Ode to Boxing Day

It’s a humble holiday, tucked in between
Christmas and New Year’s, but it’s really keen.
Things look a little bedraggled, it’s true
The tree’s a little droopy and no longer new

The movies and music of the Christmas season
Are getting on our nerves now, and we’re seeing no reason
To eat even one more sugary oversweet sweet
It’s time for broccoli and carrots (maybe hold on the beets)

The pressure for perfection comes off on this day,
The toys have been opened, and it’s come time to play.
And if before we were wearing faux holiday cheer
To blend in with the others and not Scroogey appear

It’s time now to be genuine, and honest and real
The food banks are empty, people still need a warm meal
The homeless and hungry and jobless and alone
Still need love and caring, still need a home.

So maybe we can celebrate the day after Christmas –
By keeping the spirit of hope alive, we might make that our business.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell


Good Wall or Good Will?

I took a course in Peace and War one time. One of the things the instructor talked about was how a country’s security depends on the prosperity of its neighbors. Helping our neighbors (on the other side of the border) have what they need to prosper makes it less likely for them to want to invade our country, or seek asylum in it. In other words, according to my instructor, it’s not walls that create safety – it’s caring for each other and “Good will to all…”

“Peace on earth; good will to all.” – Luke 2:14

earth NASA

“I don’t need to claim these thoughts!”

“Stand porter at the door of thought.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

I was in a funk today. There’s been another Christmas tragedy. Don’t want to talk about that, really. But it led me to some dark places in my thoughts. I stopped by to see Dad, hoping that would cheer me up. But he was struggling – questioning the veracity of a Christmas card I brought him from a friend, saying it seemed “fishy” – questionable – and he didn’t trust it. He argued with me about the background in a photograph – insisted it was a stadium with bleachers – which… it wasn’t. I told him I loved him, and he told me he loved me, and I left.

As I was driving home dark thoughts came knocking on the door of my consciousness – thoughts of despair and discouragement and fear for the future. Thoughts about death. And I felt afraid and guilty that I was even having these thoughts. And then I had this moment of clarity: “But I don’t need to claim these thoughts as mine! Just because these thoughts knocked on my door doesn’t mean they belong to me! They aren’t any part of me!” I realized I could choose whether I wanted to let those thoughts enter and be part of my identity, or not.

A decade ago, when I was going through a massive depression, I felt I didn’t have a choice – I felt I didn’t have control over the thoughts that came into my head, and the feelings of despair and hopelessness and guilt – and it all seemed overwhelming at times. But I acquired some tools for dealing with life’s challenges and struggles during that time. First, I learned not to fight my feelings – that only seemed to make the feelings bigger – but to let myself surf on top of them. I learned I could be happy even when I was sad.  And I learned a trick from Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now that was really helpful, too – and that I was reminded of today. In his book, Tolle writes: “Try a little experiment. Close your eyes and say to yourself: ‘I wonder what my next thought is going to be.’ Then become very alert and wait for the next thought. Be like a cat watching a mouse hole. What thought is going to come out of the mouse hole? Try it now.” When I tried that experiment all those years ago (and when I tried it just now, too) – when I waited for my next thought – it didn’t come! I was filled with a blessed, peaceful stillness.

I had a healing today. And it felt like this…


Waiting for the Daffodils

Winter just started officially yesterday, but I already feel like I’ve been sitting in winter for months now. This season once held a lot of magic for me – glittering snowflakes swirling down through a starry sky, and snowmen and skiing, and pie-baking and caroling through the neighborhood. And there’s still magic, I guess – but… the last few years have also brought tragedy in winter, and now I find myself growing a little wary as the dark and cold relentlessly approaches my part of the world…

Christmas lights on the tree –
sparkling through the cold
and dark – and I wait
for daffodils.  Wait to see
their sunshiny flowers
filling the fields again.
But daffodils need to go through
winter to bloom, and if we want
to see them so do we.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

daffodil christmas tree

The Balcony Where You Used to Wave

I pick up your mail at the retirement inn –
it still comes there nearly two years after
your passing – almost entirely requests
from charities – veterans, environmental
groups, help for homeless people and
animals – and I see your name on the
envelopes and remember your generous
heart and I smile. As I get in the car I glance
back to the balcony where you used to wave
good bye to me and I feel a tug on my heart.
You’re still there. I can see you clearly, smiling
your love at me from the second floor.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

The Christmas Dog

“This is the doctrine of Christian Science: that divine Love cannot be deprived of its manifestation, or object; that joy cannot be turned into sorrow, for sorrow is not the master of joy; that good can never produce evil; that matter can never produce mind – nor life result in death.”
– From Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures
by Mary Baker Eddy


Christmas Eve, 1988.  I was in a funk.  I couldn’t see that I was making much progress in my life.  My teaching career seemed to be frozen, and I was beginning to think my husband and I would never own our own home or have children. The world seemed a very bleak and unhappy place to me.  No matter how many batches of fudge I whipped up or how many times I heard Bing Crosby sing “White Christmas,” I couldn’t seem to find the Christmas spirit.

I was washing the breakfast dishes, thinking my unhappy thoughts, when I heard gunshots coming from the pasture behind our house.  I thought it was the neighbor boys shooting at the seagulls again and, all full of teacherly harrumph, decided to take it upon myself to go out and “have a word with them.”

But after I’d marched outside I realized that it wasn’t the neighbor boys at all.  John, the dairy farmer who lived on the adjoining property, was walking away with a rifle, and an animal (a calf, I thought) was struggling to get up in the field behind our house.  Every time it would push up on its legs it would immediately collapse back to the ground.

I wondered if maybe John had made a mistake and accidentally shot the animal, so I ran out to investigate and found that the animal was a dog.  It had foam and blood around its muzzle.  She was vulnerable and helpless – had just been shot, after all – but instead of lashing out at me or growling as I’d expect an injured animal to do, she was looking up at me with an expression of trust and seemed to be expecting me to take care of her.

“John!”  I yelled, running after the farmer.  He turned around, surprised to see me.  “John, what happened?” I asked, pointing back towards the dog.

A look of remorse came into his eyes.  “Oh, I’m sorry you saw that, Karen. The dog is a stray and it’s been chasing my cows.  I had to kill it.”

“But John, it’s not dead yet.”

John looked back at the dog and grimaced.  “Oh man,” he said.  “I’m really sorry. I’ll go finish the job.  Put it out of its misery.”

By this time another dog had joined the dog that had been shot.  It was running around its friend, barking encouragement, trying to get its buddy to rise up and escape.  The sight of the one dog trying to help his comrade broke my heart.  I made a quick decision. “Let me and my husband take care of it.”

“Are you sure?”

I nodded and he agreed to let me do what I could for the animal.

Unbeknownst to me, as soon as I ran out of the house my husband, knowing that something was wrong, had gotten out his binoculars and was watching my progress in the field.  He saw the look on my face as I ran back.  By the time I reached our house he was ready to do whatever he needed to do to help me.  I explained the situation to him, we put together a box full of towels, and he called the vet.

As we drove his truck around to where the dog lay in the field, I noticed that, while the dog’s canine companion had finally left the scene (never to be seen again), John had gone to the dog and was kneeling down next to her.  He was petting her, using soothing words to comfort her, and the dog was looking up at John with that look of trust she’d given me.  John helped my husband load her in the back of the truck and we began our drive to the vet’s.

I rode in the back of the truck with the dog as my husband drove, and sang hymns to her.  As I sang words from one of my favorite hymns from the Christian Science Hymnal – “Everlasting arms of Love are beneathe, around, above” – the dog leaned against my shoulder and looked up at me with an expression of pure love in her blue eyes.

Once we reached the animal clinic, the veterinarian came out to take a look at her.  After checking her over he told us that apparently a bullet had gone through her head, that he’d take care of her over the holiday weekend – keep her warm and hydrated – but that he wasn’t going to give her any medical treatment.  I got the distinct impression that he didn’t think the dog was going to make it.

My husband and I went to my parents’ home for the Christmas weekend, both of us praying that the dog would still be alive when we returned.  For me, praying for her really meant trying to see the dog as God sees her.  I tried to realize the wholeness and completeness of her as an expression of God, an idea of God.  I reasoned that all the dog could experience was the goodness of God – all she could feel is what Love feels, all she could know is what Truth knows, all she could be is the perfect reflection of God.  I tried to recognize the reality of these things for me, too, and for all of God’s creation.

She made it through the weekend, but when we went to pick her up the vet told us that she wasn’t “out of the woods, yet.”    He told us that if she couldn’t eat, drink, or walk on her own in the next few days, we’d need to bring her back and he’d need to put her to sleep.

We brought her home and put her in a big box in our living room, with a bowl of water and soft dog food by her side.  I continued to pray.  In the middle of the night I got up and went out to where she lay in her box.  Impulsively, I bent down and scooped some water from the dish into her mouth.  She swallowed it, and then leaned over and drank a little from the bowl.  I was elated!  Inspired by her reaction to the water, I bent over and grabbed a glob of dog food and threw a little onto her tongue.  She smacked her mouth together, swallowed the food, and leaned over to eat a bit more.  Now I was beyond elated!  She’d accomplished two of the three requirements the vet had made for her!

The next day I took her out for a walk.  She’d take a few steps and then lean against me.  Then she’d take a few more steps and lean.  But she was walking!  We would not be taking her back to the veterinarian.

In the next two weeks her progress was amazing.  By the end of that period she was not only walking, but running and jumping and chasing balls.  Her appetite was healthy.  She was having no problems drinking or eating.

But one of the most amazing parts of this whole Christmas blessing was the relationship that developed between this dog and the man who had shot her.  They became good friends.  The dog, in fact, became the neighborhood mascot.  (And she never again chased anyone’s cows.)

What the dog brought to me, who had, if you recall, been in a deep funk when she entered our lives, was a sense of the true spirit of Christmas – the Christly spirit of forgiveness, hope, faith, love.  She brought me the recognition that nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible to God.

We named our new dog Christmas because that is what she brought us that year.

Within a few years all those things that I had wondered if I would ever have as part of my life came to me – a teaching job, children, and a home of our own.  It is my belief that our Christmas Dog prepared my heart to be ready for all of those things to enter my life.

– excerpt from Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist by Karen Molenaar Terrell

Thirty-Six Years Ago Today

Thirty-six years ago today I met Scotty for the first time. We were at a wedding – he was the photographer and I was the wedding singer. Little did I know then what life had in store for us… 
Okay, so there was this woman I knew. She was not a girly girl. She’d been raised with brothers, a mother who had no interest in accessories or luxury, and a mountain man for a father. Cosmetics and frou-frou clothes were not a part of her life as she grew up. Instead of a purse, she had her faithful hiking backpack. Instead of high heels, she had her tennis shoes and boots.

She was what you would call a late bloomer in the romance department. She was awkward around men and very self-conscious about any feminine wiles that might inadvertently peek out of her persona. Feminine wiles were not highly valued in her family and it was a little embarrassing to have any. There were young men who were attracted to her, but in her teens and early twenties she was mostly oblivious to their attraction or scared of it. There were young men to whom she was attracted, too, of course – but she mostly enjoyed fantasizing about them from afar, rather than having an actual relationship with any of them, and on those rare occasions when she took it in her head to try to flirt with one of them she had no idea how to go about it.
There came a day, though, when for the first time our heroine took interest in a male thigh. It was in the mountains of Colorado and the man who came with the thigh was young, confident, and easy to flirt with. Our heroine was twenty-two and for the first time realized that there might be more to find in the mountains than a good hike.

Not long after her epiphany about male thighs and other things male, a Dutch jazz musician entered her sphere. Now here was someone expert with the ways of romance. They spent almost a year together, culminating in a trip to The Netherlands to spend time with his family.

The Netherlands was the home of our heroine’s ancestors, and she felt a certain kinship with the people there. She loved the land – the tangy, saltwater smell of it, the wide open flatness and the canals, the black and white cows, the white lace curtains, the brick streets, the oldness and history. But, alas, there were no mountains to climb there. And, further alas, the Dutch jazz musician became someone she didn’t know when he stepped back onto his native soil.

In an autumnal Dutch wood on a sunny Dutch day, they both agreed that a certain kind of love and a certain kind of hate are very closely related and snipped the cords of their romance.
The relationship had to end. Our heroine knew that. But knowing it didn’t seem to make it any easier. It felt like someone she loved had died. She came home from Europe with her tail between her legs, dark circles under her eyes, and weighing about the same as Tinkerbell.

I think most people have experienced heartbreak at least once in their life. It’s a part of growing-up really. Makes us more empathetic to the pain of others, makes us more compassionate, and that’s a good thing – a blessing. And as Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “Every trial of our faith in God makes us stronger.”
It took our heroine a few months to recover and then she earnestly entered what she has come to call her “dating phase.” She was meeting men everywhere – parking lots, the supermarket, the workplace, hiking, through friends. These men were talented, witty, and smart – a German physicist, a teacher-cum-comedy script writer, a sweetheart of a man who introduced her to cross-country skiing for the first time – and it was a heady thing for her to have them all show an interest in her.

At first the dating phase was great fun. Because her life wasn’t committed to one person she had the freedom to go and do what she wanted, meet and date all these interesting men, take road trips on impulse, head for the hills on a whim, with no one else’s schedule to have to negotiate.

But about the time she turned twenty-six something began to change in her thought. Singlehood began to lose its charm and these men she’d been meeting all started to seem the same to her. Dating became a little monotonous. She felt unsatisfied with the lack of direction in her life. She was beginning to feel it was time to get serious about this relationship thing and stop dinking around.

In a moment of self honesty, she admitted to herself she’d been going out with the wrong kind of men for what she now needed and wanted in her life. Mary Baker Eddy writes in the chapter entitled “Marriage” in Science and Health: “Kindred tastes, motives, and aspirations are necessary to the formation of a happy and permanent companionship.” And so our heroine made a list of qualities that she wanted to find in someone: She wanted to meet a man of compassion and integrity; If this man was going to be a part of her life he’d also need a sense of humor, believe me; And he’d have to love the mountains, of course; and she’d really like him to have some kind of a creative, stimulating occupation; And, as a last whimsical thing, she decided that he’d come from either California, Colorado, or Connecticut. She’d gone out with short men, tall men, blond, dark, wiry, and sturdy – and they’d all been attractive to her. But an image of The One came to mind: He’d be about six feet tall, lanky, have brown hair, and glasses.
In December of ‘82 a woman named Peggy, whom our heroine had met a couple of years before through the Dutch jazz musician, invited her to her wedding. To be honest, our heroine had no intention of going to this wedding, not wanting to mingle with all these people she’d met through the Dutchman. But on the eve of the wedding the woman who was scheduled to be the wedding singer got laryngitis and asked our heroine if she could take her place as the singer. She’d never sung at a wedding before, but asked herself, “How hard could it be?” and agreed to sing a song or two.
She spotted him as soon as she got there. The wedding was an informal affair held in a living room, and this man with a camera – the wedding photographer, she guessed – was weaving his way through the people who were seated and waiting for the wedding. Everywhere he stopped to chat, people would start chuckling. She surmised he must have a sense of humor. And he had a great smile – the full-faced, crinkly-eyed kind.
She found herself instantly attracted to him.
The wedding began, the ceremony proceeded, she sang her song (a little nervously), and kept her eyes on the man with the camera.

After the ceremony she, who had until now always been the pursued rather than the pursuer, walked up to him and introduced herself. He blinked behind his glasses, probably surprised at her directness, and grinned down at her. “Scott,” he said, shaking her hand.

At the reception, held in a local community hall, they talked and got to know each other better. She asked him if he liked the mountains. He said yes. She asked him if he’d ever climbed any. Yes, he said, Mt. Baker. She mentally put a check by the “loves mountains” on the list of qualities she was looking for in a man. Their conversation continued. She learned he was a newspaper photographer and checked off the requirement for “stimulating, creative job.” She saw how he opened the kitchen door to help an elderly woman with her hands full. “Compassionate” was checked off her list.

He asked her if he could fetch her something to drink. She told him she’d really just like some water. He nodded his head. “Wadduh, it is,” he said.
“Wadduh?” she asked. “Are you from the east coast?”
“Connecticut,” he answered, grinning.
A year and a half later Scott got a call from Peggy. Our heroine answered the phone. She told Peggy that her husband wasn’t home right then, but could she take a message? When she heard the caller’s name she let her know her own. Peggy admitted she’d heard rumors that Scott and she had married. She was happy to have had a part in their meeting each other.
Scott and our heroine have been happily married for over twenty years now.

And our heroine realizes that she wouldn’t have been blest with her love if she hadn’t first met the jazz musician. From cursing to blessing. It’s all connected.
– excerpt from Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist