Three years ago while building our house we installed both a chimney and an electric heat pump. The heat pump was for present use. The chimney was for the future, standing cold and dormant while the heat pump did its work. For all the benefits that it does have, there is something missing from the heat pump experience—something crucial, like heat. Although a heat pump keeps the pipes from freezing, one cannot stand over the grate and actually get warm. Instead, there’s a draft—a mildly lukewarm breeze that actually sends chills down my spine just thinking about it.
Last winter, due to rising energy prices coupled with the desire to complete one of my several unfinished projects, I built a brick hearth and installed a Buck stove. My wife was very happy to see the electric bill drop, as expected. I was happy to check one thing off my chore list, as expected. The wood was happy to burn and the smoke happy to rise, but then something unexpected happened. The living room got warm. I mean, I knew it would get warm. Fire tends to do that sort of thing, but the room actually became a place where you wanted to be. The room became cozy.
Like moths to a flame, the children began to congregate around the wood stove. Puzzles, board games, books, Legos, and baby dolls made their way out of the nether regions of the house and assembled in the living room. Since there’s no TV in that room, the children did things with one another, and unlike the lukewarm air that used to be forced into the rooms, the children were not. They gathered and played quite naturally.
Now on Saturdays we drive the crew cab into the woods, fell the trees, and cut them into pint-size pieces. My pint-size people load them into the truck and then unload them behind the house. As a family, we are together more, and more importantly, we are working together more.
As idyllic as this sounds, however, we are not the perfect family. We bring our sin into the living room with us, and quarrels are kindled more often than the fire. We have miles and miles left to go before we reach our destination, but by the grace of God through an old Buck stove, we’re getting warmer.