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Diary of a Work in Progress • RenéeGotcher.com

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Marriage

Finding Freedom in God’s Design for our Marriage

Thanks to the encouragement of a wise wife and mother who spoke to our homeschool support group this year, I got some clarification about what God’s Word says regarding God’s design for marriage and the purpose of our individual roles as husband and wife.

As with most principles in God’s Word, the Holy Spirit wants to reveal more to us than meets the eye when we read those key verses that address the husband and wife relationship. The “husbands lead, wives submit” verse that we’ve all heard interpreted in more ways than we can count isn’t just about who brings home the bacon and who does the cooking: It’s about reflecting God’s image and His relationship with us through His design for our marriage.

Join me at Managing Your Blessings, where I’m sharing my story about how I learned to be free to be the wife and mother God created me to be while allowing my husband to lead and guide our family the way he was designed to lead. Read the full post here

BE SURE TO VISIT THE 31 DAYS TO A BETTER MARRIAGE SERIES AT MANAGING YOUR BLESSINGS BY CLICKING ON THE IMAGE BELOW.

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Are you struggling to gain “freedom” in your marriage by being in control? How has society’s message about women doing it all (and looking good in the process) affected you? What has God shown you about trusting Him to lead you in your role as a wife? How have you seen God lead your family through your husband?

Maintaining Your Personal Prayer Time

Although personal prayer time has always been important to me, I have to admit that I was looking forward to marriage with an idealistic impression about what praying as a married couple would look like. I imagined us waking up early in the morning together to read the Bible and pray hand in hand — which is funny because I have never been a morning person. Yet that is the expectation that I carried into our marriage early on.

maintaining-your-personal-prayer-timeMaybe it’s because that’s what my sister and her husband do. Maybe it’s because that’s what I wished my mother and step-father would have done, instead of maintaining their “individual” spiritual walks and diverging to the point of divorce. Either way, I was a bit disappointed when my husband told me that he was more of a “praying in the closet” type of person.

“Why wouldn’t he want to pray with me everyday?” I wondered. “Aren’t we supposed to pray together now?”

In fact, we do pray together, especially when we’re seeking discernment, direction, wisdom, healing, or supernatural strength in a spiritual battle. However, we don’t have that daily “coming together” prayer routine that I had dreamed about. After almost 19 years of marriage, our individual prayer time has proved to be just as important — if not more — to our spiritual growth as well as our faith walk as a family.

I’ve witnessed God answer my husband’s prayers very directly time and time again, as far back as when we were good friends in college just starting to date. An early example was when his car broke down on a trip to California to meet my family in our senior year. After it was fixed within the day, for an amazing price, which got us back to campus in time, he told me about how he prayed for direction on what to do and where to take the car. However, I usually don’t find out about it until after the fact, because I don’t always know what he is being led to pray for until he decides to tell me about it.

Since that time, God has provided many answers and discernment to my husband in much more dire circumstances in response to his personal prayers. So if we are going through a family challenge, I trust that he is not only praying on his own about it, but that he is also attentively listening for God’s response. Over the years, I’ve also learned to trust my husband’s discernment. The few times that I haven’t been on board, God taught me in His own way that I was wrong.

As for my ideal morning prayer routine, I’m finally doing it — by myself. I’ve realized that while there are certainly times to pray as a couple, I need to be talking to my heavenly Father on my own, all the time. My personal relationship with God has grown by leaps and bounds since I began to spend devotional time and pray every morning, pray again in the evening, and talk to God throughout the day. My ability to trust Him, to release my plans to Him, to be thankful and peaceful in the midst of challenges — all of this has been the result of my personal prayer time and Bible study.

 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” —Matthew 6:5-6

Has anything changed about your prayer life since you married? Do you pray together regularly? If so, do you still spend time with the Lord on your own? What is God showing you about prayer in your marriage right now?

*This post first appeared at FulfillingYourVows.com.

Do You Intersect with Your Spouse?

I was recently inspired by author and speaker Heidi St. John during a “Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Romance” talk she gave at the Teach Them Diligently Convention in Omaha, to take a closer look at the strength of the intimacy I share with my husband.

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I hadn’t planned to attend this session because as far as I was concerned, my husband and I were good in the romance and intimacy department — especially considering that we’ve been married almost 19 years and have three girls ages twelve, ten, and six. We still make time for date nights (though there’s no schedule), we still cuddle and kiss daily, we still follow the “don’t go to bed angry” mantra (99% of the time), and physical intimacy is still very regular. Sounds romantic, right?

I think God knew I needed to hear something more, because my last-minute decision to see my new friend Heidi again before the end of the convention turned out to be just right for me. Of course, she did give some practical tips on the romance side, which I was mostly in practice with. However, her talk was primarily focused on the fight for our marriages.

Heidi reminded us how strongly the enemy is attacking faith-based marriages today so that he has an open shot at our children, and after a few heart-breaking examples of “surprise” break-ups that blindsided an unsuspecting spouse, I took pen to paper. She began to list ways to strengthen your marriage and protect existing strength from becoming worn down and vulnerable. They were all right on, and many were things I was already doing.

However, one question stuck in my mind for hours and days later: Do you intersect with your spouse?

At first, my answer was an immediate “yes” — after all, we both work from home all day. We homeschool our three girls. We see each other A LOT more than the average American couple. We intersect in the kitchen, the bathroom, the yard… all the time!

As you can probably guess, just physically seeing each other regularly doesn’t equate to “intersecting.” As Heidi explained, intersecting in your marriage means tightly weaving your lives together around a Godly foundation like the three-strand cord, and the points in which you and your husband intersect as you both wrap yourselves around God’s will are vital to maintain and strengthen.

More simply, the important places that you “meet” in life — activities, values, and desires you have in common — must be protected. They can be as simple as shared hobbies and favorite activities to common goals for your family and future. Paying attention to these points of intersection is critical to maintaining intimacy and strength as “one” entity.

“And the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.” — Mark 10:8

“And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” — Ecclesiastes 4:12

The opposite of this three-strand cord is a couple who live parallel lives: They are both moving toward individual goals and fulfillment separately — and they rarely intersect on an intimate level. Even if they do have common goals, they don’t connect often enough on these intersection points to develop a deeper connection with one another or to strengthen their commitment to these common ideals.

Sadly, I think it’s harder than ever to avoid living parallel lives: Our society and economy favor both parents working outside the home, separately. However, that’s just the beginning. I think it’s just as easy for parents working and even schooling in the home together to run parallel courses if they don’t pay close attention. Can you remember the last time you and your husband sat on a couch — or even in your bed — ignoring each other, while “interacting” with the virtual world on your smart phones and i-devices?

The enemy is looking for any opening, any weakness he can pry open, to penetrate that three-strand cord and begin to pull you two apart. Can you identify any potential penetration points?

Here are some key areas of intimacy that are vital to protect:

  •  Fun: My husband and I do actually enjoy doing a few things together. Our common hobbies and interests had a lot to do with our initial attraction to each other. We love the outdoors and enjoy several outdoor sports together. We like pretending to be foodies and exploring local restaurants. We enjoy similar types of music. When we need an escape of comic relief, we like to watch the same shows or movies on NetFlix. We can sit around the fire pit in a remote campground in the mountains or in our own backyard and talk for hours. It’s important that we make time for these things, and that we don’t bog down our time together with unnecessary baggage but keep the focus on enjoying each other. Where do you and your spouse intersect in the “fun” department? How can you creatively make more time for fun together?
  • Friendship: My husband and I met in college, and we were friends for a long time before we started dating. I consider myself very blessed to have loved my husband first as a friend, because I have never lacked a friend, and he has always been my best friend. He’s the person I want to talk to immediately when there’s good news, bad news, or almost any news. However, it’s important to protect your friendship by not abusing it. There are things that don’t really need to be shared, as well as times when it’s just not appropriate to share. Be the friend that you want to have in your spouse. Golden Rule here! Do you consider your spouse to be your best friend? If not, what can you do to change that? If so, how can you be a better steward of your friendship?
  •  Family: Although my husband and I work from home, he has a full-time job and is very accountable during the time he is clocked in at the home office. And although I do work from home in various capacities, my primary job is homeschooling our three girls. Even if you are the primary implementer of homeschooling or parenting your children, it’s important to remain a united front when it comes to your children. Discipline, schooling, character development, social situations — all of these issues are things that you and your spouse should be talking about, praying about, and making decisions about together, no matter who is more “hands-on” with your children. Do you and your spouse work together and communicate regularly on family issues? If not, how can you come together more effectively in this area?
  • Faith: This is an area that I personally want to work on protecting. Praise the Lord, we are both on the same page about the “big issues.” However, I do think we could pay more attention to our faith intersections. I do morning devotions by myself every morning — which is exactly what I need. I believe we all need ALONE time with God in the morning. On the other hand, my husband has his own way and timing to commune with the Lord. We don’t pray together as much as I think we probably should: Not because I think there is any formula or rule about that, but because I think we could be even more effective as spiritual intercessors if we prayed together more often. Do you and your spouse intersect regularly on issues of faith? Do you pray together? Are you on the same page? If not, how does the Lord help you bridge any gaps that exist?
  • Physical: Last but not least is physical intimacy (and it’s probably first on your husband’s list). I think the easiest way to understand the importance of physical intimacy in a marriage is to picture the exact opposite. You know what I’m talking about: You have a disagreement that escalates, and the first thing that happens is a physical separation. You get up from the couch. You leave the room. Someone walks away and slams a door. You roll over in bed and give him the cold shoulder. Or someone ends up sleeping alone. The opposite of healthy physical “intersection” is physical separation — whatever form it takes. Yes, I know that turning your back doesn’t always equate to anger or frustration: We’re exhausted, and maybe we’re just not in the mood! However, I am quite certain by now that God designed men to be strengthened with physical intimacy from a loving wife, and a break in that intimacy does a lot of damage to their hearts. What can you do to protect the physical intimacy in your marriage? Are you familiar with “don’t go to bed angry” — and do you think it aligns with God’s Word? How can you maintain physical intimacy when you are exhausted and overwhelmed?

If looking at this list overwhelms you, I pray that you will immediately cast your cares upon the Lord and release the burden of “fixing” everything to Him. He is our strength where we are weak, He is our shepherd when we are lost, and His love NEVER fails. Take your concerns about intimacy in your marriage first to the source of everlasting, unchanging love. Know that He desires for you to experience healing, restoration, and unconditional love. I will be praying right along with you for intimacy and strength to be restored to your marriage!

If you are like me, and this question of intersection challenges you, I pray that you’ll take it to the Lord and ask Him to show you if there are any loosening gaps in your three-strand cord and how you and your husband can patch them up together. Stand on the truth of His Word regarding your marriage: You and your spouse are one, and the three-strand cord is not easily broken.

Do you think you intersect with your spouse? If you asked your husband whether you “intersect” enough, what would he say? Does this list reveal any areas that you can strengthen the three-strand cord of your marriage? Share your thoughts about this question in the comments section below.

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