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

Creativity: Motherhood vs. Art

Creativity, Motherhood

I met a woman recently who commented that she had never pursued her art as fully as she’d have liked because her mother had discouraged her with the message that she couldn’t make any money doing art; that it wasn’t practical.
My heart broke for her. I could see her passion as well as feel the hurt and hesitation that crippled her inner artist. My immediate desire was to help, to encourage and try to counter the damage that had been done. I told her it is never too late, that she is already an artist.

I was simultaneously grateful for such supportive parents of my own who have always encourage and praised my creative endeavors.

This beautiful woman, is the mother of six children.

In addition to being horrified that she was discouraged from being an artist, my mind also immediately thought of all the times I’ve heard motherhood put down as an un-lofty or unworthy endeavor. Motherhood certainly doesn’t make any money- less money even than being an artist! While I hope she has not suffered similarly for her choices about motherhood as she was discouraged about pursuing art, in our day and age, I’m not optimistic. I’ve been exposed to these horrible ideas all too often myself to be naive enough to think that another has been sheltered from them.

It represents the sad state of our society today that two of the most worthwhile creative endeavors are demeaned so horribly. I cannot think of a higher more divine mode of creativity than that of creating human life. And I don’t know a single artist who doesn’t seek to influence the world in some way with their art. Is there any greater, more accessible method of influencing the world than through the next generation? These lofty goals should be praised! Not discouraged. Especially in a society that claims a woman is capable and free enough to pursue whatever she wants.

Creativity is a divine endowment. A unique and exclusive gift from deity to humankind. Creativity ought to be celebrated and re-enthroned as the virtue it is.

Creativity transforms lives, whether through a painting, a song, a story, an entrepreneurial endeavor, a delicious meal, or simply, noble motherhood.