The Journey

When we started out on this grief journey, it was unexpected, as grief and pain often are. We were, in many ways, unprepared. You know how people say “I can’t imagine” what you are going through? What they mean is they don’t have any life experiences that relate directly to what you are going through. Because, of course we can imagine. We don’t want to imagine.

But, today I want to focus on how we unknowingly prepared for this and what I believe we did that has helped us as we process and heal.

Number 1- we prayed and planned for our baby girl. We heard God very clearly and we knew it was the right decision for our family to try for one more baby. We continued to pray and seek the Lord throughout our pregnancy and loss.

In Matthew 6:33-34 the Bible says “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

We also cling to the scriptures and knowledge that God is near to us. Psalm 34 says the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

We believe.

Gender reveal for our daughter, Mary-Linda

Number 2- we celebrated every milestone. We had never done a gender reveal for our older babies, but wanted to do a gender reveal this time for our four older kids. It was absolutely the right decision for our family. The moment we learned, as a family that our baby was a girl will be a memory we all can take with us always. We don’t have a lot of memories with Mary-Linda, so this one stands out as one of the most joyful moments of our time together as a family.

Number 3- we created memories. Did we know that our time with her was going to be short? No. We had no idea. But, we enjoyed the time when we were expecting her. We went on vacation, celebrated birthdays, spent time with family and friends and soaked up those precious moments.

Staycation at The Houstonian Hotel

Grief is not easy, nor is there a formula to move through it. My advice for you whether you are grieving or not, is to live your life to the fullest. Love on your family and friends a little extra. We can all use a little more love.

“You will rarely regret celebrating life too much, but will likely regret celebrating life too little.”

Happy birthday to Me (trigger warning)

Our lives and my birthday changed forever in 2017. In 2017, I was the happiest I had ever been in my 40 years on earth. I wasn’t the least bit upset to be turning forty. I was pregnant with our second daughter and fifth child. Life for us was in the highest of highs.

My 40th birthday, our first home Dec 2004-July 2019

The following month, at my 18 week appointment I learned that our daughter had unexpectedly suffered a fetal maternal hemorrhage and her heart had stopped beating. We would go on to deliver her and hold her and deeply grieve and be changed F O R E V E R.

I’ve heard people make comments and say “she should be over it.” “At least she has living children.” “She didn’t even know that baby.” And there are people who are so uncomfortable with me sharing about our walk through grief that they question my mental health. Do you really think that I share everything on social media? No. No, I don’t. But, by me sharing my heart and my experience, I have helped a lot of women who have lost their babies in pregnancy through miscarriage and stillbirth and others who have experienced early infant loss. And, by God’s Grace we have a safe space for all, no matter where you may be in your grief journey, your fertility or infertility journey or your mental health condition. This is and always will be a safe space for you. I am here to listen, to share and to be there for other mommas and hopeful mommas.

That brings me to this year. This year, I am turning 44. There is a different level of joy from my 40th birthday, as we have waded the depths of grief and celebrated on the highest mountain tops since that day. One of our greatest joys came in May of 2019, when God blessed us earth side with our son, Jimmie.

This year, at my birthday dinner, Jimmie was so much fun. He’s learning to keep his cup down when he is drinking from a straw. And in between sips and telling me how he’s supposed to hold his cup, he would remind me of why we were at dinner, sweetly saying “happy birthday, momma.”

44TH birthday dinner at The Gristmill

I cried. Our lives look so different than what we would have anticipated them looking like just four years ago. We’ve experienced the loss of our daughter, who would be 3 years old right now. We’ve experienced the joy of having our precious Jimmie (age 2). Expecting him, being together for his birth and being home together for much of his first year and second year of life. We are incredibly blessed and thankful. Our big Els wanted to know why I was crying and Moustapha said this “God didn’t have to give us Jimmie.”

That is so true. Jimmie doesn’t replace our baby who died. But, we know we would be in a very different place right now, if we were still waiting on baby Jimmie. Thankfully, God made a way where we did not see the way. It was not easy and we are incredibly thankful.

My birthday will always be a reminder that we are missing Mary-Linda and that we are blessed with our Jimmie, Leeland, Trinity, Maddux and Bakri. A reminder that we are not promised tomorrow and to be grateful for our blessings today.

July is Bereaved Parents Awareness month.

How we can support bloggers & creators- specifically this blogger & creator

One of the lessons I learned this past year, is that I can accomplish so much more from home than I ever thought possible…BUT, I absolutely can’t do it alone!

If I ever thought that we don’t need community or one another, I certainly wouldn’t think that now. I’ve always been one who thrives in small groups and one-on-one interactions. That makes a year like 2020 and some of 2021 particularly challenging. I desire to be close with my loved ones and don’t want to be in big crowds. I never liked big crowds to begin with. Sporting events- especially outdoors are a whole different ballgame. Love those and never stopped going to those. My favorite sports were the ones that kept going, especially kid sports that involved the Els!

Back to what I’ve learned and how sharing deals and finds on the blog is a part of this. When everything shut down in Texas in March of 2020, my part time job also ended. I was working at a preschool and Jimmie was attending. Once all the Els were sent home from public elementary, middle and high school I had no choice but to stay home with all five of them. Like most people, our life rhythm completely changed. It was just us all the time and I no longer contributed to any income for our family of seven (eight with my momma staying with us part of the time.)

I started focusing on growing my Instagram account, as it looked like there was potential there to have brands pay what they call “influencers,” but as a SAG-AFTRA card holding member for 20 years, I think of it as a spokesperson type model. Less acting, and more storytelling. Love it? Like it? Hate it? Honest feedback on a product or experience. That’s what people want. And if you can do that and get paid, even better!

On Black Friday, I found a deal for liquid collagen and decided to give that a try. I was blown away by the results. I see myself every day and it was not overnight! This was a huge difference in a month and a half, and more as time as gone on. The liquid Biocell is the product I use and love. If you use this link, it will show Moustapha as the one who referred you and I will receive credit for your purchase. You will also receive $10 off your purchase too! Win! Win!

So, that brings me to my most recent sharing of my @rebekahmemusic like to know it account!And, my Amazon influencer account. These are places where I can share things I find and love and if you shop my links, I will receive a small commission. So, if you are thinking of buying something I have shared, would you consider buying through my links?

When I say “small commission,” it’s completely dependent on the company. Some pay much better percentages than others. But, for now, I am sharing the best links and products I find. And I’m sharing things I use and believe in.

If you don’t want to purchase something, that’s fine too. Another way you can support me is by sharing my posts, commenting on Instagram and here. Pinterest is also a great place where your views and saves help posts be seen by others.

If you’ve read this far, thank you! I’m still figuring this whole thing out. But, I do love being able to create and write and stay home with Jimmie. Thank you for your support. From the bottom of my El Momma heart, “Thank you!”

Visit my LIKEtoKNOW.it page for #nsale finds & more

How I imagine You

El Momma, big Sis Trinity and baby Mary-Linda

It’s always been hard for me to imagine how my babies will look and who they will look like, when I am pregnant. It was the same when we were expecting our second daughter in the summer of 2017. I knew she would look like an El. But, would her eyes be hazel like mine and Bakri’s? Would her hair be curly like Maddux and Leeland? Would she have olive skin like Trinity and Leeland? Or would her eyes be blue and her hair be blonde like Maddux?

When she died at 18 weeks gestation, I held her tiny little body in my arms. I remember that day so vividly. I never ever wanted to let her go and yet, I knew that her little body would not keep. And, I could not hold her like this forever. As the days passed, I would imagine her. I would have day dreams of her in heaven. I could see her. I could touch her. She wasn’t a baby at all. In my mind she was a little girl. She was three.

She was the age she would be now, had she not had an undetected fetal maternal when I was 4.5 months pregnant with her. She would have a sweet nature, because, well the Els all have sweet natures as babies. 💗 She would have had a distinct way of speaking. They all do. Each one had their own special way. She is so loved. I wish I knew more of her. But, I know there is someday. And, we are one day closer to that day.

Mary-Linda’s expected due date in 2018

Family Favorite: Lebanese Cauliflower, ground beef & Rice

Here’s another Lebanese inspired dish that we make once every week or so. My kids request this one. They absolutely love it. We all do. They literally want this dish at least once a week.

At this point, you may be wondering, “how do you get your kids to eat these amazing meals with vegetables?” The answer is pretty simple. I never made separate meals. From the time the older Els were little and currently with our toddler, we make a family meal and eat it together. Of course we have nights where people make their own dinner and eat whatever they want. But, as a practice, I make a meal for the family and offer it to everyone. I don’t like to make an issue out of food. So, we’ve never told our kids they had to clean their plates. We do encourage them to try new foods and at this point we’ve built up a good level of trust- I ((mostly)) serve them delicious dishes. There was that one time I made chick pea noodles in 2020. (Gross!) See below for the Lebanese Cauliflower, ground beef and rice directions and quick video. Please comment and let me know if you make this delicious dish!

Quick Video “How to make Lebanese cauliflower, ground beef and rice by El Momma”

Video: How to make this awesome dish in 90 seconds!

Lebanese Cauliflower & ground beef Ingredients

Makes approximately 8 servings

  • 2-3 large whole cauliflowers. Cut to florets
  • Your choice of cooked white rice
  • [1] TB extra virgin olive oil
  • [1] chopped white onion
  • [1] pound ground beef
  • [1] TB 7 spices (recipe for seven spices included below)
  • [1] tsp kosher salt
  • [1] tsp ground pepper
  • 1 jar 24 Oz of diced tomatoes (I prefer roasted garlic)
  • 14 Oz crushed Tomatoes (I use Italian variety)
  • plain yogurt (optional) for garnish

*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. * Recipe for my homemade seven spices blend is included at the bottom of this post.

Directions

Step 1: Rinse and cut the cauliflower into florets. Set aside.

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 beef 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 cauliflower, crushed and diced tomatoes. Mix well. Cover and cook for an additional 30 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.

7 Spices Ingredients

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

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.

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

Surviving the Storms. Think on This.


Over Memorial Day weekend, Texas was hit hard with storms. There were families literally swept away inside river homes in Wimberley. Precious lives lost. 
Many Houston families’ homes were flooded with inches to 2 feet of water. Neighbors and friends of ours were awakened to rising waters inside their homes and they are still out of their houses.
Only five days later we were hit with another storm with less rainfall, but more lightning and a funnel cloud. We lost shingles on our roof and our ceiling leaked in our bedroom. We had trees on our street ripped up.  The transformer in our backyard went crazy, sparking and sounding like it was blowing. It was minor compared to all that others were going through and are still going through.
But, nonetheless, it was traumatic for our kids.
I saw that last night.
Huddled up on the kitchen floor during yesterday’s thunder and lightning storm and flash flood warning.
We prayed.
And prayed.
And we made butterflies with our legs and pretended to fly while singing a newly made up song:

“fly little butterfly fly
fly little butterfly fly
with your wings up and down
up and down
up and down
fly little butterfly fly”

We sang.
And we giggled. 

But, something has changed. 
I know that my kids are anxious.
I don’t believe that they are naturally anxious beings.
I believe these particular circumstances all within a short period of time have made them anxious.
My job as a parent is to not leave them in that anxious place.
That place that will shape them into someone who is anxious with every lightning strike, every thunder roar, every rain storm or flood watch.
It is okay to be cautious. To be aware. To know where there are dangers and to avoid them.
But, in Philippians 4:4-9 God’s Word tells us:  
<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29430G" data-link="(G)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29431H" data-link="(H)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29432J" data-link="(J)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>but in everything by prayer and supplication <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29432K" data-link="(K)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29433L" data-link="(L)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>the peace of God, <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29433M" data-link="(M)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29435N" data-link="(N)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>received and heard and seen <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29435O" data-link="(O)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>in me—practice these things, and <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29435P" data-link="(P)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>the God of peace will be with you.”


I believe this to be true. 
So, as we were praying and flapping our butterfly leg-wings and making up silly songs, we were living out Philippians 4. 
Focusing on loveliness, goodness, truth…and God gave us His peace.


#elmomma31



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.