An Open Letter to the Ones Who Stay.

Community is both the greatest treasure to be found and one of my greatest fears to leave and be left with the task of having to find again.

As humans, we were designed and created with this longing ingrained into the very being of who we are. A longing to be in relationship with one another and a longing to be known, so we crave community. It is essential to our existence in every way because it is integral to who our Creator is. I grasp this truth with each new season of life, but none more so than the season I’m currently experiencing and now preparing to leave.

My move to Chicago was unexpected and after experiencing the sweet community and cultures of the city, I never thought I would leave, especially to go to California. This current season of life, now in Los Angeles, has been filled with adventure, unexpected brokenness, intertwined with lessons that have shaped me, and full of opportunity that has created growth. But now, I find that God is yet again asking me to trust His guidance as He leads me back to Chicago.

Maybe like me, God is calling you to leave a place and community of people or asking you to stay while others leave. Either or, this letter is for the goodbyes and hellos that the future holds.

To all of the individuals who have come into our lives and inspired us, this is for you. For all of the people who chose to stay amidst chaos, this is for you. For those who are walking examples of love and courage personified, this is for you. You are the greatest treasures to be found. Our relationships with people like you consistently remind us of God’s goodness and faithfulness; it is because of you that I write this letter. It is because of you that I am who I am today.


Dear friends,

Saying goodbye to you is like saying hello to eternity, for farewells are never permanent.

However, goodbyes are the only moment with you that I would ever want to be fleeting.

When the time arrives, a feeling of deep anguish penetrates the core of who I am.

In that instance, I’m overcome by an array of emotions including unexpected grief as I mourn this fragmentation that is wedged amidst relationship.

This unending cycle: Goodbye. Repeat. A hello leading to an end.

Every time I say goodbye, I’m reminded that it was never something we were meant to know, which is why it’s so painful.

But as difficult as the greeting of a new type of pain can be, I’m also reminded of God’s incredible goodness in this moment, knowing that testimony to the sweetness of community lies in the pain held with our goodbyes.

I will never let the profound impact you have had on my life become a memory that is transient.  You are and will always be a rare piece of my story and of my heart.

One day I will reach out my hand

and say hello

with an understanding that there will never again be a goodbye said.

You will always have a place

In the space that was made




No matter where you go, community follows and grows. Those whose physical presence have left you for a time mean absolutely no less to you than before, and the new friends that enter into your life are added to the list of creatives, dreamers, and game changers who have inspired and influenced you profoundly.

Let your community be a constant reminder to you of the goodness and faithfulness of God, for it will remain constant and sure.  Even amidst the loneliest of seasons, I’ve learned that we just need to revise our perspective to see all of those who truly surround us and the way God is choosing to make His presence known.

words by Emily Steffen and photo by Hannah Jin

A lover of loving others.

I’m glad you’re here.


  1. Charline says

    Hey Emily,
    I’m a 21 year old currently living in SLO but traveling through SB for the day. I stumbled upon your thoughts while sippin on some sweet coffee at a cute shop during my pit-stop in rainy SB. My journal is full of word vomit from the past two hours thoughts. I’m a senior in college and about to transition into a new stage of unknowns; destination, people, and job included. Amongst all this, I so deeply and truly want to cling to fact that we don’t have to walk alone. Community is amongst us, wherever we are. Thank you for so perfectly putting into words the very thing my heart needed to hear. I am grateful for perspectives like yours that are real, honest, and filling. The Lord has grasped your heart in such a beautiful way! Thank you for embodying joy during chaos. Have a wonderful Christmas season, sending you the best for your new adventure!

  2. Dawn Marie says

    Yes Miss Em, at times I sit quietly reflecting in the many communities I have lived about and those within that too have added a morsel of their spirit to my journey of life. Many pieces of me are of co.pilations of the people and places I have had the pleasure of the hellos and goodbyes you speak of. Their now a part of my life and continue to thank God for placing me right where I’m supposed to be! Faith in him and his plan is the. Only bag you ever need to pack for with him rests the ultimate journey in our life. Rest assured it will be challenging and rewarding as one day we too will say goodbye to this world and hello to another place.. I thank him for this time and this place for have knowing such a lovely young. and talented lady known as EM. XO Save travels and Merry Christmas!

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