My Favorite Artist Turned 4 Today

My first-born came into the open air of this reality four years ago today. She is glorious and wonderful. She is sensation and awe. She is questions and answers. She is being and making and trying. She is joy. And look at the authority with which she handles those paint tools!






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Adding her to what we are, adding us to what she is

Just a few hours ago we received preliminary approval from China to bring this beautiful, divine, valuable girl home ~ Dang Cai Qun.

It’s a huge thing to be on the verge of having your life transformed as you transform the life of those around you. I’m thankful tonight. Such an adventure, this life. So many miracles and graces.

Dang Cai Qun ~ click her name to hear one of my former graduate students, Jackie (herself from China), pronounce the name for us.

If you want to help us with the final stretch of fundraising, check out the latest work I’ve posted to my etsy shop. If you want to hear more of the details as we move forward in the coming months to bring this little one home, see my wife’s site here. Be happy with us!

The Big Tree

This week was Spring Break for me (and the rest of the University of Missouri). Not that it really felt like much of a break. I honestly don’t remember what it’s really like to just be free. I don’t begrudge my responsibilities – much to the contrary, I’m grateful that they’re things I believe in and understand to be meaningful. Yet the freshness of just being able to BE… well, I guess I’ll have to experience that vicariously. 

One of the ways I see that “astonishment of being” taking place is through the experiences of my daughter. This week when we took her to see The Big Tree near Columbia where we live (here’s the Tree’s Facebook page) she was pretty excited. 


A group of shots of her at the base of the tree.


And with mom out in the field nearby…


…she picked flowers for the first time!


A pretty nice view.

Overall it was a good, joyful day. I’m blessed by the delight in her eyes at moments like these. I’m hopeful that we can let Miranda just experience being alive for as long as possible, before the cares and responsibilities crowd out wonder.

Miracles: Sovereign Movements Indistinguishable From Chance

Mary, above left, was born on April 30th, 2010 in Ethiopia. Miranda, right, was born on April 30th, 2010 in Columbia, Missouri, USA.

Moving across the earth to a town just north of Chicago, through sovereign movements that are indistinguishable from chance, Mary and Miranda made their way to each other – to play, and run, and explore their world.

It was a joyful, heartening meeting. In spite of the machinations and vices that rile our world, here we see some glint of the true purpose for humanity… and we can thank God.

Photos by Matt Ballou and Melissa Lancaster.

Seven Years

220,924,800 seconds; 3,682,080 minutes; 61,368 hours; 2557 days; 365 weeks; 7 years.

What a life. So far we’ve…

..gone through that sweet but pretty geeky early stage: meeting, falling in love, and making a start at life…

…did each others’ hair…

…and got building on the future.

We had fun, partying with tutus around my neck…

…or building forts together in the living room…

…then hanging with kids (like Roman here), teaching them about (among other things)…

…like art…

…and bratwurst…

We also had adventures…

…high atop the Duomo in Florence…

…and on the Via Michelangelo (with Barry).

Then we had Miranda.

Yes, what a life, what a love. I am so grateful, so full… and looking forward to the future.

Thank you for being my bride and my friend, Alison.

Miranda Grace Ballou


Your hands and feet… your eyes and brain… they are all more than fresh; they are still being knit together.

As I sit here, there you are across the room in your mother, your heart striking a tattoo of potential to future joys and woes. When I think about all that I am, all that your mom is, all that our people are, all that our world is, I am caught short of breath… not really overwhelmed, but overawed.

Overawed because I know that, in major ways (foreseen and unforeseen), I will be part of the way you access all that has been. This great world, this great universe of experience and time and sensation and being – each facet part of your inheritance as a human being – is going to be presented to you by my faltering, limited, frail hands and voice.

And I am moved by all of this, partly because I know that being alive is hard and I don’t want you to hurt. But I am more moved by it because I know how much the miracle of being conscious has inundated me, made me, transformed me. The glories and wonders of the things you’ll know and see and touch and hear and be flood me; I, too, know them, and know that you’ll know them so much differently than I have. But we’ll have that knowing to share.

Part of that knowing is a realization that the dignity of what you are is because of a Story that transcends space, time, personality, individuality, and being itself. That’s the place I want to start, even as we explore everything else, because everything else is embedded in that Story. You are in that Story.

You are the precious thoughts of the Author of that Story. You are the manifestation of the articulated structures of Story rippling through all things. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!

Lutz Art, Ox-Bow 2001

general_lutzart_onthewigglerIn 2001 I had a 3 month Fellowship Residency at Ox-Bow, a summer program associated with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

We did a lot of stuff there, made a lot of art, raised a lot of hell, ate a lot of food, etc, etc, etc, but we also made Lutz Art.

My understanding is that the Lutz no longer exists… so here’s to the Lutz and the art we made there that summer so long ago.

Skippy loves the beef!

For more on Ox-Bow, go here.