Most of you know, but some probably aren’t aware that I am a tattooed hooligan.  I got my very first tattoo back in August.  I had been saving up for a while, mostly birthday and Christmas money (thanks mom and dad!), and I had finally saved enough to pay for it.  For 5 years I had the same idea in mind for the tattoo, and I never stopped loving the design. So, I decided I was ready to have it permanently put on my body! This is what the tattoo looks like: 

Beautiful, right? I was so impressed with the work.  I spent months looking at local tattoo artist’s work online.  I narrowed it down and I knew I wanted someone at Black 13 Tattoo in Nashville to do it.  His name is Steve and he’s a big, burly guy.  He’s been tattooing for a million years (literally) and we got along splendidly.  We talked the entire appointment, which was a great distraction from the pain, and I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out.  Yes, it hurt.  Really freaking bad.  But it was totally worth it. It’s a daily, visual reminder of something I desperately need to know.  

You see, when I was 19 I experienced depression for the first time. I had probably been depressed before, but not in the same way.  I was living in Kansas City away from all my family and friends.  I was at a place called IHOP (International House of Prayer–sadly there were no pancakes), and I was having a spiritual crisis.   I felt terrible about myself; I felt worthless and alone.  I was isolated and scared and for the first time I thought about how nice it would be to suddenly be dead.  I’m not trying to sound dramatic, but that’s how bad it was, and I didn’t know how to make things better.  My time at IHOP eventually ended and life got easier, but during my time there I found a verse that brought me peace.  I clung to it when I felt like I didn’t deserve God’s or man’s love.  It’s from Psalm 84.   Here’s the whole thing: 

1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! 
2My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. 
3 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young– a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God. 
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. “Selah” 
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. 
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. 
7 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. 
8Hear my prayer, O LORD God Almighty; listen to me, O God of Jacob. “Selah” 
9 Look upon our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one. 
10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. 
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
12 O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.
I love it, and the verse that always stood out to me was verse 3, “even the sparrow has found a home…” Even amidst my misery and self-loathing this verse helped me see that God was holding me.  He was my home; there was a place prepared for me with Him, a place close to His heart.  I am lowly, like the sparrow, but I have purpose and value because He loves me.  I realized that even if all this life had in store for me was pain, I’d be okay because I had a home in heaven, a nest, a place where I could seek refuge.  My soul can be at peace now, on earth, in the courts of the Lord.  
I got my tattoo right after another crisis.  The appointment had been planned for months so God’s timing really was at work.  I was again in a pit of self-loathing, trying to just get my head above water each day.  I walked in, extremely nervous and even more excited, and after two grueling hours I walked out with a beautiful piece of art on my body.  It was perfect.  

Here’s a picture of me and the tat halfway through: 



The handwrighting used on the tattoo is acually my sister Erin’s.  She is one of those people who calms and brightens a room just by being in it.  She helps me feel strong, and she supports and affirms every weird little aspect of my personality.  If I had to magically switch hearts with someone it would be her. I know without a doubt that if I died on the spot I’d walk right into heaven.  Or I could sell the heart for a lot of money because it’s made of pure gold 🙂 Anway, it’s so fun having a part of her with me everyday.  

I know everyone feels differently about tattos, and I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything, but my tattoo is a part of me.  A reflection of my heart.  At times it has genuinely helped me get through the day.  I came up with the idea while I was at IHOP, and 5 years later I’m still in love with it.  (Plus, it makes me feel like a total badass!)  

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