Dare to Take Heart

Image Description: Two directional arrows — one toward Hope and the other toward Despair. Public Domain Image.

In the midst of pain — our own or that of the world around us – it can sometimes seem downright foolish to let ourselves become hopeful. It can even be risky —

What if things never get better than this?

What if the next catastrophe still happens?

What if I look like a fool?

Hope takes risk, I suppose. Hope certainly doesn’t put us in control. Hope might invite us to desire things that in the end, we do not get to see.

But hope also has a way of creating things – things that could barely be imagined before. Hope helps our imagination become alive, and from there, when we envision other possibilities, we soon discover that we are called to participate in their creation. Hope leads us somewhere.

And so, in the midst of it all — whatever it is for you; whatever it is for the world — what might it look like to dare to take heart?

Renee Roederer

Be Tender with Your Grief

A hand drawn heart in red crayon. The middle of the heart is not all the way colored through.

Grief is love. It can be felt. It can be known. It can be supported by others, and it can be supportive of others. However it feels, may the love within it bring tenderness toward yourself.

As Jamie Anderson says,

“Grief, I’ve learned is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”

Renee Roederer

The Mirror Box

A person holds out one hand and sees it reflected as a second hand in the mirror box (read below for explanation)

V.S. Ramachandran designed an experiment that was utterly brilliant in its creativity and its simplicity. Most importantly, it worked. It was life changing.

Ramachandran is a neuroscientist who is famous for a variety of discoveries about the human brain. In particular, his work has helped reveal the incredible qualities of its plasticity and malleability. Decades ago, he designed an experiment to alleviate phantom limb pain by using two simple mirrors.

Phantom limb pain is a kind of curious thing in and of itself. Documented in medical literature for more than 500 years, many physicians had written about the challenging phenomenon some patients had after losing limbs. For years, even decades, these patients continued to feel a painful sensation in the limb that was missing. Some felt as though their lost arm or leg was held permanently in an awkward or painful position. They remarked that they wished to move it back into a more typical, comfortable position. Of course, that was impossible.

In a flash of curiosity, V.S. Ramachandran created a mirror box. He placed two mirrors together at a right angle and invited people to step inside the box. Suddenly, those who, say, lost their right arm, could see their left arm projected on the right side of their body. Inside the mirror box, it appeared that they had both arms. Then, they could “move” their missing limb into a better position by simply moving their remaining limb. And shockingly, this led to actual relief of the phantom pain! For many people, this was a permanent shift.

I love this experiment. I love that it worked. And if you’ll allow me, perhaps we can also enter this as a bit of a life analogy also:

There are times when we face one another too, and our human brains also have mirror neurons. When we see the emotions of the person standing in front of us, the neurons in our own brains begin to fire and sync with the other person. Isn’t that an incredible thing? (By the way, V.S. Ramachandran has done work on this too.)

At times,
we recognize each other and smile,
we demonstrate need to one another,
we marvel in the presence of one another,
and at times,
we present pain:
broken and insecure attachment,
grief and longing,
fear and anxiety.

In all of these, in ourselves and in others, we can choose the intention to see one another well. Certainly, with our vision, we can’t save anyone into wellness. But by choosing to mirror back what is true — love, belonging, acceptance, openness, our own humanity and vulnerability — we can create conditions that allow us to see each other and see ourselves with more clarity.

We can see each other with more truth, more safety, and more healing. And sometimes, we can reconnect or reconfigure our relationship with what we need or what we’ve lost. This too is brilliant in its creativity and in its simplicity.

Renee Roederer

Rehearsing Belovedness

In the Christian Century magazine, the Rev. Mark Ralls recounts a beautiful and unexpected experience he had while visiting a local nursing home. [1]

Pastor Ralls had gone to the nursing home to visit a resident who was a member of his congregation. While they were sitting together and conversing in the atrium, he heard some strange, intriguing words.

“I love you little. I love you big. I love you like a little pig.”

These words soon became a playful refrain. Pastor Ralls and his friend heard these words innumerable times throughout their conversation. They were spoken by a woman who was sitting nearby them. She was a resident too, and though she was sitting close enough to touch them, she paid no attention to their conversation. He writes, “During my visit to the nursing home that afternoon, I must have heard this sweet, odd rhyme more than a hundred times.” She continued to look out the window, and with a broad smile on her face, she let her refrain fill the room.

“I love you little. I love you big. I love you like a little pig.”
“I love you little. I love you big. I love you like a little pig.”
“I love you little. I love you big. I love you like a little pig.”

She seemed continually delighted by these words.

After inquiring of a staff member, Pastor Ralls learned that this woman had been a first grade teacher for decades. Each morning, when the children entered the classroom for their day at school, she would lean down and speak these very words into each beloved ear.

What a beautiful, playful ritual.

I love this story because it invites me to imagine what those words must have been like for the children in her classroom. . .

. . . I wonder if they would giggle before she could finish, each one anticipating the end of the phrase.

. . . I wonder if they would smile before she started, each one anticipating that they were loved and valuable.

. . . I wonder if they would ever add their voices to the chorus, each one rehearsing the truth of their worth, silly as the phrase may be.

I also love this story because it invites me to imagine how those words must have formed her as a teacher. . .

. . . I wonder if she spoke these words on days when she was feeling discouraged, and they lifted her mood just a bit.

. . . I wonder if she took pleasure in speaking these words to particular children who struggled to trust love.

. . . I wonder if the rehearsal of these words helped her love herself more fully too.

No matter how these words were spoken or received in her classroom, it is clear that they resonated deep within her psyche many years later when she was challenged by dementia. The refrain is delightful and silly. It is also so meaningful.

It makes me wonder. . .

Who has told you that you’re beloved?
Who has told you that you’re loved through and through?
Who has told you that you’re valuable and worth it all?

Do we rehearse those words and memories? Do we recall them and let them sink into our very being?

We can always begin that rehearsal again.

And if we doubt those words within us. . . guess what?

We can rehearse them again.
And again.
And again.
And again.

And if no one has told you today,
And if you’re struggling to tell yourself,
Please hear this truth:
You are Beloved,
Loved through and through,
Valued and worth it all.

Renee Roederer

I’m Back!

Over the last two weeks, I’ve taken some time away from blogging — the first time in about 500 days of consecutive, daily posting. It feels like a big accomplishment to reach about 500 days in a row, but I also needed some time away.

November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month, and it’s probably my busiest work month of the year. It was also great! In that time, we hosted an event in West Michigan, did seizure first aid trainings, launched a social media campaign, and held our largest conference of the year.

And then I shared a lovely Thanksgiving with chosen family.

So it’s been a good whirlwind. And I’m glad to be back!

Here are some photos from my time near the Potomac River over the holiday:

Thanks for following along with me!

Renee Roederer

Club Q: We Have Lost Entire Worlds

We have lost entire worlds.
We have lost a universe of sacred lives and loves.

The Talmud says it this way:

“Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.”

Perhaps we feel we are losing our breath and even our words to describe the horrific and enraging news. 

At this moment, we know a particular set of numbers which begins to express some form of what happened – numbers of those who have died and those who are wounded. But the numbers can’t possibly express the loss. Those numbers represent neighbors, friends, siblings, children, partners, coworkers, heroes – sacred human lives with names, identities, stories, and personalities. Each one, particular. Each one, an entire world.

And in the wake of this news, more souls – whole worlds full – are wounded by the trauma of it all, feeling the grief of the countless connections that cannot accurately be enumerated.

We have lost entire worlds.
We have lost a universe of sacred lives and loves.

Perhaps we feel we are losing our breath and even our words to describe the horrific and enraging news.

And. . .

It makes me wonder what kind of universe we want to live in.
It makes me wonder what world we will fight for.

Renee Roederer

[1] This image is entitled, Fast Trip From Earth (Florida) To The Moon And Back. Stock Footage Video 109318 – Shutterstock.