What would I say to my 9 year old self?

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“Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—those he redeemed from the hand of the foe.” Psalm 107:2

Time stood still. The clock didn’t tick. My lungs didn’t inhale another breath of air. My body was moving but my mind froze. This is what trauma does; someway, somehow time doesn’t move forward. I mean, it moves but you’re stuck. Physically your skin ages. The wrinkles around your eyes that creep up like vines when you smile tell the world you’re no longer a child. Your responsibilities speak volumes into the level of adulthood you’ve reached. But emotionally? Emotionally, something didn’t move when the clock struck 12. I was 9 when the force of reality hit me like the titanic striking the iceberg. My security was smothered, my voice was silenced, and my control was stripped from me. Life doesn’t cater to how something will affect you. You have to make a choice once it hits; you can either use it to grow and you allow that thing to develop you or you run, you hide, and you stuff it all deep down in the trenches of your soul. For years, I chose the latter. . .

The thing is when God meets you where you are, He doesn’t leave you the same way He found you. His grace reworks your heart and His love transforms you. His hands mold healing into those deep places that wounds have festered. But the result of past hurts begin to surface in order for Him to work. I’ve learned God reveals to heal. For Him to heal those areas of your life, you will be triggered. But the trigger is what exposes that which needs to be healed. If you are self-aware, you can identify it, dig at it’s root, feel it’s pain, process it, and begin to heal. It never feels good but I can guarantee God is with you through the process as He is with me. Healing is not the goal, it’s the process and the journey. Wholeness is the goal.

As I sat before God this morning, He reminded me of what a classmate said just a few weeks ago. She said while she was in therapy, her counselor asked her, “What would you say to your 6 year old self?” As she shared, tears flowed down my round cheeks. It struck a chord in my own heart and instead of condemning that little girl in me, my soul ached for her. God ushered me this morning to talk to my 9 year old self. I’ll tell the truth. I didn’t want to. I didn’t know what to say. But as He walked me through, I spoke to her. I said:

“It’s not your fault. You are not to blame. . . You are not at fault. You are loved. I love you. . .” 

That’s all that came out. I had nothing more to say. I wish I had brilliant eloquent words that I told her but those are the only words I could say. You’re probably wondering why I chose the age of 9 but that was the turning point for me. I don’t remember much from my childhood. That’s what trauma does but I remember this day to a fault. I remember coming home and all of my things were packed. Everything except my father’s things. Now, I grew up in a Christian home but the truth is it was chaotic. It was unhealthy. And with all this, I loved my parents. I love my parents tremendously now more than ever. I understand now. And by the power of God’s redeeming hand, I now have a beautiful relationship with my father and with my mother. God is bringing wholeness where there were fragmented pieces. Sometimes there needs to be a break down in order for God to build it back up His way that is perfect. If this is the first time you read this, let me tell you, God is mighty redeemer. He can restore that which was broken. He can redeem what was lost. This day, my mother decided she would finally leave my father. She couldn’t take it anymore. I remember looking at my room completely empty except for a crayon on the floor. Like a scene from a movie, I picked it up, walked to my father’s bedroom, grabbed an envelope and wrote “I’m sorry” and put it on his pillow. I thought I was at fault. Now, my “I’m to blame” mentality was already years in the making because of past hurt. So when I had to speak to my 9 year old self, I had to remind her this wasn’t her fault. All those other things before that day, she was not to blame for. I had to tell her that she was loved because I can’t move forward in time, I can’t move forward in my healing today, if she doesn’t know that she was loved. . . 

What would you say to your child self?

 

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Anyway, any way

“When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”” – Luke‬ ‭19:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬ –

As I walk into 2018, I’m reminded of the story of Zacchaeus. Nothing stands out to me more today than Jesus telling him that He MUST stay at his house. Let that sink in. . . Jesus was intentional about entering into his world, flaws and all. During Jesus’ Ministry, He never made it about Him. He always made it about the person(s) He was ministering to as He did with Zacchaeus.

As I enter 2018, I acknowledge I am broken. I am flawed. I am imperfect. Yet God still loves me anyway. He calls me to Him anyway. He wants to spend time with me anyway. He enters into my home anyway. In any way and every way, anyway, God always seeks to stay at our house; to lift heads, to mend brokenness, to heal wounds, to save by grace, to simply be close; closer than the skin on our bones and the breath in our lungs. . .

I want this to be the prayer of my heart for 2018 and forward: I pray I would put others first as God puts me first when I enter into His throne room. I hope I would be intentional about meeting people where they are and responding to their need in His way and not my own. I pray to love people with His heart & listen with His ears.

With 2018 in front of me and 364 days ahead, I surrender it all at the feet of Jesus. I praise God for the valleys and the mountain tops to come. I praise Him for the losses and the gains, the good and the bad, the victories and the failures; I praise Him in advance because God is always God and even in the struggle, He is there.

I pray this is the year of intentional grace. . .

2017, you were a year of many many lessons. God, thank you. Thank you for the wonderful experiences. Thank you for the blessings. Thank you for listening to my hearts cry every morning. Thank you for the closeness in the grief. Thank you for the growing pains. Thank you for showing me me through your eyes; even if it was difficult. Thank you for molding me and refining me. Thank you for the work in process. Thank you for the healing. Thank you for the stretching that made me feel wiggly. Thank you for it all. Thank you for who You are.

I’ve cried much. I’ve learned much. I’ve hurt much. I’ve loved much. I’ve laughed much. I’ve been blessed much. I’ve been loved much. In 2017, I lived much & learned I have so much to learn . . . With my heart full, I share some of my favorite moments with you beloved. . . . .

In 2017, my relationship with my mother has slowly been mended. There has been much healing, much growth, and much love. As much as I don’t want to admit it, I’ve learned I’m very much like her. Through accepting that, I’ve seen how beautiful and wise she really is. Thank you my sweet, kind, and patient mami. Eres mi paño de lágrimas y mi vaso de fuerza.

In 2017, I got even closer with my Sister Sister, if that’s even possible. You are Gods greatest gift to me. Simply, thank you.

In 2017, I learned the value of being present in the moment with those you love. Each time I wanted to hurry through a moment because of everything I had to do, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper to remain still & take it all in. I learned to be intentional with my family who teach me most how to love with the love of Christ.

In 2017, I learned the true meaning of presence. I understood how to love with a hug.

In 2017, I learned when God gives you a position of leadership, it exposes your faults, your weaknesses, your imperfections, and your shortcomings. But where I fell short, God made up the distance. I learned He exposes to heal.

I learned the beginning of what it means to be a leader: it means to call out purpose, influence greatness, kickstart the healing of others, and love unconditionally when its most difficult. Lord, thank you for these amazing children of Yours You have entrusted into my care. I do not take it lightly even when I doubt why.

In 2017, I learned how to truly value friendship & blessings. I was blessed beyond measure with an amazing roommate and beautiful sisters in Christ.

In 2017, I learned why my name means “shining light” because God intentionally created me to shine His light in the darkness but I have to be willing to walk into where it’s darkest. . .

In 2017, I learned to embrace a part of my story & began learning how to live loved. . . Thank you for penning this Lord.

Happy new year beloved💛

Living Loved

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“He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.”

– Psalm 107:20

At the beginning of this year, I read or heard somewhere you should choose a focus word(s) that would define the year; words God would bring to fruition in your life. Having read “Uninvited” by Lysa Terkeurst, I chose the words “living loved.” I had no idea how God would use these words in my life but it’s now November and those words have echoed so loudly throughout the year. I didn’t truly understand what it meant to live loved through God’s eyes. I’m not sure I fully understand it now but I’m on this journey to live loved hand in hand with the Lord.

Part of this journey was going to my first ever eating disorder walk here in New York. For a few years I wanted to go but was never fully ready. This year was different. This year, I’d vowed to follow God into the deep. As I write this, my heart is being tugged at because this is the most vulnerable I’ve felt in a long time. But I trust God has already written this in my book He has in heaven. . .

Going to this eating disorder walk was so vital to my walk with Christ. It was a physical declaration I am more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus. It was a living testimonial God walked with me through my 13 year battle with an eating disorder. It was a vital component of my healing journey. Recently, God reminded me of the story of Jacob who I identify with because he was a fighter. God showed me how in my greatest fight, He was there in the struggle with me and the scars are evidence of His physical presence in that struggle. I am no longer ashamed of my scars because they proclaim I belong to Jesus. Galatians 6:17 says, “For I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus.”

The eating disorder is one of my scars. It was my identity. My identity was founded on what the eating disorder did for me. I didn’t know who I was outside of the eating disorder. It became who I was.  It was how I dealt with issues and problems. It was how I essentially became the abuser to myself. I developed such a self hatred I didn’t care if I lived or died. I hated myself, my body,  and who God created. I was driven to break myself down because I grew up thinking love was abuse and abuse was love. The eating disorder essentially robbed me of my sanity. It stole my innocence and my passions. It took my relationships and my loves. It destroyed my light. And for a long time, I couldn’t ever talk about it because there was such shame attached to the eating disorder. Being a Latina with an eating disorder was unheard of. Being a Puerto Rican with bulimia or anorexia was ridiculous. Yet, here I was fighting for my very life because of it.  Having to crawl out of that was a difficult process as a Latina woman because being Puerto Rican, “You don’t get eating disorders because that’s a white woman’s disease.” It was an internal battle that no one could comprehend. Yet God saw fit to rescue me from the grave. He saw fit to snatch me from enemy territory and call me freed and loved.

I remember on my birthday, March 29th, God Himself met me exactly where I was. I did not know this day would change my life’s trajectory; that what the enemy meant for bad, God would be glorified through. I woke up that morning with an emptiness so heavy, I sobbed. I sobbed as if I were mourning the loss of myself. It went on for what seemed like hours before I would finally cry out, “God if you really love me, then why do I feel so broken?” It was in that moment God came to meet me where I was and I felt a love so tangible and so thick, it was as if Jesus Himself stepped off the throne and wrapped me in His arms. His love began to heal me.

I grew up thinking God didn’t love me. I grew up thinking abuse was love. I thought God just wanted to punish me. Yet here I was fully known by God and He loved me enough to mend my brokenness. He loved me enough to show Himself as lover of my soul and healer of my life. This is where my healing journey began.

The healing is lifelong but going to this walk was so symbolic to how Christ walked with me through the wilderness. That walk was a key component to knowing how to truly live loved.

To live loved means to tell your story with freedom and boldness; whatever it may be. It means knowing without a shadow of a doubt you are loved by God so even if you are rejected by those you love, you won’t be shaken. It means choosing to see life through the lenses of our Savior. It’s  choosing to be intentional about giving love when it’s most difficult. Living loved means embracing the pain and feeling the hurt but moving forward with Christ anyway. To live loved is to be vulnerable and transparent that others may see God through you. Living loved requires self sacrifice; it’s not focusing on how you are being perceived but how God is being perceived through you.

In order to live loved, you choose to undergo self-examination that you would develop a Godly character and a Jesus filled heart. You give God access into those shameful broken places so the light of Christ would radiate through you. Living loved is all about the work God does IN you that you would know healing and live whole. When we allow God into those secret places, we have to be willing to go through the refiners fire, the potters molding, the surgeons touch, and to be drenched in the healers salve. We allow the restorer of our souls to mend what has been broken and take back what has been stolen.

Living loved is a process of learning who you are in Christ which is a result of committing to knowing God intimately everyday. It’s a difficult process because you have to come face to face with things about yourself that are heart wrenching, things that hurt, things that ache your soul, but it’s so so worth it. In her book Unashamed, Christine Caine states, “I now know that the only way to get to the promised land of freedom is to walk through the wilderness and to embrace the pain of recovery as a part of the healing process.” (p.110)

Living loved comes as a result of choosing to know God in the wilderness to get to your promised land. Living loved is having a teachable spirit in order to teach others how to live freely clinging to the one God who has never and will never let you go. Living loved is standing on Christ the solid rock. To live loved, you learn to live life with an eternal mindset honed in on God’s truths.

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My mom and my sisters! LRG_DSC04081

My mom is my rock and the person God gave the strength to push me forward when I could not walk on my own. IMG_7335

My little sister writing a letter to someone in an inpatient unit. She is the joy of my life!
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I can sit here confidently saying I am healed from my eating disorder. Will it always be the limp I walk with like Jacob? I believe it will be because it keeps me dependent on God. I have good days and bad days but I am healed and I have chosen to live from a place I know I am loved, I am accepted, and I am regarded by my God more deeply than I will ever comprehend.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, visit https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/

You are loved!

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 

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!! 🙂