I came home earlier than usual tonight and noticed the light in my daughter’s room was still on.
OMG. There’s a new book written by a plastic surgeon to help women who are having plastic surgery walk through the process with their toddlers and young children. My kids are 12, 8 and 6. They would notice if this mommy came home with a new nose or bigger breasts.
So, are any of you worship leaders? Are any of you worship leaders out there women? And in what church/ministry contexts are you leading in?
I spent some time this past weekend with a great group of students and youth ministry leaders at North Park University’s Center for Youth Ministry Studies Topics course on ministering to Asian American Youth. Many thanks to Dr. Jim, Ginny and Alison for being such gracious hosts!
What should I do?
I noticed on Sunday that Peter and I now have nametags at church, but it took me a minute to figure it out simply because it wasn’t my name.
“Kathy Chang” was next to “Peter Chang”. I recognized Peter’s name, but I did not recognize mine because that’s not who I am.
I did not take his last name when we got married. I was young, idealistic and slightly rebellious. I had just begun to establish a career in journalism, and enjoyed seeing my byline. And when I thought of my parents eventually giving away their two daughters in holy matrimony, there was a pang in my heart. I would become one with my husband, but my name was so tied with my family of origin. If they were really gaining a son, did they have to lose their daughter in the process?
I didn’t set out to make a statement with keeping my last name. I had simply become accustomed to my name in all its oft-mispronounced, misspelled glory.
Hyphenating didn’t make sense. (For those of you who don’t speak Korean, if you put Khang and Chang together with proper pronunciation you get something very close to the word for “soy sauce”.) And as open-minded as Peter was trying to be, we couldn’t think of a way to explain to his parents why their first-born son was giving up his family name. (He still laughs when students or colleagues of mine mistakenly refer to him as Mr. Khang.)
So I stayed Kathy Khang. The kids’ friends call me Mrs. Chang, and I don’t make a big deal about it. When folks ask, I happily explain. I love my husband, and my children with whom I do not share a last name, and I love my name.
There are many women in the scriptures who go nameless. The woman at the well. The Samaritan woman. The bleeding woman. I love their stories. And I really do love the story my name tells. Khang – in Korean tradition the family name comes first. Kathy – given to me by my parents when we immigrated to the states because it started with the same sound as my given name. KyoungAh – my Korean name given to me by my paternal grandfather, according to tradition; the characters mean “congratulations” because I was the first daughter born to the family in three generations.
Back to the name tag.
Despite my slightly rebellious tendencies, I am still Asian American. I don’t want to embarrass anyone by asking for a new tag, and I don’t want to seem too liberal. I don’t want to draw any more attention to our family than we already do when we walk into the sanctuary.
What should I do?
We’ve been doing our best for the past few months at hiding at our local church. We’ve been blessed and quite impressed at how we’ve been welcomed and greeted (“Hi, I’ve not had the chance to introduce myself.” and not once “Hi, are you new here?”). The kids have transitioned well into Children’s Church, though the idea of a separate Sunday School hour is still taking some getting used to. We’ve attended the Inquirers Class to get to know the church and the denomination better. But overall, we’ve tried to keep a low profile, slipping out as quickly as we can after service.
But lately, Peter and I have felt a tug in our hearts. Are we willing to invest into the life of the church knowing that some things will feel different? Until two years ago, we had attended a predominantly Korean-American second gen church where social and cultural connections generally flowed seamlessly into spiritual connections. There was no worrying about what to serve or not serve for impromptu meals together. No explaining why we related to our parents the way we did even though we are grown adults with families of our own.
Peter and I were talking about church, and joked about how we stood out as a family on any given Sunday morning. We’ve been keeping a low-profile, but there are some things we can’t hide, right?
But then my daughter said something that gave me a moment of panic. “Huh? What do you mean we stick out? How are we different?”
My husband and I nearly stopped breathing.
Bethany is developing a wicked sense of humor so for a moment we weren’t sure if she was joking with us, but it was soon obvious that it wasn’t immediately obvious to her how we were different.
And I’m not sure how I feel about that. I don’t want my kids to wear their ethnicity as an angry badge, but I want them to be wisely aware. Does that make sense?
Ironically, I’ve taught on ethnic identity to college students and adults. Any thoughts on translating this for personal use?
I live in the suburbs where we desperately need Jesus. Teaching our children about the world through the lens of our privileged world is difficult to say the least.
During our church homeless period, we periodically took Sundays to “home” church with lessons from various news clippings to spur on the conversation. Over the summer a colleague on InterVarsity staff alerted us to an exhibit downtown. Doctors Without Borders was setting up a refugee camp in the heart of the city, and we took the kids to do church at the exhibit. Instead of sitting in pews that Sunday, we stood in line talking to the kids about starvation, war and basic needs. It was one of our best Sunday experiences yet.
Last year the kids each filled a shoebox for Operation Christmas child, and having the kids help purchase and collect things for three shoeboxes was a good experience. We bought things they would want (I kept saying, “If you think it’s a junky toy and you wouldn’t play with it why would you give it to someone else?”) and then talked about how we probably would have had more shoeboxes had we planned ahead.
So for the past year we collected the shoeboxes from every pair of shoes we bought – 21 boxes to fill. (Even though Bethany’s feet grew two full sizes I was still horrified.) We brought along a friend and the kids thoughtfully selected flashlights, hair pins, small toys, soap, etc. and we filled and wrapped and talked. It’s not the solution. It’s a step.
We live in the suburbs where many of our neighbors never have to worry about having enough toys or soap for their children. We live in the suburbs where many neighbors are working like crazy to keep up with their neighbors, living paycheck-to-paycheck with a smile on the outside. We desperately need Jesus more than we know it.
What are some of the things other suburbanites are doing to connect their families with God’s heart for the world?
Halloween was never a pagan holiday for me and my sister. The Korean church I grew up attending did not have discussions about sponsoring an alternative Halloween event. It was an American holiday, and we were going to do our best to fit in. Never mind that it seemed like a huge waste of money to be giving away candy to strangers. Celebrating Halloween became part of the bi-cultural fabric of our family.
I remember long nights walking the streets of what is now the edges of Chicago’s Koreatown wearing plastic masks that are now banned in many schools and eating candy along the route. This before needles and razor blades in chocolates, before the Tylenol scare, before hospitals offered to x-ray bags of candy, before trick-or-treating became a daytime event.
My favorite costume was my Jeanie costume – as in “I Dream of Jeanie”. It was a plastic costume with a plastic mask. I thought I was Jeanie who died and woke up in Candyland. Perfect. The icing on the cake was getting to the best three-flat in the neighborhood. You know, the one that gave out chocolates or packs of gum. (I actually didn’t mind the pennies because 10 pennies meant a stop at the corner store on the way home from school. I never did like the popcorn balls, though.)
What was your favorite Halloween costume? And what was the best door in the neighborhood to knock on?
Stepping into leadership was easier for me in high school. I’ll have to psycho-analyze myself some other time, but it seemed appropriate to run for student and class council, to put myself in the ring for section editor, to try out for the pom pon squad.
But stepping into leadership as an adult involves a lot more second-guessing, more internal conversations between the voices that say, “You can’t do it! You shouldn’t do it! You should do it!” It’s very loud in my head sometimes.
So when the women’s conference planning committee members were asked to consider what we might enjoy doing I sat silently. It doesn’t seem appropriate to volunteer myself for this or that, or to say, “Hey, I think I’d really do a great job doing such and such.” It’s more appropriate to simply sit, listen to what others want to do, and do what no one else wants to do.
There were some thoughts, some louder than others, running through my head during that meeting. I think Sharon might have noticed me sitting there making funny faces as I struggled with this internal conversation and she threw my name in the hat for emcee.
I felt my response to her invitation to lead later required a written note of apology and thanks – sorry for sounding like an idiot as I dismissed her suggestion, and thanks for seeing something in me that I wouldn’t dare consider.
So I spent this weekend as the self-appointed queen/emcee for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Midwest Cluster Women’s Conference. I shared from upfront how when I and others in IVCF think of an emcee we think of Greg Jao – a dear friend and mentor of mine, and how that terrifies me. And I shared about the anxiety I was experiencing as I stepped into that upfront role. Seriously, who wants to be compared to a Greg Jao or an Auntie Jeanette? Because honestly I didn’t like how I was comparing myself to them so how I could I bear being compared to them by others.
I decided that Greg’s santa hat was a great idea, but that while I would gladly borrow the idea I would need to make it my own. I look better in a tiara than a santa hat.
I decided about two minutes into the conference that I was more afraid of what God might say to me than what I might say from up front.
I realized that I still stumble for a response when someone asks me to step into leadership, but that I’ve also learned how to accept compliments with more grace and gratitude than before.
I was reminded that being open to what God is doing in my life is both hard and amazing. My body still aches from exhaustion. My heart and soul are still restless and eager to process what God was revealing this past weekend.
And my tiara will have a special place in my happy green office to remind me to be open, sensitive and courageous for such a time as this.