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 

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 🙂

Walk with me

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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?

City Lights

1. Visit the Empire State Building & take a selfie with my city ✔️
Being a born and bred New Yorker, you don’t do the typical touristy things. You don’t ride the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building & you don’t take the next boat leaving for the Statue of Liberty. But I’ve always loved to be a tourist in my own city. So yesterday I got to check off number one from my list of goals. I got to go to the very top of the Empire State Building with my friend & her son & the view was so incredible. Gods mind is so limitless to have been able to give people the knowledge to create such a complex city.

“for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”‭‭ – 1 Corinthians‬ ‭2:16‬ ‭NIV

So I thought I’d share some of my adventure from last night because I even got to catch the sunset!


How cool is this photo? Has a vintage 1940’s kinda feel. Thank God for filters! Lol

I mean seriously! Do ya’ll see this view?!


“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” – ‭Matthew‬ ‭6:27‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I think what Jesus is trying to say is to be present in the moment. Let yourself be in the here and now without overwhelming yourself with the possibilities of tomorrow. Sometimes you have to gain a new and different perspective in order to appreciate the view. That’s exactly what I did last night; I was able to not worry about anything and bask in the stillness of the breathtaking views. Because sometimes we are so caught up in the hustle and bustle of day to day life that we forget to just be in the moment.

As always, be encouraged, be blessed, and be empowered! 🙂

On your mark, Get set, Goal!

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Happy Friday ! 🙂

As I was waiting for the infamous G train this morning on my way to work, I started reading “IF” by Mark Batterson. Now Mark Batterson is one of my favorite authors and I’ve read about 5 books of his. You can see which ones here. He’s one of those humorous inspirational kinda writers that really cause you to reevaluate where you are in life. Not the “You gotta change your life or else” but more like he challenges you to focus on the things that matter spiritually and relation-ally. So as I’m reading, I stop myself, close the book, and grab my phone (Typical New Yorker thing to do). And I wrote out this question, “What would happen if I did everything I wanted to do for 31 days?”

To be honest, I always start bucket lists and goals but hardly follow through. Am I the only one who does this? But this time, I’ve vowed to pray through each thing and put it in Gods hands. Because the truth is, when you put something into God’s hands, he will oversupply and over-multiply. I mean, let’s face it, God is a multiplying God that gives abundantly. He takes the little we have and feeds the multitudes. So here I am, waiting for a train that’s half an hour late during rush hour, and I have an “AHA” moment. And because I live in New York City, the City of dreams come true where the buildings touch the sky and the lights never go out; I have decided to do 31 things for the entire month of May. Things I’ve always wanted to do but have never done that make me feel like a tourist in my own city.

Although my list of goals isn’t nearly halfway done, here it is:

  1. Visit the empire state building and take a selfie with my city
  2. Have a girls “life giving” picnic at Brooklyn bridge park
  3. Take a ballet class
  4. Find the coolest graffiti street and take a picture
  5. Visit the botanical gardens with my family
  6. Catch a show at BAM
  7. Catch a show at Carnegie Hall
  8. Visit the statue of liberty
  9. Visit the MOMA
  10. Visit the transit museum
  11. Paint a canvas with my nieces
  12. Write a chapter of my book in my favorite cafe
  13. Walk all of central park with a friend

I’ll be updating my list and posting my progress but I think it would be really awesome if you joined me too. Maybe you can make your own list and vow to stick to it regardless of how you feel.

As always, be encouraged. Be empowered. And be blessed. 🙂

 

Confessions of a girl and her hot chocolate

I’ve been meaning to write this post for weeks but as my procrastination and perfectionism has it, I’m just now getting around to it. It’s been an interesting start to 2016 & to put it simply, a little difficult. I’ll be the first to admit that I love to put pretty pink bows on the days when I struggle. When I struggle to read my word, to make time to pray, and to drag myself to church; I like to put a nice smile on and act as if I’m not at all pushing my feet that feel as heavy as iron. So I’ve vowed to God & to myself that I’ll be as transparent as possible in this post.

About a month ago, my grandma passed, so off I went to Puerto Rico. To be honest, I didn’t want to go. All I wanted to do was pawn off the responsibility to someone else like my sister. I didn’t want to be the “strong one”. I didn’t want to “carry the load”. I didn’t want to be the shoulder that my dad had to cry on. I didn’t want to be the very person that I’m studying to become: a counselor. But as the day got closer to get on that 3 1/2 hour flight, I prayed God would fill me up with his peace and confidence. I prayed that I would be the leader that I needed to be for my family. I prayed for strength. And ultimately, I prayed God would use this trip to reveal His greatness. And because God is so faithful, he answered every prayer.

I don’t remember much about my grandmother except that she was a devoted woman to God. I can remember maybe 3 occasions where I met with my grandmother and it all had to do with God. She wore a white veil over her head to pray. But I don’t remember kindness or love. And that’s the truth. My grandmother was a prayer warrior. She left behind a great legacy that are far and few in between. She didn’t have riches, great possessions, or wealth. But she did leave behind planted seeds of prayer. And prayers don’t have expiration dates. They don’t have death certificates. So although I didn’t know her, I know of her and what I know may not include love, kindness, or patience; she did leave behind a legacy of prayer.

As I was on this trip, I came face to face with what it means to live a set apart life. It means giving up all that your flesh loves and desires. It means choosing to pray when you don’t want to. It means dressing modestly because you love to represent God. It means not gossiping or taking part in it because it hurts God, it hurts the other person, and it hurts you . It means giving without expecting in return. And how many of us give and expect at least a thank you? I want to live a life that when I give to someone in need, they thank God first. But living a set apart life means choosing to set your sights on heavenly things above. It means choosing to intercede for those you love day and night. It means picking up your armor and choosing to fight the very real spiritual battle that is going on. Living a set apart life means accepting where someone is, not necessarily liking it, and loving them anyway. It means showing love to the least and the greatest. Jesus didn’t discriminate. He was set apart by glory and we are set apart by love.

God confronted me with the truth that He chose me, just as he chose you, because He loves me. He chose me not because of the gifts He’s given me but because He’s placed His love within me. And I’m not meant to keep that love. I’m supposed to give it away. I’m supposed to show it to others.

I’d like to say that I came back completely delving into Gods plans but the truth is, I’m a work in progress and as long as I’m here, I’ll always be a work in progress. And I can’t make any promises because I fail everyday but I hope that I can love on people because Jesus chose to love on me. I want to leave behind a legacy of not only being a prayer warrior but of someone that loved people regardless of where they are, someone who gave selflessly because that’s what Jesus would do. I want to leave behind a legacy that doesn’t draw the attention to me but points straight to God. My prayer is that my life would always reflect God and His love.

Here are some pictures from my trip to Puerto Rico 🙂

  
  

As always, I pray you are encouraged, empowered, and most of all blessed ! 🙂