By Kaelyn Timmins
Tina’s career has required faith. Don’t let her impressive resume (Air Force, Seattle University Law School, county prosecutor) fool you: Tina compares herself to Jonah and the nation of Israel. “God is always having to convince me and remind me to trust in Him and not in me. And not in my own efforts,” Tina said. Whether that was in her first week of her senior year of high school, when her mother died by suicide; the time she was a single mother working a commission-only job; or the time she was 42 and God called her to follow her lifelong dream of going to law school.
Tina grew up in and out of church. During the first week of her senior year of high school, her mother died by suicide. “It sort of changed my life,” Tina said.
Her first job was in the Air Force, and at that time, she was running from God. “It was me, and I was going to be independent, and I needed no one,” Tina said.
But in 1987, God caught up. Tina started going to church and becoming excited about Jesus, so much so that it annoyed those around her. Tina remembers how God proved Himself faithful, specifically in providing job opportunities. At this point, Tina was a single mom, and she didn’t know how she could get through commission-only jobs, but somehow God made it work, and it helped Tina start to trust Him.
After her time in the Air Force, Tina began to work for Group Health, in management, while at the same time earning her business degree. In this leadership role at Group Health, supervising a staff of 48 people, she saw God at work with her: “I took God to work with me every day; I prayed over my work; I prayed over the people I was responsible for leading,” Tina said.
Because her staff knew that Tina was a Christian, she tried to have integrity in her work and represent Christ well. She aimed to avoid potential pitfalls of being a Christian in the workplace. There was a receptionist who would talk about Christ with patients as they checked in for appointments, which would create more work for the other receptionist, who had to check in more people. “You have to do your job… If you are just at work and all you’re doing is just talking about Jesus and your work’s failing, you are not a good example,” Tina said.
The job paid well, made her happy, and felt comfortable, so the nagging desire to go to law school felt scary. She toyed with the idea of getting an MBA, but her husband held her accountable. “You’ve always wanted to be a lawyer, why don’t you go to law school?” he said. She started at Seattle University Law School when she was 42 and became a grandmother during her first semester.
Tina felt like she was struggling through her whole time at law school. She doubted God’s plans for her. Even during the bar exam, she felt like she was blowing it, and she was tempted to head home after the first day of the two-day test. Despite her doubting, Tina was admitted to the Washington State bar in 2006.
Though she had originally planned to go into labor and employment law, God led her to a low-paying job with a local firm that had a government contract with the public defender’s office. Tina went right into felony defense and criminal defense as a public defender. “God spoke to me and used me so much in that work,” Tina said. She prayed before client meetings and before court motions. Whenever her clients brought up the subject of God, Tina would get to share parts of her own story, or a verse. She saw many of her clients come to know God.
A few years later, God planted another scary calling on Tina’s heart, to run for county prosecutor against a 20 year incumbent. She ignored it for a year, but when she finally told her husband, he was immediately on board. “He is supportive all the way. I am blessed. I have a godly husband who seeks God and encourages me,” Tina said.
In 2014, Tina was elected, and she took office in 2015. “My entire time in office, I knew I was there because God put me there,” she said. She stewarded her position by leading with respect and integrity. While some attorneys would communicate harshly or use expletives, Tina was known to keep calm and be thoughtful in her decision-making, relying on God for wisdom for how to respond in heated situations. It was also the norm for attorneys to use deception and scare tactics. Tina remembers a time where an attorney on her team wanted to bully the other side into pleading guilty, but Tina said no. “If the evidence isn’t there, we’re not going to bully somebody. That’s not what we’re supposed to do as prosecutors,” Tina remembers saying at the time. Her decision stood out to her team, though some disagreed with her. “I wasn’t letting people off easy… I just wanted us to prosecute with integrity instead of bully tactics,” Tina said.
Tina continued to pray before client meetings, but she was always sure to do the necessary research and prepare for the meeting. (Again, you have to do your job.) She became respected as a prosecutor of integrity.
Work as Worship
It was at the PNW Faith + Work + Leadership Conference in October 2019 that Tina was first introduced to the idea of work as worship by keynote speaker Kara Martin. Sitting in her seat, she considered whether she had viewed her work as worship all this time. “I wasn’t really grasping how He could use me in the places that I was,” Tina said. Perhaps her view of faith and work had been too narrow.
Reflecting on her work history and on the conference, Tina now sees that the intersection of faith and work is broader than simply sharing the name of Jesus with someone, though that is impactful: “It’s how you do your work: you’re doing it to honor God, it doesn’t mean you’re talking about him all the time, it doesn’t mean you’re ministering – it means you’re living a life that reflects God,” Tina said.
For Tina, it seems a large part of reflecting God in her work is walking the path of “reluctant obedience,” as she calls it: trusting God in the midst of doubt. Right now, Tina is answering God’s call on her life to run for judge. But she is still scared. It’s challenging to run a campaign and gain endorsements in the midst of the coronavirus shutdown. “It’s humbling to realize how much like Israel I am, to see how much I doubt or how much I forget how much he has blessed me,” Tina said.
What fuels Tina’s work campaigning these days is “knowing that I’m there for his purpose, to honor and glorify Him, [in the place] where He has given me to serve and to worship.”