The Spiritual Growth of Olivia Taylored By RoMon E.

Dubose

Chapter 1 You would think that every kid would be happy on Pizza Day at school, but not Olivia. Olivia was sad because she was at a new school and doesn't have any friends. She and her family have just moved to this new town in Alabama. Soon after the move, her father left to go to war. As if that weren’t enough, Olivia was also sad because she is overweight, and some of the children tease her, calling her Piggy Bank. It started three days ago in the school's cafeteria. Her mother had given her money for snacks to go along with her lunch. After she was through eating her lunch, she walked to the snack machine. As she reached into her pants pocket to get the quarters, she pulled so hard to get her hand out, that the money fell all over the floor. The quarters clinked on the floor when they fell, and Olivia hurried to pick them up. The kids started laughing at her. One boy called her “Piggy Bank.” Olivia hadn't learned the names of all the children in her class yet, but she did know Jason when she heard his voice, because he was loud and sometimes mean. Jason started chanting, "Piggy Bank dropped her change! Piggy Bank dropped her change!" and a few other kids joined in too. The teacher arrived and stood at Olivia’s side. "All right, quiet down everyone! Making fun of someone is not nice." The teacher saw that, as usual, it was Jason causing the trouble and

said, "Jason, stop calling Olivia names." The teacher made sure Olivia got the snacks that she wanted and watched as Olivia walked back to her table with her eyes focused on the floor. The kids went back to eating and talking to their buddies sitting beside them. They would smile or giggle a little and go back to eating and talking to their friends when Olivia would look around. Olivia thought of what she would have Pixie do to Jason for making fun of her as she ate her snacks quietly. Pixie is a little, magic girl with wings. She has a wand and lives inside a round, gold box with pretty, glittering flowers painted all around it. The box plays music, too. There is a little key that you can use to wind up the music box, and that makes Pixie twirl around while a lullaby plays. *** In English class, Olivia looked toward the front of the room, but she wasn’t focusing on what the teacher was saying. She was thinking about the first time she was called Piggy Bank. She fantasized about what Pixie would do to get back at Jason and some of the others for teasing her. Olivia opens the lid of the magic music box and Pixie comes flying out, trailing sparkles behind her. Pixie waves her glittering magic wand at Jason—a zipper appears over his loud mouth and it zips up! The breeze of Pixie’s magic then blows Jason over and makes his tray of food fall right on top of him. Pixie uses her magic wand to make the trash can float over Jason and the other kids, spilling garbage all over them. That would fix Jason and his friends for messing with me, and everyone would be laughing at them instead of me! Then Pixie would give all the kids free snacks and they would all like me and be my friends.

Olivia’s daydream was interrupted when she heard the teacher, “The class will be holding a Show and Tell and you can bring in anything you want, as long as it’s not a live animal or something dangerous.” Olivia smiled, knowing the perfect thing to bring to Show and Tell. When Olivia got home, her mother asked her how her day at school went. Olivia excitedly told her mother about what she wanted to bring to school for Show and Tell. But Olivia's mother thought bringing Pixie to school might not be such a good idea. Olivia's mother said that she knew how rough some kids could be when playing with things, and that the music box might get broken or stolen. But Olivia’s heart was set on bringing Pixie to school and showing her off to her classmates. The next Friday at school, everyone was excited because it was finally Show and Tell day. Many of the children brought in toys, but one classmate was wearing a costume. The costume was one of the best that Olivia had ever seen of a red dragon—it’s a complete body costume, and the only way you could tell who was in the costume was by looking into the mouth of the dragon. Olivia managed to sneak a peek into the dragon’s face, and she saw Jason, smirking back at her. While the other kids gave their presentations, Olivia could only think about who would win in a battle between Pixie and a red dragon. Usually dragons are really big, as big as a dump truck. And dragons can breathe fire from their mouths and fly. But Pixie can fly too, probably faster than a big, stupid dragon can. And Pixie has magic that can protect her from the firebreathing dragon. Finally, it’s Olivia’s turn to do her Show and Tell presentation. She walked to the front of the class and put the music box on the teacher’s desk. “This is a music box my father gave me

before he went to war.” Olivia said loud enough for the class to hear. “Inside this pretty, glittering box is a little fairy I call Pixie.” Olivia winds up the music box to let the class listen to the soft, soothing lullaby. Jason opened his big mouth and yawned, "Booorrring! That's for babies." The teacher scolds Jason, "Don't interrupt, or it will mean points off your grade." That makes Jason shut up. It also makes him mad. Olivia finishes and the bell rings, it’s time to go home. Olivia thinks her presentation went well despite Jason’s rude remark. She surprised herself because she didn't feel nervous or scared talking in front of the other students, especially when it came to talking about Pixie. She gets much more nervous talking to her classmates one on one or starting up a conversation in a small group. As the children make their way to the school buses, Jason suddenly jumps out in front of Olivia, roaring and whipping his red dragon tail in front of her. She trips and falls, dropping her music box. It lands on the hard concrete and the lid snaps off. At first Olivia was stunned, and just lies there on the ground. But after a few seconds, she pulled herself up to a sitting position and starts to cry. Now she feels like she’s lost her only friend and, even worse, she thinks that because she’s broken Pixie, her mother and father might be mad. Olivia feels so alone. Olivia is crying so loudly that she’s tuned out everything and everybody. Trying to wipe her tears, Olivia can only sit and look at her broken friend, beaten by the evil red dragon.

It isn’t too long before Olivia was lifted to her feet by a teacher. Jason kept saying "Sorry, sorry," looking like he’s scared he’ll get into trouble. “Are you hurt?” The teacher asked Olivia. "Everything will be alright." The teacher picked Olivia's prized music box up off the ground and they walked to the office to call Olivia's mother . During the car ride home, Olivia's mother said, “Everything will be OK, Honey. Me and your father will always love you and be there for you. Even though the music box's lid is broken, Pixie can still twirl around while the music plays. Pixie might like it better this way, because she won’t be trapped inside the box.” After their talk about what happened at school that day, Olivia notices her mother’s new necklace. It has a little man on it. Maybe her mother has a friend that she can talk to while daddy is gone. Olivia learns that the man is called Jesus.

Chapter 2

Olivia’s mother explained to Olivia who the man on her necklace is, putting into plain words who Jesus Christ is and what He did. “I guess we should find a good church in the area so that you can learn more, but until then, we can both pray so that we can build a personal relationship with Jesus.”

“Honey, I’m a bit worried about you. It looks like you’ve gained some weight. I think we need to limit the snacks you’re having. Now, I know they taste good, but they’re making you gain weight, and that’s not good for your health. Are you making new friends at school?” Olivia replies that everything is OK at school. “Do you miss Daddy?” Olivia slowly nods her head. “Don’t worry, it won’t be long now before we hear from him and how he’s doing. In the meantime, let’s you and I take a walk around the neighborhood this afternoon. This way, we can get to know the place better and get in a little exercise, too. Oh, and another thing—you’re going to have to stop eating right before bedtime. Those snacks you eat just before you go to sleep might be why you’re picking up some of those extra pounds. Will you promise me that you won’t snack before bedtime?” Olivia sighs. “OK, I promise.” *** The day finally arrives when Olivia and her mom go to their new church, and they are both excited. “You look so nice in your new dress, honey. And I have the perfect thing to go along with it.” Olivia’s mom gives her a necklace with Jesus on it, just like her mother’s. Olivia loves her new necklace, because it makes her feel special, like a grown-up. Olivia and her mom arrive at their new church. Before the church service begins, Olivia’s mom strikes up a conversation with another young woman. Olivia’s mom tells her that she and Olivia are new to the area and are starting to check out the local churches. “Well, you couldn’t have picked a better church,” the lady says. “This church has all sorts of programs for children and teenagers. I think you’ll both enjoy it very much!”

To Olivia, the church service is OK, but she’s easily distracted, looking around at all the new faces, thinking about when the service will be over and when she can go home. Afterwards, the lady that Olivia’s mother talked to introduces both of them to some of the other members of the church and to the preacher. On the way home, Olivia and her mother talk about church. “What did you think about the service?” Her mom wants to know. “Did you understand what the preacher was talking about when he said how we should sow good seeds to produce good things in life?” Olivia shakes her head—she feels guilty now about not paying attention in church. “I don’t know. I guess he was talking about being a good farmer, or something.” Olivia’s mom smiled. “The preacher said that we should put our time into worthwhile things, like reading and studying good books like the Bible, to get an understanding of how we are supposed to live. Just like a farmer plants seeds to grow food, for example, you go to school to get a good education, so that when you get older you can get a good job and have a family of your own. Also, you do good when you give part of what you have to help others. You will be blessed. Do you know what I mean? Do you understand what the preacher was trying to tell us a little better now, honey?” Olivia nods her head. *** That night, Olivia eats snacks like she usually does, going into her dresser drawer to get the package of cookies she has already hidden there. As she chews, she remembers the talk her mother had with her about not eating before bedtime. But how can she stop? She craves those delicious sweets.

It just so happens that tonight, just as Olivia is enjoying her snack, her mother passes by her room and hears the rustling of the cookie wrappers. She looks in to see what Olivia is doing, and discovers Olivia and her cookies. “Olivia! Didn’t we talk about not to eating snacks before bedtime?” “I tried not eating anything, Mom,” Olivia replies, “but it’s too hard! I get so hungry, and they taste so good! I’m sorry, Mommy.” “Well, I forgive you for disobeying me, honey, but we are going to have to do something about your weight gain. I love you, and I don’t want you to be unhealthy because of all this junk food. Now, give me those cookies, and anything else you have hidden in here.” Olivia slowly hands over the rest of her snack stash. “I have an idea about how you can control your snack-eating. Whenever you feel like having snacks, maybe you can start talking to Jesus instead. It’s called ‘praying.’ Talk to Him about your feelings, about your day at school, about your dad, or about anything at all.” “Mommy, when you say ‘talk to Jesus,’ how do I know He can hear me? And how can He stop me from eating junk food?” Olivia doubts. “Well, honey, I know He listens, and I bet He’ll help you. Jesus can hear the prayers of all the people in the world, and He even knows what you are going to say and do before you know what you are going to say and do!” Olivia is still not so sure. “Well, if He knows what I’m going to say and do, why do I have to go to the trouble of telling Him about it? Can’t He just fix things right away?” “Well, it’s not that simple, honey. Most of the time we have to work for what we want, but we can ask for His help. Do you remember the topic of the church service we talked about, planting good seeds? Well, this is an example. You can take small steps to be healthy now and

reap the rewards of being healthy in the future, or you can go on eating whatever you want and being dishonest and end up feeling worse and unsatisfied in the future. Now, let’s get ready for school tomorrow. I’ve been thinking--how about throwing a party so that we can get to know more people around here? We can invite some of the folks we met at church today, our neighbors, and you can invite your schoolmates.” “Wow, that’s a great idea! Thanks, Mom.” “OK, we’ll talk more about it tomorrow. Now, go to sleep! Good night!” “Good night, Mom!” Olivia snuggles into her bed and says a little prayer, introducing herself to Jesus. “Hello! My mom says if I tell You what I’m feeling, You’ll help me. Well, here goes . . . Mom caught me with cookies tonight, after I promised her I wouldn’t eat before bedtime, but it’s so hard not to. I’m feeling sad, because my Dad’s far away, and I’m going to a new school, and there’s this boy, Jason, who’s really mean to me . . .” Soon Olivia is asleep, with a little smile on her face. *** The next Saturday, the day of the party, the guests start arriving at Olivia’s house a little after noontime. There is plenty of colorful balloons and party favors and food, all to introduce Olivia and her mom to their new community. Some of the guests even bring some gifts for Olivia, as a welcoming gesture. The party has the kids playing games outside in the backyard, with tables set up for board games and drawing, while the parents and grownups talk and watch over the kids. Shortly after the party starts, Olivia’s schoolmate Jason turns up with his mom. Olivia and her mom welcome them to their home, but notice that, when Jason and his mom have gone into the yard, the other parents start to whisper among themselves. Olivia and her mom can hear

what they’re saying, though: they whisper that Jason is a bad boy, a troublemaker, and that his mother doesn’t really punish him, but lets him get away with misbehaving. As the day goes on, the party is running smoothly, and everyone is having a great time. They’re all in a good mood, talking, laughing, and joking. When the sun starts to get low in the sky, some of the guests start to leave, thanking Olivia and her mom for a wonderful party. There is still plenty of food, though, and Olivia’s mom encourages everyone to take some home with them. Jason, one of his friends, and their two mothers begin preparing plates to take home, when Jason’s friend scoops up some cake frosting with his finger and throws it at Jason. The frosting misses Jason, because he moves quickly out of the way, but in so doing, he accidentally knocks over the table, with all the food and gifts on it! Everyone turns around when they hear the crash, and some people cry out, “Oh, no!” when they see the mess that’s left of the food and gifts, all spilled now on the ground. Olivia is shocked, too, but, instead of crying, she gets very angry: she remembers back to when Jason teased her at school and tripped her, making her cry and breaking Pixie’s box. Recalling the hurt she felt that day and who caused it make Olivia so mad, she marches right up to Jason and yells at him, “I hate you! I hate you! You ruin everything!” And then Olivia storms into the house. Olivia’s mother—like all the other guests, including Jason and his mother— is surprised at Olivia’s outburst, and she quickly apologizes to Jason and his mother. She goes back into the house, calling, “Olivia! Olivia, honey,” but there’s no answer. Then, with an edge to her voice, “Olivia Taylored, you’d better answer me! I know you can hear me!” “Ma’am?” Olivia is crouched beside the sofa in the living room. Olivia’s mother sits down beside Olivia, and gently strokes her hair. “That was a very hurtful thing you said to Jason. I thought I raised you better than that. If this is about him

damaging Pixie and the gifts, those things can always be fixed or replaced. What’s harder to fix are people’s feelings. Now I want you to go out there and apologize for what you said to him.” But Olivia is still mad. “Why should I apologize to him? He’s bad, and everybody says so! He breaks stuff and calls me names!” “When did he call you a name?” Olivia hadn’t told her mother about the name-calling because she had been embarrassed. “At school he called me Piggy Bank, because I’m fat.” “Well, that was wrong of him to do, but what just happened was an accident. Just like I forgave you for disobeying me about eating snacks before bedtime, you should forgive Jason for what he did to you. Jesus wants us to forgive, because He forgives us for all the things we do wrong.” Olivia sighs. “OK, Mom.” Olivia said. As Olivia and her mother head back to the party, Jason and his mother meet them at the door. “Excuse me, Mrs. Taylored,” Jason’s mother says, “I apologize for what just happened out there, and Jason is sorry, too.” “Don’t worry, it was just an accident. And Olivia has something she would like to say to Jason, too.” Olivia takes a deep breath. “I’m sorry I said I hated you.” “It’s OK. I’m sorry, too,” Jason says. Jason’s mom smiles at the children. “We’ll help clean up now.” And they do, with everyone pitching in to help. Adults and kids are laughing and joking as they bag the trash, sweep up the mess, and take down the party decorations. Jason cleans up the gifts as best as he can, and shyly hands them to Olivia. “That blue one is from me.”

And just like that, Olivia realizes something very important: that Jason is really OK, as well as her new friends, neighbors, and school. She thinks, This has been a hard time for me, what with moving to a new place, starting at a new school, and my Dad being so far away, but I think I’m going to be OK. Thank you, Jesus, You really do know how to fix things!

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