Counting the Cost

While visiting with another mom the other day, I asked if she was getting excited about her family’s upcoming move.

“I’m really going to miss my friends,” she said.

“It’s only two hours away so you can come back on weekends,” I replied, trying to make her feel better.

“And we’ll visit you,” I added.

“That’s right, you like to travel.”

“I don’t like to travel,” I corrected. “I like who we travel to see.”

It’s been said that people will do what’s important to them at their own inconvenience. Friends are important to me. So important that I look for reasons to reconnect with the ones who live far away. Those reasons have taken our family to Florida, New York, California, Arizona, and several states in between. If I were to count the cost of those trips, it would pale in comparison to the price that so many pay for never having gone. People like the woman I met shortly after moving to Chicago. We were still getting to know each other when I mentioned that, although our family had no plans to move again, there was a chance that my husband’s company would ask us to relocate in five or ten years. Immediately upon hearing this, the woman exclaimed: “Why would I spend time getting to know you if you might leave me in five years?”

Although her words remind me of the Alfred Lord Tennyson poem where he said “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” I don’t view a friend’s move as a loss. To me, it’s an opportunity to show that person how much she matters. Those who do cross the miles will be relieved to find that one new memory has the power to bridge even a decade of silence. I’ve seen this happen again and again in my own life. Like last year when we traveled to Minneapolis to reconnect with a couple who left Nebraska before Katie and Hollie were born. As soon as we sat down to dinner, the miles melted away and my only regret was that we hadn’t gotten together sooner.

What that trip to Minneapolis taught me (and the lesson that I share with you today) is that Proverbs 27:10 tells us not to forsake others for good reasons—because relationships worth keeping are worth keeping in good condition; and no matter how much time passes, it’s never too late to pick up where you left off with a friend.

Testing 1-2-3

It’s been said that absence makes the heart grow fonder but, in this case, I’m guessing that it’s just made you wonder what I’ve been up to since my last update. Ever since the launch of my new blog, Time Out for Digging Out with Julie Albin, I’ve been wanting to create a separate podcast for the longer personal essays that were the trademark of my former newsletter. The thought of making this change was a daunting one but, in May, I took a deep breath and purchased the equipment that was needed to make the change. Although the learning curve associated with switching from a PC to an Apple computer was steep, I now have the ability to edit existing—and record new—podcast episodes at home using Garage Band.

The next time you enter my name in the search box of the iTunes store, you will notice that stories published through 2010 appear as part of a new podcast titled Finding the Message in the Mess of Everyday Living. You will also see that Time Out for Digging Out is now listed as the audio version of my blog. Although it will take a while to get caught up, I have uploaded two episodes to give you an idea of what the new format will sound like.

Click on the images below to view my original and newest podcast in iTunes:

As always, your feedback is welcome and appreciated so please let me know if there is something that I could be doing differently to improve my message or ministry. Two heads (or a a few hundred) are definitely better than one as we put every system to the test until the good is better and the better is best.


Starstruck

I don’t get starstruck. In fact, I have been known to assume that someone is “just another guest at an event” when in fact the person is hosting it. Like the time I made small talk with a woman at a charity dinner without realizing that the man standing next to her was the governor of Nebraska and she was his wife. Or the time I tagged along with Bill to a conference in California and “befriended” the wife of another conference attendee after assuming that she was feeling out-of-place, like I was. I later learned that the woman was the wife of the partner in charge of every auditor in the room (and the company’s national practice).

That’s me: Oblivious to and unimpressed by earthly accomplishments. I learned years ago that it’s not what we do, but who we are that matters. Jesus made this clear in the parable of the penny when he said that the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who paid his workers the same amount of money, regardless of the hours worked. This equal-pay-for-unequal-work philosophy that was laid out in Matthew 20 didn’t set well with the laborers who were in the field the longest. When they wanted more than the workers who were hired later in the day, Jesus held his ground as he said: “I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”

Knowing that everyone is of equal worth is not enough. We have to act like it by seeing similarities, instead of differences, in others. Years ago, I was visiting with someone from our church who had recently moved into a new neighborhood. When I asked if she had gotten to know the people who lived in the large house at the end of her street, she immediately tensed up and said: “Oh no, I could never be friends with them.”

“Why?” I asked her.

“Because their home is much nicer than ours.”

Her reply reminds me of these lyrics from the song “People Are People”  by Depeche Mode:

People are people
So why should it be
You and I should get
Along so awfully

So we’re different colours
And we’re different creeds
And different people have different needs
It’s obvious you hate me
Though I’ve done nothing wrong
I’ve never ever met you so what could I have done

The neighbor in the nice house did nothing to merit the conclusion that the woman I was visiting had drawn. And by putting someone on a pedestal that no man was meant to stand on she created, not just a pain in her neck, but a problem within her heart. Self-deprecation is a form of pride. And pride, according to Proverbs 16:18, always leads to our downfall.

We can’t believe that the bible is the inerrant word of God and discount it whenever it suits us. Instead, we are to recognize everyone’s worth and remember that no matter  how well-known we become in our corner of the world, there will always be someone who doesn’t know who we are.

Earlier this week, I was once again this “someone” when Bill sent me a picture that a coworker had taken of him and another man during their lunch.

“Don’t you know who that was?” Bill asked when he called to see if I had received it.

“Not a clue,” I replied.

“It’s Thibodeau.

“Thib-a-what?” I asked.

“Coach Thibodeau,” he said.

“The coach of the Chicago Bulls,” Bill added when I still didn’t have a clue. “You know, the NBA Coach of the Year.”

Turns out that person Bill had his picture taken with was more important that I realized and … so are you.