Four years ago today.

There is an app I used called one day. It’s a journaling app, I add a picture. I write a line or two and move on with my day. It’s simple and an easy way to document some parts of my life. Now that I’ve used it for years, most days I look at the “on this day.” I was at Starbucks at Portage Crossing when I clicked on it, yesterday. Several entries came up, but three entries specifically came onto the screen from four years ago. Exactly four years prior I was sitting in this exact Starbucks desperately trying to hold on. I remember that day so clearly. The hopelessness I felt, and the doing everything in my power not to give into the darkness in my mind.

Yesterday, I took this picture while there… the journal app open, a cup of coffee and the exact Starbucks I was wrestling so much at. As I sat there I was waiting for a friend to talk through Akron Women on Purpose.  Something that wasn’t even a thought in my brain four years ago, and now we are preparing for our third conference.

I left the meeting and the Starbucks a little emotional. Thinking how gracious God has been through it all. Through His love and intervention in healing that suicidal season. And now how He has allowed me to be part of what He’s doing in Akron! I’m just in awe.

And this morning, as I finished this blog, I again clicked “on this day” and saw THIS post. Which also caused me to be humbled and so grateful for how God has moved in my life. I knew nothing about Akron Women on Purpose, when I wrote this four years ago, but He did! And called me to it years before I knew it… Even in my dark season, and when I was desperately holding on. He is so good!

As I close, I have to say, even though some of the days that came during this last 4 year window were the hardest I have EVER experienced, I’m glad I didn’t miss them. I am SO grateful that the darkness didn’t win. To those who are struggling with suicidal tendencies and feeling worthless. Please keep fighting!! There is hope on the other side. And although it won’t look like my journey, God has you here for a reason too!

Obedience over Perfection

If you know me you know I love goals, lists, efficiency and anything that will help me accomplish these things.  Of course I love New Years, not for the parties, but for the intentional opportunity to create lists, goals and think about how to do life the following year.  This year as I began to create my goals it didn’t go quite as I had planned.

My only goal this year is obedience over perfection. It’s something I feel like God is trying to teach me… again and again. It’s not a secret I have some tendencies to lean toward perfection. In fact if you know the Enneagram personality type I am #1 – The reformer which means I’m “principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic.” But what I’m realizing is often I’m waiting for things to be perfect, for me to be certain, for all pieces to be in place before moving. This causes me to be slow to move. Slow to action. Slow to the things I know God is moving me toward.

So this year I will focus on being obedient in the moment. Moving even if not all the pieces are in place. Knowing I will have mistakes, which I dread, but moving all the same. Knowing that obedience is more important than perfection.

Not so picture perfect…

This morning I went to my prayer room and called it my desperation room. I’ve been in a season that I’ve not “felt” or “heard” from God in the ways I’m used to. It’s been hard. It’s caused me to take extra long in making life and ministry moves, trying to confirm what he’s leading me toward. God has been good in revealing himself in small bits, but if I’m honest a lot of it has been pure muscle memory. I continue to seek, pursue, live, and move in disciplines of what I know he’s shown me in the past.

This morning felt extra desperate. I had just finished a “spiritual weekend” and yet, didn’t feel spiritual. In fact within hours of returning last night I felt like running away was a good idea and day dreamed about that for a stint of time.

So this morning in my desperation, I came to the prayer room, so strongly desiring to sit in his presence. And as I listened to this song over and over, I had to write the words. So I grabbed the marker and quickly wrote this on my desk. In my mind it was sloppy and desperate, but I took a picture to put in my journal app on my phone. But when I looked at the picture, it looked so pretty and perfect.

I was tempted to post the picture to social media, because it did look so “perfect” and spiritual. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t because really my morning looked like me laying on the floor of the “desperation room.” It wasn’t pretty and perfect. It was hard, wrestling with so many broken thoughts of frustration and self hatred.

It reminded me of a picture of the cross I saw last week on social media. It was bright and shiny and had some verse about the cross. But really the cross was dirty, heavy, and hard.

So I’m writing this to be honest. I’ve had people say “you don’t sin, you’re Noelle Beck.” News flash, I’m sinful and broken. I spend lots of time in the prayer room to be as connected to the father as possible, because I am VERY aware of my shortcomings. Life isn’t pretty or perfect or easy. And when following Jesus, I would venture to say at moments, less so.

I do know God really does fulfill, which is why I continue to cling to Him, knowing He really does meet us in these spaces, whether we feel him or not.

And that’s how I end this blog. I’m in a hard season. Even in my desperation this morning, it’s not all fixed, and I’m still functioning in muscle memory disciplines because I still don’t “feel him.”

I got you girl

I got you girl. This is one of the most encouraging phrases that I hear.  My coworker and friend, Jessica Swiger, says it to me.  She says this when she has my back.  And it’s not that she says she has it. She legitimately has it 100%.  Whether it’s a project, task, conversation, or a needed break.  When I articulate some form of need or stress, she says, “I got you girl,” and then takes it on.  It’s so freeing because I trust when she uses that phrase that she really will come through.

As this grief week has kicked into high gear, I’ve been struggling. And when I mentioned I was not doing great, Jessica would say, “I got you girl,” and then proceeded to give me the rest of the night off so that I could engage the grief that seemed to be taking over.

Yesterday this happen again when another coworker and friend, Ben White, took on a fairly extensive assignment I had signed us up for.  I felt like it would be a great event, but the idea of standing at a table talking about FG seemed overwhelming when the grief that day was so strong.  So he sent me a text that essentially said the same thing, “I got you girl.” And he proceeded to go in early that morning to the local event, set up a table to promote First Glance, and stayed there for the next four hours so that I could have the morning to do other FG work and to care for myself.  

Later that morning I got this picture from the two of them as they represented First Glance well and gave me space to do what I needed.  “I got you girl,” and they really did.  

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Enoch’s birthday is tomorrow, I wrestle with grief and having moments of frustration that it’s taking over.  But I am so grateful for those who step in and say, “I got you girl.”  I’m grateful for Ben & Jess and also for the culture of our FG staff that continues to support each other in this way.  Additionally, we have had several others who love and care for us and step in, in amazing ways.  One woman reached out while writing this and out of blue asked if she could make or send us dinner next week.  There is nothing more encouraging than the “I got you girl” and they really do!    

The real reason FG turned 18!

This past Friday First Glance turned 18!  Honestly, my life wouldn’t be the same without First Glance!  Although I typically talk about what I’ve learned or crazy memories from the years, this year I want to talk about one of the main reasons First Glance is where it is today.  A lot of people give me credit since I’m the director, but the real reason I am the Director is because of this one individual, Karen Freeman.

I met Karen when I was all of 19 years old, before First Glance was even a thought in my mind.  She was old enough to be my mom, but we don’t really talk about that, mainly because she  never treated me like I was a kid.  She was the first person to back me when I said I wanted to host a program outside the walls of the church.  Together we had a desire to do this because people who don’t go to church, don’t go to church.

It was Karen that suggested we host First Glance in Kenmore.  After a few meetings with each other and a couple visits to the local community center, we were a team. Little did we know what all we would experience together over the years.  On September 14th, 2000 Karen and I opened the community center doors with 4 leaders, 2 sheet pizzas and some inflatable couches.  Little did we know, that night we had just founded First Glance.

From the moment we decided to start First Glance until now, I have been shocked and amazed how much Karen would teach, lead, support, and encourage me.  Karen was the first volunteer who’s number I had memorized because I called her most every day.  Seriously, every day.  I ran most ideas, problems, and questions by her.  Over time she encouraged me in my leadership skills and ownership of First Glance, while she eventually started the Teen Moms program.  Although in separate roles she remained my largest support and often coached me along the way.

People often give me credit for what happened 18 years ago, but the person behind me was Karen the whole time!  And so this years list of 18 goes to Karen, although there is no way to encompass all that we have experienced together over these years.

Lessons I learned from her along the way:

  1. To dream big.  Lunches together usually ended in new, big ideas.
  2. To speak and communicate the vision.  Karen did this well, clearly articulating how an individual fit into this major master plan of God’s.
  3. How to navigate upset volunteers, community members, or parents.
  4. How to ask bold questions to the students.
  5. Sadly, how to host a funeral dinner.  We did more than we would like to admit.
  6. That bribing is a great tool to use.
  7. To find the joy where you can and laugh as much as possible.
  8. To pray when it’s hard. Because sometimes it’s the only thing we can do.
  9. How to keep a straight face when the task or conversation before you makes your jaw want to drop open.
  10. That God will give us joy and help us through the sorrow, as she battled cancer and I lost Enoch.

The fun we had:

  1. Post FG hot tub nights for the first two years of FG.
  2. A crazy night at FG that we just labeled “thong night.”
  3. Road trips staying up way too late with students.
  4. And random road trips where Karen loses the toll ticket.
  5. Breaking up fights, which isn’t typically fun, but there were some funny stories.
  6. Creating giant leaf and popcorn pits, never quite learning our lesson on how much work it was to clean up.
  7. Getting the bat out of Teen Moms.
  8. Putting our offices directly across from each other on purpose.

Through it all, so much joy, encouragement and a lifelong freindship was created.

Last year Karen stepped down as the director of Teen Moms at First Glance.  The minute she told me, tears streamed down my face, and I wouldn’t let the FG staff even mention it for a solid four weeks.  It’s been almost a year since God moved Karen to a different ministry (who we partner with and still is in Kenmore).  It’s taken me this long to finally be able to write this post.  There really are no words for all that Karen has done for me and ultimately for First Glance!  So when you want to give me credit for all that has happened, know that Karen Freeman was really the catalyst of it all.  And she, of course, would say that it was ALL God.

We really have had and continue to have a front row seat at what God does.  I’m glad that Karen was sitting right beside me the whole time!

 

Thirty things I learned in my 30’s

I love New Years, not because of parties as much as the idea of a new start!  A new year!  This is how I have felt about turning 40, which happened last Friday. Instead of being annoyed that I’m “getting old,” I really do just feel like its an opportunity for a new decade!  As many of you know I’m intentional and a planner, so turning 40 was no different.  I wrote this at 38 in preparation for this day.  One of my friends keeps teasing me that she’s never known anyone to plan for a birthday like me.  Again, it’s nothing about parties or birthday plans as much as being intentional, being focused and on mission for who God has created me to be.

If I’m honest my 30’s was for sure my hardest decade so far. So part of my desire for my 40’s is to get out of it.  I also will admit that I have learned THE MOST in my 30’s than any other decade.

So in honor of turning 40, here are 30 things I learned  in my 30’s…

In relationship with God

  1. The absolute best thing I have grasped onto and KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt to be true, is that God really does satisfy… more than food, alcohol, relationships, work, ministry, vacations, money, etc.  God really does satisfy ALL our needs if we go to Him in relationship.
  2. I’ve been reminded again recently that we REALLY can’t earn our own salvation!  I know this is biblical, and I’ve been hearing it since I was young. However even in my attempts to hit 40 well… I learned scripture, read, fasted, prayed, started new ministries, told people about Jesus, etc., God has had to show me over and over it’s what I DO!  I still fall short.  My flesh still takes over some days.  I still need a Savior, because I can’t DO enough good things, even Spiritual things.
  3. Scripture is LIFE GIVING.  Just read it or listen to it. It has power!
  4. God is a God that we bow down to at the throne AND climb up on His lap because He is our father!
  5. We can learn new spiritual disciplines.  I don’t know why, but this was an amazing new revelation for me.  I didn’t used to love prayer, but about 7 years ago learned to love it and would now call myself a prayer warrior. The same thing happened with scripture memory.  If we desire a spiritual gift/discipline and move toward it, God will help us grow in that discipline.
  6. Prayer rooms are THE BEST!  There’s something about a space where the only thing you do there is interact with the Creator of the Universe. 99C9E57D-7B51-49F1-A192-38ABB1E90329
  7. Christians still sin. Somehow we have too often talked about Sin as though we did that “before we were saved” but never talk about continuing to struggle with sin and temptation. I remember just last year someone saying, “You don’t sin. You’re Noelle Beck.” I was so shocked and confused by this statement. I do absolutely still sin! It’s why we STILL need Jesus! And I am amazingly grateful for his continual grace!
  8. We are free!!! Jesus really has set us free, and we don’t have to be bound by guilt, shame, unforgivenss or decisions of the past. Jesus really did pay the price, we are FREE!  (Galatians 5:1)2241F878-019D-42F9-A702-1CDD3F4CE56D
  9. Anything that drives us more than God is an idol. My largest revelation of an idol in my life is when I realized fear was an idol. (1 John 5:21)69C6D297-B832-4D52-BA44-A5CD74841602
  10. What you put in your mind really does impact you. For most of my life I assumed this was a conservative or legalistic mindset. But in my 30’s I’ve recognized how much it helps when I’m not intentionally destructive things in my mind. The less I make the dark and sinful things the norm, the more my mind can stay present with the spirit (Romans 8:6). 63E9344E-CD8F-4D3B-9EE3-2EC020FB3D09
  11. Complete trust in God and grief/disappointment CAN co-exist.  One does not negate the other.
  12. Everything is a gift!  We really DON’T DESERVE anything from God. He owes us nothing!330CC22D-003A-4F97-BF06-11C82D3F2018

In Relationship & Leadership (several of these apply to both)

  1. Words of LIFE are so powerful!  It’s amazing how much we can encourage others by simple words of the positives we see, rather than the negatives.  I don’t know why we wait for birthdays or funerals to talk about how great a person is.  We need to say it all along the way. Even a one line text goes a long way.
  2. My friend Kara Ulmer says, “If you really love someone you, you genuinely want what’s best for them.” Although this sentence seems simple, if you pay close attention, sometimes you will see what you thought you were doing for someone else really is about you. And similarly, you notice when someone’s desire to do something for you is really about themselves.
  3. In relationships, forgiveness eventually comes.  So move toward it sooner rather than spending days in anger, hurt and resentment.
  4. Relationship over rule needs to be applied the majority of the time. Sometimes I create disciplines, especially with eating and exercise. But I try never to let the “rule” of my eating interrupt my relationship, especially when my niece asks to go for ice cream.
  5. Understand the root of the issue. When someone is interacting or responding in a particular way, work to understand the root of what is happening. It could be something they were taught, a habit, something they are unaware of, are protecting themselves from hurt, or something else. When we understand why someone is responding in a particular way, it often has little to do with us.
  6. Don’t give power to people who don’t have power. Often we give people power over us who shouldn’t have it. We allow particular people’s opinions to change our behavior, rather than doing what we know is best for us or for what God has asked us to do. In addition we elevate people to place of power or authority that also don’t have it. Lebron James often is worshiped more than Jesus, but he really is just a kid from Akron.
  7. Time is one of your most valuable assets.  Be intentional with where it goes. You can’t get it back, and sometimes we spend it in the wrong spaces.
  8. Leadership is about EMPOWERING others to live up to their potential.
  9. Learn from EVERYONE.  Don’t be the expert. Allow others to be the expert, encourage it in them and learn from them.
  10. Intentionality and vision keeps you from ending up where you didn’t mean to be.

And in my personal opinion 🙂

  1. Embrace who you are! I didn’t own who I was for many years of my life. Now I do, which is why I can share these very important insights with you.
  2. Jeeps are the best vehicles. No doors is freeing and feels like vacation! A7DA5FE4-6CB1-4EEF-B6F6-E086FC27068E
  3. Apple over PC. Every. Single. Time.
  4. Converse and glasses are the best accessories. D4AB99B7-EFFB-4361-9CCF-FCE98B164576
  5. A ruler is a necessity in your Bible for straight lines. B5D1F4DC-2B0C-43B0-B2E6-1ABE4341D873
  6. There is an app for every thing and they make you even more efficient.
  7. Coffee is only delicious frothy! ACB8E07E-3FE8-4296-94A8-A442A084F140
  8. Tim is always the cutest man in the room…especially with his recently shaved head.28945189-E4E8-4CDD-B5D3-D59E8A8C9135

I’m excited for my 40’s.  I’m excited to continue to apply all that I’ve learned to this next decade… knowing full well, I’ll have to keep learning some of those lessons.

Harvey needed skulls

After struggling with infertility and the loss of a baby you start to become aware of what you can and cannot engage when it comes to other babies.  For instance, I don’t do baby showers or kid birthday parties. I rarely go see a new mom and her baby, and I NEVER go to the hospital where Enoch was born. For the most part, these rules have served me well. But, every once in a while, I have to break them. I never want the rule to be more important than the relationship.

I break my birthday party rule with Xavier who asks every year to have his birthday at my house with a bon fire.  I’ve gone to the same hospital when Brea, our daughter, had surgery.  And when my dear friend Hannah became pregnant I knew several of my rules would have to go.

Hannah and I managed to navigate pregnancy well, she and I had a couple awkward and emotional conversations on how to love and support each other during this season.  I told her the same thing over and over, I never want her to go through what I did, so it’s never a matter of jealousy!  I was thrilled for her to get to be pregnant and become a mom.

Soon, Harvey arrived!  And I found myself needing to go see these two.  Again so excited, but also very aware that this little guy would most likely stir the grief in me.

The morning I was headed their way I realized I needed to bring Harvey something, not because he needed something else.  I know the Nitz’s are very loved and probably swimming in baby stuff.  But, I also knew that Harvey would need someone to toughen him up a bit, the boy needed some skulls!  And so I walked into Enoch’s room, which is still the way we set it up for him to come home.  I went into the dresser and grabbed a small newborn onesie that had a skull on it. This wasn’t just a random onesie with a skull, but the one I had picked out specifically for our little guy.  Not knowing if our baby was a boy or girl I went out just weeks before he was born and bought an outfit for each gender specifically for when he/she was born.  This was the onesie I needed Harvey to have.

As I roamed through his room and his clothes it was the harsh reality that it’s been 2.5 years and I’m most likely not getting pregnant again.  I’m coming to grips with the fact that we probably won’t use this room for a new born.  BUT, it also was the joy of giving this gift, this very specific onesie to my dear friend!  This friendship means so much to me! And there was nobody else I would rather have this onesie than Harvey.  Plus his parents are never going to put him in skulls.

A couple days later I received a text from Hannah with this picture.

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In the text she told me how she told him all about Enoch and myself.  Which made my heart happy, and my eyes weep, because while we were holding Enoch in the hospital we stayed up all night telling him all about our friends, including Hannah.

It always comes back to the joy and the sorrow.  The loss of Enoch continues to create sorrow in these moments, but equally, we find the joy of new babies and new life of our friends.

Don’t worry, Harvey, I’ll make sure you love skulls, jeeps, converse and mountain biking adventures… Just wait!