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)

photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell

 

“Every challenge has come with a blessing…”

It has been a challenging month. There has been death, a need to help loved ones make a major transition in their lives, the end of a school year (my fellow teachers will understand what that means), and car troubles. And there have been times when I wondered how in the heck I was going to get from here to there – both figuratively and literally.

But every challenge has come with a blessing:

– You may remember that several weeks ago I wrote about an adventure I had with my car – the alternator gave out on me in downtown Bellingham – and that adventure led me to meeting some really nice people and finding a paper clip at the end, too. But after the alternator adventure my car continued to make squeeks and squawks and screeches, and so last Monday I took it in to have it checked. I do not have the mechanical language to tell you exactly what they diagnosed, but it involved a ball bearing in the clutch, some leaking fluid, and something to do with the thing that’s attached to the muffler. Yup. My car has been in the car hospital all week.

car repair

car repair

My husband has been shuttling me into work in the mornings, and my sons have been shuttling me back home again in the afternoons.  These daily commutes have brought unforeseen blessings to me. I’ve been used to sitting in my own thoughts to and from work – and I’ve always kind of enjoyed that quiet alone time – but I’ve found a lot of joy in being able to hold conversations with my husband and sons while they are trapped… I mean… sitting… in their cars with me.  I’ve had twenty minutes with my husband that I don’t usually have during the day – we’ve gotten caught up on what’s going on with family, friends, his work and mine. We’ve talked about politics, world news, and community happenings. We’ve laughed, and we’ve been serious, and we’ve ended every commute with a kiss.  My sons and I have had the opportunity to talk about past, present, and future. They’ve shared their wisdom with me, and their insights on life, and they’ve shared their humor. I’ve learned a lot from them this week.

– One afternoon I found myself stalled-out on an Algebra problem I was working on with one of my students. It was actually a pretty simple problem – using long division to solve a quadratic equation – but the math compartment in my brain just seemed to shut down all of a sudden. And then I remembered that my eldest son – the mechanical engineer – was going to be picking me up at the end of the day, so I gave him a call and asked him if he could come in a little early and help Carlos and I work through this algebra problem.  The son agreed to come in and help us, and he was wonderful! He was calm, he was patient – he knew exactly what to do to get through the problem, and he knew exactly what to say to help Carlos understand how to get through the problem. A blessing.

– At the end of February my beloved calico cat, Freckle Rose, died. I have felt the loss of Freckle Rose terribly.  But out of this loss has come another blessing. My parents are in the process of moving out of their home of 48 years into a home more suitable to their current needs. My parents have five cats, and knew they were going to need to find homes for at least a couple of them.  Mom asked me if I’d take their cat, Gabby. So I brought the cat carrier down to my folks to pick up Gabby-cat. But as soon as Gabby saw the carrier she headed for the farthest corners of the house – she wanted nothing to do with that thing. Enter Princess. Princess is a fluffy little ball of ebony fur who adopted my parents about four years ago. Princess looked at the carrier, looked up at me, looked back at the carrier, and calmly and deliberately walked right into it! She was meant to be with us.  When we brought her back to our house she was a little shy – but as soon as I sat down on the sofa and opened up my laptop – BOOM! – Princess was there – walking over the keys, rubbing up against my arms – what is it with cats and laptops? 🙂 Princess has brought feline ambiance back into our home. Our home really needed some feline ambiance.

Princess

Princess

– Our neighbor and dear friend, Mike, passed away this week. Mike and his family are some of the most wonderful people you’ll ever meet – kind, funny, quirky, genuinely caring people – all of them were a huge support when I went through a personal crisis a few years ago. Before Mike passed on, his family and friends organized a sky lantern extravaganza in celebration of Mike’s amazing life.  Apparently Mike had bought, like, a gazillion sky lanterns some time ago – never realizing, his wife said, that they’d be used to celebrate HIS life. And so we all met – friends, family, neighbors – in a green field in Bow to send our lanterns of love into the sky for Mike. Mike arrived just before the lanterns alighted and was able to watch the magic from the comfort of a car. It was good to see him there. Being able to celebrate Mike WITH Mike – instead of after him – was a huge blessing – a magical, teary, amazing time. I’m so glad I could be part of that.

celebrating Mike

celebrating Mike

– The end of a school year can be a really stressful time for teachers and students as they try to wrap up the year. Sometimes it can be a little overwhelming – there are state assessments for students to pass, courses for them to complete, and graduation busy-ness.  But there have also been a lot of blessings this year.  This week one of my seniors presented her Culminating Project PowerPoint to the staff – and she did a most excellent job of it, too. At the end of it, the director of our school asked my student what the best part of her time at our alternative school has been for her. My student answered, “My teacher. Karen believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.”  Oh gosh. I started tearing up. That – right there – that is why I teach. Blessings.

– One of my sons let me use his car to get to the testimony meeting that I needed to conduct on Wednesday. As soon as I started the car I realized I was going to need to get some gas for my son – the tank was almost empty. Normally the getting-of-gas would not be a big deal to me.  But by Wednesday I was feeling totally over-the-top mentally and emotionally stretched – I felt like those street performers who spin plates on their noses and toes whilst juggling fiery torches – adding even one more teensy thing to my juggling torches and twirling plates made me wonder if I had the mental wherewithal to keep it all from crashing around me.  But I took a deep breath – asked myself how hard it could be – and decided it would be best if I stopped on the way to the meeting to get gas, rather than afterwards.

I tried to remember which side of the car the gas tank was on – and I guessed my side – and I remembered that you couldn’t just open the flap to the gas tank – there was some super-secret something I had to do – I figured when the time came I would figure it all out.  My son drives an automatic and I am used to driving a stickshift – so there was that – my left foot kept searching for the clutch. It was raining – where were the windshield wipers? And whoah! How did you slow them down?! And it was getting dark – where were the lights? I got all that sorted out before I reached the gas station – I started to pull into a gas lane just as the attendant put a cone down to block it off – I tried to pull around and ended up in reverse somehow – but there was no one behind me – blessings. I finally got myself pulled next to a gas pump – and found I’d been right about which side of the car it was on. And when I opened the door to get out of the car I looked down and discovered a little lever that would open the car’s gas tank – blessings. I know this all seems like simple stuff – but it’s amazing how each little thing can seem like an almost-insurmountable mountain at times – and it’s amazing how grateful a person can be when it all works out.

– Yesterday I came home from school to find a bouquet of yellow lilies and little pink roses waiting for me on the counter. There was a card attached. I had no idea who could have sent me this beautiful bouquet – Mother’s Day was LAST weekend, right? I opened the card. These words greeted me: “From your wily Amazonian Humoristian hooligans. We love you.”

flowers from the Humoristian hooligans

flowers from the Humoristian hooligans

You’ll need a little background to understand what that bouquet meant to me: Eight years ago, on an Amazon religion discussion forum, I started a new religion – Humoristianity.  The people who were attracted to the Humoristian “temple” represented a wide range of religious and non-religious backgrounds – there were atheists, Methodists, Jews, Catholics, a couple Mormons, and at least one Christian Scientist (moi). But what they all had in common was the ability to laugh at themselves, and to laugh with me at the nonsense of life. This little community of friends has been with me through the good times and the challenging times. I’ve been blest to meet half a dozen of them in the person – and continue to be friends with many of them on Facebook.  They are like a second family to me. And apparently one of them had discerned that I needed flowers. It was totally unexpected – a complete surprise – I never could have seen it coming – but I am so grateful for the love these dear people showed to me with that lovely bouquet.

I am blest – I really am. I’m blest with the physical stuff – the roof over my head, the food on the table, the water coming out of our pipes. But more – so much more than that – I am blest with love – the love of a new cat in our lives, the love of my family, the love expressed in my community for a dear neighbor,  the love from my students, and the love from my Humoristian fellowship.  There is power in Love – the power to lift up a burdened heart, and to help our fellow humans see that they matter.

Dear reader, may your moments and days and years be filled to over-flowing with Love.

Video of the celebration of Mike’s life:

“Drop thy still dews of quietness…”

Drop thy still dews of quietness,

Till all our strivings cease;

Take from us now the strain and stress,

And let our ordered lives confess

The beauty of Thy peace.

– John Greenleaf Whitter

***

I woke up a few days ago with a really weird harmonic ringing in one of my ears. Whenever I’d talk or sing or hum,  a sort of odd echo – not quite on the same note as my voice – would start ringing and clanging through my head.  It was driving me nuts – comparable to having a bee stuck inside a helmet on one’s head.

It’s Christmas time and –  like all of you – there is a lot going on in my life right now – there are students to teach, church services to conduct, a Christmas caroling party to host, family and friends I want to spend time with – and I began to worry that, with this ringing in my head, I wouldn’t be able to do all I wanted and needed to do in the coming week.  I wondered, too, if this might not be a permanent condition – and how I would be able to function if this ringing never left me.

The first part of the day was really busy for me – there was a pile of Christmas gifts to wrap, and cards and letters to send – and I really was in need of a long walk on the bay, too. By the time afternoon arrived my kiester was dragging.  I made myself a nice cup of herbal tea and sat down at my computer to check up on my online life. And this is when I discovered that I had somehow managed to become one of the targets for a rumor and gossip festival. (I know, right? Seriously?! But the mortal counterfeit of man – not the perfect man of God’s creating, but the bogus one  – does choose to spend his time in some really peculiar ways now and then. )  Ahhh…. no wonder my ears had been ringing! 🙂

I saw what I needed to handle in my thoughts.

The topic of last week’s lesson sermon in Christian Science churches was “God the Preserver of Man” – and it was really helpful to me. In the Responsive Reading we read, “O you afflicted one, Tossed with tempest, and not comforted… You shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; And from terror, for it shall not come near you. No weapon formed against you shall prosper…” (Isaiah 54)  Later in the lesson-sermon we find this passage from Psalms: “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” And from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy: “All that really exists is the divine Mind and its idea, and in this Mind the entire being is found harmonious and eternal… Look away from the body into Truth and Love, the Principle of all happiness, harmony, and immortality. Hold thought steadfastly to the enduring, the good, and the true, and you will bring these into your experience proportionably to their occupancy of your thoughts… Universal Love is the divine way in Christian Science.”  As I read these passages, I found myself filled with a feeling of complete and total love towards all of God’s creation – towards all my brothers and sisters. A feeling of peace settled over me.

One of my favorite passages from Science and Health was included near the end of the lesson-sermon “It should be thoroughly understood that all men have one Mind, one God and Father, one Life, Truth, and Love. Mankind will become perfect in proportion as this fact becomes apparent, war will cease and the true brotherhood of man will be established.”

As God’s child, I realized I am invincible and safe – nothing can harm me. I have nothing to fear. Love never leaves me. Truth never abandons me.  And there is never a moment when the clamor and clanging and clashing of human personalities can intrude or separate me – or anyone else – from the peace and joy of God, Love.

By the time I went to bed the ringing in my ear had stopped. I was healed.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. – Luke 2: 14

Snow Days: “Peace, Be Still…”

And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.” – I Kings 19: 11-12

And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” – Mark 4: 39

***

I love Snow Days.  I love waking up to a world bedazzled in sparkling white. I love the laughter of rosy-cheeked children building snowmen, and the sound of the teapot whistling on the range. I relish the cozy contrast between the warmth of the dancing fire in our woodstove, and the cold of the snow falling softly outside our windows. I love school closures, and cancelled appointments, and the chance to slow down and take a break from the hurry and rush. I love the peace.

It’s really easy to get caught up in the “have tos” of life, isn’t it?  – the meetings and expectations, the driving, shopping, and human busy-ness.  Snow days shut the busy-ness down and give us time to reflect, and take stock in what we already have.

Today I looked around at what I already had, and, feeling like a pioneer woman living off the land, pulled from my freezer a bag of blackberries I’d picked last summer, got out the flour and butter, and created a mighty fine blackberry pie.  I give credit to the snow for this. If I hadn’t had to cancel two appointments, I wouldn’t have had time to make that pie.

Some people may think they see “the hand of God” in earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters, but I don’t believe my god, Love, has anything to do with that stuff. Nope. Give me a Snow Day, wrapped all up in sparkling white, and filled with peace, and I’ll show you an expression of my god.

Have I mentioned that I really love Snow Days?

Here’s a clip of the birdsong from our back deck:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoECQd8ZGEY&feature=youtu.be

***

Dear Lord and Father of us all,

Forgive our foolish ways;

Reclothe us in our rightful mind;

In purer lives Thy service find,

In deeper reverence, praise.

 

 

Breathe through the pulses of desire

Thy coolness and Thy balm

Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;

Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire,

O still small voice of calm.

 

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,

Till all our strivings cease;

Take from us now the strain and stress,

And let our ordered lives confess

The beauty of Thy peace. – John Greenleaf Whittier