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