Yes, I’m a forty-five year old woman who has a newish addiction to tattoos. I am aware that there is a vast variety of opinions concerning tattoos, ranging from “They are down right sinful” to “They are just ugly” to “As long as they mean something” to “I can’t get enough of them either”.
Being that I am a pretty stubborn, independent person, I love hearing about individual’s tattoo stories, but I really don’t care about what others think about my tattoos. Every one I have received has had a lot of thought and consideration put into them. Therefore, another person’s quick, thoughtless judgment holds no weight in my mind.
Since I have shared my tattoos on social media, I usually get questions as to the meaning of them. (Not that I think all tattoos need to have some deep meaning) So, since I just had some work done on my large back piece, I figured it was the perfect timing to share my
I wanted my first tattoo to be something simple, yet meaningful to me. I also wanted it placed on a part of my body I could hide or reveal as I saw fit. Therefore, I had a bike placed on my right shoulder blade. I knew that I would always have a great love for my bike. Even when I am an old lady, I will be riding some kind of bicycle for the pure love of it. It was the perfect choice for my introduction into this new experience.
As time passed and I started considering my next tattoo, my ideas expanded into something a lot more complicated and thus, bigger. It took me about 6 months to design the idea in my mind. I presented it to our tattoo artist, Joe Bruce (follow here) and he drew it up. Being that it was such a large tattoo, we arranged for the work to be done in two appointments. I made my way into the shop to have this design outlined permanently on to my back.
The image I designed is that of a tree that has the word “FAITH” woven into the roots. From the tree, there were originally 4 birds flying out from it’s branches. The meaning behind the image is pretty simple. I love nature and specifically trees, so using one as the central image was an easy choice for me. The tree represents me. It is what I call my “life tree”. My life is rooted in faith. All that I do is grounded in my faith and love of God. All the life that comes forth from my tree starts with faith. Eventually, I will finish my back with flowers that will stem from the tree. Each flower will represent each one of my living children. 9 flowers, 9 unique, beautiful, creations flowing from my life tree. However, I had had (at that point) 4 miscarriages. I wanted to find a way to pay tribute to those lives that are just as much a part of my husband and I as the loud crazy kids who reside in our home. They may be lost to us now, but not forever. Therefore, the 4 birds I had tattooed on my back that day represent those lives. They came from the life source of my tree but have flown away for a time. They are part of me, but not connected to me anymore.
This is the concept I created and Joe (my tattooer) drew and placed on my back.
The day I went in to begin this piece was just a regular day. I was a bit nervous because I knew the size of the tattoo would wear me out and the placement could cause more pain than my first one. The main emotion I felt was excitement, with a bit of fear.
As the tattoo began, I quickly remembered that I didn’t like the pain I felt. I thought, “Oh, yeah... this sucks.” Yet, it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. My husband was with me. He chatted with Joe casually, which was nice since it helped to distract me. But then... Chris said, “Oh, Linda. He’s now doing one of the birds.” I don’t know why, but those words struck me to the core. The realization that my babies were being connected to me in a permanent, intimate way sliced open a door in my heart that I had not realized was sealed shut. At that moment, the flood gates opened and I wept for the remainder of the hour or so that he outlined my piece. I couldn’t control the tears. The other tattooers kept handing me tissues. I cried and cried. It wasn’t the pain of the needles, it was a cleansing, healing cry. Everyone in that room understood that. There was no judgment or shame passed on to me. They all knew that great healing can come from such an act. My emotions were so opened up that it took a solid hour after the tattoo was finished for me to finally stop crying. I have never felt so renewed in my life.
See, I didn’t realize I needed that kind of healing. I am a pretty tough woman. I have mourned my lost babies, but apparently not well enough. I needed this chance to release the pain and loss I didn’t even realize I held bottled up. Basically, it was a truly holy moment. I touched eternity in the midst of a small tattoo shop.
Since that day, I have lost another baby. So, this last week, right before Mother’s Day, I had another bird added to my life tree. All of my lost children are with me now.
So, you see, tattoos may not be for everyone. But they can be. We live on an earthy earth. We live in a worldly world. The church teaches that grace is built on nature. God doesn't just use super spiritual events to work His grace and healing. He uses the physical, natural, basic events.
I would have never thought that I would have experienced one of the most holy moments in my life in a tattoo shop, but I did.
I would have never thought that ink stained into my skin could be such an instrument of grace, but it is.
I would have never thought that I would be a huge advocate for the healing power of tattoos, but I am.
If you have a tattoo story you would like to share, please do. I would love to hear it. Also, don't forget to check out Joe on Instagram. He's a real pro. And, finally, please share this story so others can see how God uses things as basic as a tattoo.