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!

What is something God is teaching you right now?

Recently I was asked this question and I wanted to share my answer with you here:

To abide in Him. John 15 says “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

More than ever before, I know He is reminding me to ‘abide’ in Him. To depend on Him completely. To go to Him in prayer with everything. Talk to Him. Walk with Him and live this example with my children. We pray about everything together.

We were in a car accident, hit from behind while stopped in rush hour traffic this week. The next day, I was driving with them, again in Houston rush hour traffic and feeling extremely anxious that we were going to be hit. I saw the car coming and couldn’t do anything to stop the accident. It was a feeling of helplessness, but a reminder that we are not helpless. We have Jesus to depend on. We have the Father who loves us completely and totally. And, the Holy Spirit moving within us. So, I told my children (who I affectionately call “the Els” which is short for our last name El-Hakam) about how I was feeling and I led them in prayer as we drove. We prayed out loud and prayed some more. We started with praying that God would protect us and remove the anxiety that I was feeling and we moved into praying for things that are on our hearts. My dad was in the hospital and one of the Els’ teacher’s baby is very sick. So each of the children wanted to add their own special prayers.

Last night, Houston was hit with very hard rains flooding our neighborhood streets. So much so, that the cars that were parked on the street in front of our homes were flooded. Cars down the street that were attempting to drive in the flood, were left abandoned and left blocking the street. We had people waiting for the water to recede on our front porch. I offered them assistance while trying to keep the Els occupied inside. The water was continuing to rise and more cars were getting stuck. The people on the porch continued to wait it out. I started attempting to put the Els to bed. It was hard because there was a car alarm going off the entire time. I went back outside to move my car further into my driveway so another couple could attempt to get out by turning their car around in my driveway. That mission was successful. But, the people on the porch kept waiting. I went to give good night kisses and my youngest son, who is only four years old, asked if we could pray. He wanted to pray for the rain to stop, for the water to go down and for the people to be able to get home safely. We sat on my daughter’s bed, held hands and we prayed. When we finished, I went back to check on things outside and as if the dam had been released, the water on the street which had been 1.5 foot deep was now completely receded. I went inside, told my little guy and he was able to sleep peacefully. I knew instantly that by abiding in God completely and living that example for my children, they are learning by example, not just by words how to abide in Christ Jesus.

So, I leave with you this word: ‘abide.” Think about what it means to abide in something or someone and how your life might be impacted if you begin to choose to abide in Christ Jesus. 

I also want to share with you my friend’s blog. It is called Celebrate the Family. http://celebratethefamily.org Teresa is a living testimony of abiding in Christ and going to Him in prayer. I am thankful for her inspiration at this time in my life. Blessings. -Rebekah

Preparing for School

We’ve enjoyed summer and are in the crazy last days of complete insanity. I am moving from room to room cleaning up legos, beads, making beds, putting away clothes to turn around and it’s like the opposite of Mary Poppins. Everything I just put away magically ends up on the floor in worse condition than before. I’m in la la land. Help! If you are wondering why I don’t have my children do these chores- the answer is “I do.” And, we are still in some crazy place of stuff every where. I am really really looking forward to the normal life of kids in school. It means I will actually clean something and my little els won’t destroy it (at least until they get home) and they will probably have so much homework and be so exhausted that they will only have enough energy to eat and go to bed for the first week. A girl can dream.

To prepare for this year’s intense workload in 4th grade, we met with Bakri’s teachers yesterday. It was amazing and hopeful and wonderful. We are really excited about this year for him and praying every single day that he will make a close friend at school. In having conversation with his teachers they wanted to learn more about him. His interests, likes, learning style, etc. He sang part of a song and we told them how much he loves playing the piano, writing music and about a project he did in second grade. His project was to tell about his family in any creative way that he wanted to. He wrote a song and we recorded it and recorded a music video to go along with it. It is called “Our Family Song.” We watched it a few times yesterday. The Els commented that there are a few things that are incorrect in the song, like when it says “we don’t fight in our family!” Um, ok, people, these are goals and hopes. It also has very accurate things like “we run around in our family!” So there!

So, in honor of school starting, here is Our Family Song by Bakri El-Hakam, written at age 7.

Doing What I Can

This is the third entry in a series I call “El Real Momma”

The purpose is just to be completely “Real” with you all and real with myself. The internet can be a place of fear and sometimes I am afraid of the consequences and the negative results that could come from over-sharing.

Three field trips in the last three weeks. How in the world can anyone work, manage a house, take care of children well and get anything done for yourself with such a crazy schedule? Impossible. But, it must be done. So, I’ll try and in the meantime I will stop and attempt to do yoga in the middle of homework hour. 

And, my littlest guy will crawl underneath my warrior two or downward dog and maybe, just maybe, these little ones will learn a little bit about determination. I don’t believe that I have to workout to feel good or do yoga to feel like I’ve had a successful day. But, for me, personally, reading scripture and having quiet time in the morning and finding time to do some kind of exercise during the day are two ways that make my days feel a whole lot more complete and happy no matter how little I may check off my list.

Perhaps there will be another field trip or two before the year is finished. Maybe I’ll be able to go or maybe I won’t. I’ll make every effort to not feel guilty either way. We do what we can.

the start of summer and a plan

Summer is a crazy, wonderful time for us. The kids are getting older and have more specialized interests. My hope and goal for the summer is typically to keep them happy, busy and friendly with others and especially each other. I also want/need to get work done, have time for myself, spend lots of time with them and have a plan. I am so not a type-A personality. My co-workers may disagree. But, it’s true. I’ve found my type-A side through work, because it allows me to be more creative, more free, and more fun. So, type-A, “Miss Organized Self” emerges to plan worship services, direct bands, manage children, etc. I think “Miss Organized Self” is a good persona to have for the summer as well. She’ll keep my kids in line, give them fun things to do and also give me free time to not go crazy. 🙂

So, we have jobs. These will be weekly jobs to keep us from fighting about who brings plates to the table or who gets out of the car first (that’s a big one). We’ve already ventured out of the house and had breakfast since giving out the jobs for the first week and not one fight broke out. Whew! I’ll let you know if it works past day one. 

Seven Year Old, Bakri’s First Song

Our oldest son, Bakri had an assignment to do a family culture project for his second grade Fall project. He wrote a song about our family. He sang the lyrics. I jotted them down quickly. We made our way to the piano and he continued to sing. He wrote several verses and a really cute chorus. I worked on recording the music and then Bakri sang his part. We recorded it with garageband. Once Bakri’s lead vocals were recorded, the kids and I recorded our parts. Once the song was done, we recorded video for the music video. I am very proud of my Bakri and his brothers and sisters. What a fun project!

It’s Fall…here’s our EL Update

It’s (a little) cooler this morning in Houston, Texas. Almost feels like it could be October, but not quite. We’re doing great. 
Leeland is two and happier than ever. 

Maddux started Kindergarten and Bakri is in second grade. I am spending more time at both of their schools. So far, we are having a great school year. 

My debut album was released on September 18. 

It’s really exciting and stressful just to try to get the music out there. But, when people hear it, they are moved and they tell me about it. I am very blessed. 

If you know what to search (ie. my name), you can find me almost anywhere….iTunes, amazon, cdbaby, zune, bandcamp, noisetrade, etc. And, even next to Sandi Patty, at times. 🙂

This was my look of shock and relief the day the album was released….ah

And, now, me and the family are headed to churches and events on my off weeks to spread the music to more churches and communities. Last week, we went to Crosspoint Church in Bellaire and I had the joy of leading along side of my friend and amazing talent, Aaron Senseman and the great worship team at Crosspoint. I am very grateful to be able to share the music in this way. Could I come to your church? Contact rebekahmemusic@gmail.com for booking information. 
Trinity turned four and we celebrated with a family party at our church. We made homemade pizzas, danced and enjoyed celebrating Miss Trinity. She is becoming quite the little lady. 

Leeland had his first haircut. Momma cut off the longest curls in the back, but I’m not ready to go short yet. He still has some baby curls.

Grandma (Moustapha’s mom) loves to buy the kids halloween costumes. This year the Els had requests: Mario themed costumes! Toad! Princess Peach! Luigi! and Mario! We are waiting until Halloween to put on the mustaches. 
Happy October, y’all!
love,
El Momma and the Els

EL SUMMER – WEEK 1 of 12

 Our first week of Summer is complete. And, woah! It was a busy and fun one. I have a plan…to keep the Els busy all week and all Summer.
The basic plan is this…take them places, play, explore, learn and base the week’s activities (loosely) on a theme.
We live super close to the Museum District in Houston and to so many wonderful resources. Honestly, it is too hot to spend a ton of time outdoors. As much as I would LOVE having a pool and being outside swimming much of the day, we don’t have one and getting to a pool is always a bit of a big chore. Being outside and not being in a pool is just too much for me to handle! Seriously, we have to limit our outdoor time. And, when we head outdoors we have to drink lots of lots of water.

One of the favorite museums of the Els is the Health Museum. It is one of the lesser known museums (meaning it is not crowded) and they have great activities for all ages. This seemed like a good choice for week one. So, we began “Health Week!”

We studied about “organs of the body.” And the Els drew their favorite organ and wrote facts about it.

We built things together. We believe being with family is a super healthy way for us to live!

 We went to the Health Museum and spent the day there!

Playing…

Climbing…

being silly…

exercising our minds…

and our hearts…

and our bodies…

and being super cute…

we counted teeth….

Keeping cool, we headed outside on another day to a spray park!

Being happy and joyful is healthy!

Day four, we reviewed what we learned about health. Everything I wrote on the board is their words. My favorite quote was from Trinity- “The stomach. It takes food into the system.” 

We found out our friends were coming to visit, so we went to the Zoo on Friday. It’s healthy to go to the zoo, learn about animals, ride the train and play with friends! We drank plenty of water, because it was super hot. But, we had a great time and it was a great ending to HEALTH WEEK!

Not sure about the dinosaur exhibit

T REX!!

How are the ELS!?

Summer 2012 is almost here and we have been super busy this Spring. The kids are all doing really well. We had a spell with a couple of them struggling with respiratory issues, but all seems to be much better now. Here is an update on all of the ELS.
Trinity is 3 and a half years old. She is just finishing preschool. And, she had her dance recital last week. She is a wonderful dancer, full of energy and ideas. She loves to make new friends, tell stories and learn about family history. She still has a very low and unique sounding speaking voice. It’s fun to hear her talk. And, she talks with those big brown eyes too.

Leeland will turn 2 this Summer. He is so much fun. He loves his siblings so very much and enjoys doing everything that they do. He really loves baseball and has mastered his swing along with sound effects. He’ll also say “homerun” or “strike” when he (pretend) hits the ball. He was on breathing treatments for several weeks and as I would hold him in my lap he would point to the television with the remote control saying “baseball, baseball, baseball.” I would (sometimes) let him watch part of a game if I could find one on tv. He is a joy!

Trinity’s dance recital

Moustapha and I attended a friend’s wedding at the Hyatt Lost Pines. This is a pic from the golf cart ride to the wedding ceremony.

Listening to my album mixes has become a regular occurance for all of us. Luckily, the kids all really like the music. I’m hoping they are a good test market for the target audience. 🙂 If so, we’re making a really popular cd.

Bakri is nearly finished with first grade. It has been a wonderful year of growth for him. He has made some great friends. And, his reading abilities have amazed us. He loves to read big books and will spend hours reading. He is also great at spelling and art. Here he is on “all art day” doing a chalk painting on the sidewalk of his interpretation of Boats at Saintes-Marie. He still loves baseball and he and Maddux have enjoyed another year of playing on the same team.

Maddux, second from the left, is five and a half years old. He is graduating from pre-k soon and he will officially be a kindergartener. He loves his school and friends. Maddux learned to read and write this year. It helps to have an older child working along side other children. So, while Bakri was working on reading, Maddux was picking it up too. Now he can read everything. He will tell me when I’m in a left turn only lane or that I’m not supposed to cross a double white line or read any sign on the side of the road. He keeps me on my toes and remembers everything!

Trinity at the water park

Leeland, Maddux and Bakri

We are looking forward to a fun Summer. My album will be finished soon, so I will have lots of work to do as far as marketing and delivering all the products to those that pre-ordered it. It’s an exciting time. We’ll try to swim a lot and play a lot this Summer too. Enjoy your Summer. Enjoy your life. It’s a gift. “Give thanks to the Lord. For He is good, so good to us!”

Many blessings,
-Rebekah

Home with the Els for Easter!

I returned home from Nashville for the weekend on Good Friday. I had the best weekend with my sweet husband and lovely babies. I put a few pictures here. But, basically my relaxing weekend went like this:
Landed in Houston on Good Friday
Husband and 2 children picked me up from the airport
Met Grandmother (my momma) and 2 youngest children to pick them up
Went to Minute Maid Park for Opening Day of the Astros
Stayed for Friday Night Fireworks!
Put all the tired ones to bed…
Saturday morning I cooked a giant breakfast- homemade pancakes, eggs, bacon, the works
Then, oldest Els had a tee-ball game with their dad and I had Easter worship rehearsal with the youngest Els.
After rehearsal and the game, we had a family lunch at Pappadeaux.
Then, playtime and family time at home mixed in with all the laundry for the week…which kind of piles up for 6 people. And, my in-laws came by to see the kids for Easter with baskets of Easter presents.
That evening, we had a wedding celebration dinner for our friends who were in town from Hawaii
The next morning was EASTER morning! So, the Easter bunny visited Saturday night and Trinity and I headed off to church at 730am, while the other children slept a little more.
Our church service started at 845. It was a beautiful celebration of Easter. He is risen! He is risen indeed! My parents- grandfather and grandmother and my sister, Aunt Melinda, joined us for the service and celebration.
Afterwards, there was a church family brunch, butterfly release in the courtyard and an Easter egg hunt.
We’ve hosted Easter for both of our families for the last three years. This year, because of my recording schedule, we couldn’t host. I didn’t have time to roll grape leaves on Saturday or make my house presentable for our large family. But, I feel really passionately about having Lebanese Lamb and Rice filled Grape Leaves on Easter. I also feel really passionate about tradition. Grape leaves are a middle eastern dish. The vine is a very significant point of imagery in the bible. Jesus said “I am the vine and You are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.” I just love this verse. Knowing that we are called to be the branches, bearing fruit, reaching out, making a difference.
So, while we were still with our church family, I started hearing this voice that said ,”Go to Phoencia and make grape leaves today.” I’m not sure who was speaking, but I answered. As we left church, I leaned over to Moustapha and said ,”I want to make grape leaves today.” So, we left church and he drove me to Phoenicia (which is now conveniently located downtown). I picked up everything I needed- ground lamb, lamb shanks, 2 16 oz. jars of grape leaves, lemons, green onion (I forgot mint), rice and I grabbed Labneh, fresh arabic bread and chick peas (to make fresh hummus for the week).
The kids had lunch at home and I spent the next 3 hours doing more laundry and rolling grape leaves. Our small family of 6 gathered around the table at 7pm that evening and we had the most amazing dinner. We celebrated, we prayed, we thanked God for Jesus and we loved on each other.  The truth is, I felt completely recharged when I returned to Nashville on Monday. Being with my husband and children and family and keeping busy all weekend didn’t leave me feeling drained, but rejuvenated and excited to sing my heart out this week. So, that is what I am doing now. I am singing my heart out. I am Praising God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all week. What a blessed way to celebrate Easter!