Journal #16

Posted June 16, 2010 by Takouhi
Categories: Uncategorized

March 21, 2010: For the first time in my eight years of preparing and leading worship services. I had the opportunity to write a first-person sermon and sing a song that I had desired to sing since 1986. These two amazing events were not enough; God granted me the opportunity to witness the birth of “butterflies”. In the afternoon, at our last confirmation class, the Spirit of God was definitely guiding our actions and words. On March 28th, Palm Sunday, these four young individuals will confess their belief in God and join the church, by their own decisions.

I was very nervous at first with all the preparations for this first-person sermon. Thanks to Gary, 250 kilometers away from me, was still present with me on this curve of the road of learning. He guided me along the way of the “production”. At the end of the day, it felt that this day was meant to be, before the world was created. Do you know that feeling? It felt so RIGHT! If however, we do not take the initiatives to obey God’s guidance, this would not have been achieved. We need to go back to Thursday the 18th of March, when the puzzle pieces began to fall into their perfect places. God’s grace made it possible that the music director and I met by coincidence and she asked me if I wanted to sing a song at a Sunday Service soon. I told her that this coming Sunday would be wonderful if only I could download this song, which is perfect for the sermon, and I wanted to sing it “forever”. I was hesitant at first, I think because I knew deep down inside my heart that it would happen if I just open up my mouth and share this with her. My feelings were right. My hesitance was her readiness to “jump” on her computer and find the song, titled, “Broken and Spilled Out” by Steve Green on MusicNotes.com. She found the song and played a few notes to get the correct “key” for my voice and printed it. Now what? I had to sing this on Sunday – There were no more excuses.

Now excitement and nerves were mixed and this desire to sing, to “play” the part of the woman in Bethany was becoming a reality. How is this possible?

I will not bore you with running from one church to the other to practice with both music directors on Thursday evening. All I can say however was that it was WORTH IT!

Sunday morning arrived, the “Scent of Grace”, the title of my reflection, was ready to spread. I prayed to God to get the heavenly anointing and for this “scent” to be a true transformation to my senses first and then to all who will be at the service. God gave me the courage; with nerves rattling but filled with inner peace, I felt that I am floating on a stormy sea in the eye of the storm.

The service went well. I did feel exhausted by the time I finished the second service, but it was rejuvenating at the same time. The very last words of the “Woman of Bethany” were: “Allow the scent of grace, which God has poured out on you to be the scent that moves the senses of people around you; filling their memories with the good and the eternal love of God. Allow your life to be transparent, so that Jesus shines through you and God’s sweet grace fills the air wherever you go, in whatever you do and whatever you say… Amen”. The special visit of the woman of Bethany was a visit from God to me and what others shared with me after service, all were blessed by the message – Thanks be to God.

After the worship service we gathered for our confirmation class, where two boys and two girls, the minister and I came together for our last class. The third leader could not join us, which I believe was God led. We were not sure how the meeting would go, but through a quick assessment and profound discernment the first half of the class we went around the table and talked about our experiences of being at this confirmation class and the second half we split up into two groups of boys and girls. This is where for the first time I saw a young individual struggle between what a heart wants to do and the mind is putting up barriers.

This ordinary class became a holy experience indeed… How do you feel when you see the birth of a butterfly?  I can still see the pains of breaking out of the cocoon and emerging into a beautiful butterfly ready to spread the colorful wings and fly.

I believe, this day, March 21, 2010, will always be a day where I learnt, new, beautiful beginnings are possible with God in our lives. No matter how BIG or small the communities, which we are serving. If we are ready to get into action, by changing our lives first by submitting to the work that is laid before us – Not be afraid of giving time. If the music director did not “jump” to get the music online and opened up the doors for me to go through – it would have never been the same picture that this day ended up being canvased as…

How often do doors open up and we do not want to go through, because we are afraid of the unknown, or not ready to get out of our comfort zones. Ordinary days cannot become Extraordinary if we keep on making excuses. We cannot compare the eternal difference we make when we do give our best to God. What alabaster jar needs to be broken in your life, so that God can allow the “Scent of Grace” spread to all who are around and most of all, allow Jesus to shine through.

Sometimes what we want to do and what we are ready to do are two separate polarities. Fear can keep these realities apart but God says, “Trust me, jump on the band wagon and I will fulfill your desires, nourish your spirit and always be with you on this journey, if you accept my presence”. Won’t you trust this Eternal God of Love?

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Journal #15

Posted June 16, 2010 by Takouhi
Categories: Uncategorized

February 16, 2010: Shrove Tuesday and Gary’s birthday, what a crazy day… Being apart from my husband, friend and confidant on his birthday, I somehow felt inadequate – Mixed feelings all around. Much of my day went by thinking how can I plan a Shrove Tuesday Supper with the youth group in Seeley’s Bay on this day? There was no way to escape it as it was a Tuesday and the next day was the ecumenical Ash Wednesday Service in Portland. Yes, I wish we could drop all our commitments at the drop of a dime whenever we want to, but life does not function like that, especially the life of a minister. I guess this is where sacrificial living walks in.

I know he was home in Montreal and I wish he was near, especially when I know he loves pancakes and maple syrup too. For some reason he could not get here, but we had celebrated his birthday the week before. I was also going back to Montreal in a few days. I cannot say that I totally ignored his special day. But being apart on a special day always makes you feel a bit “different”. A part of me wanted to go to Montreal to be with him, another part of me wanted to stay here and see “God at Work” through the Youth Activities and other events. Moreover, the Ecumenical Ash Wednesday service was something I had never experienced, let alone a Shrove Tuesday Supper.

I made it through the day and went to Seeley’s Bay for Shrove Tuesday Supper. The youth were serving, and they were so great at their job. The supper was only $5.00 per person. $4.00 went to Haiti’s relief fund (a total of $300) and $1.00 was given to the Youth to decide how to use that for a ministry of their choice.

After the supper was done, we had a short Ash Wednesday Service where the Spirit of God was definitely present, at work and everyone was aware, from the youngest youth member to the mature congregant. I am glad, I was part of it.

The minister who led the service took all of the little heart shaped papers which we were given in the beginning of the service and asked us to put it in a play dough and he made that play dough into a nest with branches. The symbolism was giving our hearts to God and embarking on a new journey in the beginning of Lent. This was something that we all needed to do, young and old, minister and congregant. Many tears were flowing as the hearts were being given to God and many were anointed with the ashes mixed with olive oil. This made us all aware what we need to take time to be “holy”.

There is power in symbols and rituals when we do them attentively and willingly. Being aware is very important. The trap of having rituals become something regular takes away the sacred experiences that we need to have to rejuvenate our hearts.

The next morning, The Ecumenical Ash Wednesday service was another heavenly experience. Being brought up in a family where my grandmother taught me that no other denomination is correct except ours (Protestantism), I find myself dumbfounded with other denominations’ rituals and ways of worship. In its own way, I find each denomination has its beauty and it reaches to those who choose their way of worship when it comes to a point in an individual’s life. Our neighbouring Anglican church and us gathered in the Portland church’s sanctuary and enjoyed a beautiful service where God’s presence was evident.

Why do these two days stand out for me to think back and write? Because I learnt through it all, even though we may not be happy with every single thing that we have to do on our schedules, however, if we make God our priority, and keep our word – carry through our commitments, we are blessed more than words can say.

Yes, I was away from Gary for his birthday, but God was with him and I. With the youth who experienced a sacred moment, they will not forget that day – it is engraved in their hearts. The Ecumenical Ash Wednesday Service was truly a moment where God’s banquet was at hand to all the people. Where the blessings of so many people have been if we had not gone ahead with our plans, just because I wanted to be with my husband? Yes, family is first when time and space permits, however being 250 kilometers away from home it was impossible to be at both places. Therefore, I chose God and Gary supported that decision 100%.

Sometimes choosing what we do not want to do is the price we pay for discipleship – It is so worth it. Knowing that we can float in the buoyancy of the presence of God makes it all worth to JUST TRUST. Amen.

Journal #14

Posted April 22, 2010 by Takouhi
Categories: Uncategorized

                January 31, 2010: Today was the day that I went to Princess Street United Church in Kingston to share my faith. Yes, this church originally had nothing to do with my internship, but it became a supportive pillar, half way through this journey. The Minister of the congregation had asked me to share my faith journey with the charge back in September at the Presbytery meeting; however I was not sure how the opportunity would arise; but, most of all “Why would I do that?” This question was ringing in my mind. My logic was, “I am here to do my internship and focus on my goals”. This charge was appointed and I will not falter. I wonder now, if this “logical” reasoning stemmed from laziness and my comfort zone.

                To talk about January 31, we need to go back to December 20, 2009. To see how my “logical” calculations were crushed by the Love of God that this congregation showed me. December 20th was a very busy day and the day was not over yet; it was still busy in the evening when we got home around 3:30-ish. Gary and I arrived to the apartment pretty late in the afternoon and had to go back out in an hour or so to attend and participate (for me) in the Christmas Cantata (I had not been part of a cantata for 27 years, so this was a Joy). In between attempting to wind down and getting ready again, the minister of the Princess Street United called me from her cellular phone and asked if she can drop by for a minute. She said that she has something for me. She was coming by before going to her home herself, I guess, she was running late too. She was almost at my place. About 30 minutes or so later, she arrived and gave me an envelope from the U.C.W. (United Church Women) of Princess Street United. The women had wanted to wish me a blessed Christmas and support my journey. They had a cheque in the card, which was a BIG surprise.  

                See, the same morning, at each of the congregations where I am interning they offered Gary and I Christmas cards where there were financial gifts also. Gary and I were floored by this outpouring of love. How is it possible that strangers, who barely know us, extend a helping hand? Yes, I can understand that the pastoral charge where I am involved with, they got to know me and our story. How Gary and I are struggling financially, but a U.C.W. who has never met me all the way in Kingston?  Who would do such a thing? Often, we think twice to help our own family members and keep record of how much we have given and when we have done so; and yet here are STRANGERS “physically” but United in Spirit extending their helping hands.

                During my break back home for Christmas and New Year, God’s spirit woke me up and made me realize that goals and keeping up with our plans are good, but we need to be flexible to reach out to ALL people. “God so loved the WORLD”, the world includes all of humanity, therefore it includes the Princess Street United Church congregation also. When I came back to Portland therefore, from my break, I shared my desire to go and share my journey at a Sunday morning worship service before the end of the month, with my colleague, the minister of this charge. I also shared it with my supervising minister and they both thought it would give so much wealth to my internship experience and encouraged me to do it. On January 21st, I advised the minister of the Princess Street United that January 31st is a good day for me to be with them if this works with their schedule. It was just right.

                I had an idea what I wanted to share and do, but I was not 100% comfortable. There was a storm in my heart, something new needed to break in and get me out of the “familiar”. I received the bulletin for the service and for the reflection time, it indicated, “My Journey”. I looked over my reflection and convinced myself that it was what I wanted to share, so I printed, punched holes and tucked it well in my binder for Sunday morning.

                Sunday morning arrived and I started to head to Kingston (That is where the church is, on Princess Street). The drive was at least 45-55 minutes, so I absorbed the beauty around me with my sleepy eyes first, but grew awake with the beauty that surrounded the highway.  I attempted to listen to music but had to turn it off a few times, because there were still waves crashing through my mind. My reflection was not good enough for this morning if I was to share “MY JOURNEY”, as indicated in the bulletin. “You cannot start a journey in the middle”, was the voice echoing in my heart. After a long struggle on the drive there, when I parked my car in front of the church, the decision was made, “OUT GOES MY PRINTED REFLECTION”. What a learning curve! I am always afraid to speak without any notes, because I am scared of mixing different languages, because there have been times that I have spoken “ArmEnglish”, as Gary says… So, I have always had the fear of doing so from the pulpit too. But today was the day to let go of the paper and focus deep into my heart allowing God’s Spirit to guide my words.

                Here we were, at the moment of truth.  Before the church service, I met a few people from the choir and one gentleman gave me a book. It is a fictional story taking place in Lebanon. I thought that was so amazing and kind of him, to bring that book to give to me, knowing that I was born in Beirut, Lebanon. I accepted it joyfully. I will definitely read it one day. The service was filled with wonderful prayers and songs and it was so good to be sitting and absorbing God’s grace so freely. When the time came and I went up to share my story, I had my binder with me, and started with a word of thanks, but the rest was all flowing out of my mouth calmly and cohesively. Looking around the congregation and realizing how people were listening attentively, made my heart rejoice. Seeing a few closing their eyes prayerfully (I know those who are tired and fall asleep, these people were not) once in a while and reflecting, made me be grateful to God for this “breakthrough”. After the service, meeting the congregants one by one and shaking their hands was just a great delight.

                What joy it is when we allow the Spirit to work through us. Bring down the walls of separation. Allow the Spirit of God take us out of our comfort zones. Allow ourselves to share the grace that we have received so abundantly from God through others, through Strangers. At the threshold of a new decade, 2010, what new actions are we called to embrace, and or what old actions are we asked to discontinue from doing? Turn off the voices around you, especially the voice of the Self. Give up the “I”. Turn off everything like I turned off my CD player in the car for most of the drive down to Kingston. Prayerfully, Silently, seek God’s voice to be audible – Pray that Heaven can be visible on earth because of YOUR acts of Kindness, Gentleness and TRUTH –  to ALL of humanity and not only to those  you like.

Journal # 13

Posted April 11, 2010 by Takouhi
Categories: Uncategorized

January 26, 2010: Have you ever done something without really wanting to do it, but after doing it, you have been blessed more than you can imagine? Well, since I left Laval and came back to Portland on January 6, Gary has had a terrible sinus infection and has been feeling very lousy. So, one night after hanging up the phone with him, I decided I am going to drive home on Sunday, January 24th and surprise him. I spoke with dad (my father-in-law) and set the wheels in motion. The secret was going well, until I forwarded an e-mail to Gary, two days before the appointed Sunday, that had a line at the end wishing me a safe trip home. After I hit send, it hit me like a brick. But, it was too late. I called Gary right away to see if he had read the e-mail yet. He was reading it as I called. Well, the cat was out of the bag. I was disappointed that I could not surprise him, but on the other hand, he sounded so much better. The anticipation of seeing a loved one I guess does more good than we can imagine. So, I was glad that I messed up.

The weather was great for a January afternoon and the drive was easy. The two-and-a-half hours passed fast and I arrived in Laval at six p.m. right on time for supper. It is always great to come home. I have realized that home is the best place on earth, but I only got to learn this because I was away from it. Earlier in my life, I always wanted to go away on week-end get-a-ways and vacations, as much as possible. Now however, I have grown to love to come home and enjoy the embrace of my family, my friends and the comforts of the home.

On Tuesday January 26th, Gary needed to go downtown to meet someone for about three hours and he asked me if I would go with him. Just to be with him for the drive and “Just be with him”. At first I was reluctant and did not want to leave home, but then, I realized how much it would mean to him, so I went. Arriving downtown and dropping him where he needed to be, I continued to go on to the Christian Book store in Westmount to get a few things for Youth Group, etc.  Meanwhile, I was thinking of a very special teacher from Concordia University and I truly wanted to see her. While I was driving, something inside of me pushed me to go and drop in at the Theological Department at Concordia.  This is where I completed my BA in Theological Studies in 2007. So, this place will always have a special place in my heart.

Higher education was always an unattainable reality for me. I always thought only the rich and the powerful can attain such realities, but God had turned the tables around and granted me the honour of achieving this milestone. This was all done because of Grace.

My mom called Canada the Promised Land. Now, I am able to see what she meant. We are truly blessed to live in a country where we have the freedom of speech and opportunities to continue higher education. Yes, we can still do so much more. Our Government must do a lot more, but when I compare where I came from to where I am now, I praise God every day.

So, I arrived on Bishop Street and parked my car right in front of the Theological Department’s offices and saw the teacher I was yearning to see. She had just walked in the office and I saw her from the road. Still my excuses were many. What if she has appointments and cannot meet with me, what if, what if. I walked up to the office and greeted her. What a joy it was for both of us. We visited for an hour and a half and enjoyed an amazing time of fellowship. We prayed together and I left for the bookstore.

Why did this day stand out for me? Because, I learnt a few lessons once again. First, put others’ needs before yours and you will be blessed. Second, do not let excuses be your way out of what the Spirit is leading you to do. Always be ready to act with love. Maybe my excuses were stemmed from laziness and reluctance, but I am glad that I was able to stomp on these feelings and conquer them with Grace to enjoy a blessed day, which is more than just a day in Montreal, but a day worth living in.

Journal # 12

Posted March 24, 2010 by Takouhi
Categories: Uncategorized

                January 17, 2010: Back in November, when I promised my supervising minister that I will go and preach at her two point charge on January 17, 2010, my thought was “Oh, we still have a lot of time”… WOW! The day arrived faster than expected. Yes, today was one of those days that sneaks up on you without any warning. It ended up being an amazing day, however, a day where I am assured once again that I am on the right path, on this journey of life. Despite the hardships and the obstacles that come my way, I am realizing more and more that God is with me no matter what. The funny part is, whenever I realize this, all the hardships become nil next to the blessings – What a concept…

                It has already been over eighteen weeks for my being here, at the pastoral charge to complete my internship. I have gotten used to being at the same churches for this long, but once again I had to stretch out and go to another charge. My favourite phrase, “Get out of my comfort zone” was ringing in my mind repeatedly. Every time I have to do something different, it is very scary. I am certain that most of you agree with me on that.  

                I asked myself why I do this to myself.  Why would I bother to go to another charge to preach – it is not part of my learning goals. Please do not get me wrong, I have not conquered the art of preaching and I have a long way to go, but I have been doing services, preaching, etc, since 2002, so why would I bother? The only answer I got in my heart was, “Because your supervisor has been such a great person to work with. She has been an encouraging power to help you grow; and it is only fair for her to hear you preach first hand”. I cannot argue this one for sure! God always wins. How do I know that is the discerning Spirit of God? Because God always demands us to get out of our comfort zone. I believe being a Christian is an ongoing struggle between doing what is right for the GOOD of all and doing GOOD for the GOOD of the Self. So, whenever you ask the question and the answer is a selfish “ME”, then evaluation is needed. Our motives must be Christ Driven, Christ Centered and the self has to be denied.   

                Most of you know by now that one of my favourite hymns is “How Great Thou Art” and as a gift to the congregations, I promised to sing it to them in Armenian. I had not practiced the song with the musicians of the charge; but, I trusted God and drove to the first church in Newboro. A small, quaint, and newly finished floor in the sanctuary called out to me, “God provides all our needs”, was the first service. Just last summer or fall, the church was having some bat issues in their attic. By prayer, trust and community unity the issues were solved and the bats had a brand new home to live in and all the debt for the renovations were paid up. When I say community I do not only refer to the community of the church but the entire community outside the walls of the church.  Talk about a provider, God! The Words of Jesus, “Ask and you shall receive” were not just written in the Bible anymore for this community, they had become living words. What a gift to be able to smell the scent of just finished floors… I apologize to all who are allergic to varnish, but I just love that “new” scent (It will give me a headache after a while too, but I just love it).

                The service went well. Right after the sermon I offered the gift of music to the congregants. For the first time in my life, I sang a solo accompanied by two guitars. The musicians did a wonderful job accompanying me. I do not know how they did it. No practice, except once before the service and on top of that they had to accompany a solo in foreign language to them. It truly sounded like we had practiced for so long. These guys are pros and they pulled it off amazingly. Thanks be to God.

                After the first worship ended we rushed to the second church. When I say rush, I mean rush… There was no grace period in between churches. We literally had to put the pedal to the metal and get there…  

                Well, this second sanctuary is a little bigger and has a circular shape. Its shape almost tells me that all who are sitting here are embraced by the invisible loving arms of God. Isn’t that a beautiful image? I think so. The choir had a special song for me, yes, for me and it is called: “The Longer I Serve Him”, Words and Music by William J. Gaither 1965.

 Since I started for the Kingdom,
Since my life He controls,
Since I gave my heart to Jesus,
The longer I serve Him,
The sweeter He grows.

 Chorus
The longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows,
The more that I love Him, more love He bestows;
Each day is like heaven, my heart overflows,
The longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows.

Ev’ry need He is supplying,
Plenteous grace He bestows;
Ev’ry day my way gets brighter,
The longer I serve Him,
The sweeter He grows.

I was there to share my story and offer the gift of music to them; here I was blessed, assured and nourished by this poignant song… I was in tears (it does not take much to get tears flood my eyes).

                At the end of the service, I was able to shake everyone’s hand and wish them a blessed week. A gentleman came up to me with tears in his eyes and told me in French, which I will not attempt to write here, “You have touched my heart, thank you”. This made it all worth it. This one comment stuck with me and I do know that his image will not leave my mind anytime soon.

                I believe that when I meet someone who shares such a moment with me after I have done a service or a visit; I am reminded of why I am where I am. I may not have the riches that the world brainwashes us to have and to work hard for, but I do know now that TRUE RICHES are invisible and they can only be attained in our memories, hearts and souls. Isn’t that worth living/working for?

Journal #11

Posted February 21, 2010 by Takouhi
Categories: Uncategorized

                January 6, 2010 (Wednesday): Armenian Christmas or Epiphany as known to others. It was a hard day to face. I had to pack the car and make a few stops in Laval before I hit the highway to Portland. I was in a rush to pack the car, as if I was dreading and trying to avoid the fact that I was leaving the comforts of home once again. I had been home since Christmas Day and I had enjoyed being with family, friends and celebrated the anniversary of meeting Gary face to face (January 3, 1999). Eleven years, who would have thought for time to go by so fast? It was hard to leave and go to Portland. Gary’s cold did not help my departure either, as I was worried about him. There was no choice in the matter, I had to leave.

                The car is packed and the goodbyes are said. As I drove away from the house, the sun was shining strongly. Arriving at the corner of the street I heard screeching tires, so I turned around. There was a very small, Honda Civic type of a car (80’s model), that was right next to my door.  For some reason I either did not see this car coming, from all the snow piled up at the corner of the street or my thoughts had taken over my being.  To this day, I am still not sure why, but I truly felt that I escaped an accident by a very thin line. Of course I was shaken up but I had to continue on. I got all my errands done and got to the last one, where I had to drop off late Christmas presents to a friend, so that she can distribute them to her sisters as well.

                One of the advantages of being Armenian is we can give our Christmas gifts even eleven days after December 25th and still consider them Christmas presents. I had tried to call this friend, but there were no answer on both landline and cellular phone. So, I took a chance to go to her place and drop off the bags under her car port. As soon as I pulled over and parked, she opened up her garage and came out. She had not seen me yet, so I called her name out and she was pleasantly surprised, as we had not seen each other yet in the time that I was in town. I was so thrilled that the gifts would not be just sitting underneath the car port and get wet. It was noon and she said she was going for lunch and would I like to join her. I thought this was a good opportunity to catch up with her and catch my breath from this morning’s incident, so I accepted.

                We walked over to the sushi place and relaxed together. Meanwhile, I received a phone call from Gary, advising me that I had forgotten a couple of things back at home. I told him that I would be there soon and pick them up, as I was still in town and just five minutes away from home. So, after enjoying a great lunch and amazing fellowship, it was time to hit the road once again. Drove back home, picked up the forgotten pieces and headed to Ontario.

                The drive back to Portland was good and I was glad that I did stop for lunch, because I had to stop in Brockville and do some returns/exchanges for clothes that I had received as Christmas gifts. Father Christmas at Elgin United Church had been so generous. To this day, I still do not know the elves that helped “Santa” but I do appreciate it immensely, not just the gifts, but the entire packaging and the Santa letter, etc… Arriving at the shopping center and finding the store that I needed to go was tricky, as the shopping center looked very small from outside and I had never been inside. I second guessed myself as I parked the car and went indoors. I got my exchanges done and more. We find a new place and we want to discover what else is there. Before you know it, it was supper time and stores were beginning to close. I had to eat something in Brockville, because there would have been no open restaurants in Portland at this time of the year and day. Portland is truly cottage country. Out of the three restaurants that exist, two are closed for the winter and one opens Tuesday – Saturday 10 – 4 (You get the picture). I saw how busy Chalet Swiss was and I dreaded to go in by myself, but I really did not want to have any fast food.

                Once again, the dreading feeling that I had in the morning while leaving home was kicking in, this time for the mere fact that I would be eating alone. Despite the crowded parking lot and a busy mind, I parked the car and went in. There was a big line up. The host thought that I was with a group and did not even ask me how many. I realized that I need to make known to her that I was eating alone. So, I separated myself from the hoard of people and approached the host and said, “For one please”. She took me to a table right away. I placed my order and my soup arrived. As soon as I was about to pray and begin to eat, I heard someone say, “Takouhi, is that you?” I looked up and my face lit up. There were two ministers from my area, yes, husband and wife are both ministers and they had finished some shopping themselves and had decided to have supper at the same place, at the same time. I thought I had won the lottery; I was so thrilled to see them. Of course, like any good human beings we asked to sit together – and we did.

                After having a great meal we left the place and started to head North to Portland. They live about fifteen minutes south of me, so it was great to follow them for most of the journey. The further north we got from Brockville, the snow fall became beautiful and calming. I turned off the music in the car, because I wanted to enjoy the sound of silence as the snow was coming down and embracing Mother Nature with a fresh look. This is one thing that I love about this area – You learn to appreciate the music of silence, which makes the feet of your heart dance gently and praise God gladly.

                In my life, I have thought that happiness is found in packages that this world offers; vacation packages, jewellery packages, new cars and homes. I have learnt however that the things that fulfill my heart’s desires and cause me joy are not material or things that fit in a box. They are the love we share with each other; the beauty encountered in nature and cultivated lasting relationships of care. All these begin at home; however, they begin with me.

                Encountering the Divine (Epiphany) requires attention, time, sacrifice and risk. My openness to God’s presence is my openness to my surrounding, to the human being who is serving me at the store doing my exchanges, or at the restaurant ensuring that my order is correct and I am well fed, or sitting next to me at the church pew, whom I have never met before. I think my first encountering God on Epiphany was January 6, 1980.  

                I remember clearly, it was a Sunday morning; my father had been in a coma since January 1.  My mother and I prayed on our knees for my father to return home. My mother told me and my sister Choughik (Morning Dew) to go to church and wait for her return from the hospital, as she wanted to see dad before going to church. I remember her sharing that something inside of her was pushing her to go to the hospital before going to church. The doctors had told her to take his wedding ring away, as there was no hope for him to recover. He had been in coma for six days. I remember to this day the prayer that I uttered, “Please God, as Jesus was born today, please give a new life to my dad”. After which, my mother left the house and my sister and I waited for the time to come so that we can walk over to the brotherhood church, about a 45 minute walk (half way between the hospital and home. This is why mom wanted us to go to this church instead of the home church we belonged to around the corner, so that we can be together to worship). I was only 13 and Choughik was 20.

                The time came and we left the apartment and walked. We arrived at the church, worshiped God, mom was late. However, she arrived with a big smile on her face. I think this was the first time I saw my mother smile in six days. She said that there was a miracle, “Dad has opened his eyes. He is out of his coma”. We had the blessing of having dad back home with us for four more years. What does this story have to do with my blog, 30 years later? I think, I have come to a realization that we often look for God in the bigger scheme of things and forget to be open to see God working in the small, miniscule parts of our lives. God is present in our lives always, we just need to see. Sometimes we think that when we are going through hardships that we can begin to search and depend on God and forget to see God’s presence in our daily lives.

                January 6, 2010, leaving home in haste, I forgot to look for God in my day. However, coincidently, I missed an accident, ran into my friend and got treated for lunch. Another two joined for supper and made me feel so blessed. At the end of the day my drive to Portland was not a lonely one, but led by a friend’s car ahead of me. Recently, I heard someone say, “Coincident is God’s way of staying anonymous”.

                Arriving safely in Portland, I begin another subdivision of this chapter of my life called “Internship” and praise God for not leaving me alone. Even when my need is just a friend to break bread with, God provides, and reminds me that I am loved just as I am. All I need to do is slow down to encounter Divinity in my everyday life. Everyday could be Epiphany if I only tune in.

Journal #10

Posted February 1, 2010 by Takouhi
Categories: Uncategorized

           Where did the month of December go? I have never experienced such a fast, full and furious December.  The one thing I remember is writing down December 1, 2009 on a piece of paper and the next thing I know, Gary and I are packing the car to leave for Laval from Portland, on Christmas Morning, December 25.

            It is a phenomenal journey to think of sailing through not only December, but also November. So many things took place in November and December that I think I can write a book for each month. But then, I would need another year to do so…

            Therefore, here is a summation of a few days which stand out in my mind and heart from these months. After my birthday break in November, the first date that stands out is November 28th. I have heard of Santa Parades in Montreal and watched other parades on television, but I had never participated in one myself. The Westport Santa Parade took place in Westport and all ecumenical ministers of the area had a float where the Christmas Story was displayed by many participants. The ministers who were not part of the scene actually put shepherd’s clothes on and gave candy canes and a beautifully rolled paper with the Christmas Story to all those watching the parade. What a fantastic way of spreading the message of Christmas along with the calendar of the events scheduled at different churches in the neighbourhood. It was truly a thrill to be part of this and see how unity makes a difference in no matter what we do.

            The same afternoon, my sister and her husband arrived from Toronto and we went for a great Spaghetti supper at Delta United Church, took a nice WAGON ride through the park that had 50 thousand Christmas lights, and then enjoyed a beautiful Christmas Choir to kick start the Season of Love.  I have to say, by the end of the night, we were all exhausted. But it was well worth it.

            The next day, November 29th would have been my mother’s 80th birthday if she had not departed from us 15 years ago. It was also my eldest sister’s and uncle’s birthday- Many blessings to celebrate. As much as this day feels sad for me (thinking about mom), there was a peace that was flowing through my heart gently and I was praising God for my mother’s life of Faith. She had planted the love of God in all of her children and all who she had met.  

            I had asked the minister of the charge if I can sing “Blessed Assurance” in Armenian, to honour my mom’s memory. The response was affirmative.  This song was on my mother’s heart and lips all the time. What I found interesting is that the refrain in Armenian actually translates to, “I will tell, until my last breath, and sing of the love of my saviour”, but yet in the original English version it is, “This is my story, this is my song, praising my saviour all the day long”. Now that I think back, I do see why my mother loved this song. The Armenian version is the exact representation of my mom’s life. I had forgotten that my sister and her hubby were coming to visit me the same week-end, so after I “woke up” I asked my brother-in-law if they would sing along with me and turn the solo into a trio. We did and it was such a blessing.  

            After completing the two services at Portland and Elgin, we enjoyed a great Potluck luncheon at Elgin church and headed to curling. My sister and I have never curled, but we wanted to go and cheer all who do. Alas, no one showed up except us. We had our own little party. The hosts of the curling club took care of us with open arms and we had a great time together. On top of it all, my sister and I curled for the first time in our lives. Yes, we did not do the acrobatic moves, but by the use of the stick, to throw the rock, we were successful in curling. It was great fun. Maybe not having anyone else there encouraged us to bite the bullet and curl.

            It was a very hectic day, but it was not finished yet. We had an hour break, after which the ecumenical event of lighting the light of Christ was going to begin in Elgin. This event is an invitation to all Elgin residents and others to come and participate. The program began at 7:00 p.m. and there were 15 minute Advent services at different churches and open areas of the town. At the end of the evening we all gathered at the Elgin Community Center and enjoyed hot chocolate, cookies and other goodies with a lively time of carolling, etc… It was an exhausting day, but all so worth it.

            One thing that really sticks with me is that no matter what denomination we belong to, when we get together we can truly light up the light of Christ. Christmas time or otherwise, unity brings forth glory to God.

            December 19, Gary arrived and I picked him up from Brockville train station. It was so great to have him back here. We spent the day together in Kingston and just when we were about to have a coffee at Chapters in Kingston, I ran into one of the congregants of Portland, and I have to say, it was so great to see her. It is so funny, how the love of God just connects us together that is hard to explain the joy it brings.

            On Sunday the 20th, the joint choir of the charge presented a great cantata, “The Wondrous Story”. It was amazing to see how the church was filled and all enjoyed the music that proclaims the Good News of Christmas and gives us hope. 

            December 21st, we had a great Blue Christmas Service. For those of us who have never been to one, it is a service for those who have heavy hearts with sorrows they have endured in the immediate or distant past. It is a time to stop from the busyness of life and reflect deeper at this time of God’s gift of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love to all. Not everyone is expecting jolly Santa to show up, so this time is set aside to reflect upon the Heart of Christmas, which is Hope in the middle of hardships; Peace in the middle of chaos; Joy in the middle of grief; and Love in the midst of loneliness. It is time to reflect upon the Spirit of Christmas and the True light of Christ; and be aware that there is Life even in the longest night. We had a great turn out and many expressed how good this gathering did to their souls – Thank God.

            On December 24th, we gathered at both churches. One service was at 6:30 and the next at 8:00. They were both amazing. It was a first time for me and Gary to share communion on Christmas Eve and it was just beautiful. There are no adequate words to express the beauty that I experienced, so, I am not even going to attempt it. After the services we went next door to the manse and kicked our feet up and relaxed for an hour with the Rev. of the charge and his family, which was so needed. Next thing we know it was almost 11:30 p.m. It felt like we had just come out of the service, but that was at 9:45 p.m. an hour and 45 minutes had passed like a minute – the company was great and the simple gathering was appreciated.

            Christmas Day morning, December 25th, packed suitcases and the car and headed home – Laval, here we come! The drive home was smooth. No snow, no sleet, but a lot of cops (we were not speeding, but many who passed us were actually caught up ahead. As Gary said, “Many are thinking O.P.P. will not be around, but the rookies are working to make an impression”). 

            Christmas supper that Dad had prepared and Mom helped plan was wonderful. With my sister, in-laws, Gary and Maya, it felt like the best Christmas ever. Yes, it would have been good if other members of our families were with us, but whoever was close by, made it all worthwhile to drive home and have the best Christmas ever.

            Yes, Christmas only comes around once a year, and we all get carried away with what we need to get for each other, but this year, I have learnt for sure that giving up yourself, your time, for the ones you love is the best gift you can give. Life is so unpredictable and fragile, we need to live as if it is Christmas every single day and allow others to enjoy our peaceful presence; undisturbed attention; and unconditional love that only comes from selfless living.