The Best Way to Get Unstuck When Life is Overwhelming

The Best Way to Get Unstuck When Life is Overwhelming

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What I Learned About an Engine; What to Do When You Are Stuck

A little fellowship was all I needed, and the last thing I thought I had time for. What do a broken tractor and friend have to do with freeing my soul?

My friend has a smart kid. He chose to purchase an old tractor and rebuild it for his 4-H project this summer. It was involved. Parts were hunted for and scrubbed with toxic blends to get down to the clean metal under all that gunk and neglect. Deals were brokered for rusted out rims that were deemed unfixable. Every obstacle was an opportunity to see this family problem-solve. All of this haggling, wheeling and dealing, was leading up to one fate filled day that the engine would be started.

The true test of all the collaborated effort, many months of work and the years of collective skill from 3 generations were on trial as their kid turned the key. Only, nothing happened. The gears were jammed. The engine was frozen and couldn’t exert enough power to free itself. Good thing there were a lot of older farmers on hand for the day’s event. They had a bit of wisdom to offer to the situation, as they often do.

This is when I learned a life lesson from a tractor and a couple of old farmers.

Apparently when an engine seizes up, you bring in another tractor, hook it up to the works and it gives the engine a pull. It sounded like really bad advice to me. Since the biggest thing I own is a lawn mower, I did not counter their collective years of intuition. Instead I did what any good friend would do. I hid as far away from the garage as possible. Pretty soon, an engine revved. I cowered, listening. Then came the shouts, followed by applause and the purr of an old engine; brought back to life by the skilled hands of an attentive 14-year-old. I am pretty sure that in that moment, it was as close to God as a farmer can get.

What to do when your overwhelmed and stuck?
I learned an important life lesson from a tractor

Just a while back, I was a like that rebuilt tractor.

Everything looked good, but my engine was locked up with indecision. I was invited to an impromptu BBQ, and I just could not muster the energy to go. I was rung out towel weary. Pulled and stretched with everyone’s needs and my own responsibilities. We were in the final stretch of the baseball season, when I tend to grow a little thin. I am generally a low energy person and do a pretty good job of protecting that. For some reason all of the possible good reasons for me to take on outside projects cropped up into a four-week stretch. I was feeling frazzled. There were 437 emails to respond to. Three articles were due, and a week and a half was left of the ball season.

Everything in me wanted to say no. I had every good reason to say no.

It was my right to say no, but the truth was that this was exactly the good stuff I needed the most.

I was going to miss it.


Then a tractor pulled alongside me, and helped me get unstuck

My friend called in the morning. She graciously reached out to me one more time. Her husband had even offered to grill burgers. She also had an appointment in the afternoon, so I could leave with plenty of time to work. With her loving kindness and accommodating spirit, it was like she had pulled up alongside of me and hooked up to my seized engine. She pulled just right, because my indecision broke away. My obligations broke loose long enough for me to embrace what really fuels my engine. Relationships. I spent the morning swimming with my three littlest ones, exerting my cranky muscles and eating the best grilled back-strap from local venison.

The crust that was making me cranky all week was washed away in that little pond.

I think my engine was purring on the way home. If someone offers you a few hours of play time, don’t pass it up because you are too busy. Say yes, if you can. Let good company set your seized-up engine free. You will always have my company on this long road of the middle season.

Hope for the weary Homeschooler
Remember that we are running a long race If you need a friendly pull, I am here for that very purpose.




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  • Marlene DeForrest says:

    Amber, this post really spoke to me. I’ve been learning to appreciate the gifts in the interruptions of life. Beautifully written!

  • Jill says:

    Loved this analogy and practical advice here. We are meant to live in relationship with God and others and sometimes need that ‘jump start’ to get us there. Thanks for doing that for many of us here!

  • Teresa Wells says:

    Amber, I love this! So, are we talking “tractor pull” here? I’ve heard that term for years, but never really knew what it was. What a good illustration for when friends come alongside and help us out, and when we do the same.

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