I have a tattoo. It adorns my wrist, a charm bracelet that never dangles or is removed because it clashes with my outfit. I have to be honest to say that I chose to walk into the tattoo parlor not in my twenties or during a bachelorette party but when I was 50, fully aware of the life choice I was making. Because this marking falls on my wrist and onto my hand, if I am not wearing mittens, it shows. Exactly what I wanted. I get asked about it all the time, compliments from young people and musings about the point of it from those closer to my age. What I tell people is this: it is kinda like my own rosary beads. I grew up in the Catholic church, we were taught to pray a specific prayer for each bead on the necklace. This charm bracelet is my prayer minder, my constant companion, my own list of joys and concerns.
One charm is of a knife, fork and spoon set, it signifies my husband. It takes the place of honor closest to my heart, where my pulse can be felt. Another charm is an arrow, the symbol for my son, who has always been protective and has a choice of which direction his life will go. The elephant charm is an ode to the trip I took with my daughter, a fiercely independent and loyal child. Next comes the tiara for my grandaughter, my little princess and then the globe, for my grandson, my whole world. Finally, a tree, to show my family, friends and faith. They keep my rooted and reaching for more. With two more grandchildren on the way and a bonus granddaughter here, I have been considering additional charms. My bracelet, just as my heart, holds the capacity for more.
My tattoo is not a piece of artwork, it isn’t the most intricate and holds no colors. Yet for me, the beauty of each glance at my wrist, each reminder to lift someone up in prayer, is that I know my church family is joining me. I can look at the arrow and see years of prayer, faithful friends and strangers alike who have lifted this child and now man up through many life struggles. I am reminded I am not alone. I glance at the elephant and I see friends who know my daughter, really know her. People who prayed for our safety throughout our South East Asia backpacking trip and celebrated her successes as a young woman traveling on her own, who have wrapped her in love and prayer when she was pregnant with our princess who now receives her own prayers from the same long-distance friends and family, those she has yet to meet. I pray for my daughter and granddaughter but know I am not alone in those prayers. The globe, these same people have been praying for this child almost from the moment of conception. He is one of our church’s own, a boy so wrapped in the love of God and the faithful acts of His people, I know I am never alone as I lift him up to God.
As I look at the tree, my family and friends, I am reminded to be thankful, to not just ask but to praise God for His blessings of those who are joined with us, chained with our little family into the larger family of God. Those branches give us shelter, encourage us to climb higher. We stay rooted in His Word by their example and know we are bound together. Maybe a simple cross necklace provides this comfort for others, I needed my own rosary, specific beads to define my prayers. A Catholic ritual brought into our Methodist traditions. Joys and concerns shared not just on Sundays but with every glance at my wrist.
I have a tattoo that reminds me I am never alone in my worries, fears, joys and celebrations. May you be filled with such a reminder every moment as well, may you know that even in the darkness when trees seem to obstruct the light, you are rooted in the family of God. May you find comfort in knowing your joys and concerns are shared by all those encircled by the faith.