About Karen Molenaar Terrell

Karen's stories have appeared in *Newsweek*, *The Christian Science Monitor*, and *Pack and Paddle Magazine* and she's the author of *The Madcap Christian Scientist* series, *A Poem Sits on my Windowsill*, *Finding the Rainbows: Lessons from Dad and Mom*, and co-author of *The Humoristian Chronicles: A Most Unusual Fellowship*. Her photos are featured in the spring 2014 edition of the *Bellingham Review*, and the April/May 2017 issue of *Mother Earth News*, and can be found at fineartamerica.com. http://www.amazon.com/Karen-Molenaar-Terrell/e/B0044P90RQ/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1312060042&sr=8-

Two Years Ago Today…

Two years ago today Moz was brought to our home for hospice care. Two years ago, around 9:30 pm, she spoke her last word to me – with a happy smile – “Okay.” She passed in the early morning hours of February 21st while I slept on the couch next to her bed.

The Brush of Angel Wings

The end was like the beginning –
the oxygen machine breathing,
making the sound of the womb,
a soothing rhythm in the room
as she slept on the bed next to me.
All is quiet, but for the pumping
of O through her mask. In my dreams
I feel the light brush of angel wings
and fear is replaced by freedom
and limitless joy that comes,
through an opened heavenly portal.
I open my eyes to see the battle
over and done. She has won.
I rise and stand on holy ground.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

“God’s thoughts passing to man; spiritual intuitions, pure and perfect; the inspiration of goodness, purity, and immortality, counteracting all evil, sensuality, and mortality”
– Mary Baker Eddy

Butterfly on Table Mountain

An alpine butterfly flits among the flowers on Table Mountain. Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.

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A Bird Adventure

Another bird kamikazied into our dining room window this morning. I heard the “whack!” and looked up to see orange feathers stuck to our window. This was not good.

feathers on window photo by scott

We usually have sun-catchers suction-cupped to our window to let the birds know there’s glass there, but our cat had swiped them all down. I went to get more suction cups for the window and then came back and looked to the ground to see if the bird had landed down there. I saw him immediately. He appeared to be on his back, and I could see he was breathing.

I went outside to check on him. When I got to him he was right-side up – maybe he always had been – and his eyes were open. He was watching me. “It’s alright, little one,” I cooed to him. “It’s okay. Hold on.” I went back inside to look for a box to nestle him in – and found my husband was one step ahead of me. He handed me a small box as I came in the door, I grabbed an old dish towel, and back I went to the little thrush.

“All you can feel is what Love feels. All you can know is what Truth knows. All you can be is the perfect reflection of God,” I told him, as I scooped him into the box and gently covered his body with the towel. He didn’t tweet or chirp or cluck or struggle against my efforts – but he kept an eye on me as I brought him around the house and set him on top of the barrel on the front porch.

little bird who flew into our window

It’s just above freezing here, and I figured the little bird must be cold – maybe in shock – and needed some warmth. As I was talking out loud to myself – trying to talk myself through what I needed to do for the bird – my husband found a small metal water bottle, filled it with hot water and handed it to me. I took it to the bird and nestled it down next to him – hoping it would keep him warm. And now I was thinking the bird would probably like to be able to see his bird buddies in the back yard, so I brought the box through the house and out to the back deck. I set the box on top of a broad shelf, brought the little thrush a bottle-cap full of water, and went back inside to get the dog to take her for a walk with me. I needed to give some prayerful thought to this situation.

As Sam-Dog and I walked around our neighborhood I thought about the bird – held him in my thoughts as an expression of God – always held safe in Her care – loved, protected, cared for.

When Sam and I got back to the house I went out to the porch to check on the bird. His eyes were bright and alert. I opened the towel and he fluttered his wings and took off! He landed on the wooden railing of our porch and looked at me for a moment. I clasped my hands together and said, “Oh! I’m so happy!” He looked at me a moment longer, then pooped, and flew off and landed on a branch on the tree outside our dining room window – where his adventure today had begun.

Life is good!

varied thrush bird this one 1

“I remember we’ve visited here before.”

February 16th
Xander and I go to Dad’s for a quick visit. Dad is sitting in the living room when we arrive. His face lights up when he sees us. Xander gives his grandpa a hug and I kiss Dad on the top of his head and ask him how he’s doing.
Dad: Oh, I’ve been watching television all day. Sports. Football. Basketball.
Karen: Are you enjoying that?
Dad: Yeah, it’s good.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you guys, too! Thanks for stopping by.

February 17th
Dad: (Looking around at the scenery passing by him.) It’s a beautiful day for a drive!
Karen: Yes, it is! (I pat his knee.)
Dad: (Clasping my hand.) I never knew I’d have such a loving family. Beautiful daughter. Handsome sons. Wonderful wife.
Karen: We love you!
We stop at the Sister’s Espresso.
Karen: Are you hungry?
Dad: (Nodding.) Yes.
Karen: Do you want a root beer float?
Dad: Yeah.
(I go up and order Dad a root beer float and a breakfast muffin and bring it all back to the car for him.)
Dad: Thank you!

I drive us west, then north and stop at a field with trumpeter swans.
Dad: Canada geese.
Karen: Trumpeter swans.
Dad: (Nodding.) Oh, swans.
(We watch them for a while and then I meander my way to my home and pull into the driveway.)
Dad: (Smiling.) I remember when Scotty first saw this property. He said he was going to own this land and build a home on it. And he did.
Karen: Yes! (I go in to fetch Scott and bring him out for a quick visit with Dad.)
Scott: Hi, Dee!
(Dad and Scott share a manly handshake.)
Dad: Hi, Scott!
(Dad and Scott have a quick conversation about guy stuff and then I pull back out of the driveway and we continue on our drive.)
Karen: (Pointing to the piles of snow on the side of my street.) We got a lot of snow!
Dad: (Nodding.) Yeah!

I drive us through Edison, over the slough, and down country roads framed in red blueberry bushes and snow and crowned by Mount Baker in the background.
Dad: The clouds are starting to lift off Baker now.
Karen: Yes, they are!
Dad: We climbed Mount Baker together, didn’t we? With Scott?
Karen: Yes, we did!
(At some point we pass the Sister’s Espresso again…)
Dad: Oh! That’s the store where we go…
Karen: Yup!

I pull my car next to the front door of Dad’s place.
Dad: I remember we’ve visited here before.
Karen: Yes.
(I help Dad out of the car and into the house. He goes to his recliner in the living room.)
Karen: Thank you for the drive today, Daddy. I love you.
Dad: Thank you for the drive! I love you.

 

“Cool! What is that?”

“The weapons of bigotry, ignorance, envy, fall before an honest heart.” 
– Mary Baker Eddy

I didn’t usually tell people right away – and certainly not the men I dated. I always thought it was better if they got to know me first as a human being. Sometimes it took months for me to tell my friends. Sometimes years. Sometimes the moment never came. I have friends who maybe STILL don’t know. After a number of early experiences, I’d come to the realization that some people would see me differently as soon as they found out. In the past I’d had all kinds of labels attached to me that weren’t really me – I’d been instantly lumped in with fundamentalists and creationists; with people who speak in tongues and handle snakes; with dominionists and faith healers and fire-and-brimstone folks. When one friend – who’d known me for years – finally found out, she’d asked me if I would just leave her bleeding and injured on a sidewalk if she was hit by a car. Which. What…?!

So I guess it says something about Scott that I told him on our first date. I no longer remember how the subject came up, but I found myself saying, “I’m a Christian Scientist.” I guess I half-expected an awkward pause after my reveal, but Scott quickly responded with, “Oh! That’s cool.” Then he glanced over at me, and asked, “What’s that?” 🙂

Turns out he’d never heard of Christian Science! And that was AWESOME – it meant I could explain what it was all about from my own perspective, without any preconceived ideas on his part. I can’t remember now exactly what I said – I probably talked about the Christian Science idea of God as the power and presence of Love; I probably talked about how I had experienced healings in my life by drawing my thoughts close to this power of Love.  And as I talked he listened and nodded and accepted me. He shared some of his own thoughts about God – he’d been raised in the United Methodist tradition of New England and he, too, had been raised to believe in a loving God who cared for His children. He understood the beliefs I was describing, and accepted me as “me” right away.

Scott and I have never had a need to “convert” each other – to try to make each other hold the exact same religious beliefs. If asked, he’d probably still say he was a Methodist. If asked, I’d probably still say I was a Christian Scientist. But beyond religion, we share the same values – we both believe in the power of kindness. We both believe we should be generous to those in need; fair and honest in our dealings with others; and protective of our natural environment. We both believe we shouldn’t be quick to make judgments about others.

It’s been thirty-six years now since I  had that first conversation with Scott. Through all that time he’s continued to be supportive of me and my practice of Christian Science. I am so grateful for him, and for people like him – people who approach others with open minds and hearts – ready to listen and share and learn from each other – people able to go past stereotypes and see the individuals behind the labels.

what people think I do

Immortal Memory

“You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments that stand out, the moments when you have really lived, are the moments when you have done things in a spirit of love. As memory scans the past, above and beyond all the transitory pleasures of life, there leap forward those supreme hours when you have been enabled to do unnoticed kindnesses to those round about you, things too trifling to speak about, but which you feel have entered into your eternal life. I have seen almost all the beautiful things God has made; I have enjoyed almost every pleasure that He has planned for man; and yet as I look back I see standing out above all the life that has gone four or five short experiences, when the love of God reflected itself in some poor imitation, some small act of love of mine, and these seem to be the things which alone of all one’s life abide.”
Henry Drummond, The Greatest Thing in the World

Whoah. There’s this story in the February National Geographic (Memories Can Be Altered in Mice. Are Humans next?) that has given me some pause for thought. Apparently neuroscientists have found a way to alter memories in mice – to get rid of old mice memories and create new mice memories. And… yikes?

I will not deny there are some memories that bring me pain. And, frankly, there are a LOT of memories that bring me embarrassment. And a few times I’ve caught myself wishing those memories could just go away. But those memories – the painful ones and the embarrassing ones, too – have taught me things that were important for me to learn. Those memories have helped guide the choices and decisions I make during the course of a day. How could I lose those memories and still keep the wisdom they brought?

There have been a few movies that have been built around the notion of memories being altered – Total Recall, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Manchurian Candidate. But those were just fiction. Until now I’ve always been confident that – if I lost everything else – I’d always have my memories of loved ones and good times to help me get through the dark periods in life. As Fred Astaire sang to Ginger Rogers, I’ve always thought, “They can’t take that away from me.”

But the article in National Geographic is nudging me to go deeper in my thinking about memories and memory loss. It’s nudged me to not be so cavalier about my memories, and to ponder the nature of memories and our identity. Are our memories what give us our identity? Would we have different identities without memories? What would the world be like if no one HAD a memory?

As the daughter of a 100 year-old father who has been diagnosed with some memory problems, I’ve sometimes felt the need to give prayerful thought to the notion of memory loss. One passage that has been helpful to me can be found  in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. The author of Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy, writes: “If delusion says, ‘I have lost my memory,’ contradict it. No faculty of Mind is lost. In Science, all being is eternal, spiritual, perfect, harmonious in every action. Let the perfect model be present in your thoughts instead of its demoralized opposite. This spiritualization of thought lets in the light, and brings the divine Mind, Life not death, into your consciousness.”

That passage can be found under the heading Immortal Memory. Which leads me to ponder this: Is there a difference between immortal memory and mortal memory? And, if so, what is it…?

I guess a mortal memory would be a memory that can die? And “immortal memory” is memory that’s eternal?

In his book, The Greatest Thing in the World, Henry Drummond (a popular progressive Scottish minister of the 18th century) shares some of his thoughts on the things that are eternal, and the things that aren’t.

In I Corinthians 13 Paul writes,”Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away…”

In response to this Biblical passage, Drummond writes: “Can you tell me anything that is going to last? Many things Paul did not condescend to name. He did not mention money, fortune, fame; but he picked out the great things of his time, the things the best men thought had something in them, and brushed them peremptorily aside. Paul had no charge against these things in themselves. All he said about them was that they would not last. They were great things, but not supreme things. There were things beyond them. What we are stretches past what we do, beyond what we possess. Many things that men denounce as sins are not sins; but they are temporary. And that is a favorite argument of the New Testament. John says of the world, not that it is wrong, but simply that it ‘passeth away.’ There is a great deal in the world that is delightful and beautiful; there is a great deal in it that is great and engrossing; but IT WILL NOT LAST.”

Drummond goes on to write, “The immortal soul must give itself to something that is immortal. And the only immortal things are these: ‘Now abideth faith, hope, love, but the greatest of these is love.'”

So here’s what I’m thinking: The mortal memory may fade or be altered, but the love behind the memory – the love that went into making the memory – that stays. That’s an immortal memory.

Dad’s mortal memory isn’t as good as maybe it once was – but the immortal memory – the memory that holds Love – that’s still there. And I’m thinking that if I were to lose all my “mortal memories” – no one can take away the Love that was expressed in them and behind them and the foundation for them. You can’t take THAT away from me. (Imagine Fred Astaire singing here…) No, no, you can’t take that away from me.

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These Old Gaiters

I looked at the piles of snow outside the window this morning and decided it was time to get out my old REI gaiters. Bought them years ago – wore them to the tops of Rainier, Baker, and Adams. Zipped them onto my legs on some mighty fine cross-country ski trips. There are a lot of happy memories attached to those old leg coverings.  And today I added some more memories when I wore them on my walk in the snow…