This one’s gonna be long. Consider yourself warned. I’m talking about a handful of people who’ve impacted my life, which means I’m going all mushy and wordy. Can’t help it, so deal with it.

For those privileged to hear my rants about loooooong blog posts (I advocate keeping most to roughly 300 words), this would be one of those times to ZIP IT. I’m waxing sentimental here and will likely tear up at any moment.

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, you know I recently read Andy Andrews The Noticer. My official review is posted here. An easy read with simple truth that could change your life. Like the ripple effect, many of those who read The Noticer close the cover with a need to respond, me included. Let me introduce you to The Noticer Project: A world-wide movement to notice the five most influential people in your life.

It is difficult for me to choose five. Truth is I’ve gained much from many. But this post is already 185 words and I haven’t yet plunged into the five. So, I’LL RESTRAIN MYSELF.

(Side note: A couple obvious choices are absent, but no less significant … for example, my parents. Who isn’t more influential to a child than the people who raised her? I’m privileged to have the cream of the crop.)

To the five who populate THIS list: the ripples of your life have impacted mine. And what I’m trying to say in the midst of all this drivel is …

THANK YOU.

From the depths of my heart, thank you.

1. Mr. Cantrell

I’ve always been an academic. Loved school, worked hard, but I was an awkward child. We moved a lot the first 9 years of my life, so I often stayed on the fringes of any new classroom. I wanted to fit in, but as a not-so-pretty book nerd who didn’t like new situations, I felt like an outsider most of the time. Until Mr. Cantrell. Mr. Cantrell was a former football player and my 6th grade science teacher. Yes, he was jock AND a smart. Mr. Cantrell transformed this bookish girl into a semi-confident preteen by doing one extraordinary thing: he noticed me. Me, the tall nerdy girl with ugly glasses who knew how to get straight A’s but didn’t know the first thing about being cool or fitting in. He looked beyond the external and saw something I didn’t yet see in myself. One science class at a time, Mr. Cantrell pulled the best out of me and helped me to start believing in myself.

2. Corrie ten Boom

Though I’m probably breaking the rules by choosing a deceased stranger as one of my five, this list wouldn’t be complete without Corrie ten Boom. No, I never met her, though from my first reading of The Hiding Place I felt like I had. I still have my worn 1971 edition, which I cried my way through at thirteen. I couldn’t believe how and why one simple woman could so tenaciously oppose Hitler and Nazi Germany. She risked her family to rescue people she’d only just met. But more than her endurance during the war, I marveled at her heroism afterwards. Her ability to forgive the injustices AND still love a God who didn’t always make sense marked me for life. Later, when wrestling with my private injustices and unforgiveness, I read her story again and pulled from her courage to hang on to a God I couldn’t explain but knew I could trust.

3. Theron Summers

I doubt you’ve ever heard of him. Quite honestly, I’ve known him most of my life and couldn’t tell you all that much about him. But I do know this: I can’t think of a single time I’ve ever seen this sweet, grandfatherly man without a smile on his face. As a child, his endless well of joy intrigued me. DEFINITELY different than most of the other adults I knew. And clearly sourced in something beyond the circumstantial. It sparked enough of a fire in me that I chose him as the subject of a highschool project, including an interview, paper … the whole show. And to this day when I think about growing older, I think of Mr. Summers, and want to do whatever I can to end up the kind of person who wears that kind of joy.

4. John Walker

I met John Walker once. In 1997. And spent a total of 3 days at his Blessing Ranch. Those three days are perhaps the most private and pivotal of my life. Just writing these words leaves me tender. I arrived at his ranch a 26-year-old woman drowning in despair, literally on the verge of collapse. My worst fears had come true, and I was convinced I’d been abandoned by the God I’d always believed in. Tired of Christian cliches, I’d had enough of well-intentioned Christians more concerned with brow-beating me with them than helping me endure my reality. I needed hope like air, but no one could resuscitate my soul. Except for Dr. Walker. The last night, when it became clear I’d walled up my bleeding heart, he read Isaiah 61:1-4. And then he said this: “Your life is not yet finished. God’s hand is on you. Someday you will look up and see beauty from the ashes, and you’ll realize–finally!–He’s transformed you into a glorious Oak, a display of God’s splendor. It’s just a matter of time, Michele. Even if you don’t believe it, I believe it enough for both of us.” And the rest, as they say, is history.

5. Troy Cushatt

Nearly two years after Blessing Ranch, I met an extraordinary man with an uncanny knack for seeing beyond my junk. Not only has he spent the past several years graciously overlooking my many MANY quirks (let’s just say there’s not a shortage), he sees a vision for what I can become. Four years ago on Mother’s Day, he gave me my first laptop with these words: “You can write, Michele. So, get to it.” It’s one thing to say those words, another to put a big wad of money behind it without a single publishing credit to lend credibility. His unwavering confidence continues to give me fuel. And though we’re as different as night and day, and have struggled long and hard in our marriage, he’s loyal. Honest. Determined. And his love accounts for most of the beauty God eventually brought from ashes.

Oh, one more thing: Happy Anniversary, Love.

1,088 words. And still not nearly enough.

Holy cow. I need a tissue.

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