Things at the basketball court were better with Iris away visiting her grandmother. Shayla merely ignored Janessa, and the other girls were as friendly as they usually were. Although Janessa missed Iris, she was relieved that she didn't have to worry about making any choices between church and her best friend right away.
Her Sunday School lesson the previous week had encouraged her. Sister Kyle taught about Abraham and Isaac. Janessa was thrilled with the story; she loved how devoted Abraham was to the Lord in his willing obedience to all of His commandments. But the best part of the story was when the Lord told Abraham he didn't need to kill his son, and then He provided a ram for the sacrifice instead.
If I show Heavenly Father that I am willing to choose Him over Iris, maybe He won't make me actually make the choice.
Janessa dribbled the ball and rushed toward the basket as she thought about Abraham. She made her shot and felt the familiar thrill in her stomach as it swished through. Everything will be okay. It will be just like old times when Iris gets back. Cheered by her thoughts, Janessa settled into her game, enjoying the freedom of running back and forth on the court and the solid feel of the basketball in her hands.
When she returned home later, drenched in sweat, Janessa paused at the computer before jumping in the shower. She logged on to her e-mail and held her breath--still no messages from Iris. Janessa's shoulders slumped forward as the adrenaline from her workout seeped out of her. She climbed into the shower, wishing she could wash away her pain and disappointment along with the sweat and dirt.
A few hours later, Janessa sat in her living room with Brother and Sister Canfield. Sister Canfield was one of the advisers from church; she and her husband were there to teach Janessa the follow-up lessons. Janessa found it hard to concentrate as they tried to teach her about laws and ordinances of the gospel. She realized that her visitors were staring at her expectantly as if they had asked her a question and were awaiting her reply.
"I'm sorry; my mind seems to have wandered."
"Brother Canfield asked if you have any friends that you might want to share the gospel with." Sister Canfield said.
"Oh." Janessa swallowed. "I...I don't think so.
"What about the girl you were telling us about on Sunday? The one you invited to your baptism; what was her name? Irene?"
"Iris." She shook her head. "No."
Sister Canfield clasped her hands in her lap and studied Janessa for a few moments. "Janessa, I was about your age, sixteen or so, when I joined the church. A friend of mine, who later admitted she never thought I'd be interested, asked me to attend an activity with her. I agreed and had so much fun, I continued to attend. Eventually I started going to church, and then took the missionary lessons and was baptized." She paused. "I'm so grateful she took a chance on me."
Janessa again shook her head. "That's not Iris." She plucked at non-existent lint on her shirt. "Iris won't talk to me anymore." Her voice shook, but she resisted the tears that threatened. "Does the Lord really ask people to choose between His church and their friends?"
Moving to sit beside Janessa, Sister Canfield replied, "I'm afraid He sometimes does. But if it does happen, I know you'll find other friends. There are lots of wonderful girls in our ward."
"But Iris has known me forever. She knows all of my secrets and my weaknesses. We've been like sisters all these years. No one can ever know me the way she does."
"That's not true." Sister Canfield said quietly. "Heavenly Father knows you better than Iris knows you, better than you know yourself. Trust Him to know what's best for you as well."
After the Canfields left, Janessa decided to check the computer one last time before getting ready for bed. She gasped in excitement when she saw that Iris had sent her a message.
to be continued...