ESSAY

Week 1

Life’s Blessings

By Meg Riley, senior minister, Church of the Larger Fellowship

Blessings exist independently of time, in the land of the eternal. I know this most concretely in my garden. Of course today’s flowers, in all of their red and orange and green and pink radiance, are blessings, each one uniquely beautiful in color, shape and growth pattern. Each one blessing me with the joy of the moment, reminding me that today, right now, is the pinnacle of time.

But tomorrow’s flowers are also blessings. In early spring, when the fall-blooming asters are tiny emerging bits of green, I am already feeling the blessing they will bring when the other flowers have gone by. In October they will be bright purple and pink, and the only visible color in the garden. In winter, as I look out at the dead husks of echinacea and other summer perennials poking out through the snow, I receive the blessing both of the present offerings of seed and resting place to birds, and their promise of a future. That promise is a blessing in and ofitself.

And daily, I also receive the blessings of the past. Food in the freezer and canned on the shelf from what was once abundantly blooming. Photos and memories of last year’s garden as I begin to plan what I will do differently in the coming season. Tales to tell other gardeners of successes and failures.

The garden is my most concrete way to realize the eternity of blessings, but certainly not the only way. Lately, I have created a photo gallery I am enjoying on my wall which has baby pictures of my great grandmother, my grandmother, my mother, me and my child. This reminder that we were all babies once helps me to stay centered in the moment in which I live. It helps me to receive the blessings of the past, the present and the future.

As the years have gone by since the deaths of both of my parents, I have continued to receive blessings from them. Insights from past conversations can still reshape my understanding of who they were. Present day politics can cause me to reconsider times which they lived through, and call up instructions by considering what they did when their own times were hard. A few years ago, my child found a letter that my father had written to my mother when they he was courting her, from the early 1940s. My 18-year-old child was so inspired by the letter, which consisted of nothing more urgent than recounting the news from the local newspaper with witty observations and speculations, that this letter inspired a similar habit of letter writing to a loved one far away, which is still going on today! How delightful that my father’s influence could continue, blessing both my child and the recipients of countless new letters.

As an empty nester, I decided my life would be much more joyful with young children around, so I took in a housemate with two young children. They are a blessing to me right now, like the bright flowers in summer, as together we experience the magic of children’s views of daily life. They also bless my future, whether or not I will even know them when they are adults. I still call to mind children I knew as a teacher, or a religious educator, who are well into adulthood by now and likely have children of their own, remembering funny or insightful things that they said as if it just happened today. I am blessed by those memories,  blessed by my participation in the endless flow of time.

As Unitarian Universalists, we talk about a living tradition. Every year at our General Assembly, as we mark the life transitions of ministers—ordinations, retirements, deaths—we are honoring the blessings of an eternal faith. It is a faith that transcends time, and yet whose primary focus is always on the pinnacle of now. We are celebrating the blessings which we inherit, and work with, and pass on to the next generations, knowing that they will continue to pass them on to generations we shall never live to see.

There is deep comfort for me in being part of that living tradition, doing my small part to make the tradition as much of a blessing as possible for as many people as possible. I am blessed by sharing this tradition with you as we envision the future together.