I got my first tattoo on Saturday, and I've found out that there are three big questions people ask a person who has just gotten a tattoo.
- Where is it? This one is easy - it is on my left side just above my hip bone.
- Why? I find this question silly, but equally easy to answer - I got it because I wanted to. I like tattoos, but I've never been connected to anything strongly enough to have it permanently inked to my body...until now.
This one is a little harder to answer - not because I don't know exactly what it means to me, because trust me, I DO - but because it has such an emotional meaning for me that I find it hard to put into words.
And for some reason, I get embarrassed trying to explain it.
Maybe because explaining it requires sharing a very deep, very secret part of me. Maybe it's because I'm afraid I'll share that very deep, very secret part of me, and someone will tell me that it's a stupid idea. Maybe it is just because I don't think I'm very good with words.
Needless to say, there is a part of me that wants to cover up this tattoo, keep it only for me, and never have to share my feelings about it. But...I won't let myself do that. I won't let myself continue to hide pieces of myself from others out of fear of rejection. Remember those ten commandments? Yeah, I'm sticking to them, so here it goes...bear with me, it's kind of a long story that I'll try to make short...
A year ago, I felt it coming on...the depression. It had been years since I had felt it so strongly, and I was determined to deny that it was happening again. I made excuses not to go see a doctor or a counselor. I tried very hard to hide it, to handle things myself. I was just sure that since I knew what was wrong that I could fix it with out having to bother, worry, or inform anyone else.
But, guess what? I was wrong. Depression is an insatiable beast. It ate up any joy in my life before I even had a chance to feel it. It left me angry and, eventually, numb. Finally, by the end of October I couldn't take it anymore. I went to the doctor, got a prescription, and that was that. I waited for the meds to kick in and my life to go back to normal.
But things couldn't be normal again. At the time I didn't realize how badly the depression had affected not only me, but my relationships with my husband, children, family, friends, co-workers, and students. And, by taking a pill, burying the pain, and trying to move on like nothing had happened, I only worsened the situation.
By Christmas I was worried. By New Years I was petrified. By mid-January everything came to a head. I felt like every dream I had ever had for my life went crashing down in a ball of flames. My personal life was in ashes.
Since then, I've been in counseling....lots of counseling. I've learned that if I continue to hold on to the ashes of my old life, I'm on a road to becoming permanently hurt, angry, suspicious, and bitter. I will continue to damage the relationships in my life.
I have to let go.
And I have to change.
So what do I do with these ashes? I have to hand them over to God. I truly believe that He is calling me to do this; that He is promising me "Hey, I can make this beautiful for you again."
And, I have seen evidence of that very promise in my life already. By having faith in God's promises, by following the words He is speaking to my heart, I have seen that there is good and beauty coming out of these very hard, very painful situations. Ever so slowly love, joy, and laughter are weaving their way back into my life.
It's not easy. In fact, some days are so incredibly hard that I don't know how I'm going to ever make it through. That's when I remember this promise, HIS promise: Give me the ashes. I can make something beautiful.
Beauty for Ashes has such a deep, important meaning to me that I decided I wanted it permanently inked to me as a way to never forget the power and strength of God when I let him work in my and in my life situations. It is the unceasing prayer of my heart right now.
And, to give credit where credit it due...this phrase "Beauty for Ashes" is not something I came up with on my own. My very amazing mother-in-law has been forwarding me her daily devotionals every day throughout the last five months or so. And one day I received one that was written by this woman, Samantha Reed. In it, she talked about "when life breaks you" and mentioned this idea of God giving us "Beauty for Ashes." Clearly, it struck me very deeply and immediately connected to my heart. So, thank you to my mother-in-law (this tattoo is all your fault!) and thank you to Samantha for writing something so powerful and so touching!