Friday, November 28, 2014

Clapping and Hugging: Lessons from Riley Grace

Psalm 104:1-2
"Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light..."

Well, Riley Grace is ONE! Actually by the time this is posted, she’s been one for two months, but oh well! This year has flown by in a swift blur. She’s had a busy year with lots of milestones. She’s moved to a new house and a new preschool, traveled to Alabama a few times for family visits and a beach vacation, and many more! I can’t believe our little girl is one. As I was thinking back to this last year, I couldn’t help but well up with emotion at the blessing each moment has been. The late night feedings and diaper blowouts right before work seem like a really long time ago, but it was just a short year ago! It never ceases to amaze me how much the Lord can teach me through parenting Riley Grace and watching her interact with the world. These are just a few of the things I’ve learned from watching her grow!

1.    Celebrate accomplishments!

Riley Grace is not walking yet, but she’s trying! She crawls at lightning speed, so she really doesn’t see a need to walk. She zooms around in her walker and walks behind one of those push-walkers, but no walking on her own yet. Right now she’s to the point where she’s becoming brave enough to let go of the couch with one hand (while still holding on with the other hand). She just stands there contemplating her next move. Her next move is either to sit down or grab the couch again. Even though she doesn’t take a step, she sees her courage as a huge accomplishment. She is so proud of herself for letting go just a little bit! She looks over at whoever’s in the room to see if we noticed. She wants us to celebrate with her. Patrick and I always make a big deal out of these accomplishments, and we are all left with the biggest grins on our faces as we see her delight in small accomplishments.
Do you celebrate your own accomplishments? Not in a prideful way, but in a positive and godly way. Let me give you an example. Last week I was struggling to wake up before work to spend some time alone with the Lord. By the end of the week, I felt defeated because I had either succumbed to the snooze button every morning, or Riley Grace had woken up earlier than usual leaving me no quiet moments. So last Saturday, I woke up significantly earlier than Riley Grace and spent some time in the Word. I had two choices at that point: rejoice in the fact that the Lord woke me up and I actually got up OR focus on the fact that it was only one morning out of the whole week where that actually happened. Thankfully, I was really encouraged by that small victory instead of being discouraged or pessimistic about the rest of my mornings that week. So even if the accomplishment is seemingly small where you only let go of one hand from the couch and contemplate being brave, it’s still an accomplishment to celebrate. Be positive! Don’t be hard on yourself! Allow the Lord to remind you of the small accomplishments, and thank Him for them!

2.  Be joyful always!

Riley grace claps at EVERYTHING. She claps at “Frozen”. She claps for Cheerios. She claps when she sees her favorite baby waiting in the car seat each morning. She claps when she’s riding in the cart at WalMart. She claps when she throws her toys out of the bathtub (a new exciting trick she’s learned that soaks the floor). She claps when Patrick walks up front in the morning and when he comes home from work. She claps when we surprise Patrick at work. She claps to the music in the car. And most of the time, we have no idea what she’s clapping for! We’ll just hear “clap clap clap” in the backseat as we’re driving around. She’s so cute and so cheerful! When we start clapping with her, she gets even more excited. She immediately wants to grab our hands and clap them for us. Now of course she’s not always joyful, but she’s joyful a lot.
Personally, I tend to look at the negative first. Joy usually comes way later after I realize what a pessimist I’ve been about any given situation. That comes with trying to be realistic and inevitably worrying instead of trusting God and finding joy. I’ve learning a lot about joy simply by watching Riley Grace be joyful and clap at the smallest things. So, the next time you are tempted to be negative about a situation, find something to be joyful about instead! Even when we are facing trials, we are still blessed beyond anything we deserve. The previous statement does not at all minimize any real and painful trial you may be experiencing, but because we have the Lord as our hope and strength, we know that we can also find joy in the midst of our circumstances. Think of Riley Grace’s spontaneous clapping, and find something to rejoice about!  

3.   Love people, and let them know!

We have a drama queen in our house. (Patrick would argue that we have two drama queenshe always asks me where I think she gets it from. J) Drama queens produce very funny and memorable moments sometimes we laugh during the moment, but sometimes the dramatic outburst is not funny at the moment, so we’ll laugh later A recent funny and adorable thing that Riley Grace has started doing comes at the most random times. For example, tonight I had gotten her out of the bathtub and was starting to dry her off. This is usually the most dramatic time of the day, as she severely dislikes getting out of the tub and having to put on clothes. You would think that it was a physically painful experience from observing this fiasco six out of seven nights. Tonight was a rare night where there were no fits thrown at the sound of the water draining and sight of the toys being put in their basket. I laid her down and covered her up the towel, and this is when she did the cutest thing ever She put both hands around my neck, pulled me forward, and gave me about ten kisses! She kept pulling me forward, kissing me, and releasing her grip. She had the biggest grin on her face as she saw my delight in this display of affection. Of course, I was making a really big deal about it because she was so cute, so she kept doing it. She was letting me know, “Hey mama, I love you a lot! (even when you make me dry off and wear clothes!) I’m not gonna waste a second! I’m gonna pull you down here right now and kiss you!” She also did this during lunch today when I was giving her refills on Cheerios. This display of affection comes without warning. If you know Riley Grace, you know she doesn’t love to cuddle. She has to be really tired or really sick to let you cuddle with her. Lots of times, I’ll go in for a kiss and she’ll push me away. Miss Independent! I guess the kissing has to be on her own terms. J But she does love to kiss us, and she loves to kiss her babies. She is a kissing machine recently, and we love it!
So onto our application obviously pulling someone’s neck and kissing them ten times is not always the most appropriate way to show your love for them (unless it’s your spouse!), but there are lots of ways to show love to others that we should get into the habit of doing. Who are you around everyday? What is their love language? Does your coworker like gifts? Surprise her with her favorite coffee one morning. Does your mom love words of affirmation? Write her a card letting her know something special you appreciate about her? Is it physical touch? When your husband gets home, stop when you’re doing, give him the biggest hug and kiss, and give him your undivided attention. Does your sister feel loved by quality time? Take some time out just for her, even if you have a million and one other things to do. Learn the love language of those around you, and show them some love! Riley Grace has learned mine! ;-) 

4.   Learn new things!

Riley Grace loves music, especially children’s songs. She loves to clap along and dance. One of her favorites is “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”. Now, she hasn’t mastered all of the motions, but she tries her best. Usually, when we start singing it, she’ll stop what she’s doing and put her hands in the air. She can’t make the spider or rain motions; she keeps her arms in the air the whole time for “the sun comes up and dries up all the rain”. She loves that motion, and that’s the one she can do. She keeps her hands up for the entire song! It’s so cute! One of her friends at preschool only does the spider motion for the whole song. They are so cute as they sing and dance along. They are learning new things everyday!
Even as adults, we can learn new things. It may be easy to get into a routine, but its healthy to keep your mind alert and learn new things. Learn a new recipe. Learn a new Bible verse. Learn a new crafty thing. Learn a new song. Don’t be afraid of failing. You will fail sometimes! Has anyone already accomplished a Pintrest fail??  J  (I painted a burlap cross as seen on Pintrestits in my closet under my shoes. It was that good. At least I tried!) Learn something new, or at least have fun trying. Riley Grace didn’t master “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”, but she has fun with the one part she knows!

5.  Be amazed!

Watching Riley Grace experience and notice things around her is one of the greatest joys of my life. She is so curious and observant about what’s going on around her. She jerks her head so fast whenever she hears a train or a car passing. She HAS to look at it. The train usually passes our apartment when we get home from work, so we have to stop and watch the whole thing pass by before we go inside. She is so amazed by it. She was absolutely amazed when she noticed that her hands and feet were connected to her own body and could move around in cool ways. She would just sit in her car seat, hold her hand up, and stare at it until her eyes crossed! She just recently discovered that if she squeezes some of her bath toys, water or air will squirt out and make bubbles. She squeezes them over and over again delighting in her new trick. She is easily amazed!
Are you easily amazed? Think for a minute about all of the things around you. Think of how amazing and complex creation is. God created everything that we would need to survive. He also created things that we can simply enjoy with the senses he’s given us. He’s given us people who love us. He’s given us talents and gifts. He’s provided for our needs. And most of all, He’s chosen to love us despite our failures. When we were far from Him, he chose to love us! Wow! There are lots of things to be amazed about when we think about the Lord! Butdo we stop to think about Him enough? If you are anything like me, you can be guilty of being too busy to stop and contemplate God’s goodness, faithfulness, and awe-inspiring love and blessings. Don’t be too busy for thanking and praising Him! Everything else will pass away, but the Lord never will. Be amazed at things that you might usually take for granted, and give thanks to God for those things!

I hope you have enjoyed some cute stories about our adorable girl, and I hope you can take away some small insights from how she delights in life!

Always, Jacquelyn

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Best Kind of Overwhelmed

 If you are a mother, I’m sure you have moments when you wonder how you could love your child your child so much. Tonight, I had a long strand of those moments as I was cradling Riley Grace in my arms while she slept. I was overwhelmed with just how much I love her and how I would do anything for her. I was overwhelmed with why in the world God entrusted her to Patrick and me. I was overwhelmed with how much God has used her to bless us, change us, and challenge us. I was overwhelmed with thankfulness that God planned her to be a part of our family even when we thought it wasn’t our plan! Our poor baby has been sick all week with a cold and fever, and she is miserable. Today after work, all she wanted to do was nap on me until bedtime. Although I hate for her to be sick, I was relishing the sweet moments of cuddling because, if you know Riley Grace, you know that she rarely wants to cuddle because she’s always on the go! As she was laying on me with a cool rag on her neck to hopefully reduce the fever and give her some relief, I began praying for her to be healed and be able to rest. As I was praying and feeling so in love, I began thinking that the love I have for her as a mother is nothing compared to the love the Father has for us. The familiar song, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” popped into my head as I was looking at her sweet face. Read it prayerfully, and be reminded and overwhelmed of what the Father did because He loves YOU.

How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure that He should give His only Son to make a wretch his treasure?

How great the pain of searing loss! The Father turns His face away as wounds which mar the chosen One bring many sons to glory.

Behold the Man upon a cross, my sin upon His shoulders. Ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers.

It was my sin that left Him there until it was accomplished.
His dying breath has brought me life; I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything, no gifts, no power, no wisdom, but I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection.

Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer. But this I know with all my heart: His wounds have paid my ransom.

Wow! This song is a precious reminder of how deeply the Father loves us. Can you imagine allowing your child to experience pain on purpose? Can you imagine your child asking for you to take away the pain, and you deciding not to take it away because you had a purpose for it? I would never desire for Riley Grace to have to go through a painful experience. It hurts my heart to see her in pain. God allowed and ordained for Jesus to go through pain. Why? For us. And who are we? We are the “wretch” that the song is talking about! We are the sinners whose sins held Christ on the cross. And we are the ones who gained from the Father’s love and Jesus’ obedience. Why was all of it necessary? Because God’s wrath upon our sin had to be appeased, and rather than punishing us, He made a way for us to be reconciled to Him that involved placing the punishment on HIS SON. He allowed Jesus to endure so much humiliation and shame, even when Jesus asked if there was another way. The Father answered that there was no other way, and so Jesus was obedient to death on a cross. Why? Because He treasures each one of us! Jesus felt extreme pain, but the Father also endured pain as he allowed Jesus to endure all of the pain. Think about how much the Lord must love us in order for all of the pain to be worth it. To God, we were (and are) worth the pain and suffering.

As we go about our day wrapped up in all of our daily tasks, it’s easy to forget the magnitude of the love of God. The devil loves for us to be too busy to notice God. Busyness (even busy with good things) keeps our focus on the tasks at hand instead of on having an eternal perspective. When we’re busy, we don’t stop to stand in awe of God’s creation. When we’ve heard the story of the cross a million times, we may not be overwhelmed by it anymore. BUT if we will take the vital time to stop and think about His great love, it can take our breath away. Hopefully, it overwhelms us and brings us to our knees in worship and adoration.

THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE LOVES YOU! Don’t brush past that as a Sunday School statement that you’ve heard a million times! It’s true, and it’s crazy! As my own worst critic, I know that there are many unlovable things about me. I’m sure you could say the same thing about yourself. But God loves you! You were worth the pain of the cross! You were worth the pain of the Father having to watch his Son endure the cross! Don’t waste your days and thoughts on busyness and the worries and cares of this world without remembering to praise the One who loves you so deeply. Have you experienced His love? Do you know that Jesus’ death on the cross was so that you could have true life? Do you believe in the One who died to rescue you? I hope that you do!

1 John 3:1 “See with what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Monday, September 8, 2014

Philippians - A List of Important "Whatevers"


“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

         Normally, when we hear the word, "Whatever!', we may think of a teen girl rolling her eyes at some seemingly ridiculous (to her, at least!) statement her mother made. I know none of you ever did that; I know I didn't!...  :-)  (Side note: As I have become an adult, I can definitely see where my mom was coming from when I had a tendency to roll my eyes, and I'll probably be the same way toward Riley Grace. :-) ) Ok, back to the real point. "Whatever" usually means that someone is meaningless to the hearer. "Whatever! I don't care!" Even though this may be how we commonly use the term, don't think that way when you read Philippians 4:8-9. Paul says "whatever" 6 times in one verse, and his "whatevers" are really important! Pray and ask the Lord to teach you something big and personal as we wrap up our study of Philippians 4!
         Philippians 4:8-9 are so encouraging! Paul uses the word “finally” as he enters into some final remarks about godly living. Many of the things we discussed, such as rejoicing, praying, being thankful, and not being anxious, have to do with our attitude and our perspective. As women and really just as human beings, we may have lots of trouble being joyful or winning the battle against anxiety in our day-to-day life. I can let a tiff with my husband steal my joy. I can allow a glance at the latest news story to create an anxious mind and heart as I think about the world Riley Grace will grow up in. I can cease to be thankful if something is not going as I expected. And all of these examples are of me focusing on myself. Not a good idea, but so easy to do! If we are focusing on the Lord, then we will realize all of the reasons we have to be rejoice, pray, be thankful, and reject worry regardless of our circumstances. If we are focusing on others, our circumstances, or ourselves, then we may end up seeing very little reason for living obediently according to the commands in Philippians 4.
         These verses are no different than the rest of what we’ve studied in Philippians; they are also about our thought lives, which eventually overflow into what we say and how we practice (or do not practice) what we know the Word tells us to do. Let’s take a look at this list:  

§  Whatever is TRUE As believers, we have to avoid the temptation to cling to false gods and false teachings. While Paul visited Philippi, he discovered that many people worshipped idols and false gods. Although we may not have graven images that we bow down to, people today still worship things that are false. We may worship success, perfectionism, money, power, and positionultimately ourselves. We may be bombarded with many false teachings of self-sufficiency and self-worship. We wouldn’t want to say outright that we worship ourselves, but our lives may reflect self-worship. Let’s guard against the worship of anything other than the Lord!

§  Whatever is HONORABLE Is thinking thoughts of worry, doubt, and anxiety honoring to the Lord?  Is thinking critical and judgmental thoughts of others honoring to the Lord. That’s an easy answer No. Examine your thought life to see if any of these patterns characterize your thoughts, and ask the Lord to replace those thoughts with ones that honor Him. Although it may seem that we are the only ones affected by our thoughts because other people cannot know them unless we speak them out, other people really can be affected by our thoughts because the way we think affects what we say and how we live. Guard your mind!   

§  Whatever is JUST God is righteous, and we should also value and pursue righteousness.

§  Whatever is PURE In a world where any and all promiscuous and vulgar thoughts, words, images, and actions are elevated and on display for all to see (regardless of if you go looking for it.), it is very difficult to live a life that remains pure in all aspects. Turning on the television or radio or skimming through a magazine is evidence of such impurity. As believers and as women of God who have been called to serve the people around us, whether it’s friends, our husband, children, church members, co-workers, etc., we are called to live with personal integrity. The Bible is not short on verses about purity. Do not allow for small areas of impurity because it seems culturally acceptable, even in today’s Christian culture. All the devil needs is a foothold; don’t let him have one!

§  Whatever is LOVELY (pleasing) Live a life pleasing to the Lord. That statement is short and seemingly simple, but it also filled with much depth. One of my favorite verses is Philippians 1:27 in which Paul says: “Live in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.” What a short but loaded statement! How in the world can we live lives that are worthy of what Christ has done for us? Search the Word for the answers and the means! Are you living a life worthy of the Lord Jesus? Do you desire to live that way? Is pleasing the Lord constantly on your mind?

§  Whatever is COMMENDABLE Commendable is simply another word for praiseworthy. We should live lives that cause others to praise the Lord because of the purity, sincerity, and godliness in our actions. We should choose to think, speak, and act in a ways that are worthy of praise, not ways that would bring shame to the name of Christ. 

§  EXCELLENT and PRAISE-WORTHY Paul states that “if anything” is these things, then think on them. We should test the things that we choose to think, say, and do in order to see if they are excellent and praise-worthy. If they aren’t, then they will in no way bring us closer to having the attitude of Christ (2:5) and therefore would be a waste of our time. 

TRUTH #1: God wants believers to only think of things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praise-worthy.

TRUTH #2: Believers should allow these thought patterns to inform how they live.

TRUTH #3: The life of a believer should be so closely knit to the life of Christ that other believers can be encouraged to imitate their life. 

TRUTH #4: God is not only the giver of peace, but He is the source of peace. “The God of peace will be with you!” What a comfort!

APPLICATION: Are you a joyful woman? Do you desire to be a joyful woman? How is your attitude? How is our perspective (or outlook) on life?  What do you spend your time thinking about? After completing this study, what lessons have hit you the hardest? What lessons have encouraged you the most? Write a commitment to the Lord about all He has shown you and taught you. Ask Him to empower you to be an obedient woman as you seek to obey the truths found in the few short verse that we have studied. 

FURTHER STUDY: Take some time to pray about the women that the Lord may want you to encourage and challenge with this study of Philippians 4. Read over Philippians 4:1-9 to remind yourself of the significant truths that we have discussed. Post a copy on your bathroom mirror. Write it on some notecards, and keep them in your purse. One of the best ways to remember what you have learned is to share it with someone else! How can you take what you have learned and share it with other women?