the meaning behind my tattoo{s}

dan & i were newly dating (maybe we were actually engaged by this point) and we were all waiting for our table at a local mexican spot. lil ( dan’s mom) had just read an article about this “rising trend” of christian women getting tattoos. it was 1999. and she wasn’t buying it. why would any woman get a tattoo & do that to their body? 

well i didn’t want to make her feel embarrassed & tell her that…well…her son was about to marry one of those women. it was too funny. i called her when we got home & shared that i did indeed have one & the reason behind it. i think she cried. bless her heart.

it was 1996 & gregg had passed away after a 9 month battle with melanoma. i felt i should probably stop wearing my wedding band. but for me, there was some guilt associated with taking it off. it was another statement of our new life & the strangeness that only a widow (or widower) can truly understand. “our” being the girls and me-they ranged from three months to almost four at that point. so i gave his best friend a call and told him i wanted to get a tattoo in honor of gregg & did he think gregg would approve. you bet. so my brother & i headed down to Sacred Heart tattoo in a shady section of town- where the best tattoo parlors usually are. gregg had spent some summers with his missionary relatives in hawaii. we took our last trip as a married couple to hawaii while he was on a break from his chemo. i chose to have two small dolphins tattooed on my ankle.

fast forward 18 years.

dan’s diagnosed with colon cancer. ( back story here)

after his surgery & we had gotten the “all clear” i told the crew, hey you guys i think we should get a family tattoo, sorta like a sign of solidarity. well. the responses were classic. ( i won’t name names) we are not getting matching family tattoos. caroline’s too young anyways. yes!-so does that mean i can get a nose piercing too. i’m all in mom. and a smirk. the smirk was dan. i tell dan his responses remind me of jesus. you know how often times jesus answers a question with a question? yeah dan does that. so anyways, the crew was not all in. but that’s totally okay.  i knew i really wanted a visible reminder to me of how the lord has brought me through so much & no matter what may lay ahead, that my testimony always be His story.

no matter the season, no matter the joy, no matter the challenge or trial, no matter the success. no matter the days where i feel His face shining upon me or whether i can’t feel Him at all…i pray my heart, my words, the song in my heart, the first place i run for shelter or the first place i go for thanksgiving, let it be jesus. there is power in his name. the sick are healed, chains are broken, shame is released, condemnation can not thrive, the enemy has to leave…all because of his name.

i’ve talked mentioned before that madison has fought her own battles. i think one of the strongest declarations is that it is well…again…no matter the raging sea, no matter the days of plenty, no matter the loneliness or the moments of sheer joy. no matter the heart ache & road ahead, it is well with her soul. i pray that for her it is always well with her soul because of jesus!

so a couple weeks ago, madison & i headed back down to Sacred Heart tattoo. the ‘shady part of town’ doesn’t seem so shady anymore as we head down there often. i don’t wanna over spiritualize the everyday but it was a full circle moment to walk back in after all these years. i couldn’t help but smile & thank jesus that yes, he’s been with me all along. and those little girlies who i needed to get a baby sitter for when i got my first tattoo? well now one of them was back with me.

we both wanted savannah ( who has developed the most beautiful art of hand lettering ) to write out our tattoos. they scanned them & adjusted the size we each preferred. & we began. i went first because duh. yes it hurts. of course it hurts! as i was finished madison remarked something along the lines of, gosh mom you were so calm. the artist ( who clearly had my back) replied, she didn’t even flinch!

speaking of the artist, she had such a great response regarding my first tattoo. i told her i had it done there almost twenty years earlier. she told me she was always fascinated by dolphin tattoos and that she could always judge the legitimacy of a tattoo parlor by how well they did dolphins. or something like that. so cute.

madison braved hers next & we were finished in time to pick caroline up from school. that’s right. pizza lunch date, tattoo application & carpool all in one day! haha!

in all seriousness, while my goal isn’t to be some edgy inked up middle aged woman, the desire of my heart is that my words & my actions point to jesus…and that my girls walk with him as well.


October 14, 2015 - 9:53 am

Alecia - What a beautiful post! So fun to share such a milestone with one of your girls. I too have a tattoo & a lot of thought went into why I got it & where. It also had to be something I’d never be ashamed of in 30 or 40 years…I got the icthus (Christian fish) b/c In 30 or 40 years I’ll NEVER be ashamed of Jesus!!! I love the script, love that it’s Savannah’s and that your tattoos are so FULL of meaning!

Thanks for sharing this sweet moment with us.

October 14, 2015 - 9:56 am

Christy Gray - I truly love the bond you share with your girls, I love that your faith is your glue that bonds you all together. You are an amazing inspiration, and I am so grateful, for your post. We all have a journey and it refreshing to peak into your grounded views! Much love on this beautiful October day!

October 14, 2015 - 10:09 am

Jeanne - Paige, although tatoos are not my thing, I don’t begrudge others from expressing themselves in that way. But anyone who has ever read your blog over the years knows that you and your family are devout Christians and your heart and soul is always with the Lord. I love your unwavering devotion to Christianity.

October 14, 2015 - 10:20 am

Yolanda McLean - Sweet post! Thanks for sharing.

October 14, 2015 - 11:52 am

sheri - You rock sweet friend!

October 14, 2015 - 12:48 pm

chrissi - there are just so many ♥s here.

October 14, 2015 - 3:45 pm

Marcy Norman Cox - Truly inspirational words displayed in absolutely beautiful lettering … ❤️ Meaningful tattoos and that it was a momma/daughter event…

October 14, 2015 - 10:15 pm

Ginger - This story is a beautiful reminder: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”~ John Piper. Thank you for sharing your heart. It blesses people.

October 15, 2015 - 1:38 pm

Carolyn - Awesome! I love, love, love this. I’m going to Sacred Heart soon to have my “college mistake” redone. I’m thinking a birds nest with two eggs as symbols of my two sons.

October 15, 2015 - 4:28 pm

patty - love her writing, love the words, love the placement.

October 16, 2015 - 8:15 am

Jennifer - I love the tattoos and love the meaning behind them even more! I want one, but I’m a chicken and also can’t decide on the perfect one for me. We adopted our daughters after a long struggle with infertility. God was faithful and His plan was PERFECT. I want it to express all of that. So I continue to think and search Pinterest. Ha!

October 16, 2015 - 9:16 am

Jo - My husband passed away 4.5 years ago. The last gift he gave me was on Valentine’s day, 12 days before he died. I had a tattoo done on my forearm (which, yes, hurts like mad!!!) of his signature. Under it I had 37 in his handwriting, which were his lucky numbers! Later I added a beautiful dragon fly to my shoulder because during his illness they had special meaning to us. Then, last year I added above his name a red heart with a black infinity symbol woven through it, which means I will love you forever. I love my tattoos, and I love that they are sweet reminders of a most wonderful man.

October 19, 2015 - 5:52 pm

bethanie - I relate! I remember many times saying, “I can’t think of ANYTHING I would want on my body permanently…” Then my brother was killed… I knew I had found something that I would want forever. I found a card from him… so on my left wrist, because he was left handed, I had his signature tattoo’d. I had it done in white, so it looks like a scar, Im really the only one who can see it, but I look down and see “Love, Brett” and some days it just brings tears to my eyes. Some days I just think about him and smile, I always think about him and miss him so much…

My girls each have a couple. One that they went and got together was the “&” symbol. My youngest was leaving for Germany to au pair for a family, they said, “mama, we want the & because we will always be McKenna AND Maitlan”… now how could I say no to that?!

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