When I was growing up tattoos were taboo and rebellious. Today, they are widely recognized as a definitive, creative way for people to express themselves and tell their stories. And depending on said tattoo they are also recognized as lame, beautiful, hideous, symbolic, impulsive and/or intriguing. I’ve heard it all. As we well know, everybody has an opinion.
Some tattoos have meaning. Others only symbolize the fact that you were barely coherent when you got yours. You know who you are…
I, for one, love a little marking every now and again. Mine are nothing elaborate or anything to write home about. I’m not trying to be hard or cool or Kat Von D over here. I’m just a wanna-be. Still, some of you hate them and are probably judging me right now. It’s ok. I still love you. Tiny pieces of any respect that my parents have for me gets chipped away with every one I get. It’s fine. We can agree to disagree. Either way, this is a terrible story so don’t leave now.
Here’s how it went down. I was out with friends on my 35th birthday. We lived in Colorado Springs at the time so downtown Denver was the place to be. I had just finished reading a book by Ann Voskamp called ONE THOUSAND GIFTS. My depiction and take-away of this writing can not do it justice so I won’t even try. Just let it be known that I was so moved by this book that I was willing to stamp my body with permanent ink to prove it. I wanted to add a tiny black string around my finger to remind me “in all things, be grateful”. So off we go. And down we go. No, literally. Underground. Downtown Denver. To Frank. Frank was a novelty. – ecsentric. Why I thought this was a good idea, I’ll never know. Frank spoke of many things – mostly shenanigans. And I listened intently as he prepared what could’ve very well been a dirty needle (I’m still not sure). I listened and listened until I could no longer hear the words that were coming out of his mouth. For you see, I could hear nothing over my sudden, intense pain comparable only to the enlightening stage of child birth. The ring of fire (but literally, the “string” of fire). I had no idea I was even pregnant, but this baby was about to come out the tip of my right ring finger. And he was a big one.
“I’m sorry, Frank. Excuse me. Do you have an anesthesiologist on hand, because I’m pretty sure I’m gonna need an epidural for this. It may only be a little ink, but sir, if I didn’t know better I’d say you’re sawing off my digit. Kindly stop lest I die.” I’m not kidding. I thought my time was up at 35 – underground – with Frank. Don’t let me go this way, Lord. It wasn’t worth it and I’m not ready.
One very expensive trip to the ER later and the results were conclusive. Frank cut me nearly to the bone and left me with what looks nothing like a string – more like a Halloween spider that I endearingly named, Charlotte. She’s really a beautiful addition. I think I got that tattoo to remind me of something, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was (something about being grateful, maybe). Because now all I think about when I see it is FRANK. Thanks, Frank. You’re always in my heart. And on my finger (but hey, at least I still have one). And at least I’m not the only one walking around with a bad ink job. Some of you have it way worse than I do. I’ve seen the work. My condolences.
Back to the topic at hand.
I do not claim to be a theologian on the matter of permanent body ink. I just like getting tattoos at random. To each his own.
Many people ask me about the tattoo on my right arm so let me give you a brief what-for. Besides trying to make my parents extremely proud, I wanted to get something symbolic of the valley I had just crawled my way out of. Also, after Frank, I needed redemption.
Here’s the story:
After my divorce I had to learn how to do life again. We – me and my two children – were hurting but strong. And we were headed in this new direction together.
And we were gonna make it, Lord-wiling and the creek don’t rise. I was determined. (So many other stories in here, but let’s move on).
For some reason I loved arrows (they’re all the rage) and as luck would have it, upon my studies of them, I found that they are a symbol of strength and direction.
While one arrow can be easily broken, a bundle is tougher to break. And here we were – this little bundle of weak strength. Being held tight by the arrow-maker Himself.
Figuring it out.
Forging a path.
Walking a new direction.
After lots of Pinteresting and careful consideration of where body marking #4 would actually take place, I gave it a go on Birthday #41.
NO RAGRETS. (Please see google on the inter-webs for further explanation of this spelling).
Three “arrows” headed in the same direction.
This stupid, ridiculous, sweet, symbolic, beautiful (whatever you want to call it) piece of ink tells a part of my story. It forever and always reminds me that we are strong. I remember where I’ve been and where I’m headed. It is a constant reminder of who I am and who I’m raising my people to be. Tenacious. Tough and tender and full of grit. And God is not finished with us yet. Our story is not over.
My team of three. Making it.
Maybe I AM rebelling. Rebelling against all of the nay-sayers and the things that say I can’t do it, that I won’t make it. Rebelling against complacency – against the hurdles, the hard places, the status-quo.
I am finding as I meet new people and hear your stories, that I am not the only one walking that road. Many of us are facing or have faced circumstances we never asked for or never imagined being in – where we have to keep moving. We are all learning that even in the weak places we are still strong.
And we are still moving – together.
I’m grateful to walk the road with you. And I’m also excited to announce that…drumroll please… these three arrows are the newest addition to our I AIN’T DOIN IT merchandise line. In just a few short days you guys will be able to wear your story. I cry…
What do these arrows symbolize for you? Where are YOU headed? What are you standing up for? What corners are you turning? Who are you being strong for? What are you “not doing” anymore? What new way are you taking and what new movement are you pioneering? Whatever it is, may The Lord keep you steady and may you come out on the other side stronger and better for it.
I hope you love this new addition as much as I do. And I hope it will encourage you to be bold and tell others about your journey. Somebody needs to see you being strong and owning it.
I can’t wait to hear your story!
Wear it well, family.