This Is Today

This is today.

It might not become the most significant day of our lives. But there’s no reason for it to be among the least significant.

What do we want to make of this day? What do we want to experience? What do we want to learn? How do we want to connect?

This is a really mundane post, I realize.

But it’s a reminder that we get to choose a lot. Certainly not everything — sometimes, much is beyond our control — but we definitely have some choices and possibilities before us.

What do we hope for this day? What will we choose?

Renee Roederer

J.J. STARK BLIMP JR.

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I have the most tremendous group of friends. We met in our late teens and early twenties, and over time, we became chosen family. We are siblings to one another and aunts and uncles to each other’s kids.

We’re not a small group either — 14 adults, 4 kids, and 1 on the way. We have a wedding coming in October, so we’re welcoming in others too. We live in 6 states. None of us lives in Austin, Texas anymore, the place where we all met and became so close.

Yet more than thirteen years later and spread out across the U.S., we continue to be just as close. In fact, this circle of belonging has become deeper over time. We get together once a year for an annual Friendsgiving, our own family Thanksgiving meal. We have our own private social media spaces where we post pictures, laugh at things, and share what’s happening in our lives.

A couple of years ago, one of our folks came across a wonderful article about four women who had been remarkably close over decades, and they had many adventures, taking annual vacations together. Though I forget what it was now, these four woman made an acronym out of their names. This is what they chose to call themselves.

So our person got curious, wondering if she could make an acronym name out of our many names. She did, and it’s wonderfully silly. We are…

J.J. STARK BLIMP JR.

And so, we sometimes call ourselves this.

Some of my folks in Ann Arbor know about this group, and when I’m telling stories, I’ll sometimes say: “One time, [Person’s name] from J.J. STARK BLIMP JR. and I. . .” It’s a very silly but good reference point.

But more seriously, I have found myself pondering the great gift of this kind of vision for connection and chosen family. Basically, collectively we’ve created a community of care across time and across distance — the kind of community of care that will laugh hard; love deeply; and care tangibly, for emotions, for bodies, for vocational pathways, for losses, for hopes, for dreams.

And I’m realizing how rare this is. Except I don’t want it to be. I want to keep creating circles like this one. I want many others to have this kind of experience.

I am fortunate in this regard. I’ve experienced and cultivated this type of community vision more than once, and it’s been a great gift to me. I haven’t always been as deeply connected as I am in this part of my life. But over time, a deep source for this kind of connection and belonging has grown, and it continues to expand.

I am very grateful.

So I’ll close with something kind of dear and hilarious. I’ll tell you a bit of a secret.

Sometimes, when I’m in church services, and someone creates the opportunity to lift up names of people during a prayer, inviting everyone to say a name aloud here or there, I will whisper,

“J.J. STARK BLIMP JR.”

And after voicing that aloud, I always — always — give myself the church giggles. For this reason, I can only do it when I’m not the one leading. It’s like my own inside joke.

But it’s also a very convenient way to pray for your a bunch of friends at once.

Renee Roederer

This Thought Worked for Me

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I was lying in bed this morning when I had this thought:

“My body wants to freeze, but I think I need to fight.”

I suppose multiple things brought me to this moment at once. I’ve been processing some grief and challenges this week, so that has been with me. But in this precise moment, I had just looked at my phone. I saw the many emails asking me to take action in a variety of directions as people’s lives are upended and many are fearing rollbacks of civil rights. These are the kinds of things that can feel heavy enough to make us want to just lie in bed. By the way, sympathy for us in this desire. There are reasons our bodies feel heavy in the wake of such large needs. This is a reaction to collective trauma.

That’s when I had this thought.

“My body wants to freeze, but I think I need to fight.”

I was thinking of the fight, flight, or freeze reactions that our bodies tend to take in the wake of trauma. I began to wonder, are there ever moments of collective freezing, collective fleeing, and collective fighting?

While we’re all feeling affected by these actions and large-scale challenges, it is crucial, of course, to say that some are directly impacted by harm, while others are more distanced from that harm.

Yet the multitude of directions of harm can cause us to shut down.

So I said,

“My body wants to freeze, but I think I need to fight.”

Fighting sometimes takes big, energetic striving. No doubt. But sometimes, it’s the simple, but immensely impactful question of, “What can I uniquely do?” and then doing that consistently. It has an enormous impact.

Where am I positioned? What’s my calling? What is my skill set? With whom am I connected?

Renee Roederer

Say, “Hey”

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I really love this poem by Rumi.

It seems perfectly Rumi-esque too. Rumi was a 13th century Persian poet, whose language is at once so simple, so casual, and so evocative. I imagine translators do an amazing job communicating his work across language and time. I wouldn’t expect a poet from 700 years ago to build a prayer off of a word as casual as, “Hey.” But that’s how he wrote, centuries ago and in another language. I’m grateful for it.

What would it mean to say, “Hey,” to more of our surroundings today? What might we gain from that? How might we feel a greater sense of relationship even with things?

Does God welcome our “Hey”? I think so. How might Ultimacy be greeted, even casually? Even today?

Renee Roederer 

 

Hannah Gadsby’s “Nanette”

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“I need to tell my story properly.”

One day later, this repeated sentence from Hannah Gadsby is still ringing in my ears and in the most inviting way.

This is from her one-hour comedy special (though is it comedy?) called “Nanette.” It was released on Netflix two weeks ago and has been gaining a lot of attention for many powerful reasons. I watched it yesterday, and it had such an deep impact on me that I actually watched it twice in one day. I can’t recall ever doing that before.

There are parts that are indeed very funny; she is an incredible comic, both in her content and her delivery. As she says more than once — and this grows deeper and more serious throughout — she knows how to create tension and then deliver a punchline.

In the end though, this special is about trauma and the ways that comedy can fall short. This leads to potent and challenging moments of personal storytelling from Hannah Gadsby, and ultimately, it calls forth the power of vulnerability and human connection.

We all have stories to share, and we all have stories we need to hear. For personal reasons, there may be times when we want to hold our stories close, but sometimes, external forces keep them covered or internalized. There is strength and release in the sharing. Storytelling changes lives. Storytelling connects us with empathy, love, and care.

As Hannah Gadsbury says,

“Because like it or not, my story is your story, and your story is my story… All I can ask is just please help me take care of my story… And that is the focus of the story we need — connection.”

Have a watch. Let me know what you think.

Renee Roederer

Here’s an NPR story about “Nanette” — Hannah Gadsbury’s ‘Nanette’ Is a Scorching Piece on Comedy and Trauma.

Grief Ninjas

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My friend calls them “the Grief Ninjas.” I think it’s the perfect description.

She’s talking about those moments when you’re in the middle of a run-of-the-mill day or routine task, and all of the sudden, seemingly out of nowhere, feelings of grief come on very strongly. A wave of grief quickly emerges and interrupts whatever you’re doing.

I had a visitation of the Grief Ninjas last night. I was watching the phenomenal new documentary about Fred Rogers, aptly called, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” (Go see it! You won’t regret it).

At the end, there’s some space to ponder in gratitude the people who helped make us who we are, people who “smiled us into smiling, and loved us into loving.” And well… quite suddenly, there were the Grief Ninjas. It just ached.

Of course, the Grief Ninjas were dancing around with Gratitude and Love because that’s often how grief works. Grief is love that longs. Grief is love that misses or prepares itself for missing.

Those Grief Ninjas show up whenever they will.

And the love also keeps arriving. (please love, keep arriving)

Renee Roederer