Marked by Grace, the tattoo story. (Nashville part 4)

“a reckless love too wild to understand, breathing the world to life in Your romance, so here i am, Your love has got me up in arms again, and this hope won’t let me go”

for those of you who don’t know me super well, or those who wish you knew me more, here is a bit of background of my life. i was born into a Lutheran home and we went to church faithfully every Sunday morning, i was the oldest of the youngest of 3 girls (7 siblings total) and matching outfits were very often something you would see us in. when i was 8 years old i had an encounter with Jesus.  as i sat in the backseat of my parent’s minivan and the song played through the speakers, “Shout to the Lord” by Darlene Zschech i just knew that i needed Jesus in my heart and in my life. i had been going to Sunday school long enough by now so i knew what to do and i remember excitedly telling my mother “hey mom i just asked Jesus into my heart!” and that was a bright spot of my childhood.  the rest of my young years and especially my teen years were never so bright.  i lived an incredibly legalistic life and even though i had no idea that is what was happening to me, i was drowning in my legalism.

i lived a strict life of performance.  good grades, perfect attendance, always tries her hardest, always helps out, always doing something– always achieving.  deep inside i was never good enough and i would cry myself to sleep at night wondering why no one ever saw how desperately i was aching and trying to be enough.  oh sure my teachers and youth leaders would tell me i had done a good job, or that they were proud of me, but i never saw it and i never heard those words.  if i saw one small error in something i had done, the whole thing was garbage to me.  day and night i was plagued by shame and grief.  anxiety to achieve was my best friend.  naturally, i joined the music programme at my school and became the same way in my flute playing that i was in every area of my life.  still i would have the same problems, the same frustrations. always working to achieve and never being enough.  i would get extremely angry when i wouldn’t understand a concept immediately and so math easily became my most hated class.  i took harder classes, including advanced placement, because i wanted to prove that i could be someone who was worth it.  i never really knew what i was looking for….and as the years went on, things just spiraled down time and time again. the depression and self injury and self hatred were more unbearable than i could explain to anyone, but i never truly tried to get help. i was a sinking ship without the hope of a lighthouse in sight.

and then…. i fell in love with a rock band called Disciple. and began to really listen to their songs. God was chasing me and He knew He almost had me, i couldn’t see it at all yet but looking back, it’s very obvious.

so i went to a concert. and then another and i remember one very particular concert i went to…i was still living with my parents and i remember Kevin preaching on the motives of our hearts (go here to listen) and i will never forget the words that he said, “it doesn’t matter what we do or don’t do, it’s all about the motives of our hearts” and for the first time i stopped to think about what my motives were. i didn’t understand… and then he kept talking. i was completely enraptured in his words. he talked about how God loves us regardless of what we do, and regardless of what we don’t do, that nothing you do can make God love you more than He does right now, and nothing you can do will make God love you less than He does right now. He never changes. He is the same yesterday today and forever.  that night, Kevin taught on grace and God gave me strong revelation on it, so much so that i was weeping at a concert for the first time in my life and it had nothing to do with music.

i remember a few days later, i was having a conversation with my friend Cara about the show and what Kevin taught on and she was like “so basically he was talking about grace” and for the first time, the light bulb clicked on in my head.  i had grown up hearing that word, using that word, singing that word…but it never MEANT anything to me until now.  in the sweaty audience of a rock show, i encountered grace and it was raw and it was real and God was telling me i was enough and He loved me. even though i encountered Him so intensely, i didn’t change right away.

fast forward to Thursday morning in Nashville.

i knew i was leaving the next day and my heart was dismayed but i was utterly determined to make the most of the time that i had been given to me. [that one is for you Mary] so after i got out of the shower, even though i was exhausted from the week, i chose to sat at the kitchen table next to Mary and have conversation when all i wanted to do was curl up with my journal and write until i couldn’t anymore.  to my surprise, she pulled out some paper, a pen and began etching Greek letters that i actually was able to recognize.  excited, i asked her if that was the design she wanted. she replied yes and asked me what i wanted. i knew i was to get the same word but not necessarily the same design so i let her freehand a few more designs until i decided on the one i wanted (which ended up being the same thing anyway) and after cleaning up the image in photoshop, Mary carefully folded the slip of paper and slid it into her purse for the time being.  She had a short shift at Panera in the afternoon and while she worked, Val and i were going to go shopping and get into general shenanigans, which we very successfully did.

after Mary had finished work, we headed back to the apartment for food and a quick change of clothes and then we set out to find a tattoo shop that would take us.  We had called ahead at one location that noted they were willing to take walk-ins that evening but when we arrived, it was altogether too shady for all three of us and so I decided to google “Christian tattoo shops in Nashville” which is where we found the location we ended up going to, Prophetic Ink near Murfreesboro (if i remember correctly).  On the way to the shop, we were trying to get there quickly and MAN can Mary drive a car when she is required to…i swear that Texas blood sure runs deep in her veins! (aka: she can seriously speed when necessary)…but i digress.

We were weaving in and out of traffic, trying to calm our nerves and contain our excitement. I kept reaching over in the dark to make sure she knew i was there, and it was also for my own comfort.  We were doing this together.
To ease our nerves of time and nerves of hoping it turned out well, i put on songs that i knew meant deep things to both our hearts and we both sang along as though we did this all the time.  On a random stretch of pavement, in between the melody and the soft lyrics of familiarity, i heard a familiar whisper in my heart, “you are now and forevermore marked by grace Beloved”

i froze and my breath halted.

so that was what this was about. i finally saw a glimpse of purpose in this appointment and His words were an incredible comfort to  me. my anxiety lessened and i was able to sing to Him with clarity and love. almost at our destination i chose to play a song that i carried in my heart all summer long, and as i sang to Him, i knew He was singing over me.

“Grace, You’ve shown me grace
You’ve lifted my shame
Drawn me with loving kindness
Washed, whiter than snow
You have redeemed and made me whole

Jesus You have won me, You’ve broken every chain
With love and mercy
You’ve triumphed over death and You are worthy
Of glory and praise”

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Mary Nikkel
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 11:12:00

    I need to rewatch that message of Kevin’s. So, so powerful.

    XD Yes, I definitely have speeding skills when necessary. I blame years of driving with my brother. 😛 And yes, Prophetic Ink was down in Murfreesboro. 🙂

    It’s so good to see more of your heart behind that adventure put down in words. Sometime I want to do the same– I’ve been thinking a lot about it. I am so, so glad that we are indelibly marked by that amazing grace. ❤

    Reply

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