Settling In

For several weeks now I’ve been settling in to my new life in Beverly, getting used to the church and to our new home here in town. There’s plenty of “new” to adjust to – a new library and new parks for my daughter to play in, new towns to learn the feel of and new roads to start memorizing. There have been plenty of adjustments, big and small that have to be made – adjustments in my self, to match the new location, and adjustments in the location, to match myself. The biggest of this second sort of adjustments have come to my office here at the church, which I am currently giving a makeover. (“Well,” I thought, “if the President can do it…”)

At the beginning of any project, big or small, there are points of confusion, uncertainty, frustration. “What can I cover this wall with? Do I really need all these books? I know that the coat rack doesn’t work here, but where else can I put it?” I am pleased as punch about our new home, but like any change, it comes with some costs: the loss of our favorite grocery store; a visit to family that once took eight minutes in the car and now takes eight hours. Set into perspective, I know that there are far, far higher costs to pay for the new possibilities of life. I remember many conversations from folks I met in the cardiac intensive care unit about the struggle to adjust to their new normal. The long lists of beloved foods they could no longer eat, lost mobility and independence, frustration at having to ask a spouse or a child to help them to do the basic work of life.

Thinking this week about new beginnings, and how they almost never come without any bumps in the road, I tripped across a story from the life of Margaret Fuller, the famous author, journalist and Unitarian. Margaret led a life which was marked by the conflict between her talents and ambitions and society’s far more limiting expectations of a young woman in the 19th century. Her father gave her an education which taught her to love knowledge and to think deeply and critically. When, in her adolescence, he realized that these traits were not considered proper in a lady or attractive in a wife, Margaret’s father hastily tried to reverse the course, but the cat was already out of the bag. Margaret grew up to forge her own way in the world; she had to, because when she arrived she found that there was no way already made for her. Yet among her more renowned quotations is the exclamation,  “I accept the universe!”

“I accept the universe!” – consider her words carefully. They do not mean, “I resign myself to the universe!” or “I give up: the universe wins!” Margaret Fuller – the first female war correspondent to work for any American news outlet – is not famous for her surrender to life’s difficulties. In her phrase I hear instead a pronouncement of – or perhaps a prayer for – equanimity, an openness to possibility and a determination to meet what comes with boldness, creativity, playfulness, or whatever else the moment requires. Particularly as we begin anything new – a new relationship, a new job, or a new year together as a congregation – we can have no greater gift than the gift of equanimity. So friends, let us be ready this September to practice accepting the universe. Let us find the places where we must adjust to the world in order to better seek out and transform those places where the world ought to adjust to us. And let us engage this practice of acceptance most particularly with each other, and with ourselves, for each of us is, after all, a part of the universe.

In Faith,
Rev. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson


First Parish Church

225 Cabot St

Beverly, MA 01915


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