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Favorite Posts of 2013 and Giveaway

It’s hard to believe 2013 is coming to a close. It’s been a good year for me, (considering what the last decade has been like, that’s saying a lot).

As this year ends, I like to look back and reflect…
I’m so grateful to my awesome God for all He’s taught me, done through me, healed in me, and provided for me! I’m thankful for the new friends He’s given me, the fun I’ve had, and the things He’s accomplished. I see His beautiful fingerprints all over my life this past year. 
I hope you can also reflect on God’s blessings to you in 2013. Even when they’re hard to see, I know they’re still there. As I read back through the many posts I’ve written this year, I was reminded of even more blessings that I had already forgotten. I’m so thankful God never fails in His kindness to us, even when we so quickly forget. 
I enjoyed reading the old posts again so much that I decided to list a few of my favorites today – and also offer a little post-Christmas giveaway. =) (details below)
Some of my favorite posts from 2013:
Hope
Worship
Perspective from Pain
Got Parasites?
How to Express Love & Support to Those with Chronic Illness
I Hear What I Say…
I Can Party!
Giveaway – Your turn! Leave a comment on this post telling us which is your favorite Super EI Girl blog post of 2013 and why it’s your favorite. I’ll randomly pick a winner to receive a copy of my book “Grace In Time Of Need.” (a paperback copy for USA residents, ebook for anyone outside the USA) Be sure to leave your comment by the end of the day on December 31st. I’ll announce the winner in next week’s blog post.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! =)

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A Not So Merry Christmas

I think it’s safe to say that the first Christmas was not much fun. Amazing, yes. Miraculous, yes. Fun, no. 

Joseph and Mary must have been exhausted from their journey. The only place for them to take shelter was a stable with smelly livestock. No central heat. No warm, soft beds. No family or friends to help Mary with her first birth. 
What a difficult night that must have been!
I imagine it wasn’t much fun for Jesus either. Not only the trauma of being born, but the completely foreign experience of being a helpless baby. Jesus, the eternal Son of God – who spoke the world into existence – became an infant. He entered a dark, cold, smelly world – after the glories of heaven. 
Definitely not fun. 
I’m not sure where the phrase “Merry Christmas” came from, but I don’t think it was from that first Christmas. The first Christmas was very REAL. It was a long, hard night, with pain and tears, cold and wet, exhaustion and hunger. 
It wasn’t anything like Christmas is today. Even during my worst years of illness, I still had food to eat and a place to sleep. I had friends and family who loved me and prayed for me. Though I sometimes lost sight of my many blessings, they were still there.
Now that I’m healthier and able to enjoy the “fun” parts of Christmas again, I’m reminded that the first Christmas also had something we often don’t have today. It had wonder and worship. 
I’m sure that mixed in with tears of pain were tears of unspeakable joy! The arrival of God’s promised Messiah, the fulfillment of thousands of years of waiting, the miracle of God becoming flesh…. I can’t even imagine how Mary and Joseph must have celebrated in their hearts!  
Then all of heaven sang out declaring the good news! Shepherds rushed to the stable and knelt in worship. And a glorious star shone brighter than ever before. 
Ah, the wonder of that night! 
No, that first Christmas wasn’t fun. But it was profound. And as we celebrate it year after year, we can explore more of the depths of its meaning. We can be reminded of what an awesome God we have!
So whether your Christmas is merry and fun, or not-so-merry and not-so-fun, I pray you’ll be filled anew with the wonder and worship of that first Christmas. I pray you’ll see the harsh realities of that night (and of your own life) in the light of its glorious significance!
A blessed Christmas to you,
-Joanna

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Some Christmas Cheer

In the midst of the busyness, stress, and emotional challenges of this holiday season, keeping a sense of humor is very helpful. Don’t forget to take time to laugh and to find the joy in even little things. 
So here are a few funnies to make you smile today. =)
A father watched his daughter select a very expensive wedding gown for her Christmas wedding. He was overheard to say: 

“I don’t mind giving you away, but must I gift wrap you, too?” 
(from: http://www.clean-jokes-and-humor.com/clean-christmas-jokes.html)
You do know what would have happened if it had been three wise WOMEN instead of men, don’t you? They would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought disposable diapers as gifts!
(from: http://jokes.christiansunite.com/Christmas/The_Three_Wise_Women.shtml)
Last Christmas, grandpa was feeling his age, and found that shopping for Christmas gifts had become too difficult. So he decided to send checks to everyone instead. 
In each card he wrote, “Buy your own present!” and mailed them early. 
He enjoyed the usual flurry of family festivities, and it was only after the holiday that he noticed that he had receiving very few cards in return. Puzzled over this, he went into his study, intending to write a couple of his relatives and ask what had happened. It was then, as he cleared off his cluttered desk that he got his answer. Under a stack of papers, he was horrified to find the gift checks which he had forgotten to enclose with the cards.
(from:http://www.Christian-Jokes.net/Jokes/Christmas-Jokes/229-Christmas-gift-checks.aspx)
Christmas is just plain weird. What other time of the year do you sit in front of a dead tree in your living room eating candy and snacks out of your socks. 
On the Sunday before Christmas Reverend Billy Graham was walking down Highland street in Mt Holly, North Carolina on his way to see a parishioner. However, he wanted to post a parcel urgently so he asked a young boy where he could find the post office. When the boy had directed him, Reverend Graham thanked him and said, ‘If you’ll come to the Church this evening, you can hear me telling everyone how to get to heaven.’ 
The boy replied, ‘I think I’ll give your sermon a miss. If you don’t even know your way to the post office, how will you lead me to heaven?’ 
(from: http://www.you-can-be-funny.com/CleanChristmasJokes.html)
Here are two of my favorite humorous Christmas posts from years past:
The EI Christmas Album
You Know You’re An EI At Christmas Time When…
And finally, a little story to remind us of the true reason for the season:
Who Started Christmas?
This morning I heard a story on the radio of a woman who was out Christmas shopping with her two children.  After many hours of looking at row after row of toys and everything else imaginable, and after hours of hearing both her children asking for everything they saw on those many shelves, she finally made it to the elevator with her two kids. 
She was feeling what so many of us feel during the holiday season time of the year. Overwhelming pressure to go to every party, every housewarming, taste all the holiday food and treats, getting that perfect gift for every single person on our shopping list, making sure we don’t forget anyone on our card list, and the pressure of making sure we respond to everyone who sent us a card.  
Finally the elevator doors opened and there was already a crowd in the car. She pushed her way into the car and dragged her two kids in with her and all the bags of stuff. When the doors closed she couldn’t take it anymore and stated, “Whoever started this whole Christmas thing should be found, strung up and shot.”  
From the back of the car everyone heard a quiet calm voice respond, “Don’t worry we already crucified him.” 
For the rest of the trip down the elevator it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.  
Don’t forget this year to keep the One who started this whole Christmas thing in your every thought, deed, purchase, and word. If we all did it, just think of how different this whole world would be.
(from: http://keepingchristinchristmas.com/humor.htm)
Merry Christmas!

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Personalized Exercise

Experts agree that exercise is key to maintaining good health. And in most situations it’s an important key for recovering good health. 

I’ve mentioned before that there are times when exercise is not the best thing for your body. If you’re dealing with severe adrenal or thyroid issues for example, then exercising can actually do more harm than good. It’s helpful to have a trusted health provider who can advise you if/when you should not exercise for a period of time. 
If exercise is not the best thing for you right now, then be sure you’re keeping up with lymphatic massage (since without exercise the lymphatic system won’t keep moving properly). Also do deep breathing and stretches as regularly as possible. 
But in general, exercise is a great tool for healing. Dr. Mercola has an excellent article about the valuable and life-saving benefits of exercise. The important thing is to personalize exercise to what works best for your body. 
There is no one exercise program that works for everyone. And what your body needs will change, especially if you’re recovering from years of illness. If you don’t have a trusted health provider to give you guidance, then start small with whatever method seems best for you. 
Here are some basic exercise options:
1) Walking – Make sure you have good shoes to support your feet and legs. Try not to walk on busy streets or anywhere you’d be breathing toxic fumes. 
2) Exercise bike – This is a good indoor option. A bike is especially helpful if you lack strength to stand for long. Set the tension at the lowest setting to start.
3) Aerobic exercise – Again, make sure you have good shoes. Always start slowly, allowing the body to warm up, then cool down afterward with slow movements and then stretches. There are many good aerobic videos that you can follow.
4) Core strengthening exercises – These include things like planks, bridges, leg lifts, etc. A strong core is important for overall health and the strain of daily tasks. Here’s a good article about these exercises and instructions for some of them. Just remember to keep your current condition in mind and don’t start with aanything too hard. (My physical therapist said I could start with wall push-ups – leaning against the wall to do push-ups. Then I’ll work up to incline push-ups, and later to regular floor push-ups.) 
There are a lot of exercise programs out there to follow. Just remember to always start slow and listen to your body. If you can only handle 2 minutes at first, that’s fine – start there. Gradually increase as you’re able. Pay attention to your body and learn when to push it ever so slightly, and when to back down if necessary.  It’s vital to stay within your “training zone,” as it’s sometimes called. Remember my motto – “Start somewhere and do what you can.” =) 
I started exercising a few years ago with about three minutes on an exercise bike. Then I had to stop for a while as my thyroid went through a healing process. Later I began again with about four minutes of (very low-impact) aerobics. I’ve gradually increased, and now I’m able to do 9-10 minutes of aerobics 4 days a week. I’m also adding in some core strengthening exercises. I spent most of the last 9 years lying in bed, so now that I’m actually upright most of the day I really need to build up my core muscles. 
I’m very thankful that it actually feels good to exercise now! I hope you find a personalized exercise program that works for you. Let me know how it goes. =) 

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SOO Thankful!

As I celebrate the wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, I have SOO much to be grateful for! 

This November marks 9 years since my health collapsed. After many years of suffering, I’m SO grateful to report that my recovery continues progressing very well! I think I’m healthier now than I’ve probably ever been. God has healed my body of so many things, and 2013 has been quite a year for me! 
– I began the year with a trip to the beach with my family, and I even played soccer for the first time in years!!!






– I was able to join a small group Bible study for the first time since 2004! 










– I bought a rosebush and actually planted it myself!



– I went on a road trip for FUN! =) I spent two weeks traveling, seeing friends and family, and having a great time.

 – I attended a HUGE Bible conference for 3 days and was tremendously blessed! 




– I finally finished the book I started in 2010 – hallelujah!!! And I’m now facilitating a Bible study using that book. Praise God!



– I had my first speaking engagement! It was really fun, and I hope to do more in the future. 







– I actually hung up a shower curtain! (Ah the little things we EI people learn to appreciate!) =) 




– I attended several family get-togethers and have greatly enjoyed being with my family again! 
– I FINALLY got moved back in my bedroom!!! I’ve slept in there about 5 nights so far and seem to be doing well. Thank you God! 
Looking back on this year, I’m overflowing with gratitude! God has done so much for me, in me and through me – to HIS glory! 
I’m thankful He is still the same wonderful God that He’s always been! 
I’m thankful that for now I’m in a season of truly enjoying life. =)
I’m thankful that I can see so clearly how all the years of suffering were worth it, to bring me to where I am today. 
I am SOOO thankful! 
What are you thankful for today?


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Flame Retardants

In September I promised I’d write a more detailed post about flame retardants. Well, I just read this excellent article by Dr. Mercola that pretty much says it all. 

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/12/27/flame-retardant-chemicals.aspx#!
He explains what products have flame retardants, the health dangers involved – especially for children, and how you can reduce your exposure to these toxic chemicals. 
I encourage you to hop over and read his article. Then consider what positive steps you can take to reduce the amount of flame retardant chemicals in your home. And of course, continue with your detoxing program (lymphatic massage, detox baths, deep breathing, stretches, etc.). 
Flame retardants are a serious health threat. I hope this information will help you in protecting yourself and your family. 


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I Hear What I Say…(And So Do You)

Several years ago a health professional told me to start saying “positive affirmations” every day, like:
“Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.” 
I didn’t see how that could possibly be true, and it felt wrong somehow to say it. So I never did. Even though that probably wasn’t the best statement for me to use, it was a good idea to change the words I spoke. Eventually I discovered the powerful effect our words have on us, and I started to use them in a positive way.
The reality is that our brains hear what our mouths say. Every time we say something negative (even if it feels true) about physical symptoms or emotions of frustration, discouragement, etc…it only reinforces that negative idea in the brain and in the body. 
I had to learn to stop saying words that didn’t contribute to good health, and instead practice saying words that promote healing and strengthening in my body.
I think the most powerful statements we can tell ourselves are the ones that begin with “I am….” 
– I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
– I am perfectly designed for a unique purpose.
– I am strong and healthy in every season. (This is one I’ve been using a lot lately.) 
– I am courageous and fearless! 
– I am calm and capable in any situation.
– I am happy, thankful and full of life! 
etc.
Other good statements to use begin with “I can” or “I love” – 
– I can do this! I can handle this. I can enjoy this.” (fill in whatever “this” is for you)
– I love my family! I love my house! I love my life! =)
Believe me, I know at first it can seem awkward to say things that may not “feel” true. But remember that words are a gift from God – to help us change! Our brains control everything in our bodies. If we want change in the body, we need to have change in the brain. And changing our words is probably the best way to make changes in our brains. 
When we tell ourselves positive truths, we are choosing to focus on those things over the negative things. 
I’m not saying that you can tell yourself “I’m healthy” and all health challenges suddenly disappear. 
I am saying that negative words do NOT help in the healing process, but positive words DO. 
So think about the things you usually say to yourself, or that you say about yourself to others. Are those words reinforcing negativity in the brain? If so, consider what statements you can use to replace the negative ones. Start with statements you’re comfortable with, even if it’s something like:
“I’m pressing on. I’m moving forward. I’m making progress.” 
Choose a statement with a positive direction for you and start using it.
Then gradually add in other statements and stretch yourself a little more and more. 
– If you want to be thankful, even though you never feel thankful, then start saying “I love to be thankful.” Your brain will hear that new message and begin to change your attitude. 
– When you feel tempted to discouragement, say “I can be happy!” 
– When you feel challenged, say “I am capable in this situation.”  
Think of it like a game and try to always find a positive statement for each challenging moment.
I can testify that changing our words is an essential step to take in order to continue healing. Our brains need to hear us say things that support health and well-being – because I hear what I say, and so do you! 
So I’ll get you started, ok? =)
You are wonderfully created by God for a unique purpose! 
You are loved more than you can imagine!
You are strong and courageous! 
And you can use positive words as a tool for healing! =) 
Yes and amen.
Your turn! =) Please share in the comments one positive statement you will tell yourself this week.  
P.S. Here’s a really cute video of a little girl using the power of positive words. Enjoy! =) 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qR3rK0kZFkg
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Healthy Mouth, Healthy Life

You might be surprised, but did you know that your mouth is one of the key factors for good health? 
Your mouth affects your health in many different ways, including: 
*What you put in your mouth – what you eat and drink. 
I’ve written several posts on this topic, so I won’t repeat that information here. 
*What comes out of your mouth – what you say.
This is far more important than most of us realize. I’ll talk more about it in next week’s post.  
*The daily care of your mouth – yes, including brushing, flossing, etc. 
Today let’s focus specifically on teeth/mouth care. 
The sad reality is that most teeth/mouth care products sold today actually contain toxic ingredients. It’s important to be aware of this. It’s hard to find 100% non-toxic products, but let’s at least take the time to choose less toxic options, since these are products we use on a daily basis. 
1) Toothbrushes – 
If you’re using a toothbrush made in China it undoubtedly has aluminum, mercury, formaldehyde, and/or various other toxins in higher than normal levels. (In case you aren’t aware, products made in China are highly toxic–avoid them as much as possible.) 
Many health food stores now sell natural fiber toothbrushes. A cheaper alternative is to just make sure the toothbrush you buy is made in the USA or another “safe” country. So far I’ve found toothbrushes made in Switzerland or other European countries to be ok for me. I always wash them in baking soda then let them air before using for the first time.
If you’re using a plastic toothbrush, then be sure to get a new one every 1-3 months. Three months is really the outer limit. And if you’re detoxing a lot, then every 4-6 weeks is better, because the toothbrush gradually fills up with toxins from your mouth. 
Also, do not put your toothbrush in the dishwasher or boil and then continue using. Putting the plastic in scalding hot water may cause it to leach chemicals that you definitely don’t want in your mouth. Just throw it away and buy a new one. Your health is worth it! =)
2) Toothpaste –
Ordinary toothpaste contains several toxic ingredients like flouride, antibiotics, artificial sweeteners and more (this article has more specifics). Using a toxic product like this daily means you’re getting a continual exposure to harmful chemicals.
There are natural toothpastes available, however even some of those can still have potentially problematic ingredients. I used a baking soda-based toothpaste for several years until my dentist told me it was stripping the enamel off my teeth. 
Thankfully, the dental hygenist informed me that toothpaste isn’t actually necessary for healthy teeth. Brushing and flossing is what is important. Since she told me that, I haven’t used any toothpaste. I do usually put the tiniest sprinkle of baking soda on my toothbrush, enough so my mouth feels clean but not enough to harm the enamel.
You can also find toothpaste recipes made with all natural ingredients online.
3) Mouthwash, whiteners, etc. – 
Mouthwash is also toxic, and if it contains alcohol (or ethanol) poses a significant risk for cancer! (Here’s the information about that.) 
If you feel the need to rinse your mouth with something, then try a mild saltwater or mild baking soda solution. (Recommended amount is usually 1/2 tsp in 8 oz of water.)
I’ve also been asked about oil pulling. From my research, I think it has more potential for problems than for healing. (You can be allergic to the oil, you may not be ready for that kind of detox, etc. I also don’t think it’s good to swish anything in your mouth for 20 minutes, as I think you may reabsorb toxins in that time.) If you want to detox effectively, I recommend starting with lymphatic massage and detox baths, then gradually adding in other detox methods such a rebounding, juicing, etc. (See my post on Detoxing 101.) 
As far as chemical teeth whiteners, definitely say no! Especially since there are some natural alternatives. One I read about online is to rub the inside of a banana peel on your teeth. I asked my herbalogist about it, and she said it would be fine for me to do it. So I rubbed the banana peel on my teeth and left it for 20 minutes. Then rinsed and brushed. It actually did improve the appearance of my teeth! Plus it was completely natural. (However, my herbalogist did say that not everyone would tolerate this well, depending on their particular health condition. So you might want to check with a health advisor before trying it.) Remember a healthy body is infinitely more important than white teeth. 
4)  Floss – 
Some floss is actually coated with flouride, which is toxic to the body and unnecessary for healthy teeth. However, I’m not sure how to tell which brands are. Personally, I just make sure the floss is not made in China, and I use the plain, unflavored kind. You can also find natural dental floss online. 
It’s important to floss every day. Flossing keeps your teeth and mouth healthy and also (according to some studies) can protect your heart health (since it helps avoid plaque build up that can eventually wind up in the arteries).
This could be a whole post in itself, but just as a side note – dental fillings that contain mercury can cause serious health problems. With mercury in the teeth, it’s like a continual dripping faucet of this toxin into your body. For many people having it removed changes their whole lives! Two of my loved ones had dramatic health recoveries after their mercury fillings were removed. However, if you do this, be sure to research and find a mercury removal professional. If the dentist doesn’t know what they’re doing, they can cause many problems in the process of removing the mercury fillings. 
Well, those are some suggestions of how to keep a healthy mouth. I hope they are helpful. Is there anything you would like to add? 

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What about Essential Oils?

I’ve noticed a trend lately of more people using essential oils for their health. All things considered, I think it’s a really good thing.

For years I never even tried essential oils (derived from plants) because of the smell factor. My sensitivity to smells was so extreme that even natural smells like food cooking or fresh lemons would cause problems for me. The few times I was around someone who used essential oils, I had bad reactions, so I quickly learned to avoid them.
Thankfully, I’m so much better now that I can enjoy some natural smells again. However at this point, I’ve only tried essential oils in the tiny beadlet form. I was able to swallow a peppermint oil beadlet once. Another time I took a blend of oils in a beadlet. The smell of the beadlets is much less than the oil itself. And these two products did seem to help me. 
Based on my limited knowledge so far, I think essential oils have great potential for healing – for those who can tolerate their naturally strong aroma. They are a much better alternative to the plethora of drugs and medications that only suppress symptoms instead of promoting healing.
Essential oils are used for many different things, including fighting infections, improving digestion and sleep, boosting immunity, etc. It’s no wonder more people are starting to use them, since they are very versatile and naturally promote health and healing in the body. 
Many natural health proponents use essential oils. Jordan Rubin talks about essential oils in his book, The Maker’s Diet. Dr. Mercola has written a good article that lists his top five essential oils and various ways you can use them. And this website gives a good overview of what essential oils are and which ones to use for various issues.  
There are several companies now producing essential oils products and providing training about how to use them. I have friends with various companies and they all seem to be benefiting health-wise. 
Having said that, I think it’s very important to work with someone who knows what they’re doing and who considers your unique body and health situation. Just because essential oils are natural, doesn’t mean they’re safe to use any way you choose. But if you have a knowledgeable health professional to work with, or get the training you need, then I think essential oils can be a great tool in your health tool belt. =) 
What comments or questions do you have about essential oils?


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Worth Fighting For

Today I was remembering the ‘bad old days’ when I was so sick I could hardly speak, weary beyond measure, and struggling to hold on to hope. 
There was a song God often brought to mind that inspired me to keep fighting. It still brings tears to my eyes when I hear it. Though it’s a song from an animated movie, it contains profound truth. (God can use anything as inspiration, eh?)
For those of you who are in that dark place of discouragement or despair, struggling to hold on, I pray the words of this song will speak to you. 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6F-bfYQosiI
I know the battle seems unending, but please don’t give up. Your LIFE is worth fighting for! Remember who you are – God’s special and beloved creation with a purpose and a destiny!  
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11