Welcome to MyOrthodoxFamily.com! Tell us who you are.
I’m an educator, writer and comic artist born and raised in Indiana. I didn’t grow up Orthodox, but I at least knew what it was growing up, and that it had something to do with icons. And a lot of Russian and Greek people were part of it. In grad school, I became Orthodox, and then introduced my future wife to it when we began dating. Thankfully, she was a young seeker like myself, and we have lived our faith life in the Church ever since; I was greatly joyed to see her be chrismated the day before our wedding in 2010.
Since then, we have moved around the continent a few times, being sojourners in different cities and parishes until we found a home in Iowa, where we’ve been for nearly five years. We have two daughters, and being able to raise them in such a beautiful faith is one of my greatest joys as a parent. Since my wife and I have been Orthodox for barely over a decade, we are learning along with our children, and I take this attitude into my own ministry work as a Sunday school teacher, homeschool tutor, and curriculum writer.
What do you most enjoy sharing? What do you feel most called to share?
I like sharing moments of joy, whether that’s a passage that I’ve been reading, an album I’m listening to while I’m working, or something creative I’ve been up to, like roasting vegetables or drawing out a story. Occasionally, I will also share something I really enjoy wearing, like a pair of socks that bring me joy. I blogged for many years, but have really shifted towards the visual in the last couple of years, engaging more in drawing comics about my life, excerpts of things I’m reading, and what I see in my everyday world. In the past, I might have been more overtly Orthodox in the things I shared and wrote, but now I’m trying to find ways in which I can create new things that are infused and inspired by Orthodox life.
The world of social media is complex. What do you see as difficult and as redemptive about sharing your journey in this way?
I think one of the biggest struggles with social media is that it is hard to be authentic and genuine without the risk of someone thinking that you’re being either overly authentic/genuine or that you are engaging in “humble-bragging.” What some social media producers see as a tool for ministry, positive influence, and creative inspiration, can be a trigger for others’ anxiety and sadness because they feel unable to do something in the same manner. I have found a bit of both myself as a blogger and creator. I’ve had people who really enjoyed what I share ask me to keep doing what I do, and people who have become very upset when I have made a social media mistake, like engaging in a debate on a tough topic. What I’ve learned is that I owe God my best self each day, and ultimately, there are always going to be people who do not agree or do not like what I do.
I also have found social media to be a useful tool for finding resources for living a better life in Christ. And through engaging with other creators, my own work has improved over the years. Social media allows me to feel less isolated with some of my personal interests; as someone who draws comics, wears a kilt and loves Nordic arts & culture, I have had the opportunity to build a stronger community based on those interests. Because of that, I’m better able to be at peace with myself and more sincere with others around me.
What is your earliest, distinctly Orthodox memory?
In 2007, during my study abroad term in Estonia, I traveled to the capital city of Tallinn, where a large Russian Orthodox cathedral – St. Alexander Nevsky – stands right across from Parliament. It is an iconic presence in the Tallinn cityscape, and my friends and I were able to go in and see the church. This was my first time being inside an Orthodox environment, and I knew nothing about any of it. I was unable to take photographs, so I’ve since had to go look online to remember what it looked like.
But what I do remember from my visit was that there were two women outside of the church, asking for alms from my friends and me. I did not want to give some to one and nothing to the other. I looked in my wallet, and I just happened to have two of the same bills. I was able to give one to each of them before we moved on to see another site. I never saw either of the women again, but I keep thinking about how I was presented with an opportunity to show grace and mercy to two women I never knew. Giving freely was my first Orthodox memory, even though it would take two more years before I would join the faith.
What do you hope will be the mark you leave on the world as you pass through it?
Honestly? I have no idea. If I focus too much on leaving a mark on this world, I think I might lose sight of what I’m doing, and get lost. But I at least hope that someone else’s life is better because of my efforts. I hope my family feels loved and cared for, and that I can be a good presence for others.