For me Christmas with the babies this year included putting up a Christmas tree made from crayons, white printer paper and prestick (sticky, removable adhesive):
Dec 31, 2012
Happy last day of 2012! I pray that each of you were blessed with a meaningful celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! December has been FULL here at El Roi… full of fun friends, lots of parties for the children at Refilwe, presents and lots of time carved out for me to love on the babies!
Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere feels different and so it takes some convincing to even help my brain register that it is in fact December. There are no festive, cozy drinks warming on the stove or fragrant pines decorated in lights and tucked into living room corners. The malls here have had Christmas decorations up since October and without the luxury of TBS’ 24 hours of “The Christmas Story” it takes some real effort to muster up the Christmas spirit.
For me Christmas with the babies this year included putting up a Christmas tree made from crayons, white printer paper and prestick (sticky, removable adhesive):
wrapping Christmas presents and setting them under aforementioned tree:
hosting dinners on Christmas Eve & Day for some friends including Ryan, Max and Abel:
doing many Christmas themed photo shoots:
baking pumpkin pies and preparing Aunt Alexa's Potato Casserole at 4am:
and working the 48 hours of Christmas Eve and Christmas so that my Staff could be with their families (here is what a night of 3am bottle prep looks like):
Thankfully I had the help of my dear friends Megan and Emma to help give me a couple hours of rest and keeping me company for many of those long hours:
December also included a return visit from my new friend, Mingni on her way out of Jo-burg:
watching the sunflowers that Cynthia planted for me in October bloom:
enjoying the perks of living on a farm including donkeys in my driveway:
watching our small babies getting bigger and bigger:
spending some down time with good friends:
and enjoying getting to love on so many precious babies:
One of the newest challenges and joys has been understanding the responsibility of parenting a toddler. I have been apart of many, many 2-year-olds little lives but I have a new understanding and respect for all the mommies out there after spending a few months being the primary caregiver of one strong-willed, beautiful, smart, sweet and helpful toddler who says my name at least 100 times a day! Our girl is teaching me the joy of everyday hugs and kisses, the patience required to have the same conversations or read the same books countless times a day, the diligence to discipline even when it is inconvenient or taxing (I have said many times "PLEASE don't make me give you another time out!), the humbling effect of having a little mirror who mimics every facial expression and impatient phrases mumbled in frustration and the honor of watching new behaviors and character traits emerge in someone who is changing everyday! She is such a good big sister, who loves to help care for our littles... happy to put empty bottles in the sink or try and shhh and pat someone who is fussing. She really is teaching me so much about what being a mommy means! Here she is "reading" her Bible Book to two of her siblings:
I am honestly really looking forward to 2013, excited to see all that God has in store for His kids in our home and in this kid's life! Thank you for the countless ways you've encouraged, blessed and provided for me tangible reminders of God's love and care in 2012. I love you and am thanking God for you today! Be blessed!
Love from Nicole and the babies and El Roi
Nov 11, 2012
Happy Fall to all my friends in the Northern Hemisphere! I am missing fall colors and pumpkin spice lattes as we welcome November and rising temperatures here in Jo-berg. We are heading into our summer complete with super sunny and hot days dotted with beautiful thundershowers closing out many of our afternoons.
So many wonderful things have happened since I blogged last… here are the basic highlights and a brief rundown of all that God has been doing with me and at El Roi, our new baby home in Lanseria!
On September 27th we had our official house opening of our new El Roi Baby House! El Roi is the name given to God by Hagar in Genesis 16 when she says in verse 13: “You are the God who sees me”. We believe that it is our God that sees every abandoned baby He is going to bring our way.
A few days later on October 1st I spent my first night in my new home! It is a HUGE and beautiful home with 9 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, 2 kitchens, a lovely playroom, isolation room, laundry room and office! We are still in the process of getting all of the parts of the house livable and are dealing with some minor inconveniences like the toilet that is constantly leaking in my bathroom and a lack of hot water because the hot water heaters are too old to work anymore! Thankfully we have competent (but super busy) people who are helping us get all of the minor issues like these sorted out. One of the best parts of my new home is the fabulous oven that we’ve received. I have been baking up a storm and have the privilege of hosting a volunteer dinner on Monday nights.
Our plan here at El Roi is to start with 6 babies for the next 6 months as we get all the kinks worked out of our new home, training new Staff and getting find our footing before we begin to fill up the house with the 28 babies between the ages of 0 – 3 that we’ve been zoned to eventually house. As of today we have 4 babies! Our big sister is a sassy and sweet soon-to-be two year old who is a wonderful big sister to our 6-week-old little man, our 2-week-old princess and our 5-day-old sweet baby girl. We have 4 amazingly sweet Aunties who are scheduled around the clock to help care for our babies and help keep our home running smoothly. We also have had 2 international volunteers who have been staying at the house and helping with day-to-day needs when their schedules allow. We are anxiously awaiting the other babies that our Father is going to set in our home in the next few weeks.
It’s weird to think that I’ve only been living here on “the farm” for only a month or so. I am used to the roosters’ crows, the donkey’s hee-haws, the bleating of the two baby lambs that often munch on the grass in our backyard and that sounds of the hundreds of school children who walk the dirt road outside of our house to and from the school that is directly across from our front door. I am feeling connected to the community here at Refilwe and excited about all of the good things that our God is doing in the community as a whole.
I decided to embark on a brand new adventure by adopting a puppy the weekend before I moved to El Roi. Her name is Thabisa and she is a 3-month-old mutt that I was able to adopt from a community that my dear friends and missionaries, Mark and Sara Williams, serve a few hours from here. Thabisa is an African name meaning “one who brings joy” and she lives up to her name most of the time! She is super friendly, energetic and sweet when she isn’t chewing up everything in sight! I often feel like I have a second toddler in the house! I do appreciate her and am thankful for the new depths of patience and mercy that the Lord is using her to develop in my heart! I have never had a dog before and I am still working on becoming a good puppy owner but Thabisa has grace for me!
Love and Support
I am often humbled by the amazing ways that our Father works out blessing and refreshment for His kids right at the perfect time! Just a few days after I moved into El Roi, my friend Cynthia Stafford traveled 24+ hours to be that perfect blessing to me! Words really can’t describe how perfect our time together was… she served us tirelessly helping us get set up by washing, hanging, folding and sorting load after load of laundry, planted California poppies in my backyard, purchased and hung bright and cheery curtains in the babies’ rooms and helping me fetch and care for our first baby the first 72 hours he was home and before we’d trained the Aunties to start working. Cynthia blessed me with news and stories from home as well as a whole suitcase full of love from the babies and me! Cute outfits, desperately needed thermometers and other baby supplies, cans of pumpkin and birthday presents and letters sent from my family! God arranged for her to be here over the weekend of my birthday and she and her family blessed me with 3 days and 2 nights on Safari! I really can’t explain how spoiled and treasured I felt… we were treated like princesses the entire time we were there and got to see display after display of our Creator’s ingenious and beautiful handiwork. It really seems like a dream when I think about how wonderful it was… it was a once in a lifetime experience and truthfully one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever received. I was sad to see her head back home but grateful for the stories and experiences she was sure to share with people back home. Thanks for coming to see and bless me, Cynthia! Baby “P” and I miss you and send you lots of love and hugs!
Thank you for all of the ways you are continuing to love and support me and the adventure that our Father has set me on here in South Africa. Please pray that I will find my footing in our new home and in the community here at Refilwe. Please pray that our Father will continue to watch over us at El Roi and that He will be the Lord over our new home. October was a hard time to be away from home. Please pray that I will be able to trust God’s timing and hand in the lives of my friends and family who are going through difficult times. I love being here in South Africa and I know that I know that this is EXACTLY where I am called to be but I often wish that California and South Africa were only 10 miles apart rather than 10,000! Thank you Jesus for modern technology like email and facebook! I feel loved and upheld by each email and comment sent my way. Thank you for holding us in your prayers!
Much love from Nicole and the babies at El Roi
Sweet big sister and little sister.... our first infants together.... our first baby's hospital tag
Such a good "mommy".... our precious newest baby "A".... our big girl coloring
Our little man on his first day home.... our big sister playing outside... Thabisa helping check my email
Being spoiled by Cynthia... this is how close the animals came to our jeep!!!
Aug 19, 2012
Happy Sunday to you! I pray that this email finds you well and enjoying a day set apart for our Jesus. I was happy to be greeted with sunshine this morning. We've had some very cold weather the last 2 weeks and I am thankful that we are (fingers crossed) entering our spring and on our way to warmer days.
I was especially excited to be able to go to church this am because I was at home last week with one of our new preemie baby girls who needed some extra TLC and one-on-one care. This little gift was delivered to us 2 weeks ago Wednesday, two weeks old but born at 34 weeks gestation and tipping the scales at just under 4 lbs. She was doing okay on Thursday and Friday day but on Friday around 6pm I was called back to Baby House 3 because she was too cold despite all of the Aunties' care. When I showed up and tried to take her temperature she was so cold that she wasn't even registering a temperature at all! I held her skin-to-skin with blankets warmed up in the microwave but after 20 minutes there was no change in her temperature at all. For a few scary minutes I wasn't even sure if she was still alive... her breathing was so shallow, she was so floppy and I was considering rushing her to the hospital but I didn't think she was going to make it the 20 minute drive there. As I prayed the Lord brought to mind the electric heater we have at the house, I quickly undressed her and stuck her in front of the heater on full blast. It was too hot so I had to keep rotating her round and round like a little chicken on the spit to keep her from getting too hot too fast but after 15 minutes she finally started warming up and responding to my touch. I decided to bring her home where she spent the rest of the weekend either skin-to-skin or warming in front of our heater at home. I was trying to bulk her up so she was eating every 2.5 hours around the clock and by Monday morning she was able to maintain her body heat and come back home to her Aunties at the Baby House. All in all my weekend was quiet was full of baby girl "M". I am so thankful to our Father for preserving her life and giving me the wisdom I needed to do so!
I have some exciting news to share with you! After lots of prayer and provision from the Father, Door of Hope has decided to expand! We are working in conjunction with another ministry called Refilwe here in Johannesburg to open a new baby house on their property! Refliwe is a ministry who's mission is to design and implement caring support, educational, training and mentoring programs aimed at equipping people to be sustainable in every aspect of their lives. They have a beautiful piece of property about 1 hour north of where I am currently serving which hosts various projects including their long-term "God-parent" foster program caring for over 50 children in long-term foster families. Their youngest is 13 months and their oldest is 19. They have a beautiful house on their property that they are preparing to open as a baby house at the end of September. It has been zoned for 28 babies between the ages of Birth to 3 years old and DOH has offered to "lend" me to Refilwe for 6 months to help get their home up and running. Come September I will be devoting the majority of my time to this new baby house and once we receive our first baby I will be moving to Refilwe to live in the baby house and get it running well!
It is going to be a wonderfully challenging, fun and brand new adventure for me here in Jo-burg. We are literally starting from scratch asking God to provide for us all the things we need from Aunties and House Parents to nappies and formula. The good news is that a local company has come in is currently updating the house and getting it baby ready for us including a new roof, new bathrooms, a new kitchen and painting in the whole house. We are looking for Staff in nearby churches, creating our yearly budget, going through donations and planning the lay-out of each room. I will be responsible for not only the training of the day-to-day baby care workers and the running of our home but also working to create a network of care for our children in a brand new area. I will be getting to know a brand new hospital, a new Social Welfare Department, new Police Stations and seeking out a new pediatrician and other medical professionals to help us care for the babies that the Lord is going to bring us. Just like DOH's homes we will also be working through Abba Adoptions seeking forever family adoption placements for all of the abandoned babies the Lord brings our way.
I have spent the last few weeks praying and am convinced that this new opportunity has come from the loving hand of our Father and it is a new door that I am excited to walk through. Honestly there are parts that are scary and hard... I will be moving an hour away from the community that I have spent the last year and half cultivating. I will have to say goodbye to having daily contact with babies, Aunties and friends that I love including my roommate (ever since I moved to RSA) and friend, Lisa. Refilwe is a beautiful piece of property that lives a bit off the beaten dirt path. Not that it is completely rural but I will have drive 20 minutes to the nearest grocery store, I have a donkey living in my backyard and a whole herd of sheep living in my front yard! We have to tractor in all our drinking water and it sounds like we will sometimes be without power and running water for sometimes days at a time. Thankfully I've already gotten to know some of the Staff and Volunteers at Refilwe and I am confident that our Father will help me to carve out new community in my new home.
You can learn more about Refilwe at www.refilwe.org. Please be praying for me as I begin this new leg of my journey here in Jo-burg. Here are some specific ways you can be praying:
- Please pray that our Father will provide all the things we need to open this new home including Staff, two House Parents and all the supplies we'll need to care for the babies from formula to nappies to Volunteers to help love on the babies the Lord is going to bring us
- Please pray that I will be able to feel "at home" soon in my new environment... finding my way into an established yet always evolving new community. Pray that I will be able to run to the Lord with all this newness and be faithful to process it in healthy and appropriate ways
- Please pray that I will be able to have success in networking medical care and additional support for our babies in a brand new area and that I will quickly find my directional "sea legs" in a new part of town
Thank you for your prayers, love and constant encouragement! I am continually blown away by the ways that my support base gives, loves and encourages EXACTLY when I need it most. Thank you for bringing me tangible messages of Christ's love for me in your words, love, gifts, emails and financial support. I can't wait to share this new leg of the journey with you as it unfolds!
Here are some fun pics for you to feast your eyes on... xoxoxoxoxo from Nicole and all our babies!
Here I am in the SNOW! That's right, it snowed here! Who would have thought?!
Baby Girl "M" when I fetched her from the Preemie Ward at Jo-burg Gen
Here is Baby "M" hanging out in front of her heating center I created for her in my living room
She is just such a tiny little bit of a girl!
Sleepy on an early morning at the hospital with baby girl "B"
Baby Boy "J" resting during his CT Scan... a wild day with 3 babies, 3 CT Scans and 20+ IV drip attempts... poor babies! It was a long, rough day!
The front view of Refilwe's baby house and my new home come the end of September!
A pretty rainbow over the Refilwe property (sorry it's blurry!)
Jul 20, 2012
Greetings from Jozi! I am so sorry for the super long absence but for those of you who have been keeping track of me via Facebook you know that May and the beginning of June were rough days for me! Speaking of which, if we're not friends on FB yet, come and find me at: facebook.com/nicole.gillette1
At the end of May I spent two full days at the hospital with on of our littles who had to have surgery to loosen tendons in her feet to help correct her Club Feet. On the second day I started feeling pretty poorly and by the time I got home I realized that I was running a high fever. After resting for a few days the fever persisted and the strange thing being that other than the fever (that averaged between 101 -102) I had no other symptoms! After a week of “waiting out the virus” I finally visited my doctor, and she, too was mystified. Everything looked fine, my throat, my ears, my blood pressure; everything seemed normal except for the fact that I was burning up! She ended up prescribing 2 different types of broad-spectrum antibiotics to try and cover all the bases as well as running quite a few blood tests. After taking the meds for 4 days and trying to manage my fever for almost two weeks my stomach started protesting and I couldn’t keep anything down which meant that I couldn’t keep my fever down either. I also started having trouble breathing and was coughing weird, short coughs when my fever was high. My doctor sent me to get a chest x-ray to rule out TB and drew more blood for more testing, all which came back clear but the fever raged on. At this point in time I had literally spent 2 weeks in bed and by the end of the week the only thing left to do was to admit to the hospital. After spending 2 hours wrestling with the admissions officer, my medical insurance in the States and eventually forking over R13,000 I was finally given a bed in Mulbarton Hospital, a private hospital only 5 minutes from Baby House 1. I’ve never been admitted to the hospital, let alone a hospital in Africa!
Thankfully because of my medical insurance I was able be treated at a private hospital, which is a definite step up from a public hospital, but it was still pretty sketchy at times and I had to really be my own advocate for proper care. For example I would ring for a nurse to come check my temperature once it started to spike. They would eventually respond, I would ask for my temperature to be taken. Ten minutes later they would come back with the thermometer and sure enough “It seems like your fever is spiking once again… it’s now 102”. They would leave the room and 15 minutes later I would ring the bell again and once they finally came around I would then ask, “Can I please have some medicine to help bring my fever down?” And then twenty minutes later they would be back with the meds…tired yet? Try that for five, long days and nights! After a CT Scan, an Ultrasound another chest x-ray, drip and oral Antibiotics, and a myriad of blood tests at all hours of the day and night I was finally diagnosed with Eptisne Bar Virus. Which is really just a fancy name for Mono! Who gets hospitalized for Mono? Oh, this girl does! Talk about frustrating!
In all actuality it was really good that I was hospitalized, by the time I was admitted my liver had started freaking out and thickening my blood and being on blood thinners while I was in the hospital helped me not throw any blood clots. I was also able to get a diagnosis, some really good rest, rehydrate with IV fluids and get my hands on stronger meds that helped control my fever for longer periods of time as well as meds that helped counteract said meds impact on the lining of my stomach. I was discharged with instructions to rest, not kiss anyone on the mouth or share a drink with anyone as well as a good batch of meds and my constant companion: a fever.
Over time the fever slowly came down and I have been fever free since the end of June which equals up to a whole 30 days of running a fever! It’s been pretty funny looking back at some of the things I said and did when my fever was high… trying to decipher entries in my calendar or journal for example. I am still trying to listen to my body by getting lots of sleep and not pushing to hard. I have been taking it slow which for me is really difficult! All in all I literally spent three weeks in bed and away from our babies, which was really rough. I have been resting in the loving care of our Father, trusting His Sovereign hand and being reminded of His nearness through the encouraging words, prayers and supporting coming from my family here in South Africa and home in the US. Through all of the uncertainties and unknowns of being sick and absent from the day-to-day functions of my calling here I have been reminded that the One who has called me is FAITHFUL! He is the One who is going to be faithful to complete the good work that He has begun in me. He is my Physician and Healer, my Good Shepherd who will never leave or forsake me.
At the end of June I was also blessed to receive a visit from Dan and Melissa Bowen who not only brought with them comfort, joy and laughter but a huge suitcase of blessings for our babies, aunties and me. Thank you so much to everyone who sent me the love, letters, chocolate chips, outfits, thermometers, headbands, leg warmers and “Auntie” baby clothes! Even though it’s been a rough stint for me I have felt continually loved and cared for by the love of Christ coming to me in all directions: prayers said over the phone and through email, someone came to see me every day I was in the hospital, the Bowen’s coming to see me at the perfect time and all the words of encouragement coming from every which way!
I am so grateful for your love and support. We are continuing to grow here at DOH receiving new babies each week and lots of prayers and plans for expansion and growth. We are really excited about the rest of 2012 all that God has in store for us and for all of the babies He’s yet to bring our way in the coming months.
Here are a few new pictures for you to feast your eyes on!
Hugs and kisses!
Love, Nicole and all the babies at DOH!!!
Hanging out with the big babies... happy to be back but looking tired!
Many of our Big Babies are just starting to pull up on things...
It's amazing how big they can get so fast!!!
Spending time skin-to-skin with one of our newest baby girls... less than 24 hours old!
Celebrating the marriage of one of my good friends and Aunties, Marceline. My first African wedding!
So happy to be back into the swing of things!
Spending time with our baby girl "K" during her 2+ week hospital stay for pneumonia...
Holding hands in the ICU... she has since been discharged and is home safe and sound!
May 13, 2012
Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mommies out there!
I am so grateful for the mother that God gave me to and I am thankful for all of the other “moms” God has brought into my life along the way. I praise God for the women who have had a part in caring for me, shaping me, comforting and counseling me; women who have been living pictures of the nurturing, life-giving, comforting heart of Christ. I am such a blessed woman to have so many examples of what being a mom is all about!
I am also counting myself blessed to be a “mommy” to all of my Door of Hope babies. Surely God has seen fit to satisfy my desire to be a mom though these precious little lives… and I am thrilled and humbled that God would call me to mother these dear ones.
This past week I placed my precious Queen Bee into the loving arms of her mommy and daddy for the very first time. Every placement is bittersweet and beautiful but her handover was uniquely so. I don’t want to sound overly dramatic but I seriously think handing her over to her parents is one of the hardest things I’ve encountered since I’ve been here at DOH. Not because her parents aren’t wonderful (because they are beyond amazing, adorable, loving and kind) and not because I doubt that this is God’s good, pleasing and perfect plan for my girl but because I am going to miss being apart of her sunshine everyday. I know that she is special… she has a joy that tangible and a little heart that already knows how to love those in her life and I am going to miss being a specific recipient of the love that God has already birthed in her little eight month old life.
I had her with her as much a possible in the week that led up to her adoption day… letting myself enjoy the luxury of having her sleep in my arms, bringing her to church listening to her “sing” along to the worship songs, soaking up her countless expressions and doing my best to memorize the feel of her little hands knotted up in hair, the damp sweetness of her breath on my neck and the musical lilt of her laughter and squeals. We went to the mall together, picking out her adoption outfit with care (it’s the purple dress in the collage below) and happily agreeing with everyone who stopped to tell me how beautiful the baby I carried in my arms was. I spent time creating a special scrapbook for Queen Bee chronicling her days with us at DOH and the special relationship that we share. I gathered all the things that have made their ways to be her special things… blankets, the tutu Lauri bought for her in Napa, the tiny pink shoes I couldn’t resist buying her at Rosebank and all the pictures and videos we’ve taken of her since she’s been ours.
Thank you for everyone who was praying for me on her adoption day. Even though I was feeling emotional I was able to really enjoy the day. I dressed her in her new dress (complete with matching headband and the softest grey sweater ever made) and then began the walk towards the guest house where her parents were anxiously waiting. As we walked along she nestled her face into neck, wrapping her little hands one last time all up in my hair and gave me the gift of one last hug as my girl. As we got close to the house I turned her around, straightened her beautiful dress and kissed her goodbye and felt the peace of Christ rained down on my heart. Queen Bee happily went into her parent’s arms and even though she was tired other than a few moments of fussy whines she was a perfect angel while I shared all about her. Her sweet parents were already in love, paid rapt attention to all of her details and cried with me at the end when I shared the promise the Lord had given for her life: to turn every curse that the Enemy handed her into blessing! As we stood to leave they warmed my heart by thanking me for loving their daughter and asking me, “So, how did we do? Do you like us?” Too cute! I’ve heard a few updates thus far and Queen Bee is being her perfect self… hardly crying, laughing a lot and confirming for all of us that this certainly is a match ordained and orchestrated by God Himself. I will get to see host her family’s visit to Baby House 3 week after next and then she will board her very first plane and fly home.
I will carry her heart in mine for always… praying for her salvation, wondering about her growing up and asking God for His continued protection, provision and guidance. I am looking forward to the miraculous Day on the other side of eternity when we will worship the God who saved us both side by side. When I get to hear the testimony of the entirety of her life and see with my own eyes how God used her to bring Himself glory according to His good pleasure and limitless mercy and grace. For the day when I get to introduce her to all of the faithful who prayed for her and loved her even though they never had the pleasure of meeting her face to face.
Thank you for continuing to pray for my heart as I grieve saying goodbye and as I prepare my heart for the next little person who will cozy up into the spot already reserved in my heart for them right next to Queen Bee’s and JJ’s. I have two additional handovers this upcoming week… two other families made complete through the sacred act of adoption. I am blessed, humbled and honored to be here, participating in such a needed and rewarding ministry.
So thankful for all of the love and support coming this side from all of you! I praise our Lord every time I think of you! XOXOXO ~ nicole and her babies
P.S. Here's a collage of Queen Bee and me!
at May 13, 2012
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