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My mom has made homemade jam forever. In fact, I don’t remember ever having the store-bought stuff growing up. And every summer I think I’ll try making it myself. But I’m too intimidated and just don’t.

Until now. And I cannot believe I waited so long…because it’s CRAZY easy.

I mean like I could be half asleep and make it. With one arm tied behind my back. Really. It’s that simple.

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She and my dad were in town last week so we decided to do a taste-test and see which brand we liked better.

Sure Jell brand is one she’s used for years. But finding pectin by Ball {yes, as in the mason jars}, we thought we’d try that one, too.

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I’m going to feature the Ball Brand (pictured on right) because it ended up being our favorite. Not only does it have waaaay less sugar, but it didn’t require the extra step on the stove that Sure Jell did.

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Step one: wash your berries!

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The best way to do this is fill a large bowl with cold water and place the berries in. By doing it this way and not running water directly over the berries, they stay intact and it’s easier to find and toss out bad berries or leaves.

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Fill your freshly washed berries into a colander to rid of excess water. Shake gently.

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Step two: mash, mash, mash!

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I have two mashers in my kitchen and trying both, we found we absolutely loved how well (and quickly!) the potato masher worked.

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 Once your berries have been pressed and softened, it’s time to add them to your mixture of sugar and pectin (read the box for exact measurements).

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Step four: stir!

Our recipe called for stirring constantly for three minutes. So I enlisted help from a sweet, chubby fingered little girl, who couldn’t wait to help mommy & grandma.

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Step five: DONE! Yes, seriously…that’s it!

Just make sure you have plenty of clean jars. I used these for us and these to give as gifts.

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Pour jam into jars and let sit for 30 minutes before placing one into your fridge, the rest into the freezer.

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As for the Sure Jell brand, it’s still fantastic jam and if you like it on the sweeter side, this one is probably for you.

The extra step of cooking on the stove only added a few minutes to making our batches. It really wasn’t a big deal, though I was really impressed at the simplicity of Ball.

Sure Jell also has a little thicker consistency.

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making jam

//// have you made jam or canned anything yourself? Tell me! I’m dying to try more! ////

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Memorizing scripture is so important, yet I’m terrible at doing it.

Do you struggle with it, too?!

Keeping God’s Word steadily in my thoughts has been weighing heavily on my heart lately…so I’ve begun making these every month to save on the Lock Screen on my phone.

And it’s helping! Since my phone is constantly by my side {another thing I’m working on}, it’s a simple way to have a particular scripture in my face all day long.

So I thought I’d share them. Perhaps it’s just what you need to help be better about memorization, too!

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{look to the sidebar on the right hand side. Enter your info into the area under “sign up here!”}

. I’ll also be sending out Bible verse lunch notes only to subscribers {similar to these from last year} .

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All you need to do is take a screenshot or save it to your phone and set it to your Home Screen or Lock Screen {or both!} to use as wallpaper.

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This verse is one of my favorites. I sing the hymn to myself {and to the kids when putting them down to bed} all the time.

I thought it particularly perfect this month, as many of us are in the midst of summer winding down and on the brink of a new school year. And lets be honest…a little stillness would be nice.

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Even through the chaos however, we can remember to be still in Him. We can take rest beneath the shelter of His wings.

Read Psalm 91. Oh friends…it’s one of my favorites.

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Here are a few older posts on being still if you want to delve a little deeper!

. God calling & embracing silence {with printable Bible Study} . a praying heart & being still .

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Here’s another example of one of our free lock screens. Subscribe today so you don’t miss any more!

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Earlier this week I posted in part 1 of this series how we were (supposedly) going to destroy our family as we responded to God’s calling upon our lives.

We talked about what to do when no one supports your calling.

And I left you with this reminder…

your calling

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So lets continue on with it, shall we??

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Isn’t it amazing how we all have such different passions and are called for such different things?

A good friend of mine works in television. Even when we were growing up, you could tell she was made for it.

Though she gets to meet and interview incredible people and dress for red carpet upon red carpet, I have absolutely no desire to make my living doing what she does. But God has called her to it…given her an extreme passion for it and the ministry it’s provided for she and her family. He is using her in great ways. But I’m sure glad it’s her and not me.

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It reminds me of the passage in 1 Corinthians that speaks of “One Body with Many Parts.”

You know the one. It says:

Ephesians 12.14-17

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Turn your Bible to 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 and read this well loved passage.

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Society may think my sweet friend Megan is a more impressive part of the body. Something more important. She’s on TV and meets with impactful and famous people every day.

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We may feel unimportant as we settle into our cubicle each morning, at a job we’re not thrilled with.

Or perhaps we look at someone with a calling such as Megan’s, feeling a little green as we realize we’re wearing yoga pants…again…without any chance of actually making it to the gym. Maybe the grocery store, and most certainly to the closet which houses the broom and dust pan because for the twelfth time today, snacks have been spilled by chubby little hands still figuring out how to eat by themselves. Maybe we’ll even make it upstairs to the shower, if it’s a good day. A really good day. Maybe.

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Rather than comparing ourselves to others, lets instead be challenged and encouraged by the words of Paul.

We are every bit as important to the Body of Christ as my sweet Megan, as Mother Teresa or Billy Graham, as our pastors and missionaries, and so many others we look up to.

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There’s something about this quote that makes my throat tight and my heart ache:

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Amen, Dr. King. Amen.

My Grandfather worked for Mothers Cookies for most of his adult life {which side note, was pretty much the coolest job a grandpa could have because he was always letting us jump up into his big truck and choose whatever package of cookies we wanted. The only thing better is if he owned a toy store, but I digress…}.

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My Grandpa, who we all appropriately call “Cookie,” was like this street sweeper. Most people probably wouldn’t care much about a job as a cookie distributor.

But Grandpa Cookie did his job better than well. He did it with excellence. He did it with great pride.

He knew everyone who worked in each and every store and he knew their story. He KNEW them and joked with them and fellowshipped with them.

He shared life with them.

It wasn’t about the cookies he lined up so neatly upon the grocery store shelves. It was about the people.

He made a difference in the lives of so many. He has long since retired but even still, years later, when I last visited Seattle and swung by our neighborhood QFC grocery store, I was greeted with questions of how Cookie is doing. Stories would then be retold, which always seem to end in laughter when Cookie is involved, because Grandpa Cookie tells jokes and people love him.

He is a living Jesus to them. Warm hearted and caring.

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Cookie and Megan and you and me, we’re different. I was called to adoption and to have a houseful of children and to write a book and blog.

You are likely called for something completely different. Something God has planned and is equally as important.

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Don’t allow anyone to make you second-guess what you’re positive Christ has put on your heart.

Whether it’s something huge and daunting, something that’s a bit scary and seems bigger than you can actually accomplish…or something that others may think isn’t big enough!

Isaiah 55.8-9

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Whether the Lord has called you to be the crossing guard at your kids school, work with the homeless or the infirm, start a Bible Study for college girls, or to use your entire inheritance to purchase an 800 year old building in Morocco to start a home for children whose mothers have been rescued from slavery {like my friend Laura}.

It’s all important. Why?

Because the Lord has asked you to do it.

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And that’s enough.

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When it all began, everyone around us thought we were doing too much, too fast. That we were really naïve about bringing home a baby girl from Ethiopia, only to decide right away to also adopt a six year old. A boy older than our biological boys, which is apparently a major no-no.

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But we knew with overwhelming confidence it’s what God was calling us to do, so we just smiled, said “thanks for the advice,” and continued on…praying and gripping Christ and His faithfulness with white knuckles, all the way.

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trust

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proverbs

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It sounds a little cliché though, doesn’t it? It sounds so simple, so streamlined and easy. Wrapped up in a pretty little box with white satin ribbon holding it tightly together.

Trust.

Trust even when things are scary, even when you have no idea how it’s going to work out, even when your friends and family don’t necessarily support your calling. What then?

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Ephesians

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I love going back to The Message version of the Bible when I want to read a passage in a new light.

Here is Ephesians 2:10 again, actually here are verses 7-10.

Ephesians 2

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He’s got this! We just need to say “YES!” and hold on tight.

Really, really, tight.

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Galatians 1

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Swing back on Thursday for the second half of this post.

Because remember…

your calling

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I’m not a huge electronics fan. For our kids, I mean. I struggle with it because I know that’s where the world is headed…yet Ben and I don’t want our kids to lose their imagination or be addicted to the tv, computer, and video games. It’s a struggle, isn’t it?

I'm not saying

We actually have found a great app for reading called Bookboard and the kids love it. I know there are many out there, and yes…we have a few.

But there’s just something about unplugging and holding the actual book…feeling the pages, and inhaling the scent. Who’s with me?! {or maybe I’m just weird}

please turn it off and read a book

{please tell me you love this as much as I do! head over to The Tomkat Studio to print it out}

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We obviously love books over here and have worked hard to encourage our Crazies to love them, too. It has certainly taken work. And patience. But they’ve finally been bitten by the reading bug.

Sigh. Finally.

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Do yours struggle to enjoy it? If so, please don’t be discouraged! I’ve been there, believe me.  Head over here for some reaaaally great ideas.

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In our house, we  have quiet time every afternoon while the little kids nap. They can work in their workbooks {Summer Bridge & Brain Quest are two favorites}, but they must read for at least 20 minutes.

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I’m horrible at getting books back to the library on time {sorry Ben} so instead, I often take the family to second hand book stores or Goodwill to find stacks to add to our collection.

Churches and schools have fantastic $1 book sales, too!

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It doesn’t take much to get a kid excited. We often build a fort in our basement, stuffing it with pillows and blankets. They fill up a basket with books from the shelves, and voila…they’re thrilled. Sometimes they even ask to turn the lights off and switch on flashlights to read by. Totally camping style.

Other times I’ll build a “reading wagon,” filling the Radio Flyer we found on Craigslist with a picnic blanket, mason jars full of lemonade, paper straws, and a whole slew of books {of their choosing}.

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don't give up

Keep working at it. It’s all about trial and error, figuring out what will hook them.

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Think about what they love. Is it soccer? Find soccer books. Do they have a mechanical mind? There’s a book for that!

Ezekiel basically despises fiction so we’ve found all sorts of historical or {gasp!} historical fiction books for him like I Survived and the Who Was series.

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After bringing home both Abreham and Ezekiel, our eyes were opened in how difficult it was to comprehend the basis of a story. Their conversational English developed relatively quickly, but reading comprehension was a challenge.

I’ll talk about this in the next week or so…along with tips and things we’ve found to be a big help in encouraging them both to understand what they’re reading, and to fall in love with books.

Hope it helps, if you’re going through this same difficult season!

{much of what I’ll talk about can be implemented to help any struggling reader}

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//// I’d love to know…what tips and ideas do you have? ////

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