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, April 30, 2010

Fictional Story: 1 Nephi 9:5-6

Nothing could be more hideous than my blue minivan. Okay, so something could be, but it had to be really bad. I stood on the side of the interstate and glared at the ugly hulk of blue that had embarrassed me by suddenly decelerating and then obstinately refused to start up again. My toddler sat in his car seat behind the driver's seat watching the cars speed by. I kicked at the passenger tire and muttered under my breath, "Stupid van."

At least I'd had the foresight to leave early for my OB appointment. When my mom arrived to rescue my son and I, I still had time to get to the doctor's. I drove my mom's new Pontiac Vibe to the appointment, enjoying the new smell, the cleanliness of the interior and the smooth sparkle of the flawless silver paint. It reminded me of my dream van--the van I'd been privileged to own for a mere fourteen months. That minivan had also been silver, with double sliding doors I could control with the touch of a button, an awesome radio system that let my kids listen to their music, while I enjoyed my own. Everyday that I drove my van, I discovered some new, wonderful trait that it possessed. Until my husband totaled it and the insurance company refused to cover it because he was unlicensed.

And now I was stuck driving the ghetto van, as my brothers liked to call it, because they were the lucky ones who got to work on it every time it broke down--which was often. Against my will I had learned such wonderful terms as distributor cap, power steering box, ignition box, and oxygen sensor; I could locate most of them and replace some of them. I suppose I might have been able to handle the van's continual problems if I had been the only person to suffer the consequences, but far too often I had one or more of my kids in the car, and I hated to see them sitting on the side of the road, imagining all the fun they were missing at their grandparents' house while we waited for someone to fix the van. And I couldn't stand to see their hot, sweaty faces as we drove around in the Phoenix heat with only minimal air flow in the front, and no rear A/C--not to mention the fact that the power windows refused to open.

Why would the Lord make us suffer so? What purpose was there to us being stuck with such a terrible vehicle? I had prayed often for the Lord to help us get a newer vehicle, something clean and reliable. Now, on my way to the doctor, I wondered again why my prayers went unanswered. Baby number six was due to join the family in a few weeks; how could I subject our new family member to the trauma of riding in the ghetto van?

But still our prayers went seemingly unheeded. Baby number six arrived, and we had to redo the entire front end of the van after a tire nearly slipped off. We bought battery powered fans and did our best to cope with the summer's tortuous temperatures. We Gorilla Glued the leak in the A/C unit, and replaced the power steering gaskets. And still I prayed for a newer vehicle.

I began to panic as the arrival of baby number seven neared. Although I had resigned myself to the ugly blue van, and even was able to recognize what a blessing it was to have any vehicle at all, the van only had room for eight passengers. When the baby came, we would be one seat short.

Finally, three months before my due date, the awaited miracle arrived. I found myself driving home in a nearly new, twelve-passenger van. I marveled at its new smell, its cleanliness, and the flawless shining white paint. And I spent days trying to convince myself that it was really mine. What wise purpose had the Lord had in mind as he had me wait all those years for what I wanted and needed?

Never have I cared for a vehicle as I care for the van. And from all of the selfless service people rendered to me when my car was broken, I have learned to share, to give back. I fill up those seats as often as I can.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Scripture Squiggle: 1 Nephi 9:5-6

"Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.
But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words. And thus it is. Amen."

It may have seemed a little strange to Nephi to have the Lord ask him to make a second record on a different set of plates when he had already kept a full record of his people. But he had learned to trust the Lord because He "knoweth all things from the beginning," and if the Lord said the second record was necessary, Nephi did not doubt Him. Nephi did not live to see the Lord's purpose accomplished, but we can be sure he later learned what that purpose was and was grateful that he had chosen to be obedient.

We are often asked to do things that don't make much sense. Instead of doubting the Lord, though, we should do our best to obey Him. Someday we may see the purpose behind the task, or the purpose may, as in Nephi's case, come after we have left this life. No matter which it may be, we can be sure that the Lord has a reason for asking us to do things, to suffer things, to endure, and our lives and the lives of others will be blessed for our obedience.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Fictional Story: Proverbs 15:4

Izabelle dropped her french fry onto her tray and covered her ears to block out the punch line of a dirty joke someone at her table was sharing with the group. She sighed as she retrieved her fry and stabbed it into a pool of ketchup. A woman a few seats away let out a string of profanity and everyone laughed. Izabelle abandoned her fry in its red bath and dumped her tray at the garbage.

The knots in her stomach remained as she left the break room and returned to work. If I only had to endure the language at lunch, I might survive. But I hear it out on the dock while I'm working, too. No one seems to respect the fact that I don't participate. With a shake of her head, she pushed her cart over to where she left off and began counting boxes of laundry soap on the first pallet. She enjoyed a brief fifteen minutes of peace until the unloader returned. The young man climbed onto his forklift and drove it into the trailer. On his first try he managed to poke a box of laundry soap with one of his forks. Cussing, inevitably followed.

Izabelle frowned and tried to block it out. That's it! I'm buying earplugs. She continued counting boxes of detergent and moved on to pallets of diapers, cringing every time a foul word disturbed the air. As she finished up her third pallet of diapers, the new girl Marcy approached her.

"Can you help me?" Marcy asked. "I pushed something I shouldn't have on this darn scanner and now it just beeps at me when I scan a barcode."

Izabelle took the scanner and began pushing buttons. While she messed with it, her unloader came over to tell her the trailer was empty and to give her the last of the paperwork. "I just have to clean up the..." The unloader swallowed and gave Marcy a sidelong glance. "Uh, I have to finish sweeping the spilled soap, so they can bring in another trailer."

"Okay." Izabelle studied the unloader for a minute as he walked away, certain that he'd been about to use an expletive until he looked at Marcy. She pushed a few more buttons on the scanner and then handed it back. "It should work now. Watch out for that yellow button on the left; it likes to mess everything up."

Over the next week, Izabelle observed how the other employees acted when Marcy was present. Everyone seemed to make a conscious effort to clean up their language, and if something did slip, they immediately apologized. Izabelle found that she wanted to be around Marcy as much as possible, so that she could be free of the bad language, too.

"Can you answer a question?" Izabelle asked Marcy one day when they were alone on the dock.

"Sure." Marcy smiled.

"Neither one of us uses profanity or tells off-colored jokes, so why is it that when you're around everyone keeps their language clean, but if it's just me, they talk vulgar and dirty?"

"Well, the first few days everyone spoke pretty much the way you say the do around you, but I told them that I didn't like it and asked if they would please not talk that way. By the end of my first week, everyone's language had improved."

"You asked them?" Izabelle mused. "I didn't even think of that. I figured that as long as I didn't participate they'd realize that I didn't like the way the talked."

Marcy patted Izabelle's arm. "Most often, people take silence to mean acceptance. If we don't voice our opinions, others will assume we share theirs." Marcy glanced at her watch. "It's just about break time; let's go let your opinion be known."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Scripture Squiggle: Proverbs 15:4

"A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit."

How very true this is! As long as we are not desensitized to swearing and foul language, we find ourselves turned away by its use. When I hear someone speaking in vulgar tongue, I want to be as far from them as I can possibly get--hopefully out of earshot. But I am drawn to those who use clean and uplifting language. Their words feed my soul and help me to feel closer to the Lord.

President Hinckley counselled "To each of you I say, be clean in your language. There is so much of filthy, sleazy talk these days. Failure to express yourself in language that is clean marks you as one whose vocabulary is extremely limited." (Ensign May 2007)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fictional Story: Alma 60:23

"I just can't figure it out. How many tries is it supposed to take to quit smoking?" Nathaniel asked his son Preston.

Preston shifted uncomfortably on the couch, and combed his fingers through his hair. "There's no set number. You just keep trying until it works."

Nathaniel shook his head. A few locks of dark brown hair streaked with gray fell over his forehead. "I don't know." He sighed. "Maybe I'm just too old and set in my ways."

"Old? You're a walking time-bomb, Dad. If you don't quit, you're likely to die of a heart attack. You'll just have to prove that you can teach old dogs new tricks." Preston bit his lip. "I've got to get going; I'll look some stuff up on the Internet for you. Maybe I'll find something that will help you out."

"Thanks, Prez. I appreciate all the help and support you provide." Nathaniel escorted his son to the door and watched him drive away.

As soon as he rounded the corner, Preston opened his glove box and pulled out his stash of Marlboros. He felt the tension began to seep out of his body as soon as he placed the cigarette between his lips, even though he had yet to light it. He flicked the lighter and drew the flame into the cigarette; after several puffs, he held the cigarette between his first two fingers and let it dangle out the window.

Guilt engulfed him. His father thought he had quit smoking years ago, and now he was looking for help with his own addiction. You won't be able to help him until you conquer your own problem. Preston shoved the thought aside. He's older, and his heart is bad. He needs to quit or he could die. I'm still young--I have plenty of time to quit. I'm just not ready. He sucked in another lungful of tobacco and blew the smoke out slowly.

When he arrived home, Preston sat at his computer, staring at the black screen. After nearly ten minutes he finally reached into the bottom drawer of his desk and pulled out a thick file folder. The folder held every bit of information he had ever found on quitting smoking. He had it all--nicotine patches, gum, hypnosis, prescription drugs, quitting support groups and websites, hot lines, and testimonials. When I'm ready, I'll know exactly how to do it. Preston flipped through some of the pages until he found some information he thought might help his dad. Then he sent his father an e-mail. The stress of his hypocrisy forced him to light up again.

Preston walked to the backyard and retrieved his hidden pack from the tool box in the shed. He was grateful that his wife, Loren, who also believed he'd quit smoking, had an appointment, so he could smoke in the comfort of his backyard instead of finding a reason to drive somewhere. Flipping the lid back, Preston counted his remaining cigarettes. Five? Now I'll have to figure out how to get some more, soon. His brow furrowed when he noticed a folded piece of paper tucked inside the carton.

He pulled it out and read in his wife's handwriting, although she'd tried to disguise it: Alma 60:23 Cleanse the inner vessel. Apparently I haven't been as sly as I thought. But if she knew, why didn't she confront me and toss out the cigarettes like she did before? Preston started to remove a cigarette from the carton, but then stopped. He replaced the carton in its hiding place and returned to the house. When he found his scriptures, he looked up the scripture from the note.

He read the verse and then went back and started at the beginning of the chapter. As he read about Moroni's struggles against the Lamanite army and the lack of support and supplies from the government, Preston began to see that he could not provide support for his father as long as he was held prisoner by his own addiction. He also saw that, although Pahoran could not fight off the king-men on his own, when he and Moroni joined together, they were able to defeat them.

Preston called his wife, knowing she wouldn't answer because of her meeting. "I'm ready to cleanse the inner vessel," he told her voice mail. Then he called his father.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Scripture Squiggle: Alma 60:23

"Do ye suppose that God will look upon you as guiltless while ye sit still and behold these things? Behold I say unto you, Nay. Now I would that ye should remember that God has said that the inward vessel shall be cleansed first, and then shall the outer vessel be cleansed also."

In this scripture, Moroni is lecturing Pahoran about his lack of support for the armies. While he is referring to the government as the inward vessel and the attacking Lamanites as the outer vessel, his words can apply to individuals as well. When I was reading this verse, I thought about those of us who are so quick to find fault in others but can't see it in ourselves--the whole let me pull the mote out of your eye without first removing the beam from mine scenario. It's great to see others' struggles and to want to help them overcome them, but you can't really help others unless you've dealt with any issues you have in your own life. And we definitely shouldn't find pleasure in others' struggles as Moroni feared the government was doing to the armies.

Where do we begin to cleanse the inner vessel? I suppose it starts by looking inward. When we find ourselves judging others, we should ask ourselves if maybe we have a problem with this as well. As we consistently turn our thoughts back upon ourselves, we will criticize those around us less and be more aware of our own shortcomings--those things we need to cleanse.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Fictional Story: 3 John 1:4

The breeze rustling through the pine trees lifted Lynette's hair from her shoulders and tossed it in her face. She brushed her hair aside and raised her face so the wind could wash over her. Glancing around, Lynette decided she'd found the spot she was looking for. A small cluster of trees yielded to an open space just large enough for her to kneel down. She cleared away some pine needles and a small pine cone and then slowly knelt in the soft dirt. Above her head, the tall trees swayed, the branches and needles whispered gently as the wind blew through them.

Lynette took a deep breath and pulled an envelope from the back pocket of her jeans. Before opening it, she examined her mother's looped, elegant writing on the front. Too bad I inherited Dad's chicken scratch. She stuck her finger under the flap, but stopped when she heard a noise nearby. Sister Jenkins had told them to find a quiet spot to read their letters, and Lynette didn't want to be disturbed. She peered around the trunk of one of the nearby trees and saw a flash of blue and red. Whoever it was, surely someone else attending Youth Conference, he or she was headed away from Lynette's location. Her attention returned to the envelope.

As she unfolded the letter, Lynette thought about what her mother may have written. Of course she'll tell me how proud she is of my grades and all of my hard work in school. And sports, too. She's so excited that I made varsity this year in Volleyball. She bit her lip and could feel her face turning red as her thoughts turned to Kyle. Will she mention Kyle and how cute we would be together? I can't wait until my birthday next month, when I can finally go on a date with him.

Smiling at herself, Lynette shook her head and began to read:

Dear Lynette,

I am so glad that the Lord trusted me enough to be your mother. Words cannot express the joy you bring into my life. As I watch you and the choices that you're making in your life, I am pleased that you are doing your best to rely on the Lord to help guide you. I see in everything that you do, that you know that you are a daughter of God. I am especially proud of your decision to listen only to uplifting music on Sunday, and really any day. You have no idea the influence that choice has had on your younger sister. She looks to you as a role model in her life. Your dress, appearance and demeanor are helping her determine her course.

Lynette, I know you're anxious to grow up and be a mother, but take your time in choosing who you want to be with for eternity. Little crushes may pass, but true, abiding love takes time to nurture and develop. You cannot know what you want, until you know what's out there. Get to know as many worthy young men as you can, so you can learn what you truly want from a marriage partner. You have plenty of time.

Again, my daughter, I am so grateful to see your wonderful testimony of the gospel of Christ. Continue to rely on Him throughout your life, and He will always be there to guide you along the path you should follow. I love you Lynette; always know that.

Love, Mom.

Lynette slid the letter back into the envelope. She moved from her knees to a sitting position, drawing her legs out in front and wrapping her arms around them. Resting her chin on her knees, she thought about what she'd read. With a sigh, she admitted to herself that she was disappointed. She'd wanted her mom to tell her how talented and beautiful she was. That she and Kyle would be together forever.

She looked up and watched the needles and pine cones dancing in the breeze. A few white clouds dotted the deep blue sky. A warm feeling crawled down her arms, leaving goosebumps behind. She brought her gaze back to the letter in her hands. Maybe mom knows that I already know how proud she is of me when it comes to sports and grades and all of that. She does tell me all the time. So maybe this other stuff is important to her, too. And I should keep doing my best to make her and Heavenly Father proud.

When Lynette stood up to return to the cabin and find out the next activity, the warm feeling stayed with her. She tucked the envelope back into her pocket, determined to place it safely in her journal, and to re-read it often.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Scripture Squiggle: 3 John 1:4

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth."

I know I feel absolutely wonderful when people tell me how amazing my children are, but it is especially poignant when the praise is spiritually related. I joy when my kids tell me of a challenge they faced at school and that their response to it was to pray. I love when they acknowledge the Lord's hand in their lives.

So do we warm the hearts of our Heavenly Parents when we walk in truth, obeying the Lord's commandments. Yes, He loves when we excel at our jobs, get good grades, and solve difficult problems. But His work and glory is our eternal salvation, so His greatest joy comes when we walk the path He has marked for us.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Fictional Story: Alma 31: 21-23

Corianton watched the Zoramite climb down from the high tower, his robe, ornamented with golden thread, shimmered as he moved. The sun sparkled on the man's jangling ringlets and bracelets.

"Wow, that's quite an outfit," Shiblon, Corianton's brother whispered to him.

"Yeah, the man can dress, but he sure is dumb." Corianton replied. "How can he think that he is saved yet in the same breath deny the Redeemer."

Shiblon looked to his father, Alma. "Father, where do they get these strange ideas?"

"Satan is very cunning. These people want to believe that they can be saved without any effort on their part. They want to justify their sins rather than forsake them." Alma's glance fell briefly on Corianton with his last words.

Corianton rolled his eyes. "How stupid. Won't they be surprised come judgement day!"

Alma looked again toward the Rameumptom. The first man had reached the bottom and a second man now ascended the tall ladder that lead to the top of the tower. His clothing was as elaborate as his fellow Zoramite's. When he reached the platform, the man stretched his hands up, as if reaching for heaven and began reciting the same prayer as the previous man.

Corianton snorted. "Not very creative are they?"

"Corianton," Alma chastised, "What have we been commanded concerning judging others?"

"I'm not judging them," Corianton protested, shaking his head. "They're condemning themselves with their blasphemy."

"I see the contempt in your eyes when you speak. You see these Zoramites as being less than you, sinners that deserve to feel the wrath of the Almighty." Alma paused to watch and listen as another Zoramite began his prayer. "When you condemn them, are you not ascending your own Rameumptom and thanking the Lord that you're saved and they are not?"

"Well, we do have the true gospel, don't we?"

"We do have the true gospel, yes. But we are only following it when we are humble and show charity to those around us. Corianton, these are precious souls, many of them are our brethren. We cannot merely mark them as lost and move on without even trying to bring them back to Christ."

Corianton took a deep breath. "Look at them, Father!" He gestured toward the tower and the people gathered around. "Do you really think they'll listen?"

"We all have our weaknesses, my son." Alma's blue eyes caught his son's gaze and held it. "We are all sinners in need of the Lord's redeeming love to save us. It matters not if they will listen, it only matters that we try, for their sake and our own."

Corianton looked away and said nothing.

"Come my son; climb down from your lofty thoughts, humble yourself. We have a mission to fulfill."