Have Heart, Will Travel


A peek into our current glamour!

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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!


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


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.


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

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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

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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

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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

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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!