I walked into the tattoo shop, and everybody inside stopped what they were doing to look at me. The expressions on their faces read, “Um, are you lost, lady?” I suppose I looked a little out of place—a middle-aged woman wearing jeans and floral top, with a mom-purse and Starbucks iced coffee in tow. I reminded Cruz, my tattoo artist, of our appointment that evening. “Oh yeah, the beach wave!” he exclaimed.
Cruz showed me the design for my tattoo, which was based on some pictures I had sent him. A clear wave was outlined in black, and different shades of blue swirled inside. Cruz worked well with my inspiration, and I gleefully approved his design.
I opted to have the wave tattooed on the outside of my left foot, just underneath my ankle bone. “You’re ready, right?” he asked me. I’m sure he wouldn’t have been surprised if I backed out. “Yes, so ready,” I replied. “And it’s not my first one, so I know what I’m in for.” He smiled, and the familiar buzz of the tattoo needle began. My hand gripped the table I was sitting on as I felt the needle pierce my skin. It was painful, as I knew it would be.
“So, why the wave?” Cruz asked. “You like the beach or something?”
I wasn’t sure how I wanted to respond. I didn’t know him well, and I wasn’t sure how to explain what this specific tattoo meant for me. Why was I getting this wave permanently tattooed on my body?
The month before I sat on the coast of Port Aransas with a friend. We spent an entire Sunday sitting on the beach, reading and relaxing and sharing conversation in-between chapters of our books. At one point in the afternoon, I took a walk down to the jetty. I looked for sand dollars while I let the sound of the ocean’s waves sink deep into every cell of my body.
For as long as I can remember, the beach is the place I feel nearest to God. It has a way of settling down all that feels disrupted and quiets the chaos that exists in my mind and heart. God is there, right where sky meets water. Nothing ministers to me more than being ocean-side with Jesus.
I began to pray and pour out my heart to God about where I was:
“Oh Lord, I’m overwhelmed. I’m struggling and all of it feels big. My marriage, my loneliness, my desire for more; some days I can’t bear all that I feel. My child is angry, and I’m afraid I often fail him. My new job is stressful. We still have no church home, and I wonder if we will ever have community ever again. I’m not sleeping, and I’m drinking too much…and these days, I need to have a cigarette just to calm down. I feel like a failure. I’m a mess God. And I can’t find you in the mess right now.”
Tears mixed with salty air as my toes sank into wet sand. Then, there on the Texas shore, I heard His familiar voice through the crashing waves:
“Do you remember what we’ve been through together Jennifer? Remember when you were in darkness, and I brought you out of it? When you were lonely, and I brought you a new friend? When you were sick, and I brought comfort to you? Do you remember when you feared that even knowing Me was a big sham? I showed up and reminded you that I am real. I’m here in the mess, I am not going anywhere. I see you overwhelmed and struggling, I know it is a lot. I am with you, and I am never leaving.”
The voice of God may not be audible, but I know when He is speaking to my heart.
Sitting by the sea that cloudy day, I was reminded of His faithfulness to me over the years. Somewhere between my prayer and the drive home, the idea for a wave tattoo began to form.
I wondered about how to explain all of that to Cruz.
“Well, I do love the beach,” I began. “For me, it’s a symbol of the goodness and faithfulness of God. I feel closest to Him there, and I wanted to carry a piece of that with me as a reminder because sometimes I forget that He is with me.”
He nodded, “That’s cool”, as he continued to etch the wave into my skin. It was painful, but the end result was beautiful.
Something about the process reminded me of how God writes our stories, and my wave tattoo reminds me that he is authoring mine.
Deeply rooted in South Texas, Jennifer Stamness is a sunshine-lover, wife and mother to two young boys. She enjoys creating beauty in places like writing, music, decorating and throwing parties. She desires to follow Jesus into the unknown places He invites her to and is thankful for His abundant and amazing grace. Jennifer writes, dreams and shares pieces of her story here.