The Kindness Challenge: I was Mean

#JoinKindness

I’m on Day 11 of the 30 Day Kindness Challenge. The recipient of my supposed “kindness” is my husband.

Days 1-5: went pretty well. I was excited, figuring out the challenge, seeking ways to be kind, etc.

Days 6-7: were OK. I was busy preparing for a trip with my daughter and was doing laundry, making to-do lists for my husband, packing, etc. I did give my husband a pair of Pittsburgh Steelers sunglasses, which he seems to like (and looks really sexy in).  I didn’t put a whole lot of effort into being kind, but I wasn’t mean either.

Days 8-9: I was out-of-town. Sent a few nice text messages about missing him. Easy!

Day 10: I was tired from my Passport2Purity Getaway with my daughter. My husband had been up late at a golf tournament the night before. He got a speeding ticket. The house was a mess. I was not nice. First thing in the morning I complained about him. Then I complained to him. I did a lot of grumbling with a side of yelling. For some reason housework makes my irritation level rise about 200 degrees. I definitely didn’t say anything nice. (Though I did begrudgingly give him a pocket knife he had been wanting) Last night we went to a birthday party and I had been planning to compliment him in front of his friends . . . but that didn’t happen.

My lack of kindness – and my abundance of frustration – brought the whole mood of my house down. My kids started complaining and bickering. My husband pulled back and didn’t really talk to me the rest of the day. It was not a good day. I was not a good wife. And I set a horrible example for my kids.

Day 11: 7:30 a.m. Only my dog and I are awake (side note, I love my dog because no matter how I act she never gets upset with me). It is just me, the dog and my coffee. And Jesus. And the reminder that God’s mercies are new every morning. Thank goodness for that. I need a lot of mercy.

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:21-23 

Once the footsteps start I am going to need to apologize for my lack of kindness and losing my temper. And ask for grace.

And I am going to need to come up with some pretty off-the-charts kind words and actions for today.

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The Kindness Challenge: Respect

#JoinKindness

Speaking words of praise and affirmation seems simple on the surface. It is easy for me to say things like “I love you” and “You look nice” to my husband, but I might not be speaking the language he wants and needs to hear.

For the 30 Day Kindness Challenge I want to choose my words of affirmation/praise carefully and make sure they count.

I am reading “For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men” by Shaunti Feldhahn.  Shaunti is also the author/inventor of the Kindness Challenge. For this book she conducted qualitative and quantitative research to find out what men really think and really want from women.

Shaunti found that 74% of men would rather feel “Alone and Unloved” than feel “Inadequate and Disrespected”.  Bottom line: Men need and want respect.

She also makes another significant point – most women want a man to love her unconditionally. I know I want my man to love me (and think I’m hot) even if I’ve gained 25 pounds, am getting gray hair and have sagging boobs. I want him to love me even when I nag, complain, don’t clean the house, yell at the kids, etc. I don’t expect anything less. He married me for better or for worse, and some days he definitely gets the “worse”. That is marriage. That is life.

On the other hand . . . and this is something I really struggle with . . . I don’t give him unconditional respect. I know the Bible repeatedly tells wives to respect their husbands. And it never gives the caveat, “if they earn it and deserve it.” Actually, the Bible says quite the opposite:

In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives.
1 Peter 3:1‭-‬2 NLT

Wow.

If I want to be a missionary to my husband and set a good example to my children then I really need to get a handle on this “respect” concept. But honestly, I don’t even know if I grasp what it looks like in practical terms. In America’s society there aren’t exactly a lot of role models of strong, successful women submitting to and respecting their husbands. Especially in an unconditional way. And a healthy, biblical way.

Shaunti gives some concrete examples in her book:

  • Conflict – if my man get’s angry during a conflict most likely it is because he feels disrespected. 80% of men said they feel disrespected by their wife during conflict. That is something to tune in to. If my husband and I are having a disagreement and he gets angry most likely it is because he feels disrespected. Of course the damage is already done, but hopefully I can be discerning enough to figure out what I said and change it for the future.
  • His Judgement – “A man deeply needs the woman in his life to respect his knowledge, opinions, and decisions” Shaunti wrote about her findings. “No one wanted a silent wallflower (nor would I advocate becoming one!”), but many men wished their mates wouldn’t question their knowledge or argue  with their decisions all the time.” Thinking back, I see so many times when I do this to my husband for no reason, other than I want to prove I’m right. Even about super stupid stuff. Like if he sings the words to a song incorrectly I’ll google the lyrics and tell him the correct words.
  • His Abilities: Here I just need to keep my mouth shut or tell him I trust him. He doesn’t need me to give him advice on how to do everything . . . from proper mowing technique to how to handle his business to parenting.  Or if he is folding towels instead of just thanking him, I’ll also insert a helpful tip on the correct way to fold towels. Even when I am genuinely trying to offer advice or be helpful, he may see it as me not trusting his abilities. Shaunti had a great point: “The next time your husband stubbornly drives in circles, ask yourself which is more important: being on time to the party or his feeling trusted? No contest”.
  • Shaunti found that 7 out of 10 men would rather have their wife notice and thank them for an action, rather than say “I love you”.  And not add a “but” to the end of the thank you.  Just “Thank you for cleaning the kitchen”. Not “Thank you for cleaning the kitchen, but you forgot to take out the trash.”
  • The majority of men take a “reminder” as his wife expressing disappointment.
  • Don’t put my man down in public, even if I am just teasing. I can wound him. Deeply.
  • Praise my husband in public. Brag on him.
  • Assume the best about him.

My goal for today is to be as thoughtful and reflective as possible when it comes to praising and affirming my husband. And outside of that, to keep my mouth shut. To a man, not saying anything negative goes beyond outright mean remarks. It means to keep my mouth shut – no “helpful” reminders or suggestions or corrections – for 30 days.

There was a great response from one of the survey takers in “For Women Only” who said, “You know the saying ‘Being every good man is a great woman’? Well that is so true. If a man’s wife is supportive and believes in him, he can conquer the world – or at least his little corner of it. He will do better at work, at home, everywhere. By contrast, very few men can do well at work or a home if their wives make them feel inadequate.”

P.S. Thanks to last year’s craze of loom bracelets I now have a lovely rubber bracelet on my wrist, handcrafted by my daughter, to remind me to be kind.

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The Kindness Challenge: Day 2

#JoinKindness Day One Review:

  1. Say Nothing Negative about that person: I think I did this, but not too well. There was one incident when my husband and I were discussing some scheduling and budget stuff and I caught my tone of voice, which wasn’t kind. I also went out with friends for dinner last night and completely forgot about the challenge and later had to think back to remember if I’d said anything unkind about him. I don’t think I did (fingers crossed)
  2. Speak Praise or Affirmation: This one is easy for me. I praise my husband a lot – compliment his looks, thank him for things, tell him I love him, etc. So I stepped it up a notch. It was to the point where my daughter said, “Dad, mom is just saying all that stuff because she is doing a Kindness Challenge.” Maybe I stepped it up too much and wasn’t being completely sincere.
  3. Act of Kindness: I washed my husband’s portable grill and put away his laundry.  Writing them down is  a little embarrassing because they seem very small . . . and like things I should have no problem doing. But typically I don’t pick up or clean his stuff. And I didn’t want to do it (which also sounds ridiculous and makes me aware of my selfishness and laziness when it come to household chores). But I did it.

#JoinKindness Day One What I learned:

  • I need to be more thoughtful in my praise and affirmation. I need to really observe my husband and reflect on his strengths and weaknesses and how I can build him up, rather than just throwing out lots of random compliments.
  • I need to watch my tone, not just my words.
  • I need a physical reminder about the challenge so I don’t forget about it when I get busy during the day or if I have a Corona while stuffing my face with Mexican food and laughing with girlfriends. I thought about wearing a rubber band or hair tie around my wrist (but then I worry about cutting off circulation). I need to come up with something.
  • I am selfish.
  • I need to come up with additional and creative ways to do Small Acts of Kindness or Generosity . . . and I also need to be willing to do the stuff I don’t want to do. Like scrubbing a dirty grill even if I didn’t eat the steak.

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Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. Proverbs 3:3 (NLT)

#JoinKindness Goals for Today:

  • Find a physical reminder of the challenge to wear
  • Write a list of all the things I love about my husband and leave it on his pillow tonight
  • Reflect on a certain situation that he handled well, and tell him that I appreciate it and why
  • Watch my tone of voice

The Kindness Challenge: Verses for Encouragement

June 1: My Thirty Day Kindness Challenge is starting today!  Click here for more information.  #JoinKindness

When I first signed up for the Kindness Challenge I was doing to improve my marriage. I was signing up to challenge myself. I was doing it to bless my husband.

But in my daily Bible reading today I read a verse that made me realize something – the person I need to be doing this for, above anyone else, is Jesus.

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This will be helpful for me because I’m sure there are going to be many days when it is going to take everything in me to keep my mouth shut. There will probably be plenty of days when I am not going to feel like doing anything kind for my husband, whether because of laziness or selfishness or plain old meanness.

But God is kind.  Jesus is kind. Kindness is a Fruit of the Holy Spirit. And God commands me to be kind.

I’ll be re-reading these verses every day through this challenge to give me strength to be kind, even if I don’t feel like it.

The Lord is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness. Psalm 145:17 (NLT)

Your kindness will reward you, but your cruelty will destroy you. Proverbs 11:17 (NLT)

When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. Proverbs 31: 26 (NLT)

So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. Ephesians 1:6-8 (NLT)

Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness. 1 Peter 2:1-3 (NLT)

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!  Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Colossians 3:12 (NLT)

Unequally Yoked

Married . . . but walking on different spiritual paths

I am unequally yoked.

When I met my husband we were at similar places spiritually – we had both grown up in church, though in different denominations. He was raised Catholic and I was raised in non-denominational and evangelical churches. While we both considered ourselves “Christians” and believed in God, we weren’t living like it. I went to church occasionally, but didn’t live like it the other 6.5 days of the week.

We got married and had babies. We went to church on an irregular basis. We had our kids baptized in a church where neither of us really felt like we belonged, but it was a middle ground between a Catholic church and evangelical church.

And then our marriage hit a very rough patch. I talked to a divorce attorney. I went to counselors. I read marriage advice books. I went to meetings. My heart was breaking for my kids and myself. I couldn’t find a way out.

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And then I found Jesus.

Not the Jesus who I had “known” as a kid or the Jesus I wanted to hide from while in high school and college, but the Jesus who said this:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28‭-‬30 MSG

I started keeping company with Jesus. I’m learning how to live in His grace.

My husband is in a very different place spiritually. I don’t know for sure where he is. We don’t talk about it much. He comes to church with me. He prays with my kids occasionally. He questions God. A lot.

I understand why Paul said: “A wife is bound to her husband as long as she lives. If her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but only if he loves the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39) I know the discomfort of walking through life with a partner who isn’t at the same place spiritually. Maybe not even on the same path.

But I also know my calling. I know why God has me here. I know that I have a mission field just as important as if God called me to Africa or China as a missionary. My missions field is in a house that I call home.

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I am a missionary with three beautiful people watching my every stumble. Listening to what I say. They are seeing how I forgive. How I pray. Every day they see how I walk with Jesus.

Reading yesterday and today in 1 Corinthians there were several encouraging verses for my walk:

For the believing wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the believing husband brings holiness to his marriage. Otherwise, your children would not be holy, but now they are holy.

1 Corinthians 7:14 NLT http://bible.com/116/1co.7.14.NLT

Don’t you wives realize that your husbands might be saved because of you? And don’t you husbands realize that your wives might be saved because of you?

1 Corinthians 7:16 NLT http://bible.com/116/1co.7.16.NLT

Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you. This is my rule for all the churches.
1 Corinthians 7:17 NLT http://bible.com/116/1co.7.17.NLT

 

For any of you “unequally yoked” spouses out there – whether your spouse is another religion, is an unbeliever or just in a very different place in their walk with God . . . don’t give up. Keep praying and keep loving. And above all else, keep walking with Jesus.

P.S. If you are looking for a Bible reading plan to keep you focused on keeping daily company with Jesus, I highly recommend YouVersion app – found here.  I am currently using the Skövde Pingst plan and love it!

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The Kindness Challenge

As I was driving to Wal-Mart I heard a story on the radio about “The Kindness Challenge”.  I was intrigued.  I didn’t hear the whole discussion – but the gist of it was a woman had done a study about how 30 days of kindness could transform a relationship, even if only one person in the relationship was doing the challenge.

I love a challenge.  And I love an easy model to follow. #JoinKindness

Once I got home I did a little more digging and found the 30 Day Kindness Challenge online. (Disclaimer, I haven’t read the book so I don’t know all the details). According to the website:

The 30-Day Kindness Challenge is a much-needed movement of kindness led by many influential organizations.

 89% of relationships improve if you pick a person with whom you want a better relationship; then for 30 days:

1. Say nothing negative about that person – either to them or about them to anyone else.
 
2. Each day find one positive thing you can praise or affirm about that person and tell them and tell someone else. 

3. Each day, do one small act of kindness or generosity for them.

I signed up!  Interested in joining me?  Sign-up here.

I am starting on June 1, 2017 and the recipient of my kindness will be my husband.

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So right now I am trying to get prepared by brainstorming small acts of kindness (and doing Pinterest research because honestly, outside of doing laundry and making his favorite dinner, I’m having a hard time coming up with ideas for a man who doesn’t ask for much).

But even more so, I am praying for God to help me with #1 on the list – not saying anything negative. I nag my husband. Probably more than I realize. My tone of voice can be not so pleasant. When I am displeased everyone in the house knows it. I complain about stupid stuff – how he folds the laundry, him buying chips when I am trying to eat healthy, him letting the kids watch too much TV, etc.

So my big prayer right now is for God to help me prepare and that I will rely on Him for the kindness and loving words. And that He will help me keep my mouth shut when needed.

In my Bible reading this morning there was some great stuff as I get my heart (and mouth) ready for the challenge.:

1 Corinthians 2: When Paul came to tell people at Corinth about Jesus he was timid and trembling. He didn’t have the words to say. But instead of trying to come up with impressive speeches, he relied on the power of the Holy Spirit. Mentally, he focused on Jesus only, and then let the Holy Spirit speak through him. Wow. That is what I want. There is no one who loves my husband more than Jesus, and Jesus would much rather have me covering my husband with love and kindness than nagging about how to fold the towels. When I open my mouth I don’t want my words to come out, but the Holy Spirit speaking through me.

Proverbs 12: So much incredible stuff here about the words I speak to my husband:

  • A worthy wife is a crown for her husband (Proverbs 12:4)
  • The words of the godly save lives (Proverbs 12:6)
  • The family of the godly stands firm (Proverbs 12:7) (OK, not exactly about my words, but I have two daughters listening to everything I say. Are my words and my tone godly?)
  • Wise words bring many benefits (Proverbs 12:14)
  • A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted (Proverbs 12:16)
  • The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth (Proverbs 12:22)
  • Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging words cheers a person up (Proverbs 12:25)
  • The godly give good advice to their friends (Proverbs 12:25)
  • Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.(Proverbs 12:18).

My words have the power to heal or destroy, and 95% of the time I open my mouth without really thinking through what I am going to say. I really need God in this area of my life. I need to think before I speak and filter everything I am saying through the Holy Spirit. And I probably need to keep my mouth closed a lot more often.

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Generosity

Lessons on Generosity from Proverbs

I’m reading through the Bible using the Skövde Pingst reading plan on the YouVersion app. Click here to sign up and let me know if you are reading along. I’d love to have you join me in reading!

Most of my posts tie into what God is teaching me in my daily reading, which is also part of my S.O.A.P journal. Here are some past posts on S.O.A.P. journaling – Scripture, Observation, Application and Prayer:  Reading Through the Bible and The Divine Mentor. I highly recommend making daily Bible reading and prayer a top priority.  Even if you only have 10-15 minutes a day; I promise it will be a life-changer!

Today’s reading included Proverbs 11. The Bible talks a lot about Generosity, especially in Proverbs. God wants us to give not because giving benefits him; but giving benefits us.  It changes our hearts. Where we spend our time and money is where our heart will be focused.

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Personally, I am trying to make a conscious effort to have my life focused on what matters most – my walk with Jesus, my marriage, my kids, serving others and collecting memories over collecting things.  Where I spend my money and time reflects these things.  Where we chose to spend our time and money also changes our heart to make those things a higher priority.

For example, if I am giving my money to a certain non-profit or church my heart will be more inclined to care about that church or cause.

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Generosity goes beyond just money. For me, it is very easy (and tempting) to get busy with my career and to-do list.  I find it helpful to regularly take a few minutes to contemplate where my heart is in the areas below.  If I am getting off track I need to make a purposeful decision to change my focus by giving more generously.

  • Time Generosity: How am I spending my time?  How many hours a day am I looking at social media or watching TV compared to how many hours a day am I spending doing something meaningful that has eternal value, like volunteering at a homeless shelter or praying and reading the Bible?

 

  • Attention Generosity: Where is my attention?  I often catch myself multi-talking when my children or husband are talking to me.  For example, when my daughter wants to tell me all the stories about recess I’ll often listen while also swiping through Instagram photos.  I need to stop.  Put the phone down.  Make eye-contact. Really listen.  Nod my head. Ask her questions. Have a conversation with her and give her my full attention, rather than having half my mind elsewhere.

 

  • Energy Generosity: I only have so much energy to expend every day.  Am I using it on activities that really matter? For example, how often am I “too tired” to have sex with my husband? Is my schedule so overbooked that I don’t ever have time to go on a date with my husband? Am I running myself ragged with so many commitments that my daily time with Jesus and my family get put on a back burner? These can even include good and healthy activities – volunteering, reading, exercising, cleaning, kids’ sports and activities, etc. But if my schedule is so booked that I get to the end of the day and just want to collapse into bed, I need to take a good hard look at my priorities.

 

  • Financial Generosity: In my life I know that the more I give the more I am blessed. Whether I am giving to my church, a non-profit that helps orphans or a cause that helps feed the poor; giving fills my heart. But there are times when I am looking at my budget and cringe. I don’t think I have the financial cushion to give. Giving money can hurt . . . for a season.  But I’ve never given money and then regretted it. Do your research on who you are giving to (for nonprofits you can review their financials at Guidestar) and then make a decision to give.  You will be blessed.Proverbs 11-26.jpg