Are you ALL IN?

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Ever wonder how The Connection got started?

Ever wonder where The Connection is going?

Well, you’ve come to the right place!

I’m Mandy Hood. I’m one of the founding members of TC and am currently serving as volunteer Executive Director.

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Here’s our Board of Directors: Mary Bender (president), TT Williford (vice-president), me (Treasurer), Carrie Starkey (secretary). In addition to these roles, we also oversee the individual teams that keep TC running. There are teams for Prayer, Welcome, Care, Serving, mentoring, blog, devos, studies, special events, fundraising, marketing & social media. There’s a LOT going on!

“The Connection has blessed my walk of faith so much. I could never have imagined how much God would bless me with my involvement with these amazing women of God!”

“I like having a place to come and learn and talk about Jesus. Not having to worry if my question is stupid or having to fear someone’s reaction.”

“The most welcoming group of women ever!”

“I always feel welcomed. You ladies are a true joy and you are amazing at making sure everyone is included!!!!”

“It’s a complete judgement free and welcoming zone! Super friendly, accepting, wise, compassionate ladies!  You can always rely on them to be wearing a smile and giving you a hug when you see them. It’s incredible the friendships I have formed through this organization. I give all the glory to God for laying the connection on these ladies hearts. It has been a huge blessing and me in many, many ways.”

“I believe God has great plans for The Connection and I am proud to be part of this wonderful ministry.”

“I love this ministry so much! God has blessed so many ladies through Connection and I can’t wait to see what else He has in store.”

Women are loving their time with The Connection and it is strengthening their walk with God. In the past year, over 100 women have participated in our events and hundreds more are part of our online community through Facebook, Instagram and this blog.

So, how did all of this start?

Continue reading “Are you ALL IN?”

Worship is More Than a Song – Part II

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This is the second in a 2 part post. Read Worship is more than a song Part 1 HERE.

Some may think its egotistical for God to want our undivided attention and focus solely on him? Well, they are wrong in my opinion….

Because God is God. He is Emmanuel, God who goes with Me. Creator of this universe I live in. Creator of all things living, all the beauty around me. All the things given unto me, provided to me. All love given to me unconditionally. And I know very well I do not deserve any of the blessing God’s given to me so why would I not want to kick the distractions to the curb and direct my attention to “want” and desire to worship Him. He did love me first.

This passage was brought to light to me when thinking about worship: Isaiah chapter 6:1 says: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.” Doesn’t it seem like there was such a presence about the Lord… He was high and exalted. The train of his robe filled the temple…This made me think of the recent royal wedding of Prince Harry & Princess Megan. The Princesses train was long… super long… 16 feet long! But as long as her train was. Did it fill the church? No… Can you imagine just how the Lord’s train of his robe filled the temple? As, I read on in Isaiah Chapter 6:2-3 “Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At, the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook, and the temple was filled with smoke.” WOW! To me it certainly seems like the Lord’s presence was known in that temple! Notice the focus was solely on the Lord. Singing, Praising and being in his presence. Not one Seraphim was checking their phone, scrolling Facebook or watching baby goat videos. Because Worship is more than a song. It’s more than singing and praising. It’s your heart desire of being in God’s presence.

Put down the distractions. Fear. Worry. Discontentment. Loss. Selfishness. Or anything else that takes our thoughts and focus away from anything other than who God is. Because there is no victory in fear. There is no victory in worry. There is no victory in whatever else takes our focus away. Only His perfect love gets rid of fear. Only his perfect love gets rid of ________ (insert here whatever distraction you are facing).

Continue reading “Worship is More Than a Song – Part II”

Worship is More Than a Song – Part I

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What does worship mean to you?

For myself. I used to think of worship only being the first part of the church service. As I have discovered, Worship goes beyond singing just a song. As I open the trusty Webster Dictionary it says: Worship is to honor with extravagant love and extreme submission.

In other words, Worship, is defined by the priority we place on WHO God is in our lives and where God is on our list of priorities. True worship is a matter of the heart expressed through a lifestyle.

Years ago, it was popular to say WWJD meaning What Would Jesus Do? If you filter your relationships and actions through the love of Jesus and think WWJD… by doing this, you are honoring and submitting to God. In other words, you are Worshiping.

Do you ever recall a time at the store when a cashier has been rude to you? Did you snap back? If you bite your tongue and reminded yourself to show grace then by doing so, your response is worshiping God.

This response is often hard to do, showing grace that is. It’s denying our selfish desires to snap back and to instead choose love. Let’s be honest we all snap back at the cashier sometimes…we are sinners. That’s why when we submit to God in our hearts and choose the WWJD approach instead of our own, we are honoring God.

This is just one way of many for us to worship.

But most importantly worship is about what our heart is focused on. Are we allowing distractions of the outside world to take our focus off of our Heavenly Father, the creator of this world? Because let’s face it, life gets busy! We have so many things that can distract us from a life of worship. I know for myself I’ve got many distractions, my cell phone being one of them.

Continue reading “Worship is More Than a Song – Part I”

You Gotta CHOOSE to Obey

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“I am willing to do whatever you want. I will go wherever you want. I want to serve you.”

Mandy’s prayer gave me chills as I read the possible blog post she sent my way to review. You see this was also my prayer after God was prompting me to make some changes in my life.

Over a year ago. Sunday morning service started with worship as usual, but instead of going right into the message they paused, and gave this direction:

“One way we worship God is by talking with Him, let’s be silent and talk to Him.”

They played quiet instrumentals and asked us all to bow our heads and speak our hearts to God. I know I was praying in the spirit, because I’m not sure where this came from.

I prayed..

“God I don’t know what Your plans are for me, but I just want to be in Your will. I want to serve You, wherever You call me..I want to serve You”

The sermon that followed edified it even more. They read from Luke about the cost of following Jesus.

“To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’” Luke 9:59-60

You see in this scripture they were on a road heading to Jerusalem. If the man’s father was truly dead, he would have been in mourning. Not on the side of the road. This man was asking to go live with his father until he died. Who knows how many years that would be and THEN follow Jesus.

The sermon went on to convict me. Our pastor asked, “What is stopping you from following God’s call? When your children are grown? When you have this much in savings? When you finish college? What is stopping you from following Jesus?”

Now he wasn’t telling us to leave our children behind, or stop being responsible with our finances, or quit school. God has a great way of meeting us right where we are. Following Jesus means to be in tune with His will for you and to make Him first in your life. Whether that means going on missions or serving in the nursery on Sundays.

“Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.” Psalms 143:8

Then, following the sermon in the hallway TT, a Connection board member stopped me. She asked me to consider taking a position on the Board of Directors. Knowing these board members, I knew what kind of commitment this would be.

Remember the prayer!

Remember that sermon!

So what was my response?

Continue reading “You Gotta CHOOSE to Obey”

You Gotta Offer

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Sometimes I wonder.

Why did God choose me?

Of all the women in our area, why me to serve Him by beginning a women’s ministry that is one-of-a-kind?

I’m not qualified. I’m not experienced. I am the least of these.

I often think of scripture that talks about God’s glory and power being able to shine through when He uses those ill equipped. Well, in that case, who better to pick than me!

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” II Corinthians 12:9

But, I know that there’s another reason God is using me.

I offered.

Ten or so years ago, I distinctly remember being on my knees in my living room. I don’t remember what prompted me, but I remember saying “I am willing to do whatever you want. I will go wherever you want. I want to serve you.”

“Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

At the time, I didn’t realize the changes; but they say hindsight is 20/20. Little by little, He gave me the desires of my heart. To serve women. To build them up. To provide resources. To provide opportunities to come together and love, laugh and learn.

Because I offered. Because I was willing. Wonderful things are happening through The Connection. And I know there’s much more in store.

Continue reading “You Gotta Offer”

Parenting n Mercy

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Tonight, my seven year old daughter made a choice that she shouldn’t have. She had been warned that if she made this particular choice, she would have her Kindle taken away. This upset her a lot because she loves to listen to “Adventures in Odyssey” to fall asleep. She cried the entire way home. After we got home, I got down on one knee with her and we talked about it. I asked her what I should do in this situation.

She looked at me, with tears filling her eyes, and told me that I should take her Kindle even though she didn’t want me to. She then burst into tears.

I had a choice here. I could take the Kindle and follow through with the consequence I had put forward earlier. Or I could show mercy.

I thought about it.

Continue reading “Parenting n Mercy”

Walking Together

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“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

Ask and it will be given to you.

For several months leading to the opportunity to be a mentee with the “Together” program, I prayed that God would lead me to a woman who would continue guiding me in my walk with Christ since moving to York, PA from Waynesboro, PA.

Seek and you will find.

In January 2018, I attended the finance workshop with The Connection where I first heard about the mentoring program “Together”. Tammy Williford announced that if anyone was interested in hearing more details to seek her afterwards. I decided at that moment I’d pass up asking about the details as I figured how could I be part of this at a distance. But as we know… it’s not always what we decide but what God decides, and that day he had bigger plans in mind than just answering my prayer. Before I left the finance workshop the Spirit moved in me to think: What do I have to lose by asking about the mentoring program?

So, I sought out Tammy to ask details of how I could be a mentee. She was very helpful in discussing how I could be part of this even with me being at a distance. Then as we were talking about who I could possibly be paired up with a thought came to her mind…Betsy.

So, before I continue telling you about our six-month journey I must reveal some crucial information to you because God certainly had his hands in this mentor/mentee relationship from the beginning.

Continue reading “Walking Together”

Transformation – Part 2

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How can we start on the path of transformation?

Invite Jesus in to be a part of this.

He knows just how we need to be transformed in whatever ways we desire. If we don’t know those desires, ask Him to reveal them to you. He is walking along side of you, rooting for you, picking you up and healing you from it all.

Surrender to His will.

Let go of your plans, allow Him to spill out of you. Intentionally saturate yourself with His truths — seek and you will find.

Walk in obedience with Him.

Surrender to him every day, hour, minute, second of your lifes. Being obedient to His will for your lives. When you’re living in the will of Jesus, He has a way of making things unfold in ways that work for you.

THIS ONE IS HUGE FOR ME! Do not compare.

Worry about yourself. It’s you and Him. Everyone’s journey looks different.

Turn down the voices in your head.

God’s voice should drown out that negative voice and His should be the loudest.

Focus on your progress not your perfection.

Practice makes PROGRESS. God doesn’t want your perfection, He wants your heart. He wants your sincerest effort and He wants you to keep growing and walking closer with Him.

Continue reading “Transformation – Part 2”

Transformation

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Transformation: Mind. Body. Soul. Part 1

This is a story about my transformation. I apply it to three areas in my life.

My mind.

My body.

My soul.

They all work and flow together with God in the center. When I was trying to describe my transformation into words, the first thing that came to me — cliché I know — was Christ.

God changed me.

Only God can change unchangeable people.

About 7-8 years ago, I gave my life to Christ. For the first time I felt love. I felt His mercies and His direction. Choosing to follow Him and surrender my life in its entirety to His truths, will and teachings. In doing this, God has and continues to work in and through my life every day.

I have been delivered from the lies that the enemy has been manipulating me to believe my whole life.

How?

What words describe how God has got me to this point in my journey? I thought…

Continue reading “Transformation”

I have a secret

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I have a secret. I’m afraid of the bathroom.  No, I’m not afraid of a creepy crawlies that could be under my toilet seat…. but that IS rather terrifying…I must say.

Nope…I’m afraid of the shower….is there a scientific name for that?? Hold on! Let me Google that.

Ablutophobic….

WOW… thanks Google…glad you could give me a label.

You see, a few months ago I took a step. Yep…that’s all I did. I took a step out of a shower, not my shower, I was away from home…and my life was altered so quickly.

In a split second stepping out of a shower the towel under my foot slid rolling my ankle…dislocating it and fracturing my leg and ankle in 3 serious breaks.  SNAP! That quick. I just took a step. I’ll spare you the details that followed…but they are rather interesting … including a house full of ladies in their pjs and two very confused medics.

Anyway, God has used the last 3 months to teach me ALOT! I’m still journaling. I’m still listening, and I’m still processing. But this Fear… the specific fear of showering, well that needed to be dealt with. I’m a shower every day kinda gal. It wakes me up, I enjoy the quiet time of a shower, the hot water, it’s a recipe for a great start to my day.

I was managing just fine with showers at my home, being very cautious. Then I went on a family vacation. To a lovely cabin nestled in the woods on a lake. Unfortunately the shower at the cabin was an exact replica of the shower from a few months ago. I knew I had fear brewing about showering but this brought it to a whole new level. It caused me to replay that tragic step. The split second and how quickly my circumstances changed. So it was an easy decision to skip my shower the first day. But after two days of suntan lotion and bug spray this needed to happen. I’m still very unstable standing without my air cast on, but I did it. I showered. Painfully. I showered. I was shaking and close to tears. I was gripped with fear. I know some may think this sounds ridiculous. Actually I felt ridiculous, but it was real, and it was crippling me. Just like when my four year old wakes scared of the spider in his dreams. His fear was real, kind of crazy for me to understand because I didn’t dream it, but I know he is scared.

Later I sit to read a devotion that I had been reading on spiritual warfare. We know that God warns us..

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12

This specific day in the devo was talking about how the enemy will send his spirits to wreak havoc on you, to separate you from God. Using a “Spirit of Fear” being one tactic.

Excerpt from Spiritual Warfare by LeClaire on YouVersion Bible app.

“As an adult, after I had suffered many traumatic events, fear dominated my life. Fear’s false feelings were no longer just feelings. I had a legion of fear spirits that impacted every area of my life and manifested in diverse ways.
Fear is your nemesis. It is a master weapon in the enemy’s hand that defies God’s promises in your life. Fear comes to stop you from advancing in God. But you can be free from its stronghold in your mind. You can take authority over fear when it tries to rise up against your soul.”

I had never looked at it this way. I thought of fear a something that was rising up inside of me, an emotion or feeling. I know that the enemy can take a seed that is in our emotions and use that against us. It was time to call it out. This was an attack.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7

This wasn’t from God!

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
1 John 4:18

God is love, we know love because of him…this was a tactic to separate me from the freedom found in Christ alone. I began to speak these verse out loud, and praise God for these last few months. I can feel him refining me, and I thank Him for that.

God has taught me about the spirit of fear and how the enemy can use the simplest things to wedge that gap, and separate me from the peace found with God.

Actually God is teaching me a lot through these last few months of trials. I’m still listening, still processing, still learning, still healing. Everything from being humble, being still, being patience… not just with others but with myself, about the value of a good shower but most of all about how I am Loved, I am embraced, I’m never alone, yet the value of alone time, and about the ever present, unlimited power of God living in and around me.

In conclusion you will be happy to know, God is giving me victory in Him…one shower at a time!

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Mary Bender and her husband Norman live in Greencastle, PA.  They have three energetic boys, and one adorable little girl.  Mary counts herself as being truly blessed to be saved by Christ, who equips her to be a stay at home mom to her four “littles.”  In addition to being a wife and mother, Mary uses her God-given gifts to serve in women’s ministry at her church, LCBC, and as a life group leader.  Mary also uses her passion for women’s ministry for serving on the board of directors for “The Connection.”  It is Mary’s desire to serve and encourage women to have genuine faith while building a home and raising her children.