I stepped away as she lathered color across the canvas in long strokes, making a bright pattern of plaid-like lines. “I want the background to be colorful,” she said.
Sometimes I get in her business too much, try to direct her, ask too many questions.
I should just stand back and watch her work.
Eliza, my 11 year-old daughter, was asked to paint something for the cover of the primary program this year. Has your ward had their primary program? If so, maybe you remember the theme. I Know the Scriptures are True.
The copier in the office made a shuffling sound and a few minutes later I peeked in on her to find a scripture page ripped into pieces, scattered across the upper corner of her work.
“You ripped up some scriptures?” I asked. Slightly shocked at the sight. “It’s just a copy. I know what I’m doing Mom,” she replied with a tone that implied my ignorance, her confidence.
And she did. She painted a black book-backdrop for her scripture pieces then puzzled them together with gaps and uneven edges. “I want to paint things coming out of the pages,” she explained.
I asked her what kind of things. We talked. We discussed. I offered a few ideas. Then we printed pictures and she modge-podged them to her piece. She wanted it to be mixed media. Printed paper, paint, and a real ribbon as bookmark. She touched up the images with acrylics to give them movement. Each icon symbolized something that comes into our lives when we read, study, crack open the word.
A light bulb to represent ideas and inspiration.
An umbrella for protection and the ability to discern truth from error.
A bucket of water to symbolize Christ’s living water so we might never thirst.
A sunflower. A token of beauty and abundance.
A tree to represent the tree of life, eternal life, Christ himself.
A heart to symbolize charity.
She typed the theme in scripture font, a powerful declaration, that looked as if it fell right out of the book.
I loved it. Absolutely loved her finished work. When I looked at it I felt immense gratitude for God’s words. For the grand gift of having prophets and their teachings at my fingertips. I looked at her symbols and could feel the power of every single one.
I also felt immense love for Eliza.
She has been working so hard this past year to navigate a type of surface dyslexia that makes it difficult for her to identify and recall words by sight, even if they have been previously learned. This has made understanding the scriptures on her own somewhat difficult.
She tried listening to the Book of Mormon audio on the church app, but the pace was a little fast so we decided I would record passages for her.
Most mornings, after my kids leave for school, I sit out on the back porch and record a chapter of scripture. A voice memo just for her. Which she listens to at night while following along in her own scriptures.
I start with a personal message. Things I didn’t have time to say before she left for school. An apology when I wasn’t the mom she needed me to be. Praise. Maybe a memory. Then I read a chapter to her. And I can’t help but share my own thoughts and testimony when I come to a favorite verse cushioned by scribbles in the margin.
She doesn’t say much about what I read or share with her. And I have worried it isn’t working – this attempt to bring her to God’s word. But today, I went to her scriptures to see where she had left off – she told me she wanted to read a couple chapters on her own – and I found 2 Nephi 31 marked and colored, in a way that indicated she understood every word. She had doodled a small heart next to the phrase love of God. I noticed the word narrow highlighted in several verses, the words Holy Ghost traced in blue, the name of Christ in yellow.
A whimper of tearful joy slipped out my mouth.
She is reading. She is hearing. And these words aren’t just going into her mind. They seem to be settling in her heart.
It’s as Alma wrote,
“Ye will begin to say within yourselves — It must needs be… that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, it beginneth to be delicious to me” (Alma 32:28).
Painting, parenting, the word. All are teaching me. I get it wrong so often, but Jesus is patient with my weakness. He whispers the better way, gently tugs at my elbow and says, Stand back. And watch me work.
As we were taught recently, God will never take away the agency of his children. But He does feel after them. And the scriptures are one of his most effective tools in doing this. They are key to our spiritual survival.
So I record His words for my daughter. I let her paint. Hoping I will know when to step in rather than step back. Hoping I will hear when he tells me to move, speak, or do. And when I feel my own efforts aren’t enough, it helps to picture him standing next to me, his hand on my shoulder, ready to take the brush and work his mighty work.
How is the word working in your life? What icons would you paint? What miracles have you seen from studying the scriptures? Share with us how you know they are true.