Before you get that tattoo…

On my 40th birthday, I went totally crazy and got drunk and blacked out and woke up with a huge tattoo.

I mean, I did get a tattoo on my birthday – but it wasn’t a surprise and I wasn’t drunk. …Unless you can get drunk on the Cracker Barrel’s “Country Boy” breakfast. If so, I was definitely drunk.
Regardless, this happened…

It was this or Botox. 
Might as well have tattooed a Christian fish
on my forehead. Hindsight and all that.
A month later, I got color…
Look how much FUN I’m having. Needles are SO FUN!!

I thought I was so cool with my plastic wrap and medical tape.
Then I got home and saw my squishy old lady arm looked like raw sausage links.
 So embarrassing. 
I’m in love with my tattoo and I don’t regret it for a second, but if I’m being totally honest, I’d say there are some things about having a tattoo that I was not prepared for. Like your first sexual encounter, or having your first baby, or eating your first Jimboy’s taco, no one really tells you what to expect later. But I’ve been a tattooed person for six whole weeks now, and I’ve experienced some physical, emotional, and cultural ramifications that took me by surprise.
So, before you get that tattoo, consider this:
  • A visible tattoo is an invitation for chit-chat. It’s like you’re wearing a sign that says, “I’m interesting and I have ‘a story’. ASK ME QUESTIONS!” This is an introvert’s worst nightmare. The first time a complete stranger said, “Tell me about your tattoo.”, I was totally caught off guard. I didn’t know how to answer, so I stammered, “Well…it’s, um…*swallow*…made of ink…aaaand…I like it?”
    (I should not be let outside without supervision.)
  • If people can only see part of your tattoo, they will want to see the rest. Be prepared to hike up your sleeve or push down your sock or undo your belt or whatever, because if the tiniest little bit of your tattoo is peeking out, the hidden parts become public domain. Now the right sleeve on every t-shirt I own is all stretched out and floppy from being pulled over my shoulder no less than 27 times a day – But you can’t blame people for wanting to see the whole thing when you’re carrying around a work of art. It’s just part of the deal. 
  • Tattoo gazing is awkward for everyone. Or just me. I love my tattoo, and I really don’t mind showing it off, but after I yank my sleeve into my armpit so someone can take a good look, it get’s kinda weird. Like, how long am I supposed to stay like that? How should I hold my arm? Down? Out? At an angle? Should I flex? Are they still looking? Do I need to stand perfectly still? Where should I point my face? OMG. WHAT DO I DO WITH MY HANDS?!?! 

    It is 45 seconds of pure angst. And it’s inevitable.
  • Tattoos are gross when they’re healing. I know you know already know this. This was not surprise to me, as I’ve gently rubbed many a glob of Aquaphor over El Chupacabra’s crusty, flaky, scabby, healing tattoos over the years. The problem is that everyone is super excited to see your brand new tattoo because it’s brand new, but you don’t want to show them how awesome it is until it stops looking like the beginning of the zombie apocalypse.
  • Sometimes, certain colors don’t like you. Red? Not my pal. The decomposing body stage of tattoo healing lasted a really long time after I had the color done, because Red hates me. It’s one of those things you don’t know will kill you until you do, but that’s why God gave us antibiotics. And if those don’t work and your arm falls off? Prosthetics.

    This doesn’t even begin to show the terrible things
    that were happening in the red zone.
    …Terrible things were happening.
  • People are people. Again, no surprise. But if you get a tattoo, be prepared to hear the same exact jokes, comments, questions, opinions, and off hand interpretations every day for the rest of your life. “Did that hurt?” “Is that real?” “Were you in the Navy?” “Were you attacked by a Sharpie gang?” “I don’t like tattoos.” “I don’t like tattoos on girls.” “I love tattoos on girls.” “Will you marry me?” “Cool ink.” “Is that new ink?” “When’d ya get inked?” “Did you come up with that idea yourself?
    Every. Single. Day.
  • Getting a Christian tattoo is the pretty much the same as having a Christian fish on your car. Now I have to behave myself in public. When I’m wearing short sleeves. 
  • Your tattoo will make you a douche. At least for a little while, you will be a tattoo douche. It’s like a right of passage. You will stare at yourself and your tattoo in every mirror, window, puddle of water, and shiny spoon you encounter. You can’t even help it. You will also find ways to include your tattoo or parts of your tattoo in all your selfies. And everyone else’s. It could be on the bottom of your foot, it doesn’t even matter, you will find a way because you’re a tattoo douche. Don’t despair, this wears off pretty fast for most people. Most. 
Who me? I’m just driving…

(That was before color, but I’m still kind of douching out.)

  • It doesn’t matter where you live, you should probably go to Kentucky and get your first tattoo from Scott Bryant. It sounds a little extreme, but I flew out to Louisville specifically to have this guy do my first tattoo because I knew I could trust him with the rest of my arm’s life. He’s done incredible work on my husband and my son and my sister, so he was the obvious choice for me. He is a tattoo wizard. Also, he’s my brother-in-law — BUT I WOULD HAVE GONE TO HIM NO MATTER WHAT. I’m so, so, so grateful to him for making my first tattoo such a great experience. (Thank you, Scott!!! I don’t believe anything Emily says about you.)
You should definitely check out his work, connect, make an appointment through Acme Ink, Louisville (or look for one of the other shops around the country where he works as a featured guest from time to time) and get yourself something nice. 
ALL THAT to say: Here is my finished tattoo. I could not be happier with it!

“And what does the Lord require of you?…”
Micah 6:8

If you have tattoos, do you have any other words of advice or warning for me and my fellow tattoo newbies? We’re listening, Oh Wise Ones.

If you don’t have tattoos. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR???




  1. Madeline Widrick on June 21, 2018 at 11:18 am

    Some tattoo advice:
    -ask your tattoo artist for advice and listen to it! They’re professionals and they’ve been doing this for a while. They know whether or not your insanely detailed tiny tattoo will work or not.
    -I would say take time to think about your tattoos before you get them, but my first one was very spontaneous and I still love it 2 years later. That being said, for bigger and more visible ones, do think about them.
    -for Pete’s sake, don’t pick at the scabs unless you want a scarred tattoo. I found that out with my most recent one, which was also the first one with a lot of shading.
    -placement planning is key. I’ve just started designing a sleeve for myself and oh boy, there is so much planning involved beyond the design.
    -have fun with it and be proud! Your body is the temple of God, you’re decorating the walls to honor him, just like the Israelite’s did!

  2. Kelly Wilson on July 7, 2018 at 6:57 pm

    Hey! I’ve been following your work for a while on social media and podcasts for a while—congratulations on the book launch! When I started to do a search today on designs for a Micah 6:8 tattoo (after a while of experimenting with temporary tattoos from the folks at Armed With Truth), I was so psyched this article from a few years ago popped up in the search. This must have been what it was like when Timothy opened those letters from Paul: hey, you’re writing about me! And telling me all the things I’m going to do wrong! In any case, I’m grateful for the warning.

  3. Paul Nipper on August 31, 2018 at 5:01 am

    Tattoos are an expression you, and not necessarily of Jesus. Imagine having tattoos before being saved. This is not judging you, but considering the ramnification of permanently marking your body. You may have something on your shoulder that may not be in your heart.

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