particular sins, and who don't spend much time on Facebook. But for me, it brought out a number of ugly sins, and I let it go on for way too long.

I'm not deactivating my account just yet. There is so much history in the pages of my timeline, and I need to find a way to save all of that before deactivating. If you know of an easy way to do that, please tell me. And please do so in a comment here, not on Facebook, since I've decided to keep things the way they were for Lent and remain logged off.

Almost three years ago.

Giving up Facebook won't cure my heart of these sins. Like I said, they are ones that I already struggled with. But Facebook seems to be like a magnifying glass or megaphone with these sins, making them bigger and louder in my heart, and so much more difficult to defeat.

I would like to challenge you to consider the effect Facebook has on your heart and life, if any. Do you only get on occasionally to see what people are up to, or to post a new photo, and then you have no trouble walking away from it? Or do you spend hours every day on it, neglecting your kids, home, or job? Do you feel an almost uncontrollable compulsion to check every few minutes to see if someone new has commented on something you posted? Do you genuinely rejoice with others when God blesses them with a new baby, car, home, or job? Or do you find jealousy and covetousness clouding your heart as you scroll past these happy announcements?

While many people aren't tempted to sin by Facebook, I can't be the only one with these struggles, and I can't be the only one who would benefit from logging off.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Meet the Camper

I've been sitting on this dream for a long time, and finally got the nerve to bring it up with Josh's Mamaw and Papaw.

See, they have an old camper that sits in their driveway. Since joining the family, I've heard stories of how they used to take it camping with Josh's mom and uncle, and of how later on Josh's parents would take him and his sister, Jessi, camping in it. Jessi even had a sleepover in it in the driveway for (I think) her 12th birthday.

But that sweet camper has been sitting unused for about the last 15 years.

As Jude's gotten a little older, we've learned that he loves to walk/hike trails. This has fired up in both of us a desire to go camping and hiking as a family. The problem is, we don't really think he'd do well in a tent. And with our crazy diet and the insane amount of cooking I do for us, we really can't do without a kitchen. And let's be honest, I'd just rather have a real bathroom.

So when I finally asked them what they thought about us fixing it up and using it again, we were excited that they were on board with the idea! I think they like the idea of it getting a second chance at adventure. Mamaw let us in to look around when we were there last, and I took several pictures on my phone. So without further ado, meet the camper:

She's a 1974 (probably, Papaw said they bought it new in 1974) Midas Volunteer. She still has the original everything, even down to the tires. That fiberglass rock guard on the front folds up to reveal a big window. As you walk in the door, this is your view:

That white thing on the wall by the stove is a table that folds out. If you look to your left (below), you'll see the dining area. There's a place in the floor for a good sized collapsable table that can be taken in and out for meals. The bench also folds down into a full-sized bed (Mamaw would kill me if she knew that she and her cluttered camper were on the internet, but isn't she such a cute Mamaw?):

Across from the dining bench is the kitchen, with a 4-burner gas stove, oven, and double basin sink, plus tons of storage space. I couldn't believe how much storage this little camper has all over:

A little bit better view of the kitchen area:

To the left of the sink is a fridge and heater. The camper has heat, but no air, so I see us using it the most in spring and fall!

If you turn around from there and look the other way, you'll see another couch that folds down into a bed, and a twin bunk folds down on top, too. I was also impressed by the number of windows the camper has. Even with most of the curtains pulled closed, it was pretty bright in there:

Turning back around to the back of the camper, I was shocked by how big this bathroom was! It's the whole width of the camper:

Looking left inside the bathroom, there is a huge closet, and you can see in there the pop-up table I mentioned earlier:

And looking to the right, you can see the decent sized shower and tub. A tub is such a huge plus for us, because Jude doesn't like showers at all:

And that's the full tour! Josh's plan is to spiff her up just enough to be able to take her camping a few times before putting more time and money into all of the fun stuff like painting, new couch covers and curtains (as sweet as Mamaw's homemade towel curtains are, I'm eager to continue the homemade curtain legacy with a slightly updated look), and other aesthetic updates. But as you can tell, just getting her back in camping shape will take a good bit of work.

 I'm so excited about this and its potential for new adventures for us! Please feel free to share any camping or renovation tips you might have. I've got a Pinterest board for renovation inspiration and tips, if you're interested, and I've been reading up a lot on vintage camper restoration forums, but we have SO much to learn!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

We're Going to Malawi!

No, not permanently. And Jude's staying with his grandparents while we're gone. But Josh and I will be traveling to Malawi for two weeks in June!

Eric and Stephanie Chapman are the missionaries we worked with in Moldova. They've been living in Moldova since just after the fall of the Soviet Union, and they've been traveling to Malawi a couple of times per year to start churches and care for orphans there for several years. As the local men who run the school and camps in Moldova have taken over more and more duties, and as the local churches in Malawi have been vigorously sharing the gospel and planting new churches, Eric and Stephanie have been called to move to Malawi so they can focus more of their energies there, while still overseeing and supporting the work in Moldova.

Most of the new churches that are being planted in Malawi are being led by lay-pastors who are recent converts themselves. As you can imagine, these men have a great need for Bible training so that they can teach others. Eric explains things in more detail in the following video, which he and Stephanie made just for us:

Training Pastors in Malawi from Joshua Caleb Hutchens on Vimeo.

Josh will be teaching theology to the first group of pastors for 4 days in Zomba. For the second week, we will be traveling to a region known as the Lower Shire, which I'm told is very remote and primitive. There, Josh will teach an abbreviated version of his theology lectures four days in a row to a different group of pastors each day. During all of this, I will be helping Stephanie teach the women and children and of course I'll also be taking lots and lots of pictures.

Here is one more video Eric shared recently telling about some rallies they've been having:

Please pray for Eric and Stephanie and the work they and the local pastors are doing in Malawi, and also for our trip!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

An Easter Grammar Lesson: He is Risen

Sitting here on this snowy April 15th morning (yes, in Kentucky), I got the idea to do an Easter bunting with Jude as part of our school work. I could print out the letter outlines and he could color them, and then together we could glue them onto bunting flags and hang them in our new standard bunting location: across the big map in the dining room, as seen below with the fall leaves Jude painted back in November:

It didn't take me long to decide I wanted the bunting to say, "He is risen." Or is it, "He has risen?" I googled. It's definitely, "He is risen." But why?

Wait a second. Haven't I been here before? Yes, I have! I had the same issue come up a couple of years ago (or FOUR.... goodness, how time flies) when I made a Christmas bunting that said, "The Lord is Come."

As I learned while making that bunting, the now practically extinct unaccusative intransitive form of risen, in this case, actually packs more of a theological punch than you might expect at first glance. 

To say, "He has risen," puts the emphasis on the action of rising, and implies that Jesus is the one who initiated the rising.

But to say, "He is risen," puts the emphasis on the fact that he is now alive, and implies that Jesus is not the one who initiated this rising, but that he was raised by the Father.

I know grammar isn't the most exciting thing in the world, but I hope that moves you like it does me. Have a blessed Holy Week and Resurrection/Easter Sunday, friends.


ETA: Since writing this, I've realized that most translations actually do say, "He has risen" in Matthew 28, but the KJV says, "He is risen." Warning: serious grammar nerdiness ahead. Proceed at your own risk.

I asked my Greek scholar husband to look at it for me in the Greek, and he said that "risen" is in the aorist tense, which isn't marked as a specific form of past tense, so it is free to be interpreted either as:

1. "He is risen."

2. " He has risen."
3. " He was raised."

I thought it was interesting that the aorist tense can also be used to emphasize the success of an effort. God raising Jesus from the dead was certainly a success, as was the more overarching effort of Jesus' perfect life, his becoming our sin on the cross and dying in our stead, and his conquering of death and Satan in his resurrection.

So, although "He has risen," is certainly not incorrect, I like the emphasis that the KJV form of this sentence gives us. Like I said before, it packs more of an inherent theological punch than the others.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Reason I Jump: An Inside Look at Autism

Josh and I recently heard about, and immediately purchased, the book The Reason I Jump. It was written by Naoki Higashida, a nonverbal autistic boy, when he was 13 years old. It is largely in the format of a Q&A with his mother, and his answers are fascinating, encouraging, and convicting. He clearly reveals that there is so much more going on in the minds of nonverbal kids than they are able to let on. This book has significantly changed the way I relate to Jude, and I couldn't be more thankful to have found it. I think it goes without saying that I would recommend it to anyone who loves someone with autism, especially if they are nonverbal!

Jude has been learning how to write, draw, use scissors, and more!

Last month I shared on facebook this quote from the book, which really moved me:
"Children with autism are also growing and developing every single day, yet we are forever being treated like babies. I guess this is because we seem to act younger than our true age, but whenever anyone treats me as if I'm still a toddler, it really hacks me off... I'm not asking you to deliberately use difficult language when you talk to people with autism--just that you treat us as we are, according to our age. Every single time I'm talked down to, I end up feeling utterly miserable--as if I'm being given zero chance of a decent future."

And today Josh read me a quote that jumped out at us just as much, especially in light of our recent realization that home is the best place for Jude to learn:
"Whatever else is going on, I’m always hungry to learn about lots of different things. It really gets me down that people just don’t understand how hungry for knowledge people with autism actually are…. I want to grow up learning a million things! There must be countless other people with autism who have the same desire, the same attitude. But our problem is, we aren’t capable of studying all by ourselves. To be able to study like other people, we need more time and different strategies and approaches. And those people who help us study, they actually need more patience than we do. They need to understand our eagerness to learn, even though from the outside we may not appear to be keen students. But we are. We, too, want to grow."

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Love Letters: Part 4

It's been a while since I shared another part of the Love Letters Saga. I'm not going to lie, it's kind of embarrassing to be reminded of how silly and flippant all of my letters were! To start at the beginning, go to Part 1.

I want to write a letter just because I have a really nice pen in my pocket!! Wow...Stacy Leigh=TOO easily amused. I accidentally stole one of Martha's pens last night after borrowing it for LC. I will give it back, I promise, but I want to write a letter with it first because the ink comes out smooth and thick and I like it. ☺

I like my teachers a lot. In the morning when it’s time to get up, I don’t usually want to, but when I get to school, I find myself really enjoying it. I feel like that sentence had way too many commas. That’s why I don’t write with pens very often… I mess up too much. Notice that I’m writing in print because it’s slower and I don’t mess up as much. Are you wondering what class I’m in right now? Research and Evaluation in Recreation. Fun times.

Word to non-traditional students. They sure keep class interesting.

You know what would be fun tonight after the basketball game? Phantom of the Opera. I want to see that so bad! I dunno if you’ll feel like it, but I think I’ll at least bring it up.

I feel so bad for you walking by your mailbox every day and not finding anything. I wish these stupid letters would hurry up and get there, dang it. I know how you feel though ‘cause I walked by my mailbox every time I entered my dorm and they were glass so I'd check it every time I went in and out. It gets depressing!

There is a headless skeleton greeting people as we walk through the door of this class. I want to research the medical discoveries that were made at the Nazi concentration camps. We’re talking about research ethics right now and the studies they did on live humans at those camps have always fascinated me. I hope that doesn’t make you think I’m weird! I’ve always thought the Holocaust was interesting… [Note: I didn't mean that in a good way! The Holocaust was a horrible, horrible, horrible thing. I know that. It's just always been something I've found interesting and I enjoy learning about. In a way, I feel like it honors the victims and survivors to learn about the horrors they suffered.]

Anyways, I'm sorry again for this being so random. I'm going to cut it a little short though because I think I may actually need to pay attention.

Until next time!
Stacy Leigh Browning

The next piece of mail Josh received was a card with a picture of two 1960s show girls on it. (The kind of show girls who are well-covered with fancy, crazy costumes and headdresses... not the dirty kind!) The outside of the card reads, "I, for one, am glad there are no people like show people. Show people creep me out." The inside says, "If you become show people, I'll have to rethink everything."

Stacy wrote, "Just giving you a fair warning. I'd hate for you to get too attached and then one day decide you want to be show people. - Stacy Leigh"

January 31, 2005
Dear Stacy Leigh,
I’ve just been confronted again by the reality of how little I love Christ. O, to love Him as I ought! To think of the weight of the Curse upon Him and the lightness of my love for Him! Lord, let us know what happened on that cross and in that grave. May their conqueror be our single desire! Amen.

I want to tell you once again how much I enjoyed this weekend. (My gel pen is about to run dry! ☹) It amazed me how much closer we become with every moment we spend with each other. I remember calling you in November, scared to death because I had no idea what we would talk about, and now we could carry on conversations clear through the night into the morning if we would allow ourselves (dry pen ☹), and still not run out of things to talk about. You always tell (switching pens ☹) me how much you “enjoy me,” and, not that this was ever in doubt but I wanted to say it, I enjoy you too.

I remember at some point that last night you asked me if it was alright for you to pray something. I can’t remember now what that prayer was, but I do know what I wish I would have told you. Pray what you want, what you desire. Just be honest with God. He doesn’t care about “super holy” phrases or formulas. He knows your every thought, no use trying to hide them. Then He will either give what you ask or change your desire, at least that is my understanding of prayer. I share with him openly thoughts and hopes about us that I would never tell you or anyone else at this point. I’m not afraid of not getting what I want because I know that God will give me a want for what I get. Make sense?

Change of subject, I love that you are falling so deeply in love with Hardin Baptist Church, but be warned! If you fall in love with Hardin Baptist, you might not be able to help yourself from falling in love with their favorite son (and I don’t mean Kory!). ☺ But in all seriousness, it does bless me to see you loving the people that I love: my family, my church, my friends. You’ve even found a way to bring my two sets of friends, church friends and high school friends together. Who knows? You may even begin to love other things I love: Lord of the Rings, masculine poetry, or maybe even your nose!

Let me know about any rising affections. ☺

HBC’s favorite son,
Joshua Caleb Hutchens

P.S. Keep the letters coming! Yes, they are random, and I LOVE it! I wish I could get between your ears sometimes, and this is pretty close.

[The letter is written on a file paper with the headings “Murray State University, Health Services, Medications” on the top. It also has a place to list drug allergies.]

Joshua, I’m in the middle of another letter right now, but I’m not allowed to work on it while I’m at work so I thought it would be fun to write you on the papers that I usually journal prayers on when things get slow around here. How’s this for fancy schmancy-pants stationery? ☺ These are the papers we put in everyone’s files for the nurses to write down the medicines they prescribe. Anyway, somehow it’s okay for me to write on these but not okay to write on notebook paper (we have a ‘no homework’ policy).

I have GOT to tell you about this dream I had last night! It was the freakiest dream I’ve had in a long time. Basically, “they” (whoever “they" were) were going around killing everybody. And when I say everybody, I don’t mean they were running through the streets shooting people, it was more like they were killing off the entire human race and when they came to your town you went and waited to be killed. It was the most disturbing thing! On my way to where they killed everybody I ran into a radio station that had been left unmanned and, of course, radio needed to keep going until everybody was dead (I really couldn’t explain the logic) so I stopped to run it. The only problem was that I had no idea how to run a radio station so I went to where everyone was waiting to be killed to find you. It was like a huge banquet hall and everybody was sitting at round tables. You were sitting with Katie and Bro. Mike and Leslie and a few others that I don’t recall. I told you about the radio station and you went to go run it and I went home I think with Katie. Somehow, the people who were killing everyone were finally stopped and a few of us (including you, thanks to me ☺) survived.

So how’s that for your debut in my dreamland? Pretty jacked up, huh? I knew you’d be up by 7 AM and I almost called you this morning just ‘cause it shook me up so bad! But it’s official, you’re now the man of my dreams! ☺

That’s about all I’ve got, considering I’ve already got another letter going in my backpack. I just wanted to make sure I told you about that dream before I forgot!

 Dreaming of you,
Stacy Leigh