far more than vitamins


I took up a new practice a couple of years ago and have, in recent times, become a bit of an advocate on the topic.  I (Donna) had been periodically reading a blog and at one point, the writer there suggested (in coordination with a book she had written) jotting down three things every day that I could consider gifts.

I’m kind of picky about blogs – I’m a little visually OCD – and didn’t read this one very often but this idea sounded good, and, well, fun.  She had published a list of things to look for each day that might fall in the gifts category – I don’t remember them all, but things like ‘three things orange’ and ‘three graces from people you love.’

I liked the creativity of it, not to mention that it reminded me of a sermon I had heard more than a year earlier.  The sermon was about remembering so when I got home, I got out a little notebook and wrote the following on the front page (kind of the main points from the sermon):

Then I decided to print out the list offered from the blog lady that month as a guide.  The list was helpful because it provided some prompts on days when I didn’t quite know what to write down – “three gifts almost gone: time with Benjamin, Abby being in Ukrainian school, time before the summer”.  And it helped with reminders of important things, like giving thanks in all circumstances – “three hard things:  that my computer doesn’t work and may never work, for the uncertainty of that moment, for the uncomfortableness of last night’s conversation…”

Not too many months into it, though, I couldn’t get the list to download.  So I just started writing down three things every day.  After a while, I found that the practice was helping me to either keep perspective or to adjust my perspective, on any number of things.  I can always use help with that.  Mostly, though, I began to see how much my daily life, in little things and in big things, really is directed by the Lord’s personal care.  Which is what led me to say, in the course of time (talking about it to others) that this practice had become kind of like vitamins for me:  a daily thing that was good for me.

And then it came to me that I wanted to share this with other people.  Admittedly my first attempt was a bit bold – I made it a game at a birthday party which I hosted (Ukrainian style!) for my 50th birthday, where I gave out notebooks to each person and they had to write down 50 things they were thankful for.  Whoever gets to 50 first wins a prize!  You have to understand that I was following my friend Lena’s pattern in throwing the party – plus the games and minus the cognac – having invited Lena and our ‘field-trip gang’, all unbelievers.  Because I so much wanted to share some of my Christian life with these friends I’d traveled so often with, I explained to them that this was actually a gift for them, and that it had become a really meaningful thing in my own life, learning to see God’s hand in the everyday things.

Now, well, I find pretty much any opportunity to buy a whole bunch of notebooks and pens and share the blessing – from our various ministry teams here in Kyiv to beach house family madness.  How cool it would be to find a way to send each one of you a nice notebook and a pen!  (There is something personal and powerful about writing versus typing – just saying…)  Maybe we could come up with a little reverse missionary care package scheme!

And you know, I’ve come to think of it as far more than vitamins.  I like to think of it as water.  I have found that it is crucial to my soul that I see the Lord’s active presence in my life every day.  That preacher was right:  remembering brings forth thankfulness and forgetting leads to sin.  Not that I’m merely trying to avoid sin; that would be so small if that’s the main reason I did this.  I just want to see the Lord.  I need to have my eyes lifted.  The difficulties of life on this planet are pretty strong downward magnets otherwise!

So… because I’ve been somewhat inconsistent in our usual monthly updates, especially in not leaving enough room lately for praises or just news, I thought I’d compose a list here of things we see as gifts/things we’re thankful for from the last couple of months (in no particular order):

  1. Mark has successfully completed another one-week intensive class
  2. the students really engaged with and seemed to understand what he wanted to get across to them
  3. all of our luggage arrived without any loss or delay – four times this summer!
  4. the Egyptian lady on the plane wanting to tell me about Jesus
  5. that Anna was able to buy a car
  6. that Benjamin was able to buy a car
  7. some very encouraging people this summer who seemed really happy to see us and hear about what the Lord is doing in Ukraine
  8. Mark’s Lviv class went really well
  9. that they want him to come back and teach some more classes
  10. I was admitted as a student at the seminary
  11. that I have learned so much in the three classes I’ve taken so far
  12. that God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (memory verse for one of the classes)
  13. the cat is home and doing well
  14. our car is in good shape after our being gone all summer
  15. Roma’s kindness in so thoroughly cleaning it for us – what a gift!
  16. that the parking situation is much harder right now
  17. the afternoon service has started back up again
  18. that we had the blood pressure machine to give
  19. the weather has turned cooler
  20. Ukraine is not Russia
  21. that Ukrainians have not given up in the face of dire circumstances
  22. that Brian and Heidi got to full support not having to stay longer
  23. that I could meet with Heidi
  24. her serious commitment to pray
  25. there are new students applying for Mark’s major
  26. Benjamin had two job offers after none for a while
  27. that both jobs have worked out for him, enabling him to pursue some of his goals
  28. KCA’s Fall Retreat went well and that there were no injuries
  29. ragweed season is here and makes things harder
  30. the seminary is financially ok for this semester
  31. continued financial support of so many faithful friends
  32. teammates Eric and Beth have a place to live
  33. teammates John and Stella are back
  34. teammate Josh is finally doing what he has so long wanted to be doing
  35. the floor in the kitchen is fixed and we won’t trip because of the torn place that was there
  36. Volodya’s high standards in his work
  37. the wonderful park next to our building and the refreshing beauty of green and trees in the middle of so many buildings
  38. the piano in the park is played at every hour of the night
  39. Andrei persisted in processing the temporary residence permits even when it was past feasible to get them renewed on time
  40. for the uncertainty after the deadline passed about whether or not we needed to take a trip out of country
  41. the war has not come close to us
  42. that it is still ongoing
  43. that people are profoundly touched by it
  44. being better able to understand the Syrian refugees plight because we know so many here who have also had to leave their homes
  45. that Mary and Abby skype so often and what a delight it is to see and hear Mary
  46. for the ongoing tangled-ness of some bills
  47. for the impromptu invitation to go out to dinner with friends
  48. the government here is really working to make significant changes, it’s not just talk
  49. the economy has not collapsed
  50. the world has really invested in and continues to be interested in helping Ukraine (despite some obvious ongoing unresolved issues)

You know, if you’ve read this far, you’re certainly entitled to a prize at the very least for your perseverance!  How about this?  If you would, indeed, like to take up this practice, send us an email with your name and mailing address and we’ll send you a notebook!  Use this email address:  jmmcdonnel@aol.com and I’ll see what I can do to get it to you as fast as I can.

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One Response to far more than vitamins

  1. Marcia Vickers says:

    Dear, dear friends, thank you for this reminder to remember and be grateful. I want to do the same thing, remembering and being thankful, and especially, just being more attentive to God’s blessings and provisions. Number 29 brought a laugh and agreement that, yes, we must include the discomforting things like ragweed season. God works through everything in our lives, and He allows the difficult things in our lives for His own holy purposes. But, please, don’t send me a notebook! I have too many of my own, so you can send “mine” to someone else, with my blessing.
    Grace and peace to you. We love you!

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