Sunday, November 29, 2015

Getting Rowdy at the Falls

With the wind whipping past, waterfall roaring, and the moon shining briefly through the clouds... I sat straight up and said:

“My name is Seth Thomas Powell. And I am the first one like me!”

A Nepali moon pic I took that seemed to fit in this context. 
Now, let me give you some more context. Recently I’ve been chipping away at myself. Edging, smoothing, refining. Often times when you do this you find things you didn’t think were there. One of the things that I found is a deep perfectionism. Self-imposed perfectionism. Brought on by the idea that I need to be perfect to do God’s work. To do what He as called me for. To be worth of the praise and love I receive. To be of worth I needed to be perfect. To be anything I needed to be perfect.  

It was an interesting development, for sure.

I realized how this has spread into other areas of my life. How it had deep roots. How it was the cause of many other things. Things I hadn’t known how to trace until now.

I’m in a phase of life where I truly believe I’m growing every day. It’s crazy because I’m in a deeper place than I’ve ever been. Growing more than I ever have. Learning new things about myself, and how sin truly affects me. I’m at a point where, at least I think, I’ve gotten below the surface and am operating from somewhere else than before. And let me tell you, that place hurts. It’s HARD. It calls for more of me than I thought, abandoning things I thought I wanted, sacrifice in various forms, and commitment beyond what I already had.
Rushing water over a rock at the bottom of the falls. 
Growing pains. Awesome in the end (who doesn’t like getting taller?) but in the moment… Rough.

Back to the waterfall.

After declaring who I was, I hopped up, grabbed my walking stick and began to pace and move around the bedrock. All by the light of the moon. I walked closer to the waterfall, as close as I dared. It was then that I realized the beauty of my situation. I was at the foot of a roaring waterfall. At night. Alone.

Many times I’ve heard people yelling their declarations to the Lord. Truths about themselves. Calling out lies. I had never done it myself.

I had been given a perfect opportunity.

I started yelling who I was before the Lord. How He made me. How flawed I am, but how beautifully and wonderfully made I am. How strong He made me. Bold, full of life, capable, wise. All the things He knows to be true about me, but I might not know to be true about myself.

I called out lies. I prayed off anything that may have attached itself to me. Any lingering spiritual parasites. I commanded anything that might be near me to run back to the filth where it belonged.

I thanked God for the trials. The growing pains. I prayed for more. Not for it to be merciful. Not to be quick. Not to end for my sake. I instead prayed to get through it. To come out on the other side. To persevere. To be someone new and crazier when the dust settles. I prayed that he would rush through me the way the waterfall does. To expel any blockages or nastiness that may try to divert or stop the thunderous falls. I prayed for more.
Top of the falls looking down into the valley.

I prayed that I would be the man I needed to be for A squad. Then burst into laughter when it hit me what I already knew. What had been told to me so many times. I am the man I need to be. Not just for A squad, but for all the things He’s called me to. Everywhere He’s brought me. I am sufficient. I am enough. No, more than enough.

I prayed for my people. For A squad, my family, my friends, all of the special people in my life. I gave things over to Him. Things I really don’t want to give over to Him. I prayed to live by the words I’ve told so many others. Practice what I preach.

That my expectations are never as good as His realities.

I want less of what I think I need, and more of what His realities are for me. It’s time I truly embrace that.

The full scope of Toxaway Falls.
I breathed deep of the fresh river air. I swung my stick around a few more times. Took in the scenery. Realized that I had been screaming to the air for around 30 minutes, and that now I was hoarse. I walked back up the trail feeling lighter than when I had walked down.

I knew this was at least one of the reasons if not the reason that I had been limping along until this time. It was for this. It was so I could make declarations to my Father and have Him laugh alongside me. In one of the places He always manages to find me. By the water.

I love nature. And I love the strange things He has me to do meet with Him.

That’s what I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving. Toxaway Falls and getting rowdy with my Father.

I couldn’t ask for more.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Growing Pains at the Falls

Full of food and football, I grabbed a walking stick and flashlight and took off down the short trail. It had been a totally perfect day, basically because I had done almost nothing with myself. A true rarity in my current phase of life. But for some reason I was feeling restless and discontented. So at around 9 PM, I left.

My family and I are staying in a condo right on Toxaway Falls in North Carolina. It’s glorious. For weeks now I’ve been waiting to get to this point. Utterly spent. Nothing left, just limping along until I could make it to Thanksgiving. Why? I really didn’t know. I just felt exhausted. As if I’ve been barely squeaking by for a month or two. It’s been a tough season lately. Quick, but tough. A season of transitions. It’s been great, don’t get me wrong, but tough nonetheless. I’ve been growing more than I thought. Learning, changing. Essentially growing pains. And it’s left me weary. Couple that with the little stresses of leaving in January and it’s a lot. 

A view of the falls. 

Cut to the trail. I’d been warned of bears, but I wasn’t overly concerned. I actually prayed for a friendly one to come join me, because how awesome would that have been? A friendly bear would’ve been one heck of a walking partner (it didn’t happen). I was using the flashlight when I realized just how bright the moon was. I was reminded of something my ichthyology professor said in college. How you could see more by the light of the moon than you can struggling around with a flashlight. There has to be something profound in that somewhere, but I didn’t dwell on it. I did, however, turn off the flashlight and walked by the light of the moon.

I could tell this was something I was going to enjoy because my mood suddenly changed into that of curiosity and excitement. I had been down this short little walk to the waterfall before, but not at night and not completely alone.

It was cold. Windy. But calm in its own right. As I made my way to the giant open expanse of bedrock at the foot of the waterfall I began to feel infinitely more peaceful. Like my batteries were being charged in real time.

Crashing down the rock face.
The waterfall comes from lake Toxaway under a bridge and down a sheer rock face. It hits a pool and then winds quickly into a river that flows down several steep drops. Its white water rushes loudly as I navigate across the bedrock. It whips up a slight spray, making the area colder but much more pure seeming. Fresh. From the plateau of rock you can see the successive drops that then channel into a river. A wide valley looks into the river. Cabins light up the valley. Little lights throughout the forest. On this particular night it is cloudy, but the moon still shines through. Majestic and strong. It’s full, or at least nearly full. My forte has always been the things that swim rather than anything in the atmosphere, so I’m not entirely sure.

I found a dry flat spot in the middle of the rock and laid down. I stared up at the sky as the moon passed in and out of view. I listened to the roaring waterfall. The rushing of the fast flowing river. Felt the light spray on my face.

I breathed deep. Taking it all in. Savoring the moment. Feeling at peace.

I asked God what He was saying in this moment. Why He brought me out here. What He wanted to talk about. I offered up some topics that had been buzzing in my head, but it felt weak. Not quite where He was going. 

I waited for a minute or two in silence.

Then the real fun, the reason I was walking around a waterfall in the middle of the night, started.

God and I were about to have a very fruitful exchange.

Look for part 2 of this blog coming soon... 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

My 5th Training Camp

I was standing at the campsite, my tent all setup with Ali and Stacy standing nearby. Sara was on the way back from the airport with the Racers.

I thought I was ready.

I had just learned who I would be leading with over the 5 months January, which by the way is an absolutely stellar group of people. I was feeling confident. My people were awesome, and I was going to be with A squad. I knew absolutely nothing about them, but I knew they were going to be here anytime now.

My 5th Training Camp was about to begin, this one a little different from the rest. This Training Camp I was going to be meeting and living with my brand new squad. The one that I’m going to be leading! Going into this Training Camp (TC), I was nervous. I mean, I knew I was supposed to be here. I knew it had to be them. I felt totally at peace with all of my decisions. Even more so when I finally met A squad.

The tent city where we all lived. 
Guys, they’re just great. They’re so cool. So much cooler than I was when I came into my own TC over 2 years ago. They are hilarious, they’re amazing, they’re so many things. But most of all, they’re my people. I have people! I mean, I’ve always had people in various capacities. But these are the people I have the privilege of leading. It’s a little different.

The 10 days both flew by and dragged completely. I’ve never been so exhausted in so many different ways in my life. Utter insanity. I laughed harder than I have in a while, and I cried more than I thought I could. Tears of joy and thankfulness for God having led me to A squad. Tears from the encouragement I received from my peers and from the Father Himself. Tears because I was just so flipping glad to be alive. I’ve blogged about TC worship before, it’s just something else entirely. And this time it was crazier than the rest.

Even with all of the goodness flying around, doubt still managed to creep in. Was I really ready for this? Can I really lead these people? Do I have what it takes? Couple this with a whole bunch of insecurities that flew at me from every direction, and trying to find my own identity in the whirlwind of TC… And you’ve got one potentially messed up dude.

But it’s all ok. It’s all fine. You know why? Because there’s a reason I’m not going out on my own. God is with me, absolutely. But He also saw fit to pair me up with that one of a kind leadership team I mentioned earlier. We had been a trio (four counting Stacy) for all of a day and we already clicked. I’m incredibly thankful for my co-leaders and my fantastic Romanian mentor. They spoke into me, listened to me, joked with me (or endured my joking), and pushed me when I needed to be. Something beautiful in that.

The fantastic team! Ali Watson, Stacy Povian, and Sara Shoup

I overcame my own insecurities and doubts. I cut through the junk and realized so many things about myself. About my leadership style. It was just as much of a chain-breaking, learning week for me as it was for A squad.

It was an absolutely wild 10 days. One I will never forget. With a squad I couldn’t be more excited to spend my time with. While I didn’t get to know each of their life stories by heart or get to know them half as well as I desired, I know I’ve got time. We’re going to be spending a lot of close time in a lot of crazy places. We’ll get to know each other reeeeaaaaal nice.

All this is to say, I’m excited. I’m stoked. And except for some loose ends I’m wrapping up, I’m absolutely ready. A squad, I love you guys more than I thought I could. We’re going to have a great time, don’t even worry about it.

Which brings me to my final point. I’m still fundraising! This should come as no surprise. Part of me wishes I didn’t have to do this. But the rest of me knows how important it is. Not just because I need to get back around the world, but because of the incredible ways God has moved in this way. And now I have an even stronger reason. Beyond my own spiritual growth, or the work to be done abroad…

My strong reason is A squad. It’s for them. I’m no wizard of the faith, or some kind of Christian superhero. But God put our paths together for a reason. And my reason is to lead. I’m doing it for them this time around. They have so much waiting for them around the world, and if I can just help them a little to realize that then it will have all been worth it. My squad leaders meant so much to me when I was on the field. They kicked me when I needed it and taught me how to do things I would’ve never figured out on my own. If I can do even half of what my squad leaders did for me, it will have all been worth it.

The fantastic, amazing, wonderful, super red A Squad!!
So that’s why I need the support! And I have plenty of opportunities for you to partner with me to do it! Please follow the link below if you’re interested in supporting me financially. Also, please check out the other link to see all the wonderful faces of A squad! (Seriously, they’re so cool)

If you’d like to support me prayerfully that would be incredible. I can always use it. But make sure that as you pray for me that you pray for A squad!

Thank you so much for reading!

Squad A, all day.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

One Heck of a July

I’m not sure I’ll ever forget July 2015. It was easily one of the longest months of my life. Good? Absolutely. Crazy? You bet. Exhausting? Like you wouldn’t believe.

July is basically the apex of busy season around Adventures. We’re doing training camps for the squads that launch in September during that time. This September we’ll be sending 8 squads of around 30-50 (mostly 50) out to the nations. That means we had two training tamps in July. For me these were two very different training camps. Each training camp I was a trainer, which essentially is the leadership team that leads the new Racers through the training camp process. Prayer, listening to what they have to say, putting them in teams. We do it all. 

I’ll remember each for different reasons. Reasons that I shall share now.

Snapshot of training camp worship.
The first one was a great time. I got to work with X squad, and they’re a fantastic bunch of people. What was truly special about this training camp was that I also got to work with my parents, who are coaching X squad. This essentially means they’ll keep up with the squad all throughout their journey, go out to the field to meet them a few times, and generally coach them through their World Race journey.

As incredible as X squad and the training team I got to work with was (and believe me, both groups of people are high quality), I think the best part of this camp was getting to see my parents in this way. It was this wonderful moment where I realized how far I’ve come and how far my whole family has come. Seeing the racers flock into the loving, open arms of my parents during worship was nothing short of awe inspiring. Getting to share worship times with them literally brought me to tears several times throughout this camp. It was just friggin beautiful, guys.

There was a moment at my launch I'll never forget where the family comes and gets to worship with the Racers before a talk. Right after this talk the parents go back home before the Racers ship out on their journey. I remember standing there with my parents, worshipping like normal, when outta nowhere I began to weep. It was like God was telling me that this is exactly where He wanted me and that this was going to be an experience that forever changed me. I felt so much gratitude towards my parents for raising me to this point. For getting me there. I think it was the exact same feeling during worship. They were standing right next to me. Worshipping like I had never seen them worship before, and the tears just flowed. I must’ve looked like a wreck to those Racers. But they were going through their own junk, so who cares?

It’s hard to truly nail down the impact someone has had on your life, even your own parents, until you just see it rolled out in front of you. Especially when you see how they’re on the cusp of impacting a whole other group of people in the same way. X squad, if you’re reading this, you have absolutely no idea how good you have it. Get ready, they’re gonna blow your mind.  

The rest of that week just looked like freedom for me. I was free to be myself. I gave words. I spoke truth. I was bold. I was unencumbered. I think I was so energized by getting to hang out with my parents in that way that the rest of the experience was so good. It was tiring, but incredible.

It’s interesting how incredible experiences can look so different, because the second training camp was a much different than the first. But no less fantastic.

The second camp I found myself in a position I never would’ve anticipated, and that position was in charge. For the second camp, due to a range of circumstances, myself and another woman sort of co-led our training team for Gap E squad. Gap year is our program for 18-22 year olds where they go to 3 countries in 9 months, versus 11 countries in 11 months (which is what I did). Not only was I meant to drive this process for our training team, but I also found myself completely in charge of the 2 day Man Hike that we take all the men on for training camp.

X squad rallying together during worship.
Going into this training camp I admittedly lost sleep. I was so nervous. I may have made myself a bit sick. I hadn’t been given this amount of leadership in a while, if ever. Especially all at once. People at Adventures are all about skipping the frying pan altogether and just throwing you as hard as they can into the fire. And boy, did it feel like it.

I quickly realized that this camp was going to be about challenge. I was going to use all I had learned about myself in the last training camp with X squad and apply it to leading and pouring into Gap E.

It was tough. I can’t even lie. It took several different methods of leadership and trying to keep track of 1000 things at the same time. Not to mention I was trying to do my job at the same time too. I got to do things and gain experience in areas I had never experienced. I got to lead in capacities I hadn’t before. It was a week of incredible growth for me. In both the training team and the Man Hike. I gave a talk on the hike, which is one of the first times since my Race that I had done that.

It was nuts. But so rewarding. That sounds somewhat corny, but it seriously was. I felt myself being “grown” and “stretched” all over the place. And I practically lived outside of my comfort zone the entire week.

Just to ease your nerves, I’m sure you’re simply dying to know how it went, everything was fantastic. It was an awesome week! Gap E is full of awesome people that I loved getting to spend time with (and mess with on numerous occasions). And so a quick shout-out to any Gap E that found themselves here, I loved getting to hang out with you guys. It was a ton of fun. You were fantastic. Even though you called me Jeff. I will never forget that.

Freedom and challenge. That was my July. Basically a whole month of training another generation of Racers on fire for the Kingdom to go out to the nations and get rowdy. No matter how dead I was by the end of it, I wouldn’t of traded it for anything.

Gotta love training camp.

Thing is, you can’t go through something like the gauntlet of a July without a purpose. I’ve been waiting and waiting for the opportunity to share a bit of news in my life that’s gonna be here before we all know it. Finally I can share it with certainty. 

I don’t know where I’m going, or who I’m going with yet. But…

I’m going to be squad leading in January.

Well... Here we go again?

(Details coming soon in a new blog….)