Notes from Jan

On The Twelfth Day of Christmas

January 5, 2021
  Whew!  I'm not late. I feel like  Scrooge who awoke and learned he hadn't missed Christmas. There's still time to send Christmas greetings! Thank God for the internet.(sometimes) As for you who sent cards through the much maligned US Postal Service,  thank you.  You deserve medals or a fresh sheet of Forever stamps. For sure, your ilk and my preference for real letters and cards are shrinking.

However, I might as well join the long list of unprecedented events of this past year, and sneak in a greeting under the banner of the 12th Day of Christmas.  Which you know is today, unless you grew up Baptist, like I did. So here goes my first blog-card, which already sounds like something for which an apology is due.

But first, an explanation. Somewhere I read that a picture is worth a thousand words. So, I asked my son for a tutorial on downloading photos to this blog. The pictures  that follow attest to the fact I'm  teachable. The class took place via Zoom last Sunday, the 10th Day of Christmas. It went well, since only three times did my son yell, "Just shoot me, Mom, and end this misery!" Or, something like that. Granted we were into hour three.

Since Chad has a life beyond zooming, I learned just enough to insert the photos, but not enough to change the order. So I'll begin with the most recent, taken twelve days ago.   This illustrates how I handled being alone on Christmas morning for the first time in eighty years. After preparing a feast, I lit the Advent candles, surrounded myself with  photos, then breakfasted with the Grands.

Christmas brunch with the Grands December 25, 2020

From left to right: a bowl of fresh fruit, a cinnamon roll, 2 strips of crispy bacon, one scrambled egg and the cardinal mug with hot coffee infused with cardamom.

Oh, so sorry, since you’re probably more interested in who the Grands are. From left to right:Kate/Poco, Maggie, Basil, Luke and Lily. The “angel” Jud is in the small photo nearest the bacon. Actually, he’s on heaven’s porch shaking his head and praying.

Family photo late August 2019 in Chad and Kristina’s backyard

From left to right: Chad, Kristina, Lily, Maggie, Luke, Momo(me), Matt and Heather with Kate/Poco and Basil front and center, sorta.

The Carlberg family: Kristina, Maggie, Chad, Kate and Cozy, their dog. Blue hair courtesy of Poco.

Momo with the five Grands, 2019
I have no idea what Luke said or did to his sister, Lily, that has her doubled over.
The Willis family: Luke Heather, Matt, Lily with Basil in recline mode.
The view from my Perch on January 3, 2021. In the background is Good Harbor Beach, marshlands and the Atlantic ocean on its best behavior.

To be sure, faith, family, good neighbors, friends, zoom, this view, the coming vaccine and connecting through the blog infused shots of hope and joy during this no-good-very-bad year. Overall, as one year ended and another began, I felt relief and thankfulness.

So, instead of waiting for the Times Square ball to drop, I dropped to my knees. Part of my prayer was to be able to get back up. So why pray? Growing up Baptist we weren’t into kissing strangers or clinking glasses of champagne to welcome the New Year. However, we were into casseroles, jello molds, desserts and going to church on New Year’s Eve for Watch Night Services.

We older kids helped hang crepe paper streamers in the church basement and arrange folding chairs. Then, after potluck supper, old and young played games and watched a Moody science film. It was more fun than it sounds. Which says more than I wish about our social life.

Then, about eleven o’clock we went upstairs to sing , share testimonies and end the evening praying. It was mostly the older folks, who had the most to say about God’s faithfulness. As a kid I wondered sometimes how they could be so positive. I knew some had been sick, lost jobs, dealt with failed crops and problems in their marriages and families. Yet still , to them, God was faithful and life, though hard, was good.

And now, that I’m old, I get it. They sang what they believed. “Through many dangers, toils and snares, we have already come. ‘Twas grace has brought us safe thus far and grace will lead us home.” It’s still true. Which is why I chose to be on my knees five nights ago, a little before midnight, like we did when I was a kid. Those old ordinary saints, taught me more than they or I realized about life, love, sacrifice, courage, resiliency and faithfulness. Theirs, as well as God’s.

So to all of you on this Twelfth Day of Christmas and the fifth day of January, 2021, I say,”Thank you.” You are blessings I count, instead of sheep. You, young and old, are some of those ordinary saints to me and to more than you realize.

And so to bridge the past year with 2021, I pass along one of my favorite prayers. It’s from the heart of Eugene Peterson, and one I first read in Harold Myra’s, One Year Book of Encouragement.(June 10th entry)

God of all beginnings and all endings, I bring all my unfinished business to you…everything I started and couldn’t finish, all that I began and lost interest in, all that I began in hope and quit in despair. Make finished work of it all, by your grace. Amen”

Harold responded with,”The amen may be the most important part of his prayer. He puts his concerns before the Lord and then leaves them in his hands.”

Well, it’s the Twelfth Day of Christmas and, according to the song, there’s a ruckus in and around any house that’s received these gifts. As for partridges, turtle doves, and french hens, I prefer Mrs. Rodgers fried chicken and Lily McGinley’s fresh coconut cake over five gold rings. Nine ladies dancing weren’t an option in our Baptist Church. But when it comes to ten lords a-leaping, eleven pipers piping and twelve drummers drumming, I’ll take a basement festooned with streamers and a five star or more potluck. But mostly I’d take to heart that deep sense from those old saints who believed by faith not sight, that the best was still to come.

Oh, and I’d love hearing any one of those wrinkled saints say grace, before becoming the sight of grace on worn out knees, as they offered aloud their hopes, fears and even longer litany of thanks to Grace, himself.

And as for the year ahead?

“Through many dangers toils and snares we have already come. ‘Twas grace has brought us safe thus far and grace will lead us home.”


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  • Reply Mark Taylor January 5, 2021 at 5:03 pm

    Happy 12th Day! Wonderful photos, and what a nice view out toward the ocean. Blessings as we all move into 2021.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 5, 2021 at 9:13 pm

      Thanks, Mark. And blessings to you and your wonderful family.

  • Reply Jeanne Smith January 5, 2021 at 5:53 pm

    Thanks for such a beautiful, meaningful post! You and yours are wished all God’s choicest blessings in the coming year.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 5, 2021 at 9:14 pm

      Thanks, Jeanne. You were patient to read such a long blog-card. Grace and peace to you i 2021.

  • Reply Mrs. Linda moore January 5, 2021 at 6:09 pm

    Loved reading your letter and especially appreciated seeing the pictures of you with your family. These kids and grand kids grow up fast…. sigh. Love you!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 5, 2021 at 9:15 pm

      Yes, “turn around” and they’re grown up. Love to you and your family, Linda.

  • Reply Marty Lefever January 5, 2021 at 7:39 pm

    The best Christmas 12th Day greeting EVER complete with great pics of your beautiful family! Chad did “good!” Happy New Year, dear friend! Love those good Baptist traditions…I’m right there with you! Love you, Jan…

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 5, 2021 at 9:18 pm

      Thanks, Marty! Happy to get you caught up on family photos, since I’ve done nothing since 2013 when we did the 50th in Hawaii. Love always to you, Dale and your wonderful family. and a very happy, healthier New Year.

  • Reply Randall Mathews January 5, 2021 at 8:41 pm

    Dear Jan:

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on the Twelfth Day of Christmas. It made my day!! So good to see the extended Carlberg family all in one place and looking so joyful We do miss those hugs from Maggie and Kate each Sunday.

    You are in our thoughts and prayers..

  • Reply Jan Carlberg January 5, 2021 at 9:21 pm

    Well, we are all hug deprived at this point. I’ve had to fight grabbing the UPS man or the garbage lady! The Grands miss you, too. Sending e-hugs to you and Alice and gratitude for your example of faithfulness.

  • Reply Nancy Mering January 5, 2021 at 9:45 pm

    You’ve prompted memories of very similar Watch Night services in our church in Baltimore those many years ago, Jan. Precious times; precious people who taught me and modeled well for me. Pray-ers. Hearty singers. Studiers of the Word. Big on fellowship. A foundation laid that has held me well these 70-plus years. For which I’m more grateful than I can say.

    Wishing you a new year of good health and abundant hugs, Jan–

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 5, 2021 at 10:20 pm

      Thank you, dear Nancy. You are one of those saints…an example of faithfulness. Hugs to you and David, as well.

  • Reply Wendy Lane January 6, 2021 at 11:10 am

    Oh my goodness, tears are streaming down my face. First of all I just loved every picture! Thank you to Chad for teaching you how!! So good and wonderful! What a gorgeous family. And second, what a beautiful, beautiful post. I think I am now one of the “older folks” who is able to testify so much about God’s faithfulness, and that though life can be hard, it’s good. We sing a song where the chorus is “And all my life You have been faithful, And all my life You have been so, so good. With every breath that I am able, Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God” I have so very much to be thankful for. Ok, going to read your post again 🙂 Love you!

  • Reply Maggie Wallem Rowe January 6, 2021 at 11:42 am

    Jan, I was a Baptist and a GUBASA (grew up born again, still am) so I didn’t know when 12th night was either. You have educated me! Now I wish I had read your post before I hit SEND on mine so my readers would have been fooled into thinking I was posting yesterday for a good liturgical reading. I loved your family pictures (keep them coming) and especially your description of Watch Night Services. We had those too, and while I didn’t appreciate them then, I would now. Methodists have lots going for them, like John Wesley, but I still miss some of those Baptist traditions. Thanks for taking me back to the fellowship room at First Baptist in Streator, IL. Keep writing please – the world needs you!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 6, 2021 at 11:57 am

      Thanks, Maggie. And the world needs you and your writing. There’s a lot I didn’t appreciate when I was younger and a preacher’s kid. Age has its perks and gratitude its place.

  • Reply Maggie Wallem Rowe January 6, 2021 at 11:43 am

    Oops – make that a good liturgical REASON.

  • Reply Carolyn Sylvester January 6, 2021 at 11:54 am

    Thanks so much, Jan, for the pictures. You did a great job. Your smile is exactly how I remember seeing you “years ago” at Joy Bible Study at Grace Chapel in Lexington. Your kids’ families look wonderful and blessed. Beautiful on the inside, I am sure, as well as on the outside.
    Happy New Year. Carolyn

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 6, 2021 at 11:59 am

      Thank you, dear Carolyn. JOY Bible Study and Grace Chapel will always have a home in my heart, as will you.

  • Reply Dale January 6, 2021 at 3:41 pm

    We need to view the world through God’s gifts. Our families provide the perfect lens and I can see your smile as you look (frequently) at these pictures and marvel at God’s grace. I don’t remember many Mennonite traditions except we did not wear jewelry, which saved the money we needed to buy hogs!

    Blessings, Dale

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 7, 2021 at 8:50 pm

      And you, Dale, bring the gift of laughter. I am so grateful for God’s gift of my family and of your friendship.

  • Reply Evelyn M Morgan January 7, 2021 at 4:24 pm

    So special to see recent pictures of your beautiful family. I had to go back to annual Christmas letters to see your family in formative years. They are so beautiful, and the Jensen genes carried well. Your mama and daddy would be proud to know the Baptist upbringing still has special meaning. The Baptist traditions have not really changed in my 82 years and I am proud to say I am, not only a Baptist, but a born-again Christian waiting anxiously for Jesus to take us from this earth that has become so corrupt. Signs of the times are becoming more evident as each new year reveals itself.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 7, 2021 at 8:53 pm

      Well, I am happy to deliver more recent photos of the family, Evie, and to wish you and your family a hopeful and healthier New Year.

  • Reply Jill MacCully January 7, 2021 at 8:33 pm

    Happy New Year, Jan!!!! I loved seeing all your photos especially of all the loves of your life!!! It’s wonderful to put faces to all your grands because I love your stories of them. Thanks for keeping up your blog posts . It really helped me stay light hearted and sane in the midst of so much suffering! We can’t wait to be with all our grandkids again❤️!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 7, 2021 at 8:59 pm

      Thanks, Jill, and a Happy New Year to you. In light of yesterday’s assault on our Capitol, it’s important to look for ways to remain hopeful and to encourage each other to be people of truth and grace. I’m still pondering what to write. Meanwhile, I pray.

  • Reply Nancy vecchio January 11, 2021 at 7:17 pm

    Jan, you are such a delight! I’m sitting on my sofa next to my granddaughter of 12 years this month and laughing at times as your great sense of humor is imparted in your blogs and my Kiera asks me what are you laughing at..then I share what you’ve written and she laughs too.
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful memories of old. I think of the song, “Find us Faithful”..may all who come behind us find us faithful. May the fire of our devotion light their way..”
    Always my prayer..
    You are faithful and your devotion to God lights the way for many, including me!!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 12, 2021 at 5:03 pm

      Thank you, dear Nancy. You are a light in our small group at Community Bible Study. I appreciate your leadership and insights. And I’m grateful you and your granddaughter got a laugh or two out of something I wrote…and laughed at myself. I’ m desperate!

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