More Than Serving Tea


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the life management category.

Falling Into New Rhythms

It has been a week since we dropped off our firstborn on campus and high-tailed it back to Queens to drown our bittersweet tears and smiles in three perfectly grilled cuts of red meat and a pitcher of sangria.

I am still exhausted from the weeks, if not months, of anticipation, the measured and outbursts of emotion, the moving of a van full of STUFF, and then the goodbye.

It’s also hitting me that I am tired from (but not of) 16+ years of campus ministry. I did take a few breaks, which were also called maternity leave, but any job that requires you to be a combination of pastor, counselor, coach, supervisor, trainer, teacher, speaker, preacher, candlestick maker will drain you even if you have healthy boundaries and rhythms in place.

Somewhere between 1998 and the present those healthy boundaries and rhythms changed and evolved with each new season, and now as a gift to me from my employer – InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA – has granted me a six-month sabbatical from the daily rhythms of college ministry.

I’d always thought of sabbaticals as something teachers or academics might take, but the rhythm of work and rest or ceasing is part of my life as a Christian. My day of rest or “ceasing” is often Sunday, but admittedly Sunday’s are often a harried morning rushing off late to church with an afternoon of errands and housekeeping. It’s usually the “get everything set up for the crazy week ahead” day, but that’s not what God intended when He modeled sabbath in Genesis. After creating the universe “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:3, TNIV)

Blessed and holy rest.

I’m excited and scared out of my mind. I’m scared I’ll miss out on making new connections and fun staff reunions, also known as FOMO or the fear of missing out. I’m scared six months away will mean there will be no place to return to at the beginning of March. I’m scared to ask God about this next season of life because He just might answer. I’m scared current ministry partners will stop praying and stop giving financially to the programs and plans I’ve been overseeing. I’m scared I’ll disappear and become irrelevant. I’m scared colleagues will forget about me.

On the other hand, what would you do if you had six months off of work? Granted, I can’t give up doing laundry or cleaning the house (could I?), and the daily demands of being a wife and mom can be crazy enough. But if you work outside of the home and could put that away for six months what would you do??

But I am crazy excited about organizing the talks and sermons, the training modules and articles, the book lists, the blogger lists, and all the other “administration” that is as much about listening and discerning as it is about cleaning up. Cleaning up the physical mess is a part of digging deep into the spiritual mess because after that many years of ministry there are a few messes to clean up. I’m excited about being a part of a two-year spiritual development cohort. I’m excited about some more space to read, journal, and write. I’m excited to have the permission and the luxury to say “no” to the daily demands and to dream and pray about the future.

Below is a link to my fall ministry update, if you are so inclined. In the meantime, even if it’s for an hour, put away the distractions – put the kids to bed, put the phone away, step away from any screen, and just sit. Doze off. Read. Journal. Go for a run. Or just sit in the silence. It’s a little exciting and a little scary, right?

Fall 2014 prayer letter

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Three Weeks and Counting

I have been fighting a bout of insomnia by avoiding reflection. It rarely works, which is why last night I just sat there in silence with God to figure it out.

It’s deadlines.

I missed an end-of-July deadline for a devotional series (Romal, it’s getting done. I SWEAR!) I barely made the deadline for another blog (apologies to my family since we technically were on vacation). I had a moment of panic as the posting schedule for another site went up. Did I forget that deadline, too? No, I did not. I just completely forgot what I wrote about. I’m fairly certain I missed the deadline for my annual ministry plan.

I don’t work better under pressure. I just work. Knowing there is a set “end” puts the idea of a goal into focus, but sitting in that 2 a.m. silence it was deeper than those deadlines I heard God trying to get through my fearful heart. Summer ends soon, and so with some denial and regret I looked at the calendar on our fridge.

Two weeks from today my sons return to school as a high school sophomore and a seventh grader, both having adding inches to their height and a summer of video games to their enrichment. I hear my older son’s voice, and I don’t recognize it. I catch their reflections in a mirror, and I have to look harder to see their baby faces. But they will still wake up in their beds and leave those beds every morning unmade. They are still home.

Three weeks from today we will drop off my daughter at her freshman dorm and then drive away holding back tears and snot. I am going to guess that four weeks from today I will have met that missed July deadline, turned in a ministry plan, washed my daughter’s sheets, and closed the door to her room.

It’s so true. The days are long but the years are short. All those times I wanted to tell older women to stop telling me to appreciate the school years? I’M SORRY! YOU WERE RIGHT! I WAS WRONG! I DIDN’T KNOW! I WAS SO TIRED AND CRANKY! I can still physically recall the exhaustion, anxiety, stress, and numbness of those infant-baby-toddler-preschool, breastfeeding, diaper changing, sleep training, nap dropping, potty training years. The ridiculous stress, anxiety, and #firstworldprivilegedparentingprobs of standardized tests, class placement, team sports, friendship drama, GPAs, and socialization remain as we add on a new frontier of young adulthood and college student parenting. The conversations about drinking, drugs, sex, faith, relationships, and overall decision-making shift into a new space for our daughter and for us as parents, for me as her mother. The physicality of parenting – the late-night feedings, the diapers, the baths – shifted dramatically as they became more independent, and I regained healthier sleep habits until she started driving and then driving without the restrictions of a newly licensed driver because I was waiting up for her to come home.

Three weeks. Three weeks and then we will be the ones driving away to go home.

I know this is what I am supposed to do. I am so excited for her and proud of her. I know in my heart this is what it looks like to trust God, and that is what I’ll be counting on when we drive away and head straight for some restaurant in Manhattan for food, tears, a toast, and a prayer. I know that this is gift for her and for us, a continuation of the privilege of being a parent. I know she will miss us even if she doesn’t call, text or Snapchat within the first 24-72 hours of our departure. I know she will have moments of buyers’ remorse, and I will wish we had demanded she go to school closer. I know this isn’t the privilege of most young 18-year-old women and 43-year-old moms. I know that letting her go has been the point of all of this.

But where in the world did all that freaking time go?

Three weeks. I just never thought it would come so soon.

#flymysweet

 


40 Days & Nights. Mostly Nights: A Lenten Journey

I am going to give up my nights, my night owl habits, and what I have often referred to as the most productive hours of my day.

Motherhood did not reset my internal clock to the rhythms of infancy, toddlerhood, preschool, etc.  because those seasons never had a set rhythm unless controlled chaos is considered a rhythm. I have never enjoyed the quiet before or during sunrise. I usually only see a sunrise if I was up all night. I love staying up past 1 a.m. when everyone else is asleep. I love the second wind and feeling of productivity when no one else is in my way.

Which is why I am giving up my night owl habits. I need to let go. Everyone needs a certain amount of sleep, and I certainly don’t get enough of it. It’s no one’s fault but my own. I stay up late to get more done, to write one last paragraph, read one more page, clean up one more spot in the house, respond to one more email, check off one more thing off my never-ending list of things to get done, many of which can and should wait.

And then I wake up after I’ve hit the snooze button too many times, feeling exhausted and already behind another day of producing, cleaning, emailing, multitasking purposefulness.

I am not that important.

The house is not that dirty.

Those emails (unless they are from my supervisors or colleagues and correctly have the RN: date on them) are not “DO IT NOW!” urgent.

The book will still be there.

Even as I sit here typing I am thinking and worrying about what isn’t getting done now and wondering how I can get it all done tonight.

No more afternoon coffee. No more burning the midnight oil. Less cranky Kathy, which is far less than what God has invited me to be. No more being too tired to actually be present to what God has for me.

May 40 days simply be.


The Vitamin L Diary: Fear, Faith & Deep Breaths

I see my doctor every six months to make sure the Vitamin L (Lexapro) is doing its thing. Today was that day, which included a flu shot (too late for poor Corban, my second) and an unexpected encounter with the bleeding woman and a dead girl.

My doctor asked me about my mood and whether or not I was having any anxiety attacks. I was honest, telling her there have been several times in the past six months where I have had to take some deep breaths and mentally go “there” – dig deep, to breathe, close my eyes literally or metaphorically, and slow…things…down…to figure out the trigger of the anxiety, the fear.

Instead of asking me about dosing alprazolam, she sent me to the very passage in the Bible that I had used a few weeks ago when preaching at the Asian American InterVarsity chapter at UW-Madison. She sent me to meet the bleeding woman and the dying girl.

My doctor and I have talked about the stigma of mental illness and of using drugs to help address depression and anxiety, and today she addressed it head on by reminding me not to be afraid of fear.

She said to remember that whenever God shows up in a big way, through angels or a vision, God says, “Do not be afraid” and then offers some sort of assurance that He is with them. That fear seems a rather natural physical and mental response, the kind that keeps people from speaking and acting, the kind expressed on your face or in your body language. Fear happens even in the God’s presence. In the gospels of Mark and Luke, Jesus encounters people who were afraid of the demon-possessed man, the bleeding woman who trembles with fear having been “caught” healing herself by touching Jesus’ cloak, and Jairus who is afraid because his daughter has died.

If that kind of fear and anxiety exists in scripture, why are we so afraid to deal with it?

I am certain there will be many moments and seasons of fear in my life. The drugs don’t make it all go away. They do not erase or eliminate emotions. But what I have found most freeing in this journey has been to take that which festers in the darkness and elicits fear and to bring it out whether through my blog or when I speak publicly. I do not want to be afraid of fear,

of anxiety,

of depression,

of what people think when the read whatever I’ve written and disagree with me,

of disappointing my husband or my kids or my parents (it’s a cultural thing),

of bombing a speaking gig or not doing what I imagine would be my “very best”.

I

do

not

want

to

be

afraid.

I want only to breathe and believe that God

is

with

me.

 

 

***Don’t worry. My doctor knows I am a Christian, and I have told her I welcome these candid conversations as she is taking my vitals and vaccinating me. I am blessed.***

 


The Vitamin L Diary: Year Four & Seeing the Light

A few years ago I posted about anxiety, depression and being on an anti-depressant. I go in every few months to follow-up with my primary physician. Drugs are not the cure-all, but they can help. I’ve told my doctor I don’t ever want to stop taking my vitamin L, but she reminded me that the end goal isn’t to stay on the drug but to make sure the drug is helpful and necessary.

Any who, I am now four years into this journey. My goal is to “talk” about anxiety and depression to take away some of the stigma, embarrassment and shame. Perhaps someone out there will take one step closer to loving & honoring herself/himself or better understand depression and anxiety. My hope is in Jesus. Treating my anxiety and depression has only deepened my hope.

I love fall, but I don’t love what this season eventually leads to. The vibrant colors against a sunny fall morning give way to shorter days and longer nights. I know that a regular schedule including sleep and exercise are critical to keeping my depression & anxiety managed well.  Actually, everyone should keep a regular schedule of sleep & exercise! But I dread the long nights of winter.

I am also still on Lexapro, one little pill a day. I also have on hand alprazolam, just in case for anxiety and panic attacks – the kind that actually sent me running to my doctor in the first place. I currently am not seeing a therapist, but I still see my PCP regularly to discuss treatment and decide whether or not medication is still helpful and necessary. I’ve had to wrestle with my own conflicted feelings about seeking professional and pharmaceutical help because, let’s face it, mental illness makes people uncomfortable.

By and large, the national conversation shifts over to mental health issues only when there is a mass shooting like we saw in Washington D.C. or someone prominent like Matthew Warren, megachurch pastor Rick Warren’s son, commits suicide. There is empathy for the family and friends when someone takes their own life, and it can be easier to shift the attention on the grieving and trauma of the surviving family and friends. In the case of a mass murderer, mental health becomes one way we can other-ise the person’s sinful actions. Even when we can talk about mental health, we aren’t sure how to treat it. A third of all Americans – and almost half of American evangelical, fundamentalist or born again Christians – believe prayer and Bible study alone can help someone overcome serious mental illness. My experience has been that prayer alone didn’t heal me or take away the stigma of my mental illness once I started talking and blogging about it.

And that doesn’t even get to access to information about or treatment of mental illness. I know I’ve got several privileges in play – access to health care, the finances to pay for things insurance doesn’t cover, the means to get to multiple appointments, etc.

So among other things I am passionate about and committed to writing about every now and then is my mental health journey, now four years in. It means answering my youngest child who is almost 12 and was reading over my shoulder as I wrote the start of this post.  He asked, “But isn’t ok because you have us?” His question broke my heart but it was a great moment to make talking about something he may likely face in the future. I told him that I love him and his siblings deeply and that being their mom brings me great joy. I explained that my depression isn’t the kind of sadness or disappointment I normally experience when we would normally be sad but that my body and my brain aren’t producing the right mix of chemicals to keep my emotions and perceptions of the world around me accurate to what God created our bodies to do. And then I hugged him, kissed him, and made sure he was OK.

That is what the journey can look like.

For the past two years I’ve thought about buying myself a little light box to see if light therapy might help me during the weeks indoors. I don’t have full-on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but winter doesn’t help my depression. I’m not an outdoorsy person. Being in my garden, taking a nice walk or a short run is perfect. Shoveling snow or building igloos is less perfect and makes me cold and crabby.

We were at the store a few days ago, and I finally bit. It was one of three impulse purchases. (The other two? A pair of wool base layer pants/leggings to keep warm and a 12-pound pork shoulder to divide and throw into a crockpot.) I figured it was worth a try – the light box, I mean. It’s worth a try because there is a little part of me that is scared to go into the winter.

Can anyone relate to the joy of fall and the dread of winter? Has anyone used a light therapy box to help with the winter blues? Yay or nay?


Book Club: Lean In & If I Wasn’t Afraid

Female accomplishments come at a cost. Sheryl Sandberg in Lean In, p. 17

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? p. 25

I’m finally at chapter one. Now, that isn’t to say I won’t jump back to the introduction.

Working in vocational ministry for 15 years as a married mother of one, two, and then three has come with great joy, transformation and cost. It’s easier to celebrate the joy and transformation, but it has not served me to dismiss the cost of pursuing this particular call as an Asian American Christian woman.

In the eyes of most of my family I still do not have a real job; as an Asian American woman “family” does not (if ever) mean my nuclear family. It means FAMILY – nuclear, of origin, and in-law with varying generational depths spanning continents and time. Despite working 40+ hours in this faux-job, the individual funding model used to raise support does not do me any favors. Traditional networks for missionary support require involvement in traditional evangelical networks from which I do not come from.

In the eyes of the Asian, and particularly the Korean-,  American evangelical church in the Midwest I am a bit of a anomaly, which is a polite way of saying I don’t fit. It ties back to vocational ministry not being a real job. I am not a pastor, nor am I a pastor’s wife. I am not a youth director, children’s pastor or women’s pastor. I am not credentialed – no MDiv, no M anything (not even Mrs. since I didn’t take my husband’s last name when we married), no ordination. We women are making strides, but one of my flaws is my impatience.

And there has been a cost to my husband and family. Imagine our horror when a pastor met privately with my husband about my behavior. Actually, I wasn’t surprised, which is the horror of it all.

It’s not all bad, not all horrible, but at a recent book club discussion I did share with my fellow readers and women that I am a bit tired of blazing trails. It gets lonely. It gets hard, confusing, and exhausting.

Which is where part of Sandberg’s motivation for her book comes in to nudge me back.

What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?  Actually, the question for me goes back a step. Why and of what am I afraid of? My faith should inform me. The Lord is my shepherd, and I lack nothing. The psalmist writes the same Lord “delivered me from all my fears” .

I am afraid of failing. Of success. Of disappointing others. Of trying too hard to please others. Of losing myself.

But if I wasn’t afraid, what would I do?

When I wasn’t afraid I managed to repel off of a mountain face in Colorado. I helped write a book. I told my husband to get his mother out of the delivery room. I asked a stranger if she was going to be OK because the young man she was with was yelling at her. I told people I was still sad, months after a miscarriage and years after my youngest child almost died. I asked for a brief leave of absence from work when things were getting emotionally difficult.

The Lord is my shepherd.

What are you afraid of? What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

 


A Good Watering v. a Good Rain

It has been raining since 11 a.m. There are only a few days of summer vacation left for the kids, but I couldn’t be happier we are “stuck” indoors because of the storm clouds.

I’ve been watering my vegetable garden fairly faithfully through the summer with whatever rainwater my two barrels have collected through this dry summer. And even though it’s only required three desperation spigot waterings, even rain water from the barrel wasn’t enough. What I have learned in my amateur gardening career is that what my tomatoes really needed wasn’t  just water.

It needed the rain.

It needed the good soak deep into the roots with several flashes of lightning to ionize the air and help my zucchini freak out like they are on growth hormones kind of rain. The steady rain that makes you relax at first and then go a little crazy after a few hours of pitter patting on the windows with the flashes of lightning that make everything greener than pounds of  chemical fertilizers. The kind of good rain real farmers pray for because their lives depend on it. The kind of good rain amateur gardeners like me pray for because we refuse to buy faux tomatoes during the dead of winter because the taste of a homegrown tomato lingers somewhere in our memories.

Because I can water my garden and give it what it needs to survive. But in a lot of ways I’ve learned I’m a lot like a tomato.  Only God can give my garden and me what we need to thrive when the ground or our souls are parched.


Lenten Laundry

I did not give up laundry for Lent. I have given up my gas dryer.

The dryer  (or from here on out, the D) stopped drying on January 29, well in advance of Lent and this intentional season of reflection and sacrifice.

The first two days without the D were a flurry of online searches for reviews and deals. Steam drying? Buy a new washer and D or just the D and wait for the washer to fail later? If we buy a washer should we buy front-loading or top-loading? If we are going to replace the D or both shouldn’t we remove the wallpaper and 40-year-old vinyl flooring? Wait, what is steam washing? What would Jesus do? Never mind. Jesus didn’t have two boys with stinky clothes, a daughter with even stinkier leotards and costumes, and a husband tracking in God knows what germs on scrubs. We were this close to ordering a new washer and dryer and….

Then one week without the D became two, and then my husband and I sat down to reflect.

With the D removed for scrap and the equally sudden loss of not one but two cars (both becoming scrap), we found ourselves with an unplanned opportunity to decide what we could do without and for what purpose. What would it look like, be like, feel like to simply do without what we had simply accepted as necessities of life if only for a short period of time? Instead of 12-months no interest, how about a few more weeks of saving, planning, and doing without so that we could simply purchase later what we thought we couldn’t do without charging right now?

Initially it meant getting used to crunchy towels, socks and underwear. The midwest winter, as mild as it has been, still means dry air that sucks up moisture. For us that has meant all of our clothes are a bit stiff (I’m not a fan of liquid fabric softener) and crunchy, but more than anything it has meant slowing down and being more aware.

No one can expect to have something washed, dried and folded on demand. Some loads take longer to air dry. Jeans can take up to two days. Some days there isn’t enough room to hang that favorite shirt or pair of pants. It’s also made us aware of how many articles of clothing we each have and what it really takes to keep it all clean because it is literally in front of us hanging on the rack in the middle of the family room or on the kitchen island or on the ironing board in my room. Oh, or on the lamp in the office or off the fan in my daughter’s room.

It’s a small sacrifice, but it continues to remind me of what I have assumed as convenient and/or necessary. I crave an ordered, aesthetically pleasing space. I don’t care what your space looks like, but I want mine neat and tidy. But laundry drying all over doesn’t lend itself to neat and tidy. It means my laundry, albeit clean laundry, is out for everyone to see.

Which is exactly why this continues to be a small but good discipline for me.

My laundry is out here for everyone to see, and my friends who knew of the demise of our D ask us about the replacement. I find myself explaining again why we’ve chosen to do without a little convenience – because it is reminding me Christ doesn’t call me to convenience but to Him. Sometimes getting rid of the convenience gives us space to do just that.

I can’t imagine many of you have given up your D, but what are you doing this Lenten season? Did you give us something in order to spend more time reflecting on Jesus’ sacrifice? Has the sacrifice turned you more to Christ?

 


The Vitamin L Diary: Day 3

Earlier this year I blogged about anxiety, depression and being on an anti-depressant. My journey continues as I go in every few months to follow-up with my primary physician. Drugs are not the cure-all, but they can help. I’ve told my doctor I don’t ever want to stop taking my vitamin L, but she reminded me that the end goal isn’t to stay on the drug but to make sure the drug is helpful and necessary.

Any who, this is Day 3 (May 2010) of that private experience. My hope is that “talking” about anxiety and depression might help someone out there take one step closer to loving & honoring her//himself. My hope is in Jesus. Treating my anxiety and depression has only deepened my hope.

Well, things started off differently – at 6 a.m. differently. Oh, and as a side note, the past two nights I’ve been a restless sleeper – waking up at 2 a.m and then 4 a.m. and then 5 a.m. This morning I needed to be at Wheaton College by 8 a.m. so it was an early start. I opted to wait until later to take my pill because I was afraid of being exhausted and sleepy on the drive home.

I took the pill around 9:30 a.m and that damn nausea hit. I drank water since my tongue feels like I stuffed it with cotton, but fortunately I’ve not felt the headache or fogginess. I am a little dizzy sometimes, but fortunately I’m not behind the wheel. I kept sipping water throughout the panel discussion of which I was one of the panelists. I hope I didn’t look nauseated.

The fatigue didn’t hit as hard, but I was a bit sleepy on the drive. Fifteen minutes with my eyes closed on the couch and then it was go-time with the kids. I was wiped out by 10:30, hanging on by a thread. I didn’t even want to watch FlashForward so you know how tired I was.

We’ll see how I sleep tonight…


That’s Not Fair! Too Bad, Kid. Chores Aren’t Meant to be Fair.

There are so many my children will quickly deem “unfair”. Sometimes the distribution of chores appears to be unequal, which they cry foul. Sometimes someone gets the last ice cream sandwich, which elicits similar cries. My response is a finessed version of “Life is not fair. My job isn’t to make life fair for you. It’s to give you tools to learn to deal with unfairness and to live lives that can help right the wrongs not just for yourself but for everyone.”

Usually it’s just: “Too bad. Life isn’t fair.”

But with summer vacation on hand (can someone explain to me why we can’t have year-round school?!?!?) there is more time at home, which means more opportunities to point out the inequities in life….such as chores.

I grew up with an understanding that “we” were responsible for keeping things orderly and clean. “We” mean the four of us – mom, dad, me and my sister. Rooms were clean. Shelves were dusted. Dishes put away. We weren’t perfect, but chores were just part of life, which is what I’m striving for.

There are many days when I wish I had a cleaning genie who would come weekly or bi-weekly to do what I hate doing – the bathrooms. Truth be told there are other things that I don’t want to give up that would allow me the luxury of hiring help. I don’t want to give up my gym membership, haircuts, etc.

And, I don’t want my kids missing out on important life lessons like learning to clean a bathroom or mowing the lawn. This is not a condemnation of those who have household help AT ALL! But I need all of the help I can get, and I am finding that chores is one of those things in the parenting tool kit that I don’t necessarily enjoy but can be very helpful. If chores are the most unfair things my kids experience in their young lives then they are still way ahead of the curve.

I’m trying to explain that in the best way possible, to tell them and show them and help them understand that they are blessed in different ways than most children of this world. They are not “better off” necessarily but they certainly have the material things. I’m afraid, I have been far more diligent in creating patterns and routines when it comes to the kids’ chores than I have in building in spiritual disciplines, which in the long run will help them wrestle with issues of injustice.

Everyone knows that every Saturday morning there will be a flurry of cleaning bathrooms and refreshing towels and linens, but I am realizing as my kids are getting older that the value for fairness and justice will have to come from a much deeper place and more intentional place than clean bathrooms. Right?

So help a mother out. Be the village it takes to help me and one another because someday my kids will grow up and may be in your path. What “chores” are your children responsible for and how have you built that into their value system versus their to-do list? What spiritual disciplines have you built in to their lives and how has that changed them and you?

And, what chore would you avoid all together if you could? 😉