I can and I will

**GBBO Spoiler alert**

I’ll admit it now – I cried at the end of the Bake Off final this year.

But then so did Mary Berry, so I figure I’m in pretty good company.

I didn’t cry because of my sadness that it’s all over for another year, nor because of any terrible injustice over the result – because I thought that Paul and Mary got it spot on.

It was what Nadia said at the end that got me, as she stood holding her winner’s trophy.

“I am never going to put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never going to say I can’t do it. I’m never going to say maybe. I’m never going to say I don’t think I can. I can and I will.”

What made her triumph all the more beautiful was the obvious joy and pride of her family who were there to support her. They had clearly been cheering her every step of the way, encouraging her when she was down, believing in her when she struggled to believe in herself and spurring her forward right to the end.

There’s extraordinary power in encouragement.

I am scared of heights, and have been ever since I was a little girl.

But I have been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Sky Tower in Auckland and have crossed the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge on the north Antrim coast of Northern Ireland.

How has this been possible? In every case my knees were like jelly and I had that fearful quiver in my voice when I tried to speak. But on each occasion I had a friend with me to hold my hand (literally), tell me I could, or simply not take no for an answer.

On one occasion I decided to be brave and head to the top of the Scott Monument in Edinburgh – on my own. I made it up to the main part of the monument where you can walk around the edge and get such a wonderful view of the city. Scott monumentHowever there’s another bit you can ascend, in the spire-like part of the structure. I made it about three steps up when my fear stopped me and turned me around. I decided I had been brave enough for one day.

The Scott Monument is around a quarter of the height of the Eiffel Tower and about a third of the Sky Tower (very shonky maths – please don’t look it up), so why could I not get to the top?

Because I was alone.

No encouragement, no hand-holding.

No one pushing me on, telling me I could.

And it made all the difference.

Encouragement is a powerful gift.

The Acts of the Apostles and letters of the New Testament are peppered throughout with calls for us to bring encouragement to one another. Why is it so important?

Because without it we falter.

We look around at what we’re trying to achieve and wonder who the heck we think we are. We see the heights we’re trying to scale, the distance we’re reaching for, the giants we’re facing and we feel the fear.

Or perhaps we look back at the road we’ve been walking and feel disappointed with how slow the journey has been. We are tempted to give up, to just sit down where we are and call it good enough.

At each of these places encouragement makes all the difference.

It lifts us back on our feet again and sets us on our way or gives us the foot up that we need to reach the heights we’re stretching for. Encouragement brings boldness and bravery and drowns out the voice of fear. When we’ve compared ourselves to other brighter, shinier people and told ourselves that there’s no point trying, encouragement reminds us that our contribution is unique and the world needs to hear it.

Encouragement lifts our heads when they are down and strengthens our resolve when it has weakened.

It enables us to say, “I can and I will.”

Who can you encourage today?

Who needs you to be their cheerleader?

And who would like to come and hold my hand, to the very top of the Scott Monument?

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