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, December 30, 2011

Scripture Squiggle: 1 Corinthians 12:31

"Covet earnestly the best gifts; and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way."

Almost from the moment our Christmas tree was up this year, my children were begging me for wrapping paper and tape so they could start putting presents under its welcoming branches.  My young children.  Who have no money for gifts and lack the creativity and ability of my older children to make worthwhile gifts.  Needless to say, I put them off, hoping they would forget and stop bothering me about it.

But they didn't.  Their pleas became more persistent as the days before Christmas disappeared.  So, finally, I granted their requests, pairing the youngest two with an older sibling to help wrap the "presents."  Before I knew it, an array of odd-shaped, hastily wrapped gifts appeared under the tree.

On Christmas morning, I was relieved that my husband and I had the same idea that I did: get the gifts from the younger kids out of the way first.  We began digging under the tree to make sure we had gathered them all and started passing them out, not really giving them the same attention we gave to the store bought gifts.

Unlike most Christmases where I was the one to hand the gift to the next recipient, this year my husband took on the responsibility, giving me a little extra time to catch expressions on my children's faces.  As my youngest son tore the paper from his first gift, I happened to glance at my six-year old, the giver of the gift, and saw his face aglow with excitement.  When my toddler finally pulled the well-loved stuffed animal from the paper, his older brother leaned close and asked, "Do you like it?" with the same excited light shining in his eyes.

We continued opening presents, and I watched, more amazed each minute.  More of my six-year old's stuffed animals emerged from their wrappings, and with each one, he beamed with joy, sometimes sharing why he'd selected that particular animal for that person.

Hiding in the gifts from my five-year old were some of his treasured cars, chosen based on his siblings favorite colors.  He grinned his shy little smile as each one was opened.

Then came the presents from my ten-year old.  Old enough to know that her brothers didn't want any of her princessy, girly things, she created gifts out of sheets of college ruled paper.  My husband received a maze, my oldest son a bull-fighting game with various drawings and characters.  For me, she wrapped a piece of paper around a stick that made an interesting vibrating sound when I tapped it on things.  And on her face, I saw the same smile, the pure joy that comes from giving, as everyone opened their gifts.

The gifts my children gave were not elaborate, and they were definitely not expensive.  But they were true gifts from the heart.  Thoughtful and selfless.

When I close my eyes and think about how wonderful our Christmas was this year, I see my young children's smiling faces as the presents they gave were opened.  And I almost cry to think I tried to prevent them from experiencing the joy of giving.

I'm pretty sure I don't have so many kids because I have so much to teach them, but because they have so much to teach me.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Scripture Squiggle: 2 Nephi 26:22

"...and he [the devil] is the founder of all these things; yea, the founder of murder, and works of darkness; yea, and he leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever."

Reflections on Flaxen Cords and Iron Rods

In thinking about Satan's methods in contrast to the Lord's ways, I began comparing the devil's flaxen cord to Christ's iron rod.  Flax is a fibrous plant used to make linen.  By itself, one strand of flax isn't very strong, and can easily be broken.  But when multiple strands are placed together, the resultant cord is sturdy.

Iron is a metal.  Obviously, much stronger than flax.  But the difference really lies in how they are used.  While the Lord invites us to reach out and grab the rod, thereby following him and his teachings, always affording us a choice, Satan offers us no such kindness.  He doesn't dangle his cord of sin and error in front of us like kittens, hoping we might bat at it and take hold; he wraps it around our necks at the first opportunity we give him.

Flax does not stretch and is resistant to damage.  In the devil's power, we have no room to grow, and alone, we have no hope for escape.  Only through the atonement can we find a way out of the powerful cords of sin.

Iron has the most stable nucleus of any element.  Just as the Gospel provides stability for us in an unstable world.  God and his ways are unchanging, dependable.  And iron is magnetic.  It quietly, yet powerfully draws other metals toward it, much like the way the spirit speaks to our souls, drawing us ever closer to the Savior.

While the soft, flexible fibers of the flaxen cord may seem more inviting than the rigidity of a rod of iron, that very nature is what allows the cord to bind us, to take away our ability to choose.  Whereas the stiff, unyielding iron rod, will never encircle us against our will, but only serve to every guide us on our way, keeping us free.

I'll take iron, thank you.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Scripture Squiggle: Proverbs 18:24

"A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly; and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."

Moving during the middle of the school year in high school is never easy. And we had promised our oldest son that if we did move once he started high school, we would move into a house that allowed him to continue attending the same school. We lied.

Just over halfway into his sophomore year, we found a house that better accommodated our family of nine about thirty miles further away. My husband and I were fairly certain the elementary school aged children would adjust and make friends quickly, but we worried about our two teenagers. They would be moving from a small high school in a rural setting to a large suburban school. We were especially concerned about our son, whose best friend who had moved away a few years earlier had just recently moved back. When they met, at age 11, they acted less like strangers and more like long lost friends that had rediscovered each other. That kind of relationship was irreplaceable.

Our daughter, a freshman, found a group of friends she fit in with on the very first day of Seminary. But as the days and weeks passed, our son seemed to spend more and more time communicating with his friends in our old town. Our new ward and stake did not lack for young men his age that shared his interests, but as his sister hung out with her friends and talked non stop about them at home, he began to spend more time with his books and ipod.

My husband and I hoped that after a summer off, our son would be ready to make new friends at the beginning of the new school year. Instead, things got worse. He began to feel that no one liked him. No one wanted to be his friend.

The three of us sat outside one evening. Our son sat between us, crying as he poured out his feelings of loneliness to us. I didn't know what to do. I ached for my sweet son, who possessed a greater receptiveness to the spirit than I had at his age, a firm faith in the Lord. How could I help him? My mind was blank. But then my husband asked my son if he'd read his patriarchal blessing lately. Through his tears, my son told him he had not. They agreed to read it together the next day.

In reading the blessing, my son discovered a very specific commandment from the Lord to seek out friends. He had been waiting for friends to come to him; after all, that's how his sister had made her friends. Once he realized what the Lord expected of him, my son put forth greater effort.

Over the next few weeks, he talked about people he sat with at lunch or talked to before school. He seemed happier, and he even got invited to a birthday party. Although he has not found a "best friend" here, he has learned the importance of "shewing himself friendly" and even though they no longer see each other everyday, my son's friend from childhood is his friend still. We suspect he's the kind that "sticketh closer than a brother."

Friday, December 2, 2011

Scripture Squiggle: Isaiah 55:6

"Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near."

I was seven or eight when I received the letter. My first real mail other than birthday cards from relatives. I read it over and over, and I couldn't wait to respond to it. So I took the letter to my mother and showed her the instructions I had received and how if I sent one dollar to the person on the top of the list and letters like mine to everyone else listed, I could possibly receive $25 dollars in return.

"It's a chain letter," my mom explained. "And they don't usually work."

"Oh," I replied, completely deflated. "Can I try it anyway?"

"That's up to you; it's your dollar," Mom said, but I could tell she didn't really want me to do it.

I returned to my room, confused and depressed. I wanted to answer the letter; I wanted to see the 'magic' promised, and I really wanted some of that money. My parents and my primary teachers had taught me that I could pray about anything. Well, if I can pray about anything, perhaps the Lord will tell me what to do about this chain letter.

So I prayed. And nothing happened. I still wanted to do the chain letter. The next morning, I decided to go ahead and mail the letter, but since the mail didn't go out until lunchtime, I decided to write the copies later and attend to more important things, like breakfast.

I poured myself a bowl of dry cereal and ate it with my fingers as I read my favorite part of the newspaper--the comics and Dear Abby. I cannot recall any of the comic strips from that day, but I have never forgotten the question posed to Abby. Someone had asked about chain letters. And in Abby's response, I found the answer to my prayer.

I hurried to my room where I grabbed the chain letter and tossed it into the trash.

When I look back on my childhood, this experience stands out as an important step in the formation of my testimony--the day I learned that if I sought the Lord, I would find Him.