Leaving Happy or Leaving Well?

by Jerry Jones on March 22, 2017

We’re bracing around here, for the annual Expat Exodus.

If you’ve lived abroad for more than a year you get the reference.  It may look different where you are but it’s always a part of the gig . . . people leave and often they leave in herds.  So, in the context of finishing another year of school, making preparations for summer travels and continuing to build relationships with this years Newbies and next years Stayers — we’re saying goodbye . . . again.

We’ve been on both sides of the Exodus now and there are two things I’ve noticed

ONE: When you’re a Stayer it doesn’t get easier.

In fact, if you do this right, it probably gets harder every year (although some are harder than others).  As long as you continue letting people in, it’s hard when they go out.

TWO:  When you’re a Goer there is a huge difference between LEAVING HAPPY and LEAVING WELL.

Everyone wants to leave happy but not everyone wants to leave well.  In fact, some people are so committed to leaving happy that they absolutely refuse to leave well.

Leaving happy puts on a big smile and sticks like glue to anything that doesn’t threaten the vibe. It thinks happy thoughts and says happy words in the happy places.  It hangs out with happy people who take them to the airport and cry happy tears because the sad tears get crushed by happy lies . . . like, “we’ll Skype every day!” or “it won’t even seem you’ve gone”.

Thanks Michael W. Smith.  Thanks for that.

Leaving well is tougher.  It goes deeper.  It hurts more . . . but it is SO much better.

Leaving well stands toe to toe with the paradox and doesn’t back down.  It recognizes that leaving is hard but it’s hard because the stay has been good.  It also acknowledges when the leaving is good because the stay has been so hard.  It addresses the broken and strained relationships because it realizes that distance doesn’t heal.

It digs in deep with the solid relationships and offers more than a slap on the back and a “love ya’ man.”  It lets people know . . . like, really know . . . with specific examples, when they’ve had an impact, and what that impact is, and how it has changed the people around them and what exactly is different because they exist.  It makes eye contact and gets intentional and creative and awkward.

It considers the pain of the Stayers who are getting left and it does everything it can to leave a solid landing spot for the incoming Newbies.  It’s not afraid to fall apart at the airport and it can still be excited about what comes next.

Leaving well sets you up to land well and happiness is only one piece of the picture — a significant piece, but not the only one by far.

So if you are leaving — are you leaving happy or are you leaving well?

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

•  Is there anything that you think is going to be made better simply by flying away?

•  Are you running away from any relationships?

•  Are you carving out your best time for your best relationships?

•  Do you have a leaving well plan?

•  Are you helping your kids process in paradox?

•  Are there issues or stressors that you think you’ll be leaving behind . . . but will probably come with you?

Trust me.  I’ve seen it both ways.  I’ve done it both ways.  It is so worth it to LEAVE WELL.



How Living Abroad is Like Marriage

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Compatibility is an achievement of love. It shouldn’t be its precondition. Alain de Botton The same could be said for living abroad. I hear many people say they ‘fell in love with Africa’ as soon as their feet touched the ground off the plane. I’m not sure how Kenyan or Nigerian or Burundian tarmac has […]

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by Amy Young March 17, 2017

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An invitation to the 2017 Velvet Ashes online retreat

by Editor March 16, 2017

Today we have a special message from Danielle Wheeler, founder and editor-in-chief of the online community Velvet Ashes. We’re all fans of Sabbath here, right? Or at least the idea of Sabbath. We know we need to take time away from our responsibilities to physically rest and spiritually renew, but actually doing it? Well, that […]

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Within mission circles, the term “call” or “called” is loaded. It is loaded with story and passion; with grit and determination. It is also loaded with hurt and condemnation; with wrecked dreams and spiritual baggage. A few years ago I wrote a piece called “Lost to a Call.” It was a short essay, written from […]

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Living Well Abroad: 4 Areas to Consider

by Jonathan Trotter March 6, 2017

My day job here in Cambodia is serving as a pastoral counselor. In a typical week, I meet with clients from Asia, the Americas, Australia, Europe, and occasionally Africa. And whether these clients are missionaries, NGO workers, or international business people, they’re all trying to figure out how to live well here. In Cambodia. I […]

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Please Ask Me the Non-Spiritual Questions

by Amy Medina March 2, 2017

When we’re on furlough and giving presentations about our ministry as missionaries, we always end with, “Does anyone have any questions?” A hand goes up.  And the question is inevitable. “How can we pray for you?”  Every. Single. Time. Sometimes someone will ask to know more about our ministry.  Or a person we are investing […]

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CULTURE SHOCK! (yes, it still happens at 6 months)

by Editor March 1, 2017

It’s been almost six months since we stepped off the plane and onto South African soil. Six months of glorious new experiences, of meeting new people and trying new foods, of seeing new sights and relishing (mostly) sunny weather… and six months of that dreaded companion known to all cross-cultural workers: culture shock. This is […]

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Living Overseas and Fear: Learning to Banish Love’s Twin

by Lisa McKay February 27, 2017

Last week, while my husband was away all week, our three-year-old came down with a high fever right around dinner time. I dosed him up with tylenol, prayed it wasn’t dengue fever (which is showing up here in Port Vila right now with alarming frequency) and put him to bed with me. Six hours later he […]

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by Abby Alleman February 23, 2017

The whisper of summer breeze caresses my face as I perch on the concrete steps of New Creation Lutheran Church. This has become a daily meeting hour. After dinner, my fellow team members and I linger outside with the neighborhood kids. They’ll pop wheelies, zig-zag on skateboards or just sit and chat. Some days the […]

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