Patience and perseverance

The U.S. flag flying at Roanoke Island, North Carolina, September2013

The U.S. flag flying at Roanoke Island, North Carolina, September 2013

Dear Readers,
As the Fourth of July holiday approaches, I find myself sorely in need of both patience and perseverance. This week has been filled with endless paperwork, logistical tangles and other oppressive tasks, and it feels increasingly difficult to muster the energy and enthusiasm to keep going. Here I am, once again re-blogging a previous post because it’s too late to do anything else, but I don’t want to be totally absent here. So much has changed in our country since I wrote this four years ago, but I think Adams’ words are more relevant than ever. I hope you will find them inspiring as our country continues to navigate itself through tumultuous seas. May your holiday be safe, happy and full of grateful reflection.

“I feel anxious for the fate of our Monarchy or Democracy or what ever is to take place. I soon get lost in a Labyrinth of perplexities, but whatever occurs, may justice and righteousness be the Stability of our times, and order arise out of confusion. Great difficulties may be surmounted, by patience and perseverance.”
Abigail Adams

One year ago today, in honor of America’s birthday, I featured a quote from my personal favorite of the “founding fathers,” John Adams, along with a video clip from the HBO series about him.  Today’s quote is from his eloquent and formidable wife Abigail, arguably as influential in her own way, if only because of the vital role she played in the development of her husband’s career, intellect and philosophy.

The letter to her husband from which this quote is drawn (the text and image of which is linked above) was written near the end of November, 1775, less than a year before the Declaration of Independence was ratified.  In her letter, Adams raises valid questions and concerns about the enormous implications of the steps toward self-government that the colonies were taking.  While there seems little doubt that she shared her husband’s enthusiasm for independence, one cannot read her letter without realizing she was keenly aware that their ongoing efforts were fraught with danger, even after they succeeded in their goals.

The most interesting thing to me about Adams’ letter is how timeless her concerns are.  So many of the perils of power she mentions are with us to this day, and “a labyrinth of perplexities” is an excellent description of the current dilemmas our country faces regarding health care, foreign policy, immigration law, economic and environmental issues, and almost anything subject to government legislation.

Of course, it’s not only governments that face such complicated problems.  On a much smaller scale, our individual daily lives can be pretty challenging too.  Most of us frequently deal with complex and difficult decision-making.  No wonder we are often too overwhelmed with our own concerns to be very involved in politics, even when we care deeply about the outcome of governmental actions.

Ever practical as well as stubbornly optimistic, Adams pinpoints four vital keys to overcoming difficulties large and small: justice, righteousness, patience and perseverance.  Looking closely at the history of the United States, one can see these four traits have been the foundation of whatever good has been achieved by our country, even when such achievements took decades or centuries to fully realize, or are yet imperfect.  Though I’m less familiar with the history of other countries, I would not be surprised if a similar dynamic appeared to be at work everywhere in the world.

Happy 238th Birthday to the U.S.A! May the wise words of our first citizens remind us that there are some principles that never change, regardless of what circumstances we face.  With patience and perseverance, we can keep moving forward.

One year ago today:

Through all the gloom


  1. Chris

    Thanks Julia. I recall the mini-series. John Adams was fascinating; and one of the great founding fathers. As the 4th approaches, I’m thankful for our founding fathers’ “P & P” which gave us the personal freedoms we enjoy today.
    Take a break, relax. I hope you and Matt have a great week!

    • Thanks, Chris. We have very, very few DVDs, but we do have the entire set of the mini-series on John Adams. Drew gave it to us because he knows Adams is my favorite among U.S. Presidents. We are finally getting a break from the heat today — hope you are too!

  2. Rene

    I needed to be reminded about patience & perseverence. Thank you for reblogging!

    • You’re welcome, Rene. I tend to write what I need to hear, so I too need (constant) reminders about patience and perseverance. The former being much harder for me than the latter. 😀

  3. raynard

    Julia remember the saying” Calgon take me away? That’s where we both are. Today’s heat got me thinking, do I really want to move to a cold weather place? I thought about you the other day as I was reading the reviews for the Mr. Rogers movie. It’s been about 4 months since we’ve been to the movies. Do you feel like me, a hamster on a wheel as you sing” round and round, the merry go round broke down? Might be time for a good cartoon laugh. As the theme to Mighty Mouse plays” Here I come to say the day! LOL I’m off for the 4th and I might either 1 do laundry or 2 clean up my” Ready/ Situation room( no it’s not a mancave actually it’s Ella’s old room and it kinda sorta became a storage room but didn’t want Mary to use it as an ” overflow to her sewing room..Why now does” the theme to How the Grinch Stole Christmas comes to mind? Maybe” it’s the most wonderful time of year. I digress

    • Raynard, Calgon has no-showed me so many times that I’d settle for “Calgon, take me down to the kitchen to get a snack.” We finally got a break from the heat today and it was unbelievably refreshing. Yes, I often feel like a hamster on a wheel, and I keep getting my toes caught in it. We did get to see the Mr. Rogers movie and it was great. I did a lot of crying during the movie and I almost never cry in movies. But they were the good kind of tears. Hope you and Mary had a wonderful 4th. The Shady Maple meet-up for your birthday will be here before we know it. We need to put the word out on the Defeat Despair grapevine and try to get some people to make the drive up, down or over to join us. If they knew how much food Matt and I can put away they might charge us double so we’ll keep quiet about that! 🙂

  4. Harry Sims

    This may sound like a terrible stretch of compassion but I feel sorry for the roadkill I encounter.
    I can’t help it.
    It just happens.
    Is very similar to but not as long-lasting as the feeling I felt for the injured and recovering Eagles in the sanctuary at Sitka Alaska.
    When I told them about this at our early-morning conclave aboard ship I broke down in one of those memorable sobbing moments of life.


    Those who share their lives with pets know that there is a circle of giving and receiving in the relationship that allows us to be ourselves without concern of being rejected. A beloved poem by Cecil France Alexander pays tribute as a blessing to our animal cohabitants:

    All things bright and beautiful,
    All creatures great and small,
    All things wise and wonderful,
    The Lord God made them all.

    All animals—domesticated or in the wild—are divinely created beings. We can and do appreciate their uniqueness in a world of wonder. We honor our relationships with them as opportunities to give love freely and without measure or thought of return.

    God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind … And God saw that it was good.—Genesis 1:25
    — Daily Word

    Thank you Killer, Bear, Nikki, Daisy Mae, Ollie and many others are being parts of our lives.

    I’m Harry, grateful alcoholic and devoted twelve stepper.

    • Harry, this post is very timely, as my sister and I have thoroughly enjoyed the company of a cute little tree frog who fastened himself onto the door to our deck each night this week, as he was eating bugs and generally keeping us amused. When he kept showing up night after night we started to get attached to him. I took all sorts of photos of him (or was it a her?) so one of them might show up here sometime. I have a theory that many people who end up in recovery for some sort of substance abuse tend to be people who feel a lot of vicarious pain for other people and animals. I think many people feel sorry for road kill. I have literally stopped the car and gotten out to flag other cars down that a turtle is crossing the road, because I was afraid somebody might run over him. Maybe I’m just lucky to be around caring people, but most of the people I know would try their best to protect wildlife, especially if they see it heading across a road. My younger brother (an alcoholic) loves all animals and even feeds the wild possums in his yard because he thinks they are unloved by most people. I think Numbers 22:21-32, among other Bible passages, suggests that God cares deeply about animals and is angry when humans mistreat them. For those of us who believe God created the earth and everything in it, the meticulous care manifested in the design of each and every facet of creation is evidence enough that we had best respect it.

  5. Good morning, Julia!
    Although posted four years earlier, your message is so timely that it could have been written yesterday!
    (Except the part about the 238th birthday, because, well, you know.)
    I think endless paperwork has been a theme for you for at least four years, too … so I have to ask: have you heard of Leapuary? That’s the month in which one continues to write last year’s “year” when signing and dating paperwork, until we get used to it being a new year, and start using the correct year in writing out the date. I wonder if your Leapuary is shorter than most people’s, because you always have so much paperwork? My theory is that you’d acclimate faster. I remember one year, my Leapuary went on into February! 🙂
    Blessings on your day! (And week, etc.!)

    • Susan, I think you are right. I had pretty much no Leapuary at all this year. I don’t think I wrote “2017” even one time after January 1, and I remember thinking how unusual that is. In the past I’ve had intermittent Leapuary days for months. But it’s even more surprising given how many other things I’m bungling and forgetting nowadays. At least there is one thing I’ve gotten (mostly) right this year. I can’t even believe 2018 is more than half over.

  6. Julia,
    First, A Happy 4th!
    So long as our Constitution remains our Creed as written by our forefathers, then let come what may. When accepted as a static document order is sustained. But, when looked upon as a living document then any fancy will rule the day and chaos is in the offing. That is why an originalist majority on the Supreme Court is vital to maintain the integrity, identity and moral compass of our country that the framers envisioned.

    • Alan, I agree. The Constitution itself provided for its own ongoing alteration, but the process was intentionally designed to be full of safeguards and could not be entered into by whim or emotion. Now that the judiciary system (often via the word of a single judge) so often strikes down the will of the people as enacted by law, the system of checks and balances is overridden, and the situation is especially precarious. No wonder democracies so seldom last. Self-government requires great restraint or it will eventually self-destruct.

  7. Sheila

    Julia, this is very belated and I didn’t want to be totally absent either. You know I’m behind when I don’t get to our July verandah until 5 days into the month. We were at Willow Tree for a week but 4th of July without family seemed rather empty. We were invited to a cook out with friends and much good food so that was nice. Are you taking your new home one day at a time now. Do you have a garage that you can work through the boxes from? I think of you and imagine it’s overwhelming, for many reasons! Give my love to Matt! ♥️ Hugs my dear friend! 👋🏻 Love, Sheila

    • Sheila, I’m sorry you didn’t have family nearby on the 4th, but I’m glad you had friends with whom to celebrate. We have so rarely been with extended family on holidays over the years that we have grown accustomed to being mostly alone or with friends instead of family. Yes, I have a garage, but it’s too hot to work through the boxes from there, so I’m using the living and dining rooms where the furniture from York has not yet arrived! 🙂 “Overwhelming, for many reasons” is a perfect way to describe it! Hope you got some of this nice cool weather. ❤

  8. Harry Sims

    The cardinal virtues are the four principal moral virtues. The English word cardinal comes from the Latin word cardo, which means “hinge.” All other virtues hinge on these four: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.

    Plato first discussed the cardinal virtues in the Republic, and they entered into Christian teaching by way of Plato’s disciple Aristotle. Unlike the theological virtues, which are the gifts of God through grace, the four cardinal virtues can be practiced by anyone; thus, they represent the foundation of natural morality.

    Click on the name of each virtue below for a longer profile.

    Prudence: The First Cardinal Virtue
    Personification of Prudence – Gaetano Fusali
    St. Thomas Aquinas ranked prudence as the first cardinal virtue, because it is concerned with the intellect. Aristotle defined prudence as recta ratio agibilium, “right reason applied to practice.” It is the virtue that allows us to judge correctly what is right and what is wrong in any given situation. When we mistake the evil for the good, we are not exercising prudence—in fact, we are showing our lack of it.

    Because it is so easy to fall into error, prudence requires us to seek the counsel of others, particularly those we know to be sound judges of morality. Disregarding the advice or warnings of others whose judgment does not coincide with ours is a sign of imprudence.

    Justice: The Second Cardinal Virtue
    Justice, according to Saint Thomas, is the second cardinal virtue, because it is concerned with the will. As Fr. John A. Hardon notes in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, it is “the constant and permanent determination to give everyone his or her rightful due.” We say that “justice is blind,” because it should not matter what we think of a particular person. If we owe him a debt, we must repay exactly what we owe.

    Justice is connected to the idea of rights. While we often use justice in a negative sense (“He got what he deserved”), justice in its proper sense is positive. Injustice occurs when we as individuals or by law deprive someone of that which he is owed. Legal rights can never outweigh natural ones.

    Fortitude: The Third Cardinal Virtue
    The third cardinal virtue, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, is fortitude. While this virtue is commonly called courage, it is different from what much of what we think of as courage today. Fortitude allows us to overcome fear and to remain steady in our will in the face of obstacles, but it is always reasoned and reasonable; the person exercising fortitude does not seek danger for danger’s sake. Prudence and justice are the virtues through which we decide what needs to be done; fortitude gives us the strength to do it.

    Fortitude is the only one of the cardinal virtues that is also a gift of the Holy Spirit, allowing us to rise above our natural fears in defense of the Christian faith.

    Temperance: The Fourth Cardinal Virtue
    Temperance, Saint Thomas declared, is the fourth and final cardinal virtue. While fortitude is concerned with the restraint of fear so that we can act, temperance is the restraint of our desires or passions. Food, drink, and sex are all necessary for our survival, individually and as a species; yet a disordered desire for any of these goods can have disastrous consequences, physical and moral.

    Temperance is the virtue that attempts to keep us from excess, and, as such, requires the balancing of legitimate goods against our inordinate desire for them. Our legitimate use of such goods may be different at different times; temperance is the “golden mean” that helps us determine how far we can act on our desires.

    For most of us our Lord blesses us with faith, hope and love.

    Through use of these man creates his destiny.

    Harry S

    • Harry, it says to click, but there was no hypertext so I assumed you must have pasted the entire message for us. Reading over this list, I was thinking how inter-related those four traits are. I don’t know whether one could have temperance without prudence, at least not in all things. Likewise, it would be hard to maintain justice without fortitude. Reading this list, I kept thinking of that song in Camelot called “The Seven Deadly Virtues” where the evil Mordred sings derisively about: Courage, Purity, Humility, Honesty, Diligence, Charity, and Fidelity. WOW, all those are important too. And then there’s the Biblical list of the “fruits of the Spirit” which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galations 5:22-23). That’s my favorite list. Certainly there is no shortage of worthy virtues, only a shortage of people enacting them.

  9. I honestly can’t keep up with the news from the Whitehouse these days and nor do I want to. Since I watch Canadian news, I get the toned down version, which I still find utterly disturbing. Jim will tune into American broadcasts at times and I can’t take all the pundits hypothesizing over the same dreary situations week after week.
    I’m so glad I was able to visit with you during a time I had great admiration for the administration. Hoping things get back on track, belated Birthday Wishes to that America ! xoK

    • I am totally in agreement about staying away from the news. I read online at sources I trust, to find out what I want to know. The rest is just 24/7 ratings-chasing sensationalism and as you say, it’s “utterly disturbing” on so many levels. The old journalism saying was “if it bleeds it leads” and that was long before there were so many stations having to fill time and lure advertising money. I prefer to focus on the positive as much as possible. There is still so much for which we can be grateful, and things are not usually as dire as they may appear in the spin cycle of network news. Meanwhile I have all I can do to keep up with the challenges in my own, much smaller world!

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