{Thanks}giving Week: As Long As It’s Healthy!

Hello, guys and gals! What a week it’s been! I have been so challenged and encouraged and blessed by what’s been shared. I am {thank}ful! I have some great news to share before today’s guest post — we have a bonus day of thanks happening tomorrow! One more beautiful post is headed your way to close out our {Thanks}giving Week, so please come back!

Today’s guest post is by an old friend of mine who is an encouragement and inspiration to me for so many reasons. Annie Beth Donahue is a woman of great faith. Inside a tiny frame, she is a woman of boldness who lives out an authentic life for Jesus that is a beauty to see. Her post verbalizes some things on my heart that I struggle to express even after researching in this subject area for a year and a half at PhD level. I hope it provokes you to thankfulness, and thoughtfulness.


Hello Readers!  I’m a mom of 4 that grew up in Washington, North Carolina and now lives in Charlotte.  I already have many stories I could share from our relatively short journey as a family.  My children are 6, 5, 3, and 2.  Two children were adopted and two are biological- and they all have some kind of health problem, running the gamut from spina bifida, to food allergies, to sensory processing disorder.

We knew our child with spina bifida had this particular birth defect before adopting- but the rest of our children’s challenges showed up after birth.  Through my connection with such a wide range of health care professionals, this summer God led me to start Signposts Ministries.  Signposts Ministries is a religious and charitable organization designed to minister to the whole person.  We meet the needs of families that have children with chronic health problems in a variety of ways- physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual.  We want to provide free devotions and Bible studies online for both parents and children, and we hope to continue meeting physical needs both here in the U.S. and internationally.  Check us out at: www.signpostsministries.org

Unconditional Thanks

I have several friends who are pregnant right now.  I remember being pregnant.  It was both enjoyable and loathsome at the same time.  But then again, I had terrible morning (all day) sickness.  That was actually the only loathsome part.  Overall, it was pretty fun.  I really enjoyed getting to the point where I was showing.  I didn’t mind people asking me about my pregnancy.  I was kind of hoping they would notice, because I was pretty excited, and I wanted everyone else to be just as excited as I was.

There are recurring themes in people’s conversations with parents-to-be.  When are you due?  Is this your first?  How do you feel?  Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl?

Usually, if the parent does not know the baby’s sex, they will answer, “We don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl- as long as it’s healthy!” *Big smile*

That sounds nice.  To the average person.

I’m not sure when this phrase started bothering me.  I think it was when I first became a mom, way before I knew what our journey would be like in a few years.  Don’t throw tomatoes yet.  I understand the sentiment behind the words.  We hope our children are healthy.  For that matter, I hope I’ remain healthy, and that we all live to a ripe old age, doing God’s kingdom work to our fullest, until we peacefully pass away in our sleep with our grandchildren gathered round.  Every single one of us.  I even wish that for you, dear reader, whom I may not even know in real life.

“As long as it’s healthy.”  I want to ask, “And if it’s not?”  Then what?

For some people, the answer to that question is abortion.  Children like my daughter are aborted by the thousands every year.  But even strong, pro-life Christians can be found spouting the phrase, “as long as it’s healthy.”  So, it *kind of* sounds like we’re saying, “God, I’m letting you pick the gender as long as you don’t give me a child with a disability.”  I wasn’t aware that God was making deals like that.  Personally, I think he’s most capable of picking the gender and the physical and mental condition of our children.  As Job  asked his wife, “should we accept good from God and not evil (trouble)?”

I could never make those words come out of my mouth.  My pregnancies and adoptions were totally surrendered to God.  We wanted him to pick the way things turned out.  We wanted him to be totally in charge.  Because if there is one thing we know about God, it’s that he is trustworthy.  He loves our children more than we do (can you imagine)!  No matter what their physical or mental condition, your children contain a precious soul that is worth more to God that anything else on this earth.  He wants you to cherish your child, no matter what packaging they come in.  Knowing this, I can thank God in advance for what he is going to give me, before I even know the outcome.  I can thank him for his goodness and kindness and omnipotence.  At church, we often do a call and response of, “God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good.”

Sin, disease and sickness are not things God intended.  We live in a fallen world.  I’m sure that if it weren’t for his divine intervention, we would see much more deformity in the earth around us.  Any good health you or your children have is a gift.  For my children that gift has been temporarily withheld on this earth, and God has not intervened in every situation to make things the way they “should” be.  However, I have found that sometimes God takes things that Satan means for evil against us, and he works and uses that very same thing to produce a harvest of righteousness.  It almost makes me laugh aloud sometimes to see situations in which I’m sure Satan thinks he has control, only to realize that God is miraculously aligning the universe to turn that evil into a blessing.

So, I’m not going to judge people who say, “as long as it’s healthy.”  I just think that it goes without saying that we wish the best for our children, and that maybe we should examine our words.  The next person you say that to in the grocery store may have a child at home that is twisted by cerebral palsy or who is severely mentally retarded or who lives in constant danger of dying from a peanut allergy.  The words “as long as” kind of sting a little because they seem conditional.  It’s not that I don’t desire heath for the child, it’s that I don’t want the child without health to be undesired.  There’s a difference.


Thank you so much for sharing those challenging words with us today, Annie Beth. I found myself starting to say “even if it’s not healthy” in response to that phrase a few weeks ago. I hope your thoughts will provoke thoughtfulness, and even conversation in the days ahead. I am even more excited, being reminded that the omnipotent and good and kind God of the universe has plans for the little one He’s forming in me right now!


Whose I Am

When I was younger I sometimes felt like I was in the shadow of my older brother and sister. Russ is a smart and talented and likeable guy — I told you, he’s probably a superhero! And my sister, Dodi, is beautiful and the life of the party and it feels like everybody loves her. They were both excellent tennis players who did well in school, and as I followed them through the ranks of High School and university (and didn’t quite have those tennis skills, mayhaps) I sometimes felt like a small fry in a Big Mac shadow.

“Little Dodi” or “Little Dot” or “Little Darrow” were common nicknames that followed me into my twenties. I’ve just realised you might not even know Darrow is my maiden name! Whoa! I can remember being little and laughing at my grandmother saying “Ru-Duh-Caroline!” as she struggled to finally arrive at the name she was looking for to call me.

I suppose without realising it I kind of stepped out of the Big Mac shadow when I left North Carolina. No one in Scotland seemed aware of my awesome older siblings (until they came to visit and were the life of the party again!) and since I was in my early twenties in a new country, I feel like it was a season of figuring out who I am, outside the box of where I’ve come from and whose I am.

Today someone emailed Mark and me an encouragement after receiving one of our ministry newsletters. (We send ’em out via email every month, so let me know if you’d like to receive them.) She ended by saying

“I’m so happy and proud of ‘Baby Darrow’ (and I’m not talking about cute Asher-ha!)”

For some reason, those words almost brought me to tears. Actually they did. They really did. Being away from home often means wishing someone was around who knows who you are. And whose you are. You wish you had some folks around who’ve known you for more than six months — people who remember that beat up Escort wagon you drove for your first car, and the guy you dated in high school that you probably shouldn’t have. You long for people who’ve walked up your driveaway (it’s up a hill) and sat at your Mama’s kitchen table. Because those things are such an integral part of you that you can’t fully explain, you can’t give them the pictures. They can’t see the Pamlico River at sunset or smell the Bill’s Hot Dogs you skipped school for. I told you I probably shouldn’t have dated that boy! They don’t know the trails where you rode your bike to the swimming pool every day all summer long, and they can’t hear the side door slam or the peaceful sound of cars passing on Christmas Eve while luminaries light up the streets around your neighbourhood.

But today, thanks to the amazing power of a few words typed in passing and whisked across the internet, a simple message from an old family friend meant for a moment I got to be Baby Darrow again. And I suddenly realised that’s a shadow I wish could follow me everywhere I go.


P.S. As I was finding a few pictures for this post, the Bear woke up from his nap and came to see what I was up to. He spotted a picture of Dodi and said, “Doe!” It’s good to think he’ll learn my shadow someday, and perhaps leave one of his own. And btw, photo credit for that lovely first shot belongs to Lindsay Lee Hartsell.

My Heart’s in the Recovery Room

Hero Hub’s parents left bright and early this morning. I am so so so glad they came to visit. There were a lot of special moments. I teared up when Gun-guh (Bear’s name for Grandpa) took the Bear for one more stroll yesterday evening. And last night the Bear decided to demonstrate his mastery over the skill of walking, both hands pressed flat against his belly, chin tucked in, toddling around the flat while we enjoyed our meal together. Gun-muh tried and tried to capture a picture but he was just too fast!

We got him up to say goodbye this morning and it was tough to know that he didn’t really understand what was going on.

I was teary during our prayers at breakfast, thanking the Lord for the time we shared and praying they’ll have a safe trip home to Bloemfontein. And as the Bear enjoyed his bottle of milk just before his nap, HH said “Grandma and Grandpa are on their way back to Bloemfontein. I really hope you’re going to have memories of them.”

That did it.

The combination of a busy and wonderful visit, the reminder of how much I miss my family back in the States, my sister with my new baby niece entering the scene almost 10,000 miles away yes I checked, and the hot water heater having gone on strike was enough to give me a few tears, and a realisation that I need to sit still for while. Some of these things feel like great gain, some a great part of the cost of this endeavour.

God is so good. I am so thankful that Mark’s parents were able to join us and spend some time with us, and especially the Bear. This was the #2 factor in our decision to move to South Africa, only preceded by a desire to listen and submit to the direction of God. Seeing what we came for happen in reality is awesome, and I think that’s how we’re going to feel when we start blessing people with shoes next month.

I have some Bible verses I’d like to converse about a little later, and a desire to request more input from you. Mayhaps?

In the meantime, just give a moment — with all the joy, the hustle-bustle, the laughs and the tears around here, my heart’s in the recovery room.


Travelling Tuesday: Twas a Bloemin’ Good Christmas

Today was supposed to be a Travelling Tuesday in the literal sense, as we had planned to head back to Gordon’s Bay on this bonnie Travelling Tuesday. Well, we actually planned to head back yesterday and take a couple of days to get home, and then decided that wasn’t such a nice way of making the trip. And when we realised Mark’s sister Lyn was flying out yesterday, we thought it would be stinky for us to all leave on the same day. So we we pushed it back a day, and now another, to get a few last errands done here in Bloem and enjoy just a bit more time of seeing the Bear with his grandparents. It brings joy to our souls! Sorry if that was a lot of info — anyway, tomorrow will be a Travelling Wednesday (for us) instead!

In the meantime, I thought I’d give you a wee review of a few Christmas highlights from our adventure in Bloem. In case you missed TT last week and you’d like to know a little more about Bloemfontein, check out this post.

We had a warm and sunny Christmas. The Bear revelled in his freedom from the bondage of clothing, and often went naked or (more often) just had a nappy on (since he’s not potty trained yet and we got tired of cleaning pee pee on the patio).

Yay Summer

Mark’s Mom’s amazing ice cream cake dessert made a sparkling entrance…

Dessert with Sparkle

Mark and I decorated the vintage Collie tree. We afterwards discovered we’d used the top and bottom sections (leaving out the middle section) which meant the branch sizes of the two sections didn’t exactly uhh...match up.  I think it turned out pretty anyway.


The Bear is enjoying his new toys, and sometimes seems to wonder…Should I pway wiv dis one or dat one now?


And, as previously mentioned, I HAD BACON COVERED CHERRIES AGAIN!!! YAY!!! If you missed the discussion, check out this post for a well worth it how-to.

That Happened

Tomorrow we’ll be saying bye-bye Bloemfontein and the adventure will continue as we head back to Gordon’s Bay. It will be sad to leave but we hope to be back again soon. The travel never seems to stop!! I’ll be back online with more thoughts, more shots and hopefully more general merriment soon! In the meantime, I hope the road rises to meet you wherever your travels take you next!

Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks

Ya know, it might be a little hard to celebrate Thanksgiving in the southern hemisphere at the moment. I don’t know where to find cranberry in a can or canned pumpkin for pumpkin pie or that special topping everybody seems to use for green bean casserole. And I definitely don’t have any Jiffy Cornbread mix or Nestle Toll House chocolate chips. And, honestly, no matter what it doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving without the following:

My Mom’s sweet potato casserole, my brother scraping most of said sweet potato casserole topping onto his plate, a football game on TV, that sleepy post-turkey-triptophan feeling, and for the past few Thanksgivings I’ve been back in the States to enjoy, stepping in a wee pond of my brother’s dog’s drool as he lies on the kitchen floor with those pitiful big brown eyes and that look of — are you really gonna eat all that and give me dog food?

While it’s tough to be away from home at these times of year, and though my Thanksgiving lunch was a (surprisingly tasty) toasted bacon, egg and cheese sammie (sandwich) at a nearby coffee shop that boasts free wifi, I’m still giving thanks down here in South Africa. And here are just a few of the many many things I’m thankful for at the moment.

Of course I’m gonna say this guy. I am so thankful for him, and his wonderful wonderful Daddy! Love you my delightful boys!

Thankful Bear

And I’m thankful for enjoying my own football game today. Complete with a star player in a very special t-shirt. A little different from the games you might be watching if you’re in the US…


My sister is expecting and I’m really thankful for this new little one on his or her way into the world. You’re gonna have great parentals, kiddo!!


I’m thankful for our new home here in SA. Here’s Harold, our friendly but perhaps a little dangerous neighbourhood seal, doing tricks with a fish! It’s a show we enjoy from our balcony! Our evening Thanksgiving meal will be boerewors with potatoes and butternut squash, grilled on the braai on said balcony!


There’s a lot more I am very thankful for…my great family in good health back in the US, so many good friends around the world, friends very dear to me getting married soon, and a list of other things that goes on and on, I have limited this post to a few that are easily illustrated! And while I might have tonsilitis and be far away from home, I still have so much to give thanks for this Thanksgiving. We are in a great place, and we’re where we’re supposed to be. And living life inside the will of God is a wonderful thing to give thanks for, any day of the year.

Happy Thanksgiving friends near and far! Don’t forget to give thanks!