A Message from my Younger Self

Found an old journal from probably 40 years ago as I was sorting through old boxes and bins.

I word-doodled (this was a free write ramble – there was no organization to it): “Even if ten years from now you’re not the same person, this person that you were really existed and lived. Love and trust and beauty aren’t magical – they’re real – and you can take them with you wherever you go. Be happy that you’re alive for this one moment of peace and contentment when you have everything you need.”

I think I needed the voice of my younger self speaking to me today from the before-times.

 

Lessons from the Year of Insanity

Twelve years ago I went through a massive depression. I’d never gone through anything like that before. It was life-changing for me. At the time it felt like it was the most challenging thing I’d ever experienced. I didn’t like it so much. But now, looking back, I’m so grateful for that time in the “wilderness” – I learned so much from it!

Here are some of the lessons I learned during the Year of Insanity (excerpted from The Middle Book):
“I still have moments of loneliness, and I still have moments when I’m scared. But now I know enough to know these moments will eventually pass. I don’t give much thought to them. I’ve discovered it’s possible to be happy even during these times.”

“…I have found that there’s no way I can predict what form help and ‘salvation’ will take for me. I have found that, if I just keep my thought open to all the good…every moment, I’ll find everything I need to get me off my mental ‘island.”

“Right here, where I might see fear and anger and hate – in this exact same place and space, there’s another universe filled with incredible good – and I have a choice of which one I want to live in, and which one I want to see as ‘real.'”

“I think if all of mankind were able to recognize the good in themselves and in each other – I think this, alone, would transform our world.”

“Think back on the last four years of your life, my friend – become aware of all the things you would have missed if you’d given up on life four years ago: the new friends you would never have known; the sunsets and sunrises you wouldn’t have seen; the lessons you wouldn’t have learned; the changes you wouldn’t have been able to make; the pictures never painted; the photos never taken; the songs never sung; all the love and laughter that you would have denied yourself.”

middle book cover

Today Let’s Accept the Joy

There will always be things
to worry about
But right now I feel joy
Every chapter has new  challenges –
something to fear and some fear
to overcome
But today I feel joy
Worries will always be with us
if we pay them the time
But in this moment I feel joy.

We did good, you and I – we did good
We worked and met the challenges,
made a home and raised a fine family
and, though there are still worries
waiting for us down the road,
let’s take a moment and rejoice in
what we have and where we are
and what we’ve done with our lives.
Today let’s accept the joy.

– Karen Molenaar Terrell

JOY

 

Waiting for the Christmas Spirit

Quote

Waiting for the Christmas Spirit

The kitsch and spangles
and baubles and bangles,
And department store Santa,
just really can’ta
Seem to bring me
the spirit of Christmas.

And I’ve been waiting to feel it –
the real Christmas spirit
Hoping it’d come by now.
The stockings are stuffed,
the tree is all buffed,
The cookies are baked
and frosted and fluffed
But there’s still something missing –
a feeling, a tingling
that’s supposed to come every Christmas.

Except…
Maybe that Christmas feeling,
that energy and tingling
Is something I can have every day –
It doesn’t depend on spangles,
or jingly-bell jangles
Or jolly men dressed all in red.
It comes in the sharing
of laughter and caring
And the comfort in words with love said:
To all – Peace! Joy! Hope!
Every moment of every day.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell, from The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Christmas Book

via Waiting for the Christmas Spirit 

Christmas doodle 3

The Christmas Dog

Quote

It is time, once again, for the telling of “The Christmas Dog” –

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.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell, from *Blessings: Adventures of the Madcap Christian Scientist*

via The Christmas Dog

I felt completely content.

I had one of those perfect moments in life today – the kind of moment where I felt at total peace with the world. I was sitting in the shade of a maple tree on a bench in Boulevard Park – there was a cool breeze that brought the briny smell of the bay and I could hear laughter and seagulls and people chatting cheerily with each other. It wasn’t too cold or too hot. I wasn’t hungry. I had everything I needed. I felt completely content.

And I had a flashback to a day 11 years ago – when I was in the middle of a severe depression and walking through the same park, watching people smiling and laughing, and wondering if I would ever feel happy again – wondering if I would ever feel at peace and content, and be able to laugh again with my friends like the people around me were doing. I remember feeling sort of in awe and wonder at the happy faces around me. I remember sort of letting myself ride on top of the joy of other people for a while. And I thought if I could ever find the joy again I would be sure to share it – like the people around me were doing for me.

I am really conscious of my joy now – and so very grateful for it.

(Seen in Bellingham this morning: Bee on Big Blue Sea Holly flowers. Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.)

bee on sea blue holly thistle like this one really

Picnic Table at Tweets

Picnic Table at Tweets

I move from the sun to the picnic table
in the shade under a striped canopy
in a leafy orchard beside Tweets restaurant.
I ask the young man if he’d like me to take
a picture of all of them – the woman, the dog, him –
and he smiles and says yes, please, and hands
me the camera – just push that button there –
it’s that simple – and the dog looks up at the man
adoringly and I snap that moment for them
and go back to my picnic table and my breve.
A rainbow flag flies from a window across
the street. A little red finch hops near my table.
I close my eyes and listen. A dove coos from
a roof somewhere. An engine starts. Finches
chirp to one another. Laughter and voices
come from the restaurant’s deck. Motorcycles
pass by. A soft cool breeze blows across
my arms and I open my hands to all of it –
the breeze, the laughter, the joy, the peace.
And just before I leave Charles appears – I hadn’t
wanted to bother him as he worked – but there
he is! And we hug and I tell him that he is one
of those people who attracts and creates peace –
even the animals know they’re safe in his space.
And he tells me he is feeling verklempt. I wipe
tears from my eyes and say, “Me, too!”

– Karen Molenaar Terrell

 

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

“Angels: 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.

Bring Joy in with the Sad

Sitting in sadness and worry
with a free day ahead of me
I ask myself – what do I want
to do? What do I want to see?
what will bring me joy?
Photos, I think. I’ll find
swans or snow geese.
A drive with Dad.
A walk in the fresh air.
Get dressed. Get out.
Bring joy in with the sad.

I go to Dad’s and find
him asleep at the table.
I ask him if he wants
to go for a drive, he
says he wouldn’t mind.

Dad beside me in the car
we pass trumpeter swans
before we go very far
in a muddy field – Mount
Baker and a red barn
in the background – and I
pull over so Dad can gaze
at Baker, and I can take
photos of the swans
as they graze.

Next a stop at the post office –
a package for Dad there
from my cousin, Debby.
Dad pulls out a pair
of cinnamon-scented discs,
wrapped in aluminum foil.
What do you think it is?
Speculaas, he guesses,
and smiles. He slowly
unwraps the treat – foil,
plastic wrap – pulls a chunk
of soft, spicy, speculaas free
and brings it to his mouth
Is it good? Yes, says he,
and nods. I pull off a piece
for me.

Back through the flats
and fields, along the shore,
over the hill and down
the other side, past more
swans, and through town
I bring Dad back to his
home, and into the recliner.
I love you, we tell each other.

As I’m driving back to my own
home, I realize I’m not done, yet.
On impulse, I exit onto I-5
and head for Bellingham to get
my walk in the sunshine.

Seagulls – a dozen, maybe more! –
call to each other and soar
overhead as I walk down
the ramp to the boardwalk.
A little further and I spy
an otter family scampering
and playing on the rocks
A woman passes by
and I point out the otters –
she stops and we talk
for a moment about the joy
of otters – before we each
continue on our own adventures.

I reach the end of my journey
and head back and the thought
I’m thinking at that moment –
the painful pebble that’s caught
in the bottom of my mental shoe –
is, “I haven’t felt like I belonged
for fifty years” and right then
I hear a woman call my name:
Karen!
I turn and recognize a new
friend from a sharing circle I
went to a month ago in a town
forty minutes away from here
and we come together and hug
and laugh and shed a tear.

My new friend and I walk
back together through the park,
down the boardwalk, past the dock,
up the ramp – we share and talk –
and she says she’s happy we met
today and I say, “It’s magic, isn’t it?”
– Karen Molenaar Terrell