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...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Fictional Story: Alma 22: 33-34

Cassandra glanced at the clock and felt her pulse jump to a faster pace. Sophomore English was almost over. Soon the hallway would be filled with students headed to their next class, and if she was lucky, Cassandra would see him. Dusty Jenkins. Everyday, for the past two weeks, they had passed each other in the hall after first period, and everyday Dusty had smiled at her. She liked the way his dirty-blonde hair fell across his forehead, drawing attention to his blue eyes. Cassandra was certain she had never seen a more handsome boy in her life. The bell rang, and Cassandra quickly grabbed her books and shoved them into her backpack. Maybe today he'll talk to me.

Out in the sea of people, Cassandra looked hopefully around. Her heart dropped into her stomach when she spotted Dusty. He was smiling--and walking straight towards her.

"Hi," he said when he reached her.

"Hi." Cassandra barley managed to squeeze the word past her constricted throat.

"Are you going to the game tonight?"

"We play the Wolverines tonight; who isn't going?"

"Then maybe I'll see you there." Dusty smiled again and then disappeared into the crowd.

Cassandra thought her heart was going to pound its way out of her chest.

That night she dressed in her favorite jeans and her Rascal Flatts t-shirt. She curled her hair and put on a touch of lipstick. When her dad dropped her off at the school, her hands were shaking with nervousness. She didn't have to search long for Dusty. He was sitting with a large group of students up near the top of the bleachers. He stood up when he spotted her, waving for her to climb up and join him. Cassandra swallowed her nerves and headed up the stairs.

Dusty pushed one of his friends aside to make room for her. She sat beside him, and he draped his arm around her shoulders.

"You look great!" he whispered in her ear. Cassandra felt like she had just won a million dollars. She casually glanced around to see if any of her friends had arrived. Lori was sitting a few rows up and over. Cassandra caught her eye and gave her a little wave. Lori sent her a thumbs-up in return. Dusty turned away from her for a moment to talk to someone.

"Hey," he said when the other student left, "Do you want a cigarette?"

Cassandra's stomach began to knot up. She didn't smoke, and she never planned to. He's so cute, and maybe just once really wouldn't be too bad... But she had made this decision a long time before, and despite Dusty's good looks, she knew she couldn't change her mind. Okay, here's hoping being a good example makes me even more attractive. "No, thanks. I don't smoke."

"Well, you could start." Dusty smiled that gorgeous smile.

She shook her head. "No, I'd rather not."

Dusty's smile faded a little. "Do you drink?"

Feeling like a popped balloon, Cassandra replied, "No, I don't do that either."

"Oh." Dusty said, pulling his arm from around her shoulders.

Cassandra wiped her sweaty hands on her jeans and sighed. "I guess I'll go sit somewhere else."

She got up and walked down the steps and then behind the bleachers. She could hear Dusty's group above her, laughing and talking, and she could smell the potent smell of cigarette smoke. Are you crazy? Dusty liked you! All you had to do was smoke one lousy cigarette and you could have had the cutest boy in school for a boyfriend. You could always go back and tell him you've changed your mind, that for him, maybe you could try it.

She only managed a few steps before she stopped and shook her head. "No, I can't," She said softly to herself. "I made a promise to Sister Landers and Sister Polanski, but more importantly, I made a promise to the Lord." As she said the words, she found warm strength pouring into her body. Cassandra took a deep breath, walked back around to the front of the bleachers, waved at Dusty, and joined Lori to watch the game.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Scripture Squiggle: Alma 22:33-34

"And it came to pass that the Nephites had inhabited the land Bountiful, even from the east unto the west sea, and thus the Nephites in their wisdom, with their guards and their armies, had hemmed in the Lamanites on the south, that thereby they should have no more possession on the north, that they might not overrun the land northward.
Therefore the Lamanites could have no more possessions only in the land of Nephi, and the wilderness round about. Now this was wisdom in the Nephites--as the Lamanites were an enemy to them, they would not suffer their afflictions on every hand, and also that they might have a country whither they might flee, according to their desires."

Towards the end of Chapter 22, Mormon takes a break in telling the story of Aaron and King Lamoni's father so that he can describe the division of land between the Nephites and the Lamanites. Then in verses 33-34 he explains why it was important that the Nephites not allow any room for the Lamanites to encroach upon them. As I read these scriptures I realized that Mormon included this information, not only to help us better understand the affairs of the time, but also to remind us of a very important truth: Just as the Nephites realized that the Lamanites were their enemies and that it would be dangerous to allow them any access to their lands, or even the land around them, we should remember that Satan is our enemy and we should not give him access to our lives.
The Nephites didn't stop with prevention, though. They also had a plan just in case the Lamanites did manage to sneak in--their plans included room for them to flee away from the Lamanites. If the Lamanites did attack them, they knew in advance where they could flee for safety. We should follow this example when dealing with Satan and his followers and prepare in advance what our responses will be when faced with temptations and choices.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fictional Story: Ether 12:4

(Based on true events)

Audra sat in her rocking chair, the envelope on her lap. The sun danced across her face, in and out, as the scattered clouds hurried toward the mountains. She didn't realize she was crying until a tear dropped onto the envelope; she quickly brushed it away. I never imagined it would be like this. My last child leaving home--my oldest daughter's basement--and me alone.

Her glance moved from the envelope to the framed picture on the small table at her side. Picking it up, she held it to her breast. Oh, Rayce, this isn't how we planned it back then. She set the picture down, remembering how everything in 1946 had been perfect--a nice house, their first child, a baby girl, joining the family, Rayce earning a good paycheck. Life was everything she had ever wanted--except for the fear that it would all end.

When the missionaries came to her door, Audra found the peace she was looking for. She knew her family could last forever. But with the truth, came trials: more children than we had house, a teen pregnancy, financial struggles, and then... Audra shook her head. And then I lost you, Rayce, with our youngest barely three years old.

Looking back down at the envelope in her lap, Audra sighed. It was easier when we faced the hard times together. I know this is the right thing to do; I just have no idea how I'm going to do it. Audra slowly removed the letter and read it again. What had her daughter said when she brought in the mail yesterday and handed her the envelope? 'Surely the Lord will send him to one of the least expensive missions--He knows you're struggles.'

Chad had opened his mission call later that night when he got home from playing basketball with some friends. "Japan?" He looked at his mother and cocked his head.

Audra had smiled at him and patted his hand. "I'm sure you'll fit right in."

"Oh yeah, I'm sure the country is crawling with 6 foot 3 blue-eyed blondes!"

They had talked for nearly an hour before Chad finally decided to go to bed. He was filled with excitement and joy at his opportunity to serve the Lord. Audra had said nothing about the cost.

She refolded the letter and returned it to its envelope. "Japan?" she asked quietly. "One of the most expensive missions? How can I ever afford to send him there, Lord?" Just as she was about to yield to her overwhelming desire to sob, she heard a voice, so much like Rayce's, whisper, "Search the scriptures, Audra; they've never failed you before."

Audra found her Book of Mormon and randomly opened it. Her eyes were drawn to a verse highlighted in red pencil: "And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith."

As she read, Audra cried, not sobbing tears of despair, but quiet tears of gratitude. This is definitely a trial of my faith. But the Lord has never failed me; always he has been at my side, guiding me and uplifting me, anchoring me to the truth. It may not be easy, but I know somehow we'll make it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Scripture Squiggle: Ether 12: 4

"Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God."

When I was a teenager, we had this scripture as our theme for Girls' Camp. Each girl had a camp necklace that we added beads to every year as well as special pieces to commemorate our hikes, accomplishments, and our theme. That year we received little wooden anchors to put on our necklaces. I was also serving as a stake youth camp director; the two youth directors were given large plastic anchors attached to a plastic chain with ribbons the color of the YW values tied around them. I can't read this verse without seeing in my mind my little wooden anchor and my large plastic anchor. I love the image they give me--that my faith in Christ serves as the anchor that prevents my ship from straying off course, even in the fiercest winds of life, the slapping waves of trials, and the subtle currents of worldly ways that would try to pull us away from the Savior.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fictional Story: Alma 33:23

Becca touched the dry, withered stick poking out of the ground--all that was left of the peach tree she had planted three months before. What happened? The tiny branch broke beneath her hand and she stared at in disbelief. I watered you and gave you plant food; what else did you need?

She remembered the day she brought the small tree home; it wasn't much more than a stick then either, but it did have a few leaves growing on the little branches. Becca had carefully dug a hole, following the directions that came with her new tree, eased it into its new home, and tended it with vitamin B, as her mom had instructed. Images of deep-red peaches ripening in the sun filled her mind. When she was little, she had loved her family's peach trees. Their sturdy branches had provided the shade for the small fort she built, as well as safety when she needed to hide from her brother, who never tired of tickling and tormenting her. But mostly she enjoyed the fruit of the tree, the fuzzy, juicy peaches that she would pluck and eat, juice dripping down her chin.

Her tree was small; she would need to care for it for years before any peaches grew, but the memory of childhood peaches inspired her--she was ready to do whatever was necessary to help her little tree survive and someday grow peaches of its own. The first two weeks she kept the ground moist, watering everyday. Once she was sure it was adapting to its new environment, she switched to alternating days. Becca was happily rewarded as the branches began to sprout fragile green buds.

The weather moved from gentle spring days to harsh summer heat. Becca again watered her tree everyday to combat the unrelenting sunshine. Until the water bill arrived. Ouch! Watering the tree had almost doubled her bill. She considered her watering habits and decided to cut back. She reasoned that as long as the tree got water every other day, it would be alright. Maybe she would give it a little on days where it got extra hot.

Becca started her new routine and was pleased to see that her tree was still green. But after a few weeks the leaves began to wither, turning pale and crispy. They crumbled beneath her touch. Panicked, she again reverted to everyday watering; this time, however, she cut the watering time in half, so even though the tree was recieving water daily, the amount was unchanged. The little peach tree continued to die.

Fearing for her tree, Becca increased the water, but it was too late. Now it stood before her, a withered stick. The dry branch in her hand was all the evidence she needed. She had neglected her tree, had put other things before it, and now it was dead.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Scripture Squiggle: Alma 33:23

"And now, my brethren, I desire that ye shall plant this word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye will. Amen."

I love Alma's comparison of the word of God to a seed. Working as a ward missionary the past few months, I have found great joy in seeing those who have accepted the gospel grow in their faith and testimony. As they nourish their tender roots in the gospel, they are growing stronger, stretching out and reaching for more light and knowledge. The trials and experiences that they were having before they joined the Church have not disappeared, but as Alma promised, their burdens have become lighter because of their hope in Christ.

We all need to remember to nourish our testimonies to keep them alive and flourishing, for our testimonies will sustain us when life is darkest.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Fictional Story: Helaman 3:21; 5:5-7

As yet another driver cut in front of me in a hurry to be somewhere, I was certain the city was holding multiple bad-driver conventions. Again I wished I were the type of person to use rude hand gestures, but I had to be content with complaining about the driver's stupidity to the only person who would listen--me. The reason I was on the road had already soured my mood--a third trip to the cardiologist just to be told the results were inconclusive. Don't people spend eternity in school to become a doctor? With all that knowledge they should be able to figure things out pretty quickly--I'm certainly paying them enough.

So the rude driver situation merely made my attitude grouchier. Looking out my window, I didn't see the mountains; I saw the smog. All the happy songs on the radio grated on my nerves. And the next red light was just one more thing trying to slow my arrival home. That particular traffic light had a long cycle, so I angrily stared out the windshield at the car in front of me.

My gaze fell to the bumper sticker on the left side of the car. It said, "What would Jesus do?" At first I only read the sticker because my eyes landed on it, and that's what literate people do when they see words--they read them. Then after a minute the words made their way into my consciousness. I started to think about my attitude and how I had allowed the events of the day and drive to control me and how I felt. As I thought of my Savior and all He had done for me, I began to feel better, and I was grateful for the bumper sticker for reminding me about what was important.

The light changed to green and I drove through the intersection with a new outlook. But a short distance later I saw the bumper-sticker-bearing car cut off another car. That car switched lanes, right in front of me, and started yelling at the driver of the first car. The two drivers shouted back and forth until the bumper-sticker car turned right and drove away.

I wondered if the driver remembered that he had that sticker on the back of his car, or if he had stuck it on so long ago, that he hardly even noticed its presence. Then I thought again of myself, and my earlier negativity. Had it been so long since I had taken upon me the name of Christ that I had forgotten that I had done so? Was I, like the driver, misrepresenting Jesus? As I pulled into my driveway, I determined to replace my spiritual bumper sticker, and to keep replacing it, so that I would not forget again.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Scripture Squiggle: Helaman 3:21; 5:5-7

"And it came to pass that he had two sons. He gave unto the eldest the name of Nephi, and unto the youngest, the name of Lehi. And they began to grow up unto the Lord."

"For they remembered the words which their father Helaman spake unto them. And these are the words which he spake: Behold, my sons, I desire that ye should remember to keep the commandments of God; and I would that ye should declare unto the people these words. Behold, I have given unto you the names of our first parents who came out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I have done that when you remember your names ye may remember them; and when ye remember them ye may remember their works; and when ye remember their works ye may know how that is is said, and also written, that they were good. Therefore, my sons, I would that ye should do that which is good, that it may be said of you, and also written, even as it has been said and written of them."

Helaman chose his sons' names carefully. He wanted them to remember the examples of Nephi and Lehi and try to pattern their lives after these valiant men. As I read these verses I thought of my own children and the names my husband and I chose for each of them. Each name has meaning to us and we have tried to share these special meanings with our children, as Helaman shared with his sons. But I was also reminded of another name, not a name that we are given, but a name that we earn through the waters of baptism--the name of Christ.

Nephi and Lehi, Helaman's sons, were wonderful representatives of their Savior's name. Helaman 11:18-19 tell us that the people "did esteem [Nephi] as a great prophet, and a man of God, having great power and authroity given unto him from God. And behold, Lehi, his brother, was not a whit behind him as to things pertaining to righteousness." Through their faithfullness, the people were brought back to the Lord and peace was established in the land.

We don't have to be prophets to represent Christ. Jesus allows all of us who join his Church to be called after his name, to be an example to others and show the way unto him. Yet how often do we remember that we have this responsibility?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Fictional Story: Mormon 9:15-16

Bonnie held her breath as she lowered her sleeping baby girl into the crib, praying that she wouldn't wake up the second she touched the mattress. She pulled her hands from under the sleeping form slowly, but the child still squirmed for a few seconds before settling down with a sigh. Relieved, Bonnie glanced heavenward. Thank you, Father.

The letter rested on top of the pile of bills on the counter; it rustled as she walked by, as if to remind her of its existence. Bonnie didn't have to read it; the threat pounded against her mind, worrying her every second since its arrival--take care of the weeds in the yard by the end of the month or face eviction. She had been working hard on the weeds all month, pulling each one by hand every day, when she could get her daughter to nap. The southern Arizona heat was too much even for Bonnie; she didn't dare take her baby out into it.

Now the last day of the month had arrived. Even though it was barely 11 am, the temperature had already climbed to 108 degrees. The last of the weeds waited for Bonnie on the south side of the house, where the sun shone in full force. The house couldn't shield her today.

Bonnie grabbed her thin cloth garden gloves and a plastic shopping bag then opened the door just wide enough to slip out. The heat slammed against her, weighing her down. But she smiled when she saw the thin line of shade cast by the neighbor's palm tree. It's better than nothing! I'll start there. She knelt in the shade and began pulling the weeds, shoving them into the bag. Occasionally, she had to coax loose strands of hair back behind her ears, and sweat trickled down her nose and dripped onto the ground. She finished the first area and moved a short distance to the west.

She was half-way done when she realized that the shade was following her. Bonnie was filled with gratitude as she gazed at the palm tree. The Lord put that palm tree there, knowing that on this scorching day, it would protect me from the sun and allow me to finish my work. She felt a warm feeling of love embrace her. Thank you, Father.