Ladies and Gentlemen, Ross DeMerchant!

Ross-DeMerchant---headshotI’ve been wanting you all to meet a dear friend and trusted confidant of mine, mostly because everyone needs a Ross DeMerchant in his or her life. During the 90s I had the privilege of working with Ross for several years.  He showed me what the term “servant leadership” can look like on a day-to-day basis.

He routinely brought in Perkins muffins (you know, the ones the size of a human head) for random departments around our office building just to be nice.  This wasn’t normal behavior where we worked.

When Ross asks people, “How are you doing?”  he wants an honest answer.   Every single week my social media feed is full of photos of Ross meeting up with people of all ages and from all walks of life simply to encourage them.  His main priority in life could be summed up simply: to love people well. In my opinion, that alone makes him one of the most successful people I know.

During our years working together, I mostly remember a lot of laughter.  I’m not talking polite, office-volume laughter.  I’m talking belly laughing until tears were rolling and my face hurt.  When he was telling stories to our staff, neighboring office workers often checked in to see what all the noise was about because they could hear us howling all the way down the hall.  And when got on the phone with his brother, we braced ourselves for a whole new level hilarity. I almost called an ambulance more than once. “Ross?  Are you breathing??  Say something!”

He loves his family fiercely. He has one of the best marriages I know of. He would make no apology for leaving work if Shirley or one of his kids needed him.  Ross showed me how to be myself, to keep laughing, and to love people well, no matter what else I decided to do with my life.  I am so grateful I had that kind of example to follow before I had kids of my own.

I also need to tell you that Ross is cool, mostly because he is admittedly uncool.  He does the kind of things I do when I’m trying to be smooth, like sticking a swizzle stick up his nose at a fancy-dancy cocktail party.(I don’t mind telling you, it remained lodged there until he removed it by hand!  Yes, that happened!)

Once I had the unprecedented joy of watching him introduce himself to Wayne Watson (remember him?) and let me just say… it played out way differently than Ross had rehearsed it in his mind.  I still DIE laughing every  time I think about it.

Ross DeMerchant

Throughout the years decades after we worked together, life took Ross’s family and my family in different directions but we tried to stay in contact, usually less successfully than we wished.  He and his family experienced some challenging years, and so did we.  Regardless of where we were in life, whenever we and our spouses would reconnect we still kept the joy alive and agreed that loving people is worth the risk, even when they disappoint us.

Not too long ago, we reconnected for a coffee appointment and I could see that Ross was about to birth a really important idea. He had become a grandfather and was starting to realize that if he didn’t write the book brewing inside him, he would be disobeying his calling.  (By the way, if you have an idea burning in your soul like that, you simply must do it.)

Today, little more than 2 years after that coffee appointment, Ross is the author of 26 Letters: How To Have The Conversations of Your Lifetime.  It’s a thoughtful book about leaving your legacy for future generations. Guided by the 26 letters of the alphabet and stories from Ross’s journey, this book helps you consider key words you want to be remembered by and will hopefully prompt you to share your own important stories with your kids, grandkids and the generations that will follow.

Ross is a gifted storyteller (and, in case I hadn’t mentioned it, a funny human being).  But he is also deeply sensitive and tenderhearted, so he knows how to make that turn from a wacky story to a moving, heart-stirring point.  So if you or someone you know happens to be looking for a fresh face to inspire people at a special event or conference, he would be a great chose.  Check him out or contact him here at www.rossdemerchant.com.

I’m not telling you about Ross for any other reason than I think you’ll really like him, and I know he will really like you!  I think his book is such a wonderful way to begin thinking about the things you want to impart to your kids and grandkids while you’ve got time.

Also?  His kids turned out wonderfully.  In fact, Ross’s son was my son’s first boss.  Let me tell you… the apple did not fall far from the tree with that one.  I mention that only because Ross can speak authoritatively on the subjects of leaving an eternal legacy and loving people well, because I have watched him do exactly that – in his family and with those around him – for the 25 years I’ve known him.

I hope you’ll get to know him.  And feel free to let him know I sent you, so maybe he will read my blog!  🙂

Here he is (below) being a charming grandfather. I mean, seriously, this was SO worth stalking his Facebook!
Ross D 2

 

 

 

 

 

I’m stuck! But maybe you can help…

Most blogs, I write after wrestling with a question and working it out in my heart and mind a little.  Today, I’m mid-struggle.  This time, I would enjoy getting YOUR perspective.  Help me get “unstuck”.

I’ve felt for some time that I’m in a kind of tug-of-war between “here and now” and whatever it is next. (Sure, aren’t we all… right?! That’s why I’m bringing this to you.)  Some days I have dreams.  Other days I can’t see past the moment. I want to be “in” each moment, savoring all that’s good about where I am right now, but am I missing opportunities that the world needs me to see?  When is it time to step outside my current head-space — from what is — to see what could be!  (I realize I just opened myself up big-time big-time for jokes about my “head space” – so go ahead and have fun with that for a second.  Okay, that’s enough.)

I’ve always been of the opinion that when I’m supposed to take a next step, it will be obvious.  I’ll just know.  That’s the way it has always happened for me before.  But is that really true??  Am I missing some important mission because I’m looking at it all wrong?

Now, after savoring Don Miller’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years for weeks – months, even – I’m still trying to figure out what the “main character” in my story wants!  And who IS the main character??  Is it even me?  Don’s words call to my inner writer with parallels between the elements of a great story and my own real life story.  I keep finding myself asking… “What am I DOING here?!”  I always look at whatever I’m doing as training ground for the next thing, yet I don’t want to get sidetracked and become less useful in what my life requires of me right now.

I get ideas, some are good ones and others questionable.  All of them sit around collecting dust… waiting. I don’t share them, for lots of reasons. Don’t even know who can be trusted with them.  But how else will I know which ideas will amount to anything (not just materially, but in impact)?  And… here comes the big question… what will I say “no” to in order to say “yes”?! Will it be worth it? That question is scary and uncomfortable.

I’ve grown SO tired of the cliche “getting out of your comfort zone” — it feels a little guilt-ridden to me.  But then, could it BE that I hate that phrase simply because I am enthralled with safety?  I don’t think that’s it, UNTIL I start considering what the adventure might look like. What if it turned everything I know on its ear?  Truth is, it might.

Then we have issues of validation (and by “we” of course, I mean “I”).  Is there a need for validation driving my quest for whatever is next?  Or was I BORN for it and it’s all part of my mission? Will taking a step somehow express that I am ungrateful for where I am now and the fulfillment I currently enjoy – as a writer, as a wife, as a mom, as a worshipper and overall person?  How does a person manage to be “content in whatever state we’re in…” yet seek to deepen and enrich the impact we’re making on our world?  I  want to reach for the next chapter of this grand story!

Readers, I need your experience here.  When have you been in this place and how did you get unstuck?  Or am I really stuck at all? Could all these questions bring me back to the realization that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be?  Talk to me.

The Noticer, by Andy Andrews

the-noticer Before I ever held a copy in my hands, it seemed like everyone I knew was reading The Noticer, talking about it, or wanted to read it.  The premise intrigued me –  a mysterious man known simply as “Jones” shows up at critical moments in a number of individuals’ lives to offer wisdom and perspective that sets them on a new and better path. That sounded interesting; after all, who doesn’t want to become acquainted with wisdom that turns lives around?

What really made me want to read it, however, is the fact that I had met the author.  Andy Andrews was the keynote speaker at an event my company hosted in Myrtle Beach, SC, in 2008.   On-stage he was fascinating, funny and brilliant… but the man I met backstage trumped all that.  He was genuine, he introduced himself to me, he used my name in the conversation and asked what I do.  I knew he was a best-selling author, but he didn’t take the opportunity to play his “celebrity card” (the really great ones don’t have to).  Suddenly, I was dying to read his books because I was sold on the author.

One page into The Noticer, I was delighted to discover that this book offers a real life account of Andy’s story that I never would have imagined when I met him.  His life was radically changed by the wisdom and perspective of this unlikely “noticer” — and now we’re all benefiting, too!

A surprisingly quick read for all the substance packed into it, this now-bestseller drew me in quickly.  I’d sit up late at night to finish “one more chapter,” turning down page corners to mark places I knew I’d want to revisit. I highly recommend buying a copy, marking it up & keeping it handy!

I review for Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers

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