Dawn F. Landry, author of ARMORED, writes about her husband’s life-threatening health battles and how those not only shaped them into better versions of themselves, but also taught Dawn the importance of listening to the “God Whispers.”
To start, could you share your story with us?
I’m someone who has always been a big dreamer. I grew up in the 1970s in a small rural town in south Louisiana. By general stereotypes and outward observations, I should never have achieved the successes that I can blessedly claim today. I don’t come from wealth or connections, but by the Grace of God and a lot of hard work, I have surpassed my childhood fantasies for a beautiful life with a wonderful, loving husband and rewarding career.
I’ve spent over twenty-seven years as a business executive, singularly driven to advance in my profession. In the early part of my career (when I was in my 20s and early-to-mid 30s), you might define me as restless and impatient. Things weren’t happening fast enough for me, so I’d move on to the next job within a couple of years.
Eventually, I found my home in Houston’s corporate real estate industry, excelling in business development and marketing leadership positions within the region’s largest economic development organization, as well as international commercial construction companies.
And just when I thought I had settled in and had things figured out, God allowed another growth opportunity to press and stretch me to the next level. In February 2017, I founded Authentizity, LLC, as an independent business growth strategist to assist companies with customized programs designed to advance their leadership proficiencies, team alignment, and outreach effectiveness. I became a Gallup-Certified CliftonStrengths® Coach and then leveraged that tool to provide consulting, training, and coaching services that optimize technical teams’ engagement and productivity. Additionally, I recently authored and self-published the bestselling book, ARMORED, a Memoir with Inspirational and Practical Life Strategies.
So it sounds like you’ve had an easy road and an uncomplicated life?
Hardly! Let’s face it, despite our best-laid plans, life rarely follows a predictable path. However, I’ve found that if I surrender and breathe through the challenges, I will be pleasantly surprised by the outcomes.
Living a life surrendered each day to the Holy Spirit (and what I call the “God Whispers”) for guidance is the antithesis of the superimposed, strategic planning touted by Corporate America where I work daily. I have found that this radical trust is far more fulfilling, and I do accomplish more.
Things will likely not transpire in any manner that I can magnificently create in my head. It will all be better—much better! This mantra did not come innately. It became a coping mechanism for me as my husband, Daran, fought for his life through three, serious health battles over the past 20 years.
When your husband faced a cancer battle, how strong was your faith? Were you tuned into the God Whispers/what was one of the strongest God Whisper that you heard?
Through many years and lots of battle testing, my walk has intentionally taken me closer to God, as has my ability to truly listen to His Word for guidance and wisdom in the fiery trials. With God as an integral part of our marriage, an infinite facet of my armor is our love for one another. For Daran and me, it’s no coincidence that the words amore and armor are such similarly spelled words. They are closely intertwined because our love is the power that propels us to work collaboratively with one another.
The most important God Whisper of all was making sure that I had the absolute best life partner for me. Daran and I have a beautiful friendship that evolved to a great love story that evolved to a rock-solid relationship of 22 years. Specifically related to Daran’s health battles, the God Whispers were those instances in which I knew in my gut that either I needed to be somewhere to do something or I needed to ask for help, and most importantly, that I needed to be obedient to God in some particular area of His calling.
It was during Daran’s Stage 4 cancer battle that I started asking God for “manna for the day.” To me, this symbolized an assurance of provision and assistance that I learned from one of my pastor’s sermons explaining Exodus 16 in the Bible. In this passage, God promised Moses and the traveling Israelites that He would provide food sustenance each day, which would last only for that day. In doing so, He required that they surrender and have faith that more was coming the next day.
That concept spoke to me. So each day, when the alarm clock would sound, I would say, “God, give me enough Grace to get through today.” I would walk through that day in His Grace and then, at the end of that day, thank Him for it. It was a simple prayer because quite honestly, I had no energy or brainpower for a longer or more in-depth one. This practice was immensely effective at seeing me through this challenging season and preparing me for an even tougher impending battle: Daran’s stroke.
Did you already have a support system in place? Or did you have to form one?
The second thing I learned during Daran’s cancer battle was how to allow others to help us. That proved to be more difficult than it sounds because Daran and I are fiercely independent, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of folks.
In the years leading up to Daran’s cancer diagnosis, our vast and varied network of friends became our family in Houston. They truly are divine connections, God-ordained.
Several people offered to help us with a variety of things, but I continued to say, “We appreciate your offer, but we’ve got this. Please pray for us.”
Then I received a message that spoke directly to my heart. It was from my uncle’s best friend who had survived her own cancer battle a few years earlier. She told me honestly and kindly that I needed to allow others to help us. She explained how, when our friends and family offer to assist us, that they are offering to help us as much for us as they are for themselves. In essence, it blesses others to bless us.
This beautiful, heartfelt way of expressing care broke my attitude about it wide open. It set the stage for my own ability to serve and be obedient to God by helping others in future ways that I could never imagine. We are indeed blessed to be a blessing.
Are all support systems “created equal” or are there certain roles or people that you should hand-pick to be within your support system?
There are various levels of support. For simplicity purposes, I’ll call them close group and extended group support systems. As I learned in Daran’s cancer battle, the key to asking for help from a larger, extended group is to make your ask specific and even individualize your ask for and to certain people. By knowing the appropriate timing of our requests and aligning the best tasks to our resources, I garnered participation in the areas that necessitated it the most and had the greatest impact on our present situation. I always prioritized and asked for Big Bold Prayers in my call to our distribution group.
It is humbling to be the recipient of such an outpouring of generosity. I’ve always known that we are loved and that Daran is beloved by family and friends. However, I am overwhelmed by the many people he has touched. His spirit and his life are a testimony that continues to inspire others (present company included).
It was important for me to document each contribution during Daran’s battles, but especially post-stroke. Our friends and family did not expect thank you notes from us; that is not why they contributed. However, I wanted to honor each of them with an individual note. As I did, I would say a prayer of gratitude to God for them and ask for God’s hedge of protection over them. They held us up when we couldn’t do so ourselves. There is no way that they will ever know how much they mean to us. My heart overflows when I think of them.
Coming off of 2020, regaining emotional strength might seem like a daunting task to a lot of us, but it’s a vital step to starting off 2021 bravely. How can a support system help someone who’s struggling to know how to operate in 2021?
Daran’s battles were two of the worst – Stage 4 Cancer and full paralysis/inability to speak from a stroke. There were times early in the cancer battle when life brought me to my knees. In full transparency, it was often a lonely place to be, even when I was surrounded by many others.
We all shoulder our challenges differently. Unless you have walked in someone else’s shoes, there is no full empathy for the pain they are enduring. We can only be there for them as best we can and assist as they allow us. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa.
I cannot overemphasize the importance of having an ally or two (but no more) to serve as a sounding board for decisions. This ally will help you to see around corners and make up for areas in which you aren’t experienced, educated, or equipped. I don’t advise having any more than two, though.
In preparation for their involvement, create a safe space, and give your ally permission to ask you the difficult questions. It’s also vital that your ally know that, while you value their role, you will be the one to make the final decision(s) based upon what’s best for you. Feeling as though you must tiptoe around someone so as not to hurt their feelings will only cloud and delay your decisions.
Support systems are a wonderful way to regain confidence and drive for the new year, but at the core of finding your inner strength again is the idea that you must center everything you do around God. Would you agree?
I couldn’t agree more. As I detail in my book, ARMORED, Ephesians 6:11-18 is my go-to Bible passage to armor up for any battles. When I reflect upon it, I envision putting on helmets, breastplates, shields, etc. to prepare hypothetically. In real life, my equipment is far less literal and visual yet far more practical and mainstream. Before I do anything, I pray for God’s hedge of protection to provide the best armor for the challenge.
I have experienced the harsh realities of my self-limiting and self-imposed roadblocks, especially in the heat of a battle. When I am exhausted, my guard may be lowered to allow what I call the “Drill Sergeant’s” verbal abuse in my head. When I have self-awareness and perspective, I realize I would never talk to a beloved friend the way that I talk to myself, and if I did try to talk to a friend this way, they wouldn’t be my friend anymore.
From then on, when I catch the Drill Sergeant commanding or demanding, I pretend to flick her off my shoulder. This allows for and opens the space and grace that is needed to heal fully and completely.
I believe that grace isn’t given only by God, but also by us to ourselves. I can be very hard on myself, and it’s not always easy to grant myself grace. I’m far more apt to advise and grant grace to others than to myself. However, I believe that we must find a way to offer it to ourselves, especially in nightmare situations that sometimes become our lives.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I want to encourage readers that no matter the life struggle, you will be forever changed once you get to the other side. Know that sometimes the valleys of life press and stretch us to prepare us for God’s Will for our lives. It may not be clear yet, but you have the freedom to become who you’ll be next.
Daran and I have been working to define our new chapter. We are both OK knowing that neither of us will ever be who we were before—too much of life has transpired in the past year, a different intensity of life than we experienced before his stroke.
Our spiritual and physical armors have been forged stronger through the fires we have walked through. I am so proud that when tested, we didn’t lose faith or hope. We dug our heels in and B-E-L-I-E-V-E-D!
We are not the same people. We are better and stronger from these experiences. Now, we can be a resource and serve others.
Dawn F. Landry has spent over half of her 27-year career in Houston’s corporate real estate industry, excelling in business development and marketing leadership positions within the region’s largest economic development organization, as well as international commercial construction companies.
In February 2017, she founded Authentizity, LLC, as an independent B2B growth strategist and a Gallup-Certified CliftonStrengths® Coach to provide consulting, training, and coaching services that optimize technical teams’ engagement and productivity. While operating as the organization’s CEO, she recently authored and self-published a bestselling book, ARMORED.
This blog is sponsored by ARMORED, a memoir, a love story, and practical leadership guide to managing crisis on your own terms. Click here to order ARMORED and use promo code “4WORD” to save $10 off a $40 or more purchase.
(Offer good through January 31, 2021)