Today brings to an end a sixteen day journey up and down the eastern side of the United States. Sounds exciting, doesn't it? The excursion began by heading down through the hills of West Virginia, the southern megapolis of Charlotte, North Carolina and into the hot and humid South Carolina. For one week my parents and I spent our yearly week vacation in Hilton Head Island. I'll spare you the details but the week didn't go quite as planned. The heat was brutal and took a toll on my muscles, sending me into a state of fritz.
As the hottest week of the year in Hilton Head drew to a close so did our beach vacation. Next stop: Annapolis, Maryland. Mom and I spent three days wandering the harbor and taking in the historic charm Annapolis has to offer. Then it was on to our next and final stop, Brewster, New York.
This last stop was for a surprise seventy fifth birthday party for my Aunt Joyce. The party went off without a hitch and the surprise was a success!
After spending an extra day in New York visiting with family, Mom and I packed our bags and pointed our car in the direction of home. We both eagerly stuffed the car to the brim and pushed the gas pedal with a bit more force. More than anything we both just wanted to get home.
So you see this is why my baking adventures have come to a screeching halt. Besides a large pan of apple crisp my baking has been nonexistent, something I write with sadness, not relief. I've missed the habit of baking and being in the kitchen. I've missed getting my hands dirty and smelling the sweet scent of accomplishment rising in the oven. I'm beyond relieved to be home not just for the comfort of my own bed but the familiarity and convenience of my own oven and cupboards stocked full of baking necessities.
Being away for over two weeks reminded me that there truly is no place like home. It is so easy to look at dots on the map and pictures of beautiful places and think, "Oh, if only I were there! Life would be so much better, easier and happier if only I were there!" (wherever there might be.) But then you get there and realize that "there" wasn't all it was cracked up to be. The traffic is chaotic. The kitchen is lacking the most basic of cutting utensils. The humidity is unbearable. The store aisles are confusing. The bed pillows are awkward, with lumps in all the wrong places.
Before too long I'm longing for home.
Now don't get me wrong, my home and the town I live in is far from perfect. But it's home. Even with all of its flaws, drawbacks and imperfections I would choose it over any other place in the world. I would pick my house even though the dishwasher doesn't work, the doors never shut properly, the shopping centers have seen better days and the neighbors' yards are far from pristinely manicured. I love my hometown despite the fact that it is deemed "the mistake on the lake" and desperately lacking in the area of nightlife and "excitement".
What I learned in these past two weeks is that what I have right at home, my little simple life, is just right. Sometimes I lament the status of my life and wish it would change. I want different health, a group of friends, a purposeful job and a social life. Instead of soaking in the goodness of my life just the way it is I start looking around at what other people have and I immediately start to covet, lust and desire a life different then my own.
But the truth is that desiring someone else's life is a lot like desiring another town or an exotic location. It may sound appealing but the reality is that there is no place like home. No matter how great someone else's life may look from afar it has its flaws. It may look perfect on the surface but live in it for a while and the allure will likely wear off. Before you know it you'll be longing for your life back.
My life isn't perfect. My health isn't perfect. I don't have friends or any social circle to call my own. I don't have a date on Friday night or a Bible study group on Thursday morning.
But I love my life and I wouldn't trade it for any other. I wouldn't wish away my illness or trade my solitary life for all the popularity in the world. If God sees it fit to heal me then hallelujah! And if He gives me friends then thank you God! But I'm not wishing away the time I have now and the life I have now. I am going to embrace it, love it and soak in all its goodness because that's what it is, good. Life is good. My life, the way it is right now in this moment, in this town, is good and I don't want to miss a minute of it by wishing it were different.
Today I am celebrating just that, the good life I have, by baking a cake that to me says, "welcome home." A yellow sheet cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting. When I was away at college before I would come home for the weekend I was known to call my Mom and request a yellow cake with chocolate frosting to be warm and ready upon my arrival. Mom never disappointed. She would have that cake timed perfectly so that the inviting, comforting scent of cake baking in the oven would fill the house as I pulled in the driveway. That cake was my welcome home banner, the perfect way to say hello, a warm embrace with every bite.
So in honor of coming home to the place where I belong, to the place where I have been planted and where I have been given a good, full and beautiful life I am baking my welcome home cake. I'm back and I couldn't be happier.
The recipe for the yellow sheet cake can be found at Baking Bites (http://bakingbites.com/2005/10/happy-birthday-to-me/).
This is a must repeat recipe! At first I was skeptical that the cake had turned out. It looked dense - not what I expected. But my taste testers assured me the cake had a delicious flavor and wasn't dense at all. I topped the cake with a chocolate frost. I didn't use a recipe, just the directive of my Mom as she guided me in the art of eyeballing chocolate frosting with a touch of cream cheese. My measurements were something along the lines of half a stick of butter, half a cup semi-sweet chips, a couple of squares of dark baking chocolate, a few tablespoons of hot water, about 2-3 cups of confectioners sugar and 2 tablespoons of cream cheese. I melted the butter and chocolate first then beat in the sugar, adding water as needed. Finally I added the cream cheese and beat on high for a few seconds to make sure everything was fully combined. The result was perfect! The consistency was thick yet spread well and most importantly was a delight for the taste buds!
If you have something coming home or you just want to celebrate the blessing of being in your own home sweet home I suggest baking this cake. Home is always a place worth celebrating, so go ahead and bake a cake.