Tuesday, December 21, 2010

our christmas letter

This is the first year since getting married that we haven't sent out a Christmas photo/card/letter. Mostly because we will be sending out an adoption announcement when our son comes home (which we hope will be SOON), and I am way too lazy to send out that many cards twice!

In lieu of an actual letter, here is the blog version. Enjoy!


Greetings friends! We hope this letter finds you happy, healthy, and enjoying the season with the ones you love.

2010 was a big year for our family - we tried new things, went new places, met new people, and had our hearts opened, broken, and mended over and over.

Nate started kindergarten this fall and is absolutely loving it! His reading and writing are improving every day and currently one of his favorite pastimes is writing notes to me and leaving them around the house. This year he played T-ball and swam on the summer league swim team. Nate enjoys doing mazes, building train tracks, and playing with his best friend - his brother Dexter.

Speaking of Dexter, he is still cracking us up with crazy antics every day! His preschool teachers have a story for me every time I pick him up. He is still obsessed with Thomas the Train, but also loves puzzles, books, and sidewalk chalk. He gives the best hugs in town and enjoys snuggling with Mommy and wrestling with Daddy.

Jon continues to find his job satisfying and challenging. He regularly gets recognized at work for his great technical ability and strong leadership. I'd brag more but I don't want to embarrass him! He has been serving as an Elder at our church for the past year and a half, as well as leading a search committee to hire our new Director of Worship, Music & the Arts. He also still plays drums a few Sundays a month.

I have been busy as usual, especially since joining our church staff as the Interim Worship & Arts Coordinator last Winter. I planned worship services, coordinated our art gallery, and put together several special events throughout the year. I enjoyed this work, but am happily finished now that we have hired a new director. I still teach parent/child preschool classes once a week and participate in weekly women's Bible study, as well as singing in church regularly.

In October we traveled to Ethiopia as part of our adoption process. It was truly a life-changing experience and we plan to go back as often as possible. Our son, Eba Ezekiel ("Zeke") Ballast, was officially adopted into our family on November 15, 2010! We are now waiting for the US Embassy in Ethiopia to finish processing his visa and passport so we can bring him home, hopefully in early 2011.

God has been good to us and we are so thankful for his blessings, including many of you - our sweet friends and family. (And a shout out to any internet strangers out there too, thanks for reading!)

May the miracle of Christ's incarnation, the glory of his resurrection, and the hope of his coming kingdom fill your hearts with joy and peace this Christmas!

The Ballast Family

Monday, December 13, 2010

room to breathe

You gave me room to breathe. --Psalm 31:8b, The Message

I have new space in my life and God is cramming blessings into every square inch of it. Mostly tiny happy things, small but much-needed reminders of my belovedness.

We took the boys to a local paved trail last weekend to give Nate some practice on his bike, sans-training-wheels. It was gray and cold and perfect: a wide-open path on a quiet Northwest morning. Unbeknownst to us there was a crowd of people nearby getting ready to participate in a 10K race along the same route. Just as we finished our ride and turned off the path to go back to our car, hundreds and hundreds of people streamed by us onto the trail we had just vacated. The first raindrops of a massive downpour began to fall; we bundled into the car and headed home.

Last night we left the kids at home with a babysitter and headed out for dinner and a concert. Easy drive, good parking spot, and no wait at our favorite Puerto Rican restaurant: fried plantains and pulled pork to die for. After dinner we walked a few blocks to the concert venue, and ran into the band we were going to see on the street outside (indie-folk duo The Civil Wars). Being a huge nerdy super-fan, of course I had to say hi and gush about how much I love them and how excited I was for the show! Inside we found seats in the front row still available, but within 5 minutes the place was packed. And the show... Ohhh, I am (almost) at a loss for words. Music makes me cry a lot, but it is usually because of what the song means to me. For only the second time in my life, music made me cry by the sheer beauty of it. A wonderful night it was.

The Civil Wars: Joy Williams and John Paul White

My new shirt

This morning I dropped both boys off at school and went home. Sat down. Drank hot chocolate. Read. Listened to my haunted iPod on shuffle (it plays the perfect songs at the perfect times to the point of creepiness). Had room to breathe.

[Also this morning? Drove Dexter to school twice - on our first try I went to get him out and realized he didn't have socks or shoes on. Oh, also dropped a mostly full glass jar of strawberry jam on the kitchen floor and it shattered. It happens.]

After school Nate grabbed his pad of paper and pencil (he's been on a writing kick lately, writing me little notes all day long).

In case you aren't fluent in Kindergarten spelling, it says "You are beautiful."

Thank you. Don't we all need reminding?

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Nothing in my life has caused me to doubt quite like working for a church.

Though doubt is far from being a popular topic in Christian circles, I have heard a few brave souls bring it up. Mostly I’ve heard people say that it is OK to doubt – that doubt is actually faith’s partner, not its opposite. I’ve heard Christians I deeply respect share their own doubts, or tell stories about valleys in their spiritual lives where they were not sure what they believed. I listened and filed the information away, but to be honest I just couldn’t relate.

Last week I came to the end of my time as the Interim Worship & Arts Coordinator at our church. It’s rather complicated to explain exactly what that job entailed and how I came to be doing it, but the bottom line is that I have been planning our worship services for the past year and a half. Now that I’m done, I can look back and say that it has been one of the most fruitful and growth-filled times of my life – I have learned a ton, done things I never thought I could do, and experienced the Holy Spirit moving in amazing ways.


Alongside the growth came wave upon wave of fierce and soul-jarring doubt. Questions whose answers I’ve known for years were suddenly cloudy and unsettling to me. And these weren’t complex, 3rd year seminary questions either – they were more like 3rd grade Sunday school basics: Who is God? What is he like? What does he want? What part do I play? And the one that rang in my head over and over on most Sunday mornings: Does any of this matter?

I sometimes squirmed through services, shamed by my distracted thoughts, weighed down by self-accusation: I’m the one who put this service together and yet I feel like I don’t even know why we’re all here. I’m the last person who should be feeling like this and struggling with these questions… I am failing.

I wonder if being a worship planner (or leader or pastor or preacher) might mean learning to walk the razor’s edge of humility and boldness. Humility, because we must know our ourselves to be wholly incapable of doing anything without God – especially guiding his people in worship. And yet boldness, because we must fully live into the calling of God and actively follow him in order to lead others. This is not an easy line to walk; I sliced my tender feet trying.

Ultimately I struggled to reconcile the scandalous hugeness of my task with the laughable smallness of my person. If God would let someone like me do something as important and, quite frankly, as dangerous as leading his people in worship… what kind of a God could he really be? I know, I know – bring what you have, broken and inadequate as it may be, and God will do the rest: a boy brought a few loaves and fish and Jesus fed 5000, blah blah blah. I know it… but it is possible to know something without believing it.

And now? Now I am done. I can get down from the edge and bandage my feet, stretch out my hands and see that I have grown and changed, I have been blessed and built up. I have been shaken, and the pieces are still settling. But I remember the words I have heard about doubt – I hear them with fresh ears. Doubt is necessary for true faith. Doubt does not separate us from God. Doubt need not be a source of shame or guilt. I believe these things with a deeper conviction now than I ever have before. The questions are still there, but I am not afraid of them. Who is God? He is the one who says it is OK to ask.