Thanks! I won’t.

Yesterday, I did a chalkboard drawing. I do these once in a while ranging from every few weeks to every few months. The chalkboard I use for this hangs in a fairly prominent place in my home and I have to see it a lot, so I often use it as a sort of ever-changing inspirational poster, like a physical inspirational meme.

The drawing I did yesterday was a fairly simple one, I’ve done much more complex ones in the past, with only an open door in the corner and large letters sharing a bible verse.

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Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. ~ Matthew 7:7

I’ve been on a journey, seeking out God for much of my life. I’ve always loved the spiritual world and it’s mysteries. Even when I was little before I met Jesus, I was always looking for the mystical and magical all around me. The world filled me with wonder and I loved it.

For the most part, religion tried to scare that out of me. Religious people want you to love Jesus and forsake the mystery. The mystical and magical seem to have little place in the world of organized religion. This is because, unfortunately, we’ve all been domesticated to think dualistically.

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To a dualistic mind, questions and answers are separate, opposing things. Something cannot be both a question and an answer. In this way of thinking, Jesus is an answer to a question, not both the question and the answer. In this way of thinking, if I have found Jesus, I have the answer not the question.

But, lately, I’ve been trying to shed a dualistic way of thinking. It’s definitely not easy but it’s the direction I’m going.

Dualism, by its very nature, is an “us vs. them” reality. It calls for us to categorize and separate everything in our world, even people. And, honestly, I don’t want to do that to people anymore. I don’t want to try to categorize people and fit them into neat little boxes in my mind. I don’t want to be categorized by others so why would they want to be categorized by me. I know that I am categorized by other people, though, because, by and large, people are dualistic thinkers and they can’t help but put me in a box. But if I can somehow work towards no longer boxing people up in my own mind, then that is what I’m going to do. It’s a work in progress.

And so, on this path, I have decided it is ok to see the mystery of God, Jesus and the Divine, and to appreciate that not only are they the mystery but also the answer to that mystery. And it’s ok if I never have “answers” to my questions. The point is to keep searching and seeking. Because God loves to be sought after just as much as we do. We were made in God’s image, after all.

So I made my little chalkboard drawing, Seek and Find in big bold letters, and I wrote a little caption underneath to sort of explain where I’m at on my journey.

I woke this morning to find a very long comment on my post. An old friend I haven’t seen for years seemed to be in disagreement with some of the things I had said. They disagreed with my use of him/her in reference to God because they believe God prefers to have themself identified with male pronouns. And my friend seemed to take issue with me saying that I was dropping the need for right and wrong, saying, “if we drop the need for right and wrong, morality also becomes murky waters”.

My first thought, after reading all of that, was, “Oh no! I’ve offended my friend. I need to clarify what I meant!” That thought and all the feelings that were tangled up in it lasted about 2 seconds, if that. My next thought was, “No, I don’t.” And I’m still dining on that second thought, hours later.

Mixed into the first thought was worry that my friend was angry, hurt and offended. I don’t believe God has a gender and I don’t believe God cares if we call them he or she or it. When asked by Moses what God’s name was, it replied, “I Am.” I think God is a lot bigger than gender and social construct. God is “I Am”, something outside of name and category. So, in those first 2 seconds, I wondered if I should tell my friend these thoughts. Would my viewpoint ease their obvious discomfort?

I also wasn’t referencing morality when I said I was dropping the need for right and wrong. I simply meant I was dropping the need for me to be right and you to be wrong. I don’t want to leave morality behind. I just want to leave behind my own superiority and start to empathize with people, rather than try to fix them with my own ideas of what is right. So, in those first 2 seconds, I wondered if I should tell my friend what I really meant about right and wrong. Would this help them feel a little better?

But I realized quickly what I was doing. I was assuming my friend was angry, hurt and offended. I was assuming my friend was coming at me from a place of attack. And I realized that I actually didn’t know what my friend was feeling. Maybe they were concerned for me. Maybe they thought what I wrote was an indication that my soul was in danger. After all, I’ve definitely been the person who thought someone’s soul was in danger because of something they posted on social media. If I’m honest, I’m still there more often than I want to be.

And so, I went from feeling attacked and upset to feeling kind of flattered. If my friend was, indeed, simply trying to save my soul, well, I appreciate that. How kind of them! Perhaps, in the eyes of my friend, I am careening down a path that inevitably leads me over a cliff into the abyss of hell. Since they care for me, they are trying to stop me from going to hell. And believe it or not, I don’t find that offensive. I think it’s kind of sweet.

I do not believe my soul is in any danger. I’m not worried that God is offended by what I said on instagram. So, why should I take offense at what my friend said to me? They were simply trying to help.

It’s like when a child comes into the kitchen and their mother immediately yells, “Don’t touch the stove! It’s hot!” The child came into the kitchen to get a treat, not to touch the stove. But the mother doesn’t know that and loves her child and doesn’t want to see her child burned. The child can react two ways. Either become offended and say, “I know not to touch the stove! I’m not stupid!” and storm out without the treat they came for. Or the child can simply appreciate that their mother loves them and say, “Thanks! I won’t,” and continue going about getting their treat. More often than not in life I have reacted the first way and shouted, “I’m not stupid!” and left without my treat. But I’m trying a different approach these days. I’m trying really hard to see the love in situations like this and simply say, “Thanks! I won’t,” and continue getting my treat.

And so, I replied to my friend.

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And now, here I am, telling all of you about this. Why? Well, I don’t think my motives are really all that pure. I’m writing this because I’m really proud of myself. I still haven’t reached the place in my spiritual journey where I don’t need to celebrate personal victories. This is a personal victory for me!

I don’t handle conflict or confrontation well. My normal tactic is to run away. Lol. I’m usually terrible at standing up for what I believe in. I often let others fight my battles for me.

But for several months now, I’ve been working on my conflict resolution skills. I wish I could tell you that I read a great book or listened to a great podcast that has helped me with this, but it’s just not true. Instead, I’ve been trying really hard to stop feeling personally attacked and start trying to see things from someone else’s perspective. This isn’t the first time I’ve had comments from people on my social media that have felt attacking, far from it. But this may be the first time I have switched perspectives so quickly. That is why it’s a personal victory for me.

Normally, when I receive negative comments, my adrenaline starts pumping and I feel scared and worried. It can take days for me to stop thinking about it. It can also take days for me to reply, if I even do. This time, 2 seconds of worry and it was over. That feels really good. It feels good to realize that no matter what my friend was actually feeling when they wrote that, I can still appreciate it and be thankful. Thankful for the care and concern. Thankful to them for taking the time to write to me. And I’m just proud of myself for getting there more quickly than usual. Lol. I hope to someday get to the place where I don’t need to pat myself on the back for handling conflict well, but I’m just not there yet.

So, to my friend, I just want to say, I see that you were warning me not to touch the stove. I appreciate you trying to keep me from getting burned. And to anyone out there, lovingly shouting at me, “Don’t touch the stove! It’s hot!”, I say, “Thanks! I won’t.” And I love you.

 

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The Dancing Girl Café

 

The chalkboard was the first thing Lydia Pepper noticed when she arrived at the café. Something was… off. All of the words were still there, every menu item she’d written the day before was still on the board in clean, white chalk letters. It was the little dancing girl, it was missing. Someone had erased the little dancing girl and only the little dancing girl from the corner of the chalkboard. Strange, she thought. I guess I’ll just have to draw it again.

Chalk dust was the second thing Lydia noticed. There was a light dusting of it everywhere. Down the side of the chalkboard, all over the floor, on the table tops, on top of the counter, it even made its way into the kitchen. It finally stopped at the broom closet. It looked as if someone had run through the café with a loaded eraser, slapping every surface in reach. I guess I’ll have to clean that up too.

Lydia always arrived at The Dancing Girl Café earlier than her employees. She liked to be the one to switch on the lights and warm the ovens. She felt she was waking the café up, bringing it to life. She actually loved the electric hum of the machines as she switched them on. In a way, it reminded her of waking her daughter for school, something she deeply missed.

And then there were the muffins. A secret, family recipe that only Lydia knew how to make. She had to get there before anyone else in order to mix the batter alone. They had been her daughter’s favorite and were the first item Lydia put on the menu when she’d opened the café a few years ago. They were a big hit with the breakfast crowd so she had to be sure to mix a large amount of batter before anyone else arrived. Cleaning up chalk dust was going to set her back but she had no choice. It covered almost every surface in the kitchen.

She set to work, cleaning and mixing. She had just finished adding the last ingredient to the batter and turned on the mixer when Alejandro arrived.

“Morning, boss,” Alejandro, tying on his apron.

“Good morning, Alejandro. Hey, do you know anything about some chalk dust I found all over the café this morning?” Lydia, spooning batter into muffin tins.

“Chalk dust?” joining his boss at the muffin tins.

“Yeah, when I came in this morning there was chalk dust on everything. I didn’t even know what it was at first. I had to clean it all up before I could start on the muffins.” The first muffin tin slid into the oven and the door slammed shut.

“Sorry, I don’t know anything about it. Jenna was the one who closed up last night. She might know.”

Jenna did not know. None of the employees seemed to know anything about the mysterious chalk dust or who had erased the little dancing girl. Lydia drew the little dancing girl back into the corner of the board. She couldn’t understand why someone would erase the little girl but decided it wasn’t worth any more investigation. It had probably been a customer.

***

Lydia hummed as she unlocked the door to The Dancing Girl Café the next morning. She switched on the light and her purse hit the floor. Everything was covered in chalk dust again but even more so this time. And the little dancing girl had been erased from the corner of the menu board again.

She wasted no time wondering who or what had done this and went straight for her phone. Alejandro was the first to arrive but soon all of Lydia’s employees were there helping her clean before the breakfast crowd arrived. They cleaned the kitchen together first, then everyone was ushered out to give Lydia privacy to make her muffins.

Lydia breathed a sigh of relief when the muffins made it into the oven but soon her thoughts turned back to the chalk dust. She had to find out who was doing this. Now she was sure it was one of her employees. As she drew the little dancing girl back into the corner of the board, she decided she wouldn’t leave at 4pm like she did most days. She would stay until closing to see if she could find out who was doing this.

***

Closing time came and went. Nothing happened, though Lydia wasn’t sure what she had expected to happen. Maybe just being here has put an end to this stupid prank, she told herself. She went home, more tired than she’d been in a while and hoped that this really was the end of the chalk dust and the missing drawing. As always she kissed the tips of her fingers and lightly pressed them against the door to her daughter’s bedroom as she passed by. And then she wondered what Fletcher was doing and if he was happy with Stacy. And then she was asleep before she could feel sad and alone, which was nice.

***

The next morning Lydia slid the key into the lock and unconsciously held her breath as she opened the door. She peered into the dark café trying to see if chalk dust had once again invaded. But it was too dark for her to tell. She switched on the light.

“Errrrgghh!” sinking down into the nearest chair. The tables, chairs and counters were almost completely white. And the little dancing girl was gone.

Lydia erased the top part of the menu board and wrote “No muffins today”. It almost hurt her to do it but even after everyone had come in to help clean up the chalk dust they had not had time to bake any before it was time to open.

After the last of the morning crowd drifted out, Lydia flipped the “Open” sign to the “Closed” side and sat the employees down.

“I don’t know what to say. I thought this chalk thing was just a prank and that it would be over by now. And I know all of you say you don’t know who is doing this but this has to end now. I don’t want to fire anyone. You all are like family to me. But if this does not end, someone will lose their job,” trying to sound tougher than she felt. It didn’t last. She slid into a nearby chair and hung her head, a quiet sob shook her tired shoulders.

Alejandro stood and wrapped his arms around her in comfort. One by one, they all stood and put their arms around their boss. She stood awkwardly and leaned into the embrace, the first one she’d had in months.

***

Closing time came. Lydia said goodnight to her employees, locked up and headed for her car. She drove a few streets over to a place where she could watch the employees leaving for the night. She watched as the last car turned at the end of the block then quietly crept back into the darkened café. One way or another she was going to find out who was behind all of this.

She decided to set up camp in the little vestibule that led to the restrooms. From there she could see the dining area pretty well and remain hidden from view. She would wait all night if she had to.

It was much quieter in the empty café than she had expected. Boredom quickly set in followed by head nodding and before she’d realized what was happening she was waking up to the sound of giggling little girls.

She leaned out of the vestibule enough to get a good view of the front counter where the chalkboard sat propped up by an easel. Moonlight streamed in from the window, illuminating the chalkboard and the little dancing girl, who was freeing her tiny chalk body from the board and climbing down the leg of the easel. Too bewildered to speak or even make a noise, she sat frozen on the floor. But the sound of little girls laughing and singing caused her to turn her gaze toward the counter top. Three more girls with chalk bodies danced in a circle on the counter and called out for the new arrival to join them.

“Sister! Come, sister! Come dance with us!” they sang. The newest little girl climbed up the edge of the counter and the three chalk girls helped her pull herself up over the edge. They held hands and gleefully danced around the counter top leaving chalk dust everywhere as they played.

Lydia slowly pulled herself up to standing and cautiously walked across the café trying to stay out of sight so she wouldn’t scare the girls away. But they saw her coming and the dancing stopped. Lydia stopped in her tracks and held her breath. She hoped they would stay.

“Mother!” one of them shouted joyfully.

“Mother!” the rest shouted together in unison.

“Hello,” Lydia said, walking toward them slowly.

“Mother, it is so wonderful to finally meet you,” the leader said.

“It’s nice to meet you too,” unsure how to respond, “How?”

“How are we here?”

“Yes. How are you here?” Lydia, laughing to herself.

“You drew us and the moonlight made us.”

“But how?”

“We don’t know,” all four girls said in unison, giggling.

“But when?”

“When did this all happen?”

“Yes. When did this happen to you?”

“Four nights ago, the day you brought the chalkboard here,” the leader said.

“That was the day I bought it. I found it at a flea market a few blocks from here,” Lydia, trying to understand, “So whatever is drawn on the chalkboard comes to life?”

“Not words or numbers or shapes, only people or animals,” the leader explained.

“Which one of you was first?” Lydia asked.

“I was,” the leader said.

“Then me,” the one to her right said.

“Then me,” said the one to her left.

“I was born tonight,” the newest arrival said.

“So every night, another girl is… born… and you play in the café all night?”

“There’s nothing else for us to do, Mother,” the first-born said.

“What do you do during the day? I’ve never seen you.”

“We hide.”

“Yes. We hide in the broom closet,” number 2 said.

“Why?”

“We’re afraid,” said number 3.

“Not of you, Mother. We could never be afraid of you. Just the others.”

“I understand,” Lydia said, thinking, “Well, you can’t live in the broom closet. And we can’t have the chalkboard making anything else come to life. Give me a minute to think.”

Lydia stared at the chalkboard trying to decide what to do. Should she destroy it? But how could she destroy the thing that had given her these four beautiful little girls? Then she saw it. A spot near the front counter that remained completely in shadow, no moonlight fell there. She quickly picked up the chalkboard and easel and moved them into the shadows.

“Okay, that takes care of that. Now…”

***

Lydia kissed the tips of her fingers as she passed by the door to her daughter’s room and pressed them against the wood before turning the knob and walking in.

“Mother!” the four girls cried out gleefully.

“Hello, my darlings. How was your day?”

“It was wonderful but we missed you so much!” daughter number 2, Maddie, as she was now called, exclaimed.

“I missed you too, my dears. I missed you too.”

Secrets, secrets are no fun… Who am I kidding? They’re totally fun!

Everyone has secrets. They can be funny, or embarrassing, disturbing, or even criminal. The list goes on and on. 

Why is it that people are so interested in finding out other people’s secrets? I, myself, have always been drawn to mystery and detective stories. I love/hate it when I solve the case before the hero. I love it because it makes me feel smart and superior to everyone else. But I also hate it because that means I’m smarter than the hero of the tale and know the end before it happens which is pretty anticlimactic.

I also love/hate it when I can’t figure it out and then the solution turns out to be incredibly obvious. I love it because that makes it that much more suspenseful and the hero of the tale is worth my admiration because they actually did solve the case. But I also hate it because that means I’m stupider than I thought I was, I mean, it was staring me right in the face the whole time.

But that’s all just in stories. Real life secrets are usually much more mundane. The real reason they become secrets is that they’re far too boring to tell anyone. You never say anything and so it just remains your own little secret.

I have secrets, just like everyone else. Some of mine are really boring, some are sad, some disturbing. None of them are criminal. (At least I don’t think so.) And as I sit here trying to think of secrets I wouldn’t mind sharing here in this post, I am struggling. The real secrets, the disturbing ones from my past are much too private and personal and honestly, I don’t want to share them with anyone. I don’t want to share the sad ones either. They’re sad! I don’t want to bum anyone out. And the boring ones are, well, boring. It’s the kind of stuff people post in “25 Things About Me!” on FB. They aren’t real secrets, just the stuff other people don’t know that you secretly think is very interesting about yourself. (But no one else does.)

So I’m going to sit here and think of one real secret about myself that’s:

  1. Not too personal (Cuz you gotta buy me a steak dinner before we get that real.)
  2. Not a bummer. (No one likes to be bummed out.)
  3. Not boring fluff that no one cares about. (Cuz no ones cares about those. Duh.)

But to qualify as a real secret it has to be something I don’t necessarily want people to know, something that makes me a little uncomfortable to share. I also don’t want to share anything that could hurt someone by reading it. This little secret sharing experiment is meant to be fun, after all! So this is going to take some time. 


But while I’m thinking you get to become a time traveler. I’m going to sit and think about this. It could take hours, days even. But you’ll get to read what I’ve come up with right now, in fact, by the time I finish this sentence…

Ok. I’ve got it. After much inner debate (and the opinions of 3 other people), I have decided to tell about my first experiences with alcohol. It goes like this: (Drop the beat)

I was just a girl, at the tender age of 14. (I’m beat boxing in my mind as I tell this.)

My parents held their first Messianic Seder. (It’s Passover but with Jesus.) Because of Passover there was a lot of wine in the house and there were so many people my folks didn’t notice that I drank 4 glasses of wine that night. Needless to say, I was completely buzzed by the end of the night. 

A few days later, after Passover, I realized there was still quite a bit of wine left. I started sneaking sips of wine here and there when I was alone in the kitchen. I wasn’t drinking much so I figured no one would notice. 

But they did. 

My parents called my sisters and me into the kitchen to ask who had been drinking the wine. My sisters, of course, denied it and so did I. The only difference being that I was freaking lying. 

Now, the way I remember it, mom and dad weren’t satisfied with all those denials, they wanted someone to ‘fess up. So I suggested that one of my sisters’ friends (who were pretty young) had perhaps thought it was juice and accidentally drank some. That seemed to do the trick and it was never brought up again. I was much more careful from then on. 

My parents still do not know this story. But since it’s been 20 years since that happened,  I’m hoping if they read this blog they will find it in their hearts to forgive me. 

So there it is. Not my deepest, darkest secret. But hopefully you found it humorous and maybe a little revealing. 

I think discovering someone else’s secrets humanizes them for us and boosts our self-esteem a little.  We know all of our own faults and evils but unless someone tells us theirs or we discover them on our own, we might begin to think they don’t have any or that they are somehow better than us. 

Let me confess to you now that I have many faults and evils. I am keenly aware that no other man on the face of this earth could be as kind and understanding and forgiving of my many sins as my dear husband. I am truly grateful that even now, 15 years later, after hearing all of my secrets over the years, Nick still loves me and wants to be married to me. That’s freaking nuts, baby! 

But that’s nothing compared to my heavenly Daddy. Dude, he doesn’t just know all my messed up stuff, He witnessed it! WITH HIS OWN EYES. And, yet, He loves me, forgives me, redeems me, cares for me, provides for me. That’s not just nuts, it’s like face-explosion, nuclear brain mushroom cloud, bananas, Carl! Man, that’s so awesome. Just thinking about it is making me all “hot-fudge-brownie-sundae-with-hot-marshmallow-goo” inside my heart. 

Secrets are crazy, baby! But it’s your turn now. I wanna know one of your secrets. Leave me a comment, chuck me an email, text me, call me or whip it through the snail mail. Make it as juicy or fluffy as you like. I ain’t judging. And I won’t tell anyone what you told me neither. (Unless you ask me to. Haha) Open the luggage of your soul and let me have a peek inside. Unburden, baby. It’s gonna feel good, I promise. 

I’m peacing out now, yo! Love, kiddies!