The Cost is Real

The cost is real.

The endless goodbyes. The missed birthdays and holidays. The wedding vows said outside our hearing. The eulogies spoken without us in the pew. The fellowship and friendship circles that go on without us.

The cost is so very real.

In this week of focusing on goodbyes at Velvet Ashes, we want you to know that we get that you have said goodbye to a lot. Goodbye to family, friends, co-workers, and yes, even pets.

We say goodbye to a lifestyle, to routines and rhythms, to familiarity.

We say goodbye to favorite places that evoke memories and a sense of belonging and comfort, fun, and togetherness.

We say goodbye to shared experiences, those everyday moments when inside jokes are born, secret smiles are shared, knowing looks are passed between sisters and friends.

We miss out on those little conversations mostly about nothing that create a whole lot of something between two people.

We miss our best friend or sister’s bad hair days, and for a while, we’ll have to live on the fumes of the fragrance of a life-giving friendship that dwells in a different corner of the planet.

We get that. The cost is real.

Somewhere in the midst of your goodbyes is a sacrifice that you and God have wrestled over. You laid your Isaac on the altar and there was no ram in the thicket to rescue and return your sacrifice. Your “yes” stands. Your sacrifice accepted. And not just accepted, but rejoiced in, delighted over, honored by Jesus.

So, as you tearfully separate from your support system,

as you walk to the car hand in hand with your loved one,

as you hug your nieces and nephews a little tighter,

as you promise your fiancé you’ll be back in ten months,


My goodbyes this month include leaving my three all-grown-up kids on this side of the ocean as I return to the foreign land where they did all that growing up.

I’m saying goodbye to my heartbroken Dad still grieving the loss of my Mom.

I’m – again – waving goodbye to daily interactions with family by returning to a place where time zones interfere with “a funny/cool/weird/amazing thing just happened” calls and texts.

I’m saying goodbye to fresh air and blue skies and the freedom of driving.

The weight of those goodbyes seems a little heavier this time around. So, I am trusting our Father to step in with heavier doses of His grace and peace and comfort. And I’m remembering He delights in my willingness to pay the very real cost of following Him to faraway places.

The sacrifices we make do not go unnoticed. “God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.” Hebrews 6:10

Did you catch that? We show God our love for Him as we serve others. Our willingness to lay all else aside for His name’s sake is taken very seriously by God. He takes note and makes crazy promises to those who obey His call.

This week I am at our organization’s training with dozens of new co-laborers as they prepare for cross cultural service. And I’m so touched by their stories of commitment. I’m inspired by their surrendered love for Jesus. And I’m so humbled by the cost they are willing to pay to see His name made great among the nations. Their “Yes” boldly and emphatically declares His worth.

Your “Yes” courageously and beautifully declares His worth.

In every goodbye you and I whisper, we loudly and clearly declare His worth.


What do your goodbyes look like in this season? Are you sensing His delight or feeling the weight of those goodbyes? Or both?  


  1. Amanda August 6, 2014

    I leave in twenty-one days, so the goodbyes are very real. My twin sister will get married five days before I leave and will start a new and exciting life with her husband. This is going to be my second term and for some reason goodbyes this time around are much much harder. I had an extending home assignment and formed some really strong friendships. So I am feeling the weight of the goodbyes, yet on the same hand I am feeling the delight of the Lord.

    1. Patty Stallings August 6, 2014

      Amanda, may your next three weeks be full of grace and comfort.   May you continue to sense the delight of the Lord as you say those hard goodbyes.

  2. HisFireFly August 6, 2014


    Yes, this.  I needed this as we walk through our series of farewells, leaving in 11 days for our first 2 year term in Malawi.  We have counted the cost, and the tears do sting, but He called…

    1. Patty Stallings August 6, 2014

      That is it, isn’t it?  May you sense His pleasure as you transition to your new corner of the world!

  3. Jennifer August 6, 2014

    Thank you! Very timely post for me. In five days time I will be on the plane to return t0 China deeply aware of many of the things you speak of in this post. “The Cost is Real” sums it up so very well. The cost is real and it is very good to both recognize and acknowledge that and not to be afraid to express how we feel in that… and yet at the same time it is a price worth paying.

    1. Patty Stallings August 6, 2014

      “It is a price worth paying.”  Jennifer, I love that Jesus says count the cost.  Consider it, weigh it, measure it, acknowledge it.  How much more we must delight our Father when we have done so and willingly pay it, knowing the weight of it and declaring He is worth it!  Blessings on your travels back to China!

  4. Julie b August 6, 2014

    “The weight of the goodbyes seem a little heavier this time around….trusting our Father to step in with heavier doses of His grace, peace and comfort.”  Love that- He  ALWAYS shows up!  Last year we left 4 grand babies – this year we are leaving 6!  Missing out  on cuddles and hugs- Skype is wonderful but a 2 dimensional Grandma is hard for the little ones to understand!  Yes, the cost is real!  I’m missing out  on my grand babies feeling comfortable with us and just when they do it’s time for us to leave again.  It’s hard for us and mind boggling for them – where is China anyway…in the mind of a 2 year old?

    And for my dad who has Alzheimer’s – himself a medical overseas worker to Asia- the goodbye seems endless to me.  Each time I see him I’m having to say goodbye to a part of him I will not see the next time.  And yet each time he is told where we are going he is thrilled- in a strange way it makes the goodbye a little easier.  Yes the cost is real ….so very real….and His grace is enough!   Declaring His worth and fame to the nations is a part of the heritage  we are passing on to our grandchildren!  Thanks Patty for writing from your heart.  I hope we can meet in person sometime this fall!

    1. Patty Stallings August 6, 2014

      Julie, I am touched by the sacrifices you are making – which makes me wonder how significant those sacrifices are to the One you are making them for!  And how much your legacy speaks to those you serve and those you leave!

      I lost my mom to Alzheimer’s in March.  Last November I wrote about “the long goodbye” here:    May Jesus surround your heart with His comfort!

  5. Pam Moeser August 6, 2014

    I am sitting in bed in Thailand having just cried on my husbands shoulder about how hard everything is. I needed this reminder from God that He cares for my cost-counting heart today. Thanks Patty.

    1. Patty Stallings August 6, 2014

      Pam, God sings over your cost-counting heart.   Your obedience is seen, noticed, and accepted as a pleasing sacrifice.

      And thanks for sharing your lovely photo!

  6. Kelly August 6, 2014

    Thank you for your open and raw words. They ring true as someone who is in my 2nd year abroad. Saying goodbye the second time was just as hard as the first. Especially with little ones being born and missing their growing up back home. Good to have sisters to share with!

    1. Patty Stallings August 6, 2014

      Kelly, my second goodbyes were hard too because I knew more fully what was on the other side of those goodbyes.  May you sense His goodness and kindness in these days!

  7. M'Lynn August 6, 2014

    Well said, Patty! Isn’t it ironic that my baby learned to wave “bye bye” the week of our big goodbye?

    1. Patty Stallings August 6, 2014

      M’Lynn, I bet she broke and warmed some hearts with that sweet little wave!  Love to you and your family!

  8. Valerie Browne August 6, 2014

    Such good truth. Everyone keeps telling us that the goodbyes will be harder this year as we bring a little baby back to China with us. Always need the reminder that He is worthy.

    1. Patty Stallings August 6, 2014

      Valerie, yes. A new level of cost.  And He’s still worthy!

      BTW, her “aunts and uncles” in Asia can’t wait to welcome her!

  9. Michele Call August 6, 2014

    Timely post as we leave for our second term in 2 months. The first term was along the US/Mexico border so we were not too far from family, now we are going to the southern hemisphere. I love being reminded that Jesus sees the sacrifices. He is good.

    1. Patty Stallings August 6, 2014

      Blessings as you go, Michele!  Thank you for serving!

  10. Annalisa August 7, 2014

    I told someone recently that I don’t do goodbyes.  I never know what God has planned for my future.  I guess to me “goodbye” seems so final.

    However, after 4 years in Guatemala, I’ve found something beautiful.  In Spanish we say “adios”…and maybe it’s just me, but I like to pick that word apart and think of it as “a Dios” or “to God.”
    “I am leaving here.  I am leaving you, but I am giving you to God.  I am confiding that He will protect you until I can be with you again.  I am relying on Him to bring you comfort in the sad times.  And most of all, I am counting on Him to be there for you eternally should you never see me again.”

    1. Patty Stallings August 7, 2014

      I love that – “to God”.  Thanks for sharing, Annalisa!

    2. Cecily Willard August 23, 2014

      Annalisa, this is beautiful!  I am leaving home for the upteenth time next week, to go to my adopted home.  Leaving those I love to go to others I love.  But knowing I can leave them in God’s care is surely a comfort!

  11. Karin August 7, 2014

    I have been back for three weeks now and I my heart aches with goodbyes. Our last home assignment started two months early when my dad passed away suddenly. After 10 years of goodbyes, this time it was different. Knowing what it feels like to get that phone call. It is no longer a fear, but a real tangible pain.

    Coming back. Reconnecting. It has taken courage. I am trusting that keeping my heart open and soft will allow for his love to enlarge my heart and soul. I like how Henri Nouwen in his book The Inner Voice of Love puts it. “Do not hesitate to love and to love deeply. You might be afraid of the pain that deep love can cause. When those you love deeply reject you, leave you, or die, your heart will be broken. The pain that comes from deep love makes your love ever more fruitful. It is like a plow that breaks the ground to allow the seed to take root and grow into a strong plant. Every time you experience the pain of rejection, absence or death, you are faced with a choice. You can become bitter and decide not to love again, or you can stand straight in your pain and let the soil on which you stand become richer and more able to give life to new seeds. The more you have loved and have allowed yourself to suffer because of your love, the more you will be able to let your heart grow wider and deeper…Yes, as you love deeply the ground of your heart will be broken more and more, but you will rejoice in the abundance of the fruit it will bear.”

    I long for that fruit. That the losses and the goodbyes will enlarge my heart and my capacity to know God’s love will increase. That they will give me a greater capacity to enter in to the suffering of those around me. The soil of my heart has been plowed deeply with goodbyes and loss, and I cling to the hope that there will be fruit from the sorrow one day.

    1. Patty Stallings August 7, 2014

      Karin, thank you so much for sharing that beautiful passage from Henri Nouwen!  I’m going to spend some time pondering it this week.

  12. Catherine Grace August 7, 2014

    They were beautiful words,
    The conversations about nothing that add up to something is so very true and hard to give their full meaning in our grieving.
    I love the imagery of, living off the fumes of the fragrance of relationships.

    It is so beautiful, the way God gives us these relationships and loved ones, and I thank God for how they remain so powerful despite times apart. But yes, when we are all alone and the only one missing in the picture, it feels like we are living on fumes. I feel that sometimes, it;s like we talk more of what we miss about each other than whats going on with one another. Maybe that is just me?
    Am I living on fumes when I’m offered more. I wonder.

    Something that I was made to think of was the heart of sacrifice – as you mentioned about putting it on the alter & giving it to Jesus.
    When we first left, I thought I was laying a ton of stuff on that alter. I cried over shops I loved and Christmas traditions I would desperately miss. My coffee shop, love for tank tops and wearing my hair out.
    Somewhere in that, a lot of the things I feared would hurt my heart to leave behind – didn’t, or not to the degree I expected to.
    We lay so much down and we expect it to overcome us with grieve and the weight of sacrifice but it doesn’t. God enables. And as we walk into it, the goodbyes to some of that were not so costly.
    We are free to shed tears for the important things because we are not consumed for the enormity.
    He honors our willingness to sacrifice, to offer everything that we think will break our hearts.
    and yes… some of it really does.
    But He also provides, like you said. He honors that obedience and He gives us only what we can bear. Sparing us as well. Like He did for Abraham.

    Thank you Patty for giving our goodbyes to God. For His use, His Glory and His healing.

    1. Patty Stallings August 7, 2014

      Catherine Grace, thank you for the thoughtfulness of your response and causing us to think more about the process of His grace and provision!

  13. Leslie A August 7, 2014

    I know that this is meant for cross-cultural workers. And it is so perfect for them. I am sure that good-byes do not get easier and you beautifully expressed that. As I read this, my own recent good-byes came to mind — not because of leaving the country but because of following God and His Word in a world that isn’t interested in following Him. Good-byes and sacrifice touch any life of a believer, no matter where we live. They look different and cost more or less depending upon our circumstances, but I Peter 3 makes it clear that we should expect to suffer (and sacrifice) as we follow Jesus. Thanks for posting.

    1. Patty Stallings August 7, 2014

      Leslie, you are so right that all of us are asked to count the cost of following Him.  How much it must speak to God of our love for Him when we are willing to follow wholeheartedly – wherever we are in the world!

  14. Raquel August 7, 2014

    I’m preparing to say good bye from the other side of the pond this time & I find this equally as hard as saying goodbye to family & friends in the states. I’ve gained another family here, some of my best friends are here, a piece of my heart stays behind when I go back “home.” It’s hard not knowing when or if I will be able to see them again until eternity. The tears will come next week as we head to the airport in silence, again, but somehow there is peace. Peace from knowing that He is worth it all, comfort from knowing that goodbye is never final with hope in Christ. That is the only way I can somehow keep going through this process of never ending goodbyes. Thank you for this post! It is encouraging to remember I’m not the only one feeling this way!

    1. Patty Stallings August 7, 2014

      Blessings, Raquel, as you say your goodbyes there and journey back.  Your comment reminds me of the truth that the reason goodbyes are painful is because we loved and were loved well.

  15. Marie August 8, 2014

    It’s good to be “allowed” to feel that the good byes do cost a whole lot. We are not yet in the airport waiting to take off, we are still in the preparation time and that means a year full of many small good byes. It’s good to face these and acknowledge, yes, they are real and somewhat painful and it’s ok.I think the hardest for me right now is to see my kids’ good byes they are not aware of yet. Does that even make sense? I need to bring every good bye to my Father in Heaven..

    Thank you for sharing this – it helps!

    1. Patty Stallings August 8, 2014

      Marie, your concern for your kids makes perfect sense!  Giving yourself permission to acknowledge your goodbyes will model for them how healthy it is to grieve while continuing to trust.

      Blessings to you and your family in this year of preparation!

  16. Shelly August 9, 2014

    I think I am putting off goodbyes in the name of work to be done.  As I read the post, I realized that I need to say goodbye to China, to the places I have been, the kind of life I have shaped (or continue to try to shape here among others who are also in that limbo state of trying to shape a routine).  And I need to say hello to the next place, filled with the anxiety like that of the new kid on the playground asking other kids to be her friend. I am going to a place where everyone has their routine, their circle of friends, their jobs and communities…and I am actually a little scared about going. Part of me would rather just keep staying here, doing what I know among people I know and love. But there is another part of me that REALLY wants a stretch of time “over there” too.

  17. Patty Stallings August 9, 2014

    Shelly, we are going to REALLY miss you while you are on that other “playground”!

    it is true that there are sacrifices in goodbyes n both directions.  And both declare His worth.

  18. Bonnie Evans August 10, 2014

    God knows the sacrifice, not only of the ones who are obedient, but of the ones who are left in the homeland, even generations ago. This is my recent experience which I posted on facebook just last month:   “One day I was overcome with sadness, after some years of being a grandmother myself, because suddenly I felt I had missed in really knowing my own grandmothers. One became ill and passed away when I was young and the other was an overseas worker in China and Taiwan. Today a young Chinese man who will study for the ministry stood before me and in halting English words and with tears in his eyes tried to thank me for my grandparents’ overseas service in his home country. This is the second time this has happened to me.”

    1. Patty Stallings August 11, 2014

      Wow, Bonnie.  What a privilege to experience the fruit and faithfulness of your grandparents!

      And so, so true that those who stay pay a price as well.  And God is honored by that obedience and sacrifice.

  19. Bonnie Evans August 12, 2014

    Actually the young Chinese man who came to the States to study for the ministry did not know me or my grandparents personally. He was only told of them when we were introduced in church here in the states. I think that he felt that he was the beneficiary of overseas work in his home country from generations previous to him, and he took opportunity to thank someone in the present who had some connection. It was God who knew of my loss, unknown and unfelt when I was a child, but real none the less, which finally had surfaced when I myself had been a grandmother for some years and finally realized my own childhood loss. God waited to offer a balm when the loss was finally felt. I was touched to my core and could not talk about it without tears myself for days.

    1. JulieB August 12, 2014

      Oh Bonnie – what a wonderful story of how God met you!  I love that!  Once again, He sees those tears and meets us in ways we couldn’t even imagine!

      I grew up in a long generation of “M’s”.  My grandparents were M’s in Africa, my parents were M’s in Asia.  We did a short term of 2 years ourselves, and then had to be in the States due to medical issues for one of our sons.  We served at home, on pastoral staffs, encouraging our churches regarding overseas work.  Now the time has come for us, as grandparents, to go again.  I am so aware of what you are saying.  I missed out on grandparents and my kids missed out on having a close relationship with my parents.  My children are very close to my husband’s mom because she was always here.  But not so close to my own dad.  Now as I see that, I know that as we leave, our own grandchildren will have different relationships with us than perhaps they will have with their other grandparents.  I have seen it in my own family and it makes the loss real.  So Bonnie, I know just a little of the loss of relationship with your grandparents which you are mourning.

      The loss is real and the loss is great.  So like our Father to give you a little glimpse to the meaning of your loss.  He knew just what you needed and came through at just the right moment for you.  I am sure this is one of those moments that will be etched on your heart forever.

  20. Bonnie Evans August 12, 2014

    ‘… so like our Father …’ Yes, exactly! That is why I shared this story. It is transcendent. It is not really about me, nor even about my grandparents, but it is about our God!

  21. prtroutman August 13, 2014

    Good buys a few months ago meant leaving behind aging parents, sons and their wives, and a grand baby on the way. That coupled with unmet expectations and conflict with new colleagues in addition to several new health issues has made this a difficult time. Thanks for the encouraging words.


    1. Patty Stallings August 13, 2014

      You have had a lot going on!  I’m so sorry you have been experiencing all these challenges.  May the peace and hope of Jesus cover you, dear one.  May His faithfulness and goodness surround you.

  22. Marcy P. September 25, 2014

    Oh, how timely! A friend directed me to this post and I’m in tears… over the precious reminder that HE is worth THIS. One of my dearest friends just lost her husband to cancer… and is now mothering their three young daughters without him. God, in His generous kindness, allowed me to fly across the world and spend ten invaluable days by her side… and now I’m back in Germany and I’ve had to say goodbye to her. Again. But this time my heart is so heavy. But I know God has us HERE… but my heart also longs to be THERE.

    The weight of those goodbyes seems a little heavier this time around. So, I am trusting our Father to step in with heavier doses of His grace and peace and comfort. And I’m remembering He delights in my willingness to pay the very real cost of following Him to faraway places.”

    Yes, indeed they do feel heavier this time… thank you for pointing me back up to the One who is worth our every YES. I feel the cost today.

    Thank you,


    1. Patty Stallings September 28, 2014

      Marcy, I’m so sorry to hear of your friend’s loss.  Your presence as she and her daughters began walking this path must have been a reminder of the Comforter’s presence in a very real way.

      Thank you for getting on the plane and making that long trek back to where He has called you.  I’m trusting with you that our Father will be near both you and your friend.

      The high cost you are paying declares He absolutely is worthy.

  23. Anita Devore November 19, 2014

    These comments have brought back so many memories.  Somehow, though, the pain of goodbyes when we finally left our field of service to return to the States, facing health issues and retirement, was much greater than any of the goodbyes we said during the previous 25 years going back and forth for term of service.  However, as always before, God’s grace was sufficient.  May the Lord continue to bless and use you.

    1. Patty Stallings November 20, 2014

      Dear Anita, thank you for sharing this perspective out of your years of experience!  And for reminding us of His sufficient grace!

  24. Debbie March 15, 2015

    I have just discovered ‘Velvet Ashes’ and have read 1 post after another.  I must admit, I initially picked this one because of the picture.  I have been there!  That is Mijas, Spain, right?  But, seriously, I have cried through several articles and I really related to this 1.  We, too, have 3 all grown-up kids in the US while we are still serving where they grew up.  We are coming up to a short furlough, and we are thinking so differently about it now that we are meeting the ‘kids’ there, rather than taking them with us.

    1. Patty Stallings March 17, 2015

      Hi Debbie!  Warmly welcome to our Velvet Ashes community!  And you are right – I did take this photo in Mijas, Spain.  Good eye!

      May you be reminded today of how beautiful your sacrifice is to our Shepherd.  I’m joining Shelly (below) in asking for His abundance in your furlough and for sweet moments that fill up your momma tank.

  25. Shelly March 15, 2015

    Dear Debbie, I “happen” to be online and just read your comment. I have paused to ask Jesus, our abundantly available Helper, to help you and your family prepare for a new kind of furlough. Do not fear the uncertainties that lie ahead for “God Almighty is with you; the God of Jacob is your fortress… [and] He is God.”  (Taken from Psalm 46, the passage the ladies at my church meditated on yesterday. The unconnected topics of the weekend have all been about trust.) Peace. And welcome to the community!

  26. Alison August 16, 2015

    “You laid your Isaac on the altar and there was no ram in the thicket to rescue and return your sacrifice”

    SO well penned, Patty! You understand so well the pain of the sacrifice, and yet you are a pillar of strength to those who serve on the overseas field. Thank you for wearing your heart on your sleeve, while providing hope/support/encouragement through the truth that He is, indeed, worthy. Your reminder that “He takes note and makes crazy promises to those who obey His call” gives me strength to keep on keeping on.

    Bless you!

    1. Patty Stallings August 17, 2015

      Alison, it blesses me that you’ve been encouraged today!  May He surround you with His rest and care as you experience His delight in you in surprising and wonder-filled ways!

  27. Mike September 1, 2016

    Patty, saying goodbye to the place and people that I deeply loved was actually much more difficult than all of the “temporary” goodbyes that we’ve said to family and friends over the 20+ years when we lived in China. We knew that we would be back to see them again in another year, so it wasn’t really “goodbye” but rather “see you later.”

    But now, every August, this year for the second time, it’s so hard to realize that our goodbyes last year were most likely real goodbyes, because, unless my situation miraculously changes (and yes, we know Someone who is in the business of miracles), I won’t be going back.

    And so I find myself in tears every August.

    1. Patty Stallings September 12, 2017

      Thinking of you and Wendy in this season, Mike. May the Comforter be unmistakably present.

  28. Addie September 12, 2017

    I love this, thank you! I’m also so touched and inspired by the comments.
    I wish I could articulate the pain of sacrifice better, without making it sound like I’m unwilling to make that sacrifice. That’s a hard line for me, to be able to safely open up about the loss I’m enduring without being accused of being disobedient to God’s will. I am so happy to have found a community that really “gets it”! 🙂

    1. Patty Stallings September 12, 2017

      Addie, I’m so glad you ended up here at Velvet Ashes and are a part of our community!
      When I think of the pain of sacrifice, I think of Jesus in the garden. He didn’t sugar coat the pain or cost of His sacrifice, but He wept and felt deeply what was to come. And then He stood up and obeyed, knowing His Father chose well. That gives me courage. And hope. And a deep love for Him and for those He calls to share in His suffering.
      Much grace and peace to you!

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