A Forever Embrace

“…I am with you always…” – Jesus (Matt. 28:20)

“Just one more hug, just one more hug,” my 11-year-old said after I tucked him into bed. Because I have three older sons who are now turning into men, I know this begging for “just one more hug” will not last for long. But, in the meantime, I am enjoying it!

Last week, in the midst of a big bear hug, he whispered, “This is the best part of my day…”, and when we let go of our embrace he said, “…and letting go is the worst part of my day.” That kind of talk does a momma’s heart good, and I soaked in the love of those words expressed so sincerely.

As I pondered those words later, I thought about my time in my Heavenly Father’s embrace. The Creator of the Universe who is in control of all things is available to me, his child, at a moment’s notice. Through prayer and the Word and the leading and comfort of the Holy Spirit, He wraps His arms around me daily. That’s awesome. The question is, Am I staying there long enough? Or, like a child who squirms out of his loving daddy’s arms with his eyes on his toys, do I run on towards my day distracted by the stuff of life?

I have found the seasons that I do spend more time with him, I just want more of Him. The fullness of His Presence, joy and peace are indescribable. He speaks to me when I am still enough to hear. And the problems and challenges of the world fade as I fix my eyes on Him. Yes, the best times of my day are when I’m in His embrace.

This is a prayer I like to pray as I sit down to spend time with Him in the morning, Bible in hand:

Speak, Lord, in the stillness, while I wait on Thee,
Hushed my heart to listen in expectancy.
Speak, oh Blessed Master, in this quiet hour,
Let me see thy face, Lord, feel they touch of power.
For the words thou Speakest, they are life, indeed,
Living bread of Heaven now my spirit feed.
Speak, thou servant heareth! Be not silent, Lord;
Waits my soul upon Thee, For the quickening word.

– Author unknown, as quoted by Mrs. Charles Cowan, in Streams of the Desert


Thank you, Father, for your love and faithful care. Being in your Presence is the best part of my day. And I’m thankful I never have to let go. When I rush past you to my to-do list, remind me you are there. Teach me more how you are with me in all the “dailys” of life, and help me to live in the power, joy, and peace of your embrace each day. Amen.

Reflections on 2011

ImageAs I reflect on 2011, I keep coming back to the same things: what filled it. Yes, there were plenty of activities to keep us from sitting and twiddling our thumbs, but love, joy, peace, and purpose are the overriding memories.

During dinner last night we laughed as we told stories on each other. The following is a compilation of some of the things we recalled.

Karis Joy (9 years old):





  • Making a sock monkey, which matches her new sock monkey hat!

  • Playing on her first soccer team and loving it (Next fall she plans to play flag football. Watch out, boys!)

  • Skipping a grade in school (Much to Micah’s chagrin, she is now only one grade behind him.)

  • Being interviewed, along with Micah and their teacher, on a McKinney TV program when Mr. Wright was named the 2011 Outstanding Teacher of the Gifted and Talented for Texas Region 10.

  • Having her wise man drawing chosen by The United Way of Dallas as one of their Christmas card covers.

Micah (11 years old):




  • Finding and catching a small pufferfish in the creek behind our house, and adopting it as a pet – what a miracle a fish like this was back there! (We found out later that our next door neighbor had “let it go” in the creek.)

  • Catching a game ball tossed up in the stands by a major league catcher at a Texas Rangers game.

  • Playing in his first soccer season with a team that went undefeated and won the Dallas Area Tournament of Champions.

  • The day we told him that yes, we felt like God was leading us to adopt an orphan. His months of praying and campaigning were successful! (*More details about that is shared three posts back.)

Caleb (13 years old):




  • Having the opportunity in El Salvador to preach his first sermon.

  • Realizing his lawn business is not so humdrum when you happen onto pretty girls poolside.

  • Cliff jumping with his siblings and dad into the Seven Pools of Oheo in Maui.

  • Having beautiful girls in harem costumes sing his (Aladdin’s) praises in the musical “Aladdin.”


Derek (16 years old):



  • Getting his driver’s license (so far, so good….).

  • Snowboarding for the first time on a fathers/sons trip.

  • Winning second place in his first sprint triathlon (and crossing the finish line with his mom).

  • Hoisting Genie up on his shoulder in “Aladdin” (quite a change from the Disney version – our Aladdin was 220 lbs. and Genie was maybe 65 lbs!)

Dillon (17 years old):




  • Being offered scholarships covering tuition, room and board by his #1 college choice, Baylor University, on Dec. 23 (Merry, merry Christmas!)

  • Making history as he and his MBHS tennis teammates qualified for State, making them one of the top four 5A high school teams in the state of Texas.

  • Memorizing 750 scriptures over the summer and qualifying for the National Bible Bee.






  • Making memories with the family in Maui, the trip of a lifetime.

  • Completing her first Olympic Distance Triathlon (which included her first open-water swim, a big step, as she’s not big on swimming with fish in murky waters!)

  • Square dancing at Wind River Ranch, near Estes Park, CO.

  • Being surprised by Chris with a date to see Les Miserables, and getting ready, long black formal and all, and out the door in 15 minutes flat (last minute surprises are all the more exciting, right?)





  • Leading a small group on a mission trip to Mexico, and seeing God bring 1,100 to faith in Christ.

  • Enjoying a 6-week Sabbatical after 24 years of ministry.

  • Taking Derek and Caleb hunting (They each got a deer!)

  • Being 45 seconds off of the 3rd place time in one of his Sprint triathlons (Inching closer to the winner’s stand!)

If those were the highlights, these were the lowlights (or is that a hair term?) Basically, these are a few things we would have gladly done without:

  • Seeing Caleb brought down the mountain at Wolf Creek in a yellow body bag on a sled (Daring ski jump/accident knocked him unconscious, which led to ambulance ride to ER. Suffered a concussion that put him on the bench during basketball season.)

  • Brenna at the wheel for the Maui Road to Hana (a narrow winding mountain road overlooking the ocean) trip, which was about 10 hours roundtrip in a day and included 1,234 sharp turns and 112 one-lane bridges roundtrip (Chris, who may not admit to having control issues in the car, forgot to bring his renewed driver’s license to Maui…a trial for all.)

  • Forgetting to empty pockets before snorkeling…then feeling his cell phone vibrate in his pocket while 50 yards off shore (poor Derek.)


We thank God for his many blessings this year, and pray the same for you this year of 2012. Most of all, I pray for you God’s love, joy, peace, and purpose for living.


The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. Psalm 28:7


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I have been on the search for a good tomato basil soup recipe. We love tomato basil soup, but many recipes are full of butter and heavy cream. The following recipe is quicker and healthier than most (yes, it does still have some cream). But it doesn’t compromise on taste. And it feeds a crowd. Everyone in my family loved it when I made it last weekend, and I am making it again for dinner tonight!

6 cloves of garlic, minced

4 T. of olive oil

3 – 28 cans of crushed tomatoes (or pureed)

4 cups of chicken stock

2 tsp sugar

2 tsp of salt

1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1/2 c. of heavy cream

6 T. fresh basil, diced

In large pot, saute garlic in olive oil on medium heat for 1 minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the crushed tomatoes. Add chicken stock, sugar, salt and pepper. Cook the soup on medium at a simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in heavy cream. (Note: When I used the cans of crushed tomatoes, at the taste test we felt it wasn’t smooth enough. A few minutes in the blender made it perfect. Tonight we will try using the canned tomatoes that are already pureed.) Makes about a dozen servings. We served with grilled cheese sandwiches made from Panera Bread’s tomato basil bread, and it was incredible!

Adoption Revelation

Oh no, the prophet speaks! Many-a-time in our family’s life Micah has shared hard-to-hear words — you know, the kind that pierce you to the heart and that you know are true…and you know you have to do something about?

But never had I heard words from him that required this much change! “We need to adopt an orphan,” said 10-year-old Micah. We had just walked out of the November 2010 church service focused on the plight of orphans across the world and the Christian’s call to care for the orphans.

I assured Micah that if God shows us that adoption is the way he wants us to care for orphans, that we most definitely would (I was pretty sure God knew we already had our hands full with five children. Surely sending financial support would be enough.)

In the church service that day we accepted the challenge to pray every day for 30 days about what God would have us do about the orphan crisis. Micah held us to the 30 days…and then some.

It seemed the adoption subject starting coming up everywhere we turned. But even as we prayed, I continued to go down my list of why adoption might not be the best choice for our family. One day I felt God whispered to my heart, Brenna, it’s not about you; it’s about rescuing orphans.

Months later as Micah continued to prompt praying about orphans during bedtime prayers, he often asked if we thought God was leading us to adopt. I would tell him I wasn’t sure, but what moved me most was thinking of the one fearful orphan tonight who had no one at bedtime to scratch their back, pray for them, and tell them they were loved.

Let’s fast forward to the last week of school in May 2011. As Micah’s elementary school choir filed in to sing, they looked like the United Nations. A Title I school, these children didn’t look like children you would normally see in a North Dallas suburb.

With every word the choir sang, I heard an orphan speaking directly to me. He said he knows that I see and hear his fearful cries. He asked if I would be at his bedside until he falls asleep, comfort him when he weeps, and care for him forever.  He asked me to light his dark world with love so that he might live a life of hope, faith, and joy.

With every word the choir sang, I heard an orphan singing directly to me. Tears came like a flood as my heart filled with God’s compassion and love for his poor and needy orphans, and the song haunted me all afternoon.

That day Micah came in from school and I said, “Now I know. God is calling us to adopt.”

It wasn’t until a month later that I noticed the name of the song — “For Now, I Know.”

Easy Overnight Oatmeal

Do you want the taste and goodness of oatmeal made from steel cut oats without the 30-40 minute cooking time? Have it waiting for you on the stove when you start your day by using this easy recipe.

I make this large recipe (serves 9), then use what’s left over for the rest of the week (it is good for up to a week).




2 1/4 c. steel-cut oats

9 c. water

Pure maple syrup

Pick any of these to top with:

1/3 c. toasted slivered almonds

1/3 c. dried cranberries

1/3 c. blueberries

1/3 c. strawberries

2 T. ground flaxseed per bowl


1. In a large pot, boil the oats in the water for 1 minute. Cover and let stand overnight at room temperature.

2. The next morning, uncover the oats, heat on medium high until the oats start to boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, sirring frequently, until the oatmeal is cooked and creamy but still chewy (5-7 minutes). Sweeten the oatmeal with pure maple syrup.

3. Top with slivered almonds and fruit if you would like. Also, 2 T. of ground flaxseed per bowl (and be sure to add some milk to keep it from getting too thick) gives even more of a nutritional boost to this already-healthy breakfast.

*Steel cut oats are getting easier to find on grocery shelves in the cereal aisle. I usually purchase mine from the bulk section at Sprouts.

Fabulous Fruit Smoothie

This healthy and tasty treat carried us through the long, hot days of summer 2011. I don’t follow any recipes. I just try to stay stocked up on frozen fruits, yogurt, and 100% pineapple juice concentrate. Then I make it up as I go. A daily dose of this fends off those ice cream cravings!

To try one of our favorites, mix the following in a blender:

2 cups of frozen strawberries

2 cups of frozen blueberries

8 ounces of vanilla or plain yogurt

1/2 container of frozen 100% pineapple juice concentrate

2 cups of water

Blend this mixture, then add ice until it is the consistency you desire (about 2 cups).

Serve, and enjoy! What am I watching for on Craigslist? A Vitamix blender!