Love can taste a lot like judgement.

I feel like church is a giant petri dish where differences fester and grow for scrutinization. Some facilitate this growth for intellectual pursuits believing something can be learned from different perspectives. Others facilitate this growth to search for a remedy seeking to eradicate this disease of different thinking before it spreads.

On the whole, I think most people just overlook my differences. They say things I am questioning aren’t salvation issues and toss them aside as matters of opinion. However, there are members of the body, of the Church, whose interpretations and upbringing don’t allow them to share that philosophy. They see me making allowances that they interpret as slippery slopes leading to moral compromise. Because they love the church and me so fervently, they fervently strive to prevent this perceived slip. They grasp at and cling to me trying to steady my feet and prevent my fall. These would be rescuers are in a massive tug of war with the forces of evil. My vacillating soul is the rope.

This is an act of love. Wholly and truly.

The problem is: I am not really vacillating. I disagree. I am different. But I fervently love the church, too. I fervently want a safe place to intellectually discuss what I am thinking and questioning. I want legitimate answers about doctrine and honest admission of what isn’t known. I want room to breathe in the Spirit and freedom to go where I feel led and space to explore ideas.

I am not being contrary just for the sake of being contrary. I am not trying to cause division.

Predominately, my questions are answered with a contemptuous brush off. While frustrating, that is the best of the worst. But there are times when well meaning people look through their dogmatic colored lenses and see my protective levee crumbling under a flood of false teachings or shaky beliefs. They fling scripture like sandbags in a desperate attempt to stop a breach. Again, it is good loving intent.

But I don’t see their intent. I see their action. Then I make my own assumptions about their scheme because I wear my very own pair of dogmatic colored lenses.

I view their attempt at sandbagging as an effort to bury my questions. I recognize their clinging and flailing as suffocating and choking. I mistake their ardent pleas to get me to see their point of view for judgement.

Do you see the cycle I create? In my stubbornness and pride, I drive the wedge even deeper.

Why does everyone taste discord and division when I present them with an alternative interpretation? Could taste buds be distorted by perceptions or interpretations? Is that the same reason I taste judgement in their acts of love?

Of course, there are always people who are judgmental. I am one of them. But mostly, church is full of people who are just trying to do what they believe is best. We all have different ideas based on nuances in our interpretations of God’s word. If we spend all of our time trying to convince people that we are right, we are doing it wrong (on both sides).

If I expect the grace to question things or disagree, should I not extend grace to cover the ones threatened by my disagreement?

I want people to believe the best in me, so why not believe the best in people and trust that in their earnest attempt to love me, they said something to keep me safe and away from what they perceived to be harm? Because that is what love does.

Hiding is the opposite of courage.

Originally posted at Hello, Darling. (Thanks!)

I was ranting again. I can’t even say about what, because it was so slight and unmemorable. However, I can positively say I was rabid with indignation. In the middle of my verbal tirade, my friend paused and said, “You really hold some vicious grudges.”

I was completely taken aback. Long after the conversation ended, those words echoed in my mind.  I began to think about all the people who are no longer a part of my life. The ones I have sworn off, or closed doors of friendship in their faces. The ones I burnt the bridges between us so they could never reach me again. The number of discarded people I hoped I would never see again dumbfounded me.

Why are countless names scratched off my heart? Why are things always definitively over? Why is there never room for reconciliation and redemption? The answer kept floating around me in two bitter words: vicious grudges. Those words were a battering ram, slamming against my hard heart. As it weakened, I realized my friend had nailed it. I do hold vicious grudges. No, I don’t just hold them. I cling to them for dear life, because I feel like that is what is at stake – my life.

From the most insignificant slight, to the brutal life changing lacerations, I turn each and every one into a brick, which comprise the walls of my fortress. I tuck my heart away in there, and not really so it can’t be broken again, but so you can’t break it in the first place. I hide myself away.

Hiding is the opposite of bravery. Withholding is the opposite of authenticity.

Courage is required to let people in. Courage is required to let things go. Courage is required to put yourself out there and trust someone will cherish you even if only for a moment. Human nature dictates we will always have disappointments; however, instead of holding on to my grudges (or making new ones), I have to firmly trust and believe it isn’t because of bad people that hate me and don’t want to be my friend. It is simply because they are human, just like me.

Disappointment and let down is going to happen, but I don’t have to hide myself away because of it. Instead of cowardly turning my upsets into barriers, I want the courage to authentically express my hurt, so hearts can be mended and relationships can be restored.

I want to be brave.


Tanya, not Polly

Image from The Graphics Fairy

From conception, my life has been rooted in defiance, as if I was created from equal measure of contradiction and spite. Instead of head down, I was breech. Instead of a boy, I was a girl. Instead of being too small, I was very large. Instead of an amiable Paulina Francis, my mom brought home a ornery Tanya Sue, and that was all within 72 hours of my first breath.

Mom was pregnant with twins, actually, which left her miserable and physically sick, requiring multiple doctor visits each week to check her nutrition and our growth. Although a few weeks early, labor provided blessed hope and impending relief.  Yet, in spite of her body’s insistence that the time had come, the professionals insisted we were too small and it was too dangerous to bring us into the world. Her labor was cruelly stopped.

After that, my mother eagerly counted down the days until we were due, watching the anticipated date come and go with consternation. Two weeks after our due date, my mom was still remarkably feeble with no telltale signs of labor to give comfort. My Uncle Jesse, tired of his big sister’s lamenting, decided it was time. Legend has it, he chauffeured my mother through a dusty Arkansas pasture in his aging and ailing pick up. That bumpy ride was all it took.

Except it wasn’t because one of us had to be difficult. My sister was fully cooperative and ready to go. I was the once causing complications. Not only was I breech, but they also could not find my heart beat. When it was finally found, it was beating exceedingly fast; therefore, it was determined with much certainty that I would be a boy.

A c-section was performed. Much to everyone’s surprise, mom gave birth to two baby girls. Both weighed over seven pounds; actually, we were both closer to eight.

It is safest to say that Mom and Dad were on the outs by the time we were born; however, they were civil enough to work out naming arrangement in advance.  Since there were two of us, mom would name the girl, and dad would name the boy. If we were both the same, mom would name the first-born, and Dad would get the leftover. The twin formally known as “A” was immediately christened Cynthia Kay. To me, it is angelic. It resonates like Christmas hymns played on wine glasses in a gothic cathedral for the sweet Baby Jesus himself. It is delicate and eloquent. The opposite of me.

The task of naming me fell to my father. He is a man who believes in the importance of a name, and he regards the task with unparalleled fervor. It was an act that would forge an irrevocable bond between us, unaffected by his absence and nonchalance.

After days of rumination and deliberation, he dubbed me Tanya.


Tan: like the skin cancer precursor. Ya: slang for you (and if you are completely redneck, like: Girl, I’ma gunner tan ya hide if’n ya don’t stop ya racket!). I was named after Tanya Tucker, the nicest looking (not the term my father used) woman (also not the term my father used) alive when I was born.

My middle name was provided courtesy of the best coon dog this side of the Mississippi. You read that right. I was named after a dog. (It’s okay because it’s my middle name…) There wasn’t a raccoon alive this notorious canine couldn’t sniff out and tree. My Dad felt obligated to bestow special honor upon his prestigious pet.

The best way to memorialize a hound is to name your second born child after it, apparently…

Put them together and you get me, Tanya Sue. As a name, it is bulky and cumbersome; something to be said in the fashion of Auntie Em, screaming for Dorothy from the porch while the twister decimated the adjacent countryside.

Years (YEARS) later, it occurred to me to ask what my mom would have named me, had the choice been hers. “Just an old family name…” she replied. When I pressed harder, she relented:  Paulina (paul-aye-na) Francis. I was going to be a Polly.*

Tanya suddenly didn’t seem so bad.

*No offense to the Pollys out there.

I Need People

my struggle ||


I can’t even say the word. It doesn’t eloquently glide through my mouth like more pleasant words. Instead, its jagged edges score my throat and obstruct the otherwise smooth mechanics of speech. It’s rancid taste makes me gag.

Saying vulnerability is my biggest fear isn’t adequate. The thought of being vulnerable cripples me. It hinders my actions and renders me speechless.

I cannot be weak. I cannot be exposed. I cannot be assailable.

I need to be guarded. I need to be secure. I need to be closed.

There are people who can have anyone pop in at anytime because they keep their house immaculate. There is nothing to hide. They are so hospitable they will have a full spread of hors d’oeuvres whipped up in less than five minutes accompanied by the finest wine.

That isn’t me. Don’t pop in. You can knock. I will answer, but I will talk to you on the porch. If you have been around a time or two I may let you in the door, but I won’t ask you to sit. I won’t pour you a drink or make you a sandwich or chat about the weather.

See, I have to keep you at a safe distance so you can’t see my mess.

My house isn’t clean. I am cluttered with garbage from long ago. I stock pile insecurities. I collect shortcomings.

I question the ability of my merits to outweight my failures.

I hate being vulnerable.

I hate being hurt.

I hate being abandoned.

I hate being unworthy.

People can’t leave some place they have never been. People can’t abandon something that never belonged to them.

For years I have built my life upon that lonely doctrine. Stay guarded. Don’t let anyone in. If you do, leave them before they can leave you.

I was wrong.

When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:1-5 (NLT)

A great and remarkably wise friend said that you need at least four people in your life – one to carry each corner of your mat up to a rooftop and lower you through a hole they dug in the ceiling when you are paralyzed and cannot get to Jesus. Notice the wording in verse 5 “seeing their faith”. Jesus forgave this man of his sins, and ultimately healed him, because of the faith of his friends.

Each time I read this passage, I am struck by the vulnerability presented by this man’s paralysis. He was helpless; always at the mercy of another. His fault was glaringly obvious. The man could not walk. He could not fend for himself. Four charitable friends carried his mat to the place Jesus was. When they could not get in, they carried him onto the roof. They dug a hole through it and lowered him down with no guarantee aside from faith that their efforts would pay off.

When life renders you paralyzed, do you have four people to pick up the corners of your mat and carry you to Jesus? Because I didn’t. How could I when I was tenaciously resolved to keep people away?

How would anyone know when you are sick if you forever distance yourself and refuse genuine friendship?

I have learned that you can neither carry a mat, nor rely on someone to carry yours if you do not open yourself up to genuine relationships. You have to seek people out, and the kind of people you want carrying your mat don’t invest in the unknown.

My One Word :: STEADFAST

One Word 365 :: Steadfast ||

If January is a month of beginnings, then December is a month of reflection. I have wandered in retrospect through the past year trying to piece together happenstance into something tangible. I have sought patterns in both my shortcomings and successes to find what I can learn and where I can improve. Truth be told, I feel like there is more to improve than celebrate.

We were so mortally wounded in 2013 that we entered 2014 bleeding and infected. Our bodies were embedded with shrapnel. Our minds were preoccupied by loss. Our souls were battle weary.

We clung to the promised new beginning that comes every January. However, January soon became February then March. Spring turned to Summer and Autumn quickly followed. Then, 2014 was fading into 2015, and I realized I had been dormant the entire year.

I would like to say that I spent the year in recovery, but that makes it sound productive. To be fair, we made huge decisions in 2014 that I believe will reap everlasting rewards; however, if we balanced the entire year, then the scale would prove it was largely stagnant.

I checked out. I wavered. I was weak and yielding. I was vulnerable and skittish. My goal each and every day was to not get hurt. Freedom from pain was the motivation behind my actions. I retreated into my walls in the name of recovery and sat there licking my wounds because that seemed safe. I simply refused to put myself in harm’s way.

But I was still scarred, even there. I cannot escape life any more than I can hide from it. Instead, I have to learn how to endure.

I began praying and seeking an answer, the solution to my soul’s unrest. It came in a simple word: steadfast.

It summarizes what I have lacked. I want to be ardent. I want to be dedicated. I want to be constant, dependable, and true. I want to be unyielding, wholehearted, and faithful.

I want to love steadfastly. I want to serve steadfastly. I want to live steadfastly. I want to endure steadfastly.

 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

If I am retreating into my hiding place, then I am not being immovable. If I am dormant, then I am not abounding in the work of the Lord. If I am cowering in fear of what may come, then I am not being steadfast.

However, if my labor is not in vain, then maybe that means my scars, and wounds, and tears are not in vain.


Instead of opting for a throw away resolution that goes by the wayside at the slightest indication of adversity, I have chosen to spend the entire year focusing on that word. I want it to become more than a mantra. I want it to be a way of life.

Do you have a word for 2015?

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