Once upon a time, there was a lonely house in the country. She had once been filled with laughter, love, and tender care, but of late, she had been misused, neglected, and eventually abandoned.
After sitting totally empty and bereft for six months, the lonely house was visited by a little family, themselves quite bereft and in need of a place to settle down and begin to heal.
The lonely house welcomed the little family gladly and sighed with relief when they decided to move in and alleviate her loneliness. Their first order of business was to rid the lonely house of the stench of ferret feces.
And the horribly awkward floor-to-ceiling cat scratching post.
The lonely house was very grateful. She secretly hoped the little family would stay forever, but she dared not voice that hope aloud, lest she appear needy and scare the little family away. She just went about meeting their needs as best she could, promising to keep them comfortable for as long as they lived under her aging roof.
The lonely house had a friendly furnace to aid in this endeavor, as well as a central A/C unit, not to mention a spectacular aftermarket fireplace that lived in the master bedroom closet.
The little family was guaranteed all the comforts of home.
One day, a few months after the little family had settled into the lonely house (who, by the way, was feeling decidedly less lonely), the mama smelled something sinister emanating from the general direction of the friendly furnace.
She knew that smell. It was the smell of a dead animal. She figured a critter had crawled into an air vent and died, or had possibly expired in the crawl space of the less lonely house.
Not long afterward, the friendly furnace mysteriously died.
The papa and his furnace-savvy friend did some expert investigating.
The less lonely house and the little family were horrified to discover that the friendly furnace had been murdered! By a mean, bad, villainous mouse!
The mouse villain hated the little family because they had brought cats into his domicile. To exact his revenge, the mouse villain crawled into the friendly furnace and chewed away at the central nervous system, sabotaging the friendly furnace, the little family, and the less lonely house all at the same time.
To no one's dismay, the mouse villain did not survive his villainy. But even as he died, he cackled villainously as he lay crammed into his furnace crypt.
For he knew he would leave behind a noxious odor which would plague the little family for days on end.
The less lonely house was beside herself. Not only did she miss the friendly furnace, but she knew she had to find a way to help the little family, because if she couldn't keep them snug and comfortable, they might leave. "Oh, dear!" she fretted, "How will I ever keep my promise to the little family?"
The less lonely house thanked her lucky stars for her spectacular aftermarket fireplace.
She watched with anticipation as the papa started a fire in the fireplace, hoping with all her heart that the fire would warm the little family.
But it did not.
It warmed a five-foot radius in the family room.
The less lonely house wrung her hands. What to do, what to do? How would the little family stay warm through the long, cold Oregon winter?
The mama's uncle came one crisp, fall day with the perfect solution.
A fireplace insert.
"Aha!" said the less lonely house to herself, "Now my little family will stay for the winter!" (And maybe, she hoped silently, they will stay even longer than that.)
The little family did stay. They spent the winter months getting to know the less lonely house (who, by the way, was no longer feeling lonely at all and had begun to feel downright hopeful that she would actually get to keep the little family).
One of the things the little family learned about the hopeful house was that, despite her best efforts to be everything the little family needed, she was lacking a rather necessary component: proper insulation.
The fireplace insert was doing a great job of protecting the little family from the worst of the cold temperatures, but sometimes, late at night, after the fireplace insert had gone to sleep, the evil freezing air currents underneath the hopeful house snuck in and whispered menacing remarks to the water in the pipes. The water was scared stiff!
The papa was always able to coax the water back to the faucets each morning.
But the hopeful house knew that the friendly furnace would have kept the evil air currents from scaring the water. She grieved the loss of her lifelong friend and prayed for spring.
So did the little family.
In due time, spring arrived. Late, as usual.
But fashionably late. And with a grand entrance.
The little family had survived the winter! The coming of spring brought the reality of the little family's permanency, and the hopeful house left off being hopeful and dared to be happy. There was only one little tiny hitch she knew of, and that was the coming onslaught of the fever heat of summer.
The happy house knew, from her days of loneliness, how hot she got in the summer, especially with her lack of proper insulation. She had grown ever so fond of the little family, and she desperately wanted them to enjoy the summer without having to reside in a sweat shop. She thought once again of the friendly furnace, who had served her so well in the hot months by faithfully sharing his air vents with the A/C unit and providing the fan that circulated the air.
The little family was not overly concerned about the summer heat, for they had never before known central A/C, and they really had no idea what they were missing. They had messed around with window A/C units in the past, but by and large, they were generally accustomed to sweating it out and praying for fall.
But that was not the kind of life the happy house wanted to provide if she was going to convince the little family to stay forever. She thought of the perfectly functional A/C unit sitting benignly outside the house, stymied by the absent furnace fan. She thought of the menacing words the evil freezing air would speak to the water during the upcoming winter.
And she decided.
She would make a new friend.
She was rather shy, so it took her most of the summer to get up the nerve. But one day in August, she did it. She invited a new furnace to come stay with the little family.
When the papa found out what the happy house has done, he lost no time in making a space for the new furnace.
First, he gave the friendly furnace due respect, rolling it gently out of the happy house to await transport to its final resting place.
The empty space left by the friendly furnace revealed the perfectly functional A/C coil waiting underneath. The happy house had not seen that since the day she was first built!
The papa was not as nostalgic about those elements of the happy house that spoke of former days.
So he supplied a fresh coat of paint.
Then he went about modifying the ancient A/C coil to accommodate a modern furnace.
The papa was cool like that.
So was the A/C coil.
The new furnace was set to arrive within the week, but after nearly a year of irregular temperatures, the happy house and the little family had a rather difficult time waiting the last few days as they sat around wilting, drenched in sweat.
Finally, at long last, a FedEx truck backed itself up to the front porch, where the mama stood bouncing on the balls of her feet in anticipation.
The FedEx guy jumped out of the driver's seat, opened the back of the truck, and announced with a broad sweep of his arm, as if he somehow understood the months of waiting, "I have a new furnace for you!"
The mama grinned girlishly. "Woohoo! New furnace!" she cheered.
The FedEx guy grimaced knowingly and admonished dryly in a grandfatherly voice that matched his age, "Woohoo. Higher electric bill."
The mama and the happy house laughed together. Their anticipation of regulated temperatures was too great to be quashed by talk of electric bills.
Because the new furnace held such a place of honor in the minds of the happy house and the little family, the papa did something totally out of character.
He read the directions.
But shortly thereafter, true to form, he disregarded them.
He didn't need them anyway.
The happy house could not say the little family enjoyed their last day of living in a sauna. Mostly, they wandered aimlessly around the house, waiting for the papa to finish tweaking the new furnace.
He even had to change at one point because it is hard to tweak a furnace in the fever heat of summer, and one's clothes get drenched rather quickly.
Finally, at long last, the papa used his massive upper body strength to heft the furnace into its new home.
Then he connected all the stuff that gets connected in situations like this.
And put the face on.
The new furnace opened his eyes and looked around. After briefly introducing himself to the happy house, who was very pleased to meet him, he assessed the problem.
An indoor temperature of 82 degrees! The new furnace knew that 82 degrees was actually on the cool side for many places in the world, but for Oregon, and for the happy house and the little family, it was just way too warm.
The new furnace set to work immediately, befriending the air vents and enlisting their services.
The little family, the A/C unit, the A/C coil, and the happy house all watched in awe as the new furnace showed its competency and strength. In no time at all, the house was a bearable temperature.
The happy house smiled to herself as she watched the little family visibly relax and wipe the last few remaining droplets of sweat from their porous brows.
And then, for the first time in years, the happy house sighed with complete contentment, for she knew...
the rest of the summer heat would be bearable...
the winter cold would be kept at bay...
and the little family would always be...
her little family.
"For you have been... a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat." ~Isaiah 25:4