An Emotional Affair – Part I

IMG_20150410_150306133I never thought it would happen to me. I was careful about not having guy friends because I had witnessed my share of platonic relationships turning into unintentional affairs. I vowed not to fall into the same trap.

Then it happened. I was attracted to another man.

I remember the first time our eyes met over a mere thirty seconds. My boys were with me in the crowded room. He had me with his southern drawl and hospitality. His hello came with a lingering gaze to let me know of his interest in me. I strutted past him, feeling good about my 40 something self.

And that’s how my emotional fling began. In the beginning, we had chance meetings. As time went on, our rendezvous became more frequent. Our conversations were brief, cordial and always in public. Yet, there was an undeniable attraction between us.  He didn’t inquire about my marital status and I didn’t volunteer any information.

At the time, my family and I were settling into our new home and community. My husband poured himself into his new job while I busied myself with our boys and work at the house. We were focused on our individual work. Inadvertently, we turned into roommates who shared the same space but lived separate lives. Scott and I were absent from each other. We worked hard to build our home and family, but neglected our marriage.

I’ve heard it said that absence makes the heart fonder. But for me, absence made my heart wander. The more time Scott and I spent apart, the further I drifted from him and our marriage. My heart did not grow fonder towards my husband. My heart wandered towards another man.

I became the woman God speaks of in Proverbs chapter 7. The brash and rebellious woman who is never content to stay at home. I frequented temptation’s doorway and was lured into sin. I enticed a single man onto a wayward path.

To be clear, we never acted on our desires. The physical affair didn’t take place. But the emotional affair was real. At least for me. I was duped by my intense feelings for someone I hardly knew. Absence from my husband caused my heart to wander and I became emotionally attached to a stranger.

It would take an act of God’s mercy to bring me back from my wandering.

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Sweet Sixteen!

June 30th is a sweet sixteen celebration in the Schuetz family. Not a birthday celebration, but a wedding anniversary for S&P (my mother-in-law’s nickname for us, aka her Salt & Pepper kids).

It is Sweet Sixteen because of how the Lord has made our sixteenth year together special. He gave us not one, but two getaways as a family in the last month. This is something we’ve put off doing for way too long. Our time together has helped us grow closer as a couple and a family. It is truly a sweet blessing from our Father, God!

smooches s&pScott and I have finally found our sweet spot after sixteen years of marriage. We have learned to bear with one another out of love, not just tolerate each other out of obligation. We put each other’s needs first rather than insisting on our own way. We forgive more readily and aren’t afraid to be real with each other about our struggles.

To be clear, not all sixteen years have been sweet! Marriage is harder than I’d imagine. I wish I had been better prepared to share myself, my space, and my life with another person. We thought we were ready to take on marriage because we had been dating for seven plus years. Surely, we knew everything about each other!

Well, we were wrong :(. The past sixteen years has seen us happy, hopeful, and loving, but also disappointed, failing, frustrated, pained and challenged. I could tell you that things have been smooth and awesome because we are following Christ, but I’d be lying. The truth is, Scott and I have gone through a few rough patches in our years together. And for the record, it feels like we’ve been married much longer than sixteen years!

I’m grateful we did make it to our sweet sixteen. But let me assure you, there are days when I still ask God why I married this man who is so different from me! What was I thinking? Sometimes, I’m so frustrated with him I just want to be single again! His patience, the thing I most loved about him while we were dating, drives me crazy when I just want to get things done my way, right away! We aggravate each other from time to time and don’t always agree on everything. But with God’s help, we keep working hard for a strong and lasting marriage!

One thing I’m certain of, without God at the center of our individual lives and marriage, there would be no sweet sixteen celebration. And you’ll understand why as I uncover the veil from our marriage in the following weeks’ posts. You’ll see how the Lord carried us through real struggles, how he strengthened our bond with him and one another, and what he did for our faith in the midst of marriage-threatening challenges.

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Changing My Obsession

“People my age are obsessed with being popular. They are obsessed with how many likes they get on a post. But where does popularity get you? It doesn’t help you succeed in life.”  – Naysa, 7th grade student.

Naysa is wise beyond her middle school years. She shared this one Sunday at my church when we were talking about being obsessed with someone or something. I assured her that adults have this obsession problem too, myself included.

I don’t know about you, but I have obsessive tendencies. I can and have obsessed over anything that grabs my attention. It can be food, fitness, beauty, or the desire to be in control.

Ashamedly, I do obsess over the number of likes and follows. I let it drag me down to the point of feeling awkward and inadequate in my own body. It’s an emotional roller coaster I ride over and over as I wait, wondering what people will do with what I’m posting.

Likes and follows gives me an instant good feeling. But its impact is temporary. I always need more of both to get the same good feeling. Except, I will never receive enough to feel worthy because acknowledgment from others is external. People’s affirmation can’t ever touch the deepest place in my heart that needs to feel valued and accepted. Only God can give me the assurance of my worth because he made me. He alone knows how to make me feel loved and valued like no one else can.

If I must obsess, let me obsess over Jesus, the giver of my value.

So if I must obsess, let me obsess over Jesus, my God. May I obsess over the truth of what He says about me; that I am wonderfully made. Let me obsess about the amazing reality that God thought of me when the world was created. That all the days of my life and the work he made me to do has been established long before I was conceived. May I obsess over God’s indescribable love. For none has considered me a special treasure, valuable enough to take on the punishment for my sins. And no one has loved me to the point of dying for me.

When I am tempted to obsess over likes and follows, may I consider the words of Naysa. What will the likes of people do for me and where will it take me? May it remind me to obsess over Jesus. Let me remember that my worth is not determined by how many people like and follow me. Rather, mworth is decided by the One God who created me and gives my life value.

 

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We All Need Forever Friends

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Sometimes, I wonder if there is something seriously wrong with me. I don’t have any close friends. Sure, I have plenty of friends online. But it is hard to find a “real life”, forever friend.

One who understands my heart, knows my uglies, and still thinks I’m beautiful. A friend who wants more than the casual online connection, but seeks a deep heart to heart bonding. She isn’t afraid to talk about her issues because she knows I have have them too. She is honest about her fears and disappointments. So I know I’m not alone with mine.

A forever friend listens to hear my heart, not necessarily to offer advice. She encourages me with gentleness and isn’t easily offended because she trusts my heart towards her. She forgives much because she has been forgiven much. She means what she says and says what she means.
We all need at least one forever friend. I have a few across the miles, but they are a rare find. Like the most precious jewels in all the earth, except they can’t be bought. At any price.

Proverbs 20:8 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so friends sharpen one another.”

I am always looking for a forever friend to sharpen me. So I can be a useful tool in the hands of God and do life changing work in his world.

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Remember the God in Your Past

My family and I were at the beach last week. We had a fantastic time playing in the ocean and relaxing beach side. Our time away was just what I needed.

I spent quiet time with the Lord over beautiful sunrises and talked to him while walking the beach. His magnificent creation calmed my spirit. The fears and concerns that had been weighing me down lifted, one at a time until I was fully settled in the mighty and protective arms of my Heavenly Father. He helped me remember the past and it encouraged my weary heart.

IMG_20170603_071833992Every time I looked out into the vast ocean, I remembered all God has done for me. How he rescued me and 41 other refugees as we drifted into the middle of the mighty Pacific Ocean on a tiny, beaten down, wooden fishing boat. How he saved us from the raging waters of fierce storms and spared every life on that boat from the Thai pirates’ attack. How he caused them to supply us with food and drink when we were empty of both. How he kept us alive for eleven days at sea when the odds were against us at every turn.

When I remember the God acts in my past, I can’t help but believe that his purpose for my life cannot be thwarted by anyone or anything. The work he designed for me and assigned to me is irrevocable. No one and nothing can change his sovereign plans. I need not fear or fret when obstacles and challenges come at me. God saved me so I can do the work he has prepared for me to do. This gives me tremendous hope to keep moving forward into the unknown. It reminds me to trust God, always.

Perhaps, you are facing obstacles and challenges right now that are causing you to doubt God. Maybe you feel stuck in a season, a place, or a relationship and have difficulty understanding why God is not moving in your situation. You may question why he is allowing suffering and misery, and why he isn’t giving you what you deeply desire. The unknowns can make you bitter and harden your heart against God. Don’t be afraid to ask God the tough questions. Get the frustrations out of you. But always remember the God in your past.

Remember what God has already done for you. Recount all the ways he has helped you. How he rescued you from troubles. How he has provided for your needs and even given you the things you want. Remember, he did all these things because he has a plan for your life. No one and nothing can change his personal and intentional designed purpose for your life.

Don’t fret. Choose to believe that God’s purpose for your life stands firm. Trust that his plans are for your good. Remember his past works in your life. Let it give you hope. Let it encourage you to keep pressing forward.

 

 

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The Many Faces of Mom

I was thinking about Mother’s Day this week and many faces of mom came to mind. Not just of my birth mother, but all the women who have had a motherly influence on me over the years. Perhaps a snapshot of our stories will encourage you to celebrate all women for the role they play in each of our lives in various seasons.

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This is my mom. She was beautiful, strong, sacrificial, loving, and enduring. We didn’t always agree, but it’s because we were more alike than I realized. She was the mama bear, always protective; wanting more and better for me. I love her more deeply now  because I understand her mother’s heart.

 

IMG_1479Here’s my grandma with her littlest grandchild, my baby sister. She took care of my five siblings and me when mom worked and dad was imprisoned by the communist. Grandma was a prayer warrior. I witnessed the power of prayer as she prayed us through raging ocean storms and Thai pirates robbery, when we were lost at sea on our escape from Vietnam. In the Malaysian refugee camps, motherly instinct led her to beg strangers for scraps so her grandchildren wouldn’t have to go to bed on empty stomachs. She was my second mom and a spiritual mother.

IMG_1481Here I am with Mrs. K. She was the first neighbor we met in America. She was a single woman with no children, who took a liking to me and I adored her. She was wheelchair bound with amputated legs and needed help with daily tasks. Mrs. K. paid me a few dollars to clean her apartment each week.  She always had special treats waiting for me along with a lesson about God after my job was done. In my tween years, Mrs. K. instilled in me a desire to know God and I will always treasure her spiritual influence.

IMG_1330Meet my adoptive mom, Jean. She was part of a Lutheran church family who sponsored our family to the United States. Jean never married and doesn’t have children. She calls me daughter and has been with me through many life events since I was nine. I’m grateful for the thoughtful ways she continues to show me love after 38 years together!

grandma and boys (2)I love this photo of my boys and sweet mother-in-law, June. She was camera shy so it was a challenge to find a picture of her! June loved God, but wasn’t pushy with her faith. She introduced me to God and the Bible by sending notes of encouragement and daily devotional readings. Her quiet spirit, generosity, and devotion to God modeled for me the genuine and deep love of Christ. I miss our long conversations about life, family, and faith. She will always have a special place in my heart and I can’t wait to see her in heaven!

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This lady here made it possible for Scott and I to move beyond dating. She came into our family a few years after my mom passed and became my stepmom. She convinced my dad to accept an American son-in-law 😉. She loves our family and I’m glad she has been like a mom to me.

 

IMG_1480These sweet ladies are Dorothy, Nellie, and Esther. Their kindness, gentleness, and love kept me coming back to church. I learned how to love and follow God by observing their lives. I miss their warmth and love so much. They were the spiritual mothers I needed to help nurture my faith.

IMG_1530Last but certainly not least, is my friend, Minyoung Lee. We know her as KGM or Korean grandma. She is my first and only mom mentor in Georgia as of this writing. God bumped me into KGM and her husband, Pastor John Lee, after our church service one spring Sunday in 2015. She has been instrumental in steering my heart back into my marriage (more on this at a later post) when I didn’t know how to love my husband.

She is wise, humble, gentle, yet firm in her influence. I’m grateful for her godly example and am honored to call her my spiritual mother.

Each of these women have contributed to my life story. God has crossed our paths to teach and mature me as a woman and a mother. How fortunate I am to be the recipient of their motherly love and influence!

Through these many faces of mom, I am reminded that God uses different people to give me the motherly love, mentoring, and guidance I need in various seasons of life. Even though my mom is no longer with me.

I’m learning that sometimes, God leaves an unmet longing in our hearts so he can use us to meet a reciprocal longing in another’s heart. Then He orchestrates our meeting so we can come together and have our longings met. What a beautiful way for God to demonstrate his love and power in working all things for our good!

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A Prayer for Help and Hope

I’ve been battling something fierce the past few weeks. Discouragement. Frustration. I’m short on time and low on patience with a long list of ought to-do’s waiting for me each day. Maybe it’s because I’m doing things my way and have taken on more than God has intended for me in this season. I am worn out trying to do and be all I think I must do and be as a wife, mom, teacher, and writer.

The controlling, orderly woman in me feels she can do it all. She has great expectations, but not realistic goals. She demands more of herself than what she is able to offer. So, she comes to the point of weariness and has to give her ideals and plans to the Lord. And rest in his caring arms.

Monday morning came and I got back to routine time with God first, instead of squeezing him into any open slot as the day permits. Not surprisingly, God met in the book of Psalms and gave me what I needed! I soaked in His truth and prayed his words over my discouraged, frustrated, and unsettled spirit. It so powerfully renewed my strength that I want to share the words with you.

If you are discouraged and frustrated with where you are and doubt God’s love for you, may these comforting words from the Psalms be a source of help and hope for you as it is for me.

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O Lord, I give my life to you. I trust in you, my God! Do not let me be disgraced. No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced. Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow.

Lead me by your truth. All day long I put my hope in you. Lord, you are good and you do what is right. You show the proper path to those who go astray. Lead me to humbly do what is right. Teach me your ways.

Who are those who fear the Lord? He will show them the path they should choose. I fear you. Give me success. Help me to be secure in you. May I experience your goodness. You are a friend to those who fear you, teaching them pleasant ways.

My eyes are on you, Lord, not on my desires. Keep me from the trap of wanting more for myself than what you want for me. Oh, that I would want to obey you more than wanting to gain things only for myself.

Turn to me Lord and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress. Save me from my struggles. Feel my pain and see the battle I fight every day to do all I feel I must do. In you I take refuge. I put my hope in you.

I honor you, Lord, for your glory and strength. Your voice thunders with power and majesty. You rule over all. Give me strength for my daily struggles. Bless me with peace to accept where you have me in this season.

Your plans for me stand firm forever. Your intentions can never be shaken. Your calling and abilities for me are irrevocable. Let me not be anxious in waiting for your plans to unfold, in your appointed time.

Lord, you watch down from heaven and see the whole human race. From your throne you observe all who live on earth. You made all hearts so you understand everything we do.

You watch over those who obey you, those who rely on your unfailing love. I put my hope in you. You are my help and shield. In you my heart rejoices, for I trust in your holy name. Let your unfailing love surround me, Lord. For my hope is in you alone.

Your unfailing love is as vast as the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Your righteousness like the mighty mountains. I find shelter in the shadow of your wings. You are the fountain of life, the light by which I see. Pour out your unfailing love on those who love you!

Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered. How fleeting my life is, it is as a moment to you. At best, I am but a breath!

I am merely a moving shadow and all my busy rushing ends in nothing. I may heap wealth and success, not knowing who will enjoy it. So, I put my hope only in you.

Hear my prayer, O Lord! Listen to my cries for help! Don’t ignore my tears. For I am your guest, a traveler passing through as others before me.

You, Lord are my shepherd. You give me everything I need. You give me rest and restore my soul. Lead me to the right paths for the honor of your name. Even though I walk through the valleys of discouragement, frustration, and doubt, I do not fear. For you comfort me, Lord, with your love. Surely, your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life. And I will live with you forever. This is my hope! My joy! My strength!

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