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 🙂

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 

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. 

Walk with me

Processed with Rookie Cam

6:45 AM alarm nudges me awake. So I wake up. Shower. Pray. Make lunch. Get ready. And rush out the door. This is my Monday through Friday morning schedule. 10 times out of 10, I’m always running late. But the odd thing is, before this job, I was an on-time punctual kinda girl. At the onset of this job, I was that girl. The kind that shows up bright eyed and fresh faced half an hour early with a smile on my face. The kind that sings through the Monday morning blues and laughs through the Thursday afternoon anticipation. But something shifted the more time I spent at this office and while I am filled with gratitude to have had this job, my morning glow has faded. I’ve become that always-rushing-to-work typical New Yorker. And I hate it.

I hate rushing past the freshly bloomed tulips on the corner. I hate looking down at the concrete as my feet hit the pavement. I hate missing the clear blue skies after a rainy yesterday. I hate missing the faces waiting for the infamous G train. I hate ignoring the guy drawing on the train or the girl painting her face with concealer with a dog between her feet. I hate not being in the moment.

As I was quickly walking down to the train this morning at the exact time I had to be at work, my head was full of thoughts. My round eyes caught the sight of the orange and yellow tulips but I didn’t take it in. My legs were doing a fast dance with the rain as if I were competing in a salsa show. And my brain was full to the brim with thought after thought and it was exhausting. The kind of exhausted that grabs you after you’ve jogged 5 miles on an 85 degree sunny morning.

In a split second, I had the most challenging thought I’ve had in a while. I felt Jesus ask me, “What if I were walking with you right now?” Just like that, I slowed down and pictured Jesus walking to the right of me. God challenged me in that moment to be in the here-and-now; in the present. And as I became intentional about walking with Jesus, I felt such peace. There is something powerful about walking with  a friend and allowing yourself to be in the moment. You see and hear things differently. You experience life in a whole new light.

I walked down the stairs into the subway station and I saw the girl with the lavender hair. I heard the conductors voice loud and clear, “Next stop, metropolitan avenue.” I saw the rain drops quickly falling. I was in the present not threatened by my every thought. In that moment, all that mattered was I was walking with Jesus. When Jesus was with His disciples, He walked with them. They talked and walked. They laughed and walked. They walked together. They were doing life together as they walked. They were all in the moment, in the here-and-now, in the present. They didn’t allow life’s demands to cloud their relationship with the Lord. They were intentional about spending time with Jesus. In the same way, we have to be intentional. We have to make time at this time, right now.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from group therapy, which is a requirement for my group therapy class; it’s how powerful it is to bask in the moment. In the moment is where working through happens. In the here-and-now is where you can feel what you feel. In the present is where you have the potential for growth, for healing, for love.

My question to you today is: if you were walking with Jesus, would that change your pace?

A spiritual house

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“As you come to him, the living stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” –1 Peter 2:4-5

I recently brought my youth I teach through a series titled “living loved” and we focused on the life of Jesus from His birth to when He performed His first miracle. One thing they kept bringing up was if Jesus was always all knowing from birth. And I stressed that just as Luke 2:52 says, Jesus grew in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and man just like we need to do. He wasn’t born with all this biblical knowledge and spiritual maturity, He needed to grow in  it. The same is true for us.

Sometimes we want to rush the process of being molded and built into a spiritual house but it takes work. It takes willingness of heart and spirit in order to become who God has called us to be. We need to be content in the process allowing God to build, to add, to take away, that we would be mighty soldiers for the kingdom of God. I’ve learned what God does through us on earth is for spiritual kingdom purposes. Whatever your current walk of life, God is using it to prepare you for future preordained plans. So my encouragement for you today is to allow God to build you up which may sometimes look like a breaking down. God is the holy potter that wants you to explore with Him what needs to go and what needs to grow in order for you to be built into a spiritual house.

Love is patient, Love is kind.

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Being that Valentine’s day just passed, I want to address the huge elephant in the room. The one in the form of bubbly hearts, expensive chocolates, even pricier roses, and cuddly teddy bears. One thing you should know about me is I love valentines day; not for the excuse to eat chocolate but because it’s a great reminder to show love and be love. And to put it simply, we all need reminders. We need to be reminded to be kind and patient. But mostly, we need to be reminded to love even when it’s hardest to love because that’s when it counts. But what exactly is love? Not that artificial, high caloric, sugar drenched love made by humans on valentines day but that real, authentic, raw, unconditional love.

The other day I was watching a movie on Netflix that really got me thinking about human love versus godly love. In the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul the apostle was writing a letter to the church at Corinth. In this letter, he addresses many things the Corinthians were concerned about. One of those things was love. In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, it says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always, hopes, always perseveres.”
I’m sure you’ve heard or read this somewhere. But I believe God wants to remind you what you have forgotten or maybe what you haven’t known. Let’s break down these verses and really reflect on the nature of Gods love and how we can reflect the love of Christ.

  1. Love is humble and zealous. That means you lay down your own desire and eagerly desire the well-being of the one you love.
  2. Love is self-less and slow to anger. This means it isn’t selfish or quick tempered. Next time you do or say something to someone, question your intentions. Is it for personal gain or godly reward?
  3. Love does not keep a checklist of what people have done to you. It is forgiving.
  4. Love is always honest. It isn’t merited on human standards but on biblical truth.

Godly love is without conditions. This simply means whatever you do cannot exempt you from the love of God. In the same way, our love for others should not be contingent upon what they can do for us or what we’ve done for them. It should rest on who our foundation should be: Jesus Christ. 1 John 4:8-9 says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” We need to love as if we are living through Jesus. This means we must be his hands and feet, his heart and ears. But this can only happen when you place God as “the one” for you before a wife, a husband, a girlfriend, or a fiancé. Knowing the love of God first hand places you in a position to spread love the godly way. Let us strive to love as God loves us.

Watch my spoken word poem “The One” on youtube here