One Glimmer of Hope.

October 18th has become a very special day for our family. Today Lindsey and I celebrate our third wedding anniversary. I am thankful to our God for such an amazing wife and I love her so much! Yet today’s anniversary is shared with yet another exciting celebration as it was just one year ago today that we met for the first time our son, Jackson Scott Howell, on the other side of the world in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Though so much has changed since then, it is hard to believe only a year ago we were just a family of two.

I’ll never forget our first interaction with Jackson. He was excited, yet shaking from nervousness, as one of the nurses introduced us to him on that Fall morning in a small office of his orphanage. At the time he had no clue his entire world was about to be flipped upside down for the better. At the time, he was probably just excited to get out of music class or whatever activity was normally going on in his strict day to day schedule. He had a huge smile on his face when he met us and was happy to pose for pictures with us. (Something we can’t quite seem to get him to do today, as he’s much too busy now!).

That day changed our lives in a special way and showed us God’s amazing love and grace. I won’t go into the specifics in this post, but if you are a new reader to my blog and are interested you can read our entire Ukrainian experience at this link.

However, there was one story we chose not to share publicly on our blog last year.  Since that point in time most of our family, friends, and past church family in Ohio have had the opportunity to hear it. I’ve held back from mentioning it because my goal has always been to share it with a humble heart and in person if it was at all possible, as the story is a great testament of the intricacies and amazing wonderment that makes up God’s will. I want you to know that thanks to our experience in Ukraine last year I know without a doubt that God’s will is perfect. Everything he wills for your life, whether painful or in joy, means something and has a powerful purpose. Most of the time we as humans don’t always get to fully understand why things in life work out the way they do, but God revealed one example to us while in Ukraine that has forever changed my perspective and devotion to Him.

Last year we came in contact online with a family from North Carolina who traveled to Ukraine shortly before us to adopt as well. Craig is a pastor of a church in his hometown along with his wife Jenny and daughter Moriah. They unfortunately did not have success in finishing their adoption process, which sadly is more common than most most people know. International adoption is a complex and complicated endevevour. You are never guaranteed anything will work out and you sign several documents with your agency agreeing to this prior to your trip.

When adopting in Ukraine you are not given a referral usually until the day of your SDA appointment with the government. (This very well might have changed by now – the Ukraine adoption system is re-organizing this year). To give a little background on this family’s trip, they went through two referral processes. After meeting and then declining their first referral, they returned to the capital of Ukraine for a second chance referral appointment, where they were shown the same book of unhealthy children we also were shown prior to accepting our own referral to meet Jackson.

It takes a special type of person to adopt these kind of children who are prepared and willing to adopt children with special needs. But praise the Lord that these children are getting adopted by those who feel called. I have met these kind of people before and they are amazing.

After making the difficult decision to decline their first referral after meeting the child, they were presented with with no further healthy children that they felt they could handle as a family. This family unfortunately had to live through the pain that comes with returning home without a new child.  But through the pain they were reminded of God’s great miracle of life, that at least they would be returning home with their daughter of age 8 at the time.

Below is the sermon Pastor Craig gave to his congregation upon returning home.  His sermon explains the details of their trip more eloquently than I ever could. So I will leave it to you the reader to decide if you would like to  listen and hear for yourself one of the greatest stories of God’s will my family was able to be a part in. We never have met Craig and family in person, but as Craig had explained to me in an email we are ‘mended to your hearts as a reminder of how God does His miraculous work through our steps of faith.’

The sermon is 42 minutes long, but if you are a reader of this blog – Christian or not, I highly ask that you consider giving it a listen. If you’ve ever questioned God’s will in your life, know that God always gives one glimmer of hope.

[audio:http://www.scotthowell.ws/blogaudio/OneGlimerOfHope102410.mp3|titles=One Glimmer of Hope – October 24 2010|artists=Fairview Church]
*Download here if you can’t see Flash Player.

Lord, Thank You for my incredible wife and my wonderful son Jackson.

Looking Back, Moving Forward.

As the leaves have mostly changed colors and begun to fall and summer slips away, it’s a reminder of how drastically our lives have changed since last year when Autumn came our way. A year ago today we took our comfortable life style, free evenings to ourselves and typical schedule and threw it out the window as we jumped on a plane from Columbus, OH headed to Ukraine into the world of the unknown. Back then we didn’t know the exact outcome of our trip. Although we now know Jackson was destined to be with us (who is now 3 years old and full of life), at the time we didn’t know if we would end up with a boy or girl as we had just days before been informed that our agency upped our age limit from 3 and under to 5 and under!

But everything worked out and here we are a year later and a lot has changed. A lot of unexpected things have happened and some surprises down the road but it’s safe to say I think we’ve been following God’s word and will the best we know. I’ll speak for myself, but it hasn’t all been easy and has been stressful at times. We are settled into our new life in Indiana, but Lindsey has been very busy at work these last few months which have turned into long evenings with Jackson and I alone holding down the fort until 8 PM or later. So as I’ve been a little exhausted from it all, I’ve took some time away from here and have tried to spend my free time utilizing every minute I have to myself efficiently.

There’s a lot of good to report though – we have indeed found our church home and forever grateful for being around great new friends and influences. The church we attend is very biblical based with no if, ands or buts, and it’s been encouraging to hear our pastor Kirk get so enthusiastic in teaching the Word. Though we started attending in June, they’ve been hitting the Book of Mark since we’ve been here and I think we are on chapter 9. The associate pastor mentioned the other day that they started Mark well over a year ago, so it gives you some context just how detailed the teaching really is!

One of the biggest things we missed when we moved to Indiana was being part of a life group, and within the last month they started up at our church. We are in a great group which meets Friday nights with lots of kids and a manageable amount of families where the discussion is intense and fun at the same time. We are reading a book right now called “Radical” by David Platt and it really encourages you to pick up your cross and stop living a watered down version of American Christianity that is very prevalent in today’s society.

Something different we do that we didn’t at our last church is that the men and women meet separately once a week for coffee to just catch up on each others lives intermixed with Bible reading and prayer. It’s a real intentional way to encourage one another and keep ourselves accountable during the week and I think our new friendships have grown stronger because of it as well. I really like the men in our group and am so happy to have met them! It makes all the difference in the world being surrounding by other men in Faith.

On a personal level I feel God working in my heart and growing in me. In the past few months I’ve really come to appreciate my relationship with Him and with my own son, Jackson. Staying at home has been great, some small hardships aside. As I watch Jackson grow it’s becoming so much fun to raise him and be such an important part of his life. The kid is on the go all the time now and is full of words now and always singing, dancing and laughing. It’s hard to believe just a year ago we were starting our adventure to bring him home. It seems like he’s been with us longer than that. Earlier this month we submitted our first post-adoption report and it was a lot of fun to look back at all of the memories and photos from that time as we prepared it!

As we approach the year anniversary of meeting Jackson a week from today, it’s become a constant reminder of how great our God is. I ask that you pray that in the next week that God can reveal a way for me to explain just how incredible this adoption really was. For those reading that don’t know us personally there were some “details” we left out of our adoption blog journey last year while we were in Ukraine. After a year I think and hope it is the right time to share with everyone how mysterious, yet perfect God’s will is.

Jackson isn’t with us by chance (even with the coincidence we met him our second wedding anniversary!). The story is personal and I just want to be careful when I explain it that it doesn’t come off as prideful. I pray that God would humble my heart as I try to find a simple and short way to explain how God touched the lives of not just our family, but another American family we never had the chance to meet in person, but whose lives we will be intermixed forever in a very special way. Without out a doubt, we serve an Amazing God!

Stop the Cap! Expands Upon My Recent Internet Savings

Earlier this week, you might remember I planned on switching to Earthlink’s High Speed Cable offerings in an effort to trim away my cable bill. (see http://www.scotthowell.ws/?p=931)

As a follow-up, I was able to successfully make the change over to Earthlink and am now currently saving $20 a month on my internet bill for almost identically the same service. This afternoon I wrote the Stop the Cap! website the good news which was the place I originally found Time Warner’s & Bright House’s best kept secret.

To my surprise Stop the Cap! published my email on their website today and further expanded on the Earthlink savings available and show how you too can try to take part in these savings. I’m glad to be able to help spread the news!

Link: http://stopthecap.com/2011/09/02/an-unsolicited-testimonial-stop-the-cap-saved-us-over-20-a-month-on-our-cable-bill/

Unique Way to Save on your Internet Price.

I don’t bundle as I’m a DirecTV customer and we don’t need a land-line for phone service. In February I signed up in Indianapolis with Bright House for cable internet at 7 Mbps downstream for $44.95. However, when I got the bill it was $50. After several phone calls and complaints I got them to issue credits to my account for the difference. But recently the credit stopped again, and the person who promised vocally a year worth of credits, no longer works for the company and his email bounces back. Unfortunately for me, the message on my account when I call is that he put it in their system to only credit me for 3 months of the $45 dollar price. And since I can’t prove he said a year, there’s nothing anybody will do and they continue to charge me $50 again.

I found an ad for Earthlink Cable on my city’s website today. To be honest I only thought Earthlink had dial-up. Well it turns out – their so called “cable internet” service is actually powered by Bright House. Earthlink just mails you their bloat-ware software upon sign-up. (Which I am smart enough not to install)

So today, I signed up for Earthlink Cable for only $29.95 for the first six months, and then only $41.95 thereafter! It’s cheaper than what I was fighting so hard for at Bright House. There’s actually no installation, as Bright House is actually providing the service. I was told it will just switch over later this month, and my billing will remain through Bright House. I keep my existing modem, etc. but get a cheaper price all because I’m going under the “EarthLink” moniker.

This trick also works for Time Warner customers. You just have to be careful to not get any of the gimmicky add-ons Earthlink tries to sell you like “Wireless Networking” or “Virus Protection”. They will try really hard to talk you into these useless add-ons. (For instance, Wireless Networking is just them leasing you a wireless router for an additional fee)

So in conclusion, in your face, Bright House! 🙂

The Gospel of Steve Jobs .

Although I do wish Steve the best and hope he remains healthy, this article from Christianity Today, though from January, is still very relevant to the recent news of his resignation and touches a little bit on the 2005 Stanford speech he gave that has been floating around on the internet. Ever since I heard the news it has been strange as a Christian to read some of the comments, especially when at times it feels as if we are all giving him his own eulogy.

Even a PC fan-boy like myself who has tried to stay away from Apple has ultimately been pulled in – I’ve owned two iPods and the most recent an iPod Touch that I purchased so I could take video in Ukraine last year when we adopted. I love it and use it daily much to the chagrin of my wife who wishes I could find something better to do at times then play Words with Friends.

So yes, Steve Jobs has impacted the technology world; there is no denying it. But this article can really be an eye opener. I mean no disrespect for people who claim Steve Jobs has helped them get where they are today and are thanking him. I believe that to a “point” it is okay to be thankful for the inspiration certain people can be on your lives.

But, ultimately this tech-event is just another reminder that there is someone far greater to be thankful for and that there is only one person that can really transform our lives and give us hope (a hope that has a true reward, requires no work on our part; completely self-less). And I guarantee his name is not Steve Jobs, not Bill Gates, or anyone else.

The Gospel of Steve Jobs | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Jackson Likes to Shake His Booty!

During our trip to South Haven, MI last weekend, while walking back from a lighthouse, Jackson started singing “Shake Your Booty”. We’re not sure who he heard it from, but it’s safe to say it was probably from TV. We managed to snag it on film – so here is Jackson dancing in all his bootylicious fashion!

Syndicating from Google+.

I’ve really been enjoying my time using Google Plus. As of yesterday, I’ve officially been Facebook free for a month. Since then, I’ve spent some time trying to figure out how I can combine Google Plus with my blog at ScottHowell.ws. I don’t think Google+ is quite ready to be a blog replacement, but I found some neat ways to push some of my Google+ content over to my blog as mini-blog posts.

To do this I have to use the Public Post option – which I rarely use. But using the Public option makes a bit more sense for blog posts, which is a post that I probably wouldn’t mind sharing on my own website anyway. By using a WordPress plugin called “FeedMyWordPress” and a RSS service called “PlusFeed” I can automatically make any of my public posts carry over to my website. For now I have it set up to just show up as a draft so I can pick and choose what gets published.

I think the majority of my longer blog posts will be made directly on my website, but it will be fun to test this out, as it’s quicker to write a quick post up on here and I’m guaranteed a higher level of interaction with readers and commenting on Google + itself. You will still be able to comment on these mini posts on my site though.

What’s really great about this, if I edit a post in Google+ – the post should correct itself in WordPress as well. Also, it appears to bring in images I post. I will have to see if links work as well.

So we’ll see how this goes. Just testing this out. My hope is that people who aren’t willing to make the jump to Google+ yet will at least see more activity on my actual blog.

Jackson Turns Three!

Today I woke up as a father to a three year old. How does that happen? Lindsey & I haven’t even been married for three years yet. Although we are holding on to most of the festivities until Saturday for his Big “Blue’s Clue’s Happy Birthday Extraordinaire” Party with all of his family, we will be making a special trip to Chuck E. Cheese’s tonight. I had no clue there was one around here until Lindsey set the evening up, and I certainly haven’t been there since I was a kid. But, we should have fun 🙂

We’re kind of having a normal day today as I’m kind of under the weather this week. Not sure what’s wrong, but I’ve had a sore throat since Sunday and it’s made my energy a bit down lately. Hopefully this will be out of my system by Saturday. Regardless, I just wanted to make this quick post today, because today is special for us, as Jackson has never really received any special attention before on his birthday that we are aware of. So it has been exciting to teach him the tradition this summer with my birthday earlier in the month, as well as his 4 year old cousin Reagan’s birthday before that. I think he kind of understands this is a special day and if you ask him about it he will smile and sing “Happy Birthday, Me!” from time to time 🙂

Also, if you haven’t noticed I cut the rope with Facebook and I am exclusively on Google+ at the moment. Some of you may have wondered where I’ve went, while others may not have even realized I had left. But, I want to make it clear that I didn’t drop Facebook because of Google+. I decided to drop Facebook because of some peer pressure, and because I waste too much time on there as it is and there are some other areas in my life I want to try to focus more on. So for now, that leaves me on Google+, which I believe is a better social network. Right now it’s not as busy as Facebook, but is definitely growing and a much more appropriate avenue for sharing more privately with certain friends than Facebook allows.

If you are missing me on Facebook, rest assured I’m still around. I’m going to commit to blogging more on a daily basis again with shorter posts to make it up until more people transition over to Google+. I would have blogged more this week, but like I said I’ve been kind of under the weather. Also, even if you are not yet a member of Google+ you might get email updates from me when I update my blog. I’m sending these out only to some close friends and family that I don’t think would be bothered. These emails will actually contain a link to my blog, but also a way to join in on the conversation at Google+, if you do decide to join. If you didn’t get an email for this post & would like to be added to the blog list please let me know. Also, if you get an email and you don’t want to get them from many any more, there should be an unsubscribe link as well in the email. (Or just let me know, and I can take you off manually)

That’s all I’ve got from me. Hope everyone is doing well!