Wednesday, February 27, 2013

today I felt encouraged

(sunglasses from tumbleweeds)

Yesterday I found myself in line at Target crying. I was exhausted. I needed a break. Its been raining and it feels like winter wont stop. My kid has cabin fever and misses his daddy so he has been acting like a crazy toddler. I miss my husband. I wish I had a great local community of mama friends. I was wondering what in the world was I doing with my life as a stay at home mom and am I ever going to have a different job ever again and questioned if I am even a good stay at home mother. I miss the sunlight and I know I am about to start my cycle. 
(real life, I get way to emotional right before my cycle) 

Today was different.
 Its always the darkest before the sun peaks out. 
Today it was good being a stay at home mom. 

This morning when I opened our windows the sun was out. The temperature was perfect. I made breakfast for Judah and myself and then I heard a chain saw out side. Our HOA finally decided to prune the huge tree in our front yard. I've been wanting this for years because the dead branches block the sunlight and I can't grow my dream flower garden. As my heart sung with joy Judah was prancing around with excitement. We sat for an hour and a half and watched the "tree guys" scale the tree and saw off dead branches. I kept telling Judah how beautiful the trees are now that the dead branches are pruned off. Kinda like how the Lord likes to prune things out of our life so that our hearts are more beautiful.  

Then we went outside and encouraged the three "tree men" with homemade banana muffins. Afterwards I took Judah on a 4 mile run around campus. It felt good to run. To kick up my feet as Judah yelled "run faster mommy faster!". The weather was perfect. Once we got home Judah played in the park, had a quick lunch and Scott came home early! He is home with us for four days straight! 

My heart felt encouraged today. 

My sweet friend Diana wrote this moving post about encouraging others (please read)

Go out and encourage someone today. Then share how you encouraged someone. Its uplifting and some times mamas who have a meltdown in line at Target need to hear them.
 (your encouraging stories inspire me)

 My sweet son and his laughter, encouraging stories, my husband being home for a few days, sunshine, a good run, an hour long phone conversation with my sister Rhonda and a crocheting colorful things with a good cup of coffee make my heart happy. 

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Monday, February 25, 2013

what am I sacrificing

Saturday we went to the National Air and Space Museum (Udvar-Hazy Center) in Dulles. When we arrived I actually ran Judah inside almost skipping security because I was so excited. Once inside I was fighting back tears. If you know me and have been reading my blog for awhile you know I cry over just about anything, but this museum holds an extra special place in my heart. The last time I visited the Air and Space Museum was when it was in high school. My mom took my sister and I on our spring break to the one located in DC. This was a good memory for me, the museum meant allot to my mother because her father was an engineer for NASA. Also this was a time when my mom was healthy, when she was our "mom" and before all her electroshock therapy treatments, this was before her father passed away. Now years later I wanted to make the same special memories with my husband and son. Judah was chatting away in excitement as Scott explained each airplane to us. Then I turned to my husband and said "I am so sorry but we have to see the space shuttle now, I can't wait any longer". So we beelined over to the shuttle and spent an hour just looking at her. This was the shuttle that we saw being flown into Northern Virginia last year

I have no words to describe what it felt like seeing a real life space shuttle up close. 
At first I felt like I was trying to capture my experience by taking the best picture of the shuttle with Scott and Judah. But Judah was so distracted by what was going on and wouldn't stand longer than a second. All my pictures of him were blurry. Then it hit me, am I sacrificing my experience with my family by trying to capture it on my phone. So I stopped worrying about how many great pictures I could capture on my phone and decided that I didn't care if I was going to use the same pictures on my blog that I shared on Instagram. Instead I enjoyed my time at the museum with my family.

After spending the morning at the Air and Space museum I started to really think. What am I sacrificing during the day. I try to stay up with my friends on twitter, IG and blogs. But I can't spend all day on social media. I have a system that works pretty good for me, I upload a picture but don't comment back until Judah is napping or when Scott is with him. I package orders at night, crochet and read blogs during his nap time or when Scott is spending some daddy and Judah time with him. I don't feel like I am the best person at keeping up with social media but right now this is the season I am in. The season of pouring out into my sons growing mind and heart while trying to make time to encourage and invest into the friendships that I've built. 
I'm trying to take the time to teach Judah how to draw, encouraging him to love to paint, taking him to parks, reading books or teaching him how to encourage others by showing him how to mix the muffin batter or draw on cards. So if I am not quick to respond to a tweet, email or even comment back really fast or you notice I comment on IG posts at the end of the day that means I was probably spending time with Judah. If I double post pictures onto my blog that I took on IG that probably means I was more focused on grabbing my phone so I could also hold Judah or that we got to caught up in the moment of having fun as a family that I didn't think to bring my Canon. I don't want to reflect on my sons childhood and think "that was a really good twitter conversation" or "I really enjoyed spending my day following other people living life on IG instead of spending time with my son". I want to be that person living my life and spending my time investing into my sons life.

Its a fine balance that I find myself daily struggling with. Especially because I do love the friendships I've built on social media, its a great outlet for a stay at home mom. But I have to force myself to think "what am I sacrificing" and how can I pour out into Judah's life more. 

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Friday, February 22, 2013

encouraging it forward week 8

A few of my online blogger mama friends announced with in the past two weeks that they are pregnant. I remember when I worked at McLean Bible Church and my friend Heidi found out that she was adopting a baby boy and I wanted to celebrate the good news with her immediately. I went to Target and bought him a cute hoodie and hat. She told me once her son was born that she truly treasured the gifts. I knew Mandy loves narwhals so I made her a baby narwhal. Since the rest of the girls don't know what they are having yet I made Diana, Dani and Diana all elephant hats. I'm also making Rachael an elephant hat as well this weekend. 

Crochet hats for my friends new babies makes my heart smile. 

Who have you encouraged this week? 

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

library book love - toddler version

Judah loves this book about a Rabbit who means well but always finds himself in trouble. In this book Mr Mouse loses his plane in a tree, Rabbit then finds a pretty creative but non helpful way of trying to get the plane down. In each page Rabbit pulls a large animal out to stack them on top of each other to reach the plane. Judah can relate to the book and even exclaims "Oh no!" when the stack of animals gets to high. The colorful and detailed illustrations keep his attention and he loves that I make animal noises while they are being stacked. This book really allows Judah to use his imagination and his emotions with empathizing with the animals and with Mr Rabbit. 

Source: via Jessica on Pinterest

Here is an entire list of great toddler books. 

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

guidelines for meeting in real life

I feel like over the past week I've taken a tiny step away from social media. I love blogging, I love connecting with other instagramers and I love the community that I've built. But I feel like I need to build a better foundation for my community. I feel like I've trusted some people that are unsafe for me and my family and I need to reassess to make sure that the people I am trusting online are people that are safe for my son and myself. About a week ago I had to have the police over to file a report on a local IG'er. I wont get into details, but the officers confirmed I had enough evidence to file a report and eventually a restraining order if she doesn't stop contacting me. The process of speaking to my husband about upgrading our security for our home over social media left me a little shaken. It left me wondering who is trustworthy and who is portraying who they really are online. 

Social media has been a wonderful outlet for over ten years. I've been able to meet some of my very best friends online. Recently I am seeing that it is also a very scary place.  It can be a place where people can pretend to be people they are not and try to get information to hurt you or your family. Instead of being my naive self and trusting everyone I am taking a step back. I love making new connections, meeting new friends but my priority is now making sure they are people that I can trust and be able to introduce my son into their lives. Judah is my son and his safety out weighs anything in this world. 

Here are some basic steps I use in trusting someone for a meet up. 

+ have I followed this person on IG, twitter or read their blog for a long period of time to see consistency in their life, character or behavior. 

+ do we have mutual friends? do I respect the trustworthiness of our mutual friends. 

+ is the person trying to push a meet up? asking constantly to meet Judah and myself with out trying to build an online friendship first.

+ is the person trying to meet at my home or a public place (when people push to meet at my home this sets off red flags for me)

+ does the person get angry if I do not follow them back on social media

Here is the deal, its not a popularity contest, when I mentally check through these boxes I am doing so with my son in mind. For example the people I have met up with in the past, I've follow them on their blog, IG or twitter for a long period of time. I've seen that their behavior matches up to what they are portraying online. I believe you can only keep things hidden in the dark for so long and if I have been reading your blog for lets say the past year I'm sure I would see some sort of red flag if something wasn't right. I also check to see if we have mutual friends. If I have enough friends who have passed my internal online friendship trusting radar who trust you, then chances are I would probably become friends with you as well. If someone keeps trying to push for a meet up when I have pushed back a few times, this sets off a signal that this person isn't safe for me to meet up with. I just can't meet up with random people that I don't know. Its not safe. I will not meet people I don't know at my home, that's a given. When I became friends with Kendra we hung out in public several times before I invited her over. We were online friends for awhile before we met in a public place. After a few meet ups we realized we lived a few miles from each other and before you know it we are having play dates at each others home and attending our children's birthday parties. Our friendship started out gradually and it felt safe. If someone gets angry because I don't follow them back on social media this makes me question what else could they get angry over if we are "in real life friends". Since I have a traumatic childhood, people who get angry over little things set off red flags letting me know they are unsafe and I typically cease all contact with that person. If I am able to over time to see that the person has a good character reference, mutual friends, doesn't push me to meet up and I see them treating others with love and respect then I will probably follow them back and build a friendship with them. But unlike the forced relationships formed on The Bachelor, I need time to form "in real life" friendships. Like I said before, my sons safety is first and if I am able to introduce an online friend to my son who have passed my internal online friendship guidelines then I am more than willing to meet up in real life. 

Also I trust my gut instinct. If anything feels off then I walk away. 

I would like to know if you have any "internal guidelines" for meeting up new mama friends. 

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Friday, February 15, 2013

encouraging it forward week 7

I think I have a love/dislike relationship with Valentines day. I love how I get a chance to encourage people, I love how colorful it is and I love all the corny things associated with Valentines day. The heart shaped cookies, the valentines and the heart shirts. What I dislike about it is how the holiday can discourage people and I am not untouched by the yearly discouragement. I  decided that I wanted to show Judah how to love someone unconditionally on Valentines day. We brought a handful of preemie hats that I crochet to the Fairfax NICU to give to the babies. I also baked some blueberry muffins for the nurses and put these cute heart shaped toppers on top and packed them all in a container with heart stickers all over it. I thought they would for sure smile when they see the goodies.  

On the way to the hospital and even while we were taking the elevator to the NICU floor Judah kept saying over and over again "hats for the babies". I think he is starting to finally understand that we were going to drop off some hats for the babies. When I handed the hats and muffins to the receptionist at the NICU floor she took out the hats and with out smiling looked at me and said "babies really wear these things". My heart was crushed and it took every fiber of my being to just not cry in front of her and my sweet son singing "hats for babies!". Right at that moment one of the doctors walked out and saw the hats and Judah and started telling my son how kind he is for dropping off the hats for babies. Judah was smiling so big and I thought "Jess your trying to show your son how to love unconditionally, meaning if someone is not responding the way I hope they would respond that doesn't mean that I don't continue to love them". The grumpy receptionist was teaching my heart how to love unconditionally.

Today as we stopped by Target to check out the after Valentines day sales I grabbed a box of cute cookies for our post office friends. 

Our post office friends are always excited to get random treats and they even shared a cookie with Judah. 

Who have you encouraged this week? Has your encouragement taught your heart something that you didn't expect it to? 

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

library book love - toddler version

For the past two weeks I've been grabbing a handful of the "Step into reading, ready to read" books for Judah at the Library. The books have short stories with short sentences to assist in teaching your child how to read. I know Judah probably wont read on his own for a few years but he seems to really enjoy these books. He loves our normal Berenstain Bear books but they are really long and wordy. With Judah's attention span he just can't sit for an entire reading, but with the step into reading books we are able to read a handful a night and he will listen to each book. 

Source: via Jessica on Pinterest

Judah laughs out loud during the "Big Bear Small Bear" book. We like to pretend its him and Scott together going on adventures. This book teaches him the difference between big and small or to little and to much. I would suggest you try grabbing a few of these books for your toddler next time your in the library, you might be surprised to see how much they enjoy them. 

To see a full listing of great toddler books, click here. 

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

valentines day encouragement

On Valentines day I want to try to encourage others. It's a hard day for some people and I want to be able to make it a better day for most. This Valentines day I am planning on taking Judah to the NICU to drop off some preemie hats I made for the babies. I also wanted to drop off some treats for the nurses. I bought this adorable mini heart shape pie maker at Target and tested out some mini raspberry tart pies tonight with Judah. He of course ate most of the raspberries so I have to make more tomorrow. If he keeps eating the raspberries I also bought some cute valentines day themed cupcake toppers from the dollar section at Target. 

Here are some cute encouraging ideas for Valentines day. 

Just a few more days to think up of some ideas!

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Monday, February 11, 2013

i love you....but

ever hear someone say to you "I love you but...."

When I used to work in full time ministry here in Northern Virginia before I had Judah I would often get asked "do you regret your decision of having your abortion". I was pretty confused as to why people would ask me that and I always felt that the person's love and acceptance for me was based off of how I would answer this question.  Would they still love me if I said no I don't regret it. Then the other day when I was speaking to the reporter from CNN she asked me something similar, she said  "Jessica what would you have done differently". This is what I told her and this comes from the deepest part of my heart. 

When I was 17 and dating Alex I couldn't see past the abuse. I was daily fearful of my life but most of all I didn't even know this person who I've become, I was afraid to have opinions or to speak up. I was afraid to reach out and ask anyone for help in fear of what Alex would do if he found out that I told someone. I was literally paralyzed in fear. Now if someone came into my life when I was pregnant and said "Jessica, I will take you far far away, I can guarantee you that you will never see Alex again and I will give you a safe place to have your baby. That your child will never know who Alex is". If someone was able to say these words to me and rescue me from my abuse then yes I would have packed my bags and ran away from this evil man and never looked back. But, I didn't have that option. I lived in fear and this fear wasn't just formed from my relationship with Alex, it was something that was ingrained into my heart from my father. I dated someone who mirrored who my father was. I felt trapped my entire childhood and fell into an even bigger trap by dating Alex. I don't know if any of you have tried to help an abused animal, he or she will not trust anyone and many times they wont leave the spot they are in. So when someone asks me if I could go back and change something, you know what I would have changed, I would have changed the father I was given then I wouldn't have dated men that mirrored who he was. Then I would never have met Alex. I probably would have waited till marriage just like my husband waited for me. 

My husband and I want to try to have a baby this year, once I get the clear from my new OB. If my doctor told me while I was pregnant "Jess your baby will have Tay Sachs (I am a carrier) or they will be born and only live just a few hours or they may have downs syndrome".  I would still keep my baby, I would choose to stay pregnant and have my child and give him or her a loving home just like we have given Judah. I would trust that the Lord has allowed me to get pregnant and that He is in control of the outcome of this child's life and of mine. 

I also told the reporter when I worked in full time ministry I volunteered with the high-school students. Two girls that I worked with and formed relationships with called me when they found out they were pregnant. They were still in high-school, un-married and they had no idea what to do. These are girls that grew up going to church. Granted they were not in an abusive situation like I was, but they knew of my story and they felt that I was one of the few people they could talk to. They didn't want to be judged. The first girl was pregnant at the same time I was pregnant with my son Judah, so I drove her over to Babies R Us so she could help me find things to put on my registry. What I was really trying to do was to see where her heart was and how I could minister to her heart. She struggled, she wasn't sure if she wanted to keep her baby or not and her mother recently sat her down and suggested that she have an abortion so she can finish out high school. I told her about my abortion and how even now my heart still grieves for my baby. I helped her find ways to enroll in a local school that she can attend while being pregnant and complete after she had the baby. I also found some women who donated clothing and baby gear to her. I was able to love her in a tangible way, I was able to give her options. She kept her baby. But if she decided to go have that abortion, because she was feeling pressure at home from her mother. I would not personally drive her to that clinic. I also would not write her off from my life because I know if she did have that abortion that she will need more love and grace than ever before! She would have a long road of healing and recovery in front of her and I would not want to be that person who turned her away from the love that Christ commands for us to give each other. I don't want to be the one to judge her but I wanted to be that person who tried in my earthly body with my earthly heart to love her the way Christ would love her. 

So when people ask me do I regret what I did. I can honestly say I can't see past the abuse and its hard for me to answer that question. Do I wish I had someone rescue me and take me away from the abuse so I could raise my sweet baby, of course! But when I look back all I can see are the beatings, the rapes and the fear. Since I've written my story I have had many brave women email me stories of their own. These precious women who have been afraid to share about the hurt they still hold in their hearts from abortions they have had in the past. Women who for a brief moment feel free of judgement and who reach out with a longing to be healed and loved. 

No one came to rescue me when I was 17. But afterwards when I was in the pit of despair, hating myself and just wanting to die and accepting the abuse from Alex. I just like that women at the well came face to face with my Savior Jesus Christ, the only one who could rescue me and mend my wounded heart. 

The woman at the well
comes face to face with her Emmanuel
shame stains her crimson cheeks
He studies her and begans to speak
His truth resonates her heart inside
tears surface in her hazel eyes
my secrets she do you know
I have living water He says I wish to show
I will guide you along the way
reside in your heart, if you let me stay
she says there is a Messiah, coming for me
I who speak to you am He
- Jessica West Judkins (5/6/09)

John 4:26 (NASB)

Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He."
...I am not the only one with a story....

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

sleepy fox hat featured in a DC magazine

A few weeks ago I received an  email by a writer for Bittersweet Zine a local DC magazine. She wanted to let me know that my sleepy fox hat was featured in the style section for February's issue. They only sell the magazine at a handful of coffee shops in DC. So we decided that we were going to have a family DC date and search for a few copies of that magazine. We drove into DC and grabbed some dairy free cupcakes from the famous vegan bakery Sticky Fingers Bakery. The owner of the bakery won the cupcake wars last year, and I can see why the cupcakes were delicious and the line was out the door! 

On the drive home we noticed a park that kinda looked like a farm. We turned in and we found ourselves at the DC Zoo! It was close to closing time but we knew that Judah would completely flip out so we parked and walked around for a good hour. 

Our day was perfect, dairy free cupcakes, actually seeing my hat in print and wearing out my sweet boy at the DC Zoo. Also the sun managed to shine down on us the entire time. Our sweet boy who has had an extra dose of energy the past few weeks fell asleep and was snoring by 8:30 tonight. 

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Friday, February 8, 2013

encouraging it forward week 6

Earlier this week I wrote a blog post on a Crazy Encouragement idea. In this post I asked people to nominate someone who could really use some encouragement and then write a note on how they could really use some encouragement, then to go back and email the people who have commented. Let me tell you most of these posts left me in tears. It made my heart ache just knowing how many people  truly need encouragement. I know I sound like a hallmark commercial but I believe just a little bit of random encouragement can truly change someones life. I picked a random person from this post to send this cowl to so they can go and give it to the person they nominated. 

I truly wish I could gift every single person who was nominated a cowl. I loved hearing the stories of people who needed some encouragement. What I can offer is for the month of February all my adult cowls will be $20 and I will not charge the custom order fee if you want me to make one for you. Just contact me at my shop My Charming Colors

Jenny email me your address and I will mail you the cowl to gift to your friend.

Who have you encouraged this week? I would love to hear your stories, link up below. 

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

library book love - toddler version

This week has been a little busy. A reporter from CNN contacted me a few days ago about publishing my post "behind the abortion" and I had my phone interview today. I am really encouraged that my post might hopefully reach someone who really needed to read it. Needless to say I feel like this week has been a whirlwind of getting things prepared and just full of emotions from reliving the story again. But we did manage to make it to our weekly library date!

Judah has been really into the Richard Scarry word and counting books. 

Source: via Jessica on Pinterest

Every day before I put Judah down for his nap we go into his room make a mini bed on the floor and I read to him the "Best Word Book Ever". This book is packed full of colorful pictures of every day items that capture Judah attention and stick in his memory. He will now name to me every day items that he recognizes from the book.  I think this book has helped Judah's vocabulary immensely in just the one week I've been reading it to him. I would suggest this book for any parent with a toddler. Its a great tool to help them memorize daily words and help them build that foundation towards learning how to read. 

Also have you checked out this weeks Crazy Encouragement? Please encourage someone today. 

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

endearing homemade toddler valentine

My family doesn't live local, my sister lives in Florida and my step mom lives in Connecticut. So I try to send them as many "homemade from Judah" things that I can. Tonight Judah made some "I love you this much" valentines day notes. I placed him down on a large sheet of paper, traced the outline of his body with his arms extended and wrote on it "I love you this much". Judah loves being traced and I know my sister is going to love this sweet little valentine from her growing nephew.

Have you signed up to be part of my Crazy Encouragement? Go check out the post today and encourage it forward. 

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Saturday, February 2, 2013

crazy encouragement!!

February is a hard month for some people. Its still winter and people get the winter blues, most of us are going stir crazy with cabin fever and Valentines day is right around the corner. For some this is not a very enjoyable holiday. As I was thinking about this the other day I came up with this crazy big encouragement idea and I'm not 100% sure how I can pull it off. But my heart knows that everyone needs encouragement, people have stories they want to share, to be heard and everyone knows of someone that really needs some sort of comfort. Now I dont have the funds like Ty Pennington to do a complete home makeover but I do know how to crochet and I know that an encouraging email can go a long way. 

So here is my crazy encouragement idea.

I want each of you to write down in the comment section of this post a story about someone that you know who would be totally blessed by receiving one of my tri-colored cowls. Tell me anything, what they are going through, what they have overcome and how it would bless their heart to receive the cowl. Then in that same comment I want you to write a sentence of how you need encouragement and leave your email. After you leave your comment I want you to look through all the comments and email a person who needs encouragement. See if you can encourage someone else or several people who have left their emails. Then take this blog post and forward it to as many people as possible so they can join in. You never know who may need the encouragement. Next Friday I will pick a comment randomly ( and contact that person to gift them a cowl to give to their friend who needs encouragement. 

Here are some ideas of how you can encourage someone via email.
*read their story and write them an email*
*if you have extra change send them a starbucks card via email*
*go to and send an E card*
*if the person has a blog comment on the last 4 posts they wrote*

Here is the quick run down
leave a comment 
(in the comment you will include)
write about a person who needs encouragement
write a sentence on how you would like encouragement
leave your email
go back and read the rest of the comments and email someone some encouragement.
forward this blog post (facebook,twitter or email)

Also until February 14th I have reduced the price of my tri-colored cowls to $20 and the children's cowls to $16 in case you want to purchase and mail one to someone to encourage or keep for yourself.

I really hope you all decide to join in with me and that we are all able to encourage it forward this week, also feel free to email me and let me know how you have encouraged someone. I love hearing the stories. 


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Friday, February 1, 2013

encouraging it forward week 5

This week I mailed out two cowls. My friend Alix and her son Wolfie over at Modern Kiddo caught the flu, the one that leaves you unmovable for a few days. I've been wanting to make my sweet friend a cowl, I just didn't know what colors to use. When I met Alix last spring in San Francisco I remember thinking "this is the most vibrant and colorful woman I've ever met". Not only does she love to wear colors, but this sweet woman wears her colorful heart on her sleeve. I crochet a cowl that I "think" will look good with anything she wears. I added a cute vintage book for Wolfie and a vintage valentines day card. I hope this package encourages them both.

I wanted to keep the peach and light grey cowl above for myself. My sister Rhonda who has been the biggest supporter of my business (she is sneaky and will purchase things for her mama friends from my shop) said she wanted a cowl. I told her I wanted to give her one and she said she really liked this one. My heart tugged a little bit because I have yet to keep anything for myself from my shop and I was going to keep this one for myself.  I love my sister Rhonda, she has been the biggest encourager, my best friend and when ever I try to look for something to "gift" to her I'm always looking for something that would truly encourage her heart. This cowl would be the perfect gift to her. I always say "you know its a good gift when you want to keep it for yourself".  Honestly my heart was encouraged by sending this to Rhonda. She does so much for others and has the biggest heart. 

Who have you encouraged this week? I would love to hear your stories. Link up below. 

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