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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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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Several years ago a few of us girls got together to play games, eat a ton of food, and hang out. My friend lived pretty far, about 45 minutes on the outskirts of town. It was such a cute place, and in an area, I had never been to. There were rows and rows of orchards and almond trees that were just starting to bloom.

It was well past midnight when I left. I pulled out of the driveway and confidently made my turn as I drove out of this unfamiliar neighborhood. I started to realize that I had been driving for a long time and still couldn’t make out the main road. Normally, it wouldn’t be a problem except that my phone had died and there were no lights.

Suddenly, the rows seemed longer and the night grew darker. The roads were dirt…literally no pavement. What kind of neighborhood doesn’t have lights?! Oh, yeah, the kind I thought was really cute during the day, with horses and other farm animals.

I could feel myself starting to panic. I pulled over to the side and conveniently every horror movie I had ever watched came to mind. The Hills Have Eyes, The Ring, Texas Chainsaw Massacre… I wish this wasn’t so dramatic but I swear I was in complete freak out mode.

There I was, without a phone, GPS, or any sense of direction. Lost, in the middle of a beautiful and somewhat creepy orchard. The lines and rows of trees all looked the same. I had been here before. Not in this exact place but, lost. I felt like I was going in circles.

Maybe so have you. You feel stuck and like you aren’t getting anywhere in life. Maybe that relationship you hoped for left you feeling rejected, or the job you were promised fell through. Maybe you feel like you should be further ahead in life but can’t seem to find your path?

It genuinely stinks that there isn’t a roadmap or GPS that leads to our purpose. I wish I had answers for you but, instead, I have this story. It’s clear that I made it out alive. I wasn’t chased by a giant, mask-wearing creep and I actually learned a few things from this experience.

1. Find something familiar.
I had to make a U-turn and drive a while but, found something I recognized. On the way to the house, I remembered a fence because it had a cute little rooster on it. So, I followed it. When you find yourself lost, stop going in the wrong direction. Go back a few steps and then move forward.

2. Everyone gets lost.
Some more than others but, no one knows where they are going all of the time. If this were true, GPS wouldn’t have been invented and even then, there is a re-routing setting because we all make wrong turns and sometimes outright ignore the plan because we want to stop for coffee.

3. There are several roads to take.
Most destinations aren’t a straight shot. In fact, there are back roads and side roads, main roads, highways, and even alleys in some cases. The point is, take the path that is right for you. We get so caught up on how someone else reached their destination quicker and end up missing the point. Maybe yours is the scenic route? So stop and enjoy the view.

My friend, don’t allow this “lost” feeling overwhelm you. If there is anything I can say- it is to keep trying. So what if you end up somewhere unplanned? Life is meant to be explored and maybe, just maybe, you’ll actually like where you end up?

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8 Ways My Parent’s Divorce Changed My Perspective On Life

Divorce can wreck a person, especially when you are the child who’s world is falling apart. As an adult, I have since been able to process and learn more about the person I became as a result of a difficult situation.

Life Goes On
I half expected it to stop as a six-year-old but the world did, in fact, keep spinning. I was angry, sad, and hurt but life went on in spite of my new reality. It showed me that the world doesn’t revolve around me.

My Parents are People Too
As a child, you expect your parents to know everything. Anger and resentment grew when I put the expectation of perfection upon them. They shouldn’t this or that because they are my parents. In reality, they are humans too with their very own sets of issues and insecurities. My parents were raised in far tougher situations than I but chose to make a better life for me. The moment I shifted my view, I was able to become closer and more open with each of them.

The Power of Empathy
I vividly remember the day my parents let me know the news. I remember how I felt, what my dad looked like and the smell of shaving cream because he had just got out of the shower. I remember it so well that it puts a pit in my stomach. Even though I don’t dwell on it, I choose to remember because it helps me better understand another’s pain. I am able to put myself in their situation because I know what it feels like to feel confused, let down and crushed.

How to Keep Secrets
People talk crap. I’ll never forget the day I heard someone say something negative about one of my parents. It was highly inappropriate and rude. Regardless of whether it was true or not, it was no one’s business to spread around. I learned the importance of being trustworthy with sensitive information. I would never want to cause anyone hurt the way I felt in that way.

Families are Abstract
The older I get, the more I realize that every family has their issues. Some are more open and dramatized and others choose to suppress the dirt. From this situation, I gained a new step mom and step dad. When many people have no parents, I was blessed with two sets!! I also gained step-siblings and an entire slew of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Family comes in all shapes and sizes, mine just happens to be gigantic now.

No One is Perfect
Divorce is ugly no matter who was at fault. Both sides have their reasons but in the end, neither or both are right. The lines blur when people are hurt. Truth is, no one is perfect.

Put Feelings Aside
I was fortunate. My parents worked together so that I had the opportunity to have relationships with both of my parents. They were always cordial toward each other (at least in front of my brother and me) and were equally respectful toward their new spouses. I learned the importance of putting feelings aside for the better of all involved.

Make Your Own Path
Both of my parents were raised in addicted homes. Although they both struggled with it at one point, they made a decision to walk away from that life and make a new path. Yes, they divorced but they chose to move on and are both living happy lives. I don’t have to make the same mistakes. I am not my parents and don’t have to divorce, in fact, I have learned from their situation. We often get stuck in the mindset that we are victims. Yes, bad things happen but they don’t have to run our lives.

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When Grace Meets Consequence

We preach love and grace but often forget to explain the harsh reality that may come along with the actions of a person’s decisions. Almost giving the false notion that “grace” exempts us from judgment and often harsh consequences. It is a dangerous and in my opinion, false way of viewing the gospel of Jesus.

Throughout His word, He warns us and challenges and sometimes commands morality. Not because He wants a dull life. On the contrary, because He doesn’t want us to have to deal with all that comes with choosing sin. I say choose because yes, it is a choice. I am not ignorant enough to know that sometimes things are out of our control BUT we know when we fail on purpose. He wants a life lived well and lived abundantly. Free from guilt, shame and the self-inflicted weight that sin brings.

There is a fine line. I encourage you to walk it with caution. Never underestimating His grace and his power to forgive. Equally never overlooking the pain that comes simultaneously with the web of lies, deceit, and immorality. The weight of sin is not a joke and not meant to take lightly. Christ suffered and gave His life to cover it. But it is our responsibility to work out our salvation. Not to earn but to appreciate and value the gift that was given.

As a cliché example, having sex outside of marriage is common. Many of my friends are single moms and dads because they chose not to wait. There was no commitment. Just sex. Just sex is never simple. We commit with our bodies, and souls meet. Intimate moments and naked bodies ingrained into our memories. Lust, desires, envy, shame, guilt, pain, jealousy, all brought on from CHOOSING to have sex outside of marriage. Do you want to know how I can say that? Because it happened to me. I will tell you the truth because of how it has affected not only myself but others around me.

Choosing to gossip tarnishes your character, breaking the law ruins reputation, taking drugs or getting drunk may do both as well as possibly taking your life. We say and do things out of emotion and carelessness but lack the mindset that our choice may cause a lasting effect on ourselves or others.

A character is earned and shouldn’t be given automatically just because we say we are forgiven and Christian. It should do just the opposite. We should hold ourselves to a higher standard because of who we represent.

I encourage you today, to ask for forgiveness and to appreciate the weight that was lifted when you chose to become a Christian. I also encourage you, to tell the truth of what sin can do. Don’t settle for allowing the enemy to make light of how truly detrimental one decision can do to change your life forever. It is because of LOVE that this truth has to be said. It is because of LOVE that I never want you to live less than a whole, I love you enough to not want you to remain broken.

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One Well of a Woman

Willing to share it with anyone willing to lie. To lie in her arms, to lie in her bed. Her well runs deep with love. Spilling every bit of herself, quenching the thirst of any man while dehydrating her own.

She avoided confrontation. The looks and stares, she got what she needed to survive in the heat of the day. Away from the other women who would indeed degrade.

But there was one man unwilling to lie. To allow her to lie to herself. A man who saw past the shallow response and committed to diving deep into her soul. Without a bucket, He got to the bottom of that well of lies she so effortlessly spilled. Drenched with shame, her well, remained dry.

He told her everything she ever did. Who is this man?

A man who needed to go to this place just to meet this woman right where she was, in hiding. This man who left His friends and their opinions behind to look into her eyes and tell her that she was worth more. Worth so much in fact that He would soon die for her.

The once harlot branded woman was let in on the secret. A secret she believed and was given permission to share. She went on to confront the men who accepted her lies and she told them the truth. That she was changed, that she was loved. Her newfound boldness dragged out of hiding and into the crowd, making her one well of a woman.

What kind of love is this? The kind that brings life to a thirsty soul. A love unconditional enough to change our condition.

Broken, ashamed, filled with regret, and blocked from a community with others. We hide out just like this woman. We exert more energy than necessary just to stay hidden. Avoiding the confrontation that could set us free.

But Jesus, the one who calls us deeper still and who meets us where we are. Who wants us to dig into our own well of lies. The ones we so easily shrug off as unimportant to mention. The decision is yours to make, to dig deep or to stay in hiding.

Want to dig deeper? Here are a few challenges to help get you started: 

Read  John 4 and take a few notes of what sticks out to you. 

What do your five husbands represent?

Make a list and write it out. If you are having a difficult time, ask Jesus to show you. This is a list to be shared between only you and Him. A list of things that you avoid and hide or that may be keeping you from having a community with others.    

Admit that you have been messing up

It may be keeping you from living a full life. Admit that you may have been wrong so you can do something about it.

Ask for forgiveness.

There is no right or wrong way to do this. Just be open and honest with Jesus as you talk to Him.

Accept His love

Part of truly knowing Jesus is knowing that He loves YOU. That He loves you so much that He won’t allow you to stay the same. He wants you to let go of the compromise and to accept a life full of freedom. Oh, and please know that just like this woman, Jesus died for you, too. There is no sin too great or too big for Him.

Step into community

Realize that NO one is perfect. The more open and honest you are with yourself and others the deeper friendships can go.

It will not be easy

Actually, it can prove to be really embarrassing and honestly hurts. No one likes to admit that they aren’t perfect. I promise you will be okay and you can get through this.

Repeat. There is always more that Jesus wants to bring out. It’s not fun but it is necessary if you want to know Him more and to live your life to the fullest. Never stop digging deep.

P.S. I love you and will be praying for YOU as you challenge yourself.

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