“Mommy, I need to go to the potty.” That was the statement our four-year-old daughter made repeatedly throughout our eight day journey across the country in August 2012. She resisted leaving Seattle, the only home she knew, and all of her close friends, especially her best friend from across the street. The only thing that motivated her to get to Cambridge was the brand new Curious George store that had just opened in Harvard Square. But even the excitement of the store wasn’t enough to keep her from wanting to get out of the car every hour throughout our drive. We learned later, after we reached the east coast, that her repeated request for a potty break was her strategy for stopping the car. She didn’t always have to go. She just wanted to get out of the car. She and my husband had agreed to accompany me on this journey, the one I call the “drive of faith.” We left our settled lives in Seattle to explore a new world in Cambridge so that I could begin the Master of Divinity program at Harvard Divinity School. One of the challenges of making such a dramatic midcareer change is that it impacts the lives of everyone in your household. Even though I knew that I was called to ministry, and to study at HDS, the other members of my family did not have the benefit of being propelled in this new direction by a personal “call.” I am very blessed to have a husband who is truly a partner and supports my call. He was willing to take the daunting leap of faith and begin a new life in Cambridge. Through God’s grace, he was able to find a job in the Boston area. And I will be forever indebted to the owners of the Curious George Store in Harvard Square for helping our daughter accept the idea of the move. To this day, she thinks the store opened up just for her.
When I first began the MDiv program, in addition to getting my family settled in Cambridge, I had to reorient myself to life as a student. It had been nearly twenty years since I began law school in 1994. Although I had begun a seminary program in Seattle a couple of years earlier, this was going to be the first time since law school that I would be in school full-time. It was disorienting at first. The amount of weekly reading and writing assignments was overwhelming. Unlike my time in law school, I had to balance my school work with my family time. It took me a while to get into a rhythm and to develop a good system for studying. It also took me a little while to get over the fact that I was at Harvard. It is so easy to become intimidated by the notion that you are studying at such a prestigious institution with so many brilliant people. But I soon realized that, at least at HDS, we’re all in this together. There is a special spirit of camaraderie and congeniality at HDS. It is an extremely welcoming place, and there is a distinct level of intentionality around creating this type of atmosphere. It is palpable. I sensed it when I visited HDS for the first time during the Open House for Admitted Students. Once I moved through my nervousness about being in a new environment and being back in school after so many years, I was able to embrace the nurturing environment more fully. The HDS community—its students, faculty, and staff—is extremely supportive. One of the many things that I appreciate about my colleagues is that they don’t carry an air that suggests that they “have it all together.” We can openly share our frustrations or challenges with each other and encourage each other. This supportive context has helped to make it possible for me to thrive. I love studying in Andover Library during the final exam period because it is refreshing to be around my colleagues during such a stressful time. We are able to push through the work together in that common space.
I embraced my call to ministry after practicing public interest law for ten years in Seattle, first as an Assistant Attorney General of Washington, and later as a legal aid attorney. I am also a certified mediator. Prior to coming to HDS, I served as the Dependency (child welfare) mediator for King County Superior Court in Seattle. I am in my second year of the MDiv program. My ministry focus and passion is racial healing and reconciliation through forgiveness. My primary purpose for coming to HDS was to be able to develop the ability, as a Christian minister, to create a new paradigm for this healing work which engages people of all faiths. Being able to speak the language of faith traditions other than my own is extremely important to me and to the healing work that I am called to do. HDS has been a wonderful setting in which to learn about other faith traditions and, through that process, to discover new insights about my own faith. I have expanded my capacity to understand some of the many ways in which people know God.
As I come to the end of this second year, I couldn’t be happier with my midcareer move. My husband loves his job, and our daughter has made new friends and is adjusting well (although she still calls Seattle her home). HDS is an interesting and dynamic place. The people and perspectives from all over the country, and the world, create such a rich site for exploring theological questions. It has been a privilege to go back to school at this stage in my life. I came to HDS with the same commitment to social change that I took to law school years ago. However, this time, I am seeking to create societal change through spiritual healing. HDS, and the surrounding community, have proven to be fertile ground for me to explore this work and to begin charting my path.