Apr 27, 2011

Easter week goodbyes and hellos...

I pray that each of you had a wonderful Easter week remembering and celebrating the death and resurrection of our precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I was able to celebrate Easter weekend with Jackson by my side which was an added special blessing and treat...much sweeter than Cadbury Mini Eggs which incidentally are my favorite Easter candy and YES we were finally able to track down a bag or ten! This past week has held many opportunities to remember Jesus and thank Him for the deep love and provision His sacrifice on the Cross proved and purchased for the world.

First the bittersweet start of the week:

Last Tuesday morning our Sovereign Father saw fit to come and fetch one of our babies and take her home. She was one of our Starfish babies, a two year old with cerebral palsy who peacefully died in her sleep tucked cozily in her bed. She came to Door of Hope a few months before she reached her 1st birthday and while she lived with us she overcame many illnesses and learned how to do what the Doctors thought impossible for her disabilities: she learned to smile! Thankfully Beth, Lisa and I were already on our way to Baby House 1 that morning and Beth was able to say goodbye to her baby while her little body was still warm. It's a horribly sad thing to watch people say goodbye to their baby and that is just one of the dark parts that sad day included. It's not easy going into those deep areas of death and grief, loving babies so deeply that it physically hurts when you have to say goodbye. Later that day Beth and I had to go to the Mortuary of the Johannesburg Hospital to get the paperwork that we needed to procure a Death Certificate for our baby. As we turned the corner to enter the Mortuary, two orderlies wheeled the wrapped up body of dead man directly into the path before us. We had to follow them into the dingy, dark halls of the Mortuary to the Office we needed and I'm am telling you it was rough. I witnessed many things that day that I never want to have to again... praying as a family around a little body covered in her pink flowery fleece blanket, watching the body of stranger pushed passed by a grieving family in the Mortuary waiting room praying that they were not the family that it belonged to, hearing the wails of Aunties who loved this baby of like their own.

Auntie Stephanie saying goodbye

As I processed that dark yet bittersweet day I felt even more convinced of the call of this season of my life: saying "Lord, please let me not have to go to those places again!" all the while being completely certain that I will follow Him into those dark yet holy places when I have to because that's where He is. And I want to be where He is, doing what He's called me to do. I am I'm grateful to have had the privilege of knowing our precious little one for the time that I did and I know all of the Aunties count themselves blessed to have known her and loved her for as long as the Lord allowed. We celebrated her brave life yesterday in the Memorial Garden with the sun breaking through the clouds as we remembered the little girl who could do so little but accomplished so much in the hearts of those who knew her. Thankfully Auntie Stephanie (who spent 7 years at Door of Hope and who first introduced us to this Starfish) is visiting from Canada, so she and Beth were able to lead the sweet service. One of the songs shared was Phil Wickham's "Heaven Song" where he sings: "I want to run on greener pastures/I want to dance on higher hills/I want to drink from sweeter waters/In the misty morning chill/And my soul is getting restless for the place where I belong/I can't wait to join the angels and sing my heaven song". As sad as were are to say goodbye to our girl, she now freer than she ever was in this life and I can't wait to see her dance and run with our Jesus someday! Please be praying for our Door of Hope family as we miss her sweet presence in our home.

Auntie Stephanie and Auntie Beth led the Memorial Service

Whew! Wipe your eyes and take a breath because here come the bright spots:

My biggest boy at Baby House 2 celebrated his first birthday this week! I made chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting, he sported a birthday party hat, we sang him his first birthday song while he took it all in with sly, shy smiles and a slight disinterest in the cupcake I served him. Prayerfully he will be going to his forever family next month! We had a wonderful time celebrating and thanking Jesus for his first year of life.

Auntie Marceline teaching him to hold up one finger when asked "How old are you?"

As I mentioned before I was able to spend Easter weekend with Jackson by my side! I picked him up on Saturday morning and he was with me until I brought him back to his Aunties on Monday morning. Let me tell you, there is nothing sweeter than waking up to this little smile:

I bought him the cutest Easter outfit which included a cozy, grey sweater with a guitar on it because he is my little star! Jackson is so very vocal these days, talking and singing all the time (just like a typical Gillette, haha!) and giving the occasional really good giggle. I've been trying out a new church, Riverside Community, and Jackson joined me for their Easter morning service. He did such a great job, enjoyed the music and greeted lots of people with wide smiles. It was fun being his "mommy" for the day and he was the perfect little man.

Here we are on Easter day!

Jackson is doing so well! He is healthy, loves to eat, sleeps well and is tipping the scales just over 13 pounds! It was so wonderful to spend the weekend with him, he really is a sweet natured, easy going baby who offers a ready smile to any one who will stop and greet him!

His cute, not so little bootie! Talk about blackmail photos for when he's a teenager!

On our way back to Baby House 2 on Monday, I received a call from Auntie Marceline saying that there was a mom who wanted to speak with someone about her newborn baby girl. When I got to the baby house I got to meet and counsel with this young mother about the options for her baby if she felt like she couldn't care for her on her own. After talking through the options this mom decided that she wanted to give her baby up for adoption. I had her fill out the right paperwork, prayed with her and she left with her baby in my arms. There was this silent, holy moment between Auntie Sarah and myself as we unwrapped the blankets and got to look at this brand new little one that somehow bore the all the grief and sweet joy of her abandonment. What a heavy grief for a mother to choose to say goodbye to the baby she birthed and the extreme joy that we get to have her for our own. The Aunties and I then gathered around her to welcome her into our home, praying for her and marveling over all of her newness together. I imagine it is a tiny bit like what a new mom feels like, unwrapping this little present of a person, examining all her little fingers, toes and features for the very first time. I did all the official checking in, bathed her and wrapped her tight in fresh new blankets and clothes then I got to hold her close and whisper the truth into her little ear: "Welcome home beautiful baby. You are beyond wanted and our God has a precious plan for your every day!" This new little addition to our family is beautiful and was born on Easter morning. I call her my Easter Lily! She is doing beautifully, is healthy and I just want to hold her all day long!

Here is my Easter Lily... wrapped up all snug and warm after her first bath!

Here we are posing for our first blog-appropriate pic!

I feel overwhelmingly thankful for Jesus and his Cross this Easter week. Because He lives I will see our little Starfish again, whole and more alive than this side of eternity ever afforded her. Because He lives I can face the dark, lonely and difficult parts of all of my tomorrows. Because He lives I have the privilege of loving on the least of these in this place. And I believe it is because He lives that each of you are in my life, joining and supporting me in this hopeful adventure! I miss you and praise Jesus for you! XOXOXOXO ~ nicolie

Apr 18, 2011

the puzzle pieces...

Hi friends! I pray this finds you well and enjoying something cozy today...coffee, hugs, cozy pj's, you pick! I am thinking cozy thoughts today because I am freezing here today. Everyone here kept telling me that it was going to get cold but I really didn't believe them until today. It's not sub-zero by any means only 53 degrees-ish but it's amazing how chilly you stay all day when no one has central heating! All of my babies wore snugglies all day long and I wore my blue gloves from my friend Lauri all day! Time to bust out the hot water bottles, hoodies and sweaters!

It is funny how memories work, how some remain stubbornly stuck to your mind like ugly flower wallpaper and others disappear without a trace and how you can recall something that you haven’t thought about for years in an instant. A few days ago the Lord brought to my mind a memory that I hadn’t recalled in years. When I was in High School a girl named Jenny Lin who was a Middle School student in our town was murdered afterschool in her home while her parents were still at work. It rocked our suburban town and remains an unsolved mystery to this day. Jenny was a fantastic violin player and her parents created a foundation that had the dual purpose of seeking leads into Jenny’s murder and promoting the arts in honor of her memory. My mom began volunteering with the Jenny Lin Foundation, and because of her and with us being in our school’s choirs, my siblings and I began to perform at certain Jenny Lin Foundation events. A year or two after Jenny died, the cities in our area decided to create a memorial grove of trees in memory of children, like Jenny, whose lives had been tragically cut short. Trees were planted, families and friends gathered, my sister and I sung “Amazing Grace” and we mourned lives unlived, potentials snuffed out in an instant. Hung amongst the new saplings were burgundy, hand painted flags each bearing the name of each of the children our community had lost. As the press packed up and people headed down the hill to their cars one by one the families took their children’s flags until just one remained. It was a flag remembering the brief life of a baby that had been abandoned, left to die and found too late to be saved. If my memory serves me correctly it just had the simple words “Unknown Baby” where it’s name should have gone. I had always loved babies, newborns in particular, imagining and planning even as a kindergartner that marvelous day when I would get to hold a baby of my very own. I couldn’t even begin to grasp that concept of leaving a precious baby to die and I couldn’t leave that flag hanging all alone in that park. Somehow it was like we were going to abandon that baby’s memory just like it’s mother had and I couldn’t bear it. So I took it home with me and it hung on my wall for years until I moved out of my parents house and it got lost in a box somewhere.

I’m not even sure what brought that to my mind last week but it was another layer of confirmation for me that this is part of what God designed my life for: to be a mother to babies who have been abandoned by the mothers who birthed them. I firmly believe that God has pieced each of our experiences, trials, joys, lessons and pains to create a beautifully intricate gift that we call “today”. Until we reach the other side of eternity many of the puzzle pieces will remain blurry like a Monet painting but some times we get to see a glimpse of the masterpiece God calls our lives on this side of forever. That’s what happened for me when I remembered that burgundy flag that I saw everyday for years. It’s no accident that I am here in Johannesburg spending my days loving on these precious babies. My Father had this in mind for me long, long before I heard of Door of Hope, before I ever held my first newborn or saw that burgundy flag hanging all alone in a grove of memorial trees. Thank you Jesus for allowing me to see a part of the seed that you planted in my heart on that afternoon almost 15 years ago. Thank you for the hundreds of paint strokes in my life that have brought me to this particular place of service and surrender. I am convinced that all of this is to bring the Savior glory in my life and I can’t wait to stand by His side and observe the completed canvas of my life and to marvel at the finished works of art called the lives of these babies I’m loving on today.

Here are a few quick pictures from my Baby House:

Jackson and I getting some cuddles in. I have to fight for them, he's a house favorite for sure!

Me and Jackson, side profile view...

Jackson and I posing with him in the moby wrap... check out that amazing hair!!!

This is Auntie Angela with one of our small babies...he's the youngest in the house right now but a big boy who has a healthy set of lungs. Angela has been such a blessing to me at BH2, such a kind heart who encourages me in the Lord. She's a Pastor's wife and it shows!

Hugs and Kisses... Nicolie

Apr 11, 2011

the news in pictures

Hi loved ones! How are you? First let me say, I miss you and think of you and praise Jesus for you all of the time. I am honored that you would take time to peek in on my adventure. Thank you for your prayers and support and emails and facebook comments. At times living here is like a dream come perfectly true and other times it can be completely distancing and lonely. Knowing that I am loved and missed holding hands with God's calling on this season of my life is what pulls me through those times, so thank you!

I thought I would base my updates around some pictures, so here goes nicolie's news in pictures:

I had the privilege of being apart of introducing two of our babies to their forever families these past few weeks. One of the little girls in our house left us two weeks ago. Their family had already adopted another little girl from South Africa, were incredibly sweet and teary-eyed and they are coming for a visit to our home tomorrow! This is the little lady a few weeks before she left us:

Last week I had my first official "handover". This is adoption speak for: "you get to literally hand the baby you've cared for and loved for however long into the arms of their parents" and it is wild! You share with the family a book you've created to help them get to know there new baby with pictures and a schedule and such. The little one I handed over was one of my itty-bitty tiny babies from Baby House 1. I was there the first day he came home to us from the hospital weighing less than 4lbs and was able to hand him to his mom for the first time. Surreal really. To see something you pray for come to reality before your very eyes. Talk about faith affirming and prayer courage building. This is my little man when he was just brand new:

We've had a lot of that this week considering today was the day that one of our longtime littles met her family for the first time today. She was one of littles who we were able to say "yes" to after so many people had said "no". I've only witnessed the last leg of her journey and let me tell you: God has a big plan for this little lady! Sickness, trial, pain or strife will never be able to extinguish the plans the Father has for His children. Beth and I got to see her this week:

One of the best/worst thing about serving at DOH is getting to meet (and then have to say goodbye to) so many precious women from all around the world. We've had to say goodbye to some of these marvelous ladies the past few weeks. Thank you girls for serving and loving so well, we miss you very much! Here is a pic of us at Monte Casino for a group goodbye night out:

Amanda (from Sweden who lived in LA for a year and sounds like a Californian) is going to get to be in San Francisco before I will. How unfair is that!!! She is leaving us on Wednesday, flys to LA and then gets to road trip it up to San Francisco. I am very jealous but she is bringing me some of my love. I am going to miss her hugs and smiles. This is us at Cafe Moyo trying to get a picture of us and a really cool lamp:

I am really enjoying living with the girls I am living with. I feel like each week we are getting to know each other better and being able to encourage and support each other in new ways. I am grateful to be able to share a room and nightly debriefing chats with Lisa. I've also LOVED the training that I've been embarking on with Beth. She is a wealth of helpful, funny and encouraging knowledge and stories. I am going to soak up everything the last 2 & 1/2 years of living in Jo-berg and working at DOH has taught here. Here are the three of us at Cafe Moyo:

Speaking of Beth, last week she brought in these adorable fabric masks and hats into Starfish. Here is one of our Starfishies looking dapper in his mask. This little King loves to dress up:

The weather has begun to turn towards fall here in Jo-berg so we've been getting the kiddos our as much as possible. Here is me and my little dude chilling in the sunshine:

Jackson. SIGH. I just love him so much!!! He is so adorable these days, talking and smiling and GIGGLING! That's right folks, Jackson has officially added giggling to his repertoire of tricks. His smile is just so precious I had a hard time finding a picture that I could actually share with you guys, you will just have to imagine the smile that takes over his whole face that goes with these chunky little legs:

I have to JET! But please know that I love you and I am praising our Jesus for each of you!
Hugs and kisses from Jo-berg!

The Journey of Surrender

It is a pretty spectacular thing: watching a family be born right in front of your eyes. To see years of prayers answered in a moment. ...