If You’ve Been Looking for a Sign

When I find out what a teenager’s done, I’d like to ring one slender neck.

Dirt rings the mudroom sink like nasty vandalism.

To-do lists keep scrawling ugly, longer and longer.

I can’t find my watch. The bathroom mirror is splattered and smudged.

The weather forecast makes it impossible to know if we should plant our next field or wait till the next rain or what to do.

We watch the sky for a sign.

We pray, we pray these begging prayers.








I go a whole week not knowing what time it is.

I can’t make sense of anything and this lump in my throat burns.

A high school friend, one who knew the thick glasses and the crush on the Dutch farmboy and the blessed scent of the library stacks, she and I are an impossible twenty years older and we go for a walk.

Everything feels dark and I don’t know how to talk. I listen to her. She has all these questions of her own. I can only nod.

We’re walking down a side street in town when I stop.

I stop and reach for my camera.

Rachel keeps talking about mortgage rates, about the Gospels and Jesus and speech pathology and the meaning of life and her mind was always been this mushrooming wonder holding me rapt.

I aim the camera at the sidewalk. Fiddle for the shutter. The lens works to focus.

And Rachel stops mid-sentence.

She reads the words chalked on asphalt out loud, words I’m focusing on.


She reads them slow, like a decoding of everything:

“Hey beautiful! You are Loved!”

“Oh.” She says it like an awakening. “Oh — and here I just thought it was graffiti.”

I nod in the middle of an epiphany.

The graffiti can be grace.

What seems a defacement may be a glimpse of His face.

All the writing on the wall could be love notes.

I turn to Rachel, the camera, the capturing, still in hand, and the wind gusts, and I cheer it into the wind, into her —

“Hey Beautiful! You are loved!”

And she laughs loud and we’re carried and hey, who needs Ryan Gosling and his “Hey Girl” meme when you’ve got God with His “Hey Beautiful” promise ?

Everything could make sense and the real mystery of grace is that it always arrives in time.

Like the wind, grace finds us wherever we are and won’t leave us however we were found.

I take another picture. So I’ll remember.

“This deciphers everything, doesn’t it?”

Love always does.

And the dialect of God is the day just as it comes — and whenever I slow down and shift perspective, it’s possible to read the impossible: the divine language of love written on all the walls.

This smiling, startling alphabet of grace…

I can feel it standing right there standing on the sidewalk.

Grace isn’t a mere pollyanna feeling. It’s a force.

It’s a powerful force as startling as the power of electricity. Grace is the power of God pulsating with this passionate love of God, this jolting, blazing, dangerous love that pierces all of humanity’s pitch black.

Grace always shocks.

Grace always stuns.

Grace is always what we need.

It’s what everyone groping around lost in the dark has to know: turn towards Grace and you turn on all the lights.

The whole black asphalt at our feet torches with the revelation.

And there’s more than enough light to see it —

How the day’s fresh mercies make even here clean enough for all these chalkings of His love.




seeing all the graffiti as grace, reading between all the moments and seeing the ways He loves…  the endless One Thousand Gifts:

#3456…   a pocket of lemon in the middle of a cupcake

#3457… my one brother talking with my four boys on our one couch

#3458… pansies in April and this printable on the fridge to begin the week

#3459… almonds

#3460… the way he closes the door behind him

#3461… my mama and my sister sitting two seats down from me on Sunday morning

#3462… when he cuts up a pineapple for us all

#3463.. reaching for a Bible first thing

#3464… last basketball games

#3465… steaming iron!

#3466… the truth of this

#3467… the weather radar and him getting up to check it at 1:00 am on Monday morning

#3468… planting our fields with our boys

#3469… slobbery, full-face kisses from a one year old niece

#3470… a weekend of beautiful community

#3471… praying with women I’ve just met

#3472… passing down kleenexes

#3473… would it’d be amiss not to murmur wonder at His #13, week #37 at NYTimes, all Him, for Him alone, His people being drawn to Him

#3474… mama making up the Saturday night salad with boys

#3475… the sparrows singing early

#3476… all the graffiti in my life that can be read as grace

…. thanks be to God

Click here to print May’s Joy Dare:
  and begin this week — this month — right!

Count three gifts a day, 1000 gifts in 2012 (and be entered to win the NikonD90 camera?) Thank-you is a word that can change you, your world — the whole world!

And a surprise for May: A JOY BASKET GIVEAWAY:

(We’ll announce the winner of April’s Joy Basket tomorrow — so everyone still has a chance today!)


Each day of May, either share your gifts on on Twitter {label with #1000gifts #JoyDare so we can find you!}, or with us in the gratitude community at Facebook , or on Pinterest (#1000gifts).

Each day, 3 people will who share their gifts via Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest will be randomly selected & entered into a drawing for JOY BASKET: a gift card @ Amazon {100$} & {signed copies of One Thousand Giftsthe photographic gift book, the DayBrightner, and the family gratitude journal} Give thanks to Him in the assembly!

Join us? And happily change everything by keeping your own crazy list of One Thousand Gifts?

Please, jump in, make your life about giving thanks to God! — Just add the direct URL to your specific 1000 gift list post… and if you join us, we humbly ask that you please help us find each other in our refrain of thanks by sharing the community’s graphic within your post.

Give thanks to the Lord! His Love Endures Forever!

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