Friday, August 29, 2014

fear and joy and another sweet word from the Lord

First of all, the giveaway ended and a winner was selected! I'm sooo excited to share:

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DANIELLE HARTLAND!!! YOU WON!! This is especially exciting because they just announced that they are adopting and I will be working with her to have Noonday as a part of their fundraising! I was so surprised and thought "oh no, this is going to seem like I rigged the votes! Ha"

I will email you Danielle! So exciting!


So, I mentioned that the Lord gave me another promise in my last post so I wanted to share that now.

I have another story to share with you too. I will post that tomorrow. But I wanted to share this one first. Also, I wanted to say that I wouldn't be being honest if I didn't say, even though its easy to share all of this, I still have a ton of insecurities posting and sharing our stories a long the way. Insecurities like - the mean world of the Internet is going to rip my thoughts and heart to shreds and analyze and critic everything I write. Or that one day I will look back and read this and ache with the ignorance and innocence I wrote these things with. Or that 'its just easy for me to write out all this hope I have because it hasn't been crushed yet' or I'm not jaded or bitter yet ..  It feels easy to share them since we aren't in a season of pain or mourning or trials but my hope is that if there is ever a season that I am - I can shout from the rooftops just the same - how good our gracious and loving Father is.

I don't mean to make it sound hard to share. I just mean that in the back of my head I always question how its coming off and I digress ...

Last week Freeland & I were laying in bed talking about everything that was happening and how all the sudden we were at this point in our journey where a child could come in to our home really soon. It feels similar to when you're pregnant and think "oh my gosh - wait this is actually about to happen - I should do something like pick out bedding or finally put the car seat in the car". I sat and shared with Freeland how I felt like there was some disconnect in my heart and I was realizing that I was believing lies and operating (in some areas) out of fear.

Occasionally it sinks in the reality of what we have said yes to. The reality that we are choosing to say yes to our comfortable lives possibly becoming really messy and no longer comfortable. The reality that we could get hurt and the reality that we will have no control over what happens. All things that don't cause me to change my answer .. but it does happen where I remember those things and have a choice to believe God is good enough or live in fear.

So Freeland & I were talking about all that and I shared how I started seeing areas in my heart where I was afraid my heart wasn't ready or that I wasn't going to love this child right when I saw them. I realize this isnt true and that I'm not disconnected .. really I just have no idea what to expect. (not that I want to idealize or put an expectation on what I'm supposed to feel right when I meet every child who comes in to our home.. I digress)

Anyway, I kept thinking how it is hard when you have no idea what age or gender child is about to come in to your home. How do you prepare your heart and connect and love a child that you have no idea who they are? You just get a phone call and all the sudden "surprise! its a 2 year old boy!" (which the surprise, I'm sure will be really fun too!) So somehow in my heart I was thinking .. if I at least had a picture or an idea if it was a girl or boy I could connect "more".

Freeland pointed out a lot of things and helped me see where all that (probably normal) crazy was coming from. We talked for awhile and I worked through it. I know it will happen. I know my heart is tender and ready. I know the Lord is the one softening my heart and preparing it - and I can sense that - I guess I just had some other idea of what it would look/feel like. Realizing why and where I am at helped me realize I'm in the right place and not to believe some lie that because I feel one way or the other, its because I'm in the wrong place or need to do more. Not sure if that makes sense .. but there it is.

(side note: I do have a feeling of who the child will be that is placed in our home! So - seriously, all this is ridiculous and all over the place)

Overall, this isn't where my heart was, but I had realized over the last few weeks that I had the reoccurring thoughts and deep in my heart there was still some random fear. Not a ton of fear - but it was there. I sat and continue to share those with Freeland. I also shared how I realized I kept having this other reoccurring thought too. I kept looking at Chapel and realizing how much joy she brought to our family and thinking:

"how could another child bring this much joy.. what if I don't feel the same amount of joy again" 

I have to stop and clarify: this thought is not because we're adopting. Ive had this thought every time we have had a child .. "what if I don't love them the same .. what if its harder to parent them or connect or what if they act this way or that way and its not the same or what if its not what I expect or what if something is wrong" so please know this was not a fear over loving an adopted child or that adopting wouldn't bring us the same joy. Its just a fear that plays out with each child we have in our family.

I knew the answer to my question. But I realized I was still having that same thought here and there. Its not a fear that I was believing or consumed by .. I just acknowledge that it kept popping its ugly head up here and there and shared it with Freeland. We talked about it and talked about how we wanted to spend the rest of the week praying through those things.

I went to bed thinking about JOY and committing the week to praying over the fears and lies I knew I was tempted to think. I went to bed telling Freeland I just wanted/needed to root myself in truth and I knew the Lord would graciously cover those lies with His truth and His promises. As I fell asleep I knew the underlying thing was joy.

I went to bed and had no idea He would speak truth to those in the middle of the night though!

At midnight I woke up to Wylder crying. I went in to check on him and calmed him down (because he was so upset that he wasn't tucked in.. serious stuff) and came back to bed. I grabbed my phone so I could see what time it was (please don't be 5:00 in the morning and I only have 1 more hour of sleep!) I saw I had a message on facebook and that it was from a sweet girl I knew back when I was in high school .. and she was much much much younger. It started with her introducing herself so I was so curious! (she was young enough that when I knew her.. she didn't remember me.. which makes the story, I believe, that much sweeter)

With her permission, here is what she wrote:

I know this is very very random, especially since we don't know each other. But I was just about to fall asleep and literally out of no where The Lord put you on my heart. ?!?!! I saw a picture of you just with your children and being fulfilled as a mother. So since it was so out of the blue I prayed for you. That The Lord would just pour excellence over you as a mother and cover you with His riches.
Then I saw another picture of you holding one of your babies. It was one that you haven't had. As you held this baby in your arms, it brought you so much joy! You were belly laughing and really really happy.
I wanted to share this with you! Because it was about you. You can just take it for yourself however you'd like!
Hope all is well with you - God bless you and keep you!

UMMM.

You guys. I mean. First, she sent that not realizing I know her (and love her and her sweet family!) and obviously not knowing what was going on and clearly she had no idea the conversation I just had with Freeland. It was only a few hours prior to this that I spoke out loud for the first time the fears I had were centered around joy.

How sweet is that yall?

I share all that to share the testimony of how sweet the Lord is. He didn't have to do that. So many times its looked so differently (I'm so thankful there is no formula to Him) but I just sat weeping right when I read it. It spoke to me in such a more profound way than I can explain.. since it was the Lord speaking that over me, through her, I just crumbled as I read it. I woke up Freeland and told him and He immediately started praying over her and thanking the Lord for His word and her obedience and boldness to share it.

It is another promise I'm holding on to in the midst of this.. a picture of Joy to cling to as we walk into an unknown territory of life with 4 kids and life that now will involve case workers and city employee's coming in and out of our home as they please! A life that we will have very little control over.

The thing the Lord keeps reminding me in this season (through our journey of becoming foster parents and other areas too) is that I keep wanting to put my hope in myself but I cant. My hope is in Him. This entire post was so focused on how "I" cant or what if "I" do this or that. The Lord so graciously keeps reminding me to put my hope in Him. Its a sweet place to be.

The day of our last final training is another story I cant wait to share. I have it all written out and will post it tomorrow. I'm thankful to share our journey and write out all the different ways the Lord is intervening along the way. (there are so many different ones I could write.)

Freeland & I, if you know us in real life, are an open book and probably over share too much (cough, cough, Freeland) we probably blurt things out too often and are way too opinionated and process out loud when we shouldn't.. we argue in front of people at times too (gulp. its true. and its awkward) Thanks to all of you who continually extend us grace as we grow. All that to say, I think sharing my life on our blog for everyone on the interwebs to read seems normal somehow and doesn't freak me out (seriously, I've been blogging since we were engaged - in a sense.. our entire marriage is on this blog.) Thanks for always trucking a long with us through our wedding, our moves, our family growing and mostly -us- growing over the last 8 years!


Friday, August 15, 2014

pregnant with a promise

(this the is last day to enter my Noonday giveaway below! Go get some free jewelry) 

This is both the promise the Lord gave us and the reason I will NEVER hear Katy Perry's song the same again in my life. seriously. 
Here is an email I wrote to my family in November right after the Lord spoke to us about adopting. I didn't actually send it until April after we told our immediate family in person. But it shares our story of how the Lord spoke to us that it was time to adopt. I included the email instead of typing it all out again because it shares the entire story and a larger chunk of our journey.
Its the promise He gave us that we're holding on to now. Our church has a sort of declaration in the front of our sanctuary. On it, it says "pregnant with a promise" and that is something Ive held on to in this season. Though, I am not pregnant, I am at the same time. Inside me is this promise that I'm holding on to and clinging to. Praise the Lord.
Friends & Family,
I wrote this email in November and then felt like I was supposed to wait to send it. Freeland & I are so excited and ready to share the news, so here it is. I'm thankful the Lord had me write this out back then and not now because it would've been written so different now. Meaning, the emotion of some of this is clearly different now.. but our hearts are still in the same exact place and we are walking in more obedience, wisdom, etc etc etc now instead of just the whirlwind of it all! We are going to share the news on our blog as well, but here is some of the details behind it all: 
on 11/26/13 I wrote:

Well, I'm sure some of you may have known or wondered if/when the day was coming. Maybe you have been waiting for some sort of an announcement! ha.
Chapel is 12 months old. Per usual.. if we were following our trend I would be having our 4th baby in just 3 months. Obviously, that is not happening. And to be honest, I'm torn and sad about it. I would go as far as to say at times I felt like I was almost mourning the idea of it. I know that sounds dramatic. But at times it felt that way for some reason. (Although I am okay with the fact that we aren't pregnant too. I just never would have thought I would feel like I was missing something since I already have 3 children.)

But to be honest, its how it feels. It feels like something is missing. Clearly, I do love being pregnant.. and I LOVE having babies. So I acknowledge that and know it is a good thing and something I'm incredibly grateful for.
Soooo.. there is that.
Now, on to the point of my email. Freeland & I have had a ton of conversations around "will we have another child.. will we adopt.. will we foster.. how will the Lord use us to work with orphans.. will we advocate for children.. will we bring them into our home.. will we move overseas.. will we help run an orphanage.. will we not do anything?!?!!"

We know that the Lord has stirred our hearts for children especially children who have no family.
We've gone back & forth and wavered so much. I actually got pretty weary of it. ("it" being the back and forth and not just landing on a decision) I couldn't tell what the Lords desires or my desires were anymore. My emotions and thoughts and feelings changed daily.. sometimes hourly!

I told Freeland I just had to hear from the Lord because I was tired of wavering. I just wanted the Lord to give me a peace to do either or to just stop and enjoy where we were at and stop trying to come to a decision.

And so we committed to pray about it. I really felt like the Lord impressed it upon my heart to ask what HIS desire for our family was. I believed that the reason we were going back and forth and the reason we were experiencing all the emotions and the reason all the desires in our hearts were growing was because He was leading us into a place to pray and ask Him. 
I believe He was the one stirring up such intense and deep desires for us.
Ackley18
(these pictures were our family pictures last november. I remember taking them wishing they could be announcement pictures and thinking the next time we took family pictures there could be another child in them)

And what do you know - the next day after we committed to pray about it. He spoke.

And ummm He spoke really really loud.


Here is what the Lord spoke to me:
During worship at a women's conference at our church, the Lord spoke to me. I went to the conference with a little expectation of Him giving me clarity around this since we had just committed to pray about it. (which is why I wrote out the back story to this for yall if youre wondering why I just told you all that!) I wasn't sure if He would. And I wasn't even sitting and asking Him at the moment. (I was actually sitting down because I was distracted and annoyed.. so basically the opposite of trying to sit before the Lord) Anyway.. in the midst of a bad attitude He broke through and all the sudden spoke to me. 
Our pastor had just got up and shared a word that he had .. saying he felt like the Lord gave him the word "roar" for the weekend. Then our pastors wife got up and shared that on her way to the conference the Lord put on her heart the verses where He says 'God is our refuge and strength.. our help in trouble.. therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way.. though the sea will ROAR and the mountains will tremble .. (Psalm 46) She said this without knowing her husband, our pastor, felt like His word for the weekend was roar too. 
So clearly, yes, the Lord was speaking the word roar.  
I heard what they said and was still sitting down with my bad attitude. Repenting and trying to get back to a heart of worship. 
When all the sudden the Lord showed up.
He gave me a picture of Himself as a Lion. Literally, he showed me his face as a lion (think Aslan, from the Chronicles of Narnia if you want a reference) and He spoke:

"If you want to hear My roar .. go and fight for My children"
The End. 

 I mean, you don't really need much more after all that when the Lord speaks so clearly. 

It was overwhelming to say the least. It was one of those "I think that was an audible voice" moments. I immediately wept. Then I immediately wrote it down. When the Lord speaks that powerfully I don't think you can really do anything but say yes. All my questions, all the practicals, all my desires to have another baby, all the what ifs, the doubts, fears, worries, etc. VANISHED. I literally just wanted what the Lord wants .... and trust me, I want to hear Him roar. 
A passion and desire was ignited in me to see Him fight for what is His. To see Him be victorious, see Him be powerful, watch Him go to war and do the work. I will fight for His children.. if that's where He is - I want to be there too.
I should also note: as I was still sitting there screaming yes in my heart and laying down all my own desires and fears our speaker, Beni Johnson, got up and in the middle of talking stopped and just started repeating "mama be brave. mama be brave" and then went on. I mean .. all I could do was laugh. That of course is now stuck in my heart too.
Also, I think its only fair to share Freeland's response to all this. Right when I got home I woke him up and told him I knew it was time for us to adopt. His response: "I know".  Before hearing the story.. he knew. He was probably ready the entire time just waiting for me to join him. 
.... I'm very aware the Lord didn't say "I have this perfect beautiful easy baby I am going to bring in to your life" .. instead He said go and "fight" which I have to imagine means it will be a fight. It will probably look messy and scary and hard except it wont at the same time because I'm just looking ahead .. and when the Lord shows up as a Lion it doesn't really feel that scary anymore to me. So amen.
If you made it to the end of this GIGANTIC novel... congratulations. I just wanted to share all the details I could. And share the whole process with all of you. We realize our family - is your family too.. and our heart is that the vision and promise the Lord gave us would be apart of our entire families vision and promise! Feel free to let me know if you have more questions or if anything I said was confusing or if I left anything out. The Lord has spoken very clearly to us through his word, friends, and in prayer. I'm happy to share any of that if you would like. Thank you for always cheering us on and jumping on the adventure the Lord has taken us on. I will be posting it on our blog (today or tomorrow) and I will be sharing the details and story as it unfolds there so feel free to check there if you want more information too! 

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So all that was from November. As I knew He would, the Lord has taken care of all the details so far. In the midst of Freeland's busiest year of residency we completed our 36 hours of training even with most of the classes being on days he was taking call. So many random things came up that couldn't be explained during that time. (like their system showing I didn't complete one of the classes I was at and a handful of other things that almost delayed us a ton) and each and every time the Lord swooped in and took care of it. 
Our home study is now officially approved (as of Tuesday, August 12th) Our last and final step is this Saturday (the 16th) and once their system updates to show we completed a final course on Saturday .. we will be waiting for a phone call!!
The kids know and are excited. They want a brother AND a sister! (oh Lord) 

The Lord gave me another promise this week too! I will have to share that with you all. I have no idea why the Lord was so gracious to speak as clearly and as powerfully as He did. We could have easily just felt a desire to pray about it.. searched the scriptures .. (which we did all those too) and then decided to simply step out in faith knowing that in His word He calls us to care for the orphans. At one point I thought He spoke the way He did because 'obviously' my faith was so small.. I wouldn't have ever said yes without it. I don't believe that is true. I know its not. My faith isn't small at all. But whatever the reason was.. I'm incredibly grateful. It feels like the biggest gift and so compassionate and loving of the Lord to do. It fires me up and stirs my heart in a way that can not be explained .. as if the Lord literally came down from Heaven and touched my heart and ignited it. Praise the Lord. I know for everyone their journey to stepping out in faith or becoming parents, adopting, saying yes to new things etc looks different. Thanks for reading what ours has looked like and believing with us!