What I’ve Learned About Motherhood- From My Dog: The Relationship Between Love And Sacrifice

Infertility, Motherhood, Personal Muse-ings

You love what you sacrifice for. It’s that simple.

The relationship between these two principles became apparent to me during the time I was learning to housebreak my puppy. It was a task that required vigilance and discipline. I had to take him outside every couple hours at a minimum, or I was cleaning a mess off the tile floor. (We relegated the dogs to the tile using a baby gate in the doorway to the living room because I did not want to be cleaning carpet.)

This vigilance required some sacrifice on my part. I adjusted my daytime schedule to accommodate the training routine and even gave up some activities all together if I was going to be gone long enough that my puppy was guaranteed to go on the floor. House breaking was really inconvenient, but so was cleaning up a disgusting mess. He could learn, but how could I teach him if I was absent?

Housebreaking was more complicated at night. It was winter in Rexburg, Idaho where nighttime temperatures were below freezing so I kept the dogs inside, corralled in the mud room. (I can just hear those experienced with dogs saying that I was doing this the wrong way, and those with children thinking indignantly that a dog is nothing like a baby, and they are probably both right, but this is my experience and I offer no apology or further justification for it.) It was both exhausting and frustrating to be constantly waking up during the night either because my puppy was whining, or even because he was too quiet. Many times I would startle awake worried that it had been too long and that he’d had another accident.

During this process I became acutely aware of my feelings for my little puppy. I was devoting my energy and time, sacrificing my sleep and other activities in effort to train and care for him the best I knew how. Despite how gross, frustrating and inconvenient it could be, I loved my little puppy more because of what I’d sacrificed for him. In turn, he served to fill a part of the gap in my heart that wanted children.

As I pondered these principles of love and sacrifice, I felt I had been given insight into not only the love of a mother for her children, but also the spiritual parallels of the Savior’s love for us, and the relationship between His love and sacrifice for us. Often the Savior’s sacrifice is referenced as an act of love, and it most certainly was, but a detail of the Lord’s sacrifice stood out to me that I had not before considered. When in the garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus prayed to the Father he said: “not my will, but thine be done.” (Luke 22:42) He committed himself in complete obedience, sacrificing his own will (”if there be any other way, let this cup pass from me”) in favor of the Father’s plan. “God loved us, so He sent His [perfectly obedient] son.”

Jesus taught about this relationship when he said: “a man cannot serve two masters, for he will love the one and hate the other. Ye cannot serve god and mammon.”  (Matthew 6, Luke 16) He reiterated this principle over and over again. “If ye love me keep my commandments.” (John 14) “As I have loved you, love one another.” (John 15)

This principle is, I believe, part of the reason God commanded his people anciently to make sacrifices to him. And why Christ said we are to make for him a sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. (Psalms 51, 3 Nephi 9) We offer our sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit through our obedience, the sacrifice of our will and pride for the will of the Lord. This principle also applies to the service we render to our fellow men. Service and sacrifice are closely related, as we cannot serve another without some level of sacrifice. Christ declared these to be the two great commandments, the first, to love God with all thy heart, and the second to love our fellow men.

Unfortunately, the principle of loving what you sacrifice for still applies to the things we inadvertently, unintentionally, and subconsciously sacrifice. We become attached to things that are not good for us, even our bad choices become important. If we do not carefully and purposefully choose our priorities we will still feel the effects of sacrifice. If we sacrifice our love for God and our relationship with Him in favor of more worldly pursuits, those things become more important to us.

For example, do we sacrifice time with our family in favor of our career and monetary gain? Do we sacrifice the Lord’s Sabbath in favor of recreation? Do we sacrifice kindness for popularity? Do we sacrifice our integrity for pride? Or our health for idle entertainment and junk food? Are we sacrificing long-term happiness for instant gratification?

A popular maxim states: “Never give up what you want most for what you want at the moment.”

This experience has represented a paradigm shift in my thinking. It has become a mental system of checks and balances to weigh my priorities, analyze my choices and realign my actions with my values and principles. It is a litmus test to achieving my goals.

What are you sacrificing? Is it what you want most?

Watercolor Painting

Freedom And Boundaries

Luxurious Living, Personal Muse-ings

The celebration of Independence Day every Fourth of July, is a celebration of freedom. This American holiday is, in my opinion, one of our most substantive holidays in terms of ideology. Freedom is at the very heart of American culture. It permeates the whole of our society from our government, to our politics, to our economy, to our social structure, and our core values. Certain freedoms were of such importance to our founding fathers that they were articulated into our Constitution. They are protected by law.

Freedom also takes center stage in much American debate. Often it is an issue of the freedoms of the individual versus the freedoms of the majority. These debates are heated and there is passion on both sides. My intent is not to get into these debates themselves, but to address the idea of freedom itself. More specifically, the principle that true freedom always exists within boundaries.

Many people mistakenly believe that freedom is the absence of consequences. This is not the case. In fact, it is not even possible for freedom to exist outside of, or independent from, the natural law of consequences. Here in America, we are free because we have laws, or restrictions if you will, governing social behavior and economy, etc. When we obey these laws, we are free. When we do not abide by law, there are consequences. Often consequences limit our freedoms.

All of nature is governed by natural law (e.g. the law of gravity, or the laws of physics). For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. These are natural consequences- part of the natural law. They are not something humans can circumvent. True freedom comes from awareness of consequences to actions and making decisions accordingly, by choosing a desired outcome and not an action in and of itself.

Freedom has existed within boundaries from the beginning. When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, it was with certain laws. God also granted to Adam and Eve their agency, they were free to choose for themselves. However, when God’s laws were transgressed, there were consequences. (Of course God is loving and merciful, so He gave to Adam and Eve the law of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whereby sin and death could also be overcome by repentance and obedience.) This principle of freedom within bounds is woven throughout the entirety of Christian doctrine.

Some examples to illustrate this idea are things like, being free to drive a car in accordance with traffic laws. Or being free to interact on social media in accordance with the rules of any particular forum. The freedom to use a licensed product in compliance with stated terms and conditions. Freedom from stress over a test after diligent study. The freedom that come with knowledge and skill after disciplined practice, whether it be in art, music, medicine, science or any form of industry. The freedom of a teenager who has his or her parents’ trust. The freedom of choice when considering options such as universities, after qualifications have been met. Freedom from debt when bills are paid and budgets are followed.

The absence of law, restriction or consequence does not create freedom. Without law there is chaos and anarchy. A society that is truly free understands and reverences this principle. An individual who is truly free is obedient to the rule of law. The pinnacle of freedom is found in the rule of one’s self- mind over body.

I am free as society intends me to be free, when I obey the laws of the land. I am free as God intends me to be free, when I obey His laws.

I love the words to the American hymn “My Country, ‘Tis Of Thee.” Particularly appropriate in this context are the lyrics of the fourth verse:

Our fathers’ God, to thee,
Author of liberty,
To thee we sing;
Long may our land be bright
With freedom’s holy light.
Protect us by thy might,
Great God, our King!

America is free when “In God We Trust.” God bless America.