I got a tattoo last week.
If you still don’t believe me, here it is:
If you think that this could be anyone, here is Jeremy tattoing the above on my arm…
And, here is me admiring the finished product…
Seriously, I got a tattoo!
And, this is the part where you ask me why on earth you got a tattoo, at 35 and don’t you know that this will be on your body for the rest of your life and don’t you know that it hurts and don’t you know that maybe no one will ever hire/like/appreciate/respect you if you have a tattoo?
To which I reply, yes. I do know all that and all of those reasons are exactly why I got one. Well, maybe not the part about no one ever liking me again, but that’s because that’s silly.
I got this because I’ve wanted it for five years and because I have a story to tell.
My story thankfully doesn’t start out with, “One night I got really smashed…” and end with me drunk texting my parents pictures of my new tattoo.
My story begins and ends with God’s faithfulness to me and to my family, past, present, and future.
I have had to do a bit of research on exactly when the sun, moon, and stars came to represent God’s faithfulness to my family. It turns out that my rather amazing mother sang Great Is Thy Faithfulness the week before she left home for college. The third verse is where we get the idea of the sun, moon, and stars when it says, “Summer and winter, springtime and harvest, sun, moon, and stars in their courses above, join with all nature in manifold witness to Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.” You can read the whole hymn here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Is_Thy_Faithfulness.
Mama went college, met Daddy, had my sister and me, and they raised us on many songs of worship, although Great Is Thy Faithfulness continued to show up regularly at funerals, our weddings, and pretty much every “favorites night” at church. My mom hummed a lot when she worked around the house, and this hymn is the one that I remember her singing most often. Before I was old en0ugh to read, Mama and Daddy taught us Psalm 19, which talks about how the heavens literally proclaim the glory of God, tell of His work in us, and ends with the beautiful prayer that God’s word would be a continual part of our life only increased our love of God, belief in His faithfulness to us and the sun, moon, and stars worked their way ever further into the heart of our family.
I sometimes hesitate to tell my own story when I talk about God’s faithfulness because, honestly, it sounds so messed up that it often distracts people from God. I get lots of “wows” that quickly deteriate to”what?” and “seriously, how did you survive that?” and somehow we start talking about how strong I am (which is crap) instead of how amazing God is (which is true!).
But, since you need to understand that I didn’t get a papercut and bawl my way to the tattoo parlor since God was soooo faithful in the midst of that awful pain…here’s the Reader’s Digest version of my life.
Things were as seriously cool as a girl’s life can be when her daddy is a pastor (and he pretty much was amazing!) when her parents don’t “do” ministry, but live godly lives. Right up until Mama got cancer when I was 12. We got through that one well and I grew up, went to college, at which point my health, namely my uterus, started to do funny things. I spent about four years in various states of pain and iron deficiency, managing to get a flute performance degree, fall in love, and get married.
After a year and a half of marriage, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Which pretty much stunk. So, at 25, I had one of my breasts removed, my hair fell out, and I got seriously sick. Over the next four years, I had 5 more surgeries, which included the removal of my other breast and lots of painful reconstructions.
It was sometime around then that we all started giving each other sun, moon, and stars as hallmarks of God’s faithfulness. This brick can be seen at St. Peter’s hospital in honor of the journey through cancer that God brought Mama and I through.
Not too long after this brick was layed, I found out I had weird-o mass on my ovary and I went under the knife for the seventh time in five years. Thankfully, it was just a weird-o mass, not cancer, but we did find out I had endometriosis, which explains why I blacked out and got so horribly sick every time I had my period.
Then, three years ago, our house, along with all of our wordly possessions, including my beloved flute, burned down. We got out with each other, our dog, and exactly one change of clothes between us. I’ll never forget that night as we stood watching the rest of the canyon burn and raising my eyes to the heavens and seeing, in the stars that God created, the reminder of His love, faithfulness, and promise that in the coming grief, that he would never leave us or forsake us. Almost as a confirmation of that promise, we found this little beauty, split almost in two, but intact, in the rubble.
In a lovely twist, our son Jacob was born. Woohoo! When it came time to decide what to decorate Jake’s room with, the only thing I could come up with was a dark blue room with the night sky painted on it to remind me of God’s faithfulness. It turned out that I desperately needed those reminders in the months after Jake was born and I went through one of the hardest times I’ve ever been through. There were times when I couldn’t see God Himself, but I could see the moon, the stars, and the sun which reminded me that God not only cared what I was going through, but was intimately involved in every moment of my life.
In the middle of all of that, I lost my job, which led us to Colorado, and moving here ended up being the best thing for us, but very hard.
In the last year, we’ve had to deal with major financial struggles, our sweet Jake being diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, my chronic pain has kicked into high gear, I’ve been really lonely since it’s so stinking hard to make friends around here, our house got broken into twice and the bandits stole everything precious that we salvaged from the fire, my grandmother passed away a few weeks ago, and our family continues to see some difficult times coming in the near future.
Okay, are you totally distracted right now? If you are thinking, “Wow, she’s really strong to have made it through all that!”, let me reach through your computer screen and gently smack you!
Because the whole point of this story is not to focus on me…it’s to tell you that God is so faithful, so loving, so gracious, so amazing. And, the reason that I told you my story, is because I want you to see that no matter what you are going through, it’s possible to lift your hands to a loving and faithful God, to offer yourself and your praise to Him!
Does serving a faithful God mean that you will never go through anything hard? Obviously not! It means that in the middle of the storm, you will know that a mighty God has you held tight in His hands, that no matter how bad it gets nothing will ever compare with the sacrifice that He made for you, and at the end of all things, you will be able to surrender life’s hurts and fall joyfully on your face before an indescribable God.
As to why I wanted a tattoo, I think it’s because God’s faithfulness was already stamped on my soul and it was time for it to rise to the surface so that I could have even more opportunities to tell God’s story!
Since it’s hard for me to wrap things up in a neat ending, this time I’m not even going to try. Instead, here’s a link to the song that has walked hand in hand with the sun, moon, and stars through the last few years as I have come to know the face of a loving and faithful God!
Chris Tomlin’s Indescribable: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VE0yUobk6TM&feature=player_embedded