“So my first tattoo I got when I was sixteen. My mom, my sister, and I all went together. We had to drive to Vermont since that’s the only place in New England that allows minors to get a tattoo with your parents. Our thing is the song ‘You are my Sunshine.’ The song says ‘my only sunshine,’ but my mom changed it to ‘my little sunshine’ since she had two daughters. So my sister and I both got ‘My little sunshine’ on our ribs and my mom got ‘You are my sunshine’ on her back. It was right before Madi, my sister, went away for college. It’s a memoir of the good ole days.
“Friends are for a season, but families are forever. Especially when you have such a wonderful family. My father is so constant and loving, but my mom is the sunshine of our family. She brings such light and passion and craziness and weirdness. She’s so great and so bright. Both my sister and I went through seasons of strife with her growing up, but no matter what we go through, we’ll always have that bond. My mom will always accept us for who we are and love us. She’ll always view us as her little sunshines.”
Kenzie turned her back slightly to show a mountain range on the back of her shoulder. “My second one I got was the mountains and the Greek word ‘Amen.’ The literal translation of that is, ‘so be it,’ or ‘let it be so.’ My friend told me that when I was still 17. I was going through this really hard time, my boyfriend and I just broke up after dating for three and a half years. It was a really hard time and I didn’t know who I was. She told me I just had to let it be so and trust God’s plan. That’s so cheesy to say but it’s so real. God’s plan is perfect no matter how bad it seems at the time. That was my motto for about six months.
“My dad and I love the word ‘Amen.’ We were planning on climbing Mount Washington that summer, it’s the tallest mountain in the north-east. So we climbed it and it was such a good experience, I learned so much about myself after that. It was hard to summit the mountain, it took us eight hours in total. But we did it. The first hour I tried to rush everything to make it go faster. But I learned that you can’t enjoy the moment if you rush the process, you’re only going to get worn out. Breathe, and take life as it comes.
“It was also so fun to get to know my dad better. Spending eight hours alone with someone is really intimate. My dad is the most amazing, loving, caring man ever. It’s hard for me to think of a God that is more caring and loving than him. When we got to the summit, I thought, ‘I can’t believe that God is better than the man next to me right now.’ I’ve been so blessed with such a great father, sometimes I take it for granted. But I realized in that moment that God is even greater.
“The week after the hike, my dad and I got the mountain tattoos. I love him. We’re just so close, my whole family is just so close.
“The mountain represents how there are so many ups and downs in life. An hour into the hike, I literally sat down and said, ‘Dad, I’m done, I don’t want to do this anymore.’ I knew we still had three more hours to get to the top. He kept saying, ‘C’mon, we can do it. Amen, let it be so. It’s bad right now but we can get through it. It’ll get better.’ And it did, the hike got better at some points and got worse at others. Then we got to the top and it was so worth it. It actually changed my life.”
Kenzie flipped her hand around to show cursive lettering on her wrist. “And then last week I got this one. I’ve always wanted something that I could use to share the gospel. My friends and I were sitting at dinner and we were talking about tattoos and I explained how I wanted the gospel on my wrist but hadn’t found the perfect thing. And then I was scrolling on Pinterest and saw this, ‘Tetelestai,’ and I thought, ‘Oh, I know what that means!’ When Jesus cried out His last breath he said, ‘Tetelstai’ which means ‘it is finished.’ Back then, on receipts, they would stamp ‘Tetelstai‘ meaning the debt was paid in full. It’s just so cool that Jesus said that our sins are paid in full. So as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to get it, it felt so right. We went to Blackbird Tattoo and Gallery and all four of us impulsively got tattoos. And it was great.
“It was so random but it was right. I’ve already been able to talk to so many people about it. It’s so cool, it’s exactly what I wanted. It’s a mission statement on my wrist.”
I asked if Kenzie would mind sharing about her relationship that lasted for three and half years. “No, I don’t mind. He was emotionally and verbally abusive. I thought I had to stay with him to fix him. I always excused the way he acted. When we broke up, he told him it was because God was calling him to leave me, only to find out he had been cheating on me for a whole year. It was so hard, it made me think I wasn’t good enough for anyone or that I did something wrong. It was a long recovery. I had to realize that I was enough, the bad decision someone else made wasn’t because of me or anything I did. It’s still hard sometimes, but I’m happy. I’ve moved on. The only thing that got me through it was knowing that I was enough because Jesus died for me.”
I asked what she would say to girls who found themselves in a similar situation. “I thought I needed to fix him because he wasn’t a good kid. I became his relationship with God, I became his goodness, and when I was away from him, all the bad parts came back. So what I would say is that you literally cannot fix someone. I couldn’t fix him, nothing that I did could fix him.
“I would also remind the person to take care of their mental health before someone else’s. If you’re being abused, you’re being mistreated, and that is absolutely unacceptable, no matter if they love you or say sorry. Even if you love them with all your heart, it’s unacceptable to be in a relationship like that. Only God can fix people, and only people can choose to fix themselves.”
Thanks to Kenzie Bayes for sharing her story
Thanks to Kayla McEathron for photographing