Skip to content


1.3.20 Cheer in the New Year?

Certainly news today and most any day has plenty of weight. Perhaps there are those who pass someone waving thinking, “With as much as is going on, why does someone think there is any reason to wave like an idiot? Doesn’t she care or know about _________.”

I saw a satirical article today from a friend’s post with a smiling, relaxed looking photo and the heading, “‘I’m Feeling Good These Days’ Says Woman Who Obviously Does Not Get NYTimes Notifications.”

Just a reminder to self: being on the corner is in no way a denial of the hard and seemingly getting harder things that face our community, our nation, our world. I spend plenty of time fretful about the state of affairs. A part of the consistency of the corner is that there is room for joy in the constant tension. The wave as it is ignored or received is perhaps another alert that goes out into the atmosphere. For some it is a welcome sign that adds to a sense of connectedness and hope in the rush hour.

It was a bit tough to get out there today. After a bout with a cold and cough, and then with my parents in town and sick until yesterday, it’s been a while. At the turn of the new year, I find that it’s important to remember why I’m out here. Some of it’s still a mystery to me, but I know that it is in part because joy doesn’t always come naturally. It’s as if the wavers are part of a joy revolution and just knowing that other folks are trying and laughing and smiling and sharing that energy is enough to face some of the daily grind and divisions.

My non-satircal heading today would be: “‘I’m Waving Out Here These Days” Says Woman Who Somehow Keeps Finding Reasons To Smile Despite Doom.”  May it be so, friends. May the gumption keep coming with eleven months to go. Join me some time.

Today’s Highlight: When the commuter charter bus driver opened his door after our customary dance and called out into the drizzle, “Have a Happy New Year!”

Right back at you.

2010.1.3 Balloon Pastor Umbrella Canva

1.1.20 New Year Joys

Joy in the New Year (Sick Edition): With the toll of parents being ill, stir crazy kiddos, and the prospect of trying to get back in the rhythm of things, looking for joy is a must.

Because my “Call to Joy” spiritual practice of balloon pastoring is a daily event–whether or not I am on the corner–the corner is on my heart and mind: the hum of people passing, the square patch of the community to stand on, and the diligent dog walkers pressing onward.

Five encouraging things to temper the setbacks:

  1. Coloring

One sign of joy came from a church member, famous for the coloring she sends via post. Here’s the front of her colorful page and her inscription for the back!


2. Movie Watching: “Christopher Robin”

Winnie the Pooh: …Well, that doesn’t sound like fun.

Christopher Robin: That’s the real world for you. Oh, Pooh, there’s more to life than just balloons and honey.

Except that Winnie’s One Hundred Acre Wood Wisdom prevails. When it comes to getting a balloon–

Winnie: I know I don’t need one, but I’d like one very, very much, please.

I think Winnie would appreciate the people of Columbia.


3. My Husband’s Pies

Pecan and pumpkin to plump us up while recovering. And a big thanks to a church member who brought delicious soups and bread for my ailing parents!


 4. Storytime

Having my daughter choose one of her Christmas books for us to read before bed as we learn together. Tonight: Elise Gravel’s What is a Refugee? 

What is a Refugee by Elise Gravel


       5.  Friends Taking on Inspiring Resolutions

Pastor Friend Rachel writes:

“Starting a new insta account to share my #2020 journey to reduce my consumption of single use plastics. I will share ideas, reviews and links, little victories and missteps. If you are interested you can follow me @taking_smallsteps”



Wishing you all a blessed (balloon-full) start to 2020!

12.30.19 A String of Illness

Hi, Friends,

Illness has been making its way through my house. I have a persistent night cough that I’ve been trying to shake. Flapping on the damp corner has not felt like the best option Friday or today. So, I’ve been trying to heal up. My mother and father have been visiting from Tennessee and they were diagnosed with broncitis and an ear infection, and pneumonia, respectively. Oof!

I’ve missed the corner. I offer cheer from my house in another form. Please say hello to our balloon pancake snow-woman holding a string of hopefulness! Sending thoughts for those who are sick this day.  Leaving this here with the hope I’ll be back soon at Little Patuxent. I would love to be able to offer some waves to fly into the new year!…

30.12.19 Balloon Pastor Snowman PancakeMay the words of poet Mary Oliver in “Starlings of Winter”  take us onward in the call of joy:

“…Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.”



12.26.19 Sidekick

My daughter let me be her sidekick today.  We broke out the environmentally friendly bag of balloons. She chose a purple one. We found her hat with the poof on top. I secured her balloon and she wanted to make extra sure that her string wouldn’t fly off her wrist so we tied it on and she clutched tightly to the string. She had heard about my “runaway balloon.” We set off down the Vantage Point hill around 2:30 p.m. It was a brilliant day after Christmas and over 50 degrees. In the sun, it felt like 60 and the joggers and walkers seemed to be loving it.

Once on the perch, I talked about the different angles of waving. I shared about waving at cars at a distance, assuring her that they could likely see us even if we couldn’t see them. I talked about each person in the car being an imporant person. I let her know that not everybody would wave, but asked her to notice what it was like when people did wave. We talked about the reasons why somebody might not wave. She offered, “Because they have somewhere they need to go fast and need to not get distracted” as one possibility.

We made up a “rainbow wave” together–arcing our hands from the left to the right–with each motion saying a different color of the rainbow with each arc: “red-orange-yellow-green-blue-purple!” What fun it was when my daughter got to wave at other children.

I don’t anticipate that my daughter will be out with me often, but this was a rare treat on a balmy day.  I’ve come to understand that she is a major reason I’m being led on this call to joy. I want there to be signs of joy for children in my community. I’m grateful to her for sharing some of her joy today.

Toward the end of our time, I saw the gentleman who has twice given me the middle finger. I saw him see my daughter. I think I perceived two different things register: annoyance that she was there (something like, “Seriously?”) and a decision not to flip us off. Thank you for not doing so.

When I asked my daughter what she liked about the corner: “Everything.”





12.24.19 Christmas Eve

A Full Day out there. A beautiful, sunny Christmas Eve. Bear with me for the blessings:

Santa Jack

12.24.19 Balloon Pastor Christmas Eve Santa JackSanta Jack’s visit to the corner. Chaplain Jack of my congregation has been walking the Columbia Mall to keep up his health. He looks like Santa and wears a hat and sometimes the full suit as we walks. People have been greeting him, taking photos, and even asking for prayers over the last weeks. He’s been spreading joy and wonders, “What happens after Christmas?” He visited me on the corner today with a friend of his who snapped our photo. Great to see them both and have them wave a bit!


In addition to a lot of quick chats, I got to have extended conversations with Vantage Point neighbors. They approached in sequence as I left the corner. I got to share my lingering question from yesterday with my second new friend, “How is joy going for you?” I was delighted to learn that she is a flight attendant. I loved hearing about all the ways that she brings joys to the passengers, especially the children.

Our Shared World 

Tonight in my sermon I shared the poem “Gate A-4” by Naomi Shihab Nye. She describes a surprising party held in the airport. Strangers become friends. Barriers are crossed as passengers share cookies. Simple on the surface, but such miraculous moment:

“And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and I thought, This
is the world I want to live in. The shared world…This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.”

12.24.19 Balloon Pastor Christmas Eve yellow balloonOften, friends, I am looking at the road at the bustling and weary ones on their way. I consider all the many things that are a source of lament or despair. I give thanks for the shared world that we share. For the waves that connect us. For joy that keeps being born.

                                                                   New Balloons

At the end of our Christmas Eve Service tonight, a congregant and longtime Columbian extended an awesome package. Environmentally friendly balloons. A Merry Christmas, indeed! The card read, “to keep your joy afloat!”

Welcome Home

After a busy day of Christmas Eve prep, it was a gift to come home to my daughter’s welcome home sign. It was like her wave to me. I also think that this waving for joy is sparking her own creativity. As she trailed off to bed, she rushed back to the living room, “I had to turn on the Christmas lights on the tree so that they can bring Santa joy.”12.24.19 Balloon pastor Christmas Eve sign

I am delightfully sinking into the day as my brother-in-law and mother-in-law have a cinnamon roll bake-off. It will be some moments yet before bed.

Blessings to all and to all a joy-filled night.


12.23.19 Runaway Balloon

12.23.19 Balloon Pastor Red Uh oh
Before the Balloon Escaped!


Friends, I started the wave today with a red balloon. Imagine my dismay when fifteen minutes later I looked down and realized that my balloon was no longer there. The string must of come loose and off it flew!

Ahh bullocks… I didn’t mean to send off the balloon into the environment! Penance required!

Not only did I feel like a litterer in that moment, but who is balloon pastor without balloon? Thankfully, people still took to waving. Between the bright sunshine and approaching holidays, drivers seemed in festive spirits. Several people rolled down the window to yell: “Season’s Greetings!” or “Merry Christmas!” Also, several of my congregants (now clued into what I am up to after yesterday’s church service), offered their loud toots and shouts.

Given that many think I am out there as a sign of holiday cheer, they are going to be a bit surprised when I don’t disappear with Epiphany!

Biggest blessing of the day: I looked up and a man had come right up to me with what I took to be his son–an early teenager. He said that they had been seeing me wave and wanted to know more about it. “Are you running a social experiment?” “Are you running for office?”

They had parked and walked down the hill to come and talk with me. I told them about the joy and the plan to be around for a while. They seemed genuinely interested in the effort and wanted his son to be learn from the encounter. I shared: “I have two kids. I want them to have a community where there are visible signs of joy.”

The fact that a father stopped and took out time in a busy afternoon to come and talk to me with his son was an early Christmas gift to me. After they left I wished that I had asked, “How joy going for you?”

So, friends, how is joy going for you? 

I inadvertantly let the the balloon slip away today, but certainly joy showed up in full view.

The Bright Sun Today

12.22.19 Kittamaqundi Community

Today I shared with my church what I have been up to in these last weeks. I donned my hat and told them about the long months of resistance and then the yes! of making my way to the corner to wave. It was phenomenal to connect with folks after worship to hear about how they are being tugged toward joy. This congregation certainly is a huge part of my inspiration to put myself out there. Thank you to all who shared their love and for the hospitality they offer all.

Also, we were particularly blessed at the end of worship when one of the Cold Weather Shelter participants asked to share a little bit and offer thanks to the church for hosting. It has been a big week with so many in the KC community and Beth Shalom pitching in to make meals, offer hospitality, entertain, host, and do laundry.

From our barn to your heart– Stay tuned!

19.12.22 Balloon Pastor KC




12.20.19 Running By

Two formations of geese waved today flying nearly directly overhead. Their soaring in the sunset was a marvel.

I encounted A. again upon the walk from her work. She smiled and said, “So, I’ll get to be seeing you all the time now, Pastor?”

At the end of my time as I was turning to go up hill, a runner stopped and asked about my waving. She admitted, “The first time I saw you, I thought, what is she doing?, but then I kept seeing you and it was great.” I told her about my hopes to share joy on the corner for the year to come.

Like me, she is pretty new to the area. She seems to love the spaciousness of Columbia. She agreed that in this time in our community, country, and world that a little extra joy wouldn’t hurt. We walked all the way back to the church together where she didn’t mind hearing a bit about our historic Carriage House.

“Some folks don’t know we are here,” I shared. “Hope to see you around the neighborhood again soon!”

“You, too!” she offered, as she began to pick up the pace again on her route.



12.19.19 Claire!

Thank goodness I got out there before Commuter Charter Bus Driver passed. We continue our daily dance-a-thon. Shortly after, I looked around to see that someone had parked their car on Vantage Point and was approaching me.

Visitor: Hi, I’ve just wanted to know what you are doing. I keep seeing you always out here waving, and I just would like to know.

Me: I’m just hoping to bring a bit of joy.

Visitor: That’s what I thought! I just saw you and I knew that’s what it had to be.

Me: How’s joy going for you?

Visitor: I could use some more joy happening.

She then shared about her mom who has passed some time ago. She knew how to look for joyful things that she called “happenings” and this had always encouraged her daughter. I got to be one of the happenings in this visitor’s life today. When I introduced myself: “Claire,” she echoed back, “My name is Claire!” Who doesn’t love those moments of synchonicity?

She encouraged me on to keep it up. I invited Claire to stop by again some time and even to join me one day waving. “It’s amazing how much space the waving can open up in you! You’ve made my day, Claire, thank you!” I offered. “You, too. You, too. I’m glad I stopped!” she shared back.





12.18.19 Intersection of Grief and Joy

Everything seemed to conspire against my getting to the corner today to wave.

At some point, I was able to shrug and admit that some days spiritual practices have to give up ground to other urgencies.

In a sea of meetings, I received a call that put me in touch with a former congregant who is actively dying with renal failure. I spent holy moments on the phone as she heard and recognized my voice. She could barely form her words but shared, “Thank you.” She was thanking me for the many visits that we have shared together. As she listened in, I also shared my thank you. It was simply put then, and the specifics come flooding now:

Thank you for the way you welcomed a new pastor in. Thank you for the way you made me four course lunches, always ending on a brownie. Thank you for allowing me to accompany you on the long road of grief. Thank you for the way you welcomed my daughter royally to your 90th birthday. Thank you for the holy moments of prayer that came at the close of each of our visits. Thank you for the last pauses today before you transition. 

I am aware every time I open myself up to the joy of corner waving, that I come to joy not because it is the opposite of suffering and not because I am in some denial of evil or hatred. As a chaplain and pastor, I have found that my presence with suffering has deepened my ability also to experience joy.

I am aware that so many who pass are in some place of pain that I do not wish to gloss over– just as many who come to any given worship service are hurting in ways we often do not know. Perhaps, there is something in the presence of being there on the corner, even if the waving is a turnoff and is to be ignored by those immersed in the griefs of life…there is something in the standing that communicates the mere existence of joy–even at the hardest intersections and in the fraught times of our wider world.

I traversed a hard intersection today with a dear friend soon departed. My next time on the corner she will be deeply on heart as she no longer walks the earth. May her spirit accompany me on the next legs of this journey. And may many meals end in brownies.



  The balloon I had prepared didn’t make it out, but I caught this quick shot of the corner as the sun went down on this day.

12.17.19 Learning the Rhythm

19.12.17 Balloon mitten frameAnother wet day on the roads. As I strolled down the hill on Vantage Point to the Little Patuxent Corner, I walked alongside a man who works at Vantage House. This is about the third time that my timing has coincided with his as he makes his way after his shift. We chatted this time, with me memtioning that I am the pastor of the church up the road  before he headed for the bus stop.

Toward the end of my time around 4:15 p.m., a open motorized vehicle with two cops pulled up out of the trail to Kittamaqundi Lake.

Cop 1: What, you out spreading holiday cheer?

Me: Yeah, just trying to offer a bit of joy. I am the Pastor from up the block.

Cop 2: Oh yeah, that church up there that has weddings and events.

Me: That’s the one in the stone carriage house.  I’m still pretty new to the area and I am learning the rhythm and the block.

Cop 2: Where you from?

Me: Memphis. I’ve been inspired by a man there who waved on the corner with his dog for 17 years!…I won’t be making it that long. Things have been going okay. Today only two middle fingers so far.

Cop 2: That’s doing better than us!

Me: In one car today, the driver was waving while the passenger was giving me the finger! But, I guess it’s a good rate. Almost two weeks and 50 waves at least a day. Only two fingers.

Cop 2: Yep, better than we do!

I was aware as we we were talking of my heightened sense of what comes with being out and occupying a corner. I think of those who wouldn’t necessarily feel as secure standing where I am because of their age, abledness, race, status, gender,  orientation, or economic situation. As I often do, I think of the privilege of what it means to stand there as a white woman. I consider the freedom and space to explore such spiritual practices and to try this unusual brand of community engagement.

The Spirit continues to surprise me. I brought my balloon home as I do each day for my kids. After dinner, my daughter wanted to share a little violin concert in the living room. I was delighted to see that she had tied the balloon to her violin. It moved as she did…struggling at times to hit the “Jolly Old St. Nick” notes, at times moving smoothly. Her delight brought me delight. I thought of the ups and downs of the corner. Of the joy that comes in the start and stopping of all who pass.

This particular balloon had quite a job today in symphony with the sounds of the street and the strummings of a little girl. The same girl who had first inspired my balloon waving when we walked balloons home from the church this past summer. A part of what I do is wrapped up in being a mom. Oh, how I want there to be visible signs of joy in my children’s community. I give thanks again for all of the children who wave, many of whom today rolled down their windows giggling.

Yes, it is a privilege to stand where I do. From my vantage point I spy all the beloved zooming by.  Children and those who once were children making their way on another busy day.

19.12.17 Balloon violin elf





12.16.19 Middle Finger

Today was the first middle finger. The gesture seemed to take up the entire windshield of the small sedan. There was no mistaking it–held up in a prolonged rather than flashing fashion. There was some relief…I knew this was coming…it was only a matter of time before being flicked off. And yet, it still registered with surprise.

It was a wet and formerly snowy day in the corner. It was gray. I had a dark umbrella. From time to time in my short window this afternoon, I wiped off the drops of water that weighed my sagging pink balloon down. It flew up under the umbrella at times in my face.

19.12.16 Balloon Pastor pink Magritte canva.JPG.png

I felt like part of the Magritte big apple on the face painting, “The Son of Man.” About the famous painting, artist Rene Magritte remarked,

“Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.” 

“What are you doing?” some more folks today wanted to know, rolling down their windows to ask questions. Who is the person behind the balloon? What is it that I am not seeing about this woman? What is hidden behind this visible act of smiling and waving on the corner? What is the motive? One man slowly driving by shared, “I’ve been curious. Seen you out here before. What’s it about?”

And I wonder about intense feelings juxtaposed–all the many joyful waves that come back (especially on sunny days) in contrast to the visible gesture of that middle finger obscuring the man’s face today. What pain resides there?  What is the story behind the story? What is bobbing between “the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present?” For him, for me?

I know this: in a couple days’ absence from the block, I notice a difference. I miss the expansiveness and room that waving on the corner opens in my mind and heart. I miss the prayerfulnes that flows even in the miserable weather. Just as some may wish to know this balloon lady, I wish to know others, to see them as they are in those moments. Great detail isn’t possibly in the flashing passing, but I see humanity. And each gesture back communicates the joys and pains of what it means always to be seen and unseen by others, visible and invisible–as each of us are in all of our thoughts and gestures.

And I leave today with the image of a yellow car with dozens of hearts spray-painted on it that rolled up as my time winded down. And before the occupants even waved or rolled down their windows to talk I knew what the visible meant, “These folks get it. No one drives a car with hearts all over it and fails to recognize joy.”




12.13.19 Friday the Wet 13th

19.12.13 Balloon Pastor WetIn the car at the intersection to turn–

Me: I wish I could wave with the balloon today, but it’s too wet and sloshy.

Daughter: Why? You could go out with an umbrella!

Me: That’s true. But it is pretty soaked. It’s been raining all day.

Daughter: Yeah, but you could do an umbrella and rainboots and still wave.

Me: Yeah, I could. But, it’s hard for folks to wave when the roads are so wet and continuing to rain–they need to keep an eye fully on road.

Daughter: I guess so. Yeah, they need to be safe.

Me: There’s the corner over there. That’s where I stand. Let’s give it a wave.

Me and Daughter: (waving a blessing at the corner in anticipation of another day).

Thoughts go out to those slogging home on Friday the 13th in a busy season! Dampness has a way of creeping into the bones.

Giving thanks for two big holiday programs from the kids today.  Giving thanks for the chance to help my daughter learn her lines for Sunday’s play.

…”I like the story about the wise men who followed the star.”

Prayers flowing for all who are in desperate search and feel on the verge of something big. Keep following the star, even through the slush and fog. You can give out a big wave to let the future know you are on the way!

12.12.19 A Familiar Wave

Two vignettes from the afternoon on the corner waving:

1.) A Fed Ex Truck Driver rolls down his window

Driver:  What are you doing out here? Are you with Vantage House? (the senior housing building)

Me: No, I am the pastor from the church up the road (pointing at the hill behind us). I am hoping to learn the neighborhood a bit more and share some joy.

Driver:  Well, we sure need joy right now.

Me: You got a long day still ahead?

Driver: One more delivery and then I am home!

Me: It’s bound to be a busy season. Hope you have a good evening!

Driver: Thank you, you too!


2.) A young woman in a black car who paused right in front of me and rolled down her window to call out good naturedly

Driver: What are you doing out here? I’ve seen you a couple of times now and am curious.

Me: I am the pastor at the church up the road looking to get to know the block better. And I’m looking to share joy.

Driver: Well, you’ve definitely got me feeling joyful! Thank you!!

19.12.12 Balloon Pastor purple self

Two seemingly simple interactions, but so filling amidst the waving today. Some cars are starting to seem familiar. The same people turning down the same street around the same time of day. Some of the waving itself from passersby feels familiar–like they have seen this funny lady with the balloon before and here she is again! The energetic waves are a blessing.

Thinking tonight of all those delivery drivers dashing to get packages out on time. Thinking of all those driving by who could use some more signs of joy. Giving thanks for interactions with strangers that  transcend the boundaries of waver and wavee. For the collective yearning for signs of connection that we seek. For unity that comes with familarty.


12.11.19 A Touch of Sunset


Top gratitudes on the corner while waving today:

1) The joyous driver of the big Commuter charter bus that rolls up to the bus stop around 4:20 p.m. We mirror each other doing a hand dance wave while laughing.

2) The numerous kids today waving from the back seat excitedly, their heads bobbing and peaking above the car door frames.

3) The guy who tooted twice while my back was to him so that I would turn around to see him double waving and I double waved back with gusto.

3) The man who rolled down his window while turning, “You running for office or something?” Me: “No, just hoping to spread a bit of joy.” Driver: “Thank you!”

4) The bright sun that has been missing for a string of days that steadily set as we all whir toward the solstice. It kissed the trees and horizon and brought a renwed sense of warmth and possibility.

I met with two dear pastor friends today for lunch. I decided to tell this about this new spiritual practice, this waving on corner while holding balloon activity. I haven’t shared about this with a whole lot of people yet. I’ll be sharing more with my congregation soon and was curious as to how I would describe what is happening to me from the inside out. There is more room and elasticity, but I know the practice sounds outlandish.

I tried to describe the bursting feeling that pours out while interacting at the intersection of so many peoples’ lives all at once. I tried to capture the gratitude of being welcomed, into beautiful moments of peoples’ journeys. I talked of the relationships that can build as I seek to return at some steady times and start to encounter some of the same people walk and drive by this same spot. I described what it feels like to stand at the threshold of my neighborhood and wave hospitably to all who are entering and exiting. This is holy ground.

19.12.11 Balloon Pastor Sun Set canva



12.10.19 Cherry Picker

19.12.10 Balloon Pastor Cherry PickerMy son loves trucks. At bedtime we often read through books outlining all the construction vehicles. A cherry picker is often among them.

The utility worker waved today before he climbed up to work on the camera at Little Patuxent west bound. I thought of the skill necessary to operate the machinery and to fix the technical gadget capturing footage of folks as they zoom by. The specific hydraulic lift and this particular trained worker were necessary for the proper repair.

I watched as a lane of traffic was blocked by the cones and people had to negotiate around it.

I was able to get some time waving in the morning before the rain started. One child and mother were on the way to the 7-11 at Running Brook. There were more pedestrians at the 9:00 hour and many who passed spoke with me. A couple of them asked me “what this was all about?” One pointed to the apartments she lived in.  I mentioned that I had been serving as the pastor at the church just up the road for 18 months. I had enjoyed getting to know my folks and am getting to know the neighborhood more. I am trying to learn the rhythms of the community as well as perhaps share and receive joy. I continued to wave and had many in cars give a toot and/or wave.

This carried me well into deep conversations at the clergy meeting I attended right after my time on the corner. One colleague spoke about immigration and the ongoing challenges immigrants face in our county. I thought to my place on the corner and how many immigrants must pass by on a daily basis–some assured of their status, many uncertain.

My prayers go with those facing deep uncertainty in their lives–those who at every corner have to navigate new hazards. I pray for the kind of repair that marries the specific skills needed at the right time to fix what is not working. I pray for those who don’t know what their next step will be in the face of serious obstacles. I pray for those who are trying desperately to support those who are most in peril right now, those most in need of signs of joy in our midst.