We didn’t know the significance


This is my friend Sarah. I’m currently away from home, enjoying some much-needed down time, and staying with her.  Three years ago today, August 19, 2012, Sarah and I had only just met for the first time a few days before, but it was some intense bonding – a group of five of who knew each other in various ways, but who I knew only from online connections –  had gathered in Florida and were doing some serious friendship building and girl-friend bonding.  We kind of already knew we were soul friends from time spent reading each other’s writing, but that week together cemented it.

Playing the role of photographer

On this particular day three years ago, we joined our friend Kirsten and her family to attend mass in the morning (more on that in a minute), and then several of us piled into a vehicle and headed for a tattoo parlor, where two girls got tattoos, one got a nose piercing, and I alternated between roles as official photographer for the afternoon’s adventure, and babysitter for Sarah’s little boy (then about 9 months old), Simon, who we had with us that afternoon.

Sarah was one of the ones who inked words into her skin that day, and she chose a line from Julian of Norwich, “all shall be well.”  As Sarah had those words embedded in her skin, they began to embed themselves into my heart, becoming quickly synonymous with my journey of exploration of Catholicism.

Sarah’s tattoo

I came home from Florida and scrawled those words across a blackboard in my bedroom, a spot where I saw them every day, as they continued to worm into the depths of my soul.

The same day that Sarah had those words inked on her arm, we attended the mass that changed the direction of my faith journey in ways I never anticipated.  That morning the priest spoke about the Eucharist, awakening in news ways my hunger for the body and blood of Christ, and igniting the journey that led to me sitting here as a Catholic convert.

A truly bizarre combination of shops

We weren’t thinking about the date or the significance it held, when we headed out this morning.  We dropped Sarah’s two oldest at their first day of school, her youngest to spend some time with Sarah’s parents, and headed off for our planned adventure.  We arrived and parked in the parking lot at a strip mall with the oddest assortment of shops I’ve ever seen in one place.  The shop we wanted wasn’t open yet, so we wandered the area, stopping in a coffee shop, where a check of the time hop app on our phones revealed the significance of the date – that it had been three years since that day in Florida when Sarah got her tattoo.  It made us laugh when it dawned on us.  You see, the only thing I was firm about wanting to do while I spent this week with Sarah and her family was to get two phrases inked into my skin. I even accosted my priest after mass a few weeks back, to make sure that there weren’t any Catholic “rules” about tattoos that I wasn’t aware of!  And this morning, as we sat in that coffee shop and the significance of the date dawned on us, we were laughing because the shop whose opening we awaited was a tattoo parlor. Eventually the shop opened, and we walked back, laughing as we commended ourselves for not having a baby in tow on this trip to a tattoo shop!

I’d chosen two phrases and positioning to have as my inaugural tattoos.

The first was that same phrase Sarah had inked into her skin years earlier.  “All shall be well.”  It’s part of a lengthier statement from Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”  In the years since I was introduced to the phrase, it’s come to be a succinct statement of my faith – of my belief that in Christ all is made well – it’s made whole, that there is a shalom, a healing, a wholeness that comes from walking with Jesus that I can aggressively lean into, that I can believe in the hardest, most awful of moments.  It’s a concept that underpinned the many years I struggled with depression and anxiety, and it’s a concept that I continue to lean on in both the hard and easier moments of life today.

The second phrase I chose was “stubborn hope & joy”.   These are more personal words – the ideas of hope and joy have been central to my walk with Christ for more than a decade, especially in the hardest and darkest of moments.  I’ve written often in my journals in those hard moments – in the moments born out of a decade long battle with severe depression and anxiety, in the moments where my world was falling apart around me, and I found myself without any ducks to even put in a row – of the fact that in that moment, I was stubbornly choosing to have hope, and stubbornly choosing joy in the midst of the darkest of hours.  These stubborn choices, along with the reminder that “all shall be well” have become the statements that in many ways are most central to the heart of who I am, and today I permanently inked them on my skin, in places where I’ll see them easily and often, and be reminded of their truths.



on my right forearm

on my left wrist (with leftover bits of transfer ink)

This entry was posted in Catholicism, Journeying, Spiritual Life, the stuff of life, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to We didn’t know the significance

  1. kirsten says:

    I so love this, and I so love you. Hugs to you (and to Sarah, please!) 🙂

  2. Pingback: My tattoos are mocking me | For a Land I Will Show You

  3. Pingback: All Manner of Things Shall be Well – On Julian of Norwich and Mother’s Day | For a Land I Will Show You

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