Notes from Jan

Coffee On The Run

December 6, 2023

What a mess! I texted Lillian, “So sorry. I’m going to be late.” We were meeting to go to IKEA. Simple. Not so simple, since I decided to do Advent readings, light candles at breakfast instead of dinnertime. All good until I knocked over my coffee and it spread faster than a lie towards the opened King James Bible. Heaven help me!

Now, some of you may be wondering, “Why is she reading that translation?” Well, I don’t usually, except at Christmas. I like the language I heard as a child in church and around our dining room table when Daddy read the Bible. I like reading exact words I heard often from my parents and grandparents from Luke 1:37, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” So much seems impossible these days.

But here I was, wanting a few holy moments. Instead, I’m grabbing rags to mop up coffee. Life on the run. I wanted to protect the Bible that protects me, even when I don’t always respond with simple faith and trust like Mary. “And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word…” (Luke 1:38)

Then, there was another reason I YELLED when I saw the coffee running towards the Bible’s edges. My Norwegian grandparents gave that Bible to us. It’s big and cumbersome, and one of the first things I’d grab in case of a fire. Elias Tweten was a Baptist minister and my grandfather. While both grandparents were loved and valued, it was my grandmother, Ella, who had the greater influence on me. So this Bible connects me to more than my youth. It’s part of our family history. A legacy of grace, forgiveness, failures, tenacious faith and hope.

The Bible is inscribed as follows:

To dear Janice and Jud from Grandma and Grandpa Tweten August 14, 1966

For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.” Psalm 48:14

Their simple testimony in King James English.

A small cross, crocheted by my grandmother, bookmarks the passage that continues to mark me. But now, the Bible has the scent of coffee. Which, if you know any Norwegians, probably isn’t such a bad thing. In the end it’s about the Bible getting into us. Not about what gets onto the Bible.

Well, Mama, Grandma and my Norwegian relatives are probably drinking the best coffee ever on heaven’s porch, while laughing over this blog. After all, Mama wrote a book called, First We Have Coffee about her Norwegian family: the good, bad, and needy wrapped in God’s faithfulness and love. Kinda like the Bible. Stories of imperfect people loved perfectly by God.

Well, Mama spilled the beans, so to speak, when she wrote that book.

I just spilled the coffee.


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  • Reply Maggie Wallem Rowe December 6, 2023 at 11:30 am

    Jan, your post today made me smile as we still have “First We Have Coffee” in our home in my mom’s small collection of books, along with several other titles by Margaret. Perhaps the moral of your tale should be NOT to take your mor’s advice, but to have coffee SECOND after Bible reading instead! Please keep spilling your words into our lives – I look forward to them every week.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 6, 2023 at 6:05 pm

      Thnaks, dear Maggie. As one Norwegian to another, Tusen Takk.

  • Reply Gordon Candy December 6, 2023 at 12:07 pm

    Just love it! The simplicity sometimes of live that reconnects us to the absolute truth. Sometime we’ll sit and have the good cup of coffee that the spoon stands up in:)

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 6, 2023 at 6:08 pm

      Well, dear Candy, I’m Norwegian and like coffee but not as strong as that. However time with you would sweeten it, for sure. Good to see you at Grace Chapel a couple of weeks ago to celebrate the 75th birthday of Grace. So well-named. And you’re so good at welcoming, even old Norwegians.

  • Reply Shirley Westrate December 6, 2023 at 1:05 pm

    If my present expression is any indication, I dare say you are creating lots of broad smiles today, dear Jan. Thank you, as always,

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 6, 2023 at 6:12 pm

      Happy to add a smile to your day, dear Shirley. Always good to hear from you.

  • Reply Radina Welton December 6, 2023 at 2:00 pm

    Love the humor, Jan, spilled into this stressful season and scary world. All of my childhood memorization was out of that King James Version spilled intome. It continues to brace up my faith whenever I often pray, “I believe, Lord. Help thou my unbelief!” Thank you and happy advent!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 6, 2023 at 6:17 pm

      Me too, dear Radina. The memory verses tucked inside me are from the King James Version of the Bible. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son ,that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlastig life.” John 3:16 So good to hear from you all the way from Oregon. Say hi to those Petrocellis for me. Blessed Advent to you and yours.

  • Reply Laurel Fox December 6, 2023 at 2:03 pm

    Hello Jan,
    I always enjoy your writing..but especially this one today! I grew up in Saskatchewan with lots of Scandinavians. I remember when I first found your mother’s book, “First we have coffee “ and I was hooked and I’ve read all her subsequent writings!
    Love the humour but also the deeper truths…thank you for what you share !

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 6, 2023 at 6:20 pm

      What a lovely surprise to meet you, dear Laurel, through this blog. As you know Mama’s stories included many from Canada. Years ago, I took her back to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, How she loved that area! Thank you for taking the time to respond. You encouraged me.

  • Reply Dale December 6, 2023 at 2:41 pm

    Thanks for the memories. I remember and actually read “First We Have Coffee,” which was interesting as I did not drink coffee then and imagined many different applications with none of them being relevant (fortunately). People before plans still is not an easy concept but relationships before rules is easier, at least, to understand. God gives us things to remember and this one is worth it. Blessings, Dale

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 6, 2023 at 6:22 pm

      Oh, dear Dale, this is so true. Relationships matter and people before plans. Thanks to you and Marty for many great memories over our years in Michigan and since then. I’m impressed a non-coffee drinker read First We Have Coffee! Mama would be pleased.

  • Reply Marla December 6, 2023 at 3:34 pm

    I always love your blogs but this one made me smile especially! 🙂

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 6, 2023 at 6:42 pm

      Thanks, dear Marla. Happy to share smiles with you. And thanks for reading and commenting. You encouaged me.

  • Reply Barbara Van Brunt December 6, 2023 at 3:53 pm

    I remember well the book your Mama wrote, “First We Have Coffee.” I loved reading it. She used the story-telling method so well and now you are doing the same! God bless your ministry. Have a blessed Christmas!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 6, 2023 at 6:44 pm

      Good to hear from you, dear Barbara, out in Ohio. Thank you for all your years of ministry with the Salvation Army. You and Fred did so much for so many. And I loved doing reatreats with your women. So many great memories of God’s faithfulness. And I wish you and your family a blessed Chrfistmas, as well.

  • Reply Jeri December 6, 2023 at 7:24 pm

    Time to re-read your mother’s book! <3 Loved it from many years ago and I need to refresh my memory of all she wrote about. I cannot count the number of moves we have made over the years and these books have continually come along, sitting on our shelves, being shared with many, time and time again. Your talks with your beautiful accent are such special memories as you would recount her life and faith. Always blessed when I read your blog, Jan. Merry Christmas to you and the family!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 6, 2023 at 8:43 pm

      Thanks, dear Jeri. And I wish you, Ron and your fmaily a God Jul. As many times as I’ve told those stories, I’ve never tired of doing so. Each time I have a deep sense of my grandparents’ strong faith in the most challenging circumstances, especially my grandmother’s faith and practical wisdom. Mama blessed many people through that book and others she wrote. Simple stories with deep meaning to help us through tough times.

  • Reply Tina Hoofnagle December 7, 2023 at 8:01 am

    Thank you for sharing deep truth in simple everyday stories. Thanking God for humble wisdom. peace to you.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 7, 2023 at 8:30 am

      And peace to you, dear Tina, especially during this Advent season when so much in our culture and our world can unsetttle us in mind and spirit. When the hubbub nibbles away at peace, I recall the words to frightened shepherds, “Fear not…” And the reason is we have a Savior, Christ the Lord.(Luke 2:10-11)

  • Reply Phil Eaton December 7, 2023 at 8:37 am

    Jan, it has been said we’ve disenchanted our world. Henri Nouwen worries we’ve lost touch with the sacred. Not you, dear friend, time and time again, you open our eyes and hearts to God stooping down into our little places. So beautiful once again.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 7, 2023 at 12:29 pm

      Thank you, dear Phil. I take comfort and joy from the phrase you shared about “God stooping down into our little places.” I’m so gratefuul for your blogs, Phil, and for the friendship Jud and I shared with you and Sharon over many years.

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