Where to Belong

home-429571_1280My grandparents owned a farm. By the time I came along, the livestock was severely diminished. I remember chickens and maybe a few cows early on but not much other than that. My brother remembers a peacock or a turkey, not sure which. The only reason he remembers is it because the thing chased him around the barnyard. That’s traumatizing to a kid.

I don’t remember the animals, but I remember the house and the land. We spent Sunday afternoons there when I was little. My brothers and I would play with two of our cousins if they were there. If not, we would hike through the pasture and into the woods to explore.

There was a drawer in the kitchen by the sink that always had bubble gum in it. This was back when Hubba Bubba and Bubblicious contained only real sugar and made the best bubbles ever blown. My brothers preferred orange and grape. I loved the rare occasions when my grandma would stock the drawer with watermelon.

The house itself was nothing special, just your average old-fashioned farm house. But even though I’ve not stepped foot in it for thirty years, I can remember each room. I even made it the home Katie grew up in my book, Faith’s Journey. One day I would love to see it back in the family, but it wouldn’t be the same. The new owners renovated, updating the look and removing the memories. But it will always be the same in my mind.  It’s amazing what one can remember when fueled by pleasant memories.

That’s why I immediately felt connected to Where She Belongs by Johnnie Alexander. Shelby Kinkaid has similar feelings about the home her grandparents owned when she was a child. She made sweet memories there that helped her in the dark times. It’s a home that was ripped from her family by others who took advantage of her grandparents and left the home abandoned and in disrepair. The disappointments of her present make the pull of the past’s joys even stronger. Determined to give her daughters the same beautiful memories she treasures, Shelby arranges to buy her grandparent’s home and restore it to its former glory.

Though there is a lot of work to be done, it doesn’t deter Shelby from her plan.  But the descendants of the man who took her family’s home are working against her to regain the property for their own benefit. Add to that the mystery of the past that continues to haunt and hurt the current generations, and Shelby has to determine friends from foes all while trying to make the house her home once again.

Shelby’s story starts with a house and her memories, but it doesn’t end until she comes to understand where she belongs.  And I think that’s something we can all relate to.

The desire to belong starts young. Even on preschool playgrounds children want to be part of the group. It can tempt us into friendships we would be better off without. As we age, I’d like to say we outgrow this desire, but I don’t think that’s true. For those who never quite felt they measured up, it may be a life-long battle. Sometimes even our faith can leave us feeling like we don’t fit.

We’re called to have the mind of Christ. This means we strive to live the way Jesus lived, love the way He loved, and have the same standards and priorities. It’s a tall order that we fail to meet, but even if we only live it a small percentage of the time it’s enough to set us apart. We can see it at work, with our friends, and with those who aren’t believers in our families. Our language can set us apart. Our unwillingness to cut certain corners can make us stand out. Our refusal to participate in certain activities or watch certain things can leave us on the outside looking in.

Sometimes we may wonder if it’s worth it when all we want to do is belong. In these times it’s important to remember we do belong, just not to this world or the things in this world. First and foremost we belong to God. We are His children, and our home with Him in eternity is the home we were created for. That is where we belong, and until we reach it, there will always be the feeling of not quite fitting in. We aren’t supposed to fit in with this world. We were made for more.

We also belong to the body of Christ. Believers aren’t meant to be on their own. We’re meant to encourage, teach, and challenge one another to walk in faith every day. We’re to celebrate each other’s victories and support each other through the hard times. Ministering to each other is why God blesses us with spiritual gifts. We need to seek out other believers to be in fellowship with. Shared faith experiences can strengthen us and give us a glimpse into what this world was supposed to be.

When the differences between our faith and the world we live in leave us feeling alone, we need to look to Jesus. With Him, we always have a place to belong.

Christmas Quote Fun

Surprise! There is no writing quote today. In fact, I’m going to take the next three weeks before Christmas to mix it up a little bit. I love reading. My blog is dedicated to reading, writing, and faith. But I also love movies. I love comic book movies, movies adapted from books, and chick flicks/rom-coms. But this time of year, I love to watch Christmas movies. I’m addicted to Hallmark channel movies (much to my husband’s dismay). But I also enjoy more traditional Christmas movies.

So, for the next few weeks, we’re going to play a game. I’ll share a quote from a Christmas movie, and you get to guess what movie it’s from. Every right answer will get your name put into a drawing. On the nineteenth, I’ll announce the winner.

On a personal note, I had a sad moment this week. Frosty the Snowman came on. Every year when my kids were growing up we’d get fruit, popcorn, cheese cubes, and summer sausage together and make a picnic in front of the television to watch Frosty and Rudolph. They’re some of my best holiday memories.

This year only two of my kids are still at home. One was working that night. I asked the youngest who is mid-way through the teen years if he wanted to watch it with me. He said he was busy. I watched it alone.

It’s become apparent my years of sharing those simple joys with my kids has passed. Don’t forget to enjoy yours if you still have them.

Movie Quote of the Week: “It’s too early. I never eat December snowflakes. I always wait until January.”

Know the movie? Put your answer in the comments. I’ll post a picture of the movie along with a new quote next week.

Traditions and Recipes #3

recipe2From the time I was in fifth grade I was responsible to get dinner started for our family each night. I didn’t mind this task, but I didn’t love it either. It wasn’t until my freshman year in high school that I realized I could love being in the kitchen. And it was a home economics class that awakened that enjoyment in me.

I remember Mrs. Foster. She is still one of my favorite teachers. She taught us to make poppy seed chicken, taco salad, and baked Alaska that year. She impressed on us the importance of knowing how to properly carry out the instructions in each recipe. And she unknowingly introduced me to the recipe that helped start my tradition of Christmas baking.

Sugar cookies are a staple on many Christmas cookie lists. There’s a local bakery that makes a chewy-type sugar cookie with granulated sugar as its base. People love those cookies. But when I was growing up, the original local bakery in our town had their own sugar cookies. Their recipe was for the more cake-type sugar cookie that uses powdered sugar as its base. These  were a favorite with the kids I grew up with, and I was thrilled to learn how to make them in food class that year.

Perfect for cutting into holiday shapes, this recipe is one I use every year. I don’t always get around to decorating them, but that’s okay. The almond extract in the recipe gives the cookies enough flavor without frosting.

Whether frosted or plain, every time I make these cookies I remember when I first fell in love with baking. And that memory is a special gift I’ll keep forever. I hope you enjoy the recipe and come back next Friday for the chewy sugar cookie recipe!Sugar Cookies