Notes from Jan

Scars, Stories and an Old Familiar Song

March 22, 2024

Scars tell stories. We all have them, although most aren’t visible. But they all matter. They’re part of who we are. And I suppose that’s why I found myself singing and crying (I know, I’m a mess.) as I drove to my book group at church Thursday night.

It started when I slid the CD into the sacred slot in my old car . And up came, “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine! ” It’s not in the hymnal at Christ Church but it’s etched into the songbook of my heart. When it got to the chorus, I belted out. “This is my story! This my song! Praising my Savior, all the day long!” Well, I don’t go around singing all day long but I could some days. Other days, not so much.

Sometimes when I sing this hymn, I’m back in the parsonage in DeKalb, Illinois. Mama’s at the Kimball upright piano and Daddy and I join in 3 part harmony to sing, Blessed Assurance. It’s more than a song. It’s our story, scars and all.

Sometimes I’m the preacher’s kid at Wednesday night prayer meeting or Sunday night services when folks called out the page number of a favorite hymn. I can’t remember when Blessed Assurance or Amazing Grace wasn’t requested. It didn’t matter if it was a Northern, Swedish, Conservative or Southern Baptist church.. And I’d look around and some folks would be dabbing at their eyes with a handkerchief. Memories sometimes overwhelm. God’s faithfulness. God’s grace. And that God cares about our stories and scars

But mostly, when I hear or sing this hymn, I see Cliff Barrows at a Billy Graham crusade on TV or at a rally. He conducted the choir and the rest of us to sing our stories, some for the first time. Oh, how I loved when he spread out his arms, held them just so, to slow us down so we could hold those notes and proclaim: “THIS IS MY STORY, This is my song. ” And I’d find myself looking around at all God’s children, all colors and sizes, singing our stories. And it was, for sure, a “foretaste of glory divine.”

Sometimes I miss those times when we sang certain songs that linked generations together. And those nights when we had testimony time. Folks shared their stories, bared their scars so I knew I wasn’t the only one who needed forgiveness, mercy and some major restoration work.

Well, Lent’s different form those Sunday Night services but it’s a sacred season. It’s a time to share my story with God, scars and all, and then listen and wait. It helps to recall those old songs and testimonies. Reminders that I can trust God with my story and scars. I’ve learned that Grace gets the final edits.

For you, too.

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  • Reply Maggie Wallem Rowe March 23, 2024 at 5:40 am

    Jan, as a GUBA (growing up born again) and GUB (grew up Baptist), I used to love those hymn sings when I was a kid. I marveled at the gifted pianists who could play any page number called out, and it was fun to see people so happy for a change (not always a given in my childhood church.) Tusen takk for continuing to sing out your story and song and ours as well. Sending you special love from the Homeland.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 23, 2024 at 9:31 am

      My Aunt Jeanelle was such a pianist. She could plat anything, including beautiful classical pieces. She was my Mama’s baby sister and gave recitals at Carnegie Hall in NYC. Mama didn’t do much page flipping, since she knew most of the hymns by heart. And by that I mean more than the notes. i’m grateful for my heritage of faith and scars, And that Norway and Norwegian ancestors are part of that heritage. I know you and Mike are blessing and being blessed as you serve in Stavanger., NORWAY. Tusen takk to you, as well, dear Maggie..

  • Reply Dale March 23, 2024 at 6:54 am

    Thanks Jan. I count on memories covering my regrets and this one has great healing power. Praise to the “author and FINIISHER of our faith.” Love to you and your family. Dale

    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 23, 2024 at 9:39 am

      As you so often do, my dear friend, you added to the blog when you quote words from Hebrews 12:2. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endued the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Thank you for reminding us of this important truth. Something to ponder as we enter Holy Week. By the way, Marty’s another one of those pianists who can play anything, with or without a hymnal. I’m so grateful for both of you and our friendship.

  • Reply Theresa Morin Hall March 23, 2024 at 8:14 am

    “Grace gets the final edits.” Couldn’t love this more–your words and this Truth. A very blessed and love-surrounding Holy Week to you. ❤️

    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 23, 2024 at 9:42 am

      Well, my dear Theresa, you’re a very good writer so you know the value of editing. And I know how much I’m grateful to call you one of my “Gordon girls.” I love receiving your Christmas cards with photos. Sometimes words aren’t needed. Gifts of grace.

  • Reply Cheryl L. Moreau March 24, 2024 at 3:10 pm

    Your writing is beautiful and heartfelt!
    Blessed Assurance is one of my VERY favorite hymns. I appreciated your perspective. My friend always forwards your posts to me. I look forward to them. Thank you for sharing your faith.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 24, 2024 at 8:50 pm

      Please thank you friend for sharing my posts with you. I’m grateful they encourage you. Hearing from you and others encourages me, as well, dear Cheryl.

  • Reply Laura F-G March 24, 2024 at 9:53 pm

    Thank you for another beautifully written reminder during Lent. You’ve done it again, Jan. Always blessing us with your deep insights and heartfelt stories. And now I go to bed with a hymn to sing me to sleep. Xo. Laura

    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 25, 2024 at 2:53 pm

      Sing on, my dear Laura. How I love hearing form you..Even better is spending time with one of my “Gordon girls.” As you lean into Holy Week may you find daily reminders, as well as fresh insights into the Blessed Assurance that is at the heart of your story with Christ. And I pray you’ll find moments to see how Grace continues to edit your story.and gives hope concerning those for whom you pray.

  • Reply Alyssa Arnold March 28, 2024 at 5:54 am

    Hi Jan, I just caught up on this posting. Andrew’s service dog Achilles passed after 12 full years, almost 13 years old. I have been with Andrew since Achilles came into the picture, we are devastated. Thank you for the reminder that God can see all our scars.



    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 28, 2024 at 10:04 pm

      Oh, dear Alyssa and Andrew, what sad news. I’m so sorry to learn of this big hole in your lives. Pets matter. And especially a loyal and helpful service dog, like Achilles. And God does see and care about the scars, the losses in our lives whether with 4 or two legs. Sending love to both of you in far off Utah..

  • Reply Mary Macaluso March 30, 2024 at 9:19 pm

    Thanks Jan. You’ve been on my mind this last week and I finally got connected to your blog. We sang Blessed Assurance at my dad’s funeral..his favorite song and mine too. So grateful for all our times together and the love we share all these years. God is so good…all the time, in joy and in sorrow. Sending lots of love for a Happy Easter. He is RISEN indeed, Alleluia

    • Reply Jan Carlberg April 1, 2024 at 11:14 am

      How fun to see your name show up, dear Mary. Yes, we have a lot of shared history, for which I’m so grateful Hugs to you and Marshall and your wonderful family. We are Easter people!

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