Another Favorite- Lebanese Green Beans, Ground lamb & Rice

Add this green beans, lamb and rice to the list of our family favorites. We make this dish every 1-2 weeks. I usually use about 3 pounds of green beans and 1 – 2 pounds of ground lamb. A very important ingredient of many lebanese dishes is 7 spices. 7 Spices are made with a mix of the following spices: all spice, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, coriander, caraway and nutmeg. I buy this through our local grocer, Phoenicia. I’ve also purchased on Amazon.

7 Spices

Makes approximately 3 1/2 tablespoons of 7 spices

  • 1T allspice,
  • 1T cinnamon,
  • 1t ground cloves,
  • 1t cumin,
  • 1t coriander,
  • 1/2 t caraway
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
Quick Video “How To Make Lebanese Green Beans, Lamb & Rice by El Momma”

How to make this awesome dish in 90 seconds!

Lebanese Green Beans, Ground Lamb and Rice

Makes approximately 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds of fresh green beans, snapped and ends removed
  • [1] TB salt (for boiling green beans)
  • Your choice of cooked white rice
  • [1] TB extra virgin olive oil
  • [1] chopped white onion
  • [1] pound ground lamb
  • [1] TB 7 spices
  • [1] TB kosher salt
  • [1] tsp ground pepper
  • plain yogurt (optional) for garnish

Directions

Step 1: Rinse, drain, remove ends and snap the green beans. Prepare pot of water with 1 Tablespoon of salt. Add beans, bring to a boil and boil for 4-5 minutes. Prepare ice water bath. Drain cooked beans in colander. Submerge in ice bath. Drain and Pat dry.

Step 2: In a separate pot, cook the rice per directions on rice bag/box.

Step 3: Using a 2 1/2 – 3 inch deep skillet that has a fitted glass lid, cook the chopped onion and ground lamb at medium heat in the olive oil. Add the 7 spices, pepper and salt and mix well. Careful not to over cook the meat.

Step 4: fold in the green beans, cover and cook for an additional 20 minutes with lid on, stirring occasionally at medium low to medium heat.

Step 5: serve hot over a bed of rice. Add a dollop of plain yogurt when serving.

Grieving During the Holidays

I posted these reminders in 2017, after our daughter died of a fetal maternal hemorrhage at 18 weeks gestation. Now, in 2020, there are so many grieving across our nation. They are grieving the loss of their livelihoods, their jobs, a family member, a loved one, the loss of so many experiences over the last 9 months, and many who will not be able to be with their families this Holiday season.

So, for all of those in our lives who may be grieving this Holiday season, a few kind reminders:

1. Lower your expectations.Your grieving family member might not be able to do things they “normally” do at the holidays. (Baking, cooking, gathering around the kitchen just to visit, or showing up etc.) Whatever they are able to do, should be okay. Let that be okay.

2. Be willing to change or alter traditions.In our family we usually take turns around the dinner table saying what we are thankful for. For someone who is grieving a loss, this can be especially difficult. We altered this tradition to have each family member have a spokesperson to “highlight” things the family was thankful for. This should also be mentioned in advance, so people are not caught off guard and can prepare.

3. Try to listen without offering a solution.It’s hard to see our loved ones sad. But, sometimes it can’t be helped and it is part of the grieving process. It’s better to just be there and say “I love you” and “I hurt for you” than to say the wrong thing.

Psalm 118 says “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;for his steadfast love endures forever!” I wrote and recorded this little tune of Thanksgiving, based on Psalm 118, a few years ago. Still giving thanks!

El Momma's Lebanese Grape Leaves

How To Make the Best Lebanese Grape Leaves Ever!

RECIPE and VIDEO BLOG INCLUDED
I make this recipe several times a year, including Easter lunch for the last 10 years ! They are so delicious. (Dare I say that they are even better reheated the second day?!) This remains my most viewed blogpost. I know exactly why- these are the most amazing to eat and well worth all the work, love and effort to make them.
Watch this youtube video for detailed instructions.
And, Scroll down for directions on how to make the BEST LEBANESE GRAPE LEAVES IN THE WORLD! Seriously, they are so good.

I recorded this on Facebook Live in 2016 in our home we lived in for 15 years. Enjoy! love, El Momma

<<El Momma Tip>> If you don’t want the history behind this recipe, or you’ve read this before, please scroll on down to The “INGREDIENTS List.” The ingredients are separated by what we need for the rice lamb mix, boiling the lamb shanks and the final touches for cooking the grape leaves and serving.

After the ingredients list, I’ve included photos of all the items you will need to shop for. You will also need a large pot for boiling the shanks and cooking the rolled, stuffed grape leaves. Be sure to clean out the pot in between. You will also need small plates to place on top of the pot of grape leaves. This will hold them down in the water, while letting them cook fully.

Let me give you a little history as to why you won’t regret making this recipe and consider this a recipe from an expert. After 10 years making these several times a year, I now am officially a Lebanese Grape Leaf making expert!

My husband’s father’s family is from Lebanon. My father-in-law moved to the United States in the 70’s to attend a university and met my mother-in-law. She is a fifth generation Texan. She was an adventurer and loved to travel abroad. So, while dating my father-in-law, she took off on a great adventure to meet his parents and learn about the Lebanese culture. While in Lebanon, she embraced the culture and his family. His family loved her, taught her many things and she was a bright shining star (and a blonde -aired beauty) who they enjoyed having in Lebanon very much!

Luckily, for all of us, she married my father-in-law and is an amazing cook! Many years later, she continues to be an expert in cooking Middle Eastern faire. I asked her to teach me and this is the result. I continue to look back at this recipe each and every time I make Grape Leaves. 

Please note, if you have ever had grape leaves that were cold at a restaurant- you probably did not have grape leaves like this. These are served hot and they have lamb and rice in them- they are not vegetarian.

If you decide to try this, please reply to this post, comment here or on pinterest. I’d love to hear how it goes!

The first challenge: What to buy and where to shop. If you are in the Houston area- there are many grocers that specialize in Middle Eastern foods. A great one is Phoenicia. It is like a Sam’s Club for Middle Eastern food. It is huge. Their westheimer location even has fresh pita bread that comes down from a conveyer belt in the middle of the store. It’s entertaining for adults and kids alike.

INGREDIENTS list for 2 lbs of ground lamb mixture:

  • 2 lbs of high quality ground lamb
  • 2 Tablespoons of 7 spices for lamb/rice mixture 1T per lb of ground lamb)
  • 2 Tablespoons of salt (1T per lb of ground lamb)
  • 3 cups of Calrose Rice (Riz Masri)
  • 2 jars of Orlando California Grape Leaves, 16 oz. each (rinsed thoroughly with stems removed)

INGREDIENTS list for boiling lamb shanks

  • 4 pounds of lamb shank (approximately 4 shanks will fill the bottom of a large boiling pot or dutch oven)
  • 1 Tablespoon 7 spices
  • 1 Tablespoon of kosher salt

Remaining INGREDIENTS to prepare for serving

  • Juice of several lemons to make 1 cup of lemon juice to pour over pot just before serving
  • 1 bunch of mint leaves for garnish
  • 1 or 2 bunches of green onions for garnish
  • optional to serve with Labne (A Lebanese Yogurt spread) (top with olive oil and sliced tomatoes)
  • arabic bread
  • fresh lebanese hummus (recipe and How to Video HERE)

Grave leaves. Buy 2 jars of Orlando California Grape leaves. They are stored in a jar so that they will remain preserved. I used 2 jars of grape leaves to roll approximately 150 grape leaves. Remember the grape leaves must be washed thoroughly before you cook with them, or your result will be REALLY SALTY grape leaves!
7 spices. We will use this to season the lamb and the rice. I have made this in the past. Search up “Lebanese 7 spices” for recipes.

5 pound bag of Calrose Rice (Riz Masri)

Lamb Shanks
Ground lamb

Lemons for garnish and lemon juice (which we will use for the last few minutes while cooking the grape leaves.)

We also need salt. That’s all we need for our ingredients. Now, it’s time to get to work!

First, we must rinse the grape leaves. As I mentioned above, this is a crucial step. Without rinsing the leaves, they will be very salty and not taste good at all.
Now, let’s boil the lamb shanks. Get a large pot of water.
Add one tablespoon of 7 spices

And add one table spoon of kosher salt. Place the lamb shanks in the pot and bring water to a boil. Cover and simmer for half an hour. (if the shanks are frozen simmer for 1 hour) The shanks do not need to be completely cooked at this point, because they will cook more with the grape leaves.

In a separate bowl, we will make the rice/ground lamb mixture. We will start with rinsing the rice. Use 1.5 cups of rice per pound of ground lamb.  Add water to the rice and rinse. This will make the rice easier to work with. I usually rinse the rice in a very fine colander.
Add the ground lamb and a 1 tablespoon 7 spices per pound of ground lamb to the drained rinsed rice. Add 1 tablespoon of salt per pound of ground lamb. Mix this together well.

Lay the grape leaf (shiny side down) on a plate with the stem at the top. Cut the stem off the top. (To simplify this step, I pull off the stem as I wash each leaf individually)
Pinch a small amount of the ground lamb/rice mixture, as pictured and place in the middle of one grape leaf

Wrap the grape leaf, like a present, bringing up the sides first and then loosely rolling the entire thing together. The shiny part of the leaf should be down so that it is the outside of the roll, once the grape leaf is rolled around the ground lamb and rice. Make sure to roll loosely. This will give the rice room to expand as it cooks in the grape leaf. If you roll too tightly, the grape leaves will not be able to stay together and they will pop open as they cook.Always remove the stem. Also, if the grape leaves are too large they can be cut in half.
Carefully place the rolled grape leaves in a container.

Once the lamb shanks are finished with their first stage of cooking. Remove them from the pot.

Cut some of the meat off of the lamb shanks. The goal is to place the shanks and meat evenly at the bottom of a clean pot to make a nice even layer to place the rolled grape leaves. You can use the same pot where you boiled the shanks, just be sure to clean it before this next step. I usually just wipe it clean. 
This photo demonstrates the lamb shanks and meat in an even layer at the bottom of the pot.
Ready to add the grape leaves.
Take the rolled grape leaves and place them as evenly as possible in the pot on top of the lamb and lamb shanks. Make sure to place the rolled grape leaves down on the point of the leaf so they will not come unrolled while cooking.

The result is a beautiful pot full of grape leaves ready to cook! Add water to the pot until the grape leaves are completely covered. Place the pot on the stove top until bubbly. Simmer on medium to medium low for 2.5-3 hours. While cooking, place small plates (instead of a pot lid) directly on the grape leaves. This keeps them under the water, allows them to breathe and cook perfectly. The grape leaves must remain covered with water while cooking. I use a tea kettle on a separate burner to boil water on the stove top. and add this to the grape leaves pot as needed.
Once the grape leaves are finished cooking turn off the stove (approximately 2.5 – 3 hours). Pour fresh lemon juice over the entire pot. Use a liberal amount of lemon juice- at least one half cup or one cup if cooking in a large pot. When the grape leaves are finished cooking, tender, delicious, easy to cut them with a fork, turn off the burner and pour the lemon juice over the top of the grape leaves.

To serve, slice lemons and wash and cut green onions. Grape leaves taste great with a sqeeze of lemon juice and a green onion.

Ready to serve. I’ve removed everything from the pot and placed the lamb in the center of the serving dish and the grape leaves around. It makes for a “wow” presentation. Save the juices from the pot. My husband likes to pour these over his grape leaves. You can also save the pot juices for later (leftovers) in the fridge and the oils will harden, so you can easily scrape them off the top.
Grape leaves are also served with mint leaves. I’ve placed them in a small vase, so they double as decoration and as a garnish.
I am so happy with the way my grape leaves turned out. They are so amazing. Thank you, to my dear Mother-in-Love, Mary for giving me this wonderful gift. I’m so thankful to carry on this tradition with my family for years to come. Love, El Momma

THE BEST HUMMUS EVER! El Momma’s Classic Lebanese hummus recipe

El Momma’s Best Hummus Ever

Traditional Lebanese Hummus

Ingredients

  • 2 (15-oz.) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained (save the juice from the can for later)
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • [1] tsp salt 
  • [1/2] cup fresh lemon juice
  • [1/2] tsp Citric acid (optional)
  • [1] cup tahini paste
  • 4 TB. extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Rinse, drain and remove some of the skins of the chickpeas by boiling them in water for 10 minutes. See video here for how to reduce your amount of chickpea skin in a couple of easy steps!

In a food processor fitted with a chopping blade, blend chickpeas, garlic, salt, lemon juice, (and optional citric acid), tahini and extra virgin olive oil for 2 minutes or until smooth. 

If not creamy enough, you can add some of the reserved juice from the chick pea can. Blend for 1 minute or until creamy and well combined.

I know how annoying it can be, when you just want a recipe and the blogger goes on and on….so, I was super nice and gave you the recipe at the top.

Now, for the video…..where I talk a lot. And, Baby Jimmie screams.

Easy Steps : How To Make the Best Hummus Ever!

Life After Loss. 3 years in.

I recently read a description of grief. It illustrated grief in the beginning as a giant ball bouncing around in a very small square. Something we can’t get away from. Every time we move or even breathe, the grief hits us. I’ve also read grief described like furniture in the middle of a dark room, where you can’t see anything, but everywhere you move, you bump into it and you can’t get around it. In both scenarios, the grief changes. In the first, the ball eventually becomes very small, but it is always in the room. It still hurts deeply when it hits you, but it isn’t a constant. In the second scenario, the furniture eventually moves to where you can see it and get around it, finally settling as a painting on the wall- always there, but not something you are constantly bumping into. 

I can relate with both of these descriptions. I know they aren’t meant to be that simple. Grief is complex. But, I think it can give others imagery to relate to and understand our grief. Grief is always there. In our case, as is the case for many, we don’t get over losing a child. It’s not that simple. But, we learn to move forward, and find a way to live while being in the room with the grief. We still bump into it all the time, but it’s not all consuming everything we do. But, it’s there, like that huge painting on the wall. And, maybe it’s beautiful now. Maybe, it’s like our Mary-Linda, bringing light and hope to others in their time of grief. Maybe, just maybe? 

On August 16th, 2020, we marked 3 years since our Mary-Linda was with us. It feels so surreal. These last 3 years have been brutal and beautiful. I don’t know how to explain it any other way. So much heartache. But, again, I know that God was with us and is with us. So, we will keep on keeping on. 

much love, 

El Momma

Below are photos from our celebration of Mary-Linda’s life, 3 years in. And, photos from the day we all got to hold her. We will all forever hold her in our hearts until we can hold her in our arms again. 

The Yellow Rose of Texas Birthday Tradition Continues…

Many years ago, the tradition began. The story has been told many times. It almost feels like a legendary tale at this point. And, so it goes. 
I was the baby of the block. My mother had many dear friends in our neighborhood- but, two families in particular, who were more like family than friends and who lived only a couple of houses down from us. These were the kind of friends that we would see every single day. My mom would be in their home when they arrived home from school having her coffee break and she, especially, was a sounding board and mentor for their daughters. My mom is still dear friends with the daughters in these families to this day- in fact, they were there with us at the hospital this year after my sister, Melinda unexpectedly suffered a stroke and passed away at 50 years old on Valentine’s Day. And, the families were intricately involved in my sister’s physical therapy as a child. (pull-hold-release)
So, all of the other kids on the block were a little older than me. Some, in high school when I was born. Some, in college. One, in particular, Ste-bo (nickname for Steven) was in college, I believe, when I was born. I remember, yes, remember being 3 years old and believing that I would grow up one day and marry Ste-bo. The tradition of the yellow roses began with Ste-bo. He passed away before I turned 4 years old, after an accident. My mom was there at the hospital. She was there when their momma would talk about heaven and how she wanted to know everything she could about heaven because Ste-bo now lived there. Their momma (affectionately called “Place” by my sister) drove my momma over railroad tracks when my due date had passed and my momma was still pregnant with me. Ste-bo was studying to be a doctor. His life was just getting started. It was a tragic loss for all of us. 
If my mom can locate it, I will add a picture of us. I think there is one somewhere with me wearing a yellow rose of Texas t-shirt. He called me the yellow rose of Texas and his momma continued giving me yellow roses on my birthday long after Ste-bo had passed away. My momma and daddy picked up the tradition at some point when I was in high school, I believe. There hasn’t been a year go by, whether I was in Texas, living in California, or on vacation that my momma didn’t find me with the yellow roses. 
It’s a pretty special tradition and has made for lasting memories and beautiful photos through the years. 
Love you, Momma. Thank you for continuing this tradition started by the Place family many years ago. 
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1YmDo1ZrgilgzTVovdfcAaXSzlC9QE0u2
clockwise from top left: 1982, 1984 (??), 2016, 1998 (??)
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=10jmFX3e6XGK6fqp77yYgRHrJ5pt3n-Sv
2017 with Moustapha and pregnant with Mary-Linda
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1d9NPsufU9fpggq5rio05-hjx_T4aWLTK
2020
https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1u99slsPQ76QvpdP4nbm5KmnabEJ1PRwY
2020 with Baby Jimmie, 14 months

Expecting our Rainbow baby

After over one year of trying and 12 cycles, we are pregnant! And, expecting our Rainbow Baby in May 2019! If you aren’t familiar with that term, check out this article from Parenting.com that explains where the term comes from. Basically, a “rainbow baby” is a baby after a miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal loss- the “rainbow” after the storm.
We found out that we were expecting on our oldest daughter’s tenth birthday. We were “trying” so, that was a day I could test early and I did.

We had a number of ultrasounds…and I took a few #bellybump pics

We officially “announced” at Christmas when we knew the gender and were in the 2nd trimester. We told the older 4 Els the day before Thanksgiving when we took photos for our Christmas cards. 

This journey has not been easy. After losing our daughter, Mary-Linda at nearly 18 weeks gestation, my head and my heart wanted to be pregnant again…quickly. But, the Lord had different timing planned. My head and my heart actually needed something very different than what I “thought” I wanted. We needed to wait. To wait on the Lord. To listen. To trust. To hope in His promise that He would never leave us or forsake us. To know that He is good and wants good things for us. 
So, we waited. We kept trying and the longer we waited, I treated my body more like I was pregnant. Prenatal Vitamins, folate, baby aspirin, lots of water, and a healthy diet. We met with a new possible OB/Gyn, a high risk doctor and fertility specialists. Our biggest concern was something happened to my body when I delivered Mary-Linda and that was causing us difficulty conceiving. Looking at the medical records after losing Mary-Linda, I learned that I had an anti-body that was detected in my blood in early pregnancy. I was never notified of this, even though the blood results were marked in red as “trouble.” We also learned that Mary-Linda had FMH (Fetal Maternal Hemorrhage). Apparently, this is common in Moms who experience a trauma or are in some type of accident. I did not experience any trauma. According to many articles I’ve read on FMH, it would not have been diagnosed, had we not known to request a KB blood test when I was in labor with Mary-Linda. The KB test (Kleihauer-Betke) looks for the amount of fetal hemoglobin in the mother’s bloodstream. This tells if the baby is anemic and amount of baby’s blood in the mom’s system. We knew someone whose newborn baby had this, had to have several blood transfusions and was in the NICU for the first weeks of the baby’s life. Thankfully, that baby recovered completely and is now a healthy teen. 
Many people don’t know to request this test, and therefore this diagnosis often gets missed. 
We had a first positive pregnancy test near the end of August, only to find out that we miscarried early on- often called a chemical pregnancy. It was a devastating time for my husband and I, as we were already dealing with so much. But, again, God’s timing was perfect. Part of me was just thankful I got pregnant again and I began to trust that we would soon have a healthy pregnancy. Just a couple of weeks later, we were pregnant. Praise God! 
Our doctors this time around, have been amazing. They know what to check. They work well together and their goal is the same as ours- for this sweet baby to be alive and in our arms in May. My high risk doc checks for the baby’s blood flow at each appointment- I love when he tells me “baby has no anemia!” My heart overflows. To know what we know now, we are so grateful. 
About this pregnancy- I just want to add- I have truly felt at peace during the majority of this pregnancy. Feeling the hand of God on my heart and on this sweet little baby boy. We can not wait to meet him, hold him and kiss his sweet little face. He is our miracle, prayed for little child. 
Baby Shower, April 2019
For this child I prayed, <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-7240A" data-link="(A)” style=”background-color: white; box-sizing: border-box; font-family: “Helvetica Neue”, Verdana, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; text-align: start; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>and the Lord has granted me my petition”
1 Samuel 1:27

Such a beautiful name…

Warning. This post discusses loss. 

We had a list of possible names for our baby daughter. Fifty or more different combinations. We knew we wanted to give her a name that paid homage to both our mothers’.

I remember a day a couple of months ago. My husband texted me one name idea. I replied back with my very large list (which I started working on right after finding out we were pregnant). The list was full of girl names. So many names. All of which connected with our mothers. He replied to my text with:
“Goodness me. This is going to be more difficult that I initially thought.”

We thought we had time to know for sure. The kids would often tell us of their name ideas.

Here are just a few:
Caroline
Evelyn
Oreo

We told them, “God knows her name and when we need to know we will know.”

On August 15th, 2017 we knew. I remember laying there in the hospital bed, in labor with our daughter and I just knew.

Mary-Linda Elizabeth

Just say it and it sounds so beautiful. So meant to be. Our precious baby.

We named her “Mary” for my husband’s mother. Mary means “wished-for child.” She is our wished-for child in every way.

We named her “Linda” for my mother. Linda means “beautiful.” She is beautiful and perfect in every way.

We named her “Elizabeth” because Elizabeth means oath or promise of God. We hold tight to God’s promises. Especially that He never leaves us or forsakes us. Knowing I was giving birth to our daughter who was already in heaven was only something I could go through knowing I was not going through it alone. The Lord was with us. His presence was felt and known in so many ways in that hospital bed.

I often think back to that experience- the worst of my life. But, I can’t help but remember so much peace in the deep heartache and suffering. That’s only possible through God. There really is no other explanation.

We love you forever, our baby daughter in heaven, Mary-Linda Elizabeth. 

An Unbelievable Storm

Warning. This post discusses loss. 

We live in Houston. A beautiful, strong city in Texas. This week, our city is enduring a major storm. Harvey. It’s horrible. So much rain. So many friends and family flooded. Mandatory and voluntary evacuations happening now as more flooding is expected. We are very close to the center of Houston. This has been a very scary week.

As we have been filled with worry and fear, we have felt incredibly blessed during this storm. So many of our loved ones who have assisted us and loved on us as we mourn the loss of our daughter, are now in their own storm. We just feel terrible and helpless as our city braces for more damage and destruction and we wait to rebuild.

Please click here if you are able to donate supplies in the Heights area of Houston. This is a local effort. Please do no mail supplies as our Post Office system will be very backed up for a long while.

Mary-Linda
Our family storm began unknown to us on August 14th. And, it doesn’t feel like its going anywhere anytime soon. Losing our healthy baby daughter, Mary-Linda Elizabeth at just over 17 weeks gestation, has been the hardest trial and most turbulent storm we’ve ever faced as a family. Our children are devastated. We are all devastated. 
Our lives have been turned upside down.

On Friday afternoon, as Harvey approached, we honored the memory and life of our precious Mary-Linda.

We had a private service with the six of us and our pastor, The Rev. David Cumbie.

Each of us read scriptures, prayed and we sang together. It was so beautiful. And, so sad.

As I reflect back now, I can’t help but feel thankful. Thankful that we were able to honor her life before complete chaos and heartache set in for our entire city. I am thankful that, if, we had to lose our daughter, that it happened when it did and not later. Thankful we weren’t in a hospital when Hurricane Harvey hit. Or, that we didn’t lose our daughter when we couldn’t get to a hospital. So many things to be thankful for in such a heartbreaking time. 

However, it was extremely difficult. Sitting there. Thinking of all the hopes and dreams we had for our daughter here on earth. None of them will come to be. (here on earth) We are thankful for her life. We are comforted to know that she has always been and will always be with Jesus. But that doesn’t change the questions. It doesn’t change how much it hurts to not have her with me knowing she’s growing each day. It hurts so deeply.

Harvey
On Sunday morning, we were flooded in (fortunate) with no flood waters in our home and huddled up together during ongoing Tornado warnings. We sang. We worshipped. And, the kids said they felt better singing to God. I did too. But, our hearts ache for our friends who got water in their homes. We want to help. Move forward. Honestly, I don’t know how to move forward personally. I feel paralyzed as we wait out Harvey and I think about a future without Mary-Linda in my arms.

We have to keep going. Our plan is to help our friends and family when we can get to them safely. We want to be there for all of those who have been there for us and continue to be there for us. It’s the only way we can move forward, by being there for our friends and family.

Our church, Church of the Apostles Houston, has set up a fund with the National Christian Foundation in order to directly receive gifts for Harvey relief efforts. All gifts will go directly to providing local assistance to flood/storm victims. 

This is a tax-deductible financial gift via check or credit card. Please click here and designate “Hurricane Harvey Relief” when making a donation. 

Heartbroken

18 
Warning. This post discusses loss. 


Psalm 34:1, 18
His praise shall continually be in my mouth. I will bless the Lord at all times;
The Lord is near to the broken-hearted


This is the hardest post I’ve ever written.
And, by far, the most difficult time of my life.

On Tuesday morning, at a little over 17 weeks gestation, we found out that our baby girl’s heart had stopped beating.

We are devastated. Completely devastated.

Monday night, as I settled into my place in bed, I reached for the home fetal Doppler monitor so that I could listen to our daughter’s heartbeat. It was a normal routine for me. I had done this same thing many times this since she was 10 weeks along. Even at that age, I could find her heartbeat. This night was different. Things didn’t sound right. I didn’t panic. Mainly because I heard something (turned out to be my own pulse or the placenta beating). And I knew my regular appointment was the next day. I thought my monitor wasn’t working correctly. I really didn’t hold on to the thought that her heart could have stopped beating.

I decided to sleep in and not work out before my appointment, just in case she was in distress.

I went to my appointment alone. As I mentioned to the nurse that I wasn’t noticing her flutters as I had earlier in my pregnancy.  She said she would let the midwife know. When they went to find her heartbeat, my heart began to race uncontrollably. It sounded just like the night before. It didn’t sound right. She acted as though it was no big deal and I’d “won myself an ultrasound today.” I lay there still, as the reality began to sink in. I prayed for a miracle. I prayed and prayed and prayed. The ultrasound showed my biggest fear. My beautiful baby girl, still and with no heart beat. The midwife turned to me and quietly said what I feared most. “Rebekah, I’m so sorry, but there is no heartbeat.”
Dear God. Please, no. She said she would go get a professional sonographer to be sure. I remained laying down on the table as one person stayed with me in the room for a while. I wanted her to leave. I wanted to be alone so I could pray out loud. So I could cry out to God for a miracle. She asked me if I wanted to sit up. I said no. I wanted to stay there. She offered to go see what was taking so long and I asked her to please do that.

As I lay there alone in the room, I continued to ask the Lord for a miracle. “God, please restore our baby girl. If there is any way, let her heartbeat be strong. Please God, I know you are the God who heals. We need a miracle.”
The next sonogram confirmed the worst news of my life. Our child. Our fifth baby el. Our precious baby girl’s heart was no longer beating.

Moustapha had worried with me the night before. We both love all of our children so much. I needed him. I called him. Through the tears, I said his name “Moustapha.” He cried out “No!” Without saying anything else, he knew.

This is all I can share about that for now. 

Wednesday morning, I delivered our baby girl and held her in my arms way too soon. She is beautiful. She brought our family so much joy in the weeks leading up to this day. Our family now feels a deep sadness and a huge hole in our hearts. 

But, our hope remains in Christ. We know that God loves us all and that our daughter is in God’s arms. We are heartbroken. Please keep our entire family in your prayers.

Mary-Linda Elizabeth El-Hakam
We will love and cherish our time with you always. 
Love you forever. – Momma and Daddy