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Submitted by Dave Free on 20 November 2006 - 2:23pm.

Steve woke early but rolled over and pulled the covers up over his head to keep the light out. He hoped his parents would sleep late this morning and not have enough time for the family scripture reading session. It would be much easier to get out of the house with his ski gear if everyone was running late and scurrying about in a last minute frenzy than if everyone was ready to go on time and had nothing better to do than ask him questions.

He had almost dozed off again, when the clank of pans from the kitchen jolted him back to reality. “So much for plan A.” he mumbled to himself as he rolled back over and pulled the blankets down off his head. “I guess we’ll have to move to plan B.” He rolled over again and this time covered his head with his heavy down pillow. Maybe they’d forget to wake him up.

Steve’s dad stuck his head in the door. “Rise and shine tiger! Get your feet on the floor! The cereal is on!” Steve groaned, rolled over and slowly climbed out of bed. “I guess that leaves plan C,” he mumbled to himself.

“What’d you say Steve?” Brian, his hair wet and slicked straight back, stuck his head in the door.

“Oh nothing. Did you leave me any hot water?”

“Hey, it was half gone when I got in. Dad showered this morning and I think mom is filling the tub for the girls right now.” Steve groaned again, grabbed his towel off the hook on the back of his door and ran for the bathroom.

Steve’s mom was in a good mood. She’d been concerned lately about her oldest son. He was a good kid, she knew that. He was a great big brother and was always willing to help out around the house, but he didn’t seem to have any interest in, or commitment to, the gospel. He never refused to go to church or anything like that, but she could tell he was just going through the motions. He was much more concerned about building muscles and wearing the right clothes than he was about strengthening his testimony. Her biggest concern was that he would be nineteen in just a few months, but he refused to carry on any kind of conversation about going on a mission. Every time she brought it up, he would just grunt and change the subject. Having Hank as a friend also concerned her. He wasn’t a bad kid, but he wasn’t doing anything with his life and Steve seemed perfectly content to follow his lead--or lack thereof.

Her prayers on the situation had gone unanswered until last night. While at the temple, she had received the clear and distinct impression that everything would work out. Having complete faith the impression was accurate and was from a divine source, her spirit and mood were brighter and lighter than they had been for some time. As she mixed up the blueberry muffin mix, a treat usually saved for Christmas and General Conference Sundays, she hummed her favorite hymn.

Brian was the first to make an appearance in the kitchen. “Mom, did you wash my new jeans?” And then, before his mom could answer, “What’s with the muffins? Is it conference again already?”

His mom smiled as she bent over to put the tin into the oven. Turning, she curtsied holding her bathrobe on each side and bending quickly at the knees. “And good morning to you my second son! I slept very well, thank you so much for asking. Would you please inform your illustrious siblings and your noble father that ‘le muffins de blueberry’ will be served shortly?”

Brian rolled his eyes and said with a certain amount of exasperation, “Mom, the jeans?”

His mom smiled and turned to stir the hot cereal cooking on the stove top. “Your new jeans are in the basket of clean clothes on the dryer and the special occasion is we are all alive and well.”

Brian passed his dad on the way out of the kitchen. “Better keep a close eye on her dad, I think she’s really lost it this time.”

His dad laughed and walked over to the kitchen phone. Picking it up he pretended to dial and then to carry on a conversation. “Hello, State Hospital? Yes, I have a middle aged house-wife who’s really ‘lost it.’ I’m wondering if you could send some one right over?” His imaginary conversation ended abruptly as his wife jabbed him in the ribs with the end of the spoon and took the phone from his hands. “Ouch! Better bring a straight jacket too!” he yelled into the receiver before she could hang it up. She jabbed him again and he grabbed her and hugged her tight so she couldn’t move her arms. They both laughed. She was the first to speak.

“Oh sweetie, I’ve been so worried about Steve lately. It feels so good to know that everything is going to be ok.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. I’ve been really concerned too. I feel like I have to walk on egg shells whenever I talk to him about a mission, but we really need to start getting him ready to go. How much money has he saved? It seems like he’s wearing a new shirt every time I see him.”

“I think there’s about $3,000 in his mission account. Remember? When he set up his account at the bank years ago, he was too young to have his own account so it requires our signatures to withdraw anything.” She pulled out of his arms as she spoke and moved to the stove to stir the cereal again and check on the muffins.

“Well, I think we need to have a council with him and see if we can’t help him lay down some plans for the next six months. If he works it right, he could put away another $3,000 this summer. I thought I’d pick up a copy of Preach My Gospel for him too. It wouldn’t hurt him to start studying it now.

“Oh that’s a good idea. Say, why don’t we see if we can talk to him tonight? Maybe the three of us could go out to dinner or something.”

“Sounds good. I’ll give him a ride to school today and talk to him about it then. Hey, are those blueberry muffins I smell?”

“Yes, those are blueberry muffins you smell! Now would you please go gather your offspring so that we can read our scriptures before they burn?”

Fifteen minutes later the entire family was gathered around the table and had already finished their scripture reading. As they dove into the warm muffins, Steve’s dad offered him a ride to school.

Steve was taken back by the offer. Typically when he asked for a ride to school he got the “I walked to school in the snow every morning--uphill both ways” story. He was so surprised he didn’t have time to think up an excuse for saying no and just told the truth. “Thanks dad, but I’m not going to school today. I’m going skiing.”

His dad’s eyebrows went up so high Steve wondered if he’d ever get them back down. “You’re going where?” he asked.

“Skiing. You know, swoosh!, swoosh! Long straight things? Big boots?”

“I know what skiing is son. What I don’t understand is why you are going today. Is there some kind of day off or something?”

Steve shook his head. “We heard that the spring skiing was great right now, so we just decided to go.”

“We?” Steve’s mother entered the conversation.

“Yeah, me and Hank. One of his buddies at work went a few days ago and said it was great.”

His dad jumped back in. “Is he ditching work like you’re ditching school?”

“He’s taking a sick day.”

“Steve,” his mother tried to use her most understanding tone, “I really wish you wouldn’t spend so much time with Hank. I don’t think he’s a good influence on you.”

Steve could feel the hair on the back of his neck beginning to stand up. “Mom, I’m not five years old playing in the sand box anymore. You can’t pick my friends. Besides, Hank’s not a bad influence on me. This really isn’t that big a deal! Everybody misses school once in a while to go skiing!”

“But son,” his dad tagged in, “you’re not everybody else. You’re different and you need to start standing up and acting different. Hank doesn’t have any direction in life. Ten years from now, he’ll probably still being doing exactly what he’s doing now--whatever that is. Your mom and I were just talking about your mission. You only have a few more months to get ready. You really don’t have the time, or the money, to waste on skiing. I don’t think you should go today and I agree with your mom: Hank is not a good influence.”

Steve was now on the “anger” auto pilot. He hadn’t wanted to get into the mission discussion this morning, but there was no choice now. He might just as well get this whole thing out in the open once and for all. “Dad, you want me to be different? You want me to act different and stand up for what I believe?” Steve stood up from the table abruptly and his chair crashed to the floor behind him. The entire family watched in amazement.

“Ok, here’s different: I’m not going on a mission.” His dad tried to interrupt and he didn’t dare look at his mom’s face to see the reaction, he just kept right on going. “I don’t believe in forcing one’s beliefs on another and I think this whole organized religion thing is a big crock. I can’t believe that God will reject a good person just because they didn’t happen to meet up with the right religion. And as long as I believe that, it’s a waste of two years of my life to go on a mission. I won’t smoke, I won’t drink, I won’t steal, and I’ll even go to church with you if that’s what you want, but I am not going on a mission, I am going skiing today, and I will pick my own friends!” Not waiting for a response, he turned and went out the back door.

No one at the table said a word. The happy mood that had made the kitchen brighter than the fluorescent lights on the ceiling ever could, was now gone. Steve’s mom stood up and went to her bedroom. Brian, Jessica, and the other two girls sensed the gravity of the moment and didn’t budge. After several minutes, their dad looked up and said, “Please finish eating and get out the door. Your bus will be here in five minutes.”

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