Archive for December, 1996

Brenner 1996 Christmas Letter

25 December 1996 at 4:12 pm
by Jonah

We sent out about 200 Christmas letters and cards to our closest friends, not including those in Mobile.

MERRY CHRISTMAS from the Brenners! e-mail edition. . .
(our snail-mail address is: 51 Eliza Jordan Rd., Mobile, AL 36608)

1996. It’s been quite a year…we added a major addition on our home for Dottie (Sarah’s mom), Benjamin spent 3 1/2 months in Singapore, Joanna worked the summer in Virginia, Stephanie and Nathan have been negotiating with Robert and Sarah, we gained a new sister, and Jim (Robert’s dad) died in our home. Our Lord has been in the midst of it all, but you see what I mean. IT’S BEEN QUITE A YEAR! But. . don’t we say that every year?

When Sarah’s mom came to live with us following her stroke, we began planning a special living place for her. With the help of a great architect and an excellent builder, an 800 square foot addition was completed in March. Dorothea now has her own furniture in her own lovely apartment. She celebrated her 81st birthday with us June 11, and except for the effects of the stroke, her health is good.

Our good friends in Singapore asked if we would consider letting Benjamin, 14, come to help their son Daniel learn how to home school. So Ben began an incredible adventure on July 10th. Singapore is exceptionally modern and safe, thank goodness, because one evening Ben and Daniel missed the last train from the airport and walked home–arriving around 3 AM! A side trip to Malaysia and Thailand with his hosts completed his adventure. Benjamin returned home just in time to study for his learner’s driving permit. Oh, no! The roads will be unsafe! (Oh, that’s right: they already are!) Otherwise, he is continually updating his own web page,
and would love for you to visit him in cyberspace at He is also continually growing, even though now that he is the tallest one in the family you’d think he’d be satisfied and stop.

It was a place that the Apostle Paul preached in the first century. Now it is the name of a company that distributes a bimonthly audio magazine of interviews with people on cultural issues in an NPR format. Joanna moved to Virginia for the summer and interned for Ken Myers, founder of Mars Hill Audio. She entered his extensive card catalog into a computer database, organized his library, and performed other tasks while enjoying the inspiring philosophical environment and,of course, making some money. As a senior at the University of Mobile with a 4.0 average, she is trying to figure out what she wants to be when she (ugh) grows up – or at least what to do when she graduates. Her only real desire at this point is to TRAVEL! Any suggestions or donations will be appreciated. Visit her WEB site at

Stephanie is 19 and a sophomore at UM. Unlike Benjamin, she stopped growing several years ago and remains short and sweet. We always thought that our daughters would finish college before they married. Joanna will probably finish graduate school. But Stephanie and Nathan, who is 6′ 5″ and still growing, think that sooner is better, so we are negotiating. First it was understood that Nathan would finish college and get a job. But then he got a job (a good one too) and is also finishing school. So who knows what next year’s Christmas letter will tell you about Steph (we parents also remember what it was like to be 19 and 21!). In June, Stephanie helped with Wings Like Eagles in Monument, Colorado for the seventh year running, and at home she continues to ride, care for all our animals, excel in her classes, and keep us somewhat organized. (Sarah’s note: those of you aware of my housekeeping skills can appreciate that!)

In November we all traveled to Atlanta to attend a wonderful wedding. Sarah’s brother Bill Staples married Jan Glover, and it’s a superb match! We were privileged to watch a tender courtship during the past year and are thrilled to have a very special new sister/aunt. The unique ceremony during the regular Sunday morning worship at Central Presbyterian Church was a deeply felt reminder of the constant benefit of the community of faith.

He just left us. He was here, and then he was gone. We learned early this year that Robert’s dad’s just-diagnosed cancer was spreading. In June we celebrated his 80th birthday here. Then in August, we decided to bring him to live with us in Mobile. What a wonderful time! On October 16, Jim talked with the doctor, decided to stop treatment, came home, and called his friends at his church. He told them he would die the next week and needed to plan his funeral service. Robert’s brother David came down for the weekend, Robert arrived back from Colorado on Monday, and we got Ben on a plane from Singapore. Monday night some friends came and we worshipped around Dad’s bed. Tuesday night we did the same. After our friends left, Robert sang hymns to him until 3 AM. On Wednesday morning, Sarah and Robert went to the airport to pick up Ben and left Joannaholding her Popie’s hand. As we drove back into the driveway, he took his last breath. The funeral in Macon was an incredible celebration. At the grave side, we put helium balloons on the casket, worshipped, then let the balloons fly into the sky. The church service was packed and it was a true

Dad’s death taught us that the only investment that pays eternal dividends is the investment we make in others. Jim invested heavily there and reaped HUGE dividends. We miss him so. But we rejoice.

Robert continues to work at Integrity and loves the business/ministry. He still cherishes his time mowing our 14 acres on his 1951 Ford tractor, and often our Sunday morning’s home church times are enriched by his conversations with Jesus in our fields. Robert’s recreation usually takes the form of building something, so we now have a terrific new screen porch, although he wisely left the main house-addition construction to the professionals.

Sarah has spent much of this year as a nurse to our parents, although she has also found time for the piano again. She was accepted by audition into the Mobile Piano Ensemble and would have played in the annual concert had it not beenfor Jim’s memorial services in Georgia. Next year we may be able to give you
performance news.

With all that has happened this year, we remember anew the importance of family. We’ve always thought Christmas was a time for giving. But much more importantly, it is a time for LOVING–loving others and remembering our heavenly Father’s love for us. God willing, we will continue to pile up stones so that we will always REMEMBER….

Blessings to each of you,
Robert, Sarah, Joanna, Stephanie, and Benjamin

Crash Course

10 December 1996 at 4:21 pm
by Jonah

My brother is in the living room, listening to early 80’s Michael W. Smith and knitting.

I have this habit of sticking my head into his room and asking him what he’s listening to if I’m not familiar with it. It may bug him, I don’t know, me checking on him like that. Sometimes I’ll just poke my head in to see what he’s doing, even if his door is closed. I know it would drive me crazy if he did that to me. Today he was listening to some full orchestral work. “Guess,” he said when I asked him. “It’s not classical,” I said, “It sounds like a movie soundtrack.” “How can you tell it’s not classical?” he asked, puzzled. So we spent the next hour or so listening to music and classifying it as Baroque, Classical, Romantic, or otherwise. I opened up the three disc set Downey gave me for Christmas and made him put on Bach. “Hear the harpsichord?” I said, “Dead give away it’s Baroque.” There were other composers I wasn’t as familiar with. We put on Mendelson and tried to classify him. I went down and got the time line of world history and skimmed the music section of each year from the 1700s to 1950s. “Now put on that crap you were listening to again,” I said, after skipping through numerous CDs. “Can you tell now?” He nodded, took it off, and put on some Yanni. Sigh.