What We Give Up for Life

What We Give Up for Life

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Last year, I hung a fern on my porch. It was my first foray into hanging baskets. I’m a reluctant gardener with a sometimes black thumb. But I love flowers and greenery, so I got a hanging fern for my birthday and I tucked it into the corner and watered it mostly faithfully. And then one day, I discovered it contained a bird’s nest. The fern eventually died and the babies flew away and my porch was empty of plant life.pansy

This year, we planted a garden and potted some herbs, and I desperately wanted another fern, so I got one. And a sweet older couple from church gave me a hanging pansy plant for my birthday. I moved the fern to a different spot on the porch, and hung the pansy in the same spot the fern had occupied last year. I watered faithfully, all the plants, and felt somewhat confident in my attempts to keep things alive.

Then the birds returned. A pair of house finches who fascinate me. I never could get a picture of them on the pansy where the nest was, but I caught the papa hanging out on our wandering Jew (a horrible name for a plant, but it’s beautiful). I had read that they might come back to the same spot and make another nest, but I didn’t know it would literally be the same spot.

When I realized the pansy was going to give its life for these birds, I was a little sad. I wondered if every year, I would need to buy a plant that I knew would be a sacrifice for the birds. (Side note: I feel funny about continuing to water the plant when I know there are babies in there. Plus the parents keep a keen eye on the area, flying in and out on a regular basis. I don’t have a phobia about birds, but I definitely don’t want to be the target of an attack!)

finch in a potI never thought I’d be a bird-watcher, either, but when the babies hatch and the parents return to feed them, I am a woman obsessed. I run to the window or the door when I hear the “cheep-cheep” of the babies wanting their breakfast, lunch and dinner. I watched their little heads poke up and this year, I got to see them fly out of the nest and leave. It made me sad, even though it’s the circle of life. I keep reminding myself that my little babies will fly the nest someday. I don’t want to think about it.

We threw away the pansy plant last week. The stems and leaves all turned brown and it became an eyesore on the porch. The finches made a second nest in the fern but haven’t used it yet. I’m not sure if they’ll lay any more eggs this season or if it was a back-up nest. I’m still working on being faithful with my role in the growing of things–namely, the watering.

And I’ve been thinking a lot about life and death and the relation between the two.

A plant has given its life for life each of the last two years. Next year, I can choose to have no hanging plants, or I can choose to buy a plant that has a good chance of dying if the finches return. (And I have no reason to believe they won’t.)

And in gardening, I’m learning that all life comes from some kind of death.

That pumpkin plant at the top of this post is a resurrection story. Last fall, we let our kids’ pumpkins decompose on purpose. We covered them with leaves. One of the pumpkins was carted off by squirrels during the winter. We didn’t know until spring whether any seeds had taken root. Now, we can hardly count the blossoms. I’m eager to see how many pumpkins this plant will bear.

The death of one pumpkin has led to the life of many more.

I’m not good at giving up things. Marriage and parenthood have been especially hard for me in the giving up department. I like my independence and freedom, and marriage and parenthood are contrary to both of those things. Not that I don’t enjoy these seasons of life, but they are hard.

Because I’m constantly having to sacrifice something.

Maybe it’s how I want to spend my time. With my kids home for the summer, my “me time” is limited. So, I give up what I want to do to make some memories with them this summer. Death to life.

Maybe it’s how much I’m willing to change. Marriage is the great identifier of weaknesses. I’m never been more aware of my sin than I have been in eight years of marriage. If I want to stay in a healthy relationship, I have to be willing to sacrifice my selfishness once in a while. Death to life.

It’s everywhere, really, this death to life principle. Every choice we make toward life results in some kind of death. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

I think it’s very good.

Jesus, who told us that He is “the resurrection and the life,” modeled the ultimate death-to-life for us. He gave up His so we could live ours. That’s no small thing.

Have you ever thought about this exchange before?

What have you given up for the life of something or someone else?

Lisa Bartelt About Lisa Bartelt

Lisa has been writing stories for more than a decade, first for newspapers and now as a freelancer, blogger and budding novelist. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two kids. Read more at her blog, Beauty on the Backroads.


  1. Chris Ann says:

    The name of your blog has always intrigued me. Thank you for echoing his word in your conduct and witness.
    Next year planted an annual flower. Pansy’s in a lot of areas are perennials so keep it watered and then find a shady spot to plant in the ground.
    Ecclesiastes 3 King James Version (KJV) the entire chapter of his truth is worth the time to read…
    3:1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
    3:2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;……//continue on in cherishing the miracles of life, birds being one of his many gifts along with the eyesight to see them with…

  2. Thanks so much, Chris! I hadn’t thought of planting a perennial. I’ll see what I can come up with. Thanks for reading and for the encouragement!

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