I don’t know if this should be considered a mid-life crisis or not, but I marked my 45th birthday with a tattoo. Now, this isn’t my first tattoo, so I don’t really think it falls into a category of things that should cause my children to wonder about my ability to make good decisions. Reality is, I was in my mid-30’s before I got my first tattoo, so none of them have been particularly rash decisions.
While all my tattoos have meaning behind them, this one is feeling particularly momentous to me. Years ago, after showing him a picture of me walking into my grade 9 graduation, my dad looked at me and said, “You make sure you always stand tall, with your head up high. Don’t let anyone make you hang your head down.” It was a very memorable conversation, one that has really stuck with me. So, it only seemed appropriate that the words “stand tall” are in my dad’s handwriting.
The trees symbolize strength and endurance. Trees, especially here in Southern Alberta, get blown around and beat up, but the scars and missing branches tell the story of the tree. Someone recently encouraged me with this idea, reminding me that the scars of my story can be beautiful, telling of God’s grace and faithfulness in my life.
I loved the image of the three trees, with the trees in the background less defined – I think it’s beautiful. But the more I thought about it for this tattoo, the more meaningful it became. While everyone should stand tall in who God created them to be, some of us, myself included, have been created and gifted to stand in the forefront.
I write these words and wonder, is this arrogant? It feels arrogant. This is an idea I have been wrestling with over the last number of years, as I settle into who I am and lean into the gifts that God has given me. Gifts of leadership, public speaking – gifts that often find me in the front of a room. Gifts that I’ve been told are “not attractive in a woman.”
Ouch. So, how do I reconcile that with the fact that I, as a woman, have these qualities, and am called to use them to the best of my ability to glorify God? Am I supposed to take these gifts and say, “thanks, God, but I need to just tuck these away, because I’m a woman?”
For too long, this has been the message that women have been given. Leadership gifts, speaking abilities, are good for teaching Sunday School and planning nursery schedules and coffee fellowship, but that’s about it. Don’t get me wrong – these are important tasks and need to be done and done well. But are these really the only areas that women are to use gifts of leadership? I don’t think so, and I’m thankful to see this beginning to shift within the evangelical church.
As I settle into comfortably into my 40’s and enter this next stage of life, I am also fully leaning into these gifts. I am accepting that the desire I have to be at the front of a room, the thrill I get from public speaking, these were placed in me by God, to be used for His glory.
So these three trees on my arm are a celebration of that journey, along with the encouragement from my dad to hold my head high and stand tall. A reminder to use the talents I have been given to their fullest extent, not holding back because I’m a woman, but to steward them wisely as I seek to use them to glorify my Father who gave them to me.