Diary of a Real Mama

One mom's endeavour to become an authentic woman of God

Peachy Raspberry Muffins

Few things I enjoy more than biting into a fresh, juicy peach, bursting with flavour. Who’s with me?! Before the all-too-short peach season is over, I wanted to share one of my favourite muffin recipes with you. You will never catch me buying a peach out of season, so I usually only get around to making these muffins once a year (maybe twice if I really have my act together). So grab a basket of fresh peaches from your local farmer’s market and make a batch of these beauties before it’s too late. Because they say summer won’t last forever…. but it’s not over yet!

Peach Muffins

1 cup diced peaches (you don’t even have to peel ’em!)

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup white sugar

2 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 egg.

1 cup milk

1/3 cup melted margarine

1/4 cup raspberry jam (my favourite is Smucker’s Pure Seedless Raspberry Jam)

Combine peaches and cinnamon. Sift remaining dry ingredients. Make well in centre. In another bowl, whisk eggs, milk, and margarine. Add peaches to this. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir just until moist. Fill muffin cups half full with batter, then add 1 tsp. jam to each. Cover with remaining batter. Bake @ 400F for 20-25min. Enjoy!

 

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This Is The Day

Shortly after my entry into the blogosphere, I shared some thoughts about the importance of cultivating an attitude of thankfulness to prevent bitterness from taking root. Recently, it’s been a recurring theme again in quiet moments spent with my Best Friend. One of the things He’s been teaching me this time around is how gratitude also helps to combat a prideful spirit. I was reading Psalm 100:4, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.” (If you went to church in the 90s, I know what you’re singing in your head right now). I almost skimmed right past the familiar passage before slowing down to take a second look. I felt that the Lord was challenging me to start off my devotions by spending time giving thanks to Him, to enter into His presence with a thankful heart and mind. By taking a few moments to jot down some of the day’s blessings I’m thankful for, I’m reminded that every good thing I have is from Him (James 1:17). When I acknowledge that, I also have to humbly acknowledge that I am not self-reliant. I can’t be prideful about the blessings in my life when I remind myself that I’m not responsible for them. When that pride is gone, I can then more readily admit that I don’t know it all or have all the answers. And that’s when He can really start speaking to me and teaching me new things.

Following this little epiphany, I was diligently trying to form the habit of putting my thankful thoughts on paper before opening my Bible each night. But, I am a real mama and just as I thought I was really getting into the swing of things, I hit a wall. I’d been having one of those days. Where the minutes feel like hours and time refuses to pass as you know it should and you’re positive bedtime will never come. Ever. My husband was working out of town and wouldn’t be back until late that evening.  I was at home with the twins, one of whom was sick with a fever and not a happy camper. Despite it technically being ‘spring’, the weather was still ridiculously cold, so getting out of the house for some fresh air to perk us up was out of the question. I didn’t know if I would make it to work the next day and how I would ever get caught up if I didn’t. I was feeling cagey, frustrated, and stressed. The stage had been set for an internal monologue of self-pity. When bedtime finally did roll around, I sat with my thanksgiving journal open in my lap and pen poised in hand. And sat. And sat. On the good days, I could quickly and easily fill line after line with gratitude. But I wouldn’t exactly classify this particular day as ‘good’. Sure, I’ve had much worse, but even so, I felt pretty stuck. As I read Psalm 118:24, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it”, conviction lay heavy. My day certainly hadn’t gone how I had hoped or envisioned. But how could I call it a bad day based on something as trivial as my own selfish preferences? The day had been a gift, each breath given to me by God, and I had not been at all glad, much less rejoiced about it.

With Easter right around the corner, God has been gently reminding me that my cause to rejoice each day is His Cross. To help me wrap my head around all that entails and to help prepare my heart for Easter, I’ve been reading “The Cross: The Power, The Purpose, The Passion” by Cathy Ciaramtaro.  She invites us to seize the opportunity we have each day to come to The Cross and embrace all it represents: His suffering, His death, and His resurrection. On the hard days, the Cross inspires thankfulness that He can sympathize with us. He can relate to all that we suffer, for He experienced not only intense physical pain, but the emotional anguish of fear and betrayal, rejection and oppression, abandonment and false allegations. Not only did He experience each of these atrocities, but He faced them head-on and overcame them all, so they no longer have the power to define us. The Cross also prompts us to be thankful that because of His death, we no longer have to fear our own, for the end of this life is merely the beginning of all the wonders He has in store for us. Finally, the Cross compels us to give thanks for His resurrection. It is His victory over suffering and death that puts them into proper perspective. It gives us hope for a glorious eternal future. And it proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that with God, indeed all things are possible. We refer to the day of Christ’s death on the Cross as Good Friday. But truly, it is the Cross that makes every day good, giving us continual reason to rejoice and be glad.

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Product Review: Diaper Creams

If your little gets diaper rash, you know this takes diaper changing from an unpleasant experience to a downright horrific one for all involved. With double the bums, we have seen our share of diaper rash and tried just about every product out there.

Here’s the combo that works best for us:

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Step 1: Cavilon Barrier Cream

Who knew that 3M went beyond Scotch tape and Post-It notes?! This cream creates a waterproof barrier and only needs to be used once a day. A little goes a long way – a tube lasts us about 5 months. We put a little on the boys after their evening bath and it’s made a huge difference.  You can get it from Shoppers Home Health stores.

Step 2: Skin Fix

This product is amazing! Not only does it work better than any other cream we’ve tried, but it’s totally natural and a Canadian product too. It’s a little on the expensive side, but definitely a worthwhile investment to keep the rash at bay. We slather this on with each diaper change and after applying the Cavilon cream at bedtime.  Not all drugstores carry it but some pharmacies can special order it for you. We get our supply from our local Zehrs Market.

Hope this helps you banish the rash and keep everybody happy!

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Finding Rest

I knew that once I entered mommyhood I would say goodbye to the kind of sleep I used to enjoy. No more going to bed whenever I wanted and staying there until whenever I decided to get up the next morning. I knew sleep deprivation would come with the territory, but I did not sign up for this! Between the frequent feedings in the beginning to endless months of teething trouble with a generous sprinkling of colds and fevers throughout, the twins are 20 months old and just now starting to sleep through the night (and not that consistently either). And don’t even get me started on ‘naps’! Believe me when I tell you I would give just about anything for eight straight hours of sleep. I am T.I.R.E.D. The forgetting to go to doctor’s appointments, almost brushing your teeth with cocoa butter, trying to microwave your coffee in the cupboard kind of tired. It’s taking its toll. Needless to say, you can understand why the topic of rest has been on my mind.

Naturally, my interest was piqued when I read Matthew 11:28 which says “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Weary? Check. Burdened? Check.  But when I paused to really let this crystallize, it dawned on me that my desperate pursuit of rest has been unsuccessful because I was overlooking the first part of the statement: Come to me.  I’ll be honest; at the end of a long day looking after two rambunctious toddlers, often the last thing I feel like doing is cracking open my Bible. I just want to crawl under the covers and try to get a few moments of sleep before being woken up again. But the Lord has been teaching me that even more than physical rest, what I’m really craving is soul-rest. Freedom from all that wearies and troubles me. Like whether I’m getting this whole mommy thing right. And I’ll never find that kind of liberation in a taking a long nap, or pursuing a hobby, or going on a vacation.  Psalm 62:5 says “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.” Putting my hope in anything but God will only lead to more weariness, because everything else ultimately disappoints. It is He alone that never lets us down because He never changes and He always keeps His promises (Hebrews 13:8, Numbers 23:19).

I still don’t always feel like doing it, but I have noticed the most amazing thing. The more time I spend with Him, the less rest-less I feel. Less anxious, edgy, fretful. More peaceful, stable, settled. That solid eight hours might be just around the corner, or it could be many more months down the road. But for now, this weary mama is finding rest in the hope that if I draw near to Him, He promises to draw near to me. It’s true. And it’s actually even better than sleep.

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Allie’s Chili

With temperatures dipping as low as -25°C, the weather where I live has got me seriously wanting to hibernate. But unlike last year when I was at home with two infants, that’s not really an option this year. So I have to settle for some delicious comfort food to keep me warm instead. One of my favourite ways to warm up on a cold winter’s evening is with a tasty bowl of chili. Now, some would argue that you don’t need a recipe for chili. And while I consider myself a decent cook, I’m not so good that I can make it up as I go along and expect it to turn out ok J I love this recipe because it’s not too spicy, so my kids can eat it too. It’s amazing paired with this cornbread (I add 2 tbsp lemon juice to give it just a hint of flavour). Bon appetit!

Ingredients:

1lb ground beef

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 large green pepper, diced

1 cup frozen corn

1 can (540mL) black beans or navy beans, drained and rinsed

1  can (796mL) no added salt diced tomatoes

1 can (398mL) no added salt tomato sauce

2 tbsp chili powder

1/2 tbsp cumin

1/8 tsp granulated garlic

1/8 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

Brown ground beef and onions in a large non-stick pot. Add remaining ingredients and simmer about one hour. Serves 4. You can easily double the recipe and freeze some for another cold night!

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Just make sure you have a big enough pot before doubling the recipe!!

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No Other Gods

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve written a blog post. I started this blog with big expectations and the best of intentions. And then life happened. By the time I found myself with a spare minute at the end of the day I was way too tired to string two coherent thoughts together. All you mamas know what I mean. But it’s a new year and I felt it was time to breathe some fresh life into this thing. It’s actually hard for me to be posting this on January 24th. I’ve mentioned before that I’m wired as a type A, so of course I wanted to get this new post published January 1st. But when I think about it, all I really want to do is to share my thoughts and reflections in the hope that they might bring encouragement and insight to others, and I can do that whether it’s January 1st, or January 24th, or the middle of July.

I’ve been reading a great devotional my husband gave me called Jesus Lives by Sarah Young. In it she shares the concept that idols are things we turn to when we want to feel better about ourselves. And that shook me up a bit. I tend to think of idols in the archaic sense, as man-made forms of wood or clay. Or perhaps in a more modern but tangible way, like expensive cars or jewelry. But I just so ‘happened’ to read this right before I was about to sit down and draw up a list of my goals for 2015 and a strategic plan to achieve them (Type A, remember?). And it dawned on me that ideals can become idols when we pursue our goals with more passion than we pursue God. I was convicted to take a serious look at what was motivating me. I believe that God has designed my personality in such a way that I thrive on setting and accomplishing goals. But more often than not, this process is little more than an elaborate ploy to bolster my self-esteem by ticking off the boxes each month. I realized it would be better not to set any goals at all rather than to have them become idolatrous pursuits. What I really want is to invest my time and energy into fulfilling biblical commands, things like growing in my salvation and knowledge of the Lord (1 Peter 2:2, 2 Peter 3:18), taking care of my physical health (1 Corinthians 6:20), and using my experiences to provide encouragement to others (2 Corinithians 1:3-4).

I don’t want to give the false impression that I’ve got this all figured out and won’t slip back into old habits from time to time. But I’m trying to remember that I’m not out to prove anything. When I want to feel better about myself, the only place to turn is to the One who made me and gives me worth.

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Gracefully Redeemed

Temperatures have been starting to reach the plus side of zero, and with the snow in our backyard steadily receding, I’ve been bitten by the spring cleaning bug. The good (and sometimes bad) thing about spring cleaning is that you finally have to face things you have been ignoring for too long. I won’t go into the gritty details about what I found when I finally got around to cleaning behind my oven, but you get the idea. More importantly than cleaning the house, I’ve been taking the time to do some spring cleaning of the soul. Like the dark recesses behind my stove, when we finally delve into those dark and dusty corners and let in the light what we find probably isn’t pretty. But once our eyes have been opened to what’s there, we can finally start to clean it up.

It seems fitting that with Easter approaching, the concepts of ransom, redemption, and grace have been everywhere I turn. To redeem means to save by payment of a ransom; to ransom is to free from captivity by paying a price. While our society tells us that our worth comes from achievements and material possessions, the truth is that the worth of an item is only as great as what somebody is willing to pay for it.  I’m a very goal-oriented person and truth be told, I get a little too much satisfaction from checking an item off my ‘to-do’ list. Far too often, I’ve bought into the lie that if I just work hard enough, accomplish enough, please others enough, somehow I’ll measure up. The truth is I’ll never be good enough. But I don’t have to be. That’s where grace comes in. The beauty of grace, ‘God’s free and unmerited favour’, is just that – it is free and unmerited. Nothing I can do can add or take away from the grace He has extended to me. Although I know in my head that I can’t earn God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 1:9), an honest evaluation of what motivates me and how I spend my time and energy suggests my heart might still believe otherwise. It’s been hard to admit to myself that that’s where I’m at, but I’m so thankful for the recent reminders that God’s grace was offered to me when I was at my absolute worst – smug, and stubborn, and selfish to scratch the surface (Romans 5:8). Without an ounce of effort on my part, Christ still valued me enough to pay the very costly ransom price of His own lifeblood to set me free from sin and save me from a life of perpetually falling short (Matthew 20:28).

I’m slowly learning how liberating it can be when we move beyond the realization that grace cannot be earned to the deeper understanding that grace doesn’t have to be earned. It frees us from the futility of trying to earn it, and instead allows us to humbly and gratefully accept it as a gift. I pray that this Easter season will bring with it a fresh realization that you have been ransomed and redeemed by the most beautiful act of grace. Know that no matter what anyone tells you, or even what you tell yourself, you are worth everything to Christ. You don’t deserve it and can’t do anything to earn it but salvation is yours for the taking. Embrace the gift of freedom that was bought for you with the highest price.

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Time for a Change

The proverbial Christmas rush is through and we are on the brink of new beginnings. I’ll admit the Type A in me always relishes the opportunity afforded by January 1st to write out a long list of goals complete with action plans and time frames for how to improve on the current version of me. With a new year fast approaching, I found myself coming up with all sorts of grand plans for 2014 – exercise more, eat less junk food, keep a diary, read more non-fiction. Another year, another variation of the same old, same old.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. These sisters are hosting Jesus in their home and Martha gets all bent out of shape because she’s been left to do all the cooking and cleaning and hostess-y things while Mary sits and listens to the teachings of her Lord. But instead of telling Mary she should be helping her sister, Martha gets a reality check when Jesus tells her that Mary’s the one who has her priorities straight. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m all too much like Martha, who worried and fussed about many things. You know, really important things like whether there’s so much as a piece of lint on the carpet, a dirty dish on the counter, or a book out of place on the shelf. I told you I was a bit Type A!

This year as I was mentally preparing my resolutions for the coming months I knew I had to be a bit more realistic.  I have six month old twins and setting a long list of goals is likely setting myself up for failure. And I was hit by the thought “Why not pick just one thing?”One important thing. I can get so caught up in doing good things, Martha-type things, that I often miss out on the best things. I want to be like Mary, who chose the right thing, the better part.

For me this year, that thing is prayer. I have been incredibly blessed by the prayers of others, especially a few people in my life I would consider to be prayer warriors. I’ve always wanted to be more like them, and as I’ve contemplated what’s been holding me back, I’ve realized it is largely because I’ve been focusing on far too many things of no eternal significance. What will it matter in the end how clean my house is or how many Pinterest projects I’ve completed? Will it really matter if I’ve got a bit of tricep jiggle? I give my time and energy to good things while missing out on the best things.

I know that I can’t change on my own. But the good news is that the power of the Holy Spirit is available to me, so I don’t have to rely on my own strength on those days that I just don’t feel like it. I won’t always get it right but part of successfully meeting goals is to expect setbacks and know they don’t have to derail your entire plan.

I hope you too will be inspired to reevaluate your priorities and that 2014 will be a year where you refuse to let the good things interfere with your pursuit of the best things.

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Rediscovering the Sacred

Cupboards are waiting for clean dishes and drawers are waiting for clean clothes, but everyone is still asleep on this December morning and I’m thankful for this rare respite from the busyness, where my fingers can be the conduit for some of my recent reflections.

Christmas is fast approaching but I’ve been thinking about it since July. Not in the ‘getting all my shopping done early’ sense, but more so in the ‘becoming a parent changes the way you look at everything’ sense. Isn’t it amazing how that happens? If you’re like me, you have heard the Christmas story more times than you can count. And I’m ashamed to admit that somewhere between Sunday school pageants and Christmas Eve liturgy, the sacred became familiar. The details became so rote that I often viewed it’s retelling as little more than tradition. I no longer paused to consider and appreciate the significance of the event that set in motion the greatest love story ever told.

But over the past five months, as I’ve nursed hungry mouths, kissed tiny fingers, and changed countless diapers, my eyes have been opened afresh to the beautiful paradox of Jesus coming to earth as a baby. I can’t help but marvel at the stark contrasts between the circumstances surrounding the birth of my sons and the birth of their Lord. We had the assistance of an entire medical team and state of the art technology. Jesus had a young and inexperienced mother and a nervous father who probably wasn’t much help. We had fresh linens and temperature-controlled isolettes. Jesus had a cold, filthy feed trough for a bed.  We were surrounded by loved ones to celebrate the twins’ long-awaited arrival. Jesus was welcomed by complete strangers. Are you beginning to fathom the irony? Our Provider, dependent on His mother for the most basic of human needs.  Our Comforter, crying out for comfort. Our Ever-Present Help, completely helpless. And the only thing I can conclude from this is that He loves us so much. What but love would motivate our Saviour, the King of kings, to come to earth as a humble babe, stripped of all His glory and power, born to die?

I hope that this year, the Christmas story will be so much more than a story to you – that you will take a moment to rediscover the sacred mystery of Emmanuel, God with us, and sense His love in a profound new way.

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10,000 Reasons

I was feeling eager to get this up on the blog because I felt the topic was so fitting for this Thanksgiving weekend. But I will try to keep this short and sweet so you can go enjoy some pumpkin pie 🙂

About a year and a half ago, I had the privilege of reading the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  If you haven’t had a chance to read this book, I strongly encourage you to do so. It’s a great read that chronicles the author’s pursuit of a life lived in gratitude and her endeavor to document 1000 reasons to be thankful. I was reminded of that book some months later by the lyric I found myself singing in church: ‘For all your goodness I will keep on singing, 10,000 reasons for my heart to find’. That’s a lot of reasons! ‘Could I even think of that many?’ I wondered. And the Holy Spirit whispered, ‘Will you at least try?’

As Christians, we speak a lot about discerning and obeying the will of God, and for good reason. In 1 John 2:17 we read that whoever does the will of God lives forever. And 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us that the will of God is for us to give thanks in all circumstances.  Did you get that? All circumstances. And before you get all ‘Easier said than done!’ on me, notice that it says in all circumstances, not for all circumstances. I don’t think God is asking us to be thankful for all things because He knows that bad things happen. Really bad things. Abuse. Divorce. Sickness. Death. And these are not things to be thankful for; these things grieve His heart as well. But I truly believe that even in the worst of conditions, we can find something to be thankful for, and this is what God desires of us, so that we don’t become hardened by anger and bitterness.

Not that this comes naturally (am I the only one who finds it so much easier to default to complaining and grumbling?) But we need to discipline ourselves to practice gratitude when life is good, so that we develop a habit that can sustain us when things aren’t so rosy. Sometimes we can’t see through the darkness of the here and now and we need to be reminded of all the good. By documenting all of the reasons we have to be thankful, we can return to these lists when we are so weighed down in the grittiness of life that our memory fails us and we lose our perspective.

I wish I could say I already had hundreds of reasons listed to be thankful. But I’m working on it. And I’m challenging you to start your own list: life’s little pleasures, attributes of God’s character, moments when His grace shines through. There doesn’t have to be a magic number, but I believe that making this a lifelong discipline can be instrumental in helping us to fulfill the will of God. After all, isn’t that what really matters?

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