trent warns me before i leave for the city, “don’t get it if you sense the spirit telling you no.”

i nod into the rearview, pray for courage to deny myself the ink, because it’s my mother’s day gift to myself. this tattoo designed by a friend, capturing the feminine side of God.

this emblem of motherhood.

joey and jin in the back of the car, and we play rock paper scissors and snack on granola and talk about angels surrounding us, and Jesus in our heart, as i drive. “i have to focus now,” i tell joey after a while, the road curving, and he asks, “on what–the angels, or Jesus?”

“on both” i whisper, not having the heart to tell him i’d meant the road.

i drop them at their mother’s and spend the night with family, and the whole time i’m praying, Lord, lead me.

and the next day i wake up nervous, drive to the tattoo parlor, and i’m a minister’s daughter. i was taught tattoos are wrong, but i have one on my wrist, of lilies, reminding me what anne lamott writes in grace (eventually):

liles do not need to do anything to make themselves more glorious or cherished. Jesus [says] that we have much to learn from them about giving up striving…that we could be aware of, filled with, and saved by the presence of holy beauty, rather than worship golden calves.

a man filled with ink and piercings appears, says he’ll be doing my tat, and he’s not one i would have chosen: seems gruff, and aloof, and i follow him feeling naive. sit down in the chair in a room filled with art, and i notice a lot of hollow eyes, and ravens, and there’s loud music on his ipod. i twist my hands together and wonder if the spirit is telling me no.

then i notice a picture on his wall that says to daddy. love shepherd.

“is shepherd your daughter or your son?” i ask.

his whole beard smiles. “my daughter,” he says. “that’s funny, most people assume it’s a boy because of the name.”

i nod. feel a little bit braver. he’s got his back turned, working the gun, and i say, “can i ask a strange question?” he looks at me and stops everything. “my faith is very important to me,” i begin. “i’m a christian…”

his eyes brighten. “so am i!” he exclaims. “see?”

i follow his finger, and there’s a picture of Jesus on his mirror. another of moses, breaking the ten commandments. suddenly everywhere i look, is Christ, and i’d been blinded by fear.

“i believe Jesus came to set us free,” he says, his hands gesturing. “you see, moses was given the ten commandments, right? but Jesus came to abolish those rules, and to make faith a matter of the heart. that’s why i love tattoos, because they point to the temporary-ness of our bodies. what matters is the heart.”

not only is he not a devil worshiper. he’s the best preacher i’ve heard in a long time.

“i’m ready to get my tattoo, now,” i say.

sometimes God seems so far away i feel i have to yell myself hoarse to get him to hear me. and other times, he seems as close as a bird on my shoulder, singing beautiful songs to me, and softly touching my face with his feathers.

*linking with laura, michelle, jen, jennifer, and ann

810. watching 127 hours with trenton, and being reminded of how strong and miraculous the gift of life
811. joey and jin being cared for by their mother until tuesday
812. a free bag of toys for the boys
813. watching the sound of music with mother in law and sister in laws
814. kasher now weaned
815. visiting a dear friend and going for a long walk and driving away feeling richer for it all
816. singing worship songs by myself in the car on the drive home from the city and feeling the air thick with Jesus
817. the last patch of snow melted away
818. watching aiden and kasher laugh together
819. hearing trent say he’s so proud of me
820. missing joey and jin and knowing now, what i’ve been called to do with my life: to provide a safe place, a haven, for the least of these, whatever that may look like. (pray for me in this?)