Monday, February 29, 2016

Written in Ink

As a writer and an artist, I appreciate all things creative.  Tattoos are a form of art I've always been interested in, and I've even designed a couple for my best friend, Cohen (a "tree of life" tattoo she got on her foot and an ichthus tattoo with a bible verse she got on her wrist).  I think tattoos are a great channel for artistic expression, but I think tattoos should represent something meaningful and important since they are permanently fixed on the body.  I have a some ink that I am proud of and that I put a lot of thought into, so I wanted to write a little bit about my tattoos and the meaning behind them.

I got my first tattoo during spring break of my senior year of college.  My best friend, Cohen, and I were traveling to New Bern, North Carolina, to visit some friends of ours.  We planned to get our tattoos together during the trip and had been planning ahead for awhile.

I got this one at Bombs Away Tattoo in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
When I was a freshman in college, I had the opportunity to go with my college bible study on a mission trip to Panama City Beach, Florida, during spring break.  We went with a group from Ball State University, and they had a pastor with them named Chris.  I was with Chris's group for most of the week (along with some other students from my group), and I was continually challenged by his faith.  A former atheist, Chris was able to connect with and minister to people in Panama City in a way I couldn't - he understood disbelief and doubt and could truly speak into the lives of others experiencing similar feelings.  I was still developing in my faith, and listening to Chris's stories and hearing him speak life into others impacted me greatly.  One night during worship, there were large sheets of paper taped to the walls with paints sitting on the floor underneath the paper.  We were asked to show an expression of our faith with the paints, and many students were dipping their hands into the various colors and were creating wonderful images of joy, beauty, and faith.  I watched as Chris painted something in green on one of the sheets of paper.  I took a closer look to find that his image was very simple, but it was one that would impact me for the rest of my life.  Above a hand print with a mark where a nail would be, he had written "it is finished."

Unfamiliar with the verse, I looked it up to find that it was from John 19:30.  "It is finished" were the last words Jesus spoke before he died on the cross.  After reading this, I felt like I understood the sacrifice Jesus made for me for the first time.  I wrote the verse on the inside of my bible and meditated on it for the rest of the week in Panama City and beyond.  Three years later, I sat in a tattoo shop in Jacksonville, North Carolina, with three of my friends and got the verse tattooed on my foot as a permanent reminder of how that mission trip changed my life and helped me read and understand scripture in a way I never had before.

I got my second tattoo during my second year of graduate school.  Justin and I had just gotten married and we were on our honeymoon in Chicago.  We had both talked about commemorating our marriage in some way and creating a tangible representation of our commitment to one another, but we had a hard time deciding on a design.  We knew we wanted the date we started dating, the date we got engaged, and the date we got married, but we each wanted to customize ours with a saying or image unique to our relationship and couldn't decide on what to get.  When we got back from our honeymoon, I had a "light bulb" moment and knew exactly what I wanted.

Justin and I got these tattoos at Marvel Tattoo in South Bend, Indiana.
A friend had gotten Justin and I a painting as a wedding gift with some words in Spanish across the top.  It said "hasta que la muerte nos separe," which translates to "until death do us part."  I decided to get that under the dates and Justin decided to get some of the lyrics to one of our favorite songs under the dates along with some Celtic designs.  Both of us have our "wedding" tattoos on our shoulder/back area, and I love having it as a reminder of the commitment Justin and I made together in marriage as husband and wife.

The next tattoo I got was last summer, and it was completely spontaneous (even though I had had the idea for awhile).  Fall 2014 was a chaotic time for Justin and I.  I had applied to a PhD program in Bowling Green, Ohio, and Justin was applying to jobs in that area.  When he was in the middle of the interview process for a position, I was often anxious about the future and a potential move.  I had a playlist on my iPod that I would listen to when I was feeling anxious, and it included songs like "I Need You" by Matt Maher and "Thrive" by Casting Crowns.  I loved the line "we know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives, it's time for us to more than just survive, we were made to thrive" from the Casting Crowns song.  I would listen to this over and over and remind myself that God had a plan for us to thrive and that he wasn't going to leave us empty-handed.

I also got this one at Marvel Tattoo in South Bend, Indiana.  The same artist who did my "marriage" tattoo did this one!
Justin got the job, we moved to Ohio, and I got accepted into the PhD program.  I was worried and anxious for nothing - God had provided and had reminded me to have faith in his plan.  I always wanted to get the word "thrive" tattooed as a reminder of God's provision, but I kept putting it off.  During Memorial Day weekend 2015, Justin and I decided to take a trip back to South Bend to see some friends and go to some of our old favorite places.  One day, we decided to go to Three Oaks and New Buffalo, Michigan.  We used to love going to Lake Michigan, so it was a great feeling to be standing in the sand overlooking the lake in New Buffalo.  We saw some people climbing out to a watchtower over a long stretch of rocks and we decided to check it out.  Leaving our shoes and belongings behind, we made the trek over the rocks to the tower.  It was difficult and a bit scary at times, but we made it.  (For more on this trip, see my post titled Road Trip).

We conquered the rocks!
Once we got to the watchtower, I was a little disappointed.  Since I was 17, I have had four orthopedic surgeries on my hand to fix an injury I sustained during a softball game in high school.  The various surgeries have left me with a titanium plate, rod, and several screws in my hand (and a nasty scar).  I am not able to play softball anymore and some of my regular activities have changed because one of the joints in my hand is completely fused.  (For more on this, see my post titled What I Learned from Orthopedic Surgery).  As I looked up at the watchtower with its narrow ladder of very short pegs, I thought my journey out over the rocks was for nothing and that I wouldn't be able to get to the top.
The hardware that was placed during my latest surgery in July 2013.
This sums up the saga of my hand injury.
The infamous ladder.
I gave it a try anyway (I didn't want that long, treacherous hike to be for nothing) and surprised myself.  Not only did I make it up to the watchtower, but I also made it back down without slipping or hurting myself.  I had had to give up things in the years following my surgeries, but I made it up and down that ladder with ease.  I was so happy and proud of my body - I felt invincible.  Without even thinking, I told Justin we needed to get tattoos.  I wanted my "thrive" tattoo - God had brought me/us through a lot, and I/we had come out on the other side victorious.  The culmination of the last half of 2014 and the first half of 2015 brought me to the tattoo shop (the same one where Justin and I had gotten our marriage tattoos) and I finally got it done (and Justin got a tattoo, as well).  I added the arrow to the design to show that we always need to be looking forward and not to the past and that God will bring us through the trials we face.

Justin and I at the top of the watchtower overlooking Lake Michigan!
I got my final (and most recent) tattoo this past weekend.  This is by far the biggest tattoo I've gotten and the one I put the most planning and thought into.  For the past couple years, I've wanted to get a typewriter tattoo as a representation of my love of literature and writing (and antiques).  More recently, the typewriter would represent my work during my doctoral studies, my eventual PhD in English, and my goal to teach creative writing to college students.  After almost two years of thinking and looking through typewriter designs online, I finally had an image in mind.

I got this one at Broadwing Tattoo in Bowling Green, Ohio.
I set up an appointment, showed my artist my design during our consultation, she drew it up, and I sat for three-and-a-half hours as she tattooed my typewriter.  The typewriter in the tattoo is actually the same design as the first typewriter I ever got, a gift from my husband after I got out of grad school.  I chose to do the typewriter in blue because I recently visited the typewriter of one of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, while in Indianapolis, Indiana.  His Smith-Corona typewriter was blue and it was what produced so many of his brilliant works, so I wanted the typewriter to be "Vonnegut blue."  I loved the design of the flowers, but I also see them as representing creativity and growth as a writer and an artist.  I absolutely love how this tattoo came out, but it was by far the most painful tattoo I've ever gotten (followed by my foot tattoo, then the one on the inside of my arm, and then the one on my shoulder/back)!

I love having these tattoos as reminders of where I came from and where I am now.  My tattoos remind me of faith, of commitment, and of God's great plan, provision, and grace.  Will I get any more tattoos?  We will just have to wait and see. 

1 comment:

  1. Love this tattoo! And this so connects to our readings for tonight, particularly the discussion of Shelly Jackson's SKIN!