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