First Glance

First Glance is Sweet 16!

As I think about First Glance over the past 16 years, I am flooded with thoughts, emotions, stories, memories, adventures and lessons learned.  It seems overwhelming to write what will feel like way too few words to encompass 16 years of the greatest adventure of my life.

Last year I wrote a blog post about my top 15 and they are all still true.  If I were to add #16 to this list it would be about how First Glance really is a family.  In fact it’s the opening line on our new website

Chances are if you read this line on our website or hear us talk about it, you’re thinking how we become family to our students.  And yes, that’s true.  We do absolutely get to be family to our students.

  • Some of our students call us mom and dad.
  • Volunteers get to love, support and care for teenagers from the area.
  • We eat meals at each program and always have everyone sit together, at the table, “as a family.”
  • We show up to sporting events, graduations, court hearings and anything else we can to love and support our students.
  • One time when someone asked several of our teen moms to talk about “home” many ended up talking about First Glance.
  • We have walked along side many students who have experienced tragedy and loss.

The list could go on.  We seriously do get to be our students family.  I love that this is true.

At the same time, they also have become ours.  This isn’t a one sided relationship.  Over the years I’ve been grateful for students functioning as family to me.  They have taken me out to lunch, given me hugs on my bad days, and in even more extreme situations lived with Tim and I, becoming a permanent part of our family.

The reality of them being family  to me was never more evident than after tragedy hit my life.  After Enoch passed away countless students reached out to love, care and support us.

  • One young woman, Hope, insisted on doing something – anything to help. She ended up making sacrifices in her own life to provide food for the funeral.
  • I got this message just yesterday, “This book just came in (1 Enoch) at work and I wanted you to know you are never far from my thoughts I love you!”  This was such an encouragement!  Kayla who I have had the privilege of loving and supporting over the years, has sent me a number of messages and texts to support and love me this past year.
  • Danielle sent this to me a couple months ago after reading about Enoch in the bible and wrestling through what happened.  God used that verse,  to challenge Danielle and encourage Tim and I as she prayed for us.


These are just a few examples of how First Glance is family.  And this family is not just one sided.  We get to love the students who walk through the door, and when given the opportunity they support us too.

16 years later, I could have never dreamed of all that I would have seen or experienced.  I am beyond grateful and humbled for the opportunity to be the Director of First Glance.

What a great morning!

There are days when the tasks at hand overwhelm my mind and focus, which is not uncommon for my life.  A few weeks ago this was the case… a busy morning and stress of getting a meeting started on time.  People were already there when I grabbed the eraser and started to erase the board.  Suddenly I realized what it said, “I love you momma Noelle.  I accepted Christ as my Savior.”

What a privilege, joy, and opportunity I have to play a “mom role” in Dees life over the years.  I got to be two seats down from her when she stood to make this commitment just a few days prior.

And then a few weeks after that, she told our whole missional community of her journey in coming to this relationship with Christ.  What an encouragement to my heart.  To hear what God has done in her, to hear how First Glance, individuals and the church has impacted and shaped her.

I really do get a front row seat at what God does!



The power of being their #1 fan

My good friend Melanie has told me since college that she is my #1 fan.  It still makes me smile more than fifteen years later and as a grown woman when she tells me.  And, yes, she still does.  The reason Melanie felt she needed to claim the #1 spot is because there are other people rooting for me as well.  What a blessing that is, to have people who love and care and encourage me.


Part of the reason I run First Glance is because I have come across countless teens who don’t have a #1 fan.  Actually many don’t have anyone rooting for them.   This is often what our 90 volunteers do.  They love every individual as they walk through the door and become their cheerleader, even when they don’t know they need one or are too cool to admit they do.

I love this video because it clearly articulates what we try to do at First Glance: to be a constant in their lives,  loving them over a long period of time.  Please note this isn’t a First Glance video in any way.  It’s just one that we use to challenge and encourage our volunteers to love the teens unconditionally.

A different kind of parenting

I have the privilege and opportunity to be the Director at First Glance.  I love it.  I loved it on day one, and fifteen years later, I still love it!  If you don’t know anything about First Glance check out our website.

Part of what I get to do at First Glance is spend time with and love teenagers.  It’s really the best part!  As I walked into and out of Mother’s Day it was not lost on me that God has given me many parenting opportunities over the years.  There are countless students I’ve gotten to “mom” in both large and small ways, so many that if I tried to name them all I wouldn’t be able to.

A few that stand out are:
I taught Amber how to drive and was the one pacing in the waiting room as she took her test.  I seriously was so nervous.

I’ve been to many graduations, standing with flowers and a hug at the end of them (here are a couple I had pictures of).

Attending baptisms and taking them out to lunch afterwards.22518947121_7c6a1c4093_o.jpg10190422064_e50f61fa3f_k.jpg
These are a few that are larger scale and ones I happen to have pictures of, but there are many other smaller ways too.  Several call me mom. Others simply call me in moments of tragedy and joy, and most girls are nervous to introduce me to their boyfriend knowing the questions I will ask them.  Mere minutes of so many of my days that I get to “mom them.”

In addition, a handful of students have lived with Tim and I over the years.  Brea lived with us while she was 17.  To her we are mom and dad, and to her kids we are grandma Noelle and grandpa Tim.

I remember meeting Brea for the first time; she was 15.  One of my other girls was having a birthday party at the lake, and I was invited.  Of course at some point these teenage girls thought it would be great to drag me into the lake, which they successfully did.  Brea was one of them.  She then asked me for a ride home 🙂

Brea began to attend First Glance and then our Teen Moms program, and when she was 17 she called our house home.  We had several fun adventures while she lived there.  Brea moved out about seven months later.  It has been eight years since then, and Brea & her girls continue to be part of our life and family.  Obviously Brea no longer needs the same parenting at 25, but I still take my opportunities when I can!

Brea now is an amazing young woman who works hard to raise her two daughters as a single mom, and we are so very proud of her!26069276571_4cc6893a49_o.jpg
Mother’s day was painfully hard this year without Enoch – so different than anticipated. But I can’t tell you how blessed I feel by the opportunity to love and care for so many around me.  God owes me nothing, it’s all a gift!  As much as I grieved the loss of Enoch and being a mom in a more traditional way, I recognize I am a mom to him, to Brea and to others around me.  God didn’t have to allow me these opportunities.  But he has, and I am so very grateful!


The joy and the sorrow

In July of 2010 First Glance had our annual vision day.  I love vision day where we gather all the key leaders of First Glance and talk about the direction of the ministry.  We have a time where everything is on the chopping block as well as a time for dreaming.  The dreaming session is a time where any fun or serious dream can be added to a list.  It was this vision day in 2010 where Alicia Ley put down her dream of her husband planting a church in Kenmore.

I remember the first time I ever met Alicia.  I was walking through Teen Moms when it was still hosted at the Funeral Home (because we had no space at FG).  She was sitting on the floor with an itty bitty baby in a sling.  Karen quickly introduced me to her, and I shuffled along my way.  About six months after this first introduction I was getting ready to go on my 10 year anniversary trip and decided I would do two workouts a day back-to-back to get ready.  I invited five friends to join me each morning, and Alicia was the only one to come consistently.  This is how she became my work out partner and later my bike partner.

And so in July of 2010, this young woman who had been volunteering about a year is sitting in this meeting talking about her husband planting church.  We added it to the dream list along with a swimming pool on the roof of First Glance.

Fast forward to December 2015.  Alicia is now not only my bike partner but also my dearest friend.  She’s walked with me through First Glance leadership, depression, infertility, and everything in between.

The Sunday before Enoch was born the day was warm, and I asked her if she wanted to bike so that my bike app would hit 4000 miles (since I started using it).  This is what makes Alicia a great workout partner.  She’s willing to help make this short couple mile ride as it’s getting dark with all of her kids running around like crazy.  She gets my desire to hit 4,000 miles and is up for any adventure.  The night was fun.  We laughed a lot and hoped we biked the baby out.  We took this picture in the midst of this ride and oddly both posted it onto FB, which was uncommon for either of us to do.


The next picture posted online would be a handful of days later… It was this one of her sitting in the hospital bed next to me as I held my dead son.  The picture was heartbreaking.  I admit that I liked the contrast of the two: the joy of anticipation when biking, and the care and concern as I walked the hardest day of my life.


Months following there would be the next picture posted of the two of us online.  This one of Alicia and I hugging on the front page of the Akron Beacon Journal.  Yes, that is the back of my head. Yes, I am famous, and you didn’t even know it.  The picture was taken because Jacob, Alicia’s husband, planted a church in Kenmore!  5 years, 7 months and 27 days after she first said it in our meeting, it happened!  Easter morning The Chapel officially planted a church in Kenmore and Jacob was the leading the way.   (Click here to read the full article).



What an exciting morning for so many reasons:

  • Easter Sunday, the celebration of Jesus raising from the dead!
  • I love seeing dreams come true.  Jessica who’s on our leadership team always says, “Welcome to First Glance where all your dreams come true.” Alicia put this dream down every year at vision day since 2010, and now it’s a reality.
  • As the director of First Glance, I couldn’t be more thrilled for a church and a leadership team that understands our community and desires for those in it to come to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (along with the other churches we partner with).
  • I really do believe I get a front row seat at what God does. I’ve had a front row seat on this particular journey with the Ley’s, and so I was thrilled to be there to support them at their launch.

I remember, so clearly, the young Alicia Ley who sat in her first ever vision day and said her dream was for Jacob to plant a church.  Little did I know that dream would become a reality!   Little did I know the journey that would happen in our friendship over time.  I am truly so grateful for this community and for how God interacts in our lives.


Worship songs are scary

“Who likes chocolate?”  Almost all of the girls raise their hands.
“Who thinks they could go 1 day without chocolate?”  Again the majority raise their hands.
“Who thinks they could go 1 week without chocolate?” Some don’t raise their hands, but most do.
This goes on… “A month?” “Six months?” “A year?” By the time I get to a year most all of the girls hands are down.  They don’t think they could go without chocolate for that long.

Next I hand out full size candy bars.  I let them pick their favorite kind.  I have them take one bite.  And then I walk around with a trash can and make them all throw the candy away.

When I make them throw away the candy bars, they are furious with me.  They tell me I’m mean.  One girl shoves the whole thing in her mouth before I get to her.  They ask if they can get them out of the trash, and it’s complete chaos and frustration.

Almost all of the girls said they could go without chocolate for a day and yet were furious when I said they couldn’t have the chocolate 10 minutes later. I use this to illustrate that it’s easy to say you can or can’t do something until it’s right in front of you.  In the moment, it’s a lot harder.  I often use this illustration when giving the girls my talk about sex.  But really it could apply to so many different parts of life.

I’ve thought about this illustration a lot since Enoch, mainly during worship.  The songs are catchy; the words rhyme; and they say nice things about God and living for him.  But do I mean them?   Lyrics like “I surrender ALL,” “When the boat is tossed upon the waves, even in the storms I’ll follow you,” and “I lay down my life, whatever the cost.”  I could go on and on.  Lyrics to songs I love.  Lyrics I have sang for years.  But honestly they are hard lyrics… Surrendering everything is hard.

I don’t blame my girls for wanting the candy bars after I tempted them.  Equally I sing songs in church, and when hard circumstances hit, they are harder live out.

So when I sing, I ask myself, “Do I mean it?”  Do I mean it when I sing all of these lyrics about the sacrifice it takes to fully follow and fully obey Christ?  I want to mean and live out every word.  Recently I’ve thought about those lyrics before I sang them.  I don’t want to talk and sing about these things at Church and then not be able to live it out when I walk out the doors.  Because “I give you all the glory,” means I give Him all the glory even during tragedy – even when my son dies.


**The chocolate bar illustration I modified from a friend and co-worker, Scott Calhoun, from years ago.


I often use my phone as a reminder.  I’m not talking about the app called reminders, where you can set a time or location and it will remind you of the task you set.  You know, the one I set up on my sisters phone to say “Hug your sister” every time she comes near my house.  Not that one.

I’m talking about how I use my screensaver as a reminder of what’s important.




For months at the end of last year I had this one.  It reminded me to pray for the same 4 things every single day.







Earlier this year I switched it to this one.  My husband and my son.  I love them both with my whole being.







This week I switched it to this one.  Our prayer room wall at First Glance.  It’s prayer week. I HAVE to pray for our students.  I HAVE to pray for them by name…  not out of obligation, but because I love them too much not to!



So I put this picture on my phone, because if I’m honest I look at my phone more than I’d like to admit.  And every time I’m reminded to pray for those whom I love so much!