Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Happy Birthday Judah!

Happy 3rd Birthday Judah 


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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

sharing Joy

You could try to encourage someone with the best material gift in the world or the most meaningful words that are spoken from the heart. But the feeling from hearing those words and receiving that amazing material gift will only last for so long. After awhile you will still feel that hole in your heart that you thought you could fill with other things. You can't fill it and it seems to get deeper and deeper. The only thing I can truly encourage someone with is how I was able to fill that hole in my heart. I was only able to do that by trusting in Jesus Christ. Turning to what he says about me when I feel like all is lost, when I feel hopeless, when I feel like giving up. For advent I am attempting to crochet a Joy banner to hand out everyday to a stranger for 25 days. I am also mailing some out to some family and friends who have really been on my heart. 

December 1st.
I had Judah walk up to a lady who was sitting by herself at Immanuel Bible Church and hand her this note with the crochet Joy banner. 

December 2nd
Judah and I brought in some Duncan Donuts to our postal worker friends. We gave Richard a banner to hang up in the post office to encourage everyone who is standing in that long line for the month of December. 

December 3rd
We delivered homemade chicken and dumplings and a joy banner to our elderly neighbor Lorraine. 

As long as my hands are working I am going to try to give out as many Joy banners as possible this December. I also mailed out 12 and we gave one to the Fire Station last week.

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Friday, November 22, 2013

our nighttime reality

There are many nights my heart breaks for Judah. His favorite person in the entire world is his daddy. Each morning when he wakes up the first words out of his mouth are "where is my daddy?". Each person we interact with through out the day Judah will tell them "I miss my daddy" and when Scott finally pulls in from work Judah runs outside to hug him and will not leave his side all night. Judah adores Scott. It makes my heart swell when I see him holding onto his daddy and never letting him out of his sight. 

We have a nighttime routine with Judah. If Scott is in a lot of pain he will go upstairs and try to grab a nap either before or during dinner. I keep Judah extra distracted and try my best to explain that "daddy doesn't feel well and needs to rest". After Scott's power nap he will come downstairs and help out with Judah while I go upstairs to crochet for about an hour (to get a little me time). Around 7:45 Scott will bring Judah upstairs and we will either give him a bath together or Scott will read to him. I know if Scott is having a really bad night when he can't read an entire book with Judah (like tonight). When I hear Scott struggling with his words I know that is my cue to step in to help out. At first when Judah realizes that Scott can't read any more books he completely freaks out. He wants his daddy time and he thinks that I am stealing that time away from him. He will get these big crocodile tears in his eyes and his lip will start to quiver as he says "I want daddy to read to me! Not mommy!". Scott at this point is typically lying down with his arms crossed and his face in pain. He is unable to respond to Judah's cries. I assure Judah that I am not stealing daddy away from him. That instead of just daddy reading we are going to hang out all together. That he can lay down next to daddy and even hold his hand and I am going to read him EXTRA books. This normally calms Judah down. Afterward Judah gives daddy one more hug and I take him to bed. He cries the entire time. Not a scream whiny cry but a sad heartbreaking cry because he doesn't understand why his daddy can't respond to him, why he can't read to him and why he can't tuck him in. All Judah is thinking are those four words that break my heart through out the day "I miss my daddy". Judah will come out of bed a few times and ask Scott for extra hugs, beg for Scott to tuck him in and wrap him up tight (like a burrito) and when he realizes that Daddy is not feeling well he will then ask for mommy hugs when I carry him back into bed. 

Knowing that Judah's heart is hurting just wrecks mine. When my sweet little boy has his head nestled against my neck as he is hugging me tight I whisper that it is going to be ok and tomorrow will be a better day. As I whisper those words into my sweet boys ear my heart wonders, will Scott ever be ok. 

Our weekends are like gold and I am happy that Judah wont be asking me tomorrow "where did daddy go, I miss him" because he will be with us all day long.  

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

little man down

Judah has been throwing up on and off since Sunday. I took him to his doctor on Tuesday and they said that he should be fine if he doesn't throw up for 24 hours. Almost 48 hours passed and I decided that I would take him out on a play date at the mall today. I should have known something was up when he didn't want to ride his favorite horse on the carousel but wanted to sit down with me. Then on the ride back home he kept complaining about how bright it was outside and I reassured him that we are almost home. Living in Northern Virginia almost home could mean 10 - 45 mins depending on the traffic and today was not our day for a quick ride home. Stuck in the middle of bumper to bumper traffic with people trying to cut me off Judah started vomiting all over himself. It wasn't like Sundays or even Tuesdays it was worse. I felt helpless as I watched him break down and cry because he was covered in his own vomit. We finally made it home. I had to strip him as soon as we walked inside because he was soaked. He was exhausted and crying. My heart just broke for him and I was angry at myself for taking him out to soon. After a nice soothing bath, toast, watered down Gatorade and a pile of his favorite library books, Judah was ready to nap. I had to wait for Scott to come home to help me with the car seat clean up. It is now its 10 pm and we just finished cleaning up the last of the vomit. I swear our home still smells.   

My little man is down and I am mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. I have done over 15 loads of throw up laundry in the past week. I am almost out of my cleaning supplies and  my brain can't even comprehend the words I am typing right now because my mind keeps wondering if Judah is going to be sick again tonight. I will not be able to update my shop tomorrow with all things that are sparkly gold as promised. Instead I am going to spend tomorrow and the weekend recuperating with my family and I will have the shop updated on Monday at 2 pm. I am also going to give away a handful of "hope" banners on IG on Monday as well. 

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

when each day is a struggle

When I first met Scott I was drawn to his smile. He has the best smile. Lights up a room. Draws you in. His whole face lights up when he smiles and you find yourself smiling back. After going on four years of marriage I see those smiles less and less. Scott normally has a scowl on his face. I call it his fricker fracker old man look and Judah likes to tell Scott "turn that frown upside down". At first I thought he was frowning because of something I did wrong or that he was unhappy that he choose me to be his wife. But Scott would have these faces around Judah as well. He would tell me that he is not feeling good and is exhausted. His exhaustion would cause him to struggle with simple things like laying down on the ground to play cars with Judah or staying up to read him books before bedtime. Over the past few years I've watched my husband almost disappear. He wears a beard to hide all the weight he has lost. He will get super low blood sugars. Scary ones. Ones where he is on the floor  drooling because he can't swallow or speak or ones where he leaves the house at 1 am in his pajamas and I can't chase after him because I can't leave Judah home alone. When he leaves the house I call the EMTs. Or he will get really high blood sugars that will put him in a bad mood. I sometimes feel like I can't win as his wife. I feel like no matter what I do to make it a good day that each day is a struggle for both of us. I don't know what to do to help him and Scott is normally in so much pain that it would be best if I don't ask him a million questions on how he is feeling. But I hate seeing him in so much pain and I miss his smile and my heart longs to hear him laugh. I completely love my husband and would do anything for him but sometimes I feel like I am putting up this wall because I am fearful that I may lose him too soon. I will find myself staying up till 4 am, unable to sleep, wondering what the next day will bring and then forcing my heart to just be thankful that at that moment my husband is sleeping next to me. But sometimes my worry overcomes me. Scott sees so many Doctors. To find out why his blood sugars are so out of whack, why he can't keep on any weight or why his back and kidneys hurt all the time. His kidney Doctor has been running tests for the past month and a half. He thinks that Scott may have lupus nephritis of the kidney. Prayerfully that diagnosis will come back negative. 

I know this post is a ramble jumble mess of thoughts and I know many people out there struggle with much worse. That is why I rarely bring up Scott's daily health struggles on social media. I just feel like lately its getting harder and harder for me to hide behind my smile. What I have been thinking about is that just because we look normal on the outside doesn't mean that every day isn't a struggle with us. I struggle with knowing how to respond to my husband. Especially after a hard day with Judah. I struggle with trying to explain to Judah why his daddy doesn't feel well enough to read books to him or why daddy needs a break when he hasn't seen him all day. I struggle with sometimes feeling like the most lonely person in the world. I struggle with the feeling that I am failing as Scott's wife. This past week was especially hard because Judah was also sick. I can deal with a head cold and a fever but when Judah is throwing up while Scott is hurting its just overwhelming. I feel like every molecule in my body is just heavy from the stress of the uncertainty of Scott's health on top of me trying to disinfect everything in my house because it smells like throw up. 

Last night I was reading my bible. I write notes in the margin of my bible and find it soothing to go back to read how the Lord has walked through different valleys and peaks with me. I came across some verses that I underlined when I was single before I even knew who Scott was. I assumed these verses were promises for the future Jessica. The Jessica that would be married and happy with lots of children. I thought I would never experience loneliness or heartbreak once I was married. That life would be full of laughter and smiles. As I was rereading these verses in Psalms again last night I thought The Lord had a different meaning that I couldn't fully understand with out being in the valley. He didn't promise that I would never be lonely again. He promised that He would be with me in times of trouble. I am not lonely because The Lord is with me. He never promised a life free of heartbreak. Instead He promised that He will answer me when I call upon Him, that He will walk with me even in the valley of the shadow of death and that He will comfort me. He will walk with me. Comfort my heart. Speak His truth into my life. He will never leave nor forsake us. 

I love Scott more today then I did on that day when he won my heart over with his smile. Those smiles are rare but I cherish them more. My heart leaps at hearing him laugh and I treasure each good day like it is gold. Even though my husband struggles daily with medical issues and this struggle affects every aspect of our life I am in awe of Scott's relationship with the Lord. I am humbled by how Scott brings his daily brokenness before the Lord and leans on Him. Its not the outward appearance of Scott like his smile that draws me to him, but his heart. 

Job 13:15 (NASB)
Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. 

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

getting creative with my toddlers meals

Anyone close to me can tell you my biggest problem with Judah is getting him to eat breakfast. Each day I would beg him to eat anything. A tasty smoothie, his favorite pancakes and eggs, cereal or even a donut. Anything to get this boy to eat. He would typically take a few bites during a two hour period and refuse to eat the rest. Then while we are out at the park or running errands Judah has an epic meltdown because he is hungry. This would happen every.single.day. I was at my wits end and even stopped going to as many play dates because I could only handle so many major meltdowns out in public. Finally a few weeks ago after browsing Pinterest a light bulb went off in my head. I decided I am going to get a little create with his breakfast to see what happens.

Instead of making Judah his regular pancakes and eggs I made him a pancake family, walking outside near a bacon and banana tree. I left the room and sure enough he ate the entire thing! He also didn't crash later that day.

I decided to try getting creative with as many meals as possible. Instead of spending my first two hours of the morning begging Judah in frustration to eat he started eating. Not only his breakfast but his lunches and dinners. Here are a few examples of things I've made Judah in the past.

If you want to try this out at home with your child I would suggest you get some of the basics.

Wilson Cupcake Markers (you can find these near the sprinkles)
Pre-made pancakes (lifesaver since I can't make pancakes)
Cookie cutters! (you can turn a plain peanut butter sandwich into anything!)
 candy eyes (bakery aisle)
Raisins or tiny chocolate chips for eyes and or noses.
You can cut up all kinds of fruits and veggies to add to your plate.

Im not sure why this works for Judah, but its fun for us both. Instead of getting stressed out each morning my brain is trying to figure out what I can surprise my son with next. 

Get creative and have fun!

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Monday, November 4, 2013

thankful tree

Judah has really picked up on how to encourage others. He recently started telling strangers "turn that frown upside down and SMILE!".  Although my little guy is a great encourager I think I taught him a sense of entitlement of having a new matchbox car every single time we go to Target or Walmart. I know this sense of entitlement is caused by Scott and myself wanting to give Judah a matchbox car and after getting one almost weekly Judah thinks he deserves one. They are less than a dollar, we love seeing him walk around with pockets stuffed full of them and it is so cute hearing his tiny voice play pretend with his tiny cars and trucks. But my sweet little boy will turn into a toddler monster at Target when we wont buy him a matchbox. I'm embarrassed to say I haven't taught my son about gratitude and being thankful for what he has. For the month of November I decided to make a thankful tree with Judah.  Each day I will ask him what he is thankful for, write it on the back of his handprinted leaf and hang it on the tree. I put the date on the back of the leaves so I can keep them in his little art box. Of course his first day he was thankful for "trucks". 

The branches are a little bare now but in a few weeks it will be full of what a toddler boy is most grateful for. I also hope that Scott and I are strong enough to break our cycle of always buying our son a matchbox car and instead focus on teaching him how to be thankful for what he already has. 

1 Chronicles 29:13 (NASB)
Now therefore, our God, we thank You and praise Your glorious name

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Monday, October 14, 2013

a toddlers heart on the furlough

Believe me, nothing is encouraging about the furlough. Especially when you live in an area that is impacted the most by employees on furlough and not being able to provide for their families. Impacted to the point of my husband and I are thinking we should put off on having another child until we figure out what is going to happen with this government shutdown. People all around us are talking about plan B and what to do next. We even had one of our neighbors run up to Scott last night asking if he still had his job and if he would be willing to pass along her resume because she was just laid off from hers from the shutdown and she doesn't know what to do because she has three kids. She needs her income. Its tense over here and each day we wake up anticipating the news announcement letting us know that the Senate got their act together and people are able to go back to work. Then each evening our hearts sink, we become frustrated, we start to worry and we wait.  I'll tell you what, I'm not good with waiting. Especially when it is this stressful. Judah asked me this morning why I was so sad (I looked worried) and I tried to explain to him how people are on furlough and some people (whether they are on furlough or directly affected by a govt program that is put on hold) are not able to provide food to their families. What Judah got from that conversation was "Hungry people need food. How can we help". He started asking me about getting food for the hungry babies. So I grabbed his bucket for his tractor (we do not have a wagon). Wrapped it in duct tape to make it more secure to hold cans and attached a strong rope to the back to pull it. Then we went door to door in our neighborhood asking for extra cans that we can donate to a local food bank. Many people were home because it is Columbus Day. Judah ended up collecting 25 cans, a box of cereal and three bags of dry beans. He was pretty worn out from walking up and down the stairs to knock on doors and pulling the tractor. We came back home so we could drop off the food and read books before nap time. He asked me right before I put him down for his nap if we would go out and "ask for more cans to help the babies".  Seeing Judah's encouragement heart in action took away overwhelming feeling of stress and uncertainty about the future.

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

dairy free slow cooked chicken and dumplings

I've never in my life had chicken dumplings until I made it last week. I searched the web and found a handful of recipes but they all had dairy in them or the recipes consisted of carrots, chicken and dumplings. I wanted a hearty meal that my family can eat for a few days and I needed to make sure that meal did not have dairy in it. I made this Friday night and tonight with plenty of left overs. 

four boneless chicken breasts
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1 medium sized sweet onion, diced
1 medium potato, peeled & diced 
1 cup sliced mushrooms
36 oz chicken stock (I used the wegmans brand and loved it, make sure it does not have dairy in it if your looking for a dairy free meal)
1 tablespoon garlic, minced 
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter (dairy free)
sea salt/pepper for flavor

1 1/5 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons cold butter (dairy free) cut into small pieces
1/2 cup of coconut milk

In the bottom of your crock pot layer your onions, celery, carrots, potato and mushrooms. Place the chicken breast on top. Then in a small pan over medium heat add the dairy free butter, once melted whisk in 2 tablespoons of the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes to create a roux. Add in 2 cups of the chicken stock and 1 tablespoon of minced garlic, slowly whisk in the last tablespoon of flour and keep stirring for 4-5 mins. Pour over the chicken in the crock pot. Pour the remaining chicken stock into the crock pot. Then add the fresh thyme, rosemary, sea salt and pepper for flavor. Put lid on and cook on low for 6 hours. 

After 6 hours I typically take out the chicken with tongs and very carefully chop it up and place it back into the crock pot. I then turn the crock pot on high while I make the dumplings. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and pepper. Crumble in the butter with your fingers into the bowl and mix it all together until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Add in the coconut milk and stir until a sticky dough forms. I then create mini balls (dumplings) and place them in the crock pot. Start by placing the dumplings around the outside first working your way to the middle. Cover and cook for another 1.5 hours. 

This meal is hearty, lasts awhile and my toddler loves it! 

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Monday, October 7, 2013

dont want to be that smell

Do you ever feel like sometimes your past just clings to you. When I first met Scott he swore that I smoked and I always felt like I smelled like it. My hair, cloths and my car just reeked of smoke, but I couldn't figure out why. I don't smoke and I wouldn't even allow my friends to smoke in my car.
Once we got married Scott borrowed my little two door hatchback Geo Metro and drove it to work so he could get the oil changed. He realized that the smell that clung onto me wasn't because I was secretly smoking behind his back. It was because my car was pumping carbon monoxide into the vents and covering my hair, face and clothing. 

I sometimes feel like my past can be just like that carbon monoxide that was pumping into my car. That once its spoken it clings on you. That when I walk into a room people will see me and not think of the positive things about me, but instead think of me as that girl who smells like smoke, or who had that abortion when she was 17, the girl who worked for mclean bible church or the one who sometimes really sucks at being married. Then their are so many other things that I left unspoken in the blogosphere. Struggles and hurts that I've entrusted to people for prayer and yet when I walk into a room I always feel that I'm carrying around the stench of what I have shared.

Sometimes the stench of things said or done to you tend to sneak up on you in the worst moments. Like today when I took Judah to the library. He immediately started throwing tantrums in the parking lot because I asked him to not run away from me. I was carrying a canvas bag full of 20 books to return. My shoulder felt like it was going to pop out of place from the weight of it and I was tripping over my moccasins as I was running after Judah. Once we got inside Judah immediately started talking about the rocking chair in the reading area. To distract him I asked him to help me return the books. Then had him grab a basket and told him once we find a few books and if he behaves we will go to the rocking chair. He was pretty decent, ran away from me only twice. I decided now was a good time to let him sit in the rocking chair. Our rule is that he has to sit down and rock he can not get up and push the rocking chair and let it crash into the wall or kids around him. If he does then we leave. He rocked for a few minutes then got up and started pushing the rocking chair and letting it crash into the wall. When I said it was time to leave he started screaming and throwing books at me. At this moment I am MORTIFIED. I keep thinking of false words that were spoken to me. Hurtful things that smeared my character and wounded my heart. I started to BELIEVE these words and proof that these lies are truth is my child screaming at me and not behaving in the library. So I calmly took Judah by his hand, distracted him by letting him help me check out the books and left the library.

Being Judahs mom I put a lot of who I am in how he acts. I figured if I raise him well then he should reflect how I am as a parent. His character should reflect my character. When he throws a tantrum I am mortified because I feel that this reflects on me that I am a bad parent and my mind is bombarded with negative words about myself that were at one point or another spoken into my life. I will begin to stink of those discouraging words and believe that they must be true. Believing bad things about myself when my child throws a tantrum is just like believing that I am a smoker when in reality my Geo Metro was pumping my air vents full of carbon monoxide. I may have really bad days where I struggle with being a mom. I mean really struggle. Those bad days may turn into a bad week. That should be ok. I shouldn't paint a label on my head and call myself crazy then start believing lies about how I parent my child or even who I am as a person. We all have our bad days or weeks. It should be ok for me to admit that sometimes I get anxious and feel like I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel when my husband is working long hours, that my heart aches because I don't have my sisters around, that its hard to fit into certain communities and I sometimes don't know what to do when my child is taking out his frustrations about life on me. On days where I can't see the light it doesn't make me any less of a mom or wife. I shouldn't question my sanity because I am having a bad day.  We shouldn't finger point or mom shame. Instead we should encourage one another and remind each other that they are doing a great job at being a mom. Speak words of truth of who they are in Christ into their life. Affirm that its ok to have a bad day that we all get them. 

I do not want to smell like my past. Its not saying that my future smells like roses and daisy's because I know it will not. But I don't want to carry around the trash bags of lies around any longer. I give myself permission to have bad days and know that I am still a good mom to Judah. I still love his guts even when he throws big tantrums. 

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Monday, September 30, 2013

more love letters movement

The other day my friend Amy from Little Hip Squeaks tagged me in a photo on Instagram. It  was someone posting a picture of their "move love letters" encouragement card. I've never heard of the movement before and decided to investigate it. I don't think Amy realized the rabbit trail she had me going down. A trail of ideas and inspiration of wanting to write some letters of my own to randomly encourage people. I felt like I was encountering a story from "Chicken Soup for the Soul". I stayed up till 1 am writing the card below on several different cards. My plan was to carry the letters in my purse then drop them off at random places while I go about my errands for the day. 

My first stop was Joanne fabrics. I put the notecard right next to the big sale sign in the yarn section. I hung out in the area for a good bit pretending to look at yarn or more cards (Amy Im now addicted). After awhile I figured people are going to think Im strange for hanging out for so long in the yarn area so I made my purchases and left. 

Then I stopped by Wegmans. Scott told me that the people who probably need the most encouragement are the ones hanging out at the coffee aisle. So I waited till the aisle was empty and I ran over to the Starbucks Via display and placed the card right in front of it. Circled around the store a few times to see if the card was picked up but after 30 mins I finally left. 

I still had two love letters to hand out but I was feeling pretty worn out from all my errands and from being a single mom all week while Scott has been working 12-16 hour days. To tired to walk into a Starbucks I drove up to the drive thru one near our house. The traffic was horrible because of construction down the street. People were impatient and not being really kind to each other. After I gave me order to the drive thru cashier I saw two girls in the car behind me and I thought "they are going to get a card!". As I paid for my order I told the cashier I wanted to pay for the people behind me and I wanted her to give them this card. She said that she was having a rough day and that this was really sweet of me. So I said "well I have one more card it must be for you!". She had the BIGGEST smile on her face as she tucked the card into her Starbucks apron to read later. 

After I drove off I saw the two girls read their card. Then they paid for the persons order behind them. 

I really love this "More Love Letters" movement and I am now inspired to keep a handful of letters in my purse to place in random areas to hopefully encourage someone who needs it. 

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Friday, September 27, 2013

10 Smiler. Encouraging our troops.

Whenever I hear of a 10 miler I always think of the Army 10 miler that is held here in the DC area in the fall. If you have ever ran or attended the Army 10 miler or the Marine Core Marathon in the DC area then you are well aware of the strong sense of patriotism during the race. When you arrive at the race your in awe of the sea of people dressed in their military fatigues and your heart swells up as tears come to your eyes when you hear the cannon go off signaling that its time to start running. When Scott suggested that we encourage our adopted soldier hero Brett with an "Army 10 smiler" I asked him what he meant. Scott wanted to go into Wegmans and find 10 special treats that we can mail off to our friend that would encourage him and make him smile as he finishes out his race while he is being deployed. He has a few more weeks until he is home and reunited with his family. Scott wanted to help him push through the last few weeks by encouraging him with an Army 10 Smiler package. I know when your running a race those last few miles are the toughest. 

I had a few people ask me about "adopting a soldier" who is deployed to encourage them. If you are interested in adopting someone for a few months feel free to email me at jessica.a.west (at) gmail.com and I can get you connected to someone. Its really inexpensive to send out care packages and I know the soldier and their family appreciates that someone is encouraging them. Also if you know of a soldier who could use some encouragement email me their information and I can try to get them connected to someone. 

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013


For a few months I've been talking to my husband, sister and a handful of friends about the possibility of either closing down my shop for a long period of time or that I should stop taking custom orders for a season. The struggle is my desire to crochet items to encourage others and yet being able to pay for yarn and shipping. 

Since this holiday season will be filled with my sisters and step mom coming to my home for the first time ever to celebrate Thanksgiving, Judah's birthday, getting involved with mom groups, nurturing the relationships I've made at my church, really digging into the bible study I've joined and  fingers crossed and lots of prayer Scott and I would like to have another baby soon. All this while trying to be the best mom I can be to Judah and wife to Scott. I didn't want to add the stress of deadlines to my already busy schedule. 

In my free time when I get to crochet I have found that I want to have the freedom to crochet what I want. If I feel inspired to crochet a banner, hat or cowl that I might think would uplift someones spirits then I don't want to feel pressured with a stack of pending custom orders. I love crocheting custom orders. Right now, in the season that I am in, I truly want to focus on encouraging others and I feel slightly anxious just thinking about crocheting custom orders during the holiday season. Anxiety and baby making do not go hand in hand. 

After praying about all of this, I really felt that the Lord wanted me to stop taking custom orders. That He wanted me to focus on others things, like encouraging people. That encouraging others literally makes your heart and soul happy and that other things will fall into place because I wont be carrying around the anxiety of custom orders. So from now until 2014 I wont be taking any custom orders. I will be stocking my shop for the holiday season and using my free time to really focus on who I can encourage with a banner, cowl, hat or ear-warmer. I want to see where the Lord will lead my heart in this.

If you have already placed a paid custom order with me do not fret I will complete it in the time I gave you. 

Thank you for walking alongside us in this encouraging others journey. Im really excited to see how the Lord is going to use the crochet items to encourage some hearts this holiday season.


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Monday, September 16, 2013

Judahs favorite library books

I've taken a step away from blogging for a few weeks. Dealing with some personal heartaches and trying to focus on the blessings that are in my life right now. This morning we finally made a trip to the library. I feel like I've been renewing our books online for awhile. Just like everything in life when you find something good its hard to let it go. Judahs recent favorite books are listed below. 

Judah loves this book! No fits, Nilson teaches my son how to work through frustrations that he may have through out the day. When Nilson has a fit and screams "ROAR" his sidekick Amelia helps him calm down and work it out. Whether Nilson is frustrated from standing in line at the post office (this happens with us weekly) or if he gets hungry and upset over seeing another child eating something that he wants. The illustrations are great and I know Judah got the message because I was frustrated at grocery store the other day when they sold out of this one ingredient I needed for dinner and he said "no fits, mommy!".
Growing up as a military brat we lived all over the United States and Europe. One of my most fearful memories was being scared of a "tornado". Once the warnings popped up on TV where we lived (Kansas or Florida) I would sleep in the bathtub for the night. I didn't understand storms and all I knew about tornados were from the aftermath images on TV. Looking at these images and not being able to fully understand how a tornado happened scared me as a child. I like this book because I am able to walk through with Judah what a tornado is. The images are not as scary as the ones on the news and I am able to show him what people do when a huge storm (with possibly a tornado warning) happens. This book did no give Judah nightmares, he requested to read it before nap and bed time.
We always check out the different versions of Goldilocks and the three bears and I can honestly say this one is by far my favorite. The story is very endearing (I actually cried) and charming.

To view my full list of great library books visit my Pinterest board here

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Monday, August 26, 2013

what you can do in 30 days

I barely blogged this month. Instead I focused on crocheting as many things as possible to provide encouragement to complete strangers on social media. My heart was filled with so much joy in seeing people reply to a hurt, a need or a prayer request. Watching others pour out their words to mend a broken heart or a battered spirit. Unconditional words of hope, affirmation and just letting people know that they are not alone. 

I was not the captain of this ship. Those who encouraged others are. I didn't comment at all so it wasn't me. It was you who steered this ship. You made a difference in a strangers life. You gave them hope. 

I wanted to thank you for participating in this extra yarn encouragement with me this past month. Not only did you change the life of those you encouraged, but you changed my life by watching you unconditionally reach out to others in love. 

lamb hat, three teddy bear hats, five granny square ear-warmers,  IG Giveaway (5 hats), Wegmans Employee (crochet ring), VA Beach Ladies (two crochet rings), IG Giveaway (20 crochet rings), Anchor banner, Family Banner, Rad Banner, Facebook Giveaway (3 hats)

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

taking my toddlers advice

Today I've come to realize that Judah is a spirited child. That I will probably be spending extra time in his toddler years teaching him that he should not run towards the road, that he should listen when I first ask him to do something and that getting excited and throwing your truck in the air is not a good thing because it could hit someone in the head.

These lessons are not fun. They are not fun for Judah and they are not fun for me. I sometimes feel like I am repeating myself so many times through out the day that I forgot to have my very own thoughts on things. That my mind is jumbled with "do not throw your truck" "Come here" and "Do not run into the road". I feel like I have become the mommy robot of "no's".

After leaving the play group today we headed over to Target to grab some necessities we needed for the home. Bone weary, walking through the aisles Judah grabs my hands and screams "Mommy YOU are amazing! You are beautiful and I LOVE you!!" I looked at him. His fidgety toddler body squirming in the cart to reach over and pull me down for a hug. In that moment I thought I should take Judah's advice.  Maybe I've been allowing my brain to be taken over by my "no's" and I haven't been listening to the messages my toddler is trying to give me.

The other day Judah made this video for IG. In it he says 
"What defines us is how well we rise after we fall. You are strong. You are beautiful. Hold on and kick some but"

what defines us from Jessica Judkins on Vimeo.

How am I responding to a bad day?
How do I respond when I feel like I've taken an emotional hit from someone?
Am I believing that I am a strong person?
Do I see myself the way my sons sees me....beautiful?
Am I getting up and kicking but with my crochet business?
Do I love others boldly and serve them passionately?
Do I bravely reach out to encourage someone who looks bone tired and discouraged? 

Judah is a toddler. He could be having the worst day in the world one second and the next be the happiest kid on the block because he saw a butterfly on our path. He doesn't care if he is awkward, what he is wearing or if someone was upset at him a few seconds ago. He will still love boldly and run up to hug his friend. When ever someone looks sad, Judah will stop what ever he is doing and encourage that person. Even if its his mama who feels discouraged from disciplining him all morning. 

My sons spirited soul convicts my heart to the core. I believe The Lord made him spirited so I am able to see what it looks like to love courageously. The Lord is teaching my heart to pause, take in the joy of my son spirit and really listen to how he is loving others around him.  He is teaching me that I am missing out on a whole bunch of encouragement by focusing on my "no's".

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

take what you need {encouragement}

A few months ago while searching for some encouragement ideas I saw this "take what you need" tear off on Pinterest. I loved this idea and kept it in my back pocket, meditating on how I can use it in one of my encouraging it forward adventures with Judah. Today after church I started to put together one of the tear offs. As I was putting it together and writing down the words love, hope, faith, prayer ect I started to think of the people who will look at the tear off. I wondered if they would look at it after having a hard day, hearing some bad news or if they felt like they needed a hug. I questioned myself "How can I make this more personal to the random stranger looking at this. How can I impact their life".  Then I thought of one of my sisters who is going through a really hard time right now. How recently she started writing verses in her facebook status updates and how appreciative she is when I randomly text or email her an encouraging verse.  I'll probably never meet the people who read these tear offs so why not sprinkle some hope in my encouragement.
take what you need from Jessica Judkins on Vimeo.

For the non scripture tear offs I used the words people already used on Pinterest. I wrote the tear offs with colorful markers so they standout and look cheerful. For the tear off with the verses I thought of which verses are encouraging me to me (I'll probably use different ones for each tear off I create).
The tear off in the picture above I used the following verses:

eternal life {John 3:16}
hope {Psalm 33:20}
faith {Hebrews 11:1}
peace {Matthew 11:28-30}
prayer {1 Thessalonians 5:16-18}
forgiveness {1 John 1:9}
joy {Romans 15:13}
comfort {Revelation 21:4}

Judah and I are going to tape these up tomorrow while we walk our neighborhood and the local college campus. I figured since its a Monday people would need to tear off a piece of paper to serve as an ebenezer (stone of help) to keep in their pocket to remind them that they have hope.

I would encourage you to create a few "take what you need" tear offs and tape them up around your community. Feel free to use the one I posted!
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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

to encourage and be encouraged

It takes courage to encourage. It takes a fearlessness to step out and ask someone if you can mail them something encouraging. It takes bravery to comment and hope that the words you compose will speak directly to the recipients heart. Its even heroic when someone gives another person hope. Hope it is a lifeline. This is not what I think of myself, but these are the words I think of when I see others encouraging people around them. When I read comments of people connecting to those in need of hope. Giving another human being hope is affirming that they are not alone, that someone is thinking about them, or praying. That they are not isolated.

Have you ever felt isolated? I have. Isolation can creep into the hidden parts of your heart and like a sponge will expand. It will try to choke out any hope.

Just a few words of hope. A smile. Letting someone in line ahead of you. A letter. Waving to a stranger or paying for their drink. Words and actions of encouragement can change a life. Encouragement can tear apart that decaying sponge of isolation. Encouragement will shine a light into the deepest parts of your soul.

This is why I love to encourage. It is why I want to motivate people to encourage others around them. Even if I am giving something away to "encourage" them to speak words of hope into someones life. This week you have an opportunity to change a life. To change many lives. Im giving away a handful of hats on my facebook page. Go to this picture and encourage someone today and let me know how you or someone else may need some encouragement.

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Monday, August 5, 2013

fighting dragons

You know how some Mondays just really feel like Mondays. The type that you find yourself fighting dragons all day long, putting out fires and trying to accomplish anything with out getting burned. I felt like that this morning. I was on the fence about going to a MOPS play date at the church. In my stomach I felt this fear and apprehension of meeting other Christian moms in a big play date setting. My mind was starting to fill up with thoughts of not being accepted, fitting in and that I would want to leave as soon as I got there with a screaming toddler at hand. But Judah kept asking for his friends and I thought "I'm going to fight this dragon of fear and attend this play group! I know that The Lord has provided the perfect moms to be in my life right now and they are just as excited to see me as I am to see them". I felt like I was fighting dragons while I was trying to get Judah out of the house in time for the play date. Pleading with Judah to eat his breakfast, searching for his cloths that I had already laid for him, getting his snacks ready, stopping him from drinking water out of the fish tank and grabbing one of my flower vases just as he downed the dirty flower water. Then as I was running down the stairs I tripped and twisted my ankle over his fireman boot. When I thought we could finally leave the house Judah surprised me with a huge dirty diaper explosion. All morning long I was at battle with the dragons, fighting over their words of worry, unbelief and discouragement and trying to not give up. 

Finally when we were driving over to the church I looked up at the gorgeous fluffy clouds in the sky and said to Judah "look at the dragons!". The clouds all resembled dragons going into battle, some of them ready to attack with their ferocious jaws open wide and others were sliced apart and scattered across the sky from losing their battles. Then I thought, I may have some battle wounds from this morning, my ankle is a little sore and my house is a mess from wrangling up Judah. But I decided to take on my fears and to fight the dragons of lies. We ended up having a great time at the play date, hung out with some friends, made new ones and Judah with the encouragement of one of his friends climbed up a ladder to the tallest slide all by himself. 

We both conquered some dragons this morning. Next time we hear the dragon of discouragement we will both be able to recall upon our successful battle of this morning and know that we can take up our swords and chop his lying head off.  We will never know how amazing friendships can be unless we take that step outside of our comfort zone, even if its stepping into a huge unknown play group at the church.

Ephesians 6:10 (NASB)
finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might

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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

our children will not forget the words of their parents

Each night after Judah is freshly bathed, smelling like sweet lavender and cuddled up close for some bedtime stories I like to talk to him about all the wonderful things we did for the day. I ask him "Judah do you remember who we played with today","Do you remember those trucks on our run" or "remember how we picked out those books at the library". I like to recall all the good things that happened throughout our day. I feel that this is my way of bonding and affirming that mommy and daddy want good for him. That we want him to be happy and yet we will discipline him if he does something that he shouldn't be doing. Like throwing dirt in the sky to make dust clouds or running away from me in the parking lot.

Today I received another batch of texts from my birth mother. She tends to text me every other month. This time it was to tell me that she never loved her children and that she doesn't care that she abandoned us when we were so young. Even though this is what is to be expected from my volatile mother it still stung my heart. Especially since I just spent an hour on the phone with her this week talking her out of self injury again. Growing up with I was used to being told daily by my birth mother what I did wrong and how she hurt herself because of her children. I still have it burned in my head the image of my drunken mother who OD'd on her medication screaming at me in the emergency room "I do this because of you! I hate you!". Children will not forget the words of their parents.

That is why I daily remind Judah of good things. I remind him over and over again how much I love him and that he is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I am doing what the Lord does for us. The Lord he does not retain His anger forever because He delights in unchanging love, He will again have compassion on us (Micah 7:18-19).  He has us recall the former good things he has done for us (Isaiah 46:9). He will quiet you with His love (Zephaniah 3:17) He will not forget us, He has inscribed us on the palms of His hands and we are always before Him (Isaiah 49:14) we are the apple of His eye (Zechariah 2:8). All over scripture the Lord continually reminds us of how faithful He is, how much He loves us, how He will fight for us and how He will save us. Yes in my shame I put Jesus on that cross, but His death takes away my shame forever. 

In being parents we are to die to self, to give unconditionally and to discipline in love. 

After receiving the text bombs from my mother I drove Judah out to the library to check out some new books. On the way home our tradition is to stop by Starbucks to read a book together while we sit on the couches. While I was parking Judah started singing in my backseat "bless The Lord oh my soul ohhhh my soul" and I turn around to look at him he says "mama I love that song, bless The Lord oh my soul!!"

Then I started crying. The Lord knew I needed to hear Judah sing this. He was reminding me of His great love for both my son and myself. In that moment I completely forgot the words of my mother and I was able to embrace the love that was being poured out into my heart. 

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