The Art of Saying Goodbye in a Culture of See You Later

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[It’s college graduation season; a series of opportunities to say goodbye to the people and places that have been meaningful to the college experience. But it’s not easy. We recently put together a video blessing for college graduates, and today we have an essay penned by Jess that should be required reading for anyone experiencing significant change in life. Enjoy!] 

I remember towards the end of a semester long study abroad trip in college when I read the beginning of John 13. Not the well-read section on Jesus washing the disciples’ feet but the very first verse that introduces why Jesus washes their feet.

In the ESV John 13:1 reads, ‘Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.’ And in the NIV the last part reads, ‘he now showed them the full extent of his love.’

My time abroad was ending and I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. My default was and had always been to withdraw when I knew I was going to have to say goodbye. I would stop investing and start self-protecting in order to minimize the impending hurt and loss. I would retreat. Yet, here this one verse was challenging me to approach goodbyes differently. In this passage, Jesus was doing the opposite. Knowing he was getting ready to leave, he was pouring even more of himself into those he loved. I was blown away.

After that trip, I went on to graduate study and work in academia. What no one ever told me as I prepared for a career on college campuses is that goodbyes are integral to the work. Every August you welcome a new group of college freshman onto campus, invest in them over the next 4ish years, and then watch them leave. Rinse and repeat. They are never meant to stay. Specifically, my previous work in the Calling and Career Office at my institution was entirely focused on helping

students discover and develop their gifts and talents in ways that prepare them for life after college.

Each day I am keenly aware that to do my job well means that I am investing in them so they will be prepared to leave and live well.

Several years ago, I became a licensed foster parent and I remember the first time I had to say goodbye. My first placement had been three little girls who had been living in my home for almost two months. As much as we had talked about the transition in the days leading up to the move, when it came time to say goodbye they didn’t really understand. All they wanted to know was why they weren’t going to be staying with me anymore. As a foster parent I know from the day I welcome a child into my home, I will almost always have to say goodbye. But knowing that doesn’t make it easier.

And as I stood and said goodbye to those little girls, in my heart I questioned whether it was really worth it to follow Jesus’ example and to invest until the very end. In that moment, I wanted nothing more than to withdraw and protect my heart. I wanted to invest less so it didn’t hurt so much. I wanted to say ‘see you later’ rather than ‘goodbye.’ But I knew I likely wouldn’t see them again and what they needed from me was an honest goodbye. Empty promises that I would see them again would not help them fully engage and settle into their new family.

In these and many other experiences, I have often wished someone would have taught me how to say goodbye well when I was growing up. Instead one of two things usually happened. Either I couldn’t wait to say goodbye and good riddance to an experience or person or I held on for dear life to what I was losing. Both negatively impacted my next experience or relationship.

In the church we rarely, if ever, talk about saying goodbye unless we are at a funeral. The reality though is that goodbyes are a part of our lives long before we get to a funeral. Our lives are full of comings and goings, transitions—the changing of seasons, both in nature and in our lives and hearts. Different seasons, with different people, roles and responsibilities.

And the more I encounter these different seasons and roles and relationships in my work and life, the more I am convinced that our inability to say goodbye well, is paralyzing us (me) from living fully into the abundant John 10:10 life that God desires for us.

And so, I find myself at the end of another academic year preparing to say goodbye yet again (maybe you do as well).

So what have I learned about saying goodbye that I wish we talked about more (and that we and our students practiced) in this season?

  1. We are meant to live and invest fully until the very last day. Withdrawing or checking out early from a relationship or experience before the end may feel easier in the moment, but it doesn’t help us say goodbye well.
  2. It is better (if at all possible) to leave with no regrets. This is where it can be easier to avoid hard conversations because you know you’re leaving soon and it doesn’t feel worth it. If it is healthy and safe for you—have the hard conversation.
  3. Take time to grieve what you are losing. We live in a culture that rarely likes to name emotion or slow down long enough to reflect. But to leave well we have to do both. Name what you are losing and give yourself permission and time to grieve it.
  4. Extend extra grace to yourself and others as each person says goodbye and grieves differently. If it is a group experience like college or a trip—where there is a group of people all grieving the same loss at the same time, this step is critical. Emotions are high, sleep and self-care are usually lacking and a little extra grace can go a long way in helping you not leave with regrets.
  5. And finally: when the time comes there is a need to actually say goodbye, not see you later.

Goodbyes are complex. Some we have been waiting to say from day one, others we have been dreading. Some are expected, and others are sudden. There is the loss of children, homes, communities, family members and certain life stages. Goodbyes carry emotions and memories of shared experiences, relationships and life lived with others in community that we don’t want to lose or admit are changing.

But goodbyes also give us the opportunity to genuinely thank those who have made an impact on our lives in a particular season. I’m not often a note person— but in seasons of goodbyes—I’ve found it to be helpful both for myself and others to have something tangible to mark the goodbye. Goodbyes allow us to reflect on what we’ve learned in a particular season or from a particular person. They allow us to stop poor habits or start afresh in new places with new people.

And so, I think we need to talk and practice the art of saying goodbye. I think to learn to leave well is to learn to live well (And I’m not above some chocolate, coffee or a nap after a hard goodbye either).

Jess Fankhauser is co-author of READY or NOT: Leaning into Life in Our Twenties. She is assistant director of athletics at Taylor University, and is licensed foster parent. 

A Blessing for College Graduates

It’s college graduation season, a time full of hope, expectation, and anxiety. I gathered some friends to bless all of you walking across that stage this year. Be encouraged, and share with others.

A Blessing for College Graduates. 

May your post-college life excite your heart,
Kindle in your mind creativity
To journey beyond the old limits
Of all that has become wearisome.

May this season challenge you toward
New frontiers that will emerge
As you begin to approach them,
Calling forth from you the full force
And depth of your undiscovered gifts.

May this next chapter fit the rhythms of your soul,
Enabling you to draw from the invisible
New ideas and a vision that will inspire.

Remember to be kind
To those who work with you,
Endeavor to remain aware
Of the quiet world
That lives behind each face.

Be fair in your expectations,
Compassionate in your criticism.
May you have the grace of encouragement
To awaken the gift in the other’s heart,
Building in them the confidence
To follow the call of the gift.

May you come to know that your responsibilities
Which emerge from the mind of love
Will have beauty and form.

May this time be worthy
Of the energy of your heart
And the light of your thought.

May your new roles assume
proper spaces in your life;
Instead of owning or using you,
May they challenge and refine you,
Bringing you every day further
Into the wonder of your heart.

[Adapted from John O’Donohue, “Blessings for a New Position,” To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings (2008)]

READY or NOT Virtual Book Club Chapter One: Vocation

For the next few months, we’ll be journeying through READY or NOT, chapter by chapter. Consider it a virtual book club where we explore a few insights from each chapter. You can follow along whether or not you read the book, but reading sure helps. We’ll continue by exploring the “Chapter One: Vocation” (pages 1-16) 

LIVE THE QUESTIONS. If we take the words of the poet Rilke to heart, we are to “live the questions.”

What does that mean? Chapter One argues for the importance of asking good and beautiful questions.  Such questions take us deeper than the ones we’re prone to ask, such as “What am I going to watch on Netflix?” or “What do I want to eat for dinner?”

To live the questions is to approach our lives with a sense of depth, reflection, wonder, and curiosity. And these are the very things required to discern vocation well. Vocation, this call by God to live as God intends us to live. Specifically, we define it in the book this way:

Vocation is a life lived faithfully with God in the many dimensions that make a good life (p. 8)
It’s a big definition for a big idea. But, with time and intention, one can break it down into reasonable bites. Vocation provides the framework to live your twenties (your thirties, forties, and so on) with hope, purpose, and meaning.

This the good life: faithful living in the areas in which you are called by God. It’s spirituality, work, church, family, and community. And it’s available to you here and now.

Q: Do your days and weeks resonate with the vision of the good life you carry with you in your heart and soul? Why or why not?

Q: What does it look like for you to flourish here and now?

Vocation is a lifelong process. Not a destination. It’s a long and often meandering obedience in the same direction. It encompasses all of you, and therefore it requires all of you.

Answer the call faithfully this week, step-by-step. It’s truly the best way to live.


**ORDER Drew’s book (co-authored with Jess Fankhauser) Ready or Not: Leaning into Life in our Twenties, by clicking HERE. #ReadyorNotBook || Read a review from Publishers Weekly || Watch the OFFICIAL Book Trailer || BONUS CONTENT

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READY or NOT Virtual Book Club || Introduction

“So, what are my twenties for, anyway?”

For the next few months, we’ll be journeying through READY or NOT, chapter by chapter. Consider it a virtual book club where we explore a few insights from each chapter. You can follow along whether or not you read the book, but reading sure helps. We’ll begin by exploring the “Introduction: So, What Are My Twenties For, Anyway?” (pages ix-xxv) 

“The twenties are the best of life and the worst of life, and I can’t tell whether something is amazing or terrible half the time.”

Our friend Ben is on to something. Our twenties are full of adventure and change. They’re also full of confusion, pressure, and anxiety. It can be a disorienting time. In one ear we hear the shouts of those telling us to live it up in our twenties until you HAVE TO settle down and start #adulting. In the other ear we hear a very different message: figure it out as quickly as possible, or else you’re failing at life.

In a way, it’s a battle between FOMO (fear of missing out) and ROI (return on investment).

Ten years is a long time to try to make sense of those two messages. In fact, it’s a decade. [just call me Captain Obvious]

My friend Alan Briggs often uses a made up word to convey the complexity of a situation: TERRICITING.
We often find ourselves in contexts in which we feel equal parts terrified and excited.

Our twenties are a terriciting time. However, I don’t think you have to just try to survive them.

Your twenties are to be lived with hope, purpose, and meaning.

This is done by living intentionally in the exploration of our vocation; God’s unique and powerful call for our lives. More on that later. But for now, I’ll leave you with the 4 mantras of living a good life in your twenties:

  • Be fully present and fully prepared in your twenties–It may seem impossible. but it’s not.
  • Actively participate in your twenties–Play a key and active role in your life.
  • Live implicated (responsible) in your twenties–You are already called to some pretty important things. Respond out of your own sense of responsibility to them.
  • Embrace freedom, not fear in your twenties–God is on your side. Christ set you FREE.

READY or NOT, you’re a twentysomething. For this ten year stretch, you might as well lean into them.

Describe your current twentysomething in one word:

Now describe it in one sentence:

Q: What insight does this provide you with how you’re living your twenties?


Worth Reading: Meg Jay’s book The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter–And How to Make the Most of Themis a helpful supplement to READY or NOT’s introduction.

Worth WatchingHere’s a brief teaching clip in which I argue that you can live your twenties with hope, purpose, and meaning.

Worth Pondering: “You are more powerful than you think you are. Act accordingly.”–Seth Godin

Lean into hope, purpose, and meaning this week.



Listen to the OFFICIAL READY or NOT Soundtrack on Spotify


To honor the release of READY or NOT: Leaning Into Life in Our Twenties, I’m pleased to present The OFFICIAL READY or NOT Soundtrack on Spotify

Curated by twentysomethings all over the world, you’ll find over four hours of music exploring the hopes, dreams, depths, pains, and struggles of being a twentysomething. Some songs are aspirational. Some are descriptive. Some are hopeful. Some are pessimistic. Some sing praises to God. Others (only a few) have some choice words about the difficulties of life [you’ve been warned. don’t @ me]. 

All explore this important season in life.

Read well and listen well. Feel free to share!


overflowing-waterWe couldn’t fit all of our content into READY or NOT. Want it?

Here’s how it works in 3 simple steps:

  1. Buy your copy(ies)
  2. Fill out the form below.
  3. You’ll receive an email with download links to your READY or NOT Bonus Content.

Here’s what you can get!



  • BUY 1 COPY and you will receive:

    • 30 books to Read Before You Turn 30–We’ve curated a list of the most influential books for the twentysomething decade in a handy PDF, ranging from spirituality, relationships, work, and much more. 
    • Money in Your Twenties–One of our most popular sessions that’s NOT in the book is on personal finance. These worksheets help explore a faithful understanding of money, and provide exercises for you to build a budget and set a healthy trajectory of personal finance.  
    • READY or NOT Mantra Cards–As you read the book, you’ll find that 4 Mantras drive our approach. We’ve designed printable cards for you to download and use as reminders to live with hope, purpose, and meaning.
    • READY or NOT Worksheets–We’ve pulled all of the end chapter exercises and discussion questions and placed them in a helpful PDF. Great for taking notes!
  • BUY  2 COPIES and you will receive:

    • 30 books to Read Before You Turn 30
    • Money in Your Twenties
    • READY or NOT Mantra Cards
    • READY or NOT Worksheets
    • PLUS
      • ​READY or NOT Quote Cards–Each chapter of READY or NOT begins with quotes from other authors that inspire and provoke. We’ve designed printable cards for you to download and use.
      • 20 Scriptures for Your Twenties–Twenty passages of scripture that we feel contain special relevance to the twentysomething decade. Each are in its own printable form, for you to download and use for reflection.
  • BUY 6 OR MORE COPIES (IDEA: lead a group!) and you will receive:

    • 30 books to Read Before You Turn 30
    • Money in Your Twenties
    • READY or NOT Mantra Cards
    • READY or NOT Worksheets
    • READY or NOT Quote Cards
    • 20 Scriptures for Your Twenties
    • PLUS
      • A 45 Minute Skype session with Drew or Jess–If you put a group together and buy 6 or more copies, one (or both!) of us will schedule a Skype call to interact with your group.
      • READY or NOT Leader’s Guide–We designed READY or NOT to make it easy for groups to journey through the book together, without the need of a vocation expert. To make it even easier, we put together this leader’s guide to help facilitators.
      • The Art of Goodbye in a Culture of See You Later–Jess has penned a beautiful essay on this topic, and we’ve got some helpful exercises to follow it. Both are included in this PDF to help you navigate flourish amid major life changes.

To get your bonus content, fill out this form below.



Spirituality Part 3: RESURRECTION

I’ve heard it said before that all of life can be understood as BIRTH, DEATH, & RESURRECTION, for these are the three pillars of the spiritual life. In this season of Lent, I think they form a helpful frame in which to reflect and prepare. This is the third of three letters that focus on one pillar at a time as we now find ourselves in Holy Week.

Birth. Death. Resurrection. Each holds significant weight and space in our souls. But resurrection is the most difficult to grasp. It’s never easy to comprehend what we cannot see. I’ve seen the birth of children. I’ve experienced the death of loved ones. But I can only hope for resurrection. My eyes have never seen the dead come to life.

Our faith hinges on a hope that Jesus’ words will come true:

“Behold, I am making all things new.” Rev 21:5

And until we behold firsthand, we trust. We trust that resurrection makes sense of the dissonance of birth and death; some coherence of the wonder and the tragedy.

Theologians, philosophers, and mystics are fascinated by “the law of three,” a metaphysical fixation on the infinite power of three things over two. The law tells us that a third can give meaning and purpose to the previous two.

  • German philosophers offered thesisantithesis, and synthesis; a clarion call to think deeply and critically.
  • Father Richard Rohr gives us orderdisorder, and reorder; a framework for how we mature in our faith.
  • The triune God gives us perichoresis; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the divine dance.

The law of three frees us from the tyranny of dualism and polarization.  It calls us to deeper work, moving through the primacy of birth and the ‘finality’ of death to a different plane. But it’s not easy. Birth can captivate, but is fleeting. Death can depress us, hoodwinking us into accepting the lie that things have come to their natural end. As Thomas Merton reminds us:

The risen life is not easy; it is also a dying life. The presence of the Resurrection in our lives means the presence of the Cross, for we do not rise with Christ unless we also first die with him. It is by the cross that we enter the dynamism of creative transformation, the dynamism of resurrection and renewal, the dynamism of love.– Thomas Merton (He is Risen)

Resurrection gives meaning and purpose to birth and death. It is the ultimate synthesis, the ultimate reordering.

So while we cannot see it, we can hope for it. We can hope for creative transformation. We can hope for the dynamism of renewal and love.

How? I don’t have a formula for you, but rather a wise hunch. The farmer-poet Wendell Berry ends his manifesto on agriculture, of all things, with two words: practice resurrection.

Practice resurrection. It’s his final hope on the plight of agriculture. It’s our only hope for the plight of anything, really.
Practice creative transformation.
Practice the dynamism of renewal.
Practice the dynamism of love.
Practice resurrection.

What does it look like? I think when we orient our lives in the smallest and most mundane ways around transformation, renewal, and love, we practice resurrection. When we see the tough things through to the other side, when we bring love to unlovely places, when we refuse to settle for the simplistic on the quick and easy side of the complex, we practice resurrection.

When we seek to live our lives as though we truly are beholding Jesus making all things new, we’re practicing resurrection.

Q: How can you practice resurrection this week? 

Enter to win 1 of 10 copies of Ready or Not!

goodreads-to-read-696x567Ready or Not 3D images

Great news! My publisher is giving away 10 (YES 10!) copies of Ready or Not: Leaning into Life in Our Twenties, on Goodreads. You can enter to win 1 of these copies by clicking HERE.

Note: If you’re not on Goodreads, you should be. It’s a great place for readers.

Another note: Even if you’ve preordered or received an advance copy, you should still enter. It’d make a great gift. . .

Spirituality Part 2: DEATH

I’ve heard it said before that all of life can be understood as BIRTH, DEATH, & RESURRECTION, for these are the three pillars of the spiritual life. In this season of Lent, I think they form a helpful frame in which to reflect and prepare. This is the second of three letters that focus on one pillar at a time as we prepare for holy week.

Nobody wants to talk about death. When we have to, we don’t really know how. It’s awkward and painful, full of tragedy and platitudes.

We cower from death’s power. We shudder at its finality.
And yet, it’s a universal experience. We all encounter death. We all must come to terms with it, whether it be losing a loved one or considering our own mortality.

We can be so fixated on Death with a capitol “D”, we often miss the smaller “deaths” that lead to growth.

Consider these words from Father Richard Rohr:

Death is not just the death of the physical body, but all the times we hit bottom and must let go of how we thought life should be and surrender to a Larger Power. And in that sense, we all probably go through many deaths in our lifetime. These deaths to the small self are tipping points, opportunities to choose transformation early. Unfortunately, most people turn bitter and look for someone to blame. So their death is indeed death for them, because they close down to growth and new life.

It’s true: We’re all going to die someday. But between now and our last breath, we will find plenty of opportunities to fall, hit bottom, let go, and surrender. These are the “many deaths” of which Rohr speaks. They can easily take us to a place of bitterness, which is truly a death of sorts. Or they can lead to growth; a new way of living. (But we’ll talk more about that next week).

We’re all dying. Where do our deaths take us?

Q: What death(s) are you currently experiencing that God may be calling you to let go and surrender?

Spirituality Part 1: BIRTH

F A T H O M || T R I B E
I’ve heard it said before that all of life can be understood as BIRTH, DEATH, & RESURRECTION, for these are the three pillars of the spiritual life. In this season of Lent, I think they form a helpful frame in which to reflect and prepare. My next three letters will focus on one pillar at a time as we prepare for holy week.

New life is ripe. Ripe with potential. Ripe with opportunity. Ripe with goodness. Ripe with hope.
When something is born, it’s nearly always in what the Celtic Christians call a “thin place”, where the veil between heaven and earth is pulled, and we are able to see differently.

We all go through the “birthing” process to enter our world. Creative work leads to the birth of beautiful things…
…whether it’s a baby, a puppy, a chick, or the bud of a rose beginning to bloom.
…whether it’s an inanimate creative work, such as an album, a painting, or a sculpture.
…whether it’s an idea, concept, or solution.

The arrival of something new in the world changes us.

I recently watched the film Loving Vincent, a beautiful work of art in its own right. The film is the world’s first fully painted feature film about Vincent Van Gogh’s final days. It’s an arresting film, plunging the depths of the painter’s despair and love.

The man ‘birthed’ over 800 masterful paintings in his tragically short career, but he sold only one during his lifetime.


The irony of Vincent’s tragic life should be lost on no one. One of the greatest painters of all-time died a commercial failure. One sale, but hundreds of works of art that teach us about beauty, complexity, and love.

It seems absurd.

But when we reflect a bit more, it’s not so absurd. You see, there’s a deeper irony when it comes to birth.

Most often that which is born is more beautiful and pure than the world it enters.

There’s a profound collision of beauty and affliction everywhere, when we have eyes to see.
When we do, we learn to live in the tension of birth and death.

In this broken, fractured, and polarized world, we need birth. I think this is what Jesus was getting at when he was teaching Nicodemus about how to see the kingdom of God (John 3). We must be “born again.”

We can change. We can see things anew. We can live differently. We can “birth” again, and we can be about birthing new things: midwifing the arrival of “life” through art, ideas, service, worship, family.

We are all a people once born.
We are all a people facing death.

We can hold hope in the midst of pain and suffering.
We can live in this world but not be of it.

Q: What “births” have been most formative in your life?
Q: What “life” can you help arrive into this world?