Notes from Jan

Doing What’s Possible

May 28, 2021

He stood on a Gloucester street corner playing a flute. Odd sight except for a tip bucket at his feet. I rolled down my windows to catch the sound of someone doing what they could with what they had. The talent wasn’t worthy of a Grammy but that’s not always the goal. Sometimes you play to sing for your supper, or simply release sweet sounds into a world riddled with discord. Like last Sunday when we sang OUT LOUD at church. Sweet sounds of singing altogether.

Or Tuesday night when I reluctantly “picked up my flute to do what’s possible” and speak on grief and loss to the Stephen Ministry group via Zoom. The leader suggested I refer to journal entries written on CaringBridge during Jud’s illness. Mostly I’d resisted looking back, rereading those notes until now. Part of me feared I’d get stuck back there, weeping like there’s no tomorrow.

But tomorrows came and so did today. And sometimes the heart and will to go on comes in choosing to be thankful for what was and appreciating what is. Like Dr. Mary Pipher wrote, ” Gratitude is a survival skill.”

The day before Jud died I wrote,”The miracle I longed for isn’t happening. I’m not sure what constitutes a true miracle , apart from ones in the Bible like the blind seeing, lame leaping and deaf hearing. But today I’m wondering if I’m too stuck on the physical kind. What about mental or spiritual miracles? Like having done all to still stand,(Ephesians 6) trusting God, even while lying down, vulnerable in a hospital gown, with swollen feet belly and legs, with sores and cancer creep. Like Jud’s wordless declarations that God loves me and you to the last drop, to the last breath.”

Not all Daniels or Daniellas get rescued from hungry lions.

Maybe the miracle then, as now, is choosing again and again to do what’s possible with what’s in our hands. Make the appointment. Do the treatment. Get the vaccine. Share the meal. Relinquish. Forgive. Pray anyhow. Hope on. Pick up our flute and play. Faith with sleeves rolled up. Choosing to trust God without answers, signs, wonders or tips in the bucket.

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  • Reply Taylor Carol May 28, 2021 at 10:16 pm

    I continue to read and ponder your blogs. If you want to look up Mark Taylor on caringbridge you will see out latest adventure. We are sending grandchild number two to college in the fall. How is that possible?!
    Carol Taylor

    • Reply Jan Carlberg June 2, 2021 at 12:22 pm

      Very dear Carol, it does me good to see your name but I don’t relish looking up Mark’s name on CaringBridge. The fact that you added the word “adventure” to your invitation suggests you are experiencing God’s safety net through friends and family in whatever you are enduring.. As to sending off a grandchild to college? Seems like Jud and I just welcomed two of your children, Margaret and Stephen, to Gordon College! Grateful for them and you, Carol ad Mark.

  • Reply Shannon May 28, 2021 at 10:39 pm


    • Reply Jan Carlberg June 2, 2021 at 12:23 pm

      Thank you, dear Shannon, and especially for your caring and wise leadership during this past year in our small group at Community Bible Study.

  • Reply Nancy Vecchio May 28, 2021 at 10:40 pm

    Well, you beautiful heart, that says it all. Simple trust that God our “Father knows best”

    • Reply Jan Carlberg June 2, 2021 at 12:25 pm

      And thank you, dear Nancy, for your “beautiful heart” made visible through your loving care for us in our small group this year in Community Bible Study.

  • Reply Gail MacDonald May 29, 2021 at 5:20 am

    You, dear Janny have been choosing to pick up your flute for all the decades I have known you. I wonder if the man who made the choice to pick up his flute had any idea how many people would be inspired through his generous act? Perhaps he was desperate to get money for lunch. You looked and translated his actions into this inspiring blog for any and all of us to see the power of using what is in our hands. “Little is much when God is in it”, someone once said. And by opening your heart, reliving heartbreaking times, we are inspired this day to use whatever we have to bring a song back to this discordant world. One day at a time. With gratitude. Thank you.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg June 2, 2021 at 12:27 pm

      Thank you, my Forever Friend. Your words cheer me on and others will be cheered and find encouragement as they read your response.

  • Reply Deborah Vigneaux May 29, 2021 at 7:02 am

    That last paragraph is an exquisite statement of faith. I read it three times. Our faith is such a gift.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg June 2, 2021 at 12:34 pm

      Thank you, Deborah. I just reread that paragraph.and I thanked God for trusting me with insights, often beyond my natural understanding.

  • Reply Dale May 29, 2021 at 7:07 am

    Thanks Jan. I recently read the book With. I want my desire to be “with” Him and not to be asking for things from Him or even to do things for Him. Your words remind me He prayed for the cup to pass and than took a big gulp. Jud is in His presence where he was during his life. A good and safe place to me. Your words are encouraging. Love, Dale

    • Reply Jan Carlberg June 2, 2021 at 12:41 pm

      Thank you, my dear friend, Dale. I celebrate you on our mutual birthday today. You’re younger, smarter, funnier. and a Republican. So how are we still friends!? Well, for whatever reasons, I hope that never changes. You and Marty are my faithful ” phils.”

  • Reply Radina Welton May 29, 2021 at 7:25 am

    Saving this imprinted in my mind and spirit for future use. For someone else or just me.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg June 2, 2021 at 12:43 pm

      Thank you, dear Radina. We all need reminders. I’m grateful something in this blog spoke to you and maybe for “future use.” Please send hugs from me to those Petrocellis.

  • Reply Marylou Habecker May 29, 2021 at 7:27 am

    Beautifully and powerfully said.
    We love you
    Marylou and Zheng

    • Reply Jan Carlberg June 2, 2021 at 12:47 pm

      Thank you, Marylou. It’s always good to hear from you. Loved being colleagues for the many years you served at Taylor and Jud and I at Gordon.

  • Reply marilyn bullock May 29, 2021 at 8:27 am

    Jan I do enjoy your writing and pray often for you. Enjoy a Happy Birthday this week.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg June 2, 2021 at 12:49 pm

      Well, my JOY Bible study and Grace Chapel friend, it’s good to hear from you, as always. Thank you for remembering my birthday, dear Marilyn! Considering this past year plus, I’m grateful to still be around and happy to read you are, too..

  • Reply Evelyn M Morgan June 2, 2021 at 6:09 pm

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, old roomie! Your blogs speak to my heart and I am so thankful God placed you and your family in my life.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg June 4, 2021 at 10:41 am

      Thanks, dear Evie! l love hearing from you and I am grateful we were roommates at Wheaton and friends beyond.

  • Reply wendy June 26, 2021 at 11:54 am

    This one I forwarded on to a couple friends who have lost their spouses in the last year – so precious. and such timely, soothing, courageous words. “Do what’s possible with what is in your hands…” Such wise words. <3

    • Reply Jan Carlberg June 29, 2021 at 1:00 pm

      And this is how we inch on by faith…step by step, tune by tune or in holy silence.

  • Reply Polly Ann Brown July 3, 2021 at 10:37 am

    Dear Jan, I’m not sure how I manage to let my circumstances and reading-choices and thoughts bend me out of shape and cause me to lose perspective but I’ve gotta’ tell you, my recent catching up on many of your recent blogs including this one lift me up and settle me on “surer ground.” Thank you!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 3, 2021 at 6:49 pm

      Some say “Timing is everything.” I think timing matters and find often, I get what I need when I need it. most. Sometimes words come unexpected, out of nowhere, to challenge, refresh, inform, teach or “settle us.” But you know that, you’re a writer, and a good one, Polly Ann.

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