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, June 17, 2011

Scripture Squiggle: Doctrine and Covenants 133:14

"Go ye out from among the nations, even from Babylon, from the midst of wickedness, which is spiritual Babylon."

I saw the first scorpion one night as I walked back to the house after feeding the chickens. It was making its way toward the back door like a solitary soldier. I studied it for a moment, my heart racing as I realized that it was indeed a scorpion. Then I rushed to the door and called to my husband to bring the bug spray, quick!

I sprayed the scorpion with half the can, and my husband and I watched until we were certain it was dead. Not knowing if dead scorpions, like dead bees, could still sting, my husband scooped it into a plastic cup, placed another cup inside that one and tossed it deep into the recesses of a trash bag.

I was shaken--the safety of my home had been violated by this threat to my family. But it didn't take long before I rationalized that the scorpion had been outside, a natural place to find scorpions, and I stopped worrying about it so much.

We disturbed the second scorpion when we decided to clean out the garage. My husband was away helping his father, so all of the children came out to help. Or get in the way. I was working in the back corner, near one of the blind-covered windows when my two year old began pulling and shaking the blinds. Dust and decomposing insect bodies flew from underneath. I told him to stop, but he continued flapping the blinds against the window. One of his older brothers joined him, intrigued by the dead bugs.

Setting the broom down, I marched over to where they were just in time to see a scorpion appear on the window sill, right next to my toddler's hand. I snatched him away, shoving my other son back at the same time. I ordered my teenager to keep everyone out of the corner and sent one of my daughters in for the spray.

Not as brave as my husband, I left the body in the corner where I killed it, waiting for him to come home and dispose of the still twitching bug.

Deeply troubled, I did some searching on the Internet, and determined from the pictures I found that the scorpions I had seen were bark scorpions--the only Arizona scorpion that posed any danger. Yet again, I rationalized that the bug-infested, dirty garage was an invitation to scorpions. Now that it was cleaned, maybe we wouldn't see anymore.

Nearly a month went by without anymore scorpion sightings. Until one day my eleven-year old son came screaming up the stairs. He'd discovered a scorpion, trapped in a bag hanging from his bed. My husband and I, armed with the bug spray, hurried down to dispose of it. It was smaller than the other ones we had seen, but it was still a scorpion.

Again, I was panicked. This one had been inside the house. In my son's room. We sat as a family, talking about the scorpion and how they like to hide in dark places and that a dirty room is a perfect place for them to live. We also talked about how small of a space they needed to get into the house. By the time we finished we had determined that the scorpion had come in through my son's window and made sure he didn't open it anymore. Problem solved.

Last night, two weeks after we found the scorpion in the bedroom, my family gathered as we do every night in our living room to read scriptures and pray together. We discussed a few verses in Matthew about service then we all retired to our knees for prayer. As we were passing out hugs and kisses and preparing to send our children to bed, my nine year old daughter shouted, "Scorpion!" and I saw the critter crawling across the floor toward my husband and toddler.

I pulled my son out of the way, shouting to my husband and pointing at the invader as he moved swiftly forward. My sixteen year old jumped the back of the couch like it was nothing and cowered behind it. Someone grabbed the bug killer, and my husband sprayed it, then smashed it.

We could not rationalize away the presence of the scorpion in our living room--an area of high traffic and activity. Now we jump at every movement, imagined or real, expecting to see another scorpion. The exterminator will be here soon, but it will be a long time before we feel completely safe in our own home again.

And I wonder, if we had acting on the first sighting, would our other unpleasant, closer encounters have been avoided?

So it is with the wickedness that the Lord warns us to avoid. If we tolerate it, rationalize that it is part of the natural world and as long as it doesn't invade our sanctuary, it cannot harm us, then the evil will move closer and closer, until it is dangerously close to our families and our safety. Best to protect ourselves and our families before it becomes a threat.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Scripture Squiggle: 3 Nephi 11:3-6

"And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was not part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.

"And it came to pass that again they heard the voice, and they understood it not.

"And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.

"And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard..."

As I read these verses, the Nephites' struggle to understand the Lord as He spoke to them reminded me of learning to recognize the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. The first time the voice spoke to them, the Nephites were distracted. They were conversing with each other, talking about the signs they had just seen. They heard the voice when it spoke to them, but they were unable to comprehend what the voice said.

Mormon describes the voice that spoke to them in such a way that brings to mind the Holy Ghost: the voice was small, but it pierced them to the center; it caused their hearts to burn

Often, when promptings come, we are distracted and fail to really understand that the Spirit is speaking to us. I remember a night many years ago, when my husband and I were getting ready for bed. We were tired and it was late. Suddenly I wondered if he had locked his bike up when he came home that night. His bike was his only source of transportation to work, since I had the car during the day. Being tired, and quite certain that my husband knew how to take care of his bike, I pushed the thought aside, failing to recognize the source of the thought. In the morning, the bike was gone.

The second time the Nephites heard the voice, they again failed to understand what it said. They had yet to put any effort into hearing the voice. I supposed maybe they figured if they heard it again, they'd catch the words. But it didn't work that way for them, and it doesn't work that way when it comes to the Holy Ghost, either.

Sure, no doubt I promised myself to listen better the next time the spirit whispered to me, but unless I was willing to do something to ensure I could hear better, the next time wasn't likely to turn out any different.

The third time the voice spoke, the Nephites were prepared. They were listening, they were focused on the voice by looking toward where it came from, and they were steadfast in their focus. And that time they understood.

When the Holy Ghost speaks to us, we must remember to listen, to set aside those things that would distract us, or convince us that what we're hearing is simply our own mind, not divine guidance. We must be diligent in our listening.

Contrast the story of the stolen bike with another incident. This time, me, my husband, and our two young children were in our living room. The TV was off. I was sitting on the floor preparing for Sunday's lesson, while my husband read to the kids in the overstuffed chair. A strong gust of wind rattled against the windows.

I looked up, noting that the regular windows were closed, but the storm windows were not. Outside, the day was flooded with sunlight; only a small cloud or two floated harmlessly through the sky. But I felt strongly impressed to close the storm windows. The room was quiet and filled with love and the spirit. I recognized the Holy Ghost whispering to me.

Without hesitation, I moved to the windows, closed the storm windows and locked them. I had barely returned to my lesson when a loud thump, followed by the tinkling of shattered glass, filled our quiet room. We turned to the windows that I had just closed and saw that a golf ball had slammed into one of the outside panes, reducing it to tiny pieces. But the storm pane had stopped the ball's trajectory. A path that would have taken it straight to the chair where my husband and children sat. I didn't spend much time reflecting on the damage that ball could have done to one of our small children had it struck either of them. Instead, I thanked the Lord that he had sent us a prompting--and that I had been listening.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Scripture Squiggle: Alma 34:19

"Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him."

Being humble in prayer can easily be forgotten, even when we are faithful in holding daily personal or family prayer. As a mother, I've found many excuses for not getting on my knees: the baby is on my lap, I don't want to disturb him; my back hurts from toting kids all day, my knees hurt from scrubbing floors all day; I'm just too tired. For a long time, my husband and I justified not getting on our knees even while we made the kids do it.

Then one evening, at a Young Women's activity, I received a powerful reminder. As we finished up the activity, a young woman was asked to say the closing prayer; she responded that she would, but then asked if she needed to stand. One of the leaders told her that the person praying stands so that the rest of the people can remain seated, otherwise, everyone should kneel.

Another young woman shared with us that she had been spending time with her grandmother recently, a woman in her nineties, and that every night, despite the elderly woman's pains and infirmities, she knelt for prayer. The young woman bore her testimony to us of the lesson she had learned from her grandmother's example of the importance of being humble, both spiritually and physically, when we pray.

After hearing this story, the young woman who was asked to say the prayer walked to the front of the room and knelt down. Everyone else got down on their knees. A greater feeling of reverence and peace filled that room during that prayer.

Now, no matter how tired, sore or lazy we are feeling, my husband and I make sure we are on our knees for family prayer. And that same feeling of reverence and peace has been infused into our home.