Come Out With Your Hands Up

Name: Megan Dunham
Occupation: Mommy
Offense: Burglary? Okay, how about ignorance?

The house we’ve been staying in since the beginning of April has an alarm system. I’ve never needed to use it because Craig’s always been with me to shut it off whenever it was actually on.

Well, last night we were away for an overnight 40th anniversary celebration for Craig’s parents and his aunt and uncle. The owners of the house were here taking care of yard work yesterday and when they left, they turned the alarm on. I didn’t know it. Craig took Maddie and Chloe to see Star Wars which means Katie, Millie, and I came home totally unprepared.

As soon as I unlocked the door I knew we were in trouble. The alarm started warning me with a gentle beep telling me I’d better hurry and enter the pass code or I would soon pay for it.

Problem. I only knew the first digit of the 4 digit code. So I guessed (I figured guessing couldn’t hurt – if I did nothing it was still going to go off). Well, my first guess didn’t work. Neither did my second guess (alarm companies really like it when you keep trying, right?). It only gave me two guesses before scaring the jeepers out of me and the little ones. Man, that thing was LOUD!!

So there I was, with my deer-caught-in-the-headlights eyes, looking at Katie as if she might actually be able to help me when Millie burst into tears and loud, frantic sobs. I picked her up and scrambled into the kitchen where I tried the two cell numbers we have for the owners to no avail. I then got the dreaded phone call from the alarm company to which I had the privilege of explaining with a shaky voice and much fear:

Yes, I realize the alarm is going off.

No, I’m not Mrs. X.

No, I do not have the pass code, although I tried two others (smart move, eh?).
I tried calling the Xs and couldn’t reach them.

Do you want to try calling them too? Oh, of course you will try calling them.

Okay.

I only remember what I said. I have no idea really what they asked. Did I mention I was shaking with fear and that Millie was screaming?

So I finally got a hold of Mr. X who calmly tells me the code and what to do to get it off. Mission accomplished. Sort of.

The other thing I didn’t know about alarm systems is that the door needs to be shut in order for the alarm to deactivate. I got the sound to stop (which, after all, was my true priority in this whole fiasco, deal with the cops later, right?) but didn’t get the signal to stop flagging the alarm company. (I didn’t know this, of course.)

With the sound no longer scaring the jeepers out of us, I turned on some cartoons to settle the girls and I checked my email to try to calm down (this whole internet world really is an addiction, isn’t it?) when I got a call from Mr. X telling me the alarm company had called him and he cleared everything.

So then I decided to fold some laundry and got about 1/10th of the pile folded when I heard a vehicle in the driveway. Knowing it was too early for Craig to be back, my heart sank.

2+2=POLICE

Fortunately for me he was super nice, but who likes being questioned by the sheriff as a serious burglar suspect?

He came to the door and my heart started racing again as I frantically tried to explain to him the scenario. He bought my story and said when he walked to the door and heard a crying baby he thought maybe things weren’t what they seemed. Indeed.

So he left and I returned to the laundry. 5 minutes later he came back. Apparently I didn’t shut the silent signal off. (See above).

One more embarrassing phone call to Mr. X in which both I, and the sheriff talk to him, a few more punched numbers later, and we’re clear.

I think.

Whew! May this be a lesson to me – when someone suggests I memorize a number for future reference, I’d best do it.

Now THAT’S a Prescription!

Chloe and Katie were the first ones up this morning (as usual) and came downstairs to play. I heard them in the “tent” they made out of the table in the dining room. Chloe was sick and Katie was the doctor.

After giving her an exam, 3-year-old style, I heard Katie say this, “Okay. What you need is to do the hokey-pokey.”

Ha! I’m wondering what ailment this cures…

That’s the Katie Bug for you.

It’s Not Personal, It’s Just Business

The contract with our previous realtor expired last night and we chose to switch to someone else beginning today. I have lots of thoughts regarding the whole realtor gig, none of which are fit to print due to my obvious negative bias and our experience with this realtor in particular. I’m sure as people they are great; as our realtors, well, not so great.

As Craig was on the phone with her this morning giving her the new realtor’s information and whatnot, I knew she was making one more plea to keep her on for another week or two. I told him he needed to tell her, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.” He is, afterall, Don Corleracoon.

Speaking of the Godfather of Racoons, he is now two for two as of Saturday night. And the third and final (we hope) threat to our blissful farm existence showed up at the step last night. They really have a thing for dry cat food. When the cussed thing would not move away from the front of the house (Elmer has a favorite target zone in the backyard) he said, “Where’s the tuna? I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” Green Acres is the place to be, farm living is the life for me. Or something.

When You Rise Up – A Mixed Review

I just finished When You Rise Up; A Covenantal Approach to Homeschooling by R.C. Sproul Jr. I picked the book up because most of my experiences with reading materials from a Reformed perspective (and indeed most of my dealings with folks with a Reformed view) have been characterized by a biblical balance. I anticipated being encouraged in our current calling to homeschool our children and I was. But I was also uneasily on edge during most of the book, thanks in no small part to what I think of as an unfortunate characteristic of Reformed arrogance in the tone of the writing.

Sproul, Jr. does a great job exhorting parents to “teach [the words He commanded] diligently to your children,” to talk of them when we sit in our houses, when we walk by the way, when we lie down and when we rise up. I need to be reminded of these things from time to time, because frankly, homeschooling children (and not only homeschooling, but simply raising them) is hard work. And it is easy to become weary in doing good.

But the exhortation to follow these words from Deuteronomy 6 didn’t come off as encouragment for the weary, but more as coals heaped on the heads of those who don’t view things exactly the way Jr. does.

I’m sure I read more into his words than was really there, because as most of you know already, I take everything personally, but if I didn’t already believe I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, I’m not certain this book would have made me change my mind. It might have incited more the opposite because I tend to think and act in extremes (not one of my better qualities, I know).

At any rate, the main points he makes (and they are indeed good ones) are that parents are called to teach and train their own children, and what we are to teach and train them in consists of the “Three G’s”: Who is God? What has God done? and What does God require? And he also reminds me that the goal of educating my children isn’t so they will be accepted into Ivy League schools or join the upper middle class with ease. The goal is to raise godly people. I need to remember this when I’m stressing out over whether to start them on Spanish or Chinese next year and forget to read the Bible with them.

I was also challenged to think beyond my normal mentality (and my safety answer when conversing with folks who aren’t convinced homeschooling is the way to go) that “we’ll just take it a year at a time and reevaluate each child each year like that.” If I truly believe God commands parents to teach children at home (and I’m not fully sure what I believe about that yet), then that command goes beyond K-3rd grade.

To be honest, there is a part of me that wants to jump on this bandwagon (and maybe it is a biblical one worthy of jumping on, I don’t know) and say, “Yeah! I’m going to homeschool my girls all the way, baby! And I think you should, too!” But I’ve been there before, not in a homeschool-or-else sense, but in an all-things-legalistic sense (another story altogether) and I’m not that anxious to go back.

I think God does give very clear and specific commands to believers and I also think he allows for freedoms. When it comes to “quiver-full” thinking and homeschooling, I think there are some freedoms. Sproul Jr. would not agree. He is very dogmatic (not in a statement saying everyone should have as many children as possible – he never said that, just implied that that’s what his family is doing) in saying that everyone, yes, everyone should homeschool and that if we don’t, we are in sin.

Maybe that revelation will be mine as well someday, but I just don’t think it is as easy as all that. Please don’t misunderstand. I love homeschooling my girls (most of the time). I believe I am called to do so and that until God directs otherwise, we will continue following this path. I just don’t think I can look at you and say, “What? You’re not on my same path? You are sinning.” This ideology doesn’t apply to everything, but I think here it does: we may not be on the same path, but I believe we’re going the same direction, that we desire the same things for our children, and that we’re seeking the counsel of God to lead us as we travel.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. I’m open to others if any of you have read this as well.

Getting Itchy

We’re moving again in 2 1/2 weeks. It’s hard to believe we’ve been here on the farm for as long as we have, and it doesn’t seem real that we’ll actually be in St. Louis on June 1, but it is real. Weird.

And true to form, once I realize the transition is really going to happen, I act immediately. So I packed three boxes today. There’s not a whole lot I can pack other than most of our winter clothes and some of the books we brought that we’ve read and reviewed or otherwise finished quoting from for the time being, but still I wander around the house with an empty box tossing in things we can live without for 2 1/2 weeks.

As for our next move, I also realize it will be much like this one with most of our things trapped in the storage unit. But if I have to spend an entire day messing around in there, I *will* find my beloved Kitchen Aid Mixer (I’ve borrowed Charlotte’s for the past few weeks, but I still miss my own), my Whisper Mill and wheat (I compromised and bought this off the internet, and while good, not the same), and my Cuisinart Food Processor. I will also find the girls’ summer clothes.
Why I packed them all, I’ll never know. It was December in Colorado and I guess I wasn’t visionary enough to think, “Hmm, it’s going to be really hot in Illinois and Missouri by the end of May. Perhaps I should make the summer clothes accessible.”

The countdown begins.

Quotes from Gilead by Marilyn Robinson

Even thoughtful people have lapses of judgement from time to time. (pg 58)

I have said at least once a week my whole adult life that there is an absolute disjunction between our Father’s love and our deserving. Still, when I see this same disjunction between human parents and children, it always irritates me a little. (I know you will be and I hope you are an excellent man, and I will love you absolutely if you are not.) (pg 73)

These people who can see right through you never quite do you justice, because they never give you credit for the effort you’re making to be better than you actually are, which is difficult and well meant and deserving of some little notice. (pg 98)

I’m trying to tell you things I might never have thought to tell you if I had brought you up myself, father and son, in the usual companionable way. When things are taking their ordinary course, it is hard to remember what matters. There are so many things you would never think to tell anyone. And I believe they may be the things that mean most to you, and that even your own child would have to know in order to know you well at all. (pg 102)

Children seem to think every pleasant thing has to be a surprise. (pg 117)

The story of Hagar and Ishmael came to mind while I was praying this morning, and I found a great assurance in it. The story says that it is not only the father of a child who cares for its life, who protects its mother, and it says that even if the mother can’t find a way to provide for it, or herself, provision will be made. At that level it is a story full of comfort. That is how life goes–we send our children into the wilderness. Some of them on the day they are born, it seems, for all the help we can give them. Some of them seem to be a kind of wilderness unto themselves. But there must be angels there, too, and springs of water. Even that wilderness, the very habitation of jackals, is the Lord’s. I need to bear this in mind. (pg 119)

It seems almost a cruelty for one generation to beget another when parents can secure so little for their children, so little safety, even in the best circumstances. Great faith is required to give the child up, trusting God to honor the parents’ love for him by assuring that there will indeed be angels in that wilderness. (pg 129)

I don’t know exactly what covetise is, but in my experience it is not so much desiring someone else’s virtue or happiness as rejecting it, taking offense at the beauty of it. (pg 188)

It is a good thing to know what it is to be poor, and a better thing if you can do it in company. (pg 199)

To me it seems rather Christlike to be as unadorned as this place is, as little regarded. I can’t help imagining that you will leave sooner or later, and it’s fine if you have done that, or you mean to do it. This whole town does look like whatever hope becomes after it begins to weary a little, then weary a little more. But hope deferred is still hope. I love this town. I think sometimes of going into the ground here as a last wild gesture of love–I too will smolder away the time until the great and general incandescence. (pg 247)

Psalm 19

The heavens are telling the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun,
Which is as a bridgroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.
Its rising is from one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the other end of them; And there is nothing hidden from its heat.
The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts o the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgements of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them Thy servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward.
Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.
Also keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemder.

Not sure how I got from there to here, but after reading this this morning, I was prompted to stop praying that God would sell our house and instead to pray that I would be open to what he wants to teach me through this process. Loving the Word of God (which I’ve not done much of lately) is more desirable than selling our house, yes, than selling our house and reaping a big financial security net to carry us through seminary.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

Sometimes You Can’t Analyze a U2 Concert on Your Own

I’ll get the easy, obvious part out of the way first: the concert rocked. U2 was expectedly amazing, the atmosphere energizing, the experience unforgettable.

So why am I not gushing right now? I think I’ve lost the art of being entertained for the sole sake of entertainment. And, while not knowing the mind of Bono, or Edge, Adam, or Larry, I think they were trying to do more than simply entertain. They certainly have the platform to do so, yet I just don’t know what, if any, difference they made last night regarding changing the hearts and minds of concert attendees toward true compassion for poverty, hunger, and AIDS.

As if they knew what Bono would want to see, a few folks came prepared: one brought in a flag of an African country and waved it around during “Where the Streets Have No Name”; another couple waved around a sheet with a big circle/slash hand-drawn through the word “Indifference” (they were pulled up on stage to show their effort – the man was trying to show off the sign, which was difficult to see because the woman helping him was too overcome by being pulled up on stage and kept jumping up and down, screaming and waving).

I wonder what they’re doing with their Indifference banner today? Because Bono touched it, maybe they had it framed or plan to sell it on eBay.

I’m conflicted. When the show opened with “Vertigo” and then went into “All Because of You,” “Elevation,” and then “Gloria” (which they haven’t done in any other show on this tour), it was incredible. And, believe it or not, I worshipped (some) last night.

But then they got to songs like “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own,” “Love and Peace,” “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” and “Bullet The Blue Sky,” and the same folks who were dancing around sloshing beer on their neighbors during the fast songs were still doing it during the slower ones. I just kept looking at the women in front of me thinking, “Like rings of gold in swine’s snouts…”. How can someone call themselves U2 fans and not get what they are saying?

Maybe I’m the one not really getting what they are saying. During one of the songs, Bono put on this white headband with symbols of a cross, a star of David, and a Muslim symbol which I couldn’t see from my angle. He kept chanting, “Jesus, Jew, Mohammed, it’s true” and I started getting nervous.

I love U2. I love the message they preach of love, help, and grace extended. But I do not believe all roads lead to home. I’m not sure that’s what Bono was saying as he went into a bit about all of us being descendents of Abraham (which is true) and all of us are brothers (which we should be); the point, I think (hope), seemed to be about not caring for our fellow man. This made more sense to me. We are all members of the same genealogy, we do have a responsibility to care for and help the helpless and the hurting. Got it (if that’s what the message was).

So the crowd was screaming their agreement about this like we’re all going to leave The United Center and change the world. If that was the case, we all failed our first assignment. As we left, there were beggars just outside the doors. “Please, can I have a dollar? Please, I’m hungry. Just pennies. Please.” Ignored. Denied. I said to Craig, “So much for everyone’s commitment to help our fellow man.”

The next time we were asked, we gave. I wish I could do it every time. It’s not my responsibility to keep the receiver accountable to what he/she does with the money. Maybe they’re going to buy alcohol, maybe a sandwich. Jesus doesn’t tell us to follow them around with a money ledger. He tells us to give. Inasmuch as you do it to the least of these. All that.

Anyway, those were my first impressions, for what it’s worth. Maybe not much. I’m not sorry we went. I wish I could have an hour with those guys to ask them all my burning questions and tell them I appreciate their music, not their status. But that’s not going to happen, at least not this side of heaven.

Elmer Fudd

That’s him. FarmGuy can now officially be called Elmer Fudd. He’s sitting on the back step right now with his cat food bait and shotgun ready to go. Come hither you crazy raccoons, and make peace with your destiny.

10:45 p.m. update: As I was posting the above entry, Craig came in all excited. “Get your flashlight! I saw all three of them down by the pond!” Now, keep in mind, I was all ready for bed here, but I grabbed the flashlight and slipped on my sandals and off we went.

We waited some more with me shining the light with my arms all the way up in the air, moving the beam slowly like a police spotlight or something. Five minutes into that, he says, “Can you hear them? I hear them.” and then, “See that? I think I see them. Oh, no, that’s a lightening bug.”

We waited five more minutes and then came back inside. He took the bullet out of the gun and put them both away. I went into the kitchen to finish putting the groceries away and turn the lights off. For the heck of it, I checked our bait bowl to see if they came back. One sucker, ready and waiting. “Oh, Elmer!” I said. He got the gun back out and sneaked out the front door and around toward the back of the house. I watched from the safety of the kitchen window. Ladies and gentlemen, he shoots, he scores! One down, two to go. Way to go, FarmGuy! Now then, we just have to deal with the body before the girls wake up. I don’t exactly want to have to explain to them the science experiment we’ve got framed in our big kitchen window while they’re eating their oatmeal tomorrow…

Cat Fight

On our way to my sister’s house on Friday, we stopped at the McDonalds in Hannibal, MO. For the sake of cost I don’t ordinarily buy the girls Happy Meals, but as this was close to the beginning of our car trip, I did this time so they could play with the new little toy in the van for the trip.

About 20 minutes after leaving, I heard this conversation directly behind me, both voices speaking in a squeak, kind of an octave higher than their normal tone:

Chloe (Waving her cat in Katie’s direction and squeaking): Do you want to watch a movie?
Katie (Waving her cat in Chloe’s direction and squeaking): Yes. Can I pick it?
Chloe (Waving her cat in Katie’s direction and squeaking): No, I want to pick it.
Katie (Waving her cat in Chloe’s direction and squeaking): No! I want to pick it.
Chloe (Waving her cat in Katie’s direction and squeaking): No! I want to pick it.
Katie (Waving her cat in Chloe’s direction and squeaking): No! I want to pick it.

Me, shaking my head and thinking: I guess they don’t argue enough in the form of little girls. They’ve got to do it vicariously through their cat toys as well.

Another aside: we don’t even have a car video or dvd player. They were imaginary fighting about an imaginary show they imaginarily wanted to watch. That’s preschoolers for you…