Set Free – Part 1

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I have been in performing arts since very early childhood. Mostly singing and acting, but I have done some dancing too. My church youth group was very large, and we were having a church wide version of America’s Got Talent. A girlfriend of mine was a fantastic dancer and we decided to do a “duet” where I sang while she danced and then I joined her dancing for the final chorus of the song. We rehearsed it and had it nailed down. We were feeling confident too. I distinctly remember our mothers saying to us a variation of that old proverb- “Pride comes before a fall”. I brushed it of at the time, but it literally happened! It was going perfectly- we were nailing it. Then the final chorus came where we were supposed to do the combined choreography. Something happened and before I knew it, I went tumbling through the air and landed right in front of the judges’ table. I threw my hands up quickly and said TA-DA! To try and make light of the fact that I was DYING inside. I beelined for the ladies’ room and missed the final awards because I was so mortified and couldn’t stop crying. We walked away with 2nd place, but that day will live on forever! Good thing there was no Instagram, SnapChat or Facebook at that time. HOWEVER, there were video cameras and every painful moment was captured for all of eternity.

While I can laugh about that now, so many women carry around the weight of guilt and shame from past mistakes. You know, the BIG kind. The unthinkable. The UNFORGIVEABLE. By man’s standards anyway.

Satan likes to use these moments and play them over and over and over again, so we never forget. It’s like a sick, spiritual version of Insta that instead of catching everyone’s #nofilter moments, it’s all our #theresnotenoughmakeuptomakethisgoaway moments.

You see, God created us with a conscience to point out our sin. It helps us to know the basic difference between right and wrong. It’s that sick feeling you get when you know you screwed up. THAT’S your conscience. It shines a spotlight on our need for a Savior. Furthermore, He gives the Holy Spirit to those who choose to follow Christ. He convicts us and brings us to repentance.

Let’s break this down a little bit:

Continue reading “Set Free – Part 1”

Perspective

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Recently I attended a wedding in Luray Virginia. My husband and I decided to stay for the weekend because of the time of year to enjoy the beautiful colors of fall in the Shenandoah Mountains and to get away for some “us” time.

Well, it wasn’t long before we realized that with the very unusual weather this summer (i.e. 1000 inches of rain…lol) that we were not going to experience that beauty on this particular trip. I was sad for the Bride a long time friend’s daughter as her desire was to have this same backdrop at her outside ceremony. To give you a quick background on the Bride now 23 and a Registered Nurse in a Cardiac unit in PA. She lost her father of a massive heart attack when she was still in high school. He was only 39 years old. He was a wonderful God fearing man that loved his family, friends and bluegrass music with a passion. I was honored to be among his friends and still miss him greatly. The Wedding was going to be a day filled with many emotions both joyous and sad. But God knew this and painted a beautiful backdrop of love with family, friends and of course her new Groom. The weather was absolutely perfect as was the ceremony and reception that followed.  It was a gorgeous venue with a beautiful green Mountain range to serve as a backdrop.

Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. I Corinthians 13:6-7

God spoke to me on this trip telling me that I often place great value on what I believe God’s priorities are for me; when in reality he has a well mapped out plan that will result in a beautiful ending; it just might not look the same to me.  Every day offers us a chance at a new beginning. We can choose to be joyful and loving despite the clouds, disappointments, disputes and difficulties or we can be entrenched in a sea of emotion that drives us to be unhappy, complain, jump to conclusions, make bad judgements, harbor grudges and be victims without voices which would be the enemy’s “Playground”.

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What My Chronic Illness Taught Me about the Grace of God

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“You have a headache again? It’s like you always have them.”

I blinked at the person who said this to me, even though I really wanted to break down crying. Yes, I wanted to say. I ask that question of myself all the time.

Ever since I can remember I have grown up with chronic migraines. My migraines range in intensity from being pain levels of 12 (on a scale of 1-10 that is), to being just painful enough to cause brain fog that keeps me from interacting normally.

At the beginning of 2018, I was in pain constantly. Looking back on my January, February, and March, I spent most of my time after coming home from work laying down in a dark room trying to block out the intense pain.

If you don’t know me, you don’t know how difficult this was to accept with my lifestyle.

You see, I’m a writer.

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and in the last several years of my life, God has used my writing as my greatest form of ministry. I have been humbled to see how He has used my words through my books, blogs, and magazine articles for His glory.

But as a busy writer, my life was almost always on the computer. I was always sitting down behind a computer screen and typing out my heart. However, the computer screen was triggering much of my headaches.

And this hurt even more than the migraines.

Continue reading “What My Chronic Illness Taught Me about the Grace of God”

The Greatest of these is LOVE

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If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing… Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13

A while ago, I decided that I was going to post only uplifting things. After all, there are enough people posting negativity. Today, I feel that there is something I need to share, because if I am silent, then I am part of the problem.

Yesterday, I read one of my dear friend’s posts. A stranger called her the “N” word.

I was heartbroken and angry for her. I cannot even begin to imagine how she felt, because I have never walked in her shoes. But I hurt because she is hurting. I spent most of the day thinking about her. I also thought a lot about my Jewish friends and family members and the recent killings in Pittsburgh.

After I put the kids to bed, I flipped through Netflix and Amazon, but my heart was too heavy to watch anything cheerful. So, I watched a documentary about Auschwitz, where some of my husband’s family members were murdered. I wondered, “What can I do? How can I change the world?”

Continue reading “The Greatest of these is LOVE”

Voices In My Head

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I don’t know about you but there are a few things going on up in here. I want to personally share with you some of the voices that have been playing in my head recently, especially when prepping for these devotions. I feel like the enemy is working double time on my thoughts trying to manipulate and deter me from sharing what God has laid on my heart to share with you tonight.  If you feel comfortable, I want you to raise your hand or give me a sister nod/wink or something that tells me you feel me.

I am not enough

I am not loved

I am not cared for

I am not smart

I am not qualified

I can’t do anything right

I’ll never change

I can’t do this

I am a quitter

Why do I fall into the downward spiral of believing these voices? The voices of lies and negativity. Strongholds that I over and over again keep allowing to hold me in bondage. I need to keep giving them to God. Allowing Him to work through me. Have His way in my life, His will. His voice should be louder than anyone else’s voice in my head. I will take for example one of the lies such as I am not loved. I will soak in the presence of Gods truth about that for a couple days or you know until it feels good and I start believing it but then once that euphoric state is reached I stop soaking. Why? Sin. I’m trying to do it without God and that’s impossible. Or with God, but only until I can take it over myself. That’s some harsh truth right there. My need was met and now I don’t need Him.

Sin. Cue in enemy. I’m at my vulnerable state. Now he can take that truth and he can manipulate a question mark at the end of it. Am I loved? I start to think and go down that rabbit hole and those voices start to fly around again and I soak in that filth for a few days. And it typically goes downhill fast from there. Gods is refining me. I am learning I must not only retrain those voices and the knowledge of truths in my head, but I must also maintain them daily by spending time with God.

Lately, I have been resting in the confidence of knowing I am loved I know that if at any time there is a promise of God in my head with a question mark at the end of it instead of an exclamation point…. there’s a problem. I am loved? Problem. I am loved! Much better. Now you’re catching on. The enemy cannot take away Gods promises to us girls! You are His. His child. An heir to the kingdom. As 1 Peter 5:8-9 says…the enemy prowls around just looking for His opportunity-we must stand firm and be ready for it! We may not be able to physically outfight the enemy-but we can out truth him. How do we out truth him (the enemy)? We need to be aware on how to recognize or filter out what is a lie from what is truth. The record that is playing over and over in your head.

Continue reading “Voices In My Head”

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”