Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Images of Patience

I've chosen to reflect on my 2020 One Little Word for this post. My word was PATIENCE. And what a year for practicing patience!  I definitely have needed to practice patience this year.  

I'll begin with a confession: I don't know if I've gained much ground. Patience is a big order, and I expect I'll be working on it to my dying day. I may have exercised new kinds of patience this year, but often I have come to a patient stance the hard way, after much flailing about, finally realizing that I am powerless over many things. The world is not in my hands. I need to take a long view, to "let go and let God."  

Recently I received a Frederick Buechner quote about trees, and although it did not mention patience per se, it seemed pertinent because it offered me an image.  Especially this part:

Photo by my brother, Don Evenson

Sycamore, willow, catalpa, ash—who knows what their true names are? We know only that they are most beautiful in the fall when they are dying. They are craziest when the wind is blowing. In the snow they are holiest.

Image by enriquelopezgarre from Pixabay


Maybe what is most precious about them is their silence. Maybe what is most touching about them is the way they reach out to us as we pass. -Frederick Buechner...Originally published in Beyond Words  

Photo by me!

Buechner's words led me to think of trees as images of patience.  There they stand, season after season, year after year... silent and steadfast. Sometimes even hollow trees manage to stand upright and put out leaves in the spring. They reach out to us, shake their limbs at us. They patiently witness our world as they provide shade, fruit, and shelter. 

Photo by my brother, Don Evenson

Romans 12:12 tells us: Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 

In their own ways, I imagine trees rejoicing in due season, hopeful in their growing and flowering, reaching out... patient in drought or as they lose their leaves and endure the winter months... constant as they cling to the earth and reach toward the heavens. 

Some Native American tribes have a myth about cottonwood trees. If you cut a limb of a cottonwood tree, you will see a star in the cross section, much as you see a star at the middle of an apple's cross-section. Some tribes believe that when a big wind comes along, these stars shake loose from the tree and go up to shine in the heavens. I love this beautiful idea! And sometimes I feel that it is in our hours of tribulation, as we patiently endure the whirlwinds around us, that our stars may be released to shine also. 

Photo by my brother, Don Evenson

Advent has begun, a time of patience and preparation, and this carol is one we often sang:


The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit, and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.     See the entire lyrics here.  Listen here.

Photo by my brother, Don Evenson

I hope these images will be helpful, and maybe even inspire your stars to shine. Many blessings in the days to come.

Thanks to Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise for hosting this month. She and others will be posting today on spiritual journey topics. Find the links here.



  1. Profoundly beautiful post, Karen - I just commented on Carol's post that I wanted to walk in the cathedral of woods in her photos and then I arrived here, where you offer such stunning shots and these words about trees in snow being holiest. I believe Buechner is right - on many counts. Turning to trees for a reflection on your OLW, "patience," is masterful. Every photo speaks of holiness in its way - easy to see why Native Americans spoke of cottonwood "stars" going to shine in the heavens - that is so beautiful, as is your further imagining the same of us as we withstand winds of tribulation. I come away from this post with a deep sense of peace - and patience renewed, truly.

  2. I love your tree focus, and I never heard that carol before!

  3. Karen, patience is a super one word. It would be difficult for me to stay with that word this year yet you were able to share your thoughts so beautiful through the images of trees. Your brother's photos are gorgeous, especially the last one. Your line that will stick with me is "let go and let God. "That action plan is one I would like to adopt.

  4. What a wonderful metaphor for patience! I absolutely love that idea.