A Little Slice of Life

I have a weekly Wednesday date with a friend to chat via Gmail while we work on writing projects.

All this to say – I should be writing something inspirational, when really I just want to stew about a name change.

You think it would be something simple like a trip to some friendly government branch. There’s a grandmother behind the counter with glasses and a national flag hanging behind her. You exchange pleasantries, recipes for peach pie, perhaps… sign your name and that’s it.

Instead, for the last 8 months I’ve been playing the adult version of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. One thing effects another, which effects another, until I finally realize that for the next two years – the only thing that acknowledges me a Howell will be my library card.

And so tomorrow I head to the Social Security office for my fourth visit (not counting the times they weren’t open) and perhaps after that, a little jaunt to the DMV.

Until then, perhaps I’ll simply write my name as it suits my fancy. Mind your own business government offices!

Signed,

Olivia Grace Flewelling Howell Pearl Natalia McDonnelly III

 

 

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October

Now that the weather is turning to finally match pictures of Thanksgiving pies, I find myself pulled outdoors again.

The sun becomes my friend and I pull up the blinds to welcome her.

We’ve unpacked our camp chairs from their summer hibernation in the car and they rotate from place to place on the patio. All our tramping to and fro introduces a nest of pine straw on the door mat, but we are content with the trade off.

For the first time in months, it feels like the wind can be friendly again. I ask, “Are you quite finished knocking your falling branches about?” The boughs nod and it’s in me to believe them.

I feel the urge to pot and repot my plants – one last hurrah before we close the doors. The peppers may not survive the weekend, Wesley says.

Some squirrels scold us in their hiding.

A southern weather apologist, I am not. The pros and cons would smother me in 90 degree Julys – a muggy mockery.

The only thing I’m learning to say with certainty, in fact, is the thing I’m learning to say in all things.

That this day is enough to be content. That this little joy is enough to be grateful for. And that His strength, is enough to carry me through.

 

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Things That Go Bump in the Night

I’ve been spending more time alone recently, thanks to night shift and grown up obligations like…work.

The struggle, after months of bedtime company, is quite real. I’ve reverted to the wolf-dreaming child who lay awake with nervous cramps – fearing, dreading, imagining the worse.

I haven’t been this way for years, but in His goodness, the Lord has brought sunset as a way to teach faith. To teach that reason is not always the antidote to fear.

My cynical mind can’t be convinced of innocence anymore and as result, I find worry can’t be swept into the back of my mind. The unknowns put on convincing masks that no strategy of mine can untie.

So when night comes, my wisest course, the strongest choice; is to challenge them into the open and introduce a Protector like no other. The one who knows the End, the Truth, the Reason.

To admit fear out loud and give it up, is the only way to grow an inch. The only way to step outside and breath the dark in deeply. The only way to close your eyes.

So goodnight – I’m taking the gifts of busy hands and brave heart – and just hunkering down in the wings of Providence.

 

 

 

A Little Remembering

I’ve purposefully forgotten what it’s like to stare at the map and miss another.

What it’s like to fall asleep in bed by yourself.

Most days we pretend it didn’t happen.

But then the other day I found myself sorting through the pictures and letters as I rearranged boxes in the spare room.

The pictures bring back the anticipations of being together again. The letters…how little we knew each other and how completely in love! Some screenshots of messages that he sent me after parcels were delivered…a few birthday cards and a whole book of wish-dreams written in black ink.

There was an anxious and awkward sweetness to that year and a half, but on the other side I find I’m not mourning the beauty left there.

Instead, the beauty is in coming through. Through the first kiss and missing-you blues, the wedding planning and honeymoon squabbles. And that time you came to your parent’s, just so we could spend Christmas Eve together.

It’s in coming through it all and every day learning the other person a little bit better.

When I think on not so long ago – those long-distance-days…I’m filled with nostalgia. and then with gratitude that they even were. They are what they should be and where they belong.

And count the blessings of these days you’re in now. They’ll be the good old days sometime soon.

Be My Friend

I wrote something the other day about being a stranger and by extension, the Christian practice of community belonging. It’s heavy on my heart I guess, because here I go again…

To the persevering, tenacious people who will invite, re-invite and soldier through awkward silences.

To the ones who will look for the least familiar face, smile and walk straight towards them.

To the quiet ones who tolerate and love the funky, loud and wild.

To the act of baking bread for others and the sharing of food in polite silence that melts into laughter by dessert.

To the ones who are willing and the ones who are shy. To the difficult, wonderful world of sharing your life. To bathing babies, walking, coffee, swimming, books, beer and the desperation that bring us together.

The whole world wants a friend, so thank you to those who are all of this.

And the whole world wants a friend, so be this person too.

A Place of Your Own

New neighbours moved in several months ago, hailing from the other side of town, previously from Florida, before that in Pennsylvania and originally from Cuba. They have an American flag hanging out their back window and scoff at people who think they don’t know the laws.

“We’ve been here for fourteen years,” the wife says, “It’s people who grow up here who don’t know!”

For myself, I hardly ever let where I’m living sink in, besides the fact that it is humid, flat and far away from where I grew up. The language and rules of the road are the same, even with my New Brunswick licence. But I was carded at a restaurant one evening, and after asking to see my passport they told me that they technically couldn’t serve anyone who didn’t have current paperwork.

Because the fiance visa is issued for 90 days, it doesn’t matter if I’ve fulfilled the terms of the entry and married an American citizen within that time. My passport still has an ‘expired’ visa and without a study of immigration types and rules, I can’t expect anyone to understand.

I felt jarred and vulnerable, even when they made an exception, handed me my drink and kept thanking me for not being annoyed. The FYI was too much to swallow right then. That scrutiny and a panicked feeling the leaped up as quickly as the need to explain why I even exist here.

In a moment of clarity I understood a little more of the other side of immigration. I’m not immediately pegged as someone from ‘away’ but in that moment in a restaurant I could only imagine how it feels when your appearance, clothing or accent is a flying flag to the fact that you did not begin your life journey in this place.

I do not venture opinions about immigration policy or the wisdom of open doors, but beyond that issue is another. Once the wanderers are here, how do I treat them? Deserving or undeserving, do I think twice before I assume their story? This is not a watery porridge of tolerance – but simply the kindness to strangers, the prodigal, the Samaritan, the woman at the well that God calls us to.

A new land and heart. A redemption and changing and pathway for us to follow is at the very heart of who we’re remade to be. So this will flow to the homeless and confused and shy in the back corner of church.

Belonging isn’t something I take for granted and these days…it is most certainly something I want to share.