“Glory!” sang the angel chorus
“Glory!” echoed back the night
Love has come to walk among us
Christ the Lord is born this night
From “Anthem for Christmas” by Michael W. Smith
Artwork by Katie Dunham
It is our prayer to understand this truth more deeply, both this season and throughout the coming year. Peace to you and yours.
Dear Friends and Family,
What may come as a shock to many of you is that our family did a Christmas letter at all. What will not come as a shock to many of you is that we posted it online. Some of you will be interested in just the highlights. Others of you may want more details. For those of you in the former category, this one post should suffice. For those of you in the latter, click the links and read away.
Our family dove head first into the world of foster care this year on January 3 by welcoming a little 3-year-old boy. Midway through the month, Maddie (14) chipped off a piece of her knee cap when she fell down some stairs at school. This story will resurface again in October down below. A few days after this Craig announced the coming merge of two schools into one: The Academy of Classical Christian Studies, and we said yes to a newborn baby boy, bringing our total family count up to 8 until the very end of the month when the 3-year-old left us for his long-term placement.
We agreed to take in a 5-year-old who ended up being a very difficult placement for us. He was only with us for ten days. Craig and Katie took their annual birthday duo pic when Craig turned 42 and Katie turned 11 on the 5th. We continued to adjust to life with a newborn baby (and completely fall in love with him) and Maddie and I went to Texas for her first speech and debate tournament. And then our baby got moved to his long-term home and it about did us in for a few weeks. We intended to take a little break from fostering after the baby left, but an emergency arose and we agreed to take two little sisters. They were just with us a few days and the day they left, a little brother set joined us. They were supposed to just be with us for the weekend, but…
Millie presented on Flippo Brunellechi as part of the 3rd grade Renaissance Festival. Spring Break came and we packed up the whole Hee-Haw Gang and headed off to the Oklahoma “mountains” for a little camping trip for eight. We also spent Easter weekend in Owasso with my parents.
We discovered our short-term placement with the boys was being stretched into a longer one. Maddie and Chloe sang in Leonard Bernstein’s MASS at the Civic Center. I was asked to speak at the Oklahoma Foster Care Forum (and I was super nervous because…public speaking. Yo.) We joined my family in Tulsa for an awareness event for ALS on behalf of my mom. Watching her progress with her disease remains the single hardest thing about this year. And there have been some hard things this year.
This was the month we decided that the boys were not going to be moving into a long-term placement, so we started acting like their long-term placement. I got them enrolled in schools for the fall and we started making trip plans that included them. We took them to an OKC Redhawks game. Chloe, Katie, and Millie finished up piano by doing well at state (then our current teacher decided she was done with us and we agreed that was a good decision. So we started our hunt for a new piano teacher). Maddie finished up her second semester of guitar. We got our eyes opened at a foster care picnic. And…tornadoes.
Craig sent me on a solo-vacation to Florida for a weekend. While I was in-route, DHS, who had been in no hurry to move the boys into another home since they arrived in February, decided to move them and it had to be that day that I was gone and Maddie and Chloe were also gone. It was another hit to our souls. Later the merge of Providence Hall and Veritas Classical Academy officially became The Academy of Classical Christian Studies and we had this awesome cake. We took in another sibling set (cutest little 1yo girl and her 1mo brother), but for just one week. We left for a trip to the farm with a two-day stop to see good friends in St. Louis.
Our trip continued on with a nice respite at the Dunham family farm in Illinois. We visited the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum. We came home where Maddie and Chloe resumed helping at Shiloh Camp. Katie, Millie, and I volunteered for a week with the Jubliee Partners Reading Camp. We participated in Cow Appreciation Day. We were given another newborn baby. Katie and Millie took a sewing class from a friend of mine. I went to Owasso with Katie, Millie, and Baby A to help my parents sort through some household things and begin the process of prepping their legal documents. Millie got shocked by an electric cord in the swimming pool. We had the boys from the spring back over for an overnight visit and birthday party for A4-who-turned-5.
The newborn baby was given to a family member and on the same day we prepared for my parents to visit by moving in an electric hospital bed to our living room. I won a 100 year old newspaper from a time capsule here in Oklahoma City. We went to Six Flags in Texas and the girls and I had a nice getaway at Great Wolf Lodge, also in Texas, before school started back up. We launched a new school. We said yes to our first long-term placement, Baby T. Chloe turned 13.
Baby A came back for a week and we experienced life with two babies. Our school experienced our second annual Day and Night retreat and we had 16 girls in our home for one night. Wowza! Other than that we just settled into the everyday normal crazy for a family of eight on a hybrid homeschool schedule and the added goofy that comes with dealing with foster care.
I started a foster care support group on the third Friday morning of each month and then became the worst presenter ever asked to speak twice when I went to the Tulsa Foster Care Forum and shared stories of foster care there. Millie turned 10 and got to go on her 10yo mom/daughter trip. We went to Great Wolf Lodge in Texas. We had a lovely fall break overnight trip to Carlton Landing, courtesy of a family at our school who arranged for us to be able to go. Then the boys from the spring came back, this time in a long-term capacity, upping our total family count to 9. Maddie had surgery to remove the piece of her knee she chipped off back in January.
Our church bought a building! I got an education and a half after attending A5’s school for a few hours. I turned 40 and survived. We spent Thanksgiving in Owasso with my parents and my sister + family. We restarted our weekend Sabbath meals and attempted 24 hour technology fast.
I started a little side business when I joined Jamberry as an independent consultant. December 14th marked the 17th year of marriage for Craig and me. We finished the school semester with a rousing case of the stomach virus. We prepared for Christmas at home and planned for a trip to see both sets of grandparents. As of this writing, neither of those trips has happened yet, but we’re looking forward to them, assuming nobody else gets sick. Maddie will turn 15 on the 29th.
In short, our year was pretty normal. We had some successes. We had some failures. We loved well some of the time and we we didn’t love well some of the time. We sin against each other and we forgive each other and we keep moving on.
And at a time of the year when most of our mailboxes are filled with extremes that sometimes make us envious and sometimes make us roll our eyes, we wanted to give just a tiny glimpse of what our own reality is and our own reality is this: None of the good we have in our lives would exist apart from the grace of God. And the bad we have would be exponentially worse without a Savior to redeem our continually bad attempts to bail ourselves out time and time again.
We may never write a letter where we detail our international adventures or the fantastic addition to our home or the amazing accomplishments of our soon-to-be-celebrity children. And at the end of the day, what we do have is the security of salvation and each other and maybe that’s all we really need anyway.
Love, The Dunhams
Craig, Megan, Maddie, Chloe, Katie, Millie, A5, R4, Boomer, and Peaches