In Permanent Ink
July 1, 2010

What is the one thing you are least likely to do? Jump out of an airplane? Go camping? Run a marathon?

There is no skydive, no tent and definitely no 26.2 in my future, but if you had asked me this time last year what I’d be less likely to do than any of those … it would be get a tattoo.

So nearly a year ago, when my youngest daughter started talking about getting a tattoo for her 18th birthday, I tried to pretend I didn’t hear her. She already has about six ear piercings, so I’ve grown accustomed to her unconventional look and am far less concerned about her outer appearance that who she is on the inside. But a tattoo is so … permanent. And she’s only 18.

As I listened to her, I realized that she didn’t want it for the purpose of rebellion; she’s a lot of things, but rebellious isn’t one of them. She wasn’t interested in the impression it would make on others. She wanted a tattoo because she wanted a visible symbol of her faith in a place where she, and others, would see it every day.

So I began to warm to the idea, accept that her preferences and tastes may be just different than mine and respect the fact that her faith is something she wishes to carry with her in a visible way for the rest of her life.

Sara Ann’s dove, on her right wrist

Then the other shoe dropped.

“Mom,” she said. “For my 18th birthday, I want to get a tattoo and I want you to get one with me. I want it to be a mother-daughter thing. I want us to do it together.”

What? No way. You have got to be kidding.

But …

She kept asking. She was not joking.

And I realized something. This was not another hole in her ear. This was forever. Visible to all. For her, it was a profound moment. The moment she would put a symbol of her faith on her body in a way that all would see. Irrevocably. And she invited me into that moment.

One thing I’ve learned in 21 years of parenting: When your teenager asks you to be a part of a significant moment in their life, it’s a high honor, not to be taken lightly or scoffed at. So, at 51, this suburban housewife got inked.

It brings to mind this:

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.* Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:5-9 (*emphasis mine)

My cross, duplicated from a silver cross necklace Jim gave me years ago

In ancient days, observant Jews bound what is believed to be these verses to their bodies in leather boxes called tefilin, translated into Greek as phylactery, so the idea of having a visible reminder of the faith attached to the body is not a new one. Perhaps in the same way, the dove that will now always adorn her wrist will remind her of the Holy Spirit’s constant presence in her life.

I know that the cross on my left shoulder blade, the same side of the body as my heart, will ever remind me of the sacrifice of the Cross, the grace of the Cross and the glory of the Cross.

And a sacred moment between mother and daughter that took place late at night in a funky tattoo shop in downtown Jonesboro, Arkansas.

Never say never.

What’s one thing (you think) you’ll never do?


  1. beth g sanders

    Thanks! I dig it. (Never thought I would say that – in a million years)

  2. mdpatrick

    Cool!! Looks good.

  3. beth g sanders

    I wholeheartedly agree! Though I'd never have done it without Sara Ann's urging, it means so much now. I'm so glad I did it.

  4. Barbara Walters Price


    Great post! Congrats!! As Jamey Lee told me, Jesus has a tat… see Revelation 19:16:

    “On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:


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