As coincidence would have it, my parents have the same name, albeit the male and female versions of it.

They are crown. My brother is light.

And while I love the name given to me, I most certainly did not love the first definition I found ascribed to it: a Scottish ship island. My stunned reaction to this discovery – to be a ship-island (whatever that is) among lights and crowns, institutionalized this as a family joke.

And while most certainly I’m not in any way damaged by this, I’ve always had some small desire to have a thing declared over me, just for me. We all shine a little extra under another’s encouraging pronouncement over us, or wither a little under a poisonous proclamation from unkind lips.

Even without a name of momentous meaning, in so many ways I have taken on the labels that have built me up and tried to eschew the ones I didn’t like. In eighth grade, my class voted me “most dependable,” which was actually most depressing for a teenager. And yet today, it’s a point of pride for our family that we are dependable; we strive to show up for our people, to honor our commitments and to follow through.

As a writer I may be naturally inclined to believe in the power of words, but all the same, declaration has a power to point us on a path and paint a picture of ourselves we both believe and become. While I can’t control what someone declares over me, I am responsible for what I declare over others.

When opportunity arises, declaration should be used to build up character, set a high mark for someone, or spur them onward.

A girls’ girl at heart, I am always stunned when I encounter groups of women who don’t declare good things over one another. In every season of my life, God has gifted me with women who declare amazing things over each other. I have friends who are stay-at-home moms, moms working outside the home, moms working from the home, and women who never want to be mothers at all. I know marketing professionals, business owners, students, lawyers, athletes, medical professionals, non-profit administrators, and missionaries.

The work laid out for each of us is different, the choices different. The passions and goals and struggles are different. But the declaring is the same: I support you. You are amazing. I am so thankful for you. You’re doing great. I know you can do this. I am here for you.

I glow after time spent with girlfriends. Because I’m surrounded my women who build me up. But I’ve seen how Satan can twist this sweet gift of sisterhood, wrapping it with envy, a misplaced comment, or an envy-filled jab.

I pray for a healthy, supportive network of girlfriends for my own daughter, that she find and build a community of girls and women who will boldly declare over her encouragement, instead of whittle her down for walking a different path or excelling on one. I pray she will be that same powerful voice of encouragement.  

I never imagined God would call me into motherhood. I never imagined the career He’s also called me to. He’s surprised me at all the turns, but He has also shown me community and opportunity to build into others at every turn. When I start twisting my situation into a selfish story, the quickest way to break up the clouds is to start declaring something great over someone else.

With our intentional words, we possess power to light up someone or light into them, and the choice we make in a moment may echo with the listener for months – or years – to come.

The ship-island amongst the light and royalty in my childhood home, we laugh now about how Kelsi fits, or doesn’t, with the traditional Biblical names our children have.

But one day, my husband, who has Irish roots, came to me and said, “You’re wrong. Kelsi doesn’t mean ship-island.” He’d looked it up, and sure enough, the Irish meaning is different.

It’s brave.

It moved me profoundly to know that all throughout my growing, my parents had been declaring bravery over me. It makes so much sense for me, an indoor girl who once went on a week-long rock climbing camp, a small-town northerner who moved across the country to a southern college she knew little about, and a rule-follower who transferred colleges just a year away from graduating in order change degrees.

I don’t think my big adventures are behind me just yet, but knowing I’m Brave frames the adventures of my youth in a different way, and becomes a whisper on my lips when I worry over a new challenge.

It’s okay. I’m brave.

Of course I am. It’s been declared over me my whole life.

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