From childhood, I was raised with a strong work ethic and an equally strong call to service. I was taught that you don’t go to bed until a project is done, and you never-ever say you “can’t.” I was raised to believe there was no greater compliment than to be called a public servant, and no greater form of discipleship than to do the task that no one else wanted to do, the task that no one would congratulate you for doing. I assume I learned these things from my mother and my church, though I can’t say for sure. They were just the air I breathed.
I’ve always loved to learn new things, so stayed in school a bit longer than was probably necessary. I have a Master of Divinity and Master of Public Policy from the University of Chicago as well as a Bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis. I have worked in higher education and also for a refugee settlement agency, but I have spent most of my career as a researcher and policy maker in the field of early childhood education. Until the campaign kicked into high gear, I was working full-time as a Business Analyst for a software company that builds web-based applications to support the child care and early learning workforce. It has been a daily blessing to know that my work benefits those underpaid heroes who work long hours to ensure that our children get a solid start on life.
I was also raised to believe that the Spirit moves where it moves and we must be willing to follow. Family circumstances and God’s irresistible call moved me through Texas, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky, and Minnesota. I have learned a great deal from living in so many places around the United States, but when my husband told me that he had been called to serve a church in Montgomery, Alabama, I felt a deep wave of relief. I knew Alabama would be the place where we could at last put down roots and stay. Luckily, my mom and step-dad live just a few hours away in Cedarbluff, Mississippi where they raise cows, chickens, and lambs… and welcome their grandchildren with open arms.
My Christian upbringing also taught me that we are, in fact, our brother’s keeper. This means that we are fundamentally responsible for taking care of each other, for seeing all those around us as family. Because of that belief, my husband and I decided to become foster parents in 2014. We understood that fostering would mean that we would have children in our homes only temporarily. We knew we would be heartbroken to say goodbye to a child that we had come to love. But we recognized that keeping kids with their biological parents was an important ministry, so we vowed to do our best to send each child back to their home with love and grace. Much to our surprise, though, the very first child we ever fostered was not able to return to his biological home, so we joyfully added him to our permanent family, adopting him in May 2017.
Above all else, I am compelled to public service by the Christian vision of feeding, clothing, and ministering to the least of these. The vision of the beloved community, the desire for heavenly justice on earth, is not merely a nice story we tell our children, but a real and practical task to which I have devoted my life. I see how flawed and corrupt our society is, but my faith has taught me to be unabashedly hopeful, convinced that a more just and peaceful world is possible. If only we’d believe and put our money – and our efforts – where our mouth is.