Jan 30, 2013

Showers of Blessing!!!

We've just had a shower of blessings in the last two weeks! I feel blessed, supported and encouraged in amazingly deep and rewarding ways. I am so very thankful for the way that God provides and uses His kids to further the work of HIS hands at El Roi and at Refilwe in general. Thank you to those of you who really showered blessing on us, and on me, in these past 2 weeks!

Ezekiel 34:26 says: "I will bless them... I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing." I am thanking God today for this new season, for the blessing that He's already brought to us in 2013. Ironically in the midst of such a wonderful two weeks I have also battled intensely with fear. Last year it seemed like whenever something "good" happened it was swiftly followed by a proverbial kick to the shins, and when I hit the ground it was quickly followed by another kick to the head. I know that this year will hold opportunities for me to grow in grief, learn from rebuke and mature through trial just like last year did but I don't want that awareness to rob me of the joy that today has brought. I am praying that in the midst of whatever 2013 holds in store for me that I will experience  what our Lord has promised me in His Word. That He will be near to me in EVERY season, that He will never leave me or forsake me, that He is Lord over all and that He is faithful to complete the good work that He has begun in me. 

Please pray for me that I will guard my heart and mind from fear. Please pray that I will be able to rejoice in the gifts and blessings God has seen fit to give us in 2013... and pray that I will be able to clearly hear our Daddy's voice in my heart and head as I continue to seek to serve love on His precious children of all ages here at Refilwe.

Here are some pictures depicting just some of the many blessings that were showered down on us in the past two weeks:

 Our toddler has had 2 major firsts! We have helped celebrate her first week at preschool and her first two weeks of working on her potty training! She really is such a clever girl... the potty training is going really well and she loves school! We are helping her sort out what are good things to pick up at school (stickers for obedience and art projects) and what things should stay at school (bad behaviors like biting or whining)... all in all we are so excited for and proud of our growing girl who almost runs to school everyday!

Every once in a while at DOH we would get visits from adoptive families who were visiting RSA and this month an adoptive father and grandfather of one of the children I got to love on at DOH were in South Africa for such a visit. They had heard about DOH's efforts in helping to open a new baby house at Refilwe and they chose to come and see us El Roi! 

 They came with gifts of clothes, blankets and toys for the babies and even had special gifts in tow for our Aunties. Here is our big girl with a dolly they brought her and Auntie Bertha holding her book and perfume that came all the way from Europe just for her!

 It was such a blessing to show them Refilwe and the new baby house, to have them meet the our babies and hear about this new adventure the Lord has opened up for me 

 One of the great things about having such a large community and property at Refilwe is the ability to host many short term missionary teams like this one from Alabama! This group came with a whopping 5 suitcases filled with clothes, blankets and medicines for our babies. They also spent a few days helping us organize closets, sort donations, weed in the yard and love on our kiddos... thank you for the blessing team!

I had some friends who took me to the grocery store and pharmacy and basically said; "fill  up the cart" at each store and I did! I filled the carts with over R8,000 of supplies for the Baby House and a few sweet treats for our Aunties. It was a surreal and very special afternoon... they said they felt like Santa Claus and I felt like it was Christmas Day!

Speaking of Christmas, I have a friend from CA who was kind enough to ship over Christmas presents for the babies and the package finally arrived!!! I just love getting to extend such a wonderful season all the way into January! The package contained the cutest brown baby doll for our big girl I have ever seen as well as some cute summer PJs that we've already begun to put to good use... thanks for thinking of us Gray Family!!!

A good friend of mine, Emma, serves with another local NGO called Impact Africa. I have had the honor of supporting her the last few months as they've prepared to open the very first Baby Safe (just like DOH's "Hole in the Wall" in Berea) in one of our largest informal settlements called Diepsloot. This past Friday I was able to attend their official Baby Safe opening and ribbon cutting ceremony. I couldn't help but tear up praising God for the babies who He will rescue through that safe! Please be praying for Emma and her Staff as they embark on this new adventure of rescuing and referring abandoned babies in Diepsloot. (You can learn more about Impact Africa at http://www.impactafrica.org)

This past week Refilwe opened a brand new community health clinic literally 20 steps from my front door... and to make matters even BETTER the lovely people who serve there make house calls. Today Sister DeeDee came to our very own living room to administer immunizations for our kiddos! Unless you've personally endured the trial of taking your kids to get immunized at a public health clinic here in RSA I don't think you can fully appreciate what an absolute treasure this is... no more crowed and long queues, no more crazy stares and no more doubt that our babies will actually be able to be up-to-date on all their immunizations! Sadly this is the only picture I was able to grab of the grand event while holding the babies for their injections... notice the tiny baby foot on the bottom left : ) but I promise to document this ongoing relationship better the next time they are visiting!

Thank you for all of your continued love, prayers and support!
Much love and many hugs and kisses from Nicole and the babies at El Roi

Jan 16, 2013

Refreshed and Ready to Go

I've had an amazing and full two weeks since we've chatted last! I spent week before last planning and preparing for last week: a much needed getaway to the Western Cape (which ironically is on the eastern side of the African continent nestled up to the Indian Ocean). My friend Emma, a fellow missionary serving in my neck of the woods with a ministry called Impact Africa, and I were able to get away for 7 whole sleeps to a beautiful part of the Western Cape called Knysna. Emma had some friends who were kind enough to open their homes to us while we were in town and we were beyond blessed with their generous hospitality and the all encompassing beauty of the tiny seaside town.  Those of you who know me well know how cathartic the ocean is for me... some where between the salty breezes and the crashing waves my soul let's out a deep sigh and I am at rest. We did our best to soak up the time away with rest and relaxation designed activities including manicures and pedicures, yummy food, daily reading and journaling, floating in the ocean, lying on the beach and I finally arranged massage I've been promising myself for about a year now. After a week of basically doing nothing I felt very accomplished for spending proper time processing the wild ride of 2012, dreaming dreams for 2013 (more to come on that in a later post) and working my way through 3 books all the while enjoying spending time with Emma. I missed my babies but did get to talk to my big girl on the phone every day, checking in on everyone. I've been back for a few days now and it's been wonderful catching up with everyone and jumping into January feeling refreshed and ready for all that our Father has in store for me and His kiddos at El Roi... and I pray that you are feeling the same!

Here are a few pictures from the last two weeks: 

My Aunties hanging out in the bathroom during our training meeting... laughing pretty hard as each one learned how to refill a particularly sticky hand soap dispenser

Here are few of the kids from the informal settlement behind my house checking me out while I was sitting at my desk. I'm not sure why but they love to come check me out like I'm some zoo animal sometimes... so very funny and a bit of awkward that I pretty used to by now

Here is my big girl helping me bring out the empty water jugs to be filled. Since can't drink the water out of our taps there are some nice guys in our community that weekly help fill our jugs with drinking water at a nearby pump... she is such a big girl and good helper!

This was our first night in Knysna, watching the sun set over the hills that surround the Knysna Bay

We spent some quiet time in Knysna's oldest church... I found this prayer in their Common Book of Prayer that was tucked into the pew in front of me. I ADORE old churches and Emma humored me while we explored a few on our trip!

One of our favorite restaurants was called "Ile de Pain" and we had such a  yummy time eating this ham and cheese on fresh bread with homemade crisps... so delicious!

Confession time: sadly this is the ONLY picture that we took of the two of us. We are enjoying some mini-dougnuts and looking a bit sleepy and grainy but here it is. Proof that I did not holiday alone!

This is was taken at a nearby (gorgeous) town called Plettenburg Bay... another old church!

Don't ask me why but when I saw this warning on a local dock I laughed particularly hard... something about the poor man whose dog was smarter than he was!

All in all so wonderful to be home, catching up with the Aunties and all the babies. Here is my big girl enjoying her "baby-chino" at Mugg & Bean while we caught up yesterday over breakfast. 

Love you, miss you, praise Jesus for your love and support!!!

Jan 2, 2013

Buttons of Grace

Happy 2013!!! I celebrated New Year's Eve with my sweet friends Megan and Emma and Teen Mania team that Emma was helping Impact Africa host this week. We had snacks, played games and welcomed 2013 at 10:00pm so everyone could get some rest before they headed out to another full day of ministry. I came home and then actually rang in the New Year chatting with my parents online. It was a fun, albeit quiet way to ring in 2013. 

On New Year's Day I took our toddler to her first in-theatre movie since she's been in our home. We drove through a torrential rain storm and made it into the theatre during the previews. Our big girl happily made it to her seat in the dark and started eating her kiddo sized popcorn like it was her job! She got a bit bored mid-way through our 3:15pm showing of "Rise of the Guardians" but after a few reminders to be quiet she was able to finish the movie out. We concluded our day out with dinner at Spar where she happily munched on her chicken nuggets and chips. She really is such a good girl and a joy to be around... especially when she is doing something she loves like going "bye-bye". 


One of my goals for 2013 is focus more on the little bits of grace that hold each and every one of my days together. The enormity of this wonderfully chaotic and beautifully turbulent season of my life often got the better of me this past year and I want to find practical ways to help me "keep my heart screwed on right" in 2013. After a stroll down Pintrest lane I decided to make myself what I call a "Buttons of Grace" Jar. It's basically just a spaghetti sauce jar, covered in scrap-booking paper and some packing tape with a slit cut in the lid and a paper pocket glued on the back. BUT the idea is at the end of each day to take the time to make a quick note of one of the ways I experienced the grace of God... just simple record of a tiny button of grace helping hold my day together. Then at the end of 2013 I will have 365 reminders of the Father's grace to guide me into 2014! 

I pray that as you enter this New Year that you will take some time to ask the Lord for some practical ways to know Him better and reflect Him more clearly than you did in 2012. Love you!

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. ...