How could we have known what 2017 would have in store for us? There is no way we could have imagined all the grief and the all the joy it would bring! On December 13 though, this sweet little angel was born and changed our lives forever!
Backing up a few years... Allen's sister (Amber) and hubby (whose name is also Alan - hehe) have felt called to adopt since before they said "I do!" While dating in 2004, they had attended a Steven Curtis Chapman concert one night and if you know anything about Steven Curtis Chapman, you'll know that the organization Show Hope was founded by him after adopting their own beautiful children! They wanted to find a way to help all the orphans that so desperately needed a home and love! So at each concert, they share their vision for this organization and how it is changing lives. Then they invite you to be a part of it thru monthly donations, or however God is leading. It was at that concert that Alan and Amber felt called to adopt for the first time! Then marriage, several moves (1 out of state), and 2 boys later, adoption was still in their hearts! They couldn't shake it! The hold up had been finances tho. After all, adoption is crazy expensive! Who can afford it really? They already had 2 amazing boys and were living such a beautiful life but just felt like adoption was still in the cards for them.
So, after their miscarriage of their third baby in February of 2014 (oh how our hearts ached!), Alan said to Amber, "Maybe this is God's way of telling us it's time to adopt". Shortly after that, they moved back to Florida (near us...yay!). It was then that God really renewed the vision for them to adopt and began opening doors! So in May of 2015, they officially began the process with Florida Baptist Children's Home! God begin to provide in a big way financially via Show Hope grants, gifts and fundraisers. We were all so excited but of course having never met Abigail (Abi), we could not even begin to imagine what God had planned for us all! In the meantime, we were on our own journey with my mom having cancer and being so sick. So that consumed most of our focus during this time. Then in October of 2017, my mom finally passed (insert a pretty tough grief journey here! ugh!). All the while, the Isteds had checked all the boxes to complete the adoption process. Home study approved, classes complete, massive amounts of paperwork finished, funds raised! Just WAITING ON A BABY GIRL!!! Oh my stars! I get tears typing this! This precious girl was so worth the wait, y'all! If you ever get a chance to meet her, you'll see what I mean! She is a special one, I tell you!!! And not just because she's my niece. She is so loved and adored because she spreads joy everywhere she goes...even at this young age! Okay... So back to "the waiting season"...
They waited and waited and kept taking new courses every so often to remain eligible and then finally the day came!! December 14th, 2017, I was strolling in Walmart (no doubt being hit by grief waves), and I got this call from my sisinlaw that IT WAS TIME!!!! They were on their way to go pick up a baby girl who had been born the night before! I remember standing in the "baby girl clothes" section of Walmart, sobbing, with the realization and hope that we would all have a baby for Christmas (when just minutes before, I had been wondering how in the world we would get thru Christmas without mama!!). God is so merciful and loving! And how excited we were for our precious family who had waited so patiently on God's timing and not tried to rush their own! That's the hard part! (Oh...in the several years this process took, several babies were fostered by acquaintances of ours and we all wondered 'could that be the Isted's baby? or that one?' Our hearts were anxious for them to have their desires met. But Oh God's timing couldn't have been sweeter! We couldn't have even imagined how wonderfully precious Abi could be! God had her picked out all along!)
This was such a huge step of faith for the Isteds! When they jumped in the car to go pick her up, they knew nothing about her really! No background, no name of course, no details. Just a healthy baby girl! That's all they needed to know. Let the overwhelming emotions of joy and fear begin! Would the birth-mom really let her go? (Is it just us or is that always the question in the back of adoptive family's minds?) Anyhow, Alan and Amber arrived and knew instantly when they saw Abi that this was their girl they had waited for...for 13 years!!! They were so cute about it all! They didn't even tell their boys (who were in school) what they were up to. They face-timed them at the end of the school day (with their teachers and Meemaw - Amber's mom - present) and presented Abi to them! How very precious is that?! Of course the boys knew that adopting a baby girl could come any day, but Wow!!! This just took us all by surprise! So Meemaw took the boys shopping for their new baby sister to shower her with gifts when they arrived home with her. The oldest brother picked out a Christmas onesie for her that said "Best Gift Ever"! (Insert swoon!!) The younger brother picked out a teddy bear for her! Her big brothers simply adore her! It's precious to watch! God had been preparing them all along to be big brothers to this bright-eyed little girl. Oh! The thought of it!
From the moment she arrived, our hearts have been goners, y'all!!! We constantly think..."what if...what if Amber and Alan had not been obedient and taken that step of faith? What if Show Hope had not provided a large scholarship to make it possible? What if friends and family had not given so generously? What if...what if Abi's biological mom had not been brave enough to choose LIFE and share her?" Oh my goodness! I can't dwell on that long. The thought undoes me and undoes all of us who love her so much! She has been such a soothing balm for our grieving souls! God just knew we needed an angel! She was such a joy at Christmas especially, as we kept putting her in my stepdad's arms. So even tho he couldn't hold his "babydoll" as he called my mama, he could hold this precious bundle who would smile up at him and cuddle with him! Tears roll down my face even now, as I type this!! Abi brought him (and us) so much joy and comfort during his first Christmas without his Love! God's mercies and love are so richly abundant!
Amber and Alan - words can't express how very very grateful we all are that you were obedient to the call! That you did not give up and you pursued the calling to give this precious one a home, although you knew not how you would do it (emotionally, financially, physically - I mean you're clearly outnumbered with 3! hehe). It's a huge leap of faith, but what a reward for obedience! This beautiful little girl is so loved and gets to be raised by a Mom AND Dad who adore her and are so in love with the Lord and will teach her to follow Him with her whole heart and that come what may, she can ALWAYS count on her Lord!
And to Abi's precious biological mother - whoever you are, wherever you may be, we are forever grateful! Grateful you didn't give up on your pregnancy and chose to persevere and give birth to this little girl that is changing our lives and will change the lives of others as she grows. Your courage and bravery is changing our world! We pray for you often and always thank God for you (Even tho we don't know you and chances of ever meeting you are pretty slim. God knows who you are tho. He is El Roi - the God who sees). He sees you and He loves you, beautiful soul!
And to Abigail Rose Isted - You are one of God's most beautiful creations! Your smile, your love, your deep dark eyes...You rock our world, little one! You can't possibly know now how much you've changed us all and how much comfort you have brought to us, but one day you will know! We love you beyond words, Abi, and we pray that we always point you to Jesus and that you follow him with your whole heart, for all your life!
Jeremiah 29:11 sums this up well! "For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you. Plans to give you a hope and a future!" This has always been the verse we claimed for our firstborn, but it seems to apply to all of us...to our entire family in this beautiful season! God has great plans for all of us...better than we can ask or imagine...so we will trust him and follow him! He had great plans for us in bringing us Abi and great plans for Abi in putting her in our family. He is so worthy of our praise! And in addition, He has great plans for you and yours as well! He can be trusted!
So, without further ado....we share with you...ABIGAIL ROSE ISTED! Our Sweet Angel!
(PS: We waited until now to share blog photos because just a few days ago, her adoption finalization took place! Oh what a day that was! We'll save those photos for another post tho. Just had to get this out there before our full hearts burst!!
The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with JOY! Psalm 126:3
Allen & Carol