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

 

{Body Image} You’re Beautiful When You Lift Up Others

True Beauty | www.lydiaglick.com

Dear daughter, there’s something I want you to know and recognize when it comes to the subject of beauty. The most beautiful women I know are the ones who lift up and encourage the downtrodden around them. In addition, beautiful people are those who create, give and share beauty and love with the world. Beauty is so much more than a beautiful face, it is a beautiful life.

For Attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run their fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.
People, more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed. ~ Sam Levenson

It’s so important to see the worth in others. Especially those people who most never notice, and who may not have the strength to see their own purpose and value. Your most difficult experiences in life will bring you to a place of understanding people who desperately need someone to simply care about them. It is in that place that your beauty will shine the brightest. Elisabeth Ross says “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” She’s right.

Not only is it important that you care for others, it is vital that you share the unique passions, art, ideas and vision that only YOU can to bring to the world around you. Creativity shatters obstacles and breaks down barriers. When people feel trapped in impossible places, it opens their prisons. It brings possibility and hope to bleak situations.

“God created us in His image, and He gave us an imagination with His imprint to create things for His glory!” – Alisa Hope Wagner. 

Dig up and nurture those talents deep inside of you! As you share the creative ideas God has placed within you, beauty will radiate from not only your soul, but from your actions and will spread its gifts to all who encounter them.

“But unless we are creators we are not fully alive. What do I mean by creators? Not only artists, whose acts of creation are the obvious ones of working with paint of clay or words. Creativity is a way of living life, no matter our vocation or how we earn our living. Creativity is not limited to the arts, or having some kind of important career.” Madeleine L’Engle

When we lift up others, creatively solve problems and dare to dream big, our perspective changes, our burdens become lighter, and our trivial problems are suddenly not so pressing. We begin to see a picture much bigger than our own tiny selves. And the result? Light pierces the darkness, others are strengthened and encouraged, and you are developing the atmosphere of Jesus who is our great example, and who did this better than anyone else in history.

So dear daughter of mine, fill yourself up with the beauty of Christ. Breathe it in. Look to Him every morning when you wake up. As you dwell in that source all day and every day, you will come to a place where you can see the world through His eyes, and share His radiance, love, light, and beauty everywhere you go. “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.” (Proverbs 3:3, NIV)  

By sharing beauty and kindness you will receive favor and feel a satisfaction and fulfillment like no other.  Your beauty will shine like bright stars in the darkest night. And when you lay your head on your pillow at night, you can rest in the peace of Him who created you, and lovingly formed you for a beautiful purpose which is greater and more important than you can ever imagine. 

~ Justina Dee

This is number five of seven posts on self image I’m writing for my daughter. Click here to read one of my favorites! 

Body Image: Embracing Your Imperfections

You're perfect in your imperfections." Body Image Series |LydiaGlick.com

To be comfortable in your own skin –

this is a destination I want so much for you to reach. It is the place in womanhood when you will wake and walk and sleep, and never think for one second that the body that is housing your soul is not beautiful or capable enough for the journey in front of you.

It is the day you understand what it means to embrace your physical flaws, knowing that your imperfections, your scars, your pain and your inadequacies are all opportunities for grace, healing and redemption to be known in your life, your body and in your heart – and then in turn you will be equipped to extend life and love to those around you.

There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty. ― Steve Maraboli

Deep and meaningful radiance flows from a woman who embraces the person God created her to be. This kind of beauty draws people near you instead of intimidating and pushing them away. It creates a space to bless others, and leave an impression of loveliness that will forever be imprinted on their hearts.

Your message, your ministry, your influence is built from your flaws. People relate to HUMANITY…not perfection.” ― Mandy Hale

Dear daughter of mine, may the song of your life continue to be a delicate melody that grows stronger and more meaningful with every day. And may you soon understand that those things which you perceive as less than perfect, are the very notes that make your life’s song an unforgettable work of beauty that lingers in the heart of all who behold it.

~ Justina Dee

Thank you for visiting my blog! This is one of the posts in a series I’m writing for my tween daughter. You can read more here. 

Body Image: Why Eternal Perspective Matters

...the Lord looks at the heart

Twenty years ago there was a seventeen year old girl who frequently attended the aerobics classes  I taught at a small gym in Tomball, Texas. She wasn’t the kind of girl you would ever see on the cover of a fashion magazine. As a trainer who’s taught classes at gyms for many years, I regularly see women and girls whose bodies and faces are perfect by our cultural standards. The girl I’m talking about here wasn’t the prettiest one in the hundreds of those who took my classes over a long period of time. I’ve long forgotten many people, but SHE stood out in the sea of faces, and I remember her to this day because of her ready smile, her gentle confidence and deep sincerity, the genuine interest she took in the lives of those around her, and most of all – the true LOVE and JOY that she radiated in her world. She was truly beautiful. 

One day just like any other, she took my aerobics class. And the next day I learned the horrible news that she was killed in a car crash after being hit by a drunk driver. This life on earth is fragile gift. A shimmering vapor that is here today and gone tomorrow. And even though this girl’s life on earth  tragically and abruptly ended, her beauty has not faded, but instead it lives on. 

So what does any of this have to do with a healthy body image? I believe it has EVERYTHING to do with the way we perceive beauty. You see, our society’s definition of beauty is temporary. It’s something that fades with time, and in some circumstances it is snatched away in an instant. Time wrinkles perfect skin, and burns bring scars. The strength and vitality of a “perfect” body fade with the years, and horrific accidents can break our nervous system causing a beautifully functioning body to become useless and paralyzed in an accident. You could be named the world’s most beautiful woman, and be disfigured by tragedy the next. The kind of beauty we see around ourselves from day to day us is temporary. 

But here’s something that never changes: The Word of God. And that’s why His definition of beauty is the only one that is trustworthy and true. It’s the standard of beauty we should set for ourselves, and it should dictate the way we perceive others.

You see, God’s Word says that “people look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” And it tells us “the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” It’s important to understand beauty through the lens of eternity.

What is eternity? I love Jenn Arman’s explanation on Project Inspired. 

An eternal perspective is one that views a much larger picture than the one we see in our time-oriented lives. Having an eternal perspective helps us to focus on things that transcend time like God, grace, mercy, love, faith and hope, instead of losing ourselves in our circumstances. An eternal perspective also assures us that God has a reason for the things He does, the things He allows and the answers He gives, even if we never understand the reason in our “time.”

True beauty is defined by what is inside. An “unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” Earthly charm and beauty fade away, but a woman who loves and worships Jesus as the Lord of her life will be highly esteemed and praised! True beauty not only stands the test of time, but the test of eternity. It will never, ever fade away. It’s an eternal legacy.

Dear daughter of mine, no matter what this crazy, upside-down and messed-up world tells you – no matter what the magazine covers & commercials say to you – no matter what famous Tumblr girls, popular YouTube channelers or your Instagram stream shows you – no matter what a boy tries to whisper in your ear or your so called friends may try to convince you of, the only thing that matters is what God says about you. And no matter what anyone tries to tell you, know this: as a daughter of the King you can stand firm on the truth and firm foundation of His Word. You are beautiful, you are loved,  you are perfectly and wonderfully made, you are of great worth and value, and God has designed an incredible plan for your life. 

~ Justina Dee

This is the third of seven posts I’m sharing with my eleven year old daughter who is navigating the rocky waters of self esteem. You can find the first post here: 10 Things That Make You My Beautiful Girl 

Additional resources:

Focus On the Family post: What the Bible Says About Beauty and Appearance 

Bible Scriptures Referenced in Post: 1 Samuel 16:7, 2 Corinthians 4:181 Peter 3:3-4, Proverbs 31:30