Sunday, July 29, 2012

Couldn't Be Aunt Sarah

Some of you may want to sit down for this one....

About six weeks ago a thought occurred to me that I never would have expected. Out of the blue, I decided I wanted a tattoo. I don't mean that I wanted a cool tattoo to make myself feel young and hip and a little dangerous. I mean I wanted a particular tattoo, not as a decoration, but as a declaration.

This was no small decision for me; I have to admit that in the past I'd been guilty of judging people with tattoos, especially women. I thought it was a little on the trashy side, to be honest. So I prayed about it for a few weeks before I mentioned it to anyone. Most of all, I wanted to honor God with my body, his temple. I didn't find anything in the Bible to discourage me; in fact, while I was praying about the decision I ran across a scripture in Isaiah about the Israelites writing on their hands, "The Lord's,"--a label remarkably similar to what I had in mind. How did they write it on their hands, I wondered. Could they have used tattoos?

After a few weeks, I felt confident in my decision, and I began to make preparations. I asked my ex-husband where he and his wife had gotten their tattoos, and then I called my sister, a gifted artist whose usual medium is cakes.

"Emily, I need a favor."

"Sure, what?"

"Brace yourself.... I want you to draw me a tattoo."

"What??"

"A tattoo."
"For you?"

"Yes."

"Are you sure about this?"

After I assured her that I'd thought this through and prayed about it, she said she'd be happy to do the drawing. I told her I wanted a cross--rugged, not ornate--with a banner draped over that said "His."

She said she'd get it ready as soon as possible, and she also agreed to keep this to herself.

Her 15-year-old daughter Hillary saw her drawing and asked what she was making. "It's a tattoo design," she said.

"Who's it for?"

"I can't tell you."

When Hillary saw the design, she immediately thought of me. "That reminds me of Aunt Sarah. But it couldn't be Aunt Sarah. She would NEVER get a tattoo."

Emily just smiled.

So when Hillary saw me slink out of their house a few days later carrying the tattoo in its photo envelope, she was utterly shocked. And so was the rest of my family when they saw it yesterday, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

This past Thursday I showed up at the tattoo parlor with a canteen of water, Emily's drawing, and my husband, for moral support. Once the artist, Jamie, had set everything up, he invited me to climb up on the table. "You do know this is going to hurt, right?" he asked.

I smiled grimly. "Yes, I know."

"This your first one?"

"Yes."

"It won't be so bad. Imagine getting a bad sunburn and then having someone draw on it with a ballpoint pen."

That's not so bad, I thought.

Bill interjected, "No, it's more like a cat scratch."

"On a sunburn?"

He nodded. I decided I liked Jamie's analogy better.

I took a deep breath and squared my shoulders. "Well, I've been through natural childbirth with absolutely no drugs," I said, both to impress him and to reassure myself. "It can't be much worse than that."

"You'll be fine, then," Jamie said. "This should be a piece of cake."

He started by applying a template to my foot, the site I'd chosen because it will give me the option to cover it up if I want to.



As we waited for it to dry, I sat trembling on the table.
Trying to Be Brave
He turned on the tattoo needle (gun?). "You're going to remember that buzzing," Bill said.

"Yep," Jamie said. "I dream about it at night."

It reminded me of buzzing bees, and it felt a lot like a bee sting--a bee sting that lasted 40 minutes! I think it hurt worse than I expected, but I took it like a woman. I didn't cry, or whine. I just gritted my teeth and clutched Bill's hand. Sometimes I almost got used to it, but then he would go over a bone and I would drawn in my breath and clench my teeth. Apparently the top of the foot is one of the most painful places to get a tattoo, definitely not recommended for your first. But as this is my only, I couldn't save it for the second.
About 5 Minutes In, No Turning Back Now

Here's a mystery. Even though the pain was relentless, a combination of generalized stinging plus sharp sticks moving randomly over my foot, the time went by fairly quickly. We made small talk and listened to stories from Jamie's 20 years of tattooing. Another mystery was that I could never tell where he was tattooing unless I looked, which I tried not to do. He'd be down near my toes, but I'd swear he was up at the top. Bizarre.

Anyway, I made it through. I had no choice once he got started; no way I was going home with a quarter of a tattoo.

He did a phenomenal job, exactly like Emily's pencil drawing but in beautiful color. "Sweet!" Bill said as he took a picture.


I chose purple for royalty (because I'm a daughter of the King, of course!).


Here it is the next morning, after my foot had swollen considerably.


Now, on day four, the swelling is mostly down and my foot is only a bit tender. So far I have no regrets. Someday when I am old and wrinkled, and I'm embarrassed to have a three-inch cross on my foot, I figure I'll put on my orthopedic shoes and no one will be the wiser. In the meantime, I will savor this reminder that I am HIS, every day of my life.

Shocked?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My New Look

On Saturday I did something I've half wanted to do for years, but was afraid. I got all my hair cut off! I love it, I think, though I'm still getting used to it. Here's how it looked when I came home from the salon:


I was really nervous about fixing it myself, but it's easy. All I have to do is run my fingers through it, and it takes less than five minutes to blow dry. Nice!

Good thing it's easy, because there will be no more waking up and just running a brush through my hair. I've got some major bed-head going on each day!

Can you believe I posted that picture? Me either. Enjoy.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Treasures of Darkness

Over the last few weeks, I have struggled daily to submit to God's will for my life, to press close to him with every disappointment. I've cried bitterly, raged at the injustice, feared for my sanity. But through it all, I've turned to Jesus. Every morning I've woken at first light and headed down to the back porch to spend time with God. And He's been so faithful to meet with me there, and in my prayer closet, and in my bed at night--and everywhere else that I have cried out to Him.

What I've wanted most is a steadfast heart. I get so frustrated when I'm buffeted back and forth by every circumstance, and the hard-won peace is ripped away yet again. A week or so ago, God led me to this verse in Isaiah:


This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it." (Isaiah 30:15)


When I found the verse, I immediately added it to the sticky note collection on my bathroom mirror. Every day I look at it and ask God to make that rest, quietness, and trust a reality in my heart.

This week, I've felt that rest. I've reveled in the quietness and trust and rejoiced that God has been teaching me through my struggles. I've relaxed. I've told him each morning that I would gladly receive whatever comes from His hand.

And then came yesterday, when I was knocked flat on my face by something totally unrelated to the struggles I've been facing. I was confused, heartsick, broken yet again, and without hope. I spent most of the day whining. "Why now, God? Can't I just get one break? It's too much. It's not fair."

I still felt the same way at bedtime. I wept on the floor of my closet, but I couldn't really pray because I couldn't even put into words exactly why I was crying, or why irrational anger surged through me.

But oh, this morning! I crept down to the porch around 7 and wrote it all out in my journal. I asked God to forgive me for my self pity, asked Him to give me that quietness and trust I need so desperately. I sat and watched a tiny bird enjoying our overgrown garden. I listened to birds' chirps, to the wind, and to Lola's grunts as she chased the birds around the yard. I felt the gentle warmth of the rising sun. I looked at the photinia hedge that is slowly turning green again after being ravaged by some disease.

And my heart was still. I saw myself as a sheep nestled against my Shepherd's side.

At last I turned to Isaiah and asked the Holy Spirit to teach me. I almost missed the message at first, had to do a double take and read it again:


I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. (Isaiah 45:3)


Tears of joy washed away the tears of pain that I'd shed just minutes before. Oh, oh, oh! The treasure of darkness! Would I ever have discovered the secret riches of God's love and peace if I'd never walked in the darkness? Would I have known my desperate need for Him if my life was always cozy and comfortable and safe?

"Thank you for the darkness," I breathed. "Thank you for allowing me to find you here. Lord, I submit to you. Not my will, but yours. Keep working on me, conforming me to your image."

Now, nothing has changed in my situation, but my heart overflows with thankfulness. And I believe that hope is coming. I believe I'm going to "overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13).

So be it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Never-Ending Birthday

It's been nearly a month now since Allyson's sixth birthday, and I've been meaning to post some pictures. I'm not so remiss, though, because she just had her last celebration this past Friday (her third).

On her actual birthday, Bill's parents drove in from Canada--one stop on a road trip that would take them all over the continent. We were so tickled that they made it in time for the big day because it was hard to predict exactly when they would arrive.

That evening we had Allyson's favorite yellow rice and chicken and an ice cream cake that turned out not to have any ice cream in it.


Two days later, on a Saturday, we had a swimming party with her cousins, aunts, uncles, and both sets of grandparents. We had lasagna and a beautiful cake made to order by Aunt Emily.
An Artist Cake, Allyson's Request (My Dad in Background)

On the following Monday, Nana and Grandpa took Allyson on a shopping trip. She came home with a bike helmet, hats, flip-flops, a Happy Napper stuffed animal/pillow, and a hula hoop that lights up. (By the way, I'm pretty sure that hula hoop is broken, but it seems to work just fine for Allyson. Okay, so the lights work, but it just won't spin on my hips. Weird.)

For her last celebration, she wanted to take three friends to the movies and have a little party at home. So this past Friday we took Cadyn, Paige, and Olivia to see Madagascar 3, which was hilarious and actually held a spiritual meaning for me: Don't be satisfied with your comfy, safe old life (the zoo), when God has something new and scary and exciting out there for you (the circus).

After the movie Bill bought the girls McDonald's Happy Meals that they didn't eat and served cupcakes he and Allyson had made the night before.

The highlight of the party was getting glitter "tattoos" from Allyson's Shimmer Body Art kit, one of her favorite gifts. Daddy expertly applied a peace sign, a unicorn, hearts, and a dragon.

For once, something off an infomercial actually lived up to all of its claims. Easy and cute!
Allyson's Dragon
The next day I asked Bill to put one on my shoulder. It turned out great.


All in all, I think Allyson had a very special birthday season.
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