“Stop crying and do something about this!”

“Stop crying and do something about this!” She was yelling at me while I wept.

“Do you know how powerful you are?” She was outraged and violently angry at me.

As I look back, I understand why she unleashed on me.

She was the matriarch of a refugee camp in Lira, Uganda where the food had been cut off to encourage families to return to their homes in the countryside. But word from the underground said that the leader of the Lord’s Rebel Army was still on a rampage through their territories, looking for children to be desensitized through murdering their own families to join his army. So instead, parents were dying of starvation to try to keep their children alive at the refugee camp in hopes that a miracle would change their fate.

This is what I had stumbled across. I was tired, devastated, and overwhelmed by what I saw.

My team of 19 and I were on our way to an orphanage in that same area where happy children had been rescued. They were singing and dancing and putting on plays about their rescue and the goodness of their lives. How could it be that only 10 miles from this happy orphanage emaciated moms were salvaging the last crumbs of food for their babies and toddlers languished with distended bellies and malaria?

The matriarch of the camp found me and changed my life forever. I wish I could thank her. She was powerless to change her situation. But she somehow knew that I could. And she had power over me, to shake me up, wake me up, and tell me who I was. I was powerful and powerfully positioned to help her. It took a lot of yelling, repetition, and not giving up on me. But the switch flipped. And I got it.

Our team of 19 quickly went to work turning an old building at the orphanage into a new house for 30 children from the refugee camp to move into within 24hours. Our three doctors agreed to stay an extra week and safely transition the children over and deal with the malaria and near starvation. We had resources and new people at home who would sponsor these children when they heard our story. We could pay for beds, bedding, medicine, and food. It wasn’t that expensive, and it wasn’t that hard to do, once we shifted from our passive grief to our powerful selves.

The point of this story? I needed the reminder. And maybe you do, too.

What are you crying about?

Do you know the power of your voice…or what you are powerfully positioned to do?

Armandee Drew
What makes you legitimate? What is worth fighting for? What makes you free?

Recently I have come across two types of leaders.

One leader could identify many areas in his company’s culture where employee’s were missing each other in their communication and at the same time not feeling heard or appreciated. He had a few examples where expensive mistakes had been made and he had lost his cool. But when we began to hold up a mirror to him and lightly tread on his tendencies as a leader, the conversation was too uncomfortable for him. He quickly deflected back to his team and his employees. They were suffering, but it was somehow their fault.

The second leader has taken to hard gulps and humbly wrestling through her own unconscious incompetence. When we talk about the relationship dynamics on her teams, she takes responsibility for the communication gap. When we bring challenge to her to be more ‘for her people’ than she is ‘for herself’ she actually embraces the ability to see her patterns. She enjoys having her eyes opened to the tendencies in her leadership style that are actually blocking her goals.

The disparity in these two leaders lies largely in the area of legitimacy. Example one is still needing to prove that he is a legitimate leader. He is always in some level of self-preservation. Example two has owned her position and calling as a leader, knows that deep down she is legitimate, and so is ready to move on into the business of getting as healthy as possible to be for others, with nothing to prove or hide.

I find myself daily digging down deep for a legitimacy truth, so I have nothing to prove, nothing to hide, and nothing to lose. My truth: I don’t live for approval or success according to others. I seek a lifestyle of liberation. Liberation requires letting go of my desire for perfection and approval, to focus instead on fighting for the highest possible good of others…emptied out to be full. It’s a daily fight.

What makes you legitimate? What is worth fighting for? What makes you free?

 

 

Armandee Drew
The Ankle String

One of my most embarrassing moments was at the recording of a podcast. I was the guest. Somehow I hadn’t rehearsed in my mind how the whole thing would start. My friend and host of the show, Steve Cockram started out with his larger than life introduction, “We have the honor or having Armandee Drew with us today in the studio; Armandee tell us about yourself!” 

My comfort with “winging it” flew right out the window. Long pause, slight annoyance and panic from Steve…more time passes; I was frozen. Blank. Nothing meaningful enough came to mind to say. It felt like an eternity. Steve moved on graciously, but I was so embarrassed and so disappointed in my inability to push through and find words. I wanted to say something wonderful to start the show, for my friend Steve, and for myself. This kind of shame can stay with a person. It is amazing how easily we can get blocked from being ourselves and living fully into our destiny. I say destiny because I know that my voice is meant to be heard, and so is yours!

Because liberation is a theme I like to write about, I often think of the elephant with the string tied around her ankle, the string that keeps her captive. Because it used to be a chain.

Freedom comes when we identify what we have become captive to, and let go, detangle ourselves from the fears, bonds, beliefs, and wounds we hold onto from the past. Our choice and focus can enslave us more than our reality. A mindset based on trust in good things vs. fear of bad things, is the oversimplified key. But it is the key, a matter of choice and focus.

Sometimes I feel that string around my ankle.

It is pretty important that we can forgive ourselves when we blow it in situations like my freezing up on Steve’s podcast. This wasn’t a deep trauma, but whenever the situation arises to introduce myself publicly or where there is an expectation that I will say something important, I feel the string around my ankle. It comes in the form of fear and shame, and extreme doubt in myself. I remind myself of the elephant. It is only a string.

Then I remind myself of the truth: I’ve introduced myself a million times and I can do it again regardless of who is listening. How many beautiful successes can I remember and focus on rather than that one epic fail? Forgive self, look back at successes, and re-imagine a better story to anticipate. The past is gone and I can try again. I am powerful and free!

If needed, I encourage you to forgive yourself today for any such failure; and fail forward, fiercely fighting for another chance to be your true self!

Try it on…

Good things come my way.

I am enough. I belong. I am powerful and free!

 

Armandee Drew
Now or Never

I just took a long walk in the woods and caught up with myself. I focused on the moment, my breath, the trees, the air, birds, and the rustling of nature. I appreciated the time of year, and considered the season I am in.

My first thought: These trees are constantly changing, growing, blooming, or shedding leaves, even dying. It’s all part of a perfect plan, natural, ordinary, and beautiful.

It is thought provoking to delve deeper into personal seasons and live intentionally into them. It requires paying attention and facing things.

Recently I was involved in a 2-day retreat to plan my personal and professional vision, mission, values, strategy, tactics. From dreaming to daily to-do’s.  I had to face my limitations, my time on this earth, and what is realistic to accomplish on my long list of ideas to change the world. In one respect, it is getting late. Another perspective is that I have lived enough of life, failure, reflection, and intentionality to have something to offer. I decided that I am in the season of ‘now or never’.

It is now or never to have heroic goals and love like crazy. It is now or never to abandon habits that hold me back and lies that dim my light. It is time to be a liberator in a captive world.

As you reflect on this season, consider your own inner compass. Where are you and what are you guided by? What time do the trees tell you it is? Have you caught up with yourself and looked at your limited time on this earth? What dreams have stayed with you and won’t let you go?

Is it now or never?

Armandee Drew
Speak words of highest impact

Not that I want to share all of my weekend musing about what I did or didn't do well last week, and how aligned I was with my "why"; did I overshare (a typical tendency), and how am I really doing...nagging uncomfortable thoughts? Fears? What am I excited about in the upcoming week? No, I am not going to share that soul search. Instead, I wondered if my week produced anything inspiring or helpful for others. Here possibly is that thought: some of us (like me) have a tendency to be too transparent and have to learn discretion and discipline when it comes to communicating. For this extrovert, my encouragement is to enjoy the thoughts that are meant only for you, and savor them, take time to be with yourself and listen well to yourself; some of your thoughts are meant to change YOUR life! But others, the introverts of the world... I also want to encourage you today. I love the treasure you keep inside for yourselves, especially when I can hear it! Sometimes I wonder what would happen if your heart strings danced with your vocal cords a bit more so the world could hear your song. Some of the big ideas and insights you keep for yourself could change the world.

Armandee Drew
FIERCE.

I haven’t been one of those people who have a word for the year....

Until I went with a friend into the mountains of Georgia to photograph girls who have come out of being trafficked for sex. Photos were used to sell them. We were rewriting some of that story with photographs of their beauty to be used as gifts for their loved ones and to remind themselves of who they are as beautiful, powerful, and free women. Their mentor was present during this photo shoot and she kept using a certain word to describe how they looked in front of the camera. I was captivated by these women but also by the words that were used to describe and affirm them. “Fierce” was one such word, and it has stayed with me. I looked it up. I asked friends about it. “Having or displaying an intense or ferocious aggressiveness…a feeling, emotion, or action showing a passionate and powerful intensity.” Yes, these women looked fierce…fiercely beautiful, intense, and fiercely free. Had they needed to become fierce and was this now a part of who they are? Or had they always been fierce and they are now beyond permissions? Is it a strength for a woman to be fierce? Synonyms: savage, powerful, strong, forceful, aggressive. Not what a woman is usually celebrated for.

Unless you are Wonder Woman.

Maybe we do celebrate this powerful and free fighter for liberation and unashamed beauty… and fear her at the same time?

So I have been wondering…why is this word staying with me, as if it is my word…following me around begging for attention and simulation. I think of all the times I could have been fierce in strongly speaking my mind, fighting for my truth, liberating a friend, against oppressors, standing up for love, acting courageous rather than shrinking back, fighting battles and being the hero. If I’m honest I fear I have abdicated my power as a human, regardless of any excuse I can make culturally as a woman.

So I am taking on a word for 2018, and starting early. Fierce. Fiercely alive, Fiercely free, Fiercely fighting for the highest good of others. Fiercely for love.

What is your word?

Armandee Drew