No one really knows how a certain set of life lessons or experiences is really going to impact a child. As parents we do the best we can and hope for the best outcome for our children. In my preteen years I grew up in a very simple family environment; do your chores, don’t fight with your sisters, get good grades, clean up your mess, don’t talk back, obey your parents… We learned to behave in public, wear clean clothes, respect adults, don’t interrupt and to always be polite. And there would naturally be consequences for failing in these areas to keep us on track.
I remember after I had my first child and my mom would tell stories about how my sisters and I behaved when we were young. She was proud of us. We were good kids. People would come up to her and tell her that they’d never seen such well-behaved children before.
Of course we were perfect little heathens when left alone with our older sister to baby-sit us. Fighting, kicking, screaming, spit fights…my big sister would pin me to the ground and drop a loogie as close to my face as possible before slurping it back up into her mouth. Disgusting yes, but preferable to some of the other forms of torture she put me through!
And I was no better; my poor little sister grew up listening to tales that I would weave about how she really came to join our family. My favorites, were the ones involving martians…
From the age of 13 until my adulthood, I lived from home to home. Family friends, friends from school…sometimes people I barely knew would let me stay for a few months or even longer. I knew how to behave as a guest. Clean up after yourself, be polite, stay out of the way, don’t be a problem. Be grateful, be easy to live with, don’t make them regret having you there.
I didn’t always succeed. I’d leave a mess behind, invade their space and even not fully appreciate the generosity that was given to me. But this part of my journey impressed upon me a certain way to behave and conduct myself in order to be approved and accepted. I don’t believe that was the best “take-away” for me to have gleaned from these experiences. In fact now that I’m reflecting on these memories, I am way more overwhelmed by God’s goodness and provision for me in the different homes that I lived in during my teenage years.
Nonetheless, the desire for approval and acceptance was well planted in the soil of my heart along with the fear of rejection and abandonment. Such is common to many, many people….we all have our stories.
What I find the most fascinating, is what God will use to dig up these roots; shatter mindsets and recalibrate your entire approach to life.
And so He gave me Noah.
Noah lives out loud. OUT LOUD.
He could fly before he could walk…out of his crib, out of his highchair, out of my arms. He was breaking out of the house at 2 years old and by the time he was 4 had developed, “ice cream man music super-sonic-ear”, and would chase down said ice cream man, scaling the five-foot privacy fence between our subdivisions (in his bare feet) to get his chance at a SpongeBob popsicle. The stairs were meant for snowboarding, bunk beds were for jumping off of and knocking out front teeth (!)
Noah was independent, willful, ambitious, and always active. From a very young age he was hard to contain. Rules and structure did not apply to Noah. There is nothing conventional, average or typical about Noah. We lived on the edge of our seats, bracing ourselves for his next adventure, or epic mis-adventure!
He did seem to have a knack for finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time…I’ll never forget when a police officer came to my door asking me if I had, “A son named Noah?” He was 5 at the time and I could. not. imagine. why the police were looking for him. He had been playing near-by the house with his older sister and the neighbor kids fingered Noah for the graffiti on the playground slide.
As I stood listening to this man ask for my son, it suddenly dawned on me why the door had slammed shut and Noah had raced upstairs so fast…and hadn’t answer when I called him. After coaching him out from under the bed, he and the policeman had a good talk and Noah was cleared of all suspicion…apparently he was unable to spell the particular words the officer had discovered on the slide.
Noah was always the one in a group of friends goofing off, that would inevitably be the one that got caught. This did not make me a favorite parent by many teachers and moms. On a field trip in 9th grade, he and a few classmates were at the end of the boat spitting into the wind… typical boy behavior if you ask me, and everything seemed fine until they forgot to account for physics and wind-trajectory. I don’t regret not being on that trip. I wouldn’t have wanted to see what happened when the guest teacher from a different school, got hit in the face by my son’s free-flying-king-of-the-world loogie. Nope. Or the intense anger that was released by Noah’s teacher.
When I picked him up from the trip and his teacher brought Noah to me by the scruff of his neck, I wish I could say that was the first time I saw a teacher with their hands on my son. Sadly it’s not. Something about Noah drove certain teachers and adults just crazy. One teacher in 4th or 5th grade couldn’t handle his shag hairstyle and the way he’d flip his bangs out of his eyes. She grabbed him and shook him right in front of me! I was so shocked and angry…and politely (not wanting to cause a scene of course) got my son and went to the car shaking…(yes, we reported the incident.)
Today Noah turns 19. He lives even more out loud than ever. He loves adventure and seeks it out on a regular basis…He has a strong sense of right and wrong. Sometimes he chooses to do wrong things and other times, the things he chooses – just turn out wrong. He’s a bit of a slob, moody and hard to live with at times. But he is also an extremely loyal friend and would even go out of his way to help someone that isn’t his friend. I think if asked, his buddies would say that they can count on Noah. He’ll give them rides, work on their cars, help them clean their rooms, give them money, clothes or buy them a taco whenever he’s able.
Noah will go to extreme lengths to treat his friends the same way he would want to be treated. Last night, one of his best buddies hit a moose with the car that Noah loaned him. “He needs a car, I have a car. Why wouldn’t I loan it to him?” He doesn’t seem at all daunted by this latest incident and will most likely spend the next few weeks with his buddies working on salvaging what they can and hopefully get a road legal vehicle running again..(road legal is really more on my wish list).
Noah doesn’t always choose the easy path. Sometimes his choices are hard and they can be painful to watch and experience with him. He’s wrestling with faith, the church, becoming an adult, becoming a man…he’s questioning what he’s been taught and he’s questioning what he sees. He is determined to be who he says he is. “Everybody knows who I am. I don’t hide it. They can either accept me or not.” And as far as I can tell he doesn’t hide it at all – even posting his speeding tickets on Instagram! (moms love that sort of thing)
His life can be messy. My need for him to “behave and conduct himself in a certain way” is constantly challenged. In this past year, I learned that I would gently, nicely, quite reasonably – try to control his actions so that I could live with his consequences. Yuck. Noah thought so too. Yuck. So of course he fought back, he resisted and even pulled away at times. I had to change if I was ever going to connect with his heart.
I’ve had to discover why I couldn’t handle his choices. Why was I so uncomfortable? What was I scared of? Control is fear based so by trying to influence his choices, I was trying to avoid fear. Fear of his messes being too great for me. Fear of what his life said about me; as a human-being, as a mom, as a christian. Fear of being a failure as a mom. Fears that he would hurt himself or worse.
So I sat with God and gave Him my fears and asked Him, “What if?” “What if I ruined my son because I was too focused on ministry?” “What if he has sex or uses drugs?” “What if he dies?” “What if he’s crazy?” (haha just kidding…sort of) And God being good…listened and asked me in return, “What if?” The answer that I found to every single question, was love.
Just as I have been loved through every mistake, every failure, every choice that others didn’t agree with; loved when I was unlovable, loved when I hurt others…I have been continuously loved by God no matter what I was walking through in life. And God will continue to love me no matter what Noah walks through in his life. I can rest there. I can find peace and strength from that place.
When you let go of fear and allow love in its place…it changes everything. It changes the way you think, the way you feel; it changes your capacity to breathe, to be generous and focus on the things that really matter in your relationships with others. When we’re able to accept the unwavering love of God for ourselves that is when we truly are capable to love others. (1 John 4:19)
Noah is teaching me something as he lives his life out loud for the whole world to see. He’s teaching me to love better; to really discover love that remains regardless of a person’s choices or lifestyle. I’m learning that acceptance and approval are not all they’re cracked up to be and that maybe I don’t need them as much as I thought. This is incredibly freeing and I’m so grateful to be learning this from Noah’s life.
Noah lives out loud. He’s intense, strong, bold and he dares life to come get him. He is much more brave than he realizes, he is faithful to his core values and is growing into a truly remarkable young man.
I’m very proud of you.
Keep living out loud.
I’m with you.
I’m for you!!