I am typing one-handed at the moment because I have a kitty purring under my chin. She is watching my fingers move on the keyboard. She seems fascinated with the workings of humans and their machinery. She is keeping me sane.
And now a prayer: Please, Love, give me courage. Fill my heart with kindness and hope. Help me nurture what is good in the world. Help me heal what is not.
Happy solstice, friends!
Light! Light! Let there be light!
Invading the darkness, overtaking the night…
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.
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
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*
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
Revisiting this one from 2016. This experience I had on the night of the presidential election has kept me going for the last three years…
Taking the dog for a walk,
the shooting star got my
attention when it flew across
the heavens on the evening
of November eighth. I stopped
in my tracks, looking skyward,
alert now, and the voice said,
“Trust. Everything is happening
as it needs to happen.
Don’t be afraid. Trust.”
And crap. I knew then. I knew
who’d won the election – why
else would I need to be reassured?
I went inside. And saw my fears
confirmed. And felt weirdly
stilled inside. Holding on
to that message: “Trust.”
The voice didn’t say what was to come
would be easy, or without struggle
or challenge. It didn’t provide
details of how, where, when or why.
It just said, “Don’t be afraid. Trust.”
And the earth rises now.
Thirsty for Truth. Joining in Love.
Crying for justice.
In the streets. From the rooftops.
Through the wires of computers
across the world.
“Everything is happening
as it needs to happen.
Trust,” said the voice of Love.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell
I wore my “rebirth” ring the other day. A barista ringing me up complimented me on it and asked me about it. I told her it was my “rebirth” ring – that I’d bought it after I’d come through a really challenging time. I pointed to the sapphire on one side – “I was born in September – and that’s the stone for September” – and the pearl in the middle – “pearls are created from struggle – something beautiful from something challenging” – and the sapphire on the other side – “I came through the challenge and was reborn.” She said that was really beautiful, and I thanked her and nodded, and remembered, again, my Year of Insanity…
Ten years ago I went through a massive depression – I’d never experienced anything like that before – I’d always been a kind of naturally happy person – but I went through a year that was, literally, a life and death struggle for me. I couldn’t eat, contemplated ending my life, had a constant dialogue going on in my head, seriously doubted if I would ever feel happy again. It is not an exaggeration to say I wasn’t sure I’d make it through.
It was during this time that I discovered I had a wealth of friendships and love and people who cared about me. It was during this time that I also discovered how strong I am. I gained a confidence that I hadn’t really had before. I came to appreciate what’s really important in life – not material stuff – but love and kindness and integrity and the ability to laugh at ourselves. I have never felt impoverished since going through this. I’ve come to see I’m wealthy beyond anything I’d imagined.
People sometimes talk cavalierly about “choosing joy.” During the Year of Insanity it didn’t feel like joy was a “choice” for me. But now that I have my choice back – yeah, I choose joy. I’ve come to realize that life really is a matter of perspective – of how we look at things.
People have told me that they want my life – or that they love my life. And I guess I should feel flattered by that maybe. But…the thing is… love your own life. Make something of that precious gift you’ve been given. By saying you want my life you discount my struggles, and you discount your own possibilities.
I’ve never wanted to be anyone else. Never. Not even when I was going through my Year of Insanity. I knew, even then, that EVERYone has challenges in their lives. I knew, even then, that most of the challenges in my life were ones I’d created for myself and that it was my job to learn from them.
You – yes, you – have the power to bring love and kindness to someone else – even when you’re going through your own times of insanity. You have a purpose, and a reason for being here. As long as you can love there’s a reason for you to live – I realized that during my challenging time – and it helped me get through it. Let me repeat that: AS LONG AS YOU CAN LOVE THERE’S A REASON FOR YOU TO LIVE. There are people who need you here. Please don’t give up on your life.
You are loved.
via The Rebirth Ring
(Originally published on Mother’s Day, 2018.)
I’m missing Moz this Mother’s Day. I wish she was here with me so we could watch The Music Man together and laugh at the Shipoopi song. I wish I could hear her talk about her father one more time, and sing the Christopher Robin song with her. I imagine taking her out to my hobbit hole of a secret garden and listening to the birds singing with her. I imagine sitting out on the back deck in the sun with her and talking about family and friends and politics.
When I’d driven her home from the hospital a month before she’d passed she’d smacked her lips together and said, “I want some cream cheese dip and potato chips.” I wish I could give that to her one more time.
I can’t do any of those things with Moz right now – but here’s what I’ve got: I’ve got memories of laughing together, singing together, talking together; I’ve got the lessons she taught me – be kind to everyone; “love the hell” out of the crabby people; treat all of God’s creation with care and respect; be generous; play fair; speak up for the little guy; keep learning; be able to laugh at yourself; be brave; be honorable; have some awesome adventures. I carry Moz’s love with me.
Here’s wishing mothers everywhere a most magnificent Mother’s Day.
So last year in honor of Moz I sent a bouquet of Mother’s Day flowers to a friend who had been very dear to Moz. This year it came to me that I needed to honor Moz by bringing a Starbucks gift card to one of my heroes: The bank manager at Moz and Dad’s bank who had been so kind and helpful and amazing to my parents and I as we’ve negotiated moves and death and inheritance and safety deposit boxes in the last couples years. I seriously do not know what we would have done without Laura in our corner.
When I got to the bank Laura recognized me right away and gave me a big hug and I handed her the card. She told me to come back into her office when I was done with the banking stuff I had to do. When I joined her at her desk she told me that on Wednesdays in Anacortes the schools always start late and so she and other moms have taken to meeting at Starbucks with their youngsters for breakfast. And last Wednesday, Laura told me, she brought chalk to Starbucks for the kids to color the sidewalks. Then she got out her phone and showed me how the youngsters had “bedazzled ” the sidewalks in front of Starbucks. People heard about it and came to look at their sidewalk gallery. If the weather is nice next Wednesday, she’s going to bring sidewalk chalk to Starbucks again. And she’ll have my Starbucks card to get herself something to drink. 🙂
I think Moz would be happy about the Starbucks card – I can imagine her smiling.