Notes from Jan

Leafless Beauty

December 18, 2020

For days Dean Robert taught about trees. Not Christmas trees but the ones we live among throughout the year. England abounds in astonishing varieties.

Today, as the Dean began morning prayers from the Canterbury gardens he simply stated, “This morning I sit beneath a Crabapple tree. It’s leafless now but as I look up, its branches are making beautiful patterns above me.” Fascinating.

During winter months, I sometimes long for the leaves of spring to break up the bleakness. Too often it’s easier to focus on what isn’t than to appreciate what is, like the beauty of bare branches, stalks and twigs. And pausing to appreciate a sturdy trunk, resilient bark and the many shades and tones of brown and gray.

In people, too.

Truth be told. And eventually it must. I shifted from branches to beings when I interrupted myself(who else during lockdown?) with the reminder I’m to teach Sunday School via zoom. I’m bare branches, stripped bark and shallow roots when it comes to technology. While I’m thankful for zoom to link to family and friends, I’m running on empty when zoom and I are to perform as a team. Often I freeze under the heading, “unstable connection.”


Well, those thoughts left me chilled and in need of another layer. So I went to the closet and grabbed a sweater. It felt as cold as I, so tossed it in the dryer. After a few minutes I pulled it out and wrapped myself in comfort. That’s the closest I’ve come to a warm hug in way too long.

Aging and tough times can leave one feeling chilled and looking leafless. But for any of us who feel pummeled and laid bare by winter’s storms, there’s hope.


For me, God sometimes shows up with an idea like,”toss that sweater in the dryer.” I’d warmed pajamas for my Grands before but nothing like this just for me.

So I raised my warmed branches, looked up and saw beautiful patterns of Grace. And as for zoom, familiar words reminded me to,”Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you.”(I Peter 5:7.NLT)

Which takes me back to some of the earliest words in the Christmas story.


You,too, Beautiful and Blessed Branches. God’s got more than a vaccine on the way.

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  • Reply Caroline B Stogrin December 18, 2020 at 6:51 pm

    Our two youngest sons were born in the Yukon and we always put their towels in the dryer so they had a warm wrap up when they finished a bath. Thank you for the great memory you brought to my mind! I will remember to “look up” while getting through these dark days of COVID.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 31, 2020 at 6:13 pm

      Keep looking up but don’t trip on the doorstep of this New Year…for which we are ALL most grateful. Happy to bring up a happy memory for you and for all who read this post. Thanks so much for reading and sharing with us.

  • Reply dale December 18, 2020 at 9:09 pm

    “Up north” when the leaves are gone you can see the sky; and, the DirecTV works better as well.. Better “reception” all around. 🙂

    Virtual hug to my sister Jan.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 31, 2020 at 6:15 pm

      Thanks for the virtual hug. They’re not as warm but much more personal since they’re connected to the face of a very dear friend.

  • Reply Marilyn Bullock December 18, 2020 at 9:29 pm

    Hi Jan, I too enjoy Canterbury Cathedral and Dean’s words of encouragement. daily.
    SO glad to read your words too.
    Have a Blessed Christmas even thou different.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 31, 2020 at 6:10 pm

      Thank you, dear Marilyn. May the New Year bring comfort and joy to and through you.

  • Reply Shirley Westrate December 18, 2020 at 11:32 pm

    Beautiful and Blessed…and Beloved, Jan.

  • Reply Wendy Lane December 30, 2020 at 8:47 am

    First, I looked out my window and stared at the trees for a few minutes, in a new way… they truly are beautiful. I never thought of looking at the bare branches that way before.
    Second, I’m totally in your boat with Zoom and technology! Love it when Steve gets it all set up and I can see my family and friends. Don’t love it so much when I’m leading my Bible Study and all those women are depending on me – yikes!
    Third, as soon as I finish writing this I’m going to throw my sweatshirt in the dryer – brilliant!
    And last, but not least, I’m so thankful we can “Fear Not” because of Jesus.
    Love you dear Jan!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 31, 2020 at 6:08 pm

      One of the gifts of the almost -here- New -Year is a fresh look at more than trees.. Enjoy the view…and Steve.

  • Reply Alyssa Arnold December 31, 2020 at 11:45 am

    Jan, I am a fan of your idea to toss a sweater in the dryer to get a warm hug. Thanks for the comfort. Take courage and stay warm.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 31, 2020 at 6:06 pm

      It gets cold in Utah so I’m happy to share a “warm hug” idea with one “my Gordon girls.” Sending hope and joy to you and
      Andrew for the New Year, which is just a few hours away.

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