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

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






Standing Up To Live

“How vain it is to sit down and write when you have not stood up to live.”

Henry David Thoreau

This Thoreau quote perfectly describes where I have been for a couple years now – standing up to live.  When I turned 44 last year my sister wrote the sweetest note in a birthday card. Among other encouragements, she observed that I had “truly blossomed” during the previous year.  I know what she means. I had stopped looking at everything through my “writer’s lens” and stopped trying to do 100 things at once and just tried to live fully inside each moment.  I had started trying to look people (especially my family) in the eye when they speak. I multi-tasked less. I got my hands dirty in the garden more, played more games, did more puzzles, tried new recipes and projects (thank you, Pinterest) and reconnected with my pmountaintopriorities.

Now, a year after my sister’s sweet observation, life has brought a number of changes and a great deal more busyness. And a 45 minute commute each morning and afternoon. What a challenge it is to keep fighting that multi-tasking monster inside that tries to “do” (five things at once) and “be” at the same time!

Below are three of the specific ways I continue try to stand up and live…

1. Waste less time trying to meet others’ expectations.  Being overly concerned with ‘what people think’ is a train of thought that has led my soul straight out of the present and into the lonely wilderness time and time again.  At this stage of my life, I understand with fresh clarity how wasteful it is to squander my energy and abilities on trying to keep everybody in the world appeased. Of the hundreds and hundreds of people I know, they don’t all get a piece of me. The Lord needs all of me to accomplish the purposes He has for me. Period.

2. Waste less energy fretting about the future.  This really comes down to trust. Do I believe my days are ordered by a loving Savior, or do I not?  I can make plans all day long to try and ward off emergencies and figure everything out…but why would I squander the precious time I have today trying to control what hasn’t yet come?  YES, make wise decisions. YES, embrace delayed gratification when appropriate. YES, continue to sharpen the God-given gifts that will help us live a fulfilling, well-spent life. But NO to getting so obsessed with the future that we are robbed of the simple joy of breathing in and out today, knowing we are in Good Hands for all eternity.

3. Seek Christ continually. The things He wants to say to me are life-changing. Why would I not keep both ears tuned to his every wish??  It is truly mind-boggling what I miss when my head is swimming with my own tentative, needy, self-focused thoughts. His thoughts are not our thoughts. They are WAY better. I want to hear more of them!

The rewards are significant. At long last I have started to feel the quiet underpinning of confidence that comes when the mind, body and soul are all headed the same direction. I’m on time more often. My relationships are more healthy.  I have stopped making excuses for myself when I mess up.  (For the most part, anyway. I mean, we are just broken human beings with so many demands on our bodies, minds and souls.) planting seeds

In “standing up to live” I have not been as focused on “sitting down to write” as often as I have in the past. And, for now, I’m okay with it. So much about my journey I can’t fully put into words at the moment. I guess you could say I’m like a human teapot… brewing up some strong stuff that isn’t quite ready to pour out. (The song “I’m a Little Teapot” is suddenly swimming around in my head, which is awesome.)

Friends, even if for a few minutes at a time, try to tune out all of the messages from the little voices that sit on your shoulders and whisper all that crazy stuff into your being. Just focus on living – really LIVING – inside this one powerful moment. Listen for His voice… stand up…and live the life that has been specifically cut out for you (whether or not you get a humorous or validating Facebook status out of it). You will not be sorry.

Fright or Flight (Or… The Year I Made My Daughter Dress as a Fighter Pilot)

What better time than the present to look fear in the eye and show it who’s boss?!

Obstacles are like wild animals.  They are cowards but they will bluff you if they can.  If they see you are afraid of them… they are liable to spring upon you; but if you look them squarely in the eye, they will slink out of sight.
~Orison Swett M

I’ll never forget the year my daughter wanted to dress as a princess for a costume party, and my husband and I all-but forced her to dress as a fighter pilot.  (She will never forget it either, for completely different reasons.)  She looked SO AWESOME.  I was so jealous of that costume.  And she would have GLADLY given it to me.

I wanted her to see herself as a strong, courageous contributor to society, rather than a cliche’. She wanted to reflect the grace of fairy tale character.  I wanted her to embrace her inner warrior.  She wanted to wear pretty colors.

That was the last time I ever saw her in a fighter pilot jumpsuit.  She has, however, embraced the look of aviator glasses.  (Baby steps.)  But here’s the thing.  She is growing to be such a wonderful combination of two extremes.  She is lovely, gracious and sweet…but I would dare say there isn’t a fighter pilot anywhere who could match her strength when courage is needed.

I want more than anything for my children (and myself… and all you friends out there) to realize that most of the things we fear are not nearly as scary as they appear.  We were created to thrive — to take life by the horns and LIVE —  not to shrink back and wait for a magic wand to sweep over all “unfairytale-like” unpleasantness.

We all have to find our own journey to courage and strength.  That journey may or may not involve a fighter suit and aviators.  But I hope we can all find it.  Somehow, some way.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified… for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

Fighting Discouragement

painI don’t know about you, but some days – many days – there seems to be an invisible weight tied to my heart.  I start feeling caught in the undertow of circumstances.  Problems feel overwhelming, the issues in our government seem hopeless, the worldwide condition of humanity looms like a dark cloud with horrific things like starvation, human trafficking, terrorism, poverty and disease.

Meanwhile, I’ve got paper piling up, laundry collecting by the hour, bills to pay, a sick kid, dreams on hiatus, a discouraged husband, and a future to think about.

How do we get out of bed on days when discouragement seems to be winning the battle?
The thing that gets me out of bed is Eternal Hope.  Knowing that this world isn’t just spinning in utter chaos without hope.  The problems are too big for me, yes.  But to the Creator of the World, nothing is impossible.  NOTHING.  If I take my cues from Him, there is always, always a way through.

So I remember to be grateful.  For Him.  For daily bread.  For His guiding Word. For family.  For friends, mentors and cheerleaders.  For breath in my lungs and this moment in time… this moment when I can choose to not give up on filling my purpose in this world. Admittedly, my purpose feels small at times.  But remember, we see only a keyhole version of eternity.  There is so much more going on – in realms we may never actually see or understand – than we could dare to dream.

One foot in front of the other, let’s keep doing the next right thing.  Keep listening for the Voice of Truth that reminds us we are not alone.  Let’s let discouragement lose today.  Let hope win one more time.

OH. And this…

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable. 
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; 
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:28-31)

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