what is a squiggle?

According to fifth-grade teacher Mrs. Hill, a squiggle is a beginning point, a small, wiggly line on a page with the potential to become something more--a brilliantly drawn fifth-grade picture!

A beginning point. A silly phrase from my preschooler, my teenager rolling his eyes, or my kindergartner deleting my entire 3rd chapter...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Scripture Squiggle: Mormon 9:15-16

"And now, O all ye that have imagined up unto yourselves a god who can do no miracles, I would ask of you, have all these things passed, of which I have spoken? Has the end come yet? Behold I say unto you , Nay; and God has not ceased to be a God of miracles.
"Behold, are not the things that God hath wrought marvelous in our eyes? Yea, and who can comprehend the marvelous works of God?"

Sometimes, even as members of the Church, I think we tend to look for miracles as big things--the unexpected arrival of a large sum of desperately needed money, a fatal illness cured, an amazing survival from a car crash. As we look for these big miracles, we often miss the little miracles that God blesses our lives with. Elder David A. Bednar, in his April 2005 Conference address, called these little miracles "tender mercies of the Lord."

These tender mercies can do so much more to strengthen our faith than those large miracles. Laman and Lemuel saw big miracles many times--they saw angels, felt the shocking power of the Lord, and witnessed the Lord's wrath on the sea--but these did nothing to convert them. the tender mercies are harder to see; we have to really be looking for them to notice them in our lives, and recognize the source they spring from. By finding the small miracles the Lord blesses us with, we find our faith, our testimony of His love for us.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Fictional Story: Mosiah 25:11

Ron Pattersen peeked out the window when he heard a loud crash and a female voice yelling. When he saw Kelly Haug, his next door neighbor, he let the blind slat slide back into place and rolled his eyes. Kelly, again, I don't know how Nathan tolerates her, even when she's sober. Nathan, Kelly's husband, worked with Ron at the nuclear plant; he was a quiet, hard working man. So different from his wife. Ron shook his head and grabbed his briefcase. Outside, Ron found Nathan gathering spilled trash and tossing it back in the garbage can.

"Is everything okay?" Ron asked as he picked up an empty glass bottle.

"Yeah, everything's fine." Nathan ducked his head as he spoke, refusing to meet Ron's eyes.

Why doesn't he just leave her? Ron kept his thoughts to himself while they finished cleaning up and then the two of them left for work in Ron's car.

An hour later, Kelly stood at the Pattersen's door, knocking quietly. She rubbed her hands together nervously as she waited. When Pauline, Ron's wife, opened the door, she greeted her neighbor with a smile and invited her in.

Kelly brushed at her graying hair and sighed as she sank onto the sofa. Pauline sat beside her, putting one arm around her shoulders.

"I don't know why he stays with me." Kelly twisted her hands and bit on her lip.

"Because he sees what you can be." Pauline replied. "Keep trying, Kell, you'll get it right. How many days did you go this time?"

Kelly smiled, pride lighting her face, proving that she could still be beautiful. "Ten. I made it ten!"

"Then don't you give up. I know Nathan is there for you. Do it for both of you; you can beat this!"

"Thank you, Pauline, it really helps to know you're here for me."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Scripture Squiggle: Mosiah 25:11

"And again, when they thought upon the Lamanites, who were their brethren, of their sinful and polluted state, they were filled with pain and anguish for the welfare of their souls."

King Mosiah had just finished reading the records of Zeniff and the account of Alma and his followers after they fled from King Noah. The people of King Mosiah experienced mixed emotions over what they heard. This verse shows their sorrow over the Lamanites. Yes, the Lamanites are their brethren, but they are also their enemies. Yet, the Nephites were not merely sad about the Lamanites' sinfulness, they were "filled with pain and anguish." I know I'm not usually very bothered when I hear that bad things have happened to bad people, or even to someone I don't particularly like. Usually, at these times, I hear that inner voice that tells me I'm a better person and they deserve what they got.

These Nephites were true followers of Jesus; they had charity. Instead of allowing the Lamanites' wickedness to make them feel better about themselves and justify any actions they had to take in defending themselves against them, they worried over their souls, fearing for their eternal salvation.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Fictional Story: 1 Nephi: 17:41

Lehi walked slowly down to the seashore. He was anxious to see how far the boat building had come, but he was also worried about his sons--not Nephi with his obedience and quiet strength, but his older brothers, Laman and Lemuel. Those two were quick to disbelieve, with a gift for pointing out the weaknesses in others. As if on cue, Lehi heard his two older sons' raised voices carried on the breeze off the water. Their tones were taunting.

"Thou art like unto our father, led away by the foolish imaginations of his heart..." The gust died out and took the rest of Laman's and Lemuel's ridicule with it. Lehi shook his head; his heart felt tight with familiar disappointment. He loved his two stubborn sons, but so far he had found no way to reach them, at least not permanently.

When he finally reached the edge of the trees, Lehi stopped. Laman and Lemuel were sitting on logs, dragging sticks through the sand as the casually listened to Nephi lecture them. Although he could feel the Spirit of the Lord in his son's words, Lehi could tell that Laman and Lemuel did not.

"For they hardened their hearts, even as ye have; and the Lord straitened them because of their iniquity. He sent fiery flying serpents among them and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished."

How right, Nephi is. Lehi thought to himself. They have hardened their hearts. Looking to the Lord and putting our trust in him and his gospel is such a simple task, but they refuse to raise their eyes that they might not perish. Instead they allow themselves to be bitten by the temptations of that serpent, Satan.

Lehi turned away from the scene before him: Laman and Lemuel's angry faces as Nephi continued to teach them, the beginnings of the boat the Lord had commanded Nephi to build, and the soft lapping of the water against the sand. Maybe, if we, like the water pulling on the sand, never stop trying to turn them to the Lord, they will one day Look.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Scripture Squiggle: 1 Nephi 17:41

"And he did straiten them in the wilderness with his rod; for they hardened their hearts, even as ye have; and the Lord straitened them because of their iniquity. He sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished."

Up until a baptism I attended a few weeks ago, I had always thought that "straiten" meant that the Lord got them back on a straight path, figuring that the missing "gh" was some strange biblical spelling. But at this baptism, someone pointed out that "straiten" means to put in a difficult situation, to narrow or confine. The iniquity of the Israelites caused the Lord to straiten them; He sent serpents that made their lives difficult. Such is the nature of sin. When we stray from the path that the Lord has set for us, we actually limit our freedom and "straiten" ourselves by creating more difficult circumstances for ourselves than we would have faced without the sin. But just as the Lord provided a way to free the Israelites from the serpents' bites, He provided a way for us to be freed from our sins--the atonement of Jesus Christ.

To be cured, the Israelites had to do no more than look upon the brass serpent that the Lord had commanded Moses to make. They didn't have to profess belief, change their ways, dye their hair, build a monument...they just had to look upon it.

Bishop H. Burke Peterson said, "May I suggest that the steps we can take to dispel fear and bring peace and power are really very simple. The teachings of the gospel are not complicated. They are not hard to understand. They need not be confusing" (Ensign May 1975)

We tend to make the gospel more complicated than it really is; we get caught up in activities, meetings, scouts, choirs, etc. and forget the simple cure that comes from reading our scriptures, praying, and striving to know Jesus.

Elder Rex D. Pinegar counseled, "Just as a few simple elements combined in a proper way form a sturdy foundation for a house, so do the simple teachings of the gospel bond together to make a strong foundation for our lives" (Ensign Nov. 1994)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Not-so-Fictional Story: Moroni 8:16

As I pondered what to write in relation to Tuesday's scripture, I really struggled to come up with an appropriate story. My original plan was to direct my readers to a story I heard as a child that illustrated the Savior's love for us, but I didn't feel right about this option. This morning I visited a blog put together by a friend of mine from college. She and her husband were unable to have children of their own, so they chose to adopt. They currently have two beautiful boys and are looking to adopt a third child. Reading through their adoption story, I found tears in my eyes--I'm not one to break down and cry very easily--as I considered the sacrifice of a birth mother who gives her child up for adoption. The love these mothers have for their children is greater than the fear and sorrow they must face when they hand their babies over to a new family. They realize that their sacrifice will bring a chance for a better future, not just for their children, but for the families that are formed through their loss. How like the Lord's love for us! Our Heavenly Father ached for His First Born Son as he suffered in Gethsemane and then upon the cross. But Father knew that through Jesus' sacrifice, each of us gained a chance for a better life and an eternal family. So He gave up His son.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Scripture Squiggle: Moroni 8:16

"...I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear."

After reading this last part of verse 16 I pondered on the idea of perfect love. My first thoughts were that perfect love was when we had perfect love for the Father and His Son. This made sense because when we center our lives on the Savior and His Eternal Plan for us, we don't fear man. But then I began to think about the words themselves: perfect love. Perfect isn't a word that the Lord uses in describing us as we are now, but as we can eventually become. But we are told that this perfect love can help us during our mortal life to not be afraid. So who is perfect? Only Jesus Christ. Is this verse then talking about Jesus' perfect love, not about our love for the Lord, but the Lord's love for us? Today, our world is filled with many things that can cause us to fear--we worry about wicked men and women harming those we love, illness, war, all things that are beyond our control. But through the Savior's perfect love for us, through his willingness to suffer and die on our behalf, we do not have to fear this things. We know that pain, sorrow, death, and everything else we have no control over are temporary, thanks to the Savior.

In this season of giving, let's remember the ultimate gift of perfect love.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Book Review: "Family Home Evening Adventures" by Rebecca Irvine

I've been holding FHE in my home for nearly fifteen years, and I have to admit, a quality, preplanned lesson is a mother's best friend. In her new book Family Home Evening Adventures Rebecca Irvine provides twelve wonderful time saving lessons. As I read through each lesson, I became excited at the prospect of teaching each one; the activities were easy, yet attention keeping, and I loved the fact that the lessons provided ample opportunity for incorporating the scriptures. Rebecca makes it easy to adapt her lessons for younger or older children.

In her introduction, Rebecca offers some sound advice on advance planning FHE lessons for the year and even provides a guide sheet for accomplishing this. I can't wait to fill it out!

Rebecca shows a great understanding of children and their learning needs. I tried her December lesson out on my family and was very pleased with the results. My older children loved looking up the verses and reading them aloud and the younger children couldn't wait to move Mary and Joseph along the path to Bethlehem. In fact, my eight-year old, who is often quiet and reserved during FHE, was volunteering to read and answer questions.

Anyone striving to teach their children gospel truths can benefit from Family Home Evening Adventures.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fictional Story: Alma 14:26

When Alma finished speaking, Amulek felt a warm power flow through his arms. He pressed against the strong cords that encircled his wrists and the ropes snapped apart. Bending down, he tugged on the bonds around his ankles and they, too, broke free. Amulek looked at Alma and saw the pile of torn cords lying on the ground at his feet. He opened his mouth to ask Alma a question but before he could utter a single word a loud rumble shook the prison. The chief judge of Ammonihah and the teachers and lawyers, who only minutes before had smitten them and mocked them as they stood helplessly bound, had now fallen to the earth, frozen into fear, unable to exit the prison.

The prison walls swayed and cracks began to spiderweb through the structure. The men on the floor screamed in terror as pieces of stone and wood crumbled down upon them. Groaning with the Lord's anger, the earth continued to shake until the entire prison lay in ruins; everyone within its walls slain, except for Amulek and Alma.

When they emerged from the dust that rose from the rubble, Amulek turned to Alma. "How did you know that the Lord would answer your prayer to free us, when He chose to take the women and children unto Himself?"

Alma's lips pressed into a thin line at the mention of the martyred believers. "Through the Spirit. The Lord whispered to my soul that our mission is not yet complete. He told me his will, and that is what I prayed for."

Amulek sighed, "Will I ever be so in tune with the Spirit?"

Resting his hand on Amulek's shoulder, Alma replied, "Your testimony is still young. Nurture it, allow it to grow. As you do this, you will learn to recognize the Spirit every time it speaks to you."

A crowd had gathered around them, but as the dust began to settle and the people realized that the chief judge and his fellowmen were dead, they fled in fear from Alma and Amulek. Alma again addressed his companion. "Even now the Spirit speaks. We must leave this city at once."

Amulek nodded, the slightest hint of contentment touched his mouth. "This time, I feel it as well."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Scripture Squiggle: Alma 14:26

"And Alma cried, saying: How long shall we suffer these great afflictions, O Lord? O Lord, give us strength according to our faith which is in Christ, even unto deliverance. And they broke the cords with which they were bound; and when the people saw this, they began to flee, for the fear of destruction had come upon them."

When I read this verse, two things came to mind. The first was that Joseph Smith pleaded to the Lord in a similar way while imprisoned in Liberty Jail (D&C 121). The second thing was the fact that Alma and Amulek had just witnessed the deaths of the innocent wives and children of those men who had believed on their words. As I thought of these two things, I wondered how a person knows what to pray for. How do we know what the will of the Lord is? When Joseph Smith prayed, wondering how long the Lord would allow the Saints to suffer at the hands of their enemies, he was in prison, but he did not ask for the Lord to give him strength to break out. Did he know that was not the Lord's will at the time?

In the earlier verses, when Mormon relates the burning of the wives and children he shares a conversation between Alma and Amulek. Amulek knew that through the power of the priesthood, he and Alma could stretch forth their hands and save the innocent people from their cruel death. But Alma told Amulek "the Spirit constraineth me." So how was it that Alma could pray for their own release but not the release of those women and children? The answer lies is found in another scripture: Helaman 10:5. In this verse the Lord tells Nephi, the son of Helaman, that whatever he prays for he will get, because "thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will." Helaman, as Alma, achieved a oneness with the Lord that he was able to know what the Lord's will was. Alma knew that the Lord had good reason for allowing the innocent people to die (so He could hold their lives against the wicked, see Alma 14:11); he also knew that the Lord desired for him and Amulek to escape, so that is what he prayed for.

So, if we want to know what to pray for, I suppose we'd better learn the will of the Lord!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ficitional Story: Ether 15:34

Moroni looked up from his abridgment of the Jaredite record. The land was empty and barren around him, much as the land must have looked to Ether as he followed the Lord's command, slipping from his hiding place to view the bodies scattered everywhere, the complete destruction of his people. Moroni closed his eyes, seeing within his mind, his own scene of destruction--the men under his command, all slain, most of the other chief captains and their men, dead, his own father, lying wounded among them.
"Twenty-four." he whispered. "Twenty-four survivors, and of them, only I remain." He felt a great weight of loneliness settle over him, and he slumped forward with sadness. "My father," he sighed, "how you loved and served our people, trying with all your power to bring them back to the Lord. And for naught--the Nephites are no more."
Looking back at the plates on his knees, Moroni realized he now sat in shadows. He shifted positions to catch the last lingering rays of daylight so he could finish his work. As the sun sets on the day, so does the Lord to the wicked. He sighed again and began reading the last few lines of Ether's record. As he read, Moroni was filled with warmth, as if the sun had risen again, but this time within his soul. He recognized the Spirit of the Lord as it burned inside of him, bringing with it comfort, dispelling his loneliness. He let his eyes drift shut, savoring the glorious feeling. Although I am alone, through Ether's words, the Lord has reminded me that He is always with me. To complete his abridgment, Moroni added Ether's final words to the plates: "Whether the Lord will that I be translated, or that I suffer the will of the Lord in the flesh, it mattereth not, if it so be that I am saved in the kingdom of God. Amen."
Moroni set the plates carefully in between to large boulders within his hiding place, so they would not easily be found. He spread out his blankets and knelt upon them, thanking the Lord for his gift of comfort and the inspiration He had provided to help Moroni know what to include in his record. Now others who feel alone can also draw comfort as I did from Ether's words and know that they are never truly alone.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Scripture Squiggle: Ether 15:34

"Now the last words which are written by Ether are these: Whether the Lord will that I be translated, or that I suffer the will of the Lord in the flesh, it mattereth not, if is so be that I am saved in the kingdom of God. Amen."

This is Moroni speaking. After bidding farewell at the end of his father's record, Moroni decided to abridge the Jaredite record. Moroni was alone at this time, without family or friends, hunted by the Lamanites. How these words of Ether's must of comforted his soul! He knew that he was not the only person who had wandered alone. Did he thrill to know that the Lord was aware of him and had guided him to these words of comfort? This scripture is only one verse, but it yields so much about Moroni, about his feelings and testimony. Study it--what do you find?

What is a Scipture Squiggle?

In fifth grade, my teacher used "squiggle stories" to promote creativity and enhance our writing skills. Each week she handed out papers with a few squiggly lines on them for us to turn into a picture and then write a story about the picture. This activity is what sparked my desire to be a writer. In my first novel, "Abish: Faith Among the Lamanites," I drew from four verses found in Alma 19 to create a fictional story designed to uplift and inspire--these four verses were my scripture squiggle, the basis for my story.