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

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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
018

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

They Were Beautiful!

“When the heart speaks, however simple the words, its language is always acceptable to those who have hearts.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

On Friday during my break I walked from my work to the county offices/courthouse to get new tabs for my car. The area around the court building is a little sketchy – bail offices, and etc. As I walked towards the entrance to the county offices a pair of men walked towards me down the sidewalk. I’m just going to say it – and I’m hoping you’ll understand and not make judgments on me for saying it – but these men looked scary. They were both thin (my immediate thought was “meth”) and kind of wild-eyed and nervous-looking, and they each were members of different racial minorities. Now I don’t know, exactly, what led me to do this – but I know I made an instant conscious choice – I smiled at each of them and said a friendly hello as they approached me down the sidewalk. They each looked a little surprised, and gave me a hello in return. And it was like – in that moment I saw who they really were, you know? They were beautiful! It was very humbling.

And yesterday, as I was waiting with Scotty in a long line at the local dollar store, I experienced another connection with my fellow humans that brought me a lot of joy. The wait was long, but no one was complaining, no one was cranky – everyone was just patiently waiting, sort of chatting with each other. We were behind a little family – a man – maybe a grampa? – and a little boy and girl, conversing with each other in rapid Spanish. While they waited, the boy and girl were checking things out on the racks across from the checkout counter – they’d pick things up – bracelets and toys – and look them over and then put them back. I told the grampa that he had a nice family – that I liked the way the children were behaving themselves. He smiled and thanked me.

Right after that the little girl found a jumbo-sized pen with Cinderella on it and she held the pen up to her grampa and began talking to him in Spanish. I knew she wanted that pen. I told the grampa that I would buy that pen for her. He hesitated, and then saw that the idea of that made me happy, and agreed to let me do that. The little boy found a jumbo pen with Spiderman on it – and I told the grampa I’d buy that one, too.

After I’d paid for the pens I handed them to the children and they both looked up at me with their big brown eyes and thanked me. I smiled and said, “De nada.” The little girl smiled a big smile and asked me, in English, if I speak Spanish. I told her not very well, but I was trying to learn it. I praised her for speaking both languages so beautifully, and she gave me another big smile.

Meanwhile, the cashier was managing to keep a straight face while I tried to practice my Spanish on the children. I thanked him for not laughing at my horrible Spanish. He grinned and said he has a hard time, too, sometimes, and he wished Scotty and me a good day.

There was just something so… these connections bring me such joy, you know? – like a little taste of heaven.

love-is-with-you

 

T’was Two Weeks Afore Christmas

Quote

via T’was Two Weeks Afore Christmas

T’was Two Weeks Afore Christmas

T’was two weeks afore Christmas and all through Eff Bee
not a creature was stirring – not a she, he, or me
We were prostrate and spent from the holiday bustle
not a twitch could be seen from the teeniest muscle.

We lay all unblinking in our respective beds
while visions of gift-wrapping swirled through our heads
And clad in our jammies and our way cool madcaps
we had the vague hopeful hope our bodies would take naps.

Holiday jangles and jingles pinged through our brains –
Presley, Crosby, and Mathis taking us down memory lanes –
and would we remember every member to be gifted?
We mentally went through our lists, hoping none were omitted

There were homes to be decorated and cards to be sent
parties, caroling, and cookie-making, and we hadn’t made a dent.
But with a collective sigh we remembered there and then
that it’s really about good will to all creatures, women, and men.

And so our thoughts finally settled and our bodies relaxed
as we thought of those we love and a world festooned in pax.
With our hearts wrapped in kindness and the world as our ‘hood
We’re all brethren and sistren – and verily, It’s all good!
– Karen Molenaar Terrell, from The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Christmas Book

green shoes Christmas

Christmas Peace

A Space Explorer

I’ve been feeling her with me this past week –
hearing her laugh, seeing her smile –

the night was clear, the stars glittering
above me and I asked Scott
to join me on a walk around the block
to look at the cosmos.
I always think of her when
I look at the stars – she loved to learn
about them.  Scott’s just finished reading
a book by Neil deGrasse Tyson, and I remember
the photo of her standing with Tyson
and it makes me smile. Two of the world’s
great geniuses together – though she didn’t
recognize herself that way. She used to tell us
it was a miracle my brothers and I survived
to adulthood with her for a mother –

but we were so blessed by her! And the stars
feel so close tonight! I imagine myself
an astronaut – venturing out of my spacecraft
into space, tethered to my little home by
a simple rope, and my heart gives an excited
leap. And then it occurs to me – I AM
in space, traveling through the stars – I AM
a space explorer. And she is with me.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Blue Cosmos (photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell)

 

Moz, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Jolene Unsoeld

Moz Molenaar, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Jolene Unsoeld