I Taught History for Two Decades…

“Covering iniquity will prevent prosperity and the ultimate triumph of any cause. Ignorance of the error to be eradicated oftentimes subjects you to its abuse.”
-Mary Baker Eddy

I taught history for two decades. My students learned about the Holocaust, slavery, the Trail of Tears, attacks against Chinese railroad workers and miners, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and the killing of Charlie Howard. They watched “The Grapes of Wrath” and learned about the struggles and inequity the poor faced during the Great Depression. They learned about the Constitution – about their rights and the rights of others. They practiced being lawyers defending clients against injustice. They created their own presidential candidates out of construction paper and words, and learned about the qualifications their candidates would need to run for president. My students learned about heroes in history, too – they learned about Georgio Perlasca, Irena Sendler, Oskar Schindler, Ghandi, Dorothea Dix, Clara Barton, Susan Anthony, Harriet Tubman, and the unheralded acts of kindness “common” people showed to others during times of challenge and struggle.

My students learned about these things and people to help give them tools to be heroes themselves one day.

To force teachers to skip over the ugly parts of history – injustice, inequity, racism, political and corporate greed and dishonesty – is not a help to our world, our country, or our students. It is not preparing our young people for the challenges they and/or their friends will be facing in their lives or helping to create the heroes our world so desperately needs.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

“The history of our country, like all history, illustrates the might of Mind, and shows human power to be proportionate to its embodiment of right thinking.”
-Mary Baker Eddy

I Can Live in Now

I discovered something the other day –
I was sitting in a cranky, put-upon place
stewing in my own impatience –
and then – I shut it off. Put it behind me.
The troubles from the moment before
were no longer relevant to me.
And a laughing lightness –
a joyful presence – just wrapped itself
around me in a happy hug and –
instantly! – I felt whole and free
and at peace with the world.
I discovered I can let go of then.
I discovered I can live in now.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

(Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.)

May: Sunrise over Skagit County, WA

My Year of Insanity

(Excerpt from The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book.)

At the age of 51 I went insane. I did not like it so much. But I learned a lot from it.

Eckhart Tolle tells us: “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.” He asks, “How do you know this is the experience you need? Because,” he says, “this is the experience you are having at this moment.” I really like how he puts that. My thought is that something is only a challenge to us when there’s a lesson to learn from it. Two people, in other words, might find themselves in identical situations – and one of those people might coast through the situation, and the other might stumble through it – depending on where each individual is in her spiritual progress.

I did a lot of stumbling during The Year of Insanity, and I learned a whole lot of lessons. It was, in essence, my last hurrah – my final experience with the lessons of “callow youth” and ego, before I could move on to the next stage in my development.

During The Year of Insanity it seemed I was confronted with temptation at every turn. I had to come face-to-face with ego, vanity, pride, insecurity, and addiction to praise. It was a really difficult time for me. It felt like I was at the bottom of a deep, dark pit, and I didn’t know how I was going to get out of there. I lost weight, couldn’t sleep, had a constant dialogue going on inside my head about the past and the future, had to keep moving – trying to get away from myself, I guess – and had an actual physical heartache from the sadness I felt. There were times when I just wanted to hide myself away from the world, and not have to deal with this stuff anymore. There were times when I was so full of guilt about the feelings I was having that I just wanted to kill myself, and be done with it. There was a constant battle going on inside me, and it was really wearing.

If somebody had tried to talk to me about mental illness before I’d had this experience, I wouldn’t have had a clue what they were going on about. Mental illness was something that happened to “other” people.  Mental illness was not something a madcap Christian Scientist would ever know anything about, right?

Yeesh.

I might have chosen, with good reason, to seek professional help during this time. I might have chosen, again with good reason, to take anti-depressant medications. And after having been through this experience, I can tell you – without any hesitation – that I do not fault anyone, at all, for seeking professional help and using medication if they think it’ll help them get through the kind of thing I went through during that year. And I can also understand why it might be hard for people to cogitate why I didn’t do those things in an effort to help myself.

All I can tell you, really, is that there was some part of me that felt I needed this experience – that I needed to feel the full depth and breadth of it – and there was a part of me that believed if I could survive this, I would come out of it much wiser and stronger than before I went into it. I guess I calculated the costs and rewards and decided the rewards would be worth it. If I could survive.

I give credit to Christian Science, and to my Father-Mother God, for getting me through this time. I absolutely know I wouldn’t have been able to make it without the understanding of God, Good, I’d gained through my study of Christian Science.

I also need to give thanks to three authors whose writings meant a great deal to me while I was working my way through that year. I’ve already quoted one of them – Eckhart Tolle – a contemporary thinker who’s had his own experience with depression, and has generously shared his wisdom and insights about that in several recent best-sellers. The second of the three authors was a liberal Christian minister of the late 1800’s named Henry Drummond. His book, The Greatest Thing in the World, was chock full of wise and wonderful thoughts on love – “the greatest thing in the world.” The third author was a man named Edward A. Kimball, an inspiring and mentally-rousing Christian Science lecturer and teacher during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. 

Regarding my desire to hide myself away from temptation, Henry Drummond had this to say to me: “Above all, do not resent temptation; do not be perplexed because it seems to thicken round you more and more, and ceases neither for effort nor for agony nor prayer. That is your practice. That is the practice which God appoints you, and it is having its work in making you patient, and humble, and generous, and unselfish, and kind, and courteous.” Drummond goes on to say: “Therefore keep in the midst of life. Do not isolate yourself. Be among men and among things, and among troubles, and difficulties, and obstacles… Talent develops itself in solitude – the talent of prayer, of faith, of meditation, of seeing the unseen; character grows in the stream of the world’s life. That chiefly is where men are to learn love.”

Drummond’s admonition to “keep in the midst of life” was really helpful to me. His words helped me look at the challenges I was facing as blessings and needed lessons in my path towards progress, rather than as proof of my weakness, or a reason to feel guilty.

Edward A. Kimball, too, was helpful to me in dealing with the feelings of guilt that seemed to be a symptom of the depression. In his book, Lectures and Articles on Christian Science, Kimball writes, “It won’t do you a particle of good to enter upon a career of self-condemnation. Remorse never got anybody into heaven. A sense of regret and all that sort of thing is not the process. The process is reform; it is change; it is correction…”

Kimball writes, “…a purely human giving up endeavor does not give up, but does involve the scientist in a sense of greater fear. Evil is never disposed of as though it were something. It cannot be given up as though it were something…Try to realize that through Christian Science, you are constantly gaining that which will do everything for you, and that you will succeed according to the gaining process.”

This thought helped bring me peace – the insight that trying to fight an addiction by turning it into A Big Obstacle and using human will to force myself to “give it up” wasn’t the way for me to be healed – but that I needed to fill up the holes and emptiness I felt in my life by gaining an understanding of what constitutes true happiness and filling my life up with that. As my friend, Sabra, pointed out to me, we don’t remember the last time we laid down our dollies and moved on to other joys – giving up my toys was not a Major Event or something I had to force upon myself – it was a natural step in my forward way. And it can be that way with every forward step we take – we aren’t so much “giving up” something, as we are gaining something.

Here’s some of what I gained during this time: a new understanding and appreciation of love; a greater sense of gratitude for the power of a moment, and of a good, deep breath; a greater appreciation for choice; renewed gratitude for all the beauty in Nature and mankind; greater humility, empathy and compassion; and a greater commitment to my own spiritual journey.  I’d entered The Year of Insanity an untested “youth” – gliding through life’s challenges on a kind of cavalier, simple joy, without really having to put much work or effort into my mental frame of mind. By the time I exited that year I had a much deeper understanding of God, and who I am, as God’s expression.

A Waltz in the Park

(Originally published June 10, 2019.)

Something really magical happened in Bellingham this morning – actually, many magical things happened in Bellingham this morning, but let’s start with THIS one:

As I was walking along the shore in Boulevard Park I looked across the green and saw a man on the other side, in the parking lot, moving in a way that made me think he was maybe doing tai chi. I love how people move when they’re doing tai chi and I’d like to learn how to do that myself – so I started trying to follow his movements – I raised my arm when he raised his arm, I turned when he turned – and at some point he recognized what I was doing and we smiled at each other across the park. When I walked around the park to the other side I thanked him and then… I’m not sure how this happened, exactly – but the next thing I knew he’d raised his hand to mine and we were dancing! In the parking lot. At Boulevard Park. That’s what he’d been doing all along – he’d been dancing! I could hear the music then – it sounded like an Asian waltz – I know I’m not explaining this well, but… the notes were D, F, G, B flat, G… for those of you who have a scale in your head. (“A Scale in Your Head” would make a great title for a book, wouldn’t it?)

It was cosmic!. We danced around the parking lot for a few minutes. And then I thanked him – he smiled – I don’t think he spoke English – and let me take a picture of us together.

I was still thinking about my waltz in the park when I got to the parking lot above the boardwalk. And then this deer walked across the road – and a little spotted fawn suddenly appeared, too, skipping along behind her. All of us who were walking along the road just stopped and watched them pass. “Well, THAT was magic,” I said. And this man smiled at me and said, “Isn’t that a great way to start the day?!”

And there was an eagle – soaring right above me! And… and… well, here are some pictures from my morning…
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Judging a Person Who No Longer Exists

Thoughts upon a reading a dialogue between two of my friends:

Jeepers. Let’s give each other grace
and space
and the opportunity to grow
at our own pace
None of us is stuck in one place
mentally
We’re all evolving, changing,
re-arranging
moment by moment by moment.
No need to judge here.
No need to preach
all sanctimonious to each
other.
The person I was yesterday is gone
and so is the person you were
and so is the person next to you –
and what’s the point
of judging a person who
no longer exists?
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

(Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.)

Bellingham, WA

You Matter

All people want to be heard
and acknowledged and seen
and valued and not discounted
or ignored or pushed off to the side
as insignificant or irrelevant.
We all want a voice.
We all want to be heard –
no matter the color of our skin
or our gender
or our age
or our sexual orientation.
And I don’t think we should be ashamed
of wanting that and needing it.

You matter.
You are important to the world.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

“Each individual must fill his own niche in time and eternity.”
-Mary Baker Eddy
(Retrospection and Introspection, p. 70)

“Beloved children, the world has need of you…”
-Mary Baker Eddy


Every Bird Has a Silver Lining

I don’t need any advice or platitudes here –
I know this will pass and every bird
has a silver lining and early clouds
catch the worm and time closes doors
and an open window heals all wounds
and it’s going to be alright
and better days lie ahead and yada yada.
But, speaking as just a human bean, DANG.
You know? The last four years feel like
one long series of good byes. Mom.
And then Rachael Randy Benjamin Bob
Anita Mike Dean Peggy and Laurie.
And Dad.

I didn’t have time to grieve Mom
because I needed to step up for Dad.
And then I didn’t have time to grieve
Dad because the pandemic hit
and our home became the sheltering
place for sons and their partners
and it was so good to have everyone
here – laughter and family time –
a place of refuge.

And today the last son moved out.
This chapter is finished – this home
has served its purpose and I feel
the book opening to a new chapter –
and maybe a new setting.
And I watched “10 Things I Hate
About You” and found myself
sobbing when Heath Ledger’s face
appeared on the screen. And I know
I’m ridiculous.

But… maybe the time
for grieving has finally come
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

April: Indian Memorial at Little Bighorn, MT

I Feel Them Near

I’ve had this urge lately to go home
and visit Mom for a weekend
To laugh and talk and hear her voice
and maybe sing a song or two with her
To go downstairs and see what new
project Dad has going on
in the basement – he was always
up to something

I feel them near
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
– Romans 8:38-39

Unhooked from the Mother Ship

I’m feeling weirdly untethered –
like I got dropped from the sky
and am in free fall
or got unhooked from the line
that connects me to the Mother Ship
and am floating off into space.
It is scary
and also kind of exhilarating.

Retirement ain’t for sissies.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Blue Cosmos (photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell)