Mar 222010

It’s Monkday, friends.

The essay below was written by Father John, the pastor at my dear friend Michelle’s church.

Thank you, Father John, for the important reminder. I’m not responsible for changing another soul on this Earth. Just me. Just me.

Lather, rinse, repeat.


Somewhere along the line, I picked up an image of humanity that – to the degree I can remember and apply its truth – is tremendously liberating. I share it with you as a pretty good way to enrich your Lent.

The image is that of everyone being locked up in their own individual cage.

Imagine, for a second, every single human being locked up in their own personal cage…a prisoner…captive somehow, to their own limiting beliefs, or deeply ingrained habits, or regrets, or fears.

If it’s difficult to picture all of humanity that way, just picture someone close to you…your spouse, child, or parent, or a close friend or colleague. With just a little bit of thought, you can probably see their cage…some way they are imprisoned, captive to a limiting belief, habit, regret, or fear.

Now here’s the second part of that image: every single human being, standing in those cages, also holds in his or her hand a key.

The key fits one lock, and one lock only.

Most of us assume our key can unlock other people’s cages and so – well intentioned – we spend a considerable amount of time and energy reaching across to other people’s cages, trying to fix other people’s problems, trying to make our key fit their lock.

It’s frustrating work, because our key only fits one lock, and that is the lock on our own cage.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Jesus asks (Matthew 7:3).

In other words, in any relationship, there is only person we can change, and that is us.

Now it’s important to point out that just as changing one part of a mathematical formula affects everything around it, changing ourselves – changing our self – affects everyone around us, for better or worse.

But there’s a huge difference – all the difference in the world! – between “affecting others” (as a byproduct of our own change) and “attempting to change others” per se.

So…you want some liberating news?

Your key doesn’t fit your spouse’s cage…your parents’ cage…your child’s cage…or anyone else’s cage. It fits your cage.

And even more liberating news is this: by the grace of God, each person you love has their own key, too.

So let’s focus our energy on changing the one person we can: our self.

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” (Marianne Williamson)

See you Sunday,

Fr. John

St. James’ Episcopal

Leesburg, Va

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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Mar 192010

My father’s name is Jimmy Elmer Adams. Every great once in a while, he will meet someone in a formal setting who will call him James, assuming it is his given name. But the name on his birth certificate is Jimmy. My mother calls him either JE or Jim, but she still has a Texas accent, so it sounds more like JEE-yim. He is a wonderful man. I absolutely adore him.

My dad has a gift for revering his past while still enjoying his present. He doesn’t tell his stories with a hint of sadness, just appreciation for his life experiences. He calls himself the luckiest man on earth. He’s also the best storyteller I’ve ever met. My dad has been repeating the same stories over and over again his whole life, but they still make people laugh. Even if someone (me) interrupts him with a polite chuckle and says, “Yah…heard that one already…” he will finish the story anyway, for the 500th time, with the same verve that he told it the first time.

My favorite part of his storytelling is when he stops to laugh at himself. He will get himself so tickled that he turns red in the face, throws his head back, closes his eyes, opens his mouth as wide as possible, and roars with laughter that sounds like machine gun fire. If the people around him are not laughing at the story itself, they are laughing at how tickled he is. Our neighbors used to tell us they could always tell when the Adams family was having dinner on the deck because bursts of laughter would echo through our woodsy neighborhood.

When my brother and I were teenagers, we used to joke that our friends liked our parents more than they liked us. Our friends were at our house all the time, and our parents liked having all of us around. It seems there was always at least one stray friend at our dinner table. My mother likes to think it is because her cooking was delicious (it was), but I am fairly certain it’s because a meal with my dad guaranteed you at least one or two hard belly laughs.

In 1994, I received my all-time favorite Christmas present from my folks. On the outside, it looked like a nondescript blue binder filled with a big stack of white paper. The first page read,

Book of Memories

Compiled in 1994

Dedicated to Future Generations of My Family

The binder was filled with my parents’ personal histories. The first half was written by my dad, and the second half by my mom. (Actually, my dad dictated his portion to my mother while she typed it for him. That woman can type like nobody’s business.) The chapters had titles like, It All Started When, Early Childhood, Junior High and Adolescence, Special Days & Family Events, etc. The subtitles included everything from Early Playmates to First Full-Time Job. My parents wrote all they could remember about their lives.

Today, I’ll tell you about my dad’s half of the binder.

My dad was born in 1939. He had a happy childhood and a very close-knit family. His stories have a sweetness that makes me feel nostalgic for an era that I didn’t experience…those soda fountain, pie-on-the-windowsill days that seem long-gone now. I feel like a lot of senior citizens treat today’s modern life like an assault on the simpler times from when they were kids. But my dad doesn’t do that. His stories seem to be just a pick-me-up to remind him of good times, good friends, and why it’s great to be alive.

Below are my favorite excerpts from my father’s history. Some make me sigh, some make me laugh, and some make me cry. They all make me proud to be his daughter.

All the years I lived in Crane, it was actually a very good place to grow up. Crane was a small town…completely isolated—the nearest town was something like 20 miles away. My friends and I spent all our time playing ball and camping out. The world was a little different then: kids had a lot more freedom because parents didn’t have to worry about as many things as they do now. In many ways, it was idyllic for a young boy.

There was another area about 10 miles from Crane that we referred to as the sand hills. The sand dunes were constantly shifting, due to the wind blowing, and you could find Indian arrowheads and pieces of Indian pottery. It was a wonderful place to camp out. The atmosphere was so devoid of any pollution that at night you could look up and see a blanket of stars that were so bright and clear.

We lived in two other three other houses in Crane. The most memorable one was one which my father built. My father was not an accomplished carpenter, and one corner of the roof drooped down; it almost looked as if he did it on purpose, but I can assure you he didn’t.

We suffered extreme economic hardship, but that never really affected the family relationships. In a way, I’m not sure that the collective struggle to deal with the financial hardships didn’t bring us all closer together. I think somehow dealing with a common adversity is a cathartic event that molds a stronger family.

The Cokers lived directly across the street from us when we lived in the shotgun house. The Cokers were unusual people. I remember sitting on the front porch and watching Mr. and Mrs. Coker fight with their relatives, and I mean literally. They would fight up and down the street with much yelling and swearing and the Coker kids running around screaming and crying. It was grand.

Growing up in Southwest Texas in a little town that was a million miles from anywhere, we didn’t have television even after it was commonplace elsewhere. Family entertainment consisted largely of listening to the radio. Some of my fondest memories are of the family sitting around the kitchen table on cold, winter evenings working jigsaw puzzles and listening to the radio. The programs that I remember most were Fibber McGee and Molly, Lux Radio Theater, Suspense, Mr. District Attorney, The Thin Man, The Shadow, Amos and Andy, The Great Gildersleeve, Sky King, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, The Green Hornet, and Stella Dallas. The list could go on and on.

We would go out into the oilfields where a lot of well drilling had been done, and there was scrap cable lying around in the sand. We would find this cable, and I would pull it out from the sand and load it on this trailer. When we had the trailer full, we could take it to McCamey to sell it to a scrap metal dealer. Those kinds of endeavors when you are working just to stay alive, when you come through that, your relationship tends to be very, very strong.

In the hot summer, everybody would go to the swimming pool to swim; we had a community pool. The thing to do was to walk by the ice house on the way and get a scrap piece of ice to suck while you walked to the pool. We’d also walk to the movies, and on the way, we’d stop by the grocery store in town. In the summer, they had sugar cane, and you could buy a joint of sugar cane for a nickel.

I got my driver’s license when I was 14, and I was so excited. I got to take the car to the movies shortly after I got my license, and after the movie was over, I was talking with my friends and walked home and left the car at the movies. My father was thoroughly disgusted.

I’ll never forget the first day I had my convertible. It was a white convertible with a black and white interior. I had a date that night, so I dressed in black and white two-tone shoes, black trousers, a black and white shirt, and, of course, sunglasses. Altogether quite a natty fellow. As I was driving along on the way to get my date with the top down on my new convertible, a bird shat and splattered black and white bird droppings on my black and white shirt.

There is a story that my wife, when she was younger, dated a very handsome but a very poor young man. She had also dated a very wealthy but very ugly young man. She always said that if she ever found a happy medium between the two, she would marry him. And sure enough, she married the poorest, ugliest man on campus.

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest

Mar 192010

Dearest Laura,

Thank you for driving all the way to my home yesterday just to bring my Lymie family a homemade casserole. What a wonderful thing to do for a friend you haven’t seen for over a year.

More Importantly:

Thank you for refusing to bat an eye when Tish, Amma, and I greeted you at the door in a tutu, diaper, and a pajama top and torn jeans, respectively.

Thank you for gracefully stepping over the 40 million matchbox cars and plastic animals scattered all over the family floor.

Thank you for pretending that Tish was not stomping her feet and wailing and slamming doors because SHE WANTED A COOKIE NOW RIGHT NOW NOW NOW NOW.

Thank you for laughing when Amma came out of the bathroom with an entire roll of dental floss wrapped around her hands.

Thank you for continuing your story without missing a beat when my little angels started pummeling each other like WWF wrestlers over a plastic elephant.

Thank you for “not noticing” when I let Amma eat her spilled snack, one cheeto at a time, off of our dirty kitchen floor.

Thanks for refusing to raise an eyebrow when I let the girls run relay races in the kitchen…or when Amma ran full speed into the oven with her head. And thanks for pretending not to see the resulting welt on her forehead.

Thank you for not pointing out the fact that I was sweating and twitching throughout our entire visit. And for repeating yourself when I got distracted. I wasn’t listening to you, Laura. Because I was mentally rehearsing telling Craig that I may have misheard God, that perhaps He wanted us to adopt out instead of in.

Thank you for saying things like, “Hey. I have a three year old, too. I know how it goes.” And not saying things like, “WOW. So you write a PARENTING blog, huh? And people READ it?”

Laura, what I’d really like to say to you is this:

“Oh my gosh, Laura, it was such a WEIRD day! The girls were SO tired. They missed their naps, you know. They’re not USUALLY LIKE THAT.”

But I can’t, Laura, because a long time ago I made a very shortsighted promise to myself that I wouldn’t lie on this blog.

One last thing, Laura.

Thank you, especially, for writing “TAKE OFF PLASTIC COVER” as the first direction on the casserole.

I woulda cooked it with that lid on, Laura. You know I would have.

Laura, I think this might be the re-beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Thanks, girl.

Love, Glennon

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest