This was the scene that I woke up to this morning outside my window…a regular winter wonderland in “hot-lanta”. Today I turn 31, and I’ve got to tell you, it feels great. I have a beautiful wife and two wonderful daughters, my soul mate and my pride and joy. I’m doing work that is meaningful, and unlike most American’s, I actually enjoy what I do. And I’m finally figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. As I look back on the road that got me here, there are definitely themes that pop out.
God’s Favor– I learned at an early age that life just wasn’t fair. Whether or not it’s supposed to be is irrelevant. In reality, it just isn’t. If it was, several things in my life and in the lives of others would have gone “right”. However, each time in my life when it seemed like circumstance closed a door, God opened a window. Some people attribute their life’s fortunate breaks to luck. I choose to believe in a God that cares about me, and is looking out for me.
A Teachable Spirit- I grew up in the church all my life, but it wasn’t until I was about 10 or 11 years old and cracked open the bible for myself and started reading that I began to understand my faith for myself. That began a personal journey of exploring what I believed, why I believed it, and ultimately opened the door for me to become a life long learner. For some people, learning is about finding definitive, conclusive answers. For me, it’s more about raising serious questions, and being satisfied (at times) with the reflection that comes from not having clear answers. Sure, I’ve developed stronger convictions about things over the years. But that has been more the result of life’s education via experience, rather than schooling via books, facts, or research. Facts change, the truth remains the same. That’s why I attend a church where our motto is, in all your getting, get understanding.
A supportive network– It begins with my family. When I was younger, my grandmother used to drive me around South Carolina to all my important conferences, camps, and scholarly events. Because my mother was often working, she would attend all my awards ceremonies. My auntie taught me how to read. Even today, my aunt who works at Clemson, an accomplished leader in her own right, is one of my biggest fans. My siblings have each looked up to me (even though technically I’m not the oldest). And my friends, my homeboys from high school, well, we cheer on each other’s success like it’s our own. But Samantha is definitely my strongest partner. Her belief in me was actually what attracted me to her in the first place. I was leading a fledgling campus bible study in undergrad, and she saw my persistence in pursuing the things I cared about. She has been my rock in the toughest times (as hopefully I have done for her), and we’ve been able to celebrate the highlights of the past 13 years together.
So, in summation and to be cliche, it’s a beautiful life after all. And I’m glad 31 years ago, Sonya Wakefield got it all started!