My Life Verse

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Always

Always is a song that I have come to really like since my trip to Ghana. It is by Kristian Stanfill. The first time I was introduced to this song was at Ghana Team Meetings prior to my trip. I will never forget when we were in NY at a different airport because our plane was delayed due to weather conditions and we were singing the lyrics "Oh my God, He will not delay". haha. Anyways, here are the lyrics and the video from youtube. I hope you are blessed by it just as much as I am!

My foes are many, they rise against me
But I will hold my ground
I will not fear the war, I will not fear the storm
My help is on the way, my help is on the way

Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always
I will not fear, His promise is true
My God will come through always, always

Troubles surround me, chaos abounding
My soul will rest in You
I will not fear the war, I will not fear the storm
My help is on the way, my help is on the way

Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always
I will not fear, His promise is true
My God will come through always, always

I lift my eyes up, my help comes from the Lord
I lift my eyes up, my help comes from the Lord
I lift my eyes up, my help comes from the Lord
I lift my eyes up, my help comes from the Lord
From You Lord, from You Lord

Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always
I will not fear, His promise is true
My God will come through always, always

Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always, always






Remember today and each day that God is with you always and He is there to help you with whatever it is that you are going through. We serve such a good God!



Sunday, December 18, 2011

When God brought Africa to me...



*I know this blog is quite long in length, so I understand if you don't read it all. If you choose not to read it all, I suggest you at least watch the 4th, 5th, and last video. You will be blessed.



Last week, God brought Africa to me when a friend invited me to hear an Africa Children's Choir sing at Marnatha Chapel. Little did I know, I would love it so much that I would go back to hear it again...and again!  It was nothing short of amazing. I felt like such a creeper, showing up at various churches that I don't normally attend and watching them perform. haha. I will do my best to describe all the emotions I felt, and the impact the people of Africa have on me, but sometimes it's simply unexplainable. I know God has something in store for me that entails Africa in the future. I dream of starting an Orphanage out there one day. A place where people who say "I would love to go to Africa some day" can actually go and experience the culture and joy. Along my journey to and from Africa twice,  I've encountered at least a handful of people who have said such a thing  and triggered this idea in my mind. The people there are amazing, but most of all, I love their hearts for the Lord- which are genuine, true, and God-centered. Times like this really cause me to ponder more about God's future plans for me and Africa. I really think that my deep desire to dance and worship with them must mean something. There is just something about those Africans that catches my heart every time. I want to be around them. I can't stop smiling and stay in their presence as long as possible.I love their accents, too. My favorite part of being in Africa was the praise and worship music as well as the dancing. Recently, the Lord blessed me with another opportunity to enjoy Africa..this time without physically going there! :) He always knows what we need most, and loves to spoil us! A dose of Africa in the states is just what I needed. Thank you, God! 

Before I show you a glimpse of this choir via videos, I would like to clarify something. I know many of you may think I'm crazy. Why would Katie talk so highly of Africa and the people in Africa when she struggled so much both times she went to Africa? I can understand why you'd feel this way and I apologize for giving you this perception. Even though it was challenging for me and I didn't quite do so well being so far from family and friends, the fact is that the people remain the same in this culture. So genuine, so loving, so welcoming, so joyful. They have nothing, yet they love Jesus with everything they do have and thank Him even in the midst of troubles. Now that's Biblical! "Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:23 I also can see where you'd get that perspective because when I'm in Africa, I miss home. When I'm home, I miss Africa. And all of you get to hear about it. It must be confusing! 

However, each time I've returned home, it has taken less and less time for me to be open to the idea of returning to Africa. There's just a special place in my heart for Africa and it's indescribable. Maybe one day, when my dream is fulfilled, you can come and visit the Orphanage the Lord provides for me to open in Africa and experience firsthand what I am talking about.  :) I know I am called to go back and do more, but I believe there is more equipping and preparation that needs to happen before I go back to Africa. I believe God has big plans in store for me that involve Africa. And I believe that while I'm waiting for God's perfect timing for my return to Africa, along will come that special someone who will join forces with me as I pursue my dream.

Here are some video clips and photos from the Watoto Africa Children's Choir, from Uganda:



(Down in Africa- The opening song of the Watoto African Children's Choir at Maranatha Chapel, 2011)


(Hallelujah Watoto Style- so much fun!)



(SHINE- This is one of my favorite songs)


(Lord, I Need You- This is my FAVORITE song and video!)





(I Am Not Forgotten- Another fun one!)



After watching the Watoto Children's Choir sing three times, I walked away with some new friends: Paula, Hellen, and Moses. 

The first time I saw Watoto perform, I kept going back to the merchandise table to this same woman. Her name is Paula. She is beautiful and was very sweet to me. She oversees the Tour 50 for Watoto Children's Choir. She was kind enough to get sweet Hellen, my next friend, from backstage, so that I could meet her. At the second show, I was purchasing a necklace, and I asked her if she remembered me. She said she kept thinking "I know this face" but she wasn't sure and was going to ask me. I told her Teacher Katie, and she said Oh, yessss. :) At the third show, she recognized me immediately and was delighted to see me and receive this photo that I printed and gave to her. When sweet Hellen and I walked up to her, she said "I see somebody found Teacher Katie" :)


 
After the first show, Paula was kind enough to go and get a little girl named Hellen for me from backstage so that I could meet her. Helen spoke on stage saying that she had been with Watoto for only 1 year and she is 8 years old. Helen said that she would like to be a Teacher. This melted my heart, of course, and I wanted to meet her and encourage this precious girl on her journey to becoming a Teacher. I had given Helen's chaperon a piece of paper with Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" on it and a note from me: To: Helen Love: Katie from America (Teacher) You can do it! After the second show, I asked Helen if she recognized me and she shook her head no. Then I told her, I'm Teacher Katie, and she smiled and remembered. The third show, she was joyful yet again and especially so when I gave her this photo of us. She was so excited to go show "Auntie Paula" as we walked into the sanctuary to find her. I can still picture the moment I gave this photo to Hellen and the immense joy in her face and the glow in her eyes. She lit up. It was so precious. I wanted to take her home or travel with them. I really hope to connect with her again one day.

 
The third friend I made is named Moses. He is 13 years old. At the second show (left), I went to the sponsorship table during my lingering. I noticed someone was sponsoring sweet Hellen. I was thankful. Having been touched by these children and people in Watoto, I wanted to support someone. I asked the woman if everybody in Watoto 50 tour had been sponsored. She informed me that she only had one child left who had not yet been sponsored by somebody. His name is Moses. I looked over his card, read it, and thought, I must sponsor him! God will provide the money I need each month for him. So, after doing the transaction and filling out the paperwork, the woman went to get Moses so that I could meet him! (At this time, I didn't know I would be back to the night show that same day) At the evening show (right) he recognized me and you can see the joy in his face as we reunited. I told him I would write to him. I told him that I gave Hellen a photo but I asked that we take a photo with my camera so that I could send him one when he returns to Uganda.

The following is a video of Hellen and Moses during the show. I apologize that it is sideways. The important part is the words they are saying. The evening shows are different than the morning, so after I sponsored Moses in the morning, I learned that he also had a speaking part that evening and was excited to catch it on video! 



During the show, I cried a lot. I can't even describe why to be honest. I just think God created a big piece of my heart for Africa. And when He brings moments like this where I get to be in the presence of people who are from Africa, along with all of the above I described that I love, I can't help but cry. I cry to know many people are suffering out there. I cry knowing that God has something big in store for me that involves this beautiful country and these beautiful people. I cry because part of my heart is created for Africa. I am called to go. "For you did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last." John 15:14 For Christians, it's like when you find your calling and God's perfect will for you and you are in it the center of it. When you find what God has created you for, and you are in any sort of nearness to it, it's simply amazing. I can't wait to see what God has in store for me as He is clearly preparing me for it now.

I know to some of you this may seem strange. You might think to yourself, So, this Katie girl, she goes to Africa, gets homesick even with a group of people and comes home after two weeks. Goes back to a different part of Africa, stays longer, gets homesick again, comes back sooner than planned, and still wants to go back. She's crazy! What does she even like about it? It sure seems to me like she's miserable. Well, you're right. It probably looks that way on the outside, but on the inside my heart is burning for Africa. I long to go back, no matter how many challenging things I face every time that I am there. This time though, since having returned, I know that I cannot go back alone unless it is for a short time to the Orphanage I lived at last summer. I need a friend or a life partner to return with me. And I believe God is bringing him to me soon. I just can't get enough of Africa.

So, what's next? Good question. A trip to Israel to see and walk through the places that Jesus walked and talked. I am in a season of solidifying my faith in God and getting to know Jesus more. I believe Israel will be a great conclusion to this significant season by giving me the opportunity to physically be where this man I am pursuing lived and walked thousands of years ago. It does not mean my relationship with God or pursuit of Him will end, just that my season of really solidifying my faith through studying the Word like never before, praying, and strengthening my relationship will end. I will have a better grip of my faith and who Jesus is and why I choose to pursue Him at that point. And although I do not know where in Africa I will go next, or even when, I do know that I made some new friends from Uganda and I would love to go visit the Watoto Village in Kampala, Uganda someday.


HEY!


*Some extra videos from youtube I found of songs that I didn't record are featured below for those who enjoy the videos :)





Friday, December 9, 2011

The Fruit of Silence

Begin with Silence was the name of one of my devotionals yesterday. It came from the devotional book titled "Take My Heart, Oh God" by Sarah Young, which entail Riches from the Greatest Christian Women Writers of All Times. Each day, Sarah begins with a quote from someone and today's quote was from Mother Teresa. It brought me back to the words I had seen walking one day with a friend. I took pictures because I thought it was so neat that someone wrote these sweet things to brighten someone's day and I never posted them. So, here they are:


The Fruit of Silence is Prayer.




The Fruit of Prayer is Faith.


The Fruit of Faith is Love.





The Fruit of Love is Service.


The Fruit of Service  is Peace.



"The fruit of silence is PRAYER. The fruit of prayer is FAITH. The fruit of faith is LOVE. The fruit of love is SERVICE. The fruit of service is SILENCE." Mother Teresa

Directly from the devotional:

Tending to the needs of the sick, the suffering, and the dying, Mother Teresa shared the light of Christ with the world. She practiced five simple steps in her life, steps that led to peace. Each step builds upon the previous step, and so step one is vital- the need for us to find a place of silence in order to commune with God.

Silence allows us to open our hearts to God, who longs for us to turn to him. This followed by prayer, where we share our concerns with God. Prayer leads to faith, which wells up our hearts as confident trust in our Savior. The reassurance allows us to embrace others with kindness and to serve them. That kind of service brings peace. Like falling back onto a scrumptious featherbed, God's peace enfolds us to bring us in silence back to him, to begin the cycle again.

"The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever." Isaiah 32:17


If you have Peace, give some to someone who nees it!


Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Day of Thankfulness






Happy Belated Thanksgiving!! :) Thanksgiving is A Day of Thankfulness. A day to be with family and friends. A day to eat lots of food. A day of giving thanks.

*I began this blog on Thanksgiving morning, attempting to count my blessings and recognize what and who I am thankful for, yet my day did not go as I had expected and this blog was incomplete Thanksgiving Day.

I have to admit and confess: I was quite the opposite of thankful on the day of Thanksgiving and those to follow.  I am embarrassed to admit this, however it is the truth. My family can testify that I was not being myself, I was "out of it", quiet, and irritated. And, why was this? Good question! Looking back, I believe it was because I was "in a rut", focused on myself, and worried about many things. I allowed my self-centerdness to affect how thankful I was on A Day of Thanks. Wow! This is not an easy thing to admit, but I know I could not have been the only one who wasn't thankful on thanksgiving, or who was irritated somehow, focusing on myself. How could it be that we are given one day a year to be thankful and I blew it. That leads me to something I can be thankful for...God's grace and a new start, everyday. It took me a few days to "snap out of it" as some may call, but I believe that it took me some time to "Strengthen myself in the Lord" and be humbled in the process as I recognized my selfishness and chose to change my attitude so that it aligned with Christ's. The day following Thanksgiving, I did my best to be Christ-like as I spent time in God's word at a nearby Starbucks. God urged me to read Philippians 2, which states as follows:

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests, but to each of you to the interests of others." Philippians 2:3-4

"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset/ attitude as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-even death on a cross!" Philippians 2:5-8

"Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, "children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation." Philippians 2:14-15

*The entire chapter 2 of Philippians is very good and if you're looking for a short read in general, the entire book of Philippians is only 4 chapters, but it is very profound!

And so, here is the post that I began on the Day of Thanks...

What if today you only have what you were thankful for yesterday? 

A friend recently shared this with me and I thought to myself...some days I might have nothing if this were true. Other days I'd have a lot. And when I sit down and reflect on how thankful I really am, I find out I'm not a very thankful person. I don't know about you, but I am first of all thankful for one day every year to be reminded to be thankful.

The Bible talks being thankful in many different places, yet somehow, I still manage to forget to be thankful everyday. What about you? Do you start your day off with thanksgiving? Let's be reminded of the following Scriptures and do the best we can to become more thankful people. Why should we only be thankful one day each year? According to the quote above, we'd have nothing except for the day after Thanksgiving.

The Bible defines THANK(FUL)(FULNESS)(S)(GIVING) as to express gratitude or appreciation

"Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song." Psalm 95:2

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name." Psalm 100:4

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His love endures forever." Psalm 136:1

""The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said..." 1 Corinthians 11:23-24

"I thank my God every time I remember you." Philippians 1:3

*Here is where I left off and I pick up again...

After reflecting on this Day of Thanks I realize that everyday is an opportunity to be thankful. I have actually been much more thankful since Sunday, when I strengthened myself in the Lord and acted on His word. I am currently reading the Jesus Calling Devotional book by Sarah Young and the past week or so has been about thankfulness. She writes from God's perspective writing to us. Here are some words that she shared in her devotional that stuck out to me...

Every time you thank Me, you acknowledge that I am your Lord and Provider. This is the proper stance for a child of God: receiving with thanksgiving.

Let thankfulness rule in your heart. As you thank Me for blessings in your life, a marvelous thing happens. It is as if scales fall off your eyes, enabling you to see more and more of My glorious riches.

A life of praise and thankfulness becomes a life filled with miracles. Instead of trying to be in control, you focus on Me and what I am doing. This is the power of praise: centering your entire being in Me. This is how I created you to live, for I made you in My own image. Enjoy abundant life by overflowing with praise and thankfulness.

Walk with Me along the high road of thanksgiving, and you will find all the delights I have made ready to you.

To protect your thankfulness, you must remember that you reside in a fallen world, where blessings and sorrows intermingle freely. Neglecting the practice of giving thanks has darkened their minds. How precious are My children who remember to thank Me at all times. They can walk through the darkest days with Joy in their hearts because they know that the Light of My Presence is still shining on them.

Thank Me frequently as you journey though today. This practice makes it possible to pray without ceasing, as the apostle Paul taught. If you are serious about learning to pray continually, the best approach is to thank Me in every situation. These thankful prayers will provide a solid foundation on which you can build all your other prayers. Moreover, a grateful attitude makes it easier for you to communicate with me.

When your mind is occupied with thanking Me, you have no time for worrying or complaining. If you practice thankfulness consistently, negative thought patterns will gradually grow weaker and weaker. Draw near to Me with a grateful heart, and My Presence will fill you with Joy and Peace.

Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity. That is why I have instructed you to give thanks for everything. There is an element of mystery in this transaction: You give Me thanks (regardless of your feelings), and I give you Joy (regardless of your circumstances). This is a spiritual act of obedience- at times, blind obedience. To people who don't know Me intimately, it can seem irrational and even impossible to thank Me for heartrending hardships.

Thankfulness opens your heart to My Presence and your mind to My thoughts. You may still be in the same place, with the same set of circumstances, but it is as if a light has been switched on, enabling you to see it from My perspective.

May you understand that even in the midst of pursuing Him, there are times you may not feel thankful. I mean, look at me, someone pursuing Him with all she has, and is not thankful on the most thankful day of the year. This has to show you that I'm not perfect, Christians aren't perfect. But we can learn from our experiences and for me this thanksgiving it was that I need to be thankful daily, not just one day every year. I encourage you to be thankful more often. We have so much to be thankful for, it's not that hard if you look around. Just begin professing it and watch how God transforms you through the process.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Presence of God

The Presence of God is such an incredible thing for those of us who believe in God and have a relationship with Him. It's indescribable. Unexplainable. Every once in a while I will get a taste of the Lord's presence and I want more of it. People define the presence of God in different ways. Some say it is an awareness that God is never not around- knowing that He is always there for me. Others say it is ultimate peace. Another person said It's like a hot shower- once you get in it, you don't want to get out.

The Presence of God is something that is fairly new to me. I don't recall hearing much about it throughout my Christian life. But more and more it is something on my mind, and it is real to me. I get it. I find it amazing. I want more of it. The Presence of God may look different to each person. I believe we enter into God's presence whenever we are praying, reading the Bible, listening to worship music, going to church, and worshiping. I personally think the most effective way to enter God's presence is to put on some worship music and sit at His feet. Just sit or lay down being still before God. Quiet your heart. Let Him speak to you instead of pouring out your heart to Him or talking His ear off. Stop focusing on your problems and struggles and fix your eyes on the problem solver.

The Vision of the church I attend and call home, Vista Assembly of God, pertains to the presence of God. It states: Our vision is simple...restful increase! There is an increase that we can make happen in our lives that comes from hard work, effort, stress and struggles...that leads to an exhausting life. But then there is an increase that goes beyond our efforts, that only God can bring...but that comes from a place of rest...resting in Him! I believe when we enter the presence of God, we open ourselves up to this restful increase. Rest comes from being in His presence.

I am currently attending the 4:23 School of Transformation at Vista Assembly of God and tonight's topic of discussion and lecture was The Presence of God. I would like to share with you a little bit about what I have learned from this class.

In the Old Testament, the presence of God was literal. It was represented through theophanies, an actual appearance of God. "The angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush." Exodus 3:2 It was also represented through the Tabernacle, a mobile temple/church. It was also represented in manifestations, which are different ways in which God revealed Himself that was not an indwelling of the Spirit. However, God's presence was made available to us through Jesus according to Matthew 27:51 "Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom..." The symbolism of this meant that God's people are no longer separated from the presence of God. This truth enabled a reality that God is now with us. "Behold, the virgin shall be with a child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God is with us" Matthew 1:23 It also means God's presence is no in us. "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" 1 Corinthians 3:16


"You will release what it is you are most aware of" -Bill Johnson

So, you ask yourself, what's so great about the presence of God? Why would I want to enter into His presence? Let me tell you (Notes courtesy of Pastor Rudy Topete) The presence of God gives us Blessing and Freedom. *In order to gain these understandings, we need to build a history with God.

1. There is Joy in His Presence: "You show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalm 16:11  and "You have made known to me the path of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence." Acts 2:28

2. There is strength in His Presence: "...But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God." 1 Samuel 30:6

3. There is wisdom in His Presence: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all generously and without finding fault, and it will be given to him." James 1:5

4. There is peace and rest in His Presence: "And He said, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." Exodus 33:14 and "And the priest said to them, "Go in peace. The presence of the LORD be with you on your way." Judges 18:6


What is the purpose of God's presence in our lives?
1. To set us apart from the rest of the world (See Exodus 33:15-16) *People should see our actions before we say anything. We are to be living testimonies of Christ Jesus.
2. To give us blessing and freedom (See scriptures above on peace and rest, wisdom, strength, and joy)
3. To give us power (See 1 Samuel 4:5-7) *Power is the primary ministry of the Holy Spirit and power comes with responsibility.

How do we stay aware of the presence of God?
1. Find joy in loving God and not loving the disciplines themselves (See Matthew 22:29, which speaks to the people who were studying the word of God but didn't make it align with their heart; See also Matthew 6:5 ; Deuteronomy 4:29 We are to seek Him, not His hand or what He's doing in our lives.
2. Live free of an offended heart (See Matthew 11:6) *Sometimes we get offended by God because He didn't do what we wanted Him to do
3. Don't focus on what He is not doing, focus on what He is doing. (See Matthew 11:2-3)

We lose an awareness of the presence of God when we focus on what God is not doing.

I conclude with a beautiful song by Kim Walker of Jesus Culture and Bethel Church. She has a phenomenal voice and she is led by the Holy Spirit during worship. Kim sings about loving the presence of God and I pray that you are able to listen to this song and enter into His presence today.



Saturday, November 19, 2011

I'm Thankful For: The VanCleave Family

This month helps us remind us to be thankful. I would like to start making tributes in my blog for people I am thankful for and share with you a little about them- how we met, what I think of them, and why I'm thankful for them. Starting with: The VanCleave Family



Disneyland 2009: Me, Kathy, Matt, and Lily (missing their newest addition)


How we met: I met the VanCleave family in 2005 when I was a freshman in college. My friend Brittany invited me to the church they recently started that was college-aged. I wasn't really connected in a church anywhere, so this was a great fit for me. Kathy was pregnant with Lily at the time and Matt was the pastor at the church called Cephas Road. I began attending "Book Club", a small group of co-ed peeps meeting once a week studying different Christian books. Shortly later they had their first daughter, Lily, who I soon began caring for as a nanny.



 I'll never forget the one night at Book club when Matt had something to share with the group. He didn't end up sharing and I think I emailed with him jokingly saying something like It's not like you'd be moving or anything anyways, right? Come to find out...that's exactly what happened. The following week he shared with the book club that he accepted a job as a Youth Pastor in the Bay Area. I was heartbroken and super sad. I loved this family so much so that I went to the degree of looking into schools up north so that I could move closer to them. I didn' realize that them moving would cause me to find a new church and begin growing in my faith like never before. All this time Matt and I had been meeting and he was mentoring me and speaking into my life. In the process, I became Lily's nanny as Matt commuted and Kathy continued working down here. Eventually, they sold their house and moved up to the Bay area. I have been extremely blessed to have continued my relationship with them and I consider them family. I've been able to visit them about once a year and within the past two months see them when they've come down to San Diego to visit. God knows I need me some VanCleave time :)

I want to share a little about each person in their family and then share some pictures from over the years.


Me and Matt at Disneyland watching Kathy and Lily ride Dumbo
 Matt: Matt is such an influential man of God in my life. He is my old pastor, my mentor, my friend. He is wise. I've always looked up to Matt and admired how he leads his family, how he loves his wife, how he fathers his children. I am very thankful to have known Matt VanCleave and continue to have relationship with him and his amazing family. I remember meeting Matt for coffee a few times to seek guidance. I don't actally even remember (I have a bad memory, lol) what we met for or why, but one thing I will never forget. Matt told me when I was dating my high school boyfriend of 5 years, about 2 1/2 years into our relationship (can't believe I let it linger so long), that if my boyfriend wasn't going to church at the time, what would change that 10 years from now? It hit me hard but it made sense. He basically encouraged that I break up with my boyfriend at the time. He told me he wanted to tell me that the first time we met for coffee, but he knew he needed to gain my trust in him first. (Now, that's wise!) I also remember when I was not passing my tests for the Teaching program and Matt texted me saying: Maybe God has a different plan for you. It was really difficult to read and think about, but I knew that this is what triggered me to get on my knees and cry out to God, seeking His plan for my life, asking Him to help me pass my tests if it be His will that I become a teacher. Matt has been there for me countless times. He's taught me so much. Matt is a great example of a man of God, who cares deeply about the lives of those around him and invests deeply in strengthening their relationships with God and others. Matt will be the person doing the ceremony when the day comes that I get married because he means so much to me. Matt has been such a blessing to me. Love you, Matt!!


Kathy: Kathy is an amazing woman of God. She is like no other. Kathy has such a calm-spirit and there is such a sense of peace that you feel when around her. Kathy has also been there countless times for me. She always answers the phone right when I need to talk. She never fails to be a great listener and knows I'm very chatty. (You know how they say, "chatty kathy", well, in our case, it's always "chatty, katie") Kathy has encouraged me over and over again. Kathy and I have one thing in common: we love sweets- Ice cream in particular :) So, without fail, whenever I visit them, we get frozen yogurt and or ice cream. Kathy knows me so well and loves me for who I am. Kathy is such a loving mother and wife. She submits to her husband. She cares for her girls to the best of her ability. I have had a lot of experience with child care and thought maybe I'd learn through my experiences how to parent my children, yet I have learned so much from Kathy. Kathy is so sweet. She also genuinely cares about others around her and their relationships with God, just as her husband does. She genuinely cares for her family. She genuinely cares for her patients. (She is a nurse practictioner) Kathy always makes me smile. :) I love spending time with her and she is such a blessing to me! Love you, Kath!!!


Matt, Kathy and I at a friend's wedding in San Marcos...shortly after they moved

Matt and Kathy: Matt and Kathy have been such an example to me. I look up to them dearly (have I said that enough yet?) They have shown me what it looks like to have a God-centered marriage. They have taught me how to parent your children in such a way that I've never seen before. They have such a calm-spirit about them that is so refreshing. They are a true picture of being one. I ask Matt something, and if I go to Kathy for advice, she will respond with the same thing. ;) I have never seen them argue or yell at each other. (And I've spent significant amounts of time staying with them each time I come visit over the past few years) Their communication seems so simple and easy. (I suppose that's what happens after 10 + years of marraige..but I kid you not, their relationship with each other is very unique) There is noone like them and I love them so much. *Thank you Matt and Kathy for being there for me so much and for showing such a great example to me in so many ways.

 
Matt + Kathy = Lily  Oh, how I love Lily. I've had the pleasure of  watching Lily since she was about 10 months old and now she is almost 6 years old! Lily and I have so much fun together. She is such a joy to be around! Lily always finds something to laugh about or says something funny. She is super cute! Lily has her own personality. She is so active and loves to be doing something. Lily is very unique. I love Lily so much! :) Lily loves to dress just like me as you can see in the picture below from my last visit.   

                          


And then came Amryn: Amryn was adopted into the VanCleave family almost one year ago. (This Christmas) She is absolutely adorable and she came from Ethiopia. Amryn fits right into the VanCleave family and is also a joy to be around. She smiles and laughs often and is very intelligent. Amryn is very blessed to be part of such a loving family.












Monday, November 14, 2011

Pray for Kofi




Please pray for Kofi. Kofi is a man I met during the five weeks I lived in Ghana. He is a man of God. A teacher at a local public school. A tutor at the Orphange I lived at. Kofi is not just any teacher, he is a great teacher, who doesn't "cane" (beat with a stick) his students, which is very uncommon. He came over a few times when I was living at the Orphanage to tutor some of the kids who lived there. He has a big heart for teaching and for children, which as you know I do, too so I can't even imagine being in his condition.

I was somewhat clueless to many things in Ghana when I lived there and honestly remember seeing Kofi come over to the Orphanage to tutor, but I didn't know him personally that well. I will never forget one day when I was walking home from church with all 23 kids from the Orphanage and one of the kids told me we needed to go to their teacher's house. I remember being confused but did as directed and went with the flow. People in Ghana are so kind and welcoming. They said the teacher wanted us to pray for him. I didn't know anything about him or what had happened, but willingly stepped into his small house. We all somehow managed to fit into this very small room (probably about a little smaller than a standard living room here) He was laying down in the position of the picture above and I was saddened to see the condition of his knee. I was still unsure as to what exactly happened and I didn't even really understand it all. But, I knew this man had faith in God, wanted to be healed, and was hindered by whatever had happened to his leg. He could not get up or move except sit up a little as pictured above. He was stuck in a very small room with concrete walls and nothing to do. I began praying for him as all the children surrounded, bowing their heads to join me in prayer. I asked one of the kids from the Orphanage to pray for their teacher and one of the older boys proceeded to do so. The presence of God was in this tiny room and it was such a special moment to be able to pray for this man with ALL the kids at the Orphanage by my side. These kids really love their teacher and tutor. I was blessed to be part of such a neat experience, yet still heartbroken for this man. He had incredible faith in God.

Today I talked with Becka, my friend I met in Ghana who was volunteering at the same time at me at the Orphanage. Becka is such a great friend becase she always gives me the updates from Ghana since I was lame and didn't get anyone's contact information before I left. Becka shared with me today that Kofi had to have his leg amputated today. I wasn't sure if that was a good thing or bad thing because I thought maybe he'd be able to be more mobile now. Well, I was wrong. Becka said it's a bad thing because it means he is in a lot of pain and unable to get the further treatment he needs. I thought he could simply use crutches or a wheel chair or something, but duh Katie, he lives in Ghana, not America. Becka quickly reminded me that the resources are not easily accessible and the finances are slim to none in regards to receiving the real support he needs. This broke my heart.

With Kofi's amputated leg and condition that he is in, he is unable to teach and tutor, basically preventing him from working. That means that he is hindered from many things- his finances, his job, and using the gifts God has given him. It also means the the kids at the Orphanage are without a tutor, meaning they are not receiving the best education possible. I cannot even imagine the sorrow he must be experiencing. And here I am, focusing on my problems which entail trying to figure out God's perfect will for my life and battling with my time. What a wake up call!

Please keep Kofi in your prayers. Prayer is the best thing you can offer someone. For strength. For peace. For encouragement. For him to continue to dig deep in His relationship with God through terrible circumstances. For miracles. For God to provide and direct the finances and ability to receive a prosthetic leg so that He can live a normal life again as a teacher, tutor, and man of God. Thank you for your support.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Just Me and God



Most of you who know me can see that something has greatly changed in my life over the past several months, more specifically since I returned from Ghana, Africa. It has been a challenge for me to even describe how or what happened in me there and since I've returned to the States, but hopefully blogging again will help you better understand where I'm at in life.

This concept of Just Me and God honestly began about 9 months ago when I first began attending Vista Assembly of God, my current home church. Before I even walked into the church, God told me "Katie, it's just me and you. Don't worry about anyone else or anything else. Just focus on me and you." I remember very specifically walking into that church for the first time and feeling quite uncomfortable. I had never been to a church like this before. (It is a pentecostal church) The lights were dimmed, it was sorta smokey like a concert, people were speaking in tongues and saying "Thank -You Jesus" a whole lot. I sat in my chair and asked God to speak to me as I heard the worship music playing and people singing. It was then that I heard God tell me "Katie, don't worry about finding the right church, just seek me in Spirit and Truth". I didn't even know what that looked like but I wrote it in my journal, of course. ;)  After the service I remember running into woman who was going to be on my team for Ghana and she asked me what I thought of the service. I told her exactly this "I am very uncomfortable and I have never been to a church like this, so I'm not really sure to be honest." And she told me I need to rebuke Satan and the lies this week.  Rebuke, what the heck does that mean? I thought to myself. Later that week, I looked up the definition. Rebuke: to express sharp, stern, dissaproval of; reprimand. I remember thinking: I don't have that in me. I'm not even stern in the classroom so how am I supposed to be stern with the enemy? Eventually I learned that it's not in the way you say it but in the belief. I don't have to sternly tell Satan something, but I have to speak my dissapproval of it to him and believe he will flee during my prayer.

Before the first time I attended Vista Assembly:

I found out that nobody I know can make it Sunday. A friend offered to go with me, but I believe God wants me to go alone. He wants me to be bold and brave. .

After the first time I attended Vista Assembly:

Wow. I am amazed at the pwoer of God. I feel overwhelmed  by what God is calling me to walk into and how He's speaking to me. I know He wanted me to be there today. I felt uncomfortable because it was a new environment and you feel a little out of place when people are jumping around and dancing and the Spirit of God is present in a way that you haven't ever experienced before. God told me, it's Just me and Him today. Nobody else around, nothing else matters. I stepped out in obedience bodly and bravely. Maybe that was His purpose for me today. Baby steps since I'm not a jumper. I think I'll just bury myself in His word, reveiw the passages the pastor talked about, and continue to press in.

I was very uncomfortable at this church on that first Sunday, but that certainly did not stop me from going back. God continued to draw me there and week after week, I kid you not, every single sermon aligned with exactly what I was going through following my first time. I knew God wanted me to be there. I didn't want to move forward into what God had for me just yet because I was fearful of the unknown and I wanted to be even more sure than I already was. Sometimes as Christians, God makes it very clear as to what He wants us to do or where He wants us to be, yet we fight Him because it's His way, not ours and we aren't ready to let go of our way. Or we find ourselves scared of what is to come even though we know we serve a faithful God whose ways are far better than ours. I experienced both of those during this time. Eventually God spoke to me so strongly that I had to obey. I like to say it was as if I would be slapping God in the face if I ignored all that He was revealing to me by not moving forward.

I continued on my journey with Him at Vista Assembly of God and received the preparation I needed through His Hands and Feet Christian Ministry prior to my departure to Ghana, Africa for about three months. God's timing, ability to align things in our lives, and provision for us according to His will amazes me daily but even moreso when you are pursuing Him with all that you have and walking into the things He's called you to do. I experienced this firsthand. There is SO much to share but I seriously cannot even get it into one blog post and aspire to include it in a book one day.

Alright, back to Just me and God...I'm sorry I got a little side tracked :) Since that moment that God shared that with me, I have grown tremendously in my relationship with God. I have learned that my relationship with Him is the most important and valuable relationship in my life. When I was in Ghana, I had to rely on God like never before. I felt alone. I felt discouraged. I felt overwhelmed. I felt confused. I didn't know why I was there and I was trying to be a light to the non-believers who were volunteering at the Orphanage but I didn't even know what I was doing there so it discouraged me even more. Finally by week five (my last week there) I learned how important it is to be in communion with God. I had to wake up at 7am daily in order to get quiet time in with the Lord, free of interruption. I learned that I have always been expressive about my faith and God, yet I do not truly know Him or my identity in Him. I learned that I had no problem telling people I love God, but I didn't even know His word or the general Bible Stories. I understand I can't know everything, but it is very important to me to have a solid foundation of my faith before going out and telling people about God. I must first believe in Him and receive Him as well as His word before I can expect others to do the same thing.I must rebuild my foundation on God in order that it won't be shaken when others try to trample on it or disagree with the decisions I am making because I love and serve God. I've had my share of difficulties with persecution and felt hurt by things people have said to me since I've returned from Africa. It hasn't been easy trying to describe what God is doing in me and how this second trip to Africa changed me when I don't even completely understand it myself, but one thing remains. It's all about Just me and God. No matter what, my relationship with God is the most important thing to me and I am currently learning how to solidify my faith by rebuilding my foundation on God. I am also finding my identity in Christ.These things take time and effort (discipline), which is also why I have spent less time with others and more time with God since I've returned from Ghana.

I challenege you to evaluate your relationship with God. If you are a believer and you are walking with God, is your relationship with Him the most important and valuable  relationship you have? Are you remaining connected to him daily and not letting your circumstances dictate how your day goes and how you view God? Are you seeking to please Him or please others? These are tough questions that I've also had to evaluate in my walk with God and learn for myself.

For a while I fought with God about this new season I've been in since I returned from Ghana. I didn't like being an introvert instead of an extrovert. I didn't like saying no to things because I knew I needed fellowship with God. I didn't like keeping to myself and not sharing with others what God was doing in my life. But just because I didn't like it doesn't  mean I didn't persevere. I chose to push through, to keep my head up, to pursue Him, even if at the time I did not understand His purpose in all of this. Once I quit fighting Him, I let go and let God move in my life as He intended. I learned as He revealed to me in many different ways that the season I am in is so essential and key for my faith as well as what He has planned for me and so I joyfully accept it now rather than try to avoid it. And I also recognize that some people may not understand this season that I'm in,  the changes that are going on in me, and the calling that God has given me and placed on my life, and I am okay with that. People don't have to understand everything. But, I would hope to receive their support knowing that my heart is after God's, and I'm simply following His lead for me life and walking by faith.

I'm going to end on a scripture that has really helped me get through any difficult times when I've felt discouraged by others opinions or lack of support of what God is doing in me and where He leads me. A friend of mine gave me this scripture and it has blessed me so much. ATTN: PEOPLE PLEASERS: This verse is key for you:

"Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." Galations 1:10

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Fun-Filled Weekend!

Recently I realized that my posts are all about God, God, and more God. I love God, and it makes sense to share what He is doing in my life, but I also want to start making this blog more about what He's doing in my life and where He is leading me, including the fun places and things I do. I want to add photos and make it all cute, but I am clueless as to how to do that. (If you have any idea or know anyone who can be of help, let me know) One of these days I plan to invest time in trying to make it better than boring generic background without flair. :)

So, here is my first post about some FUN I had this weekend. I believe God has been telling me to stop putting so much pressure on myself to do so many things for Him, but instead to have some fun in life and enjoy it. One very early morning God woke me up and said "Raise God Up and Have Fun!" and that has stuck with me. I don't want to look back on this season in my life and say I wished I could have done more fun stuff, or I wish I would have done this or that.

This past weekend was fun-filled. Saturday was a Girls Day Out with my Bible Study Group for Apple Picking in Julian. I had never been apple picking before and it was very fun. I felt like a kid again. The best part about it was picking an apple right off the tree and being able to eat it right there! Saturday was the day before my last day of The Daniel Fast, a very strict diet that is Biblical. The Daniel Fast entailed eating mostly Fruits and Vegetables, so you better bet those apples have never tasted so good...but really, they were delightful and delicious. I think I ate a total of 4 solely while we were picking them off the tree :) My friend, Danielle, took some photos from the day and posted them on her photo blog: http://www.urbanstillsphotography.com/ under blog titled How About Them Apples. Below are some photos I took with my cell phone:




My first bite into the delightful apple


The cute little green apple I picked :)


A better view of the cute, little, and delicious apple



Sunday I decided to sleep in and spend the day with my sister. I had a very long week and was unable to sleep in at all, and rest is important to me. I will listen to the sermon from church online this week. I spent the day with my sister on Sunday. We went Grocery Shopping at Trader Joes and Ralphs and then headed to Bates Nut Farm. We heard a lot about it and went when we were younger but figured it was time to venture up there again. We heard it was crowded, but didn't realize it would take us almost 2 hours to go about 10 miles! By the time we got there, we thought it must be pretty great! :) We were impressed with the size of it and went inside to buy some peanut brittle, toffee nuts, and fill up a bag of candy. Aren't we so healthy? ; ) We definitely have a family full of sweet teeth. Then we went to find our pumpkins. We were a bit overwhelmed by the massive amounts of pumpkins and caught ourselves people watching and adoring the cute children surrounded by pumpkins who were being photographed by their parents. We ended up picking out a couple along with baby pumpkins to decorate the house with, took a few photos, and headed back to the car. It turned out to be a longer day than we had planned, but we had fun and that was the most important part! :) Below are some pictures from our adventurous day.



A cute little colorful tree we saw on our way there while sitting in traffic






Unbelievable! We finally made it!






Sooooooo many pumpkins...and this is just one section

I found one! :)


Marissa and her pumpkin.

















A cute baby pumpkin









Super cute pumpkin



Sisterly love

Can you tell we're sisters? :) I think we look more alike as we get older.

We love our salt-water taffy...



...and our Butter Toffee Nuts (Peanut Brittle is for our mom)