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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Day in the Life of... Alethea Mshar

Today we have Alethea Mshar with us from Alethea Mshar, the Writing, Running Mom. Alethea has been a joy to follow and read along her journey. She blogs at Ben's Writing Running Mom mainly about parenting and specifically special needs parenting. Her writing is real, honest and simply beautiful. Give her a follow - you won't be disappointed!

Read on for a look at a typical day for Alethea Mshar.

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This morning it was 2:28 when I stirred enough to notice that Ben’s light was on in his room.  A debate started in my head between my maternal instincts, which insisted that he was cold and uncomfortable on the floor and required intervention; and the voice of experience insisting that I let a sleeping child lie.  I trudged to his room to see him sound asleep on the floor, wearing his glasses, next to several books and his Magna Doodle.  I knew better than to try to tuck him in, but thought he might sleep better if he at least had a blanket.  I scrounged in the dark to find my robe, which would work just fine, and gently placed it over his sleeping form, resisting every urge to make him more comfortable.  I returned to my bed to find that this tiny intervention had been enough to awaken him…now what?


The rest of the night was up and down for us all, with crying, calls for mommy, and thumping around his room.  No, Ben isn’t a stubborn 2-year-old, he’s over 11 and has Down syndrome, autism as well as many medical diagnoses and a few psychiatric ones on top of it.  Ben has two siblings, Alex, who also has Down syndrome and is 15, and Hannah, a typical 18 year old.




We get up for the day around 5:30 and work on meds as soon as my coffee is poured.  After meds Ben has to go potty.  That sounds pretty normal, but the way Ben does it is anything but normal.  We draw up a couple of med cups of glycerin and some warm water, mix it and pour it into a hanging bag that looks like an IV.  Then we take out a catheter and bring Ben into the bathroom.  Ben hates this, and I do mean HATES!  Sometimes we can make it work without too much trouble, but often he fights as if his life depends upon it.  Once he’s sitting on the potty, we smear some lubrication on the catheter and slide it into a stoma in his bellybutton, then hook it up to the bag of fluid and run the fluid into his colon to clean it out.  We do this because Ben was born with Hirschsprung’s Disease.  He had a surgery to remove part of his colon as a baby, which left him unable to control his bowel movements.  Ben was having 6-10 accidents a day prior to the surgery, and doing the flushes keeps that from happening.  He sits on the toilet for about an hour, until his colon is empty, then we have to drain his bladder.  Ben’s bladder problems stem from his chemotherapy treatment which stretched out over more than three years, to treat his Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  It’s not a common effect of leukemia treatment, but Ben’s bladder suffered nerve damage rendering him unable to control it.  Thus, we use a catheter to help him empty it a few times a day to avoid urine accidents.




After that portion of the day is over, it’s either off to school, off to appointments (Ben has over 10 specialists), or relaxing at home.  When going to school, Ben often has a rough time transitioning and has what I like to call a meltdown.  I use that term because it’s neutral.  When Ben has a meltdown it’s not his fault or anyone else’s, it just is.  We try to help Ben with coping mechanisms and plenty of patience, sometimes it works, and sometimes we end up hauling him out of the house kicking and thrashing.  It breaks our hearts to do it this way, but we can’t just keep him home every time he has a rough morning or he would never go anywhere.


Alex and Hannah have grown accustomed to the meltdowns, and even when they happen right in the middle of Target, they handle it with aplomb.  Most of the time they understand that Ben’s needs have to take priority, even though it stinks for them to always be the patient and understanding ones, often having their own needs overlooked when we have a medical or behavioral crisis.  As parents we do our level best to meet their needs and ensure as much normalcy as possible, but often there simply isn’t enough of us to go around.


On a school day Ben arrives home ravenous.  We usually have his own meal ready for him when he hits the door, and he only nibbles during the family meal some time later.  Our evenings are a whirlwind of activities of daily living (ADL’s), because Ben needs adult help for everything from showering to changing into pajamas and evening meds.  When Ben is home, he seeks attention most of the time, often needing parental interaction every few minutes.


While I’m sitting here writing down “a day in the life”, I honestly wonder what people will think.  Meltdowns and meds and all of that probably sound strange to many people, and I wouldn’t be surprised of some are wondering what kind of parents we are to have an eleven year old who can’t sleep through the night and has meltdowns daily, sometimes many times a day.  Once upon a time I probably would have had a few thoughts of my own about a parent like me.  I’ve gotten used to it though, because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we have done and are doing everything possible to be the best parents we know how to be to all of our children.  Some days it’s an awfully big challenge.


Be sure to follow Alethea's Journey at Ben's Writing Running Mom and Writing, Running Mom.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A Day in the Life of... Assignment: Mom

Welcome to our new series here at 'A Beautiful Alarm' --  A Day in the Life Of.  

First up we have Carolyn Moore from Assignment: Mom.  I initially got to know Carolyn through her writing at Her View From Home, writing that blows me away with her strong emotion and beautifully strung words.

Read on for a look into her day with four littles and how she chooses to see joy in the every day moments.
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I’m brushing my teeth with a baby on my hip. 

Admittedly, it’s not amazing dental hygiene strategy since my 9-month-old daughter has reached the “grabby” stage. She lunges for anything that passes within a one-foot radius of her compact little body—and with surprising accuracy. Not such great news for the daily efforts to fight plaque. 

But, if anything sums up the season of life I’m in now, it’s this inability to brush my teeth under my own power. 




I used to take it for granted, doing things like getting dressed or going to the bathroom solo. But then, I had four kids—and those tasks shifted permanently over to the “group activities” column. 

The funny thing is it doesn’t phase me anymore. 

My preschooler wanders in just then, having lost interest in the morning’s episode of Daniel Tiger I’d parked her in front of while I tried to get ready for the day ahead. “I’m hungry,” she announces, signaling it’s time to transition to the next group activity of the day: mealtime. 

My two youngest daughters and I go through the bulk of our day together like this while our “big kids” are busy at school. We move as a pack: where I go, they go, sometimes balancing on my hip, sometimes nipping at my toes like an excited puppy. 

But even as we’re living these moments, I can feel how quickly they’re disappearing. In another month or two, the baby on my hip will be toddling after anything and everything within her sight. She’ll clamor to get down from my arms and explore her widening world every chance she gets. 

It’s why I secretly delight in my aching left arm that sometimes goes numb from the constant weight of her. 

That preschooler will be running eagerly ahead of me into a classroom and the next stage of her childhood in the coming weeks. She’ll need me less and less to do thankless tasks like wiping her little bottom or pouring her apple juice as she grows more independent and self-assured. 

It’s why serving her now in the little moments feels big and important. 

This morning, with a baby on my hip and a toddler on my heels, when viewed from the outside may seem mundane. But this morning—this season of doing the foundational work of love I want these children to be sure of the rest of their lives—is the sweet spot of my life. 

(I think my dentist will forgive me.)



Monday, August 28, 2017

A Day in the Life of...

Motherhood can feel lonely. We often feel like we are doing this mom thing alone, in our own homes. We question whether we are doing it right, whether we are planning the days best for our kids and whether we are really creating days that are meaningful for them.

The internet and social media are such glorious places where we as moms are able to relate to similar moms. In our days by ourselves with our kids, we are able to feel connected to these moms. We can learn from other moms, we can teach other moms, we can relate to other moms.  We can live better with these other moms.

Sometimes our days feel scattered, purposeless and lost. By sharing our days with each other and seeing what works for other moms and how this might also work for our own families and homes we can find better routine and schedule for our days that make sense. We can be encouraged in our current ways of living and be inspired to add or change certain aspects.

All to be the best for our kids.

So for the season of Fall, various moms are going to be sharing their 'Days in the Life of…'. We will have one a week – every Wednesday. From raising newborns to toddlers to tweens to teens we will see and experience how other moms live their daily lives. The focus? Find out how other moms try their best to bring joy and purpose into their days...even in the littlest ways.



Together, we will learn, experience and be inspired by each other.

Every Wednesday. Come back here next week, September 6,  to discover what it means to live a day in the life of another mom and find connection and community.


**Be sure to sign up for the email list to not miss a single post!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Sharing the Gospel - You Can Do it Too

“I have a story. A story of how God didn't answer my prayer. I prayed for my friend to get better and he didn't. He died.” - 9 year old boy.

Before I could even respond someone else piped in. “Oh I have one like that too. My little sister died when she was a baby. And my parents were praying for her too.”

My mind raced. How do I respond to that? How do I respond to these statements from 10 year olds?!

It was Vacation Bible School and I was a 'crew leader'. A crew leader of a group of very bright and very 'Bible knowledgeable' kids around the age of 9 year olds. One was the Pastor's kid, one was the kid of the leader of the VBS program. These kids knew the Bible. They knew all the stories. They had memory verses memorized, Bible songs down pat, and they knew the exact words to say when praying aloud. They are raised in good Christian homes. Very good homes. And of course, they have the hardest questions.



These statements came in response to a question that we were to answer as a group. The question? “How have you seen God answer your prayers?” Instead of finding ways where God has been working, my kids decided to show me ways in which they felt God was not working.

Part of me wanted to say 'Go talk to your Dad' to the Pastor's kid. Part of me wanted to say 'That wasn't the question'. Part of me wanted to look for a different leader and ask them to take over.

Because me? I can't explain this to these kids. I am not equipped. I am insufficient to talk about this. I don't know my Bible as well as other leaders, as well as their parents, as well as people who are way more knowledgeable than me. I will probably say the wrong thing and what if I lead them away from Christ? It is probably best I say nothing.

I can't ACTUALLY explain about God's love and share the gospel. Can I? Oh wait. That is my purpose. That is the great commission. That is what I am called to do. (Matt.28:18-20)

Time was ticking and the teacher was moving on to the next part of the activity. I told the kids we would talk about this later and made a mental note to get back to this. And then I prayed. “God, please give me the words.”

After a few more activities, when there was some quiet time again and we were supposed to talk about a new set of questions, I took a deep breath and I brought it up. In Christ's strength and the Holy Spirit's boldness I shared about how God is good...all the time. God is so good. He is always good. These are truths we can believe. Bad things happen. I don't know why. But God DOES hear us. And He DOES love us. I can promise you this. I have no answers to why those people had to die, but I do know one thing. I know that God is good. I know that He is love. And I know His Word is truth. And I will hold on to those truths forever.  (Check out this post on Her View From Home -- And If Not, Is He Still Good? for more on this!)

Really? All I did was share my heart. I shared what I know in my heart. That is all I needed to do. And I did it with God's strength and with His power. None of it was about my abilities or myself. After all, it is always about Christ and what He has done.

That is all that sharing the gospel is about. That is what God calls us to do. Simply, share our heart.

Not just the Pastor can do that.

Monday, June 26, 2017

"I'll Pray for You"

"I'll Pray for You."

Hope.  Oh such hope.

Sometimes all we can do is pray for each other.  All we can do is lift each other up to the Lord in desperate need.  But actually?  This is the most we can do.

After a year of struggle with my little baby, I have come to learn the immense hope that is found through praying believers within Christ Jesus.  I truly cannot imagine going through this very situation without the way my family has been lifted up in prayer - constantly.

As believers, we have so much hope.  The most that an unbeliever could ever say to me this past year in terms of encouragement?  "Good Luck" or "Crossing my Fingers".  Two phrases that have left me feeling empty and lost.  Phrases that are nothing more than words to say, words to fill the awkward and incredibly difficult silence.  Phrases with no meaning.

"I'll Pray For You."

Words that bring meaning back into the situation that seems so desperate.  Words that point to God, instead of staying on our self and our own struggles.  Words that give purpose.  Words that mean everything.

I sometimes hear people say they wish they could do more.  Truly, the most you can do is pray.  Those four words may sometimes seem so insignificant and yet they are the most significant. It is to Him we must go to again and again and again.  He can do so much more than any of us could ever do for each other, and therefore the most loving we can be to each other is to lift each other up to Him; to give it to our Loving and Sovereign Father.

"I'll Pray For You."

Don't be afraid to say those words.  Don't hold back in responding to people's hurts in this way.  With the power of Christ in us, with the power of the Holy Spirit, we have the ability to bring God's hope in the ways of prayer to Him.  There is no better encouragement or hope we can possibly give someone who is suffering than the hope of Christ Himself.

So go.  Tell that person in pain.  Remind the person struggling.  And then?  
Pray for them, expectantly. And see the power of God work. 



Monday, June 5, 2017

5 Ways to Start Your Day with a Soft Heart

I have had a terrible realization.

Today was not an easy day. The minute my toddler called 'Mommy' from her bed she began to whine. Whine and whine and whine. Whine for milk, and then whine for a cookie (“No honey, it's almost time for breakfast.”) Whine for Mommy to carry her while the baby is crying. Whine for Mommy to read more books when it was time to start breakfast. Whine that she didn't want to eat her breakfast and whine that she didn't want to get ready. It goes on and on and on and on. In the meantime, her baby sister is crying, arching her back, extremely upset because of a double ear infection and bad reflux pains. I had, what should have been, enough time to get ready for a play date but didn't get there until an hour later. The afternoon did not go much better and by the end of the day I was in pure exhaustion. Not even having 5 minutes to my self I was frustrated, annoyed, and my heart had grown hard.

My heart had grown hard.

What makes a heart grow hard in the first place? Time away from God. Sure exhaustion, no quiet time or enough time at all, and the demands of my little ones contribute, but no matter what my circumstances are, time away from God is the root of a hard heart. Throughout my entire day I maybe said one prayer. And scripture was far from my mind. Why? My reasoning is obvious; I was way too busy and way too needed by my girls for that.

Shame on me.

In days like these, because we all have them as mothers, how can I keep my house a place that is glorifying to God? My kids may be having horrible days but it is my job to keep directing them to the glory of God; to the love of Christ. And there is no way I can do that with a hard heart.

Keeping my heart soft even on these tough days is challenging but definitely not impossible. Here are some ways I am changing my days around...for my girls, for myself and above all for the glory of God.

1. Start the day in prayer. Even before my feet hit the ground I need to give the day up to my Lord. I need to bring my focus to where it should be. With both of my girls getting up in the middle of the night and both of them extremely early risers, I am unable to wake up before them right now (though if you do have that option I highly recommend it… read my post Benefits of Waking Up Early). Yet even while they are calling me from their beds, I can take 2-5 minutes to bring my day to the Lord. Keeping a verse beside my bed at all times (switching it up every other week or so) helps me keep my prayers focused.

2. Start the day in prayer. Yes, again. This time – with my toddler. Even though she wakes up extremely early (some days as early as 5:30 am) she has a tough time facing the day. The whines start pretty much as soon as I walk in her door. Taking a minute to pray with her for the day may just relax and calm her, bringing us into the presence of our Saviour. And honestly? She loves it. As she folds her hands and we thank God for the day ahead of us, she has a big smile on her face and the morning feels a bit easier to get through for both of us.

3. Scripture at Breakfast. Reading a Bible story at breakfast with the girls never crossed my mind until now. This again brings our focus back to the One who loves us and desires us to glorify Him in all things. This also means a longer breakfast. But as a stay-at-home mom I am blessed to be able to have this slow time in the morning and instead of using it to do extra chores or to hurry my girls up, I can use it to slow us down in reminder of who and what my days are really meant for.

4. Worship Music. Play it throughout the day. Keep it going all day long. Dance to it, have it playing in the back ground, sing to it, worship. Through those baby cries that worship music can get you through with thoughts that are pleasing to our Father rather than thoughts of negativity and complaints.

5. Scripture Memorization. My husband and I have decided to keep a verse up in our kitchen that we work on memorizing together. We try to switch it up every week, but both of us have to have it memorized before we do so. My girl is only 2 and a half. But no age is too young to teach scripture to. I strongly believe this. So, slowly I am teaching her memorization of scripture as well. For we must store scriptures in our hearts. Scripture is from the Holy Spirit. It is truth and it is life.

Surrounding my days with prayer and scripture (even when the time feels so limited) are the only ways I will be able to use my days to truly glorify God. Once again – I need to be reminded to abide. That is all we are asked - simply to abide. May I truly begin to abide, even and especially in the hardest and longest days of motherhood.




*Psalm 118:24 This is the day the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.*

Monday, May 29, 2017

Embracing the Unpredictability

Do you ever feel like you are stressed all day to stay on schedule?  You want to be sure your kids will not get whiny, or that you complete the tasks you had planned? Perhaps you are stressing about perfecting your days in the way that makes you feel good about them.

Even though I am not necessarily the most planned or organized person (as much as I try to be), I desperately struggle with this.  I stress out when my toddler falls asleep in the car and all bets are off if she will keep napping at home.  I get frustrated when I do not have a good chunk of quiet time for myself or my baby wakes up early from her nap.  My irritability scale goes up and up as the day goes on and it reflects in how I treat my children, how I get through the day, and my job and calling as a mom.

Schedule is great.  I believe routine to be so important.  (I have talked about how much I believe in routine so much already!) But when it is overtaking your chance to enjoy each moment with your children or even simply each moment of the day as it is, it is becoming TOO important.

God needs to be ahead of our schedule and above our own plans.  When our plans start to take over anything else, we are putting our plans and ideas ahead of God's.  We are trying to take control, when God is always the one in control.



I have to constantly remind myself throughout the day that it is okay if we take naps a little later today.  It is okay if my toddler spends all morning playing with blocks instead of doing another activity I had planned.  It is okay if my toddler wants me to sit and read with her all afternoon even though I had laundry and dishes to get done.  It is even okay when my girls don't nap at the same time and I don't have specific 'me' time. (As much as I might crave it.)

It is so key to be reminded of the unpredictability that can happen in our days as moms and how this does not have to be an annoyance but something to embrace.  By allowing your heart to be open to this you can allow so much more joy into your days.  Even though it sounds ironic - we need to start our days expecting them to be different than what we plan.

To Be Expectant.  Expectant to whatever God might throw your way that day. 

Let us give our day to God today and embrace the unpredictability...because really... do we ever truly know what is going to happen in our days with our little rascals? ;)