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!! 🙂

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. 

Project Healing

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When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
– John 5:6

             In honor of bringing in the new year this past Sunday, I had the youth I teach do a praise report for 2016. They had to think of good things God had done in their lives for 2016. Oftentimes, we focus on all things that go wrong that we leave no room to see the blessings. It was important for them to reflect on the goodness of God in their lives because it would set up the atmosphere for 2017. It would enable them to believe God for even greater things in this year before us. So, for my praise report I wrote how I was graced with the privilege of teaching the youth. Had it not been for God orchestrating events in my life, I wouldn’t have this beautiful opportunity to teach them. I wouldn’t have been apart of what God is doing in their lives individually and as a youth ministry. It has been a tremendous blessing to say the least.
As a youth ministry, I recently brought them through a teaching series titled, “Meeting God in different seasons in different ways”. For one particular lesson, they learned about “The God who heals”. During Jesus’ ministry on earth, He healed countless people from a myriad of diseases, blindness, ailments, possessions, and spiritual unbelief. As I studied the aspects of healing, I realized how much we have control over our own healing. Let me explain. . .
In John 5:1-9, Jesus is in Jerusalem near a healing pool called Bethesda. While He was there, He noticed a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. Now it’s important to note this man was paralyzed in some way for a full 38 years, yet the first question Jesus asks him is, “Do you want to get well?”. When we are in a certain state for a period of time, we become conditioned to being that way. We become accustomed to living with the aches and pains, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. It becomes our normal. So the first aspect of healing is to actually Choose healing. We have to choose to want to get well. The second aspect is to realize only Jesus can heal you. In John 5:7, the invalid says he has no one to help him into the pool. He comes to the realization that only Jesus can help him because no one else has been able to.
The third aspect is to believe in the healing. In Matthew 9:28, Jesus is in his hometown of Capernaum and He comes across two blind men. As they are following Him, Jesus goes indoors and asks them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” Healing isn’t a question of whether Jesus can heal or not, Jesus is healer. But it is a question of “Do you believe?” You need to believe to be healed. You have to believe in the healing even before it comes.
The last aspect of healing is being aware of what you need healed. In Matthew 20:32, Jesus comes across two blind men as well and the first question He asks is, “What do you want me to do for you?” In order for healing to begin, you need to be aware of your need for healing. Awareness is powerful because it means you are no longer blind to your wounds.
I want you to pay attention to the fact in all these stories of healing, Jesus asks the person in need of healing a question. Sometimes we go to God asking Him what to do but because we aren’t expecting a question, we misinterpret God’s answer for silence. Sometimes God speaks in questions too. So as you go forward, remember the acronym: CRBA.

  1. Choose healing
    2. Realize only Jesus can heal
    3. Believe in the healing
    4. Awareness of what you need healed

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An open letter from me to you:

When I began Project Healing in November of 2014, I had no idea what God had in mind. All I knew is I had this God-given dream birthed in my heart and I needed to take action. I needed to share what God had done in my life in hopes of you too being infected with the healing bug. Project Healing was birthed because of tears found in open wounds, failed friendships, and broken relationships. But more because of transformation and healing. So while I haven’t made time to write newsletters as frequently, you are all in my prayers.
Entering 2017, my prayer is that you, yes you, realize your God-given potential and more-so your God-given dreams. I pray you would take courage and follow Jesus into the unknown. I pray you would see God’s hand in your life because I assure you, He is there. I pray when you hear His voice, you would not harden your heart. I pray you would grow in love and be stretched in wisdom. I pray you would bring every little thing that fills you with guilt and embarrassment to the foot of the cross and not to the pit of shame. But most of all, I pray you would be healed from the very thing(s) that may be stopping you from entering freely into the love of God.

As always, with love and tons of blessings,

Neli

HAPPY 2017!

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Strange Fire

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“That same day Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, took their censers, put hot coals and incense in them, and offered “strange” fire to God – something God had not commanded. Fire blazed out from God and consumed them – they died in Gods presence.” – Leviticus 10:1-2 MSG

The bible says Aaron’s sons offered up strange fire to God in the context of a holy and sacred offering. They tried to mix holy with unholy and God consumed them; they died the same way they tried to cheat God. The moment you try to bring in an unholy thing into the holy things of God, you automatically negate the sacredness of a holy act. For example, the bible speaks on meditation; to meditate on the word of God but if you begin to practice yoga as a means of meditation, you are bringing “strange fire” into a sacred act. You cannot do yoga and expect it to be a good offering to the Lord because it is a spiritual practice that has its origin in offering incense to other gods.

In the same way, you cannot incorporate practices from other religions into your relationship with the Lord. It is strange fire that is an abomination to the Lord. While God is all loving, it’s important to be aware of your practices and habits. If it is not biblical or biblically supported, you should always bring it to the foot of the cross.

Meet Maria

I kind of squealed a “let’s go see the horses guys” before walking off to be extra touristy with my iPhone 6+ in the middle of the campo in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba. Thank goodness a few of my team members followed behind me as I snapped a gazillion photos of the less than mediocre brown horses patiently eating yummy grass. Being born and raised in New York City, you don’t see horses just lounging around. You catch the occasional police officer perched on top of a horse but for me it’s a rare sight. So the inner city girl was joyous each time I saw one of these majestic animals. I must have driven my teammates insane with the “oh my gosh, I love horses” for the hundredth time. But thankfully they were patient with this city girl.


As I walked away from the horses, we all walked down the broken streets of colorful homes. Everything seemed pretty silent until I stopped to say hello to a few kids sitting outside. After introducing myself, they all seemed pretty intrigued. Before I knew it, my team and I were walking down the street & a whole crowd of about 12-15 kids gathered around us. It was amazing! They asked tons of questions like where we were from & how long we were staying. Ironically enough, they knew we were with the church without us having to say anything.


As I spoke with them & asked them questions, I noticed the cutest little hotdog (or a dachshund for you dog lovers) waddling past me. Because there are so many stray dogs in Cuba, I knew better than to pet just any dog. But when I saw the cutest little lady following behind this even cuter dog, I asked if it was hers and she said yes. So I leaned in to pet my new little dog friend Suzy. Too bad Suzy was not at all friendly. She was too scared of this super smiley New Yorker chasing after her to pet her than anything else. So I settled with not petting her & began to speak with her owner whose name is Maria.

After a few introductions, Maria asked us what we were doing in Cuba & I shared we were working with the church just up the street. Because it is still illegal to have or build churches in Cuba, the Cuban people turn a portion of their homes into a church. So I pointed her in that direction & she wanted to know more. One thing led to the next & I asked her if she had ever heard of Jesus Christ. As she leaned in closer, her eyes full of questions, she shook her head no.

Without hesitation, I told her how Jesus died on the cross and three days later he rose again to show her that not even death could invade the love he has for her. I told her how Jesus wants to have a relationship with her. As she listened intently, I knew how much God loved this woman. He loved her so much that he sent his only son Jesus to die for her that she may have eternal life. In that moment, Maria was famous in the kingdom of God! She was famous because Christ died specifically for her. And not only her but for you too.

It was in that moment, I knew God strategically placed me on that road, on that day, in that hour, that Maria might know Jesus’ love for her. He set up a divine appointment that Jesus would divinely intercede from the throne through me. I was so humbled to know the truth of Romans 10: 14-15 which says, ““How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”” God sent me so Maria would know Him. That is the good news of the gospel; the faith of Maria in that moment activated the power of the gospel.

When I asked Maria if she wanted a bible, she eagerly said yes. I asked my leader Mark for a bible & helped her understand it a bit. With my leaders suggestion, I told her to start reading in the book of John & she said okay.


As she was getting ready to leave, she made me promise her I would come back to her home for coffee.  And so I promised her knowing God would bring me back. And thank God, two days later I walked up to her little home who’s walls were made of wood & called out, “Mariaaaaa”. Surely enough, she called back & as I made my way in, Maria’s bible was on the sofa because she had been reading it.

Maria nestled into my heart in such a profound way that I understood the power of Gods love for you, for me, and for the entire world. 

In the heart of Cuba

“I said, “Here I am. Send me.”” – ‭Isaiah‬ ‭6:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

An entire week later & I am officially back from Cuba. I think it’s safe to say I didn’t want to be back, I wanted to be caught in the whirlwind of Cuba & it’s love. But sadly, I have to face reality. Although I’ll be sharing a more in depth post, I want to share a little journal entry I wrote from my second day in Cuba along with a gazillion photos!


August 7th, 2016

It is now my second day in Cuba and it’s nothing like I thought it would be. Although I tried to come with zero expectations, a thought of “what if” always creeps in. I came with a belief that poverty ruled this country but what I have found is a people rich with humility, simplicity, and love. I have found a country rich in culture and wealthy in personality. In the U.S., there is a huge market for entertainment in the churches. Although that’s amazing, there is something so profound and yet so pure in the churches here. I see the gospel in its purest form that even if words are not spoken, the gospel speaks on its own. It speaks volumes through its makeshift “home” churches and tattered hymn books. Before coming to Cuba, I believed I needed to change my church to attract more people but in doing so, the mission of God was lost in translation. The gospel need not be made attractive, it stands on its own; we are simply vessels God has chosen to translate that message in the form of love. This is what I have found in the heart of Cuba; to love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, and to love people as yourself. 

This was right across the street from my hostel . The houses were so colorful!

This was the church my team and I served at for about 3-4 of the 7 days we were there. 

Visiting different homes


One of the homes we visited.



This was in the pastors home.

 




This is definitely not the end of my Cuba posts lol so stay tuned! 🙂

If you’d like to watch a little video I put together , click here  !