Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Life of an Orthodox Daddy

So, last week I wrote about getting to know my daughter and overcoming some of the fears I had. This week I want to talk about praying and raising my daughter in the faith.

When I lived in Georgia I had a very small Icon corner that I had built out of an old bookshelf. The thing looked like it was leaning to one side but was actually level. I built one for my brother as well, and usually we would each say our prayers in our rooms at our Icon corners. Occasionally my brother and I would do a readers Vespers service together but that was about as far as praying with my family went as at this time my wife and daughter were not yet Orthodox.

When my family moved back to Tennessee the house we lived in had some built in bookshelves that I used as my Icon corner. This was in a much more open location and I was not nearly as isolated to the rest of my family. My brother and I used the new Icon corner a lot, but not my wife and daughter.

Now let me take a moment and explain what an Icon corner is for those who may not know. First and foremost the Icon corner is the center of family prayer in the home. It is here that the family should gather daily (at least) to pray in unity. This is essentially a home altar and the priest usually starts a house blessing at this spot. Not only should every Orthodox Christian have an Icon corner, but I think that every Christian family should have a place dedicated to family prayer. Read this link at OrthodoxWiki for more information.

One of my proudest moments was when I was doing my morning prayers before going to church and my daughter ran up to me demanding to be held. Naturally I picked her up and she remained still and quiet for a time. It seemed like she was taking in the prayers I was saying and I felt at that moment a deeper connection to my little angel. And then two seconds later she squirmed out of my grip and went running around the house... 

Eventually my family moved to an apartment elsewhere in Tennessee. The first thing I did was establish where the Icon corner was going to be, and as luck would have it we already had a perfect spot in our apartment.

It's not much, but it doesn't have to be because it serves its purpose as the center for family prayer.

Before my wife converted I was able to get her to say a few prayers with me, but we both never really developed a habit out of it. It was as the time for my wife and my daughters conversion started to come closer that my wife and I were trying to help our daughter understand the importance of what was going to happen - along with a few practice baptisms so she wouldn't freak out as the priest would dip her under (luckily I as home on leave during this so I could help out). It was also at this time that my daughter would voluntarily come up and do prayers with me.

My daughter was so cute during her baptism, and after when we got home she kept repeating parts of it for days after. I don't think that the significance of the occasion was lost on her at all.
Although she looks quite lost in this picture...

I was proud of my wife and daughter that night. And the following days of my leave really made me feel like a daddy. My daughter was insisting on doing prayers with her mother and me. In fact she would get upset if we missed them. Children are great at keeping us humble.

My daughter made me laugh so hard when I surprised her when I came home on leave. I knocked on the door and my in-laws had her answer the door. Her resulting surprise and joyous exclamation of "DADDY!" about 1,000 times whilst jumping up and down melted my heart.

I want her to keep that same enthusiasm that she had when she saw me, and I want her to keep that same enthusiasm as after her baptism when she kept stomping in circles (like during the ceremony where her godparents symbolically stomped on the head of Satan) and I want her to focus that on her faith. Everyday I learn something new about Orthodoxy that I did not know the day before and it has always kept me interested. I hope the same for my daughter.

I want to learn with her, so if she has questions I can answer them for her, or show her the reasons behind certain things of our faith. I want to teach her and help he grow in her relationship with God. I know that if I do this thing well that it will forge a bond so strong that no force could tear it asunder.

I want to be the kind of father that my daughter knows that she can always come to me with her problems - big or small - and I also want her to know me as a man of great faith so she will become a woman of great faith.

I just want to be her daddy!

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