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.

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?

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  !