Let Me Count The Ways – The Observer

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People Making Hands in Heart Shape Silhouette Sunset

It was in high school that my English teacher introduced me to the classic poem, “How Do I Love Thee?” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. At the time, Im not sure what love meant to me. But I remember bits and pieces of the poem. Lines about love seemed appealing, something to dream of, a fairy tale that one would “fall into” and never “fall out.”

Fast forward 20-something years. Ive thought about the poem. It hasnt changed, but I surely have over the years. Ive pondered the difference between my teenage imaginations of love versus my “Im in my 40s now” realization of love.

In casual conversation, I recently mentioned to a friend how much I “love” cooking shows. It’s true; I do. But its been years since Ive actually watched one. Theres little time for watching cooking shows and my most recent advice on cooking came from a random lady in the checkout line who I asked about how to smother lima beans. She had some on the conveyer belt and I couldnt help but question her. She was gracious enough to tell me her secrets.

I “love” so many things. Good movies. Good reads. Good times.

Honestly, Ive told complete strangers how much I love their outfit. Or their hair. Or whatever. My overuse of the word has led me to sometimes casually regard the things I actually love.

As I thought about Barretts poem, I didnt get past the first line. “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Its the counting that sometimes reshapes the love once felt for something or someone. When we forget to count, we forget to love.

When we forget to love, we lose what we have right in front of us. And in this season of change in our life,I dont want to forget or lose a thing. Its a conversation I’m having frequently. People ask how our oldest is doing with his “changed” life in a dorm, away from us. Or what my junior plans on doing when he graduates – another change. And one that makes my heart ache because he talks constantly of the Marines – a far away life, far away from us.

So many parents are living the whirl of senior year. Graduations. Parties. Commitment to future careers. But most of all, change. When change comes hard, the best thing to do is count.

I take the advice from Barrett and start counting. I count the ways I love each person in our home. I count the small gifts each soul brings to our family.

Ann Voskamp, a modern-day poet in her own right who calls her work “prosetry” says “gratitude for the seemingly insignificant – a seed – this plants the giant miracle.”

Some days need a miracle, and when we start counting the ways we love others, the miracle unfolds before us.

The counting leads us to appreciate the moments in front of us, and when the “big changes” come, we know the value of what we have held so closely and we know how to gently unfold our hands and count the blessings that change brings.

When we count, we see what is in front of us. It doesnt stop it all from changing, but it makes the moments just a little sweeter and the memories a little more precious.

The counting of thankfulness things lately looks like this:

  • Teenagers laughing.
  • Meals together.
  • Sweet spring.
  • Busy schedules that mean full lives.
  • A boy from college who calls his mom.

It’s all too easy to quit counting, and its the trend to wait until Thanksgiving to start being thankful. But November is a long way away, and I need to count the ways I love these people today. Or to think about love during February. But Im blessed with a lot to be thankful for in a random month of May. And the more I count, the better I am at loving. Because true love isnt something we fall into, its something we stay in by counting every way we are thankful for the ones we love.