Sixteen years ago I entered seminary at Duke Divinity School. I was just 22 years old, newly married, and trying to figure out this calling to ministry. During my three years there, I had one instructor who stood out dramatically. Her name was (and still is!) Ashley - and she taught pastoral care (and was great at it, by the way). I remember the first class - the classes were long Tuesday night classes for the semester. Ashley was a young woman in her mid 30s. She told us about her professional experience, and that she was primarily at home with three children (the youngest being just a few months old). She taught classes at the Divinity School and was not serving a church at the time (though quite active in one).
Ashley was just gorgeous. She wore a simple shirt, with a wrap blue jean skirt (I actually currently own one like it and thought of Ashley when I bought it). I couldn't believe she had just had a baby - I thought someone in her shoes (raising kids, teaching seminary classes, etc.) would look rather worn out and tired (much like I look most the time!). But she always looked great. She was so alive and engaged with everyone around her. I knew very quickly that I wanted to be just like Ashley when I grew up - on so many levels and in so many ways.
About 10 years ago, I was fortunate that Ashley moved to my neck of the woods due to her husband's job. After a really tough first church, I was taking some time off, looking after a rather rambunctious little baby boy, and trying to figure out my next step in ministry. I ended up working parttime at a church, and spending most my time being a mom and homemaker. Throughout these years, Ashley has been the best role model I could possibly have - in vocation, motherhood, friendships, and even continuing in fashion statements! I am moving in less than three weeks and won't be around Ashley as much. And I will be "working fulltime in ministry" yet again (something Ashley has been doing, and doing quite well, for a number of years).
I know I will still see Ashley and we'll communicate - and she will continue to be a hero for me. I also hope that when I am working with my college students, wearing my favorite blue jean wrap skirt - that I might can in some small way have such an impact on a young woman.
But I will really miss her a lot...