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!

Sue Bohlin is a speaker/writer and webmistress for Probe Ministries, a Christian organization that helps people to think biblically. She loves teaching women and laughing, and if those two can be combined, all the better. She also loves speaking for MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) and Stonecroft Ministries (Christian Women's Clubs) on the topic How to Handle the Things You Hate But Can't Change, based on her lifelong experience as a polio survivor. She has a freelance calligraphy business in her home studio; hand lettering was her "Proverbs 31 job" while her children were young. Sue also serves on the board of Living Hope Ministries, a Christ-centered organization that helps people struggling with unwanted homosexuality and the family members of those with same-sex attractions. Sue never met a cruise ship she didn't like, especially now that God has provided a travel scooter for getting around any ship! She is happily married to Dr. Ray Bohlin, writer and speaker on faith and science with Probe Ministries, and they have two grown sons. You can follow Sue on Twitter @suebohlin.


  • Scribbler66

    Applause for Ann’s book and you


    Several years ago, I became a fan of Ann's prompts for us to give thanks, and how those acts opened her heart to a fuller comprehension of God's mercy. I've read Ann's book, too.

    I speak at an annual remembrance service for those whose loved ones pass away in that year. Last December, I offered them a page I'd printed, "One Thousand Gifts List" with numbers one through thirty to get them started on their thanksgiving journeys. Of course, I gave credit to author Ann Voskamp. I'm getting good feedback from those who began to practice eucharisteo.

    I really like your spirited list of giving thanks in ALL things.    

    • Sue Bohlin

      Thanksgiving journeys

      Thank you, Ann! The reason One Thousand Gifts resonates so deeply with me is that almost 40 years ago, the Lord impressed on me the importance of giving thanks in all things, for all things, as a way of life. I've been sharing this concept in my teaching and speaking ever since, and I get the same kind of feedback as you. I also enjoy making little gratitude journals for people, with numbers 1-3 on each of 30 pages, labeled per day, to help them get in the habit for a month. The value of this spiritual discipline is immeasurable, I think.

  • SonShine

    Sue..thanks thanks thanks
    Thanks for the reminder of what to do to see the contrasts in our lives…thank you for those that answer with snide remarks for they remind me that I am to answer in love not as they do, thank you for the day’s plans which are altered not by me but my lack of remembering and yet I was still able to complete my tasks of the morning…oh this is great…thanks Sue.

    • Sue Bohlin

      Bless you, Gaye!

      It's amazing what happens when we get in the habit of responding with thanks instead of wrinkled-up noses and critical spirits! Blessing you today, sisterfriend!

  • Gail Seidel

    Gratitude is the name of the game…right?

    Thank you, Gaye, for your grateful attitude! You have said it well… you ARE in the society of the grateful heart even in Russia. The faith of the Russian believers is compelling isn't it? And because of that, in many ways, they have much more than we in our convenience driven culture.

    • Sue Bohlin

      Russian believers

      Hi Gail,

      The dear believers in this war-torn place, who have known such deprivation for so long, and who live in a land of spiritual oppression, are so easy to love! They seem to really appreciate what we bring to them. At least, that's what the translators say! πŸ˜‰

  • Sharifa Stevens

    Thank you, Lord, for Sue, who

    Thank you, Lord, for Sue, who reminds us to give thanks – which is a virtue that You adore.

    Thank You for conflict; an opportunity to listen better, and gain understanding.

    Thank You for sadness and hurt, which reminds me of how You must feel when I sin against You. You love, redeem and pour grace over me and forgive me. Because of You, I can be a conduit of that grace.

    Thank You that sadness and hurt don't last. You are a joy-bringer!

    • Sue Bohlin

      Hard Thank Yous

      LOVE the way you think, Sharifa, and your response to my post. Gratitude–and even the ability to consider new ways to say "Thank You"–can be contagious, can't it?

      I appreciate you!!

  • Gwynne Johnson

    A grateful habit
    Nothing like traveling to create a true spirit of thankfulness for things we normally take for granted! I was reminded by your words!

    • Sue Bohlin

      Traveling and thankfulness

      Depending on one's attitude, traveling can also bring out the grumpies and the complaints. I've heard some people, even on fabulous vacations outside of the U.S., unleash their critical spirit about every little thing that isn't like home.

      I was just thinking about you 30 minutes ago, Gwynne, because a pastor's wife told me her Bible study is finishing up Beth Moore's Breaking Free study, which they've been doing for two years. They don't know what to do next because finding quality Bible studies translated into Russian are hard to find. With all your travels and connections, do you have anything in Russian we can make available to these dear sisters?

        • Sue Bohlin

          Discerning Heart

          Exactly what I was thinking! "Developing a Discerning Heart" continues to shape my thinking in so many ways!

          Minsk, Belarus. . . do you have your study printed and available for places where trained teachers are NOT present?

          • Sue Bohlin

            Sounds like a plan!

            Love the idea, Gwynne! I was talking to one of our pastor friends yesterday about the possibility of offering a women's conference while we're here next February, and I would love to make it available to many women! Bless you!

  • Irene_F

    Visiting Ukraine?

    I live in Ukraine and I've been always unwilling to ask any foreign friends for a visit because of all the reasons you listed in your post. How will they react to poor living conditions? Will they not be lost in Cyrillic signs with no translation? What will they think of me living in a country of people that seem unfriendly?

    But now that I have read your take on our problems, I am happy to know that you still continue living in this region. I hope that these problems will not become barriers for those who would want to visit Ukraine. So, welcome πŸ™‚

    • Sue Bohlin

      Traveling challenges

      Hi Irene! So good to hear from you!

      To be honest, we don't live in this region; we are only here for 2 1/2 weeks. I don't think I would be able to live here because it's so hard for someone with difficulty walking long distances. But it's quite another thing to visit!

      As long as you are willing to be your friends' translator, this can be a delightful experience! Please, feel free to invite your friends to visit so they can be enriched by the exposure to something different.


  • John Jones

    Good Words Counting Blessings.



         I stumbled upon this site the first time today.  Your blog is great.  Ironically, you posted on 3/27, which is my father's birthday who passed away last December 9th, 2011.  I have been having a very difficult time dealing with this.  But I get comfort realizing that there is always a blessing no matter the what happens, even death.  My father was 65 years old and was suffering from COPD, which wasn't too bad yet, but as I've read, and been told by doctors, it only gets worse.  Thank you God for taking my father in a car accident, quickly, so I didn't have to watch him suffer and eventually suffocate later in life.  God Bless You Sue.
    John Jones


    • Sue Bohlin

      Hard Thank You

      Bless you, John. I am so sorry to learn of your loss, and so glad that this blog post helped you see the blessing behind the shock of losing him the way you did. My dad died of esophageal cancer; it can be very rough.

      I pray you continue to experience the Lord's continual comfort in your grief.

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