Summer Reading List

If there’s anything I love, it’s reading. You can always find me with a book in hand no matter what season. There’s something about reading a good book that genuinely makes me happy! Words are life for me. But because I’ll be starting classes soon, most of my leisure reading time is replaced with have-to-read books for class. So I’m trying to squeeze in as many books of my choosing before August is over! I’ve compiled a little list of 6 books for those avid readers to choose from that are in my own personal library and have blessed me in some way or another.

  1. Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen

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This book reignited my passion for reading! It’s genuinely my top favorite!! It’s a compilation of short personal stories from the author’s experience working with people as a medical doctor and therapist. It is heart-wrenching, raw, honest, and so moving. I cried and laughed my way through this book.

2. The Emotionally Healthy Woman by Geri Scazzero

The Emotionally Healthy Woman: Eight Things You Have to Quit to Change Your Life

I recently read this book and it blessed me tremendously! It isn’t a how to book but more of an introspective book that causes you to go on a journey toward healing and wholeness as a christian woman. It is convicting and empowering!

3. The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson

The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears

This book will forever be my most recommended!! I’ve bought this book about a dozen times and each time I’ve given it to someone in the hopes of it blessing them; it has! Go out and get this book!! It’s incredible and Pastor Mark Batterson is also one of my favorite authors. I’ve read 5 books of his and they never disappoint.

4. I am number 8 by John Gray

I Am Number 8: Overlooked and Undervalued, but Not Forgotten by God

I originally purchased this book with the intention of bringing a study on it for the youth/young adults I teach but God had a different plan. I was so challenged and moved by this book and it was in a way life changing. It spoke into my entire life and made me feel seen, heard, and understood! I genuinely recommend this book no matter what age you are!!

5. The Spirit filled life by Charles Stanley

The Spirit-Filled Life: Discover the Joy of Surrendering to the Holy Spirit

Charles Stanley is a mighty and profound teacher of God’s word and that’s exactly what this book does: it teaches you. It’s so enlightening and fortifying. If you want to go on a journey toward understanding the Holy Spirit and how He works in your life, then this book is definitely for you!

6.  Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst

Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely

Lysa is such an incredible, witty, and dynamic writer that as I read through these pages, I felt as if she and I were sitting across the table from each other doing life together over a hot cup of coffee. I loved this book so much I taught a series titled “living loved.” I highly recommend this book to any young woman in search of love and acceptance. Lysa will take you on a journey toward seeing yourself the way God sees you!

If you choose to read any one of these books, let me know!! I’d love to talk about it with you 🙂

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The path less traveled

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“Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of ever lasting life.” – Psalm 139:24 NLT

I like to think of myself as a Giants football fan by association.  This means I have no idea who the players are or how the game is actually played but because my sister is a die hard fan, I’m also a Giants supporter. I’m the person asking a thousand questions during a game and yelling “yessss” at the most insignificant times. But nonetheless, I’m a fan by association. If there’s anything I’ve learned with the football season just a month away, is how offense and defense works in a game. To put it simply, the team with the ball is on offense trying to score points while defense is the opposing team trying to stop offense from scoring a touchdown. Which side are you on? 
By definition, offense is that which serves as a hindrance or obstacle.
In Psalm 139:24, the Psalmist David is essentially praying to God and he says God, “point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of ever lasting life.” If you’ve ever been offended by someone then you know how powerful an offense is. They stir up and provoke uncomfortable feelings that can cause someone to shut down, fight back, ignore, or run. But if they aren’t addressed, they will fester and become a hindrance or an obstacle to you. Offenses essentially tell us something is wrong and it needs to be repaired or restored. In the spiritual sense, being on offense, you automatically attract defense which hinders you from scoring spiritual goals. Being on offense you are carrying a burden that was never meant for you to carry. If you are carrying an offense against someone, it needs to be addressed because that offense will serve as a hindrance and an obstacle from you achieving your goals and reaching spiritual maturity. It will stop you from learning very vital lessons about yourself. They will cripple your ability to have healthy friendships and relationships. An offense can be something within you that isn’t allowing you to move forward.
For me, it was something I recently needed to address with someone in my family. This person hurt me in the past and that hurt wasn’t allowing me to have a healthy relationship with them. Every time I prayed, I didn’t feel close to God because there was this issue I wasn’t facing. When I finally addressed it, I was able to see that I too had some things within me that needed work. God was using the facing of that offense to refine me and heal me! When you face your offenses, you clear the pathway toward righteousness. When you do this, there is nothing hindering or obstructing your view.
How offenses hinder us:

  1. Harboring offenses mask how you’re really feeling by giving you a false sense of security.
  2. Offenses cloud your vision.
  3. Offenses stunt communication.
  4. Offenses attract defense which serve as obstacles toward achieving your God-given goals and dreams.
  5. Offenses limit you from having a healthy relationship with the Lord and with loved ones. They make you feel like you’ve been separated from God. This is a lie because there is NOTHING that can separate you from God but offenses can cloud your vision and hinder you from getting full access into wholeness and spiritual victory.
  6. Offenses will weigh you down and make you feel prideful. They will make you feel like you’re carrying a burden greater than yourself but also make you feel as if you’re too proud to surrender to God.
Identifying your offenses requires a willingness to learn about yourself and the truth is, there are some things you won’t like. But it is necessary to know because then you access freedom from your offenses and your vision becomes clear.
How to work through offenses
  1. Ask God to reveal to you what needs work within you and what area of your life needs healing.
  2. Identify any feelings of discomfort toward a particular thing, situation, or person. This is a huge indicator that there is an underlying offense. Once you identify them, surrender them to the Lord.
  3. Explore if there is someone you need to forgive or ask for forgiveness from. Forgiving someone requires strength and courage while asking for forgiveness requires self-awareness and humility. When you do this, you are identifying the very thing that may be offending God within you! God is a God of unity and reconciliation. If there is division in an area of your life, call it out!
  4. Be willing to go on a journey of self-reflection, self-acceptance, and most importantly self-love.
  5. Open a line of communication with yourself by writing out what triggers you emotionally and how you can respond in a healthy way.
Reflection: Is there something offensive within you that you need to address? What is hindering you or serving as an obstacle in your life and stopping you from being whole? In what ways can you work through your offenses?
Let’s explore this together! Email me to my personal email and let’s talk about it. 🙂 My email isNeli.Betancourt@outlook.com 

Blowing Rocks

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Sometime in mid-May of this year, I went to visit my sister and nieces in West Palm Beach, Florida. I went to just spend time with my family but because my sister is amazing, she really catered to what I wanted to do. We both researched places we could go to that were inexpensive and close by. After doing a few other things, we decided to head over to the blowing rocks preserve. It was about a 45 minute drive from west palm to Jupiter beach where the blowing rocks preserve is. We closely monitored when high tide would be (Thanks google!!) and we went on a Friday morning. I can honestly say I’ve never seen something more incredible and amazing!!!

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These rocks were formed thousands of years ago and when the water hits against the rocks, it shoots up which is what gave it its name; blowing rocks.

I remember standing there, taking photos, and God whispering into my Spirit, “Be present and in the moment. Take it all in.” I was so intensely aware of God’s presence looking out at the ocean and realizing how great God is and how small I am. God is so majestic and I couldn’t help but be awed by His creations. The great measures He takes to get our attention is so humbling.

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The photos don’t really capture how turquoise the water was but I’ve never seen a water more blue than this day. To see the strength of the waves as they crashed against the rocks and hearing it’s hushing was so empowering.

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I took these photos of my sister and you can actually see the sequence of the waves as they rose up!! How amazing!!!

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If you’re in the west palm or Jupiter beach area, please visit! I promise you won’t regret it! This place is every photographers dream. Even though I’m a wannabe photographer, it really is photo worthy. I highly recommend it!

Old Westbury Garden

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My mother and I meet up every Saturday, or at least we try to. We go on little adventures or we just have a shopping day and get lunch. But a few weeks ago, my mom tells me about old Westbury garden. She saw it on someone’s Facebook and because I have no social media, I’d never heard of this place. I researched it and decided, it’s a go. So come 10am, my mom, sister, and I jump in the car and put it in waze. If you’re in the New York City area or Long Island, then I HIGHLY suggest you visit! It is one of the most beautiful gardens I’ve ever visited. It’s perfectly nestled in Old Westbury, Long Island; about an hour or so drive from the city. This was the home of John S. Phipps, his wife, and their four children in the early 1900’s. It’s $12 per person and worth EVERY penny!

It is an estate of over 200 acres comprised of gardens, lakes, and ponds. The home contains some of the families personal antique items that were well preserved. It’s so beautiful and feels as if you’re stepping back in time the moment you step foot into the home. Every where you turn it’s something else that catches your eye.

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There are beautiful vintage paintings all over the home filled with perfect little touches of lamps, clocks, and antique bedding. All over the estate, as you walk around, there are also life size sculptures incredibly designed by Seward Johnson. They’re kind of these surprises waiting for you to inspect and take photos with them. I think this was my mother’s favorite part, to be honest. She was always on the hunt for the next statue. It was as if each one told a different story. My mom even narrated a story for some of them which was hilarious to say the least. It was amazing!!

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This was honestly one of my favorite statues! As we were walking up to it, my mom says, “Oh wow, he’s going to war and she’s so sad”, in her perfect Spanish accent. I laughed but after really letting it sink in and looking at the details on their faces, it made the statue that much more real for me. I was in awe.

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This is my absolute favorite photo of my mom and I!!! How beautiful is she? 🙂

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We walked the entire estate and then some! It was about 2-3 hours but it was so beautiful and interactive because of the statues. I was obsessed with every little thing! I was in awe by Gods amazingly artistic hand in the rose garden which was what I loved the most. If you’re looking to get away but still stay close then I highly recommend taking a little trip to Old Westbury Garden. You wont regret it!! 🙂

You are equipped

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“By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.”
‭‭Exodus‬ ‭13:21‬ ‭NIV‬‬

God provided for the Israelites to travel by DAY or NIGHT. It doesn’t matter the time of day, the season, the amount of light there is or lack thereof, ; you have the resources to travel by day OR night. God doesn’t leave His children without. There is NOTHING stopping you from continuing forward. You cannot make excuses for something you already have. God has equipped you for the journey, it’s up to you to use the resources. Locate the cloud and find the pillar of fire, this is your heavenly compass. You have it in your spiritual tool box. You have your faith, your godly confidence, your resilience, your experiences. Let me encourage you today that you are NOT stuck. You are equipped to move forward.

Love yourself

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.” – ‭‭James‬ ‭2:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I think the hardest thing for me was learning to love myself. I’m 27 & God is showing me how to do this. He’s showing me the ins and outs of my heart & it’s been an adventure to say the least. The kind that is breathtaking but takes time to get to that beautiful mountain top view. He’s teaching me who I am. He’s showing me myself through His eyes. He’s demonstrating how to have healthy boundaries and even healthier relationships. I’m learning loving yourself takes intention. It takes purpose. It’s the same way when you love someone else. It’s not by accident or by mistake. You have to choose everyday to learn who you are. Loving yourself isn’t an overnight success. It’s a life long process of learning what it means to be comfortable in your own skin, in your words, in hearing the sound of your own laughter, and allowing yourself to feel all of those feelings that encompass your emotions. It’s a daily decision of picking up your cross and learning what that cross entails. It’s learning to meet yourself exactly where you are. Loving yourself is the greatest lesson you’ll ever learn because you are heavenly royalty. Spread love the Christ way. 

Life Planner

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Three years ago, my sister got me my first planner. To be honest, I didn’t know what the hype was but the moment, I opened it up and started planning out my days and decorating each week, I fell in love! I decided to do this post because so many girls always ask me where my planner is from and it always brings me so much joy to let them in on my planner addiction. Fellow planner addicts know you just can’t stay shut about it. 🙂

My very first planner was the Erin Condren one and I thought I would never trade her in. But these planners are on the pricier side ranging from $50-$55 so the following year, I was on the hunt for a functional, pretty, and cheaper planner. This is when I found The happy planner which range from $20-$35. I loved her too! But of course, my inner planner addiction was just searching for something more. Something that was more interactive and christian based. This is when someone told me about The horacio printing planner. This planner has genuinely been my favorite thus far!!!

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When I first got her in the mail, I was obsessed. I fell in love immediately and couldn’t wait to find something, anything, to write in the pages. The planner I got is The lovely planner. It’s hardcover with gold coil binding and opens up to a little message from the creator Polly, which is super cute. But what I love so much about this planner is how interactive it is!

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Before going into the actual week-to-week and month-to-month planning section, there are pages dedicated to exercises of dream planning, a yearly bucket list, a refocus cloud, generosity planning, a heart check, and even a list for your fears. This planner got me thinking about my present spiritual life and how it’s reflecting on my everyday daily life. I was able to sit down and pray through my God-given dreams and goals to visualize how to accomplish them. But what was even greater, is how this planner includes a page where I can write out what is distracting me from putting forth the action to achieve my dreams and goals. I loved how where you list your fears, you can also write out a verse to counteract that fear because the truth is, we need reminders. A professor once told my class that God doesn’t help you remember what you first haven’t forgotten so this planner helps me remember. It doesn’t just help me keep track of classes, appointments, goals, homework, papers, to-do lists, exams, birthdays, and important dates but it helps me remember the things that truly matter; the people I love, the things that influence my spiritual life, the dreams I have, and the things I should do more of. It helps me prioritize and manage my time wisely without overemphasizing my schedule but what God wants me to do with the time He’s given me.

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I love how it also includes monthly praise reports! This is so essential because it helps build a heart of gratitude and praise which is crucial for a healthy christian life. It also has bible verses on each page which is a major plus.

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If there is one thing I love most about this planner is how minimal it is because you can just decorate away to your hearts content. I love stickers, washi tape, and colorful pens so this is great. I get my stickers and notepads from michaels, etsy, and target. I get all of my washi tape from michaels as well.

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If you’re looking for an interactive, christian based, functional, pretty planner then I highly suggest the horacio printing planner! Not to mention that 10% of ALL sales goes towards fighting human trafficking efforts; I mean, how awesome is that!

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I recommend this planner to moms-on-the-go, students, people with super busy schedules, the average 9-5 working girl, and anyone who loves planning! This planner is for everyone 🙂