Notes from Jan

And Grace To Lead Us Home

August 21, 2023

On our last night at the beach house, we gathered for a shrimp-a-roo. Since this was to celebrate my birthday, Chris brought tablecloths. Fresh flowers showed up, along with some twinkling lights hung from rafters. Matt’s specialty.

Soon the feast appeared: boiled shrimp, fresh corn on the cob, and Lily’s orzo/Feta/spinach salad. Then came sweet tea, fresh lemon slices and the strong urge to dig in. But none of us did. Heather looked across at my brother and said, “Uncle Ralph, will you pray for us.” And he did but not until he reached out and took hold of my hand and everyone connected hand to hand.

There’s more than one issue we’d disagree on but not enough to break that circle. And not enough to stop loving each other. After Ralph said, “In Jesus name, Amen” I didn’t want to let loose of his hand. They’re the big, calloused, work-worn hands of a woodworker and skilled carver. And a reminder that some prodigals come home. So I held on a little longer and said, “Thanks.” I needed his hand holding mine and his prayer for us.

However, grace is more than a prayer before mealtime. It’s also a way of seeing others, living out our faith. One look around that table and I saw grace at work. Generations of God’s grace to us and sometimes through us. And I felt like weeping from joy and gratitude. And I might have, if I didn’t feel a greater need to grab some shrimp before my cousin, Steve, ate it all.

So we feasted and shouted over each other to pass this and that. And just when we couldn’t swallow another bite, Kristina and Heather started collecting plates and reminding us to keep our forks. Well, we knew that was code for dessert’s coming. And before I could lick my fork clean, in came a blazing coconut cake. A beauty made by my niece, Elise. Sparklers lit up the cake and for the 3rd time that week we sang Happy Birthday. First for Matt (July 29), then for Lily (August 4) and tonight for me. It was the perfect finale to our week of southern celebrations.

Chris, Ralph and I headed to “our” rockers, while younger ones cleaned up the kitchen. Kristina led the crew. Then, little by little the porch filled with family and friends, like Hillary, her daughters and Elise’s friend, Kerry. Soon rockers, beach chairs, the hammock and laps were peopled. And in a place where the sun and moon frame time, not clocks, we sensed it was time to sing something besides Happy Birthday.

Luke grabbed a guitar, Chad his banjo, and soon Lily, Maggie, Bazy and Luke formed a quartet. Poco and the rest joined in. I didn’t know the lyrics to most of their songs. But I loved listening. After a while Heather said, “Mom, what would you like to sing?” While I puzzled, Heather said, “How about Amazing Grace?” And I choked out a “Yes.”

They all knew the first verse and last. But when it came to one of the middle ones, I pretty much sang a solo.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares

I have already come

This grace that brought me safe thus far

And grace will lead me home.”

As the eldest, I have the longest history with Grace. So I silently prayed for God’s mercy to keep them safe and for “grace to lead us HOME.”

Oh, and I prayed to return to The Beach House, a sacred space, where sandy feet, shrimp, sweet tea and Grace link generations.

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33 Comments

  • Reply Mark D Taylor August 21, 2023 at 12:50 pm

    Wonderful. I’m glad you could share your birthday with so many friends and family.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 21, 2023 at 3:21 pm

      Nothing quite like it. While my actual birthday is June 2, we decided to wait until we were all at The Beach House. At my age, it’s risky to postpone almost anything. But part of living fully today is refusing to relinquish hope. Always great to hear from you, dear Mark. May God bless you and your family with many more Grace-full days,

  • Reply Kris August 21, 2023 at 1:00 pm

    So so beautiful Momo!! Thank you! It was like I was there ❤️ how I wish I was

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 21, 2023 at 3:25 pm

      Well, you’ve been to that beach house with our family, dear Kris, so you know its worth. And we know your worth. Priceless! Maybe next year, if we go, you and your family can join us. After all, you’ve been part of our family since you and Heather became friends at age 6 when you were part of Sunday School at Grace Chapel. Talk about Grace!

  • Reply dale August 21, 2023 at 1:46 pm

    Beautiful and great reminders we are redeemed by His grace so we can live by His grace. Sometimes, the latter is the greater challenge for me. Blessings, Dale

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 21, 2023 at 3:28 pm

      And the lyrics to Newton’s hymn remind me of ways you and Marty have been an extension of God’s Grace to Jud and me as we “faithed” “dangers, toils and snares.” Thank you, dear Dale and Marty. Happy days at Burt Lake to you and your gang.

  • Reply Evelyn Morgan August 21, 2023 at 1:48 pm

    Love this family. Special memories. Margaret (Maggart) is smiling from above.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 21, 2023 at 3:30 pm

      Yes, dear Evie, I’m sure heaven’s porch was crowded as they kept an eye on us. How fun to think of that “great cloud of witnesses.” I know they’re praying and cheering us on.

  • Reply George Richardson August 21, 2023 at 2:28 pm

    Amen to all of this. Here’s hoping for a return trip!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 21, 2023 at 3:34 pm

      Great to hear form you, dear George. And thanks for the phone call. Hope all’s well in Colorado for you and Linda. As you know, Jud loved being by the ocean to swim, fish or boat. I’m sure he enjoyed the week with us. As a seminary grad, don’t check my theology, George. I go by “holy” hunches sometimes.

  • Reply Alice M Shea August 21, 2023 at 3:04 pm

    Makes me wish my family would gather together to sing unto the Lord!
    Never giving up hope

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 21, 2023 at 3:39 pm

      Well, that sounds more holy than my family is. We like singing and playing instruments and making joyful noises. As for songs, most were pop or country. The only one you’d probably recognize, like me, was Amazing Grace. But sometimes that’s all you need. I’ve learned the most important thing, dear Alice, is finding ways to come together. That’s sacred stuff and to love one another, I believe, is a form of “singing unto the Lord.”

  • Reply shelly moran August 21, 2023 at 4:29 pm

    Well Happy Birthday to you dear, Jan! Good people are born in August (mine’s Wednesday :-))
    May the peace of God and His Grace keep you…. So happy I am blessed to know you.
    Love,
    Shelly

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 21, 2023 at 8:09 pm

      Thanks, dear Shelly, Happy birthday to you but while we celebrated in August, my birthday is June 2nd. We voted to delay the celebration until we were all together in North Carolina. It was so worth the wait. And yes, good people are born in August, like my first Grand, Lily. Thanks for taking the time to read the blog and respond. Looking forward to another year with Community Bible Study.

  • Reply Marge August 21, 2023 at 4:31 pm

    What a beautiful story, Jan. Full of warmth, love and grace. I wish you a very Happy Birthday, my dear friend. XOXO

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 21, 2023 at 8:10 pm

      Thanks, dear Marge. My birthday is actually June 2nd but we voted to celebrate when we were together at the beach in August. So happy we did. Fun to have one party after another and all the joy in between.

    • Reply shelly moran August 21, 2023 at 10:03 pm

      Me too! I love your blogs. They always bring a smile to my heart.

      • Reply Jan Carlberg August 22, 2023 at 9:25 am

        Good to know. Happy to share smiles, laughter and tears.

  • Reply valerie mccoy August 21, 2023 at 5:21 pm

    Absolutely beautiful, tenderhearted, and filled with warmth, Jan. One of the many reasons I love you is that your writing evokes a ‘gathering’ of every one of your friends into your life. I imagine myself rocking my way through your family conversation as I eat the 2nd piece of coconut cake, with no apologies. It’s such joy to be able to selfishly insert myself into your celebration….which is why you are such a good writer!
    My sister, who died not long ago used to have a secret….if we saw each other with our sunglasses on, it meant that we had been weeping….with joy OR sorrow. We didn’t have to discuss it, we just knew what it meant and all that was needed was a tender embrace. And it was an embrace that covered every spoken and unspoken thought.

    So if you’ll excuse me, I have to go clean the lenses of my sunglasses.

    You are a trophy of God’s handiwork, Jan.
    Valerie

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 21, 2023 at 8:13 pm

      Oh, dear Valerie, I’m so sorry to read about your sister’s death. As for the secret you shared, it’s a good one. My sister-in-love, Chris, is my soul-sister. My brother, Ralph,picked a great one. We laugh and cry together a lot, even though she’s in North Carolina. Thank you for all your encouragement. Now, go clean your sunglasses and I’ll clean mine.

  • Reply Liz Babbitt August 21, 2023 at 8:16 pm

    Jan, wonderful, memory making days to capture in your heart. I recently saw a cute meme that said simply, “We’re all just walking each other home.” Grace. Happy Birthday from one August birthday partier to another.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 21, 2023 at 8:22 pm

      Thanks, dear Liz. Sounds like you’re an August birthday. I’m not. We just decided to celebrate my June 2 birthday in August when we’d all be together. So happy birthday to you. And I love the quote. We are to help each other make it Home.

  • Reply Maggie Rowe August 21, 2023 at 10:38 pm

    Just beautiful, Jan, like you. Thank you for allowing us to sit on the porch with you and your family vicariously. (But I do wish you had shared that shrimp with us, too.)
    Grace truly does know the way Home.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 22, 2023 at 9:31 am

      Nothing like a porch. Especially those old wraparound ones in the South with fans circling overhead. Nap inducers. Add the sound of waves and the salted, humid air and troubles take leave, at least for a time. As for sharing the shrimp, you’ll have to fight off Steve and my brother. We mean well. We just don’t always share well. Thanks, dear Maggie, for stopping by.

  • Reply SHARON DAVIE August 22, 2023 at 4:19 pm

    Dearest JAN, How often you take everyday happenings or special events and turn them into reasons to celebrate and praise God who is always present. Thank you, Sharon

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 23, 2023 at 9:11 am

      And you just showed up as another reason to celebrate and praise God, dear Sharon. I’ve been praying for you all in Southern California as storms do damage. Thank you for taking time to read this blog and respond. Hug the Gaedes for me. You have a wonderful pastor in Tom Haugen at El Montecito Presbyterian Church.

  • Reply Julie Ann Mozena August 25, 2023 at 6:27 pm

    Oh Jan – I feel like I was sitting at the table with you all! What a gorgeous description. You captured a true summer holiday celebration with your beautiful writing. I’m so happy for you all that you could share that time together, and celebrate all of those birthdays. I look forward to seeing you next time you’re in town! Love, Julie

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 26, 2023 at 8:57 am

      Oh, dear Julie, we’ll always scoot over to make room for you at the table. Heather did the booking and planning so it was bound to be a great time for all. And I look forward, as always, to breakfast with you at Comfort’s the next time I’m in San Anselmo. Or to grab anything with cardamom. Hugs to you and Trevor.

  • Reply Wendy Lane September 20, 2023 at 5:22 pm

    I actually read this weeks ago – but wanted to respond when I had a few moments to think and write something meaningful. Words have never been my gift, please just ask me about numbers and I’ll do fine! Haha. Anyway, I just loved reading about this gathering. So very thankful you had this time together. Coming from a large family (6 brothers and sisters – so with all the children and children’s children, “Wilson” the most recent baby was number 63!) I understand there are usually a LOT of dynamics. But love truly covers all. Priceless!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg September 20, 2023 at 5:36 pm

      Love and Grace, dear Wendy, often work behind the scenes to weave us together. Sacred stitching to keep us from unraveling. Thanks for taking the time to re-read and respond. May God continue to bless you, Steve and your family.

  • Reply Wendy Lane September 20, 2023 at 5:59 pm

    And you and yours dear Jan! ❤️

  • Reply Ruth Flesvig Gibson December 1, 2023 at 11:23 am

    Jan, All last night I was reading “A Nail in a Sure Place.” I think I read it before but I really love that book by your Mom. I also like the words you wrote to me. You said I was a super Mom to you at Wheaton. (It was so fun to be freshman Mom) We saw each other at the Covenant Trienial where we were we both speakers. I live in a retirement community in Carol Stream, near Wheaton. Lots of Wheaton people here. I also am a widow. I followed Jud’s career at Gordon. It seems like he died so young. I have my class reunion next year. I think it is 65th! It would be great to catch up. Love and Blessings to you from Ruth Flesvig Gibson class of 1959 Flesvig is Norwegian. Dad was born in Norway.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 2, 2023 at 11:09 am

      What a wonderful surprise to see your name show up on my screen, dear Ruth. And thank you for reading and loving my Mama’s books. She was a nail in a sure place in our family. And has been a resource through her books to point many to trust Jesus to help them make it home. So sorry to read your are a widow. As I’ve written before, when I start to slip downward, gratitude lifts me up. It’s a daily choice to be grateful for what I had but also for what I still have. It’s good you’re in a community with outher Wheaton people. As for Jud, he died 9 years ago in November, age 74. Young.
      You were a wonderful Mom to our class and I enjoyed our time speaking together at the Covenant Trienial. So, as one Norwegian to another I say, “Tussen Takk,”dear Ruth.

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