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...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Scripture Study Tip: Scripture Mapping

Many years ago, in a Sunday School class, I learned a fun method that helps me to get more out of my scripture reading: scripture mapping. The concept is really very simple. First, find the main idea of the chapter(s) or verse(s) you've read; put this in the center of a blank piece of paper. From the main point, branch off with secondary information. Add pictures or symbols if this make things easier for you. This map can serve as a reminder later on of what the chapter or verse was about and help you better retain the information that you've read. The map I've included is one my husband did on Genesis Chapter 3 (he's far more creative than I am, so I thought I'd share his work, rather than mine!).

***As a side note, I will not be posting a new scripture squiggle until 7/13.***

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fictional Story 1 Nephi 2:15 Conclusion

Janessa didn't feel like going to church. Even though she had made her choice, and she knew that the true gospel was worth the sacrifice she had made, she didn't want to see the other young women whispering and giggling with each other while she sat alone. I'll just stay for Sacrament, and then I'll slip out. No one will miss me, and I can enjoy the weather out in the grass near the back parking lot until everything is over and still get a ride with Sister Kirk.

Her favorite part of the meeting was always during the passing of the sacrament, when the sacrament hymn continued to hum away in her mind, and she could feel the spirit wrap its arms around her. By the time the closing song ended and the closing prayer was said, Janessa's desire to continue to feel close to the Lord was almost enough to override her previous decision. But when Cara and Michelle walked past her, leaning together and talking in hushed voices, completely unaware that Janessa was even there, she chose to stick with her plan.

Janessa sat on the grass with her legs underneath her and pulled out her Book of Mormon. She flipped it open and began reading on the page it landed on. When her tears started to wet the pages, though, she closed the book and stared down at the grass. She didn't see Cara step out of the building, stop when she saw Janessa sitting in the grass, and then turn around and go back inside.

Wiping the tears from the cover of the book, Janessa sighed. Why did I have to accept this book from the Sisters when they came by that day? If I hadn't learned the truth, I wouldn't be here, friendless and lonely. Janessa reopened the book and again started to read. But I wouldn't know of my Savior's love for me, either.

She read for nearly an hour, completely engrossed in the story of Alma and Amulek. After reading about Alma healing Zeezrom, Janessa paused to stretch her back. As she was again picking up her book, Cara walked over and sat down about a foot away. She plucked at the grass and glanced at Janessa.

"I should've come over earlier, but you looked so sad, and I didn't know what to say." Cara said, studying the blades of grass she'd pulled from the ground. "Was it something one of us said?"

"No." Janessa replied. "Not intentionally, I guess. Well," she sighed, "my best friend decided not to be my friend anymore because I joined the Church, so I've been feeling a little lost around all of you who are already friends and don't seem to need me."

"Oh." Cara thought of Michelle, her own best friend, and felt grateful that she shared her beliefs. "Well, we do all know each other, but that's because we've been around each other so much--every Sunday, at Wednesday night activities, and at Girls' Camp and firesides." Cara paused. "We can't get to know you if you don't come to Young Womens."

Janessa didn't respond. She looked down at her hands, thinking of Iris and all of the fun they'd had over the years. She felt tears threatening again and squeezed her eyes shut. She nearly jumped when Cara gripped her hand.

"We want to get to know you, Janessa." Cara stood up and pulled Janessa to her feet, too. "Come on, Sister Canfield always finds a way to make food part of the lesson." She smiled.

Janessa shrugged. "Okay. I am feeling a little hungry."

Cara laughed.

I suppose life can go on without Iris. The spirit wrapped a warm blanket around Janessa as she hurried into the church building.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fictional Story: 1 Nephi 2:15 continued

A slight breeze lifted Janessa's braids from her neck as she stood on Iris's front porch. The weather was perfect for their usual back-together activities. Janessa licked her lips and swallowed her fear as she raised her hand to knock. Instead of the usual bubble of excitement she felt on the morning of Iris's return, Janessa felt her stomach twisting in nervous knots.

"Hello, Janessa!" Iris's mother greeted her with a smile. "Iris wasn't sure you'd be here today. She'll need a few minutes to get dressed; would you like to come in?"

Janessa shook her head. "It's a beautiful morning; I'll just wait out here."

Iris's mother disappeared back into the house, and Janessa sat down on the top of the porch steps. With each second that passed, she was certain that Iris was going to refuse to see her. She brushed at her denim capris and rested her elbows on her knees. After what seemed to be an eternity, the door behind Janessa creaked open, and Iris joined her on the stairs.

"Hey Nessa," she said quietly.

"Hey yourself."

Iris didn't look at Janessa; instead she stared off into the distance. "I told you not to come."

"I know." Janessa rubbed at her fingernails. "I just couldn't let years of friendship end with an email. I had to see you, to know that that's how you really felt."

Iris pursed her lips. "You've changed a lot, you know."

Janessa shook her head, her braids dancing around her ears. "You keep saying that, but I don't see it. I'm the same girl I've always been. I still love basketball, still want to go to NAU with you. Our plans are still the same."

"No, they're not the same! You don't get it. This new religion has changed you. And because of it, we can't be friends anymore--and that changes everything."

Grabbing Iris's face and forcing her to look at her, Janessa demanded, "Stop dodging the truth, Iris. I deserve to know what's really behind this. Give me the truth and I'll leave you alone."

Iris pushed Janessa's hands away and clenched her teeth. She stared hard at Janessa for a while before she finally answered. "People have seen you hanging out with girls that aren't good for our image. Like that girl that walks funny."

Janessa sighed. "Her name is Jeana, and she only walks like that because she was in an car accident when she was a toddler. She's really a very nice person; we have a lot in common. You'd probably get along really well with her."

"See what I mean?" Iris jumped up. "People like her are going to drag you down, and I won't let you take me with you."

"How does me talking to Jeana drag you down?"

"Shayla has noticed you hanging out with her, and with other losers, too."

Janessa leaned her head back and drew in a deep breath. "Since when do you care what Shayla thinks?"

Iris narrowed her eyes. "Marcus noticed, too."

Marcus. Janessa bit her lip. She and Iris had been dreaming about Marcus Long since they'd discovered boys in the fourth grade. "Well," she said slowly, "we're all children of God, and deserve to be treated with respect. If you and Marcus can't understand that, then I guess you're right. Maybe we shouldn't be friends anymore."

Iris took a step back, looking as if she'd been slapped. She recovered quickly, though. "Of course I'm right," she snapped.

Janessa slowly stood up. "I'm sorry it had to come to this." She started down the steps. Behind her, she heard Iris re-enter the house, slamming the door behind her. It's over.

to be continued...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fictional Story: 1 Nephi 2:15 continued

Her hands trembled as she opened the email. But as she started to read, Janessa gasped and brought one hand to her lips.

I want you to stop emailing me. Don't bother calling when I get back from my grandma's. I have no interest in your new religion. It's changing you into a person that I can't be friends with. I suppose I can't stop you from playing ball, but I promise you that I will not speak to you or even acknowledge you as long as you continue to go to your church and follow all of those silly new rules you have been given. If you do continue to bother me and attempt to be friends, I will make your life miserable.

Janessa sank back in the computer chair with tears streaming down her cheeks. Maybe she's just testing me. Or maybe Shayla somehow hacked into Iris's email. She wouldn't just write me off like this, would she?

As she wiped at her tears, Janessa heard her mother walk in behind her. "Is everything okay Nessa? Have you been crying?"

Janessa quickly exited her email. "Yeah, silly me. Iris sent me an email and told me about the kitten she found at her grandma's. I guess some neighbor dog got a hold of it and she thinks its going to die now."

"That's sad. Poor Iris. But a least you finally heard from her. That's a good sign, isn't it?"

"Yeah, I guess it is." Janessa stood up. "Well, I guess I'll go to bed now."

"Okay. Give me hugs." Janessa embraced her mom and allowed her to plant a kiss on her forehead.

As her mom started to leave the room, Janessa stopped her. "Mom, do you think I've changed since I started listening to the missionaries?"

Paula turned around. "Changed how?"

"I don't know." Janessa shrugged. "Changed so that I'm no longer fun or interesting."

Giving her daughter another hug, Paula replied. "No, Nessa. If anything about you has changed, it's the way you view yourself and the rest of the world. It's the consideration and love you've been showing to others, not that you weren't loving before, but now you have extended that love to everyone you come in contact with." Paula tapped Janessa's nose. "Get some rest. Doesn't Iris come home tomorrow?"


"The two of you usually spend the entire day together. I probably won't see you until dark! Good night, Love."

After her mom left, Janessa dropped onto her bed and buried her face in her hands. What am I going to do?

to be continued...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fictional Story: 1 Nephi 2:15 continued

Things at the basketball court were better with Iris away visiting her grandmother. Shayla merely ignored Janessa, and the other girls were as friendly as they usually were. Although Janessa missed Iris, she was relieved that she didn't have to worry about making any choices between church and her best friend right away.

Her Sunday School lesson the previous week had encouraged her. Sister Kyle taught about Abraham and Isaac. Janessa was thrilled with the story; she loved how devoted Abraham was to the Lord in his willing obedience to all of His commandments. But the best part of the story was when the Lord told Abraham he didn't need to kill his son, and then He provided a ram for the sacrifice instead.

If I show Heavenly Father that I am willing to choose Him over Iris, maybe He won't make me actually make the choice.

Janessa dribbled the ball and rushed toward the basket as she thought about Abraham. She made her shot and felt the familiar thrill in her stomach as it swished through. Everything will be okay. It will be just like old times when Iris gets back. Cheered by her thoughts, Janessa settled into her game, enjoying the freedom of running back and forth on the court and the solid feel of the basketball in her hands.

When she returned home later, drenched in sweat, Janessa paused at the computer before jumping in the shower. She logged on to her e-mail and held her breath--still no messages from Iris. Janessa's shoulders slumped forward as the adrenaline from her workout seeped out of her. She climbed into the shower, wishing she could wash away her pain and disappointment along with the sweat and dirt.

A few hours later, Janessa sat in her living room with Brother and Sister Canfield. Sister Canfield was one of the advisers from church; she and her husband were there to teach Janessa the follow-up lessons. Janessa found it hard to concentrate as they tried to teach her about laws and ordinances of the gospel. She realized that her visitors were staring at her expectantly as if they had asked her a question and were awaiting her reply.

"I'm sorry; my mind seems to have wandered."

"Brother Canfield asked if you have any friends that you might want to share the gospel with." Sister Canfield said.

"Oh." Janessa swallowed. "I...I don't think so.

"What about the girl you were telling us about on Sunday? The one you invited to your baptism; what was her name? Irene?"

"Iris." She shook her head. "No."

Sister Canfield clasped her hands in her lap and studied Janessa for a few moments. "Janessa, I was about your age, sixteen or so, when I joined the church. A friend of mine, who later admitted she never thought I'd be interested, asked me to attend an activity with her. I agreed and had so much fun, I continued to attend. Eventually I started going to church, and then took the missionary lessons and was baptized." She paused. "I'm so grateful she took a chance on me."

Janessa again shook her head. "That's not Iris." She plucked at non-existent lint on her shirt. "Iris won't talk to me anymore." Her voice shook, but she resisted the tears that threatened. "Does the Lord really ask people to choose between His church and their friends?"

Moving to sit beside Janessa, Sister Canfield replied, "I'm afraid He sometimes does. But if it does happen, I know you'll find other friends. There are lots of wonderful girls in our ward."

"But Iris has known me forever. She knows all of my secrets and my weaknesses. We've been like sisters all these years. No one can ever know me the way she does."

"That's not true." Sister Canfield said quietly. "Heavenly Father knows you better than Iris knows you, better than you know yourself. Trust Him to know what's best for you as well."

After the Canfields left, Janessa decided to check the computer one last time before getting ready for bed. She gasped in excitement when she saw that Iris had sent her a message.

to be continued...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Fictional Story: 1 Nephi 2:15 continued

Paula Jenkins, Janessa's mother, sat at their small kitchen table with her feet propped up on the chair next to her, her high-heel shoes discarded on the floor. She smiled tiredly at her daughter when she entered the house.

"Hey Nessa! How did everything go? I wish I could have been there for you."

Janessa plopped down on the chair across from her mom and rested her head and arms on the table. "The baptism was beautiful. I felt clean and wonderful, and warm." She sighed. "Afterwards wasn't so great." Janessa told her mother about Iris's absence and her reaction at the court.

Paula rubbed her hand across her eyes. "Don't judge Iris too harshly. This religion stuff is new to her; I doubt she really understands any of it--I know I don't get a lot of it."

"But shouldn't she support me in my choices? She supposed to be my best friend."

"She should," Paula nodded, "but Iris has to make her own choices." Paula looked at her daughter for a moment. "If it comes down to choosing between Iris and this new religion of yours, what will you do?"

Janessa studied the scratches on the tabletop. "I hope it doesn't come to that."

Paula patted Janessa's hand as she rose from her chair. "Me too, Nessa, but you need to think about what's really important to you. You and Iris have been friends for a long time." She bent down and retrieved her shoes. "I'm headed to bed. You have another big day tomorrow."

On Sunday, Janessa sat beside her mother on one of the short pews along the wall of the chapel. Even though her mother wore a skirt of some kind nearly everyday to work, she appeared uncomfortable and out of place. "Relax, Mom," Janessa whispered in her ear.

"Are you sure no bolts of lightening are going to come out of the ceiling?" Paula asked with a slight smile.

"Well, not entirely."

"How encouraging. So what happens now?"

Janessa explained how the meeting would go, when the elders would confirm her a member of the church, and what would follow.

"No preacher shouting fire and brimstone?"

"No, Mom."

As the meeting progressed, Janessa glanced frequently at her mother, hoping she was feeling some of the spirit that Janessa was. When she sat back down beside her after her confirmation, Janessa thought she saw wetness at the corners of her mother's eyes, but she couldn't be sure.

Paula was quiet as Janessa walked with her to the car after the meeting ended. "That was a nice meeting," she finally said as she climbed in and started the engine.

"It was. I wish you could stay for the rest of church."

"Sorry. You know I have to get to work. I'll see you tonight."

Janessa watched her mother drive away and again felt some of her joy melt. Iris was supposed to come with me today. I really wanted to take her to Young Women's and introduce her to some of the girls. Her mind drifted back to her mother's words the night before. Please don't make me choose between You and Iris.

to be continued...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ficitonal Story: 1 Nephi 2:15 continued

Janessa swallowed hard, uncertain how to respond to Iris's open hostility. The other girls on the court watched to see what would happen. "I thought you were coming." Janessa said quietly.

"Obviously not," Iris replied with a shrug.

"You promised."

"I promised so you'd leave me alone about it. I'm not into that religious junk, and I don't need some preacher or whatever telling me how to live."

The two girls stared at each other for a moment. Finally, Iris looked away.

"So are you playing or are you too clean now to play ball with us?"

Janessa smiled and shook her head. "I'm playing!"

"Good. The other team could use some help."

Ignoring the shocked stares of the other girls, Janessa jogged onto the court, stretching her arms as she did. We always play on the same team. What is up with her? Janessa did a few quick lunges, watching Iris out of the corner of her eye. She saw Shayla walk over to her and whisper something in her ear. They both laughed. Shayla's quick to move in on my best friend.

When daylight finally yielded to the pressing shadows, Janessa slowly walked home. She was grateful for the sweat that dripped onto her face and masked her tears. Shayla and Iris's laughter drifted back to her from somewhere further down the road.

I don't understand. Janessa wiped at her tears and tried to figure out what she had done wrong. All through basketball, Iris and Shayla had bullied and teased her, pushing her down when they could find an excuse to do so. We've stood by each other through just about everything--chicken pox, second grade and that awful Mr. Greysen, Iris's widespread psoriasis, even mom's surgery. Why is she doing this now?

As she approached her house, Janessa saw the porch light on and her mother's small car in the driveway. She cheered up the slightest bit. Mom can make things better.

to be continued...

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fictional Story: 1 Nephi 2:15

Janessa sat stiffly on the metal chair, mentally reminding herself to sit like a lady. The white cotton dress she wore was beautiful but extremely uncomfortable. Give me a t-shirt and basketball shorts any day. But, despite her discomfort, Janessa felt her heart flutter with excitement as she listened to Sister Morton talk about the importance of her upcoming baptism.

As the sister missionary finished speaking and motioned for Janessa to come forward, Janessa gave the back of the room one last quick glance. Where is she? She promised she'd be here. Then Sister Morton escorted her to the entry of the baptismal font and Janessa found herself entering the warm, clear water. She moved hesitantly down the steps to stand beside Elder Innman who helped her position her hands for the ordinance.

The elder's voice was as comforting as the water. Janessa listened to him utter the baptismal prayer and then held her breath as he gently pushed her below the surface and pulled her back up. She smiled as she brushed the water from her face; her entire body tingled with goosebumps, but she wasn't cold. Sister Morton beckoned to her from the stairs, holding a fluffy white towel.

"Come along Janessa. Sister Pedersen will keep everyone occupied while you dry off and get dressed."

Janessa pressed the towel to her face. "I've never felt so good in my life. I want this feeling to last forever." She hurried to the dressing room where she changed into a pleated pale green skirt and a white blouse. Only a small improvement from the dress. She squeezed her head-full of small braids as dry as she could get them and then returned to her seat. Although she was greeted with smiles, disappointment tugged at her heart when she glanced at the back of the room. Iris, where are you? You've never gone back on a promise before.

The program ended by singing Janessa's favorite hymn, "How Great Thou Art" and Elder Carver offered the benediction. Janessa's new Young Women's leader greeted her with a hug and handed her a bag of goodies.

"Be sure to bring the bag to class tomorrow. We always give a prize when the girls remember their bags."

Everyone in the room congratulated her and she was pulled into more embraces than she could count. As soon as she arrived home, Janessa yanked off her clothes and dressed in something more comfortable. She didn't bother calling Iris; she knew where to find her. Grabbing her basketball, Janessa jogged down to the park where she found Iris and their other friends already on the court, their clothes wet with exertion.

"Iris! Iris!" Janessa called.

Iris snapped a pass to another girl, and watched as the other girl dribbled up to the net and took her shot. Only after the ball soared through the net did she turn to face Janessa.


to be continued...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Scripture Squiggle: 1 Nephi 2:15

"And my father dwelt in a tent."

Okay, I have to admit that I really chose this scripture because I spent last week at Girls' Camp. The scripture has been on my mind, though, and I have been pondering the different things we can learn from it. The verse becomes more powerful when we read it in context with verse 4:

"And it came to pass that he departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness."

So it doesn't sound like Lehi, or his family, was used to roughing it. They had a house as well as riches and precious things--likely luxury items--that they left behind. Yet in Nephi's simple observation, we see that Lehi was willing to give all of that up to fulfill the commandments of the Lord. Which leads me to ask: what am I willing to give up for the Lord? Could I leave behind my house and the comforts it yields? What about money--I don't have much, but would I be willing to part with what I have? Or my precious things--computers, cars, cell phones, ovens, electricity? Or maybe the Lord has things of a different nature in mind. Maybe my time--time I spend with my family or relaxing by myself?

The only way to find out what sacrifice the Lord requires of us is to ask Him. And when we receive the answer, we need to remember that the Lord will not ask us to give him more than we are able to give.