Big Changes, Big Excitement!

 

Hello Readers!

 

SozoWomen authors recently met to discuss our site and where we want to go with it…and we are excited about the changes!

change

So, in the meantime, here’s what you can expect:

  • Great posts, but fewer of them over the summer months as we revamp and employ new changes to the site
  • Launch in the fall our new authors, name, and look
  • More creative, relatable writing
  • More series
  • More  topics

 

And we want to hear from YOU.  What series or ideas would you like to read more on?  We are all ears.

Stay tuned for the exciting changes coming soon to a computer near you!

 

 

image credit: http://ngonapoom.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/blog-3-positive-impact-of-organisational-change/

The Secret Place

 

by: Lauren Mulvey

 

The most precious times that I have had with Jesus are when I drop the agenda and simply meet with Him. I often imagine hiding away in the attic of a beautiful European castle. Some candles and the sunlight seeping through the stained glass bring light. I drop my sword, worries, and fears and wait on the Lord.

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I know I am a romantic, but I crave intimacy with Jesus, and the more intimacy I have with Him, the more I realize this is what we were created for:  to know and to love Him!
I was recently in a bookstore and came across Busy Mom’s Bible, “daily inspiration even if you only have one minute”. Try telling that to your husband or best friend. For some reason, I think God also wants more than one minute of our lives.

More than an amazing book, powerful sermon, or phenomenal conversation. More than serving those in need, giving all your money, or evangelizing to thousands. I believe the most impacting, life-altering time spent is in The Secret Place. Only in The Secret Place are the above things even possible.

So what is this “Secret Place”? It’s looking at Him, focusing on Him, allowing yourself to literally LET GO of all that’s on the table. And guess what will happen? He will come.

“Behold! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20, ESV).

Why do we make it so complicated?
This is not a “Read your Bible and pray more” speech. It’s actually the opposite. Many times that bandwagon just leaves me in a funk of frustration, thinking of myself, and carrying condemnation. I have found that this Secret Place is a struggle for most of us because it takes discipline and denying our own desires (“I’d rather xyz…sleep an extra hour…I’m so busy”).  Maybe we just need to change, be more disciplined, make more time, pray for hunger.

But I believe what we really need is priority change.

What if we made spending time with God THE MOST important part of our day? After all, He is the most important person to love and spend time with.

It starts with receiving His Love. If we make looking at His face the priority, spending time in the Word and in worship, it will come naturally and our hunger for intimacy with Jesus will rise. His presence is what changes us from the inside out and makes us overflow with love, joy, peace, and strength.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6, NIV

How do you make spending time with God a priority? What things distract you from getting time in the secret place?

Lauren resides in College Station, Texas, with her husband, James, and a growing baby boy inside her that will arrive in November.   Lauren works part-time for an energy management company for churches. When it comes to writing, Lauren usually resorts to writing in the secrecy of her own private journal, but she is slowly realizing that sometimes God can use her more when she shares her thoughts and writing with others.

New Life

New LifeFor you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. Colossians 2:12

How to Win Friends after 30

Ah, our thirties.  Magical…maniacal…mysterious.  And on top of all the “wait, am I really in my THIRTIES?” moments, it can be a real challenge to start new female friendships after the “natural environments” for friend-making have disappeared.

In your teens, you have school. Every day, you’re surrounded by people your age, all going through the same stuff. In your 20′s, you’ve got college, and then work. Work is a little more tough – ages and stages tend to vary within workplaces, and you have to venture outside your comfort zone to find commonalities and opportunities to spend time with others. Add to this that many people get married and start families in their 20′s and it becomes even more difficult for the average woman to find deep, meaningful friendships outside her work and home. Finally we hit the high volume of activity hopping, career moves, city moves, and church moves that people experience in their 30′s, and boom – you’ve got a recipe for loneliness!

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However, we all know from experience that friendships are essential to our well-being and to leading a balanced life. Some friends from our teens and 20′s might stick around for the long haul, but unless you’re a natural extrovert and people-person, how can you make new friends in new places and phases of your life – particularly in your 30′s? Here are my tips learned over the course of the last few years, during which I’ve managed to make wonderful friends despite shifts from school -> new city -> new career -> workplace relocation -> marriage -> new neighborhood -> new baby.

1. Be brave.  Join groups, classes, and other activities where you may find like-minded women. You will walk into groups and rooms and workplaces and playgrounds where you are convinced – and you might be right – that you’re the ONLY NEW PERSON.  Push that thought aside.  Ignore it.  You can’t afford to be a wallflower when what you really need is friends.

2. Talk to other women about THEM.  Treat people like your goal in life is to KNOW them at their core, and they will either (a) run away or, more likely, (b) reciprocate and bond. Lisa Kirk says (and I agree): “A gossip is one who talks to you about others; a bore is one who talks to you about himself; and a brilliant conversationalist is one who talks to you about yourself.”  Talk to people about themselves.

3. Be an EASY friend.  You may be the type who wants to have weekly playdates, monthly girls nights, and yearly vacations with your friends.  That’s great, but that is not how everyone can (or wants to) do friendship.  Your new friend might need a text a week, a face-to-face dinner every Friday, a phone call every month or two, or just a morning catch-up session whenever you happen to see each other at work.  She might just want you on speedial in case she has a kid question or needs a spontaneous break from the house. Be honest about your “style” but allow other people to be a friend on THEIR terms.  Nobody likes to feel like a relationship with you is contingent upon their performance as a friend.

4. Your friends can become family, so be careful.  In our thirties, relationships are more intentional and are naturally deeper.  A college friend may have been great fun at frat parties but had nothing else in common with you – and that was probably ok at the time.  But now, you’re a grown woman.  If your friends are the drinkin’, cursin’, dating-ex-cons type then you’re inviting allllllll of that into YOUR life when you continue to invest in them.  Don’t think that you can be “surface” or “occasional” friends with other women like you used to.  The thirties are real, and you have to realistically discern who fits into your inner circle once you determine someone’s core values and life choices.

Ladies, it ain’t easy.  But with God’s help we can see Godly friendships planted, nurtured, and blossoming even in our thirties (and beyond!).  Don’t lose hope, and remember to be prayerful.  God knows the desires of your heart and is faithful to respond.

Holes Left

NailsLeaveHoles

 

Several years ago I taught a pre-K class.  I noticed that several of the kids were saying hateful words to one another, not really understanding what the harsh words were doing.

I brought a board to class, along with a hammer and a few nails. We all sat in a circle and I asked the kids to call me some mean names, after a bit of hesitation and me explaining that they were not going to get in trouble,  ‘Meanie-head’, ‘Stupid-head’ and other,  silly, but harshly said words ensued. With each word, I hammered a nail into the board.  I asked them to continue.  Another nail, hammered partially into the board.  I was able to fake some tears that deeply concerned all of these tender-hearted 4 & 5 year olds.  The tears kept them from asking what I was doing.

After my 4th nail, they stopped with the ‘mean’ words.  All together, they started to apologize.  “I am sorry, Mrs.  Hunter.”  “We didn’t mean to make you sad.” “Don’t cry.” “We are sorry.” With each apology, I removed a nail from the board. I then explained to the kids that the harsh words were the nails. And when we said them, we were damaging the board (each other). And when we apologize, the nails were taken out, they cheered.

I then showed them the hole that was left behind with each nail removed. I passed around the board so that they could touch the holes and ‘see’ the ever-lasting damage that was done. They understood. We talked about how much better it was to say nice things to one another, words that don’t hurt.

A little boy who had just turned 5 then spoke up and said, “these are like the holes in Jesus’ hands, we made these holes with our sins.” The lesson went to a whole other level. He was right, that is exactly what happened. Our sins, our harsh words, our unkindness… all made the holes in Jesus’ hands and feet. Our sinful nature made His death (and resurrection) necessary.

‘Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.’  Ephesians 4:32

The Cake War, Battling Failure: Part 2

I stood there motionless, sticky fondant and faulty frosting oozing through my  fists, as the soggy cake smiled at me from its crooked split down the middle.    As I reached to hurl its crumbling skeleton to the floor, this pesky voice of reason,  in the form of my husband, intervened.

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“Cass…let’s work the problem.  We can’t fix anything when you’re like this, so what are our options?”

“Our OPTIONS?!  To quit!  I cannot do this!”

“Well, that’s not an option.  You committed; the wedding’s in three weeks.  Try and figure out what went wrong so we can change it.”

“I’m a complete moron, that’s what went wrong.  The cakes are too soft, the ganache didn’t set, the support dowels slipped, and the whole thing freaking imploded on itself!”

Trying not to hyperventilate, the anger quickly turned to panic.

I was doomed.

******************

Pause and rewind  a few months as I’m debating with Steve if I should take the job.

“You’ve done lots of cakes, but this is a big commitment.

“But, it would be a really great challenge…one I would never have taken a year ago…maybe it will help me get further past fearing failure.”

Shoulder shrug.  Cake accepted.  Failure looming.

I figured I had two birthdays and a baby shower to practice on before the wedding so I would be fine.

*condescending chuckle*

*head shake*

I was an idiot..

#1) Pirate cake:  layers too soft, fondant too brittle,  @#$&*@$%.

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Texted Steve I was going to back out.  It wasn’t too late, she would have time to find someone who didn’t swear at frosting.

But I still had to finish that birthday cake.  So I emailed a baker friend for suggestions, tried to fix what I could, and disguised the rest.

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Buoyed by the recovery mission, I decided to push on a little further.

#2)  Baby shower cake.  First attempt:  Bottom layer collapsed.  Went blood shot on YouTube tutorials. Changed some recipes and it stood.

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#3), Monster cake.. Mock-up of the wedding cake.   Middle layer toppled.  I cried.  Rebaked.  Decorated.  Collapsed in bed.

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A few hours later, Steve woke me like a man poking a stick at a grizzly, and whispered, “Hey…there’s a problem.”  Which brings us up to speed in the story.

Sure enough…I saw a pot-bellied monster cake slowly sinking into itself.

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Tears.  Hot, angry tears.

“Well, I can’t start over, I don’t have the supplies!”

“And…it’s nearly midnight with the party in the morning,” he said calmly.

That’s when I yanked off all the fondant to see what could be done, ready to toss it…literally…when Steve had an idea.

He grabbed some thick ribbon and tied it around the crumbling layer, holding it together.  We made a batch of buttercream and I frosted it as best I could, then he froze it.  The next morning I smoothed and decorated it and altered the design

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And one monster became two.

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It worked fine for a baby’s birthday, but no bride would be down with that design alteration.

So for the next three weeks, I fought through my failure fear as Steve trouble shot the problems with me and we figured out as best we could how to fix them.

When the big weekend finally arrived, he took the boys while I  shellacked our house in powdered sugar and anxiety.  The tiers frosted great.

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I got to paint a cake for the first time.

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And all the fondant draped well…too well, it felt.

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That night, Steve pulled out his power tools and helped me pound, spike, and shimmy dowels into the cake then stack and center it all.

He carried it out to the car the next day like someone handling dynamite.  He did a victory dance with me as we watched it drive away.  He prayed with me that it would remain upright and intact until the wedding that evening.

It would have been so much easier for him had he just said, “Whatever you think, honey…” and let me go where the old current always took me.  His life would have been better.  But he knew mine wouldn’t.  So, he entered my world and helped me wade through not just a current problem, but a life long heart issue.

And in the end, a big blow was dealt to Failure as I pushed through the discomfort and anxiety with the help of my man.

And the cake stood tall, and proud.

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 **Ode to the Cake I wrote on wedding day:

You and your 30 lbs of girth got transported out of my life today. How many late nights did we spend together as I celebrated the perfect frosting edge only to curse your very existence when you imploded on yourself by morning? How many of my friends and family would rather have buttercream piped in their ears than hear about you one. more. time? How many times did I mess up, weep, research, and start over? 
But like that smelly cousin with all the great stories, I’m glad you’re gone but sad to see you go. All I ask is that you stay upright, no screwing around today. Don’t get insecure about that thumb print in your second tier, it makes you who you are (and will be covered by flowers). And though your end game will be digestion in a few hours, stand tall and know your staggering amounts of sugar may cause a few diabetic episodes before you’re *through.*
You drew profanity and triumph from me like no thing ever before as this quitter-by-nature learned from a truckload of failure. 
Thanks Cake. You’ve taught me a lot. 

Honey-seared Pork Tenderloin

An absolute crowd pleaser, I’ve  never served this without 100% rave reviews. This pork tenderloin has a simple preparation, and with all ingredients stored easily in the freezer or pantry, what more could we want?

Honey-Seared Pork Tenderloin
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
An absolute crowd pleaser, I've never served this entree without 100% rave reviews. This tenderloin has a quick and easy preparation, and with all ingredients stored easily freezer or pantry, what more could one want?
Ingredients
  • 1 - 1½-2 lb pork tenderloin
  • ¼ cup coconut oil or butter
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • ¾ cup water
Cajun seasoning:
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • ⅛ tsp coarsely-ground black pepper
  • ⅛ tsp dried oregano
  • ⅛ tsp dried thyme
  • ⅛ tsp allspice
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. In small bowl, mix cajun seasonings and rub into pork tenderloin. Set aside.
  3. In a large oven-proof skillet or pot, heat honey and coconut oil over medium heat until melted.
  4. Brown pork tenderloin in oil mixture for two minutes on each side.
  5. Place pot, uncovered, in oven for 15-20 minutes, or until meat thermometer reaches 145.
  6. Remove pot from oven and lift pork tenderloin to a separate plate. Cover pork with foil.
  7. Return pot (still containing oil and honey) to stove top. Add water.
  8. Bring to a boil on medium heat and simmer (uncovered,) for five minutes, until sauce is slightly reduced.
  9. Slice pork diagonally and drizzle sauce over top to serve.

 

Betty Plumb, An Angel Amoung Us

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My mom and Betty sharing one of many coffee and pastry times together.

She always had the most enthusiastic greeting of anyone I’ll ever meet. Every time we would go to visit her, she hugged us with every muscle she had, and held us three times longer than any normal person holds a hug. She had cookies and Poweraide waiting for us without exception for every visit. She would mow her lawn in her curlers, kept up and maintained a massive yard and baseball diamond just so that summer softball and baseball leagues could practice — free of charge.

Her name is Betty Plumb. She is the most genuine, loving, and no-strings-attached generous person I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. In our small Midwest community of Port Byron, IL, there wasn’t a person who didn’t know her. Not because she allowed people to tear up her beautiful lawn (and occasionally break a window in her car or garage) without charge, but Betty was also a photographer. She took thousands of photos….of every sport, extracurricular activity, of every player, every participant, of every season. I remember walking into her kitchen one day and seeing hundreds of photographs (this was waaay before the digital age!) on her table, and she would ask me, “I’m having a hard time figuring out the name of these three students, do you know them?” And at the end of each season, where we would have a dinner and awards ceremony, every athlete who participated, would receive their stack of photos of them in action from someone who we didn’t even know was there most of the time.

But her love and generosity didn’t stop there. When I went off to college and even after I graduated and was married, she would keep up with my many changes of address by sending me a letter or card multiple times a year; “Happy Fall!” with an envelope full of leaves or do-it-yourself scarecrow, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, my birthday, Easter, St. Patricks Day, Fourth of July. . . it went on and on for years. And I came to find out she did this for a large handful of my peers after they had graduated high school also. She couldn’t be “out given”, I’d send her a “Thank You” card and she’d send a “You’re Welcome” card full of how much my words meant to her.

When Drew and I were gathering our things to leave our home town and move to California for his next change of station in the Navy, we made sure to visit her before we left. And I’ll never forget her response,

“Oh, of all the people you had to visit, I am so honored you chose to see me before you both left!” When of course, even knowing Betty, we appreciated the honor was all ours.

I could write a novel one day about Betty Plumb, in all the ways she was light and love to my family and so many others, and maybe someday I will. But for now, for those who don’t know her, trust there is someone God placed on this earth who has her angel’s wings hidden amongst us, showing love in its purest form to all those around her. And for those who do know her, you will certainly agree there’s not a single person like her. I love you, Betty. Thank you for being the grandmother, mother, sister, aunt, friend, neighbor, and hostess to people who didn’t even realize they needed one.