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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Blowout (04/28/11)

TITLE: Designs on Us
By Anita van der Elst


My secret wish is about to come true. As a forty-two year old businesswoman, who has always dressed to avoid attention, I’m feeling rather out of place. I resolutely push through the doors of the shop. I’ve never been inside before—this particular shop or any other of its genre. A young woman I work with, who comes here often, recommended it. Clean and friendly, she said. Not what I pictured for the kind of shop it is. Somehow I imagined it would be a dank, dark basement grotto type of place. I sigh with relief. Having a secret wish granted can sometimes be stressful. I know this one will also be painful but I am ready.

Staycee, the tattoo artist, explains the procedure and we begin. She tells me she must be very careful how much pressure she applies with the needle. Too little and not deep enough, the ink will fade. The design will not last. Too much pressure and too deep, the ink will spread through the capillaries and a blowout will occur. The lines will become blurred, haloed, might even cause bumps and scars that will be permanent. Finding the appropriate spot between the layers of skin is a skill I appreciate this young lady having. It’s good to have something to appreciate while gritting your teeth.

To further distract myself from the discomfort, I think about the design I’ve chosen. After describing to a friend what I wanted, he drew it out for me. It’s perfect.

After the work is done I admire the back of my right shoulder in the mirrors. A dove with wings outspread and in calligraphy the words ‘signed sealed delivered’ encircling the bird and weaving through its wings. Underneath in delicate smaller font a scripture reference: Ephesians 1:11-14. Now it dawns on me the correlation between the design and what Staycee’d explained to me.

My skin burns and I’m reminded of the inner pain I’d endured for many years. Abused by an uncle in ways no little girl should ever have to encounter, I’d carried the shame until depression and suicidal thoughts drove me as an adult to professional counselling.

Then one day browsing in a thrift store prior to an appointment with my therapist in the building next door, I came across a battered book. Its hardback cover imitated distressed leather and on the spine in gold were the words The Message. I’d read The Secret and thought maybe it was similar. The first several pages were missing so I had no idea until I was halfway through Genesis that it was a Bible. If I’d known, I would’ve dropped it like a hot potato back into the thrift store bin. My uncle had kept me at the dinner table every night to listen to him read from the Bible, as though that absolved him from his misdeeds. I’d always zoned out to whatever he read. But this book drew me in and I was hooked. Long story short it wasn’t long before I sought out a church and learned that God had been seeking me and He was nothing like my uncle.

As I worked through the emotional wreckage of my childhood, the words in this book infiltrated my spiritual battleground like stalwart soldiers. And when I got to a section in a letter Paul wrote to some Ephesian people, the emotional and spiritual merged for me.

“It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone. It's in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what's coming, a reminder that we'll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.”

The ugly mark my uncle had put on me was like a blowout on a tattoo. I couldn’t remove the experience or the results. Nor could I make myself invisible. But I could take on this new mark pressed in to the appropriate depth of my soul by God’s perfect ring of love, hope and redemption. What my tattoo and my new life is all about.

(Scripture reference: Ephesians 1:11-14, Eugene H. Peterson’s The Message)

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Member Comments
Member Date
Robyn Burke05/05/11
Wow, you had me at 'secret' and kept me hooked all the way through. I LOVE the way you linked these very different topics, (abuse, tatoo, Jesus) and made me see clearly what your MC was feeling in each part of her life experiences. heart tugging and worth applauding.. and I would love to actually see this tatoo! it sounds beautiful.
Sarah Heywood05/07/11
I really enjoyed this! From the first line, you just drew me in as I felt the differing emotions of your MC. Now, I want to go look up that Ephesians passage for myself! Wonderful job!
Laury Hubrich 05/08/11
I KNEW you were entering a tattoo place:) That wasn't a surprise. You did an excellent job writing this. Very good title, too.
Helen Curtis05/09/11
This is a favourite scripture of mine, and one I cling to very much in life! Your story is beautiful, so easy to read and with a wonderful message presented. Well done.
Leola Ogle 05/12/11
Congrats on your EC placement. Truly heart-felt story. Great job! God bless!