The Balloon Boys

We attended a family christening on Sunday and I was given a VERY important job. After the service I was to go to a nearby shop to collect the helium balloons that had been pre-ordered to decorate the tables at the post-christening party. Not one balloon, not two. But TWENTY FOUR huge blue and silver balloons. I could barely contain myself such was my excitement.


My initial delight at having been chosen for such a momentous and responsible task was dampened somewhat when Fionnuala informed me that our son, Adam, was to accompany me in order to assist. And by assist, I think she actually meant supervise. In the event that it all got too much for me and I was last seen drifting out high above Belfast Lough towards Scotland. I mean, really. Me and twenty hour giant helium balloons. What could possibly go wrong?

We arrived at the shop bang on time in order to make the pick-up. Unfortunately nobody seemed to have informed the largely disinterested (and I suspect hungover) staff who were still in the process of inflating the balloons at the back of the store. Adam and I were forced to endure the indignity of standing awkwardly while the balloons were passed out to us in dribs and drabs. Fellow shoppers looked on in bemusement at the sight of the two of us slowly becoming entombed in a barrage of balloons.

Fortunately each one came attached to a decorative weight but nonetheless I hung on like grim death to the ribbons attaching them to the balloon. We floated out of the shop whereupon a little girl standing outside asked if she could have one. As we were operating to a tight deadline I didn’t have time to stop and explain that they were not for sale. I can still hear her heart shattering into a thousand tiny pieces as we strode on out of the shopping centre.

If there is one sight more surreal than two embarrassed men walking across a car park with a billion gaudy balloons marked ‘Happy Christening’ then it is two even more embarrassed men trying to cram said balloons into the back of a people carrier. It was initially like trying to herd the wind. But via a combination of dogged determination and frantic grappling we managed to get the doors closed and were on our way; flaunting every traffic regulation in the book about having a clear, unobstructed rear view mirror whilst driving. 

We eventually arrived at the venue to be met with a small problem. During the course of the wrestling match en route the balloon ribbons had become horribly tangled up, creating a veritable Gordian knot. Fionnuala and another woman pushed us aside to begin the painstaking process of unraveling the mass of knots. But try as they might, progress was minimal and the situation appeared bleak as the guests began to filter into the function room.

Fearing that patience was running out and tempers might fray, wise heads accepted defeat and a knife was produced from somewhere in order to cut through the chaos. This allow the balloons and ribbons to be separated from each other before being tied back around each weight. Balloons were placed on tables in the nick of time and disaster was averted. My nerves were in tatters however and it took several large Diet Cokes and my own body weight in fried chicken at the all you can eat buffet in order to bring my heartbeat back down to a steady rate again. 

How many times in life have we allowed our focus to drift skywards as we chase the many dreams and aspirations that clutter our minds? Dreams that for the majority of us are unrealistic and unattainable. Yes it is good to have ambition and targets. But they have to be grounded in reality in order to be constructive. There needs to be a ribbon of realism attaching them to the stability and order of our everyday lives.

Without that solid foundation we cannot hope to reach for the stars. We will lose our balance and topple over. And if we spend too long gazing dreamily upwards with our heads in the clouds then we allow our real lives to become neglected. Neglect that, in turn, will lead to an inextricable tangle of broken relationships and damaged emotions. Which at the end of the day may result in major reconstructive surgery in order to salvage anything from the ruins.

For many years I chased unhealthy and misleading dreams. Dreams that achieved nothing more than broken hearts and oceans of tears. I lost track of what mattered and it took a juggernaut of a reality check to bring me to my senses. To open my eyes that the miraculous is in the everyday. Life is lived in the present, not the future. It is all around you, not floating in the ether. I encourage you today to stop, look around you and appreciate the glory of the everyday, the routine, the humdrum. For it is here where dreams are made. 

Have you ever been on the wrong end of a helium horror show?

Have you ever chased a dream only to realise your real world was crumbling all around you?

What miracles do you see in the everyday?

21 thoughts on “The Balloon Boys

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  1. One of the reasons that I like reading your posts is your location. My sisters recently had their DNA done and we discovered that, despite our distinctively German surname, we are nearly 75% Irish/English. This has sparked more interest within me to hear what things are like on your side of the pond.

    No one would dare to trust me with helium. They know the little kid in me would waste half of them launching them to the sky and the other half making my voice sound funny by inhaling the helium.

    I’ve chased dreams and fantasies while failing to maintain the things that I already have. I’m slowly…s l o w l y…learning to use what I already have rather to do something now rather than to chase what I will never have and do nothing.

    Great post again! Thanks.

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    1. Ha thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Yes there were three of them and they had this ‘conveyor belt’ thing going on. One to blow the balloon up, one to make up the decorative weights and one to tie them together with the ribbon. Leaving one staff member at the till dealing with about 20 customers. 😂

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  2. I’ve gotten three balloons before when my husband come home for his mid tour from Korea. He was really surprised I did that. It was such a windy day when I got them, I was afraid they would snap off their ribbons.

    When you talked about the tangled web of ribbon, I knew there would be scissors or a knife involved.

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      1. One whole year. It wasn’t until 9 months in his tour he was able to come back home for a month with me, and then he went back. It definitely was a time God used to guide me and strengthen me. That’s one of the reasons why I started this blog, Inside Cup 🙂

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      1. It’s a work in progress! Keeping communication with God through prayer and the word is huge. I need to feel his peace and not question where it’s coming from. I think about what following that dream will look like. Will it keep my relationship with God first with family as a close second? Will it help build the kingdom of heaven or my own? For example, I have a dream to open a housing community for single parents that allows them to learn a skill of their choosing that can be done from home. I’m tired of seeing families broken and children neglected over survival. There are solutions, people just need a foothold and some education. But that dream will have to wait. Following it now would pull me away from my own family. I also have a dream to write and to be a stay at home mom. Following this dream forces me to be dependent on God alone, and prioritizes my family. So unless God shuts the door, I believe this makes it through the filter. I wrote a post that outlines questions I ask myself before making any decisions, it works well for following dreams as well! https://lovencourage.com/2017/08/24/choices/

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