About El Momma

Friday, July 31, 2015

#ELMOMMA31 31 Days of Blogging in July

El Momma, July 2015
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!

much love,
El Momma (Rebekah)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The beginning

Day 30 of blogging for 31 days in July is my birthday and I'd like to share a story.

My story begins a little something like this:

Once upon a time there was a family of four living in the outskirts of Houston, Texas in the late 70s. Momma, Dad, Michael (age 12) and Melinda (age 7). They were a happy little family of four. Michael played baseball and basketball. Melinda was an active runner, involved in the Glenn Doman method and attending the Institutes with her family as well as she was a poster child for the March of Dimes. Momma stayed home with Melinda and Dad worked two jobs.
It must have been just after Christmas one year when Mom found out she was expecting a baby.
What a surprise. Nearly eight years had gone by since Melinda's birth. And, although they had hoped and prayed for more children, enough time passed to where they just didn't think it would happen.
Momma saw many doctors. One story she told me stuck out in particular. This doctor, who did not know Momma well, but knew of her family situation and that she had one child with Down's Syndrome gave her unsolicited advice. 

First of all, he told her that there was an increased likelihood that the baby she was carrying would have Down's because she already had a child with Down's and because she was older. He then proceeded to tell her that it would be too much to handle. 

She didn't believe that. She believed that if she was given (blessed) with another child with special needs, it would be part of God's plan for her as a mother. And, if God gave her another special needs child, He would give her the strength to handle it just fine.

The next few months were an exciting time for this soon-to-be-family of five as they anticipated the birth of their little baby boy, Matthew.

Yes, Matthew. A baby boy.  I'm not sure as to why they were so sure that the baby was a boy. But, they were. Matthew had blue clothes and even a beautiful baby blue handmade blanket. Matthew was due to be born on his dad's birthday. Five days later, Matthew still hadn't arrived and Michael needed school clothes. So, momma took him school clothes shopping at  Wieners Department Store. He was thirteen at the time and shopping for jeans. Probably not that exciting...until his Mom asked him to time her contractions. She was in labor! I'm not sure if they made a purchase or not. I will have to follow up on that part. But, I know they went to the hospital and baby Matthew was born that evening. Except, Baby Matthew was a girl and they named her "Rebekah Anne." Surprise! It's a Rebekah!

Thank the Lord they never thought for a second that I would be too much to handle. I'm sure I was too much to handle at times, but that's called being a growing human. Happy birthday to me!

Melinda, Michael and Baby Rebekah

Rebekah and Momma

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Why I buy myself flowers

When I was a little girl, my momma's dear friend's son bought me yellow roses. They were like family. He passed away when I was three years old in a tragic gun accident. For years, his mom sent me yellow roses on my birthday. Eventually, my parents picked up the tradition. And, every birthday since I can remember, I've had a dozen yellow roses. This year was no different. My momma even had them delivered a day early so I could enjoy them a day longer.

These particular flowers remind me of childhood, growing up, beauty, dreams, tradition and I am reminded just how much I am loved. 
When I grocery shop and stop to admire a 3 stem bunch of blue hydrangeas and decide to take them home...it's because I love flowers. I love having fresh flowers nearby. I love a home with fresh flowers. I am reminded of the love in the home, the life in the home, the beauty in the home, tradition in the home and the beauty our creator has given us! Having fresh flowers in my home feels good, so I buy them. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


I've realized my favorite part of summer.
Yes, there are vacations.
Yes, there is time off.
Yes, there is time to recharge (hopefully!)
But, my very favorite part is F A M I L Y time!
The last two summers we've vacationed with my brother, sister in law and their four kids. Last summer, my parents and sister joined us.
This summer we celebrated Moustapha 's dad's 70th birthday with a family vacation to the hill country. All of his sisters, their spouses, kids and his parents. I know people often say they need a vacation from their vacation.
But, I love the relaxed vacations with our extended family. 
It's a real, blessed treat. 
My hope is for a long lifetime of family time!

Monday, July 27, 2015

When You're Happy...

I picked him up from day-camp early on Friday because he wasn't feeling well.
He buckled in and looked up and asked me to please take him to the doctor.
I called on the way and we went straight to the pediatrician's office.
Not much happened.
He had a fever of 102.
We were told he probably just had a stomach bug and to be prepared.
So, we got through the weekend.
Not feeling well and fighting off a fever. By Monday, it was still going strong, but he was fighting.
Here we are trying to enjoy a pool day. He's laying in my arms.
How do we feel better?
We make matching silly faces and sick faces.

When you're happy. 
I'm happy.
When you're sad. 
I'm sad.
When you feel sick.
I worry until I'm sick too.
When you're unsettled.
I am unsettled.
You are my little dream.
My love bug.
My silly boy.
I love you so and hope you feel better soon.
Until then, I will hold you until you smile! 

El Momma and Leebug 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

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!"

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!
El Momma 

Saturday, July 25, 2015


This guy is turning another year older today.
Thank you, Lord!
It has been a tough few months, but today we celebrate Jimmie (my dad) 's birthday.
Thankful that he gets to celebrate at home. And, so thankful for my mom, caring for him so well these last few months.
Happy 76th birthday, Grandfather! We love you so!
July birthday boys!

First #selfie Father's Day 2015

Friday, July 24, 2015

Just a summ summ summer day

What a day!
About five months ago I co-chaired the Gala fundraiser for our school. #horngala15 It was a huge success, a ton of work, but also incredibly rewarding. More about the top picture later...

So, at our school Gala, we auctioned off socials. Socials have a limited number of spots available at a set price. We have socials with teachers: bowling and pizza and we have socials that are just for parents: dinner and quiz night. And, we have socials that are organized by parents for kids. This was one of those. 104KRBE gave us an exclusive all access pass to their morning show for up to 10 kids. So, we arrived early this morning and were given a tour of the studio, a ton of juice and donuts and these kiddos got to say "hello" on the radio. It was super fun!
Trin was in dance camp all week. Today she had a recital. She had a blast!
All four of the kids were enrolled in at least one week of Power camp this summer. Today was the last day of power camp and it ended with a balloon release with messages of hope tied to them. 
And this guy not feeling well. Unexplained fever and sadness. So, we picked him up from power camp a little early and headed to the doctor for a quick check before the weekend. 

Finally, we ended the night with an amazing dinner with friends old and new. This was a celebration of the Gala we did in May to support our Little League. I definitely felt appreciated and loved. What a treat!

Delicious Cheese plate.

So, what's the first pic about? That's my friend, Tricia. She's awesome. Seriously, she loves to photobomb pictures I'm in or pictures I am taking. This time she photobombed the cheese and I just had to share.

Love these summ summ summer days!

El Momma

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Oh Happy Day! Our biggest chalkpaint project yet! Princess bed!

Two weeks ago, I picked up my childhood bed from my parents home and brought it to my house. 
I began working on it that day
Here's Just a little bit about the process I used to refinish the bed:
First, I cleaned the bedframe, headboard and footboard with soap and water scrubbing lightly with a sponge. 
I made sure the bed was dry and then I painted a first coat of old white chalk paint. 
The next day I painted a second coat of old white chalk paint. With each additional application I would lightly spray small spritzes of water before painting the second coat. 
It helps the chalk paint to last longer and go further. 
Once the old white was dry and I was happy with the number of coats, I painted the pink details in Antoinnette chalk paint. For some reason I found the pink to be a lot thinner than the white, but when I would leave the cans sitting out for a little while it would thicken up. Painting the pink details took several days with a couple of coats (spritzing water in between.)
Once it was all dry, it was time to sand. I just rub sandpaper everywhere I want to have a little distressed look. 
Then,I took a soft brush vacuum and vacuumed the entire frame before waxing. 
I waxed with a clear wax first. To wax, you apply a thick amount of wax with a brush and rub it in/off with cheese cloth or an old Tshirt material. I personally work faster and prefer the Tshirt.  I waxed the entire bed in clear wax before using any of the dark wax. 
I mixed the clear wax with a touch of the dark wax and it worked really well. I would blot it on and wipe as much away as I wanted. I love how it darkened the pink just enough. It's perfect. 


El Momma is so happy! And, Trinity is too. For now, the mattress is sitting directly on slats, but we are going to get a box spring mattress to raise it up.

So, what do you think? Have you tried Annie Sloan Chalkpaint? I'm in love.

El Momma 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Vacations and The A word

It can be difficult to talk about.
Difficult to think about.
Difficult to plan for.
We love going on vacation. 
All of us love being on vacation.
We love the fun.
We love the excitement.
We love everything except how Autism affects vacations.
Being cool with daddy on vacation 2014

I think there was a while that we went into vacations somewhat blindly.
Not to say that we are hopeful now, but it's different.
It's more of a planned hope.
A very intentional hope with a plan.
We have left the amusement parks late at night after being overstimulated all day, screaming and crying and just not being able to stop.
Those are not the memories we want our children to hold onto and take with them.
And, honestly and thankfully they don't seem to be the ones that stick.
But, if we can avoid that from happening at all, then we want to.
So, how do we attempt to do that?

Our answer: Don't go it alone.
Never feel as though you are the only one who is in this or trying to make it better. If you don't feel like you have a partner or a team, hopefully you have resources. Professionals, social workers, psychologists, friends and family that can help your child and you to have the tools you need to succeed. For us this is been really helpful and helped us to set out on a plan before we go on vacation. For our next trip away, we have a list of expected behaviors and responses. We have also talked a lot about small reactions going with small problems. One of our biggest issues is big reactions to small problems or something that doesn't seem to really be a problem at all. Transitions are also really tough and vacations are typically full of them. We also have a "family plan" so we can think about and talk about all of our roles before we start something. For example, if we are going to a Hotel for the first time, we can talk about what we will each need to do in order to get checked in and settled in our room. It's actually a pretty fun game and all of the other kids get into it too.

Next: Don't sweat the small stuff.
You know when it's too much for your child. You know your child. You know when they are overstimulated and need a break. You know when you need to address something right then or when you should just let it go, because it's really not a big deal. You know. So, trust your instincts and don't worry about what other people think. If that is what is driving you during a meltdown, then it will never end well. We have to learn to separate our child's behavior or misbehavior from our own self worth and frankly, that can be really challenging in a public place.

Finally: Choose activities you are confident your child will succeed at doing and do those activities.
It's his vacation too. And, him being filled with joy riding his favorite ride brings him joy and that brings joy to the whole family. You don't have to plan your entire family vacation around one person, but it's nice to think of things that each family member will love to do and to try to make that happen on a big trip. It makes each of us feel special to know that we are valued and that are interests are taken in to account when our parents make plans for the family. I certainly choose activities that I want to do. It's my vacation too. :-)

Don't give up. If you do encounter a meltdown of epic proportions during a vacation, ride the storm and pray it passes quickly. They usually do and with my guy, he seems to block that stuff out and really focuses on all the wonders and excitement of the day. We are blessed.
brothers on vacation, summer 2014

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Just Keep going

I missed blogging.
I missed writing about the random everyday things of being a mom, a wife, a singer, a songwriter, a woman, a human, etc.
So, I gave myself a challenge.
Post something (anything) every single day for a whole month. 
Sometimes I post something I've been thinking about sharing for a long time. Like, the email etiquette post.
Other times, it really is something that happens during the day that I just want to share with you.
So, last week in the middle of vbs craziness, I ran to Party City to have balloons (which I ordered on Amazon) inflated for Leeland's birthday. 
While I was waiting in line, I saw one of my Mom's bible study buddies. She's more in the throes of motherhood than I am with at least one little one still in a stroller. That little encounter encouraged me to just keep going.
She told me she had referenced my blog earlier that week in a conversation with her husband. 
I cheered a little on the inside. And, I think I cheered a little on the outside too.
It's encouraging to know that I'm not talking to myself all of the time.
Sometimes, my random, everyday life might make impact yours and connect with you.
And, so I'll keep going this July. 
I'll do it for me and I'll do it for us.
Thanks for reading!
El Momma 
Date night with the DH last week 

Monday, July 20, 2015

What does the tooth fairy bring to your house?

I've heard this question a lot from other parents.
"What does the tooth fairy bring for a tooth?"
I'll tell you what she brings at our house.
If she remembers to visit. (She has forgotten a couple of times in the past, but she always remembers and visits...eventually)
So, for the very first tooth it's a whopping $2. 2 whole dollar bills. Nothing super exciting. And, yet we are always really excited to see that she has delivered.
For the second tooth and every tooth thereafter, she pays $1 per tooth.
For 4 kids that comes to roughly $22 per child or $88 total.
That's plenty, in my opinion and these kids couldn't be happier with the tooth fairy (at least when she shows up) :-)

Lucky for us, she will make an appearance tonight as Trinity lost her second front tooth today. I think she looks adorable and can't wait for her to sing "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth!"

What does the tooth fairy bring to your house? is the 20th post this month from El Momma .com where I am blogging every day for the month of July. Follow with the hashtag #elmomma31 Thanks!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Another summer Another few VBS camps

We save the best for last.
And I'm not just saying that because it's the one I've helped with the last three years.
There is honestly something so real, so organic, so amazing about having a "homemade," not storebought VBS.
If you haven't ever organized a VBS from the ground up, you may be unaware of the big business that is summer Vacation Bible School. Churches get bombarded with emails, letters and magazines trying to sell a vbs package. Meaning: a Theme for the week that can include as much or as little as you want (lesson plans, scripts for skits, CDs with theme music, lead sheets, chord charts, etc.) It's how most churches (not all) we have visited operate. 
This is DIFFERENT. It starts with music, a scripture, an idea or all three and then we spend time praying, studying and looking at more music. That's when the idea begins to take shape. And, we will pick a theme.
Last year the theme was all about discovering who God made you to be (YOU) and the skits and the music all focused on God's plan and hand in our lives. This year, it's about learning how to THRIVE using the "tools" God gives us: His Word, a Strong Foundation to build upon, prayer, Jesus, and the church body.
My job was easy. I just helped (volunteered) to do the music. It was a gift to me, really. But, the Children's minister (my dear friend, Kelly) and her team work tirelessly on every detail of the theme: skits, snacks, story time, crafts, games, etc. It's amazing to see it come together each year! I get to do the music: first thing in the morning without the full band and again later in the morning with the full band.
It's a really special time that I get to spend doing something pretty different than my normal week. Yes, I lead worship every week, but not every day and not totally kid-driven. This is a very different energy and I am peacefully and happily exhausted at the end of it. And, feeling quite blessed and with a full heart after seeing the light in these beautiful children all week.
If you haven't gotten involved in a local church, VBS week is a great week to step in. You can send your children all week (and volunteer or not) and attend church with your children on the Sunday after. By then, your children will be super comfortable in the environment. Less anxiety for you!

PS. this is not an official announcement, but...***I am really looking forward to the first week of June next summer, when (HOPEFULLY) we will get to have a VBC (Vacation Bible Camp) at Church of the Apostles Houston!***

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Turning Five is Fine

Does it seem like we celebrated Leeland's birthday all week? Well, we kind of did. 
Saturday was Leeland's party day. 
Our house was hot. See yesterday's AC post. 

He wanted to see a movie - The Minion Movie. We invited our cousins, a couple of friends and met at the movie theatre first thing Saturday morning. 
Some cousins were out of town, but with 3 siblings and 4 cousins in town, it was already a huge movie watching party! Add in a couple of friends and their siblings and it was a whole lot of fun!
Here's the whole Minion movie-watching gang!
Afterwards, we planned to have Leeland's grandparents and Aunt and Uncle and baby cousin come to the house to celebrate. (Those who were too little to sit through a movie or wouldn't want to and wouldn't miss celebrating their Leeland) This part was really important to our Leeland. In planning his celebration he wanted to celebrate with Grandma and Jiddy and Grandmother and Grandfather. Unfortunately, with no AC, that part of the partying didn't look like it was going to happen. Luckily, we have great friends who offered us another solution! A very COOL solution. So, we picked up the cupcakes and balloons and had a quick little party. 
With lots of minions and a very happy Leeland...
And, Grandmother's "L" cookies! Leeland told her "I finally figured out why you make cookies for our parties. It's because my mom is your daughter." :-)

The giant balloon...as big as LeeLee

After the family celebration, we went home...to a cooling off house. The AC guy made the repairs late in the afternoon. (Praise the Lord!) So, we watched Astros baseball and Leeland opened presents. He loved them all and sends many thanks for all of the birthday wishes. 

Leeland on his fifth birthday.

Hooray! I'm FIVE!

Friday, July 17, 2015

No AC...a Houston Summer gone wrong

Does my hydrangea look hot and droopy?
Well, that's because she is hot and droopy.
I am also hot and droopy because at this point we have been without AC for one night, going on two. 
In Houston.
In the middle of July.
What in the world!
Count your blessings, Rebekah.
You can afford to have a hot and droopy hydrangea. (Although there is often a debate on whether or not you buy yourself too many flowers)
You have a house. (A hot house, but a house)
You have a house full of children. (hot children, but children that aren't even cranky)
You have a room with a wall unit with floor space for 4-5 people. (that's almost your whole family!)
Tonight, I will sleep on the floor and that is a blessing.
I have a floor in a cool room to sleep on and I will go to sleep praying that the AC repairman will return tomorrow (Saturday) able to fix my AC.
Until then, I will count my blessings and get out of this (blessed) house as early as possible tomorrow.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Not enough and that's okay

Sometimes I feel as if I can never do or be enough.
My house is not clean enough.
There are ALWAYS chores that need to be done. 
My children are not happy enough.
Why don't they help more?
What am I doing wrong?
Look at my room.
What kind of example am I? 
I fold clothes for six.
I wash clothes for six.
I dry clothes for six.
I do laundry for six with little or no help. 
And, I don't sort socks well.
I've given so many socks away because I just give up finding the pair. 
I am not enough. And you know what, that is okay.
I started writing this post in October. The day before visiting Apostles (our church home now) for the first time.  The pastor spoke right to me. He literally said I was not enough and I was floored. And that when God knows us, our innermost parts,  everything about us, he knows that we are not enough. We are not enough without Him, but with Him we are more than enough and He loves us completely and wholly and fully whether we are enough or not enough. I am not enough. I am not enough without Jesus. I am not enough without Christ.
He knows all those parts about me that I try to hide from others. He knows exactly what my room looks like. He knows exactly what my closet looks like when I close the door and I don't want anyone else to see. He knows the things on the inside that I hide even from myself. He knows me better than I know myself and he loves me in spite of myself. I don't know that I'll ever be the mom that I believe I should be, but I know with Jesus I am enough and I'm going to keep trying and never give up. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Happy Fifth Birthday to my Baby El

Well, those five years sure flew by! 
Today was a great day for this little guy.
We started with pancakes from Momma's griddle.
Then, we spent the day at Vacation Bible School.

That afternoon, we had cake and waited for daddy to get home, so we could go to dinner, just the six of us.
He chose Little Pappasito's for his dinner location. We love the fact that they put a giant sombrero on your head and sing to you.

It was a great day to celebrate a wonderful kiddo that blesses our life every single day!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Working full time with kids...it's a whole new summer

What a difference!

We are 5+ weeks in with a few weeks to go and this summer has been very different from the last 10 "summers with kids."
10 years ago, we were "in the throws" with a newborn baby boy- our Bakri. A very sweet time, really. Rocking chairs, cradles, cuddles, nursing and sleep deprived.
As we were blessed with more babies, a lot of things became a lot easier.
For example, with more children I had less time to focus on one child.
For me, that meant I was a lot less neurotic with the addition of more children. (Sorry, Bakri!)
But, that has just been my personal experience.
I am sure there are parents of single children that have it all figured out. I, however, believe that I've improved with each child. :) Thankfully, for them.  I'm pretty chill with them.
So, El summers have been pretty low-key. And, we have been blessed to travel a little: to California, Florida, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Illinois and also places within Texas.
I began working part time before Maddux, our second son was born.
As the kids got old enough, we would fill our summers with VBS at various churches where we either visited or knew people well and lots of YMCA time. I even had a couple of 'theme week' summers which the kids really loved. For an example of a theme week, click here http://elmomma.blogspot.com/2013/08/su-mmerweek-5-theme-week-performance.html?m=1 I loved theme weeks too. I especially loved it when we had guest camp leaders and extra campers. That always made it extra fun for all.
Now that I am working full time, albeit with a very flexible family-friendly schedule, I worked hard to plan out our summer a couple of months before it began. I looked at all the fliers that were sent home from school, considered the VBS camps we had done in the past and asked other parents what they were doing with their children. We also did swim team for the first time. More about that later, but I'll just say we loved swim team! So far, our summer rhythm feels really good. The ELs seem really happy too. Some things they are doing together and some things are based on their own interests. 
How do you and your kids spend your summer?
Hope it's a happy summer, friends! Enjoy your loved ones.
El Momma 
Ninjago camp 
Swim team finals 
Disney Musical Theater Camp

Waiting for the other ELs at swim practice

Monday, July 13, 2015

Forgiveness in the Church

I've thought a lot about what forgiveness looks like.
In our culture, it's pretty brutal.
Look at just a few of the celebrities caught up in scandals of the last few years:

Paula Deen https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paula_Deen see "Racial epithet controversy"

Lance Armstrong http://time.com/2822189/lance-armstrong-forgive-oprah/

Brian Williams http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/la-et-st-politicians-brian-williams-lie-20150214-story.html#page=1

Of course, you can find those who are well known who seem to have been forgiven for their transgressions and welcomed back into successful careers: Rob Lowe, Christian Bale, Hugh Grant, Chris Brown, etc.

But, when our culture decides that enough is enough, we won't forgive. That transgression is too far. Too much. Too bad. And, we write the person off. That's all. Until we forget.

On the flip side, what is the picture we get of forgiveness from Jesus?

In Paul's letter to Ephesus he writes 

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will--to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.  In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory."

I think it is hard for us to accept these words as truth and let them pour over us. But, let's try. Read this again:
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

We have REDEMPTION through his blood

The FORGIVENESS of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace...

God's word gives us further evidence of true forgiveness in Jesus' teachings. He says in Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But, if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins

Whoa. So, God's Word teaches that we are redeemed because of Jesus' ultimate sacrifice. He paid the price for our sins and we are forgiven. But, Jesus tells us we must forgive others. To be forgiven, we must forgive.

So, the church's response is clear- we must forgive. We want to have this unfiltered, direct connection with God that comes through Jesus Christ. And, we are promised that connection. We are promised redemption and forgiveness and we are commanded to forgive.

It sounds simple, but forgiveness, though easy to receive, can be hard to give.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Almost Five

Every day for the last week, he wakes up and asks, "How Many days until my birthday?" The answer today was "3 days!" He is so very excited to turn five. 
Can you imagine waking up this happy nearly every day and to top it off, you are wearing a top hat on your head? What a character!
We have lots of names for this child. 
Our fourth.
His name is Leeland. 
Lee for my dad, Jimmie Lee, and it was close to Leo, a family name on my mother-in-law's side. After we named him, we found out that Leland was also a family name on her side too. 
We call him Leeland.
Lee Lee.
Big baby (he was over 10 lbs at birth!)
And, this week Big Baby turns five years old. He's not a baby anymore.
Happy almost birthday, Leebug! Next time you awake, the answer will be "2 days!"
Love you forever.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

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:

Friday, July 10, 2015

More or Less "Broken"

Sometimes I wonder about the "people online."
You know the ones.
The ones that are often referred to as "trolls" because they troll websites looking to cause a fight.
They aren't "us," right?
I wouldn't be friends with someone like that, would I? Or, would I?
I don't spend a lot of time reading comments on articles or youtube videos.
Just as a small example, the below is a screenshot of a YouTube of my second oldest son talking at 11 months. I've deleted the comments that call him the "r-word" or generally make a derogatory comment about a baby. But, I leave most. I often wonder who took the time to give a video of a baby (my baby) a thumbs down? But, I digress...

But, I have seen enough to feel as though there are a lot of mean "people online."
Does this mean there are a lot of mean people out there?
Or, are we creating online caricatures of ourselves that can say and be our worst selves?
If we really aren't that mean and these are just caricatures we are hiding behind, then it seems to be more of a sign of our brokenness than anything else.
We are so broken that we want to break others.
We want to see that they are more broken than we are.
Break them down.
Put them in a box.
Label them.
Blame them.
I read both sides.
I'm sure you do too.
I know people who blame our current president for every problem. I know others who blame our most recent past president for every problem or the president before him. And so on.
It's often "us" vs. "them."
It's rarely a "we."
We don't see ourselves as the bad guys.
Because, frankly we are just not as bad as the other guy.
At least we don't believe we are.
We certainly don't have the power of our elected officials to make change, so when they don't or they do, they are definitely worse than us.
We don't physically hurt people.
We aren't murderers.
We don't leave guns out in our homes for our young children or their friends to stumble upon.
We're not racist.
We're not sexist.
We're not that religion or that one or that one.
We're not like "them."
We're better.
Or, are we?
Just a thought.
But, it seems to me that if we are all broken, then we are all broken. Broken more? Or, broken less? Does it even matter? Broken is broken. And, by His grace we are forgiven.

Today's "think on this" comes from Romans 3:21. " But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,  whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.  It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Summer project- Heirloom Four Poster Bed

Some projects are reserved for spring. Some for summer. Some for when we (I am) are ready.

This project was one that took me months to start.

I debated (mainly with myself) whether or not I should ever start this project.

THE PROJECT:  My childhood bed. 

It's beautiful and belonged to my cousin before my parents bought it for me sometime in the 80's.

I thought it would be a beautiful heirloom for our daughter, Trinity. I would need to convince her. Not that she totally controls what happens with her room decor, but she is a pretty strong personality and I would like her on board if I am going to take the leap and refinish and repaint the bed.  I also want her room to be a happy place for her, filled with memories and things she loves.

1st big challenge, besides convincing Trinity, which I thought I could do once I actually have the bed in my possession:
Get the bed from my parents' home and move it to my house.
Seems simple enough, but we would also need to get rid of the mattresses. My SUV is full of carseats, so I would need to remove those, put the seats down and drive out to get the bed while the kids are occupied with something else.

Okay, so I made the leap yesterday...here is the before:

Four poster bed. Painted in soft yellow/cream with green accents

One of the biggest challenges for me in taking on a project like this, is that it is a multiple day project.  I like to start something and finish it right away. It's one way I am sure I can get it done. But, I love chalk paint. (Annie Sloan Chalk Paint pictured below) In fact, when considering whether or not I would paint this bed for Trinity, I invested in 4 cans of chalk paint and worked on other projects. Our family room countertop. The large mirror above the fireplace. A table top of a living room side table. Two side tables in our bedroom. And, the wooden rocking chair my mom used to rock all of her babies. I've only used the colors "Old White" and "Paris Grey" so far. These are pretty small cans and a little paint really does go a long way. 

However, now that I've done several single day chalk paint projects, I wasn't sure I could handle the details on this one or the fact that it would take a few days. Patience is a virtue. 

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Old White

But, I decided to jump in and get started. I rebuilt the bed, because I don't really have the space in my garage to paint. And, having it stand up while painting, seemed to be a good solution. It is super easy to build and take down. (thank you to my mom's neighbor for showing us how to do that!) It just has metals sides that fit in grooves of the headboard and footboard. 

So, here it is after applying the first coat. 
The second coat will provide additional coverage and then I will add some detail in a pink color (Antoinette) before sanding and waxing. 
A closer picture.

Trinity was ecstatic! So, yay for that blessing. Once the second coat dries and I add the little bit of pink parts, it will be time to lightly sand and then wax.

I will post more updates as we finish.

Until then...another July post is coming tomorrow as we continue 31 days of blogging in July! #elmomma31

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A dozen years later...I would still say "YES!"

12 years ago, today, I said yes to this handsome man.
Yes to Moustapha.
Yes to love.
Yes to Houston.
Yes to children some day.
Yes to dreams coming true that I didn't even know I had.
Yes to God's calling on my life.
Yes to becoming Mrs. El !
I wouldn't change a thing.
And, I will always treasure the memories from this beautiful beginning.

Monday, July 6, 2015

My Miracle

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