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Friday, December 23, 2011

Carrying Loads We Weren't Intended to Carry

There are several things I believe to be true about husband/wife dynamics. 1) I believe God has commanded, in Scripture, that husbands are to lead their families. 2) I believe every woman, to varying degrees and methods, attempts, from time to time, to take that lead from her husband. I believe it all began with Eve in the garden. After she LED Adam (her husband) to eat the forbidden fruit, God punished her. The consequences Eve received were not just for Eve, but for every woman to come into the world after Eve. We usually think of Eve's curse as pain in pregnancy and childbirth. But there was more to it than that. The second part of Genesis 3:16 says, "And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you." And so it is, ever since, that women have desired to control their husbands, to take the lead. Some have more controlling tendencies than others. To what degree you try to take control depends on your personality and how much your mother controlled your father.

God clearly states in Scripture that a husband is to be the leader in his home. He repeats it several times.

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything." (Ephesians 5:22-24)
"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord." (Colossians 3:18)
"Likewise you wives, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear." (1 Peter 3:1,2)

But for us women to allow our husbands to lead requires a certain level of trust. Some husbands are naturals at being good leaders. Others, due to personality makeup and the modeling of their fathers, do not come by it so naturally. Some men are assertive, others are passive. Some men are responsible, others, not so much. Some of you have husbands who make it easy to put your trust in them to lead. Others of you may struggle trusting the husband God gave you. Many of you probably feel you could do a much better job leading the family than your husband.

Nevertheless, God has called husbands to lead and us women to submit. It's in God's Word, plain as day, and God knows best. God is not a huge fan of equal partnerships. God, throughout His Word, speaks about chains-of-command and authority. He says that it is best this way. His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. We can fight with this plan, but it will lead to weariness and various types of consequences. I will share with you something I learned many years ago that changed my life. I constantly have to remind myself of it, because it isn't easy. Here it is: It is better for your husband to lead poorly than for you to lead well. Why? Because it's God's plan - He designed it that way, and He asked us to obey.

BUT MY HUSBAND ISN'T A CHRISTIAN? God can STILL work despite Him. He's done it many times in the Bible and throughout history. He can accomplish His plan, He can work out circumstances just so. (Reread the first few verses of 1 Peter 3. It gives you wives of non-Christians TREMENDOUS power to change your circumstances.)

I am going to propose something to you ladies. I propose to you that submitting to your husband's leadership requires NOT a trust in your husband, but a trust in GOD. You must trust that God has your back, that He can work in your favor despite your husband. You must trust that your life is in God's hands.

Believe me, ladies, I've had to confront this in my own life many times - repeatedly. Letting go of control is harder than it sounds. It's extremely FREEING, but for whatever reason, we prefer the bondage of carrying a load we were not intended to carry. We wear ourselves out day after day with worrying and controlling and leading when we need to sit back, allow our husbands to exercise their God-given role, and let God work. We rob our husbands of their manly ability to lead because they haven't practiced it in so long - we've done it for them. We've taken away from them their dignity and manhood. They've grown lazy because their wives have done their job for them for years. It's not healthy for either husband or wife.

WHAT ABOUT WHEN HE SCREWS UP? What about it? He's human. He will fail at times, just like you. But what should you do when you fail? Get up and try again. Early in our marriage, I would expect my husband to be as wise as my father was. But then I realized that my father grew in wisdom throughout his 25 years of marriage. He didn't just ARRIVE on day one of his marriage with all that wisdom. Wisdom comes with years of life experience. You live and learn. So, will your husband make mistakes? Absolutely! And then you have a choice to make. You can either really make him feel bad and pay for it by making sure he knows how disappointed you are with him. Or, you can hold him up and let him know that you love him despite his mistakes, and know that he meant well, all the while, praying fervently to God on his behalf. He feels bad enough without your help.

BUT I'M SCARED TO LET GO! I have been, too, many times over the years. It's very hard, putting your life and your children's lives in the hands of another! But I've had to ask myself over and over, "What's the worst that could happen?" For example, finances may not be as strong as they would if you'd manage them. So what? Your husband must answer to God for how he manages your family's finances, not you. You may have to downsize your house and live more frugally. Is that the end of the world? Life is not supposed to be fair, ladies. It is NOT by accident that you are in the marriage you are in. God may be trying to teach you something. Don't miss out!

BUT YOU DON'T KNOW MY HUSBAND. You're right, I don't know every husband. But God's commands were for everyone. Now, if you're being physically abused by your husband and your life is in danger, please, please, get out and get help. But for most of us, our lives are not at risk. We can think of lots of reasons why God's commands are not for OUR situation, but God didn't type, "unless..." after His command. Let's make sure we aren't making excuses to avoid obeying Him. Remember, blessings come with obedience ("Obedience is better than sacrifice..." 1 Samuel 15:22), and consequences always come with disobedience. The consequences are never pleasant, trust me.

MY CHALLENGE TO YOU TODAY: Try it out, God's way! Just for a week, to start. Try to agree with your husband more than you disagree. Don't challenge every thought he expresses. Don't put him down for every mistake he makes. But do the OPPOSITE of what you would usually do. PRAY! Pray and ask God to change your heart. It's not about controlling your tongue, for out of the abundance of the HEART the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). You must have a heart-change. You must look at your husband as God's appointed leader in your life, as God's child trying to navigate through life just as you are, trying to do his best. Try not to look at the externals, but down deep into the root of your husband's character. Some of those things that annoy you, perhaps you will gain insight to the root of those issues - where they come from. Gals, your husbands are fallen individuals just as you are. We all have sinned and fallen short (Romans 3:23). We must decrease and let God increase in our lives. For many of you, it will take an act of God to let go of control and let your husband take his rightful place in your home. I encourage you to try it God's way, and learn to trust in the Lord of all creation! He loves you and wants what is best for you more than you do yourself!

A MESSAGE TO YOU SINGLE LADIES: Knowing this truth, let me encourage you ladies to seek a husband you can truly follow. Do not settle or marry out of desperation or infatuation. Make sure your husband will be someone unto whom you can submit yourself.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Kids in Church

WHAT IS THE SEILER FAMILY'S PHILOSOPHY ON CHILDREN SITTING WITH THEIR PARENTS IN CHURCH? We absolutely LOVE it!!!! In fact, we believe Jesus loved it, too! He said, "Let the little children come unto me." In the Bible, the church of the New Testament always included children worshiping and learning right alongside their parents. These children were raised in that atmosphere, so it was natural for them to continue it in adulthood.
All five of our children have had much experience sitting in adult church services with us. There are seasons in a child's life where they may be more clingy, and just have a hard time going to kids' church. Sometimes, there are behavioral reasons a child may need to stay with a parent. I have had a child who has struggled behaving when they are around their friends. The teacher in kids' church has had to talk to me about their misbehavior. Attending kids' church is a privilege. I have had to remove that privilege from them for a time until they could be trusted to attend and behave. So they've had to sit with me in adult service. Some of my children are pros at sitting in adult service now, the little ones are still learning. A few of them haven't had any trouble at all learning to sit still in church, others of them have had a harder time. But Pastor James and I feel its very valuable for them to learn how to properly behave in an adult church setting. Over the years, we have picked up a few tips to making a child's church experience a success for both them and us as parents. I'd love to share them with you!
FIRST, you must have a clear picture of what your expectations for your children will be. I firmly believe that most children, by the age of four or five, are CAPABLE of sitting through an hour-and-a-half long church service. Now, many of them haven't been trained to have that kind of self-control, as that training begins at home. For my children, I have found that boys struggle with the wiggles a little more than girls, but that may not always be the case across the board. Each child is different. However, each child MUST learn, before the age of five, I believe, how to have a measure of self-control.
BOYS AND SELF-CONTROL: Now, I have a house full of BOYS, so I understand them. God put in boys an extra dose of energy, no doubt. They were created to fight, to go to battle, to conquer, and to protect! That must not be squelched. However, I teach my boys that there is a time and a place for exerting their energy. There are times when they must hold it in. For instance, recently, we were at the grocery store and I was ordering food from the deli counter. I was thinking hard, trying to calculate how much of this and that to get to feed my family. Beside me, one of my boys got bored waiting for me and decided to start jabbing another brother in fun to start play fighting. Not good timing! I stopped what I was doing, bent over to get eye level with that boy, and said very quietly, "The grocery store is not the place to exert your energy. You need to practice self-control right now, and wait until we get home for this kind of play. Do you understand me?" And I waited for him to reply, "Yes, Mom."
There are other times in our daily life when we practice self-control, such as during our school time or when we are having family devotions and prayer together. Whenever I am teaching them something, I expect them to not only pay attention, but not to distract others around them. I am fully aware that this isn't easy for boys. They often cannot sit beside each other, because it is just too tempting. But they have learned, now, how to sit through me reading an entire history lesson to them, reading a story to them, and even reading several chapters of the Bible in a row to them. I do not tolerate whatsoever any disrespect or trying to be funny and draw attention to themselves while we are praying or reading God's Word. I find that very offensive, and have taught them to respect God enough to control themselves and give Him the attention He deserves.
Our children know and understand that we have several guidelines for their behavior during a church service. The bottom line to all of these rules, and I tell them this, is, "We want people to pay attention to God and the speaker. We do not want anyone to be distracted by anything we're doing." This is about preferring others before ourselves. Here are a few of our rules for church conduct:
  • They must speak in a whisper only. They may not make any noise or hum that others around them can hear. 
  • Under NO circumstances whatsoever are they to walk near or around the front of the room or stage area where the speaker is speaking or the worship team is leading people in worship. This is extremely distracting to everyone who is trying to pay attention to the worship or the speaker. (Unfortunately, when I'm on stage playing keyboard, I am not able to stop my toddlers from doing this all the time, so they occasionally make their way to Daddy when he's speaking. He doesn't mind, and usually just picks them up and holds them and continues to talk.)
  • One of my pastor's wives many years ago told me something she used to tell her children, and I now tell mine: You may not make any motion above the back of the seat of your chair or pew. You must play below the back of your chair, so as to not distract those behind you. I love this, because it is very tangible for kids and they get it.
  • Before and after service, running is not allowed inside the sanctuary. Now, let me just say, my boys are still learning this, and I catch them all the time. But this is a very important rule. I tell them, "There are elderly people and young toddlers who attend our church, and by running, you could easily cause one of them to fall and hurt themselves. You may also cause damage to expensive equipment. Running is for outside."
  • Before and after service, they may not touch any of the expensive equipment in the sanctuary. I have one son in particular who just LOVES to touch things he shouldn't, and experiment with what this button does or how to disconnect this cord. It only takes one glance from me where our eyes meet, and he sees me shake my head at him, for him to know he's touching what he should not touch. This should include instruments and microphones. I know it's so fun for kids to jump on the stage and pretend they are the worship band. I myself love to see my toddler practicing his drum skills. So I struggle with this one a bit. I think, with parental supervision, it can be OK, however, a ton of young children playing with all the equipment on the stage UNSUPERVISED is a recipe for disaster, and can result in a huge bill for the church. They drop microphones and damage them, they clumsily trip and knock over this or that, and it's just not a good thing. In addition, we want to create an environment where people can linger and visit, and often, its hard to have a conversation while a child is banging on the drums or shouting in a microphone. I know and understand, my children do it as well. It's very cute. But again, it requires close parental supervision, and even better, the purchase of some play instruments for them to "lead worship" at home!
If one of my children is having a hard time obeying my church rules, I must remove them from the room. It is more important to me that others are able to receive what God has for them in the service. Do I miss out myself? Yes, I do. But I'm a mother. I'm in the full-time business of child-training. It comes with the territory. There will be a day when I can sit through an entire church service uninterrupted. But that's not my season right now. It is more important to me that I teach my children proper church conduct.

There are a few things I do to ensure our morning in church is, at least, headed for success.
  1. We visit the restroom and eat our brownie bite from the coffee cart before church begins. Once church starts, we're not getting up and walking around a million times. The constant movement is just too distracting to others. There will be no more visits to the coffee cart. I keep a bottle of water nearby or, when they were younger, a sippy cup. When they were much younger, I might have even had a bag of Cheerios or something they could snack on that wouldn't make a mess all over the place. 
  2. I try to have a bag of a few quiet activities for the younger ones to do. This includes coloring books and crayons, reading books, drawing supplies, anything that they can do in a very small space with no noise at all. Toy vehicles do not qualify, as they require too much space to "drive," even though they've been known to sneak them in church on occasion.
  3. For my older children, I whisper to them quite a lot through the service, explaining to them what is taking place and how they should respond. During worship, I tell them, "We're singing these songs as a prayer to God. Try singing along with the words on the screen and make it your prayer." Or "We lift our hands to God as a symbol of our complete surrender to Him, our worship of Him, because He is so good to us." Any of my children above five years of age are required to stand during worship (the older ones, longer perhaps than the younger ones), as it is a sign of respect, and because someone asked us to stand so we obey, and because Jesus hung on the cross for us, so we can stand for 30 minutes for Him. Trust me, I've heard the, "I'm too tired to stand," bit before, but I don't buy it, because as soon as church is over, they're running around outside with their friends like crazy people. My response is, "I'm sure Jesus got tired hanging on the cross for your sins, too." During the "Meet & Greet" time, I might take them around and teach them how to properly greet others by looking them in the eyes, smiling, and shaking their hand. During the message, my goal is to, step-by-step, teach them how to engage in the service. I may give them a piece of paper and ask them to copy words they see from the sermon notes on the screen. I may instruct them to draw a picture of something the pastor is talking about. I might have them practice looking up the Scripture passage for the message in their own Bible. (Incidentally, my children are required to bring their Bibles to church as a discipline. My oldest child also brings a notepad and takes notes during the sermon on her own.) I might have them listen for a key word to see how many times the pastor says it. Whatever I can do to get them engaged, I will do. I want them to be active participants in the service. Coloring is fine when they're young, but after about age six, we must slowly make the conversion into more mature church participation. During prayer time, I expect that they take the proper posture of prayer. With my little ones, I whisper, "We're praying to Jesus now. Close your eyes and fold your hands." When the pastor is giving an opportunity for people to ask Jesus into their heart, I might whisper, "Let's pray right now quietly that people who need Jesus accept Him." Any of my children are welcome, also, at the altar, but only if they are reverent while there. They may not go with me and then roll around and wiggle and play. (The only way any of this teaching is possible is if our children sit WITH us in church, not away from us with their friends. My children have often slipped away to sit with friends before I could get off the stage from worship, but my preference is that they sit with me. Again, temptations to NOT pay attention and engage are SOOOO much greater when they are sitting next to a friend. They can visit with their friends before and after church, just like I do, but during service, my preference is that they sit with me or their father.)
SO HOW DO I START NOW? It is important to start by having a conversation with your children about what will happen and what you will expect from them. This conversation may need to happen EVERY Sunday morning again before leaving your home for church (children require lots of reminding). I am constantly having this conversation in our home, and it goes something like this: "Today is Jesus Day! We are going to church to worship God. We will see many of our friends there, and it will be fun, but the reason we go is to praise God and learn more about Him. You are welcome to go to the children's classes. Your friends are there and they have lots of fun. However, if you choose to sit with Mommy or Nana or Aunt Holly, you must behave. You have to be still and VERY quiet. You will have to stay in your chair until church is over. You must use your whisper voice. You can color in your coloring book or read, but you cannot distract others around you."
This past Sunday, my two toddlers, ages three and four, who are going through a very clingy stage right now, sat with me on the front row during the entire church service. I was pleased when a friend came up to me after service and asked, "Were they sitting there the whole time? I didn't even notice them!" I don't know if the people in the row behind me would have the same sentiments, but nevertheless, this is my goal! In my mind, my children sitting in service with me was a success, because they were unnoticed. They deserve praise afterwards for a job well done, maybe even a special little treat. But they need to know they were obedient for doing exactly what Mommy asked of them, and they were good boys for having such great self-control.
This skill goes a long way in their lives. I encourage you to start training your children at home to have self-control, and start with a small increment of time, and work your way up. Teach them the real purpose for attending church, and how they can participate. Give them a very clear picture of what will take place, in order, and what they are required to do at each segment of the service. Cater your instructions to the age of your child. I believe every child needs some experience sitting in adult service with their parents from time to time. It won't be a huge culture shock to them when they graduate from kids' church to attending adult service full-time, as they've already had experience in the environment, and know how to properly conduct themselves and engage their hearts in the service. The greatest lesson for a child is what they observe the adults around them doing. Modeling active participation in church is priceless. What a delight for a family to be able to worship together on a Sunday!
One other note: As adults in church, it is important that we have grace for families who are at different points along the journey to worshiping together as a family in church. Children are clay on a potter's wheel, being molded and shaped into something beautiful. But during the process, they can sometimes look like anything but a finished product. We can partner with parents of young children by supporting them as they train their children and not passing judgment. Let's come together as a family of God to model and teach children to be respectful in God's house.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Raising Gentleman

When I was a little girl, I would visit my Papa and Nana's house in Santa Clara. In the morning, while my Nana was getting herself ready for the day (which took a very long time), Papa would take me for a walk down to the beautiful campus of Santa Clara University. Each time we would cross the street, he would switch places with me, ensuring he was always walking on the side of the street and I was on the inside. I took notice, and asked him, "Papa, why do you keep switching places with me?" He replied, in his gentle, calming voice, "A gentleman is always supposed to walk on the side near the street." Oh, my! That made me feel like a princess! And I never forgot that moment. I felt so very special to him.
It seems like true gentleman are an endangered species. In our modern culture, the art of gentleman manners has been lost. I don't want that to be the case for my four boys. I want my boys to show courtesy and respect for others, and most especially, ladies and elders.
Hannah had gone to the Portland area this week with Aunt Holly to visit my brother's family. While she was gone, and it was just me and my boys, I decided to take some time to discuss with them by what a gentleman is characterized. I have told them many times before that, especially as they get older, I expect them to use their increasing strength to defend and protect those who are weaker than they are, as opposed to using their strength to bully and push around younger children and girls. This week, we added to that concept some new instructions I found in an article I read online. Some of these manners, my boys already exhibit. Some of them, my boys had never heard of before, and thought were kind of strange. But they became very anxious to begin practicing using their strength to serve others. I encouraged them to start with the females in their own home (their sister and me).
Today, when we picked up Holly & Hannah from the airport, my older boys put their gentleman manners into practice by helping the girls with their heavy luggage. They were very proud to serve the girls in this way.
Here is the list of 10 gentleman manners that we discussed. Have fun sharing these with your young men.

  1. Gentlemen have respectful attitudes which lead to respectful actions and words. They greet people with a smile, nod or "hello" as they pass people. Their attitude is one of putting others first - based on The Golden Rule... to treat others the way they would like to be treated.
  2. Gentlemen use respectful words: "Please" "Thank You" "You're Welcome" and "Excuse Me." Instead of "What?" and "Huh?" they say "Pardon me?" They say "Yes Ma'am" and "No Sir" respectfully. They never use cursing or cussing words. Gentlemen also have the courage to use difficult words like, "I'm Sorry" "I made a mistake" and "Will You Forgive Me?"
  3. Gentlemen open doors for Ladies and allow them to pass through first, saying, "After you!" All children open the door for their elders.
  4. Gentlemen walk a Lady to the car and open the car door for her.
  5. A Gentleman offers his seat to a Lady. Gentlemen should offer their seat to their elders or pregnant women in crowded buses or waiting rooms. Never be seated until your mother is seated. (I was humbled and thrilled to find out that the distinguished, elderly gentleman who had offered me his seat one day in Seattle for basketball's "Final Four" tournament was the legendary UCLA Basketball Coach, John Wooden!)
  6. A Gentleman helps a Lady put on her coat or sweater. He also offers to help carry heavy packages for a lady. Children offer to carry the bags for their mothers. If the lady drops something, the gentleman will pick it up for her.
  7. Gentlemen stand when a Lady enters the room or when he is introduced to someone.
  8. Gentlemen seat a Lady at the dinner table before they seat themselves. They rise when ladies excuse themselves and when they return. The gentleman takes care of the lady to his right.
  9. The Gentleman protects a Lady from danger. He walks on the curb side of the road as a courtesy of protection and to keep the lady from getting splashed by puddles. He also stands behind a lady on an escalator going up; and in front of her going down to protect her from falling. He walks down a dark theatre aisle first and the lady will follow.
  10. A Gentleman will never EVER hit or hurt a Lady. A boy must never hit or hurt a girl, but rather use his strength to protect a girl.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Remembering Baby Matthew

One year ago today was our precious baby Matthew's stillbirth. Today, we remember him and the other three children we have lost who are now in Heaven awaiting the glorious day when we'll all be reunited. Our family values each and every life God has blessed us with. They are our children, and we love them, even the ones we never got to know. We have five beautiful children that have come into this world, but we are the parents of nine children. What a privilege and honor it is to have been the carrier of a soul as it passed into eternity with Jesus. Thank You, Father, for every life You have given and taken away. Our hearts will choose to say, "BLESSED BE YOUR NAME!!!"

Friday, December 2, 2011

Celebrating Christmas

Aw, yes! The Christmas holiday is rapidly approaching! It's truly the most wonderful time of the year! We decorated our home the Friday after Thanksgiving, as we do every year. We don't have very many Christmas decorations, so it definitely doesn't look decked out or anything. But we have stockings up, the tree is up (ours is a pre-lit fake one) in our front window, and my darling husband got the lights up on the front of the house (much to the children's delight).
I always let the children do the decorating, if they so desire. Hannah really enjoys taking the lead on this, and the little ones always tag along helping. It doesn't always look just how I would have done it, but who cares? They exercise their creativity. Hannah actually did a very good job on our tree. She gets better each year. And because Nate, my 3yo, just LOVES trains, we added a train I found at ACE Hardware around the bottom of the tree this year.
We always make sure Christ is the center of our Christmas holiday. Our children know this holiday is about His birth. Because Jesus received three gifts at his birth, we are giving each of our children three presents. We don't always do it this way, but this year, we decided to.
GIFTS: We have a very slim Christmas budget. We save all year long with a holiday savings account at our bank. Each month, they automatically take out our designated amount and transfer it into our holiday savings account. Those funds are automatically deposited into our checking on Nov 1st. That's what we have to buy gifts. We must divide that money up amongst those on our gift list. Most of it goes to our own children, but we spend a little on our parents, my sister-in-law, my husband's grandparents, and something for the less-fortunate families that our church is supporting. My brother has made a request that we not exchange gifts between each other, as we both just feel it's unnecessary and that the holiday is about Christ and not gifts. Pastor James and I usually get something for each other, but very small. I honestly do most of my Christmas shopping online. I absolutely LOVE Vision Forum ( for really boyish gifts for my boys, and books for others. I also use Amazon for lots of things. Other than that, Target had most everything else, and I visited one other specialty store (which I cannot mention in case my children read this).
As for our children's gifts, we have a set amount we plan to stay within when buying them all gifts, however, it is not our goal that we spend exactly the same amount on each child. Older children's gifts just, by nature, usually cost a little more. Our little ones don't need as much, so as long as they each can count the same amount of presents for each child under the tree, they don't really know how much everything was and who we spent more or less on.
DOES SANTA COME TO YOUR HOUSE? Santa does come to our house. However, we have told our children the true story about Santa and his origin. We explained that Saint Nicholas was a real man, and that he loved God. He gave gifts in secret to bless those who were less-fortunate. He didn't want the credit for it. He gave out of his love for Christ. After he died, people chose to continue blessing each other in secret in the spirit of Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas is called many different names in different countries, but here in America, we call him Santa Claus. So they know we pretend to be Santa, but that we give in a spirit of generosity just like Saint Nicholas. We have two Christian-based books that explain the reality of Santa that we read to our children every year. Is Santa real? He was, absolutely! So one of the three gifts we bought for our children will be our Santa present - usually the most special one.
OTHER CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS: We have a few other Christmas traditions in the Seiler home - some have been around for a while, and some are still evolving. We will watch The Nativity Story at some point this season. We go to James's grandparents for Christmas Eve, and we will get together with that family again this year. We love to drive around and look at Christmas lights on Christmas Eve, and then drink hot chocolate when we get home. We will read the Gospel accounts of Jesus' birth as well. After the children have gone to sleep Christmas Eve night, we stuff the children's stockings and lay them at the foot of each child's bed for them to find as soon as they awake. Christmas morning, Pastor James's parents and sister, Holly, usually come over and we open presents together as a family. We love to make homemade cinnamon rolls with coffee Christmas morning. Traditions are so important for children. They give them a sense of stability and security, and create fabulous memories!
As much as I would LOVE to bake and do other homemade things this season, I must realistically evaluate my life at this time, and I will not be able to do all I'd like this year. There will be future years. However, my load this year is just too large (one I'm trying currently to reduce).
HOLIDAY BLUES: For many of you, the holidays are a difficult time for one reason or another. I wish I had a great amount of advice for you that would take it all away. However, I will be navigating through this a bit for the first time myself. December 8 marks the one year anniversary we lost our 6th child, Matthew. I'm already starting to feel a little blue as I remember what was happening in our lives last year at this time. I have compassion for all of you who also remember loved ones you really miss this time of year. My thoughts are definitely with you all, but we will make it through. I look forward to being reunited with baby Matthew in Heaven someday!
MY FINAL THOUGHTS: I encourage you all to not get caught up in the hustle-and-bustle that many of us associate with Christmas. To me, this time is about Jesus and family. It's a time set apart from the rest of the year, and should be a bit different. It's a very cozy time for friends and family, for generosity, sharing stories with our children, and counting our blessings. I refuse to let it be stressful. That would rob me of the joy of this season. I enjoy the break from the normal routine, and the special memories created with those I love. Merry Christmas to you all! May Christ be the center of your homes this very special holiday season!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Managing Finances

THANKSGIVING: We had a wonderful Thanksgiving in the Seiler home. We had 17 people for dinner. My mom was staying with us from Monday through Friday of this week, so she got to be with us for Thanksgiving (my dad was hunting with my brother). I love having my mom here, and wish she was closer (she lives in Medford). We also had an elderly couple in the church for Thanksgiving - they lost all three of their sons, and have no nearby family. We had another family of four, friends of ours, and, of course, my husband's parents and sister. We just happened to have an inflatable in the driveway, so Pastor James blew that up for the kids, despite the drizzle. Hannah had just bought "Just Dance 3" for the Wii, so they played that some. The kids were very entertained. The men watched football, and when that was over, we watched "The Rockshow Comedy Tour," with Tim Hawkins. Laughter is one of God's greatest inventions! We are so blessed with family and friends and, even more than that, God's grace in our lives!

MANAGING FINANCES: I was raised in a very financially wise and conscientious family. My dad always managed the family's finances with precision, and his mom (my grandmother) was a very wise investor, saving up large amounts of money to pass on to her children and grandchildren, all the while, reusing paper plates and foil.
As soon as I got my first job as a teenager, I wanted to manage my own money. I even asked my parents to show me all the money they put out for me. I wanted to know how much it cost for me to live. What I could, I took over. I began to pay my insurance and gas and whatever I could afford.
I began working for the State of California when I was in my very early adulthood (like 19 or 20). I learned how to budget. I was a student of Larry Burkett, at the time, and his financial advice. He had a budget guide for single people that I used to create my own budget. Later, when Pastor James and I got married, I switched to his budget guide for young marrieds. We also took a Crown Financial Ministries course at our church. His advice was to budget on one income, especially if you plan to stay at home with your children. So we did. We tried very hard to live off of Pastor James's income alone. We didn't always make the wisest financial decisions in those early days, for sure. But after a year-and-a-half of marriage, when I became pregnant with our first child, we knew I would be leaving the State of California to stay at home with our daughter. It wasn't an enormous blow to our finances, as we'd set up our lives to live off of his income alone. We still had accumulated debt (house debt and car debt) that made it difficult, living paycheck to paycheck. We weren't as wise then as we are now about debt, and we are proud to live completely debt free now. But that took years to turn around because of some impulse decisions we made when we were first married.
Our budget has changed a lot over the years, but we still live by a budget. I have our budget typed up in Word so we can see the bottom line at any given time. Our budget has always been something we work on collectively as a couple. It includes all the categories that Crown Financial Concepts includes on their budget guide. We account for EVERYTHING that we know we will spend each month. Obviously, unexpected things come up, but to the best of our ability, we plan for them as well.
BUDGET: We live off the "10-10-80" principle. The first 10% of ALL our increase goes to the Lord who provides everything we have. It's His anyways. The next 10% goes into savings. We live off the remaining 80%. It hasn't always been easy, and if anything has suffered over the years, it's been our savings account. But we just try again the next month.
HOW WE WORK: We have always had just one account for the two of us (meaning, we don't have separate accounts). It's always been a joint effort by the two of us, despite the fact I do not provide any additional income. While my husband provides financial oversight in our family, and has the final say as to how we manage our finances, I've always managed the day-to-day. I put the budget into play. And as a stay-at-home mom, my mentality is that my contribution to our family's finances is how frugal I run the household. I am extremely frugal, and never stop learning and experimenting with how I can save a little here or there.
For as long as I can remember, I've used Quicken to manage our finances. Every Monday, I balance our account. I pull up our Quicken on my computer in one window, and pull up our bank account online in another window, and compare the two. Once I have checked off everything that has cleared and know what hasn't, I give Pastor James the bottom line: "Currently, we're at THIS, but THIS and THIS and THIS have yet to clear our account. When everything clears, we'll be at THIS. But don't forget THIS is still coming. In addition, we have THIS much in savings, so we're THIS far from our savings goal."
I send him something to that effect in an email, so he can visually see it. One thing I love about Quicken is that you can enter transactions that will happen in the future. For instance, if you want to make sure there will be enough money in your account for a trip you will be taking in two weeks, you go ahead and enter the trip into Quicken with a future date. Then you ensure that money doesn't get touched.
ANOTHER SMALL TIP: In our younger days, we frequently bounced checks. It was an awful way to live. One year, when we received a tax return, we decided to put a $500 cushion in our checking account. It's entered into Quicken like a year ago, but Quicken accounts for it being there. So we continue functioning and forget it exists, but we ensure that we will never bounce a check again. When Quicken says we're getting low, we know to make some adjustments. It doesn't matter what the bank says we have. We live off of what Quicken says we have.
PAYDAY: When payday arrives, I sit at my laptop and begin paying bills. I write our first check to the church. I can transfer money into savings right from my computer. I pay every bill I can online, and write checks for the one or two that I can't pay online. Because we only get paid once a month, I pay the bills all at once. I find that easier than keeping track of due dates. We have used the envelope system for many years. For items like groceries and gas and our little bit of play money each month, I take them out of the account in cash and give Pastor James whatever he needs for the month. We just find its easier to see the money go when we have the cash in our hands.When the money is gone, the money is gone.
CHILDREN AND SAVING: Our children each have their own savings account at the bank. For the older ones, I hand them their statement when it comes. I have given them the "shpeal" about the importance of saving, and how many years away from driving age they are, and that they'll want a car. Or how many years away from college or marriage they are, and how much those things cost. They understand they have a lot of saving to do. My children are required to give 10% of all their increase to the Lord and put a minimum of 20% in savings (they don't have living expenses, so this shouldn't be hard). A few of them choose to put more in savings, because they are goal-oriented in their personalities. I have another child who always seems to be saving for something they want to buy. Either way, it's important to me that they are giving to God and saving. They love to compare the amounts in their savings accounts when the statements arrive. For the little ones, I try to put money they receive into savings, as they don't need anything, and they don't know what to do with money they get.
TAX RETURNS AND BONUSES: In the spring, we get a large tax return and Pastor James receives a bonus from PG&E. We immediately tithe on all that increase. Then we save the rest. It's how we pay for irregular items that come up throughout the year, like sports, vacations, etc. Last year, we had to buy a new washer and dryer, and we used this money to help with that.
OUR MONEY PHILOSOPHY: A while ago, we took a DVD course by Jim Sammons, a financial adviser. One of the principles he taught that really stuck for us is this: God will provide for everything He wants you to have. If there is something you want, but don't have the money for, perhaps it is not God's will that you have it. If He wants you to have something, He will provide the means for you to obtain it, (and that DOESN'T include borrowing, as the Bible tells us not to borrow or get into debt). In addition, he taught that many of us gripe that we don't have enough to pay our bills. However, we have chosen to tie up much of our money in debt and other things that perhaps were not what God intended for us to do with our money. God says, "I provided all that you needed to meet your NEEDS, but you didn't spend it like you should have. You spent it on other things." So while we're blaming God for our tight finances, we actually brought it upon ourselves by disobedience.
With this thought in mind, we no longer worry about how we will pay for this or that. If God wants us to do something, He will give us the means to do it.
I think I've covered everything in regards to how the Seilers manage finances. If you have any questions, you can always comment below or email me privately at Happy saving!!!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Seiler Kids' Chores

I was raised to work hard. My parents did not care whether I felt like helping out or not. There was work to be done, and we all had to help to get it done. I FIRMLY believe that contributed to my ability to work very hard as an adult. I don't have a lazy bone in my body. And I refuse to raise lazy children.
In a large family, there's plenty of work to do, but there's also plenty of helpers. Even if I had just two children, I would still raise my children to help significantly with the daily household management.
The Bible has PLENTY to say about hard work vs. laziness. Just Google it, and you will get a long list. For instance, Proverbs 13:4 says, “The soul of the lazy man desires and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.” Because it's important to God, in the Seiler home, everyone must work, everyday. The only exception is Sundays, our day of rest, but even feeding animals still has to be done on Sundays.
As soon as a child is old enough to make a mess, that child is old enough to be taught to clean it up. One motto in our house is, "If you make a mess, you clean it up." When my children were toddlers, it would start with me sitting on the floor with them and singing Barney's clean-up song. I would take their hands and physically make them pick up a toy (with my hand over the top) and then we'd put it away together. We'd keep singing until it was all done. Over time, they were required to do it without mom's help. No fail, every child will resist clean-up time at one point or another. If a child refuses to obey my direction to clean-up, consequences must be administered. My children have cleaned-up while crying many times, but they must be taught at an early age to force themselves to do what they don't feel like doing - to have the ability to overrule themselves. That's just life! We, as adults, must do that all the time.
My older children love to have the younger children be their chore buddy. This is great, because not only do they bond, but the younger children are learning how to do chores from their older siblings. They learn teamwork.
At preschool age, my children's chores are mainly self-care and picking up toys. I have two preschoolers currently: Noah is 4 1/2, and Nathan is 3 1/2.
Once they hit about age five, they can graduate into bigger responsibilities, such as sorting laundry, unloading the dishwasher, and feeding animals. Right now, Luke, my 6 1/2 year old, is at this stage.
By age eight or so, you should really begin to feel the difference in your workload. When my older children spend the night somewhere else, I can feel the weight of their help at chore-time, when I have to pick up their slack. My older children are a significant help in the running of our house - there's no doubt! Joshua is my 8 1/2 year-old.
By age 10-12, you should feel confident that, if you were to be sick for a long time or in some way debilitated, your child could fill in for you with no problem. Maybe meals won't taste as great as yours after your many years of experience, but they could prepare SOMETHING! They could do laundry, dishes, clean bathrooms, care for pets, etc. with little-to-no guidance from you. I am confident that, if something were to happen to me, Hannah, my 12-year-old could run the show, and even care for her younger siblings, with no problem.
SO, HOW DO YOU ASSIGN CHORES? Just like with menu planning, I've utilized many different methods in the past. One of my favorite resources is Teri Maxwell's "Manager of Their Chores."
In this resources, Teri shows how to assess the needs of your house. You must start by creating a master list of everything that needs to be done, and how often. From there, I simply count up the items on the list and divide it by the number of people helping (which, in our house, is everyone but Dad, because he works). Then, I choose that number of chores for each person. I try to assign chores to the youngest child who is capable of doing them, and move up from there. I take into account how much each age can handle. It must be do-able. I want them to feel successful and the pride of contributing to our home.
HOW LONG DO CHORES TAKE? Hannah is quite efficient in completing her chores. She's also my only girl. Boys, I have found, are very easily distracted during chore time. In my opinion, it should not take more than 30 minutes. If I find a child is being sluggish in completing their chores, I set a timer. They hate that, because they know if they do not beat the timer, there will be consequences. But I tell them that slow work is disobedient. I ask them, "If you were hired to work for someone and you did this kind of work, do you think you deserve to be paid?" I do not tolerate slow work. I also don't tolerate being in the wrong place when you're supposed to be working. I have a few different consequences for not beating the timer. For some, that might be extra chores. For others, it might be another form of Biblical consequences. It just depends on the situation and the child. Incidentally, any child who is mean to a sibling, especially during chore time, is often given the consequence to complete that sibling's chores for them.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU DO CHORES? Because all six of us are home all day together, our home gets un-tidy pretty fast. We do chores twice a day, in addition to a quick tidy before bed. So we have morning chores, which must be completed before 9:00am, when we start school. We also do chores again at 1:00pm, because the house is often un-tidy by then, and the dogs need more water, and there's dishes piled in the sink, and laundry to be rotated.
WHAT DO YOUR CHORE LISTS LOOK LIKE? Currently, I have distributed our chores by rooms or major groups. For instance, one child may be in charge of keeping the living room tidy, which includes straightening the books on the bookshelves, and putting away DVDs and Wii games that get left out. Another child may have kitchen, which includes dishes, but also wiping counter-tops and the dining table, and putting away stray toys that end up on the kitchen floor. It does not matter who made the mess. If that room is your jurisdiction, you clean it. My children know they are to never say, "But I didn't make this mess!" I tell them, "I have to clean up many messes I do not create. That is not important." Children with the laundry chore round up all the laundry in the house each morning and sort it in the floor of the laundry room. If they are old enough, they start the first load. In our house, we have so much laundry, I help in a big way get the laundry done. Not even Hannah can keep a handle on all of it all by herself. Every child has personal chores, which include getting dressed, brushing teeth and hair, making bed, tidying their bedroom EVERY MORNING, and spending time with Jesus. On our chore list, non-reading children are given pictures, which I get from Google Images, so they can read their chore list without my assistance. Here is our chore list for this month that I just prepared this week:
HOW LONG DO CHILDREN HAVE THE SAME CHORES? Right now, I rotate the chores monthly between the three older children. Noah & Nathan's chores never change at this point. Noah turns 5 in May, so he will graduate into greater responsibilities at that time.
DO YOU PAY THEM FOR THEIR CHORES? We do not pay for chores. In our opinion, as long as you live in this house, you must contribute to the house. We do, however, occasionally have extra tasks that need done, and we may give money for that. For instance, reorganizing the DVD drawers, making sure the right DVDs are in their cases, or maybe cleaning out the junk drawer, or whatever odd jobs need to be done. When odd jobs are piling up, I make a list on the white board, and write next to them how much I will pay a child to do that task. Then my older children come along and write their initials next to a job they promise to do, and they earn the extra money. (A side note, they are required to give the first 10% of all their earned money to God.)
WHAT ARE MY EXPECTATIONS FOR QUALITY OF CHORES? I do not expect my children to be able to do chores as well as I would do them. In fact, I'm pretty confident in many instances it would be easier to do some chores myself. However, that doesn't teach my children anything. So although it can be more work for me, especially in the beginning when a child is learning a new skill, it will pay off later. When a child receives a new chore, it is only fair that that child is trained how to do it, and what my expectations are. I expect that they give excellence in everything they do, as if they were doing it for God Himself. You know what your child is capable of, but we must push them slightly past what they think they can do. If I review chores (which I do just about every morning and afternoon) to see the quality of work done, and I feel a child didn't do their best, I bring them back to do it again. If I feel they need further training of my expectations, I bring them back to teach them. For instance, one of my boys, for some reason, believes a room is clean if the floor has nothing on it. However, he fails to look ABOVE the floor, on the tables, or couches, desks, dressers, beds, to pick up items out-of-place. So I call him back. I say, "The floor looks very tidy. Way to go! But do you think this room looks really tidy yet? What is still out-of-place?"
So that's how our home is ran like a well-oiled machine. I have people tell me all the time, "Your house is always so neat. With all these kids, how is that possible? I can't even keep my house clean, and I only have one." Now you know my secret. It's called "TEAMWORK!"
A NOTE FOR MOMS OF LITTLE ONES: I know it's a lot of work all on you right now. But trust me, your time will come when your children are old enough to participate. Hang in there! There's light at the end of the tunnel.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Family Menu for December 2011

I learned a long time ago that, the more people you add to your household, the more organized you have to be. I study other large families like ours to see what works for them. I read books, I look up organizational tools online, whatever I can do to run my home as smooth as possible.
When it comes to feeding our family, I find that, for me, having a plan saves me time, money, and calories. I do not function well "on the fly," making up what I'm going to prepare. If I'm tired, it's too easy to just go out and buy food at a restaurant or fast food place, or cook something super fast, but not necessarily well-balanced. Having a plan takes out the daily guesswork and ensures we're eating healthy.
Since my husband gets paid on the 23rd of every month, I spend the week before payday preparing our family menu for an entire month. I've been planning monthly menus for almost three years now, so I have many stored on my computer, and can always refer to past menus as a reference. But I sometimes like to mix things up, and our lives and schedules change, which plays into my menu as well. Here's how I do it:
1. I start by creating a blank chart to work from (see sample in the link below). I fill in the dates for that particular month. I also fill in anything on our calendar that may affect our meal schedule. Then I print it out.
2. I then start filling in meals. I've done this many different ways over the years, but two methods are my favorite. One, I like to assign each day of the week a different theme, such as Monday is chicken, Tuesday is fish, Wednesday is meatless, and so on. I often like to do crock-pot meals for Sundays, since we're so busy and we like to relax on Sunday afternoons. I put in dinner before I leave for church, and it's ready when I return. My second method of meal planning is to plan two whole weeks of meals, and then repeat them, so you eat them twice in one month. This sometimes can cut down on the variety of foods you have to buy at the grocery store, as well as the time you spend planning meals, and just makes things simple.
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY MEALS EACH DAY ON YOUR MENU? Because I am trying to lose weight and be healthier, I have solicited the counsel of a dear friend of mind, Kati. Kati suggested I eat six mini meals, at approximately 300 calories each, hence the six meals on the menu below. I had to do my homework for a while, counting calories, and was quite shocked at what I discovered. I really ate way too much. After counting calories for about a month, I don't have to anymore. I have a good handle on what makes 300 calories. In a restaurant, I shoot for anything under 500 calories. Every restaurant should be able to provide their calories if you ask them.
3. Once I have my entire month filled in, I translate that into my grocery list. A long time ago, I developed a staple list that I save on my computer. You can see it on page three and four of the link below. With few exceptions, this list doesn't change much month-to-month. It includes not only just staples, but things we don't want to run out of in our house. I have found that, if I have everything on my staple list in my house, I can pretty much make any recipe I want. Each month, after I've planned my menu, I make sure every ingredient I need for that menu is on the grocery list somewhere.
4. Now that my grocery list is completed, I do inventory. Once a month, I go through my food supply and check off my grocery list what I do NOT need to buy. I get a feel for how low I'm getting on things. Because I do not operate in the urgent ("Oh no, I don't have such-and-such!"), I save money, because I get the best buy on each item, rather than having to run to the nearest grocery store and spending too much because I need it NOW.
5. OK, so I have my menu typed out, printed, and hung with a magnet on my refrigerator. I have my grocery list with items crossed out that I do not need to buy. I wait for payday, and when it happens, I'm off! I shop for the entire grocery list all at one time. I shop at two stores, and here's how they were chosen. Several years ago, I took the time to price out EVERY item on my grocery list to compare prices between many stores. I priced them out by unit (for instance, how much per ounce), and wrote those prices on my grocery list. From there, I could see where I would get the best buy. It's possible that one particular item may be cheaper at the Dollar Store, but I'm not going to add a third store to my shopping day just to get a better buy on one item. Gas must be factored in as well. But for the most part, I am confident that I will get the best buy by shopping at Costco and Winco. There are some items, such as canned goods, that are a far better buy at Winco. Other items are equivalent, such as eggs and milk, so it really doesn't matter which of the two stores I get those at. And still other items, such as cereal, are better buys in bulk at Costco. You can often see the price per unit on the label at the store in smaller print. NOW, BIG DISCLAIMER HERE: I told you I did these price comparisons a long time ago. Prices have changed DRAMATICALLY since then, and I haven't had the time to update my list accordingly. However, I now have a pretty good feel for what I prefer to buy where. If you look at my grocery list below, you will see a "C" next to the items I like to purchase at Costco, and a "W" next to the things I like to buy at Winco. On shopping day, I usually start at Costco, just in case there is something I meant to buy there that they ended up not having, then I can pick it up at Winco next. I take my 12-passenger van, and remove the back seat. The entire shopping takes me about 3-4 hours (depending on if I have little ones with me). Then I'm done for the month!!!! I stay out of the store the rest of the month, other than maybe a replenishment of milk.
So, each morning, when I awake, I look over the menu for the day, and see what needs to be thawed for dinner or put in a crock-pot or whatever. It's smooth sailing from there.
WHAT ABOUT PRODUCE? I used to go weekly and purchase my produce, so I'd set aside some money from my entire grocery budget for this. I liked Henry's Farmers Market in Elk Grove, and even the Galt flea market. However, recently, I joined "It's Organic." They deliver boxes of seasonal organic produce right to my door every Thursday. I was paying about $50 a week in produce, if I went to Raley's (which I hate doing, but sometimes had to). I pay It's Organic $30 for one box (2-4 people) or $60 for two, and I don't have to go to the store. It tastes FABULOUS - so much better than store produce! You can get a fruit only box, a vegetable only box, or a mixed box. You can even add organic pastas and grains and cage-free eggs, for an extra charge. Every Monday or Tuesday, I go on their website to see what they will be delivering that week, and if I don't like something, I fill out a form that says, "Don't send me that. Give me extra of this item in its place." I have been VERY pleased with this service! Check them out at, and if you sign up, mention my name as your referral.
WHERE DO YOU STORE IT ALL? In my last home, which was 1360 square feet, I didn't have very much pantry space at all. I bought a few "monkey racks" for the garage, and I would store extra food out there that I didn't have room for inside. I set up the racks sort of like my own grocery store. I also had an upright refrigerator/freezer in my garage for extra cold things. We now live in a home that has floor-to-ceiling cabinets in the laundry room. That is my new overflow pantry. I also keep all my cleaning products in there. I have added a small deep freezer to my garage, and I freeze my bread, tortillas, extra cheese, and just about ANYTHING so it will last a month. This deep freezer only cost me like $250 at Costco a few years ago, and it's been a lifesaver! I love my deep freezer! So in my kitchen cabinets, the only food I store is that which is already opened. Any unopened food, I keep in the laundry room pantry or my fridge or freezer in the garage.
DO YOU USE COUPONS? I don't use very many coupons, and this is why: I try, in most cases, to buy the store brand, because it's so much cheaper, even with coupons. The only exception is when it tastes significantly worse, such as with saltine crackers or graham crackers. In addition, I buy so much in bulk quantities because it saves money when you compare the per-unit price, and there aren't coupons for that. I do, however, use the coupons I get in the mail from my Costco membership ad, but only if that item is on my grocery list for that month.
WHY COSTCO AND NOT SAM'S CLUB? Comparing the two, their prices aren't very different. So it then became a matter of preference. I have had very poor experience with the customer service at our local Sam's Club, so I chose Costco instead.
BUT I DON'T HAVE A LARGE FAMILY: I see no reason at all why this organizational method cannot be used for ANY family. The only difference is the quantity, but even for smaller families, non-perishables are a better buy in bulk, and anything you can freeze. Any woman would benefit from working from a plan, eliminating unnecessary trips to the grocery store, and saving time and money.

OK, I think I covered everything I wanted to share with you about my menu planning. If you think of any questions you have, please write them in the comments and we can start a dialogue. Here's my menu for this coming month, which I completed this week:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Welcome to My New Blog!

I'd like to welcome you all to my new blog! I'm so excited you are checking it out! I have so much I'd love to share with you! My heart is for this blog to become a place where we can share ideas and information with each other - iron sharpening iron - so we can all become better women of God, wives, mothers, homemakers, or gals preparing for their future as wives, moms, and homemakers. I also want this blog to be a glimpse for you inside the lives of the Seiler family. I will transparently share with you what's happening in our home, what plans I'm making in managing my home, what parenting challenges we're working on, how Pastor James and I navigate through everyday life, homeschooling tips, and what God is speaking to me in different seasons of my life. I look forward to dialoguing with you on so many things! Feel free to share your questions and comments so we can help each other!