Full-time Ministry and Motherhood

I’ve had another quiet spell on the blogging front. Writing energizes me, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen for public consumption. The end of the year came and went, and Peter and I have spent quite a bit of time fixing the flaws to our calendaring system. If only our refrigerator had an iPad on it where our perfectly synced google and iCal calendars could appear in its rainbow glory.
This is a cheat blog post. The content appears in “Models of Ministry: Husband in the Workplace”, which is part of a resource developed for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship staff. It is linked on the staff website this month, which I didn’t know about until a few e-mails and Facebook posts alerted me to the fact that I had written something. While the following piece was written with InterVarsity staff in mind, I do believe that quite a bit of translates into a non-Christian ministry context. Every mom I know is a working mom, and for all of us parents, calendaring is a verb. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have a paying job that is personally satisfying and has made me a better mother. Not everyone gets to say that.
But parenting is not easy. I have plenty of stories of bringing sick children to lie on the floor during meetings I had to run or leaving a grocery cart full of groceries in the store because when I say, “If you don’t stop (insert unacceptable behavior), we are leaving the store” I am not making an idle threat. So being a part of an entire resource for and about working mothers for the organization I work for and with was hardly work.
(For those of you who only “know” me through this blog or the book I helped author, I am a full-time working mother – the regional multiethnic director for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA and am based out of my pretty green home office. For more information please visit www.intervarsity.org and if what you see makes you want to be a part of what I do, feel free to join my financial support team by going to www.intervarsity.org/donate/to/kathy_khang ).

What were the key factors shaping your choice of model for ministry and motherhood?
I had already been in the marketplace for five years, gotten married and had my first child when I made the move to join InterVarsity staff. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t be a working mom just because I was going into campus ministry…until I realized there were so few of us.

What was most difficult or challenging about your choice?
Hands-down childcare was and continues to be the most difficult and challenging part of the decision because it affects my family and my personal development. Campus ministry doesn’t fit neatly into daycare hours, nor does the level of financial compensation fit easily into the cost of quality childcare. Overnight student retreats and staff meetings and travel have required constant negotiation with family, friends, supervisors and colleagues. And because my husband is not on staff, has a set schedule, and has limited flexibility and because taking advantage of any flexibility has a direct impact on our finances, figuring out how to manage two careers takes a great deal of energy, planning, communication and grace.

During my CSM days I was blessed by a wonderful group of students who watched my kids for free as their ministry to the chapter, freeing me up to meet with other students while they fed my kids jellybeans and McDonald’s and pored love and affection on them. But it was never easy or seamless.

My husband and I decided that we would do our best to schedule my job around his for very practical reasons – his job paid more. That meant staying part-time because the full-time job required three weeks at Chapter Focus Week as well as additional area, divisional, regional and national meetings that did not and could not offer childcare.

I made the choice to put personal leadership development and training on a much slower track in order to accommodate my family’s needs and time limitations. It also meant feeling like I had no choice but to say “no” to many wonderful opportunities to teach or be trained, and digging deep into fears that saying “no” too many times would mean the invitations would dry up. To be honest, some opportunities do dry up but others have come back around now that I am full-time and my children are all in school.

My childcare needs have continued to change as the kids have gotten older, entered school, added activities, etc. and as my roles and my husband’s career demands have changed. We are frequently at our desk with our calendars mapping out requests for time-off, adjusting doctor’s appointments, notifying the school and teachers to call Peter in case of an emergency because I am out of town. It has forced us to communicate better.

What have you valued or appreciated about your choice?
Being on staff with InterVarsity has been a gift to me and to my family. It has not been easy, and I often step back to make sure this decision is right for this time in my life and in my family’s life. The choice gave my husband and me a chance to put our values into practice and honor our marriage vows in tangible ways. Honoring one another in a two-career family has required some difficult, heartfelt, honest, conversations about ambition and opportunities and sacrifice.

I can still find myself envying staff couples who would serve their weeks at Chapter Focus week or attend staff conferences and still have vacation time to spend together. For us those situations have required us to either use my husband’s vacation time to stay home with the kids, for the family to come with me at our cost or for me to ask my supervisors to be excused from meetings, conferences and training. It has meant being sure of the calling but uncertain about the intensity or feasibility of pursuing that call at various points in our family’s life.

But all of those choices have in turn opened up an extended family to us. Alumni and fellow staff who met my children when they were young enough to nap in a carseat in the corner or stay busy with a few coloring books when I was able to attend meetings don’t see them as often but from a distance continue to watch Bethany, Corban and Elias grow up, and they have been blessed through a few key relationships developed through my years on staff. My kids look forward to Chapter Focus Week at Cedar Campus and talk about the various conferences and retreats, which to them have been mini-vacations with an ever-changing extended family.

It has also kept me honest and forced me to dig deep into my soul and then run to Jesus about my personal ambitions, frustrations, envy, calling and roles. There are roles and jobs I would be interested in pursuing, but I continue to need a job with some degree of flexibility because the public school system isn’t flexible and my husband’s boss’ vacation requests will always take priority over his.

What advice would you give to women as they’re considering what path is appropriate for them?
You need to do three things: pray, talk with your husband and find support. Whether you choose to stay on staff or leave, and whether or not your husband is on staff, you need to pray and sit at Jesus’ feet because there are many things motherhood will make you worry about. Whatever you decide you may have moments of regret, of feeling like you’ve lost a part of your identity, etc. Be with Jesus first.

And then talk with your husband. There is nothing as demanding as parenthood (well, maybe caring for an aging parent, but that’s another discussion), and I’m not close to being done yet. Your choice may be crystal clear so talk about it with your husband so that when the decision doesn’t seem so clear the patterns of communication are set and they are strong.

Pull out your calendars, know what your babysitter can or cannot do (Evenings? Weekends? Overnight care? Sick child childcare?) You will need to look at the realities of your schedules. How flexible is your husband’s career? How will his schedule look against your schedule work with consideration to childcare? How will scheduling demands affect your effectiveness? Will you or your husband run home from a meeting to pick up your kid from school because she has a fever? Will it always be you because your students will understand or will you take turns? How will you help your husband understand your job and InterVarsity when some of your donors or students don’t even understand all that you do and the importance of it?

How can you explain to your husband (and children) that the emotional intensity at the recent set of meetings means that even if you are “home” by 5 p.m. you aren’t really ready to get dinner ready before he gets home or to appreciate the dinner he made before you got home? The topics and scenarios are endless.

Nothing makes you look crazier than putting on a Wonder Woman costume every day. We are not supermoms and we’re not meant to do this alone. Don’t let the brokenness of our culture and our families isolate you and let you think you have to or should do this alone.

Find a mom’s group or a group of moms who may not have chosen your exact path but support you, pray with you and for you, ask you challenging questions that bother you until you have to go pray and journal. Find women who are single, widowed, empty-nesters from whom you can learn from and with whom you can also find a different audience for the things you’ve learned as well.

Oh, and let me add a fourth – don’t judge. Whatever decision you make, you know it wasn’t a piece of cake. You may not make the same decision as I did, but one decision isn’t better than the other.

 

Learning About Leadership and Social Networking=New to Twitter @mskathykhang

This is my guest post for Angry Asian Man, a dear friend and someone I respect deeply. I’ve appreciated his advocacy for Asian Americans, his humor and his ability to manage pop culture fame and humility. You can follow his blog or @angryasianman, where I have finally joined the ranks of Twitter @mskathykhang

I’m on vacation! Taking a much-needed break. But don’t worry. While I’m away, I’ve enlisted some great guest bloggers to keep things going around here. Here’s Kathy Khang and her half-read book review of Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead by Charlene Li.

I grew up believing that taking advantage of the very best education money and hours of studying could get you was the key to the Asian American dream. There’s no doubt a strong education remains key but an Ivy League degree isn’t the only key. The world of social technology – the development and use of – is changing the way leadership and social power works.

So I was thrilled to pick up a copy of Charlene Li’s fairly new book, Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead. In the business world, the gurus are by and large men of a paler shade. It’s been said of novelists that they subconsciously assume the race or ethnicity of their readers and characters. If you read enough leadership books, you may say the same about those authors as well. Just add gender to the mix.

Readers of AAM know full well the power of social media. Stupid slogans on t-shirts (A & F) may never have gained national attention had it not been for the power of social media. As a reader of AAM, I’m no dummy. When I saw vacation Bible school materials and a Christian leadership book using stereotypical images of Asian Americans it was an easy call to open leadership. My own personal networks are limited, but spreading the word through AAM and later Facebook and Twitter made sure people understood rickshaws and ninjas should not be used in Jesus’ name as a cute selling point.

Full disclosure. I’m not done reading Li’s book, but it has received strong reader reviews as well as positive write-ups in CIO, Management Today and Harvard Business Review. And a little thing I loved right off the bat was she dedicates the book to her parents and in the introduction compares balancing openness and control to being the parent of young children. Great leaders know where they come from and bring authenticity and integration. Can’t wait to finish reading Li’s book.

Kathy Khang blogs at More Than Serving Tea and loves her job as a regional multiethnic director for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA.

What Will the Terrible Twos Look Like?

Today marks two years since I jumped solo to start blogging here on WordPress. It has been…interesting. 😉

I started just before my youngest child entered first grade, which for me meant the end of the tunnel (one of many parenting tunnels). For those of you who are unfamiliar with that tunnel it starts the moment you give birth. Completely and utterly surprised, baffled and overwhelmed by the love and fear you have of raising said child takes over a part of your heart and soul and mind (the body part got taken over the second you got pregnant). For me the light at the end of the tunnel was repeating the birth cycle two more times realizing that until the youngest entered full-day school I would always have a little person near by on days I wasn’t working outside of the home.

It was no coincidence that as several more hours of the day opened up that I jumped back into the silence and solitude of writing.

There are few interests that have been a continuous thread in my life, and writing has been one of them. Diaries with little brass locks, lined journals, blank-page sketch books and then clips and tear sheets documenting life and lives have always been a part of me though there was little room for personal reflection and pontificating during the moments my infants raced into childhood and now, for the oldest, to the brink of adulthood. Which is why the blog seemed to fit with my youngest entering full-day school. He was taking a big step forward as was I. I just didn’t get a cool new backpack and a magic penny to get me through the day.

So, happy birthday to More Than Serving Tea and many thanks to all of you who have made what happens in silence and solitude into a space we can hear, learn, encourage and, I hope, bless one another.

Just watch out. More Than Serving Tea is now two….

It’s Not Racist or Sexist. It’s Complicated.

Bestselling author Anne Rice recently announced that she “quit being a Christian” but remains “committed to Christ”. Leave it to an author to parse her words in a way that would have the world a twitter. What followed was a flood of responses and reactions, including a thoughtful post by an acquaintance of mine, fellow blogger and co-founder of One Day’s Wages Eugene Cho.

The line that caught me and others off-guard, perhaps, was this:

First of all, I am a fan of Anne Rice. In fact, I don’t know of many people that dislike her. She’s a phenomenal writer and additionally, she’s gotta have some Asian genes in her. She’s 68 and ages like no other.

He has gotten some flak for that statement, and has since posted a public request on his blog for feedback asking readers to chime in: Was this racist or sexist?

I don’t think it was either. Eugene was trying to be funny. Some people thought he was funny. I just thought: “What the heck does her appearance in comparison to her age have to do with any of this?” And for the record, I do think there is a difference between noting Anne Rice’s appearance and age and connecting that to a possible Asian genetic connection in a post about her comments on religion and faith and someone noting Steve Nash (or whoever) must have a Black genetic connection because of their skills on the court (this is another question Eugene raises). Comments about Nash’s race point to the stereotypes about Blacks and athletic prowess. I’m not sure how Rice’s appearance has anything to do with her as an author or religious commentator.

It’s different because I don’t see how looking younger than you are relates to Rice’s appeal, success or current religious affiliation matter, but comments about race, basketball and the NBA can easily go to a deeper conversation about race, power and credibility.

Oops. I stand corrected. I guess it is similar because it’s all so very complicated.

I am a Christian Asian American woman who walks this ever-moving fine line in a field that sometimes connects titles, degrees and gender to credibility and access, in cultures that value age, experience, honor, beauty, youth, power, service, humility and self-confidence. I have been disrespected, ignored and shut out because I am am not a man, and in some cases, all within the Church, because I am not an Asian American man – young or old. I have served alongside and sometimes simply served Christian men of all shades who have significantly less life and ministry experience than I have because I am not a “Mr.” or a “Rev.” and I don’t have or am not pursuing an MDiv so the easier category for me is Mrs. (though I prefer Ms.).

It’s complicated and confusing. Doesn’t our Asian culture revere and honor elders or is it only male elders in general and a certain type of female elder? In Asian, American and Asian American culture don’t we also obsess over youthful appearances (yes, vanity and ageism affect both men and women, but watching advertising alone would lead me to believe that men should worry about ED and women should worry about wrinkles)?

Sour grapes? No. Yes. Sometimes. Sometimes very, very sour. And sometimes very, very nasty grapes that the Lord presses into new wineskins and makes into a wine worth savoring. There are many times I don’t want to be a Christian Asian American woman.

It’s complicated.

Is This Worth a Response?

May was a crazy month, and June caught me by surprise. Lots of things going on with the kids and with me personally, including taking a breather from writing as I tried to regain some sense of center.

And then the following comment arrived on a fairly old blog post of mine just begging for a snarky response from me:

From DoubleStandard-

WHAT THE FUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

IS WRONG WITH YOU RACIST PEOPLE

THE FACT THAT A WHITE OR ENGLISH SPEAKERS CAN SIT THERE AND HAVE SOME TROUBLE WITH READING DIFFERENT AND VERY VERY VERY VERY!!!!!!!!!!!!! HARD LANAUGES AND SAY IT WRONG AND OU CALL THAT RACIST WHAT IF NON ENGLISH PEOPLE SAY ENGLISH WORDS WRONG

IS THAT RACIST NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HELL IT IS

ITS CUTE AND WE “HAVE TO RESPECT” UNFAIR AND RACIST THAT MANY MANY NON AMERCIANS WHO CAN’T EVEN SPEAK ENGLISH ARE ALOUD TO BECOME AND BE CITZENS.

WE HAVE TO TO SHOUT AT THE OR LAUGH IF THEY CAN SPEAK ENGLISH YET WHEN WE TRY TO SPEAK ONE OF THE HARDEST LANUAGEST NO ONE SHOWS RESPECT.

lots of people like Penelope cruz pretend they can’t speak english like simple word even though she learnt it YEARS ago and learnt others much harder one sense but still doesn’t know what car means.

and the fact you hate dark people shows how racist japanese are beyonce is not nicole kidman so stop making her japnese ads look like her

DoubleStandard did not link her/his comment to a blog, but I am tempted to send an edited copy of her/his comment back with some suggestions.

I don’t care if readers disagree with me or want to push back. I do care when readers tell me to shut up because this is my blog. I realize that sounds a bit childish, but sometimes I feel childish. If you don’t like what you are reading, please move along.

I won’t clean up a commenter’s comment, but if you’re going to criticize someone else’s ability to speak, read or write English I personally think you, DoubleStandard and others, ought to check for typos.

And generally I haven’t engaged commenters like DoubleStandard, but sometimes I wonder if I should. Would it, could it, make a difference?

Blogging, Tweeting & Other Forms of Communication/Self-Promotion

I’ve been asked a number of times why I don’t “tweet”. To be honest, I’m not sure. It’s been fun blogging and trying to build time in each week to write a few posts. Gaining readership and seeing comments has made the moments of blogging drudgery worth it and incredibly fun. And, yes, it gives my ego a little boost.

Which is why I’m thinking about tweeting and spending a bit of time thinking about the dangers to my soul.

It’s that little voice inside my head – the self-doubt – that is met with equal voice and footing by another voice – the ego.

I need both to dance inside my head with some degree of balance and a good dose of Jesus. I am not the center of the universe and my words -whether through blogging, tweeting or speaking – cannot change the world. But I am part of the universe, and my words can do powerful things for good and for really, really bad.

Which is why I’m still thinking about tweets and whether or not it will be just another fun thing that God begins to use to shape me (which is what has been happening with the MTST book and then blog).

To tweet or not to tweet? Do you think Jesus would have tweeted? (JUST KIDDING!) Do you tweet or blog? Why or why not? Obviously you read blogs. Do you follow someone’s tweets? Why?

You Can’t Make Me But You Might Make Me Want To…Read This

Bloggers blog to have an outlet for the many thoughts cooped up in their heads. At least, that’s what I’d like to think. Sure, there are some who think their writing will compel thousands to instantaneously subscribe to their blog, which then leads them to fame and fortune.

I blog because I love to write, and it’s a bonus when my writing is good enough that it connects with you, challenges you, annoys you and makes you want to keep reading. The weird thing with blogging is that most bloggers I know want people to read their posts. You make it fun in a different way. The comments let us know you’re there, but there are ways to know that there are silent ones who read as faithfully as they can. Thank you. We/I can get needy that way, wanting readers. We’re very vain that way. We figure if we write it, it surely must be worth reading. But with a bajillion blogs out there it’s easy to get lost and be very lonely.

So in the spirit of broadening our RSS feeds, I’d love to know what blogs – other than More Than Serving Tea, of course – you follow and why.

Thanks!

Popular.

Being a published writer is a very strange thing indeed. I remember feeling grateful and proud when I saw my first byline, and I remember that More Than Serving Tea didn’t seem real until the first copies arrived at my home. I couldn’t believe someone was going to read what I had written.

But that’s when the fear and doubt really try to settle in and get comfortable. Getting published (or writing a public blog) doesn’t mean anyone is going to read what you wrote. It just means you’ve entered a new kind of crazy, manic, creative, wishful, hopeful, fearful place. Being published doesn’t mean having readers.

Blogging has opened up an entirely new avenue for writers to do just that – write and then hope their words will have readers who not only read what they’ve written but love it. Or at least like it enough. Is there anyone out there who blogs on a public blog and doesn’t want people to read it? You? You write a public blog but you don’t care if anyone reads it? Liar.

😉

We bloggers all have our good days when we write something that we think is funny or thoughtful or thought provoking, and our lovely readers concur. And then we have our bad days when inspiration never strikes or the words aren’t as clever or don’t turn quite right.

I would be lying to you if I told you I didn’t know how many readers I have. It keeps me humble because most days here at More Than Serving Tea it’s a small but faithful bunch. It’s been fun over the two years or so to learn a little more about some of you, and even better to actually meet some of you (Alvin!).

But today (Friday) was not a good day or a bad day. It was weird. I was popular.

I’ve seen surges in my readership, especially when the likes of Scot McKnight or Sojourners crosspost or link to my blog. It is flattering because I respect both blogs and the communities that read those sites, and I’m grateful to have that exposure and mutual respect. And it is dangerous because I see how easily my humility turns false and gratitude for a God-given ability to write wants more than feeling God’s pleasure as I write. I want fame . Or at the very least some blogosphere popularity.

But today the blog stats were beyond anything I had seen, so initially I thought my post on keeping my mouth shut was beyond amazing. I still think I had a pretty good line or two and that the overall post was well-written, but that really wasn’t it. I lucked out and my post made some popularity list that I think is created randomly. I could say that it was a God-thing, and maybe it was. I’m pretty sure in some way it was. I just don’t think it was to make me popular and famous, per se. Popularity, even for one day, can feel like success, and even success is fleeting and misguided because it easily makes me stare at my bellybutton.

Today was a good lesson in popularity because I had it and I was “it”, and, friends, it is the same as it was in high school. Fast, flattering and fleeting. I can only hope that a handful of the many first-time readers (heck, I’d take one) would stick around for the ride to join the ranks of my long-time readers, first-time commenters. But that’s popularity.

I could work hard to try to be witty and write posts with popular tags in popular categories. I could try to be popular, but if today was a God-thing, God was giving me a tiny bit of space for me to think about why I gave a “bleep” about what other people think about my writing before I gave a moment’s thought to whether or not my words communicated integrity, faith, grace, hope and love.

Do I want to be popular first or do I want to be found faithful first?