Monday, March 28, 2011

This guy

Last night I had a dream. Don't remember what it was about but this guy was there!

And he was my grandpa in the dream and it was awesome. I have absolutely no idea why the heck I would be dreaming about John Wayne. But this morning I woke up very puzzled. And then found this quote in one of my old journals. I went through a quote phase and I tried to find all the coolest quotes and write them down (ok I may still be in that phase). And I found this one I wrote down Junior year of high school

"Courage is being scared to death-and saddling up anyway"
-John Wayne

And thus concludes my strange post about John Wayne.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Romans 8:38

This morning I had plans to go to church. I really did. And then the rug was pulled out from under me. I have a picture on my desk of the day we climbed to the top of the Continental Divide as a family. The picture is of the five of us kids smiling in our 'rat clothes' (everyday shorts and t-shirts-go ahead and giggle) holding the family dog, Winnie, just thankful to not be climbing anymore. It is without a doubt my favorite picture of all of us. I see it every day but for some reason or another it just set me off. I started sobbing uncontrollably, like ya do, and weeping because I will never on this earth understand why my smiley little brother chose to end his own life. A question that I will undoubtably ask my self every day for as long as I am breathing on this earth.

Well this crying led me down the path of everything. The path of everything is what I call my ADD grief mode. When I just start thinking about things randomly one after the other. Sometimes they tie in together sometimes they don't. I have had to learn to keep myself in check while on the path of everything because sometimes it can be way to overwhelming. This morning the path of everything led me to think about how I am remembering John. How I am defining who he was and still is in my memory. And I became sad because I realized that I have been defining him so much by how he chose to end his life. And yes! that is a big deal. Most people who knew John on the surface level, that is how they will define him forever whether they realize it or not. To all of Boerne, TX we are the family whose son/brother killed himself and John is the amazing kid who tragically took his own life. Harsh sounding I know but it is true. But I think I am trying to begin reaching a point where this does not bother me because I don't want what I remember to only be about the final moments of his life. It will always be a part of what I remember and sometimes it will overtake the other good parts in my mind but I will fight to never let it be the bottom line definition of John Noll.

The real way I want to remember John is rest of the 16 years that I kew him. And I can't think about John without thinking about Jesus. I've never known somebody so young driven by their love for Christ quite like John and I don't think that I ever will. I thought about how John's love for Jesus manifested itself in his life. Most of my favorite examples involve Young Life camp. And one summer that sticks out like a sore thumb to me is the summer of 2006 at Sharp Top Cove in Jasper, GA. John was 13. I was 16. I was 16 and irrationally upset with my parents for making me go to Sharp Top with my mom (dumb hormones). John was 13 and a servant. John spent every single day of the 3 weeks we were there in the kitchen washing dishes. Not exploring, or doing things he wasn't supposed to do but elbow deep in the nasty dirty dishwater of 500+ people EVERY DAY. I, on the other hand, stayed near the house and did some babysitting and pretty much mostly things I wanted to do. I wasn't all that bad but I remember being so embarrassed that my 13 yr old brother was doing more work than I was. But it was what it was. And looking back on that summer (which kind of changed my life in many many ways) I will always appreciate how John was so selfless and always willing to help out. I can really only remember a handful of times when he didn't put himself first.

John was always giving me life advice that whether I wanted to admit it or not, was mostly truthful. He used to tell me about boys and about how I needed to stop being so uptight all the time (he was right). And I used to tell tell him to go away. He was the best button pusher I have ever known. I don't think I have ever gotten so mad at somebody as I used to get at John. But that is how it goes as siblings. I used to feel guilty but now I don't. John and I loved each other and showed it in different ways but we were also siblings and knew how to stir up trouble with each other.

Everyone including myself always used to talk about what an old soul John had. And I agree, he always did seem to be an old man in a young boy's body. He hardly ever seemed to really 'act his age.' He did have his moments but they seemed few and far between. But when he finally was in high school and got his license I remember my parents telling me stories about him and laughing because he was real teenage boy after all, full of mischief and shenanigans but all the while still loving Jesus and because of that, serving and loving others so well. I mean, I don't think there was a kid at Boerne Samuel V. Champion High School that has a bad thing to say about my brother.

My favorite mischievous story might be the time I came home as a senior in high school to a flaming coffee can in the driveway surrounded by gasoline and a hairspray bottle. I totally freaked for a lot of reasons, mainly we lived in the middle of town, and John just calmly told me he was making a goblet of fire like Harry Potter. I was so mad at him. He was such a pyro.

I also remember being a junior in high school and going to church with the family and everyone fighting over who had to sit by Mom and Dad (don't worry parents! we still loved you). But not John he would always take the seat next to them so the rest of us wouldn't have to. A small thing but all of the small things are starting to add up.

All of this to say I want to do a better job of letting Christ define John's life. Going to Boerne will always be hard. Always. But I hope that I can learn to treasure ALL of the moments I had with John. The good ones AND the hard ones. I will never understand why by his own choice he chose to leave us and I will always feel a deep sadness for the time I don't get to spend with him but someday I will get to hug his scrawny little neck again and punch him in the arm and tell him how much I missed him and how proud I am of him because

"I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." -Romans 8:38

I believe this truth with all of my being. Doesn't mean I am not sad or miss John or that I won't continue to be attacked by grief but I know that he loved Jesus and that no matter what he did Jesus still loves him and wants to remind me of the same thing. He wants me to rest in this confidence. To stop living for myself and trying to make myself better, because that will lead me no where, but to day by day moment by moment place Him first in my life trusting that he will take me and do with me what he wants. And not in a cheesy way but in a confident, hope filled way. The impossible became the possible in my life and I am still trying to wrap my mind around it but the thing that remains firm in my heart is the truth in Christ and that he can handle it all and more. There is so much more I could write about John but I'm sure it will come out in many more blog posts in the future. But for now, John, thanks for being awesome. So sad you are gone and will be always but thanks for being my awesome little brother.

John using the only operational flame thrower
in Texas after a WWII reenactment of which he took part in regularly in Fredericksburg, TX.
He was so proud of it that he called me and ask me how he could email it to me. I
had to walk him through how to send an email. He hated technology
and that is something I love about him.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


So I had Spring break a little over 2 weeks ago. Crazy. Last year I stayed in Asheville and my sister, Mary, came to visit from Wheaton College outside of Chicago. I learned the hard way that it is not a good idea to stay in town for Spring Break. Mary and I had a wonderful time but there were lots of activities and things that I felt I had to be present. I could have said no but I didn't.

This year Mary and I decided to spring break again together. In the brainstorming process, Mary decided she wanted to do some camping and hiking in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. So I started figuring ways out to make this happen also knowing there was no way we would be able to camp for a full week in early March. So I enlisted the help of my friend Drew who is an experienced backpacker. And we planned a two day two night trip to be followed up by Mary and I heading to Nashville, TN for 3 days. My friend Brandon also accompanied us on the backpacking trip.

We left Monday morning and hit the trail by 1:30pm hiking 5 miles before setting up camp for the night. Well, I let the pictures tell the rest of the story..

cr-v beasted the snow.

just like Little House on the Prairie! haha

campsite #1

yep. this is normal :)

Day 2: 13 mile day. first 4 straight up.

i don't even know..

atop Hemphill Bald.

Music City!

All of their posters are hand printed. It is kind
of a trade mark place in Nashville.

One of my favorite places we ate.
you can probably smell the butter
wafting out of the computer screen

Parents were married here in the 80's. Sadly,
the original sanctuary burned down 5 yrs ago.
but the steeple is in the same place...

Centennial Park with our friend Daniel.

Self guided tour of Vanderbilt University. So cool

View of downtown Nashville at night from a walking bridge.

Overall the trip was great. There were a few speed bumps and hard times but it is a trip that produced many many stories (both wonderful and terrible). But I think that is what I am beginning to love about it. It was real. Frustrating at times but very rewarding in others. Being removed from it I am beginning to look at the pieces individually and discover the goodness in all of the moments. I discovered that my body can put up with mentally and physically a lot more than I thought it could. I am beginning to learn the art of true patience and being ok with being lost and that things never do really turn out the way you want them to and that is actually have the fun. If things actually always turned out the way I want them to I think I would actually be even more frustrated.

I believe that Spring Break 2011 will be fondly remembered for years to come.

(always yelled as loud as possible while waving
two sets of rock and roll fingers in the air and followed by a woohoo!)