Notes from Jan

Humanity with a Side of Humor

July 7, 2021

Mama and Daddy wed in 1938 on the last day in June. That’s eighty-three years ago. It shouldn’t have worked but they hung on to God and each other for more than fifty years, honoring their vows by guts and grace,”until death do us part.” Daddy was the first to take off for heaven, Mama stayed another fifteen years.

Looking back, as their eldest, I remember the struggles, disconnects, and disappointments, and the times Daddy lost his job and his way. And I recall when Mama took on more than her share and, sometimes, spoke or wrote too “holy” for her good or ours. But mostly I’m aware of two sinner-saints who loved God, each other and their family through it all. And we’re not all that lovable.

Healthy relationships don’t just happen. Marriage taxes our bent towards selfishness, me first and me only. Add the baggage we tote, sometimes blessed and complicated by parenthood, showcase how grossly unprepared we are.

If I look at accomplishments, as the world values success, Daddy was a failure and Mama a successful nurse, writer and speaker. But there’s always more to the story. And that’s what I cherish. All those ordinary mealtimes, when Daddy prayed, then told jokes. He blessed more than our food. Looking back, I’m awed by his courage to carry on when life was less than hoped or prayed for or when he disappointed himself and others.

Each generation bears a mixed heritage, along with high hopes to take it up a notch or two. Looking back, therapy could’ve helped Daddy deal with so many debilitating criticisms, losses and flawed decisions. After he died, at age 79, I went through his suit jacket. On the inside pocket were some worn 3×5 cards containing notes on sharing Jesus with others, favorite Bible verses and cues for some of his favorite jokes.

Two nights ago, one of my favorite “kids,” slept over with my granddaughter, Lily. While Lily slept-in, we had a conversation about marriage. Her autism brings fascinating perspectives. When I asked what makes a good marriage, this was her response.

“Well, you need love, trust, forgiveness and S-E-X. Can I say that?”

“Yes, you can and may.”

“And then I think, sometimes you just need to switch on your humanity.”

That’s worth remembering.

So simple, but not easy.

Two human beings come together to do the best they can, often under circumstances neither could’ve imagined. When I look in the mirror I see both of my parents, their flaws and my own. Their need for guts and Grace, and mine. A heritage heavy on forgiveness and faith’s a rich one. I’m thankful for both.

One day we’ll gather again around heaven’s table for suppertime. I picture Daddy making notes on his favorite jokes, Mama rolling her eyes, while Jesus anticipates another good laugh.

Me, too.

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  • Reply Evelyn M Morgan July 7, 2021 at 11:11 pm

    JannyDawn (as you were called by my in-laws), your mom and dad were priceless. Being from the north, I had not been exposed to the gracious, loving and hugging I experienced from your Southern family. They had a way of making me feel like an old friend. My father-in-law jokingly called your mom Maggert and she loved to reciprocate with an appropriate comment. Your dad had a joke for every situation and had a way of gaining everyone’s love and respect. I remember one Christmas when I felt alone, your family welcomed me to spend the holidays and made me feel like one of the family. That left quite an impression and established a pattern for my life. Though no one is perfect, your family set a Godly example for those who knew them. I am forever indebted to your patience and understanding.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 8, 2021 at 9:54 am

      Thank you, very dear Evie, for reading, responding and adding to the blog with your reflections. Mama and Daddy were loving and gracious, super huggers and always ready to add another place at the table. It’s so like them to have wrapped you in love one lonely Christmas…YOU were the gift, never stuff. And you were a very special roommate in college. Love always to you and your family, “JannyDawn”

  • Reply Shannon July 10, 2021 at 9:54 am

    Thank you for remembering your parents. This world is for “sleeve rolling,” with all of our relationships. We have to constantly check our flawed vision of others and remember our blindness to ourselves, then trust God’s higher perspective and purpose. Summer, when we are all out of routine and in more constant orbit of each other, seems to be God’s timing to remind us of that here. We are rolling up our sleeves, using our knees and putting ourselves in God’s hands to treasure each other as He sees each of us. As we interact with more people who don’t know him in the summer, camp grounds, day camps, parks, my kids get sad at how many people either struggle without him or are just dark-stumbling in what they think is purpose and happiness. I like your Dad’s cards- sounds like he had a constant awareness of his true job here and the importance of it above worldly success.

  • Reply Jan Carlberg July 10, 2021 at 10:51 am

    Thank you, Shannon, for your comments. Summertime’s a great time to get out and about. And then to enjoy the world and people beyond our usual circles. So much and so many to love.

  • Reply Priscilla Young July 13, 2021 at 11:15 pm

    This is really just beautiful, Jan. That’s all!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 14, 2021 at 11:19 am

      Thank you, dear Priscilla. To look back takes courage and trust in the God who sees and knows all, but especially aware of the heart’s intentions. Blessings on you,Mark and Denver Seminary, a place that’s a rich part of our heritage.

  • Reply Nancy Vecchio July 17, 2021 at 10:21 am


    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 17, 2021 at 2:03 pm

      Thank you, dear Nancy. Happy summering! See you, hopefully, in the fall at Community Bible Study.

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