Facing Wild Pigs in the Black Forest and Assembling a Side Table

Two years ago the son
landed in Vienna and called to ask me to pray –
he’d picked up some weird virus along the way.
Two years minus a month ago he wrote to say
he’d just faced wild pigs in the Black Forest,
on a most epic day.
Two years minus two months ago
borders were closing behind him
as he traveled from where they spoke German
to where they spoke Dutch,
and I wished I could touch
him again and worried a mama’s worries.
And now he sits on the floor of our family home,
quietly assembling a side table for the family room.

It’s amazing how much joy I get from watching
my son assemble a side table for the family room.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

The Pressure to Feel Merry

(Originally published in 2012, but I think it works pretty well in 2021, too.)

It has been a challenging month for a lot of people. Yesterday when I was running around, doing last minute Christmas shopping, I ran into three friends who teared-up when I asked them how they were doing – one had lost a husband not long ago, the second had lost her mom, the third her dad. The husband of a fourth friend is going through medical treatment for cancer. And then there is the tragedy of Newtown, Connecticut. It just might be that some of us are not inclined to feel all jolly-cheery right now. And I’m here to tell you, if you are one of those folks – it is alright. It’s okay to feel whatever it is you’re feeling. There’s no need or reason to judge your feelings, or to try to force them to be what they’re not. That’s just silly.

At Christmas there’s a lot of pressure on people to feel “The Christmas Spirit.” No one wants to be the Christmas Scrooge. I think we all want to share in the spirit of joy and generosity and hope. But pressuring ourselves to be happy, trying to force ourselves to be jolly, is maybe not the best way to get there. Then it becomes a battle, rather than a natural unfolding.

Here’s the good news: There’s no law that says we can’t feel the Christmas spirit on December 26th, or December 27th, or March 1st – we‘re not limited to feeling joy, generosity, and hope on this one day a year. So even if, this year, we just can’t seem to get there on December 25th, we still have the opportunity to feel the spirit whenever or wherever it unfolds for us. And here’s another bit of good news that I’ve discovered in my own adventures with sadness and grief: I have found that it is possible to be happy even when you’re sad. Which. Yeah, I know that sounds kind of weird, doesn’t it? But it’s true!

May joy settle upon you gently, moment by moment – may you catch it in the playful grin on a child’s face, in the uplift that comes from Beethoven’s Joy, in the smell of something good baking in the oven, in the hug from a friend – may you relax and enjoy those moments for what they are, and what they give you. And may any pressure you feel to somehow make those moments bigger, or brighter, or louder, ease and lift from you.

Karen Molenaar Terrell, from The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Christmas Book

And there’s a new review for The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Christmas Book!

Jeff Chase writes:5.0 out of 5 stars
This book is a gem.
Reviewed in the United States on December 18, 2021
Verified Purchase
It’s my second Christmas with this book, and I think I’m enjoying it more this year, perhaps because it’s already feeling like a tradition. Karen’s stories, poems, and musings are full of warmth, humor, and love. There’s much to relate to here. I find myself recalling my own Christmas stories from years past. This book is a gem, made for relaxing. Enjoy!

Joy to the World!

There’s this joy in my heart – this sassy sense of unstoppable cheer – that’s risen in me the last couple of days. It’s a joy that doesn’t depend on who wins what football game, or where I am or what I’m doing – a joy that doesn’t depend on everything being “perfect” in my life. It’s a joy I don’t feel guilty feeling. I like this joy. I think I’ll keep it.

Think of all the beauty that’s still left in and around you and be happy!
– Anne Frank

Christmas Peace

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

Heaven Right Here

Went for a walk in the moonlight and starlight and immediately felt Moz with me. And a couple of musings passed through my thoughts: I don’t need to die to be with the people I love who have passed beyond my seeing them – because they’re already with me right now; I don’t need to die to have heaven – everything that will bring me joy on the “other side” is with me right here, in this moment. If I can’t find my joy here, I’m not going to find it “there,” either. If I can’t be grateful for now, what makes me think I’m going to be grateful for whatever comes after this?

“Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”
– Luke 17:21

Moonrise
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The World Still Needs…

(Originally posted on Humoristianity.)

My dear Humoristian hooligans –
When Humoristianity was established in 2007, I founded our one true fallacious faith on these tenets:
1) You must be able to laugh at yourself.
2) You must be able to recognize how ludicrous your beliefs might appear to others.
3) You must want nothing but good for everyone, everywhere in the universe.
4) You must have a natural aversion to meetings, committees, and scheduled events (as we will be having none of those).
5) You must enjoy the humor of… (I’m not going to even bother to name names here – what was true in 2007 isn’t necessarily true in 2021 – but I believe Monty Python might ALWAYS be included on the list.)

The last several years have been testing times for our faith. There have been times when I’ve found it very hard to laugh. There have been times when the ludicrous has seemed more sinister than laughable. There have been times when it felt it would have been inappropriate to ask people to laugh at their beliefs. Life took a very dark turn at some point, and what might have seemed laughable in 2007 didn’t seem so funny ten years later.

But this much HASN’T changed: The world still needs you. The world still needs your caring, kindness, and courage. The world still needs your irrepressible joy and irresistible good will to humankind. May the bullies, bigots, and busybodies be transformed by your good-humored, unruffled peace. May the stodgy, stuffy, and stingy be transformed by your generous hearts. May those inclined to shame, blame, and divide, see a better way in the way you live your lives.

You have the power to do incredible good. You are making the world a better place. Go out there and work your magic!
Karen

First Review for Cosmic Connections

Hey! Check it out! I’ve now got two five-star ratings AND a written review for Cosmic Connections: Sharing the Joy! Thank you to the “Amazon Customer” who took the time to write this review. If you’re an author, you know how much that means…

Amazon Customer writes:
5.0 out of 5 stars
Delightful book!
Reviewed in the United States on October 12, 2021
Verified Purchase
“Cosmic Connections” follows the excursions of an extraverted author and photographer who befriends nearly every person who crosses her path. This uplifting read highlights life’s small moments of connection — with strangers, old friends she meets by chance, the hapless, friendly dogs and former students. The author uses brief anecdotes—one or two pages—to show how much goodness permeates life. One entry describes meeting a stranger, only to find out she is the daughter of the minister who married her and her husband (in another part of the state) 30 years before. Her warm writing style and enthusiasm for life is infectious.
AMAZON.COMDelightful book!

Let’s Rejoice When We Can

Let’s rejoice when we can!
Let’s not worry how long
the good will last or when it will end –
afraid of rejoicing for fear
the good will be gone tomorrow.
Let’s rejoice for the good we have
right now, and let tomorrow
take care of itself.
This moment is good.
Amen.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

“Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.”
-Matthew 6

Karen in her twirly dress.

I Hear You

Sometimes there just aren’t words.
But I’ll try.

I hear you.
I feel the pain you’re feeling
and want to fold you into a fierce hug
and absorb the pain into my own body
and relieve you of it.

I hear you.
I feel the joy you’re feeling
and want to dance and spin with you
under the stars until we drop together
from happy exhaustion.

I hear you.
I hear your weeping.
I hear your laughter.
I hear the music of your heart.
And I want you to know
you’re not alone in any of it.

We’re all in this symphony of life
together.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Karen in her twirly dress.

Cosmic Connections: An Excerpt

Cosmic Connections: Finding the Joy is available as a paperback now. It should be available as an e-book in a few days. Here’s another excerpt from the book:

I’d Never Been Alone At All!
(Originally published on September 24th, 2019.)

He stood out – literally – he was, like, a foot taller than everyone around him. He had hair the color of copper and an Irish accent.  She stood next to him – coming just below his shoulders – with dark hair and lively eyes and an accent that came from somewhere in the middle of America.  We bonded waiting to get on the airplane – laughing together that we were in the “E” section and would get on last because “they always save the best for last, right?” and “E stands for ‘excellent’, doesn’t it?”

We were bound for Chicago. I mentioned that my husband and I had, just a few weeks before, driven from Seattle to Grand Rapids, Michigan – and had passed by Chicago on our trip. What had taken us five days to achieve then, would take five hours today.  The couple told me then that they lived in Michigan – Kalamazoo, to be exact. I told them I loved the word “Kalamazoo” and the copper-haired man told me that before that he’d lived in another town in Michigan with a native name (maybe Missaukee?). And, he told me, he’d almost taken a job in Australia with a really cool Aboriginal name (maybe Woolgoolga?). I told him he needed to go to Walla Walla next, and he started laughing.

Eventually we boarded the bus that would take us to our plane. There were no seats on the bus and everyone had to find a pole or a bar or a hand-loop to grip during the ride. I was too short to reach the bar above me and all the hand-loops were taken. I was looking around trying to figure out how I was going to keep upright, when the red-haired man saw my dilemma and moved aside so I could grip the loop near him – he was tall enough that he could easily hang onto the bar above us. I’m so grateful to him for that because as the bus worked its way across the tarmac there were a lot of stops and turns and I would have ended up doing a face plant on the floor, for sure, if I hadn’t had something to hold onto.

The bus stopped and we all got out and I quickly found my seat on the plane. Or. I THOUGHT I’d found my seat on the plane until a man tapped me gently on the shoulder and asked me my seat number. I told him and, smiling, he pointed me to a seat a row up and over. “I guess you were wondering where you were going to sit?” I asked, laughing. He laughed, too, and everyone graciously made room for me to move across the aisle. When I got settled I looked up and recognized one of the people who’d been on the bus. She was standing in the aisle next to my seat, waiting to find her own seat. The aisle was kind of clogged up, though, and it looked like it might take a while. Recognizing a person with a sense of humor, I said, “You don’t get a seat. One of those hand loop things is going to drop down from the ceiling and you’ll get to hang on to that for the flight.”  She started cracking up and said that she’d probably get to have the air mask first, though, if those things dropped down.  🙂

The flight was pretty uneventful – there were some air bumps for a while that forced the flight attendants back to their seats – but everyone was really calm about it all, and, in what seemed like no time, our plane had landed at O’Hare.

***

I had a wonderful day in Chicago – seeing old friends and getting inspired by this year’s speaker at the Christian Science association. I came away feeling revitalized and ready to heal the world.

***

But first I had to deal with my own neuroses. I’d worked myself into kind of a tizzy.  When I was younger I’d traveled a lot on my own. But as I’ve gotten older most of my traveling has been with family members and friends. And now I felt like I was all alone, trying to figure things out for myself, and it was scary. My thoughts were going around and around in circles something like this: “I’m going to need to get up at 4:30 to catch the shuttle bus to the airport. How do I set the alarm clock? How do I turn it off? What if I sleep through the alarm? What if the alarm doesn’t go off? What if I miss the shuttle bus and then I miss my plane? And… and… what if I can’t find a kiosk to get my boarding pass? And… what if I mess up at the kiosk and can’t get a boarding pass and miss my plane and get stranded in Chicago for, like, ever? And what if the TSA folks think I look suspicious or something and pull me out of the line and I end up missing my plane and… and… how do I set the alarm clock? How do I turn it off? What if I sleep through the alarm…?

You get the idea. Sheesh.

Of course I didn’t sleep well – tossing and turning, my eyes continually going to the clock. I finally dozed off for a couple hours and came to with a start to find that I’d awakened at exactly 4:24.  I got up and set about getting myself dressed and ready. At 4:30 the alarm went off and I pushed the little button and it stopped – just like that. By 4:45 I was joining other folks in the elevator (I thought I’d be the only one getting up at 4:30!) and heading for the lobby. By 5:00 we were all on the bus and heading for the airport. When the people in front of me got off the shuttle at the United terminal I moved to the front so I could hear our bus driver’s voice – it was really deep and beautiful – a James Earl Jones voice – he sounded like he belonged on the radio. I told him this and he started laughing and said that this was the voice he woke up with and it would get higher as the day went on. “This is your morning voice,” I said, nodding. And he laughed and agreed.

***

(Note: All the employees you’re going to read about who helped me – the lady at the kiosk, the security folks, the vendor who showed me where Starbucks was, and the man who assigned me a seat on the plane – were African Americans. I always feel this kind of weird self-conscious awkwardness about mentioning a person’s race – like it shouldn’t matter, right? – but at the moment I’m feeling the need to share that all the wonderful folks who helped me at O’Hare were Black.)

The Delta terminal was the next stop. I got off there and as soon as I walked in the door found a kiosk waiting for me. A Delta employee immediately joined me at the kiosk to help me get my boarding pass. She asked me for my confirmation number and I showed her the teeny tiny letters on my phone and asked her if she could read them because I couldn’t make them out without my glasses. She laughed and said she needed her glasses, too, and quickly pulled them from a pocket and put them on to read the number to me.  She soon realized it would go faster for us if she just punched the number in herself – so she did that for me. I made some comment about “women of a certain age” helping each other and she started laughing with me in middle-aged sisterhood. Soon she’d printed out my boarding pass for me, found out what gate I needed to go to, and pointed me that direction.

When I got in line for security I expected to have to go through that cubicle where you have to put your arms up and the body scan dealy checks you out. But this time the security people pointed me into a line where I got to by-pass the scanning machine altogether. That was cool.

And so there I was – safe and sound on the other side of security. All the things I’d been so nervous about were now behind me and looked ridiculous to me from this vantage point. I could feel the Cosmos laughing with me.  I imagine the Cosmos finds me pretty entertaining.

Next it was time to find a Starbucks. I stopped at a small vendor of cheeses and fruit and asked her if she could point me to the nearest Starbucks. She looked up at me with a kind of exasperated disbelief and pointed behind her – “Right there,” she said. I saw that the Starbucks was right next to her! Humbled, I said, “Oh, thank you! Sheesh.” A stunning African American woman – she looked like a competent, confident put-together lawyer – happened to be walking by us as this exchange was going on and she looked over at me, a grin on her face, and said, “I heard that.” I laughed with her and told her I was embarrassed, and went to fetch my pumpkin spice latte with whip. Once I had that familiar cup of latte in my hand I went back to the fruit and cheese vendor and bought myself a snack for the plane ride. The vendor graciously thanked me for my business and I thanked her, again, and went to sit in the waiting area.

I had been given a boarding pass without an assigned seat. So when the man appeared behind the podium I went up to him to get a seat. And oh! – he was so fun! I told him I needed a seat – and he grinned and pointed to the row of seats behind him – joking – and then he asked some quick questions, made some snappy small talk as he clicked away on the keyboard – et voila! I had a window seat!

I found a place to sit and, as the waiting area started getting more crowded, I picked up my bags and made room for Mike and Lisa, a middle-aged couple from Indiana. I really enjoyed talking with them. Lisa had arranged an Alaskan cruise for her husband and herself. They were going to visit all the places my husband and I had visited when we went up the Inside Passage seven years ago – Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Sitka – and we talked about all the cool things they were going to see. This was Mike’s first-ever airplane ride. In fact, he told me he’d just had his first-ever train ride, too. In FACT, they’d already taken a car, a bus, and a train to get where they were. “Trains, planes, and automobiles,” I said, and they laughed and said “exactly.”

When it was time to get on the plane I stopped at the podium and made sure to let the man who’d assigned me a seat know how much I’d enjoyed listening to his comedic patter over the microphone as we lined up for boarding. He grinned and thanked me and wished me a good flight.

***

I got my window seat and spent the first half of the flight looking out the window and watching a movie on the screen in front of me. Towards the end of the flight I got into conversation with Eliana, the young woman seated next to me. I’d noticed she was taking an online college course, and shared with her my experience as a high school teacher. We talked about what she’d like to do when she gets out of school – she said she’d like to be a fashion designer – and I could totally picture her doing that. I told her she could name her line of clothes “Eliana” – and that I expected to see her fashion designs out there in a few years.

***

The plane landed a half hour early. I’d left rain in Chicago, and landed in rain in Seattle. There was something very symmetrical and pleasing about that.

As my husband drove me back home, I started thinking about all my ridiculous worries and the fear I’d had of being all on my own, trying to figure things out by myself – and I suddenly realized that I really hadn’t been alone at all! The entire trip I’d had people stepping up to help me out – to give me directions, to make room for me, to laugh with me.

How blessed we are to have each other on Life’s journey!
-Karen Molenaar Terrell