Thriving Interview – Kathleen Shumate
- Self-care is so key to thriving on the field. What’s your go-to self-care, the thing that feeds your soul? (can be physical, emotional, spiritual)
I have four small children, so this stage of life doesn’t offer me opportunities for self-care; I have to make them. I know that I need down-time in order to think, reflect, and be creative, and most of all I need communion with the Lord. I try hard to make nap time an intentional time of self-care for myself, because it’s a time of day that I’m still pretty fresh and able to focus well (unlike post-bedtime!). I spend the first half of the time reading the Bible and praying, and the second half reading and writing. My husband also makes sure I have other set-aside time during the week to be by myself and write, which helps me process life and exercise my mind and creativity. Especially if you have children, having a husband who is invested in your self-care is very, very helpful—mine is more attuned to what I need than I am. We inherited an elliptical which is worth its weight in gold as it gives me the chance to exercise at home. This is a very important thing since bad weather and having little kids often prevent exercising outdoors.
It’s a matter of understanding my needs, which are legitimate and reflect how God made me, and designating protected time in order to tend to them. I know this will be for my long-term physical and emotional health, sustainability on the field, and joy in the Lord.
- In this day and age, global workers sometimes struggle with being fully present because of access to “home” via Skype and Facebook and other mechanisms. How do you achieve (or aim for) balance between blooming where you are planted and staying connected with friends, family, and supporters?
As far as is possible, I need relationships that are intimate and present. In other words, I need people who are actually around me to share life with. That’s the driving force for me to bloom where I’m planted: I simply can’t thrive without being in the midst of community and fellowship, so I need to pursue that right where I am.
Of course, on the field we do not have as many options about who to be friends with, and we probably don’t have extended family members with us. We very well may not find the same heart-connected people that we left behind. That’s frankly part of the pain of being in two worlds.
So I see things like Skype and Facebook as a gift: supplements to help us love and be loved by people who matter to us. But those long-distance relationships alone often won’t be enough, and they certainly won’t help us feel at home and be fruitful where we are.
Limiting social media isn’t about self-deprivation; it should flow out of a desire to experience the richness of our life in the here and now.
Practically speaking, Skype isn’t an issue for me, but I do curb my Facebook browsing by taking most people off my newsfeed so I have to specifically look them up to see them. The only people I see on Facebook on a regular basis are people I have relationships with in my present country (it’s widely used here and we use it for ministry), and best friends and family. I spend much less time on there because there’s much less to see and fewer rabbit trails to go down.
- Ministry is hard on marriage. How do you keep your marriage thriving on the field? (Tell us something you do together in the place where you serve, or a story of something special you’ve done with your spouse to infuse your marriage with depth and connection.)
We spend intentional time together. This is a joy for us—not a burden—but it does take one thing: time. I believe it begins with our priorities. We make a life-long commitment to love and cherish our spouse. It’s a covenant, and it’s not negotiable. Undoubtedly each couple’s relationships will look unique, but focusing on ministry—even very needful, fruitful, exciting ministry—to the exclusion and detriment of our marriage is a violation of our vows. God takes these vows seriously.
A life-giving marriage is a gift that God wants for us. So give yourself that gift. If it means changing schedules or clarifying work expectations, make sure that your marriage is prioritized and precious. It will lead to longer-lasting, more fruitful ministry, healthier husband and wife as individuals, and a witness to the world that God’s economy is more about love than tasks.
We have 4 kids (3 of whom are 3 years and younger), so we have to be pretty intentional. We try to do regular date nights, and we also love staying home and being together after bedtime. Good conversation is refreshing to us, followed up by playing games, doing something creative, or just watching a show together. The point is connecting with one another on a meaningful level, however that works with your personalities.
Seeking this connection with our husbands means letting go of the fear of what will happen if we slow down long enough to truly see and hear each other. Whether it’s marital troubles, cultural shocks, emotional wounds, etc, we can easily hide it all under busy-ness designed to keep us numb from uncomfortable or disturbing things.
- Tell us about someone you’ve admired who is thriving on the field. What’s her secret? (if you don’t know, can you guess?)
As far as I can tell, she knows what she needs to do and what she can do, and she does it. She doesn’t live weighted under the self-whispers of “you should be doing this, this, and this,” or “you’re not doing enough”. She recognizes that in her current place in life, God has a job for her and faithfulness to him is enough.
- What’s one lie you are prone to believe that could keep you from thriving? (I am not enough, I am Christianity’s PR in my corner of the world, others’ needs are more important than mine, etc.)
“I don’t deserve rest.”
Despite having been an overachiever all my life (or perhaps because of it), I have a strong fear of being lazy. Add to that the fact that on the field I witness plenty of people who labor very hard out of necessity, and it’s easy to feel guilty for taking care of myself.
This lie expands to the idea that I don’t really deserve anything: any kind of self-care, any kind of nourishment for myself, any kind of good things beyond survival. The kernel of truth in it, made dangerous by misapplication, is that we don’t actually deserve anything: all good things are gifts from God. But he gives the gift of rest—in fact, commands it—for our good, and we are expected to graciously receive it. We don’t need to live as workaholics or ascetics. It’s not more holy to be frenetic, frazzled, spiritually and emotionally starving people. It’s a denial of God’s goodness.
- The best-ever care package ever arrives in the mail, and it contains three items. What are they?
Hand-written notes: I treasure these and display them around the house to remind myself of the love that holds us up, and encourage myself in the hard times.
Clothes for my kids: We can’t afford them where we live, so it’s a huge treat for them, and it means more to me than clothes normally would.
Food items you can’t find in Taiwan: Spices, pumpkin (to feel like we have fall!), random things like bacon bits, anything from Trader Joe’s…comfort food is warmth to our belly and heart!
About the author
Kathleen is a daughter of God in awe of how He brought her from death to life, happy wife to Jonathan, and grateful mother to four kids. They serve in Taipei, Taiwan at Christ's College with Mission to the World, where Kathleen nurtures and disciples her children, learns Chinese, and builds fruitful relationships with women. She earned her master's degree in counseling and she is passionate about fostering healing for women who are wounded and the flourishing of families.View all articles by: Kathleen Shumate
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