Thoughts on Conversion

Today, October 29, is the third anniversary of my baptism into the Orthodox Church.

I was twenty-two years old and converting out of a strong evangelical Protestant background.  Part of me is still amazed that I actually went through with it.  To tell the truth, I was not fully convinced of the rightness of my conversion until I emerged from the baptismal waters.  I am a champion self-doubter and second-guesser.  I don’t like taking risks, and I don’t like unknowns.  If I don’t understand something, I research it until I do.  If I make an assertion, I generally only do so if I feel well-backed by facts or a knowledgeable authority.  When deciding to convert to Orthodox Christianity, I had researched and visited and asked questions, sometimes over and over again–but still a feeling of doubtfulness remained.  It was not until my priest was anointing me with chrism that I felt a sense of peace about converting.

I realized then that sometimes you don’t truly understand why you did something until after you have already done it.  I also began to learn that sometimes this understanding comes not in a moment, but through a process.

Although the day of my baptism was the day I “officially” converted, I often feel that I am still undergoing conversion.  At the time of my baptism, I had been learning about Orthodoxy for over three years, but had only been regularly attending an Orthodox church for a few months.  Conversion was something of a culture-shock–especially in combination with getting married (a week after being baptized) and moving from New York to Texas (a week after getting married).  Where church was concerned, I struggled with fasting (did I mention that all of these changes came almost on the eve of the Advent fast?), with learning the service at a new church, with standing for so long during liturgy, and with what seemed, at times, like the overbearing patriarchal authority of the Church.  There were times when I wondered, “What have I gotten myself into?”

What I should have remembered was something my priest had said at my first confession–that the Christian life is not a sprint to the finish.  Becoming holy is a long, long marathon.  For me, conversion was only a part of the marathon–it was a beginning, not an end.  It is a process, one which wasn’t necessarily completed, wrapped-up and closed-out by the time of my baptism.

The thing that helped my early struggles was experiencing Holy Week and Pascha for the first time.  We attended as many services as we could, and as the week unfolded, I found that my fragmented understanding of Orthodoxy came together, piece by piece.  The liturgy made more sense.  Fasting made more sense.  Discipline made more sense.  I better understood the joy of my baptism as I experienced the joy of Pascha.  I took another step forward in the marathon.

So today, I joyfully remember my baptism. I am encouraged by how far I have come, and I try to be determined, not discouraged, about how far I have to go–even if it seems like it is very far indeed.  I remember that sometimes understanding only comes after the fact, and in the long-term.  I remember that I walk by faith and not by sight.  I remember that what seems like an end might really be a beginning.  And I pray for strengthened faith and greater understanding.

***

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 

~Romans 6:4

Great Rules of Writing

Do not put statements in the negative form.
And don’t start sentences with a conjunction.
If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a
great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
De-accession euphemisms.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Last, but not least, avoid clichés like the plague.

~William Safire, “Great Rules of Writing”
via The Quote Garden

The Creation of the Apple

(Apple cider, apple oatmeal, apple pie, apple slices with caramel, baked apples, apples just as nature intended them.  All of our recent apple-eating has reminded me of this little flight of fancy, which I wrote last year.  It has been rescued from the depths of my Facebook feed and edited.  Enjoy it with an apple.)

***

I think, when all the seasons were first created, it was discovered that a little bit of Autumn had been left over. No one wanted to waste even one tiny part of such a beautiful season, so they came up with an idea. First, the little left-over bit was formed into a ball, not quite perfectly round. It was infused with a little dew from the early morning, to make it juicy, and the sound of walking through fallen leaves, to make it crisp. A few rays of sunlight were added, to make it tangy. Then, the leftover Autumn was dipped in the colors of changing leaves, to give it shades of green and gold and crimson. It was hung on a tree and formed seeds, so that more of it could grow the next year, when Autumn-time came again.

And that was the creation of the apple.

And suddenly, it was October.

I just realized that I haven’t made a Lab Mice-related post on here since March 29.  That’s almost seven months ago.  This makes me sad.  If I am lucky, this also makes other people sad.

I uploaded this comic to temporarily remedy the situation.  It popped into my head tonight, but it’s something I’ve been feeling for a while.  Time is running away from me.  Where did the summer go?  And then, where did September go?  I feel the need to stop and catch my breath, but didn’t even realize I had been running.

One of my frustrations lately (for the past seven months, apparently) has been my seeming inability to complete a comic.  I have a backed-up queue of penciled comics, waiting to be inked, cleaned up and posted–or put into a file for a book.  I just can’t seem to get myself to pull out my ink and pen, sit down, and do it.  Which is probably the crux of the problem.

Lab Mice began as very quick sketches on my schoolwork and evolved from there.  I think I need to revisit that early idea–that the drawings should reflect the desire for ease and speed and lack of fuss (this is the reason that the mice characters had no eyes–it was too difficult and time consuming to get the expressions just right).  What Lab Mice is now is largely the product of the independent study I did in college–more focus on artistry, less on just getting a funny idea out there visually.  That was so very valuable, and I am grateful for all I learned from that experience (plus, how many kids get to draw cartoons and get college credit for it?).  But now that my college graduation isn’t hanging in the balance, there isn’t nearly as much motivation for me to put all that time and effort into my comics anymore.  And that’s probably okay.  I have a household to maintain–and yes, that really is a job, you just don’t get paid for it–and someday I may have a part-time job on top of that, and someday beyond that I will probably have kids.  I want Lab Mice to still be there through all of that, even when I don’t have a lot of time to devote to it.  So I think I need to simplify.

Mostly this will mean a change in my medium.  No more India ink and dip pens.  While I have really enjoyed the experience of using them, they are just too messy.  I like to be able to work on my comics on-the-go or in unconventional places.  You ever try holding comics on your lap while balancing a bottle of black ink so you can dip your pen, all while going around a curve in a moving vehicle?  Yeah, me neither, and I’m not keen on trying.  Also, I am klutzy, and even under the best conditions I am always smearing the ink or spilling it or splattering it with the pen.  Which means more time in Photoshop cleaning up my mess.  No thanks.  A more klutz-proof medium is what I need.

Hopefully now that I have reached this conclusion, more comics will be coming in the near future.  I miss my little mice.  They’ve been part of my life for ten years now–something I realized while typing this.

Time really does fly.