Thank you, WordPress, for sharing!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 7,700 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 13 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Let me start by saying that I didn’t want to get up this morning. I signed up for the prayer group in church, and today was my turn to lead. Thankfully, duty trumped grief, so I got up and took a shower.

In the past, I would pray for guidance on what to pray about. But these past few days have been difficult. I can’t pray. I have no words, at least, nothing proper. Nothing that I think, with my limited mind–and believe me, it is limited–nothing that I think God would want to hear.

The only story that kept popping into my head was Lazarus’s death. So with bible app on hand, I went to the meeting devoid of prayer points. All I had was this story in which I could fully empathize with Mary.

Mary had a relationship with Jesus and everyone knew it.–verse 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.)

It’s very difficult for me to understand these verses. Why did Jesus wait?–verses 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days — Why didn’t He save Lazarus? Pachimoo? (Russian for why, currently my favorite word.)

This is me blaming God for death.–verse 32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

I know that Jesus is with me through grief. — verse 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 35 Jesus wept.

And then there is the ugly beast of shame. I want people around me to know that my God is real, not some delusion I created to make me feel better. — verse 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

J, is our prayer group leader in church. He is a simple African man. Today, God used him to speak into my heart. I told him I couldn’t pray. All I had was this story. He started praying for me and his words breathed life into my heart. The fog of grief I woke up with, literally lifted. He also told me to praise God for the grief I was in. What praise God for this?? Are you kidding??, would be my normal reaction, and there is no way that I would be able to in an authentic manner. But I’m doing this Christ who strengthens me. I see things from the perspective of eternity, not my self-centered emotions.

So now that I’m done with my looong prelude, here are 7 things that I am thankful for in 2012.

1. My relationship with Christ.

10_fountain square

Ritual is so much easier than relationship. Relationship involves time, prayer and letting God into every area of my life. Relationship means doing life with someone. Sometimes it means giving up things that are not aligned to His will because I love Him more than anyone and anything. I’m thankful that through the ups and downs He is there and I know in my heart He is good all the time and wants what is best for me. God is awesome. Thank you, God, for never giving up on me in spite of my shortcomings.

2. I’m thankful for my relationship with my Dad and Mom.

03_cafe ysabel

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It’s also been a roller-coaster ride with my parents. But in spite of everything, I would say that my parents and I have a very authentic relationship. We are so honest with each other. We can say anything we want and know that at the end of the day we will still be here for each other. Our relationship, our family, is more important than our pain. I believe that we are designed to always have a connection with our parents. Sometimes it’s painful, and it involves a lot of forgiveness and letting go of “being right”. I’m glad that my parents and I have a solid relationship no matter what the circumstances are.

3. I’m grateful for the death of someone I love.

11_flowers

I’ve accepted that I’ll never see this person’s buck-tooth smile again. I’ll never hug this person or hear their voice or receive another email. I’m grateful that this death is not the end. I will see this person again in heaven. This is where I go back to Lazarus’s Death. At the end of the story, Lazarus lives again. I’m looking forward to that day.

I’m also not going to let death define something that was full of happiness, joy and love. I’m not going to ask pachimoo anymore because the reality is, there is no answer. Only hope. Only resurrection in Christ.

4. I’m grateful for friends everywhere. In the Philippines, US, India and now, Azerbaijan.

12_friends

I love my friends. They have been a great blessing to me all of my life. Real friends stick together no matter what.

5. I’m grateful for my first grade class.

My beautiful first graders.

My beautiful first graders.

I love my little angels.

6. I’m thankful for my India experience!

The children of the Adivasi tribal community.

The children of the Adivasi tribal community.

I loved the teachers I worked with and just being immersed in a diverse culture.

7. I’m grateful for living in beautiful Baku.

Icherisheher metro station

Icherisheher metro station

And I’m looking forward to more open blue skies.

Thank you, 2012. You were a difficult year but I survived you. Thank you for the ups and downs. One more day and it’s 2013! I can’t wait!

2 Corinthians 9:6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

Prayer and fasting ended a couple of days ago. An “aha!” moment was during Sunday service when Pastor Kevin talked about planting a seed, which bears fruit, and in turn, produces more seed. It was a very encouraging message because I know that just as long as I plant seeds that are led by the Holy Spirit, they will grow, flourish and multiply. This also helps me focus and say “no” to doing things that aren’t aligned to planting seeds.

Here are five seeds I’d like to plant, and five hopes I’d like to reap:

Seed 1: Praying to God and meditating on bible verses.
What I hope to reap: A deeper relationship with God.

Seed 2: Spending quality time with B.
What I hope to reap: A deeper and more joyful relationship with honey 🙂

Seed 3: Writing, taking photographs, blogging, giving constructive feedback on blogs and learning HTML.
What I hope to reap: Inspiring, uplifting others and improving my craft.

Seed 4: Eating healthy and exercising.
What I hope to reap: Good health!

Seed 5: Tithing, saving and exploring investing.
What I hope to reap: Financial abundance.

How about you? What seeds would you like to plant this year? What do you hope to reap? Would love to hear from you!

In 2012, I’m praying for wisdom for a career change. Part of me misses the classroom and meaningful interaction with children. Part of me is still deeply in love with curriculum design and the PYP, but there’s also that creative being emerging that simply wants to lock herself in her room, and get lost in her writing, cooking, and photography. Time stops when I write. I’m not sure if this is part of my workaholic withdrawals or I simply want to learn new things to get my brain cells going and prevent Alzheimer’s. All I know right now I want to explore learning something new.

So today, after chatting with people about web design, I decided to make a go at learning HTML. I’m thinking of taking a course nearby, but I have yet to get the course details and cost. In the meantime, I’ve stumbled upon Quackit’s HTML tutorial, which I am thoroughly enjoying. I will take it a day at a time, and see where this takes me. Exciting!

How about you? What do you want to learn in 2012?

Like I said in my last two posts, today is a perfect day.

I know that many people who read this are skeptical about messages from God. And I don’t blame you. I’ve been on that same boat. But once I started letting go of my skepticism, once I started opening up my heart to Jesus, and once I started allowing Him to do good things in my life, every day has been an adventure for me, an opportunity to walk on water, and opportunity live out my dreams.

But, this story isn’t about me. This story is about my friend, K.

K outside Lion Gate, South Mumbai

K and I went to church today and I asked Pastor Kevin to pray for her. He didn’t know anything about K. All I told him via text was, “She needs prayers for getting work in the U.S. and a U.S. visa”.

After church, Pastor Kevin started praying over K. My hand was on her shoulder, and how I wish I had recorded what he said. I can’t recall his words verbatim, but here are some key words–

You are experiencing a new season, a new life. You seem to have a lot of burdens in your life, I’m not sure what’s holding you down, but there are a lot of burdens. You will experience freedom from these burdens. You will have open doors, divine doors and clear directions. I pray for peace and that God will reveal Himself to you.

The hairs on my arms were standing, and I was tearing up, because Pastor Kevin doesn’t know anything about K, but he confirmed many things that K had been experiencing. When he spoke to her, it reminded me of the time Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman. The only one who fully knows K is God, and at that moment, He spoke directly to her.

K, God is calling you, and He’s calling you now. Now is the time to get off the boat.

And walk on water.

Facing Lake Pichola, Udaipur

The Lake Palace in Udaipur looked amazing from a boat passenger’s lens — it is pristine, white, a floating haven amidst the calm of Lake Pichola. Gorgeous to photograph from Jagmandir Island. I sat, walked, roamed and wandered the havelis, my eyes always drawn back to the Lake Palace, with its two thousand rupee entrance fee, a fee I wasn’t willing to pay on my backpacker’s budget. But I didn’t mind. I liked the sitting, the waiting, the dreaming and getting drunk on fresh air, and kaleidoscopic lights reflecting, breaking from the light of the new lens I had just invested in. It was my first time to travel alone and this was India! The litmus test for the brave woman traveler and I was dizzy from my own reverie. I also knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that one day I will visit the Lake Palace in Udaipur. Meanwhile, I savored the anticipation. The waiting.

Lake Palace, Udaipur

Today the sensation is the same. It is the first day of our prayer and fasting, and I am hungry, dizzy, light-headed, and as I read my devotional the words that darted off the page were “be expectant” and somehow, much to my surprise, being expectant, the waiting, it all seems delicious, sweet, like I’m on the verge. And this. This is my moment.

Shiv Niwas Palace Hotel, Udaipur

I am excited, heart beating, expectant and joyous in my wait for the unfolding of 2012, not because of anything I’ll do, not my strength, but because I know God, my God. He loves me and He can do anything. The impossible. I saw Him do it in my life last year. I saw Him do it in so many of my friends’ lives.

I can’t wait. I can’t wait to get out of this boat, lens flushed down lake water. I can’t wait to walk on water. Seeing. Walking.

Into the palace He has set out for me.

B and I watching a pet video at the Beach House, Brown Mills, New Jersey

2011 was simply amazing!

I have yet to pause, savor the memories and churn stories from these frozen photos and story lines in my mind so I will always remember God’s amazing blessings. I cherish everything He has given me this year: from meeting B and his wonderful family to working with wonderful people at OIS to traveling around India and the East Coast to being a contributor to the PYP authorization to having friends from Manila visit and share unforgettable Mumbai moments.

I have yet to pause and be grateful for every single moment. But right now, it is time to look ahead.

Summer 2011 in Lewis County, New York

I haven’t done New Year’s resolutions in years because I never keep them. But in my Manila church, we were encouraged to fast every year and pray with a partner. (I admit that I really miss my Manila church and the connection that I had with my spiritual family over there but perhaps more on that in another blog entry.) Along with the fasting, the church encouraged us to believe in God for certain things. I’ll share some of it over here, but not all, because some are private :-).

This year I am believing God for…

Personal Faith Goals
*That I will have the discipline to pray and read the Bible every day
*Complete obedience to God
*For my heart and words to convey gratitude all the time

My Family and Friends
*Healing for broken relationships
*God be the center of my relationship with B
*For B to meet my parents
*Continue having happy relationships 🙂

My Career
*Motivation and positivity at work
*Be able to inspire others to be the best teachers they can be
*To write, take photographs and blog every day

Health
*Eat healthy and exercise to be part of my weekly routine

How about you? What are you believing in God for this year?

If you’re interested in knowing more about Victory Church’s prayer and fasting click on http://victory.org.ph/fasting2012/.