Giving Thanks in a Hard Place

My husband and I are ministering in part of the former Soviet Union while I’ve been reading Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts. She focuses on seeing and living life through the filter of eucharisteo, the Greek word for “giving thanks.” The title refers to the fact that she recorded a thousand little ways in which God revealed Himself and His goodness to her, most of which were a pleasure to receive, some of which were painful. She worked to practice gratitude, which not only built her faith but also made her aware of how deeply she was loved.

This is a physically and spiritually challenging place to be, so I’ve had many opportunities to practice eucharisteo here. I find that multiplying the “thank Yous” keeps my heart tender and makes me aware of how comfortable and privileged is my life in America.

Thank You that the tap water is not safe to drink. But I thank You that safe bottled water is easy to obtain at the little market a block away. I thank You that my husband is more than willing to walk to the market so I don’t have to. I thank You that replenishing the bottled water at the Bible College where we teach is a high priority, especially since it’s so dry here that we need to keep drinking from our water bottles all day long. Speaking of which, thank You for my Aquafina bottle that Ray bought me at the Dallas airport. The whole label is in English!

Thank You that this is a handicap-unfriendly country, that there are stairs everywhere and elevators only in buildings over five stories high. Thank You that there’s no point to bringing my scooter or wheelchair. Thank You that at home, I have plenty of mobility assistance. Thank you for the Americans with Disabilities Act. Thank You for allowing me to live in a country that is mainly accessible to polio survivors like me. Thank You for Lufthansa Airlines, which takes such good care of people who can’t walk (or walk long distances) once I get to Germany next week.

Thank You that I got strep the day before we left Dallas and not the morning of our flight here! Thank You that my doctor could see me on short notice. Thank You for antibiotics that knocked it out immediately. Thank You for protecting our health while we are here.

Thank You that languages were splintered at the tower of Babel and we are surrounded by Slavic tongues we do not speak. Thank You for providing several gifted translators. Thank You for patience on the part of our friends here when we try to make our mouths produce unfamiliar, strange-sounding words. Thank You that in heaven, we will not need translators because we will all speak the language of the Lamb.

Thank You for churches with outhouses rather than heated indoor restrooms. Thank You that we are using them at the end of March rather than in January! Thank You for bathrooms at home with indoor plumbing, flush toilets, and flushable toilet paper. And thank You that our bathrooms don’t stink.

Thank You that our luggage was delayed on the way here. But thank You for getting it to us only 24 hours later! Thank You for the lesson about what to include in my carry-on. I didn’t learn that lesson when we were stranded for four days by the Iceland ash cloud two years ago, and I thank You for giving me another chance to learn the importance of packing a nightgown and a change of clothes and anything else I really need.

Thank You for sheets that don’t cover the mattress and come undone every night. Thank You for fitted bottom sheets on all our beds in our home. Thank You for top sheets with plenty of width and length.

I’ve never thanked You for many of these things, Lord, and I am so grateful for them now!


This blog post originally appeared at on March 27, 2012.