When I left my job and started the process of applying for Disability I was terrified. Was I “sick enough” to be accepted? If I wasn’t “sick enough” to be disabled would I go back to work? Would I stay home anyway? What would it mean if I did? What would it mean if I didn’t? I had no real direction because I was waiting for someone else to tell me who I was. Was I fighting a chronic condition with a warrior spirit or was I just letting it get the best of me and keep me from work?
But then that letter came telling me that I was approved and I was given the one thing I had been looking for for years: closure.
It’s taken me a long time to figure out that closure was what I had experienced in that moment. I cried big fat tears when I found out I was approved, and I waited for the feelings of sadness and grief of being officially disabled to take over after the relief wore off but they never came. I had prayed so long for a direction, for closure, that when it came I felt satisfied.
Within hours of receiving that letter the vibrations of the next season of my life were getting stronger; I knew this wasn’t just a check every month. I knew, somewhere within me, that this was the beginning of something bigger for me. Within a matter of days I was back at my favorite tattoo parlor going over images for what would be the most prominent piece of work yet.
I was anxious and a bit unsure that I would actually follow through, but something pushed me to turn in my images, to pay my deposit and as the time passed while I waited to start I grew more and more excited and the anxiety fell away.
It would be five months almost to the day before I started the process of getting the tattoo and those five months have been the most intense season of my life yet. Someone once told me that God will make you uncomfortable in your current situation so that you will be open to the changes He wants to make in your life. In you. I can tell you that I have been extremely uncomfortable in these five months.
As the summer of 2016 came to a close I became unhappy in my marriage. The holidays came and I went from being unhappy to near ready to give up. I had shut down emotionally and all but cut myself off from my spouse. I fought it, knowing that if I shut off completely I might never make it back, but I was so full of sadness over repeated hurts that I even found myself researching divorce.
In February I began the process of exiting the pain clinic I had been with for over two years, leaving behind with it my pain management regimen to try a new one. This change was so terrifying I often found myself sick with anxiety over it. The ticking clock of weaning off of my opiates was looming and though 10 weeks is a long time, it’s also extremely short.
In the last 30 days I have been in the Emergency Room twice for complex cysts on my remaining ovary and for treatment after a car accident. Pile on planning to take the family (including three teenagers) on a vacation in just 10 short days from today, a few very close friends going through their own versions of hell, and a death in the family. Like I said: a great season of change.
Each of these challenges alone would drive a breaking heart to God. I ran.
I had a desire to know God better growing quickly in my heart without a clue how to feed it. I tried desperately to get a study group started but it fell flat. I tried to read the bible at home but got discouraged and allowed life to get in the way. I started praying before meals like I used to do as a child and casually considered reading books but nothing really clicked until I found Before Amen by Max Lucado.
Now I know that it’s just a book, but God used that book to speak to me so clearly that I felt crushed at times under the weight of His love for me. I found myself in tears with the need to feel closer to him in every possible way. This book was my instruction manual to prayer. Daily, hourly, every minute of my day at times when I needed His comfort, when I felt my life swallowing me up. I found myself saying things like “praise God” and “Thank you Jesus” and now I meant them in my core.
As more time went on I found myself openly discussing God’s influence in my life and the influence of prayer. When I finished Before Amen I started Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick and just like before; God used this book to show me what I was going to learn next. My understanding of what He can and will do for me is growing every day and ultimately I was led back to church which is something I thought I would never do.
These things alone would be hard, but strung together like Christmas lights at times I thought I might never see the other side.
Every day at least twice I would find myself praying “God you are so good, but I am afraid…..” and every single time I thought I might drown in my own fear, guilt, shame, weakness and inadequacies He came to my side. If nothing else, this season has been one of discipline and faith.
When I dropped those images off with the artist in November I knew somehow that this would be underway by the time I went to Florida with my family. What I didn’t realize was that God was also telling me that my trial would be ending at that same time. Next week I meet with my new Pain Management Specialists and 7 days later we will be going on vacation. Yesterday I got my first tattoo in the series of pieces to come.
When I started the process of getting this tattoo I knew it would be beautiful. I knew it would be big and prominent but I didn’t know it would be like this. I didn’t know that when I woke up yesterday I would feel overwhelmed with gratefulness and a readiness to set on my next path.
The first time I got a tattoo I really couldn’t hide I felt nervous and a slight bit of regret. This piece is four times as large and extremely prominent and every time I look at it I feel joy. It’s big and open, like I prayed to be when my heart was closing off to my spouse. It’s detailed with soft and hard lines much like life can make me at different times. It required hours of patience while I sat so very still as the artist worked. It’s the most stunning result of hours of needling pain and literal bloodshed.
When I look at it I feel strong and proud of myself that I could laugh and smile and carry on while the artist worked on it. This tattoo reminds me that I can take so much more than I think I can. Its equal parts who I am right now and who I want to be.
This bloom is the first step in a project that will eventually take over my left arm. It’s just starting and it’s already so beautiful, just like this new season of my life is new and enchanting. Its permanent much like the invisible scars of the past five months, but it will change when I go back to have this blossom finished. I am excited and ready to see where God will take me in between sessions and even more excited to see how those things take shape on my arm and in my life.
“I want to breathe the air tonight, in a different place.
I want to see You move in a whole new way.
Where will You take me? Only You know.
Point me to Your will, and watch me go.”