Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12 (NIV)

Last Saturday, while blowing leaves from ditches along the driveway and mountain road in preparation for winter, I noticed the bulbs I’d planted last month on the slope at the foot of the driveway were sprouting. Joyful responses to recent warm weather. In hope of spring. 

But too soon. 

“Wait, wait, wait,” I said to the paperwhites, like Gussy the Goose in Charlotte’s Web. “Be patient, patient, patient,” I repeated, as if saying the words “wait” and “patient” three times would dissuade them. “If you grow now, winter’s cold will nip you.”


Yesterday, our church returned to a virtual service, this time recorded in our pastor’s home instead of the church sanctuary. A member of our congregation who attended in person last Sunday had tested positive for Covid-19. Since Pastor greets everyone, he was exposed. He immediately got tested, notified those at risk, and quarantined at home. Then he consulted the elders via Zoom and contacted the congregation about the change of plan. 

Thank the Lord, Pastor received a negative test result this morning. He and the support staff—tech team, elders, and musicians—will likely record from the sanctuary next Sunday. But it’s yet to be determined when we will gather to worship in person again.

Many around the world are experiencing this kind of disruption: children in school then out again, people back to work then returning to virtual, holiday gatherings planned then cancelled. As soon as we establish a new routine, we have to change again. Changing our routines, like growth, is disruptive and at times feels like an affliction. Two steps forward, one step back. It’s difficult to be patient. 

As Keith and I watched the service livestream yesterday morning and prayed together, I couldn’t help but think about the growth we’re experiencing in our relationship. And the disruptive, two steps forward one step back as our old routines change. But then I thought about those paperwhites that will no doubt find a way to grow despite and maybe because of their affliction, the winter nips that we all experience in the course of our lives. Early next spring, they will bloom—and perhaps we will, too.


This week I plan to mow the meadow over the septic drain field in front of our house. The grasses have died back in recent freezes here at Vanaprastha. Cutting the meadow back will reseed it for new growth. 

Cutting back for growth. Another metaphor about change. Another lesson in patience.

Joyful in hope. Faithful in prayer. Patient in affliction.


  1. Nancy Ruegg

    You have me thinking, Carole: during this time of cutting back (slashing?) commitments outside the house and contacts with family and friends, what new growth HAS been seeded? I’d put gratitude and contentment on the list. There is still much to be thankful for, even in isolation, and it’s a delightful, daily exercise to look for it. And focusing on what we have instead of what we don’t contributes to satisfying soul-comfort. These are two habits I’m aiming to continue into 2021, even when we’ve received our vaccinations.

    • Carole Duff

      Amen, Nancy, Amen.


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