How to Remember God

July 7, 2014 | 45 comments

“So we pick up rocks to lay down burdens, collect the feathers so hope will fly. We hold on to the gifts we find in the simple stuff of earth, the gifts that help us to see, to wonder, and to celebrate our smallness again. Maybe today is the day for you to begin to see again, to choose what you’ll look for among natural things to help remind you of supernatural hope.”

~ Emily Freeman

So I have this thing about Ys.

Some of you know that, because you’ve been hanging out here with me a long time — clear back when hope began to present itself to me through that one letter, Y.

But many of you are new around here. And after I read Emily’s post the other day, I thought it might be good to tell you why I see Ys. Why I seek Ys…


In 2009, I was in a head-on collision on an Iowa highway and came away with only a minor injury on my left leg. Moments before the crash, I was listening to a song by Chris Tomlin, a song that repeats the name Yahweh, over and over.

Well, when the doctor sewed up the wound in ER, it was in the shape of a Y. I thought… of course. Y for Yahweh.

It moved me to tears.

It felt as if Yahweh had marked me with His initial after blessing me with the miracle of getting out of that crash alive and whole. I declined plastic surgery to remove the scar. I wanted to keep my Y.

Sadly, the Y scar has faded over time.

But I still see Ys everywhere — hope finding me right where I am.

I see Ys in sidewalk cracks. Tree branches reaching heavenward. Airplane contrails and clouds. A branch on the ground. In the weeds. In the raised arms of a worshipper.

photo (20)shirt
photo (21)landscape

Last week, my (in)courage sister Emily wrote about how supernatural hope can present itself to us here in the natural world. Her sister, The Nester, finds feathers. Emily collects rocks.

Emily writes: “I don’t think there is anything mystical about feathers or rocks or anything else, but I do think we can choose to let anything remind us to believe, to remember, to hope.”

I choose to let the Ys remind me of Yahweh.

It’s been more than five years since that first Y, spotted on my leg. And it’s been thousands of Ys later. God continues to drop reminders of His presence all over His creation. They are simple reminders that point to jaw-dropping truth: God is actually and miraculously here. He is not an absentee landlord of Earth, or an off-site project manager, or the uncle who only remembers your birthday every other year. No, He is actually right here, with us. Emmanuel. God With Us.

I know that God isn’t the windmill. I don’t worship the windmill. Or the tree branch or the Y cracked into the sidewalk. But the symbol is the trigger to remember the very present nature of our God.

God knows we need everyday reminders and symbols to keep our scatter-brained selves Christ-focused. We only need to attend church on a Sunday morning to see that it works:

We see a cross; we think of Christ.

We smell grape juice or wine; we remember how sweet the gift of forgiveness.

Water = new life.

The smell of wax, a sanctuary.

A rainbow, God’s promise.

A dove, His Holy Spirit.

Nails, a Savior’s sacrifice.

They are all triggers: a candle flame, a favorite hymn, a loaf of bread, a pillar of cloud, an olive branch, a crown, a purple cloth, a gold band around the finger. They are visible markers of an invisible God. Symbols and triggers that point to something greater.

They are often found in more lowly places, far away from the decorated sanctuaries. Look at the craggy stones, and the dandelions, and the wiry spider webs, and the twinkling stars, and strutting peacocks. All of them, small miracles, … and reminders of the creative genius of a loving Father.

Our world is crammed with burning bushes in our backyards and basements and barns. At every Y-fork in the road, we have an opportunity to spy God. Can you see Him today?



Read Emily’s post here.
Also, a hat-tip to author Lisa Whittle, who encouraged us while speaking in Sioux Falls, S.D. last night, to keep our eyes and ears open, to remember God …

{Linking with Kelli and her Unforced Rhythms community}

What do you see, or collect, that reminds you of God’s presence in your life?

by | July 7, 2014 | 45 comments


  1. Jolene Underwood

    Following your post on Unforced Rhythms, which I just found today. So glad I did Jennifer. This piece is beautiful. Thank you for sharing how God speaks to you through creation in a special way, while also noting that it is worship of the Creator and not the created that moves you. When the suns rays break through the clouds, I have always been moved to worship. It has felt like God telling me, “See, I am here and I am breaking through.” Even today, being reminded of that through what moves you ministers to my heart. Many blessings to you Jennifer!

    • dukeslee

      This was my first time sharing on Kelli’s blog. Thanks for stopping by Jolene.

  2. carolhiestand

    I find God at the lake, by a creek, by a pond or even a gurgling water fountain in a back yard. My “sacred spaces” include water. i am looking now for a small water fountain for my patio. I can lose the world and see God when I am in these places. loved reading about your “y’s”

    • dukeslee

      Beautiful, Carol. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Diane Bailey

    I collect heart shaped rocks and take photos of heart shapes I see in nature. It started when I was re-baptised in the Sea of Galilee about ten years ago. I came up and there on the shore was a heart shaped rock.

  4. Anita Rodriguez

    mine is not really a collection of seen items but of a particular sound.
    you see, the tall trees by my house were full of small green parrots which everyone in the neighborhood had spotted but me. i looked and watched but could not distinguish the birds from the leaves. one day as I sat on my porch overlooking the street with the trees i asked God if he would let me just catch a glimpse of the birds I was hearing every day. Before the words were finished in my mind over a dozen small parrots swooped in a loop in front of me.
    God never fails to take my breath away. every morning and afternoon when i hear the parrots cawing, I remember what He did for me and I praise and worship God; for His delight in surprising me, for His faithfulness, and for His infinite grace. .

    • dukeslee

      Small green parrots! What a wonder. What joy! Where do you live, Anita, to be blessed with the sound of parrots?

  5. Michelle

    I was reading a story about spirals.
    How, if we look, we can see spirals in about anything.
    God made these spirals, and we can use these to remind us of Him.

    Great post!

    • dukeslee

      Do you have a link to the story about spirals? I’m intrigued.

  6. Sandra Heska King

    The grand girl and I see X’s and Y’s everywhere. We also see Jesus in the J-shaped curves.

    I see Him in you.

    • dukeslee

      Nice! I love your Y photos. You’ve sent me a few, and they always make me smile. I hadn’t written about Ys for a while, but Emily’s post at (in)courage prompted me to revisit it.

  7. Joanne Norton

    This was a real treat to read and to see. YES, I’m a “God-looking” person, around and about any possible way or time. NOW, I can’t NOT see “Y”s out of our windows with trees and piles of other options. Thanks. Now I’m chuckling and rejoicing and grinning. Ya dun it to me and for me.

    • dukeslee

      Oh, I’m so glad this blessed you, Joanne. I can tell that about you … that you’re a “God-looking” person. 🙂

  8. Bruce Barone

    As a photographer I find crosses pop up in my work. Sometimes, I am not aware of it at first. A curator of my work first pointed it out to me. I shoot often looking out of windows, or looking through windows and my post to One Thousand Gifts today on FB has a cross with in it and a cucumber vine wraps itself around it. And let’s remember a Y turned upside down is a Peace sign.

    • dukeslee

      How wonderful, Bruce! Do you keep the cross photos in a collection?

  9. Jody Ohlsen Collins

    Jennifer, I was with a friend in Louisiana last week, ‘river walking’ (literally walking in a river) and saw a ‘Y’ shaped branch. I told her about your Yahweh noticing. I’m just getting better at noticing beauty small and close–the dew on the leaves, the curl of a leaf, dragonflies–all the Creation sings of our mighty Creator, if we are looking and listening 🙂

    • dukeslee

      If you ever take photos of the Ys you find, drop them on my Facebook page! I love featuring the Y-Finds of my friends!

  10. BrettTGonzalez

    We hold on to the gifts we find in the simple stuff of earth, the gifts that help us to see, to wonder, and to celebrate our smallness again.

    • dukeslee

      Exactly! Thanks for sharing, Brett.

  11. Lynn D. Morrissey

    I remember reading this, Jennifer, and it’s worth repeating, and a beautiful reminder of God’s communicating, reassuring presence. For me? It’s butterflies! Once, during a very despondent time of my life, the Lord sent me butterflies (everywhere I went or looked or even by post at home) to remind me of His transforming love and grace–that my chrysalis of a crucible experience would be transformed by Him into a butterfly experience of beauty and soaring. And it was! I will never think of butterflies in the same way again, and just when I need one, He sends it! Thank you for the reminder to look for Him in the ways He so personally communicates with us, individually. Y does He do it? Because He loves to lavish us with love!

    • Jillie

      Right on, Lynni. Same for me! Butterflies are my symbol of hope and transformation. When I first came to believe, God gave me 2 Corinthians 5:17 as my life verse. And the wise words of Romans 12:1 & 2. Transformation by the renewing of my mind through the Truth of the Word. Right beside these verses in my Bible, I have placed a tiny, colourful butterfly sticker, as my reminder of what He promises me. And He never fails to send a butterfly my way when I really need it most! He is so good.

      • dukeslee

        Love it, Jillie. Thanks for sharing.

        • Lynn D. Morrissey

          Love this, Jillie. If you told me that you are a butterflylady, forgive me: I’d forgotten. Yes, this transformation is what God does in our hearts and minds, and one day in our glorified bodies. The caterpillar gets buried, and the butterfly, resurrects! Glory!

    • Beth Hess

      My Love Language with God is butterflies, too, Lynn. For all the transforming reasons you describe.

  12. Shelly Hendricks

    Beautiful! My mom is a feather-finder, too, and they are all kept by her. She knows who sends them. For me, it’s red-winged blackbirds. Seeing even one reminds me. After my latest brain surgery, in a wintery field on the drive home, I saw an entire field of them take flight just as we rounded the bend in the road. I was crying and speechless immediately. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my favorite song came on the radio right at that moment, either! <3
    Heart Hugs, Shelly

  13. Trudy Den Hoed

    Such a moving story and reason for the Y, Jennifer. Thank you.

  14. Yvonne

    I had read about your Ys previously and I too look for Ys. It helps that it is my first initial and I use it a lot. I also work in a park and am always looking in nature. Everything about being in nature reminds me that God is near and that He is powerful and loving.

    • dukeslee

      Yvonne, if you ever see a Y that intrigues you, I’d love to have you share with me on my Facebook page. Or feel free to email me!

  15. pastordt

    Lovely, dear Jen. Thank you.

    • dukeslee

      Thank you, friend! Do you have any kinds of collections like this, or “sightings” that help you remember God’s faithfulness?

      • pastordt

        Hmmm. I used to collect all things Noah’s Ark. Until two things happened: 1.) EVERYBODY gave me something Noah’s Ark and I ran outta room! 2.) I really studied that text for a sermon and was struck by how NOT child-friendly that story truly is, by how hard it is, even scary. And I sorta lost interest in all the kitsch hanging from my lamps and populating my bookshelves. I have a lot of seashells around my house and they speak to me of the bigness — and the smallness — of our God. That’s about it, I think.

  16. Michelle DeRusha

    You’ve got me keeping my eyes open for “Ys.” Every time I spot one I think of God…and you. And that makes me happy.

  17. Beth Hess

    Butterflies for me. I tried to make it something else, but God said. No, Beth. Butterflies. And he’s been blessing me with sightings and teaching me about total transformation ever since. “Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?” (Mark 8:18) I pray that will never be said of me. So I, like you, keep looking and listening … and learning that God blesses the desire in amazing ways to let me see and hear. Thank you for linking with Unforced Rhythms.

  18. Nancy Kourmoulis

    Jennifer – A joy to see all the Y’s the Lord has shown you over the years – all the ways you have been aware of the Father’s love. Between the Lord and me it is dimes. Wayyy back on the day we bid on our current log cabin, I took the paperwork to be turned in. I added a dime at the end of the bid, just a God whisper. When I went to get back in the van I looked down on the ground and there was a dime. In my spirit it was like God said, that 25 year dream of a log cabin is about to become a reality, you will have the winning bid, here is your dime back. We won the bid and are still working on that dream cabin. Now I find dimes all the time and it always puts a smile on my face to think of how the Father loves so lavishly and personally.

  19. Nancy Ruegg

    Such joy to hear how the letter Y touches your heart in a special way, and then to see all the images of Ys. Our God must have such fun displaying his presence in such creative ways! For me, it’s a collection of blessings, recorded in a journal. For thirty years I’ve tried to keep alert for God’s gracious gifts of word or deed, people or places. To qualify for my particular list, they have to be a bit miraculous or unique. But very recently I recorded the 1000th blessing! It takes my breath away to realize how often God demonstrates to me his supernatural intervention, his generosity, and love.

  20. Jenn B

    Seeing “Y’s” for Yahwah is soooo coooool ! My eyes are now looking!! 🙂

  21. Sarah S

    People. I collect simple kindnesses from people. It happens when I’m struggling inside, some stranger will do something kind for me. It moves my heart and I remember God is with me. I’m not alone. It happens frequently. If I notice someone struggling, I am also moved to kindness. I collect these memories, memories that move me. Simple everyday kindnesses that remind me of Gods active presence in my life and the lives of those around me.

  22. Robin Dance

    Well, there’s not one thing that triggers this for me, but now that I’ve read *your* account, I’m hopeful for that thing to present itself. I LOVE how you see Ys everywhere! All these pictures spur my own creative sight. You’re marked for a reason, sweet sister…thanks for telling it well.

  23. Kathy Schwanke

    You know I love your Y story…I think I even tagged you with a photo on Facebook one day. 🙂

    Nineteen years ago (or so), I was headed up north to a retreat with two friends at night. We talked of how prevalent deer were along the route and not wanting to hit one, I think I surprised my friends when I opened up my mouth and prayed for the Lord to keep them back. All along the darkest part of the route then, there were deer standing next to the road. We kept thanking Him out loud for His faithfulness. We marveled and then boasted of how our God answered our prayer.

    Hitting deer here is common and very damaging. And I cannot tell you how often I “miss” a deer and God sees to it that I know. It’s a thing between Him and me…Whenever I see a deer by the side of the road or crossing “just far enough” in front of me, I smile at Him and praise.

    I’ve have an inner assurance that He will answer that one prayer for the rest of my journey here on this planet. <3 He is so delightful!

  24. Kelly Blackwell

    Back when I lived in Maine, sea glass and ocean-smoothed white stones would be my find. I loved how the surf and sand would buff the glass until it no longer could cut but was instead left frosty, smooth and beautiful. It makes me think of how God truly sees us. We are all sharp and rough edges but through His love and the sacrifice of Jesus, we are made smooth and beautiful. The sin inside is no longer our focal point. We are now surrounded by grace like a cloud. The small white stones are the same way for me. The pure white ones again remind me of my new state because of Jesus.

    I just loved your story. You surely blessed my evening.



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