Amazing Grace

So, I did a thing. It’s a thing I have thought about for a LONG time. It was not a thing I did on a whim, but rather after much thought and prayer. Last Thursday, I got a tattoo. To many, getting a tattoo is not a big deal. It seems like most people have one or plans of getting one. For me, it was a big deal. It was a big step. One I never thought I would have the courage to take.

I have always had a problem with making permanent decisions. I would never die my hair, because I didn’t want to risk a few months with a terrible color. I only cut my hair once or twice a year, because I change my mind so much about what kind of hairstyle I want. The thought of choosing something to become a permanent part of my body scared me enough to keep the idea of getting a tattoo at bay for at least 10 years.

All that said, I have been toying with the idea of a tattoo for many years. I thought about getting something to honor my dad or maybe a cute little elephant, but I could never settle on a design that felt right. It couldn’t be something generic or stereotypical and it had to be full of meaning.

After the events of the last few weeks, the idea started popping up in my head again. This time, though, it was very clear how it should look and the meaning behind it. It took me all of 5 minutes to design exactly what I wanted in Photoshop and decide where it should go. Everything felt right this time, so I took a leap and went for it.

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Before I went to the tattoo parlor, I spent a lot of time in prayer. I spent time in God’s word. I talked with God about whether or not this was the right thing for me to do. I know there are many varying beliefs on tattoos, but I felt very confident in my decision to move forward. A lot of that confidence came in the things this image represents.

” Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:3

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Doves

As I have written before, the tv show Touched by an Angel played a big role in my return to faith and rebuilding my relationship with God. When my faith was at an all time low, I stumbled upon episode after episode that seemed to speak directly to me. The show used doves for different reasons throughout the series, but they were always linked to God, His blessings, and His angels. Doves were a symbol of God actively working in the situation. Doves are also a common symbol for peace.

People

There are four doves to represent four specific people who not only meant a lot to me, but who made a significant impact on my spiritual journey. Their lives and deaths have helped shape me into the person I am today. In working through the pain of losing them, I have discovered aspects of God at work in my life. Some of those discoveries took years to understand and some were instantaneous.  

Flying

The doves are in flight to represent my loved ones flying away home. As the old hymn says, “like a bird from prison bars has flown, I’ll fly away. When I die, hallelujah, I’ll fly away.” I wanted to capture the image of them forever flying free heading to their home on God’s celestial shore. They have left the pain, heartaches, and struggles of this world behind to go to a place where joy will never end. I wanted to have a reminder that, though we are sad they are gone and we miss them, they are in the place they always dreamed of going. There is also freedom in their flight that can only come from faith and trust in Jesus.  

Grace

The word grace is there, because God has shown me nothing but grace upon grace over the years. I once was lost but now I am found, was blind but now I see. God has opened my eyes to grace this year, especially in the last couple of months. It’s also a reminder that I am supposed to show grace to others in dealing with them everyday.

There is some extra meaning hidden in the word grace. It is done in my mom’s handwriting. Of course this is partially because my mom means the world to me, but there is so much more. I think my mom is a beautiful example of grace. Over the years I have watched her work thankless jobs to put food on the table, deal with difficult children, and overcome many struggles. She has dealt with the deaths of a husband, both parents, and now her big sister and brother-in-law. Through it all, I don’t think I have ever heard her complain. She does what needs to be done and carries on with life. I see grace in her strength, her bravery, and in her ability to keep moving forward.

Visual Testimony

Putting all these meanings and messages together, I’ve decided this is more than a tattoo. It is my visual testimony. It represents all I have been through as well as God’s ever present grace and peace. It represents all the scars and brokenness I carry around on the inside, but also the loving Father who has been there to get me through it all. It is in a place where others can see it, because I pray to have the courage to share it’s true meaning if I am ever asked about it.  

I consider this tattoo as a step toward healing and faith. I’m not worried about forgetting those who meant so much because I now carry them with me wherever I go. It is a bold statement, for me, in proclaiming my faith and trust in God in a way that I can never ignore or hide again. It is a symbol of the progress I have made since starting this blog a little less than a year ago. All thanks to His amazing grace!

 

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Trophy of Grace

I have been planning a post for a while now. A post all about the progress I have made over the past year. I was going to write all about how I now host a home group in my house, attend a weekly bible study, and have done a lot of good work in my journey back to faith. This is not that post. Or at least not the way I ever thought this post would go.

For the past four years I would get a phone call around late September to early October. When I saw who was calling, I knew exactly what it was about. If I couldn’t answer, I knew almost exactly how the message would go, “Hey Lacey, this is Janet. When you get a chance give me a call back. I want to talk to you about something.” That something was going to be helping with the church Christmas play and even though I had already said I wasn’t going to do it anymore, I would say yes once again. My aunt Janet was one of the few people I could never say no to. I used to be slightly annoyed by those calls, but I would give anything to get one right now.

On 9/11/17, my aunt Janet and uncle Leon were killed in a car accident. Tomorrow will be one month, four weeks, 28 days, since they left this world. It still doesn’t feel real. There are moments when it hits me like a tons of bricks and others when I have to ask myself if it all really happened. They were two people who I respected, admired, and loved even more than I ever realized. I idolized my aunt and I cherished my uncle’s infectious laughter. I miss them, dearly.

All through this terrible ordeal, though, I have seen God at work. He has allowed relationships to be mended, bringing us together as a family. He has shown us love and compassion through the never-ending line of friends bringing food, donations, and words of comfort. He has given us peace in our certainty of where their hearts were and where they are headed. Most beautifully, He brought us together in a church service that next Sunday where we witnessed one of their sons rededicate his life to Him. It is impossible to deny that God has been working in this dreadful circumstance.

Of course, God has been working for a lot longer than just this past month. Janet and Leon loved to sing and spent many, many years traveling with their gospel music group. They visited countless churches to spread their love of God through song. As I pulled music for a funeral video, I couldn’t help but be comforted by the many songs they sang about going home to heaven or wanting to see Jesus. There were also a lot of songs about grace. One of my favorites that Janet used to sing was called Trophy of Grace. I can’t think of a better way to describe them now. They were trophies of grace for our family. Ones we will proudly put on display and attempt to continue their legacies of sharing God’s love with all who will listen.

“I’m a trophy of grace. A display of his love. I’m part of the result from the old rugged cross that was made with his precious love. I’ll never understand why he died in my place. Just look at me today because I can say, I’m a trophy of grace.”

I don’t know why they had to die in the way they did, but I do know going together was an answered prayer for them. They were together for more than 55 years and I don’t think either of them would have known what to do without the other. For years, they both cared for ailing parents and I am sure they never wanted to put that burden on their own kids. So, though I don’t yet have an answer for why they went the way they did, I take comfort in knowing some of their prayers were answered the instant they left this world together.

I recently read a devotional about Enoch from the book of Genesis. Enoch walked faithfully with God. One day God took him away to heaven. He found such favor with God that he never had to experience death. What if that’s the way it happened with them? They walked faithfully with the Lord and literally sang His praises all their days. I like to think God found favor with them and called them home. They died, yes, but in the way they died, they didn’t suffer. They didn’t succumb to debilitating illness. They weren’t burdened with experiencing their bodies slowly shutting down. They were gone in an instant. God called them home to glory.

My heart is broken over the loss of my precious aunt and uncle. I’m devastated that we won’t have one more Thanksgiving or Christmas at their house. My 30th birthday girls trip will not be the same without Janet. A good joke or gag gift won’t be as fun without sharing it with Leon. Yet, there is a peace that passes my understanding. My faith has been shaken, but it’s still standing. I will do my best to praise Him in this storm and rejoice for the beautiful lives of two people I was blessed to know.