Over the last five years or so we’ve found it necessary to keep a wide variety of adhesives available in our home. I suspect that this is something many families do, but lately it seems like circumstances have required us to become more versed in the newest varieties of super glues. One major reason is my engineering seven-year-old, whose personality has emerged as that of an active explorer intent on discovering multiple ways to use household items. But our purchase of a travel trailer last year increased our use of adhesives exponentially.
Owning an RV wasn’t something we’d thought of as a goal when we moved to California two years ago, but as we adjusted to the temperate weather here we recognized the economy of avoiding hotel costs by towing a mini-house behind when we travel. So in June 2017 we purchased a 2002 Rockford Roo travel trailer from its previous owner via Craig’s List. At only 24 feet long it’s a tight fit for a family of six, but the lack of space, we’ve found, prompts us to spend more time exploring our vacation destinations outdoors. Excited to embark on a new family hobby, I filled my Pinterest boards with photos of old campers made new again via crafty remodeling.
The camper started falling apart on our very first trip.
As I stood on the side of the highway examining a large rip in its siding I noticed that the wooden wall underneath this siding — the walls that held the camper together — were damp and smelled musty. The entire exterior of the camper had water damage.
Undaunted, we invested in multiple rolls of Gorilla Tape to keep with us when we traveled, determined to keep the walls of our tenement on wheels together for as long as possible. But on the second morning of what was likely our last trip in the camper there was a loud cracking noise, followed by my thirteen year old son yelling for help. We found him standing in a small pile of wet, broken wood, trying desperately to hold up a heavy hinged section that was threatening to fall off, leaving our camper missing an entire portion of the wall. The portion of the wall that also would be mine and Eric’s bed, specifically.
Since adhesive tape wouldn’t be adequate to fix a hinged part of the wall it took several layers of Gorilla Glue to save our vacation.
But that’s not the story I’m going to tell you.
The story I want to tell is not about problems and mishaps and poorly researched Craig’s List purchases.
It’s about adherence.
You see, this particular trip and this particular mishap happened to occur a few days before our sixteenth wedding anniversary, and, as we proudly tell others, the nineteenth anniversary of the day we met. Taking a big picture view of nineteen years of loving each other, a crack in the wall of our camper didn’t seem like a big deal. It wasn’t.
When Eric and I met during that exciting but tender summer after high school graduation I saw the world and the life that was before me like a giant eighteenth birthday present. All I needed to do was open up the amazing opportunities ahead of me, all of which were sure to be exciting and perfect, and then I would lead a successful, independent, and charmed life. Eric, who is nine years my senior and was a father of one at the time, was not what I expected to find inside the box. Yet he quickly and easily swept me off my feet, and within just a couple of months I knew that the amazing life I intended to lead had at its center my very own Prince Charming.
But of course, as you can likely guess from my writings about illness, trauma, and healing, “charming” is not the term I’d use to describe these last nineteen years. Our fast-moving commitment to each other and my introduction to life as a step-mother ignited a flame of adversity. Though we’ve had short periods of relative peace and tranquility among the stress of life, these warm quiet flatlands, like the California deserts, are littered with dry chaparral set to ignite at the smallest spark, and annihilate any dreams of a peaceful, quiet life we may have.
We’ve faced sleepless nights with babies that stretched on for years.
My own untreated depression and anxiety that threatened, at times, to leave Eric alone in the flames.
The slow and erratic developmental growth of our daughter that left us fearful for her future and questioning our own ability to raise children.
Medical problems that went untreated while we focused on caring for our needy children.
A difficult custody issue in our blended family that separated us from my step-daughter for close to five years.
Accusations that we abused and neglected our children.
The loss of our jobs and two church homes, a consequence of our decision for me to nurse my babies in public.
An autism diagnosis for first one, then two of our children.
An ADHD diagnosis for one as well.
The trials of military life, including some separations, no chances for Eric to take a sick day, frequent moves, never having family or friends nearby, and finding housing and therapeutic services.
A complete career change for Eric that has included time for him to earn a second bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree.
My own seven-year journey to a master’s degree.
Difficult relationships with family members.
The loss of our last five grandparents and my father.
My potential for a debilitating genetic illness.
Crippling financial debt.
And my own recovery from food addiction.
So you can see why our crumbling travel trailer, though frustrating and irritating, is a minor annoyance for us in the grand scheme of our life together. God has deeply and extravagantly blessed Eric and I with an abundance of perseverance and hope in the face of our trials and the ability to cling to Him and to each other as we walk through these wildfires.
We’ve got 99 problems, but faith ain’t one.
What is it that we do that has held us together for nineteen years through not just tragedy but, even more emotionally draining, the day-to-day walk of growing, healing, and changing in the wake of our trials? What do we do to withstand the circumstances that threatened to turn our very foundations to dust?
Our relationships with each other and with God have not remained untested through it all. There have been countless times when I’ve desired, and even threatened, to walk away, to think of divorce, of severing what God has joined together, as a way to escape my troubles. Like I could erase the pain, cut my ties with it. Once, during a difficult time of transition, I told Eric I would leave and then end our marriage. He responded,
“The only way you’ll remove my wedding ring is if you cut my finger off.”
Despite my painful accusations and rage he chose to adhere.
Of course my Prince Charming has his own set of frustrating habits that put me to the test as well. The same stubbornness that prevented him from accepting my wrathful declarations can become a barrier when we need a shift in perspective, and he has a tendency to avoid conflict in a way that can cause our problems to multiply before he’s willing to address them. I’ve cried a million tears over the times our family has needed a change, or even just an important conversation, that he wasn’t ready to face.
But as I’ve cried, I’ve adhered.
The Gorilla Glue proved itself successful in holding our camper together through our seventeen day family vacation, but it certainly isn’t a reliable long-term fix. But the glue that holds my marriage and my family together is faith in our loving God and gratefulness for the gift of His Son.
Adherence, def.: steady and faithful attachment, fidelity.
Psalm 119:90 says, “Your faithfulness endures to all generations, You have established the earth, and it stands fast.”
As we adhere ourselves to our loving God He grants us the grace and faith to adhere to each other, and thus God’s faithful love becomes woven into every element of our marriage and our family. As we make our way together through our broken, crumbling world we need this glue, this adhesive faith, to keep us rooted in heaven, where one day we will be truly united with God.
Photos by Rob Schreckhise, Eric Muhr, and Word Swag. Portraits by Zerby Photography and Gerfy Photography.