Leaving Is Your Birthright {The Grove: Leaving}

Here we are again. Friends having a conversation.

There is a lull. At first it’s comfortable, but then it grows and we both know something of substance needs to be said. But who will be the first to say it out loud?

I look away because the moment is poignant and heavy and precious. I don’t want to miss it, but I hate the weight of it.

You’ve probably sensed it this week too. The dance between guilt and shame and hope and longing and sadness when it comes to this topic of leaving and being left.

In the posts and comments we’ve heard echoes of

  • We are long termers
  • I’m not a quitter
  • I’m committed
  • It seems easier to leave for the field than from it

I’ve known for weeks I’d be writing this post. God and I have gone around and around about what to say. It hasn’t been like having a quaint cup of tea and scones while we chat; in the best sense, I feel like I’ve been mud wrestling with God. I really have so much to say, it might take a book. Instead of having this be a confusing post because I try to shove too much in, I’m going to share one thing God said in relation to leaving.

Leaving is your birthright.


This week, I’ve been struck by how much guilt and angst and judgment we feel around leaving and being left. It took all I could when a close friend told me she was leaving the field not to grab her shoulders and scream, How can you leave me?! Who will get my jokes? Who will go to Pilates and share in my quirky stories? Who will know why asking about trains is funny? How can you do this to me?

But I didn’t. “Yes, yes, I can see God leading.” I could. And. I wanted to ask God why the high-ho he didn’t make it better for her.

Leaving is your birthright.

In an instant I had to sit back, take a breather, wipe the mud off my brow, and let that settle in.

Look at some of the leaving woven throughout the Bible. Loot at the way it informs and shapes us as a people. Look for where your story intersects theirs.

  • Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden for their protection.
  • Cain left because of his sin.
  • Noah and his family left everyone they knew through a natural disaster.
  • Abraham left to follow a call into the unknown.
  • Rebekah left for marriage.
  • Jacob left the first time because of family drama (part his own doing), returned home because of a clear call by God (Genesis 31:3), and a third time because of famine.
  • Leah and Rachel left to go with their husband and family.
  • Joseph left against his will.
  • Moses left twice, once by himself and later with a group that vacillated being for him and against him.
  • Aaron and Miriam left with their people, the people of Israel and to help their brother.
  • Naomi left because of a famine and returned because of the loss of her husband and both sons. The devastation of her family.
  • Ruth left out of love and obedience.
  • Hannah left her son with Eli and for a life of service to God.
  • Esther left her home due to political changes allowing her to serve the king and her people.
  • David spent much of early adulthood moving and not settled, never sure when it would end.
  • Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego left against their will, prisoners really.
  • Many of the prophets traveled, compelled to share a message, forced to sleep in many beds.
  • Jesus left his rightful place in heaven to come to earth for us.
  • Paul is known for his three journeys and the way he loved some he met and became so frustrated with others.
  • You left (and maybe left and left) and have your story.
  • I left (and left and left) and have my story.

Leaving is our birthright.

One of the greatest gifts the Bible offers is the ways in which it mirrors who we are. We are people who leave. Who leave in response to calling and crisis. We leave because of family and love and politics. We leave at times against our wills and at times brimming with anticipation. We leave early in life, in the middle of our story, and when our bones are tired. We are described as wanderers and sojourners.

God, in his infinite mercy, kindness, and love has woven leavers, stayers, and those who were left throughout his word. The bible doesn’t just tell us who God is, it tells us also who we are. Apparently he doesn’t see people as long- or short-termers. He doesn’t see leavers and stayers. We are described as beloved children. 

We see people having crazy (and at times sinful) responses to leaving. Just take one of the above scenarios and for a moment place yourself in it and imagine the conversations! Girl, we get it, don’t we. We are described as people of faith.

Leaving is our birthright.

Yes, it is hard and tumultuous. As Danielle said, it’s like concentrated lemonade. It cuts to the core of our identity. But what God wants us to know is he cuts deeper. He gets it. But more than understanding us, He loves us. And someday, someday, staying will be our birthright. Staying with God. Staying in our perfected personalities. Staying with those we love. Staying in safety and freedom and pure environments. But for now. For now.

Leaving is our birthright.

Wow, there’s more in the Bible about leaving than I thought. What resonated from you this week or in this post?

P.S. The winners of this summer book club books have been notified. Happy reading!


This is what we call The Grove.  It’s where we all gather to share our thoughts, our words, and our art on our weekly prompt.  So join us in the comments.  Show us your art work by adding an image. And link up your own blog posts on this week’s prompt.  Click here for details and instructions.



  1. Beth Everett May 21, 2015

    One of the greatest gifts the Bible offers is the ways in which it mirrors who we are.

    Amy, I always appreciate and am encouraged by your insights into how the characters of the Bible are so relate-able (is that a word?) to our lives. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Amy Young May 21, 2015

      If I understand you, does that make it a word :)? If so, done and done! (but I think it is a word, so kudos to you!)

    2. Anna May 22, 2015

      I was sure that relatable is a word, so I looked it up.  It’s in the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary we have.  (adj, capable of related)

  2. Amy S May 21, 2015

    Amy, I can’t tell you how much your words mean to me today. And these few weeks of posts have been so helpful as we are making a transition after 13 years in one country to a neighboring country. I think you should write that book!  I will treasure these words. And just as leaving is our birthright, the part about it not being easy, always making perfect, logical sense and not being able to wrap up our time, tidy with a bow and sure of who the gift is for… this too, is our birthright.

    As I process leaving, I wrote this poem. I just want to bless all you of you out there with this word of affirmation over your time spent overseas, however long or short it was, however productive or meandering it felt.


    Take this place

    in your hand, hold

    it one last time, let

    it remind you how

    it shaped you instead

    of yielding, how

    it pressed you on

    all sides and asked for more

    than you had, to give

    up your control, to be

    told you were little here,

    infinitely small and still



    1. Amy Young May 21, 2015

      Amy, I am not a poet by nature, but then I read a poem like this … there is such power in using few words to hold vast truths. Thank you for this gift.

    2. Anna May 22, 2015

      Thanks for sharing your poem.  I found it very moving.

    3. Michele Womble May 25, 2015

      Your poem – beautiful!  I will remember it and read it whenever I leave.

  3. Brenda May 21, 2015

    Thank you for your post, Amy. It has given me something to chew on as I prepare to leave in ten days time. I wrote the following a few weeks ago after going through one of the most painful periods of my time here. I don’t blog (I just read everyone else’s!) so I am posting it as a comment; sorry it is a bit long.

    Leaving Well or Leaving Happy?
    I so wanted to leave happy; leave this country that has been my home for the most of 20 years, where I met my husband, where my three children have spent all their lives, this country whose people have become family and my best friends.
    Last year, when my husband and I made the painful decision that it was time to head back to my passport country in order for me to look after my elderly parents, I thought I had leaving all worked out. I read the blogs, the articles, anything that could give me advice on how to leave well, which for some unknown reason I thought also meant leaving happy. Earlier this year, life was good. I felt at peace and for a short while I really thought that I was going to leave free of all the turmoil and ups and downs that life here has spewed out over the past twenty years.
    And then it all went belly up. Ten weeks or so ago, a good friend of ours died suddenly. The night he died, he had called for my husband but his son said it was too late and didn’t come and call us. Our friend was a strong Buddhist, which made his death much harder to take. From that day onwards, serious problem after problem seemed to confront us. And the problems in my passport country escalated. My mother, who has dementia, who I planned to go home and look after, was put into a nursing home suddenly. Now, relationships with my siblings are strained and it looks unlikely that I will be allowed to look after my mum when I return to my passport country.
    Then three weeks ago came the day that I never want to go through again. I am a nurse and have lived with my family in a rural orphanage for the past 12 years, where I look after the children’s health. Our children at the orphanage had gone home for the annual New Year festivities. Two days later, a cousin of one of our little boys rang me to say he was sick. The relatives tried to get help for him at nearby hospitals but no one would help. The following day, I picked up a very sick little boy. He was admitted to hospital and a chest x-ray confirmed pneumonia, but of a severe type (caused by an unknown virus). I was told that the prognosis was poor. Ten or so hours later, our little boy’s heart stopped as we took turns to pump oxygen into his lungs using an Ampu bag (there was no ventilator).
    I had planned to spend the New Year packing, while our three children took a break from home schooling and the orphanage was empty of children. Instead, in between wrapping our belongings in bubble wrap, I spent my days meeting with Virologists, writing reports and tormenting myself over what I could have done better to save our little boy’s life.
    And live goes one and our packing continues as we wrap up our belongings and our lives, with heavy and broken hearts. This is never the way I wanted or imagined to leave. A week or two ago in the midst of all this pain and heartache, while mindlessly surfing the net, I came across a blog post by Jerry Jones from http://www.the cultureblend.com. Jerry Jones said that leaving happy and leaving well were not the same thing. Leaving happy remembered ‘ the good times’ and ignored ‘the bad’. Leaving well ‘celebrates the good and learns from the bad. It mourns and adjusts’. Leaving happy candy coated reality, while leaving well addressed ‘the bitter and the sweet’.
    So in my last weeks, I am trying to remember both the good and the bad times of my life here. I am trying my best to celebrate the good and learn from the bad. Yes, I am mourning and adjusting and addressing the bitter and the sweet. I am endeavouring to leave well even though I am not happy. I continue to wrap our belongings in bubble wrap. I wrap my heavy and aching heart in the bubble wrap of familiar and comforting Psalms, in the prayers and support of friends and my family, in harmless and brain numbing old reruns on you tube…2015 will go down as the worst year of my life so far, but I am choosing with GOD’s help to embrace the bad as well as the good, the painful memories as well as all of the good memories of our life here. I am choosing to leave well.

    1. Amy Young May 21, 2015

      Brenda, it’s late where I am, so my brain is moving as slow as molasses and I fear I won’t be able to comment in the way I’d like right now … but know that I’ve read this (as I’m sure have others) and it moves and saddens me. Especially all the family stuff. Sigh. I’ll be back when I’ve had sleep and tea. Until then, shall think of you as I drift to sleep. Amy

    2. Anna May 22, 2015

      Thanks for sharing your story.  I like the thoughts about the differences between “leaving well” and “leaving happy.”  That’s a good way to look at it.  🙂

      1. Michele Womble May 25, 2015

        Ditto that. I believe you can “leave well” and not happy –  I wonder if you can “leave happy” but not “leave well”.

    3. Amy Young May 22, 2015

      Brenda, I am struck by the amount of loss you have (and will) experienced. I’m especially sad about how things are turning out with your family and potential role in helping to care for your mom. Jerry Jones has truly provided a helpful compass! These days and weeks that you are in are so important … I just know from my own experiences and watching others, this is going to be a long and layered process. I really wish I could wave a magic wand and “make it better.” What I can say, is God will provide in ways you can’t imagine now. Is is possible for you and your family to go through some kind of debriefing? You have offered a piece of yourself, here in your writing, and we honor the gift. Thank you.

  4. Michele Womble May 22, 2015

    Amy, this is so beautiful.  “leaving is our birthright” – When I saw the title I knew it was for me – and as I read your post I cried.  Thank you.

    1. Amy Young May 22, 2015

      Michele, I don’t know why, but I now have tears welling just by reading your comment. Your linked up post with your poem, priceless.

      1. Michele Womble May 25, 2015

        Maybe we’re being given the gift of tears.  🙂  Thank you.

  5. Anna May 22, 2015

    Thanks for your article.  It was so encouraging, and something I needed to hear right now.  There are a lot of emotions all tangled together- guilt and shame and hope and on and on.  🙂

    1. Amy Young May 22, 2015

      Oh those tangled emotions! I often feel like I’m sorting through a twisted ball of yarn that will never end :)!

  6. Aliyah May 22, 2015

    Ah Amy I loved this! Thank you, it was so encouraging and warm – hearted this week! I love it! My husband and I form a part of the body where we establish, so we often go somewhere to train and establish things and then entrust it in to the pastors and leaders hands and then we return home again, back to S.A. We love it, but have found that the people we leave behind often can and do react because of our leaving. Some with wounds from the past feel like because we are moving on to the next place God has called us to, that we are rejecting them and we cannot change this, no matter what we do. We have to be obedient to our call. We are a people of leaving, because of love and obedience – I only pray that those who are left behind will have the courage and love to boldly fulfil their call too!

    1. Amy Young May 22, 2015

      Aliyah, as I read your comment my mind flashed to the list of people in the Bible and the range of paths they were called to walk on. Even here in these comments, we see a range. You’re right that when you plant and leave a place, often people’s reactions will be more about their past. I’m just brainstorming here and feel free to disregard! But I’m wondering if you and your husband could create some type of mini-course/bible study about calling and leaving. I know that some will always have trouble with you going, but for others, it might help them see it differently. And you may well already do something like this :)! Blessings to and on you and your husband and your work!

  7. Elizabeth May 22, 2015

    The thing I love about the Bible is how often I find myself in it, in its stories, how realistic and frustrating and faithful all these people were. I love how you point us to that in this post. All our stories are so complicated and convoluted. There’s not a clear way for any of this. And that’s good. And that’s ok. God is our constant, and our home, and one day we will never have to leave again — so thankful for that.

    “Leaving is our birthright” — love it. We are wanderers, and we are beloved children — love that. Thank you for grounding this discussion in the stories of the Bible. Those stories are our inheritance — and leaving is our birthright. Amen.

    1. Amy Young May 22, 2015

      That’s it exactly … each of our paths is so convoluted :)! If only we wouldn’t feel so much guilt over that. I really think the enemy of our souls loves to sow guilt.

  8. laura r May 22, 2015


    Amy, this post i s simply astonishing.  How long have I read these very stories and missed this common thread?  How often have I held on to the false belief that leaving is bad,  giving up or shameful? How long have I carried things that he never intended for me to carry?  How often do we enter a new season filled with preconceptions of what it will look like , how it will end or what he has planned in it?  Thankful for a fresh take on leaving today.

    Thank you for listening to the promptings and for speaking them as a healing balm over many… leaving or staying.

    1. Amy Young May 22, 2015

      My favorite line?

      How long have I carried things that he never intended for me to carry?

      I am coming to believe that part of my role is to breath truth into the lies we believe. I can’t believe how many there are … and how damn sneaky the enemy is (yes, damn, because that’s what he wants to do with them). But God came that we might have life and have it to abundance. Whether coming or going. Amen and amen!

      (NOT that I have a corner on truth. Just that I am taken these days with love and life and how we need to cling to and foster them)

  9. Danielle Wheeler May 22, 2015

    This post, these comments!  It all bursts with release and freedom.  It makes me smile and get all teary at the same time.  Thank you, Amy, and thank you to each of you who shared a piece of your heart and story.

    1. Amy Young May 23, 2015

      Yes! It’s been such a joy to hear so many personal and important stories. AND you touched on one of my favorite parts of VA, that we are breathing release and freedom into each other. Love the Body!

  10. Rachel May 23, 2015

    This last few weeks of posts have been huge for me. The Holy Spirit has used your words to bring peace and confirmation to my fearful, worried heart. I am holding onto this truth and these promises as my family and I face some very big transitions in the upcoming months. Thank you so much!

    1. Amy Young May 23, 2015

      Rachel, we’re all on this journey together aren’t we? It’s not easy! But I’m thankful we can share our sorrows, peace, disappointments and hope here. We’ll be thinking of your family in the upcoming months.

  11. Jamie May 23, 2015

    I’m new here and have spent the last few days roaming through this beautiful place that represents the “in between” world we all live in. Glad to have found Velvet Ashes. The timing is just about right for me. So Thankful God knows what we need exactly when we need it.

    My family and I have been living in East Africa for almost 2 years. Before that, we were in the Philippines with a brief stint in the US before landing where we are now. In the past 3 years, we have lived on 3 different continents, moved almost 16 times, lost everything in a flood {but survived!} and finished my medical training as a midwife.  What that means is that I have come to understand leaving in deeper ways than I ever thought I would when we started out on this journey.

    East Africa is our home now. Our boys are settled in a great international school where my husband teaches. I am knit in with our local church, working on growing an outreach to impoverished families, specifically pregnant mothers. We finally have a house that feels like a home {after years of constant nomadic living} and I am finally starting to understand the language, where to shop for food, how to drive on the other side of the road, and how to cook meals from scratch {never has been my strong suit!}.

    My husband and I took our first two years here to see if this is where God wanted to plant us overseas. After much prayer and seeking counsel, we decided God was leading us to invest our lives here for a few more years.

    Here’s the catch:  in order to do this, we have to go “home” to the States. We need to do the inevitable fundraising and building up more support bases. But more than anything, we need time to rest and heal. We are leaving for a year.

    Needless to say, this was not what my heart wanted. It was not my plan. My plan was to finally have a place to call home, to grow some roots- even if it was just a few years. I planned on growing the ministry I get to do with my dearest friend. If you asked me, God’s plan was to have a linear path to success here. We would settle in, hunker down and pour out His love to those who need it. {this is where you would ask me “and how is that plan going?”} Chuckle.

    Well, we all know that’s not reality….as much as we desire it. And, it’s not like the past two years have been easy. Countless sicknesses {even as I write this, I am recovering from Typhoid}, numerous car accidents, financial stress, culture stress, spiritual battles, and the list goes on…. and then there is learning the deep lesson that the things we give up when we choose to follow His lead to foreign lands and far off places, still haunt us. The offer of comforts, familiar foods, family and friends {for better or worse} call to me and there are days that I long to be back in the life I used to know. But, then the very next day I couldn’t imagine myself and my family living anywhere else than here, in Africa. These are times I relish in God’s gifts of the call, of the His movements that we get to be a part of,  and of the beauty and contentment of being right where He wants us. {In case your wondering, yes, I feel like I am still on an emotional roller coaster after 4 years of living this life}

    That’s most of my life now. The ups and downs of living in a foreign place and longing to feel home, but knowing “home” isn’t really home. 

    Obviously, I am finding out God’s call is continuous and organic and it changes like the waves ebb and flow causing the shoreline to look different at any given moment. I am learning that my life, as much as I want it to be predictable and settled, was given over to His way of doing things and when I said yes, and still continue to say yes, I gave Him the keys to the car.

    But, I am also learning that my acceptance of this beautiful truth doesn’t ever mean that it won’t hurt.

    Which brings me to my point {I knew I was getting there, slowly but surely}….. we are leaving once again, this time knowing we will be back, but also knowing we are reentering our home culture only to leave again.

    I am working overtime to grasp the reality of this. It’s requiring a tremendous amount of patience and trust. My heart knows what it is in for. The pain of tearing away, the joy of reunion, the pain of tearing away, and so it goes. I have spent the last few weeks reading everything I can about reentry {for a longish short time?} and preparing my emotions, prepping my mind…thinking that  enough “preparing” can save me from the inevitable. The pain and turmoil of the entire process God has set before us.

    Even as I sit here writing this, I realize that I have been fixing my eyes on how to avoid the pain, how to sanitize the messiness of separation, how to shield my family from the stress and so on….  But, maybe, just maybe, in trying to be ready for the leaving, I have been missing out on the joy of God’s presence now and the promise that He has good things for me. Maybe I have filled my mind and heart with so much “preparations” that there has been little room for anything else.

    It seems that right alongside all the things that come with leaving, the grief, the sorrow, the reality of this life we live, is also the promise & hope of God’s presence with us. No matter how low we get, or how well we transition, no matter how lonely and confused we feel, not even the pain of loss can separate us from His deep abiding Love.

    I need to keep self-talking that truth. Because otherwise, my natural tendency will be to protect myself and deny reality. {Sound familiar?}  Maybe we all could use that self-talk.

    As well as this place, here in the vast sky of the internet, to connect with one another and keep grounded, especially when we are floating in that space of transitions, leaving and reentering, hard work and little rest.

    I am thankful this day, to share these truths together.

    May God’s presence surround all who are “leaving” soon.






    1. Amy Young May 23, 2015

      Jamie, thank you for such a wonderful introduction to you and your family! What struck me the most was your honesty about wanting to avoid the pain that’s before you (both in the short term of leaving Africa and then in the future with needing to leave the U.S.). I’ve editing a book I’ve written for people in our line of work facing “looming transitions” and you have reminded me of this tendency in transition. So, don’t be surprised to see hints of it if you ever read the book. Thank you. And you’re right, I like to avoid pain too. But if we avoid the pain, we also avoid the joy. I don’t know if you’re read any Brene Brown? She’s done research on this and we can’t numb the pain without numbing the joy. They go hand in hand. So, by leaning into the pain, I hope it encourages you that you’re also turning towards joy.

  12. Malia May 23, 2015

    Thank you for this. Wow, yes, I hadn’t thought about all the leaving in Scripture. This truth about leaving being our birthright will help me along during this heartbreaking season of leaving. (I’m staying–again. But the season is one of “leaving,” as you know.) You’re right. I’ve left again and again too and must allow others to follow Christ without packing guilt on their shoulders as they journey. I do wish you’d write your book though, seriously. This post was medicine to my soul, and I know you have more of that where it came from. 🙂

    1. Amy Young May 24, 2015

      Malia, your comment has brought to light why I think the enemy wants us to think in terms of “leavers” or “stayer” … it divides. The truth is, to some extent, we’re all leavers and all stayers and it’s just plum messy :)! The tidy categories are simple, but they don’t reflect our reality. And thanks for your kind words 🙂

  13. Melissa May 24, 2015

    Oh, Amy, thank you so much for these words!  They sure do strike a chord for a lot of us because, like Malia says, “it is a season of leaving,” this living in a country we weren’t born in.  With the internet making ‘back home’ such a present reality too I think I feel the pain of leaving a lot, even though we’ve been in Nicaragua for a year and a half now.  I can’t be there for my grandma and grandpa who are growing old and gave me so much when I was little.  My kids can’t grow up playing with their cousins at every holiday get together the way I did with my cousins.  Leaving hurts.  I feel guilty for it sometimes; not being back there making the environment God first planted me in richer…. but you’re right that leaving is our birthright.  Some go and some stay.  We can’t really capture the perfect past (or so it seems to me when I grieve it) and live there.  Home is in heaven.  We are always just passing through.  I really will be glad to put down good deep safe roots in heaven someday, though!  Thank you so much for your post; even just for opening up the conversation on this issue so close to so many of our hearts.  Just typing out our thoughts and feelings seems to help us feel less alone in it all somehow.  It’s funny, but it seems like God’s here in these comments 🙂

    1. Amy Young May 24, 2015

      Melissa, I feel that way too … that sometimes the comments are holy ground and God honor the hard, the fun, the maturing process in and for each of us. I love how God can use anything and love us through it!

  14. Abigail Stern May 25, 2015

    Thank you for this post!  I’ve been SO thankful this past month or so since received the bombshell news dropped on our team, that our team leaders are moving back to the States long-term, and the current uncertainty of who else will leave.  This on top of a mass exodus last year and this year of like-minded foreigners that were dear to me.  I know He is speaking through all of this, and had the revelation the other day that God is play mahjong with our lives!

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