Anniversary of a Tattoo

I know this blog is quiet at the moment. There are a few sporadic posts as major anniversaries or milestones roll by. I forget how quickly time is passing and am legitimately surprised that it is a third of the way through May already.

May 9th is a significant day for me.

May 9th, 2012 was an extremely dark day. I was in the middle of chemo and received more bad news that blew my heart to pieces. Cancer was difficult, but on some level I knew I could handle it.  I am tough enough and knew I was strong enough. It was only a matter of enduring the process. I was now driving deeper into territory that was WAY beyond my capacity. It was as if a bomb had a direct hit on my life with absolute and total destruction. I was lost and forced to surrender because I had no capacity for anything else. God’s grace met me there and carried me through the next 2 years…allowing me to cling to shreds and fingernails of hope along the way. I had victories and failures and for a season tried to abandon my hope altogether but God was consistent in his pursuit and helped me to cling to the promise that He would bring beauty from the ashes.

May 9th, 2014 was an extremely painful but AMAZING day. It was the day of my tattoo. (There is a more in depth account here)  I didn’t realize it was the same day when I booked the appointment. It was just the next available Friday appointment for my artist. I walked into the “Original Sin” tattoo shop in Antwerp and allowed Vicky D to transform my scar into a work of art. But the process of getting there was a substantial test of faith. Somehow, I knew it was supposed to be this artist on this day but even 20 hours earlier, when I was boarding the 4.5 hour train to go down, I did not have a design I liked. I also had absolutely no clue if I could even handle the pain of the process. There were so many reasons to turn around and cancel. But God gave me a vision for this tattoo and I trusted it would come together…even when it legitimately seemed like it wouldn’t. Obviously, it did.

That is how God and Faith works. We have to TRUST into the uncertainty.

The faith building process with the tattoo gave me the courage to face all the challenges involved with a transcontinental move home. God was faithful.

Reading some of the words I wrote a year ago are encouraging my current rebuilding process. I have absolutely no idea how everything in my life will come together and work out. But I have seen God move in mighty ways along this journey and will continue to step out in Faith/Trust that this is the path I am supposed to be on.

This pain will be temporary and I will have a piece of art to last a lifetime.

I believe in a God who will create beauty from ashes…that is moving mountains…that continues to give me HOPE even when I can’t see the path or the end. A God that is writing a redemption story in my life much bigger than this tattoo. I don’t want to go backwards. I am moving into a new future. Pushing into uncharted territory. And for me that journey involves covering my scar with a tattoo.

I still believe this.

There are many more thoughts stirring and I believe I will reinvigorate this space and start a new series in the coming months – “Moving Mountains”. If you are the praying sort, pray for vision, wisdom and courage because there is a much larger God story to this “cancer” blog and I feel that it should be shared…But it requires a level of vulnerability I’m not quite ready for.

Blessings,

Lynnea

Choosing the adventure

It was not easy for me to make the decision to move back to Seattle.

I like my life in the Netherlands. I have great friends and colleagues. I like my work and developing coffee appliances. I feel fully supported by the health system and have gotten used to not worrying about costs or coverage. I enjoy the freedom of visiting interesting cities for a weekend. I have grown quite fond of the relaxed lifestyle and spending hours sitting at a café drinking coffee/beer. I love my apartment and am settled in Groningen.

There are definitely some difficult things but my life here is very comfortable and honestly…really good. I could have chosen to stay.

But there was something deeper in my spirit moving. It was as if God was presenting a choice between staying in the Netherlands and returning to the US. I know that I had complete freedom to choose either one.

I could stay with what I know and what is comfortable. I could continue to travel and explore. I could continue walking along the secure path in front of me.

OR…I could risk.

In that same deep place in my spirit I have a feeling that there is somethingGod Adventure bigger and more beautiful waiting in Seattle. Not necessarily from a travel/life perspective but from a hopeful, heart transformation, redemption perspective. Something more meaningful. The potential for pain is high but also the potential for beauty. It will require a tremendous amount of courage to face all the unknowns and there is no guarantee it will be worth it. But that’s risk right?

And it is my choice.

I have NO IDEA what my life will look like in Seattle. There are many things I am looking forward to and many things I am not. But I bought my ticket and I’m choosing the adventure a midst all the uncertainties. I feel God inspiring me to a life bigger than the comfortable one I have in Groningen. So, this decision is a step of faith.

Only time will tell how it all plays out but you guys are along for the ride. 🙂 God prepared me through my journey with the tattoo. I risked a lot by fixing a day, facing my fear and trusting God to fill in the practicalities. I am so glad I did because it worked out better than I imagined. Now God is building on that faith experience. I am risking much more with this move but I trust that God’s faithfulness will continue.

In the end…life is too short to stay comfortable… I’d rather choose the risk and adventure.

Blessings,

Lynnea

Journey with a tattoo

Well guys…I did it!! And I will admit to feeling extremely excited and damn proud of myself. 🙂 I’ve decided to make the finished product public to maybe inspire other women to take this particular healing route. I needed stories of brave women before me to help my decision and am proud to do what I can in return. But I have been on quite a roller coaster.

Finished scar cover tattoo

Finished scar cover tattoo

I shared this post last Wed about my decision to cover my mastectomy scar with a tattoo rather than pursue reconstruction. I just re read it and laughed at how confident and determined my words were. They sounded a lot more put together than I felt. In reality I was fighting an active battle against fears that were slowly chipping away at my resolve. I was leaving for Antwerp Thursday morning with my tattoo appointment at 1 pm on Friday afternoon. And…

I did not have a design I was happy with. Not even close. I had gone through a few iterations with my artist…her making a design…me providing feedback and suggestions for how to improve…her making another design…me providing feedback…repeat. The latest design I received on Wednesday REALLY wasn’t it. I just didn’t love it the way I needed to in order to go through with the tattoo. And I had no clue how to fix it.

My heart caught in my throat and I had a moment of panic. What was I doing? Was I pushing too hard? Maybe it isn’t the right moment to move forward with this tattoo. I like the idea but it is a big/PERMANENT decision. Maybe I need more time? Aack…I’m not ready. There is NO WAY I can do this in 36 hours.

Time was evaporating quickly. My plan was to be on the 10 am train. Was this all a big mistake? I had been thinking about this tattoo and planning it for so long…backing out would be extremely disappointing but maybe in a small way it would be relieving…then I wouldn’t have to risk anything. Not having a design would be a good excuse and I could stay safe. I could stay in the known without venturing out into this uncharted (potentially VERY painful) territory. I would never know how tough I could be but I also wouldn’t face the possibility of stopping part way because I couldn’t take it. Maybe I really wasn’t as tough as I thought I was? My mind was spinning.

OK. Stop. Deep breath. Deep breath again. And again.

What do I know?

I know that by the grace of God I have survived an immensely painful season in my life. Doors have opened for this tattoo, with this specific artist, on this specific day in a way that felt divinely orchestrated. So, if God is in this…I need to trust that it will all come together. And just like the emotional pain, by His grace, I could handle the physical pain.

So I packed for Antwerp…and prepared to meet my friend and catch the train in the morning. I TRUSTED. Even though I couldn’t see how all the pieces would come together…I had faith they would. And I guess, for me, that’s what practical faith is. It’s getting on the train and starting the journey. Believing things will work out even when I had no idea how.

Well…you can see by the finished photo that I eventually reached a design I was happy with. I had a little craft time on the train. 🙂 I brought printouts of the last design I liked (from Tuesday), scissors, glue, my sketch book and pencils. I was prepared to make VERY good use of the 4 hours between Groningen and Antwerp. By the time I got to Amersfoort (2 hours) I had a design I LOVED and would ultimately get. Thank you Jesus!

OK…first hurdle overcome. Next hurdle…convincing myself and my tattoo artist I can actually handle the pain of the process. Gulp.

I know how I looked when I first strolled into Original Sin’s shop for my consultation. I don’t have any tattoos and I had never even been in a tattoo shop before. I don’t know

Tattoo space

Tattoo space

what I was expecting. Yoga studio? Massage parlor? Zen atmosphere. Don’t know. But I’m sure my eyes were wide as I took it all in and tried to play it cool and pretend that my mind wasn’t screaming “What am I doing here?”. It was a bit of a beautiful creative chaos. The space is a big open room with a waiting area immediately when you walk in. Two work desks split the room in the middle and separate the tattooing space from the reception. Designs and drawings were everywhere. Piles on the desk. Pinned to the walls. Taped to mirrors. True to the Original Sin name most of the decor revolved around religious icons. Multiple Jesus statues and pictures on the wall. My artist, Vicky, greets me. She has awesome dread locks with gauged ears, piercings and (obviously) A LOT of tattoos. Her partner was this tough looking guy with a shaved head, spiked collar and a dark black face tattoo that runs down the bridge of his nose and onto his cheek. Again “What am I doing here?” This is so far outside my comfort zone.

But I summon my courage and start to talk to Vicky about my design. She was open to working with me but was managing my expectations from the very beginning. “You’ve never had a tattoo before. You are asking for a big one in a very painful area. I anticipate it taking around 5 hours and we will probably need to take this in stages.” I had absolutely no idea what it would be like. I just said “we’ll see” and booked my appointment.

When I arrived last Friday she was again trying to split up the design. I’m sure she gets naive first timers all the time who come in and ask for something they think they can handle and then fall apart. I was scared but I was also determined. Her suggestion “Maybe we just do the top now and save the trunk for later”. My response “I would like to get it all done today, if possible. I have no idea what I can handle. I’ve been through pain and like to think I’m pretty tough and I’m definitely very determined…I think I can do it.” She’s still not completely convinced but I think she could see my focus…so she gave in.

She printed out the transfer and placed it on my body. Alright…moment of truth. I laid down on the table and she started with the lower part of the trunk on my ribs. It was like an intense, burning, vibration. It hurt A LOT…but not unbearable. I took a deep breath, said a prayer – Jesus you need to do this – and settled in for the next 4 hours. After 5 minutes Vicky looked at me and said “You didn’t flinch or jump when the machine touched your skin. OK I believe you…you’re tough…you can handle pain…you’ll be fine…we will finish this today” And, by God’s grace, we did 🙂

I walked out of there a little sore…but EXTREMELY proud of myself. I’m so glad I didn’t let the fears keep me from this awesome experience. I love this piece and it means so much more knowing everything I overcame to get it. I’m not going to lie…I feel pretty BAD ASS now.

Well good for you if you made it this far. Sorry it’s so long…there was just a lot to the story. 🙂

Blessings,

Lynnea

I will wait

I am often encouraged by music and the latest Mumford and Sons album Babel (released September 2012) came at a perfect time for me. I enjoy this band with their folksy banjo riffs and indie rock vibe. The song I keep coming back to is “I will wait”. They are not a “Christian” band (Honestly, what is that anyway??) but their lyrics are deep, spiritual and often bring tears to my eyes. When I listen to this song I think of redemption and restoration…and it inspires me to wait for Jesus and his timing.

There is a lot I could say (and honestly probably will 🙂 ) but here are some of my favorite lyrics.

Well I came home like a stone
And I fell heavy into your arms
These days of dust which we’ve known
Will blow away with this new sun

I can physically feel these words. You know those days when you are so exhausted it takes all the energy you can manage just to collapse on the couch? I imagine my body feeling like that and my heart/spirit heavy like a rock…barely able to take tiny steps forward…then I imagine using my last bit of strength and collapsing…not onto a couch but into God’s arms. There is strength and protection there. I picture the cares and concerns weighing me down blowing away like dust in the wind…sometimes the “blowing” is more like a sandstorm but eventually the sun comes out and reveals the new life underneath. I love this image.

And I’ll kneel down wait for now
And I’ll kneel down know my ground

I don’t know if you are a “kneeler”. 🙂 I am at times. I find it to be a posture of humility and recognition that everything I have in my life is a gift. It is a peaceful posture. It is vulnerable. You aren’t going to be moving anywhere quickly. Sometimes it hurts a little but somehow praying on my knees helps me to recognize more deeply how desperately I need Jesus. I love the next line about knowing your ground. It is easier to wait when you know what or who you are waiting for. It is also easier when you know what or who holds you up during the process. What is the foundation beneath your knees? What do you rest on while you are waiting? Is it solid? Is it quicksand? Do you know it? My ground was remembering who God is…and becoming more familiar with his works and promises. Knowing my ground. He has been faithful through the generations…He loves me more than I can hope to comprehend…He promises to heal and redeem me. His character is constant and doesn’t change with me or my circumstances. I can kneel and wait on a firm foundation…my rock.

So I’ll be bold as well as strong
And use my head alongside my heart
So tame my flesh and fix my eyes
A tethered mind free from the lies

When I find myself “waiting” I can be very reactionary. Most of the time I am waiting because I am not able to have something I want. Sometimes I know the timeline…most times I don’t. And when I don’t know the timeline I can grab onto the first thing that may move me closer to what I want. Often that is not the best idea. So using my head AND my heart really resonates with me. When you just react it is mostly emotional. Also, the image of taming and tethering makes me think of a young horse in the process of being broken and trained. It is initially wild and out of control…fighting for its own way against the will of the trainer…slowly, with time and discipline it submits and allows itself to follow commands. It lives a much more peaceful life without the intense struggle. We can be like that horse and fight very hard for our own way. But ultimately we fight against God because we have wrapped ourselves in lies. Lies of entitlement. Lies of idols. Lies of identity. Lies of value. As those lies are broken and we begin to see the truth and fix our eyes on Jesus…our lives will become more peaceful and free…and it also becomes easier (Note I said easIER…not easy 🙂 ) to wait and trust. 

Here is a simplified overview of the story the lyrics tell…it’s basically a Psalm. My spirit is heavy and weak…I fall into your arms and need you to transform my life…I remember your faithfulness and trust you as I wait..I will remember everything I have been forgiven….as I kneel and seek you I will be transformed more and more into your likeness and freed from the lies of this world. My hands will be raised and my spirit will be gold.

Good stuff.

Blessings,

Lynnea