CHANGE, THOUGHTFULNESS, AND HOPEFULNESS
Part 1 of our series on “Transitions”
by Kelly Albrecht
Note from Eric: Today’s message is by Kelly Albrecht, a friend of Greg’s and mine. If you were one of our subscribers 10 years ago, you may remember Kelly was the wife of Kirk Albrecht, another friend and our best technical support for The Ranch website. Sadly for all of us, Kirk passed away 10 years ago at the age of 36 on July 14, 2004. When we mentioned Kirk’s passing on our website, hundreds wrote in to offer Kelly their prayers and condolences from around the world. Kelly asked recently if she could write a note of thanks and a message of encouragement to you here on the 10th anniversary of Kirk’s passing, which Greg and I are happy to pass along to you in the message below. Thanks for blessing her all those years ago, and I pray her message blesses you in return. Eric
Change, Thoughtfulness, and Hopefulness
By Kelly Albrecht
As I sat to write this, I decided that I wanted to share some of my story but to also write a note of appreciation. My story is about change, thoughtfulness, and hopefulness.
I’m a person of contradictions; I don’t like change or surprises but sometimes I want things to change and love some surprises. I like good changes, good surprises; things that you hope for and want, but didn’t think will ever come. These are the hopes and dreams that make the perfect day, if you were to describe it. When they come, you rejoice. This is hearing a friend or family member has accepted Christ as their Savior, a job promotion, the blooming of a flower, the first words of a child, finding out after years of trying that you are pregnant again, a surprise birthday celebration, finding something you lost, the phone call from a friend you haven’t heard from in years, the “I love you” from a loved one, receiving a postcard or letter from a friend, and the list goes on and on. These are the good changes and surprises. They are the things you can see yourself living with; things you relish coming, things you desire and dream of happening in your life. They are the things that make you smile and feed your soul. They are things that would be considered “happy times” and “sunshine moments.” Then there are changes and surprises that you dread, you pray never happen; ones that bring sadness to your life if they were to come.
Sadly, life is not only the “good times,” the cherished and dreamed about changes and surprises. Those hard times come; they also show no respecter of person, happening to people without warning even. The good thing about the unexpected changes and surprises are: God is still there. He’s guiding and protecting us, in the good times and the bad times. Adversity makes it harder to see God’s guidance and grace but, if we look hard enough, it is there. Sometimes a person sees it, but their friends and family don’t believe that God is still there when adversity strikes. Hopefully you are like me, you may have a few distractors (people that don’t encourage you or see that God is there) but for the most part, you are surrounded by people that through life adversities they are showing you love and encouragement that can only be from God. These are not only people you know personally, but may be a complete stranger; a fellow Christian, or just a person who you happen to cross paths with for a short time. A person God has placed there for that time in your life; to encourage you and to help show you God’s love at a time you really need it. That isn’t saying that these have to be one time encouragers, nor that people will have to stay a stranger; new friends can be born out of adversity. These people may encourage a person in a way that, years later, well, they look back fondly and remember the strength and uplifting these encouraging people brought to their life.
This happened to me 10 years ago tomorrow. That was the day that changed my life, changed the way I lived my comfortable life and I never saw coming. That day left me needing encouragement and support like never before. You see, I was one of those girls you hear about that dreamed as long as she could remember of growing up to become a wife and a mother. I would play house, dress up, and plan my wedding, dream about what kind of man I would marry. When I finally met and married the man of my dreams, I was so excited that God gave me such a wonderful man. Kirk (my beloved) and I were married in 1989 and at that point ten years ago, we had been married just over 15 years and 4 months. We were raising three wonderful children (two girls and a boy) in addition to foster/adopting a boy, and had found out a couple of weeks before this point that I was pregnant with baby number four (a girl). We couldn’t have been happier and had recently moved into our first house. If you had asked us, life was good and we were expecting it to get better and better with each passing day.
One of Kirk’s favorite sayings was: “nothing is more consistent than change.” Remember, I am not a big fan of change or of surprises so; this was quoted to me often when I would voice my displeasure over an unexpected change or news. Also, early on in our marriage we coined the catch phrase, “life is a journey and I can’t wait to see where God takes us next.” Both of those phrases would hit home in a way that I wasn’t prepared for, ways that shook me to my core on July 14, 2004 by one short phone call. Nothing but God could have prepared me for the changes that happened 10 years ago tomorrow. That was the day that my precious Kirk died unexpectedly of a heart attack while at work. Life was good for us; things were going in the right direction, Kirk had a great job, I was homeschooling our children, we were planning on adopting, we were also having another biological child, we had just bought a house and moved in earlier that spring, we were happy. As a couple we were great, the children were healthy, I was healthy, and Kirk was responding well to medicines to treat a long term heart condition. Things seemed to only be going better. We had plans for our future; vacation plans, plans for the children’s future, plans to see our children attend college, graduate, date, get married, have children. We were going to grow old together and all the while grow more and more in love. We were going to go on more mission trips and vacations together. Our plans were all about happiness and being together as a family. Our plans though; there was nothing wrong with our plans in the broader sense, but they were not God’s plans.
When I got home that morning from running errands I was surprised to see there were so many messages on my answering machine. The first one alerted me that something was wrong with Kirk and I was to call his friend and co-worker back. I first heard of Kirk’s heart attack from him. He went to the hospital with my husband and it was from a phone call with him that the doctor took over the phone to talk to me and tell me my husband had died. I was crushed, to say the least. This was the biggest surprise (and very unwanted) that I had ever had in my life. This also would bring about much change I knew.
After hearing that my husband died and arranging a ride to the hospital, I called Eric, a friend of us both and leader of The Ranch. My support started flowing in from not just Eric that day but this whole list at that time. Eric was nice enough to notify Greg of This Day’s Thought (back before the two ministries merged) to notify him that Kirk had died. Kirk was helping Greg with his website at this time. Greg then notified his list of Kirk’s death and asked you all to pray for me and the children. I was very blessed and surprised by the outpouring of love and support many of you gave through email. It really touched my heart to know people cared that much; most of you who had never even met Kirk once in your life. Many of the messages were forwarded to me and I saved them. Eric later kept all the messages and made a nice file of them and printed them out for me. I read and reread them many times over the first few months and even over the years, including this week (the link is here at theranch.org under “About Us” and “A Tribute to Kirk N. Albrecht” if you want to read them). The kind words reminded me that there are many thoughtful people in this world. I do not think I ever took the time to properly thank all you who wrote to me and prayed for the children and me. Thank you so very much and I hope you felt that your well wishes and prayers were appreciated, even though I had never thanked you before now. I am sorry it took so long but I am glad I have the opportunity to today.
Ten years ago doesn’t seem like that long ago, but in some ways it seems a lifetime ago. . Many changes have come to my household in these past ten years and my children are now 24, 22, 12, and 9. Changes from—two learning to drive, different stages of teaching them to cook, vacations, high school graduation, college graduations, first breaths, first smiles, many pictures, talks of life dreams and goals, picnics, watching them make decisions for Christ, many conversations about Kirk, and the list goes on and on. The one thing that hasn’t changed is teaching my children about God’s love and protection and his salvation. Each child is a blessing and is making their mark on the world. Life has changed, but life is still good because God is still in control.
Looking back I am reminded that I never dreamed that I would be a widow at such a young age. The day Kirk died it threw me into a club that I never would have willingly joined. Being a widow, or widower for that matter, is being forced into a club that no one wants to join but, if it is asked of you, there is nothing you can do to stop it. The last ten years was not what I had dreamed my life would be like when as a child I was playing house and dreaming of my future. Through my married life, I never dreamed that I would be a young widow. I wanted to grow old together with Kirk, to have a life full of times together, but in life I have learned that my plans are not always as God has planned. I have also learned that God is using my experiences to help others that are going through the same situation. I went on to finish college, even getting a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and currently a dissertation away from having a doctoral degree focusing on using one’s faith in counseling, especially while grieving. I miss Kirk every day and thank God for the time we had together, but I know that I have hope for my future because God is there and he will take my life story and use it for his kingdom. Thank all of you for being a part of my life by praying for me all those years ago, prayers that my children and I would know God’s guidance and protection and I am glad to report that God has meet our needs every time.
These last 10 years have brought about much change, but I am so thankful for the outpouring of love and support from everyone and that has left me hopeful that there are still caring people in this world that are willing to pray for and encourage each other. As I look to the future I am reminded for my family that: “life is a journey and I can’t wait to see where God takes us next.” May your life journey also take you to places where you know God’s love, encouragement and blessing and you are surrounded by friends and family in the kingdom of God. In closing I hope you find encouragement from one of my favorite Bible verses that reminds me that God is on this journey with us: “For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord…to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Follow-up from Eric: Thanks for reading Kelly’s message today. If you’re going through a transition in your own life, I hope you’ll join us this fall for our Ranch Retreat where we’ll be focusing on the topic of “transitions” and how God can help us through them. We’d love for your to join us. Click here to learn more.
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