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Dec 28 2014

David and Joseph

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David and Joseph

Joseph was royalty.
He had the blood of kings in his veins.
A chosen king.
As improbable David’s anointing
Was Joseph becoming the Father of the King of Kings.

Carpenters and shepherds. Shepherds and carpenters. Blue collar workers with royalty in their veins because the God of the universe knew

No one
Could achieve true Greatness with their own strength

No one

could earn status in God’s kingdom without His secret ways, His blessings, His miracles

No one is wise enough, powerful enough, perfect enough

To end up the King of Israel
Or the unintended Father to the King

God smiled,
moved some impossible
parts and pieces together
And blew divinity into the line of David. Knocked him to His knees
And to Joseph
He Whispered a similar task
To be the shepherd to the king of kings
David fell, Joseph nodded, God smiled
and a King was born.


Oct 25 2014

Beside The Still Waters And The War of the Worlds

 

 

Most of us know or have heard reference at some point in our lives to Psalm 23.  Bits and pieces come to us when we are feeling afraid, alone, or like we are being attacked by alien spaceships in War of the Worlds.  Ha–I am not joking that part of my subconscious sees the Priest in the old War of the Worlds movie walking toward the evil-eyed spaceship quoting the 23rd psalm. Then he gets zapped and turns to dust.   It scared me to death as a kid.  I always wondered why he was not using his brain and kept walking toward the ship instead of away.  At that point in the movie, I think the behavior of the aliens pretty consistently proved they were bad guys…so, while all of you are reading through psalm 23 with floating streams and quiet places and vivid images of gentle shepherds leading their sheep through grassy knolls, I’m thinking about the poor priest who got turned to dust.

Anyway…

I’m thinking that alien space ships were not on King David’s radar when he wrote his prayer to God, but maybe something like it.  A deeply distressing time that brought him to his knees, seeking the comfort his true Shepherd could bring.

So, however we get to Psalm 23 and whatever makes us think about it, the truth is the same.  God, our good, good God, will lead us in quiet places and walk with us in silence while the peace of the streams bring life back into our weary souls.  Nowhere in Psalm 23 does it say “Then God shouted at me because I’ve been such an idiot”, or “God threw me into the quiet stream and held my head under until I gurggled” I give up!”

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What this Psalm DOES say, all our own vivid imagery and associations with this familiar passage aside, is:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
     He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
     he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
 Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Take a deep breath, breath in the Hope of a loving God who will walk quietly with you wherever you are on your path.  Know He’s with you.  Breathe and Hope.

Hope

*Grace and Peace*


Nov 4 2013

Art and Soul

Red and BlueOprah reminded us all a few years ago to “Remember our Spirits.”  Remember when she took the last five minutes of her show and lit candles and got all warm and fuzzy and talked about her “Spirit”.  It sounded a bit freaky, but really, everyone has a soul, a spirit, a body Each part of us equally important. I’m glad Oprah reminded everyone about it. Because you know what? We all forget. Every single one of us, myself included forgets that we have a very soul-ish self that is longing to speak. We each have a unique soul; each soul expresses her voice differently to the world.

Art is a way I unleash my soul, take a minute to breathe, let all the business, deadlines, carpool schedules and carpool schedule conflicts go. It’s when I go to my “Happy Place”. Where I try to connect with my soul again.

I’m a proud Mommy to three up and coming leadership-minded, feisty, strong-willed but very artsy young women. Our home is full of art in all shapes and sizes in literally every corner, oozing out onto our front porch, sidewalk drawings spilling into our neighborhood. It’s not just art. It’s art with intentionality and purpose.  Art that brings life into our home. Art that captures life around us.

Life as art.  is about being a Noticer. It’s about showing others around us what we see and how we see the world uniquely. Every star in the universe is different, every snowflake is different, every human being bears a different fingerprint, and I think that’s on purpose. We have a unique fingerprint on our perception of the world around us.

At two years old, our Whitney was an artist. She’s 13 now and expresses herself differently, but the sharpie smiley face that covered most of our dining room wooden floor was her first artistic endeavor. We were so proud as parents that she finally learned to draw a smiley face on her own. And found a way to make it permanent and beautiful, leaving her creative mark of artistry on our wood floors.

She was so proud. She should have been. Making your mark in the world is important.  Yes, yes, I went to the sharpie website and found out that this magic lanolin oil takes sharpie marker out of almost anything (you’re welcome) and we did eventually remove the sharpie smiley face from our wooden floors.  We didn’t think the person who bought our house would appreciate the art and beauty of this young forward thinking artist’s expression.

Madeline, our 15 year old is a phenomenal photographer. When she was 10, a family friend of ours saw she had a gift for taking amazing pictures. He is a professional photographer and gave her one of his best, most costly cameras to take pictures of our time in India. If you ever want to get an American child’s perspective on children’s lives in third world countries, go to my blog, michellewegner.com and type India, Maddie in the search box. You will be astounded at what that child sees through her camera lens.

Our Isabelle.  Her whole life is art. Everything about her. Everything she lives and breathes is artistic. She sings constantly, decorates our mirrors with positive quotes and ideas. She has journals filled with story ideas and cartoons to go with her stories.

For myself, I live and breathe art. But if you want to know a secret, I’ll let you in on it.  I really stink at lots of artsy stuff.  I’m sort of allergic to paint, so I had to give up my painting career about a year in. I am not a very good sketcher. My doodles resemble a Kindergartner’s, and teachers really never asked me back to help cut and paste stuff for my kids’ classes because I cannot cut a straight line. But I notice stuff. I notice everything. Like an orange leaf laying in the grass, or the way the clouds are drifting over my house. I see beauty in spiders and ants and bugs and birds and trees and wind. So I take pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.  Photography for me is a sort of prayer.  A thank you to the Creator of it all. To let Creator know I’ve noticed.  That I’m opening my soul to the beauty around me. Photogtaphy fills my soul and helps me breathe.

Every person is different. Every creative expression is different. For women like us in Michiana, there are a ton of ways to find your own soul’s unique expression. Most are very affordable, and some even free! Here are some fun and very do-able ideas even for non-artsy type people:

Wine and Canvas:  A lot of my friends have tried Wine & canvas, an evening or event you can attend with friends or coworkers, drink some wine and receive instruction on how to paint an incredible painting, walk away with a masterpiece that very night!

Flourish Boutique hosted a night like this for women to get together, drink some wine, paint some pretty stuff, and do a little shopping. Flourish plans on doing an event like this again soon, so keep your eyes open!

Snoop around Pinterest.  There are amazing and easy ideas for any kind of artist you want to be.

Ask a friend Are your friends artsy?  Ask them to teach you what they love to do. Do they knit, crochet? Sew? Cook? Paint? Ask them to instruct you in the basics next time you get together. I guarantee they would love to share their passion for their art with you.

Art journaling Get a journal preferably with no lines and doodle away.  Fill every page with a word, though, idea or poem. There are no rules, no time limits. Express yourself without judgment.

And  some final advice:

  • Start simple
  • Start easy
  • Don’t be discouraged
  • Don’t be bashful
  • Try and try and try until you find something that calms your soul renews your mind and stretches your imagination.

Every soul is an artist, a Noticer. Notice what you do and share it first with you, and then with the rest of us. The beauty you bring into the world will inspire us.

 

This article was published in the November 2013 edition of SASSY Magazine


Jul 16 2013

Shame Keeps Us From Our Game

Reflection

The need for self reflection and self evaluation is a constant, necessary hard work if we want to be the best we can be at our game, whether at business, or at home.   I am constantly evaluating myself. Figuring out where I am, where I need to be, what’s been getting me “stuck” where I am and keeping me from being the very best version of myself for myself and for others in my life. Offering myself the best me is a gift to myself.  Offering the very best me to others in my life is a gift to them.   I am always learning. I never stop learning. One of the ways I keep learning is by reading books that motivate me and inspire me to change.  For the past two years I have read a hundred or more books each year. Each book I read adds to the depth of my knowledge and inspires me to be a better person.  Every now and then one stands out in a significant way. Dr. Brene Brown’s book, “I Thought It Was Just Me, (But It Isn’t) was an extremely significant read for me this year.

Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame. Brené’s 2010 TEDx Houston talk, The Power of Vulnerability is one of the most watched talks on TED.com, with over 8.5 million views. Since then she has appeared on Today, Katie and Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday.

Brown speaks about the topic of Shame and its power over our lives in this easy to read, very relatable book. Dr. Brown writes, “We need our lives back. It’s time to reclaim the gifts of imperfection-the courage to be real, the compassion we need to love ourselves and others, and the connection that gives true purpose and meaning to life.  These are the gifts that bring love, laughter, gratitude, empathy and joy into our lives.”

Shame keeps us from being the best at our game. We all struggle with it. I am guessing that in both our personal and professional lives, the people we interact with on a day to day basis need the gift real “us” to show up.  We are all different for a reason. My story–It’s what I bring to the table. My story can be a gateway into someone else’s story, bringing empathy to someone else, causing that person to “Up” their game while I do the same. Brene Brown says, “Empathy is the strongest weapon against shame.” When we share our stories, when we can sit with others and just listen with hearts of empathy, shame is dissipated and friendship can happen.

I spoke with Judge Scott Schofield, who has a unique perspective on the issue of shame as he deals with people who have made poor choices because of their unresolved personal issues of shame, causing them to act out in negative ways.  He has the words “Be kind to those you meet today, everyone is fighting some quiet battle” into his bench, as a reminder that each individual he sees is indeed fighting some quiet battle inside that probably lead them to the space in front of him.

After sixteen years of being a judge, Scofield has seen patterns emerge in the men and women who stand before him. Many offenders have been victims of abuse of some sort, and instead of dealing with the shame and hurt of that abuse, they turn to drug and alcohol addiction as a method to deal with their personal shame stories. He then sees victims of abuse abusing others because of their shame and addiction.The cycle repeats endlessly unless someone has the courage to face their shame and deal with it in appropriate ways.

Judge Schofield says, “When we make a bad choice, we should be ashamed. Shame can be a motivator.  Guilt can prod us to change.  I try not to judge people, I try to judge their actions. I name their bad conduct, I try to call out their potential for good. I punish them appropriately for what they’ve done, but call out the best in them.”

Schofield says, “Very often my unexpected empathic response to drug offenders bring tears.” When I asked him how he could be empathetic with people who have obviously done really evil things, he responded “I very rarely see an outright evil person. I see bad behavior, but I also see the good in everyone standing in front of me, and try to get them to see it too.” Even with his empathetic response to criminal offenders, he says,“I am not lenient with them. Even when I send someone to prison for a long time, I tell them, it’s important to use that time to improve your life. I want you to be all you were created to be.”

None of us wants to end up in front of a judges bench, but what if we could be judges to each other…in the empathetic way Judge Schofield tries to be?  What if instead of being harshly critical and judgmental of one another, we tried to see the good in each other and call it out, focusing on the good we see instead of the negative? I think all of us would live at a whole new level of freedom from shame if that could happen.

No matter how close or far away we are from achieving our own personal “winning game”, we could all use a little assistance to get us there.  Kathy Guy, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Addictions Counselor helps people achieve their winning game every day.  I spoke with her about the topic of shame and it’s role in keeping people from offering the gift of their best selves to themselves and others. She says:

Shame keeps people from their potential wholeness because it handicaps them. Shame limits freedom to be or to become who an individual wants to be. They believe they are bad or shameful. It gives a picture, an image, to the emotion-the faulty self-image of shame.

Shame is trapping, limits freedom, and makes us believe that choices don’t exist. Shame often begins in a system of abuse. The abuse may begin in childhood or adulthood. When a person experiences abuse in childhood, they often feel shameful; it creates an identity, and they believe, “I’m bad, I’m not good enough, It’s all my fault” and other thought distortions. These feelings of shame make them more susceptible to entering abusive relationships in adulthood. Although they had no choice in childhood, they have choices in adulthood, but they aren’t able to recognize them. In this way, they feel trapped forever.

It also makes them more susceptible to other bad choices in adulthood. “If I’m bad, there’s no reason to be good.” Shame becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy that leads people to do things that reinforce their shameful beliefs.

Although the prison of shame is miserable, it’s also provides comfort because it’s familiar, and it’s all they’ve ever known. It feels very scary, very dangerous, for people to step out of their shameful beliefs. 

Shame is about being hidden, kept in the dark, remaining unknown. Being known is scary because it means being seen, coming into the light. Being revealed feels very dangerous for people. Although they feel bad about themselves, they are afraid that if they reveal themselves, it will be confirmed by others. Rejecting themselves, loathing themselves feels terrible, but the fear of having it validated from others, the pain of that rejection and loathing is feared as pain that they could not withstand.

The liberation from shame comes when they discover, “I have revealed the worst things about myself to another person, and they have not shrunk back in horror.” Liberation, freedom, comes when they reveal the worst things about themselves and discover that they are loved anyway, when they discover, “I’m ok.”

What if we did that for one another–listened to the “worst of the worst”, looked at each other and said, “Hey, you’re ok.” or even better, “Me too.”  Find a friend. Be honest. Take a risk and swap a story or two that you normally wouldn’t. Give an empathetic response to a story you normally would not, like Judge Schofield does with criminal offenders. Dare to go first and see what happens.

Your story is what makes you YOU. Your authentic self at the table is a game changer for you and everyone around you. You and your story are a gift to the rest of the world.

Put shame in it’s place and live free. And go get Brene Brown’s book! You’ll be glad you did.

 

Judge Scott Schofield’s website: Accepting Responsibility

Kathy Guy’s website: Tell Me What To Say

This article appears in the July  2013 edition of SASSY magazine

Joy and Freedom


Jun 4 2013

Fair Food Fun

Girls Ice Cream

Imagine Fun Fair Food had zero calories and only benefited your health in every way. Which would you choose?

Elephant ears, funnel cakes, strawberry shortcakes. Dairy barn ice cream, blueberry ice cream, cotton candy piled to the sky on a twirly cardboard cone. Fried zucchini, fried snickers bars, fried cheesecake. French fries, deep fried curled potatoes, broasted potatoes. Barbecue turkey legs, corn dogs, pork tenderloin. Lemon Shake ups, on-tap root beer, or a diet soda if you really feel bad about all the other calories.

Fair Food. Fair food is so, so fun. Expensive, yes. Unhealthy, yes; but so, so good.

Our family loves to eat. Yes, with the health food revolution , we stand firmly by our cause. Fair junk food. Fair junk food heaven–Junk food paradise. Mind you, only once or twice a year. If we ate Fun Fair Food more than that, we’d be both broke and bloated, so we choose our Fun Fair Food binges carefully.

Before you speed dial Jamie Oliver or Michele Obama to tell on me, put the iPhone down and look me in the eyes when I talk junk food. Hear my heart. This is important. I’ll eat a carrot and a flax seed too, (whatever that is), when I am done writing this article. I promise.

Whether it’s the warm air mixed with the fair grime smell or some sort of fair magic, It draws you in…when you are at a summer fair, the smells, sights, blinking neon signs with promises of fun, happiness and elephant ears. The crowds, the people, the noise…and the food–it’s all a part of the fun.

Our family is mesmerized by the fair magic and we are drawn to the neon lights like hungry little caterpillars to that Hungry Little Caterpillar book. We love fair food. Over the years, we have grown in our love of fair food and our strategies to consume it in the most efficient way possible. I thought I’d share our strategies with you, in case you plan on being drawn in as well:

Divide and conquer

We go four ways. The older two girls get in line for their Walking Tacos and Corndogs with explicit instructions not to look at or engage any boy, man, or stranger in any conversation whatsoever between the time they leave us and return to us, this saves time and a lot of confusion with teenage girls.

Rob, my husband is in charge of buying 5 super duper extra large lemonades with all the gritty, sugary stuff at the bottom…He is also in charge a few more the main dinner item(s). A Philly cheesesteak sandwich, a barbecue turkey leg, and about 50 napkins to stuff into his cargo short pockets. Me and Belle, our youngest daughter-we are the fried food girls. We get the deep fried veggies with about five vats of ranch dipping sauce. And also about 50 more napkins.

Seriously Indulge

We text and call each other to find a designated meeting spot at picnic table or if it’s too crowded, we just plop down on the grass and dump all the food in front of us. And we seriously indulge. We take a few bites of whatever is in front of us, pass it on for the next person…unless you’re like me and you’re not really into sharing. We eat it all. Every bite. Some of the food ends up on clothes or spilled on the ground for the more than five second rule. We don’t fuss. It’s no big deal. It’s the fair!

After licking our fingers clean and wiping faces for fair presentability, we head to the rides.

Spin and Repeat

Velocity burns calories, right? Absolutely it does. So we figure if we ride the really fast, spinning rides, most of the calories will disappear. At least that’s what we’d like to believe.

For those of us with milder spinning ride dispositions, we wait by the exit and try to manage holding the 5 refillable lemonade super extra large plastic up things with the really cool long bendy straws, the hats, the purses, and all the random accumulated fair items.

After we’ve ridden the rides, we split up and hit the lines for dessert. The same process as dinner, split up, text, call, meet back up, share or not share, depending on your degree of dessert hoarding (my level would be really high again here).

But really, if I were to let you in on a secret, and I am sure you already know this. The Fair isn’t just about the food. It’s about the fun and the friends you see with their kids, doing the same thing as your family is doing. Enjoying the rides, being silly, eating mounds of cotton candy, laughing and having a great time.

The Fun Fair Food is a great bonding experience for our family, something we laugh about and strategize about together through the year. We keep our lemon shake up cups with the bendy straws and occasionally someone will say, “Remember when…” and that’s the whole point right there. Remembering, making memories and being together.

So next time you are at the fair, take our family’s word for it. Divide and conquer, Seriously indulge, Spin and repeat. Worry about what’s healthy the day after the fair. Eat all your veggies un-fried that day, eat a flax seed, whatever that is, and scrub the fair grime out of your kids’ clothes. Most importantly, have fun remembering all the joy your family experienced along the way.

 

This article appears in the June 2013 issue of Michiana Family magazine.

 


May 18 2013

Hope In The Spring

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