Things That Go Bump In the Night

What was that? I sat up in bed.

       The clock read four.  I shook my head.

                There it goes, once again.

                                             Goodbye to sleep and what might have been.

                                                               Here is where my rhyme time ends,

                                                                           before mass groaning begins.

 

I wished that night I could have recalled Paul’s words to Timothy, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power”(II Timothy 1:7), but at that moment I was too groggy to think of anything but my mission—getting to the heart of the matter.

Sleepily I trudged to the bathroom to investigate. When I opened the door, I was startled awake by a low-pitched whine and a trembling vanity. What was this?

I’ve not lived through an earthquake as some of you have, but my first thought was of the fault that lies fifty miles west of  the Oregon coast, that somehow it had moved in the night, and the shaking wall was evidence of its quake. As I grew more aware of my surroundings, however, I realized my feet stood on sturdy floors. The house wasn’t shaking, only the wall.  Weird.

As my foggy mind struggled for some coherent thought, I wondered if the kitchen range hood fan had been left running.   My husband had changed a halogen bulb earlier that evening and managed to punch the fan to all three of its speeds before finding the light switch—but that’s another story. I walked into the kitchen to check only to find everything there silent, the blue LED lights from the various appliances adding shadowy images to the quiet room.

Then I entertained the idea that  maybe my subconscious was playing tricks on me.  Only that morning my husband had read me a story about a hotel on the eastern side of the state where patrons reported hearing dancing ghosts and clinking glasses. Considering the upcoming candy grab on October 31st, had I invented this mirage in response to the season from my memory of the article? Even though my family doesn’t celebrate it? Was this a trick…or a treat?  I didn’t know.

I returned to the bathroom where the vibrations continued.  The heater had clicked on in the night since outdoor temperatures were supposed to plummet below freezing for the first time this autumn.  Perhaps the fan on the heater, with nothing to do during the long summer months, had developed a glitch.  But no, the heater hummed along, warm air bathing my face.  Yet the wall continued to shake.

I opened the first door on the tri-fold vanity and found nothing.  Then the second door, but not a clue. Would the mystery lie behind door number three?  I felt like a game show host.

 I opened the third mirror and started to laugh.  An electric toothbrush, left running in its glass, had slowly edged its way across the shelf and sat rumbling against the back of the mirrored door.  Who would ever have thought such a small device could make create such a disturbance? 

I shut off the switch and returned the brush to its container, chuckling as I closed the vanity.  I thought I might wake my husband to tell him, but decided the story would keep until later.

When I did relate the account, he said he’d wondered what all that racket was when he was in the bathroom.  It sounded like a wailing animal to him.  But he’d gone back to bed without checking it out?

 Don’t you just love it?

Pursuing the Paths of Pioneers

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At the suggestion of a friend, my husband, daughter and I followed the McKenzie Pass over the Cascades Saturday in search of some fall colors. We weren’t disappointed. Quaking Aspens and Vine Maples were ablaze in oranges, yellows and reds. Bracken Ferns were fading as well, their bright green fronds mellowing to a milk chocolate color.

The Pass is a daunting stretch of highway that loops in and around ninety degree turns for twenty-two miles from Sisters, Oregon in the east to a place just above Blue River on the western side. Originally a wagon toll road in the 1870’s, the route afforded pioneers passage over the mountains.  As a descendant of one of those pioneer families, I had heard  many different accounts of my ancestors picking their way over the mountains in a covered wagon—traversing miles of forest, lava rock and daunting ravines.  One slip of a wheel over the edge could send a wagon and its occupants plunging to the depths below with no survivors.

 The three of us traveled the highway in reverse, going from the west side eastward. We wove in and around the steep climb, the twisting road often curving one hundred and eighty degrees, letting us glimpse the road below from where we’d just come. I’m sure the winding path was  designed to keep heavy wagons from descending too fast and losing control.

 The western side is filled with fir forests, their giant statures reaching high into the sky. The elevation rose at regular intervals, posted signs informing us when we passed 2,000 feet, then 3,000 feet, until we arrived at the summit, a healthy 5,000 feet above sea level. Often  from the edge of the road we could peer into a ravine filled with trees that had grown all the way from the forest floor to tower above us, their massive height breathtaking, the thought of falling over the edge terrifying.

At the summit is one of the oldest and largest  volcano tops.  Lava beds stretch for miles in all directions. The Dee Wright Observatory, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1920’s and named for its foreman, sits in the center, an all-lava tower that allows those willing to climb its steps a view of the mountain and  its surrounds from every angle. Inside the stone structure, little windows called lava tubes have been carved out of the rock where visitors can focus in on three mountains collectively known as the Three Sisters—Faith, Hope and Charity—and other peaks including Mount Washington.  

As we descended the eastern slope, the terrain changed drastically.  The forest floor was more arid, the tree varieties pine. Gone was the lush, green vegetation of ferns and low-growing bushes. Instead the forest was open, the dry floor brown, the visibility through the trees covered miles. I thought of those pioneers who first climbed through the open forest, only to reach the top and gasp at the abundant acres of firs and available timber on the other side. The change is remarkable.

Stuart K. Hine, the author and composer of one of my favorite hymns, How Great Thou Art, writes in the second verse, “When through the woods and forest glades I wander, And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees; When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze, Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee; How great Thou art.”

Psalm 148:7,9,11,13 the psalmist writes, “Praise the Lord from the earth, . . . Mountains and all hills, fruitful trees and all cedars, . . . Kings of the earth and all people, . . .Let them praise  the name of the Lord.”

Let us.  Indeed.

More Worth than a Sparrow

This week our family rabbit, a golden brown Rex, developed a terrible sore on his hind leg. To me the sore looked untreatable, and I resigned myself  to an end of the aging animal’s life. My husband, a soft-hearted peach of a guy, wanted to treat the rabbit.

When he learned that the veterinarian would require more than a hundred dollars just to take the rabbit through the door and that the recommendation would probably be euthanasia anyway, my husband decided to rethink his  options.  We went to Plan C—a trip to the local farm and ranch store where we found medications for the not-so-capable do-it-yourselfer.

Our daughter was the rabbit’s original owner, having carried him home in a brown paper bag almost seven years ago.  He came labeled a dwarf—but he wasn’t.  He could be box-trained—he didn’t. He was supposed to be compliant—he came with an attitude. Our daughter’s interest in him waned when she discovered that everything that went into his mouth came out the other end and she was left with the task of cleaning up the litter.

 When he outgrew his dwarf-sized rabbit cage, the animal was relegated to the an enclosure my husband built for him where the rabbit had lived for the past six years. The relationship was symbiotic—the rabbit entertained visitors with his antics and supplied wonderful fertilizer for my flowers in exchange for his keep.

Now we were home armed with a bottle of antiseptic spray and another of penicillin.  The clerk at the store said that using both would heal the bunny, but she could not give us a dosage for legal reasons. My husband went to the internet, found a dosage chart and proceeded to convert the numbers into a dose of injectable penicillin. We figured the cc’s mathematically twice, knowing a mistake would most certainly kill the animal.

 I filled the syringe and we both trekked out to the hutch, afraid of what we were about to do. We stood there a moment, knowing that we actually held the rabbit’s life in our hands.  I prayed that the medication would help, and not  accidentally end the evening in tragedy.

As I handed the syringe to my husband, I wondered how God feels when He considers us in our frailty, knowing He holds our lives in His hands. He created us in His own image (Genesis 1:27).  In Genesis 2:7 the Bible tells us that “God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

 In the book of Matthew 10:29-31 the Bible asks, “Are  not two sparrows sold for a copper coin?. Yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from the Father’s will. But the very hairs on your head are numbered. Do not fear, therefore, you are of more worth than many sparrows.”

We are important to God, and I’m certain He hurts when we do, just as I hurt for the little rabbit we were about to treat. Nothing escapes the Father’s notice.  He loves us very much and wants the best for each of us. Like the rabbit waited for my husband and me to treat his wound, so we need to wait upon the Lord to heal the wounds of our heart. We only have to ask.

And the rabbit? We administered the penicillin and cleaned the wound. My  husband made sure the bunny had a fresh carrot and a pear to munch on while he convalesced. I’m happy to report the rabbit has survived, and his energy is returning. Though the wound has a ways to go, I feel confident we did what was best for him, just as my heavenly Father always does what is best for us. What a peaceful way to live.

A pencil image of our rabbit by our daughter

Jam Session–Blessings Abound in Failures

Making jam is a hobby of  mine. I first learned the basics when I attended 4-H summer school at Oregon State University when I was fourteen. I won’t tell you how long ago that was. 

My interest in the art peaked when a dear woman from my church gave my husband and I a box of jam as a wedding gift. Touched by her thoughtfulness, I passed the tradition on for the next two decades, blessing new brides with the same gift.

I make jam every summer—usually four to five varieties, depending on the fruit supply. My son prefers strawberry, my husband raspberry.  Jam doesn’t take much time and perks up any meal. The colors brighten my pantry.

One summer four years ago, though, I had an excessive amount of leftover peaches. Watching the fruit ripen faster than we could eat it, can it, or give it away, I knew the peaches would need attention soon.  I asked my husband what he thought of me making peach jam.

He wrinkled his nose.  “Too bland.” He shook his head.  “No flavor.”

His resistance fueled my need to experiment.  I knew he liked peach pie—cinnamon the only ingredient different between the pastry and the jam recipe. Why not just add the spice and see what happened?

I did. What I got was a batch of golden peach syrup.  The jam didn’t set.  The directions within the box of pectin states some jams need time to gel.  I waited the obligatory two weeks. Nothing.

Not a person to waste anything, I decided to pour the peach whatever-it-was on my  husband’s French toast.  He thought he’d died and gone to heaven.  My peach jam failure soared to the top of his favorites!!

That presented a new problem.  How would I recreate a product that had originally been a failure?  I tried.  Honestly, I did. But summer after summer, the peach jam did what it was supposed to do—set up. I couldn’t fail, even though I tried.

My husband didn’t care. Though the mixture spread differently than the first batch I’d served him, he still liked the peach flavor on his French toast. I continued making it—success after success.

Often circumstances in our lives are like that jam. We set out for success, expecting results, and we crash miserably.  God picks us up, dusts us off, and sends us on our way again.  When I look back over the years of my life, I realize God turned many of my failures into wonderful blessings. In the process, I grew as a person.  I learned to trust Him more.

Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean NOT on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”  The verse does not say we will always have success, only that He will direct us.

This summer I had leftover peaches again.  I’m happy to report that after several years of trying, my peach jam finally FAILED!  I have no idea how I managed it.  But this time, I don’t care.

Colors from my pantry