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💛

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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 🙂

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

 ___________________________________________
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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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. 

Let them hear


Every time I speak to my friend April, the first thing she asks me is, “What has the Lord been teaching you this week?” Even though I know she’ll ask me this, it always takes me by surprise each time. There are days when I answer with my best spiritual knowledge quoting exact verses from the bible and other times, I’m honest and tell her I have no idea. But each time, I walk away from my phone reflecting on that question.

When I started Project Healing, it began as a means of sharing what God was teaching me through the bible, through prayer, and through other people. So as I thought about what to speak on for this newsletter, I felt God ask me that very question; “What have I been teaching you in this season?” Without any doubt, the answer was simple: to listen.

In the very last book of the bible, Jesus is speaking to John through a vision concerning His people. In Revelation 2:29, Jesus says, “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” That sounds super deep and profound right? Now let’s make it more personal. When Jesus says “Spirit”, He’s referring to God in Spirit form. And when He says “the churches”, He’s referring to you and me. So now let’s paraphrase a bit. “Whoever has ears, let them hear what God says to me.” Wait. Read that again. . . Seriously. Read it again. Okay good.

In this verse, Jesus isn’t saying whether we have ears or not, we all have physical ears. But Jesus is saying “Whoever has spiritual ears, let them hear”. We all have spiritual ears. Some are in tune with the station of your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your spouse, your mom, your pain, and even your insecurities. But God wants you to be in tune with the frequency of heaven, it’s how you’ll hear what God is saying to you.

Did you know God speaks? God is not a silent God. From the very beginning of the bible, God speaks the world into existence. Not only that but all throughout, God is speaking through people, to people, and for people. But are you tuned into 77.7fm? It’s the station where the angels sing and Jesus is teaching. It’s the station where God speaks in still small whispers. It’s the station you keep changing to hear something more “entertaining”.

There are so many things in this world that pull for our attention and even when they are not, we are looking for something to fill the silence. As a generation, we have lost the art of simple listening. What does that mean? That means clearing out the junk from the outside world and all of the surrounding noise, in order to hear what God is saying to you.

From the moment you were in your mothers womb, you have been listening to what others have been saying to you. But when was the last time you sat in Gods presence and listened to God?

I want to challenge you today to find a quiet moment and ask God the first question that pops into your mind. Whatever that question may be, do not push it away. Invite it in and ask God. I guarantee you there are some things God has been speaking to you about but you’ve allowed others to feed you their empty opinions. God wants to speak to you today but you have to be willing to listen.

Let us pray

Father God, I thank you that you still speak. I thank you that you want to speak to me. So I ask in this moment that you would remove all the junk that has been clouding my spiritual ears. Clean out my ears so I would be able to hear you and only you. Tune me into the station of heaven and remove the things and people that are not helping me hear you. God I want you to speak to me today, so help me hear you, oh Holy Spirit.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

 

Step Out


A few months ago, I was faced with a really tough decision. I had applied to be a sociotherapist in a foster care agency for behaviorally challenged children and teens. More often than not, these kids are on psychiatric medications so it’s a really demanding position. But it was one of my dream jobs. My parents had been foster parents growing up so I knew the challenges these children faced in the system. I wanted to help them, to be a support system for them, & to motivate their families into positive change and growth. I prayed for these kids even before I got the job. I prayed for their freedom & their growth. I even prayed for their families & their futures. And I got the job! But now I was faced with the decision if I should take the position. . .

Here I was, newly graduated from college with a bachelors degree in psychology, in school for my masters in mental health counseling, with a job that didn’t pay all that well, & I was struggling to decide whether or not to jump on this amazing  opportunity. I wrestled in prayer but for some reason I knew I couldn’t take it.

So one day as I was waiting for the bus, I saw a pamphlet on the floor. It was a windy day & oddly enough that piece of paper did not fly away. So I walked over to it & I saw these verses on the paper:

“Those who go down to the sea in ships, Who do business on great waters, They see the works of the LORD, And His wonders in the deep.” – Psalms‬ ‭107:23-24‬ ‭NKJV

Immediately I thought about the job. But that’s not all I thought about. My heart welled up & I thought of that missions trip I had been researching for months. & now I was torn. What did God want me to do?

I wish I could say I took the job but I didn’t. I declined the position & started to pray over the missions trip. And amazingly enough, God opened a door & now I know what those verses meant. God was speaking His promise into existence. God was saying, “I know you’re scared. I know you’ve never done this. I know you’ve never even taken a flight alone. And I know this would be stepping out of your comfort zone but it’s only in stepping out that you will see my glory.”

When we step out in faith, we choose to say that we don’t know what will happen but because God does, you’re gonna do it. When you step out in faith you choose to go down where there is no light & be the light. When you step out in faith, you might not know who you need to speak to but God does, so you rest in that. When you step out in faith, you walk through the open door to see Gods miracles first hand.

I am so excited to say I’ll be going on my first missions trip to Cuba in August! I won’t know anyone but I choose to step out into the middle of the ocean & let Jesus be my lifejacket. So I ask that you’d all keep me in prayer! 🙂

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

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! 🙂