What I'm Doing

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

First Post!

(Well, first post on this blog for the new year.)

First of all, Happy New Year (yeah, yeah, a day late)!

2007 has been a very...interesting year, with big highs, and big lows. This year started with a LAN party. Of course, the idea was to play until just before midnight, count down to the new year, celebrate, and return to playing. As it worked out, though, we played until someone eventually asked, "What time is it?" at which point we realized we'd missed the new year by almost an hour (if my memory serves me correctly). LAN parties rock.

It wasn't long into the new year, though, that I had to tell my parents that Kristen and I had been attending an Orthodox church. We had been attending more-or-less consistently for a few months, but I hadn't gotten up the guts to tell my family yet. They had, apparently, assumed we were still visiting around at Protestant churches. I think it goes without saying that they were not too pleased. Since then, Orthodoxy has seemed to be the elephant in the room every time I've spent time with my parents. For a while, the elephant did a lot of running around and breaking things; for the last half of the year, he's mostly sat quietly, although he's still there.

I hope I'm not saying too much with that. Whatever issues may exist with my family (who I love dearly) are private, and not appropriate for this blog (being more-or-less a public forum), so I won't say any more.

It wasn't long afterwards that Kristen and I were received as catechumens (I think that's the plural?) in the Church. We had been going to catechism classes for a while already, but finally decided to come under the umbrella of the Church's ministry. Basically, being a catechumen means that you are seriously interesting in learning about and considering the Faith. It also means that, if you were to die, you could receive an Orthodox funeral.

Of course, for the first half of the year, I was still back-and-forth about becoming Orthodox. There was much about it that I loved, although I still had some deep-seated aversion to the veneration of icons and the Saints. To some degree, I believe this was partly external (coming from others), but it was also internal. It's a hard thing to really reconsider things you had been taught your whole life as axioms. And, so, I vacillated between going Orthodox and settling for Anglicanism (which seemed to be the most acceptable of the Protestant churches).

This put a lot of stress on my relationship with Kristen; while I was trying to make up my mind, she had already decided on Orthodoxy. In addition, there was the question of what would happen to us if we ended up in different churches. It would be one thing were we already married, but it seemed like a bad idea to marry into such a situation. We had been talking about engagement (I had gotten the ring in February), and seemed so close to getting married; the idea of losing all of that was heartbreaking.

Finally, glory to God, I made two decisions (I forget in which order): First, I was going to propose to Kristen, and, second, I was going to become Orthodox. I've already posted our engagement story, so I won't repeat that here, except to note, again, that I proposed on May 5. Having both been baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit in a Baptist church, we were received by Holy Chrismation into the Orthodox Church on May 20, the Sunday before Pentecost. I have been asked by a few people about why I converted, etc., and I've been considering creating a blog post about that to refer people to. Perhaps that will come this year, as I've gained more hindsight.

Those two events, one right after the other, were pretty much the height of the year for me. Besides that, I've continued my piano lessons, and have had my first two performances outside of recitals: the first, in May, was playing at the Decorator's Showhouse (I played background music in one of the rooms for a couple hours), and the second was playing at my sister's wedding in December.

This November, I moved out of my friend Chris's house, where I had lived for the past couple years and into an apartment. This was a bit of a change for me, as I had never lived alone. Before living at Chris's house, where we shared most of our space between 3-4 guys, I had lived at my parents'. In addition, I was going from having only a tiny bedroom as "my space" to having an entire two-bedroom apartment.

Unfortunately, just before my getting the apartment, my company instituted a 10% pay cut, which means that, all included (rent, utilities, etc.), I'm paying roughly three times more for living expenses and making 10% less. So far, I've been able to manage, and God is faithful.

I mentioned earlier that, being a catechumen means that, if you die before actually joining the Church, you can still receive an Orthodox funeral. Apparently, this is something priests commonly tell people considering catechism, but this Fall, we actually saw this happen. A young woman who had recently been received as a catechumen in our parish passed away just before the Nativity Fast. I wasn't able to make it to the funeral, though I do wish I could have. Lord, have mercy on her.

As I alluded to earlier, my sister was married the Friday after Christmas, and I was honored with playing the piano at her wedding. She is on her honeymoon now, with her new husband.

I also built a new computer (I believe that was this year), went to Dragon*Con for the first time (well, last year, I went, but didn't register, so I just spent a while in the hotel lobbies), and went to Anime Weekend Atlanta a second time. I went to the Renaissance Festival a few times this Spring. Maybe this year I'll try to convince Kristen to make me a tunic so I can put together a good RenFest costume.

Finally, I ended this year at another LAN party with most of the same friends that were at the LAN party at the beginning of the year. We missed the new year again, of course.

This post is already getting too long, so I won't even try to remember everything else that has happened. All-in-all, though, it has been a good year. I've been busy, although I've also wasted a lot of time. I haven't read enough, nor have I prayed nearly enough. However, despite my unworthiness, God has blessed me with a wonderful fiancée, has led me to the true Faith, has allowed me to continue working, and, despite issues regarding the Church, has nevertheless preserved my relationship with my family. He has given me a number of good memories from Chris's house, and the exciting prospect of many more good memories with Kristen. He has preserved me in good health, and has led me safely to the close of this year. All of this has He done, despite my failure to give thanks as I should.

In hindsight, I know that even the struggles and difficulties I have experienced this year are gifts from God for my salvation, although I pretty much always fail to recognize this at the time and instead instantly pray for deliverance. Perhaps, in the next year (and the next, and the next...), He will help me to learn to give thanks even for the difficulties.

Above all, as I am listening to music from the Final Fantasy series of video games, I am grateful for beauty. God has allowed me to see many beautiful things this year. Some of them I have been able to document in photos on my Flickr account. Some of them I simply cannot document in any way. Perhaps I can create another blog post on that topic.

Having looked back to 2007, I also look forward to 2008. The coming year promises many new blessings, the first of which is the upcoming wedding, where God will unite Kristen and myself in Holy Matrimony. This will bring it's own set of blessings and difficulties that I've never experienced before, and I'm excited to meet each of them. God-willing, I will have a house by May, and, hopefully, the pay cut will be lifted soon (maybe, considering the extra work I've picked up, I can even get a good raise). All of this will certainly come with difficulties, but, again, God-willing, I will be able to meet them this year "with peace of soul and the firm conviction that [God's] will governs all."

To quote Saint John Chrysostom, "Glory to God for all things!"


bootgun said...

I really enjoyed this post! I'd like some more info on eastern orthodoxy.

CoderForChrist said...

Well, as I said, I'm planning on putting up a post about my conversion to Orthodoxy, but who knows when I'll get around to that?

One of the first books suggested to me in my journey was The Orthodoxy Church by Timothy Ware. In addition, I found the Orthodox Church in America's website's section, About Orthodox Christianity, to be very helpful.

Then there is Father Stephen Freeman's blog, Glory to God for All Things, which, while not exactly an introduction to Orthodoxy, does display ways that Orthodox doctrine can be lived out.

Finally, and, perhaps, most importantly, "come and see." Books and other writings are good and important, but nothing beats direct experience. Find an Orthodox Church near you; I'd suggest an OCA parish, where English is spoken. Go attend Divine Liturgy and see what it's about for yourself. I will warn you, though, to be prepared for a lot of standing; many Orthodox churches don't have pews (my parish doesn't).