Counting Days

Standard

Do you think one could ever feel completely ready for such a grand adventure?  It is a huge undertaking to leave your home and life as you know it for a whole year, and I believe we could constantly find one more thing to do before we feel “ready” to go.

In fact, it seemed for a while that for every item we were crossing off our to-do list that we were adding two! I wish I were kidding.

To-do list

We’ve been packing, we’ve been downsizing. We have secured renters for our home for the year we’ll be away. We have bought things, sold things, fixed things.

We have taken our RV for a test trip. We learned things, we forgot things, we made things up.

We’ve had victories. And trials. And we got a lot of experience.

experience quote

I jest!  There’s just been a lot to learn and Mark, especially, has had to learn a dozen and one new talents involved in this new lifestyle. Fortunately for all of us, he has an analytical mind, likes solving problems and is a quick study!

But here we are, ready to live in the spirit that is calling us to this adventure in the first place and declare a departure date!

Before we get to our countdown of days, allow me to share with you this video about making the days count.  It’s fair to say this is the same heart behind our motivation to examine our values that led to this crazy thing!

So, if all goes well from here on out…or even sort of well…we plan to depart on MONDAY, JULY 13TH!

We even have reservations several hours away from home that night, so you can see we’re pretty sure about making that date work! I can’t wait to write about first adventures from the road!

You may even notice that fancy basic countdown clock on the side of the blog. We are serious people!  We are going to be ready! No to-dos left undone. All ready!  Repeat it until I believe it.

Wait, is this really happening???

Yes! Because jellybeans.


					

Someday Saturday: Belgium

Standard

Photo credit

Today’s Someday Saturday is BELGIUM!

For me, it has always been a place of quintessential European charm mixed with some mystique.  The mystique may come from the fact that my favorite author’s most famous character, Private Detective Hercule Poirot, hails from Belgium.  While most of the novels are set in London (another place which has been featured in Someday Saturday), Poirot makes it very clear to people that he is Belgian. If you haven’t checked out Hercule Poirot or Agatha Christie yet, please start with this book or maybe this one.  Hope you love them half as much as I do!

Here are a few other interesting facts about Belgium:

  • While Belgium is the 5th smallest country in the EU (after Malta, Luxembourg, Cyprus and Slovenia), it is the 6th highest importer of coffee in the world!
  • Belgium has been producing chocolate for almost 400 years. There are over 2000 chocolate shops!
  • The international presence, in organizations and embassies, is second only to New York.
  • There are more castles per kilometer than anywhere else in the whole world.
  • Belgium can claim 3 distinct language regions, and parts of its populations speak Dutch, French, and German.

8423838338_85f9a9ca38_z

Beautiful, isn’t it?

What about you?

Have you been to Belgium? Do you have any desire to go? It it on your list now? Do you know something else interesting about Belgium to share?

belgium

A peek into our current glamour!

Standard

Friends and strangers alike have responded overwhelmingly kindly to our big news!

Most people are excited for us and have asked for ways to follow our journey!  Besides this blog and our Facebook page, we are still planning more ways, so stay tuned, our peeps!

In the meantime, I thought you guys might like a peek into the glamorous life of a family who is taking off for a year-long adventure!

Ready?

Well, it looks a lot like this. Slowly, but surely, they’re actually getting packed.

wpid-20150610_174822.jpg

And, we’re using a whole lot of this stuff.  Seems we really like pictures of family and friends around here!wpid-20150610_174907.jpgThere’s piles of this in, yeah….just about every corner.

wpid-20150610_175014.jpg

But we’re making progress. Last time you could see this much open space in this closet, the last book in the Harry Potter series hadn’t even been released.
wpid-20150610_174947.jpg

Turns out, it takes a whole lot of work to downsize a house and years and years of accumulated stuff. It’s good work, though. We’re getting to look at our belongings and decide what we want to consciously keep in our lives or what it’s ok (and good!) to pass along to someone else. As hard and tedious as this work is, I am glad for the chance and the reason to be going through it all.

A spark, a dream, a plan. Part 3: A plan

Standard

11164750_915176875213760_6114847681689872419_n

We had discerned the substance of our dreams and knew we were meant to live with intentionality, spend time together as a family, travel and, above all, listen to how God would guide us.

There would still be a lot required to turn those dreams into a plan, but we were determined.

First question was: what would this look like? There are various ways those 4 values could be lived out together. And we discussed a few of them. One big piece of the puzzle is that we have a lot of places we want to see together in this country, places we want to experience with Petunia, and our limited time off of work was going to leave way too many trips untaken. For several reasons, we were not comfortable with the idea of putting off such journeys until the “normal” time. No one is promised tomorrow, and with some health challenges we really are not willing to take the risk of waiting. Besides, we want our plan to involve all of us, not take place in a future where Petunia may be off at college or less enchanted than she is now with spending quality time with us.

Have you noticed in life that you usually get out of something what you put into it? Or maybe you’ve heard, “The greater the risk, the greater the reward”?  We knew we were asking a lot of life and we had to be willing to go all-in. So…

We chose to resign from our jobs to take a year-long sabbatical, downsize a very large portion of our belongings, buy an RV, and travel around the country together from this summer until next summer! 

To say we are thrilled and expectant barely begins to describe our feelings! From the beginning we have known that this would be a story worth living AND that this story would not just be about us.  I know this plan began with God before it hatched in our minds, and we want to let Him tell it the way He wants to!

In the short amount of time that we have been preparing for this new reality we have been amazed at the ways we’ve seen this plan touch so many more lives than that of our family. Some ways have been small, some have been and will be bigger! I used to think when God was calling us on a big adventure that He had big plans for us. Now I realize that His plans are much more encompassing than I could have imagined.

Hopefully there will be many more special connections made as we both live and share this story. We invite everyone to be a part of it, however that might look like to each person.  Also, while our specific choices will not be the right choices for everyone (okay, or even many), we do hope you may be inspired to take a fresh look at what you and your family value highly and take courage to make a bold step in that direction!

As for this crazy Powell Posse, we Have Heart, Will Travel!

A spark, a dream, a plan. Part 2: A Dream

Standard

wpid-dream.jpg

If you read Part 1 of this series, then you understand that Mark and I were on the cusp of some big decisions. Having been inspired to live our lives telling the best story possible, we had to figure out exactly what that would look like for us. Helping me to understand this concept of life as story was one of my favorite books of all time. Here is a quote:

“A story is based on what people think is important, so when we live a story, we are telling people around us what we think is important.”
― Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life

Suddenly things came into focus. We know what’s important to us. In our family we have long valued:

  • Intentionality

To be intentional means to plot a course and be deliberate about going in that direction. It means not letting other shiny things distract you from what you want most.  It takes discipline, delayed gratification, and sometimes long-term planning.   There are many, many things we are completely laid back about. You should see our laundry room.  No, actually, you shouldn’t. Never mind.

Some things, though, we make certain that our family will or will not do, see, participate in, and experience. We want Petunia to be introduced to some things by certain ages, and we want to discuss and process milestones with her. We have had to leave margin in our finances because we wanted to support some good work going on in the world. If you are not intentional about these sorts of things, most of them don’t come to pass.  It’s not good enough that life will happen to us and we react. We will happen to life.

  • Family Time

We all have dear friends, and each of us in our family chooses time we will spend on social occasions with those we are blessed enough to have in our life. But we really enjoy spending a lot of time together as a family. I cannot be certain, but I imagine that our small family size helped lead to a tight-knit threesome that has so much fun together.

It was not our Plan A that Petunia would be an only child, though maybe all the time she spent with us instead of siblings is why she’s so comfortable conversing with adults. Perhaps it’s just Petunia’s personality or some genetic trait that has always made her open to try anything: museums, sports games, long hikes, movies on the couch, anything!

Mark and I make each other laugh! He is one of the funniest people I know.  Not many people at all get to see that side of him, but I love it. He lifts my bad moods! Our puns would make others groan in pain, but we get such a kick out of ourselves. We like to spend time together.

  • Travel

We travel for fun, education, and for perspective in this great big world. We travel to stay connected to friends and family who live far away, to have responsibility-free time together, and to serve others.  We travel because we must. It’s not optional in this family.  If we are on this great big, colorful, diverse planet with so many things to do, see and experience, why wouldn’t we go do, see and experiences as much of it as we can?

  • Listening to God’s voice

While the most important of them all, this one can be the most difficult because God’s voice often comes through as a whisper amongst all the clanging noise vying for our attention. In our family we strive to listen and then follow where that whisper takes us. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes not. Sometimes we hear it, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we’ve ignored it. That’s not the kind of family we want to be.  I think God gives us a lot of leeway to make our choices. I do not feel like a course is preset so much as a direction is shown. And to both my delight and dismay, I’ve discovered that you only get enough direction for the next right step. You don’t get the joy, or burden, of seeing down the whole path from the beginning.

So here were the elements of the story we wanted to tell with our lives.  We intend to be a family who is intentional in their actions, who wants to spend a lot of time together, exploring the people and places of this world, all while listening to God’s voice. These are our values.

Looking back over our years as a family, we had gotten to do a fair amount of each of those and I’m grateful. I, especially, had the privilege of serving in ministry with an incredible team that got to be part of and witness to God doing amazing things in the lives of hundreds of people. There were hard moments and beautiful moments, sometimes regarding the same story. I had meaningful work with people I respect and admire.

Even still I made the realization that, as a family, we were living out a lot of our most important values in the “leftover” time while the majority of our days and energy (physical, mental and emotional) were spent on a schedule that we had taken on instead of creating.

What if we could create a life that was built around our top family values? Now we had our DREAM!

A spark, a dream, a plan. Part 1: A Spark

Standard

liquid-fire-explosion-lava-free-stock-photo-2

In my last post I revealed that our family had some big news to share. This is part 1 of a 3-part series that will fill in some of the background that led to this path and where we think this path is leading us for now.

A Spark: The concept of life as story

The last few years I have been increasingly aware of the concept of story and how we each communicate a story to the world through the life we live. This thought is inspiring, for sure, but it’s also very sobering. I have one shot at life on earth to tell a story. Am I telling a good one?

Over the same period, there have been a series of God-orchestrated moments which led me to examples of what makes a good story out of a meaningful life. My favorite band, Jars of Clay, played a role in a documentary, Sons of Lwala, which introduced me to some pretty amazing human beings who are using their lives, not just their leftovers, to tell a good story.

From that connection, I learned much about Blood:Water Mission and Lwala Community Alliance which eventually led to a friendship with Daren (latest chapter in his story: RunDarenRun) and ultimately put me on the path to Africa and meeting, supporting and befriending people like Renee of Serving His Children, Nathalie of Foodstep and the Kyomyas of Hesed International, and some of the most passionate and dedicated people I know at Preston Trail.  (Go ahead, click on a link or two. I won’t blame you if you linger.) I could list so many more people who have inspired me with the stories of their lives, and I am sure I’ll get to share more of them eventually.

The bottom line is I wanted to make sure, if each phase of my life served as a chapter in my story, that I wasn’t being lazy  in writing any of them, hoping the editor wouldn’t notice.

Donald Miller, author of the New York Times Bestseller Blue Like Jazz got the chance to help turn the autobiographical book into a movie.  He found that exercise was so enlightening that he wrote another book about what he learned from “editing his life.” Let me share one of my many favorite passages from this book, which is also a favorite:

“If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen. The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo.

But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to be meaningful. The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either”
Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life

i probably cannot overstate how that struck a chord within me. It’s not that I think lives have to be lived in such an exciting manner that they’d make a blockbuster at the theater, but I do believe our lives should be meaningful, inspiring, evoke emotion, and make a difference that they were lived.  Yet so many do seem to settle for a life they are “supposed to live.”  At least I know that is true for too many modern North American middle class citizens. We go to school in [these] years, for so long, get married within [these] years, have a family of a certain size and work full-time for 40+ years in a row with 2 or 3 or so weeks off a year to do everything from visit faraway family, visit the places you read about and dreamed of, educate yourself on different cultures, create unique memories with your family, relax on vacation, and more. All in those few weeks.  If you do one or more of those above mentioned requirements outside the narrow boundaries of ‘normal limits,’ well…you are crazy. Or brave. Fine line.

After Mark and I had our discussion, we were ready to find out which side of the line we’re on.

One Wild and Precious Life

Standard

wpid-screenshot_2015-04-20-18-52-04-2.png

This question has been resonating in my head for months.

Please don’t misunderstand, though. The life I have been living has been fulfilling, blessed, challenging and meaningful.  I think it’s hardly possible to have a better family, vocation, friends and opportunities than I have had.

And yet. There was something…

I felt a restlessness and a call to live more boldly with this ONE wild and precious life I have!  I sensed this stirring was from God himself, but I knew to verify it would be as easy as having a conversation with my husband.  God would not be giving me a vision and a calling to do something along the lines of what I was seeing if Mark wasn’t receiving the same call.

So, we talked. Mark wasn’t just ok with my ideas, he was insistent, too, that there was something new for us on the horizon. He had felt the call and was all-in that we figure out what to do about it.

So, here we are on the cusp of some new life plans and some new life-not-planned plans.  I will reveal soon just what direction those early conversations have taken us, and am excited for you to share in the journey!

Memory Monday: Legend of the Rose Window

Standard
Memory Monday: Legend of the Rose Window

Since today is Texas Independence Day, it seems fitting that today’s Memory Monday post is from a Texas Adventure!  (Note: Yes, many people around here–we are based in Texas–have wished each other Happy Independence Day and there is much Texan-rejoicing in the land!)

One year ago this month, we found ourselves in San Antonio, Texas. It is a beautiful city full of history and so much to do! We took a little time in our trip to visit several of the historic missions.

wpid-20140313_165250.jpg

San José y San Miguel de Aguayo, the “Queen of the Missions”

While giving ourselves a self-guided tour, I began to overhear one of the official guides talking to a group and the story really caught my attention.  They were standing in front of a uniquely ornate and lovely window, apparently the centerpiece of the drama.

The Rose Window. Pretty outstanding for something carved in 1775 on a deserted mission, isn't it?

The Rose Window. Pretty outstanding for something carved in 1775 on a remote mission, isn’t it?

I so enjoyed listening to the history  legend of the Rose Window, that I had to come back and do some reading for myself.  According to who you believe, one version of the story goes like this:

“In the most elaborate version, a noted Spanish sculptor named Pedro Huizar, charged with carving a religious window at San José, instead used his considerable talent to carve a monument to his lovely sweetheart, Rosa. When the window was complete, he sent for his love—who died in a shipwreck on her way to New Spain. Huizar spent the rest of his life celibate and penitent, carving the religious portal above the entrance to the church.”

from Texas Monthly, February 1987

wpid-20140313_163719.jpgWhat do you think?wpid-20140313_163259.jpg


————-

For those of you who were most excited about celebrating Texas Independence Day, check out these t-shirts!  Cute!

9 things I want my child to gain from traveling

Standard

IMG_5836-1

As I’ve stated before, one of my objectives in this blog is to encourage families to travel with their children. I enjoy sharing some of our personal experiences and I am glad to offer some tips from time to time that I find make whole-family travel easier.

However, today I want to back up and share what I want my child to gain from such a travel-focused life, and I hope it resonates with some of what you want for your children as well.

I think I could add more reasons or state them differently, but here are the top 9 things I want Petunia to gain from traveling.

1. My time and attention

We do make “family fun time”, as we call it, a pretty big priority around here. But let’s be honest, there is always work, housework, sports practice, growing a small business, Facebook (for me), t.v. (for her), and living ordinary life that gets in the way of meaningful connection. We still have thoughtful games of checkers and cards, good conversations over ice cream, and plain ol’ cuddle-on-the-couch moments. I am not saying we need travel to give our children our time, just that it’s a great opportunity not only to give them more attention, but to have deeper talks born out of richer, non-ordinary experiences. Not only did Petunia get the full attention of Mama and Daddy all day on Canada Day when we celebrated it in Ottawa, but we got to speak about what that day meant, compare it to our Independence Day and have all kinds of good talks.

2. A sense of adventure

a.k.a. A willingness to take risks! I want her to climb the mountain, literally and figuratively. I want her to try things she thinks she cannot, but will try anyway because the location demands the chance be taken. (Which, by the way, is how very unlikely little I climbed Mt. Fuji.) There are rivers to raft, strangers to talk to, subways to ride, paths to wander, and I pray she’ll have a sense to undertake a lot of adventure. In travel, as in life, I want her to be brave. (To my mother: I will be okay if she leaves out certain adventures I sought to undertake, but you would love the redemption, I understand; so let’s just see how things go, shall we?)

3. Compassion

There are many ways to gain and practice compassion while traveling, from giving up your seat to the elderly at an airport or bus, to coming face to face with real need and hurt in the world. When we’ve traveled out of our normal zone, we’ve encountered homeless people in cities, desperately impoverished children living in shacks in Uganda and a broad spectrum of people with all sorts of special needs. We want Petunia to know about poverty (including, actually, that it exists in our hometown), loneliness, and the vulnerable of society, and we often use our experiences as springboards into life lessons.  Of course, the discourse and practice of compassion happens fairly regularly around our house (I am employed as the Director of Compassion Ministry at our church, after all) but the world makes a great classroom for further study and exercise.

IMG_4979

4. Fun

Yes, just a good ol’ time!  Amusement parks, favorite characters, swimming in all kinds of things–hotel pools, water parks, rivers, resorts, lakes–all of it, riding all modes of transportation, interactive museums, picking out souvenirs from nature or unusual stores, playing fun games with friends you meet and keep for two hours, hiking, camping, interacting with animals, whew!  I want Petunia to have FUN! And we want to have a lot of fun with her!

IMG_1512

Petunia leading a “friend of a couple hours” from the campground.

5. An expanded education

It’s funny how you’re always learning something in travel, even when you’re not trying. Architecture, historical markers, fun museums, names of town–everywhere is a chance for you all to learn something together or for you to teach your children. Add to that purposefully putting in a little learning: History in our great cities, geography by studying a map of where you’re going, math by measuring the distance and/or converting currency and/or accounting for the time difference back home, foreign language that can be put to practice, social studies, art…and then all types of museums where you’re learning facts on any of the widest array of subjects all the while enjoying yourself.  Petunia loves museums, so we’re grateful for that extra bit of grace.  We can learn a lot in a classroom (and boy are we grateful that Petunia has had some of the best teachers) but some lessons that stick with you forever are the ones you get by living them out.

6. Healthy self-confidence

I believe there are many reasons that travel raises the level of self-confidence in a person. For one, there’s something about going places and doing things that are outside of your comfort zone and living to tell the tale that boosts courage.  Then there are the experiences where you really try something you think you can’t do and, succeed or fail, the experience alone can raise self-esteem. Ok, especially succeeding. However, I’m a firm believer that if you succeed at everything then you aren’t trying hard enough. Finally, suppose I had Petunia just may find herself someday in a work or social situation where it seems everyone else is smarter, richer and more connected. But when the conversation really gets going and she knows a thing or two about countries, currency, and landmarks from personal experience, throw in some opinions on the best art galleries, or science museums, or beaches or NY pizzerias…well, it might just help self-confidence.

7. Humility

Standing before the mighty rushing Nile, right where it crashes northward over falls that are too dangerous to raft, one can’t help but have an appropriate sense of one’s own smallness in this world.  Playing with children who will most likely never own a brand new toy in their life, but give you a prized Barbie doll head because they want to give you a gift is humbling.  Gazing up into the sky and still not seeing the tops of the glorious trees in majestic forests shouts in a whisper that there is an amazing, creative author of this world and we are just one, though dearly loved, individual in a great span of time.

8. Good memories

This is different than #4 above. We traveled places for Petunia to have fun long before she would have been able to develop any lasting memory of it. Fun is important in its own right. However, fun lived again through memories, and not just fun but wonder, sadness, excitement, even a little fear, discovery, anticipation…these…these are treasures. I cannot overstate the times a smile has caught my lips unawares or a sudden tightening of the chest brought on by a song, a smell, a sight, hearing a name, or reading a phrase that to me will always be linked to a certain memory of other times and places usually, in my case, experienced through travel. My life is richer in layers because of these memories and I wish for Petunia to have all her heart can hold.

IMG_1541

9. A broader perspective

The more we become interconnected through social media, the more I learn about how others feel on a wide variety of topics, many of them ridiculously mundane, but others of great import.  Many times I’ve read the opinion of someone that I generally find to be well mannered and fairly well educated on an important topic and thought to myself, “They just really have no idea.”  And that’s not mean; it’s just true that, often, they really just do not have an idea of the other side of the argument. It’s very easy to live life in a single state or two, grow up with people like you, travel only to places that cater to people like you and then espouse opinions and make declarations on social media or real life without ever understanding where the proponents of the other side of the argument are even coming from. To be clear, in this home, we hold some strong opinions. On the other hand, we want Petunia to meet people and go places that aren’t in the least like us or like home. I want her to meet–and know–people of different races, religions, cultures, political parties, socio-economic levels and more.  I want her to have a perspective on this whole wide world and all the people that the issues affect.  I want her to grow up into a young woman who holds her own very strong opinions and beliefs and will defend them, but not because she doesn’t realize there are other ways to think.  I want her to confidently go on with her choices because she believes they are right, not because she believes that people who hold differing opinions are dumb.  I want her to grow up and be known for what she is for rather than what she is against.  And I want the same for her parents.

What’s on your list?  Please share because I very likely want them on my list, too.

Memory Monday: Celebrating with joy!

Standard

Isn’t it awesome when you don’t have to tell others you’re having a great time because it’s just. so. obvious.

Exhibit 1:

Jimmy wedding funThat fun-loving guy between Mark and I is our friend Jimmy, and it was to attend his wedding that we traveled to Florida, the trip which has been the subject of the last few blog posts.  It seemed fitting to wrap up this little series with an actual picture of the celebration!

Every part of that vacation, while a short one, was a blast for our whole family!

You will not be surprised, by now, to hear me say this, but go!  If you are invited to a wedding, a reunion, a celebration and it is within possibility for you to go….do it!  Yes, life is made up of the ordinary, everyday moments for which we’re grateful, but these special celebration moments are the icing on the cake that is life!

I never hear of anyone who has regretted traveling.  I know lots of people who have regretted purchases. Many who have regretted not traveling.

If possible, use the trick we did here of adding a day and a half onto a trip we were already making to really add zing! Is there something fun to see or experience within a reasonable drive to where you’re going?  Petunia only knew we were going to “Uncle” Jimmy’s wedding.  She didn’t know that we were going to Disney World until we drove through the gates!

Happy (almost) 4th anniversary to Jimmy and his beautiful bride, Nicole!

Disneyworld Jimmy wedding Oct 2011 672