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The 30-Day Experiment

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In our small family, I’m the problem solver. I see a need, figure out what needs to be done, and set out to accomplish it. The quicker the solution is found, the better. So when I started becoming aware of my sharp tongue and harsh words to my husband Lou, I concocted a plan to extinguish the fire in my mouth.

A little secret pact with myself seemed to be the answer. I asked myself, What if I went 30 days without speaking a single criticism of him? Maybe this would get me in the habit of speaking words of love instead of words tainted with bitterness. What would be his reaction? Would he even notice? Or would he be so taken aback by my lack of condemnation that he would fall catatonic?

Over the years, my husband has had the misfortune of living with a hypercritical wife. I’m not exactly sure where it comes from, but I know it’s pervasive. It seems to seep into every facet of life. Before marriage, it didn’t seem to be a big deal. I could look in a mirror and find my every imperfection at lightning speed. I could rehearse my emotional and spiritual failings ad nauseum. But this was personal, internal, and didn’t affect anyone except me. But when my life partner entered the mix, life got messier. My husband became a fresh target.

It started innocently enough with comments like, "You know, Lou, maybe you should wear pants to work today instead of shorts." Or, "Baby, I think it would best if you did this instead of that." In my mind I was just trying to help him make better decisions—things he possibly hadn’t thought of without me voicing them. Doesn’t every man need a little female input? We’re supposed to be their helpers, right? I was helping and he didn’t seem to mind too much because he’s pretty laid-back. But, before long, I upped the ante.

Soon I felt the need to throw my two cents in on nearly every aspect of his daily life. He acted like he was listening. But I soon noticed that much of the time he was choosing to dismiss my suggestions and do his own thing. Incensed, I couldn’t believe he would actually think there was a better way to accomplish whatever task we were discussing at the time. Really, the nerve!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t shy in showing my displeasure and soon evolved into the wife that Solomon speaks of in Proverbs 19:13: "…a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping." And when I think of an incessant water drip, I think Chinese Water Torture. The kind where someone is strapped to a table and cold water is dropped on the same spot on their forehead until it drives them mad. Yep, that described me, a form of torment. There had to be a better way.

Then a particularly convicting sermon at church led me to give the month-long criticism fast a go. It seemed far-fetched, but what I was doing didn’t seem to be accomplishing anything of value for anyone. So it was worth a shot. The first few days were easier than I expected. Being nice was actually making me feel calmer and more peaceful.

I found myself thinking, Hmm. When I’m not focusing on and pointing out others’ faults or trying to convince them to do it my way, I have more tranquility? Interesting.

During these first days, I read Galatians 5:22, one of the most well-known scriptures that mentions kindness. "But the fruit of the Spirit is … kindness." I was reminded that I’d been given kindness when I turned over my life to Christ. It is a gift living within me. Something that I struggled so hard to find in my marriage was residing in my very being this entire time! Amazing.

I decided to dig a little deeper, so I looked up kindness in its original language and a portion of the explanation jumped out at me. In Lexical Aids to the New Testament, kindness is described as "the grace which pervades the whole nature, mellowing all which would have been harsh and austere." As much as criticism had ruled in me, the type of kindness Jesus provides promises to pervade my whole nature. Although I had tortured my husband with the constant drip of condemnation, if I let kindness grow, God’s grace in me could mellow the harshness brought into our relationship.

I started to wonder, Is it really possible? Can I be the type of woman that emanates this type of grace? Oh, I hoped so. But as days seven and eight crept up on me, I began to have serious doubts. What seemed relatively simple a few days earlier started taking much more focus and intentional effort. As the compulsion to critique my husband began to grow, I became aware that I couldn’t do it on my own. I had reached the end of what I alone had to give. In order for me to fight against my natural instinct to criticize, I would have to depend upon the Lord—a moment-by-moment dependence on God.

I would like to say that I really dove in and made it the whole 30 days, but I only reached about day 15. Life’s daily to-do’s kept me from really giving my fast the attention it deserved. But I learned a few lessons in those two short weeks that I’m praying will be life-changing.

The importance of being intentional. In order to make big changes in my life and marriage, I must be intentional and dedicated. It turns out I’m fabulous at creating a plan to fix what’s wrong, but my follow-through stinks.

God’s help is required. Willpower only takes me so far. I need the supernatural power of God to change me from a woman who uses words to torment to a woman who uses them to mellow and sooth. I need to plug into my Power Source, asking Him daily for the ability to do this thing. Moment-by-moment.

The effort is worth it. The biggest lesson I learned is that all the effort it takes to be gracious is worth it. For two weeks, joy reigned in our house. Most days my husband seemed more relaxed and my soul felt at ease, simply because I chose kindness over criticism.

Going a full month without speaking harshly to my husband would’ve been quite an accomplishment. Really. As I reflect back on my fast, my prayer is that I will simply be a woman full of grace for a lifetime, to traverse the pages of Scripture and find my way from chapter 19 of Proverbs to 31 and be the wife that "brings [my husband] good, not harm, all the days of [my] life" (Proverbs 31:13).

Oh, God, let it be.

Misti Gil hails from the Lone Star State where she lives with her husband and treasure of a son. They all three minister to teens together through a nation-wide ministry called Young Life. It is one of their deepest passions as a family. Misti is still on her journey to healing and wholeness and has a deep desire to walk with women along that same road. She does so through a weekly devotional blog, Walls Down.

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Misti Gil hails from the Lone Star State where she lives with her husband and treasure of a son. They all three minister to teens together through a nation-wide ministry called Young Life. It is one of their deepest passions as a family. Misti is still on her journey to healing and wholeness and has a deep desire to walk with women along that same road. She does so through a weekly devotional blog, Walls Down.

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When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Hi, I'm Ashleigh Slater, founder and editor of Ungrind. Here at Ungrind, it’s our goal to churn out biblically-based encouragement for women. We strive to be honest and transparent about our struggles in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance.

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The 30-Day Experiment

by Misti Gil time to read: 5 min
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