called to encourage.

I am not a naturally confident person. It’s something I have see-sawed with my whole life, even as a little nugget. Some days, I’m braving second grade and joyfully flying off the swing set, sticking a not-so-graceful landing, despite being thrice denied club membership into the “Cool Girl Lisa Frank Club”. Other days, I’m in my upper twenties and struggling to speak the truth in a meeting for fear of guaranteed ridicule.

See-sawing through this, I’ve gathered bits of grounding overtime; things that I am absolutely certain of even when the see-saw has me flying through the sky- just moments away from a skinned knee and scuffed Sketcher shoes.

I am absolutely certain and fully confident in the idea that one of the most important things in life this side of Heaven is encouraging one another. Every chance you can get. Celebrating International Women’s Day a couple of weeks ago, I thought about how every single time I have stepped out of my comfort zone has been fueled by a woman in my life telling me that I can. Every. Single. Time.

When I moved to Florida, Mama Crossen was the head cheerleader packing up the car. When I changed majors from Dentistry to Event Management, there rallied my dearest and oldest friend Lauren (alongside our Chemistry teacher telling both of us we should likely look into something outside of the medical field as she gave us back our 7th C- exams…maaaybe not the most encouraging. But hey, tough love still guides us home in time, right?)

When I questioned whether or not I was valid in my gut feeling that something in my body was seriously off, my sister pushed me to fight for an answer. The morning after my spinal surgery, when I had no idea how in the hell I would ever walk again, let alone roll over or move at all, my other sister sat bedside in the hospital with me lifting me up (AND holding my catheter cord, y’all…that is love. Holy Moses.) emotionally and physically until I mustered the strength to slowly but surely roll over.

Think about all of the beautiful things that bring you joy in the world. Your favorite book…favorite film… the song that gives you hope every single time it skips across your playlist…your favorite Bad Day Sweater. Think about the safety you feel in your car…the trust you feel when you find the right doctor…and the array of emotions that swell every time you see your favorite photo snapped by your wedding photographer. All of those things were crafted by variously talented hopeful hands all working and creating because someone said: You. Can. And better still: You. Should.

We were called to encourage. 

Key West is about 2 hours South of the Key Luke and I live on. When we are able to sneak away from the daily grind, even for just a day, we love to head there. My sister-in-law and Aunt made the trek to visit us last weekend. My Uncle extremely kindly and extremely true to his character surprised us with a night’s stay there for a little Women’s Retreat. There is just somethin’ about Key West that gets me weepy. Yes…I know. Just about everything gets me weepy. Walking through all of the Mom + Pop shops, admiring all of the art stands as the sounds of street musicians droned on in the background, I was hit with the realization that all of these people at some point in their lives decided to look fear, judgement, and potential failure in the face and do it anyways. They opened their wine bar. And because of that? So many people have learned the amazing culture and history of wine. They crafted their dream store front. And because of that? So many women have found the bathing suit that makes them feel sexy again. They opened an oyster raw bar. And because of that? A vacationer found a new level of respect for culinary art, and went home to their own town and decided that if someone on a rock in the Southernmost Point of the United States could succeed in the culinary world, why couldn’t they?

3 women smiling in front of the Southernmost Point sign in Key West, Florida

It’s a domino effect. I recently stopped by CVS to get my updated passport photo taken. When I was finishing up gathering a couple more items before checking out, I overheard the cashier on the phone with her child. Fresh off the school bus, it seemed as though they were nagging poor mama to puhleeeeease let them leave Grandma’s House to go to a friend’s house. Mom gently but sternly reminded them that Grandma was really excited to have them today and she loves them so much but she has to get back to work so please enjoy their time with Grandma and maybe turn on that new movie they’ve been wanting to see because SURELY Grandma would LOVE it?!?!?! The little one persisted. Mom pushed back-maintaining her patience yet not swaying in her decision. Yet with every sentence she ended it with, “I love you.”

I waited until she was off the phone and approached the counter. She told me she loved my hair. She said my arms looked so strong. The EXACT things I was feeling self-conscious about in said passport photo. In turn, I had the courage to tell her I overheard her chat with her kiddo. She apologized and shook her head, stating she shouldn’t really answer calls at work but he gets nervous so sometimes she just has to and…I stopped her and told her what a good Mama she was. I told her I noticed that she ended every sentence with, “I love you.” She let down her armor right away. Relieved, she shared that she’s so busy with work and her little one, and she’s trying her hardest to start up her photography business. I shared with her I worked weddings & events at a resort just up Overseas Highway. I told her I would LOVE to see her work if she had a business card to share? She quickly passed it over the counter-eyes bug wide. We finished the exchange.  As I took back my credit card, she squeezed my hand.

“Thank you. Thank you. I really appreciate it. We’ve got to lift each other up, right? What else would we be here for?”

Amen.

I might have never felt the courage to tell her she was a good Mama had she not created a safe space for my gangly arms and sweaty frizzy hair. Maybe. Maybe I would have, and maybe she would’ve shut me down and told me I was intruding. Maybe it would’v embarrassed her. But none of that happened. Instead? Domino effect. Neither one of us went flying off the see-saw gaining new scars on our knees. Instead, we floated through the rest of our day remembering: maybe, sometimes, there is beauty and strength in hushed-behind-the-counter-phone-calls. And maybe, sometimes, hope can come knocking right when we feel our most vulnerable, and we can stand in courage anyways.

I hope your see-saw is balanced these days. And if you are flying through the air, awaiting an inevitably scuffed up knee? I hope you have a tribe of incredible people telling you: You. Can. And better still: You. Should.

Big Hugs. Always.

KP.

Want to balance the see-saw? Show some love to incredible Key’s local photographer/super mom: Only In The Keys Photography