When Zach was a newborn, Dusty gave me a very thoughtful Mother’s Day gift: a beautiful tall house plant with five parts of the stem intertwined, representative of each member of our family of five. It was symbolic, loving, and creative…and I burst into tears when he gave it to me because, with three young children, a caseload of clients, church volunteer responsibilities, and a disorganized house with never-ending loads of laundry, I immediately felt anxiety about taking care of one more thing. I knew without a doubt I was going to neglect it and watch it die, and the five stems representing our family would wither on my watch.
In my devotional today I read, “Jesus grants us life as we give ourselves to others.” Sometimes statements like this can induce guilt for me, when I can’t or don’t want to take care of one more person or responsibility. Sometimes we reach our limits, and despite prayer and Spirit-supplied strength, we don’t yield healthy plants even when we’d love to watch them thrive. Sometimes a plant dies on our watch.
Jesus does grant life when we give, but Jesus also grants life when we spend time in prayer, solitude, and rest, as he regularly did between all of his ministry and miracles. The best rhythm is a balance between giving and receiving. When we open ourselves to need God and people, and receive from God and people, we emerge more prepared to give. We can take better care of others as we take better care of ourselves. I’ve learned for now to decorate with photos and paintings rather than plants. I currently have a huge pile of random stuff in my living room because my reorganization project is going to take a while, and that is okay. I’m learning to find an ever-changing rhythm that allows for joyful giving. I’m setting limits, getting some rest, and showing up ready to give.