the process of cooking

Sometimes I process life through reading for long periods of time. Other times I take peaceful walks, swing with abandon, or deep-clean.

Recently, all I’ve wanted to do is set up camp in the kitchen and cook.

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There’s something about the melding of flavors, the softness of kneading dough, the bubbling of simmering stew, and the explosion of delicious tastes and smells of a well-worn kitchen that energizes me.

Today I’m thankful to be able to cook. I’m thankful for a family to cook for, food to cook with, and a kitchen to cook in. Today is full of blessings and I don’t take them lightly.

Like Flames in the Night {the ending of a beautiful series}

If the question was “Who has something exciting and uplifting to share today?” I’d be raising my hand, bouncing in my seat pleading Pick me! Pick me! And then this is what I’d share with you:

Renowned and award-winning author does it again! 

Then, after the cheering dies down, I’d tell you about how Connilyn Cossette – who I affectionately refer to as The Queen of Biblical Fiction – has published yet another fantastic book.

If you’ve been around Noveltea long, you’d know that I’ve talked about her books a lot. I started out by reviewing her Out from Egypt series, (Counted with the Stars, Shadow of the Stormand Wings of the Wind). Those books blew me away and left me wanting to read more, and like, right away, please!

Then the Cities of Refuge series began. I requested the first book and went into it completely blind, was shocked, amazed, and couldn’t wait to read more. During the last two years I’ve excitedly reviewed A Light on the Hill, Shelter of the Most High, Until the Mountians Falland now I’m exceedingly happy to get to share my thoughts on Like Flames in the Night – the final book in the series.

Also, you should all take a moment to look at the books together. They are so beautiful that I keep taking them off my color-coded bookshelves so I can just gaze at how seamlessly they go together.

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THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 380
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: March 3, 2020
Title: Like Flames in the Night
Fiction

ABOUT THE BOOK

Strong-willed Tirzah wants to join her people in driving the enemy from the land of Israel and undergoes training for a secret mission inside the stronghold of Shechem. But soon after she has infiltrated the ruthless Aramean commander’s kitchen, she makes a reckless decision that puts her and her allies in grave danger.

Fresh off the battlefield, Liyam returns home to discover his beloved daughter is dead. After his vow to hunt down her killer leads to months of fruitless pursuit, his last hope is in a family connection that comes with strings attached. Strings that force him to pose as a mercenary and rescue an infuriating woman who refuses to leave her mission uncompleted.

When an opportunity to pave a path to a Hebrew victory arises, can Tirzah convince Liyam to fight alongside her in the refuge city of her birth? Or will Liyam’s thirst for vengeance outweigh his duty to his people, his God, and the woman he’s come to love?

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

Um, yeah. I don’t think this needs further explanation. 😉

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WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

Books with espionage in them are my favorite. Stories with strong-willed girls who get themselves and others into danger aren’t really my cup of tea, but if said girl is fighting to keep up with a slew of older and successful brothers? Well, I can read those books all day long.

Tirzah is the youngest daughter of Moriyah, and little sister to a bevy of successful Hebrew spies – the lives of whom we’ve followed in the first three books in the Cities of Refuge series.

To begin with, Tirzah wasn’t a character I liked or related to – she seemed too set on proving herself to care about the safety of others. Then, partway through the book I began to see her character growth and maturity kicking in and I started cheering her on. Her character was so well-written, and her character-arch was played out beautifully. She felt real, flawed, strong, and yet weak at the same time.

Liyam drove me nuts. He, too, was written in a skillful way that made me want to yell at him to pull out of his pity-party and really see the world around him. When he took on the role of a mercenary I had no clue what to think. That part was written exceedingly well and left me cringing and horrified, while simultaneously amazed by how well the plot was climbing and dipping and twisting and turning.

The middle of the book was by far my favorite, although the plot continues to grow until the end where we have a beautifully wrapped-up series.

CONCLUSION {with slight spoilers}

Yeah. There’s a lot of content in this book that I wouldn’t deem to be exceedingly suitable for young teens. There’s a lot of talk of death, torture (although it doesn’t go into detail), and how the soldiers misuse the girls in the lands that they take captive.

I felt like it was written with care and is fine for anyone sixteen and older, but it does have sensitive content.

Overall, this is a beautiful story of following God’s leading even when it’s scary and having the courage to stand up even if it might cost you your life. It’s a delightful wrap to one of my favorite series.

Spoiler: While acting as a spy, Tirzah is scared for her safety multiple times, and as part of her cover ends up spending multiple nights in the same room as a guy – who everyone thinks is using her, although nothing actually happens. 

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RATING

I’m giving Like Flames in the Night 4 out of 5 stars. I’m incredibly thankful for the author sending me a book so I could share my thoughts with y’all. And now, you should really buy the book, or at least request it for your library.

Joy?

In my previous post, I talk about joy – how it’s easy for me to be happy. I sometimes had a little niggling that maybe that was just because everything was going my way. Sure, I had to do jobs I didn’t like, be around people who weren’t my perfect match in personalities, and tackle hard things… But still, for the most part, I knew I had it easy because despite working long hours, I was doing just what I wanted to do.

In times like that, I would sometimes wonder how my attitude of joy would survive if I was tossed into a situation where I wasn’t able to do what I wanted. If I wasn’t working my dream job. If I didn’t have control over what was going on around me. And if my situation is what determines my joy, do I actually have joy? Or am I just a happy person?

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Then, ya know, this happened – this as in the world shutting down. I had come home to help my family with a project for a week, just before everyone was urged to self-quarantine.

During that week I had fun. I was excited to be back in Ohio working. I enjoyed the tasks that I had chosen and that had a deadline. Being back with my family was great and I enjoyed hanging out and helping them.

My car was packed and ready to go when I got word that the Museum was shutting down for a couple of weeks. I sill had work if I wanted it, but I knew it would be more helpful for other people to get the work instead of me, and my family could still use my help, so I stayed in Ohio.

As we all know, the shut-down period of time that we’re experiencing in the USA and the world feels like it keeps expanding. And along with that lack of control, that unknowing, and that inability to make any concrete plans has come a whole new level of me realizing just how hard it is for me to have good attitudes. And I fail far too often (I would say just ask my family, but please don’t actually do that).

Every day I still feel joyful, but that joy is zapped far too quickly. Sometimes I’m far more inclined to add to the stress of the situation than the joy. Each day I wake up and ask God to help me have the right heart and mindset, and each day I fail far more times than I’m okay with.

It’s hard.

It’s hard to not know what’s going to happen next. To know that my life as I knew it has come to a halt and I don’t know when it will resume. It’s hard to feel like all control has been taken away from me – and yet all control isn’t. I still have control over my attitude and actions, even when I act like circumstances determine what is okay instead of resting in God’s love and let His peace flow through me.

Today I’m working at letting go and seeking God’s face. Today, I’m working on not letting my emotions take over and create stress instead of projecting God’s peace. Today I’m still learning and growing.

17 Reasons I Love My Job

Yo. Folks, I began writing this on March 6th, then my computer cord died and I had to wait to finish it until I got a new cord. And we all know March 6th was a lifetime ago. Reading through this again makes me miss my job, life, and co-workers so much. 

There are a lot of things I enjoy in life. In fact, I pretty much find excitement and joy no matter what I’m doing – with a few exceptions, of course. My middle name is Joy and when I was a kid my parents would inform me that meant I was supposed to be joyful. I didn’t always want to hear that as a preteen, but nowadays I’m thrilled that I get the daily task of living up to the name my parents choose for me.

Over the years I’ve been blessed to travel all over the world (North America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe), experience many amazing things, and been handed incredible opportunities. I’m so thankful for my life and all I’ve gotten to do.

Wanna guess what my favorite thing to do is, though?

Going to work. At night I go to sleep counting down the hours until I get to head back into my job. In the morning I wake up excited and enthused to dance into work (oftentimes quite literally) and start the day.

Of course, I don’t enjoy every single moment at my job. There are times when I’m tired, have a headache, or don’t feel well and leave as soon as possible. But more often than not, closing happens sooner than I wanted and after I clock out I hang around for a few more minutes, just soaking everything in.

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In addition to the daily, mundane work (which there’s plenty of that), I also have a plethora of exciting, stimulating, and helpful tasks and experiences handed to me. Today I thought I’d compile some of the things/reasons I love my job. I was recently asked to be a part of a short promo video where I got to talk about this very subject, and I only had a few seconds to share my thoughts, so here’s the expanded version.

  1. My teammates – without a doubt, this is my favorite thing about where I work. I love getting to spend time with the other SET members. We have stimulating conversations, encourage each other, and they daily help me become a better person
  2. My managers – this ties with number one. There is so much freedom to learn and grow knowing that although mistakes I make will be addressed, it will be done in a private and kind manner without an ounce of shaming. I’ve worked in three different departments under four different managers, and each one of those experiences has been amazing. I’ve felt truly valued, listened to, and cared about not just as an employee, but also as a human
  3. The environment – the work environment is full of encouraging, kind, and thoughtful people. Mistakes are addressed in quiet, while wins are celebrated in public. While working hard is a must, building relationships and unity throughout the day is also cheered on
  4. Making a difference – I know that what I’m doing each day makes a difference, first of all for my coworkers, and then for the guests who come through our doors
  5. Learning new things – I’ve had to leap out of my comfort zone so many times with the job I have, but when I have a strong team standing around me cheering me on, it’s not quite so scary. For the most part, I’m able to learn at my own pace and although I try and always be ready to say yes, if I really don’t feel ready for something they are okay with letting me have more time to prepare
  6. The variety – my position allows me to move from task to task at a rapid pace and that makes the day fly by
  7. My co-workers – in addition to my teammates (the six people on my actual team) I also love being around my co-workers. We’re taught to celebrate, thank, and encourage each other on a daily basis which is what I thrive on. I’ve made so many delightful friends through work
  8. Learning experiences – my boss is incredible at giving us time to not only do our job but learn how to do it well. If he finds out we aren’t fully trained in a department then he’ll help us get the training we need.IMG_4333
  9. Staff meetings – multiple times a week we come in early to attend staff meetings where we get to learn about what is helping around the ministry, country, and even world. We have truly amazing guest speakers, wonderful musicians, and talented doctors share with us
  10. Feeling truly valued – recently each of the departments spent a day celebrating our team, thanking us for our help. I wasn’t there that week, so one of the departments ever-so-sweetly put together a basket of lovely gifts for me and spent an afternoon showering me with love and appreciation
  11. Being listened to – when I have an issue with something I know I’ll be listened to. I’ve brought concerns to leadership various times and every time they’ve given me time, attention, and then either answers that make sense, or else they take steps to find answers. It’s exceedingly important to me to know that what I say is taken seriously
  12. Perks – working at the museum provides me with many discounts, free resources, and a plethora of perks that I hadn’t even imagined when I applied for the job. For instance, we can get discounted tickets for family and friends who are visiting, free drinks while working, and half-off all the food in the cafe. Also, there’s nearly always food or other goodies in the break room
  13. The guests – we get to meet people from all over the country and the world. Sometimes while walking through the parking lot I’m amazed by how many different places are represented by the license plates. I’ve had delightful conversations, watched peoples face’s light up when they see our exhibits, and had the joy of meeting needs for those who come to our attrations
  14. Flexibility – whenever I’ve needed time off (such as when some of my family was in a car wreck last year, or for my sister’s gender reveal party, or when my family decided to move), my manager has graciously worked with me to make it happen as often as possible. In return, they’ve won my loyalty and I will do pretty much anything I can to work extra when they need it
  15. Resources – not only do we have access to all of Answers in Genesis resources in digital form for free, but we also can attend most conferences for free. Plus, in our daily team meetings (which is different from the aforementioned staff meetings) we get taught so much cool stuff
  16. Feeling Safe – there are a lot of people I come in contact with every day, which means the potential to run into an unsafe situation is always at hand. But I’ve never felt at danger. Not only do we have a great safety department (they’ve even graciously escorted me to my vehicle when I wasn’t parked close to the building and had to work late and had co-workers who were worried about me walking across the parking lots late at night by myself), but we also have a great cleaning crew. That means not only do I feel safe from anyone with bad intentions, but also from germs. Plus, we’re always provided with the correct equipment and training to make sure each job is done with the utmost safety
  17. Unity – and one of my very favorite aspects of where I work is the unity. I love being part of a team. I love knowing that when I go through something difficult I’ll have people praying for me, asking about me, and taking care of me. And, I love that I get to do that for others as well. It’s one of the best examples of being part of the body of Christ that I’ve ever seen, and I’m so thankful for where I work and who I work with

This Place Called Peace

Denying reality is something I’ve been told I’m good (or is it bad?) at doing. I can get into my own little world and steadfastly convince myself that’s all there is.

This is probably a trait I picked up over the years of having thyroid and adrenal problems – when hearing about stressful/sad things could literally send me to bed for days. And while it can be a helpful coping mechanism, it isn’t always. And sometimes things happen that simply splash reality in my face like a bucket of iced tea.

But guess, what? Even during those times, God is good.

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Our reality doesn’t change the goodness and love of God. Isn’t that a beautiful thought to dwell on?

Sometimes it feels like the world is blowing up.
Or slowly spinning to a standstill.
Or going completely crazy.
Or being flippant.

Or throwing so many different emotions and feelings into the mix that it then spits out and covers everything so that it’s hard to know what to think, or even where to go to think, or if thinking is even an option when reacting is right there, begging to be a viable means of coping.

I’m not upset.
I’m not scared.
I’m not worried. 

But I do see the seriousness of what’s going on around me.
I am concerned.
I am saddened.
And I am praying for those who this is deeply affecting.
Lives are being changed for forever, all around the world. There are people who can’t protect themselves. There are countries full of villages that don’t have the means to take the measures that people in developing countries gripe about. There are people whose livelihoods are being threatened, and others whose very lives are going to be snatched.

On Sunday, while visiting my family back in Ohio, I found out that where I work is being closed for the next couple of weeks. While that wasn’t completely unexpected, it did rock my world. Suddenly my well-planned life was shot into unexplored territory and it hit hard.

It took a couple of hours for me to get past my selfish tendencies and focus on the bigger picture.

The picture that includes an abundant amount of God’s love and peace. The picture that reminds me that God is good, no matter what I’m feeling or experiencing. The picture that excites me because God is God and cares about the humans He’s created.

Nearly every morning for the last few weeks I’ve been reading Psalm twenty-seven. It’s beautiful. It’s peace-filled. And it reminds me of what’s really important in life.

One of the verses says When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” And that’s what I’m doing today. And what I’ll be doing tomorrow. And the next day. Because the denying of reality doesn’t solve anything, but dwelling on the truth of a never-changing God does.

Today I choose to rejoice.
And to pray for those whose lives are falling apart.
And to remember that although things are completely out of my control, nothing is ever out of God’s control.

Today is the day the Lord has made, and I’m thankful to be living it.

That, Too, is Okay

It wasn’t so very long ago that I used to work on my computer six days a week. In fact, I even instituted a No computers on Sunday rule to maintain a little balance in my writerly life.

It wasn’t so very long ago, and yet, it sometimes seems like an entirely different lifetime.

Nowadays, when people ask if I’m still writing, I shrug. I mean, I kinda am, but mostly I’m not. The opening of my computer is reserved for the days when I want to blog, and even those come and go like fog on a summer morning.

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It was over a week and a half ago – nearly two weeks – that my computer cord gave up the ghost and brought my computer using days to a standstill. There’s a time when that would have thrown me into a panic. I’d have ordered a replacement cord as soon as possible and happily paid extra for fast shipping.

As it was, my days blended together like the merging hues of a sunset and a whole week went by before I even looked into getting a new cord.

Seasons of life come.

And they go.

And change happens.

Change. So. Much. Change. It’s been swirling around me, pushing, pulling, and covering me. Some days it’s delightful and I feel like a little girl wrapping a kite string around my hands, just trying to stay grounded. Other days it’s an angry roaring wave, pounding my face with saltwater and leaving me gasping for air.

I try and categorize change. Put everything in neat boxes. Labeled, color-coded boxes that make sense. And yet it doesn’t always.

And I’m learning that sometimes that, too, is okay.

Having Everything Under Control (A Day in My Life at Work)

Sometimes I pat myself on the back – pretty thrilled that I have everything so under control. Take yesterday, for instance.

I woke up at 6:00 knowing I had a project to work on before leaving for my job. The morning started off well, I’d checked my work app several times and knew I had to be there at 8:30, which meant I should leave around 8:15. I had a good quiet time, ate my supper leftovers for breakfast, and was powering my way through the project when I heard my neighbor’s car starting.

My neighbor and I work at the same place, so I was like “Oh, I’d better check the time again to make sure I leave early enough.” The phone read 8:10 and that’s when it hit me – my boss had asked if I could come in at 8:00 to help with an extra project. Oh well.

About an hour later while attending a meeting I glanced around, looking for one of my coworkers that was pretty vital to have around in order for me to finish the project I’d been working on. She was a no-show. I sent off a quick text and she replied that she was sick at home. Thus prompted me to scurry around trying to get my work done while also talking to seven people in different locations to see if we could complete the project later in the week. They all agreed so I moved on with the day.

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Later I was working my way through some paperwork for the uniform department at work (which I’m in charge of) when I noticed the spreadsheet I’m supposed to keep updated for our HR office was missing a pretty important piece of information from back in January. I headed to the HR office to apologize and see if they could help me figure out what I’d done wrong.

That prompted a treasure hunt where I scoured six weeks’ worth of electronic and physical paperwork, looked through our uniform inventory, and talked to my manager. After a lot of piecing things together, praying that I’d find the correct information, and a helpful email, we finally figured out what happened, but the answer meant I had to call my contact where we get our uniforms to talk about the issue with him.

My day continued on until I got a notification that a uniform-related meeting was scheduled for the 11th of March. I’d already requested – and received – that time off from my manger. But back when I asked for the time off so I could visit my family back home for a special occasion, I hadn’t thought through everything. See, I work mainly as part of SET (Service Excellence Team), but I also work for another department, which is totally unrelated to being a SET member. Over the winter there’s not a ton of time-sensitive work that needs to be done with the second department, so it never even entered my mind to ask that manager if I could have the time off.

When I finally did think to tell my second manager I’d be gone for several days (she doesn’t control my schedule at all), I assured her that I’d make sure everything got done correctly while I was gone. She was fine with that, but as time progressed I realized there was a lot more to be done while I was gone than I had thought. Thus, when I got the above-mentioned notification I wasn’t sure what to do.

I went to Mandy (who I’d received the notification from) and we brainstormed for a few minutes. She was already doing extra work to cover for me being gone, so I ended up offering to come back to work early so I could cover the meeting since she couldn’t. Mandy assured me that I shouldn’t do that and then hit on the idea ask Mark (who’s the only person besides me and my manager who knows how to do what needed to be done) if he could help out. The big issue is he’s in a completely different department and so we weren’t sure if he’d be able to – or if he was even working that day.

I hurried off to talk with Mark, who was scheduled for the 11th and was more than happy to take my place at the meeting if his manager could spare him. So I went to talk with his manager. After explaining the situation to her she looked at her department’s plans for the 11th and agreed she could free him up so he could take my place. Since everything was all worked out, I went and talked to my manager to make sure she was okay with the changes. She was, which meant I then had to go talk to Mandy and then Mark and let them know everything was a go.

So, as you can see, I’ve become a total pro at having everything under control.

And, while that’s obviously me joking, the truth of the matter is that yesterday wasn’t stressful. There were a few moments when I felt a niggling of stress and really wasn’t sure what to do in order to find an important piece of information, but then I was able to breathe deeply and go through the process logically.

I’ve been blessed to work with incredible people who give me the freedom to learn from my mistakes, and although they hold me accountable, I never feel shamed or put down by them.

This last year I’ve been really working on seeking to still my soul through remembering God’s goodness and praising Him instead of letting circumstances determine how I feel. And, although I still have a long way to go I can see I’ve come a long way and I’m very thankful for that.

Now, I’m off to work again where I can hopefully complete the aforementioned project.

(And I literally just received a text from that vital co-worker letting me know she wasn’t sure if she’ll be in today or not, so I guess we’ll see how the day goes…) 😉