When a baby is born, the first thing a mama does is examine her wee one head to foot, counting fingers and toes, studying her beloved child.
As parents, we do everything in our power to prevent our kids from suffering injury of any kind. We can’t bear to think of anything marring that perfect skin.
Yet if we live long enough, life leaves its mark on all of us, doesn’t it?
Some scars are external – the visible witness of wounds or surgery or accidents. Others are internal – life experiences that carve tracks in our souls and stamp our psyches with memories of what we’ve endured. Still others are completely intentional – visual pictures of a person, place, or events we wish to commemorate.
About a dozen years ago, my husband and I were having a video chat with our daughter and son-in-law in Tacoma. Mike and I were sitting at the kitchen island in our former home in Illinois when Amber glanced at Ben, giggled, and said, “Mom? Dad? I have news.”
My heart rate sped up. This is it! I thought. They've been married over five years. This is the news we’ve been hoping for!
I squeezed Mike’s hand tightly, catching my breath as a huge smile spread across my face.
“I wanted to tell you…”
“YES?” we exclaimed, almost in unison.
“…that I…I…I got a tattoo!”
I swear someone poured liquid nitrogen over my head in that instant. My face froze in a flash.
A tattoo? I’d been hoping for the first baby in our family, and instead we were getting a TATTOO?
Our daughter had her reasons, as did our youngest son some years before when he designed his own body art. The ink on Amber’s ankle and Jordan’s forearm tells a story in much the same way as a stained-glass window needs no words to convey its message.
Truth be told, I’ve never been a fan of permanent ink anywhere on the body. Call me a golden-ager or old-fashioned (correct on both counts), but it’s hard to shake childhood stereotypes of tattoos adorning tough-talking sailors going to sea or bikers heading for a rumble.
But as a writer, I’m a sucker for a story.
At a writers’ conference last May, I met a new friend named Melony – a vibrant younger woman from Atlanta whom I knew almost instantly was someone destined to become an old friend. And she has.
In a recent photo Mel sent, I noticed a tattoo peeking out of her sleeveless top and asked her about it. Mel had shared some of her medical history with me, including a stroke she suffered when she was only two that led her to begin an Overcomers ministry (you can read her story in her first book Challenges Won’t Stop Me.)
In Mel's words, here’s the story behind her unique tattoo:
“When I had my first ministroke in 2010, it scared me in a BIG way. I don’t remember anything about the stroke I had at age two.
So the new weakness on my left side, difficulty reading, an increase in my difficulty with word retrieval, and fatigue rocked my world.
After the second ministroke in 2014, I began to worry that my life would be an ongoing series of neurological issues that would slowly disable me.
I had another ministroke later that year.
I wanted a tangible, visible reminder of how the neurological struggles might weaken me, but God strengthened me. He helped me to fight to overcome, so I had the word overcomer tattooed on the bicep of my weak (left) arm. And one flower to represent my stroke, and two more to represent the two ministrokes I had in 2014.
When I shared the picture of it on social media, I said, “If I have more neurological struggles, I will add more flowers. And if it becomes a garden of flowers, I will keep fighting.”
I added another flower after my fourth ministroke in 2015.
Then I added the dragonfly to represent my brain surgery in 2016.
Three more flowers for the ministrokes after my surgery. It seemed as if the garden was complete. Until I became a semi colon [surgery to remove much of her colon] in 2021. So, I added the ladybug.
On my rough days, I look at my tattoo in the mirror and remind myself of all the ways God has been with me, fought for me, answered my prayers when I call for help, and loves me with His unfailing love.
It serves as my stones of remembrance. ‘Thus far God has helped me.’”
Melony Brown is an Overcomer. No wonder she has encouraged hundreds of others facing medical challenges like she has.
Friends, do you have scars – visible or not – that carry a story? A story that you can share with someone else currently on the battlefield?
Author Sharon Jaynes puts it this way:
“No one can comfort a woman with cancer like a woman who has also heard the word malignant from a doctor’s diagnosis.
“No one can comfort the mother of a prodigal like a mother who has also worn her knees raw praying for her child to come home.
“No one can comfort an abandoned wife like another woman who has also watched her husband walk out the door.
“No one can comfort a woman who’s struggling with the shame of an abortion like a woman who has experienced forgiveness and grace for her own.”
As we enter this new year, ask God to use your past experiences to come alongside someone else who needs to know they are not alone.
Your scars tell a story, and you are the only one who can tell it.
- Maggie Wallem Rowe, 2024
Congratulations to Pat Unander (IA), winner of If You’re Not Dead, You’re Not Done by James Watkins. Watch this space the first week of every month for a new giveaway.
If you’ve read either This Life We Share and/or Life is Sweet, Y’all, and have not yet left a review, would you do so please? Just a couple of sentences of recommendation really helps my publisher and it certainly encourages me.
Links are below. Thanks, friends!