When the husband comes in at dinner and sits down hard and looks down at his plate and then up at me from under and says "I got the tractor stuck," I don't know, really, if I should laugh loud and free or be really, really annoyed.
Let me fill you in:
The tractor in question is a small monstrosity. It is probably worthy of it's own address and it is better suited for some very knarly construction site. It's like a forklift extension ladder thing. It was supposed to be picked up today because, well, it isn't ours. We rented it so we could fix our roof and move tiles on and off the roof with ease (and really, what guy wouldn't want a giant tractor to play with?).
Did I mention it's not ours? And that the tractor people were to pick it up this morning?
The best laid plans and all that...
Let's rewind to Sunday.
I came home from my soccer game Sunday at dusk--you know that time of day where the sun is setting and it's getting DARK. The girls are riding their noble steeds (also known as bikes to us commoners) and the husband says "Hey do you girls wanna watch me knock down a tree with the tractor?"
Oh goody! Wait! What? I was pretty sure then that this wasn't going to end well.
The girls were quite ambivalent about this whole tree knocking over business which brought the husband certain lamentable sadness at his lack of boys because boys would certainly be begging to help. But I digress...
Out of curiosity and maybe a morbid sense of fascination, I meandered down the hill to watch this spectacle of tractor prowess.
There were some obstacles to his success though.
And aren't there always obstacles? And our ability to navigate the minefields we find ourselves in determines our next step, our next move, our next journey. And what happens when we make a wrong step? We cave. We plummet. We cower. We run. We stop and we let our shame and our fear overwhelm us instead of running to Grace and living by Love.
The husband's obstacles were trees. Quite a few trees in really inconvenient places. And those trees tripped the husband up. And when the one tree proved to be stubborn and not plummet to the ground accordingly and instead got hung up in another tree, the husband, in all his maneuvering, managed to literally wrap the tractor around the very tree he was trying to displace.
Thus the conversation at dinner.
So he dropped the news like a rock in my pond rippling with all the incessant dinnertime chatter and I asked, "When you say stuck, what exactly does that mean? Are we talking stuck like stuck in mud or something different?" Please be advised we have no mud. One needs rain to have mud and so we have neither. But I thought the question needed asking as the "stuck" piece needed clarifying.
"No, stuck like literally stuck--won't move, can't move kind of stuck."
"Oh." I know, such an intelligent response from an academic minded English teacher, but you all know what weight and meaning such a response carries depending on inflection and what letter we stress and how long we draw it out. "So...what's the plan?"
Let me back up again. Just for a moment. So you can understand the necessity of a plan.
The husband is somewhat notorious (lovingly notorious, but notorious nonetheless) in my family for turning seemingly small jobs into monumental, Herculean events.
My family tends to be movers and shakers. We have a problem. We devise a plan. We execute said plan in perfect coordination.
The husband devises a plan--often the most expensive and the most complicated because those kinds of plan virtually guarantee the project will last FOREVER which seems to be the goal in most cases. But in the execution, he gets distracted somewhat and other problems rear their pesky little heads.
I'm convinced that these problems see the husband as an opportunity for attention; they see him coming and leap into his way so that they can get their fair share. So he ends up will several projects and not just the one he started with.
I understand this about him after a mere decade or so of marriage and in a strange way, it's even somewhat endearing to me. But I have learned that it's good if I allow him to devise a plan and then casually meander in to redirect and refocus that plan so something actually gets finished as it's always a sure thing that a lot will get done, but maybe not finished.
Let me also say that the husband is somewhat notorious for doing--what some might consider--crazy things when he has access to big toys--like, oh, say a giant tractor. I'm told that this behavior is fairly normal for adult men as adult men tend to really stay in the junior high phase for most of their lives with brief forays into adult land, especially in the presence of big toys.
Thus, how said tractor ended up around a tree. And why said wife wasn't nearly as surprised or shocked as maybe I should've been or would've been five years ago.
Never a dull moment with the husband. Never.
Man, I love obstacles bright and early on a Monday morning!
So today, my dad and my brother arrive at oh-dark-thirty to help unstuck a monster tractor.
Problems grow if they are left unattended. They grow in our minds and in our hearts. They fester like a bad wound and plague us so we can't' sleep and we can't think clearly. The perhaps once small obstacle now seems insurmountable and we second guess and wonder what we were thinking.
My family came loaded for bear. They had all their bells and whistles for every possible scenario. The boys devised a plan of attack and executed it in perfect precision.
What's a stuck tractor when you have back up? The husband called in his back up and they came--granted with much harassment because I'm learning that's just what guys do, but they had his back and together they did what the husband could not do alone.
Going at life alone is never a good idea. Taking down a very tall pine tree alone is never a good idea. But having back up changes everything.
When that pine tree finally cracked itself down, I heard the husband say "That was textbook" as he flashed a somewhat sheepish grin my way. And I realized for him, he had kept his eye on the goal, the prize. For him it was about the pine tree. It had always been about the pine tree. The tractor was just a tiny misstep and he refused to let his goal be deterred.
When the chainsaws finally freed the might tractor from its imprisonment, there was a collective sigh that whispered through the trees. And I saw a weight lift from the husband's shoulders for as much as the tree was his goal, the tractor had become his albatross. He will sleep peace tonight.
Obstacles never just go away do they? We step in that muddy hole and those prints track and mess wherever we stumble. They follow us and plague us and haunt us.
Really the only tactical option is to call for back up and meet those obstacles head on.
For me, some of my deepest fears are the ones that I have magnified and glorified in my mind. They are built on all the what ifs and imagined reactions. And most of them will never become reality.
But how often do my fears of what I think might happen prevent me from having a hard conversation, or making a difficult decision, or taking down a pine tree with a tractor?
Peace only comes when we meet those obstacles head on, call in our back up, and execute the plan.
The husband was blessed that his ending was the one he was looking for. The journey may have taken him roundabout, but the destination was the same.
Our journeys might not always be the ones we hoped for, but Peace and Grace and Faith are always waiting to be our companions no matter how bumpy the road or how insurmountable the obstacles. We just have to hold out our hands and open our hearts and they are certain to be there, waiting.
Grace always Rises,