Saturday, May 21, 2011


I got up this morning and realized that it has been a year and a half since that horrific night I found out that I wouldn't get to see John Noll's sweet smiling face again. The actual day was this past Thursday and I write this because I didn't even notice. Granted, I was busy that entire day but that day a year ago was traumatic and full of tears and frustration. And this time around it caught me completely off guard this morning. I miss him terribly. And I honestly have no more understanding than I did that first night.

But I am healing. Slowly and surely. By the Grace of God alone, I am healing and always will be. Thinking about just a short year ago or even 6 months ago I wasn't sure I would ever feel 'normal' again. That I would ever be able to make through a day without having a major emotional breakdown and feeling hopeless. But the days have passed and they have brought much life. I have experienced the love of Christ deeper and richer than ever. I have found friends where I wasn't looking. I am learning to daily trust Jesus to actually provide. Which is way, way harder than I ever thought. It should be very easy but I definitely struggle with this one.

John would have graduated high school this spring. I still think a lot about all of the things I will never see him do. But I also want to remember the things that I did get to see him do. Because those are the things that actually matter. The reality of it all is still sometimes just as shocking as in the beginning but as the days pass I find myself enjoying life once again. And for that, I am truly thankful. I will always walk hand in hand with sorrow and sadness but I think I will be able to do so with a joy that I didn't have before and an understanding beyond words. The Lord is good. ALL the time.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

To Mom

This year I don't get to be home for Mother's Day. It was actually a strange feeling to wake up in my own apartment and not be near my mother. To not be able to actually celebrate her all day long. To not make signs and decorate the house. Make horrible looking hand made cards that were so ugly but she loved them anyways.
Ok, and also sad to not eat Mother's Day brunch. There, I said it.

But in all seriousness it was kind of depressing. So instead I am writing this blog post in celebration of Stacey Noll, my mother of 14 years and counting!!

I have never blogged about this that I can recall. But I once had a different mother. One I did not get to know very long. Her name was Gail and she was lovely. Here is a picture of my dad, Gail, Ryan, and I. 1989. Those legs are lookin' good, Dad.

I don't have many memories of her but the things that people have told me are all good. I would have liked to know her and what she was like. A natural reaction. But sadly she suddenly and tragically passed away a few days after my youngest sister, Anne, was born due to some health complications. January 13, 1995. I remember it all pretty clearly. One day Mom and Dad were going to the hospital to "get my new baby sister" and then Dad came home alone with Anne. All very sad and very confusing to my 5 year old self.  But life marches on. My dad was left with 5 children ranging from 7 to newborn. So many relatives in and out of the house. A few nanny's here and there.

Then my dad met a beautiful young woman, Stacey. She was a school teacher who went to our church. Very much single and attractive. I honestly do not remember much about her before they were married but every time my dad talks about her and that time his eyes light up.

It is a classic story really. My desperate father needed to higher summer help to take care of his unruly kids. And so he asked Stacey if she would do it. And so she became our summer baby sitter. Taking us to the pool, feeding us, and making sure we stayed out of trouble, mostly. And then, the next thing you know, my dad falls in love with the nanny!!! so classic. They used to go running together all the time. One thing led to another and on June 8, 1997 my dad married Stacey and she became my new mother.

what a good looking family.. '97

our first trip as a new family. West Texas summer of 1997

Taylor Park, Colorado. Week long horse back riding trip through 
the Rockies. 2006

As you can imagine things didn't just easily fall into place. There were lots of rough spots starting out. On both ends. I cannot imagine being very young (29) and very single and then all of a sudden being married and handed 5 children ages 10, 7,5,3,2 (roughly). But she took on the responsibility and soon had us whipped into shape. As the days passed, we all grew more comfortable with each other. Eventually she would legally adopt us as her own children. I remember that day very clearly. I think I was in 5th grade. We all got out of school for the day. We had a special breakfast and then went down to the court house where a judge asked us if we wanted this lady to be our Mother. We all said yes. And from then on Stacey Noll has loved us through the good days and the bad ones. She has raised us up to be respectful, responsible, clean, and independent. Both of my parents love Jesus and so I have been blessed to be raised in a home that was full of His presence and love.

This next part is addressed directly to my mother..

Mom, as I am sure you will read this I want the whole world to know how much I love you! And how I am so thankful you are in my life. You have brought so many wonderful things to our family. Thank you for loving me as your own. You have loved each of us so well. Because of you (and Dad) I am who I am. Thanks for putting up with all of our nonsense. I know it has not been easy, especially in the beginning. The more I process those early days the more your resilience shines through. Your life points me and others directly to Christ. I firmly believe that He gave you the patience and love to put up with all five of us at one time. I know I wasn't the easiest person to be around in high school but know that I have loved you every second of every day. Even when I was throwing my teenage temper tantrums (which i guess still happen occasionally). You took us on so many adventures I have lost track of them all. You convinced Dad that we needed a travel trailer so that we could travel the US. We took that thing everywhere from DC to Colorado and all the way over and up to Canada. And all of those summers at Young Life camps. Simply incredible. My friends were always jealous of our summer adventures.

Thank you for being involved in my life and for being a parent, not a friend, even when it was hard and you didn't want to do it. I am excited now, to become your friend as well :)
 These past few years we have experienced yet another deep loss as a family. A cut so deep it will never fully heal. I am so glad that Dad (and Anne) have you at home. The way you have all daily lived life in  the midst of such horrible loss is a testament to your love. The balance you bring, the life you bring, the love you bring are such a blessing.

I can't fit all of the things I want to say in this blog post but know that I love you very very very much and you will always and forever be MY mother!

Christmas 2010

Here is our family today. We stand here having weathered many storms together. Having suffered much deep loss. But I believe we have been pieced together directly by hands of Christ. Always firmly rooted in His love and our love for each other. I would not change any of it.

So here is to you, Mom!! I hope that Dad and Anne treated you well and made you feel like the special person that you are every day.


Friday, May 6, 2011

He Loves Me

I have been out of school for 3 days. Long enough to freak out about going to Spain for 10 months, get stressed out about finding a job, do some babysitting, and also have a little fun.

This weekend I am working at Windy Gap, the Young Life camp about 15 minutes from my apartment. Usually I work on the ropes course but this weekend I am working in their snack bar called The Sippin' Parlor or the "Sippie." I have done this on and off for about 3 years. But as of late it has been difficult to carve out a whole weekend to spend at Windy Gap. I am so thankful to be here this weekend. So very thankful.

I absolutely love coming up here. It is ridiculously gorgeous and the fact that it takes me under 15 minutes to be on camp property from where I live is a true gift. It is nestled up in the mountains outside of Asheville. This place is never ugly. Rain, shine, snow, leaves or no leaves, I have never been disappointed.

I talk about all of this beauty because tonight I was thinking about why people love places like this place and other Young Life camps. They seem to be held higher than many other equally beautiful places. One, the presence of Christ is felt richly in these places. Two, you cannot ignore that fact that Jesus is telling you he loves you. I was reading Psalm 19:1-4 tonight, a passage that I have read countless times. But tonight it took hold of my soul and really took me deeper into the truth. The truth that He loves me. I say it and people say it to me all of the time but I need to do a better job of acknowledging it. This passage reads:

"The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the works of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the end of the earth."

A contant whisper of "I love you" is found all around me. I need to take the time to notice it more. To see it in the big and small places. I find proof of his love in every minute of my life. He loves me loudly. So loudly that as of late, it has been almost impossible to miss it. But sometimes I choose not to see it. But even then he still lets me know.

My good friends the Sloans have this children's Bible that is seriously THE best children's Bible I have ever seen. It is so good, in fact, that sometimes I want to get a copy for myself. I have to pleasure of reading it to their two children before bedtime when I babysit. Throughout this Bible Jesus' love is described as "Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always, and Forever." I am not even kidding when I say I tear up every time I read it to them.

That being said I want to feel that love every second of the day and help others to feel it as well.

 Because His love IS real and is

Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The World Spins Madly On

Yesterday I officially completed my Junior year of college at UNC Asheville. I kid you not when I say I walked out of my last exam and shook my head in disbelief (but also with a sigh of relief). It was the strangest day. I have to keep reminding myself that I am actually old enough to be done with 3 years of college and that these 3 years weren't just some sort of crazy dream. And they weren't! They have been filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows and I can honestly say that I would not change a moment of them. Even, the darkest of days..

Yesterday did ended wonderfully by going to see the band The Civil Wars at the Grey Eagle with some amazing people. Seriously. If they come to a town near you, do what it takes to go see them. Couldn't have asked for a better way to end the semester.

In August I will heading to Granada, Spain for 10 months to study abroad. Yep. That's a long time. And for so long I have just talked about it, filled out some paper work, and read a lot of Rick Steve's travel guides. But today, I have a Skype meeting with the director of the study abroad program, Germàn. Talk about making this thing feel real. Not messing around anymore. Although there is much, much, more to be done for my departure I am starting to feel like I am leaving next week and not a little under 4 months from now.

But for now I must get a job and stay in one place for the first summer in my life I can ever remember. Definitely will be an adjustment but I think I am welcoming the change of pace. Whatever that pace may look like this summer.
Time to turn yet another page...