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The Gift of Presence

I find myself in that place again. That place where my life is packed into boxes, and I’m trying desperately to navigate the pains of saying goodbye to the place I call home and the people I consider among my tribe and family.

As an expat, it’s easy to become disillusioned and hardened by the pain of constant goodbyes. It’s tempting to distance and disengage ourselves to protect and cope.

But I decided a while ago, that the only way I would live well within this expat nomad life of mine, was by being intentionally present. And that meant I would approach the place I lived and the people with whom I interacted with an openness and hunger that wouldn’t leave space for regret when it was time to move on.

It also meant I wouldn’t put any prerequisites on meeting and getting to know people; that there would be no rules regarding who I’d invest in, and that there would be no minimum stay requirements.

I was all in.

But this also meant that the risk of loss would be greater. Despite the pain, I have found a deeper and more profound purpose in living fully in the moment, in developing and cultivating relationships with the people where I am, and in embracing loss as part of joyful living.

I’d be lying if I said this was an easy path. It’s not. It’s fraught with deeper mourning and a greater awareness of what I’m leaving. But it is also full of more profound friendship, fuller experience, and greater joy.

The risk of pain involved in saying goodbye to the people and places we have deeply connected with is great, but the loss of never connecting is greater.

And to me, that is the greatest loss of all.

I will miss Shanghai on many levels. I will miss the people, my tribe, my work, and the life I lived while here. But I have no regrets. I don’t wish I’d been a little less connected or vulnerable or invested. To me, the far greater loss would have been missing the opportunity to meet and connect with so many wonderful and exciting people and places.

So while I wade through this transition time and say my goodbyes, gratitude overwhelms me. I am grateful for the time I’ve had, the people I’ve loved, and the person I’ve become because of it all.


  1. Wow ! You just described the life of a missionary.

    So proud of you Jen ! You are a talented writer. Can’t wait to spend time with you all….



  2. Hi Jen :

    Amazing goodby letter ! so proud of you, you are a gifted writer……

    Your letter also describes the life of a missionary. I resonated deeply with what you said ……

    Looking forward to spending time with you all ….. so excited !

    Leonard & Aletia Xerri Avant Ministries



  3. Staying present in the moment can occur in every conversation… every interaction, with others, being fully present. With ourselves. Paying attention to what we are paying attention to.


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