Stories // Anastasia

The day she joined our family forever!

The day she joined our family forever!

I’m so excited to share a beautiful video about our adoption journey, created by Petro Studios, Church Project’s Story Team, and The Orphan Care Network. As you watch this 6 minute film, please remember that there are an estimated 153 million children worldwide in need of families, and think about what role you could play in bringing them home.

Our story would not look the same without the countless prayers, gifts and support of our family, friends, church, community and even people we’ve never met. This film is not simply about Anastasia, our family or TOCN, but instead demonstrates what can happen when people dare to believe they can make a difference, and (instead of sitting idly by) invest into the lives of those they love. The community around us partnered with our dream of bringing Anastasia home. Through their actions, God’s will is being done in our family. To Him be the glory!

~ Justina Dee

Read more about our adoption journey here: She’s Finally Home : Our Ukrainian Adoption Journey & Timeline

Click here to connect with The Orphan Care Network

 

Five Ways to Pray for Adopted Children and Their Adoptive Siblings

Forever Sisters #lydiaglick

Forever Sisters

As everyone knows, adoption brings with it a multitude of changes to the pre-adoption rhythms of a home. Our family’s adoption story is still young, but I can say with confidence that we have experienced the power of a multitude of prayers on our behalf, and my husband and I see God at work in the hearts and lives of our children.

There are countless ways to pray for adoptive families and I feel it’s important to share at least a few practical things to begin praying for any children you know who are experiencing the transitions that take place during the initial stage of adoption, when your child is finally home.

If you have any resources or insight that would help others know how to pray for adoptive families, please feel free to share them in the comment section below!

Anastasia #lydiaglick

Anastasia

How to Pray for an Adopted Child:

1. That they would see and know the great hope and love of Jesus and choose to make Him the Lord of their life. Ephesians 1:17-19

2. That they would be healed from all wounds of their past and see their new identity  – not as an orphan but as the child of a forever family who is demonstrating a picture of our Heavenly Father’s love for them. And that they would understand the promises of a future filled with hope and purpose as a child of God. Romans 8:15-16

3. For grace & courage in the massive transition to an entirely new life, culture, family, friends, values, rules, language, church, school and relationships. Deuteronomy 31:6

4. That they would learn put their trust in God, that through His kindness and beautiful light, the barriers and walls would crumble and they would feel safe and unafraid to communicate their hurts, fears and pain (as well as dreams, desires and feelings) with their new family, teachers and mentors.  Psalm 36:7-9

5. That God would give them a new heart and a teachable spirit, and for new and healthy patterns to be established in their heart and mind.  Ezekiel 36:26-29

Alexa #lydiaglick

Alexa Kathryn

How to Pray for an Adoptive Sibling

1. That they would grow in their knowledge of the love of Jesus and gain deeper understanding of the infinite love and grace He has for them – in such great capacity to in turn extend His love and grace to their new sibling. Ephesians 3:16-19

2. That they would be confident in their identity and established place in the family and as a child of God – in spite of any turmoil, less time with parents or changes to the pre-adoption family and household routines. Ephesians 1:17-19

3. That they would stand firm on the rock of God’s word, for protection from the enemy, and rest in God’s faithfulness. Also that every moment of their day would be directed by Christ’s love and plan for their life. 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

4. That God would give them insight and understanding of their new sibling’s scarred history, complex personality, God-given strengths and any weaknesses, so they will not simply endure the difficult days, but instead be triumphant in their opportunities to be a tangible reflection of Jesus to their new sibling. Phil. 1:9-11

5. Mature patience, an unwavering spirit and unconditional love for their new sibling, as well as wisdom to grasp the beauty of their missional and Christ-like role in embracing a new sibling who doesn’t yet fall into the “normal” role or picture our community and society portray for brothers and sisters. Colossians 1:9-12

~ Justina Dee

She’s Finally Home! {Our Ukrainian Adoption Journey & Timeline}

TexasToUkraine

Every adoption story is beautiful, redemptive and unique. Throughout the next weeks I’ll be blogging about events and things that transpired in the years, months, weeks and moments leading to the unforgettable day our daughter finally joined our family forever. Before I do that, I wanted to share the overview of our #UkraineToTexas timeline & adoption story:

1993: Even before we married we talked of adoption and knew that someday we would bring children home who (although they weren’t biologically ours) were destined to be in our family.

1995: We celebrated a beautiful, storybook wedding in March of 1995. As a young married woman I struggled with and grieved over my infertility issues. Whether we had biological children some day or not, my husband and I never doubted that we would adopt, and continued to have conversations about what that looked like for us.

2001-2002: After seven years of marriage, many doctor visits, surgery for endometriosis and still no pregnancy, our adoption plans began in earnest, and we began to research domestic adoption agencies, with the prospects of bringing home a toddler.

2003: Adoption plans came to a halt when we were married eight years and a miracle happened. My deep desire to become a mother came to pass when I became pregnant God and gave us a beautiful and perfect daughter! She is a gift from Heaven – a delight to us and many others. As soon as she could begin to grasp the concept of adoption, we explained to her that she would have an adopted brother or sister someday.

2005: When our daughter was two, those adoption plans were dusted off and things began in earnest. We began to pray regularly, and seek God regarding His plans for our adoption.

2006: During my devotions early on the morning of June 25, 2006, I had a vision of a little girl in a blue barrel. I knew two things: she was our future daughter, and she was somewhere in Eastern Europe. We began to pray for her – that God would protect and keep her, reveal His love to her, bring people into her life to show Jesus to her, and bring her home to us some day.

2010: We visited the Together For Adoption conference in Austin, TX, with our pastor Jason Johnson, and a group of adoption minded families from our church. During that conference God confirmed to us that the girl we were praying for was in Ukraine, and we began looking at agencies who could facilitate our adoption from that country.

Adoption plans were put on hold when a close family member experienced a serious illness.

2013: We knew we had to get this adoption process back on track. We asked family and friends if they knew anyone who had adopted from Ukraine. My aunt Rachel connected us with friends of hers at Ukrainian Resource Center. We decided to host nine-year old Luba that summer, through the program they had in place. We had a life changing summer with Luba, and desperately wanted to adopt her. But she did not want to leave Ukraine, and chose to stay at the orphanage instead of coming to a new family in America. (Insert our heartbreak here.) Our family was greatly affected during Luba’s time with us, and we had a completely new understanding of this thing called “Orphan Care”.

Luba

We continued to pray for our future daughter.

2014: Our family’s adoption plans began in earnest. We decided to host another girl, but were having considerable difficulty during our family’s deliberations of who that girl should be. We were not planning to host or adopt anyone older than our biological daughter who was then ten years old, until another miraculous dream (this time from my sister in Virginia) confirmed that God had chosen (then 15 year old) Anastasia for our family. We immediately began the adoption process (even before she came to visit) and began communicating with her via a dear friend who served children at her school in Ukraine.

Our family vacation

In the summer of 2014 Anastasia came to America for a six-week hosting program trip, facilitated by Ukrainian Resource Center. Meeting her for the first time was an incredible experience. We shared a memorable summer with her, and celebrated her sixteenth birthday with family and friends. She had to go back to the orphanage in Ukraine until adoption paperwork was complete, and left in late July.

Adoption Paperwork

We finally received our notice from Ukraine’s State Department of Adoption that our appointment date was on December 15th of 2014, and we made a one week trip to Ukraine in mid-December. We returned to America to wait for our formal adoption court date.

#texastoukraine

2015: Word of our court date came in early January, and we traveled back a second time to formally adopt Anastasia on January 15, 2015, in a small courtroom inside a run down ex-Soviet government building in South East Ukraine.

Adoption Day

We arrived home with our daughter on February 7, 2015, one month before our twentieth wedding anniversary.

As for what’s happening now: We know this is just the beginning, we’re settling into our new “normal”, and we look forward to the rest of the story God has written for our family!

ukrainetotexas

Thank you for the love, prayers, financial support and countless other ways you’ve blessed and served our family over the years. You are part of this story, and it would not look the same without you.

~ Justina Dee

 

Our Ukrainian Adoption {an update}

Our girl

The beautiful girl we’re waiting to bring home forever.

If you had told my newlywed husband and I “When you’ve been married for 20 years you’ll adopt a sixteen year old girl from Ukraine who doesn’t speak English, and looks like your biological daughter”, we would have laughed at you.

But here it is: 2014, and that’s exactly what were doing.

Family Banner - in Russian

“Family” (in Russian)

We always knew we’d adopt someday. And after deciding we would bring home a daughter from Ukraine, we hosted a beautiful nine year old girl who we thought we would one day call our daughter & sister. We were forever changed after sharing an incredible summer with her. We learned a whole lot about this thing called orphan care. We loved her desperately, and still do. But she was not the girl we would bring home forever. I cried when she left. A lot. In fact, our 10 year old daughter & I couldn’t even bear to go into the room she slept in for months after she went back to Ukraine.

But God was preparing our hearts, and writing a story we couldn’t even begin to dream up.

We first saw this photo on our Ukrainian orphan hosting program’s 2013 listing:

Hosting Photo

We saw it again in the 2013 winter hosting. And then, in the summer of 2014, there it was again. This beautiful girl. We couldn’t believe she’d never been adopted. We wondered what her story was. We couldn’t forget about her. We prayed for her. And we marveled at the fact she looked so much like a beautiful girl we knew, named Ioana.

Sadly, we didn’t even entertain the thought of hosting (or adopting!) her, because she was much older than the daughter we imagined bringing home forever.

That all changed one day when my sister called and told me about a dream she had, where she described a girl who “looked like Ioana”. I’ll share the unbelievable God-sized details another time. Our whole family knew without a shadow of doubt that this was the daughter and sister God wanted us to bring home, and we immediately took action to host her for the summer, and even before meeting her, we started the process of her adoption.

Letters sent as we waited to meet our girl...

Letters sent as we waited to meet our girl…

First photo with my future daughter ~ At the airport in New York after her flight from Ukraine

First photo with my future daughter ~ At the airport in New York after her flight from Ukraine

The first sister hug.

The first sister hug while Daddy beams in the background

First night together as a family, in Orlando

First night together as a family, in Orlando

I met our girl when she arrived in NYC in June of 2014. We flew to Orlando, Florida where our family vacationed together at Disneyworld. We then drove home to Texas. When she walked into the room we had prepared for her, she lost her composure for the first time, buried her head in my shoulder and sobbed – overwhelmed by the love of her newfound family.

Our family vacation

From left to right: Myself, our biological daughter, my husband and our Ukrainian daughter

Arriving in Texas!

Arrival in Texas!

The weeks with our girl flew by. We got to know her. She loves M&M’s, french fries and pickles, and she drinks her coffee black with a teaspoon of sugar. She’s passionate and funny. She’s one of the bravest people I’ve ever met. She loves adventure, but she is scared of bridges. 🙂

Visiting Daddy at Work

Visiting Daddy at Work

We laughed often. Our Ukrainian girl has a laugh that is loud, and contagious. Many times the laughter was a result of the hilarious things that happened because of our language barrier. We studied hard before she came, and knew enough Russian to communicate on a basic level. She also knew a bit of English. Add Google translate, charades and volumes of expression to the mix, and we were (almost) always able to understand each other.

Bonding as Sisters

Bonding as Sisters

Good times with family

Good Times With Family

Her deepest desire was always to have a family. We learned that her mother left when she was a toddler. Her dad died shortly after her sixth birthday, and she went to the orphanage. She told us about when she cried for days, after a fight with some other orphan girls. Those girls took the only photos she had of her beloved father, and they burned them. How we wished we could have been there to protect her as she grew up.

Sixteenth Birthday

Her Sixteenth Birthday – where family & friends brought 16 birthday cakes for every single birthday we missed with our girl, and we sang “Happy Birthday” and she blew out candles every time

It was an unforgettable summer together. We celebrated our daughter & sister-to-be’s 16th birthday with our incredibly supportive family and friends.

My husband patiently working through one of the hard days with our girl

My husband patiently working through one of the hard days with our girl

Of course the days and moments weren’t all sunshine and roses. Anyone who knows anything about what happens to a child who has spent 10 years in an orphanage can read between the lines of this paragraph and know that there were some very difficult times during her visit. The honeymoon was over after our second week together as a new “family”. I marvel at the way my husband and biological daughter navigated some of the most difficult territory they’d ever encountered throughout those weeks. I grew a whole lot as a mother. But the hard times were not a surprise to us, and we got through them together.

The Day We Said Goodbye

The Tearful Day We Said Goodbye

Our Ukrainian daughter’s hosting program visit came to end in late July. She boarded the airplane and went back to the orphanage where she remains until she legally becomes our daughter, and we bring her home forever. We “talk” with her often, through messages on an Eastern European social media platform.

Before She Boarded the Plane for Kiev

Before She Boarded the Plane for Kiev

We miss her like crazy. We dream every day of when we’ll finally be together again. We pray that God will protect her, strengthen her, and reveal His unending love to her.

Adoption Paperwork

Hours Upon Hours of Adoption Paperwork

The adoption process is coming to a close, as everything has been done on this side of the ocean, and we wait for word from Kiev, Ukraine. As we anticipate the day our daughter’s adoption is finally complete, we know that it is only the beginning, and that there is a long journey ahead as we join hands and walk through the uncharted territory of our unique FOREVER FAMILY story. There will be joy. There will be pain. There’ll be lots of learning, and stretching out of our normal and comfortable places.

But we’ll walk together, because this adoption is what we’ve been called by God to do. He paid the ultimate sacrifice and went to unimaginable lengths to do it for us, and call us His sons and daughters. We’ll continue to look to Him for strength and wisdom at every turn.

Our Family

Our Family

And as I close this post, I want you to know that I am typing through tears. Tears of thankfulness for God’s faithfulness to our family. Tears of missing our girl. But ultimately tears of joy from a heart that is overflowing with the magnitude and beauty of it all. God’s ways are higher and greater than I ever dared imagine. He is gifting us with beautiful daughter whose courage to leave all she knows and say “yes” to a family from Texas who wants to call her ours simply astonishes me, and makes me so proud to be called her “Mama”.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us get to this point of our adoption journey. We couldn’t have done it without you, and we thank God for the part you play in our family’s story.

I look forward to giving you another update again very soon,

Justina Dee

We’re in the final stages of funding our adoption! Click here if you would like to make a donation, through our Crowdrise Fundraiser through the Orphan Care Network.

 

Orphans & Human Trafficking – Is There More I Can Do?

Not to speak is to speak, not to act is to act The stories make my stomach lurch. Girls sent away from the orphanages of Eastern Europe at sixteen years old with nowhere to go. Predators prey like vultures, and mercilessly snatch them up. Kidnap them. Sell them. Abuse them. Buy them. Use them. Beat them. Even kill them. They are trapped in rooms and broken down. And horrible, atrocious acts are inflicted upon them. They contract HIV. They suffer. They die. And where am I? I never even glance their way. I have MY very busy life to live. My spouse, my children, my family and friends, my job. My health. My goals.  And on top of all my responsibilities and problems I’m too busy catching up on my favorite Netflix show. Pinning on Pinterest. Tweeting on Twitter. Deciding where we should vacation. Organizing my bathroom shelf. Getting my oil changed. Perfecting my life plan and mission statement. Reading a book to help alleviate the stress of it all. You know, important things. Oh, I’ve attended fundraisers. I’ve studied up on the matters of human trafficking. I’ve even shared videos and Facebook statuses about it all. I refuse to live in naivety and bury my head in the sand. Yes, I’m aware. But is it enough to be aware?

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Hold on! I’ve done more than just educated myself! I’ve prayed. I’ve interceded on behalf of these victims, and asked God to bring freedom, justice, healing and restoration. I’ve prayed for those in law enforcement and human trafficking ministries and organizations who are in the dangerous and life-threatening trenches – bringing comfort, rescue and a future to these precious souls. I know that awareness and prayer are vital! I have seen the powerful effect of our fervent prayers directed towards the human trafficking issue. I believe that it is during those times of prayer that the complacency in my heart began to melt, and my eyes were opened to the truth that I’m not helpless to the issue.

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying.  He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.” –  Samuel Chadwick

But then there’s this:

…be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22

The next step is to be a “doer”.  As my heart impacted by the things that stir God’s heart, my feet and my hands cannot help but move in response. I will begin to live in such a way that as the Spirit moves in my heart I become a vessel of God’s love and mercy through my actions. God has gone to great lengths to rescue me, and as a result of my overflowing gratefulness for what He has done for me, I cannot help but to the same for others.

Praying men are the vice-regents of God; they do His work and carry out His plans.” E.M. Bounds

Our family has long talked about the injustice of human trafficking. And faithfully prayed about this issue. We’ve met and been inspired by brave people who are taking action in this area. And now we have decided the next thing we must do is to find one girl who is about to leave an orphanage, has no family, no support system, no protector, and is headed to the street to survive, and welcome her into to our home to give her a chance to say yes to the invitation our family is extending to her, and find love, safety, healing, and most important of all: meet Jesus. To be frank, the thought of adopting a girl who has grown up in an orphanage, doesn’t speak our language, and has all sorts of emotional scars and psychological damage is scary. It’s unknown territory. It’s a downright crazy thing for our comfortable, most-of-the-time happy family to do. But it’s what God has asked us to do. And we’ve committed to doing it. And we know that He will sustain us, give us the tools, surround us with the people we need, and that she will be an unimaginable gift to us. And we believe that we will see beauty rise from the ashes. And that we can literally prevent at least one child from becoming another human trafficking statistic.

 “Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Church: if we are truly concerned about the issue of women and children bound in the unspeakable horror of modern-day slavery, there are many ways to take action. It’s going to look different in each of our lives. And all of the things we do must be done with wisdom and in God’s timing. But let’s at least do something. We can begin by becoming aware of the issue of human trafficking. Then pray for all parties involved, ask God how he wants us to help, be obedient to His call and become a “doer”. If you (or someone you know) have responded to this great need in some way, be it seemingly tiny or quite large, I’d love to hear about it! Please share it with us in a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you. May you be challenged to answer the stirring in your heart. And be blessed. ~ Justina Dee

“If God sends us on strong paths, we are provided strong shoes.”  – Corrie ten Boom

Links: International Justice Mission Fact Sheet  | Stella’s Voice : Watch this video to learn about what is happening to girls in Moldova  | 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Slavery, Human Trafficking, (& What You Can Do About It) | End It Movement Ukrainian Resource Center Hosting Program – Consider hosting an orphan! | The A21 Campaign | Love146

Oh, the Waiting


Oh, the Waiting #adoption #orphancare

 Well they say that absence makes

The heart grow fonder every day

Sweet child, it’s true

In every way

.

So I will hold you in my heart

While I can’t hold you in my arms

Oh, the waiting

It’s so hard

 .

When you look up at the moon

Just remember that I’m looking too

Oh, the longing

If you only knew

I keep finding things ’round here

That remind me of our time with you

Oh, the memories

They bring fresh tears

 .

I can hear your clear sweet voice

Your “good morning”, ‘”night” and “love you too”

Oh, the joy

That you bring

 .

So tonight I’m sending love

And hugs and kisses and a prayer to you

O my Dearest

You’ll be home soon

.

Missing our sweet little one in Ukraine tonight,  Justina Dee

The Deep Well of a Mother’s Love {A glimpse into the life of an adoptive family}

Mother and her family

 

“No language can express the power, and beauty, and heroism, and majesty of a mother’s love.  It shrinks not where man cowers, and grows stronger where man faints, and over wastes of worldly fortunes sends the radiance of its quenchless fidelity like a star.” ~Edwin Hubbell Chapin

(Is there someone from your childhood whom you haven’t seen for a very long time, but your heart still glows with love every time you think of them? My daughter, niece and I visited one of those people this weekend, and her life experiences over these past years is too beautiful and inspiring to keep to myself. On Friday afternoon we took a little road-trip under the hot Texas sun, through a few beautiful little towns, down a country road, up a long gravel lane, and finally arrived at our destination. We parked by the fenced pasture and were greeted by the family dogs.)

As we made our way to the house, the front door opened, and out walked one of the most beautiful families I’ve ever seen. First came my childhood friend (now a mother), followed by twelve of her and her husband’s thirteen children.

We embraced, then my eyes brimmed with tears at what followed. My friend’s intense love for each child was evident on her face (and even in her mannerisms and gestures) as she introduced me to every one of her blessings. Eight biological and five adoptive children (from Cambodia, Guatemala and Ukraine.) With each introduction of her precious ones, I was given another glimpse of their mother’s deep, deep love for them.

We sat down around the table in the farm-style kitchen and enjoyed a scrumptious family style meal, followed by a three-layered cake lovingly and beautifully baked by two of the girls. Sharing time with this family was an extraordinary experience. I sat across from a long bench of beautiful little ones, who sat in front of a large window through which you could see the great outdoors. The respect and courtesy these children demonstrated to us their guests, as well as to each other was a complete delight to behold (and experience).

Dinner was full of reminisce, stories and laughter. Love emanated from my friend and in turn, from each of her children. As the matter of fact, there is no denying the fact that this home is built on the strong and firm foundation of God’s love, as every square inch is filled with its grace and beauty. The picture of these children together, in their little corner of the world is such a picture of redemption that I have no words to describe it. What can one woman do to change the world? I need look no further than my friend’s kitchen table in Texas. The respect, admiration and adoration these children have for their mother is precious to behold. After all, she is a picture of Jesus to them.

Playground

After supper, everyone helped clean the kitchen, and we headed outside where twilight was just setting in. The children played, (all the older ones helping the littles), while us mommies caught up on the years that have passed by. It’s hard to believe there were fourteen children (including the two I contributed to the group) playing around us, they were so well-mannered. Such kindness and joy flowed from every member of this family! My daughter and niece had an amazing time playing, meeting the children’s animals, and then riding horseback.

Family Playground 2

As dusk set in, we took all took a walk together. It was magical. My friend shared the stories of each of her children. All I could think of is how DEEP this mother’s love is! It is like a well. Because her love is an extension of GOD’s love, it never runs dry.

Country WalkWalking along their country lane, we shared the joys and heartaches, the mountaintops and the valleys of our mothering experiences. I heard how one of her daughters was found at the orphanage doorstep, wrapped in rags. She told me about the unlikely path (full of intense sadness and ultimate joy) which led to the homecoming of two sisters from Ukraine. We talked about babies being born after their due-date. We shared struggles, current battles and the reality of living a life that looks different from those expectations we had as young women what seems so long ago.

My beautiful friend

I didn’t want this evening to end. We finished our visit with some time around the piano. (Which my friend’s children can play, as well as the violin!) As we sang “Amazing Grace” together, and the children’s clear, sweet voices rose up around me at the piano bench, I was completely overcome with emotion. These little ones understood these words far better than most of us could ever begin to do.

“Through many dangers, toils and snares

I have already come;

‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far

And grace will lead me HOME” ~ John Newton

Amazing Grace

Incredibly inspired. Massively challenged. And undeniably encouraged am I, by this dear woman’s deep well of Love. May we all die to self. Live to love others, and make an eternal difference in our world in such a way as this.

~ Justina Dee 

Our Little Guest from Ukraine

Free

When she came to the USA, she didn’t like American food. When she left, she had two favorite restaurants. When our little guest arrived in our home she wouldn’t even look at my husband. Five weeks later she wouldn’t stop telling him how much she loved him, and kissing his cheek over and over again. The first time we visited our neighbor’s pool she was terrified even to place her feet on the first step. Days later she was jumping into the deep end. The first time she saw our family pray together she mocked us and laughed. The night before she left us, she initiated our family prayer time. During Bedtime Bible story time, we saw her behavior change from running around the living room refusing to engage, to reading the stories to us from her own Bible. (Which dear friends had provided). When my daughter took the bicycle out of our garage for her, our sweet visitor couldn’t ride it. A few short weeks later the two girls were cruising their bicycles around the neighborhood, and our family went on a trail ride together. Initially bath time was a fight, and washing her hair was a downright battle. Before she left, she happily washed (and conditioned) her hair with no prompting or help on my part. When we first introduced new things to her and she didn’t want them, she would make a huge scene, shouting “NYET” (No), “BLEH!!!!” or “Behani” (Bad). By the end of her visit, she instead would politely say “No thank you”. Can hosting a child for five weeks change their life? From our personal experience, YES, it most certainly can!

Bible Story Time

Why we decided to host

It began with a question I posted on Facebook; “We are beginning the process of adopting from Ukraine. Do you know anyone who has adopted children from that country, and if so, would you be willing to connect us with them?” My dear Aunt Rachel responded to my question, and connected us with friends from her community who have wholeheartedly poured their lives into serving, loving and rescuing Ukrainian children. They work tirelessly with an organization called Ukrainian Resource Center, which facilitates a hosting program, and assists families with adoption. After phone conversations and emails with their founders and volunteer staff, we felt much peace, and thought it wise to follow along the trail they have already so courageously blazed for adopting an older child from Ukraine.

About Hosting

Hosting is by no means a guarantee of adopting a specific child. Hosting IS however, an opportunity to deeply connect with an older Ukrainian orphan, making a permanent impression upon not only their life, but yours. During their time with a family, this child has the opportunity to experience things that would most likely never be possible in the institutionalized world in which they live. We decided as a family to be extremely intentional during our hosting experience and to make every single moment count; so that we would have no regrets – whether we would someday have the opportunity to adopt this precious one, or in the incredibly sad event that we would never see their face again. (Click here for more information on hosting).

The pre-hosting process

As we were hosting with the intent to (if at all possible) someday adopt, we were careful to work together as a family on the difficult decision of choosing ONE of the many dear children available to host. Relying on nothing but a tiny photo and an even smaller bit of information, we confirmed the little girl we were interested in hosting would indeed soon be available for adoption. Ukrainian Resource Center has a thorough process of screening their hosting families, to protect the safety of these children. This includes home study, letters of recommendation, background checks, written statements of faith and so on. Once we were officially approved, we got down to the business of preparing for our little visitor’s stay with us!

Family

The 5 weeks that forever changed us

Our five weeks with this beautiful and unforgettable nine-year old girl have wrecked our world as we knew it. When you encounter an orphan in this acutely personal way, you can never be the same again. The reality of this child’s plight is unfathomable. It is acutely sobering to think they have no earthly possessions but a tiny photo of a mother who is no longer there for them. This child doesn’t even have their own toothbrush! And most importantly, they have no one to nurture and care for them in the safe and loving home every child should have. And when you pause to consider the thousands more just like this precious one in your arms… it’s simply heart-wrenching.

Expectations vs. Reality

We were expecting this little girl to be very excited to visit us in America, but quickly discovered in our first moments together that this simply was not the case. She was scared, confused, lonely and (thanks to the protective wall she had built around her heart) not at all ready to receive the massive amount of love we already had built up for her. It took several days for her to completely feel at ease with me and our dear daughter (10 months older than our darling guest), and at least two weeks for her to begin to warm up to my husband -or for that matter, any other male figures. She spoke only a few words in English, and she let us know in no uncertain terms that she did NOT like America.

However, all this changed over the course of our five weeks together, and by the end of her visit, she told us she LOVED America, and she cried at even the thought of going back to the orphanage. Over the course of her time with us, we fell head-over-heels and madly-in-love with this amazing child. She is intense. She is vivacious. She is smart. She is incredibly funny. She loves with extreme passion, and she feels pain with equal depth. We built more memories and bonded with her in five weeks than we ever dreamed possible, and we want nothing less the absolute best for this young lady’s future.

Swimming

Very soon, I’ll be sharing our most beautiful and unforgettable memories of our time with this girl who no matter the outcome, will forever be a part of our family. I also look forward to sharing those resources which were indispensable to us during this whole process. Words cannot adequately relay our deep gratefulness to all of you who are sharing this journey with us. We simply couldn’t do this without you by our side.

What happens next

We are carrying on with our plans of adopting a daughter from Ukraine. If indeed this amazing child (who brings with her an abundance of energy,  joy and boundless emotion) is able and wants to be adopted by our family, our hearts would simply explode with happiness. We cannot however be guaranteed of this intensely longed for reality until more necessary things take place on both sides of the ocean. The tragic truth is that she is still holding on to the false hope that she will soon leave the orphanage and go home to live with the very mother from whom parental rights have been revoked. If this girl we love so dearly is available to be hosted again over Christmas, and would like to visit us, we are planning for that to be our next step in building a relationship with her, and continuing to move ahead with plans of her possible adoption. In the meantime, we will be writing letters to her, and praying she receives them. There is a void in our home, a sadness in our hearts and an emptiness in our arms as a result of her departure.

We will be working with Ukrainian Resource Center to facilitate the next steps of this journey, and will certainly keep you posted.

In closing

Would we do this again? Absolutely YES. Was it easy? A huge and definitive NO. To sum it all up; Statistics tell us that 80% of orphans who leave a Ukrainian orphanage between 15 & 16 years of age go on to become victims of human trafficking & prostitution or become involved in crime, alcoholism and drugs. They have no dreams, no hope, no future, nowhere to live, and no one to love them. Up to 10% of them may commit suicide by the age of 18. If we can bring a glimmer of joy, a spark of purpose, a nurturing family experience, an unforgettable trip to America, and above all, demonstrate the exceedingly great, always-faithful, never-failing, 100% genuine, and life-changing love of Jesus to even ONE child, the hosting process has met every single goal we set out to accomplish.

Click here to learn more about Ukrainian Resource Center

Our Adoption Story, Part One

Adopting From Ukraine; The Reason Why

The Length of Love 

The Reality of Loving the Orphan

 

The Reality of Loving the Orphan

sadnessThe reality is hard to take.

Here she is, in our home. A little girl who only weeks ago was in an orphanage.

Challenges, disorders, obstacles, complexities…I was not naive. I knew we would face all of them. And that working through them would take a long, long time.  I thought I could enter into her tumultuous world and fix things.  I thought that I could save the day. Be her hero. Show her the love she so desperately needed, and everything would be OK.

But I found out I was wrong.

When you see a little one – not on a photograph, promotional video, Facebook photo, but in real-life, flesh and blood – sobbing and full of bitter despair, curled up in the fetal position, shutting her ears to your words, unwilling even to be held or loved in her moment of complete and utter brokenness, you are forever changed.

When you see a fatherless child lashing out against your love. Telling you that all she wants is to go home to her mother (from whom she was taken), while her eyes are blazing with anger and pain, you realize that loving an orphan is much more complex than it seems.

When you see an abandoned orphan with a past full of complicated problems –  far greater than any you’ve ever faced, you realize how ill-equipped you are.

And it’s a humbling experience.

You see, this whole “caring for the orphan” thing is a process that not only changes the orphan,  it changes me.

Caring for an orphan has caused me to examine my true motives. Are they simply a whimsical desire to make a difference in the world, or a heartfelt conviction that will carry us both through the dark storms we will undoubtedly face? Is my love for this child an idealistic and shifty notion, or built on a solid and firm foundation that will not move when it is shaken and challenged?

When this sweetheart abrubtly shifts to a child who is lashing out, things suddenly look very ugly and your blood pressure goes higher than you ever dreamed possible, what will cause you to stay calm, and love her anyway?

I’m convinced more than ever that the only way that Love will save the day,  is when it is  a selfless Love. The kind of love Jesus demonstrated to me. When I display a steadfast and unrelenting Love, such as my Heavenly Father has lavished upon me.

No amount of preparation, knowledge, compassion, efforts, do-good actions, resolve, ideals, personal discipline, patience, or earthly wisdom can possibly fill the emptiness and deep void, make right the colossal hurt and injustice, repair the broken places, or restore light and life, where hope has been dashed in the heart of an orphan.

I cannot fix it.

But Jesus can.

And He will. I can personally testify to the fact that Jesus changes an orphan’s life. (And in the process, also changes mine.)

By His might and power alone, I am called to be His hands and His feet, in this world that is longing for the day that He will return and make all things right.

It’s time for all of us to move from a place of FEELING sorry for these little ones, into that messy thing called LOVING the orphan.

And I’m learning there’s much more to this thing called LOVE, than I ever imagined.

Thank you for sharing the journey with me,

Justina Dee

 

 

Click here to read an update on our adoption

Adopting from Ukraine; The Reason Why

Ukraine to Texas With Love

The thought of adopting an older child brought feelings of fear, uncertainty and apprehension. My husband and I easily said “yes” to adoption, but in my mind it was of an infant. I wanted a baby. Then it would be MY child. Molded, shaped, trained and developed by us. Free of abuse, bad habits, and all the baggage that comes with a life in less than loving surroundings. It may sound very selfish, but honestly, it’s the way I felt. My husband lovingly encouraged me to be open to the idea of adopting an older child, but I stood resolute in my feelings.

Then in an instant, all my own ideas, plans, motives and agendas were flung out the window like dirty dishwater.

One morning when I was praying around 5 AM, I had a vision. Clear as day. I’ll never forget the picture. I was sitting on our living room sofa, and my eyes were wide open.

I saw a green field, sparsely dotted with trees. The landscape was similar to ours here in Southeast Texas, but I knew right away from the war-torn feel of it all, that the place I saw was in an Eastern Bloc country.

My eyes were drawn to a blue, plastic barrel. It was bigger than the usual blue barrels you typically see used for storage. It was on the ground near a tree, was tipped over on its side, and the end was open so I could see inside.

Standing in the barrel, looking out and seemingly straight into my eyes, was a little girl. She was an orphan. Alone, and having to fend for herself. She looked very sad, but was unafraid.

In that moment, I knew there was a young girl in the former Soviet Union, who was our daughter, and was waiting for us to find her. I knew that we needed to begin praying for her. Because of the blue barrel, I knew that God was protecting her for us. Preserving her. Keeping her safe from the battles that would take place around her.

We began to pray for this daughter of ours. We prayed for her protection. We prayed that God would bring people into her life who were loving and kind. We prayed that her needs would be met. We prayed for her to sleep well and have sweet dreams of Jesus. We prayed for her caretakers and teachers. Among other scriptures, we prayed from Ephesians 1:17-19, that she would know and experience the love and beauty of Christ.

Then our pastor invited us to attend the “Together for Adoption” conference with a group of adoption-minded families. We were challenged, encouraged, educated and enlightened for the entire weekend. While attending a session on international adoption, the plight of Ukrainian orphans was mentioned. My husband and I looked at each other, and immediately knew we were supposed to adopt from that country. That’s where the little girl in the barrel was waiting. We began talking with a gentleman sitting in front of us, and learned that he and his wife had adopted from Ukraine. And in the same session, we met yet another man who told us about orphans in Ukraine.

We’ve learned that when children leave Ukrainian orphanages at the age of 16, many girls become victims of human trafficking, and boys begin a life of committing crime. Their outlook is impossible and bleak. You can read UNICEF’s overview here.

Our journey to finding our daughter in Ukraine has officially begun, as we are currently hosting a beautiful nine year old girl from an orphanage there. We’re surrounded with wisdom, experience and resources from other families who have paved the way for us.

My fears and thoughts on adopting an older child have been put to rest. The need is great. Our calling is clear. In the future, we may be adopting domestically and/or from other countries as well. But Ukraine is where we begin.

~ Justina Dee

Many thanks to Doleman Creative, and Orphan Care Network for the above graphic.