Our greatest gifts are those from the heart that continue to give long after we are gone.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

A Scary Prayer


Like most people, I prefer to live a steady, calm course. And I often used to pray for happiness, good health, safe travels, financial security, etc., until I was challenged to pray the most frightening thing: Pray to be closer to God (that's not the scary part!), by asking Him for the strength and courage to embrace complete trust in His plan to bring you closer to Him.

Ok. So maybe you aren't shaking in your shoes. Yet.

Then came the examples. What if it takes a car accident for you to grow closer to God? What if it's cancer? What if it's through the loss of a loved one? Eeek.

That's when I decided I didn't particularly like this priest's message.

Then I started pondering...

We climb to the top of mountains to feel closer to God. We ask God for favors and wait for miracles. We listen to beautiful music and contemplate God's presence in our life. And certainly nothing's wrong with that, but that's only half of it. The easy half.

Reading Immaculee Ilibagiza's  book Left to Tell, helped me realize how God also calls us to grow closer to him during times of tragedy and sorrow. Left to Tell is a horrific story about the Rwanda Genocide. Yes, it will make you cry. However, it also shows the beautiful growth in the relationship between follower and Leader.

After losing everything dear to her, including her parents and brothers, and surviving only by hiding with seven other Tutsi women for three months in a small bathroom while diminishing to nearly half her body weight, Immaculee still reflects on the genocide in the following spirit:

"During my waking hours I was in constant communication with God, praying and meditating for 15-20 hours every day...In the midst of the genocide, I'd found my salvation. I knew that my bond with God would transcend the bathroom, the war, and the holocaust...it was a bond I now knew would transcend life itself" (107).

"Believe it or not, I actually longed for the days in the...bathroom, when I could talk to God for hours without interruption. I remembered the joy and peace He filled my heart with during those long stretches of silent prayer..." (184-185).

 I had a rare and wonderful opportunity to meet Immaculee during one of her retreats. I was reminded that no one makes it to heaven without suffering. We must accept that. And if we do, and allow those moments to transform our relationship with our heavenly Father, then we will have suffered well.

see also:

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Holy Conversation

When my five-year old speaks, his perspective often causes me to pause and ponder. Sometimes his insights are holy. This is a small window into our conversation while we sat in the summer grass eating breakfast in God's golden rays.

Does Jesus live at the moon?

Jesus lives everywhere. 

Have you been to the moon Momma?

No. Have you?

No, but I wish I should go to the moon. I would need a big rocket. 


And a space soup. If you have a space soup, you can jump really high. And you can go underwater. And everything.

Wow! A space soup?

Yeah, but I just wish I should go everywhere. Like Jesus.

Me too son. Me too.

Friday, July 26, 2013


"And he pointed out to me a river of pure Water of Life..."
Revelation 22.1

After weeks of study in his after-dinner chair, and murmuring new jargon that was foreign to me, my father one day announced the new family sailboat. A small 18' wooden skiff of pure adventure.

I quickly became a jib girl and experienced the wind and water in its natural form, becoming one with the living lake as the billowing sails breathed happiness. The speed-boat people were a shocking contrast to our peaceful zigging and zagging across the seascape. 

And I learned things. I still remember the most important commands:
1) "Coming about!!" Which means duck fast before the boom hits your head and either knocks you out or overboard; 
2) "Lean out!!" because if you don't the boat is likely to capsize and pour its contents (including you) into the deep dank lake. 

Both of these concepts I still find useful in my day to day life.

Sailing was freedom and bliss. it was purifying and calming. It was exploration. We'd see fish, and birds, and whitecaps, and blue sky. The lake rocked us to its rhythmic lullaby, right up to the docks where we'd put our boat to bed.

Then we'd go out for ice cream sundaes. It was heaven. I indulged on chocolate fudge, whip cream, and nuts, but that wasn't what made the day so special. 

When an inkling of our boat days seeps into my mind, happiness washes over me. After all, life's richest tenet is in the gifts we give others, especially the gift of exceptional memories rooted in love.

I was a very blessed little girl.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Because He Loves Me

"Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, 
will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand."
Matthew 7:26

Because he loves me, he tore down the biggest wall. I've lived through remodels. Many. Sometimes I protest because I dislike change and making improvements are challenging, and most times I hate admitting corrections must be made. Life is like that.

Layer by layer, the outer flesh peels away until the very heart and soul are exposed, and that's where the repairs are needed most, deep down inside. 

The insulation has evidence of damage: water and rodents -- nature's typical offenders. They saturate and soil for years, but the damage is never readily visible. Now it is. He's known it all along. Man-made imperfections won't stop him however. He persists in making me face the renovation.

Probing, prodding, ripping, screeching, tearing -- tiny bits of dust pollute the air in an attempt to make a last stand. Finally, the truth is visible. 

When the innards are exposed this way, God's light beams in and radiates. There is hope beyond measure and everything is suddenly anew. When the wall is remade it will be stronger, more pleasing, and will increase the overall value. Mostly though, it will be built with love.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Family Feast

                                  A Sunday picnic under the apple trees...

Share three things about your day. This is the line we've used at our dinner table since the children were old enough to speak. Last night's table talk was a cornucopia of stories about bizarre dreams, various uses for the avocado, a long inquiry about a "bahcheeto" (based on our 4-year-old son's vocabulary), a list of 101 reasons why our teenagers should be allowed to attend a party (followed by one reason why they won't). We make it a purposeful endeavor to share our lives at the dinner table because this is the common daily gathering place where we define who we are as individuals, as well as who we are as a family.

Dinnertime seems to permeate with many unexpected graces. Our children reveal important emotions that define their experiences of the day and help us as parents understand them better. Matthew, our youngest communicated his worry one evening when recalling how earlier in the day "Grammie's table broke and the glass went crash all over the place!". He recalled happiness when remembering he ate a "pocksicle." He shared his need for security when telling about nap time ("Bear slept wis me"). We each share, but listening is essential.

At the table we establish traditions (and boundaries). Monday is pasta night. Always. On Mondays we bond over spaghetti, or fettucine, or macaroni and cheese, or lasagna, because one should not consume pasta seven days a week as formerly requested by my daughter prior to the designated pasta day. This was discussed in great length many years ago at the family table as we ate a particular meal that was completely noodle-less (to young kids this tragedy needed fixing!). One Monday night we had an orange-themed dinner because we HAD to have noodles (and I hadn't been grocery shopping), so we ate a box of macaroni and cheese, a side of steamed carrots, washed down with orange juice, and served with some Halloween-orange napkins. The kids remember this with such pleasure you would think I was awarded chef of the year. Noodles define a part of who we are. They also help us make important memories.

We break old rules at the table, like the one that says "children ought to be seen and not heard." Ours not only talk, but they sing musicals. In fact, they think life is a musical. To Bye Bye Birdie's "Put on a Happy Face" they sing, "...let's spread ketchup all over the place...". Their forks often break into dance routines (while twirling pasta). They know that in their own musical life there will be singing and dancing and drama and many characters they encounter and climactic moments and happy endings. They use the dinner table as a place to try out different scripts, such as what to say to mean people so they are well rehearsed and Christ-centered. The table serves as their overture for life, and as parents, we couldn't applaud more.

Most importantly though, we pray. We thank God for many things: food, friends, opportunities, others in need, personal requests, and on a busy night there is the rare occasion when we thank God for chicken nuggets. With Christ at the center of our meal, we are abundantly full. And incredibly thankful.

Recently, the kids have dubbed our family as "Team Drendel" (followed by a woot-woot). I love the sound of "Let's go Team Drendel -- woot woot!!" as we exit the driveway for any outing, whether it be a fun adventure that lies ahead of us, or simply the gas station. The sound of Team Drendel fills my heart with a song that could never adequately be captured in a musical. I believe Team Drendel emerged over the course of many many years... and waaaaayyyyyyy more noodles.

Bone appetite!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Pig’s Snout

I hope no one is offended by the term boob (mostly used in the plural sense here: boobs). Certainly not a topic for public conversation, but when a young girl walked into my classroom with cleavage like the Great Wall of China, her boobs made an incredibly loud statement (I’m pretty sure she was in violation of the dress code). Merriam-webster defines boob as first a noun, implying “one severely lacking in judgment.” The word also harbors verb tendencies, as in to boob or “goof” something. In this case, both definitions apply.

Although the school rules only state “undergarments should not be exposed,” it goes without saying that the body parts beneath such garments should not be dangling out. However, cleavage is a bit more mysterious. It’s the fine line between what is clearly defined and what is not. It’s an angle full of mere suggestion, which requires reading between the line. Finding the right way to address the situation is bursting with complication.

Throughout my years of teaching high schoolers, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to redirect students in the area of  dress code. Most girls respond when I give them the benefit of the doubt and say, “Oops! Your shirt front has fallen too low”  the “oops” makes it ok to point out because it assumes they didn’t dress that way on purpose – and they always rearrange themselves and smile at me gratefully. Unfortunately, this one was way beyond oops.

This scene was the equivalent of a King-Kong plumber’s crack. A fathomless crease leading to an abysmal darkness.

I was speechless.

“Oops” sounded completely idiotic. “Your cuppeth overfloweth” was simply stating the obvious. “Honey, don’t move because your boobs are about to fall out” was too dramatic, even with my usual technique of adding the honey to soften the scold. This treasure chest needed to be buried, but no words seemed appropriate.

So, sadly I said nothing. I could have fallen right then and there into the largest Grand Canyon crevice, and I would have kept right on teaching as if nothing happened. Really though, some things just speak for themselves anyway.

All God’s gifts must be given great care. The respect with which we manage these gifts, is in turn the respect we show Him. In this case, Proverbs says it best: “A beautiful woman lacking discretion and modesty is like a fine gold ring on a pig’s snout” (11:12).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

“Hey” for Sale

When some Farmer Joe with bad spelling posted on Craigslist that he was selling a “pile of hey,” as an English teacher, I found this endlessly hilarious. The printed advertisement now hangs on my bulletin board as a source of humorous inspiration. Consider the implications.

By definition, “hey” expresses appreciation, wonder, or pleasure. An exclamation of “hey!” is often associated with blissful, warm-fuzzy feelings, such as in Jingle Bells’ “…one-horse open sleigh, HEY!” From songs, to cheers, or greetings, “hey” is a merriment that is abundantly used.

Now imagine that you have opportunity to purchase a pile of “hey.” Envision the ability to scoop up happiness in heavy heaps on a pitchfork. Wouldn’t that be heavenly? Wouldn’t everyone want to savor a little pile of appreciation, wonder, and pleasure in their back pocket to access as needed?

Picture the marketing slogans:
“Hey now, pay later.”
“Fresh hey everyday!”
“A diamond is forever, but hey is for today.”

Don’t we all know someone who could use some hey in their life? According to the National Institute of Health, 20 million people in America suffer from depression each year. That’s a lot of needed hey piles, to say the very least.

Each time I finally quit giggling from the absurdity in the ad, I’m thankful to know that my personal source of appreciation, wonder, and pleasure begins with prayer. It is the “hey” that centers me, and I can’t think of a bigger pile of joy than what God gives.

How precious is your constant love, O God! All humanity takes refuge in the shadow of your wings. You feed them with blessings from your own table and let them drink from your rivers of delight” Psalms 36:7-8.

Truly, He provides enough appreciation, wonder, and pleasure that I don’t need to purchase any from Craigslist.