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...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Scripture Squiggle: Isaiah 54:13

"And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children."

Although no one would believe it now, when I was in Junior Primary, all those years ago, I was not the most well behaved child in my class. In school, I was a perfect little angel--always did my homework, helped other students, never got my name on the board--pretty much a teacher's pet.  But during primary, especially class time, I was someone else.

I have vague memories of sitting on the floor in the corner of the classroom, surrounded by empty chairs and refusing to say anything other than, "Meow."

My agile little hands turned coloring pages and other handouts from the teacher into paper airplanes that I threw at the boys.

Perhaps my behavior had something to do with being a member of such a large family.  I never felt forgotten or left out, but maybe I was seeking extra attention anyway.

I kept waiting for the teacher to threaten me the way she threatened the other kids:  "If you don't behave I'm going to get you father."  But she never did.  Maybe she didn't realize that, although the threat of their fathers didn't seem to faze the other children, it scared me to death; whatever her reasons, she never brought my father into the classroom.

Most of my primary teachers' names and faces, as well as those early years in primary, have long since faded from my memory.  After all, these days I struggle to remember my own children's names!  But I remember that teacher.  She was blond with curly hair and a round friendly face.  Her name was Sister Clawson.

And I will never forgot the Sunday that she taught me, through her actions, that I was loved, despite my bad behavior and general obnoxiousness.  That day was my birthday.  I cannot recall how old I was, but I remember walking into primary, feeling the usual childlike excitement of a birthday, when I saw the small cake sitting on the table.

So we're having cake to celebrate my birthday!  My excitement tripled, and I found it even harder than usual to pay attention to the lesson, with that round, white-frosted cake constantly invading my thoughts.  Finally the lesson ended, and I waited for Sister Clawson to have the class sing to me, cut the cake and share it with the class.

She didn't.

We had our closing prayer and with little reluctant looks back toward the cake, my classmates began filing out to find their parents.

"Brenda.  This is for you," Sister Clawson said as I turned to leave. And she handed me the entire cake.  The whole cake was for me!  I decided I must be pretty important to get the cake all to myself.

As I walked through the halls, holding my cake, everyone I saw looked on it with envy.

"Where'd you get that?"

"It's my birthday."  I smiled.

Without a single lecture, without reporting my terrible behavior to my parents, Sister Clawson completely changed me.  She taught me the most important lesson I needed to know--that I was loved. Knowing that, I was prepared to learn of the Lord.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Scripture Squiggle: Luke 6:37

"Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven."

A few days ago, while driving down a residential street to my parents' house, a driver turned left out of one of the side streets right in front of me.  My immediate reaction was to verbally question the driver's intelligence.  Mine was obviously the only car on the road; they could have turned after I passed.  And the driver had hesitated, waiting to turn until I was almost to them.  As I hit my brakes and watched the car complete the turn, I recognized the person driving.  I knew her.  But I didn't just know her, I liked her.

Suddenly, instead of finding fault with the woman, I began to think up excuses for her, reasons she may have had for doing what she did.  Maybe she just misjudged my speed or was in an extra hurry that morning and didn't take time to think about her actions.  Whatever the cause of her untimely turn, I found that once I knew who she was, I wasn't irritated about what happened anymore.

And I wondered why.  The reason couldn't merely be that I knew the driver.  If I'd known her and disliked her, my dislike would have been strengthened by her action, not lessened.  So the answer was that the woman was someone I liked and respected--the beginnings of charity.

Jesus has commanded us to love everyone, and I can honestly claim that I don't really hate anyone, but lack of hate doesn't qualify as love.  If somehow I could really remember that every single person is a child of God, even the driver tailgating me as I go the speed limit, maybe I could do better at loving everyone, having charity.

What if I knew that that driver who seemed determined to attach their bumper to the back of my car had a child lying sick in the hospital and was desperate to get back to him?  Maybe the person who practically stops to make a right hand turn has a car with untrustworthy brakes.

The next time a driver irks me, I will try to think of them as a child of God, with thoughts, feelings, worries and imperfections, just like me.  Maybe then I can avoid judging.  I'll take it one car at a time...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Scripture Squiggle: Luke 12:6

"Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before the God?"

The Lord knows and cares about all of His creations.  Including the three small land hermit crabs we bought for our oldest daughter's birthday when she was seven or eight years old.  All three crabs could fit in the the palm of my hand together, as long as they weren't moving around, which they usually were. Our daughter named them Hermie, Kermit and Toby.

I was surprised by how much care the tiny little critters needed; I had expected them to be more like fish--feed everyday and clean the tank when you can no longer see them swimming (or in the crabs' case, crawling) around.  We had to wash their water dish daily, make sure their little sponge stayed moist, clean their rocks, and bath them.

Bathing a hermit crab is nothing like bathing a toddler.  A squirming, screaming toddler is easier.  First we had to catch the little guys, and they could move fast when they chose to.  They'd nip us with their little claws in protest when we picked them up, we'd submerge them briefly in the clean water, and they'd nip us again when we pulled them out.

The crabs had to be completely dry before we could put them back in their tank, so we found a box to spread an old towel in so they could crawl around for a few hours and dry off without constant supervision.

One night in December, in our rush to get to our ward Christmas party, we forgot to put the crabs back into their tank before we left.  The six of us burst back into the house, the kids nearly bouncing from the walls on a candy cane-Christmas high, and found the tank empty.  Their drying box was still sitting on the counter.  Panicked, we checked the box and found only Toby curled up in his shell amidst the folds of the towel.  I snatched him up and placed him in the tank.

The search for the other two crabs commenced.  We checked the counter and the floor below it, wondering if our little crabs could have survived a fall from that high.  No hermit crabs.  The next closest place was our Christmas tree, surrounded by gifts.  While the kids crept around on their hands and knees searching the house, my husband and I began pulling gifts from beneath the tree and placing them carefully behind us.  When we finished, no one had seen any signs of the crabs.

We gave our daughter the talk.  The sometimes-these-things-happen talk.

She countered us with, "Heavenly Father made them.  He loves them, and He knows where they are."

So with a quick warning that our prayers are not always answered they way we want them to be, and that we could find the crabs dead somewhere, we proceeded to pray that the Lord would lead us to the crabs.  After the prayer, we felt compelled to check under the couch and the end table.  We pulled the table out a little so we could get to the couch.  Nothing.  Then we lifted up the end table, and found Hermie happily crawling around on the carpet.

Our daughter scooped him up in both hands, telling him how sorrow she was for forgetting to put him back in his tank as she carried him to the kitchen.  She placed him in the tank with Toby, and turned to me with a triumphant smile.  "Now for Kermit."

We looked for another half hour.  The younger children were getting cranky, so to our daughter's dismay, we called off the search and rescue and sent the kids to get ready for bed.

"I'm sorry," I told my dejected little girl.  "But at least two of them are safe."  She merely nodded and sniffed as she walked toward her bedroom.

Another half hour passed as the kids changed, brushed their teeth and continued to show the effects of too much sugar.  Except our oldest daughter who kept searching for her crab.  We had scripture and prayer--remembering to pray for missing Kermit--and herded everyone into the hallway to their rooms.

Not a minute later we heard our daughter's excited squeal.  "Kermit!"  She came running from the hallway with the missing crab cupped in her hand.  "He was just creeping out of my room!"

Like the sparrows mentioned in Luke, Heavenly Father knew and loved those little crabs.  But more importantly, He knows and loves my daughter--enough to help her find three tiny critters alive and well.

"But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows."

Friday, January 6, 2012

Scripture Squiggle: Doctrine and Covenants 63:9-10

"But, behold, faith cometh not by signs, but signs follow those that believe.
Yea, signs come by faith, not by the will of men, nor as they please, but by the will of God."

Signs follow those who believe.  This is, of course, the reason that Laman and Lemuel were not converted when the angel appeared to them.  They were shown a sign, but they didn't have any faith.  But what about Alma the younger and the sons of Mosiah?  They, too, were given a sign without first having faith, but they believed and repented of their sins.

In completing our Sunday school reading for this week, my husband and I read the account of the angel appearing to Laman and Lemuel and their subsequent continued murmurings.  Then, the very next morning, my personal reading happened to be the account of Alma and his brethren.  A very stark contrast indeed.

Naturally, I wanted to know what the difference was.  Why did the appearance of an angel convert some but not others?  Before I could learn that, I had to see the similarities:

  • Laman and Lemuel, as well as Alma were sinners.  Alma was described as being "a wicked and idolatrous man" while Laman and Lemuel were compared to the Jews in Jerusalem who sought Lehi's life.  Those people were so wicked that the city of Jerusalem was fast approaching destruction.
  • Both angelic appearances were in response to persecution.  Laman and Lemuel were persecuting their younger brothers for wanting to keep the Lord's commandments, and Alma and his brethren were persecuting those who belonged to the church of God, attempting to draw them away.
  • Both angelic appearances were in response to some one's faith.  In Laman and Lemuel's case, the faith that brought the angel was that of Nephi as he tried to do his best to obey the commandments the Lord had given him through his father.  For Alma and the sons of Mosiah, it was the faith of Alma's father and the members of the church that brought about the angel's visit.
  • Both parties were given specific instruction.  Laman and Lemuel were told to return to Jerusalem and Laban would be delivered into their hands.  Alma and his brethren were told to stop persecuting the church of God.
  • The angels came to teach them something.  The angel reaffirmed to Laman and Lemuel that their brother was chosen to rule over them, because of their iniquities.  To Alma and the sons of Mosiah, the angel came to convince them of the power and authority of God.
  • Everyone involved was well instructed in the gospel.  Laman and Lemuel were frequently counseled by their prophet-father.  Alma was also the son of a prophet, as were Mosiah's sons.  None of them lacked for knowledge about the Lord.
Although there were differences in the messages delivered by the angels, the main difference in the occurrences is how the people who saw the angels reacted.  

According to Nephi's account, Laman and Lemuel didn't react with any shock or surprise when they saw the angel.  The angel's visit didn't ease their anger toward their brothers, although they did stop hitting them with the rod.  In fact, their reaction was a very worldly, natural man response.  They questioned the Lord's power.  How could God possibly deliver Laban to them?  He was so powerful he could slay fifty people.  They had no faith.

Laman and Lemuel's reaction was also one of hard heartedness.  They had been taught on numerous occasions, yet they rejected what they were given, refusing to look inward and recognize their wrong doings.  This angelic visit was no different.  They didn't want to return to Jerusalem.  They continued to murmur as they followed Nephi back, perhaps they hoped that since Laban could slay fifty, that maybe he would slay their brother for them.

Alma and the sons of Mosiah, however, had a different reaction.  First, they were shocked to see and hear the angel, so shocked that they fell to the earth.  And they listened.  They actually heard the words of the angel and let it change them, let it remind them of the teachings they had received from their fathers.  The change wasn't easy, as Alma records.  He suffered pains so great that he actually wished that he did not exist.  But he allowed his experiences to soften his heart, rather than harden it as Laman and Lemuel did.

I hope I can follow Alma's example, and react to chastisements from the Lord with a soft heart and recognize the need to change.