Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Step By Step part 3...

Meet my daughter Cailee (Natalia). She is a beautiful girl filled with love, talent, and wittiness. I adore this special gift from the Lord. She graced our lives almost 5 years ago this April. There are days that I forget she is adopted and that I didn't carry her for 9 months in my own womb. But I have carried her in my heart for some time. I pray that her testimony will bless you and be a witness of God's grace, mercy and love for all of His children. He is definitely the Father to the fatherless!

I was born in Yekaterinburg, Russia. When I was about three years old, my parents put me in an orphanage. I always thought that they would come back for me, but when I was about six I had to move to a different orphanage which was in St. Petersburg. I wondered as we left the first orphanage, "How is my mom going to find me now? Does she know that I am leaving?" I kept thinking that over and over. My cousin and my best friend were leaving with me also. That helped me a little, but when we got there my friend and I were separated from my cousin because we were older than him. I was so scared that all I could do is stick close to my friend. I was not sure how to fit in. Would this new place ever feel like home?

When I was about 8 1/2 years I was told that there was a family who wanted to adopt me. I was so glad to hear that a family wanted me. I couldn't wait, but first I had to go visit them for a week or two in America so that they could get to know me. The time came for me and the other kids to leave to America. When we got to the airport, we had to go into this big room where there were a lot of families waiting for us. They would call out the families name and then call out a kids name, that would determine what family we went home with. This is when I met my family who had three kids, 2 boys and 1 girl. If they adopted me, I would be the second oldest in this family.

When we got to their house, I loved it! It was really big to me, but I got used to it really fast. The week went by fast and soon it was time for me to leave back to Russia. When I got back to the orphanage I couldn't wait to know if I was going to be adopted by this family or not. A year went by by before I heard that I was getting adopted! I was really happy that I got a family of my own.

The Family traveled to Russia to pick me up and then we traveled to America. The fist night I slept in my house, I woke up really early and I couldn't fall back to sleep. I took the blanket that I was given to me by my Nana and I went into the family room and sat. Looking around I thought, "Is this my forever home, or are they going to give me away like my first mom did?"

A couple of months later my family decided to adopt a new girl from Russia and from the same orphanage. After that we moved to a different state in America. That is when we started to have a lot of problems. I wouldn't do what I was told or I would do it but in a bad way. If I would fool around and play rough with somebody not meaning to hurt them I would be sent to my room. I would not want to be in there so I would yell and kick and throw a fit. Also, I would be sent to bed early even if I didn't misbehave. This was a hard time in my life. One day I was sitting on my bed watching the kids play outside having fun. I was wondering if there was this God, why would He put me in this family if I didn't fit in at all?

One summer we went to visit my adopted grandparents half way across the USA. This particular afternoon, my parents had arranged for us to go to the park. We met this family who had 4 kids. The oldest girl was named Coral and she was the same age as me, but I was two months older. That day at the park, I took Coral's hand and I started running and saying, "Let's go and play!" I was so excited! That was also the night of my first sleep over!

I stayed with Coral and her family for the whole week. When it was time for me to leave, we met my parents at a park. Coral and I played while the her parents and my parents talked. Then they called me over and wanted to talk to me. It took them awhile but then they told me that this family was going to adopt me. I started crying. I don't remember if I was happy or sad, but i think that it was both. They gave me a card and a CD by Rich Mullins, my favorite song, "Step by Step." That night I said good-bye to my second family and hello to my third family, the Thiele's. Even though I didn't fully understand then, I now know and can see how God used my second family to bring me to my forever family.

One night when we were praying in my new parents room, I was looking around the family thinking, "I want the joy, happiness and especially the Jesus that they have." When we were done praying I looked up at my dad and I asked him, "How can I ask Jesus into my heart?" He said, "It is easy, you just need to believe and pray and ask Him." When dad prayed I repeated it after him. Every day I learned and am still learning something new about our amazing Heavenly Father.

Every day I think about my other two families. I used to wonder if the Thiele's would give me up too. But now I know, this is my "Forever Family"! No matter what happened in my past or what will happen in the future, they will always love me. And my Father in Heaven loves me and cares for me. I know that He does because he gave me my forever family. Every day I wake up and see His work in my life and am thankful. I can't wait to see what he has for me in the future!

By Cailee

(Cailee Natalia and Coral)

Monday, March 12, 2012

As Seen Through Her Eyes part 2...

Meet Coral. She is the second born to Bryan and I. As the first biological daughter, Coral has faced many blessings and challenges that come along with adoption, especially adoption out of birth-order. Coral has had the most change of any of our biological kids as she has had to adapt to having two sisters her age come into our home. Coral is an amazing young lady and as her Mom, I am blessed to have her as a daughter and friend.

My hopes from these next few blogs are for you to be inspired and encouraged by real stories, real feelings, real struggles and real blessings about the journey of adoption. Adoption isn't some fairytale dream come true. There are ups and their are downs, however we shouldn't be surprised by any of it. The Bible tells us we will struggle. But in our obedience to Christ struggles are not the only thing we face. There are blessings beyond the hardships and a peace beyond the storms. The story you will read below are Corals thoughts about adoption. I hope you are blessed.

“What do you guys think of adoption?” I remember my dad’s question just hanging in the air. My family was an average sized family. It consisted of 2 boys and 2 girls. I was the oldest girl, the second oldest out of all the kids. I was 10 when my parents went on a date night to a Steven Curtis Chapman concert. They returned with a small pamphlet, on the front was a little Asian girl, she had one of the biggest grins I’ve seen. My parents sat the four of us down in the living room for a “family meeting” as they like to call it. Usually family meetings are far from fun, they usually consist of new rules or explaining how we don’t need every light on in the house. But this one, this one was completely different. “What do you guys think of adoption?” Adoption? The unfamiliar word played in my mind. Sure I heard of adoption, I knew what it was, I was just a little confused on the whole process. Do we just waltz into China and take a kid? If that was the case, I loved adoption! But little did I know what I was claiming to love so much and exclaiming was an amazing idea, was a lot more work than just grabbing some kid and telling them you loved them.

The adoption process begun. The months we took raising money, filling out paper work, having home studies, and so on and so forth, seemed endless to me. As a 10 year old I didn’t fully get this process, I was completely annoyed with hearing we are waiting for the courts or getting asked questions by a strange lady about my parent’s ways of discipline. Then one morning me and my younger brother Christopher Ash decided we were going to call the adoption agency office ourselves and see if the documents of our future sibling came in. We had the phone on speaker, everyone crowded around as me and Christopher innocently asked about our sibling. Sure enough the mail just came in with a picture and paperwork for a little girl from China. My heart jumped! The same day we drove 30 minutes to the office to retrieve the documents. A huge step closer! I thought to myself. With total excitement I continuously prayed about my new little sister, Jia Bao.

More months passed, the dates were set for my parent’s trip to retrieve our little girl from China. It was 8 weeks before they were planning to leave, when my mom got a call from our adoption agency. “How do you guys feel about adopting a little girl from Russia?” asked the lady on the other end of the phone. My mom just laughed, little did she know it was a completely serious question. Natasha was a 11 year old Russian girl that was adopted by a family in America. The family decided that it was God’s will to give her to another family, a family that would love her and be her forever family. Her story completely touched my heart and right away I called her my sister and knew she would be forever a part of my family. And she was! 5 weeks before my parent’s left to China I met Natasha (now known as Cailee), we adopted her 5 days after our first meeting, the day before Easter. That day I promised her we would never abandon her and we will always love her.

This insane adventure started to begin. Cailee who is born almost exactly two months before me moved into my room. This was nothing new to me, I shared a room with my little sister Chloe until we moved into our two story house (which was about 8 years) and even then we ended up sleeping in each others beds. Cailee and me hit it off for awhile. We decided to share clothes, music, hair products, just about everything! Only after Cyilea (Formally known as Jia Boa) came home, our sharing began to shift.

(Me and my sisters and friends)

Some people think adoption is a complete walk in the park, it’s the most fantastic thing you can do and you’ll be so happy with it. It is true that it is one of the most fantastic things you can ever do and it is true that you are really blessed and happy. But there are some hardships, there are somethings that you have to fight through. As a 11 year old girl mine was fighting through sharing friends. I liked my friends, I liked having my own people. Selfishly, I didn’t want her to be apart of it. She talked to the people I talked to, she texted the people I texted, she liked the boys I liked. It was really hard for me to learn to love her through it. When I got to the age of 13 I began to pray about my heart and my selfishness. And my heart suddenly started to change. Now don’t get me wrong, there were still some times when I lost it and truthfully there still is. But God bonded us in a special way, gave me crazy love for this amazing girl from Russia.

You may think that God would be done with our family and adoption. I mean, a girl from China, a surprise Russian sister. But no, he was just getting started. I guess a family with 6 kids just wasn’t big enough for Him. Because He brought 3 more along.

Me and my mom had a dream the same night about 3 kids from Africa. My dream was helping them get home using bikes. There was 2 boys and 1 girl. Soon enough a lady sent us a video of these kids from Ethiopia that needed parents. 2 boys and 1 girl. God is amazing, huh? These kids were all siblings, the girl (Meske) was the oldest. Both of their parents died and their older siblings didn’t have the money to provide for them anymore. The littlest boy (Sami) was sent to an orphanage away from Meske and Eyob (The older boy), were he was going to be adopted by a family, away from his siblings. This sent my mom in a panic, she didn’t want them to be separated. After talking with my father and us kids, and praying, she called the lady and explained to them we will adopt all the 3 together.

Another process started. A lot of garage sales, more paper work, but this time I understood more fully what we were in for. The “Little” girl Meske wasn’t so little, outside of size that is. Meske is about 6 months older than me. Another girl older then me? I thought to myself. I hated loosing my role as the oldest female, which I seemed to keep the title even with Cailee. Why not? I thought to myself. I did it once, I can do it again. My confidence was high. The process didn’t seem as long as Cyilea’s, mostly because I’ve been through it before. And soon enough in January of 2010 I traveled with my parent’s and older brother (Cadenn) to Ethiopia. The culture shock was major. To think of my great luxuries at home compared to my 3 new sibling’s home, broke my heart.

The day I met Meske, Eyob, and Sami was the most nerve racking day, I think of my entire life. I remember arriving at the church, kids everywhere singing and clapping. And then, the 3 kids come to us with flowers. Tears streamed down my face when my new sister approached me and gave me flowers and a hug. That day we ate at an Ethiopian restaurant, were a taught Meske how to work the camera (great bonding might I add) a few days later we said our good-byes and made our way home. Me and Meske sat alone on the plane ride to America, we tried talking (even with our language barrier) and amazingly, like a couple of teen boys, bonded over a little video game. I automatically had this insane love for Meske, she had this gentle spirit, she prayed before she ate, and just was all around a great girl.

When we arrived home things began to get hard. The friendship between me and Cailee lessened as we tried to adapted to a threesome instead of a twosome. The language barrier almost seemed to become larger to me. I constantly had to explain everything to Meske. If it was what someone said, or a movie, or anything else, I was Coral Thiele the interpreter. I liked the job at first, I enjoyed explaining things and talking with Meske constantly. But soon I started to loath it, I got this horrible attitude when ever she asked a question or even wanted to talk to me. Not only was I an interpreter, but I was the peace maker between my sisters. The job was heavy, I was in tears about the whole situation multiple times. I started to always want time alone, if it was locking myself in my bathroom for an hour or hiding under my covers. I wanted to be rescued.

I remember one night, sitting in my bathroom reading the bible. I was so tired of language barriers, calming fights, and helping my sisters understand one another. In tears I began to pray. I remember calling out to the Lord, telling Him how I didn’t understand why everything was so hard. I told Him I wanted to give up. No sooner did I say those words the verse 1 Corinthians 13:13 flash through my mind. “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Love.. That was it, the patient, kind, unfailing thing, I needed. Adoption isn’t just saying you love them, but showing it as well. I knew I needed a heart change. And it had to start right away.

We learned to adapt to this threesome. We also learned to love it! Let me just say, Chinese food and movies are a lot better when there are three crazy girls who all have different accents. I learned a lot from these beautiful ladies, not just in the sense of Crocheting or a Russian dance move. But I learned the pain of these orphans. I’ve never been abandoned, I never had parents who couldn’t take care of me, nor have my parent’s ever died. I am completely blessed, in every way. And they really opened my eyes to that.

In all honesty, my siblings from various countries is one of the best things that has happened to be (Besides my salvation in Christ). I love sharing my room with those two amazing girls, I love going throughout my house and listening to the various accents, I love when my Chinese sister talks about China, I love when Meske shares insane stories about her home land, I love getting “Russian Hugs” from Cailee, I love when I my family all goes somewhere in the 15 passenger van, I love my life, and all my siblings, everyone of them. Sure I still have times where I struggle, and maybe even lose my mind for a moment. But if I had to do it all over again, if I went back to the day my dad asked that question for the first time. I wouldn’t change a thing. I would have the same answer, “Sure! I love adoption!”

By Coral

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Where It Began, Part 1...

I love children, I just didn't know how much until... I used to think that I wasn't that great with children until they were much older, but the Lord had a very different plan and for that I am grateful.

Bryan and I were married in 1993, I was just 20 years old. We knew then that we wanted to change our heritage, as there was nothing we could change about our heredity. We wanted to try and follow Jesus (what ever that meant), unknowingly we set out on a journey where we could have never determined the destination.

Early on in marriage we decided to have 3 children, two boys and one girl (as if we could control those details.) By the time our fourth child came along, we found out we were pregnant with twins and sadly lost one baby. Chloe was born sick with more problems than we could count. By the grace of God over about 3 years He healed her to whole. We decided not to have any more biological children. We had enough and each pregnancy got harder and harder for me physically.

In 2005 Jesus decided our boat needed a little rocking. We attended a Steven Curtis Chapman concert. The concert focused on adoption. Steven appealed to our hearts and simply asked the question, "Why? Why wouldn't you adopt?" He went on to say, "If you are a follower of Jesus, and you have a house over your head and love in your heart, why won't you trust Jesus in opening your heart to one of the least of these?"

I went away completely undone. I thought through his questions and decided, "Why wouldn't we? We have love, we have a home. If God is who he says He is then that is enough!" On the drive home I mustard up the courage to ask Bryan, "Honey...have you every considered adoption? I mean, would that be something you would be interested in doing?" Bryan answered very quickly but kindly, "No."

I did not really continue the conversation. I could see that I was undone but he was unmoved. Honestly I was shocked or at least confused as to why my heart ached over the stories that were shared this night just to have a big NO in response. I decided to pray about it, that one of our hearts would be changed to match the others.

Soon the feeling faded and we were back into life as normal. A family of 6 after all is no small family. It is bigger than we ever dreamed. We struggled with all of our bills, keeping up on our mortgage was hard. We were always late paying the utilities, maybe this was for the best, I thought. I am so glad my husband balanced my crazy ideas out, God knew I would need that in a marriage.

A whole year passed and Christmas was upon us, the hustle and bustle, shopping, decorating, Christmas parties and lots and lots of food. We were invited to a Christmas concert, Steven Curtis Chapman and Mercy me, we couldn't pass that up. As we entered the suite where we would be watching the concert, I was handed a concert brochure. Bryan ran downstairs to get us coffee before the concert started and I sat thumbing through the brochure. All of the sudden the Spirit of the Lord nudged me. This was a Steven Curtis Chapman concert, they would be talking about adoption! My heart beat a little faster. I remembered the last concert we were at and how my husband and I were not on the same page. Excitement started to ensue in me out of no where. "Lord, if they do talk about adoption it is going to have to be all You," I whisper under my breath. "I can't, I won't say anything. Lord You will have to move his heart, change it if this is you."

The time came for an intermission. Steven and one of the guys from Mercy me came to speak. Sure enough, they focused on adoption. Steven said, "If you are a parent here, your child is more than likely making out his Christmas list. These kids that we are talking about here tonight have one wish on their list, a mom and a dad to love them. Can you open your heart to just one? You are adopted sons and daughters of Christ, can you extend yourself to make a difference in just one life?" James 1:27. He let us know that if we were interested in more information to head to the corridor and there would be people to help answer our questions.

Tears poured down my face. I was praying that Bryan didn't miss one word. I turned around as we were dismissed and he was gone. I thought for sure he must have ran to the bathroom and not heard a word. I tried to get a hold of myself and wipe the tears off my face, when I saw Bryan. Standing in the corner of the room weeping. Not a gentle cry, but an overwhelmed, over come cry. As I approached him, he looked at me with that look that speaks more than any word ever could. Bryan chokes out, "What are we going to do about this?" I knew what he meant! The Lord knew Bryan's heart, He had cultivated it for a whole year. He didn't need me to say a word. Jesus spoke, Bryan decided to obey. Before I knew it Bryan whisked me off to the corridor, hand in hand we approached the booths with fear and many questions. We were on our way to start our journey of adoption.

There are so many details that I would love to tell you about, like how we decided to adopt from China, or how God showed us that He would provide every dollar for our international adoption. I would love to tell you about the great community He surrounded us with and how we decided that we would adopt a child with special needs. But lets suffice to say that when Jesus asks you to trust Him, He if faithful and HE WILL DO IT!

Almost two years later, after arduous stacks of paper work, interviews, more fundraisers than I can count, tears, laborious work, the time had come to get ready to travel. We went into finalize our paper work and set out to finally meet our daughter.

When we got to our beautiful adoption agency for our appointment, Margot, one of the adoption workers came in to visit us and was obviously frustrated. The joke ran around the office that all the adults loved our family and wanted us to adopt them too. "So Thiele's, you wouldn't be interested in adopting an eleven year old girl from Russia would you?" WHY we asked. She began to explain the situation. "There is an eleven year old who has been adopted from Russia and the adoption is being disrupted. We need to find this girl a home quick."

Bryan and I were taken back, how in the world does this happen we asked? Why in the world does this happen? Where is she? Can we meet her? All of the sudden the room that once was focused only on our China adoption that was only 5 weeks away was now focused on a possible double adoption from two different countries! Margot who once was only blowing off steam with her candid comment, became very serious. "Thiele's this could ruin your life. I didn't think you would consider it really, I was just venting. Are you sure you want to meet the family?"

Yes, we did want to meet the family. We prayed the whole next week while the family drove across the USA to meet us for the first time. Our lives were already crazy we thought, what is one more thing. My mom had recently been diagnosed with ALS a fatal disease. Once we thought that my mom would be the care givers for our 4 kids while we traveled to China, but now she lived with us full time and I needed to care for her 24/7. She was unable to move from the neck down, mom went from walking to completely bed bound in 4 months. Our lives were up-side down. Still, we wanted to meet the family and they were excited to meet us.

I will never forget the fear and trembling I had meeting Natalia's adopted parents for the first time. We were so scared and had so many questions. Was this the best thing for our 5 kids (well almost 5) and was this the best thing for a dying mom? Was this the best thing for us as parents and our marriage?

Our meeting went well with the family. Long story, but one thing was for sure, they loved Jesus. They knew that Natalia was not thriving in their home. They told us all the stories, all of their fears and that they knew that the Lord used them to bring this little girl across the seas to her new forever family. Bryan and I were so confused. We were filled with more "Why's". We decided with the help of our adoption liaison, that we would meet Natalia for the first time the next evening at a park.

The meeting went well. The little Russian girl of 11 was the same age as our biological daughter and of course they hit it off. We asked Natalia if she would like to spend a couple of nights with us, with big eyes she eagerly accepted, she had never had a friend her age before! The next 4 nights we watched closely and prayed a lot. We didn't share our story with anyone except for a few close friends. Natalia and Coral bonded right away. Natalia even shared deep secrets with Coral like, "I wish we were sisters."

I agonized over if we should say yes or no to this big decision. Who would take her if we said no? What if we said yes and we didn't know how to handle her or the situation? What if we failed. What if? What if? What if? I could hardly sleep those next few nights. My mom bed bound in our living room, Natalia and Coral bonding faster than I liked, phone calls from friends of friends warning us not to move forward and Jesus whispering, "Trust me, I am the Father to the fatherless. I have this Andrea, will you trust me?"

This time, tables had turned. Bryan was sure and confident that we should and I was confused and terrified. On the 4th day I read a devotional. It said, "Is Jesus asking you to say YES to something that is big? Won't you trust Him that the with the "Yes" today?" I went downstairs to my little mama and laid my head in her lap. "Mom, what should we do? I am so scared?" My mom so sweet answered, "Drea, bring that little girl into your home, she needs a mom."

That very day we said YES to the most incredible journey of a life time! Natalia graced our home, and embraced our family, our lives were changed forever. The first night that she was officially ours, we were driving from saying our goodbyes to her "First Family" when she asked in a heavy Russian accent, "So does that mean I can call you Mom and Dad now?" We cried the whole way home, knowing that our God was sovereign and although I didn't understand all the "Why's" myself, I could trust in Him because He knows all the answers!

4 weeks later we traveled to China to pick up our daughter Cyilea and we were a family of eight!

Our first week with Cailee Natalia

Four short weeks later our daughter Cyilea (Lea after my mom)

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