Notes from Jan

The Gift of Tomato Soup

January 4, 2024

So much for setting goals for 2024. I’m already behind and it’s just the 4th of January. For faithful followers of this blog, you know I planned to post photos of Chad, Kristina and Grandgirls, Maggie and Poco by today. But I missed my deadline. So my revised goal is to do so before next Christmas.

For sure, I’m back home. A large bundle of held-mail arrved from the post office. The Boston Globe hit my porch with a welcomed thud. My neighbor, Beth, returned the plants she plant-sat for me. Another reminder, that I have the world’s best neighbors.

But still, I find transitions harder than when I was younger or had Jud to lean on. Well, I already confessed about transitions in my last blog. You know, the one before “Whoops!” Home’s good. And the transition’s made easier by Chad and Cozy, their dog, picking me up at the airport.

However, warm welcomes go just so far. I was hungry. Even cross country flights on United just offer a “free” package of pretzels or Biscoffs. I felt like Oliver holding out his tin bowl begging, “Please Sir, more gruel.” I know, “Stop whining.”

Well, as I rode home from the airport with Chad, I mentally prepared myself for an almost empty refreigerator. I recalled a few eggs, some potatoes in need of cooking, an onion, wrinkled apples ready to become applesauce, some cheese (hopefully, not green), and some bread past it’s “best by” date. After being away almost three weeks, what did I expect?

But then God showed up. On the porch was a Christmas package. It contained a jar of homemade tomato soup and other treats from my neighbor, Judy. Imagine! Manna in Massachusetts! It’s still my favorite comfort food: tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. When I saw Judy the next day she said, “I was going to make a grilled cheese sandwich but was afraid it would get soggy.” By now, some of you are ready to buy my condo to get Judy & Dick, Beth & Bill as your neighbors.

Well, for sure, it’s a reminder that worrying’s a waste of time. Even if Judy’s gift wasn’t on my doorstep, I’ve lived long enough to trust God to provide what I really need. It doesn’t mean I don’t ever get “hangry,” impatient, doubtful or fearful. But gratitude and trust win more than lose. And Wendell Berry’s words still offer perspective as I anticipate the challenges ahead in 2024.

Be JOYFUL though you have considered all the facts.”

However when it comes to making plans and setting goals, I think I’ll take a break from trying to be who I’m not. And trust God to be who God is. Then choose to be more content.

As for running behind, guess what? It’s Leap Year. We get an extra day. WooHoo! See what I mean? It’s like God providing tomato soup for the soul. And who couldn’t use a day like that!

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  • Reply Julie Mozena January 5, 2024 at 6:16 am

    Dear Jan,

    I have Wendell Berry’s quote in my email signature line! And I’m joyful when I consider the fact I got to spend time with you this Christmas season. Happy new year Momo!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 6, 2024 at 11:12 am

      And you, dear Julie, are like JOY with a face and a most contagious laugh. Whenever I head West to see Heather and family, I love anticipating we’ll meet for breakfast at Comforts or do something to connect. It’s one of the surprising and super special benefits of growing older to have the gift of my children’s friends become mine, as well. Have a great cruise with Trevor, Amy and Phillip. Watch out world!

  • Reply Dale January 5, 2024 at 9:09 am

    Dear Jan, I was aware of chicken soup for the soul, but you have added a dimension to my spiritual appetite. Grilled cheese and tomato soup has been a Mennonite favorite for years but now that I know it is not only good, but godly, all guilt has been removed and I relish the next, dipped bite. You also have confirmed in this two for one blog that procrastination has a spiritual component, so now I can eat and wait to exercise without shame – it’s going to be a great year. I plan to spend more time on my knees if I can figure out how to get up! Love to you dear friend, Dale

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 6, 2024 at 11:36 am

      Well, by now you should know better than to follow all my “advice,” brother Dale. But I continue to eat grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup with a “tankful” heart. As for kneeling, I’ve taken to limiting mine to church when I’m at the the kneeling rail for communion. I can lower myself and push off from there. However, regarding procrastiination, it’s more that I get distracted by better or lesser ideas, issues or projects. God only knows, though I have strong inclinations, as to which was the better choice. Meanwhile, I’ll try to pay better attention to the whispers of God’s Spirit. But sometimes I wish God would speak up, since my hearing’s not what it used to be, But then, I was always better at talking than listening. It’s Epiphany today (I didn’t know that growing up Baptist)….for sure, you and Marty have been gifts to me and Jud.

  • Reply Maggie Wallem Rowe January 13, 2024 at 3:00 pm

    Jan, I loved your post about grilled cheese and tomato soup being your favorite comfort food. Tomato is about the only brand of Campbells we buy anymore (and to receive a gift of homemade soup? Oh my!) And speaking of cheese, do you like gjetost? It’s too intensely sweet for a sandwich, I think, but we love it thinly sliced on crackers. That said, even some Norwegians don’t care for it. It’s certainly one thing that’s cheaper to buy in Norway than it is here, where it’s often hard to find.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 13, 2024 at 8:42 pm

      Yes, I likee Norwegian goat cheese but I agree, it is too sweet for a grilled cheese sandwich. i put it on a slice of toast or crackers, as well. And I have the olde Norwegian cheese slicer to peel the cheese off the block. You can find it at Ikea and at a few other places near me.
      Soon you’ll be in Stavanger where you’ll have plenty. But will they have tomato soup?

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