On a summer afternoon, when I was 21, I went to a walk-up tattoo shop on 17th Ave in Calgary. On a whim, I picked out a little red maple leaf, surrounded by the words “Made in Canada” and an hour later, I walked out with my then-nationalism inked on my hip.

I was so sure I would never regret it but I have to admit (yes, Mum and Dad, you knew that this day would come…) that with my views on nationalism and pacifism these days, it gives me twinges of regret, my 21-year-old self full of youthful national pride which my 34-year-old self now eschews in favour of a greater Kingdom. It’s “cute” and if there is one thing I don’t want to be, it’s that – so dismissive and condescending for anyone older than a toddler – so I’m twice as glad now that I put it somewhere underneath my clothes away from eyes and chuckles.

But now I want a purple Scottish thistle and a stalk of wheat entwined on my back for my beautiful roots deep in the land, a bright dogwood for my faith in the risen Christ, I want the names of my tinies and my beloved in my own handwriting on the palms of my hands (see? I will say, I have you carved in the palms of my hands, how could you forget/doubt/not understand how I love you always?) I want the silhouette of a sparse mountain pine tree on my ribs, I want the words love is enough on my wrists and beloved on my feet.

I have filled my house with words and it never feels like enough. I want to scrawl whole passages of books on the stairway walls, scripture on the fireplace, psalms on the cupboards, epic poems on the east wall, quotes on pumpkins, rules on the stairs, wear out a pack of Sharpies on the backs of the doors, just writing the truth that I know while I know it still for someday.

But just one more tattoo has been added to my skin. It’s likely the last tattoo.

On a summer afternoon, in my mid-thirties now, I went to a small suburban tattoo shop, next to a grocery store, in Abbotsford. I had carefully researched and selected a deeply symbolic tattoo I wanted, a small dove, and I walked back out with it inked on my slim white wrist for my higher allegiance.


This little dove is for peace, for my search for peace, for my peace-making heart, for the peace that Jesus gives, for my committment to peace and wholeness in my own life, and in the world God created, and called good.

It’s for the Holy Spirit, for my reliance on living a spirit-filled life, for my reliance on the breath of God, the infilling, it’s even for my tongue-talking mysticism.

It’s for a fearless life. It’s for the soaring truth that love wins, and perfect love casts out fear, and I will spread my small wings a bit further, lean a little further into the wind, take flight even, perhaps.

And it’s for motherhood, for how these tinies have given me a new birth, a reinvention, a whole new life, and I carry them now, tattooed on my skin.

An inch of my blue-veined skin to mark my new beginnings, I want to carry these things forward into the days ahead, I’ve been changed by it all.

This little dove faces out at the world: on purpose.

A combination of two posts from the archives as part of the Deeper Story synchroblog about how our tattoos embody part of our story


In which I have circles of friendship - and a Lobster
In which I've got a song to sing
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  • Gretchen

    I completely understand the desire to put so many words on your skin. That’s why I don’t have any tattoos! I’m worried that whatever i eventually decide on will be something that I’ll change my mind about later. But I love the time and research you put into this tattoo. That’s a lot of meaning packed into one little dove.

  • Donna

    Sarah, thank you. I just had the word “hesed” tattooed on my wrist this weekend…for many, many reasons… many the same as yours listed above. How wonderful it was to read your post today. I get it. So get it.

  • I love this. My sister has always said that she doesn’t have one because there’s nothing she wants permanently etched into her skin. My other sister has two, both of which have deep significance for her. I know what I will be getting when I do get one (which I’ve promised myself for my 40th birthday, and that’s not too far off). Just have to decide where to put it. I like where you chose to put yours.

  • Melinda

    I just got a tattoo on my arm this weekend. My extended family is not supportive of this at all and I am expecting some tense family get togethers this week. But every time my kids look at my arm they will be able to see the never ending love I have for them and their Daddy. Thanks so much for this post. I needed it today!

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  • I love your tattoo–simple and lovely and meaningful. Thanks for sharing your story!

  • it’s perfect.

  • Kelly LoveWell

    I have no tattoos. Yet.

    And I have to say, I hold back because of what you say here: How would I stop? What would I choose? My soul already bears the stain scars of God. How could I accurately reflect what marks me, what’s changed me?

    Love your writing. Love your heart.

  • This. Oh, I’m about to cry.
    When I was 21 I was at Bible school in Costa Rica and I was so scared of the “what might be” that I almost gave up and came home. Instead my house mom taught me that I was not trusting in Jesus, but what I could control. And eventually that semester became so wonderful to me (and the thing I feared most, bugs on our week long mission trip at the end of the semester… there wasn’t a single one that whole week, not even a mosquito!) that it’s one of my favorite memories.
    I found a shadow of a dove on a worship folder and copied it down and went and had it tattooed on my back. Now I know it’s a “tramp stamp”, but I don’t care. I wanted it in a place I knew it could be hidden if I had to (as tattoos weren’t okay for teachers 12+ years ago), but also where it wouldn’t stretch with weight gain. I thought about it long and hard and I don’t regret it either, even though as my mother loves to point out I have to explain it to my children now.
    To me it represents peace, internal peace, that only Jesus can bring when I learn to trust and let go of my worries and fears. And the power of the Holy Spirit. And it’s a double outline filled in with blue, my favorite color which to me represents freedom.
    12 years later I’m still trying to learn these lessons. Just in a different context.
    I have so many things I could write about this, but I think in pictures and emotions and it doesn’t always translate to words succinctly. So thank you for writing this, for putting some words to my feelings.

  • Sheri Morrow

    Wow, so moved by your post Sarah. I love words, verses, poetry, writing, God’s word, lyrics and so having Grace tattooed on my wrist was where my heart was, and at age 47, I am good with it. I also had a hummingbird with the words my mom would say to me when I told her I loved her…LOVE YOU MORE. on my left (heart side) inside above my ankle. Anyway what I wanted to say, is that I love your blog, Your authenticity and your heart, for peace, the Holy Spirit and for a higher purpose. Just so grateful to be able to read your blog. We have a friend in common, her name is Rachel Barkman. She is the children’s pastor at our church & we love her.

  • Wonderful Sarah. I love the tattoo, and all it symbolises to you. A beautiful post which shows how your tattoos have embodied your story. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  • Beautiful! It’s classy and meaningful. I can totally relate to your “tattoos-I’m-thinking-about” list. Once you get started, it’s easy to get caught up. And now, of course, you’ve given me a few more for my list. 😉

    I’ve got two butterflies on my ankle for my two sons who were stillborn and the Hebrew words for “In the Image of God” on my wrist. It takes me a couple years to contemplate before I’m ready, but I’m sure I’ll get at least one more… or two…

  • Jo

    Love this post. I’m thinking of getting a small red heart on my foot or wrist.
    For some reason your post made me think of the Brooke Fraser song “Betty” and in particular these lyrics…
    You’ve got your scars and you’ve got your birthmarks
    You’ve got Toronto hiding on your hip, honey
    You’ve got your secrets
    You’ve got your regrets
    Darling, we all do

  • I love this!

  • I love it. I am very seriously considering my second tattoo since my simplistic Jesus fish I got on a dare to prove that I was brave when I was 18. I want the word Remain on my wrist. Because it’s the truth I seem to always always forget.

    I try everything else first, food, exercise, systems, people, stuff, TV, books… and my main call for life, for fruit is to remain in him, remain his daughter… just to remain. But I forget it, like a wandering sheep again and again. So… I’m thinking about it. Remain.

  • I love this. I was inspired by your Prophetic Post (laying on hands and sending out in love) to write on my son’s floor, staying words. We’re under construction. Before we smashed walls down I wrote out a lot of pain and took a baseball bat to it. It was fabulous. Now I’m writing staying words in each room. My teenage son’s subfloor is down and I’m taking some of your bold, faith-filled, Holy Spirit sending words and combining them with my tenderhearted, love filled words for my son. These will be the words under his feet each morning. Thank-you for your inspiration and WORDS!

  • Abby Buter

    Thank you for sharing this Sarah. Your words and tattoo are beautiful!

  • MA

    My 49th birthday was during Lent this year, and as I reflected I had a small white cross tattooed on each wrist, so that when I pray I lean upon the cross of forgiveness and grace.

  • beautiful! That’s exactly why I got a dove tattooed on my wrist this past Holy Week.