Okay parents. How many of you get a little frustrated with the whole Elf on the Shelf craze at Christmas time? Me too! And, with a toddler at home, I wanted to do something extra special. Last year, I decided to get help with our elf on the shelf and I bought a kit from an account I found on Instagram. (www.Instagram.com/craftyholidayhelper) CraftyHolidayHelper, Jaime has a small business focused on holiday crafts for families. I am so thankful to have found Jaime! Her craft kits are amazing!
I love having holiday parties for our littles. Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Fourth of July are holidays we don’t miss celebrating! In addition to adding Mardi Gras, we also added St Patrick’s Day with a party box and scavenger hunt from CraftyHolidayHelper to kick us off!
Jimmie is in awe of everything. He loves the rainbow centerpiece and all of the tiny details. My older kids said it’s not a party if other people don’t come. I disagree! I think Jimmie does too. It’s a party if you say it’s a party! Happy St Patrick’s Day, everyone!
El Momma, Rebekahmemusic and CraftyHolidayHelper collaborated on this post. Thank you for your support!
Our Valentine’s Day gift guide is launching next week and I have a confession to make. I’ve been this way for years. Pajamas are my love language. Some may say they are a gift. Others may say they are an act of service. Some may even call them physical touch or quality time. Maybe pajamas are the five love languages put together?!
Pajamas are my love language.
El Momma 2022
As we prepare for our first ever VALENTINE’S DAY GIFT GUIDE launching next week, I am going to be sharing my work outfits. And, since I work from home, and I’m trying to get into the spirit of Valentine’s Day, what better to work in than adorable, super soft and stretchy V-Day PJs?
For those moms or dads looking at ideas for the classroom, here’s an adorable craft we did in Trinity’s classroom when she was little. I LOVE old school crafts. If you are able to volunteer in your child’s classroom this year, this is a great idea.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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!”
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.
Makes approximately 3 1/2 tablespoons of 7 spices
1t ground cloves,
1/2 t caraway
1/2 t nutmeg
How to make this awesome dish in 90 seconds!
LebaneseGreen Beans, Ground Lamb and Rice
Makes approximately 6 servings
3 pounds of fresh green beans, snapped and ends removed
 TB salt (for boiling green beans)
Your choice of cooked white rice
 TB extra virgin olive oil
 chopped white onion
 pound ground lamb
 TB 7 spices
 TB kosher salt
 tsp ground pepper
plain yogurt (optional) for garnish
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.
We did it! This is my final post of my self-given challenge to blog every day for the month of July. We went on a few random thought trails, but for the most part it was a great experience. I enjoyed sharing a part of my life with you every day this month. If you missed a post or two, feel free to look around. Every post was tagged with the hashtag #elmomma31 , so that should help or you can just scroll back through time or start on July 1 and scroll up until you end on July 31.
Welcome to August. I’m sure you will hear from me again soon as we gear up to go BACK TO SCHOOL!
Just by googling it, I found a couple of definitions that struck a chord with me.
Miracle– a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.
Miracle–a highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences.
Have you experienced a miracle?
In your own life or in the life of someone you know? I believe that I have. I experienced a miracle through music. Let’s go back in time, about 30 years or so. To the time when I would take weekly piano lessons with Mrs. Wolff. She was a woman who taught piano lessons in her home. I believe she was already retired at the time as she had grown children and grandchildren. I started off around age 5 and she didn’t teach children that young, so I was in a lesson with another girl my age. I stuck with it through that time and eventually I took individual lessons. I don’t remember taking lessons through intermediate school (5th and 6th grade), but I believe I stayed with it through 4th grade. I have very vivid memories of my lessons. Sitting in her very beautiful, very pristine living room at the piano. I also remember my time after the lessons. The few minutes when my lesson was finished and another student had arrived for their lesson and I would wait for my mom to pick me up in the front yard. There was a huge pine tree surrounded by a flowerbed bordered by large wooden pieces on the ground. Hanging from the tree was a wooden sign that said “The Wolffs.” It was a magical place for a young imagination. I would walk carefully around the flowerbed, balancing myself on the wood border, traveling from land to land. Watching out for ‘The Wolffs” and going on a wonderful adventure. I remember my piano lesson experience as magical, but that is where my piano lessons ended and my life lessons picked up. As I grew up, I would often sit at the piano in my parents’ home and play familiar pieces I had learned in years past. Eventually, I no longer had a piano nearby, so I stopped playing. When Moustapha and I were married (nearly 12 years ago) we returned to Houston where both of our parents had pianos at the time. So, when visiting, I would sit and play songs I remembered and I began to play a new melody (one that would eventually become the song Radiant You) When I began to sing again, and be part of the worship team at our church in Houston, songwriting became an essential part of my growth and life. This was 9 years ago or so. I still wasn’t playing the piano regularly. When I was called as a worship leader at St. Andrew’s Pres, nearly 7 years ago, I began to write a ton and tinker around more on the piano with my original songs. I also started leading the Youth Praise Band at our church and I would accompany them on the piano in practice. I would look at the chord charts and just play. Nothing “special” but I would get better week to week. Meanwhile, as I was writing more, singing more, playing more for fun, we finished and recorded the album Radiant You in Nashville. As a pianist, I wasn’t one. Really. I had an amazing pianist play piano on the record. His name is Tim Lauer and he is amazing! A wonder, really. Back in Houston, the also uber talented, Jeremy Martin Weber was the pianist for our worship band. He was and is amazing. I think just hearing and watching him play and work every week, influenced this next chapter of my life. Jeremy and his family moved out of state sometime after Radiant You was released in late 2012. Before they moved, he left the worship band. So, we had a huge void to fill. It started slow for me. I would play piano on a few songs during worship, starting in the key of C. Eventually leading to me playing the entire service from the piano, while singing. So much so, that the church invested in a keyboard just before Advent season in 2013. This allowed me to be able to play with the band (right next to and with them) and be able to see the congregation while leading them in worship. By the time we felt called to join Church of the Apostles as Worship Pastor, I had been leading from the keyboard 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off for nearly a year. Up until this point, this was the most growth I experienced as a player and as a worship leader/pastor. I believe the true “miracle” or “highly improvable event or development” has happened in this last 12 months. I now play in nearly every key. Mostly by ear and reading chord charts. I do believe that we become accomplished by hours and hours and hours of work and practice. I am doing that. And, I know God is honoring that time and devotion. And yet, there is still a miracle for me. It’s a personal miracle that allows me to provide for my family, to worship God with my gifts and talents, to be a worship pastor in a loving community that knows and seeks the Holy Spirit. I know that when God calls me to make another album, it will be a very different experience for me, as I am a much different musician than I was 3 years ago. I feel extremely blessed. Playing the keyboard and piano is a gift that the Lord keeps on giving me. I am so thankful for those lessons many years ago and the life lessons I am still receiving. I am thankful for memories. For something “sticking” with me all these years. I am thankful for my miracle.
We would love to have you join us for worship if you are ever in the Houston area on a Sunday. Worship services are at 10am. Visit Apostles online for more information.
“My Miracle” is the 6th Blogpost in the Series #ElMomma31 Where El Momma blogs every day in the month of July. Follow the hashtag ElMomma31 for daily blogposts. www.elmomma.com
This summer we’ve been traveling, a lot. Riding in the car, a lot. And, spending a lot of time together, a lot. We do pretty well together. So, I thought I would answer a question I get asked a lot by other parents.
I’ve been asked the question at least a hundred times: “How do you get your kids to like the same music you like?” And, “why don’t you listen to Kid’s music?” First of all, you may need to expand what you like a little. Music that you loved in high school or even the mostly pop junk that gets played over and over again on the radio that you may like to bop along to in the car by yourself, may not be what you really want your kids to love. So, I would expand what you like if you haven’t already. First, let’s look at faith music…or music written about faith or by a person of faith. Since music is a big part of my life and as a worship leader and songwriter, I am often looking at new and old worship music and hymns. Some of these songs are completely new to me and some of the best bands are bands that I and probably you have never heard of. It’s worth taking a listen to shows like the radio show Under the Radar which plays the best music you’ve never heard and stations like Elijah Streams that play worship music from known and lesser known artists and churches. These are places I find new and new to me music that is both worship and singer/songwriter. You may be thinking, “I don’t like what gets played on the radio.” Well, you are not alone. In fact, most of what is played on Contemporary Christian Radio Stations comes from a very limited number of artists. Some of them are great. Some are just what the radio stations and the labels are feeding us. There is a lot more music out there and if you just do a little digging, you can find it! One of my favorite things about faith music is that even if the subject isn’t God, I still don’t have to worry about answering the awkward question, ie. “Momma, what are “blurred lines?” or hearing my baby girl sing “So you want to play with magic?” My kids still hear those songs. They just don’t hear them from me.
We also love a lot of older classic tunes by The Beatles, Elvis, Electric Light Orchestra, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, James Taylor, Eva Cassidy, and many many more. We have current bands that we love too like David Ramirez , Mat Kearney and John Mark McMillian. One of my favorite records is still Brooke Fraser’s Albertine, produced by my producer on my album Radiant You, Marshall Altman. I’ve also discovered more bands and music to love through Marshall. Before meeting Marshall, I didn’t know of Gabe Dixon, Audrey Assad or Matt Nathanson. So, I would say if you really love an album, find out who produced it and listen to more of their stuff. Chances are you will find more music you…and your kids will love.
So, now that you’ve expanded your music repertoire, how do you expand the mind and musical tastes of your children? Play them the songs you like. It’s that simple. I’m not promising your kids will give up asking for Veggie Tales or Katy Perry immediately, however I am saying that chances are high that your children will enjoy what you enjoy if you put some extra thought into it. So, plan a play list on your iPhone of music that you like and make it a good mix of high energy, classic, singer-songwriter, maybe even throw in a soundtrack song. We like the Muppet Movie soundtrack. The songs are hilarious and well done and when Maddux and Leeland break out into their rendition of “Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet,” I am on the floor. It is amazing and hilarious.
It’s been described as a spiritual, music retreat/ festival for the whole family. Escape to the Lake #ETTL14 is that and so much more. There is a community feel to this camp experience. Lots of artists, lots of families, singles, couples, empty-nesters, rest-seekers and people who long to be in community. Isn’t that true of all of us? We want to connect and be in community with others. It’s in us. That desire to do life with others.
Last night, we were greeted by a downpour of rain, smiling faces and gourmet music by Mercy Child, The Gray Havens, Eric Peters and Sarah Groves. Even with the rain, the night was beautiful.
Today, the Els participated in an art class led by Julie Lee. They made sunlight prints using flowers, twigs, and leaves.
After lunch, I was asked to be on a panel of songwriters and share stories behind the songs with live acoustic performances. It was a real gift to sit alongside and share with these talented artists. Honestly, I felt honored and grateful to be included. Steve from Burlap to Cashmere, Tim Coons of Giants and Pilgrims, Matthew Clark and me. Me. These guys were so funny, smart and their songs and voices are inspiring. And, I was asked to share next to them. It was a gift to listen and to share. I’m thankful.
In the afternoon, we played on the beach at the lake as a family. The Els loved it!
After dinner, the concert was on the lake.
Tim Coons and Giants and Pilgrims opened the show followed by Julie Lee and Sarah Masen, Waterdeep and Burlap to Cashmere. A lot of really great, thoughtful music. I can’t say enough about the experience of being in community like this. It is a beautiful thing. We met other families, worship leaders, artists, bloggers, moms, dads, kids…others that are in similar life stages as us. Just sharing blanket space on a hill, listening to music while our children played together started a conversation. Hopefully it’s just the start of what God is doing through this experience. I certainly hope and am excited to see God’s mighty hand at work.
Thankful for this life. Glad I get to walk alongside my dear husband, my children and you.