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.