Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Waiting to See My Father

Yesterday marked 25 years since my mom and I came to the US.

I was born in communist Romania, where the oppressive dictatorship prevented people from even leaving the country (unless, of course, you were a member of the Communist Party). My dad was determined to get us out, so that I would grow up in freedom. After many attempts at getting his research papers accepted at conferences in the West, he finally succeeded in leaving. I was really close to him, and it was indescribably hard to watch him walk down the airport terminal... and I thought he was leaving for only TWO WEEKS!!! The government had spies everywhere, and in order to ensure that I wouldn't say anything to anyone, my parents didn't tell me that my dad was not planning to return.

Romania had signed a Family Reunification agreement with the West, that if a family became separated, they were to make every effort to allow them to leave, so they could be reunited, sort of like a rubber band. But it wasn't until 18 months later that my mom finally got through all the roadblocks and red tape, and we were allowed to leave.

The picture above was taken shortly before we left Romania. I think it's very interesting how happy and excited I looked, while my mom seemed to be light-years away. Maybe she was thinking about all that she would be leaving behind, including her mom, aunt, and brother. All I knew was that I would get to see my dad again; it probably didn't much occur (or matter) to me that I may never see my other family again.

I've got to tell you that the moment that I saw Dad for the first time, at JFK International, was one of the happiest and memorable moments in my entire life. I was so happy to see him, that all those months that we were apart didn't even matter anymore.

The next few months were filled with the excitement of living in a new place, discovering new things ("You mean I can wear regular clothes at school?!?!") and learning a whole new language.

The Bible describes another tyrant who tricked humanity into the oppression of sin. We were unable to escape by ourselves. Our Heavenly Father, however, had a plan to get us out, which is why He came to die on the cross. But while He was still with His disciples, He told them, "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:2b-3).

So now we wait. Paul says that the whole of creation groans, yearning for His return. Those of us who are His children will rejoice to see Jesus again, to take us to that new land of freedom, and all the time that we spent waiting will cease to matter. Oh, what a glorious day that will be!

Friday, February 19, 2010

It's-a Mario Party 10! Wahoo!

You might be wondering why I was away from blogging for so long. If you're a regular visitor, you might remember that I go on hiatus every January (December, too), due to the enormous time and effort that it takes to plan our son's birthday parties. Here is what we did last year.

Well, since Kylen loves video games so much, and Mario in particular, we thought it would be great fun to have a Mario-themed party. We bought LOTS of Nintendo paraphanalia, decorated the walls of our unfinished basement to look like the classic Super Mario Brothers games, and I even created a PC program, to keep track of the kids' scores, during the party games. Here are some pictures, to give you an idea of what it was like. Enjoy!

What do you get when you cross a computer nerd with a video game character? You got it! That's me, as Luigi, Mario's skittish taller brother. I'm sitting in a corner of our basement, operating the scorekeeping program I wrote. A projector displayed the status on a handmade screen.

Here is what much of our basement looked like. The walls were decorated with rolls of plastic tablecovers and computer printouts of Nintendo characters. Hey, when the images you find on the internet are 2000x3000, even a full-size print on an inkjet looks professional!

The Chain Chomp on the left side of your screen is a 3-foot Big-Uns ball, covered with two yard trash bags. The teeth and eyes were cut out of printer sticker sheets. I also recorded some dog barks on a CD and hid the player behind the Chomp, for added realism.

In the back, you can see a Sandbag, which is, in fact, a real punching bag that we've had for years, covered in a large sheet of white craft foam.

This picture really does NOT do the cake enough justice. Although we joked that we had made it, our co-op's lead organizer made it for us. Isn't she talented??? She has her own cake-decorating business, so if you live in the Inland Northwest, we HIGHLY recommend her!

The original post had a YouTube video, but Farrah reminded me that some parents are really sensitive about how visible they are on the internet, so I took it down. If you were at the party and would like to see the video, please e-mail me.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Book Review: The Princess and the Kiss

My cute and wonderful wife loves to change the decor in our living room every month or two. As part of that, she puts out collections of books and magazines, related to that particular theme. Last weekend was the big Valentine's Day push. Our house is now exquisitely arrayed in reds, pinks, and purples (very manly, I know!). On a lampstand sit several love-themed picture books, including this one: The Princess and the Kiss, by Jennie Bishop. What it lacks in action, it makes up for with a strong Biblical view of courtship and a heartwarming story that brings tears to our eyes, every time we read it together.

In the story, a baby girl is born to a King and Queen. God entrusts the new parents with a most precious gift: their daughter's First Kiss. As she grows, they dilligently guard their daughter's treasure, until she is old enough to be entrusted with it. Suitors then come, asking for her hand in marriage, and the story tells the tale of how she finds the only one to whom she will trust with her most treasured possession.

It's simple, but sweet, and appropriate for any age. It reads like a fairy tale and manages to teach a moral without sounding preachy. Our son loves to hear it each year, and I think it's a great opportunity for us to impart our views of dating, on to our son (even though we did not follow those protocols ourselves).

Now, for some background...

Although our son is not yet a teenager, it's never too early to develop a Biblical model of dating, for your children. Dating and relationships are difficult topics for parents to discuss, and Farrah and I want to avoid the mistakes that we feel our respective parents made when raising us. So, a couple years ago, we attended a talk on courtship, given by a pastor in our area, and our eyes were opened.

The Bible has lots of examples (good and bad) of how men and women got together (Adam and Eve, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel and Leah, Sampson and his women, David and his women, Solomon and his women, etc...), but there is no single recipe for how God specifically wants his people to handle courtship.

While parents implement it to varying degrees, courtship is somewhere between the sterility of arranged marriages and the emotionally clouded, modern dating model. The basic idea is that the parents are responsible for their children's purity, and need to guide the process by which their children select a spouse.

Some of the guidelines include:
  • A minimum age for courtship (possibly old enough to marry)
  • Boy asks parents' permission first
  • Boy and girl do not "go out", but get to know each other only as part of family activities
  • Boy and girl study the Bible together with the families
  • Affectionate behavior, including the first kiss, reserved for marriage
This may sound strict and maybe unrealistic, but it represents the moral high ground that our children and society so desperately need. Divorce rates are at an all-time high. Teen and out-of-wedlock pregnancies are rising. Domestic and same-sex "partnerships" are getting footholds as acceptable "lifestyles". If we are to salvage what's left of the traditional family and Biblical marriage as its cornerstone, we must make the effort to pass on those values to our children.