“Natalie’s Promises,” Friend, May 1996, 8
Natalie dipped her brush into the orange paint and put the finishing touches on her newest picture. Orange swirled together with red, yellow, pink, and lavender watercolors to form a sunset behind majestic mountains.
“There! I’m finally finished,” she announced as she placed the painting on the kitchen counter to dry.
“It’s beautiful, Natalie,” Mom said as she admired the painting. “I think you have a good chance of winning the school art contest again this year.”
Just then, Jared, Natalie’s twelve-year-old brother, zipped through the kitchen. “Bye! I’m going to practice for the big race!” he yelled as the screen door slammed shut. In the next instant, his blond hair and blue eyes were seen poking into the kitchen again. “Hey, Nat! You’re still going to paint my go-cart for me, right?”
“Sure, Jared. I’ll do it after lunch. You’ll be back by then, won’t you?”
“I’ll make sure that I am!”
In the meantime, I’ll go try out my new bike tires, Natalie thought. Jared had put new tires on her bicycle, and in return, Natalie had agreed to paint bright red flames on the sides of his go-cart for the community go-cart race on Monday afternoon.
As she started to pedal down the street, she heard her friend Nicole calling her. “Natalie, my parents are taking me to the amusement park today, and they said that I could bring a friend. Would you like to come?”
“I’d love to!” Natalie squealed. Then she remembered Jared. “Wait—I can’t go. I promised Jared I’d paint his go-cart for the race on Monday. Tomorrow’s Sunday, so I can’t do it then.”
“We can wait a couple hours for you if you want to paint it now.”
“Jared has it with him. He’s practicing for the race and won’t be back until after lunch,” Natalie said sadly.
“Well, it will go just as fast without paint as with paint,” Nicole rationalized. “Your painting it isn’t going to help him win the race.”
Natalie thought, That makes sense. It won’t matter if there aren’t any flames on the sides of his go-cart. Besides, does he expect me to wait around all day for him? “OK, I’ll go!” she told Nicole. “Mom’s gone to the store, so I’ll tell Dad and we can go right away!”
At the amusement park, smells of popcorn and cotton candy filled the air, and colorful clowns carried giant bouquets of bright red balloons. The girls went on every ride, but for some reason, Natalie wasn’t having much fun. Even when she rode the carousel, her favorite ride, she didn’t enjoy herself. As she sat on a beautiful white horse with sparkling jewels in its trappings, all she could think about was how disappointed Jared was going to be when he found out that she had broken her promise.
That evening, Natalie dreaded going home. She opened the door as quietly as she could, hoping that nobody would hear her come in. But Mom was sitting on the couch reading the newspaper. “Did you have a good time?” she asked.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Natalie answered halfheartedly. “Where’s Jared? I really need to talk to him.”
“He and Dad are out practicing for the race. They’ll be home late,” Mom said with an “I’m disappointed in you but I’m not going to say anything” tone of voice. “You’ll have to wait until morning.”
Sunday morning, Natalie didn’t say a word at breakfast, and she was barely able to choke down her waffles. Jared didn’t mention the go-cart, but Natalie could tell by the look in his eyes that he was hurt. She was glad when it was finally time to go to church.
After a prayer, her Primary teacher, Sister Parker, began to explain the lesson. “Today we are going to talk about covenants. A covenant is a promise, or an agreement, between two people.”
Natalie slumped in her seat. How did she know to teach this lesson today? she wondered.
“As long as one of them keeps the agreement,” Sister Parker continued, “the other is also bound to do what he or she has promised.”
Just like the deal I made with Jared. Natalie squirmed in her chair.
“We all make covenants when we are baptized. We promise to take upon us the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. This means that we are willing to live as He would have us live.”
Jesus would not have wanted me to break my promise to Jared.
“We also promise to always remember Him and keep His commandments. In return, He promises to send His Spirit to always be with us. The sacrament is a time for us to remember what the Savior has done for us, and to renew our baptismal covenants.”
During the sacrament, she tried to really concentrate on what Sister Parker had talked about in Primary. She listened carefully to the sacrament prayers. She thought about Jesus and how He had suffered and died for her. Then she thought about the covenants she had made at baptism to take His name upon her, to always remember Him, and to keep His commandments. “Heavenly Father, I promise to do better,” she prayed silently.
On the way home, she apologized to Jared. “I’m really sorry that I didn’t paint your go-cart. How can I make it up to you?”
“It’s OK, Nat. I can still race. Don’t worry about it.”
But Natalie did worry about it. She wanted to make things right somehow. After praying again about it, she knew what she had to do.
Monday morning, Jared was astonished. When he went to get his go-cart, it had been painted a sleek black, and bright red flames raced along the sides. He ran into the house and up the stairs. “Hey, Nat!” he shouted.
“Shhh!” Mom said with her finger to her lips. “I’m going to let her sleep for a while longer.”
“Did you see it?” Jared asked, barely able to hold still long enough to hear the answer.
“Yes, I did. It looks great! She got up at three o’clock this morning to paint it for you.”
The time for the race finally came. Friends and families crowded along the course, waiting for the go-carts to come racing down the hill. Natalie waved to Jared as he slipped into the red and black go-cart. “Good luck, Jared!”
As he waved back, he had a huge, happy grin on his face. Natalie’s grin was just as huge and happy.