Beautiful Sunday

It’s the last Sunday of July.

The last Sunday of my self-imposed “31 days of blogging in July” challenge. 
Five more posts and then it’s “so long, July! hello, August!”
Yikes.
August means:
Back to school.
Back to a more normal work schedule because the Els are back to school.
Football season.
Dance classes.
Hot. Very Hot days.
And Time?
More time?
Maybe not. 
But, I can hope for more time.
More time to write.
More time to play. 
More time to read.
More time to pray. 
More time to listen.
More time with family.
More time with friends. 
More time to love. 
More time to give.
It’s a new season for us: four kids at one school! 
Can I get an Amen!? Woohoo! I have high hopes for all the amazing things I’m going to make time for now. Because, let’s be honest. We already have time for what we make time for. We prioritize and I’m going to prioritize that big MORE list I made up there. 
Oh, happy Sunday and near end of summer 2015!
Xoxo,
El Momma 

Sad Day

This morning we found out that our dear friend and teacher’s baby went to heaven today.

He lived to be 5 months old. He was born full term at a healthy weight.
Looking perfect in every way. 
But, he couldn’t move.
He was later diagnosed with type 0 SMA. SMA is the number one killer of infants. 
How do I know that?
I know it because of super Cooper!
Because of his little life, we can make a difference by spreading awareness and stopping SMA.
His type of SMA is the worst kind and the hope to be able to take him home from the hospital one day was small. But, there was hope. And prayers. Lots of prayers.
And, he did go home.
In fact, he went many places: a bbq benefit, walks with mommy and daddy. He even went for a swim last week with mommy.
His little life is an inspiration. We now know more about SMA and we can spread awareness to stop SMA. 
More about SMA From CureSMA.org

About SMA

SMA (spinal muscular atrophy) is a disease that robs people of physical strength by affecting the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord, taking away the ability to walk, eat, or breathe. It is the number one genetic cause of death for infants. 
SMA is caused by a mutation in the survival motor neuron gene 1 (SMN1). In a healthy person, this gene produces a protein that is critical to the function of the nerves that control our muscles. Without it, those nerve cells cannot properly function and eventually die, leading to debilitating and often fatal muscle weakness. 
SMA affects approximately 1 in 10,000 babies, and about 1 in every 50 Americans is a genetic carrier. SMA can affect any race or gender.
There are four primary types of SMA—I, II, III, and IV—based on age of onset and highest physical milestone achieved.
Individuals with SMA have difficulty performing the basic functions of life, like breathing and swallowing. However, SMA does not affect a person’s ability to think, learn, and build relationships with others.
Though there is currently no approved treatment for SMA, there’s great reason for hope. We know what causes SMA and what we need to do to develop effective therapies, and we’re on the verge of major breakthroughs that will strengthen our children’s bodies, extend life, and eventually lead to a cure.

More about Cooper and more info on how to donate:

Escaping to the Lake…one of our best escapes yet.

I dedicate this post to last summer.

To dreams coming true.
To Dave Trout and Under the Radar for playing unknown music on the radio.
To Christiaan Snedeker and Dave Trout for imagining a retreat where artists (and their families) can come together, break bread together, worship together and enjoy great music under the stars.
To Under the Radar for inviting me and my entire family to Williams Bay, WI to participate in such an amazing retreat and experience.
To Chicago.
Less than 24 hours and you became one of my favorite cities I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit, even if it was only for a few moments.
To my family.
Making music is a dream come true.
Making music with you is everything I was made to do and more.
I love your support.
I love that you would pile in a minivan and head up north on an adventure with me so that I can connect with more musicians who love Christ and who just want to make art and music for the Kingdom.
And, to all of you who are lucky enough to be at Escape to the Lake 15 right now (#ETTL15) , savor every moment.
Love your families.
Love your new friends.
Love the Church. (the Church is with you there!)
Love God.
Love being close to nature and close with each other.
Have great conversations.
Have hard conversations.
Have conversations.
And, make some amazing music and art together for the Glory of the one who made you.
Be blessed, y’all.
Hope to see you at the next one.
-Rebekah Maddux El-Hakam
and the Els

Football Clinic with a Pro

One of our favorite parts of this weekend included a football clinic with NFL quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (formerly of the Texans and currently of the Jets). He’s a great player and more importantly he’s a dad. A dad who cares about the school where is children attend, being in community and giving back. 
Our second grader, Maddux loves football and he and his dad attended one Texans game this year. Can you guess which one? Let’s just say the quarterback set franchise records! 
We would see Ryan in the halls dropping off kids for school in the morning and Maddux would often say that he wanted to tell him that he had a good game. But, he didn’t. He was feeling a little shy. So, when this opportunity came up to participate in a clinic with Ryan, we knew it was the perfect thing for our Maddux to participate in. And, it truly was. They enjoyed doing all kinds of football drills and then played a scrimmage with their favorite NFL quarterback! What a day. I didn’t want to share pictures with other children, so I will just share these three of Maddux  and Ryan Fitzpatrick. But, I think they show what a special day it was. Truly grateful to Ryan, his family, his wife who is due with their fifth child any day now, our amazing school and the moms that set this whole thing up. You guys rock the red carpet and more!

Go Jets! 

Finding the sky

Today, the sun came out. And, we could see it. We could feel it. It warmed the day. It brightened our hearts and apparently it inspired a lot of drivers to get on the road and drive somewhere. So, traffic was a bit of a bear.
Luckily for me, I got to see the sun a lot. Unfortunately, I was in my car.

If you are familiar with Houston, then you will get a kick out of where my GPS traveled today:

start: Montrose
to: Bellaire
to: Montrose
to: Bellaire
to: Montrose
to: downtown
to: the Heights
to: Bellaire
to: Montrose
to: Bellaire
to: River Oaks
to: Montrose

If it sounds depressing, it can be. But, I was struck with a thought as I took a walk on the River Oaks stop (a 3 minute walk, but a walk, no less).
I am blessed. So very blessed.
I have a vehicle that is safe and comfortable to drive my four children around in.
I have four children. They are getting great educations and have wonderful, enriching activities to participate in.
I am loved.
I love.
I am blessed.
Yep, I sometimes drive a lot in what seems like a constant circle. But, it’s so great to have a family to drive around, a wonderful job to get to, a husband that needs my help, and the sun shining down on me.

Blue sky and a winter tree 🙂

We Change, but He doesn’t. Thankful for that…

It’s happening. Change. Lots of change. And, transition. I’m transitioning. My family is transitioning. We are all in a state of transition. And, it’s not the change that really bothers me. It’s the leaving. The “leaving” part of this change is the hard part.

The going. The arriving. The being. The working. Being welcomed in ALL of that. It is wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. It’s encouraging. It’s affirming. It’s right.

You see, I’m changing jobs. And, by changing jobs, we’re changing churches. It’s a BIG change. I’ve been working as a full time mom for the last six years. Meanwhile, I’ve been a part time worship leader at our church (2 weeks on 2 weeks off) also for six years. I’ve been the Youth Praise Band leader, also part time. Currently, I am the preschool music teacher, part time. And, volunteer lots at my kiddos’ schools. I also put out my first album during this stretch of time and spend a little time promoting that where I can. It may sound like a hodgepodge of jobs that don’t amount to much, but to me it’s been my life. I’ve been happy, but perhaps a little overworked. And then, I get offered this amazing FULL TIME job at a church plant in the heights. What is a church plant? It’s basically a brand new church that is being planted. Planted means that it isn’t affiliated by another church, but starting from the ground up. Ours is an Anglican Church called Church of the Apostles. We became  involved just as the church launch team was ready to officially launch the church- meaning “invite people to visit” last Sunday. We’re off and running and it’s a beautiful thing. There is hardly a moment of rest to take in the meaning of leaving and how that feels, because we are so busy with the planting.

As part of our transition, we were able to take part in a special “Ten Years of Service” church service honoring the pastor of St. Andrew’s and his family. That was our last Sunday with St. Andrew’s and during that service our family was commissioned and prayed over alongside new members. It was beautiful to see the church welcoming in and sending out at the same time. We have been truly blessed to be part of this church family and we are blessed to be sent out and welcomed in to another church family.

So, as we transition, we feel thankful. Thankful for the last few years and thankful for how God is providing for our family. It is hard to leave, but our hearts know that we are part of the big Church. God’s people. It’s not restricted to a building or a denomination. We are God’s people and we are part of His Church. Thank you, God, that although we experience change, You Never Change! You are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

It’s the little things

We plan big and most of the time it’s great. We keep our kids busy or they keep us busy, rather. We work, we play, we laugh, we cry, we sing, we dance. Sometimes we forget to slow down. But, when we do slow down, that’s when the magic happens. 
It happened this summer.
Nearly every day. We have taken this summer slowly.
Day
by
day
No theme weeks. (I know. Those were fun and really they weren’t super hard to pull together.)
No stressful activities or over-planned days. 
In fact, we’ve been on vacation twice this summer. The first one was less vacation-y for the adults -me and the hubs because we did a lot of driving and work was part of the trip. We ended up having several day-cations in that one vacation, but the second one- to Florida was definitely a vacation. We stayed in a huge house with my parents, sister, brother, sister-in-law and 8 kids (the 4 els and 4 of their cousins.) 
We cooked. We played. We ran. We swam. We played tag and watched movies. 
We made sandcastles on the beach and swam in the ocean. 
My favorite moments were the little ones. The moments when all 8 kids (4 of ours and 4 of our nephews and niece) sat in the sand building or digging together. 
When we laughed and played in the pool. 
When I had morning coffee and worked on song lyrics sitting in the kitchen by myself before anyone was awake.  (no photo of that!)
So much of what we are made to do is just about being in community. Being together. Enjoying each other and loving one another. I remember precious moments with my cousins when I was growing up. Learning to roller skate in my aunt’s driveway. Singing along as my mom played guitar for all of us. I adore my cousins. They are some of my favorite people in the world who I rarely get to see. But, I love them and cherish them all the same. I believe my sweet Els are growing up feeling the exact same way about their dear cousins. 
I am feeling pretty thankful as we head in to a new year of school. A new year of friends. A new year of memories, challenges, hopes, dreams, tears, love, laughter and promises. This summer has left my heart feeling full and ready for the year ahead. Let’s get out there and dream big. Love your kids and your teachers and enjoy the little things. 
xoxo,
Rebekah

We Made It! Day 4 of Escape to the Lake and Encouraging Others

The last day has come and gone. Escape to the Lake was an escape. Escape from everyday reality. Escape from the city. Escape from the summer heat. 

I read an article in the Onion today making light that moms still do all of their normal household activities even while on vacation. It’s so true. Dads do too. At least in our family. So, without extra help, vacations aren’t really that vacation-y for us. So, what I’m saying is that we didn’t have an escape from parenthood this week. And, that’s ok. But, we’ll probably need one after this! 

Our final day at Escape to the Lake was one full of reflections, happy memories and goodbyes to new friends. Caroline led worship and Justin gave a closing talk before communion and memories from Dave and Christiaan. I’m hopeful that these connections will remain and be lifelong. 
I’m also leaving with a renewed view of myself as an artist. During one of the breakout sessions the day prior Sarah Masen referred to me as a “visual artist.” She had seen my handwritten lyric sheets and drawings on the merch table. It’s interesting how I often don’t see something in myself until it’s said out loud. 

It reminds me of a time I was having coffee with my friend and pastor. He told me that I was a “direct person.” I remember feeling surprised and hurt as he described me as a person who means what she says. Upon more reflection, I found this description to be true and something I am thankful to be. I’ve learned and am still learning to be careful in my directness. But, I see the fruits of this quality in my work every single day. People know they can count on me and if I say I will do something that means I will and I’ll do it to the best of my ability. I’ll put my heart and soul into it and even take lessons or get help if I need it. So, when Sarah called me a “visual artist” it took me by surprise. Pleasant surprise. I like to draw and I’ve been doing calligraphy since my mom bought me my first set of calligraphy pens in middle school. Thinking of myself as an artist: singer/songwriter, performer, and visual artist gives me more freedom to explore that part of myself. I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say this again: “encourage the gifts in others.” It’s truly life-giving. 

Hebrews 3:13(NIV) says “But encourage one another daily,<span class="crossreference" value="(A)” data-cr=”#cen-NIV-30009A” style=”-webkit-text-size-adjust: auto; font-family: ‘Helvetica Neue Light’, HelveticaNeue-Light, helvetica, arial, sans-serif; font-size: 17px; box-sizing: border-box; position: relative; vertical-align: top; top: 0px;”>as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

So, I encourage you to live this verse out in your lives. Encourage others. Take this encouragement to heart today. You are gifted. You have purpose and your life is intended to be meaningful. You are so very loved.


The TravELs’ Adventure Continues

Day three of Escape to the Lake! 

The Fourth of July in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. What could be better? It has been an amazing day. We started with our usual late arrival to the camp breakfast. We cannot get to breakfast at 815am. Not possible. And, that’s ok. Next, it’s Playground time. A walk around the grounds. Justin McRoberts ( pastor, singer, songwriter, artist) did the morning talk about being in community and how there are people in life that we choose to spend life with. An obvious one is our spouse, but we also have other friends that we don’t want to imagine doing life without. We don’t say it out loud like during a wedding ceremony, but no matter the distance or time or space that comes between us, we are never going to let that separate us. I loved this message. It was especially poignant for me, as I knew I was going to see one of those lifelong friends today. My friend, Holly is one of my college roommates and dearest friends. She, her husband and children are vacationing with friends 30 minutes from us. They live in Ohio now. So, to get to see them in Wisconsin was a real treasured treat! 

After lunch, I joined a discussion group about infusing creativity into families. It was great hearing the ideas and struggles of others as well as being encouraged to keep doing what we’re doing while being flexible. We may have grand plans with our kids, but sometimes you just have to let go! And, that’s okay.

I came to this year’s Escape to the Lake, traveling by minivan with my entire family, because I was invited as an artist to be included in the first ever ETTL Artists on the Rise Showcase. I was honored to be asked and really happy that my family wanted to make a vacation of it! So, the showcase was on July fourth with four other very talented artists: Son of Laughter, Tanya Godsey, Adam Whipple and Matthew Clark. And, it was emceed by the amazing Andrew Greer. I have to say that Andrew did a wonderful job telling a little about each artist when he introduced us and made us all feel special. I really appreciated it. Tanya said this in her set, but it is so true that as an artist, the best gift someone can give you is to listen/ see you and your work. Everyone who attended our show gave us that gift. Thank you! We each had about 27 minutes to play. I was missing playing with a band, but loved getting to share the music of my heart.

So, remember my friend Holly? Yep, she was there with her family. It was such a wonderful treat! After the show, we went into Williams Bay and grabbed a quick bite and some good conversation. 
And, our kids, especially our girls became fast friends!

We made it back to camp for the night concert: Andrew Greer, Caroline Cobb, Justin McRoberts, and Jason Gray. Caroline and I became twitter friends about a year ago. We’re both from Texas, we’re moms, believers and songwriters. Caroline’s last album was featured as “new and notable” on iTunes and I love supporting her and her gifts. I’m so glad we were able to finally meet! 
The concerts were great and then we all moved down to the beach for fireworks . 
It was a very full and lovely Fourth of July. My heart is full and happy. Hope yours is too. xo, El Momma 

And We’re Off to a Running Start- First Week of Summer is Done!

I can’t help but sing “in Sum-merrrrrr” ala Olaf from Frozen. If you haven’t seen the movie, then the songs are probably not stuck in your head or being sung over and over again by your housemates. Great songs, but any song can get annoying after the hundredth time you hear it being belted out by your five year old daughter. Gotta love “Sum-merrrrrr!”
So, we’re off and the first week of summer is already behind us. I counted and I believe we have 93 days of summer. Meaning, we only have 81 days left! Aack! We better get to livin…
The first weekend of summer was filled with birthday fun. First, the hubs grilled burgers and hotdogs at his parents’ home on his birthday. 

We had cake, of course and the theme is one that will probably be with us all summer long: B-A-S-E-B-A-L-L! So long 38 and hello, 39. Happy happy birthday to Moustapha!

We decorated with Moustapha’s vintage pennants. Here’s his beautiful momma with one from 1984! “Mo-stapha!”

A little attention needed for our little guy and then…

Time for a song and cake!

We all put up our Longhorns and little Leeland sported his peace sign proudly.

With my dear parents and sister.

Moustapha’s sweet Aunt Mary Louise even joined in for the party. She was visiting from out of town!

Our newest family member was also part of the celebration. We love all of our nephews!

We’ve had cake, and now let’s have some chocolate fudgecicles. Why not!?

Me and the birthday boy!

With his proud daddy.

And, then…we celebrated another very special birthday. Our sweet niece, Grace shares a birthday with Moustapha. She turned 3. Isn’t she lovely?

After the birthday celebrations, we had an adventure of our own at the El House. One afternoon, I went in to our daughter’s room only to discover the noise of a small critter coming from the wall. Something was stuck and not happy about it. That night, the oldest boys slept in a different room (they share a wall with their sister) in sleeping bags on the floor and our two youngest also slept in different beds then their usual spots. All to get away from whatever was nervous and clawing at the wall. The next day, Moustapha cut a hole in the wall, only to discover this little face looking back at him. A baby raccoon. We called the Texas Wildlife Center. They believed that the mom might come back for the baby. So, we placed the baby in this little bin and the baby stayed there all night. By the next morning, Moustapha was really worried about the baby, so he took the baby raccoon – the kids named him Racky- to the Wildlife Center. They said he was dehydrated, but otherwise doing well. We are allowed to check on Racky’s progress twice over the next 6 months. We will try to be patient!

Throughout the week, Maddux played in a tournament on a 7U select league team. His team, The Bellaire Bombers, won every game and they won the entire tournament on Saturday. Moustapha, Bakri and I enjoyed cheering them on to victory. Did I mention that baseball is going to be a big theme this summer? This is part of the reason for that. It’s our first time having anyone play select league. It could get interesting!

Maddux, getting his team first place trophy!

With me.

With Dad.

And, brothers celebrating at dinner!

I think that about sums up the first week of summer. It was a fun doozy! We’ve already celebrated another birthday this week- my father-in-law and we have more coming this week. I can’t complain. Summer, baseball, birthdays, family, music…these are a few of my favorite things….

Hope your summer is off to a great start too. The last few summers, we’ve had theme weeks at our house to give us purpose each week and to really help me stay organized and keep the Els active. Several of my friends shared this blog post from City Moms Blog with a bucket list of things to do with your kids this summer in Houston. Check it out here: http://citymomsblog.com/houston/summer-2014-bucket-list/ This is specific to Houston, but many of the activities would work in any town. I did have one child request the theme weeks again yesterday. I’m still contemplating that. I will update here if we decide to go that route or if we have our own bucket list this summer. I will definitely post our activities here. Keep busy, keep calm and keep cool!

– El Momma