Excerpt from
The Jensen Family

Probably he got caught in a steel trap like this one over here," their dad said, pointing to an exhibit in the next case.
"But how could he get free from that?" Julie asked.

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– posted 12.04.2009

Six Months to Grow-1

A Character story about priorities.

September marked the beginning of a new school year for the twins, Jason and Julie Jensen. However, they found junior high markedly different from the elementary school that had been so familiar to them. Since their junior high gathered students from several elementary schools, they met many new kids. They also found the class blocks different, and traveling from one class to another each time the bell rang kept them thinking for the first week. Though they had some classes together, in others the two were separated and forced to meet new people and experiences without each other. The new computer they had gotten nearly two years earlier had become both a source of information and learning, and of frustration and conflict. Tuesday night when Mr. Jensen got home, Jason was exasperated. "Dad, almost every time I run this program on the computer, it locks up. Can you take a look?"
"Sure, what kind of program is it?"
"Just a game," he answered.
Mr. Jensen kissed his wife and hugged Joshua. "How's my favorite two year old?"
he asked.
"I'm dis many," Joshua said, holding up two fingers.
"That's my big boy. Come with Poppa and we'll see if we can help Jason before supper." They climbed the stairs to Jason's bedroom and sat on the bed where they could see the computer screen.
"OK, now watch what happens when I push these buttons." After about thirty seconds, the cursor stopped blinking and no buttons worked. "See. Now I have to reboot again."
Mr. Jensen sat at the computer and, when it rebooted, he examined the files associated with the program. "It's just a guess, but I think this computer doesn't have enough video memory for the program. It's probably short of ram too. Remember what that means?"
"Yeah. It means I can't run it."
"Games like this take a lot of memory to paint the screen over and over. If it can't keep up with the signal coming from the computer, it could just lock up, like you see here."
"So what's the answer?"
"You can pay more money for a better video card, and/or you can get more ram. I think we still have an open expansion slot but, to tell you the truth, it's probably more expense than it's worth. Even if it didn't lock up, it would run too slowly to be fun. So the next fix would be to buy another computer. So what would you think of someone buying a whole new computer, just to play one twenty dollar game?"
"If it was this one, it would be worth it!"
Mr. Jensen laughed. "I doubt it would be worth a whole new computer for that."
Just then Julie came into the room. "Jason, don't forget about the spelling test tomorrow."
"I won't need to study for that. I already know all the words. They're just the days of the week. It's a cinch."
"OK," Mr. Jensen said, "how do you spell Tuesday?"
"Easy. Uh, t-u-s-d-a-y."
"Sorry. You missed two things. It starts with a capital, and it's T-u-e-s-d-a-y."
"Isn't that what I said?"
"No, you left out the e. How about Wednesday?"
"OK. Capital W-e-n-s-d-a-y."
"Wrong," Julie affirmed. "I know, Daddy. It's W-e-d-n-e-s-d-a-y. I remember it because it sounds like a wedding was that day."
"Sissy's got it right. I think you better forget about the computer and get to studying those words, Son."
"Sis is better at memorizing than I am, that's all. I've got AWANA verses, and math facts, and language facts, and history stuff, and by the end of the day, my mind is worn out. I wish we had a memory expansion slot in our brains so we could upgrade like a computer."
Mr. Jensen laughed. "That would be nice. But instead God made it possible for us to select what we learn and work at it so it stays in our brains. Here's a suggestion with your spelling. Get the tape recorder and a blank tape. Sit down with your spelling words and a piece of paper. Turn on the tape player and say the word, then write it, leaving the tape on. Then spell it into the tape recorder. When you have recorded all the words this way, run the tape back and play it, testing yourself without looking. I'll bet by the third time through, you'll know them all perfectly."
"That's a good idea. I'll try it." Just then Mrs. Jensen called the family for supper. "I'll try it after supper, I guess."
At the table, as the food was being passed around, Mr. Jensen remarked, "You know, Jason, you would talking about improving your memory. I heard someone say that our memory is the most God-like attribute we have because in it, we can race back in time as far back as we want, almost instantly. What do you think of that?"
"I guess it makes sense. Of course, God remembers a lot more than we do."
"In fact, God never learns anything because He always knew everything. Think about that."
"That blows my mind," Julie said.
"i'll bet you kids remember a lot more than you realize. Tell you what. Let's play a little game. I'll say a word to one of you and you tell me a lesson you learned associated with that word. I'll show you what I mean. Sissy, when I say, 'broken arm,' what lesson do
you think of?"
"Oh, that was when I went out riding my bike and the roads were still icey. I learned I should do what mom says, because she told me not to."
"Good. Jason, how about this one: secret garage."
"Don't remind me! That was when we caught those crooks but almost got killed, or kidnapped or something. That was the same lesson Sis had. Follow directions."
"And don't do questionable things without asking your parents," Mrs. Jensen added.
"For sure. OK, Sissy, how about 'necklace.'"
"That was when I met Karen. I learned not to jump to conclusions and judge people before I know all the facts. That's easy to remember because almost every time I wear that necklace I think of that time. I'm just glad Karen has stayed friends for, what, over two years since then."
"I also think of showing Christ's love," Mrs. Jensen added. "When Karen and you gave that girl the necklace, it must have touched her very deeply."
"OK. One more for Jason."
"Beeeep," Jason sounded. "Oh, I'm sorry. But our time is up. Maybe next time."
Mr. Jensen chuckled. "Well, you get the point. A simple word can recall a whole set of circumstances that could be good or bad."
Mrs. Jensen added, "The wonderful thing to know is that when God thinks of you, He think of things wonderful and good and how He is going to make us more like Jesus today."
Both Julie and Jason got all the spelling words right and nothing more was said about improving memory until the end of the week. Jason got a smaller shareware game from a friend and was quickly becoming an expert.
"Hi, Jas. What'cha doing?" Julie greeted on Friday afternoon.
"Oh!" Jason screamed. "What's the matter with you?! I was just about to get the
top score and you made me mess up."
"Sor-ry. I was just trying to be friendly. You don't have to-"
"Here, you make me miss the high score, and all you can say is 'sorry'? Don't you know how long I worked to beat that high score? It must have been-"
"OK, OK. I can see you don't want me around. Good bye." Julie slammed the door, leaving Jason still fuming. She shuffled down the stairs. "Well, what was all that about?" Mrs. Jensen asked. "It sounded like Jason was quite upset about something."
"That's putting it mildly. I came in just as he was trying to get the high score in that stupid shooting game on the computer. Now he's blaming me for making him miss. You know what I say? Who cares?"
"That's just how I feel about it too. He's spending much too much time playing games these days. We got the computer so you could both learn something of benefit and become more computer literate."
"I'd like to, Mom, but when is it free any more?"
That night at supper Jason had no smile for anyone. "Upset about something?"
Mr. Jensen asked him as he raised a glass of water to his lips. "Yeah, but it isn't important," Jason mumbled.
"If it's about that computer game, I sure agree with that," Julie huffed.
"Computer game? What's this about?" Mr. Jensen asked.
"Well, I was bored and Mom suggested that I go see what Jas was doing. But when I went in, he got mad because he was just about to get the high score on the Shoot-um-up computer game and now he's mad at me for making him miss."
"You're not upset about that, are you, Son?"
"No, not really." Jason stuffed more potato into his mouth so he wouldn't have to say any more.
"How are you doing on the computer typing tutor?"
"Mmmm. OK, I guesh," he mumbled.
"Like, how much time have you spent on it, say, in the last two weeks?"
"Well, I've been real busy with reports and stuff and-"
"I see. How about the word processor? Have you gotten any better learning how to use that?"
"I don't understand that at all. It just seems too complicated for me."
"I have trouble believing that," Julie interrupted. "I worked through the tutorial program and I got pretty good at it, that is, when I could get to the computer."
"Just how much time have you been spending on that game lately, Jason?" Mr. Jensen asked seriously.
"Oh, I don't know. I don't keep track."
"Tell Daddy what you got on the history quiz today," Julie prodded.
"Why don't you mind your own business?" Jason snarled.
Mr. Jensen scowled. "I don't believe anything called for that kind of response, young man. How did you do on your history quiz?"
"Uh, not so good. It was a lot of stuff I wasn't expecting she wanted us to know."
Julie looked shocked but bit her tongue and Mrs. Jensen noticed. "Did you think the quiz was hard, Honey?"
"I have to tell the truth. Mrs. Jones gave us a study sheet yesterday and said the quiz would be on that stuff. Anyone could have gotten a hundred."
"Hmmm. That's interesting," Mr. Jensen mused. "Just what did you do last evening to get ready for the quiz? Do you use the memory techniques I suggested earlier in the week?"
"How come everyone's ganging up on me? So I didn't do so hot on one little quiz. That's not the end of the world, is it?"
"Not the end of the world, but the end of the shooting game for a while," Mr. Jensen said in a firm voice. "Obviously you are lacking self-discipline and need a little discipline given to you. I'll expect that CD on my desk right after supper."
Jason glared across the table at his sister and the table conversation grew quiet for several minutes.
"Say," Mrs. Jensen remarked, "what would you all think of our writing a little paper of our own? That way you kids would increase your typing skills, learn to use the word processor, and practice what you're learning in grammar. And, if you can write about some of the things you're learning in other subjects, it would be a great way to review."
"Me, too?" Joshua asked.
"Sure. You draw a picture and we'll get someone to scan it in."
"Hey, I like that," Mr. Jensen said. "It will help us keep from forgetting important things that are happening in our lives."
"And we could send the final product to some of the relatives as a kind of a family news letter," Julie suggested. "What should we call it?"
"How about the Jensen Journal," Mrs. Jensen offered.
"Sounds like a good idea to me," Mr. Jensen affirmed. "Let's all write a short article by Monday and we can read them at the table at supper. That gives us time on the weekend to think of something special. Then you kids can type them up on one page. What do you say, Jason?"
"Ok, I guess," he muttered.
"Good. Let's keep our first article a surprise until then."
Three days later, each member of the family brought a sheet of paper to the supper table. Even Joshua had drawn a picture of their house. After prayer, Julie begged her dad to read his article first. "Ok. Mine is called, J.F.N., the Jensen Forecasting Network. Without the aid of a crystal ball, or any other hocus-pocus, I am attempting to make predictions about the future. Prediction number one: at the present rate of growth, Joshua will be five feet eleven inches tall when he grows up and will still bring people joy with his big, beautiful smile." Joshua laughed and clapped his hands. "Prediction number two: Jason will be the world's leading expert on Shoot-um-up, traveling world-wide to get his name on the top of the scoring list wherever the game is played. His only goal in life is to be remembered as the 'Shoot-um-up' world champ." Jason looked shocked for a moment but said nothing.
"Honey," Mrs. Jensen said kindly, "don't you think you're being a little hard on Jason? After all, he has been doing better about sharing the computer since Friday."
"That's Ok, Mom. I know what Dad's saying. I know I've been spending way too much time with that game. It-it really did shock me though to think of that as my only goal in life, or even a goal at all. I sure want to do more with my life than become an expert at some game that doesn't matter."
"Good for you, Son," Mr. Jensen said with a grin. "And I think it would be good for you to gain your sister's forgiveness, don't you?"
"Oh, I took care of that yesterday."
"Hey, that's great. You know, there's nothing wrong with playing wholesome games once in a while to relax or enjoy someone else's company. But like everything else, play must be kept in balance with work and responsibility."
"You have any more predictions, Daddy?" Julie asked.
"Yes, but why don't you let your mother read her article first."
"I wanted to read mine next, but, it's Ok, Mom. I can wait."
"Thanks. My article is actually a short poem. It goes like this: 'In April our family just maybe, Is bringing home a brand-new baby!'"
Julie jumped up and grabbed her mother by the shoulders. "Are you serious, Mom, or are you just making this up?" she shouted, staring into her face. "It's no joke," Mrs. Jensen answered with a smile. "The reason we haven't told you any sooner is because I've been having some problems and I didn't want you to get your hopes up. But all seems to be well now."
"Wow!" Julie shouted, waving her hands around. "This is the greatest news of all! Maybe now I'll get the sister I've really wanted!"