More Than Serving Tea


On the Doorframes (or Walls) of My House

Life rarely goes exactly as planned, which should serve as a reminder to me to ease up on the type-A tendencies. But I am a slow learner. The following post is actually a devotional I wrote recently for a contest. I didn’t win a chance at publication, but who needs to be published in a devotional when there are blogs! 😉

Here are some reflections on Deuteronomy 6:6-9

These are the commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. (TNIV)

There have been too many days where being a mom has felt like being the “bad cop” – a litany of “don’t do this” and “don’t do that”. Deep down inside I know rules are meant to provide healthy and sometimes godly boundaries so my children can experience the freedom of being loved unconditionally.

One rule in our house was you write (and draw) on paper. No stones. No floors. No walls. Love God by keeping your artistic creations limited to chalk on the driveway and crayons on paper.

But you can’t keep budding artists from exploring new media. It couldn’t have been more than a few moments, not even long enough for a load of laundry to be started, when the giggles went silent.

My son installed his new art directly onto the walls.

“Oh my God, Corban, what did you do?” Instantly I broke two of the commandments.

“You shall have no other gods before me.”

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God…”

Suddenly Sunday School seemed so very far away from my heart and from the example I was setting for my children. Teaching them to live godly lives meant I needed to be reminded about priorities.

White walls were not the priority. My house was a place God had provided to live our lives together, and my actions within the walls – the words I spoke, the love I expressed, the discipline I administered – were the ways my children would learn to love God. Not the walls.

I talked to Corban, my budding preschool artist, about his drawing and inspiration. And then we left the scribbles on the walls as a reminder to me.

“Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”

Or in my case it would be the walls of our home.

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A Mission for Moms Free For the Courageous (and 1 book if you are game)

UPDATE: Thanks to my readers who commented, tweeted and linked this post. Thanks to a handy, dandy random number generator “Between Worlds” has won a copy of  “The Missional Mom” by Helen Lee.

Things I learned in adulthood but didn’t expect to learn:

  • Pimples do not stop just because wrinkles move in.
  • Peer pressure does not disappear just because you leave high school.
  • Becoming who you were meant to be can be just as difficult as an adult as it was as a teenager.
  • You don’t lose yourself when you become a mom, even if there are moments like you might just drown.

That last lesson is an ongoing one (I suppose all of them all if I were to be honest). There are shelves of books to remind us that parenting, and specifically motherhood, is THE most important job a mother could have. It comes with or without Christian-ese about blessing, calling, heart and spirit. We talk about guiding and nurturing the future leaders of the world. We read about the studies of how a mother’s time working outside of the home can be damaging, be linked to childhood obesity, contribute to childhood delinquency and the general moral failure of the world.

So here in America, and even in the American Christian church, it’s easy to believe that being there for our children is a mother’s highest calling.

But is it?

“The calling and mission God has for us remains unchanged once we become wives and mothers.

What I have seen time and time again, in my friends’ lives, in my own life, and the lives of countless others reflected in the Christian and secular media, is that we mothers often forget how motherhood intersects with the bigger picture of our primary calling and mission. Sometimes we replace our primary calling and mission by saying, ‘ Motherhood is my highest calling…'” The Missional Mom, Helen Lee

Our primary calling, whether or not we are mothers, is to be Christ-followers who love others knowing and living in the knowledge we are loved by God and to be His witnesses everywhere we are. Motherhood is just one context in which that primary calling can be lived through.

Which is why reading Helen Lee’s book was a relief. It challenged me, encouraged me and unsettled me in all of the good ways we need to be. Telling myself that my life is good because someone else’s life isn’t as good doesn’t compel or inspire me to reconsider my choices, but reading stories of women – mothers who love their children and want not just the easiest or nicest or best for their children but want was God wants for them – inspired me.

It inspired me to look past the boxes of photos screaming to be organized or framed or scrapbooked, to look past the various piles of artwork, homework and plain old work, to look at my family’s schedule and to ask God for wisdom to make the choices that actually align with the values I hold as a Christ-follower and not as a supermom.

Worldly martydom is easier than the daily dying to yourself that Christ calls us to. It really is easier to pore myself into being the best mother and lose sight of who God intended me to be and become in the context of my many circles of influence. It’s easier for me to be busy making sure my kids are happy than to take the time to direct myself and my family into joy and a spirit-filled life. Kodak moments are easier than a Christ-filled life.

So when you, friendly blog reader, find yourself in a quiet moment when you are wondering where you lost yourself choose the better thing and dare to ask God what might need to change in your life.

I have a copy of The Missional Mom courtesy of (and signed by) Helen to give away to one of you! How do you get a chance to win a copy of the book?

  • Post a link to this blogpost on your FB or blog for a chance;
  • Tweet a link to this post for another chance;
  • Leave a comment on this post. Ideas for comments: Why do you want this book? How has becoming a mother been challenging to you? Have you ever felt like you “lost” yourself after becoming a wife, or a mother (or a husband or father) and what was that like? If you’re not a mother, what are you most afraid of as you consider the possibility of becoming a mother?

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.

 


The Growing Pains of Mother’s Day

I am a mother of three, but it wasn’t always this way.

1993: my first Mother’s Day as both a daughter and daughter-in-law. Two corsages, two cards, two gifts, two sets of expectations. Let’s just leave it at that.

1996: my first Mother’s Day remains a bit of a fog. I was five months post-partum, which meant five months into a low-level funk that was occasionally accompanied by a wave of intense and overwhelming crazy like I’d never experienced love for the little baby girl the doctor and nurses let me leave the hospital with after simply checking a couple of plastic bracelets. There I was celebrating Mother’s Day still scared silly that I would wake up and find out it was all a strange, cruel, sweet dream.

I’ve since come to realize it is all a wonderful, sometimes slightly horrifying and embarrassing reality, and I hope I never fall asleep.

1998: the suckiest most bittersweet Mother’s Day ever. I was emotionally raw, again, but this time from just having had a D & C. Our second baby had stopped developing in my womb at 6 weeks, but the body I had so trusted, the body I thought I knew, the body I thought I could control and “time” with pills and calendars tricked me in the most awful way. I miscarried. Another seven weeks would pass before we realized that we weren’t going to have a baby in the fall. Mother’s Day that year was horrible because I felt like such a selfish byatch. Why couldn’t I be happy with the one child God had already given me when there were thousands and thousands of women desperate to be a mother of one, let alone a mother of two? What was wrong with me for worrying about losing a fetus when I was so young and could easily get pregnant again? What the hell was wrong with me? Well, I was grieving the death of my child and the death of all the dreams I had for that child.

I realized how tightly I held onto hopes and dreams for this baby that had yet to see the light of day, and then I realized that slowly letting go was what I would have to continue learning for the rest of my life as a mom.

My one memory of that day is sitting with my daughter who reached up with her cute little hands to wipe away the tears I could not stop and said in her wisest two-and-a-half-year-old voice, “Mommy, you’re so sad.” I wanted to stop crying and smile, but all I could manage was to do both.

And I have since known that it is OK and absolutely necessary to be sad and deeply joyful and to let my children know when their hands and voices ease the sadness and are part of the reason I experience such joy.

Since then I have celebrated Mother’s Day as the mother of two and then of three. Each year I remind myself it wasn’t always this way. I remind myself that for me it is less about celebrating and being celebrated as it is remembering to be fully present. Remembering this is not a dress rehearsal or a dream I cannot fully remember. Remembering it’s a wonderful, broken, imperfect life. Remembering to love and let go at the same time. Remembering to feel the depth of pain and sadness and unbearable loss while knowing there is space at that same moment for joy and peace and love and even laughter.

Thank you, God, for Peter. I needed some help to become a mother, and every day he helps me become a better mother by being such a great father. I’m kind of competitive in a completely healthy, appropriate way.

Thank you, God, for Bethany, Corban and Elias (and even “baby Andrew” who pushed me to learn about letting go). They are the reason I get to pick the restaurant for lunch today and the reason I am more self-aware (i.e. I know how selfish I really am and how much sleep and/or coffee makes me a nicer person), and wiser, gentler, younger at heart and goofier.