Friday, December 23, 2011
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
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.
WHAT RULES DO WE HAVE FOR OUR CHILDREN AT CHURCH?
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!
SETTING YOUR CHILDREN UP FOR SUCCESS:
There are a few things I do to ensure our morning in church is, at least, headed for success.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
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
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.
- 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.
- 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?"
- Gentlemen open doors for Ladies and allow them to pass through first, saying, "After you!" All children open the door for their elders.
- Gentlemen walk a Lady to the car and open the car door for her.
- 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!)
- 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.
- Gentlemen stand when a Lady enters the room or when he is introduced to someone.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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
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 (www.visionforum.com) 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!