The fourth Thanksgiving without Moz at our table, the first without Dad and the first without a turkey – we went vegan this year. We forged ahead, making it up as we went – creating new traditions: a yellow and red pepper dish; a bowl of mushrooms sauteed in olive oil – which we used as our gravy on the mashed potatoes; Broccoli steamed to a brilliant green; and orange squash made for a colorful plate. I was yearning for something old to bring to the feast – something from the past – and remembered Aunt Junie’s dishes with the blue flowers around the outside. Scott reached up and pulled them from the top shelf for me and put them on the table. Much looks different this year. But this hasn’t changed: Love is still here. -Karen Molenaar Terrell
Up before dawn, enveloped in the dark, in the bubble of my car, as I drive over country roads, listening to Mindy Jostyn sing “Morning Song”and I feel God with me. Not as a corporeal being. Not as a Matter-being. Not just as Moz or Dad – but as the power and presence of all the collective Love of the Cosmos. Loving me. Wishing me into a new day.
Forgiveness. Forgiveness is something I’ve given a lot of thought to over the years. At different times different thoughts about forgiveness have been helpful to me. When I realized that I should actually THANK people for gifting me with the challenges that helped me grow – that was a huge step forward. When I realized that to NOT forgive was hurting me more than anyone else – that was another step. And this week I had another epiphany about forgiveness – and, for me, this one was HUGE.
There were a couple books I read recently that helped lead me to my most recent revelation:
I’ve been reading Baroness Orczy’s “Scarlet Pimpernel” books (The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of my all-time favorite books – I re-read it a few weeks ago and then started reading some of the other books in the series). In one of the books – I Will Repay – one of the characters says: “To understand is to forgive.” Whoahhhh. That got my thoughts going all kinds of interesting places. If we can understand other people – feel empathy for them – we can forgive them because we recognize in them our OWN human-ness, right?
After I’d read a couple of the baroness’s books, I felt the need for a change in genre – I needed to exchange the blood and muck of the French Revolution for something a little lighter. Something with some humor. So I brought Christina Lauren’s latest romance, In a Holidaze, to my Kindle. It was the perfect book for me right now! Funny and light and with a happy ending – just the escape I needed at the end of 2020. And it was in this book that I came upon another quote that I found helpful in my pursuit of forgiveness: “All this time I’ve been upset with him for simply being exactly the person I always knew he was.” Sheesh. It makes no sense to be angry at someone just because he/she/they is a human being – with the same human flaws and foibles we ALL share. I mean – none of us is perfect. There isn’t a single person on this planet who hasn’t done something stupid/thoughtless/unkind at some point. Let’s forgive others their faults, and let’s forgive ourselves, too, while we’re at it.
“How embarrassing to be human.” – Kurt Vonnegut
“To punish ourselves for others’ faults, is superlative folly. The mental arrow shot from another’s bow is practically harmless, unless our own thought barbs it. It is our pride that makes another’s criticism rankle, our self-will that makes another’s deed offensive, our egotism that feels hurt by another’s self-assertion. Well may we feel wounded by our own faults; but we can hardly afford to be miserable for the faults of others.” – Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings
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. She had foam and blood around her 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 my husband and me 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 the 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. -Karen Molenaar Terrell
Season of Shameless Plugs (Day 9): (dramatic three notes – dun dun dun) The Audiobook
So if you google my name (which… okay… I have) you’ll see the audiobook for Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist comes up near the top of the first page. With a one-star rating. No review. Nothing to say about what the critic didn’t like about it. Just. One star. It has been sitting there like that for months now – a festering freakin’ sliver in my thumb. If you go to the next page of Karen Molenaar Terrells – or maybe the one after that – you’ll see that someone in Australia (bless her/his/their heart!) gave me a five star rating for the same audiobook. (Australians obviously are a people of great discernment and good judgment.) So. Yeah. If any of you are into listening to books on your devices you can, for less than the price of a cup of coffee (I think you can actually get the audiobook free if you already own the book), purchase the audiobook (and find a sample from the book) here. (You can also find the audiobook right next to the other formats for the book on the Amazon site).
I published this one in 2016 – shortly after Moz and Dad (Dee Molenaar) moved to La Conner to be closer to me. They were very brave during this time – leaving their home of 48 years, moving to a retirement community in Tacoma, and then to an assisted living place in La Conner – leaving their community and friends to be near me. I am in awe of them.
Here’s an excerpt from the book: I learned a lot of lessons from the folks on my visit this weekend, but there’s one moment I’d especially like to share. To be honest, I debated whether I should share this one or not. It seems almost silly for me to share it, in a way – because it SHOULD be just a matter-of-fact thing – a “no big deal” thing, really – but… after some other news I’ve heard tonight, I feel impelled to share this moment.
So I’d helped my dad out of the car, and was helping my mom out, when I heard Dad say, “Thank you!” to someone. I looked to see what was going on back there and saw that these two young Black men with Seahawks hoodies were holding the door for Dad so he could maneuver his walker into the building. Dad nodded to the young men, and smiled, and thanked them again as I watched him go through the doors, and the young men smiled back and said, “You’re welcome!” and then went on their way.
A small, insignificant moment, really. But… and I can’t even explain why… I find myself getting teary-eyed as I sit here recalling that simple, unremarkable, sweet exchange between a 97 year-old White man, and those two young men in the hoodies.
There are a lot of really good people in this world who want to do right by each other.