Tuesday, June 30, 2009

lake chelan

Here are some pictures from our camping trip to Lake Chelan last weekend. We went with a group of about 160 people from our church and community.

Nate w/ his buddies Gabriel & Isaac

s'more education

s'more elation

Bedtime: they stayed like this for about 5 seconds before bounding out of their sleeping bags and bouncing off the walls of the tent. it looked pretty funny from the outside. thank goodness they tuckered out quick, especially after we put them in separate tents.

I was promised that it would be the easiest camping trip ever and I was not disappointed! We had a great time and will definitely do it again next year. If you live in the NW, come join us!

Friday, June 26, 2009

night commute

In the hustle and congestion,
traffic signals
directions, overlapping
arcs of streetlamps
on hubcaps and trashcan lids,

movement passes for light.

we keep moving
toward the quieter ways,
the outskirts
and edges of suburbs,
into deeper
(often darker)
spaces, speed limits slow and we
come to see:

Our headlights have been off this whole time and we didn't even notice.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

why our kids don't come first

Last night I watched what just might have been the most depressing hour of television I have ever seen. For those of you who have not stood in line at the grocery store lately, Jon and Kate Gosselin, high-profile parents of twins and sextuplets, are getting a divorce. The announcement came during last night's episode of their reality TV show, Jon and Kate Plus 8, bizarrely sandwiched between clips of the kids' new playhouses and their Mother's Day brunch.

Ever since the beginning of their marital troubles, both Jon and Kate keep repeating the same inane mantra to anyone who will listen: Our kids come first. All we care about is our kids. We'll do anything for our kids. Kids, kids, kids, blah, blah, blah. And this, dear friends, is exactly why they are in their present situation: because they put their kids first. Above their relationships with God. Above their marriage. They made their bed, and now they have to sleep in it... separately, of course.

Let's listen carefully to Jon and Kate. What do we really want to give our kids? What are the most important things we have to offer them? New playhouses? Seriously?! How about lives that model the grace and love of Jesus lived out in healthy relationships? You don't have to be a child psychologist to know which one has a more lasting impact on a child's well-being. Here's praying these two well-intentioned but misdirected yahoos pull their heads out of the sand and take a good hard look at where "putting their kids first" has gotten their family.

Monday, June 22, 2009

hurry up and wait

The Ballast family... so far.

After what has seemed like ages and ages of prayer, procrastination, and finally a burst of productivity... Jon and I completed and mailed in our application to become adoptive parents. We chose a local agency called Adoption Ministry of YWAM (Youth With A Mission) because of their focus on caring for both the birth mothers and the adoptive families throughout the entire process, and because their staff are incredible giants in the faith. They absolutely love their work, because they are doing exactly what God created them to do -- forming and growing families by the grace of God and under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Jon and I have been talking about adopting since our first few weeks of marriage. While looking for a church in our new neighborhood, we heard a sermon on James 1:27 and both experienced the prompting of the Holy Spirit to make adoption part of our family story. Part of our desire to adopt comes from our understanding of our own status as adopted children in the family of God. God had his own perfectly good biological child, and yet he chose to adopt us. He knew the risks. He knew that we would bring our baggage, our history, our bloodline tracing back to Adam. But he extended his love and grace to us anyway, even going so far as to sacrifice the life of his own Son in order to seal our adoption, salvation, and eternal life with him. Therefore, we love (and adopt) because he first loved and adopted us.

We also believe that every life is valuable, from the very moment of conception. Women who are unable to parent need to have good, healthy options for themselves and their babies. Because we stand against abortion, we feel both an obligation and a desire to give women a better alternative. If people like us, who have been so richly blessed with resources, jobs, physical health, supportive families, a strong marriage, and good friendships, do not adopt... who will? And finally, we believe that the family of God should be first in line when it comes to taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves. Ultimately the responsibility to care for 'the least of these' does not rest on the government or social services -- it rests on the Church.

So... here we go! We know this adventure will be difficult, even risky. We don't enter into that lightly. But we also know the much greater risk and danger of living outside the call of God for our lives. This is where God is leading us, so no matter what we encounter on the way, it will be within the cover of his protection and care. We are hoping to complete our home study by the end of 2009 and (Lord willing) most likely welcome our new child sometime in 2010. Please pray for us!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

no mommy! crib!

...is what Dexter shouted at me when I tried to get him up from a nap earlier this week. The boy loves his bed. No arguments here, I'll just take some pictures of your cute grumpy face.

a comic strip!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Dear Life, by Carol Aust

I am something of a literalist. And a semantiphile. OK, I made that one up, but if it was a real word it would mean "one who loves meaning, specifically with respect to linguistic meaning, to the point of obsession." This makes me a rather annoying person to have a conversation with (God bless my friends and family), because I can get very nit-picky about word choice and word meaning. Nothing bugs me more than when people use words in the wrong context, or say one thing when they really mean something completely different.

The one that got me all worked up this week was people who ask for others to "send good thoughts" their way when they are having medical tests, or trying to sell a house, or taking the SATs or whatever. I don't have a problem with the sentiment behind it, which I interpret to be, at its base, a request for care. The person is simply asking for others to care for them and for what is happening in their life. I'm all for that -- we need the care and support of others, especially in difficult times. What gets my knickers all in a knot is the semantics: You don't actually want people to send you positive thoughts. In fact, most logical people don't even believe that it is possible to literally send thoughts to someone. Seriously folks, let's just say what we mean!

If you want prayer, ask.
If you want someone to call you after it's over to see how it went, ask.
If you want a pep talk, or a back rub, or someone to pick up your kids at preschool so you can get a iced coffee and have a moment of peace... ask.

Why are we so afraid to ask for what we need? Here's a good song reminding us that we don't need to be. (Lyrics here.)

[OK, one more pet peeve while we're on the subject of semantics: people who use the word "literally" to mean the exact opposite, as in "I could literally eat a whole cow right now." No. No you could not literally do that. Figuratively speaking (figuratively being the opposite of literally, mind you), you could eat a cow. Not literally. Grrr. By the way, I totally do this and Jon catches me. We are so made for each other.]

Sunday, June 14, 2009

the long defeat

I like laundry. I like gathering all the cast-off T-shirts and towels and socks from each room of the house, sorting them into piles, and tossing them in the washer. I like dumping a pile of clean clothes on the bed and turning it into a half-dozen neatly folded stacks. Doing laundry brings order out of chaos, and I like that.

The thing about laundry is that it never ends. No matter how much I do today, there will be more tomorrow. You can never do it 'once and for all.' In that sense, laundry helps me temper the part of my personality that is overly task-oriented, the part of me that just wants to check everything off the list and get it all done. Laundry defies my best attempts at being finished.

And I need to be defied like that every day. I need to be reminded that I am not finished -- and I am not called to live my life frantically attempting to fix that. Every day, every day, I need to do the daily work of letting God bring order out of my chaos. Will the chaos be back tomorrow? Yep. Does that make today's work any less significant? Not at all.

In Sara Groves' song, The Long Defeat, she sings: I have joined the long defeat / that falling set in motion / and all my strength and energy / are raindrops in the ocean. At first this might sound depressing or bleak, but there is an undercurrent of passion and faithfulness. There is a sense of admitting our frailty, admitting that we won't fix everything, admitting that, in this age, we won't win once-and-for-all our battle against brokenness. And yet we refuse to be paralyzed by that reality.

Tomorrow there will be more dirty clothes, but today we can throw the whites in the washer, fold the sheets, put away the dish towels, and fight our daily fight.

[For a brilliant comparison between laundry and liturgy, check out The Quotidian Mysteries, by Kathleen Norris.]

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


dirty? check.

scraped up? check.

loving life? check.

yep, it's summertime.

(click on the photo to get the full effect. thanks for the picture stephanie!)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

we listened together

Embrace, by Carol Aust

Last October I had an idea. I was looking for ways to connect deeply with God and with other women at church and thought, What if we had a retreat for women, specifically focused on contemplative prayer and listening to God? When I first pitched the idea to an elder at church her response, while encouraging and positive, was basically to say that she wasn't sure that the women in our congregation would come to something like that. I told her that I would do it by myself if that's how things played out, but that I would pray for others to join me.

Around that same time, another woman from my church (Marcy) began to suspect that God was calling her to lead a prayer retreat for women at church. She promptly told him, No way. He persisted, and she budged a little, saying OK maybe, but someone has to directly ask me to do this - I will not volunteer. In January, Linda (the elder I first talked to about my idea) approached Marcy and said, "Would you consider helping to lead a prayer retreat for women?" Marcy could only laugh. Her next bargain with God was along the lines of, OK I will call Haley about this, but she'll probably describe something totally different than I'm picturing and our visions will clash and then I'll be off the hook. She called me, and had to laugh again when I described the vision God had given me for the event. Now she had no excuses left and we both began to get excited as we realized that this could only be the work of the Holy Spirit.

Last Saturday more than 50 women from John Knox and the surrounding community gathered to listen to God. It was amazing. Marcy and I planned, prepped, and put together materials and activities for the day, with help from a wonderful committee (yay for being Presbyterian!). But the day was not amazing because of all that. The day was amazing because God spoke. God spoke, and we listened together. God spoke, and we responded together. God spoke, and we will never be the same.

watered garden at sunset.

Monday, June 8, 2009

friend's lens

It is fun to have friends who are professional photographers. If you live in the Seattle area and want to get phenomenal family pictures (or engagement photos, senior pictures, pregnancy/new baby shots), check out Dave Roberts Photography. These are a few shots Dave took when we hung out with him and his family a few weekends ago. Thanks Dave!

Friday, June 5, 2009

morning glory

Adam's seeds are in my garden
Never shaken from a packet, purposeful
or folded damp in towels
for faster germination,

though busy, busy, they are unaware
of this neglect.
Spades in reverse, they show their faces
pointed tips and purple-white stems.

I am green but even I
can tell them from the seedlings.
Before they spread their leaves
I snap their necks

And feel I've won.

Tomorrow they return, unfazed,
brazen and with company.
But doesn't tomorrow always hold
trouble enough? I suppose,
and look down uneasy
at my clean cuticles.

I could have taken the time
the trouble
to sink my fingernails in earth,
unearthing dark below
the purple stems, the root.

I could have listened,
not for the snap but for the rend,
the groan of undoing
creature from creation.

Go away! you ill-named noose
on the neck of my blessing

Go curl in choke-holds
up abandoned fence posts.
Go suffocate the half-dead alders
on hills
that are better off sliding.
Take your false-white flowers to empty fields.

Not in my patch of earth and life,
where love is tended
and growing under care.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Budded branches in April. Fresh leaves in May. Firstfruits in June.






Tuesday, June 2, 2009

free counseling

Searching for the perfect throwing rock

The following has been an almost-daily conversation at our house lately, especially while we're in the car or out on a walk:

Nate: Mommy, today I'm searching for [fill-in-the-blank, could be garbage trucks or ladybugs or yellow ducks].

Me: That's great, buddy.

Nate: What are you searching for Mommy?

There is something about the innocence in his tone that makes my breath catch in my throat. Of course I could answer with any number of acceptable (if not totally truthful) responses: shooting stars, stop signs, or swimming pools would all suffice. But when his sincere little four-year-old voice asks that question I have a hard time lying to him. I usually pause, buy time (um... well, that's a great question Nate. Let me think about it for a minute.) and wonder.

What am I searching for?