Another interesting thing is that during periods of high work stress, I was really into ocean animals. I don't know why. But I'd like to share a little about the character of these animals and the environment that I was in at the time.
Shark - last summer I was really into sharks. (Remember from Jaws - "he's in to sharks!!" :P) Anyway, I couldn't get enough of them last summer. Hammerheads, Reef sharks, White sharks, Dogfish sharks. I was fascinated with their smooth skin and cartilaginous structure. How could they be so strong and fierce when they have no bones? Their sensory systems are amazing, too. They have a special organ that can sense vibrations and a lateral line that runs along the sides of their body which gives them additional sensory information. Sharks are very sensitive and yet strong at the same time. Sensitive and strong? How does that work?
At that time, I was feeling super sensitive at work, as a number of my coworkers began to resign in quick succession. In a way, I felt adrift in the middle of a wide ocean. There were fewer and fewer supports around me. And there was a lot unknown about the future. I felt like there wasn't an anchor point, there was no shoreline in view. I was being bounced around from one project to another, and all of them very different - from classroom equipment to financial software, from testing DVD players to drafting reports. I was even called upon to supervise student employees. I was trying to hold myself together in the midst of the pressure and uncertainty, like a bone-less shark in the open water. Thankfully, we reached some stability in the fall after a reorganization and some clarification of my responsibilities. Whew.
And after that, I wasn't into sharks as much. When I was going through my open ocean sensitivity struggle, they really seemed to be fascinating. But once my path became a bit more grounded, I was back to reading about reindeer, moths, and other land animals. I think God brought the shark to mind as an encouragement - to remember that He created and He sustains. My feelings were a response to my environment. But He is the God of all environments - He can see us through any struggle. As He gives strength to the bone-less shark, He gave strength to me. Even a sensitive creature can endure ocean pressures and be strong. <3
Cormorant - This is the animal that I became interested in this past month. A cormorant a seabird. It dives underwater to catch fish and then stands by the water to dry out in the sunlight.
Back in January, I was facing stress at work again; but rather than being a general amping up of anxiety - an ever-growing siren - this time it was a sudden stroke of trouble! We had a rather serious technical issue that fell in my sphere of responsibility. I felt crushed, panicked, upset, angry, scared, worried, and miserable. Ugh. This time, I feel like a cormorant as he dives into the dark water. Not a gull and not a penguin, but something in between... How does he feel when he flies underwater? Does he feel like he can't breathe? (An oxygen-less environment!) Or does he feel in his element?
I admit that I felt panicked. I felt as if I'd been thrown under the waves. I didn't know how I'd weather that time. I just kept showing up, pushing through. I kept diving under the dark waves, not sure where my food would be - or if it would be there at all. Trust. Perseverance. Those are the things that God has been teaching me. Finding contentment in the midst of awkward environments and areas beyond my control. I thank God for helping me <3 I didn't want to go. I didn't want to face it or deal with it. My attitude was pretty lousy. I complained more sharply than usual. I cried a lot. But I kept swimming, I kept going forward.
Cormorants aren't the most admired birds, but I think they're full of character :) Like vultures, cormorants are quiet and they stretch their wings wide in the sun. They don't make a big fuss - they just go about their business. They have a sort of balance and simplicity about them. Their wings are awkward for flying, but God equipped them with strong feet and a sharp beak for fishing. Sure, most birds don't hunt underwater, but God doesn't always follow our categorizations or rules. He is awesome, creative, beyond wonder. He enables the cormorant to get her food and to praise God by lifting her wings in a psalm. And He enables me to do the same. :) Yeah, I'm probably awkward as I go about work, too, but God is making me brave to go anyway. Sure, maybe people look down on me, like they ignore the Cormorant, but God loves His Creation and makes everything with His purposes in mind. Should I look down on myself, just because other people do? Or should I view myself as a work that God is shaping and giving His own care to make beautiful? <3
I don't know why He loves me, but I want to accept the love and tender care of God, our Creator and Shepherd. And I want to thank Him for these little encouragements along the way - the animals that He's made. I think He brought them to my attention at just the right times. These helped me to put words to my feelings and identify the challenges before me. The fears come and seem overwhelming; but then they go. God is the One who will enable me to endure. By His grace, I will not be consumed. <3
Lamentations 3:22 - "Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not."
Psalm 42:6-8 - "O my God, my soul is cast down within me;
Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan,
And from the heights of Hermon,
From the Hill Mizar.
Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
All Your waves and billows have gone over me.
The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime,
And in the night His song shall be with me-
A prayer to the God of my life."