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Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Homeless Graduate: My Journey to Liberty University Class of 2012...20 days to go

I am tired this morning and not feeling particularly profound. So I think this will be a brief post today.
I think I simply want to encourage readers. Chase your dreams.
I can't put into words all that my graduation means to me. I have tried on this blog and I will try as the final 3 weeks until graduation count down to zero. I've talked about the workload and the sleeplessness and the stress and the vertigo.
I've also told about the excitement when I ran my degree audit in August of last year and realized I was really, finally in my last year and would graduate this spring. Zig Ziglar says "If there is hope for tomorrow there is power for today". That is true on many fronts. As a believer, I have hope for a future in Heaven and eternity with Christ. That gives me power for each day when I realize that no defeat here is permanent. But on a more practical level...having hope for the future gives power for today is a relevant truth that I am understanding for the first time in my 48 years.
I was not raised in a home where hope was offered all that much.  A "This is the best you can hope for, consider yourself lucky" atmosphere permeated everything. Because there was never a hope for the future there was never a need for planning and setting goals in the present. Nobody ever sat me down and instilled a vision in my soul of what I could become. This isn't sour grapes, it's just a statement of fact. But it is a lesson I learned late in life and a lesson I will instill in my daughter right now!
It wasn't until last August when I saw my Degree Audit and counted the numbers and realized I had done it, that I began to have hope. In one moment I moved from a college student, struggling with homelessness and poverty and trying to be a dad when I was living in my car and missing my daughter and having no hope at all, to a graduate who finished something difficult in the teeth of calamity and hardship and who rose above every stinking nasty thing life threw at him and succeeded anyway. Even though at that time I had two more semesters to go and 10 months to do it, in my soul I was already there. That night I clearly saw myself walking across that platform and getting that degree and every single day since then I have revisited that vision. Ziglar says "We move toward our strongest impulses" and since that day my graduation has been my strongest impulse.
Beyond a college degree I learned the value of this hope. And having tasted it once, I can never again live without a cupful. I set goals in a different fashion now. I plan with the assumption that I WILL...not that I might or that I might not. I have a goal of becoming a motivational speaker and encouraging others to reach for the thing that leaves a hole in their hearts. The thing that makes them thirsty. The thing they know they will ache over if life passes them by and they don't achieve it.
I want to tell them my story and give them hope. Because with hope you can do almost anything.
My Faith has given me the strength to endure this hard road. Sometimes enduring it looked like me putting on a game face and smiling as the difficult days rolled on. Sometimes enduring looked like me screaming obscenities at God at 2AM when I was shivering in the cold and missing my daughter and one more day had come and gone without relief from the hopeless abyss of homelessness. Some days it was somewhere in between those two extremes. From August 17, 2011 when I did the Audit and had my "Epiphany of Hope" until January 3rd when I finally found a place to live, nothing much changed.  I was still living in that car. Still showering at the gym. Still without a stove or a refrigerator. Still unable to have time on weekends with my daughter where she could spend the night. But the hope I received in that moment made those final four months of homelessness seem far more tolerable. Under it all, I knew May 12th 2012 was coming. On that day, even if I was still homeless at the time, I would have a great achievement to hang my hat on. I would have something to look at with pride and a sense of accomplishment after 4 years of loss and failure. I would have hope.
If you have been following along and reading this journal of the final month of my undergrad career I pray you have drawn hope from it. I hope you have touched on something in your own heart that gives you hope. I hope you have unlocked some hidden box that held the dreams you long ago shut away and told yourself you would never achieve.
My favorite author is Brennan Manning. He speaks a great truth in his book, "The Ragamuffin Gospel" when he says "There are three ways to commit suicide: Kill yourself, let yourself die...or live without hope"
I know the bitterness of that last line. I was dying for years and never realized it. Sadly many of us are. If you have stumbled across my story and this sounds a bit familiar, I hope you'll read my words and find a spark. I hope something comes to life in you and a dream resuscitates and you find yourself in a classroom, or an art studio, or in a relationship, or running for office, or writing a book. Or whatever it is you stopped hoping for long ago.
Name your dream and go for it!

Until Tomorrow,


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