Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Lessons in Marriage from A Stuck Jeep

The day after Christmas was a beautiful one. The snow covered the ground and we decided to go out and play. We drove up to the mountains in the Jeep with our pups and frolicked around in over a foot of snow, taking pictures and feeling the joy that is a white Christmas season.

But Cameron. . . oh Cameron. He was high on winter and his newfound camera skills. He took a few good pictures and bam! he thought he could do anything. So after a while of frolicking he decided that we were going to drive deeper toward the mountain, even as the snow got thicker and thicker.

"I don't think we should go any farther," I said politely. "We have already gotten stuck once, let's just stay where we are at." 

But Cameron did not listen to his wife. Cameron, like the little engine that could, kept driving forward. The tracks ended and you could see that the snow ahead was at least a foot and a half deep, and yet Cameron pressed on the gas until. . . thwump. Vroof. Vroof. Vrooooooof.

That's right folks. We were stuck. Like really stuck.

I got out of the jeep and didn't have far to go- the snow came up to the bottom of the door frame!

I stood by as my husband did everything he could to get the Jeep to move. He pulled branches from the forest, dug snow out from under the vehicle, made me try to take the wheel as he pushed (stick shift is not my thing so this was a serious endeavor!). As time passed and passed and nothing seemed to be working, I sat on the only non-snow-covered rock and I prayed that God would do something to help.

I had visions of trekking through the woods, walking miles to the main road, rationing out our two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches until we could find help. I had dreams of the Jeep being stuck out there in the woods for days as it became an icy Jeep grave, never to be used again. I sat on that rock and pretended we were in the Amazing Race and Cameron was doing a Roadblock. I knew that being mad wouldn't help, so after quite a few "I told you not to go any farther," and "are you going to listen to me next time?" I began yelling encouraging things like, "I believe in you babe!" and "Do you think we should call your dad?"

I'm not sure that was actually helpful but it was my contribution to the situation.

When an hour had passed and no progress had been made (despite immense efforts) we decided it was time for a break. I could tell Cameron was frustrated and I figured a peanut butter sandwich could be sacrificed to make him feel a little bit better about the situation.

And that is when we heard it. 

The crunch of another vehicle moving towards us through the snow. It was the sound of salvation.

"YESSS! FINALLY" Cameron yelled into the air. We were saved!

The two trucks pulling up were not new and fancy. They were a bit rusty, with around 12 hounds yelping from the back. But the two older men did not hesitate when we asked if they could pull us out of our predicament. Salvation came to the sound of hounds and I could not have been more pleased. As the Jeep finally began to move I was overwhelmed. . . mostly because I had had to pee for over an hour.

All was well in the world again and Cameron and I headed home.

So what did we learn?

Well obviously Cameron learned to listen to his wife ;) . . . but more than that, I think it showed us how far we have come in this year of marriage. In the beginning we were mostly about ourselves- our own ways, needs, wants. We clashed often because we weren't on the same team. We were fighting to assert ourselves against the other. But the year taught us a lot. As it peeled off our layers, as we reconciled over hurt feelings, as we took our mistakes to heart and decided to be better, we found that we really were on the same team and together, we were better.

When the Jeep got stuck it wasn't just his problem, and I didn't sit sullenly to one side as I might have done a year ago. I knew that this was a situation we were both in, and I needed to be on his team. So I did what I could to help, I shoveled snow in my (fake) leather gloves and my fancy coat, and I tried not to complain as the time passed. I am still a work in progress, but when we got back into the Jeep to go home, holding hands and talking joyfully about our lives, I was so pleased to see how far we both have come.

God has blessed us in so many ways and ass we gear up for year 2 all I can say is. . . I can't wait to see where we get stuck next!

Monday, December 19, 2016

How Cameron Saved Christmas

Do you have dogs? Dogs are great for the cuddly, happy to see you part but they totally suck when it comes to Christmas at my house. In my theory, dogs are like toddlers that you can leave outside all day without checking on them. Inside the house though, leave them for a second and bam! Things are broken.

In this case, my dogs decided they hate Christmas. Last year Bean was a puppy and ate all of the Christmas lights. Seriously she cut them all off by the outlet and chewed them up, lightbulbs and all. I have no idea how she is still alive.

This year, their first attack came in the middle of the night. While Cameron and I were happily sleeping and sugar plum fairies were dancing over our heads, our dogs were gleefully ripping up my Christmas presents. Not Cameron's presents, just mine.

With a start and a dash Cameron ran out to save my presents from their claws. Thankfully they were only interested in the wrapping paper, but man was I mad.

Fast forward a week and we have put a toddler-dog barrier around the tree to keep any doggie-Grinches away from my joy and happiness. So one night we come home all nonchalantly thinking that Christmas is safe and good.

But oh no, there is no such luck. There is a stench in the air that cannot be ignored. I search. And I search. And then I find it. One of the dogs has pooped (the gross kind) all. over. my. Christmas. presents.

Again, not Cameron's presents- oh no!- just mine!

As I start to lose my Christmas spirit and begin to channel my inner Scrooge, Cameron looks at me and says, "Why don't you just go stand on your porch for a while."

Ahh my porch.

My little front porch, thanks to my husband, has twinkly icicle lights hanging down from it. This in and of itself is a huge deal because I begged my dad for years to put up Christmas lights when I was a kid and he always refused. The neighbors, who we were close friends with, actually had their kids ask if we were Jewish or Muslim because our house was so dark at the holidays. Seriously.

So Cameron made my Christmas dreams come true when he said in the car one day, "Would you like me to put Christmas lights up for you?" Swoon.

So there I stood, on the porch of Christmas joy, breathing in the twinkles while he wiped poop from my presents, unwrapped them, and re-hid them so that he can wrap them again.

And that my friends, is how Cameron saved Christmas. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Loose Rocks and Marriage Testing at 12,637 feet

This past summer Cameron and I hiked to the highest peak in Arizona- over 12,000 feet high. Times that by three and that is a plane's cruising altitude. Kind of crazy.

I know what you are thinking right now. You are thinking, "Wow. Meredith is so hardcore and awesome. What a beast." I appreciate those thoughts. I wish they were true.

The truth is that I kind of lost it on this hike. I can blame the altitude, the distance, the lack of water, or anything else, but the truth is, I lost the mental game of hiking.

Disclaimer: My natural tendency is to quit when things get hard. This has always been my trend, and it is something I am having to work so hard to overcome. Hiking helps I suppose because even though I tell Cameron to just leave me at the top of the mountain and call a helicopter, he isn't going to do it. It isn't in the budget. ;)

This was before we almost killed each other:) 
All started well of course, and going up the mountain wasn't so bad. I got a little nervous trekking over snow, ice, and mud, and I complained quite a bit on the final push over all the stupid false summits (nothing is as discouraging as thinking you see the end point and being told it is still 3 peaks past that one). But I wasn't the worst. . . yet. The push at the end was understandably hard. The elevation is so high that it requires hikers like me to have to stop every 10 minutes to breathe and drink water, as dehydration happens a lot quicker up there.

So when I reached the peak, yea, I was still pretty hardcore.

But here is the thing about hiking: Once you go up you have to come back down. There is a pesky lack of helicopters at the top.

Obstacle #1: First of all, and I know this isn't an excuse, but- bugs. At the summit there are millions of little sweat-sucking gnat things that literally swarm all over your body. Now, I have come a long way when it comes to being outdoorsy, but bugs are still one thing that I can absolutely not handle. They are my personal hell and I am sure I looked like a crazy person swatting and generally freaking out over these tiny devil creatures. It was the beginning of the end of my sanity.

Obstacle #2: Loose rocks. This sort of terrain isn't my thing and it really freaks me out. At the time I still had a lot to work out in terms of healing from the trauma I had witnessed because I would get irrationally frightened and anxious about dying, especially when I hike. Its weird, I know, but my brain gets all crazy and freaked out and I turn into a hyperventilating grandma crawling down the side of a mountain. It's not my best look. (Side note: After this hike Cameron graciously let me buy some new hiking boots with better tread so hopefully next time won't be so bad.)

Let's just say that when I finally fell and cut my elbow open that was the tipping point of being overwhelmed. I'm not proud to say that I sat on a rock and cried while telling Cameron to shut up as he bandaged up my elbow. He was trying to be helpful but his technique was. . . less than desirable at the moment.

I will be honest when I say that every hike is marriage therapy for us. We almost kill each other, but in the end we come out stronger- it just takes a few hours, some snacks, and a nap before we are ok again. But hey, if we can overcome 12,000 feet together I feel like we can do anything!

Three times I fell flat on my back on the way down, and 1/3 of the way down we completely ran out of water. This had officially turned into a non-official survival situation my friends. And in times of survival Cameron and I have very different reactions.

I, naturally, get pissed. I was tired, thirsty, and literally had a dirt mustache and the stupid woods were never ending. Therefore I get quiet, except to say, "Someone just kill me" or "Cameron stop talking and being so happy. Nobody wants to listen to you."

Yes, I lose the mental battle. In a cannibalistic situation I would be eaten first just because no one would want to be around me.

Cameron, on the other hand, likes to maintain Cody Lundin's "party on" mindset, which just makes me want to kill him more. Even hiking 4 miles without water he still can talk forever. He is all chipper and joy and "one foot in front of the other." Its a gift. It is also annoying if you want to hate everyone like I do after 10 miles of hiking. I am actually impressed at how positive he can stay when the woods are playing tricks on your brain, the sun is setting, and your wife is being the grump of the century. Don't tell him I said so though. He already thinks he is awesome.

But here is the thing about hiking: Eventually you get back to your starting point. All the loose rocks and the bugs are behind you and you come into the clear open field. You didn't die, you didn't find a hiking lawyer and get a divorce, and you didn't lose your mind from dehydration and fatigue (although that was a close one). Eventually you get to sit down, take off your shoes, and breathe.

And if you are me, you may still cry in the car from sheer exhaustion, but eventually you hobble into Whole Foods and things start to look ok again. You did it. You climbed the highest peak and you made it out alive.

And isn't this true with any of our hardships in life? In the midst of it, it seems that we will be swallowed by the darkness. It seems impossible that we will ever get out of the woods, that our relationships will survive, that we will still be loved despite our failings. The challenge seems, at its time, to be all-consuming. But we will get out of the woods. We will be reconciled with those around us, we will find rest and we will be ok. Yea, sometimes we do things we regret when we get overwhelmed, but that isn't held against you once you reach the clearing. There will be peace, there will be joy again, and there will be an end to the hardships.

God is so full of grace isn't he? Sure, we have to climb the (literal or figurative) mountain, but doesn't He also deliver us from it? Isn't He the most incredible Savior to keep pushing us forward when we feel that all of our strength is gone?