Interviewing the Kirkegaards was my first step to expanding my blog past Lipscomb boundaries. I knew the couple from last year, they are family friends with one of my friends, and have been dying to hear a more in-depth version of Kelsey and Matt’s story since last Christmas.
“Well, I have seven tattoos,” Kelsey began, “My first two I got in college, one in Guatemala the year I graduated, one the summer after college, the next two I got four years ago, and then this one.”
“Which she got three days ago,” Matt added.
By “this one,” Kelsey was referring to a design that included mountains, waves, and an olive branch.“And I’m getting one similar to that,” Matt said. “It’ll be like a couple’s version.”
Kelsey went through all of her tattoos and gave me a brief explanation for them. Each one held its own trial, struggle, and lesson. Themes the tattoos followed included service in Guatemala, walking by faith, God healing the broken hearted, giving thanks, and knowing and grasping identity after a season of being walked over. “But then there’s this one. This one has the big story. This one represents all of that,” Kelsey said, referring to the past stories she just shared.
“I grew up in the mountains. Mountains have always been something sweet to me, it’s my peace place, where my soul comes alive. And oceans have always been Matt’s thing. Last year, January of 2015, we walked into the year without a house but feeling like God was calling us to buy land and build a refugee home, something called Jubilee Farms. So we started purchasing this little property but through a crazy, crazy series of events, we ended up under contract for an 115-acre farm. We had no money, no home, we were newly married, there was honestly no reason we should’ve gotten under contract but we did. And from there on out we had this vision to create a venue and cottages and this place of refuge where artists can come and rest. On January 1, God had given us the verse, ‘Go and claim the land the Lord has set before you, do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.’ So we did that! We had a business plan with contractors, HGTV was going to do a whole show on it, it was a huge deal.”
“Producers from New York had come out,” Matt added.
“Yeah, we had a staff of twenty some people. We had put in every penny we had.”
“And ounce of time,” Matt said
“All of this happened while we were living in the backyard of a friend’s home. We were there for seven months.
“So two weeks before closing, they ended up selling the land out from under us. But we felt at peace, we knew it hadn’t actually been lost, Jubilee Farms was just on hold. We knew it was going to happen at some point, and we knew we wanted to start the adoption process so now it was just about getting into a house to live in.
“We lost seven houses to outbids, ended up under contract for a house, lost that the day of closing. Ended up under contract for the house we have now, lost that the day of closing, we got it back, lost it again, and got it back again. It was a huge ordeal. The house we have now, about 800 square feet, was going to be temporary, just something to live in for six months until we sell it back. But I felt God say, ‘If I take away the grandeur of Jubilee Farms, if I take away the 115 acres, will your hearts still be the same in 800 square feet?’ So we were really challenged to make it work, but in the end, our house became that place of refuge for different people. And we are in love with our home.”
“And we have had so many people come and stay with us,” Matt said. “Our neighborhood has all congregated around our house even though it’s the smallest in the community.”
“But in that process of losing the 115-acre land,” Kelsey continued, “We had several people come up to us and say, ‘I think that Jubilee Farms is on hold because you’re going to bring a kid home and you have to be present for that.’ So we started the adoption process and announced it in November. On August 9th we got our referral and they told us his name.” The couple explained that they were not allowed to tell me his information for the blog. “But his given name means ‘ocean.’
“To rewind a bit, when we got into contract for the 115-acre land, end of February, beginning of March, we found out that someone who is very important to us, who has walked with us through our marriage and other events, has the middle name of Akers. And we loved that name, we knew we were going to name our first son Akers.
“So, fast forward, we found out his given name means ‘oceans,’ and we’ve already named him Akers, so his name literally means Land and Sea. Then we find out that that city he is from is right at the base of the Himalayas, so he’s a mountain boy. And then we find out we’re the first ones to adopt from this orphanage. Our family coordinator told us on the phone that it’s going to be an adventure to get to him, we’re the trailblazers, which has kind of been our theme in life.”
“We’ll have to cross land and sea,” Matt agreed. “We also found out that his birthday is early March, the same week we went under contract for Jubilee Farms.”
“And that was the week we picked his name,” Kelsey added.
“So we picked his name the week he was born,” Matt explained. “And when God said, ‘Go and claim the land the Lord has set before you,’ the territory that God was giving us also referred to our son, Akers.”
“So there’s a lot of crazy things about this,” Kelsey said. “The olive branch has always been something that we both love. We have walked in years of hardship, like losing my mom, losing houses, being homeless, losing money… It’s just been a lot of loss. The olive branch stands for God’s promises and God’s healing through all of that. So we found out the city our son is from means the city of olive trees and hospitality, which is so prevalent in both of our hearts.”
“It all just tied together,” Matt said.
“Originally, the tattoo was just going to be the three bands: Matt and me on the foundation of God. It’s like wearing a wedding ring, it’s continuous,” Kelsey explained. “But as we’ve walked through the adoption process and found all this out, I added the mountains and the ocean and the olive branch in the middle. Because we are literally crossing land and sea to get to our son, but that’s also our whole life story. I mean, it’s my life story since childhood, and it incorporates Matt’s story. So it’s a multitude of things that just fit together into this tattoo.”I asked for them to talk a little more about their marriage, and what prompted the original design for the three bands circling around the forearms. But that was a whole other story in itself.
Thanks to Kelsey and Matt Kirkegaard for sharing their story.
Thanks to Kayla McEathron for photographing.