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


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.


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.


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!