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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. =)