How Small Am I   Leave a comment

I’ve always liked bugs, and especially ants.  They are amazing workers.  Their nests and highways fascinate me.  Here it is, a whole little world peopled by tiny creatures who work together on their projects.  Not to mention how cute I think they are.  All those legs sprinting around and little antennae waving at others.  They come in all sizes and they are all interesting.

Bees, of course, are social insects whose way of life and communicating is no less fascinating.  And they’re adorable as well.  Big eyes, drooping antennae, and golden yellow fuzz.  I always enjoy seeing bees.

When I look at these insects, I find myself wondering what they make of me.  They inhabit a world that is a miniature civilization, so to speak, and I am much larger than they are.  They could see me as a threat, for sure, but they can’t really comprehend what I am, what I can do or what I know.

In the same way, I am smaller than God and I can’t know what he knows.  In some ways, that’s a disturbing thought, but in many other ways, a comfort to me, to know that he is watching over me with knowledge and power far behind my ability to comprehend.  Of course this analogy is far from perfect, since I can’t create the ants or help them in any practical way, so that’s not where I’m going with this.

It’s just that despite how small I am, God takes an interest in me, and far more than that.  I don’t have to comprehend him, either, for his love and compassion to be for me.  I don’t have to believe, I don’t have to know.  He is real regardless of my ability to understand.  When my thoughts don’t include him, he’s still there, working.  When my feelings are all I know, he’s still there, working.  Who am I that he would care and understand?

It’s beyond my understanding.


Posted May 25, 2020 by swanatbagend in reflections

Five Weapons against Anxiety   Leave a comment

There’s one for each finger of your dominant hand, just to make them easier to remember when you’re not looking at this blog.

First, choose to stay in the present, reminding yourself of your current situation and all that is right with it.  Say, “What IS?” not “What if…?”

Second, when faced with anxiety that casts doubt on your future ability to do what’s needed, evaluate truly what you have been able to do in the past.  Don’t jump to the conclusion that you won’t be able to do what’s needed.  Sure there have been failures in the past, but those were a few points in time in your life.  What’s all the other truth about what has happened and what you have done well?

Third, take each five minutes at a time.  Or less, if that’s what you need.  Tell yourself, I just need to live the next five minutes, and then do the task that belongs to that time.

Fourth, give thanks for something that is all right in your life.  If things aren’t going well, there will still be something that is all right in the now.  Just for the next little while, don’t think about the things that concern you.  Thank God for something you have been given.

And fifth, find a go-to verse or meditation or image that represents peace and hope to you.  Have that ready each time the fear starts, and repeat it, out loud if you have to.

I find these weapons to create a fist’s worth of defense against the terrors of anxiety.  Sometimes one helps but the next time it doesn’t; however, it’s much better to have these five on hand (ha!) than to have none.

Oh, and it goes without saying there’s one other weapon that’s the foundation of all.  It’s just a little fact, but true: anxiety is just a feeling, and a feeling is not the truth.

Posted May 5, 2020 by swanatbagend in mental health

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A Tale of One   Leave a comment

Last week, I spent some time outside at 2:30 in the morning watching the Lyrid meteor shower with my son.  I’m always of two minds about missing sleep, but I love seeing the stars and shooting stars, so we agreed to stumble outside in the middle of night, because it was supposed to be the peak and good viewing.

Getting ourselves wrapped up in a couple blankets, we lay on the ground looking up and to the southeast where they were supposed to be.  We found we were whispering.  Were we trying to hide from the immensity of night and how space makes you feel?  We got an early meteor, very bright, and then lay there in the chill waiting for something else.

That was our first meteor, but meteors are the only thing we experienced more than one of.

A neighbor out really late was talking up the hill from us.  So one neighbor.

Pretty soon after we got outside, I saw a flittering shadow above me and heard high pitched squeaking noises.  One bat.

Our cat, Simba, came around after a while and walked up and down on us while purring in a pleased manner.  One cat.

Someone’s dog began to bark, and I have to confess, this doesn’t fit in the title, because other dogs started barking as well.  But toward the end of the group bark, it was just one dog.

Also, the entire time we were out, we could hear one spring peeper.  If you have any experience with these little frogs, you know that they are always in large groups, and they are very loud.  However, down near our pond, we heard it.  One spring peeper.

We didn’t talk much, but there is a companionship when a couple people watch for shooting stars that doesn’t require conversation.

One more bond between my son and me.

Posted April 29, 2020 by swanatbagend in animal life, seeing

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How Fully?   Leave a comment

Like most of you, I’ve heard before that you should appreciate each day and savor each moment.  Live life to the fullest, follow your dreams or your calling, thank God for every moment, and stay in the present.

I think that’s good advice but only to a point.

The problem I have run into is that it’s not possible to do.

Of course I have a tendency to take things literally, but it seems to me that’s exactly what “live fully” means.  Live fully.  In each moment.  Savor life.

I don’t know about you, but life itself prevents me from following this rule.  There are many times of doubt, fear, concern, and worry.  There are tasks that must be done.  There are routine times when you’re doing everything you can to follow the rule, but you know you’re not staying in the present and living fully.

For some people (me among them or I wouldn’t be writing this blog) that is setting a standard that is too high–impossible in fact–which just leads to guilt and shame.  I don’t want to waste the life God’s given me or the opportunities at hand.  I would love to stay in the present and do this live fully thing.  But the reality is that I can’t.  I do sometimes.  But I don’t do it all the time.

Bottom line is it’s not up to us.  God knows our frame.  Yes, we are personally accountable for our actions.  I get that.  But as with so much else, our living fully is entirely in his hands.  Thus, there is no shame or guilt for not doing it “right.”

Not broken, but different–published on the Mighty   Leave a comment

Despite all the talk about communication difficulties for people with autism, I’ve often noted that my family and I communicate just fine with each other.  Also, when I find a kindred spirit, no problem.

Autism is certainly not a mental disability.  It’s not an inability to think well or love well or work well.  Is it possible that the difference in the way people with autism communicate isn’t a problem to be fixed?

The below article describes a research project in Scotland that shows that people with autism communicate well with each other.  It turns out that, in a sense, those with autism have their own language.  For them, communicating with those who aren’t on the spectrum is like speaking another language.  So, it appears that for those who aren’t on the spectrum, communicating with autistics could be as simple as learning another language.

The second link is from the project website itself, where you can learn more.

Diversity in Social Intelligence

Imagine if you’d been told there was something wrong with the way you interacted with other humans for much of your life.  People with autism have been told that we need to work on our social skills, or that we’re weird.  We’ve noted that we are on the fringes of groups because we may not prefer to engage in small talk.

Maybe that isn’t that odd; maybe it’s not as different as you think it is.  Maybe it’s just people communicating in a different language that you don’t understand yet.

So, while it continues to be necessary for people with autism to learn how neurotypical people communicate, in order for them to manage life in the neurotypical culture, autistic communication is not inherently dysfunctional.

It’s just different.

Posted April 15, 2020 by swanatbagend in autism, relationships

Be Strong   Leave a comment

I don’t know about you, but I would never choose to be someone with weaknesses.  Like most people, I have spent a great deal of effort to do things well.  I always assumed that I would be able to do all the things I planned when I was twenty years old.  I thought that strength was something that the blessed always had.

But what I have found is something quite different.  Despite my best efforts to be strong, I have found myself to be weak.

I don’t have the energy and ability to do all the things I thought I would do.  I have had to learn to approach each new thing from a place of weakness.

Something I learned recently has been helpful.  “Be strong” doesn’t mean that you just are strong.  It doesn’t mean you’ve made yourself be strong.  And it doesn’t mean that you have to work hard to somehow get to that fever pitch of strongness that will see you through whatever your challenge is.  Apparently when this phrase is used in the New Testament, the meaning is, “because you are being made strong.”  This truth makes a verse that I have always tried–and failed–to live up to, make a lot more sense.

What I am living now is the reality that “be strong” means I’m being made strong.  That by definition means that I’m starting out the opposite.  I am starting from a place of being unable to live strong.  I’m starting from a place of weakness, a place in which despite my best efforts, I cannot do the things I need to do on my own.  Everything that I do in a given day is because I’m being given the strength to do it.  There is no way on my own I could summon up what I need.  It does take courage to keep doing the next thing when it seems too hard to do.  However, I suspect that courage is also a gift.

I can’t help but wish that I would experience the opposite situation, where I hope to be able to just live my life without thinking about where my strength comes from.

On the other hand, it’s not a bad thing to know where your strength actually comes from.

Posted April 2, 2020 by swanatbagend in reflections

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Chronic or Acute   Leave a comment

Chronic struggles bring with them a dual challenge.  Acute situations naturally call out for support and practical help.  And they should.  But a chronic situation is just as challenging.

The first reason why it’s challenging is it’s dealing with whatever it is, disease, physical disability,  pain, learning challenges, mental health issues, all of the above.  You have issues that either aren’t curable or that you haven’t yet found a cure for.  You remediate as best you can if there is no cure.  You have ways to cope, or you sure enough are seeking them.

And there’s no particular end in sight.

People in this situation have to find a way to face the non-endingness of it.  It’s a cruel thing to face, and I believe this is especially true in our culture, where health and wholeness is worshiped.  Beauty and prowess are it.  If you were to believe the images we are saturated with, you’d think it is possible–if you just do enough.

The second reason is that difficulties are not and cannot be supported in the way they would if they were acute.  If the thing had an end, it would be more obvious to know what to do to help it get to that end.  You’d see the steps that could be taken and how a community could help.  But if it’s always there, it’s harder to be supportive.  There comes a time when it’s hard to know what to say or do, because the struggle still goes on.

For those with chronic problems, it goes on.

So it’s a gift when love also goes on.

Posted February 20, 2020 by swanatbagend in health, mental health, waiting

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