Sunday, June 15, 2014


Catie and I on our second tattoo adventure

I recently positioned my bare wrist on a table in front of a bald-headed tattoo artist.

He was much younger, his body a canvas of our current culture-- artistically inked and pierced from the top of his smooth head down to his toes.

Okay, I didn't actually see his feet, but judging from the rest of his body it is quite safe to deduce they were tattooed-up as well.

There I was, my epidermis overturned and exposed in close proximity to this man, his body a colorful painted portrait.

My skin revealed patterns of flesh-colored creases and rivers of purplish veins turned upward, as he cleaned a sharp needle and gingerly touched the tip into ebony ink.

He bore down, the needle sinking into my flesh, inscribing the word.

My heart word for the past year:  freedom.

Courage, and a sense of freedom, pushed me into the tattoo parlor for the first time nine months ago.

Courage sometimes comes packaged in dear friends (including my awesome husband).

My friend Catie -- her bravery and courage is contagious on many levels-- has gone with me twice to get tattoos. 

People told me they were addictive, so I went ahead and knocked out two tats on the first trip, convinced I'd never, ever step across the threshold of another tattoo joint.  Ever.

This was gonna be a one time deal.  In and out.  Yeah, right.

Then the last nine months happened.  Foster care, spiritual attack, crisis after crisis.

I was tempted to get a tattoo sleeve on my shoulder and shave my head-- get all inked up with scripture.

Because I'm walking with a serious limp and need some intense reminders permanently marked on my body.

I opted out of the shaved head and full body art thing.  But that may be coming. defines freedom as:

1. the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint. 
2. exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.
3. the power to determine action without restraint.

In Christ, the chains are gone. 

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  (Gal 5:1)

My husband and I squeezed together shoulder to shoulder in a marriage class this weekend.

And there it was, MY word, spiraling out of the counselor's mouth penetrating my heart as I furiously made notes in my journal.  

Freedom.  The nucleus of our faith.

Yet, it is often not the core of our home.  As we blanket ourselves in our own rights and agendas.

After 19 years, we are more free, but there is still a rub between us.

Sin is still wildly alive and will be until we die.

I still cringe at my beautiful reclaimed barn-wood kitchen table that is now home to an endless pile of clean, wrinkled laundry.  Socks always missing a mate. 

Piles of dirty food-caked dishes mock me from the sink.

Quiet (or loud) resentment is not freedom.

Freedom and restfulness invade our space when we speak gospel-breathed words.

A letting go of ourselves and what we think is fair.

True intimacy comes with a pouring out.

An emptying of ourselves.

Opening our hands and releasing-- allowing each other to be who we are.  No strings attached.

A tight grip on the Father's hand, eyes pointed vertically.  That is what produces rest.

Letting go of each other and grabbing our Savior.

Freedom.  Grace to say no.  Grace to say yes.  Serve without expectations or entitlement.

Saying no to my sense of fairness and equality.  Saying yes to love freely.

Because we come to Him with nothing.  He pours out freely.

As a girl who's still searching the horizon for her voice-- in writing, in marriage, in parenthood, in relationships, it is no mistake that part of my calling includes being a voice for the fatherless, the least of these.  

Part of that freedom and voice has come through saying no to certain activities and expectations from others.  Saying no to the rules I place on myself.

If we are resting in His grip and His leading, then we are freed up to say no (or yes), regardless the cost.

Paul says in Galatians 1:10:  For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?  Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Matthew 5:37 says let your yes be yes and your no be no (paraphrased).

We are not called to say yes to every person or situation that comes into our lives.  We are called to follow Him.  Living freely in who we are created to be releases us from the desire to make excuses or please others.

Oh how many times I've said yes to something when my heart and head are screaming NO, say NO.

And once again, I become the overachiever, fixer, people-pleaser.   By His spirit, this is becoming less of a struggle than in the past.

Freedom.  Permanently on my wrist as a reminder of who I am in Christ.

Even with permanent markings, I still forget.  I still fail.

 We have the freedom to fail because of the nail-scarred hands waiting to catch us when we fall.

It all fits into His plan.  Our failures can become His glory.

And a wave of salty windswept sea overtakes me again and I float in the surf of a life with Him- freedom to get it wrong, freedom to love fully and live fully.

It's only in riding the swells of His grace and swimming in the current of His love that I remember again-- I have sweet, abundant freedom and hope.

In marriage.  In ministry.  In parenting.  In relationships.

Praise Him!

Seacrest, Fl sunset ~msingleton


Staci said...

Love this. I was with my mom in Atlanta a couple of years ago for her annual birthday mother/daughter trip and as we are strolling the aisles of Scott ' s Antiques she looks over and very causally, with out missing a beat, says, 'I've always wanted a tattoo'. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Several hours later, we emerge from the table of our body artist with matching tatts. Love her and the memory we shared. I believe you must get tattoos with a friend...The only way.

Melanie Singleton said...

Love it Staci!!! I'm trying to convince my mom! I also love Scott's Antiques. ;)

Karen Brown said...

Melanie- wow. What a gift you have with words. Your version of freedom is one that goes against the tides of the culture and this line says it all:" A letting go of ourselves and what we think is fair.". Thank you for encouraging us to embrace His freedom. And thank you for sharing your words here. I'm so glad I stopped by!