Archive for February 2010

Journal #11

February 21, 2010

                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

February 1, 2010

           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.