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Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

An Invitation to an Honest End of the Year

In Family, Friends, Holidays, Humanity, Marriage, Thought on December 23, 2014 at 12:02 am

The website McSweeney’s Internet Tendency had a pretty funny post yesterday entitled “Snopes Investigates the Anderson Family’s Holiday Letter,” in which the fact-checking website analyzed an imaginary family’s uber-happy annual end-of-year Christmas correspondence. The result was a brilliant paragraph-by-paragraph “true” or “false” or “mostly true” or “unconfirmed” study, substantiated or unsubstantiated by evidence the investigator(s) at Snopes had snooped out.

I find myself taking this same tact now that the Christmas cards and letters are showing up at our house. Actually, we don’t get many letters anymore as no one takes the time to write them; instead, we’re getting what seem semi-expensive, do-it-yourself, four-color published cards with a happy picture and some sentiment of the season printed across the top or bottom. There’s usually a signature, but not every time.

But there are always smiles. Always.

We’ve been off and on in recent years when it comes to the year-end Christmas letter. This year, we didn’t send anything, partially because we didn’t get a family picture taken (or, I should say, we didn’t get a family picture that we wanted to spend money to reproduce and mail), but mostly because it just wasn’t a holiday hoop we were able and willing to jump through. Still, not wanting to throw in the towel completely, my wife posted the picture on Facebook and included the following update:

Christmas Pic 2014

This, friends, is the best I could do this year. It’s the only family photo we have of all six of us together from this WHOLE YEAR. And I’m pretty much out of steam, so I’m not sending these in the mail (and why would we, anyway, because…well, look at us).

2014: Good, Bad, and Ugly. It had plenty of each. I’m honestly thankful it is finally panting toward the finish line of New Year’s Eve. I’ve never really thought January 1 held some magical restart, but there is something to be said about a clean slate and hope.

And it’s hope that I’m clinging to for 2015. I lost it in 2014. And during this time of the year when the line to the mall parking lot blocks traffic on the main road and everyone wants a piece of the calendar, I sit here with soft music on and sleeping boys who are now home from seeing their parents for the day, still dazed and a little confused by all the caregivers in their lives and the constant transition. I hear my girls laughing with each other over a shared card game, and sometimes bickering because of a small offense, and I grasp to try to remember why we come to a halt this time of the year.

It’s a baby, y’all. A baby who came to redeem the world in all of its brokenness and disaster and make it whole again.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

Joy to the world. Joy to you…to me.

Merry Christmas

I tried to convince Megan to add “damn it” after Merry Christmas, but she resisted, despite the fact that 2014 was a brutal year of loss for the Dunhams – foster kids, Megan’s mom, connection with the past, health, sometimes confidence, oftentimes hope. If you know us at all, you’re probably familiar with some of this already, so if suddenly we sent out a “happy, happy, joy, joy” Christmas letter in December, it might seem a little disingenuous, which should bother you.

I would sure love to read more honest letters at the end of a calendar year. I roll my eyes when I see pictures of people smiling on ski slopes or beaches, and I’m bored with the braggadocious behavior that links the fact that God is good with the good time somebody had this year (for the record, God is good, regardless of your good time). Instead, I’d love to see a family picture in which all are somehow owning their dysfunctions. Or even better, how about some tears to go along with what everybody already knows is going on? Sure, talk some hope, but what good is hope if we refuse to acknowledge the life situation(s) crying out for it?

Maybe you don’t want to come off as down or discouraged to family or friends (after all, that’s what Vaguebook is for, right?). Well, even if Megan and I happen to be family or friends (or both or neither), please know you can send us an honest letter and we’ll be glad – actually excited! – to read it. We might even pray for you as a family, which would be pretty cool because we suck at that, so think of this as your invitation to help our family’s life of prayer rather than as your family’s Christmas confessional.

You can email us your letter (cmdunham [at] gmail.com), or request our mailing address if you want to send us an actual piece of mail. Please include a picture (preferably not the Glamour Shots version) that’s at least as desperate as ours so we can make the refrigerator photo gallery a little more interesting.

With all that said, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

(I was again going to suggest “damn it” at the end, but Megan again wouldn’t let me, so just know that we mean it. We really, really mean it.)

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Three Years: A Hard and Happy Time

In Calling, Church, Family, Friends, Marriage, Oklahoma City, Places & Spaces, Students, Teachers, The Academy, Veritas on June 9, 2014 at 7:45 am

City Pres Particularization

Reflecting on the fact that, as of this week, we’ve lived in Oklahoma City for three years. Here’s a video tour (or more accurately, a tour of videos) to commemorate the milestone.

We’ve had a hand in creating a new mascot

…a new school

…and a new church.

We’ve fostered and become advocates for foster care…

…mourned loss…

…reminisced and remembered…

…partied…

…had fun at another’s expense (quite justified)…

…had fun at our own expense (quite amusing)…

…and periodically had a little too much time on our hands (quite disturbing).

By God’s grace and providence, it’s been a hard and happy time – rarely one or the other; more frequently, one and the same. There’s more to say than anyone would read, and still more to do that too much nostalgic navel-gazing would allow.

Perhaps we should just let Psalm 16 have the last word:

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.

The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.

I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.

For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

The Way We “Wrestle” Is to Pray

In Calling, Church, Educators, Family, Friends, Health, Humanity, Marriage, Oklahoma City, Parents, Places & Spaces, The Academy, Young Ones on February 14, 2014 at 7:22 pm

Wrist Prayer

Jesus was never one to over-spiritualize, but he did talk frankly of the Devil and his demons being at work in the world.

Following Jesus’ lead, I don’t want to over-spiritualize, either; yet multiple conversations with many of you in recent weeks have combined with my own acute sense of need to compel me to remind friends that, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:2).

The way we “wrestle” is to pray.

Because God is at work in the world, Satan wants to be as well. Depression, doubt, insecurity, fear – these are all evils from the pit of Hell, and multiple families are experiencing these attacks in various manifestations in the midst of physical sickness and mental weariness of late. Recently, we’ve had students and staff members who have been in the hospital for a variety of (odd) reasons, moms and dads who are struggling through hard life decisions, and just about all of us (my own family included) who are dealing with situations that are unfamiliar and out of our control.

To top it all off, we just finished a 12-day streak of some of the worst winter weather Oklahoma City has seen in a while, which can play havoc with our emotions as much as anything else.

Of course, not all of these trials are in and of themselves evil, but the discouragement that can accompany them (along with the often self-inflicted feeling of faithlessness in our handling them) can easily be used against us. Trust – in God, in each other – can erode, and Satan would like nothing more than to wash away all we have worked so hard to achieve.

With all this on hearts and minds, most of us are aware of at least one person or scenario in need of help. Would you ask the Lord to act in accordance with his “good, pleasing, and perfect will” (Romans 12:2) in providing it? As Jesus does in his prayer in Matthew 6, let me also encourage you to ask the Father to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Satan does not need more of a foothold in anyone’s life.

I’m not asking anyone to make lists or track answers; I’m just asking us – you and me – to take some time this weekend to pray, that God may meet us in our need, do what he wants through it, reassure us of his love in it, and be glorified as a result of it.

“Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families: We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh. Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we may evermore be kindly affectioned one to another; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

From The (Online) Book of Common Prayer

(The pictured wrist above belongs to my friend, Jerome Loughridge, who wrote out the names of several of our school staff on his arm to remind himself to pray over the weekend. I was privileged to make the wrist…er, list.)

Let the Learning Continue

In Calling, Church, Education, Family, Friends, Health, Holidays, Marriage, Oklahoma City, Places & Spaces, The Academy, Young Ones on January 1, 2014 at 6:13 pm

2014

My son, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments,
for length of days and years of life
and peace they will add to you.
Proverbs 3:1-2

Megan already shared a 2013 summary of sorts in our online Christmas letter, so I’ll save you a rehash here. But I did want to offer a few thoughts I’ve been thinking between Christmas and New Year’s (possibly my favorite week of the year).

Put simply, I’m really glad 2013 is out of here. It was a very hard year, one that I don’t regret, but at the same time one I do not wish to relive again. Foster care, school merging, church planting, another round of husbanding and parenting – all good things that were all hard. Really hard.

It was a lonely year. Despite spending the majority of my days with great people at The Academy, we were always at work on something (and trying to be present on three different campuses every week sometimes felt like being present at none). I enjoy the folks in our Wednesday night City Pres group, but seeing them once a week for an hour or two only goes so far.

Even with Megan and the girls, the “project” of foster care took its toll on our family dynamics and relationships, and while it built new things in, I would say that we all functioned more as partners than as family at times, doing what needed to get done at the expense of deepening our relationships. This kind of sacrifice is not always bad – we grew in other ways as a result – but I don’t want to repeat it to the same degree in 2014.

Things I’m continuing to learn/re-learn (feel free to apply palm to forehead on my behalf if any of these seem obvious):

  • The “why” behind decisions matters, and even when it should be crystal clear, it still bears repeating.
  • Competence is exhausting if it’s all you’re depending on or leading by.
  • The intellectual vacuum I feel having read so little and consistently this past year is scary. Am I really so out of thoughts without those of others? It would seem so.
  • The forties can be a very dangerous time of coasting on past experiences and successes and relying too much on oneself.
  • Another forties temptation: to claim identity in what I do and not in who I am (and Whose I am). Unfortunately, others are too quick to enable this by labeling and pigeon-holing.
  • Technology continues to both accelerate and rob me of time (and I continue to let it).
  • I barely have an idea of what moderation is (and suffer as a result – diet, overworking, time online, vegging, etc.).
  • Being acknowledged is not the same as being known.
  • I am not particularly healthy, but seem to benefit from hardy genes that don’t require a whole lot to function…for now.
  • Regular periods of quiet are scarce and their absence is scarring my soul.
  • All of a sudden I’m older than many of the parents enrolling at our school and therefore viewed as someone who should know (or know better, depending on the complaint).
  • I do not write enough thank you notes (but not because I do not have reasons to do so – God is so good to me, as are His people).
  • The older I get, the harder it becomes to acknowledge how much I still have to learn (humility ages so much better than does pride).

I don’t want to lose sight of all that, by God’s grace, was accomplished last year:

  • Megan and I are still (somehow) married after 17 years.
  • Our kids still seem to love and enjoy us (and we them).
  • Our family is still caring about caring for people.
  • We successfully merged two schools into one.
  • City Pres is growing and purchased a great building in downtown Oklahoma City.
  • We are still seeking to believe and care about God (though we fail by the minute).

But that was last year, and this is this year. And today is the first day of 2014, and tomorrow will be the second. One would think I would have learned more than I have by now, yet I feel the weight of all that I still have not (or at least what I imagine I have not).

So, let the learning continue. And to those whom God will use to teach/re-teach me in 2014, thanks for having God’s best interests for me in mind.

And sorry I can be stubborn. I’m still learning.

(As I finish this post, I’m reminded of Charlie Peacock‘s brilliant song, “Insult Like the Truth,” the lyrics of which Chuck graciously gave permission to use in TwentySomeone. Take a listen here for his treatise on the dangers of a lack of teachability.)

Losing the Fight Over Love

In Calling, Church, Health, Humanity, Marriage, Politics, Science, Theologians, Thought on March 27, 2013 at 8:00 am

My heart is heavy with all that is taking place right now concerning the debate over gay marriage. Apart from the issue itself, I lament the hostile rhetoric of it all and the way sides are being taken with so little nuance (see Facebook's pink equal signs and their "Christian" cross variations), not so much for a position but against someone else taking the opposite one.

With this in mind, I appreciate N.T. Wright's perspective on framing the discussion and would encourage you to give thought to it in terms of how Christians should engage:

As to the issue itself, I wrote about it here on the blog five years ago and you're welcome to agree or disagree. For a more recent treatise that I think worthy of your time, Voddie Baucham's article, "Gay Is Not the New Black," is an important piece that does a good job addressing the issues at hand in the context of the current rhetoric.

All that said, pray for our country, that regardless of whatever differences people have, we can show love to one another in our discussions of them.

Reunion Blogging

In Marriage, Places, Pop Culture, Thought on October 14, 2012 at 3:43 pm

So last night was the twentieth-year reunion for Megan's high school class of 1992. Seeing as how I grew up in a town where a good percentage of the class gets together every weekend at The Bucket anyway, I'm not much for the whole reunion gig. Still, I went and ended up posting these updates for anyone who enjoys such things more than I.

6:43 pm: In Owasso for @MeganDunham's twenty year high school reunion. I'll be the one spiking the punch and dancing on tables.

7:40 pm: Arrived at reunion w/ worst of rain – clothes
drenched. Good news: someone just turned on disco ball by flipping
"atmosphere" switch. #phew

7:42 pm: Third Bryan Adams song in 25 minutes. Long live 1992. #reunionliveblogging

7:48 pm: Can't handle pressure of accompanying former Miss Owasso High School (@MeganDunham) to reunion. Room spinning; must sit down.

8:05 pm: Food disappointment: promised "heavy hors
d'oeuvres" turns out to be something in crock pot, plate of Ritz
crackers. #reunionliveblogging

8:08 pm: Still dripping from deluge outside. Hoping party pic gal has "Anti-Wet Rat" filter in Photoshop. #reunionliveblogging

8:16 pm: That awkward moment when the reunion emcee
tries to yell over the crowd and forgets that the Best of the Early 90s
CD is still playing.

8:21 pm: That awkward moment when emcee instructs everyone in attendance to vote for sexiest male/female present. #reunionliveblogging

Soiree
8:33 pm:
The scene of the crime…a step up from The Bucket in Griggsville (but only a step).

8:49 pm: Can't remember the last time I was around this many 38-year-olds all in one room. #reunionliveblogging

8:58 pm: Almost two hours into inane conversation. Bring on Wayne's World imitations, Kurt Cobain lip sync contest. #reunionliveblogging

Queen and Court
9:02 pm: Former Miss Owasso High School and her court (actually these were just people at our table – I have no idea who they are).

9:12 pm: Program highlight of evening so far: 1992
yearbook. I honestly can't remember the last time I had this kind of
fun. #reunionliveblogging

9:16 pm: Finally: someone remembered an hour-and-a-half after turning it off for the drunk emcee that there had been music in 1992.

Joe Don
9:19 pm: Had absolutely no idea that Megan had gone to school with a young Joe Don Baker. #reunionliveblogging

9:33 pm: Pseudo-theological reunion thought: glad we're
going to have work to do in new heavens, new earth. I couldn't take an
eternity of mingling.

9:43 pm: Possibly most unfortunate thing of the
evening: only being able to make out bass line (and nothing more) to
Prince's "Purple Rain." #sad

10:24 pm: Drunk emcee nowhere to be found, so party
over. Probably catch pneumonia from three hours of sitting in wet
clothes. Thanks for reading.

And Now, Melancholy

In Arts, Family, Humanity, Marriage, Vacation, Young Ones on March 20, 2012 at 11:09 am

Melancholy

Every now and then, my melancholy gets the best of me and things go a little gray here on the blog. Maybe it's the rainy weather we're currently experiencing over all of Spring Break (or just the fact that I haven't really been able to take one), but I'm a little down.

No need to feel sorry for me, though (I'm quite capable of doing that on my own). Some things I've heard myself thinking of late (perhaps you can relate and at least know you're not alone):

  • I increasingly find myself chained to my laptop. While I love my Mac product(s), I don't like being inseparable from them. True, all it takes is shutting the lid, but so much of what I do requires time on it that it's beginning to lose its luster.
  • The amount of time spent thinking about life outside these United States continues to dwindle as I get older. Part of this is has to do with plenty of other thoughts occupying my head; part of it has to do with the fact that there is just no way to afford such travel anyway, so why bother? I want to care more about the world, but I don't.
  • Speaking of money, it's wearying watching people throw money at things that don't matter (and I'm not just talking about our federal and state governments), especially when I have so many better ideas of what they could do with it. My heart is living in Psalm 73 these days.
  • Our yard is little more than weeds right now, and after the rain of the past 24 hours, the weeds are all submerged in a big swamp. I want to care about property, but when things happen beyond my control, it becomes more of a challenge.
  • I'm thinking about lighting my desk on fire so as to gain a fresh start there (it's amazing to me how far I've fallen in this area of organization, particularly when I think of past posts like this one).
  • The idea of ever writing a book again is, at best, as or more fleeting as my cluttered attention span. (Sadly, the same could be said for ever reading one again as well.)
  • I continue to see my many failures as a husband and father and wonder how our family is really going to turn out when it's all said and done. Being married and parenting is hard and I wish I were better at both.

So there you have it – a collection of (mostly) first world problems that I'm even embarrassed sharing (yet another contributor to my funk of late). Of course, there are deeper issues beneath these scenarios, so pray I can recognize and offer them to God and regain some hope in my fallen perspective.

That is all.

(Melancholy (1891) painting by Edvard Munch)

Some Blessings…No Turning Back

In Calling, Church, Education, Family, Friends, Marriage, Places, Veritas, Young Ones on September 20, 2011 at 9:46 pm

A couple weeks ago, I lamented that I had Some Regrets…No Doubts about our move to Oklahoma. As promised at the end of that entry, it's time to write the follow-up post.

Today marks 100 days on the job as Head of School of Veritas Classical Academy. In making it this far, I've been so grateful for the kindness, care, and friendship shown to my family, and the many prayers and expressions of support for my leadership at Veritas. During the past 100 days, I’ve listened – to parents and students, to faculty and staff, to our Board of Directors and the Lord – to learn what of the past seven years has made the school who we are now, all while planning and positioning us for the next seven (and beyond). It's been incredibly challenging, but as personally fulfilling as anything I've done.

I love getting to see my kids during their school days, but strangely, this has been more awkward for me than for them. During the first week, I felt really embarrassed for them when they saw me and ran up and hugged me during the day. I wonder how long their enthusiasm for Dad will last, but since they don't seem to mind or feel pressure to behave differently, I'm happy to let it continue as long as it will (I just need to get used to it).

DSC_0117

In addition to my own kids, I'm enjoying the other 243 students enrolled at our two campuses. While I'm still learning names and trying desperately to keep up with everything required to run a school, the kids have been kind and open with me, as have many of their parents. One particularly enjoyable bunch of students is my Headmaster's Conclave, a lunch group of juniors and seniors. We meet every other week to talk about their studies, their lives, and their perspectives on how we can improve Veritas. It's been enlightening to hear from them (and they've been more than willing to provide "the new guy" with their honest thoughts).

Craig with VCA Students (72 dpi)

I could go on – about our teaching staff (all of whom I love); about our administrative team (all of whom are so committed to the school); about our board of directors (all of whom I feel safe with); and about classical Christian education (all of which I am learning so much, but still have so much to learn). It's been great – really exhausting, but great.

On the non-school front, I'm encouraged with the relationships we're beginning to cultivate in our neighborhood, which has thankfully turned out to be much more socially and ethnically diverse than I imagined. Over Labor Day weekend, we organized a cul-de-sac party and over 30 people turned out, many of whom had lived here for years and were re-introducing themselves to each other as they had just not kept up over time. The girls have made friends in the neighborhood and the weather has finally cooled off to make being outside an option (though actually being home remains my biggest challenge).

Cul-de-sac

As you may know, one of the other reasons we moved to OKC was to help my college roommate/co-author, Doug Serven, plant City Presbyterian, the first PCA church in the Oklahoma City limits. Here's a picture from one of our first leadership meetings in June:

Church Plant Couples

And here's a picture from our first "preview" worship service this past Sunday evening:

As you can see, our chairs runneth over. Granted, not all of these people are going to stick around as part of City Pres (several were simply well-wishers from other churches while others were there to see one of the nine baptisms that took place), but it was fun to pull everything together and provide an opportunity for folks to hear the Scriptures proclaimed, to partake in the sacraments of communion and baptism, and to visualize the future of Oklahoma City with a Reformed church in its downtown.

As we don't anticipate formally launching a weekly service until perhaps the spring, we'll be meeting in City Groups (ours meets on Tuesday evenings) and in Sunday night vision rallies until then. However, it was especially fun for me to see Megan enjoy offering of her behind-the-scenes gifts of service and hospitality (not to mention picture-taking), as well as see our girls jump in and help set up, pull off, and pick up after the service. Having been dragged along to so many of the leadership meetings over the summer, they felt real ownership for the service and the church, which was hugely exciting.

In thinking through all of this – school, neighborhood, church, family – I keep coming back to Psalm 16, which has, for the past six years or so, become one of my fortunate favorites:

    Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
    I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
        I have no good apart from you.”
    As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
        in whom is all my delight.
    The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
        their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
        or take their names on my lips.
    The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
        you hold my lot.
    The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
        indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
    I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
        in the night also my heart instructs me.
    I have set the LORD always before me;
        because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
    Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
        my flesh also dwells secure.
    For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
        or let your holy one see corruption.
    You make known to me the path of life;
        in your presence there is fullness of joy;
        at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalm 16 ESV)

Some blessings…no turning back. Grateful to God for who he is and all he is doing.

Some Regrets…No Doubts

In Calling, Family, Friends, Marriage, Oklahoma City, Places, Places & Spaces, Young Ones on August 28, 2011 at 6:22 pm

On Friday, the girls and I got home from school around 2 p.m., as Veritas is only in session on Fridays until 12:30. My normal "Daddy's home" routine is to greet Megan (usually with a hug), greet the dogs (also usually with a hug), and then head upstairs, change clothes, and collapse on the bed for a period of time in direct proportion to what kind of day/week it's been.

As we just finished our first week – a very good but exhausting one – my time on the bed went a little longer than normal. After 45 minutes of repeatedly falling asleep but then being awakened by one of four daughters, I gave up the idea of a nap and came downstairs. The girls wanted to watch something, but I was not in the mood for Phineas & Ferb; thus, we pulled up Chariots of Fire on Netflix and enjoyed.

There's a scene toward the end of the film in which Erid Liddell can only watch the finals of the race he was favored to win (the 100-yard dash) because his Sabbath conviction stood in the way of participating in the qualifying heats the previous Sunday. As Liddell is sitting in the stands waiting for the race to begin, a friend leans over to him and asks if he has any regrets. Liddell's response: "Some regrets…no doubts."

I resonated with Liddell's sentiment. Moving to Oklahoma has hardly been an awful thing and I have no doubts we are supposed to be here. But I'd be lying if I said there weren't some regrets that I've been processing and feeling this summer.

I suppose the first source of grief is just the loss of time and money that goes with any major transition. In thinking back through all the hours invested praying and wrestling with the pros and cons, asking questions and communicating decisions, selling a house and buying a house, packing, loading, moving, unloading, and unpacking, and paying for it all, I regret the toll our move required and the burden it placed on our family. A look at my minimal reading list or our bank account confirms that it's been a tough seven months.

Second, I regret distancing the relationships we had in St. Louis (as well as the ones previously distanced in Colorado Springs before we moved from there). We've always been fortunate to have surrounded ourselves with good people, but that fact is not always comforting when you have to leave them behind. I miss those I used to work with, went to church with, laughed with, argued with, and just loved being with. These are wounds that I don't anticipate healing completely.

Third, I miss the simplicity of "just being a teacher" and being able to focus exclusively on the science and art of teaching. I first felt this reality in May, when I finished teaching and started my new role as Head of School ten days later (moving in between), but being around kids this past week really made me miss the classroom and the discussions I got to have with students all day long.

Fourth, I miss the Midwest and the common sense spirit of keeping your head down and your nose to the grindstone because, well, that's what people do in the Midwest. Granted, the Southwest is perhaps not that different, but while I never thought I'd miss the weather in St. Louis, after living through the hottest summer on record in Oklahoma, I confess I miss that as well.

Finally, I regret the potential risks I've exposed my family (and others) to in leaving a well-established, well-respected, and well-funded school in an amazing brand new building run by seasoned leaders who know what they're doing in order to be a first-time Head of School in a fledgling education movement that rents limited space every week in two churches just to have a place to meet three days a week. I won't say the pressure's overwhelming yet, but there is pressure, and I feel it on a variety of levels.

Some regrets, yes. Plenty of them. But no doubts. None at all. I'll write about why in my next post.

More Than April Showers or May Flowers

In Calling, Church, Education, Family, Friends, Marriage, Places, Places & Spaces, Young Ones on March 8, 2011 at 7:49 pm

About a year-and-a-half ago, I had the idea that it might be a good idea to mark turning 40 (which happened last month) with a 40-day fast from food and media. My goal (as detailed here) was "to spend my extra time reading the Bible, praying, and writing about what God may have should he grant me another 40 years."

The media fast was easy: I didn't touch Facebook, Twitter, or the blog and I didn't miss it. The food fast was much harder, as I attempted a water-only fast (I did have a couple of cups of tea after Day 4 just to taste something other than my mouth). Things were going well enough until my doctor pulled the plug on the fast at the end of Day 10 because I had too many ketones in my blood and could have developed serious kidney problems. While disappointed, I was glad it was her decision to end the fast rather than mine (though she never wrote me that prescription for Five Guys Burger & Fries like I asked).

I lost twenty pounds in those ten days and learned how much food can be an idol for me. I also had a great time reading the Old Testament prophets, listening to God convey his love for his people even in the midst of their sin and rebellion and writing out prayers of confession for myself and supplication for others. Finally, I thanked God for the gift of life and asked him for his favor on another 40 years if he would be so gracious. I had no agenda for this time other than to seek God and to read, listen, and write. In the spirit of the prophets, I even grew a beard that didn't look half bad.

Bearded Craig

On day 39 of this 40-day period, I received an email out of the blue from Julie Serven, wife of Doug (of three-year Mizzou roommate/TwentySomeone co-author fame). After wishing me an early birthday, she wrote:

"I wanted to ask if you would have any interest in pursuing a new career direction? Our Head of School has recently taken a position with a school in Alabama. He has done a great job the last couple of years and has helped in taking the school to a more developed level.

We need someone who is both visionary but also very administratively gifted. Someone with teaching experience, preferably in high school, and experience with managing and working with people. Someone who appreciates the value of a home component in education and is willing to encourage and partner with parents interested in doing so. Someone who could help train the teachers, pastor the parents, and love the kids. Sound like anyone you know? It does to me."

Somewhat dumbfounded by Julie's email and the opportunity she was asking me to consider, I finished my 40 days asking God if this would be something he would have me pursue. While I have absolutely loved teaching these past five years (four at Westminster Christian Academy, one at Heritage Classical School), I had wondered more than once whether I was using my administrative and leadership gifts to the fullest extent that I could. This question was not one of ambition but of stewardship: Was there more God was calling me to do for the Kingdom in the realm of Christian education? Was this role with Veritas an opportunity I was to trust him for in doing so?

After talking with Megan and seeking counsel from several here and elsewhere who know and love us, we decided it was worth pursuing. I composed a letter and resume, notified references, and sent along my testimony and philosophy of education. A week later, the Veritas board flew Megan and me to Oklahoma City for an exhaustingly thorough weekend-long interview; ten days later (after doing due diligence of considering other applicants), they sent us a very gracious official offer; last weekend, I made one more trip to meet with the board to discern face-to-face if indeed this was God's will for all involved. By the end of the meeting, it seemed good to all of us; thus, I accepted the role.

Veritas_logo The school, Veritas Classical Academy, now has 260 students Pre-K through 11th (they are adding 12th grade next year) and currently meets at a church in south OKC. Because of interest in the Edmond/North OKC area, they will be starting a north grammar campus (Pre-K to 5th) with 50 students this coming fall. Plans are to open a south grammar campus in Norman the year after that (starting with 50 students), and then move to purchase land/building for a central upper school campus the year or two after that, the idea being that there would be several feeder grammar schools and one central upper school (6th to 12th, 7th to 12th, or 9th to 12th). They follow a blended (university) model (half in-class instruction and half home instruction), seek to be reasonably (as opposed to maniacally) classical, and are trans-denominational as a school (though the board seeks to be winsomely Reformed in setting and implementing policies).

My role as Head of School will focus primarily on areas of creating and modeling the school's climate and values, recruiting, hiring, and training faculty, leading and counseling staff and parents as they educate their students, resolving conflict and handling disciplinary matters, and working with the board on strategic planning. Secondarily, I will also be responsible (with the help of others) for the alignment and development of curriculum, public relations, fundraising, finance, and other matters of policy and administration pertaining to the school. Oh, and I'll still get to teach a class or two each semester. It's a big job, but one I believe my education and experience (not to mention the wealth of mentoring relationships and supportive friendships I've benefitted from over the years) have prepared me for.

Servens One other pleasant convergence: Doug and Julie have been asked to plant a new PCA church – City Presbyterian – in downtown OKC, starting with an initial gathering of core group members this summer. As if building and leading not just a school but an eventual school system weren't enough, helping to plant an urban church with dear friends we've known for 20 years (Doug and Julie were Megan's NavStaff at Oklahoma State after the three of us graduated from Mizzou together) just seems to be icing on the cake. Who knows? Doug and I might even get ThirtySomewhere finished now that we'll be in the same town.

Spring has brought more than April showers or May flowers for the Dunham family, and we're grateful to God for his leading. While we're looking down the barrel of what promises to be a very intense 3-4 months, we are trusting God to provide above and beyond what we need emotionally, physically, and spiritually as he continues to guide us in this new step of faith. Here's a look at what's ahead (thanks in advance for any prayers on our behalf):

MARCH

10-11: Westminster Christian Academy Parent/Teacher Conferences
11-12: Crossroads Presbyterian Fellowship Women's Retreat
19-24: Spring Break (house-hunting in Oklahoma City)
28: Opening Day (JV Baseball)

APRIL

8-9: Biblical Imagination Conference (Dallas)
15: Classical Conversations Banquet
22-24: Easter Break

MAY

7: Studio Forte Ballet Recital
12: Last Day (JV Baseball)
14: St. Louis Children's Choirs Spring Concert
23: WCA Graduation
27: WCA Last Day of School

JUNE

6: First Week at Veritas (Oklahoma City)
16-18: Association of Classical & Christian Schools Conference (Atlanta)
24-25: Biblical Imagination Conference (Apple Creek, OH)

For Megan's perspective on the move, click over to Half-Pint House.

My Point Exactly

In Internet, Marriage on June 1, 2010 at 7:22 pm

Megan: Let me use your laptop and I'll organize the Flickr account while we watch the movie.

Craig: You never just watch movies anymore. I think the Internet has rewired your brain.

Megan: You just don't want me to use your laptop.

Craig: That's not true. Did you read those links I sent you about continuous partial attention and the ineffectiveness of multi-tasking?

Megan: I skimmed them.

Craig: (pause)

Megan: (smile)

Craig: I am so putting that on the blog.

Concert Review: Jason Aldean

In Marriage, Musicians, Places, Places & Spaces, Thought on March 29, 2010 at 1:37 am

And now for something completely different…

Megan somehow scored free backstage passes, a private "concert"/photo op (with eats and drinks), and free tickets to the Jason Aldean concert at the Family Arena in St. Charles Saturday night. I don't know how she finds this stuff, but I've learned over the years not to ask too many questions so as to not attach myself as an accomplice in whatever illegal activities she may engage in for a cheap date night. But I digress…

Let's be clear: while I appreciate the lyrical cleverness of country music, I'm not that big a fan of the musicality of the genre. Still, a free concert's a free concert, and since "She's Country" at heart, Megan and I went and enjoyed the gig. Jake Owen ("one of People magazine's sexiest men in country music" – oh boy) was the opening act, but everyone was clearly there for Aldean.

Rather than write a detailed review that no one may particularly care to read, I thought I'd record a video blog (vlog) to pseudo-capture the evening. What follows are my hardly technical, barely coherent, and honestly raw thoughts on the show.

Thanks to Megan for her filming/editing job, as well as for treating me to more culture than one man should be allowed to experience in a night.

This Just In

In Family, Marriage, Places & Spaces, Sports, Writers on February 28, 2010 at 8:06 am

We interrupt this discussion to bring you Megan's latest post – on baseball. Hints of spring, familiarity of home, America's pastime done on the cheap…I'm in love all over again.

WWJD?

In Books, Calling, Internet, Marriage, Movies, Places, Technology on January 23, 2010 at 7:38 am

Arts-julie-and-julia-584

On Friday night, Megan and I had an impromptu date. It had been a while. As the girls were happily occupied at a friend's house up the street (thanks, Erin and company), we went out for Chinese, talked, and then came home to watch Julie & Julia before picking up the girls to play parents again.

If you haven't seen the movie, you might have heard how good it is. Megan especially liked it because it's about so many things she loves: marriage, blogging, cooking, books, and the challenge of juggling those things all at once. The conversations in the film were familiar ones to both of us, as we've struggled with many of the same things Julie and her husband did concerning her art: the absence of time, the constancy of insecurity, the selfishness of narcissism, the fear of rejection, and still the hope of creating something beautiful in the midst of everything else.

For me, the film's storybook ending (literally: Julie Powell's blog gets turned into a book which gets turned into a movie) was about revisiting the hope of being faithful with very little in order to be faithful with much. The perseverance required for Julie's experiment of cooking 524 recipes in 365 days (and then blogging about it for all to read) reminds me of "the good old days" of blogging, when the hope of something happening seemed more possible than it does now, as there seemed so fewer blogs then.

Apparently, though, it does still happen. Just yesterday, I read on Heather Armstrong's blog (I've been a reader for probably five years) about the exclusive development deal she and her husband, Jon, signed with HGTV. I know next to nothing about the network, but apparently lots of people do. While I'm happy for the Armstrongs, it feels like it's the beginning of the end of such transitions (if you'll remember, almost a year ago, I considered whether the potential of the personal blog might be coming to an end).

Sadly, my need for inspiration comes on the heels of yet another rejection of my own writing efforts, this time in the form of an email from an up-and-coming agent I approached a few weeks ago. He writes:

"Thanks for allowing me to review your proposal. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to pass. It’s not that I don’t think this is a good idea or good content. I think it’s fine on both those levels. But these days, with the poor publishing economy, I am having to limit my new clients to only those authors who have established a large national fan base. The larger publishers are insisting on such, since they don’t have the marketing budgets they once did. They want to know that they can sell an immediate 15K or so books to the author’s fan base without having to spend a single marketing dollar. It sucks. But that’s the way it is right now."

Thus, I'm giving thought to what this means (or should) for my publishing future. Do I keep up my occasional attempt to squeeze through a publishing door at least
enough to get someone's attention (even if it's only to look up and ask
me to leave)? Do I swallow my pride and go the self-publishing route, building a grassroots following, and then, if all goes well, take another run at the agents and publishing houses? Or, do I let go of the idea of traditional publishing machine all together and go completely digital, publishing content here (or elsewhere) without getting completely ripped off financially or otherwise?

These are some of the questions I've been asking myself of late, but as of last night's movie, I've added one more to my literary litany of lament:

What would Julia do?

We Go Together

In Marriage, Movies on January 15, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Gal_grease-5 Cheeseball

Megan and I introduced the girls to Grease tonight. In addition to being able to recite every line of dialogue and flawlessly perform "The Hand Jive," Megan also knows each word, syllable, and sound in the finale "We Go Together." Here are the lyrics:

We go together like rama lama lama ke ding a de dinga a dong
Remembered forever like shoo bop shoo wadda wadda yipitty boom de boom
Chang chang chang-it-ty chang shoo-bop
That's the way it should be – wha oooh yeah!

We're one of a kind, like dip di-dip di-dip, doo-bop a doo-bee doo
Our names are signed, boog-e-dy boog-e-dy boog-e-dy boog-e-dy, shoo-by doo-wop she-bop
Chang chang chang-it-ty chang shoo-bop
We'll always be like one, wa-wa-wa-waaa!

When we go out at night and stars are shinin' bright
Up in the skies above or at the high school dance
Where you can find romance
Maybe it might be lo-oh oh oh-oh oh-ove

Ra-ma la-ma la-ma ka ding a da ding de dong
Shoo-bop sha wad-da wad-da yipp-it-y boom de boom
Chang chang chang-it-ty chang shoo-bop
Dip da-dip da-dip doo-wop da doo-bee doo
Boog-e-dy boog-e-dy boog-e-dy boog-ed-y
Shoo-by doo-wop she-bop
Sha-na-na-na-na-na-na-na yip-pit-y boom de boom
Ra-ma la-ma la-ma ka ding-a de ding de dong
Shoo-bop sha wad-da wad-da yipp-it-y boom de boom
Chang chang chang-it-ty chang shoo-bop
Dip da-dip da-dip doo-wop da doo-bee doo
Boog-e-dy boog-e-dy boog-e-dy boog-e-dy
shoo-by doo-wop she-bop
Sha-na-na-na-na-na-na-na yip-pit-ty boom de boom
A wop ba-ba lu-mop a wop bam boom

We're for each other like a wop ba-ba lu-mop and wop bam boom
Just like my brother is sha na na na na na yip-pit-y dip de boom
Chang chang chang-it-ty chang shoo-bop
We'll always be together – wha oooh yeah!

Folks, if that's not romantic, I don't know what is. Just another reason I'm confident in saying, "We'll always be together" (repeat ad nauseum).

13 Years (and Counting)

In Marriage on December 14, 2009 at 4:54 am

08Dunham

Happy anniversary, Megan. I may be the head of our home, but you are its heart. I love you and am so grateful to God for who you are and all you do. You're the best of the best.

Move Over Mr. Moviefone

In Family, Marriage, Places & Spaces, Pop Culture on November 13, 2009 at 9:20 am

To fulfill Megan's last mission for Chevy this month, she had to put together her own one-minute commercial for the Traverse. I did my best Don Pardo/Mr. Moviefone mashup for the endeavor, and am now officially available for part-time voice-over work in the St. Louis area. Here's my resume:

Megan Dunham: Mommy Mission #4 from Megan Dunham on Vimeo.

First come, first served (I've got Pixar on the phone now).

Stairway of Dunham

In Arts, Family, Marriage, Places & Spaces, Young Ones on September 12, 2009 at 8:09 pm

We've got more pics to print and more old frames to repaint, but I like the results so far:

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We're big black and white fans around here (not a hint of color in our entire wedding album). It's going to be fun to add pictures to the Stairway of Dunham in years to come.

Prediction

In Family, Marriage, Young Ones on August 15, 2009 at 10:30 pm

This picture is going to make me cry in twenty years:

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Now interviewing for arranged marriages (include references and FBI background check).

All Must Be Well

In Calling, Church, Family, Friends, Humanity, Marriage, Places & Spaces, Thought on March 22, 2009 at 5:43 pm

My mom and I had lunch Saturday, as she was in town for a Mary Kay conference at the St. Louis Convention Center. I took her to Tigin, an Irish pub Megan and I had discovered as part of a mystery shop date a few months ago – cool place. I can't remember the last time I had a meal with my mom that didn't include Dad, Megan, or any combination of children, so we had a novel time catching up.

The conversation went a variety of directions, but one topic that came up was all the debt America is accruing and the impact of that on multiple generations. I've never known Mom to get upset by too many things political, but she had obviously spent some time thinking about the consequences for her children and grandchildren. She was concerned, she said, and spoke of how, the older she gets, the more realistic she's trying to be in adding to – rather than spending – our inheritance.

Thanking her for her thoughtfulness and honesty, I shared a little of my perspective (semi-transcribed versions here and here if you're interested) on the mess the government is making of the financial sector, as well as a little about the moral dilemmas (here, here, here, here, and here just to link a few) that will impact our nation's future in ways as significant as any financial crisis. The conversation could have turned into a real bummer had not we ended up agreeing there's really little hope for things apart from the grace of God. Simply put, it was a good and meaningful time.

Finishing lunch and dropping Mom off at the Convention Center for the rest of her conference, I made my way to Clayton for a wedding. My friend and teaching colleague, Abby Doriani, was due to get married at 2:00, but I underestimated the hassle the I-64 repair shutdown from Kingshighway to Hanley would be and realized I was going to be late. I finally made it to Clayton, found a parking place, and ran up to the church, figuring I missed Abby's procession, but would at least make it for the remainder of the ceremony and reception.

As I opened the front door to sneak in, I almost ran over Abby's dad, Dr. Dan Doriani, who was leading Abby and the bridesmaids up the stairs into the foyer before proceeding into the sanctuary. As I had Dr. Doriani for several classes at Covenant, I smiled and shook his hand, trying to be mindful of the fact that he probably had a lot on his mind and now might not be the best time for small talk. I waved to Abby, who looked beautiful in her wedding gown, and then I headed up the stairs to the sanctuary to find a seat.

At the top of the stairs, I saw Abby's mother, Debbie, and gave her a hug. Far from being a dreaded mother-of-the-bride, Debbie was all smiles, asked how I was, thanked me for coming to the wedding, and reassured me there were plenty of seats left, but I would have to go in after Abby and her dad did as the seating of grandparents had already started. She gave me a quick wave, then took her place at the door to the sanctuary and was escorted in by one of the ushers, followed by Abby's first two bridesmaids.

This left Abby, her dad, her two younger sisters (each of whom was a matron/maid of honor), and me standing in the foyer. Abby noticed me trying to blend into the wall so as not to intrude on the family moment, but as it obviously wasn't working, she humorously asked how I was enjoying my behind-the-scenes experience of her wedding. I laughed and said I was just taking notes. Her sisters each gave her a kiss and went in, and then it was Abby's turn to walk arm-in-arm with her dad through the doors to get married.

More than most, the wedding ceremony was a very warm reminder of how the God-given institution of marriage is (and is to be) a reflection of Christ's relationship with his bride, the Church. In his charge to the couple, Dr. Doriani spoke of the differences between romantic and divine love, but stressed the need for both in marriage. Vows were taken, the community affirmed them, and everyone rejoiced in the fact that two were becoming one before their very eyes. It was a beautiful thing, and afterward, we all went downstairs for cake and punch (another beautiful thing).

For me, the afternoon was an insightful one: in light of the good but sobering discussion with Mom at lunch, I needed the reassurance of Christ's relationship with his Church that a marriage ceremony can provide; despite the pressures of the day, I saw parents who didn't make their daughter's marriage all about them (or even about her), but about Christ's relationship with his Church; and, strangely for the first time, I imagined my own daughters getting married – each with her three sisters as bridesmaids – and prayed that their weddings would reflect Christ's relationship with his Church as well…even if there's little money to pay for them…or even less morality left in our culture to care.

This morning at church, we sang the following verse:

"We expect a bright tomorrow, all will be well
Faith can sing through days of sorrow, all is well
On our Father's love relying, Jesus every need supplying
Yes, in living or in dying, all must be well"

Because of Christ's relationship with his Church, all must be well…both in the now and the not yet. I needed that reminder, and I'm grateful to God for it this Lord's Day.