I am known in my family for my quirky penchant for counting things-the number of kayak strokes I take to my husband’s single dip of a canoe paddle (about 8), the mileage on a bike ride, the number of geese flying in V formation, how many feet of fishing line I let out when trolling, the number of steps in any flight of stairs, and a daily report of the number of cargo and cruise ships that pass by on the big lake.
During June at the bluff, the fervent counting begins. See the doe with two fawns, and raise your eyebrows in disbelief when the neighbor shows you a picture of the bobcat with five kits under her deck. The robins are on their second brood already, and the dying ash trees that have summoned the voracious pileated woodpeckers means there are bugs galore just for the hammering. Today I saw a monarch butterfly, the first of the summer’s four generations that it will take to produce heirs with the will and stamina to fly to Mexico in September (one day two Septembers ago, I counted 75 monarchs/hour heading south along the bluff line). Each night, two baby screech owls silently glide in at dusk to hunt the plentiful moles and voles at the forest’s edge. And who could even begin to count the mayflies at hatch time?
I think I count things because it helps me be present and aware of my surroundings. Counting gives the world I see and hear a sense of order and rhythm, helping me apprehend patterns and hear Nature’s music. Mostly I just love all things numbers. Of course, much of the counting we do in life could be considered just so much idle wool-gathering; we tally our financial assets, count down the number of days until Christmas, check the number of likes on a social media post, and keep a running score in our head of who’s let us down.
But what should we be counting? What (and who) can we count on? When Job tried to argue his feeble case, God let go with a thundering,
Who are you to lecture me? Where were you when I filled the storehouses with snow and hail? Do you even know how I measured out the dimensions of the universe? Can you count the lightning bolts?”
In other words, there are lots of things only God can count, like all the stars in all the universes, every fish in the sea, and the grains of sand on the coast. This is the same God who tenderly tells us that He knows the number of hairs on our head, and the very sum of the days of our life.
We can count on God to be our strength, hope, and peace when we feel like our own strength is gone. And, of course, when we live a life that has died to self, we can count on each other.
I love to watch the world go by while I keep count, and I am beginning to appreciate how to count it all joy when God gives me work to do, and the strength to do it. That’s what it really means to count your blessings.
Photo Credit: ML Walton, Lake Charlevoix, June 2018.
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