Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A matter of life and death

He is not the God of the dead but of the living. -Matthew 22:32

I'm not sure why, but this verse has come up again and again in the past several months, starting in the fall at a church retreat.

One of the church's leaders had just lost his mother that day, and the pastor implored us to meditate on this verse. Among Russian Orthodox believers there is a practice of praying for the Lord's mercy on the spirit of the dead, as it passes through the journey to its final destination. But the Lord wants to meet with us in this life. It is here where we make our decision, and if we choose life, He will still be our God...not the Lord over our dead bodies, but the Lord of our new, eternal flesh.

Then I was talking to a friend who was favoring a "catch-all" sort of spiritual mindset. She was okay with most religions, and astrology and divination were just fine, too. As I explained that my views were a little narrower, she asked "Do you believe in ghosts?" I said that I believed in evil spirits, as the Bible does recall incidents of demon possession. But what about the "friendly" kind? You know, the spirit of the deceased relative, "watching over" someone, or trying to "say" something. I thought for a moment, and the verse popped into my mind again. Anything to do with the "undead" is NOT of the Lord. He is the Lord of the living. We may commune with the Lord in this life, but those who are dead, are dead, awaiting resurrection. If resurrected, we will live in a new heaven and a new earth. There is no wandering about between the worlds. read more/-

Guess what phrase came up in my Greek homework? That very verse. A fairly simple passage to translate, since the only verb is "to be." It's part of the essence of who God is. How could a dead person choose whom to serve? When we speculate about what really goes on in the afterlife, all we can do is compare it with the life we know. But there, everything will be different. We will change. Outside of our faith, all else becomes irrelevant.

Recently, I was reading some headlines about Japan. A CNN article mentioned the impossibility of performing funerals for most of the dead, as mass burials are presently a necessity. My heart went out to the survivors who were not able to confirm if family members were alive or dead. At the same time, I thought, does it really MATTER in what form they were buried? And again I thought of the Lord and how He takes care of the living. The deceased, if believers, have already met with the Lord. They receive eternal life. But there is still hope for the ones left behind.

Soon, we will observe the ultimate victory of life over death, the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Another (more serious) book on marriage

When I mentioned "heavy" books on marriage that I was reading, this was one of them. But I think the heaviness that I felt reading John Piper's "This Momentary Marriage" is more about the weight of His glory than about something sad. It's all quite positive, because it is God's plan, and all that He created is good. But it is also a great responsibility.

(You can download "This Momentary Marriage" for free from John Piper's website.*)

Something old, something new

Many of the marriage-related topics addressed in this book (forgiveness, gender roles, etc.) can be found in the sermons posted on desiringgod.org. I had listened to several of them recently, so I recognized the material.

Yes, he offers commentary on the "same old" passages, such as Ephesians 5. But he expands on them in such a way that I received many new nuggets of insight that I hope to apply in my own life.

Grounds for marriage

Early on in the book, Piper quotes Colossians 3:12 ("Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved...") and then expands on a description of believers as 1) chosen, 2) holy, and 3) beloved. His conclusion is this: read more/-
"This is the beginning of how husbands and wives forbear and forgive. They are blown away by being chosen, set apart, and loved by God. Husbands, devote yourselves to seeing and savoring this. Wives, do the same. Get your life from this. Get your joy from this. Get your hope from this-that you are chosen, set apart, and loved by God. Plead with the Lord that this would be the heartbeat of your life and your marriage."
I made a note of this as something to pray about continuously.

Being in love vs. keeping a covenant

We've all heard it: "love" and "being in love" are not the same thing. People warn you that the "in love" goes away, so you'd better work on the "love" part. I like Piper's no-nonsense approach:

"If a spouse falls in love with another person, one profoundly legitimate response from the grieved spouse and from the church is, 'So what! Your being 'in love' with someone else is not decisive. Keeping your covenant is decisive.'"

Something recoils in me at the thought of ever having to deal with this problem. But I am so glad that there are people fighting for these truths, and that I know which side I'm on.

Marriage roles

Piper's comments on Ephesians 5 are that:
-the husband is like Christ, but he is NOT Christ
-"the analogy only works if the woman submits to Christ absolutely, not to the husband absolutely. Then she will be in a position to submit to the husband without committing treason or idolatry."

But I also felt it was appropriate that he challenges the ambiguity of modern marriage roles with this comment:
-"... the problem is that egalitarians seem to stop with mutual submission, as if that were all one needed to say about roles in marriage, or as if that is all that the text has to say. And when they stop there, most people today are left with great ambiguity and great confusion about the proper roles of husband and wife...You don't need to deny mutual submission to affirm the importance of the unique role of the husband as head and the unique calling of the wife to submit to that headship. The simplest way to see this is to remember that Jesus himself bound himself with a towel and got down on the floor and washed his disciples' feet (the bridegroom serving the bride), but not for one minute did any of the apostles in that room doubt who the leader was in that moment." (emphasis mine)
Piper then goes on to illustrate headship for two chapters.

"If there is a sound downstairs during the night and it might be a burglar, you don't say to her, 'This is an egalitarian marriage, so it's your turn to go check it out. I went last time.'...Big or little, strong or weak, night or day, you go up against the enemy first."

The next section deals with wives' submission. Piper expands on Proverbs 31:25: "Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come."
"She looks away from the troubles and miseries and obstacles of life that seem to make the future bleak, and she focuses her attention on the sovereign power and love of God who rules in heaven and does on earth whatever he pleases (Ps. 115:3). She knows her Bible, and she knows her theology of the sovereignty of God, and she knows his promise that he will be with her and will help her and strengthen her no matter what."

Not married

Singlehood can be a blessing....haven't we all heard that before? (1 Corinthians 7)  I started flipping through the section a little faster, but I found that he offers some beautiful insight, like this comment:

"Someone might ask, wouldn't it be better to have both-the blessings of marriage and the blessings of heaven?...the blessings of being with Christ in heaven are so far superior to the blessings of being married and raising children that asking this question will be like asking, wouldn't it be better to have the ocean and also the thimbleful?" (emphasis mine)

 On hospitality

"If you are afraid of hospitality-that you don't have much personal strength or personal wealth-good. Then you won't intimidate anybody. You will depend all the more on God's grace. You will look all the more to the work of Christ and not your own work. And what a blessing people will get in your simple home or your little apartment."

Isn't this so true? I have been the recipient of this hospitality so many times, especially in Russia, where living conditions are modest. How wonderful to enjoy a simple meal in good company, or even just a cup of tea! When you are served the last portion of homemade soup, how warming it is to the soul! My roommate likes to say that food prepared with love is always tasty. I think that's mostly true. She always eats my cooking at least, even if she does douse it with ketchup once in a while. :)


Having children

This chapter begins with a treatise on sexual relations in marriage. Lots of good thoughts, but I'm simultaneously reading Piper's "Sex and the Supremacy of Christ," so perhaps I will cover that topic in another review.

His main thoughts on Christian child-rearing relate to marriage partners as a model of God's love for the future generation. "As husband and wife, they are a drama of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and the church. That is where God wants children to be. His design is that children grow up watching Christ love the church and watching the church delight in following Christ."

As he digs deeper, Piper focuses mainly on appealing to fathers as heads of households, with discussion on Eph. 6:4: "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger."

When things don't work out

Unfortunately, a marriage book isn't "complete" without mentioning divorce. But I agree with Piper's stance on this issue as well. He suggests a combination of compassion for those suffering with a deep hatred for divorce itself and the sin that causes it. His simple argument against divorce relates directly to Christ's covenant with His bride.
"And if the blood-brought church, under the new covenant, ever ceases to be the bride of Christ, then a wife may legitimately divorce her husband. But as long as Christ keeps his covenant with the church, and as long as the church, by the omnipotent grace of God, remains the chosen people of Christ, then the very meaning of marriage will include: What God has joined, only God can separate."
Piper applies this to remarriage as well. Divorcing and remarrying is an act of adultery (Mark 10:10-12), because Christ would never abandon His bride in this way. However, this does not mean that those who have remarried should abandon their current spouses, as they are already in a covenant with them.


Thinking "out loud"

I finally realized what it is that's particular about Piper's teaching/writing style, and that is that he muses his way through an issue. He records all of his reactions as they enter his mind. He asks questions and leads the reader in exploring them; then his observations flow along, with lots of clauses linked by "and."

In the section on child-rearing that I mentioned, Piper muses about Paul's reasons for making a particular exhortation. 
"Of all the things Paul could have encouraged fathers not to do, he chooses this one. Amazing. Why this one? Why not, don't discourage them? Or pamper them? Or tempt them to covet or lie or steal? Why not, don't abuse them? Or neglect them? Or set a bad example for them? Or manipulate them? Of all the things he could have warned fathers against, why this: 'Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger?'...He doesn't tell us why. So let me guess from what I know of Scripture and life. I'll suggest two reasons. First..."

That's a pretty roundabout way of posing a question! It's effective in a way because it leads the reader in asking questions. But it's a little too informal, in my opinion. Lots of personal pronouns.

Conclusions

I think this book is a great, comprehensive look at God's design for marriage. John Piper's arguments are solid and I see no red flags as to false teaching. "Momentary Marriage" is not a collection of practical helps; it is a biblical explanation for building a solid marriage that will glorify God. Single people and the church as a whole will also appreciate reflecting on how Christ gave himself up for His bride and how this is reflected in human relationships.

Read more book reviews at YLCF's March of Books this month! 


*A word about the format: The PDF file is beautifully formatted, with a nice typeface and quotes offset in italics, etc. When I converted it to my Kindle, that was all lost. The footnotes show up in the middle of the text, as well as the page headings. There is no italicizing or indentation to indicate where there are quotations. There are quotes by Dietrich Bonhoeffer that blend in with the text and are practically lost. Just a little warning.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The place where I live

Not too much longer in my current apartment! Well, I've got about 3 months left until I move, but I'm sure it will go by fast! Pretty soon we'll have to look for married housing...eeek.

A year ago, there were a few specific things I was dreaming of. A piece of paper that would let me stay in one place for awhile, and an apartment to rent were two of the things that would help me feel a little settled. We all long for stability in this life, and it's not guaranteed, but the Lord knew about my longings.

I handed in my residency application in April, but it wasn't until a few months later until the time came for me to move. I am sure that His timing was right. My then-roommate was getting ready to leave the country, and it was time to part ways.

The scary, exploding water heater
At the same time, a girl from my church was also seeking to change her living situation, and we found a 2-room apartment to share.

This apartment has fit my needs in so many ways! It's a fixer-upper, but even its disrepair fit my criteria. I wanted to be able to get a little creative without upsetting the landlord.

The even better part of moving in here was that through the move and the renovations, Andrey had an excuse to be around helping me a little more, and that turned out to be very beneficial for our friendship. By the time the wallpaper was up, we were dating. :) continue reading/-


For the past 8 months, I've luxuriously enjoyed having a room of my own...




...a bed just for sleeping, that doesn't have to be folded up during the day:



A place to work:



A bigger room (Yulia's), suitable for hosting Bible study each week:


 
And a kitchen big enough both for cooking and for sitting around. This turned out to be the spot where Andrey proposed.


Each time I moved, I would think to myself...will this be my last rental before I'm married? My last girly bedroom?

I didn't know this apartment would be it, but it's been a special year.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Hope for Christian wives

I didn't really want to read another book about keeping a perfect Christian household, and the title wasn't the most convincing either: Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother. Yuck!


But this book by Carolyn Mahaney got very good reviews on Amazon at least (by both men AND women), so I decided to give it a try.

I would like to start by mentioning that one of the most compelling features of "Feminine Appeal" is its positive tone. This is no minor factor in a book about marriage relationships. Some books about marriage can be so heavy, or even downright cynical, that it's refreshing to read something uplifting. Mrs. Mahaney manages to cover fairly intense topics without taking all the joy out of the institution of marriage.


Thinking Positively

The chapter titles in this book ( "The Delight of Loving My Husband," "The Blessing of Loving My Children", etc.) are an example of the positive terminology employed by the author. But lest you think it sounds too fluffy, here's what Mrs. Mahaney herself says about the aim of her book:
"This book is about the transforming effect of the gospel-because that is what Titus 2 is all about...The seven feminine virtues we will consider in this book are not an end in themselves. They point to the transforming effect of the gospel in the lives of women."
That's a pretty solid mission statement. continue reading/-

Here's an example of her words of encouragement for struggling wives:

"If you are in an exceptionally trying situation with your husband, I encourage you to pour out your heart to the Lord of love. He knows, He sees, and He hears; and though your tears may be lost on your husband, they are not lost on your heavenly Father. He is the compassionate Lord who urges us to draw near to Him so 'that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the tie of need.' (Heb. 4:16). Although you may not understand, you can be sure that your marriage has God's loving inscription on it. God's unerring wisdom has ordained your relationship with your husband-for your good and for Christ's glory...God will renew your strength so that you will not grow weary in cultivating a tender love for your husband."

Simple Truths

Mahaney's writing style is not the most challenging intellectually, and there are some rather wordy passages that seem to serve no other purpose than amusing the reader. After a seemingly random illustration, she writes, "Now do I have your attention?" (How about just getting to the point?)

Nevertheless, Mahaney's points, though simple, are challenging to apply to one's life, in a good way. In a world of confused morals, it's good to that there are Christian writers unmasking the Truth.

 Here's what she says about how our behavior as Christian women (though it could apply to men, too) affects those around us:

"Our conduct has a direct influence on how people think about the gospel...I recall my sadness when I heard of a high-profile Christian woman who left her husband for another man. My heart aches when I thought of the pain that this caused her family. But the effect of her sin didn't end there. When she broke God's command and committed adultery, her behavior reviled God's Word-before every person she knew and more she didn't know...her sinful conduct gave opponents of the gospel the chance to speak evil about Christians."

Another example: in the chapter on loving your children, Mahaney includes a little survey she conducted, asking young people how they know their mothers love them. From making favorite foods to singing lullabies, the ideas are mostly predictable, but still reach to the heart.

The author also does a good job exploring where certain sinful actions come from and the cycle of hurt that they create. "We revel in the luxury of extra sleep, but we spend the rest of the day frantically trying to make up for lost time. We exult in the brief moment of victory over our husbands, but we later regret the rift we've created in our marriage..." This is obvious, but when we're actually in the moment, we tend to forget about the consequences of our actions or to explore the root of why we're feeling hurt. We dance around the topic of sin, and she exposes this tendency.

And of course the book has plenty to say about marriage that I can't very well comment on at the moment! But here are a few more items that I found interesting:


Things to ponder

Mahaney believes that men are exhorted towards sacrificial love because it's easier for them to be affectionate than to make sacrifices. And women are called to love their husbands because it's easier for them to make sacrifices than to be affectionate. The Bible does contain these exhortations, but I had never thought about how they relate to typical behavior. At first I thought it was a flawed observation, but she used a good example of a woman working tirelessly to "serve" her husband, with a not so gracious attitude! Yes, women are indeed good at staying busy and making it look like they're the innocent ones, while forgetting to smile, use kind words, etc. So maybe she has a point there. I can't really say whether or not the opposite is true of men.


And here is a quote by Martha Peace that Mahaney included (on another topic) that I found convicting.

I have heard of women who pride themselves on being 'night people.' That means they have trouble getting up in the mornings because they come alive at night. They may stay up to all hours reading, watching television, or pursuing some sort of interest. The next morning they are too tired to get up and care for their family...These women are not 'night people.' They are lazy and selfish. Who would not rather stay up late to do whatever they pleased and sleep late the next day? Once a young wife begins getting up earlier than her children and her husband, she will cease to be a 'night person.' She will be tired at night and go to bed at a reasonable hour so she will be there to serve her family the next morning.'

Read more book reviews at YLCF's March of Books!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Here comes the bride

Another triumph: my fiance and I were able to reserve the church we like for our wedding ceremony. Most churches here don't have their own property, so the few that do (mostly Lutheran) are fairly popular venues for weddings.

We called before heading over to the church to make sure there was someone in the office. However, it took quite a bit of maneuvering via snowbanks and locked gates to actually get inside the offices, which were in a different building (just in case we thought it was going to be easy). This is not so much for security purposes as it is a way of life...lots of courtyards to navigate.

The church is Finnish-Lutheran, though I don't know how often the Finns are involved; it seemed like there were mainly Russians around. We were supposed to have a recommendation from our pastor, but since several couples from our church have tied the knot there in the past few years, we were able to get away without calling in our pastor. Also, Andrey had performed one of the weddings, so he is pretty familiar with everything.

In lieu of talking to our leadership, the Lutheran pastor wanted to make sure we were familiar with the rules. 1) The wedding can be performed only after a marriage certificate from the State is obtained. 2) No alcohol on the premises, ever. 3) The pastor performing the wedding ceremony should be male. ("You said the pastor marrying you is from Germany?" "Yes, but we still have to check with him." "Ah, there's the pronoun I was looking for.")

Our date was still open, and the secretary wrote down our names, but she mentioned that there had been a mix-up with double-booking, so it seems that we will have to check in later and make sure nothing has changed.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Teaching Sunday school

Sunday school. It always seems like despite our "best" efforts to come up with an organized curriculum and rotating teaching schedule, Saturday nights (and Sunday mornings!) often consist of last-minute phone calls, cutting out flannel-graph figures, and typing up memory verses. Even with a good plan, the lesson can feel pretty disorganized.

You never know if they're actually learning something.  You just hope and pray. Recently, one of the mothers (herself a Sunday school teacher) came up to me inquiring what the previous lesson had been about. It turned out that her 2 yr old (who usually colors and runs around in the back of the room) had started retelling the contents of the lessons, particularly since we'd been using the flannel-graph.

Whenever it seems like the kids aren't paying attention, I think to myself...they must be hearing, if passively. Oh Lord, please let these words fall on fertile soil! Help them to be active listeners!

When it comes to curriculum, I often disagree with the conclusions made in the Sunday school materials...comments like: Jesus worked hard helping people; therefore Jesus wants you to study hard and get good grades. Or, it's too hard for Jesus to go to all the countries preaching; therefore we need missionaries.

Nevertheless, there are good ideas in there, and this time we were going to talk about missionaries: about the privilege of sharing in the Lord's work, to His glory. read more/-

I had asked one of the mothers to share about her missionary work in another area of Russia as a young lady. We did a little interview with her. I think it's good for the kids to have Russian missionary role models. When we asked them where they would like to serve, they threw a lot of ideas out there that indicated they were thinking more about travel than missions work. So we had to clarify a bit.

Afterwards, we had prayer time. The kids wanted to pray for Finland (not sure why), Tunisia (so there wouldn't be war), and Japan (obvious reasons). We finished praying and one little girl said, "Oh, can we please pray for [city in Uzbekistan] too? The Church there is being persecuted!" She's right, as her family (of Russian ethnicity) is from there and had been involved in an underground church. Difficult times in some ways, but encouraging all the same.







Friday, March 11, 2011

Dog-eared, part 2

As part of YLCF's March of Books, I had posted a photo of a book from my fiance's childhood collection. Now my mom has sent photos of the Japanese one that I was talking about.



I wanted to be an author/illustrator at one point when I was little, and I loved the detailed pictures. The mouse family goes on adventures and it's fun keeping track of all the family members and looking for them on each page. First they play outside, then they bake rolls together and sit down to play parcheesi with the hot rolls as a snack.

another photo/-




Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Hard-knock life

There have been many new arrivals to the orphanage this year. Sometimes if we have tea together the counselors tell me about them, but I was still missing information on several of them. Not that it's my business, but it helps to know.

For example, why would a 17 yr old end up in the orphanage? She's at the age where she could already be in a dormitory.

I started noticing Dasha in my favorite counselor's group about a month ago. She kept to herself and sat quietly doing homework, or something. There was something I couldn't quite put my finger on. She was quiet and serious in a way that reminded me of a child who had brought up in a very conservative household, perhaps religious. Actually, she reminded me of an adult. When she brought me her English homework to check, I saw what had kept her so busy...lines and lines of painstakingly neat penmanship. There are other kids with neat handwriting, but this was done so lovingly.

Dasha seemed eager to learn and even more excited about her grades. She was getting A's and perhaps a few B's. She brought out her book to show me the good marks. She told me (voluntarily) about the different subjects she was studying. Doesn't this seem weird to you, if you picture the typical teenager?

When we started writing an autobiography together for English class, I started to wonder. My name is Dasha. I'm 17 years old. I'm in the 8th form. Being in 8th grade at age 17 just didn't add up, even in Russia where kids might start first grade at 7 or 8 years old. continue reading/-

And then Dasha started to tell me about how she didn't go to school for two years. Her mother wouldn't let her. I didn't quite get the details about her mother's mental breakdown, but Dasha is in the orphanage while her mother is undergoing evaluation. Given that her mother had pulled a knife on her...I'm not sure they'll be reunited. Was it the poverty that prompted her mother to keep her home, maybe a fear that someone would find out?

The not going to school made sense. No wonder Dasha was so excited about her pencils and notebooks; her homework assignments and good grades. She had been deprived, before this, of an education, of a basic rite of passage.

Dasha said that the scariest moment was when the police came for her. "Are you coming to snatch my child?" her mother asked. "No, we're coming to snatch YOU," one of the policemen said. "We're taking your child to safety, because you are the worst kind of mother." Dasha didn't seem clear on whether she should be loyal to her mother or not, but she was obviously traumatized by the event. She seems calm on the surface, but got a certain gleam in her eye when mentioning seeking revenge on the woman who put her mother in this condition. She's in a better place now, but her future fate? Only the Lord knows.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Dog-eared

The Young Ladies Christian Fellowship is hosting a March of Books this month. The assignment today is to post a snapshot of a well-loved book. (part 2 is here)

Unfortunately, most of my classic favorites are either in the U.S., or in electronic form on my Kindle.

So I will have to post on behalf of my fiance! He brought over some of his treasured books from childhood for me to explore.



There is something utterly fascinating about reading or even looking at a book from another culture. I remember a Japanese book I had with little mice doing different things. The illustrations were so beautiful, and even the text was a work of art because the characters seemed so exotic.

Andrey's book that I photographed is called "Petey the Microbe." :) It's about a little microorganism that goes around town and has adventures. There are a variety of Russian fairytales that exist, although some are reminiscent of the Brothers Grimm. Children also read many Scandinavian tales that have been translated into Russian. For example, I only remember "Pippi Longstocking" and "Mischievous Meg" from growing up, but there are many more Astrid Lindgren titles that are popular here.

click for more photos/-




Mirror Image-Back Cover! :)




A sample page


Saturday, March 5, 2011

More progress

 In which we apply for a civil wedding...

One of the hard things about getting paperwork done in St. Petersburg is that most offices (including banks) have a lunch break from 1-2 or 2-3 pm. So if you get there too close to the lunch hour, you will have wasted time waiting in line and then waste another hour waiting for the place to reopen.

Andrey was free at 1 pm, the lunch break was at 2 pm, and I needed to leave for the orphanage around 3 or a bit later. So we basically had an hour before lunch in which to get everything done.

I arrived a little earlier to reserve a place in line. I was already mentally rearranging my schedule and calling the orphanage to tell them I couldn't make it. Then I walked up the steps and turned the corner, expecting to see a full waiting room. It was empty-HA! continue reading/-

I poked my head into the office and asked if they were still open and if I could have an application. The woman started asking me about our citizenship and what date we wanted, but Andrey wasn't there yet. Nevertheless, she took a look at my documents.

I really hadn't been worried about my documents; it had all seemed easy and straightforward compared to applying for residency. In a way I was glad I had been through that whole process, so that this would seem like nothing.

She looked at the affidavit which I had just gotten back from Moscow. "This will need to be translated."

"What?" I was confused. The whole form was in Russian. What language did it need to be in?

"This line here, in English." I looked at what she was pointing at and it was a footnote under the signature: Do not sign affidavit until instructed to do so. That was for notarial purposes! She also pointed to a few lines that said (in English), Russian Federation, U.S. Embassy, Moscow.

"But I can tell you what they say!" I translated them for her, but she shook her head. "That doesn't matter. WE don't know what it says."

I thought I was going to burst into tears. Another trip to the translation bureau? Another few days to wait, now until next week? Sometimes it seems like the small obstacles are even more upsetting than the large ones. I had thought we might have a time crunch, but I hadn't expected everything to be delayed because of one little line of text.

She took the affidavit and announced that she was going to show it to her colleagues, then ushered me back into the waiting room and marched into an inner office.

I called Andrey, who was on his way. I told him the good news, that there wasn't a line, and the bad news, that I needed a translation. Just then, the lady emerged from the other room. "A translation won't be necessary." No translation! Hurray! Andrey went to the bank to pay the fee while I stayed put to monitor things.

When A. got there, we took turns filling out our parts of the application form while the other looked in the computer database for dates that were open. Having a civil ceremony at one of the wedding palaces is by appointment only. Of course it makes sense, since each wedding party needs a room for the ceremony and arrives with an entourage. We would have preferred to just show up at an office and sign a form, but for some reason the fact that I'm a foreigner means that we have to go through the wedding palace.

A few other couples were showing up, but most were leaving as they learned the spots for the summer were all filled up. A potential bride could be heard moaning, "But September is too COLD!" As for us, we were aiming for spring. We'll get the bureaucracy over with and just enjoy our church wedding in the summer. We hope.

The lady was a little exasperated with the way we had filled out our forms, but we eventually got them straightened out and picked a date, all by her lunch break. She printed out our names on a fancy invitation.

And then we realized that we were getting married very soon...on paper, that is. The plot thickens.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

No more Moscow

Not this time, Moscow.

I want to like Moscow, but associations so far have been stressful, or adventurous at best.

A two-day jaunt as a college student: drunk train passengers, an aching back, the sun beating down...walking and walking for hours, not knowing how to ride the metro, terrified of getting lost.

Arriving on the overnight train for a training session: classes all day, homework in the evening. A brief stroll or two around the Kremlin; otherwise it could have been any city.

In the past few years, there have been other necessities: a visa to Africa; fingerprints for the FBI...only in Moscow.

My fiance and I dropped a document off to be apostilled 2 weeks ago. We really didn't want to make the trip to Moscow again to pick it up. I had gotten sick a few days after the trip, and he teaches almost every day. I want to give Moscow another chance, when the weather is nicer and we can relax and plan our own agenda.

This time, we decided to use a courier service, and should be getting the marriage letter back today.

Someday, Moscow...