most of you know that in my formative years, our family spent ALL summer at st. teresa beach. those were some wonderful memories and we have recalled them so frequently over the last two weeks.
i received an email from one of our beach friends, missy white snapp, about my mother and all she meant to her. missy’s grandmother was my grandmother’s BEST friend and i always wanted to have a friend as true as aunt becca was to my grandmother (and if you have read yesterday’s blog entry you will see that has come to fruition in my life). missy just had her 4th child and has been following my blog (in those late night feedings) and sending me such encouragement and prayer support. our grandmothers would be proud of us and our friendship. i am proud of missy and what an incredible mother she is (and how she has managed not only 4 children BUT her hair over the years, if you knew her hair, you would be laughing now)...
anyway, she has given me permission to post this sweet note on my blog for you all to read. it is another view of my mother from someone who loved and respected her so much...
We all have these people: people who are lights that lead us, molds that form us, and hands that reach out to us. People we can't remember life without. Of course I know that Jesus is the one lamp that never goes out and our faith in that is ever sustaining. But there are those hilltop lights of the people He has given us for our journey that are also there so that when our back has been turned and our face has been toward the dark chop of the unknown, we have only to turn around again to see the city set on the hill. That was always His plan.
The Noblins have always been those people to me. I have very little memory of life before them. Millard and Bobbee and their 4 way-cooler-than-me-and-Bart kids: Max, Lea, Catherine, and Jeff. Bobbee's mother was my grandmother's best friend, which pretty much meant our families were joined for life whether we chose it or not. I was always glad, though, because again...they were cooler than we were. At least in my estimation. But it wasn't really "cool" that drew me in. It was their unshakeable integrity: that fact that what you saw was what you got. They were real. Real and goodness combined are hardly ever seen in the same place anymore.
We grew up a mile apart in a cozy, shaded Tallahassee neighborhood and our beach cottages (ours was not even a notch above a shanty, really) were a 1/4 mile's pleasant, sandy walk from one another. The walk from our cottage to theirs was one I've made so many times that I could have done it blindfolded and backwards on a unicycle. (I never tried this, but you'll have to trust that my skills were there.) Most of the time, I made this walk with my own grandmother, to help her across the creek that emptied into the gulf. Sometimes I made it alone. More than anything, I remember that there was always life brewing at that cottage. Always lawn chairs along the water line and heads bobbing in the shallow water. Always windows open if you glanced up toward the house. Always noise. Always a project in progress. One summer that project was the creation of Jughead, the floating dock. Something like 200 milk jugs lined the bottom of this huge piece of wood and it seemed like it took all summer to build. But once it was built, it was named and became a part of the extended family until its demise sometime many years later. Jughead was good for diving off of, sunning on, racing to, and playing impossible-to-win games like Sink a Corner. Sink a Corner should have been made illegal somehow or stopped by some self-respecting parent. The object was to pile on and move toward a corner and the last person to still be on the raft at the end was the winner. There's nothing quite like being 10 and having 800 other people land on you as you watch this huge piece of floating wood become vertical against the noonday sun. Maybe our parents didn't know. I sustained many an injury trying to win that game. I'm not sure I ever did.
I never really won any of the games we played. I was an awkward little nerd child at the time. But what I did win was lifelong friendships and the fellowship that felt as comfortable as my own family. I won invitations to their plot of ground for 4th of July fireworks. I won spots in some of the best conversations I ever had. And I won a glimpse into what a loving, laughing, God-fearing, high-functioning family should always look like. I won a dream of my own future. I can't count the number of times I said to myself, "That's the family I want someday." Many, many years later, God has given me just that. A godly, loving, gentle husband, 2 sons, a daughter, and another daughter that will be born, with God's blessing and help, on Thursday. One child adopted by the grace of our Father and the example of a loving family from my youth. The others, complete but joyous surprises. All of them...all of us...on loan from God. On loan without knowledge of when the journey will be over, of when our light, in our window, of our house, in that city set on that hill will flicker out and cross over to the land that needs no light, because it IS light.
We know this. We know we are pilgrims. We know we are on loan to others and that our children, our friends, our spouses, our parents-- those most beloved to us on earth-- are on loan to us. Yet when we are staring at that hillside, rejoicing in the lights that are there, and one goes out...we sorrow. Especially if it goes out a little too early. We were still walking. We still wanted and needed that light. Bobbee Noblin, a mother of grace and beauty, had a stroke on Thursday of last week and her light is flickering. Though I have not seen her in years, she and the family she built are so entwined in who I am today that I will feel this impact for a very long time.
And so we all have these people. People that are hard to let go. People who just make a sometimes unfriendly world that much less scary for us. In our childlike neediness, we are tempted to say, "Why not longer?" instead of "Thank you for what it was." I am trying to thank the Father for all that Bobbee Noblin is and was: for her grace, her beauty, her inner charm, her gentle and quiet spirit, her southern drawl and the fact that it took her 8 minutes to finish a sentence, and the strength that lives on in the legacy of her children and grandchildren and in countless other lives. I am praying that with one hand, the Father will carry her gently home. and with His other He'll cradle the ones who've lost a brilliant light along their horizon in their own journey toward Home.
(missy white snapp)