Our family grew by one again this past Christmas. It’s taken me this long to catch my breath and write about it, but here she is. Meet Pepper − a little 4-pound ball of playful enjoyment! She’s filling up all kinds of empty little spaces in this family. If you are thinking that I’m the very definition of crazy, I won’t argue. This chubby, happy baby and this precocious 3 year-old
are enough to keep me running and hopping, not to mention the rest of the gang. I’ve been resisting a puppy for over 20 years now, so why suddenly did I dive in? And yes, I squeezed my eyes shut tight and dove− just went for it before I could think about it too much and change my mind!
There are lots of reasons why it isn’t and has never been a good idea for us to take on a puppy. Trust me, I’m still going over some of them in my head… BUT there is one very good and simple reason why I did it. Love. Not just my love for my children and certainly not because I have a particular affinity for dogs (though she IS really growing on me), but to teach them the truest kind of love. Nothing teaches this love like the sacrifice required to care for babies and puppies! I want my children to have hearts filled to overflowing with Love. There’s so much I can’t give them or protect them from. Much of what we can give them is just stuff that’s filling them up, but leaving them empty. Sadly, our kids are such victims of technology today. Victims because they are learning that their acceptance and worth depend on the number of likes they get on a photo or post. The instant reactions and interactions come more from the feelings of the moment than from reason, deep thought, or the care that is necessary to foster personal relationships. In short, our collective young are trading empty accolades for actual love and have no idea! We have become a society that rarely recognizes what Love actually is and I include myself in that condemnation. I have enough work, enough people to take care of, enough responsibility, and practically zero time for myself. Why in the World would I even consider adding a puppy to this already packed and crazy schedule? And yet, can there be enough love?
Love requires sacrifice. Love is not easy. Love doesn’t even always feel good, believe it or not. When I’m so exhausted I can’t see straight and have to spend my entire day cleaning poop from butts and floors, I can assure you that I’m not exactly feeling the love. But when the kids run off that school bus full of excitement and anticipation, it’s not because the computer or television is waiting to tackle them with a bear hug. They come in with Joy to greet the kind of Love that has no expectation beyond simply accepting it; the kind of Love that teaches you HOW to love simply by receiving it.
When I think about my children growing up and heading out into the world on their own, there are so many things that I wonder if I’m teaching them well. Will they be good people, prepared to face the inevitable challenges of life? Will they be productive and successful? Will they be happy? Will they seek the path and the purpose that God has designed them for? I can really get caught up in all the ways I fall short. I wonder if the lasting impression I leave them with will revolve around the endless work, sleepless nights, and the stress and frenzy of trying to fit it all in. Will they even know my Joy? Because I swear I have it. Will they know my peace? Because it’s there and is rooted down deep. Will they walk away remembering the supreme frustration I expressed when the dog had her 100th accident in the house or will they hold more dear the elation I felt when she finally had a successful day going outside? Truthfully, I hope it’s both.
I’m not proud of some of my parenting moments. I often lament that I sure didn’t channel the Blessed Mother in the way I handled a certain situation or another. But I take heart from the messy stuff because what I hope my children will take away from their first-hand witness of the struggle and sacrifice is that I was committed to Love. I’m committed to loving them and teaching them love. My sacrificing, day in and day out, is the legacy I hope to leave them, because love in its purest form bears the depth of sacrifice. It is life-giving and has the ability to teach and to heal, requiring nothing in return. Love without sacrifice is a shallow thing at best. I love certain things, but wouldn’t sacrifice a whit for them. If I can leave my children one lasting example, I hope it will be this real, deep, and true kind of love. When they are grown and gone, I hope they remember the sacrifice and see the beauty in it.
And then I hope they remember their Jesus and that He did it for them first.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)