lessons from an infant daughter

My little girl is nearly 11 weeks old now, with a decent head of hair, big blue eyes and her mamma’s nose. She now smiles, and smiles big when we’re close to her. She sleeps through the night most nights due to being on a hybrid feeding arrangement: nursed first, and supplemented by tube or bottle with formula. Watching her lay one of her Moomin quilts (courtesy of her mummo back in Indiana), I couldn’t help but think about what it’s like to be her.

She’s curious. She’s growing on a daily basis. She has only a few essential needs to be happy. She wants to be close to people and observe things as they go by. She knows what she wants, and knows how to get it. She communicates in a very direct (and intense) way. She doesn’t fuss about what she wears, what other people wear, or what color her furniture is; she doesn’t care at all about tangible things. When she doesn’t like something, she knows, for the most, what to do in order for something to change. She’s receptive to change and to being surrounded by a wide variety of people. She likes moving around, going places and taking a break when she’s had her fill. She sees all people as generally the same, even if they’re not.  She is able to entertain herself when she either needs to or wants to. She inspires other people as she is.

Truthfully, there are many days where I wish all of those things could happen in my own life.

Perhaps she is a reminder that such a way of living can indeed take place.

preparation

Tomorrow marks the due data of our daughter, who we’ve decided to name Marieve Elizabeth. To most folks, she will be Mari, and will hopefully inherit her mother’s musical talent, curly hair, and smile.

The last nine months have been quite an experience. Mari’s not been born yet, but there’s something about her that has built us and made us stronger as a couple, as well as individuals.

For the most, I’m still writing my life down in print form, and intend to keep it that way. I actually look forward to writing a lot more, and feel a lot more comfortable with the privacy.

In the meantime, however, I’ll definitely be sharing some things about our daughter with everyone, and will post them here.

Pray for us, and pray for our little girl as she starts her life on the outside.

 

-nic

retreat

After being inspired by a friend’s beautiful, hand-written journaling, I have felt encouraged to break away from the blog for a short time and write, for myself, in a print journal.

So in the meantime, just pray for me and I’ll be back soon enough.

-n

something new

This weekend marked the end of an era for me, as I worked my last hours as a student advocate in the handover to my successors and his colleagues. I ended my nine months in office with, for once, a sense that I actually did an okay job at something, and stuck with it even though there were times I felt like I should be doing something else.

What helped the most was that the things I struggled with were the things that turned out to be a chronic problem, and my colleages were incredibly understanding of those issues. I was able to reflect on my own experiences and figure out what needed to be done next, and though I couldn’t do everything I wanted, I did something to help student advocacy move forward instead of backwards. While I now know what really drives me and serves as my strengths, it’s always funny that you learn that when you’re about to move on to something else.

If anything, it’s a lesson in not doubting what you are. The Epistle reading from two days ago was from James, and it says “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind” (1:6).

His words ring true; in faith, we are stable, but in doubt, we are anything but.

As I move on to the next things in my life- finding a new part-time gig, beginning (hopefully) a thesis proposal, and becoming a pappa- I realize that I don’t want doubt to be the foundation of the things I love doing. I’m where I am because someone saw my abilities and strengths; therefore, I should see them for what they are and go forward with it. Even if I’m wrong in some areas, that’s not to say I won’t keep going.

trying hardest

“Many things—such as loving, going to sleep, or behaving unaffectedly—are done worst when we try hardest to do them.” -C.S. Lewis

I woke up to this quote on my Twitter feed and couldn’t stop thinking about it as I was writing. I’ve heard about people trying too hard- musicians, politicians, and especially Christians- and the hardest part about it is never really knowing you tried too hard until after you have experienced the fallout from all the effort.

I keep thinking of Fr. Silouane’s talk on prayer, and involving it as the foundation of all of our actions and as the start and end to each day. I’m realizing that prayer is a powerful tool against such falling; it grounds us so that we can hear God’s word and listen for when he is telling us to consider a different direction. I am thinking of the story of Mary and Martha from today’s Gospel reading in St. Luke, where Martha is frantically running around serving while Mary is sitting at Christ’s feet. Martha has issues with this perceived “laziness,” but Christ knows that what Mary is doing is what will bring her into the Kingdom of God. Sometimes you just have to sit back and listen, without constantly worrying about preparing the proverbial–or literal–food.

I am, slowly but surely, learning that service is about willing one’s self to understand what others have to say. Especially Christ.

experience

After another day of paper writing, I got to sit and catch up on some articles, one of which struck me as quite powerful.

Fr. Gabriel Bunge, a Catholic theologian who was long interested in Orthodoxy, converted to the faith last August- and he is in his seventies. He did an interview with Orthodoxy Today’s Konstantin Mastan, and I found myself quite inspired by what he talked about, especially about the formation of prayer experiences:

Mastan: If you could and wanted to give contemporaries a very short piece of advice about organizing their praying life, what would you say?

Fr. Gabriel: If you want to learn to swim, jump into the water. Only that way you can learn. Only the one who prays will feel the meaning, the taste and the joy of prayer. You can’t learn to pray sitting in a big warm armchair. If you are ready to kneel, to repent sincerely, to raise your eyes and hands to Heaven, then many things will be revealed to you. Of course you can read many books, listen to lectures, talk to people – these are also important and help to understand more. But what is the value of all these things if we don’t take any real steps afterwards? If we don’t start praying? I think you must understand this, too. Obviously, you are asking this question from the position of one who does not believe…

Mastan: Exactly. Our magazine is for those who doubt.

Fr. Gabriel: There is nothing wrong with doubts, they are even useful. One should not search for them, however. But if they do appear, one must simply recall that we all have a chance to hear, “Reach your finger, and behold My hands; and reach your hand, and put it into my side: and do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20: 27).

The part about having to simply jump into prayer was especially significant to my own journey to the faith. Although I had heard of Orthodoxy before experiencing it, I was, for the most, learning many things anew as I attended services and study groups. I asked questions, sought out information, and talked with those who are some of my closest spiritual family. The experience of it, as opposed to simply reading about it or hearing about it, was what kept me afloat and to the place I am now.

In my discipline, there is constant talk about experience being the core of research; reading about something or standing at a comfortable distance will never help us to answer our questions. Living such an experience, and doing so willfully under the guidance of people who are part of it, is a lot like faith. We don’t have to know everything about it from a book, but surrender ourselves to a destined path; part of the experience is living it and, simultaneously, studying it.

a few days beyond the fast

After following the donation calendar in the Antiochian magazine for the entirety of the fast, Jen and I have been thinking about its role in bringing food to the hungry through making us aware of both our own situation and what we can do to help others eat. In a province where food security is an issue–there’s a two-day supply of fresh produce if the boats aren’t working–there is a lot of usage of local food banks, and so we are hoping we can help somehow. The fact that our own university has its own food bank shows that the situation is too serious to ignore.

At a sustainability panel the other day, someone from the Food Security Network of Newfoundland & Labrador spoke about sustainable eating, and her mentioning that Newfoundland produces less than 10 percent of its own food was shocking. I thought about how many options there are here in town, and yet, in many communities throughout the province, people are lucky to have what is available in a convenience store; many people have to drive a distance just to get groceries that Jen and I can get in about five minutes.

So, in a culture where organic eating is very heavily promoted, Jen and I both wondered how people who couldn’t get many non-organic products would be able to eat organic. Jen posed the question to the woman from the Food Security Network, and she made an important point: While sustainable eating is promoted, healthy eating takes the biggest priority.

The words of the coordinator were assuring, because as students in a province where food costs are higher, organic food is not always the best option when you have rent and bills to pay. Instead, we began to see it as more of a goal rather than a standard we are forced to live by despite having a limited income. When people have a hard time affording produce, let alone organic produce, the focus is on tending to one’s needs, rather than feeling forced to adhere to standards that are out of one’s reach.

So, with that in mind, we are rethinking our strategy of how to eat better and be as responsible as possible. Health is so holistic that food, while being important, is only one of the many things that are part of its maintenance. Combined with exercise and other factors, we will be able to tend to our bodies as we were meant to do so.