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

 

 

 

 

 

What This Silent Wooden Wiseman is Saying…

Wise-Men-are-Not-Always-Silent

Early in our marriage, Scott and I received a small, hand-carved nativity set made of olive wood from friends who brought it back from their travels.  It has moved across the country with us, survived little hands arranging the pieces over and over again, year after year. By some miracle all of the pieces are still together more than 20 years later.

_MG_9736A few months ago, I moved some furniture while cleaning and found a stray Wiseman that didn’t make it back into the Christmas boxes when we packed them up for storage. At first I tucked the little guy into a jar where I had corralled several other stray items before delivering them to their proper locations around the house.  He looked so out of place among the lost rubber bands and random trinkets. But there was no way I was crawling up into the attic to put him away.

_MG_9731

Yesterday I found him on top of the refrigerator. I picked him up to move him and, as I felt him in my hands, I couldn’t ignore all that this little wooden figure represents.

Just a silent piece of wood, carved into the rough form of a tiny Wiseman; yet he is part of a far bigger Story. One that altered the course of history. This piece of wood is part of that Story because, centuries ago, someone showed up far from home because he believed in something – Someone – even bigger than all his wisdom, or experience, or knowledge. That Story, told from generation to generation, is our greatest hope. Such hope, in fact, that even this lost little wooden man can help tell it.

In other words, this wooden man and I have a lot in common.

All my so-called wisdom, and even my most well-honed abilities, pale in comparison to what happens if I’ll just simply BE part of the Story. Only then can more-able-Hands put me exactly where I’m needed, so hope can shine into unlikely places.

I’m going to keep this silent little Wiseman out where I can see him; where I can remember that, whether my life, or talents, are on display for others to see or I’m all alone just being who I am, the Story is good and I am part of it. All day, everyday.

_MG_9737

A Blog From This Valley

The Civil Wars sing a song called “From This Valley” that has been rolling around in my head for days.  And while its fun, lighthearted melody “rolled around” it, actually began careening into the deeper folds of my heart, where things are not quite as lighthearted at the moment.  The title “From This Valley” pretty much describes the place from where I am writing right now.

The other day my sister inquired ever-so-gently if this valley I’m in might have anything to do with the recent passage of another birthday, to which I replied, “Whatevs.” Then I secretly took her keen observation to heart.  (She knows me too well.  I love that.)

It’s not only about turning 43, though. I am adjusting to a new stage of life.  It’s the stage where I am no longer raising children. I am raising teenagers. TWO teenagers. (Artistic, busy teenagers with opinions.) And it’s a stage when our family schedule depends on a very carefully timed taxi service, fewer meals together (which have been non-negotiable in the past) and mind-reading skills which I do not possess.  And, sure, every birthday reminds me that I have one less year in which to help them fly with their own wings;but add to that ticking clock the sudden tragic death of an artist friend, Stephen Hill, this past week (who was only 55) and I start asking myself some hard questions.  Am I making the most of this stage of life? Or do I need to set my expectations lower and just get through it with my head on?

Over the past 15 years I have made a long series of sacrifices — professionally, socially, and I’m sure I don’t have to mention financially —  to give my kids every possible chance to learn from me what only a mother can give them. And right now, the payoff is coming in extremely small increments. Extremely. Small.

I’m grateful for a husband who is in this with me. At times, after we have unintentionally said the wrong thing (again) or hit an emotional landmine, we will look at each other with that knowing look that says, “We have no clue what we’re doing here!”

So, back to this Civil Wars tune that I keep singing. This verse particularly strikes me:

Oh, the caged bird dreams of a strong wind that will flow ‘neath her wings.
Like a voice longs for a melody, oh, Jesus carry me.

YES.  That! My voice longs for a melody.  My “wings” long for a strong wind to make the flying – or whatever this is – a little less laborious. I am grateful for constant reminders that is Jesus carrying me, and you want to know what I’m noticing?  We can’t teach our kids to fly while we’re standing down on the ground.  We show them how.  So…please send some wind over this direction, Jesus! The chorus of “From This Valley” says…

Won’t you take me from this valley to that mountain high above?
I will pray, pray, pray until I see your smiling face.
I will pray, pray, pray to the one I love.

I’m definitely praying more than ever lately. It’s the only way I know to live inside the knowledge that the One I love is with me constantly, even when everything else feels out of sync and I am not feeling the love.

I understand that valleys are where character is developed, trust is deepened and we learn what we can’t learn any other place. So with that in mind, I certainly don’t mean to wish a moment of this season away. And there are redeeming moments. But this simple little song has offered me the refreshing reminder I needed this week.

Thank you, Civil Wars.

Just for fun, I’ve included here a video of Joy Williams and John Paul White singing “From This Valley” live.  Enjoy.  In the comments here, feel free to let me know how you survive the valleys!  I’m open to any and all suggestions.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: