Let’s Talk About Porn

I was exposed to porn in sixth grade at a friend’s house. It stirred up curiosity as I wondered if every person’s body part looked like that. I wondered if every woman was supposed to express like that, to have big boobs, and blonde hair. I compared her perfectly plastic shape to my pre-pubescent cardboard chest.

So at 12 years old when I should be worrying about homework, I became concerned with the work it would take to look like her. Perfect timing because when a boy pointed out that my legs were just as hairy as his, I was already aware. Only in my house, shaving my legs wasn’t allowed yet. I went home and begged my mom to let me; she didn’t. A different boy ran up and grabbed my butt so I punched him. He said he was sorry and that it was a dare. He must’ve been in a struggle, too. Knowing it was wrong but fighting a battle of his own. Boys will be boys.

Only those boys become men. Whos sexual appetites grow. So women shouldn’t wear things to entice men? Should women be modest? Okay, fine but I also think men should be taught to control their urges.

There was a time in my life when I hated strippers and porn stars. In my mind, they were the problem. Until I learned about pimps and the sex slave industry. Then I grew to hate the men who could and would participate in degrading women. Then, I just hated sex altogether. It was everywhere and ruining everything!

For those of you who don’t know, the enemy is winning. He has taken something God created to be beautiful and turned it into a world of hidden masturbation and guilt. He has taken our innate desires and turned them into something used to control us.

The devil is a liar. Just because it is common, doesn’t make it standard. I have to challenge you to do something. Tell someone. Someone you can trust. You can be free. You can look at women the way God intended. You women, can look at yourself and see beauty. What a better way to keep us enslaved then to keep us in isolation?

Let’s talk about porn.

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9 Tips to Ease the awkwardness of Dating

Dating can be tough. We often create rituals in hopes to get a clear sign of who our “soul-mate” is. So we strategically pick flower petals and hope they will tell us if we are loved? The romantic world is confusing and frustrating but it doesn’t have to be. I want to give you a few things to consider when dating in hopes to make it a tad easier.

1. Find Yourself First
We are always evolving but there comes a point when we become grounded in who we are. Finding your own value system, belief system and what you want is critical. How can you expect to find “the one” if you don’t know what you need or want?

2. They Should Not Complete You
I hope you never have to experience either but life happens. Divorce happens and sadly, sometimes death happens. If you give the other person power to complete you, you risk being incomplete if they are gone. Learn to complement, sharpen and challenge one another. Find yourself improved because of them but don’t expect them to fulfill what you lack.

3. Set Boundaries
Setting both physical and emotional boundaries is a must when dating. Enter every relationship knowing your limits. You are valuable. Not just anyone should be trusted with your secrets or your body. Remember that you are in control of how much you are willing to give. Never let anyone make you feel guilty for this.

4. State Clear Expectations
If you are dating with the intention to marry, it should be made clear. Now, you don’t want to scare the person. If after a few dates you both find a common interest and it could be something more than friendship, then intentions should be discussed.

5. Don’t String People Along
It may be unintentional or on purpose but truth is, it feels nice to be wanted. It is also very selfish. If the other person is more interested in a future, it’s unfair to limit their chance of finding someone who will value them. Your character is at stake and lets’ face it, no one wants to be labeled the “ tease” or to be known for stringing people along.

6. Learn When to Let Go
We might start with certain intentions but somewhere along the way, it changes. Don’t stay stuck out of obligation or pity. It will be uncomfortable but being upfront with the other person is always best. If you notice more fighting, less communicating or are wanting completely different things out of life, it might be time to move on. Instead of trying to force something or change the other person reevaluate the situation.

7. Be Picky
Annoyances and frustrations are a given. Make sure your values line up. Discuss and find that your goals and ambitions for the future will work out. You wouldn’t want to get into a marriage only to find out that you will be hindering each others growth. It is healthy to be a little selfish in this area. You better be darn sure that at the end of the day you will be able to work through the hard times. Also, it is a must to be attracted to one another. I mean, sex is a big part of it all.

8. Stop Looking For Perfection
We all have flaws. One day, you will meet someone whose flaws you are willing to accept.

9. Enjoy Being Single
This is the really hard part. The waiting, wishing, hoping and longing. The lonely nights and often mundane days. It is ok to want a spouse to love and be loved by. However, you will never get these single days back. Marriage is fun and amazing but singleness can be, too.

My friend, you are wonderful. Quirks, talents, and interests make you unique. Never change for anyone unwilling to accept you. Consider the tips mentioned so when the time comes, it will be that much sweeter.

Simply live your life to the fullest and one day, you will find another who has been waiting for you, too.

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Planted

Several succulents, cacti, and other beautiful plants were given as gifts on my birthday. I was thrilled with my new little collection because they made my counter so much happier!

Not too long after, the petals wilted, the succulents started to dry up and the cactus even leaned over! I knew nothing about how to take care of them. I mean seriously, who kills a cactus? Poor little guys had no chance.

It wasn’t until someone educated me about the right amount of water, proper soil and perfect exposure to sunlight. Each needed to create the perfect conditions for thriving plants.

Much like these plants, we need the right conditions to grow, too. We go through life trying to survive— my dear you were made for so much more. Learn to thrive! Here are two questions to get you started.

1)How is your soil?

The environment we plant ourselves into does matter. We so often overlook this critical aspect and are confused as to why we aren’t thriving.

Sometimes we find ourselves wilted, dry or overwatered. In the event that any or all of these things happen, we become diseased or even worse, dead. There isn’t much help for a dead plant, except to reseed and replant. Start over. This time, with more knowledge.

You, my friend, have a purpose. Plant yourself and learn what it takes to help you grow to your fullest potential. Maybe it looks like finishing school, getting a certificate, finishing a project, beginning something new, learning to fail or maybe you need to step out of the sunlight for a moment and rest in the cool of the shade. Whatever the perfect conditions are for personal growth, learn and apply them.

2) Who is pruning you?

Pruning is a process in which the “gardener” will trim (a tree, shrub, or bush) by cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, especially to increase fruitfulness and growth. Yet another important aspect of healthy plants I was ignorant to.

We all have areas that need to be trimmed. Maybe we spend too much time on social media or in the mirror, in front of the TV or on your phone? Maybe you complain too much, are lazy or say too many negative things about yourself? All areas that might need pruning.

I ask who is pruning you because we can allow others to prune us too much. We give them the power to cut us down until there is nothing left. Or are we doing it to ourselves? Pruning is intended to help growth and fruitfulness, not to uproot and destroy!

My friend, plants are beautiful and have so much purpose. They breathe in the negative and exhale life. I challenge you to learn more about yourself so you can grow and reach your best! Not only for yourself but so others can enjoy, too!

Happy Planting.

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To my husband on our anniversary

Hundreds of eyes staring at me as I walked down the aisle sounded gut wrenching. So, we opted for something less traditional. At this time, four years ago, we were just getting ready for our “first look.” Our day, our rules.

This was it. As I walked down a beautiful flight of stairs, you waited patiently for me. Little did you know that for the next four years and the rest of our life together you would be waiting for me. To make up my mind, to choose a career, to pick a meal. You wait for me to change my shirt a thousand times because my belly is just “bigger” that day. You wait for me to put gas in the car. You wait for me while I run inside to get my cell phone because I forgot it….again.

You’ve waited for me.

When we met, I was a mess. My soul was wrecked and my heart broken. I felt lost. You made me dig deep and fought for me. You waited while I changed my mind over and over. You waited while I was selfish. You waited while I grew. You never gave up on me.

I saw Jesus in your love. The kind that refuses to let me stay the same. The kind that calls me out when I settle for less. The kind that asks tough questions and challenges everything I know. The kind of love that makes you search.

Your integrity runs deep and your talents are unending. You fight for what is right and even though you seem grumpy, I know you just want the very best. Thank you for working hard and for letting me dream.

I want to search with you for as long as we can. Search for adventure, for answers, and for the purpose. We have a purpose together. You and I, my truest friend.
Happy Anniversary.

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Turning Fear into Fuel

They say, if your dreams don’t scare you, then the dream isn’t big enough. But what if that dream is a nightmare? What if what keeps you up at night aren’t dreams filled with ambition but rather fear, instead?

I couldn’t wake up. The sound of gunshots and ringing in my ears were loud enough to make me numb. Then I saw kids across a shamrock green lawn. My dreams are lucid, so the shooter was wearing an orange t-shirt. My favorite color. The children; black, beautiful, and oblivious. The air was calm and the evening dew left the soles of my feet feeling damp as I ran, rushing kids to safety. Then up high, through a single flight of stairs is where I would take them.

I don’t know the ending. I woke up disoriented, my heart was pounding, and tears were coming from a place inside, so hollow. I felt empty and helpless. Knowing it wasn’t real and yet unable to get outside of my own mind and into reality.

Fear has a way of suffocating the very breath needed to survive. Leaving a mark from its grasp. I fight to unravel these thoughts and repeatedly remind myself that it wasn’t real.

“But, it could happen.”

Then fear, and defeat again. There were people inside that building I ran out of. Were they alive?

There are variables out of our control. People are cold, rotten and will hurt you. There are also infinite variables of possibility. Choose to climb up those stairs. Choose to run past the shots fired and find a way out of your own mental crossfire. Choose to fight for someone else and for yourself. Unless you can go back to fix a mess, then don’t look back.

All of this from a dream? YES. So much like my nightmare, we allow thoughts of fear to cripple us. We will forever walk with a limp if we don’t learn to strengthen our stance.

Maybe instead I was running toward something new, something worth fighting for? Maybe those kids were oblivious to the danger and I had the knowledge to save them from something they never knew was coming? We all have some sort of knowledge. Some sort of safety net to create from our experiences. Real or imagined.

We can either let our fears choke us out or we can use them as fuel to ignite our futures.

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Lover of Donuts

At 12 years old, I had my first endoscopy. It’s this rather exciting procedure in which a tube with a camera goes into your throat, down the esophagus, and into your stomach. Sounds awesome, right? Several years later, I graduated to the colonoscopy in which a different tube (at least I sure hope they don’t use the same one) is inserted well, up the butt.

Though unable to ever find an exact diagnosis as to what was causing my issues, some things found included: ulcers, polyps, a hernia, bacteria, IBS, among other random things. I will spare you the disgusting details but you can imagine what kind of stomach problems could come from such, crap. (no pun intended)

Multiple trips to urgent care, countless medication, and a whole ton of stomach aches later led me to a new diagnosis. At 18, “Rheumatoid Arthritis” was stamped onto my medical records. So, along with my stomach pains, joint pains joined the party. With this, came, inflammation of joints, stiffness and complete exhaustion made for one frustrated, me.

I have lived life this way for as long as I can remember. My medical records are over 300 pages long (not exaggerating). It does suck. I have cried and felt depressed over it.

Why am I telling you this? It isn’t to make you feel sorry for me. It is because there are steps that I could be taking to get better but I don’t. Food is my enemy. Which is kind of ironic because of how much I LOVE it. If you only knew, it seriously makes me so happy.

But that’s just it. I am trading happiness for what I know to be the right thing to do. My few minutes of an amazing meal leads to days of pain, discomfort, and regret. Don’t get me wrong, I am okay. I have my good weeks and bad. It could be worse but, it could be so much better.

Cancer and diabetes run in my family. Which means on top of all of what I already have, I am at serious risk for it to become life threatening. Yet, I constantly and consistently take the risk and hope for the best. We never think it’s going to be us, until, one day it just is. We can all think of someone who has lost their life to something that could have been prevented.

So, I want to ask and challenge you to take care of your body. Part of becoming our best means, we need to be healthy. We have dreams and goals but, how can we ever accomplish them when we are sick all of the time? How can we feel confident when we hate our bodies?

To be clear, being healthy isn’t a certain waistline, thigh gap, or tiny percentage of body fat. It doesn’t look like a size two or mean you have to only eat salads and hate food. In fact, I am learning how to make some fantastic meals. I fail and eat junk food but I am trying and getting better.

I want ice-cream, but I want to be healthy more. I want pizza but I want to live longer. I really really want donuts but I want to raise kids and live to see theirs. I want the same for you and want you to want it, too. I am no expert in this area but here are a couple of people who are and whom I trust you to ask questions. They can and also will help you get into shape. Just tell them, Liz Layne sent ya…

LET’S DO THIS!!!

Amanda Shinn:
https://www.facebook.com/shinn.amanda?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf

Derrick Jenkins:
https://www.facebook.com/derrick.l.jenkins

Back2Back Crossfit:
https://www.facebook.com/Back2backcf/

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For Anyone Feeling Insecure

You think too much, speak too much and eat too much. You are too fat. Too caring. Too tall. Too dark. Too fair skinned. Have too much cellulite, too many pimples, too many gray hairs. Way too many wrinkles, you are too buff, have too many commitments and are way too busy. You are TOO MUCH, and yet, somehow, not quite enough.

Not smart enough, brave enough or good-looking enough. There isn’t enough money in your bank account or enough hair on your head.

Then what are you exactly? Is anything about you good at all? I’d say, absolutely, yes. But why are you focusing so much on the bad and ignoring the GREAT?

You have so much great, my dear.

Why don’t you believe that? Are you comparing yourself to someone else? Do you sit and wonder why you don’t measure up? Do you look at your mistakes and say, “I deserve this because I_________”

You aren’t alone. But just because everyone else does it, doesn’t make it okay. Just because we all have insecurities doesn’t give us an excuse to have them on repeat in our thoughts.

I challenge you to do these things when negativity comes into your mind:

 

1. For every negative thing said or thought about yourself you have to say three positive things about yourself- out loud.

2. Write a list of four physical things you like about yourself. If you are having a hard time, think of things that others have said to be true about you.

3. Make a list of four things about your character you appreciate.

As silly and awkward as this seems, it is important to become aware of thoughts we allow. Eventually, they will drop into our hearts and get stuck there. You are better than this. You were made for more and cannot allow this insecurity to keep you from living life.

I understand that when you walk into a room you size up everyone and don’t measure up. I get that you worry about saying something stupid and risk making a fool out of yourself. So, what. We all do but that’s what makes us who we are. Awkward, strange, embarrassed. At least you’ll be living. You were made to live, not to hide behind insecurity.

Start living.

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Stay Focused & Reach For Greatness

For the past year and a half, I have seen my city through a lens I allowed to collect dust. Surely, those people have done this to themselves. Surely, the shootings, killings, and poverty aren’t meant for me to fix. So I turned my face, pointed fingers and turned off the news.

Then it became my job. I started working with hundreds of kids weekly. These are kids who act out in class, fight, steal, lie, cuss, break things, pull fire alarms, start fires, bite, and the appalling list continues. They are the opposite of model behavior and most teachers want them out of their classroom. To be honest, I can’t blame them. They are a nuisance and cause endless distractions.

However, these are also the same children without mom or dad. Their parents lost to drugs, prison or death. These same children are those with empty refrigerators and a mouth full of cavities. They come to school with marks and bruises from secrets they keep. Expected to learn and desperate for attention; willing to do anything to get it.

Simultaneously, a group of mothers meets in support of one another. Only they don’t make crafts or trade recipes. Instead, they share tears. Each one of these mothers has lost a child to violence. To us, it is just another dead gangster, to these women, it is the soul they carried.

When I first came on staff, I cried every day. My tears stopped. It wasn’t that I no longer cared but I wanted to protect myself from feeling broken. Maybe that is the struggle we all face. Not that we don’t care but care too much? Maybe we see the problem and since we don’t have a solution, end up doing nothing at all. Honestly, it is easier to ignore than to face the facts.

In the heart of the Eastside, there is a little hole in the wall establishment called, Stay Focused Ministries. Within this is a mentoring program called, Reach For Greatness. They each have their own goals but meet up to bring hope.

Common things spoken are “You were never meant to be a drug addict.” “You were never made to be a gang member.” “ You were made for greatness.” “We believe in you.” “Never give up.” “Stay Focused and Reach For Greatness.”

I find it fitting as I sit and feel the breeze of a door closing shut. Not as one being slammed but as I enter into a new place and phase in my life.These words ring loud in my heart as I not only hope this for others but for myself. That I am made for greatness, made for more and feel the need to help others do the same.

I will forever be grateful to this place for showing me that people out there are willing to get their hands dirty. That not all people are selfish and best of all, believe in Jesus so much that they are willing to feel pain and heartbreak so others don’t have to.

I never want to stop feeling pain for others. I hope my heart always breaks and never becomes calloused or numb. The only way I can think to live that out is never to stop looking at people in the eye. Never stop asking for their story and never stop believing that everyone is capable of more.

I challenge you to do the same.

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Learning the Art of Friendship

“Life sucks sometimes.”

That’s all I could say when a friend shared something really difficult she was going through. There isn’t a special guide book leading us to the right answer for the toughest questions.

She felt judged. She felt alone, and most of all, she felt guilty. For the way, she was feeling, for choices made, for the way people looked at and treated her.

I wanted to protect her. Her tears make me sad and mad. Mad at him, mad at them, mad at people who couldn’t care less. I want to cover up her pain and stop her from feeling hurt but I can’t. Because….life just sucks sometimes.

We look for hidden meanings, truths, try to explain and reason with the “why” and “what if’s” but, what if we never find out? There are consequences to actions and reactions to choices.

Here’s the deal. No one knows the truth except for the people going through “it.” Sure, we all judge and let’s be real, we make assumptions BUT leave those thoughts in your own head. Unless you are willing to confront and comfort then it really isn’t any of your business.

Death happens, divorce happens, sickness happens, bad choices happen. Regardless of whose fault it is, it isn’t your job to rub their faces in the mess. As a friend- as a human being- we should be standing with, kneeling by or just doing nothing if that’s where they are at.

My heart is often rude, judgmental, and calloused. I find myself gossiping when I should be listening. Then, listening when I should be defending. Human, yes, but that shouldn’t be an excuse.

I want to be a better friend. I want to be better and much more than the accepted standard. I challenge you to do the same. It can be inconvenient, emotionally and mentally exhausting, and honestly, there isn’t much in it for you. That’s what love is though. Giving of self, sacrificing with one another and standing by someone during their worst.

Maybe we need to re-learn what it means to be a true friend. I know I can use more of them right now. I know that a lot of us can. The kind that accepts my ugly cry and breathless rants. The kind who call me out on my lies and don’t settle when I say, “I’m fine.” Let’s dig deep and plant roots with one another. Let’s be more than acquaintances.

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What the heck is normal anyway?

Being “normal” has never been one of my strong suits. I must have ignored the cues urging me to stop dancing just because or bursting into song in the grocery store. These sorts of theatricals aren’t exactly accepted in adulthood or any hood for that matter.

I wonder if there is an elite committee of professionals who set the standard for what “normal” is? Do they have to earn a special badge or get to wear a robe and use a golden scepter to Knight one’s normalcy?

And yet- we strive so hard to be this;

Normal: conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.

I mean, really? Is this what we want? Adjectives describing something plain and honestly, a little boring.

So, why then, do we want so badly to be identified as, typical?

I have this theory. Maybe we aren’t actually seeking to conform but rather, hope for acceptance? We don’t actually want to be typical but need the validation? What standards are we trying to live up to? I don’t know about you, but I never received a special checklist telling me how to become successful.

The truth is, we want to know that we aren’t alone or the only one who feels irrational, overly emotional and at times a little psycho. We want to know that other people don’t quite have things figured out. That no matter what age we are- parts of the awkwardly gangly middle school kid still packs on the insecurity in our lunches.

We aim to impress, laugh at inappropriate things, think mean and hateful thoughts at times. Our minds wander to the opposite sex far too often and I don’t care how hot a person is- we all have our body issues.

Well, maybe standards need to change?

This word is great for describing bananas, or weather but should never be used to describe-YOU.

Here’s to being accepted. Here’s to making a fool out of yourself sometimes just because you can. Here’s to still playing video games well into your thirties and watching Disney movies at any age. Here’s to being shy and turning red when someone acknowledges your existence and needing alone time because people can be annoying.

YOU are normal because when you think about it- no one really knows what it acually is.

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