Here I sit, well after midnight, trying to put down some words so I can fulfill the commitment I’ve made to myself to continue this blog.
If you’re a dedicated reader of my blog, I understand the eye-rolling and thoughts of “Here she goes again, whining about not being able to sleep. Blah, blah, blah…”
Believe me, I get your fatigue over this tiresome subject. And that same fatigue you feel is piled on top of several other layers of fatigue that currently have me covered up.
If you’ve read my last two blogs, you know that this summer has been filled with heartbreak, disappointments, kindness, encouragement, new beginnings, and learning to take one day at a time. The world as my family knew it has been turned upside down, and from this uncomfortable position of looking at a new, unrecognizable life, I have not only struggled to sleep, but also to breathe. At times it seems the walls are closing in on me.
As a person who needs alone time (and not in a selfish, all-about-me way, but in a necessary-for-survival way) I have found myself keeping even odder hours. You see, LIFE sucks the life out of me at times, and I use my quiet moments to re-energize so that I do not present myself as a complete hag to others.
As we are still reeling from the shock of suddenly losing my father-in-law in June, our life has also changed in a most wonderful way—my son Charles, and his family, have moved back to Tyler. In fact, we now share the same address as they try to sell their home in San Antonio, and then purchase a new one here in East Texas.
At a time when we felt such a great loss, we were blessed to begin this new phase in our lives. I’m not saying each day is perfect. There are definite growing pains when your grown children live with you after being on their own, but all in all, the transition has been smooth. Although it’s not ideal as far as everyone having enough space (we have four adults, two babies, two dogs, and two cats all vying to have their own territory), the precious moments we have shared outweigh the mountains of boxes in the garage and the endless loads of laundry.
I am in hog heaven, enjoying and relishing this special season of our lives, hoping that one day my sweet grandchildren will have wonderful memories of their time with Sassy and Coach. However, finding alone time is challenging, and for me, the struggle is real in trying to balance the joy and happiness, along with my need for a few moments of solitude.
If all these changes aren’t enough, there’s more. Not only are we all trying to adjust during this time of transition here at Camp Keith, but we are also dealing with another obstacle. Something that once again can be filed under the heading: Things That Can Only Happen to Us
About a month ago, Brian was out of town. Charles, Kaitlyn and the babies were asleep, and I wasn’t.
It’s not like I never sleep, I just have strange hours. I typically go to bed early. As in “with the chickens” early. After “Wheel of Fortune” is over, I begin my nightly getting ready for bed ritual. I’m in bed by 8:00 in order to get up at 4:00 a.m. That’s the only time I can find to get on the treadmill and rowing machine and drink my coffee while listening to the quiet that surrounds a person who is up at such an unpopular hour.
Sorry for digressing, but I feel I must defend my sleep habits because I do have some dear friends who worry about my lack of slumber. It’s not that I don’t sleep. My sleep schedule is just a bit strange to most people.
So, let’s try this again. Brian was out of town. Everyone in the house was asleep, except for me and my dog Lorelai, who was tapping my arm, wanting to go outside. I walked to the back room of the house, opened the sliding door that goes out to the backyard, and then went to the kitchen to get a drink of water.
After hydrating myself, I went back to the sliding door, hoping Lorelai was ready to come inside. I couldn’t find her right away, so I stepped onto the patio and walked around the pool so I could see where she might be.
And it was then that I witnessed one of the most terrifying scenes I’ve ever experienced.
Lorelai, who is very athletic to begin with, was racing along the fence-line, running full speed, barking, howling, and even snorting! On the other side of the fence, exactly mirroring Lorelai’s moves, was a red fox.
This fox isn’t new to us. His den is behind our house, and we have seen him scurry across the front yard early in the morning, or just before dusk, and on rare occasions in broad daylight. At those times, I always looked at him in awe, admiring his beauty and cunning ways.
But this night, as I saw his teeth, and heard his hissing and screaming I was truly horrified. And he was inches away from Lorelia, with the black chain-link fence being the only barrier (wooden fences are not allowed in our neighborhood, per the HOA). Insert eye roll…
This racing and chasing went on for about five minutes. My first reaction was to begin yelling for Lorelai to come in, but she wasn’t having it. She was defending her land! I ran inside to get a flashlight, thinking that if I began wildly waving it, the fox might be scared. He wasn’t, but I’m sure if any neighbors saw me, they were. I was a raving lunatic and had no clue as to how one chases a fox away.
I nervously moved toward the back fence, praying I wouldn’t end up rolling down the rather steep hill. As I moved closer, screaming like a banshee while waving the flashlight, the fox began to retreat into the woods. He was moving backwards, but never took his eyes off me. It was as if he was memorizing what I looked like so he could come back and get me later. Again, it was TERRIFYING!
And when I thought I couldn’t be more afraid, the fox sat down and continued to glare at me. And then as foxes do, he opened his mouth and screamed! If you’ve never heard a fox scream, it sounds like a baby crying. Again, spine-tingling fear rippled across my body.
Lorelai and I ran into the house, while the fox continued to sit and watch us.
Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much at all that night.
When Brian returned home, I filled him in on our nightmare. Later that day, he was mowing the yard and was down by the fence. He turned to me and began waving his arms. Well, I took that to mean there was a snake. I came running to the rescue with a huge shovel, thinking I was about to save the day. When I got to the fence, Brian was laughing (and maybe a little impressed) at my ability to go from zero to snake in about 10 seconds.
I felt a little foolish when I realized there wasn’t a snake, but I was proud of my ability to jump into action. It was like a fire drill, but for a snake, and I had passed the test.
When Brian showed me what he was pointing at, I wished it had been a snake. It was a hole. And it was dug by the fox. And there were several holes. The dirt had been kicked back into the direction of the woods, and it became clear that the fox was trying to get inside our fence. And this new revelation was paralyzing as I thought of the possibility of a fox gaining access to our backyard.
I began to research fox deterrents, and repellents, and ended up ordering a light that flashes at night and is supposed to keep foxes away. We now have this device attached to a small pole along the back fence-line. It flashes randomly (not on a set pattern). Not only does it flash like a light, but also flashes in red and blue colors, as well. I’m sure this has further endeared us to our neighbors!
The light is flashing as I write, and even though I know what it is, it’s still a little unnerving. I guess because it’s something that isn’t normal. It’s changed my routine and made me cautious and a little frightened in my own home.
As unsettling as it is to realize that a fox is either trying to date my dog, or harm her, the flashing light does give me a sense of peace and security. And for me, it’s a reminder of the many lights that shine in our darkest times: the family I love, the friends who support us, the serenity of knowing that God is always watching over us, and protecting us, and giving us strength to move forward through our difficult days.
It’s also a reminder that as hard as I might try to control things, to establish a routine and have a semblance of order, I can’t fix everything. I have to give those uncontrollable things to God, and then I have to let go.
No amount of work, or effort, or over-thinking can change things that our beyond my grasp.
We always hear about the “grind” and how spending every waking hour working hard and never giving up leads to success. I’m beginning to disagree with this idea. Yes, I believe in hard work. I believe in trying to better oneself daily. But I also see the exhaustion that comes with the need to try to do things alone. It is impossible to do things alone and truly be successful.
GRACE is GREATER than the GRIND.
I read the above statement the other day, and it stung a bit as I realized how I’ve focused on trying to fix, and change, and control, and work hard, and do things my way. And at the end of the day, all I have done is made myself tired. Not sleepy. But tired. Weary. Overwhelmed.
As I navigate through this new season of my life, I am thankful that I am understanding more and more that in order to feel rested, I must seek God first. When I try to do things alone, it only makes me feel more tired and mentally drained. By giving all of my fears, and struggles, and hopes, and dreams to God, I will find Rest. Because rest in the Lord is eternal salvation, and when you have that, you need nothing else.
So, at 2:43 a.m. I am giving all my worries to God. All the chaos, and busy-ness, and sadness, and stress, and foxes…
I am thankful that no matter what happens each day, I know I am covered in His Grace, protected, blessed beyond measure, and loved.
In this changing season of my life, I have also been trying to figure out some issues dealing with my writing, and a couple of my books. This is where the bulk of my exhaustion comes from. The mental tiredness of being so connected to my words and fighting to find the best platform for distributing the works from my heart.
In my effort to streamline things, and try to find new avenues for my writing, and possibly even attempt a new genre of writing, I have met a new friend and mentor. Her name is Ellen, and she is truly a God-send. She has renewed my faith in myself and has encouraged me to keep writing. She is available to answer questions and give direction. She is kind and funny and has given me the strength and hope to believe in what I’m doing.
God is always on time, and He puts people in our lives just when we need them! Thank you, Ellen for giving me the encouragement and confidence to move forward, even during the hard stuff. Grace definitely is greater than the grind, and it comes with a new friend who has helped lighten my load.
I will continue to battle sleep, and my mind, and wild creatures, but I will do so with a renewed spirit and energy.
And by the way…
When it’s all said and done, I don’t care what the fox says. I just want him to say it in a place other than my backyard!