Update at seven years

Posted in General at 7:59 pm by Libbie

I wrote the following for Wednesday, February 5th, but the ice storm hit before I could post it, and the blog’s server is just now back up and running again for the first time. Sorry for the four-day delay.

Well, it’s been seven years since Al died, and I haven’t written anything here in the past two, so it seems high time for an update—on each of us and on life in general.

First the children:

Alasdair and Lauren continue to run CCEF New England, the Christian counseling center they started in White River Jct, Vermont that is affiliated with the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation here in Philadelphia. Alasdair and a woman named Robyn Huck do the counseling, and Lauren runs all the business end of things. I would have the business details snarled up within a day, but Lauren is incredibly competent, organized and efficient, so she stays on top of all of that while taking care of two preschoolers. Amazing. Alasdair is doing exactly what he was created to do, so he is happy as a pig in mud, and Robyn is a great partner to work with. From what I hear, the center is able to be a blessing to a number of churches in the Upper Valley area, which was its goal in the first place. Alasdair also does some teaching, speaking and writing for CCEF.

Their daughters Emily (4 ½) and Adara (2) are growing and thriving, keeping their parents amply busy, and making life an adventure and a delight. You can see pictures with narrative at http://babyeclaire.blogspot.com. I have to say, there is nothing quite like being a grandparent! Can’t even tell you what a delight those two little girls are to me. Alasdair and Lauren are expecting their third child in May—a boy this time. So many blessings and so much joy.

Rebeckah moved to Boston in Dec, 2012 and started working at Dana Farber Cancer Institute. A few months later she met Brian Orsatti at an EMT class, and they were married this past Oct. 20. They make each other very happy, and we are very glad to have Brian in the family! He practices wonderful Italian hospitality, and it’s been fun to experience Boston with him and Rebeckah as tour guides. Brian just started a new job coordinating the EMT training program at BU. I have so much respect and appreciation for first responders and emergency personnel; it’s an honor to have one in the family. Rebeckah has also become a certified EMT, though she is not currently riding ambulances.

Eowyn graduated from the College of Wooster last May with a major in French and a minor in Education. During her junior spring, while she was studying in France, her boyfriend Ben Bestor visited her and proposed. They endured a 15 month engagement, 12 months of which they lived in different states or countries, and have now been happily married since last Memorial Day weekend. Ben stayed with me for a month during an internship in Philly in the Fall of 2011, so I had a chance to find out what a sweet and lovable guy he is. We’re so happy to have him in the family too. I have a giant soft spot in my heart for all three of my children-in-law. Ben and Eowyn are living outside of DC, where Ben is doing a Master’s degree in International Relations at American University. Eowyn is working at AAA doing everything from booking travel to being a notary and coordinating roadside assistance. She’d love to be able to use her French as well.

Alden is a junior at Wofford College in South Carolina. He’s majoring in English and will graduate certified to teach at the high school level. I think he’ll make a really fun English teacher. He’s also very involved in different things on campus and could see himself going into ministry of some kind. Wofford has a January term, and for this past one Alden got a proposal approved to go to Amsterdam to serve as a teacher’s aide in the elementary school he attended when we lived there in 2002. In fact, he got to help in the fourth grade classroom of his own fourth grade teacher! He lived with a friend of our family, improved his Dutch like crazy, saw old friends, met new ones, and had an absolutely fantastic month. Thank you, Lord!

I still love, love, love teaching Hebrew and remain very thankful to have a job that combines my interests in languages and teaching. On the side, I’ve been volunteering at an ESL (English as a Second Language) program in Philly, which is great fun. My students are from all over the world and are such a pleasure to get to know. Who knows, maybe I’ll even learn some Arabic, which is currently the one and only item on my “bucket list.” I had follow-up surgery on my ankle in the Fall of 2012, and it’s doing pretty well, all things considered.

Since the Fall of 2012 I have had two students live with me. Elisabeth is originally from France, by way of three decades in South Carolina, and Ruth is a medical doctor from England. Both have enriched my life so much in different ways, and I am enormously thankful for them. I never anticipated that I would be back to doing the “rotating roommates” thing in my fifties, but if these women are representative of the experience, I’m all for it.

I love Al as much as ever, and I miss him a whole lot. I remember in the first months after he died picturing life as a stage and feeling as if his absence was an enormous mountain that filled the whole thing, and everything I did or thought, happened in the small spaces around the edges of it. I expected that the mountain would gradually shrink and recede upstage until it eventually became simply a two-dimensional painting of a mountain as background scenery. That has indeed happened. The grief does not dominate every waking moment any more, though it’s always there in the background—a piece of my identity.

It’s funny the little things that trigger pangs of grief. Like being in a spot on campus that I haven’t been in much since our student days. Or thinking about making homemade sausage with his grandfather’s recipe and how excited he would be about that. There are still occasional times when the grief is intense and painful. Maybe the most excruciating from this past year happened the day after Eowyn and Ben’s wedding. All the Groves clan who had been able to come to the wedding gathered at a little farm house in Lancaster that Al’s brother Warren had rented and had a lovely, relaxed afternoon together. Toward the end of it we decided to take a photo of the whole bunch of us. Al was always ALL about getting things on film and would have been the one to round everybody up and keep us all standing there for ages ‘til he got the perfect shot. He would have been absolutely over the moon to have had nearly the whole family of four generations together in one place. Suddenly the idea of taking the family photo brought that realization home to me in a way that was exquisitely heartbreaking. It was just so indescribably sad that he was not there to enjoy the gathering. I had to slip off to the nearby field, lean against the far side of the cargo van we had rented and just sob and sob out loud until I had cried my tears dry.

But most of the time I live in the present with joy and thankfulness, and the sadness of missing Al and the anticipation of seeing him again in heaven remains just background wallpaper. Even having fun with our grandchildren is purely happy most of the time, and it’s only when I let myself stop and think about it that I feel a deep stab of grief that he never met them.

The past two years have been full, and I was reflecting this week on some of the things that have struck me over that time. There are many, but I’ll just pick one:

It stemmed from a random conversation I had with someone at a baby shower last Fall. He had gotten a tattoo of the number of days a close family friend had lived before her untimely death from cancer. That got me thinking, so I later counted the number of days Al had lived: 19,773. As of today, Feb 9, 2014, I have lived 20,129. That number seems very finite and not very large. Thinking about that—literally numbering my days and considering each one as a particular, individual slice of a whole life that is made up of a specific total number of days known only to God—has made me want to seize and spend each one with thought and intentionality. I don’t know how many days are left, but that number decreases by one every time the sun goes down.

Now, I should tell you that my mental age (i.e. the age I think of myself as being) somehow got stuck at 18. (That leads to some weird circumstances. For instance, all four of my children are now older than I am, which is very odd. And when I am good friends with multiple generations of a family I have trouble remembering which ones are actually my peers.) So I still think of my life stretching out in front of me for decades and decades. But in fact, that is not likely the case. If I live to be…say, 70, just to pick a round number, that’s only fourteen years away! I know from personal experience that fourteen years goes by in a flash.

I want to spend those years and those individual days in a way that counts. In a way that furthers what God is up to in this world. In a way that prioritizes his priorities and that he will be pleased with. I have wanted to “live for God” for a long time, or at least I have fostered the illusion that I do, but an awareness that the length of time in which to take the opportunity to do that is steadily decreasing and that the time to give an account is steadily approaching, has brought things into a sharper relief. I can continue to be busy with lots of “good things” that may or may not be what he cares about, or I can lay my plans at his feet each day and ask him to show me what he wants me to do. Sometimes his plans and mine substantially overlap, and sometimes they are radically different. On those days, I can choose to either please or sadden my dearest friend, who died for me. I pray he’ll give me grace to choose the former.

May your days be many, and may you know his companionship as you walk each one of them.

PS: I am in the process of turning this blog into a book for New Growth Press. Thank you all for your encouragement along the way, and I would appreciate your prayers for wisdom to know which (small percentage of the) bits of the blog to include. I’ll keep you posted. The manuscript is due this June for publication sometime in 2015.


Five Years

Posted in General at 9:03 pm by Libbie

I am inserting a note here at the top of this entry after having finished writing it, and I have to warn you that it turned into a very lengthy tome! I’m sorry about that. I guess it’s a hazard of only writing once a year.

Also, it’s possible that this blog may migrate to another site. If it does, I will put the new address on this site and leave it up for a good long time.

But here we are at the five year mark since Al’s death. That doesn’t seem possible. I am almost as old now as he was when he died (Feb 25th I will have outlived him, Lord willing), which seems very odd. You don’t usually think of age as being something in which you can overtake someone; it isn’t supposed to work that way.

Let me fill you in on the kids first.

Alasdair and Lauren still live in New Hampshire and are pioneering a Christian counseling center in Vermont, which seems to be slowly but steadily growing and appears to be succeeding in its mission to be a blessing to lots of churches in a broad area around the Upper Valley. (See http://www.ccef.org/authors/alasdair-groves or http://www.ccef.org/newengland) The biggest news of the year for them and for us was the birth of their second daughter, Adara Kathryn, on October 4. Such joy! Her name comes from a fantasy series that Alasdair has loved for years; Adara is Lauren’s favorite character in the series. Kathryn is after my mother, though spelled differently. Lauren, who is a trooper, delivered Adara safe and sound without fanfare, and the family has been in that getting-used-to-life-without-much-sleep phase (again) ever since, and doing it with good humor and grace. Emily, now 2 ½, has moved from saying that “the problem is that baby!” to calling Adara her friend. That’s good progress in sibling relations. Adara is growing like a weed, and Emily continues to be delightfully and hilariously verbal. If you want some good laughs, check out their blog at http://babyeclaire.blogspot.com/. One of my favorite entries is Thursday, Aug 11, 2011. Happy reading! Needless to say we are all thrilled to have another precious little girl in the family.

Becky was a Fellow at the Trinity Forum Academy last year, finishing up in May. She stayed on through the summer to work for the Academy, and then, after helping me move Alden to college, she moved to NH to help Alasdair and Lauren out before and after Adara was born. She loved being what she dubbed “a stay-at-home Aunt.” Now she has moved to Boston and has been working at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and training for EMT work. I’m not sure at what point in the training she gets to start riding in the ambulance, but she’s finding the training interesting. She recently wrote on a blog (http://bgrovesfellowship.wordpress.com/) that it is “a class where, I might add, phrases such as, ‘If the patient is decapitated, trans-sected, or incinerated, you do not have the responsibility to begin resuscitation,’ is casually mentioned like it’s no big deal…” She did a couple of stand-up comedy routines last year that had us rolling.

Eowyn is a junior at the College of Wooster in Ohio, although this semester she is studying abroad in France. She’s taking courses at the university in Nantes and teaching English once a week in local schools (grades 10, 6 and 2). Last weekend she told me about her first day in the classroom, and all I can say is that it’s a good thing she (a) speaks French well, (b) is quick-witted, and (c) doesn’t mind being on the spot in front of a crowd! She has a very serious boyfriend, Ben, who may well be joining our family at some point in the near or distant future… It was great to get to know him better when he stayed with me for about a month this fall while he had an internship in Philly.

Alden graduated from high school last June and worked as a lifeguard during the summer. After a long college search, aided by our friend Barry Raebeck (yourcollege.com), Alden chose to go to Wofford College in South Carolina, probably majoring in English and education. He’s got a wonderful roommate. The two of them are very different in many ways, but they both love Jesus, they enjoy each other, and they have been a good support to each other. I’m so thankful for that! Alden seems to be making a good adjustment to college life and to living in the South. He’s been playing ultimate Frisbee, enjoying the fact that you can do that all winter in SC, and he’s been loving the good opportunities for Christian fellowship on and off campus.

Last Sunday, on the anniversary of Al’s death, some friends asked me, as they so kindly do, how I am doing and how the last year has been. My best effort at a one-line summary was that “God has been faithful.” That is solidly, ringingly true, and it is emblazoned on my mind and heart as the overarching truth of this past year. But as I tried to flesh that out in detail and color, there was not a clear theme or an easy and obvious way to communicate how he had been faithful. It was more of a pervasive sense of the overall experience. Perhaps that is one reason (in addition to just not being able to come up with the time) that I have had trouble starting this post.

But this morning a thought occurred to me that may prove helpful. Sometimes in my Hebrew class I tell the students a story in two different ways in order to illustrate a point from the text we are translating. I think I will do that in telling the story of the last year. So here is the past year in a bad news/good news version—or rather, two versions. The first will be a glum look at the year, without much reference to God or his goodness, which, when you extract all of God’s goodness from it, may sound like whining. The second will be a look at the year as it was full of God’s glory and faithfulness.

2011, Take One, the bad news:

This has been a year filled with numerous very hard things in the lives of people I love—friends and family—and one substantial mishap in my own life.

January began with a neighbor whom I knew from the elementary school bus stop—I’ll call her Molly—whose life had reached such levels of chaos and need that she reached out for help, and on a snowy day of extreme need, the Lord had our paths cross. We have gotten to be friends, and as the year has unfolded it seems that the challenges in her life have continued to multiply, with things from the past mushrooming into problems in the present in a way that sometimes leaves people homeless. She and her four children continue to hang on by their teeth, living on her disability payments and on child support that mostly doesn’t come.

On June 28, the day before I was to start teaching the first of two intensive summer terms, I fell down the stairs at work and destroyed my ankle. Snapped a couple of the bones, dislocated it 90 degrees, did all kinds of soft tissue damage from my mid-calf to my toes, tore ligaments, damaged nerves, etc. so that it looked like something out of a horror film. I’ll see if I can attach a picture. I had to wait a week for the swelling to go down before they could do surgery, and during that week, in the process of trying to move myself around the house, I severely aggravated a shoulder injury from five years ago so that I couldn’t use crutches any more. I remember lying on my back in bed for 5 hours that Sunday morning, barely able to get to the bathroom and back, wondering how I was going to function and if I might have to go live in a rehab facility. Crutches were out of the question, even a walker was going to be too much on my shoulder, and it’s hard to move or steer a wheelchair with only one working arm and one working foot. Try it. You can go in circles, but that’s not very helpful.

After the surgery (three plates, 14 screws), I was literally confined to the house for weeks because I couldn’t navigate the front steps, and I was out of work for a month and half, missing all of Hebrew 1 and half of Hebrew 2 during the summer. When I finally went back to work, I couldn’t put weight on my left leg yet, and I had to prop my leg up on the desk as I lectured. Getting anywhere was grueling work. To leave the house I would use my walker to get to the front door, with my work back hung on one handle of it, go out the door, take the work bag off the handle, fold up the walker, tie a long ribbon to it so that I could lower it to the bottom of the five steps, place the work bag two steps down, use the railing and one crutch to slowly ease myself down one step at a time, then leave the crutch at the bottom of the steps, unfold the walker, haul the work bag down from the second step and hang it on the handle again, hobble to the car, take the bag off the walker, fold the walker and put it in the back seat along with my work bag, hop on my right foot to the driver’s seat, get in the car, take off my orthopedic boot, drive to work, park, put the boot back on, get out and hop to the back seat to get out the walker and bag, unfold the walker and hang the bag on it, use it to hobble to the wheelchair, hang the bag on the back of the wheelchair, and then wheel to the classroom. It took forever! (Though it did burn a lot of calories…)

In late July, I was supposed to get to have Emily here for a day or two while Alasdair and Lauren met her parents for a special event in Washington, D.C., and I was sooo looking forward to that! Needless to say, it didn’t happen quite as planned, since I could hardly move myself from room to room, much less care for a two year old.

The journey of my ankle has been an interesting one. It was twelve weeks before it was fully weight-bearing. I went to physical therapy two or three times a week between mid-August and last week, and I had to do stretching and strengthening exercises three times a day, which I must now continue indefinitely. That’s a lot of time. There have been moments that I’ve been pretty discouraged. I can remember sitting in the PT office watching other patients do various exercises and thinking, “There is no way in the world that I will ever be able to do that.” And even when I began to be able to walk, it hurt an awful lot. It still does a lot of the time.

There was no way I could drive Alden to college at the end of August, but Becky, who was between jobs, drove us both down and drove me back (12 hours each way). When she left a day or two after that, I began life in the “empty nest.” I remember a time during the summer of 2006, just before Al’s unexpected brain surgery, when both Eowyn and Alden were away for a few days, and we had a foretaste of what the empty nest years might be like. Or rather, what they might have been like, since we knew that Al would not be here for them. People talk about the empty nest being a time of adjustment at first and then a time when a husband and wife can get reacquainted and enjoy life as just the two of them again after all the years of raising children. During those few days of the “empty nest preview” in ‘’06, I anticipated that when the empty nest did eventually arrive, it would be very sad and would be a different kind of adjustment than we originally expected, since I would be doing it without Al and without the chance to go back to living life as “just the two of us.” Now the empty nest is here.

Ordinarily I seldom fly anywhere, but I flew to Wofford’s parents’ weekend in September, to Colorado for my nephew’s wedding in October, and to the Society of Biblical Literature in San Francisco in November. The travel was wearying with my bum ankle and crutches, and each trip probably set back my healing a bit, but the visits were worth it. Because I had agreed a year earlier (probably foolishly) to facilitate a seminar course that met seven Friday nights during this past fall, I was not able to visit my new granddaughter when she was born.

In the present economy, people I know have been laid off and had trouble finding other jobs. Lauren heard recently that the company she used to work for laid off something like half of their employees! Westminster and other non-profits have felt the financial pinch, and before Christmas we heard that there would be pay cuts and staff positions eliminated. I fully expected that mine would be one of the latter, and started thinking about what I might do next, if I should move, what I would need to do to the house to get it ready to sell, etc. It was a sobering process.

Throughout the last twelve months there have been hard, sad, or disappointing things in the lives of family and friends (which are not my stories to share, so I won’t) that have left me feeling very heavy-hearted. It’s at those moments that I have missed Al most keenly. How I would have loved to talk to him about them, to get his wisdom, to cry in his arms. But he has not been here, so I have sat in the dark and held them in my heart and prayed. And then gotten up and kept on going with the heaviness. In that sense, it has sometimes been a wearying year.

You might ask, “So, that is what it looks like for God to be faithful?!”

No. THIS is what it looks like for God to be faithful…

2011, Take Two, the good news:

Taking each thing in turn, I’ll start with my neighbor Molly. Not only have we gotten to be friends, which is a nice thing in and of itself, but she is doing much better. Her circumstances remain incredibly challenging, and I keep discovering new levels of chaos and trouble in her past and present, but she is learning to handle things differently, and she feels so much more anchored and at peace in the midst of the storms. She’s been coming to church and Women’s Bible Study, she’s been soaking up the Bible like a sponge and running to it for help, comfort and wisdom whenever things get overwhelming (she read the whole Bible between May and December!), and on our retreat last spring she said it was like a light switch went on and she knew God as she never had before. She knows he is with her in the midst of the mess, and that makes ALL the difference. When she is distraught and goes to her room to regroup, her kids quietly open the door a crack and slide her Bible through it for her, because they have seen that that’s where she’ll find help. The deacons from our church have been a huge help to Molly, not just with money but with counsel and solidarity, and it has been such a blessing to me to work alongside them on a team to try to help her. It undoes the feeling I mentioned earlier of being alone with the weight of people’s sorrows. The privilege of knowing her and of walking with her has been very good.

Last June we had an extended visit from Harmen and Inge Talstra from the Netherlands, which was lovely, and they were here for Alden’s graduation and party, among other things.

My ankle injury was pretty spectacular, but the damage could have been so much worse. If I’d fallen headlong to the stone floor, I would certainly be dead. Or if I had landed as I did—sitting up on the edge of a lower stair—but without my poor ankle intervening between my spine and the hard step, I could easily have been paralyzed. Doug Green rode to the hospital with me in the ambulance and stayed with me in the emergency room, and Rosemarie Green took care of me afterward and coordinated the many wonderful, kind friends who made meals and helped care for me in the following weeks. Alden was a trooper, looking after me all summer, and we enjoyed good times hanging out and watching movies together. What a gift. In the Lord’s providence, our furnace had died in Nov 2010, and when we replaced it we put in central air conditioning for the first time ever. Little did I know how much I was going to need it this past summer when I was stuck in the house unable to do anything but sit and swelter! On that awful day of despair when I thought I might have to move to a rehab facility, a friend who is a physical therapist came to the house, orchestrated moving a bed downstairs for me, and taught me how to maneuver a wheelchair with just one hand and one foot. Later, when I graduated to a walker, she came over and taught me how to get up and down the front steps. When we were suddenly without a Hebrew teacher one day before the term started, my present and former Teaching Assistants stepped up to the plate and team taught the first semester and did a great job. I was so proud of them, I could have burst! Then a colleague graciously stepped in and taught the first half of Hebrew 2 until I was able to get back to work. And during all those weeks of recovery, I was able to do two computer projects that I’ve wanted to do for ages, and I finally got some rest!

On the days in July that I was scheduled to have Emily by myself, Eowyn and Ben were here, as well as Alden, and we did still get to have her, since the three of them were able to do all the physical work. Emily had been thoroughly briefed about “Granny’s owie” and kept asking me with great concern, “Are you okay, Granny?” During that period, she was having trouble going to sleep at nap time and bed time, so what ended up happening was this: She and I would lie down together on my little bed in the back room until she fell asleep. At nap time we would stay that way, and at night, once she was soundly asleep, Alden would carry her up to her bed upstairs, and then Eowyn would sleep in that same room and take care of her during the night. Let me tell you, there is nothing in the world so sweet as snuggling with your granddaughter while she falls asleep! And then it was touching to see Alden tenderly and competently pick her up and transfer her upstairs while we all hovered and directed him (unnecessarily). Eowyn was a trooper taking the night shift with a two year old who would wake up and want her mommy and daddy. It was a great couple of days.

I’m so grateful that Becky was able and willing to drive Alden to college, because I would never have made it. I tried sharing the driving on that trip and managed to last just one hour.

In the end, my ankle injury actually eased the transition to the empty nest. By the end of August when Alden left, I was still living on the first floor and sleeping on a bed in the back room off the kitchen, with my clothes hung here and there and things generally discombobulated. Therefore, when he left, his absence was one more wrinkle in the general state of abnormality. If everything else in life had been status quo, I think I would have had a harder time with him suddenly being gone and with rattling around the house all by myself. Plus, I was so busy with my job during those first weeks that I hardly had time to think. I didn’t move back upstairs until mid-October, when Eowyn’s boyfriend Ben came to live with me for about a month while he had an internship in Philly, so the house was no longer empty anyway. I see the Lord’s tender care in using my ankle injury to make the empty nest transition gentler than it might have been. (Plus, I have discovered at least two upsides to living alone. I can come and go as I please, staying late at work if I want to, without inconveniencing anyone else, and I never, ever cook, which is fantastic!)

And how about this little detail? Southwest just started flying to the airport near Wofford in early 2011, which means that when I traveled with my barely functional ankle, I could check my bags for free and not have to lug them around with me. So nice! It was wonderful to see family at my nephew’s wedding, and when I went to San Francisco, I went two days early and visited Al’s brother and sister-in-law, whom I never get to see. (And I also got to have dinner with Alasdair’s college roommate and his wife.)

Although physical therapy required a lot of time, it was such a blessing! The office I went to (Northwest Physical Therapy in Wyndmoor) is fantastic. I would recommend them to anyone who needs PT. My therapist was more help than I can even describe—coaching me, pushing me, encouraging me, advising me about when to push through the pain and when to back off of a certain exercise for a couple of days. I’m a little embarrassed to say that last Wednesday on my way back to work after my last PT appointment, I cried. It may sound silly, but all the folks there have sort of become family, and I’m going to miss them. To my amazement, I can now do the exercises that I watched other patients doing and thought I would never be able to do. My ankle is often uncomfortable, sometimes outright painful, but it’s so much better than it was and still has about four months to improve before time to improve runs out. It seems that at the times when I was most discouraged by how slow the progress seemed to be or by how much it still hurt, I would run into an unusual number of people whom I hadn’t seen in a while who would be amazed at the progress I had made. At first I wanted to complain and to make sure they knew that it might look on the outside as if I had come a long way, but that inside my skin it still hurt a lot. But after a while I realized that the Lord was bringing those people along at just that time to encourage me. I needed to look back and be reminded of how far I had come, and he was going out of his way to nudge me to remember that. Of course he had to give me eyes that could recognize his hand in that. He’s so tender.

People have been very kind to help me. After Alden went away to school, one of my former students came over every Monday during the fall and mowed the lawn and trimmed the hedge! The place has never looked so well-kept, that’s for sure. Another example of the Lord’s gentle care.

I did get to see Adara at 10 days and at 5 weeks old, by which time I was able to drive the seven hours to NH. AND, all the family was here for Christmas. Glorious! Some came early and some stayed late, but everybody overlapped for that weekend, and it was soooo nice to all be together. Even Ben was here, and then he and Eowyn went to his parents’ house in Cleveland.

In the end, I do still have my job, for which I am enormously thankful. But I am also thankful to have ridden that rollercoaster of uncertainty and of facing the possibility of being laid off. It forced me to think outside the box about what I might do next. I love, love, love my job, but I have always held it lightly, knowing that the economy is bad and that therefore it could evaporate at any moment. I think that helped when I thought that it was about to end. Surprisingly, I never felt fearful or panicked. I knew the Lord would provide for us one way or another. Chances of my finding another dream job seemed unlikely, but I figured that even if ended up cleaning office buildings at night, like a friend of mine, that would leave my mind free to think, pray, plan things I might like to write, etc. And even if I ended up with a truly dismal job, there is fruit that can come from that too. One of our pastors had a job like that for ten years, and what that experience worked into his character and his relationship with the Lord has served to bless the rest of us ever since. I had to weigh questions like, “If I could find another dream job but it was somewhere else that was farther away from my children and grandchildren, should I take it?” Or, “If I’m going to look for just any old job, should I move near my granddaughters and look there?” Or, “I’ve often thought that I might like to teach English as a second language. Should I try that out on a volunteer basis to see if I really do like it and then get certified to do that?” (Actually, that last idea is still worth thinking about even though I do have my job, because I could see starting an ESL program through our church for non-English speakers in our town.) But what was neat as I considered options, was that I knew the Lord would be in it, that he would take care of us, and that in a weird sort of way, the next chapter might even be exciting. I am extremely thankful to still have my job, but I am also thankful that I had to work through the possibility of losing it. It was a healthy and fruitful process.

And finally, the hard and heavy things in the lives of people I love. It’s true that I have missed Al pretty terribly during those times and that I’ve felt the burden of handling them alone. But that has forced me to go to the Lord as I would have to Al, and the Lord has been there. He walked with me on the days when my heart was heavy, and he has encouraged me that he is a God who redeems people and situations. I’ve seen him do it. We live in a broken world, and we are broken people, each of us in various ways, but he is in the business of healing, restoring, and bringing health, hope and life to people and light into darkness. Just two weeks ago I felt concerned and discouraged about a situation, so I turned off all the lights and sat in a rocking chair in the dark living room and just prayed. As I did, I had such a sense of the Lord’s mighty, glorious majesty. He is able. He is alive, and present, and he can do all things. Often I have had a sense of the Lord’s presence with ME, of him coming alongside me in whatever situation I was dealing with. But this was different. This was a sense of my being present with HIM, in his throne room. He is there in majesty, power and awe, the Creator of the universe, mighty to rule and mighty to save. Somehow, remembering that THAT is the God who is my Father and who loves and cares for me and for the people I love, put everything into perspective. In situations where there is nothing I can do to help, I can pray, and that is an awesome thing to be able to do. It is actually probably the most helpful thing. And it reminded me that I am absolutely not alone at all. Since that night I have sometimes sat in the dark and put on a CD of worship music and just worshiped in the Lord’s presence, and then prayed. I have to say, I’m ready to conclude that undistracted time in the throne room may be the best antidote for what ails any of us.

I still miss Al. We all do. It’s not every day or all the time, but we still feel his absence. Things are bittersweet, and the sweeter they are, the more bitter it is that Al is not here for them. Like the birth of Adara, or Alden graduating from high school. The Society of Biblical Literature holds an annual meeting that Al always went to. Always. So when I was there for the first time this year, it felt very much as if I were walking around in his world. At Christmastime I went to a party at the home of some students, and at one point we sang carols, including some of the less-often-sung ones. There must have been 50 of us crammed into two small rooms and up the stairs, all singing with gusto; it was great. But suddenly I heard the carols in a way that I hadn’t before. When we sang “O Come All Ye Faithful” and sang “Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation, sing all ye citizens of heav’n above…” it suddenly struck me that Al is already one of those citizens, singing in exultation as he beholds God face to face. Or in “Once in Royal David’s City” it says, “And our eyes at last shall see him, through his own redeeming love, for that child so dear and gentle is our Lord in heav’n above, and he leads his children on to the place where he is gone.” Al is there. Or in “As with Gladness Men of Old” it says, “In the heav’nly country bright need they no created light; thou its light, its joy, its crown, thou its sun which goes not down; there forever may we sing alleluias to our King.” Amen! Ahhh, it’s so good to picture Al there, in the eternal light of God’s presence, singing alleluias to our King.

Thank you for walking this road with us. I went back recently and read many of the comments that have been left here over the years, and I cannot tell you how deeply, deeply touched and blessed I was again by your love and support. It has been one of the very tangible ways that the Lord has shown his love to us, and it means more than words can say.

May he bless you richly, and may you enjoy the refreshment and re-orientation of time before his throne.



It’s been five years…

Posted in General at 8:41 pm by Libbie

Dear Friends,

I had hoped to write a full update from this past year, but I”m afraid it will have to wait for a day or two.

Talk to you in the near future…



Update at Four Years

Posted in General at 8:44 pm by Libbie

Another year has come and gone–four now, since Al left us. In some ways it’s hard to believe it’s been that long, and in others it seems forever.

We had a wonderful day yesterday observing the date. Becky came home from Maryland for the day, and Eowyn surprised us and came home from Ohio for the weekend. Alden and I were astonished to see her walk in the front door Friday night! It was nice to have the four of us together. Plus, a tradition has developed that a few of Al’s close friends get together for lunch on Feb 5th. Nothing fancy or formal, but a time to reflect. Since the anniversary was a Saturday this year, their wives were able to join us too, which was great. We all shared memories of Al and appreciation of the blessing he was in our lives, and then they asked us, as they always do, how each of us is doing, another year down the road. Their love for Al and their interest in us continue to make us feel wrapped in God’s intimate care.

I’ll share with you some of the things I shared with them when it was my turn.

There are so many things I am thankful for from 2010. I love my job. What percentage of people on the planet can say that? It is a rare blessing to wake up each morning looking forward to the work you’ll be doing all day. That alone is wonderful, but I have also been realizing what a mercy it is to me to have something so engaging occupying so much of my attention at this particular point in my life. If I had lots of free time on my hands and not much to do with it, I think dealing with the grief would be much harder. It makes me think about the challenge several of my widow friends have faced.

I am thankful to see the kids moving on with their lives. It has been an indescribable blessing to me to have them nearby for most of the past four years. I can’t tell you how wonderful that has been and how much it has eased the pain for me–probably for all of us–to be together. But now they are picking up and moving forward.

Alasdair and Lauren moved to New Hampshire last June to start a Christian counseling center there affiliated with the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation here in Philly where Alasdair trained. They love being back in New England, and the center seems to be getting off the ground and growing. (See their website at www.ccef.org/new-england-affiliate-office or under www.ccef.org Right now Alasdair is featured on the “ask the counselor” section of the CCEF home page.)

Becky moved to Maryland in August to be a (jolly good) Fellow at the Trinity Forum Academy. She is over-the-moon in love with the place and growing in so many ways as well as having the time of her life. Reportedly, she is the life of the party, which doesn’t surprise us a bit. (See her blog at bgrovesfellowship.wordpress.com)

Eowyn moved to Ohio in August of 2009 to start college at the College of Wooster. She loves it there. She has made lots of new friends and is involved as a volunteer leader in Young Life, mentoring high school girls. She likes Wooster so much that she didn’t even come home last summer but stayed there and worked for the college.

Alden is enjoying senior year of high school MUCH better than junior year, has applied to a slate of colleges and is looking forward to making the final decision about where he will be next year. He joined the swim team last year on a bit of a lark, and now he is co-captain. In an amusing turn of affairs, he was voted “most outgoing” by his senior class of six hundred-some kids. It’s been really nice for me to have this time with him at home alone.

None of us will ever stop missing Al, and both his legacy and the pain of his absence will always be a shaping factor in our lives, but it gladdens me to see that they have healed enough to move forward into the future of their lives. God is faithful, and he is good.

I anticipate that the “empty nest” will feel very empty next year. I am someone who isn’t bothered by being along, but I will miss having someone to share dinner with and to talk over our days together. This too makes me aware of the hardship some of my widow friends have faced who lost their husbands after their kids were grown and who faced the silence and solitude of the empty nest immediately. It’s has been wonderful to have the kids around these past years. I will miss the kids, and the solitude will make me miss Al in yet a new way, but I have to admit that I will NOT miss cooking!

Of course one of the most wonderful things for all of us continues to be Alasdair and Lauren’s daughter Emily. She is the best! She is a year and a half old, which I think is one of the most fun ages, and she is all about non-stop action, new discoveries every day, learning, learning, learning, talking up a storm, being ridiculously cute, and spilling personality all over the place. What more could anyone possibly want? If you think I’m exaggerating, check out her blog at babyeclaire.blogspot.com.

Most of the time I live in the present of Emily’s existence. But every now and then something brings to the fore the painful reminder that Al is not here to know and enjoy her. That sadness, when I entertain it, is like a stab in my heart.

About a month before Al died we stopped on the way home from a medical appointment downtown to visit friends who had just had a new baby. The father took a picture of Al holding the baby, and I remember thinking even in that moment that that tiny, bundled little guy was unknowingly standing in for any future grandchildren we might someday have.

Last week I was corresponding with those same friends, who now live overseas and whose son just turned four last month, and I mentioned that I’d been remembering that day that we saw them in the hospital. The next day they sent me a copy of the picture of Al holding their son. I already knew what the picture would look like, so I didn’t anticipate it having quite the impact that it did, and I made the mistake of opening it before class. Oh boy. It’s the look of excitement and joy in Al’s eyes that undid me. He loved babies, and he loved these friends, and on top of that they had suffered several miscarriages before this son was born, so his delight at the safe arrival of this little tyke knew no bounds.

Looking at the picture and seeing Al so obviously thrilled with that little child made it as painful as a lance through the chest that he will never know our any of our grandchildren. He would be out-of-control, over-the-top excited about Emily and would probably drive all of his friends and colleagues nuts talking about her all the time. I can see it in his eyes in that picture. It grieves me beyond words that he doesn’t have that chance.

And the flip side of it is that Emily will never have the chance–in this life–to know him. She likes to look at pictures, and sometimes when we look at photos, Al is in them. And I realized that he doesn’t have a name. Would he have wanted to be Grandpa (the name he called his grandfathers and that our kids called his dad)? Or Poppy (what our kids called my father)? Or something else? He and I had never talked about what we wanted grandchildren to call us, so I don’t know if he had ever thought about it or what he would have chosen. I only ever knew one of my grandparents. Of the other three, two lived long enough that my older cousins got to know them and had a name for them, so we knew of them by those names. To us, the third was simply “Mommie’s mother.” It makes me sad to think of Al being relegated to that status. Ironically, when Alasdair called yesterday it came out, before I even brought up the topic, that he had been thinking exactly the same thing and had decided that he would refer to Al as “Grandpa.” So for Emily at least, that is settled and Al now has a name. I’m glad.

It is wonderful to think that in heaven Emily will meet her Grandpa, and he will meet her, and the two of them will have a lovely time getting to know each other, comparing notes about how God was faithful in their lives, ways that they grew to know him, and any number of other things. (Whether any of us will care in that place about lesser things that happened in this life or not I don’t know– maybe they’ll talk about those things too–but aspects of their relationships with God and how those grew in this world where they walked by faith and not yet by sight will matter.) How nice that will be! It’s just one more reason that I look forward to being there someday. Won’t it be fun for my mom to meet Emily too! She was excitedly looking forward to her first great-grandchild, but she died a month before Emily was born. Mmmm, the anticipation of heaven is delicious to savor.

One more thing that I am thankful for of late is that the computer center Al founded–formerly known as “The Westminster Hebrew Institute,” but renamed in 2006  “The J. Alan Groves Center for Advance Biblical Research”–FINALLY received non-profit status a few weeks ago. Hurray! Now at last we can begin fund-raising for the center and hopefully move forward toward further stages of the vision that Al had of using the computer in the study of the ancient Hebrew text. While he was alive the center made great strides and accomplished a great deal that underlies most of the Bible software available today, and he left it in the capable hands of Kirk Lowery, who has done a wonderful job carrying forward that plan. But there is still much more to do that Al envisioned, and at last we can forge ahead on it. Maybe some time later I will post something about what the center is up to and its vision for the near and distant future. In the meantime, if you are interested in that sort of thing, check out the website at www.grovescenter.org.

And so, on we go. I assured Al before he died that the Lord would take exquisite care of us, and he certainly has done that and continues to do so. I could not possibly begin to list all our blessings here–not even by category! The Lord has been SO faithful, and tender, and intimately involved in our lives and in caring for our needs of body and soul. Much of that care has come through people who have loved us lavishly as well. We feel surrounded, and supported, and carried.

I could write so many stories of ways that the Lord has been here and has helped me take care of things that I would never have believed I could do as a single woman homeowner–buying a used car, replacing the furnace when it broke, switching electric suppliers, and getting the house insulated, to name just a few. In each case he took care of things in such a way that I never felt that angst, or panic, or alone-ness of being a single woman without a clue. Which is not to deny that I am a single woman without a clue about those sorts of things! But that is precisely the point. Even as such, I have not once felt alone. The Lord has been right here with me, and together we have handled those things. Or more accurately in many cases, he has handled them and I have simply watched. It has truly been amazing.

Well, this update has become very long. Sorry about that. I’ll stop now and pray that wherever you are and whatever path you are walking, the Lord will walk it with you, and you will be aware of his presence alongside you. May you have eyes to see his majesty and may it take your breath away, and may his tender mercy give you strength for the journey.

All praise to his glorious name,




Posted in General at 9:24 am by Libbie

Today it is four years since Al moved home. I would like to write some thoughts and catch you up on where we all are, but I have a full day ahead, so that will probably have to wait until tomorrow or some day hopefully very soon.

Thanks for walking along on this journey with us. God is SO good, and you are a big part of his goodness to us!



an amazing surprise

Posted in General at 5:32 pm by Libbie

I want to tell you about a wonderful evening that happened last spring and about the reason for it, which has just now come to fruition. Let me tell you the story just as I experienced it.

Last spring we were supposed to have a cook-out with the Old Testament families at Doug and Rose Greens house, so I baked a cake, which was my part of the food assignment, and arrived about 2 minutes after the appointed time. There were lots of cars parked in front of the house, and as I headed through the house toward the back deck I could see that there were lots of people out back. That was surprising, but Rose is a free spirit and very hospitable, so I figured she had decided to expand the guest list and that later I would find out how that had materialized. As I spotted some of the faces I saw that they were all wonderful friends of ours and knew that this would be a great time.

When I stepped onto the back deck it should have struck me as odd that all these people were here so far ahead of the time we were supposed to gather, but that didnt register. The conversations sort of stopped and everybody looked at me, but sometimes in a crowd it happens that all the conversations come to a lull at the same time, and since that happened to happen at the moment that I came through I figured that is why they all happened to look over and notice my stepping out the back door. One person said Surprise! sort of jokingly, but I figured he was just commenting on the coincidence that all the talking happened to stop just at the moment when I arrived and was, by his comment, saying, Hey, this feels kind of awkward, like when somebody arrives at their surprise party and everybody yells, Surprise! So I still didnt think anything of it. Plus, there by the back door was my granddaughter Emily in Alasdairs arms, and while that should have seemed oddest of all, the delight of seeing her there drove al logic off the horizon. She has that kind of effect on me.

It wasnt until I heard Rose say to someone inside, Yes, shes just come through, (sort of like in the Truman Show) that it crossed my brain that this could be a surprise party for me. But there was absolutely no earthly reason for such a party. I couldnt think of a single reason, so I just stood there holding Emily and wondering what was going on.

Then Doug came out and said that it was indeed a surprise party for our whole family (with Emily standing in for Eowyn, who was at college out of state, Doug specified) and that we were to all stand in a certain spot and open a gift. Actually twin gifts, which we were to open at the very same time, since they were exactly the same gift. There was some hilarity to the opening, since Bev Rutledge had wrapped them beautifully in multiple layers, but when we finally opened the last layer, there in a box lay a spiral bound manuscript. I saw a picture of a pastoral (as in sheep in a pasture) scene. I saw the words Eyes to See, Ears to Hear and I quickly ran through a few book titles in my head that sound something like that. But this was none of those. Then I saw Als name on the front cover. Then I saw the names of the editors: Peter Enns, Douglas J. Green, Michael B. Kelly. And then I noticed the line Essays in Memory of J. Alan Groves. And finally it registered what I was holding in my hands. It was a festschrift. Thats a fancy German name for a book that contains essays written in someones honor by colleagues in his or her field. Often it is published on the occasion of the honorees retirement. All of that took a few seconds to run through my mind.

I started to cry.

Then I opened the book and saw the table of contentsa foreword by Moises Silva; tributes by Sinclair Ferguson, Sam Logan, Eep Talstra and Ed Welch; articles by Tremper Longman, Bruce Waltke, Doug, Pete, Mike, Adrian Smith, Karen Jobes, Chris Fantuzzo, Brad Gregory, Sam Boyd, Bill Egar, and Kirk Lowery. All wonderful friends of Al who were precious to him and dear to his heart. The title comes from something that Al used to pray all the time. He almost always closed his prayers with the request that God would give us eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand. I couldnt even imagine the time and effort by so many, especially Pete, Doug and Mike, that had gone into creating this book. What a gift! I was completely blown away and didnt know what to say.

Then followed a scrumptious dinner on Doug and Roses back deck with all of us tucked in cozily around a big long table on a clear early summer evening with strings of twinkling lights and with fireflies in the trees. Doug unfolded the story of how this book had come into existence over the course of several years and how it had morphed even in the last two weeks prior to going to print. People who were present and who had written tributes for the book read theirs, and the tributes of those who were not present were read aloud by others. By the time Ed finished reading his I think we all had tears flowing.

We savored memories and reflections and appreciation, laughter and tears, sharing together with one heart the fondness we all had for Al, the ache of him being gone but also the joy of this amazing gift that so many people worked so hard and so long to put together to honor him. How so many people had kept this a total secret is completely beyond me! That in itself is something of a miracle.

As I thought about what this book represented I was blown out of the water by the depth, and breadth and perfection of it. Al never published much during his lifetime. A large part of the reason for that was that people always came first, and writing got pushed to the background. Al never regretted that choice, neither generally nor in any given particular situation. I don’t know how often it was even a conscious choice–it was simply the natural direction of his heart. But he did wish he could have done more writing as well.

But now the people he touched, and learned from, and taught, who were so precious to him and who were influenced by him in one way or another have done that job for him. This festschrift is perfect! In some ways it is almost more appropriate that Al’s name in print should be on work written by people he loved. He was always all about teamwork, and doing things together, and supporting and encouraging each other. (Its one of the reasons he loved Larry Birdfor all of Larrys amazing talent, he was a team player.) Academics place a great deal of importance on getting things published. Now Als friends have accomplished that on his behalf. The book is chock-full of thoughtful and interesting essays written by his colleagues and former students. In his case “publish or perish” became a distinctly either/or scenario, although he would not have chosen it to be that way. But these friends have turned it into a both/and option instead.

Pete, Doug and Mike had planned to have the surprise party this fall when the book would come to publication. But they found out the publisherP & R Publishingwas about to list it in their catalog that was coming out in June, and then I would be bound to find out about it, so they pushed the date up. Well, now its fall and the book is out. Its listed at ~$25, but if youre interested in reading it I know you can get it from WTSbooks.com for $16.25.

I cant begin to guess what Al would say about this. He would be touched beyond words at this lavish gift of love. Someday, I imagine, he’ll probably tell the authors himself. Meanwhile, if you are interested, I hope you will enjoy it. I have.

Be well in the Lords Care,




Posted in General at 12:22 pm by Libbie

Hello, friends.

Last year I started writing a blog post shortly after graduation reflecting on what the event had been like, but before I got very far into the writing, life took over and hijacked any time I thought I might have had, so it never got done. Now here it is a year later, another graduation has just come and gone, and it is time to try again. Perhaps I will succeed this time. If I do, I apologize that this will probably end up being long. Here goes

Last May, 2009, Alasdair and I both graduated from Westminster, he with a Master of Divinity and I with a Master of Arts in Religion. It was an emotional day. Some time in the week leading up to graduation I reckoned with the fact that although I was looking forward to graduating, I was also somewhat dreading the ceremony itself.

That was not at all surprising, given the history of the few graduations that had preceded it.

In 2006 I had driven Al to graduation and helped to figure out how to get things set up so that he could keep his leg elevated as inconspicuously as possible during the ceremony, since he had a blood clot in his leg. (He had also just learned that the cancer had spread to his brain.) Five days earlier we hadnt thought he would be able to make it to graduation at all, so he was pleased as punch to be there, even in terrible pain, and to read the names of the graduates as Academic Dean and to give them a solemn charge. Everybody knew that that would be Als last graduation, and I sat in the back with Sheri Welch and bawled, knowing that a day would come when Alasdair and I would cross that stage and Al would not be there to see it.

In 2007 I went to graduation, and Als absence was palpable, not only to me but to everyone present. He was mentioned, and quoted, and missed. I felt wrung out by the time it was done, but it was good to have been there.

In 2008 graduation was held at a different church. In fact, it was the same church where Als memorial service was held. I REALLY didnt have time to go, since both Eowyn and Alden were going to formal dances that night and I was involved in getting ready, picking up dates, taking myriad pictures in multiple locations, etc. But I went anyway, very briefly, because I knew that if the first time I was back in that building after Als service was for Alasdairs and my graduation, Id never make it through.

But in 2009 the ceremony was back at the church in Souderton where it was held in 2006 and 2007. Because of that, it felt as if the 2009 ceremony came right on the heels of 06 and 07Als last and then the first one without him. There was so much emotional baggage I was carrying into it, that its not surprising that I was dreading it.

As the time approached, I found that I wasnt really thinking much about the upcoming day. I assumed that was just because I was SO busy. But after a talk Eowyn and I had, I realized that more than that was going on. You see, if I downplayed the significance of graduation in my own mind, then maybe it wouldnt matter so much that Al wasnt there. If it was not a big deal, then I might feel less pain getting through it. I was subconsciously shielding my heart from something I knew was going to hurt a lot. Self-protective instinct kicking in.

But as Alasdair and I drove together to the rehearsal the day before, we talked about grief and other emotions, and the importance of processing our emotions in faith and how learning to do that well comes with practice, in a way. He had some great insights that were very helpful to me (you might eventually read them in the CCEF Journal of Biblical Counseling, or whatever its current online equivalent is called) and that enabled me to let go of the self-protective stance I had taken and to face graduation differently. I could say, Yes, its going to be a tough day. And yes, there will be lots of sadness and grief throughout it. But instead of distancing myself from fully feeling the joys of it so as to protect myself from fully feeling the grief of it, I will choose rather to face it head-on. I will march into the auditorium with my heart open to whatever comes. I will fully embrace all the great happiness and sense of accomplishment of finishing the race I began, and I will fully embrace the sadness of Al not being there to see it. (Nor my mom, who had talked about hoping to come south for graduation but who died a month before it.)

I had the sleeve of my academic gown well stocked with tissues.

As graduates, we filed in behind the faculty, so I did not have to be in the auditorium when they entered. That was merciful. I managed to keep my composure off and on through the first part of the ceremony, but then things got tougher.

Degrees are awarded by category from the highest to the lowest, starting with the PhDs. Alasdairs MDiv is higher than my MAR, so he received his degree before I did. (Weve gotten some good mileage out of that fact these past few years.) It is tradition at WTS graduations that although all applause is to be held until the last candidate in a given category has crossed the stage, when a graduate receives his or her diploma, any of their family members or friends in the audience may stand to honor them (and to be able to get better pictures). So I stood for Alasdair, very aware that the family, including Laurens parents from Massachusetts and Al’s brother, niece and nephew from Florida, were also standing somewhere behind me and that Al was NOT there on stage standing for and beaming proudly at his son. But then I looked again, and saw that Doug Green, and Mike Kelly, and a couple others of Als colleagues on stage WERE standing for Alasdair in Als place. Not surprisingly, I lost it.

I had a little time to pull myself together before it was time for the MARs to line up. Just before my name was called, I took a deep breath and set my eyes not to cry. But when I started across, a number of Als colleagues on the faculty stood up, and I could barely breathe. It meant so much to me. Even in the very moment it registered to me that they were standing for several different reasons. One was that they are my good friends whom I have known for a long time and with whom I have walked through some hard things. Another is that in a way I represented Al to them, and they were standing to honor the memory of a fallen comrade. And the third is that they also represented Al to me, and since their brother-in-arms was not able to be there to stand for his own family, they were standing in his place, in solidarity both with Al and with me. At that point I lost the battle against tears.

The Dean, who reads the names of the graduates but does not shake their hands, shook my hand, and the President, who does shake their hands, gave me a hug. It was quiet in the auditorium, but then someone (later I found out who) started clapping, and then the whole place broke into applause that went on and on while made my long way back to my seat. Again, I think it was people grabbing a chance, maybe a last, lingering opportunity, to clap for Al and for all he had meant to them and to Westminster. And for me too, I know, but also for Al. It was for both of us, and in an odd sort of way, I guess that made it like having him there beside me again. It was precious, and excruciating, and wonderful all at the same time.

Id more or less shut off the tears by the time the last category of degrees was awarded, but then we sang For All the Saints, and I was reduced to a puddle again. Ive loved that hymn since I first became a Christian as a teenager, but in the context of all that had just happened, it meant more than ever. (If you are not familiar with it, the lyrics are at the end of this post. Youll see what I mean.) I thought of Al who had lived a life of faith, following Jesusthe Captain he loved so muchand who was now at rest with him. I thought of him seeing the King of Glory now face to face and of the day thats coming when well join him in the Kings presence.

It was bitterly, sweetly, joyfully, sorrowfully real, and I allowed my tender, hurting/healing heart to fully feel each of those emotions. As a result of my conversation with Alasdair I refrained from putting up shields that would have protected me from the pain but would have forfeited the joys, and Im glad that I made that choice. I entrusted my heart into the Lords strong hands and let the deep, towering waves of both sets of emotions crash over it, and in the end my heart was still safe in Gods palms, cleansed and healthy from the salt water.

So now it is a year later. In many ways it is hard to believe that just a single year has passed. It has been FULL!

I have a granddaughter, Emily, who is just about the best thing that ever happened to anyone. (See http://babyeclaire.blogspot.com for pictures)

Eowyn has gone off to college and loved it so much that she isnt even coming home this summer; shes working for the college.

Alden has almost finished the long miserable slog that is junior year, and he and I have started visiting colleges.

Beckys job with World Harvest Mission currently has her in Greece running a retreat for which she is responsible for all the logistics for a couple hundred people. In August she will be heading off to a one year Fellowship in Maryland.

Alasdair and Lauren (and Emily if I dont succeed in kidnapping her) plan to move to VT/NH at the end of June to start a Christian counseling center.

And I have spent the last 11 months teaching Hebrew at WTS, which I LOVE! The year before last I had the privilege of serving as a Teaching Assistant in the Hebrew class for Karyn Traphagen and then for Doug Green, both of whom are awesome teachers as well as wonderful human beings, and I learned so much from them. When I first found out that Karyn would be moving away and that I would be trying to fill her shoes, I was keenly aware that that was going to be a daunting, monumental task, and I worried about it. But then it came out one day in conversation that if she had been a male she would have wanted to be a Navy Seal, and that actually made me relax. I figured that no one expects you to be able to replace a Navy Seal, so the pressure was off and I could just be myself and do my best. Turns out that for me it is pretty close to a dream job, and I am SO grateful for it. I love languages, love teaching, love the students, and love the room for creativity and the challenge of making things as clear as possible. Doesnt get any better than that. I think Al would be both proud and amused that I am inhabiting his old world and teaching some of his classes.

Life as a single parent and lone runner of a household, especially during the intensive Hebrew terms when we cram a full semester of Hebrew into 4 weeks, is busy and often stressful, and I spend a lot of time feeling hopelessly behind the eight ball. But Alden and I are eating meals, wearing clean clothes and speaking to each other, which I figure is pretty good. Expecting much more than that is probably unrealistic. Occasionally the lawn even gets mowed, although the house never gets cleaned.

Anyway, back to graduation, since thats what this blog post is supposed to be about. I found out this spring that I would be able to walk with the faculty at graduation and to sit on stage with them, and I was really glad about that. It is too soon for any of my students to be graduating, since I just started teaching last summer, but a few of the students from the class in which I was the TA graduated this year, and it was SO NEAT to watch them receive their diplomas! Now I understand the joy that professors have in seeing their students succeed. My students are like my kids, and Im so proud of them and happy for them.

The ceremony was much less emotional this year than last. I only cried once during the service. (And once afterward when a woman I had never met before said something kind that went straight to my heart and pressed the turn on tears button.) During the ceremony it was once again For All the Saints that got me. It made me miss Al, whose professional world I now live in. But it also made me smile through my tears when I pictured the glorious day breaking, the saints rising in bright array and the King of Glory passing on his way. Ahhh, ecstasy. I hear the distant triumph song even now.

Im sure there is tons else to tell, but this is l-o-n-g enough as it is.

May you know the strong, capable and loving hands of the Father holding yours as you walk on whatever path he has set before your feet.


For All The Saints
For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victors crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earths wide bounds, from oceans farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!


Breaking out the CD

Posted in General at 9:32 pm by Libbie

It has been a long, long time since I wrote anything here. There have been many things I would have liked to write about, important things, but I always want to write fully, and that takes more time than I have seemed to be able to marshal at a stretch during the past year. My time has been full of many very pleasant things, so that I cant complain, but it has not contained any gaps of an hour or so that are not clamored for by other tasks.
However, tonight the work week is over, Alden is downtown feeding the homeless with the youth group, and while I really should work on preparing for a retreat I am presenting next weekend or go out and start reclaiming the yard and garden after a winter of neglect, nothing is absolutely breathing down my neck, and I want to write about something that happened while I was washing the dishes tonight.
Three years ago, after Al died, I listened over and over and over to a CD of worship music put out by Sovereign Grace Ministries (the CD King of Grace). I kept it in the car and played it every minute I drove anywhere. Its lyrics spoke to my heart and lifted me to heaven, where Al was and where Jesus was, and its hope and glory comforted me. I listened to it for several months, all through the rest of that winter and into the spring. Then I put it away and purposely did not listen to it again.
At different times in the past I have done something similar, though not usually intentionally. It just happens that Ill listen to a song or a CD a lot for a period of time and then stop listening to it, and then years later when I hear it again it transports me instantly back to the time and place when/where I used to hear it. Im sure youve experienced that. I suppose its sort of like a low budget but quite effective form of time travel.
Well, when I was ready to put away King of Grace, I put it away very intentionally, hoping that someday when I brought it out again it would take me back to those first months after Al died.
For some reason I have missed Al a lot recently. More than usual. It may have been from being with his family last week over spring break (a great time, by the way, and a nice road trip there and back for Alden and me). Or it may have been because I came across a file in my file cabinets labeled planning with Al and remembered those last months when he and I talked about so many things that pertained to the time after he would be gonethe memorial service, life insurance, his papers and computer files, taxes, etc. etc. I remember at the time thinking that it seemed so unreal that I would soon be doing life without him. I couldnt imagine it. Now, looking back on it, that period of doing life with him seemsand isincreasingly distant.
Anyway, for whatever reason I have missed Al a lot these past few days. So tonight after Alden left I decided to get out the CD and see what would happen.
Not unexpectedly, when the first notes of the first song started, they stirred up the feelings, frame of mind and memories of winter/spring three years ago. And tears, of course. And I remembered why that CD was so perfect for that time. It vibrates with praise to Jesus for what hes done. It marvels at the unbelievable grace that takes Gods enemies and makes them his children. And it is awash with the glorious hope that we will one day stand in his presence and worship him face to face. I am sure that one of the wonderful comforts of those songs at that time was knowing that that was exactly where Al was and what he was doing. Al loved to worship and to spend time meditating on the Lord, and he lived and breathed a longing to be in Gods presence. I knew after he died that he was where he had always looked forward to being. And I knew that someday we would join him and worship the Lord together again.
Its always good to be reminded of those truths and promises, but tonight I heard them with the same sense of immediacy that I had had heard them with three years ago. In my experience, when someone you love has just moved to heaven, and you know that they are there in Gods very presence, worshiping him with total abandon, your heart and mind are thinking of that glory all the time, and your ears are eagerly tuned to catch strains of heavenly voices singing along as you worship. The time and space between you and the heavenly throne room seems like nothing at alljust the thinnest of veils that might be pulled back at any second. The rest of your life on this earth seems like barely a blip, and then youll be there.
That is the way I listened to those songs three years ago, and suddenly I was hearing them the same way tonight. I was so keenly aware of the indescribable GLORY of Jesus and so bowled over by his unfathomable grace and mercy, that I had to take off my rubber gloves, kneel right there on the kitchen floor, raise my hands in praise and sing with everything in me. I dont know what the neighbors thought if they heard or saw me, but I dont really care. Thinking of what my Lord went through for me on the cross and what he won for me by his death and resurrection takes my breath away. What a savior! What a mind-blowing, history-altering thing that HEISRISEN! The tomb is empty! All those wonderful Easter glories that we just celebrated (well, we didnt exactly, because we were in the car all day on Easter, but other people did) are true and real, and they make all the difference in everything.
Through the humdrum of daily life as well as the high points and low points of the past three years, the reality of Jesus victory over death has sustained us, given us hope, and brought joy in the midst of sadness. It has been the rock on which weve stood and lived, and that rock has been firm and unmoving. But inevitably the sense of the nearness of heaven fades, and since we all assume we will live to a ripe old age (and perhaps because I am still age 18 in my head), this life seems as if it will last a long time. It was an unexpected treat tonight to have that ho-hum mindset blown right out the door by the wind of Easter and to experience once again the heart-stopping glory of a few moments worshiping at Gods feet. Of course we can worship God anywhere, any time, and we are always just a prayer away from his throne. But I think I have been feeling sort of dry and distant for a while now, and tonight it seemed as if the curtain was drawn back and the brilliant light of heaven shone down like a spotlight into my kitchen, and I was almost-as-good-as there in his presence and overwhelmed by his grace. The heart of it all was not, Hey, Im having a neat spiritual experience, or Wow, I feel close to Al right now as I am so aware of heaven, although those were true. It was, Jesus is so far above any words I could ever come up with to express his majestyI can do nothing but sing my heart out and then marvel in silence. What an amazing thing to think that that is what Al is experiencing all the time. He must be enthralled!
There are dozens of other things I would love to write about, but thats all I have time for right now. Maybe Ill get another unclaimed, or at least negotiable, hour before next year, and I can fulfill my promise to write about some of the big events of last spring/summer. Heres hoping!
Meanwhile, may you be wonderfully aware of Gods presence and his amazing love for you.



Posted in From Al & Libbie, General, Updates at 8:31 pm by Libbie

The birth of Emily Claire Groves at 12:54 a.m. today (June 14). Lauren was amazing, both she and the baby are doing fine, and we are all thrilled to welcome Emily into the world!

So much joy!

More later,



A season of many life events…

Posted in From Al & Libbie, General, Reflections, Updates at 9:38 pm by Libbie

So much to writeso little time

Once again it has been a long time since I wrote anything here on the blog. There have been a number of times that I have wanted to write and various events that I wanted to write about, but the time has just been too ridiculously busy. So I am going to attempt to tackle them one at a time, and if I cant get them all done today, hopefully I will get back to the keyboard in the days ahead. Let me tell you about (1) a presentation Eowyn did at school about her dad, (2) my mothers death, (3) Alasdairs and my graduation from Westminster, (4) changes in the Biblical Hebrew computing center Al founded, (5) my upcoming job, and (6) last but most certainly not least, the imminent arrival of my first grandchild. Well see how many of those six I can actually cover today.

[inserted note: I wrote that first paragraph and most of what is below on May 30, and now it is June 7! Hence, I think I will post what is here and then hope to write more in the days ahead. Ha! Well see if that happens]

In Eowyns interdisciplinary class they were given an assignment to do some sort of presentation on stage with one other person about a life changing event. Or it might even have been the event that most changed your life, I dont remember. Its a no brainer what event has most changed Eowyns life. I knew she was working on this project, but I didnt know the details. She invited me to come in to observe on the day she presented, and I did. Oh man.

One of Eowyns good friends played Al, and besides being a really good sport to be involved at all, he did a very good job playing the part. The fact that they have been friends since 7th grade made it more special, I thought.

Eowyn started out as a baby being rocked in Als arms. Then she was a toddler delightedly being chased around by him. Then he gave her a piggyback as a preschooler. Then he was teaching her how to ride a bike. (All this was effectively staged with minimal props and lots of imagination, and she kept adding, subtracting or tweaking parts of her costume to fit her aging self. There was music in the background, but no speaking.) Then, Al and Eowyn were dancing.

Then as her attention was diverted by some activity, he began to quietly and bravely show signs of pain and sickness and ended up lying on the floor. Eowyn wept over him as he died, but then he stood up again, climbed an eight or ten foot step ladder, and sat on top of it, looking down on the ensuing scenes. Eowyn showed grief, anger, depression, listless apathy, quiet sadness.

Life events continued. She showed the audience a learners permit with great excitement, and Al rang a little bell from atop the ladder, but she couldnt hear it, and her excitement quickly faded to sadness. Then she stood on a chair in cap and gown and cheered as she graduated, and Al rang the little bell, but again her happiness faded very quickly to grief. Then she appeared with flowers and a veil and walkedalonedown the aisle for her wedding, with unheard bells ringing from heaven, but she burst into tears and hurried off stage.

Then she came back on stage as a mature adult and interacted comfortably, smilingly, with imaginary people. But even as she mimed conversation with them, she began donning a white blouse. Once she had it on, she happily gave them a casual wave good-bye, turned, went to the ladder and climbed it. There she was welcomed by Al, who hugged and held her and gave her the bell, which she rang with joy. Curtain.

I was a mess. I had bawled through the whole thing, and I continued to bawl all the way back to the seminary, just in time for a midterm exam. The presentation was simple and profound, and it laid open Eowyns heart, and all of ours, for the world to seethe wonderful father Al was, the longing for him, the sharp pain of his absence, the hope of heaven. It was simply, and vulnerably, and excruciatingly beautiful. I wish I had it on tape to show you.

Two days after that presentation came spring break. We flew to and from the wedding of a very dear friend who is practically family and then left immediately from the airport to drive to southern Florida to visit Als family. On the way I got a call that my mother had gone into the hospital and was in the ICU. As it became clearer that her condition was pretty serious, I booked a flight to Hartford, leaving just 26 hours after we had arrived at Mom and Dad Grovess house. (Last year we completely missed our annual trip to their house because my dad died at just that time. This year at least Eowyn and Alden got to stay there for a few days, and then Eowyn drove herself and Alden homea 24 hour trip!)

I was able to be with my mom from Wednesday to Sunday, and the time was so precious. She was very much herself most of the time, and yet changed too. For example, she had always been the sort of person who took other peoples burdens on her shoulders and who woke up at ~2:00 a.m. nearly every night of her adult life and lay awake trying to solve the worlds problems, as she always put it. Worry was an old friend. But that Wednesday that I arrived, she kept marveling and reminding herself over and over that she didnt need to worry about anything. (At times it was almost comical as she told the nurses they didnt need to worry about anything either, including whatever it was they were doing to care for her at that moment.) I was surprised when she said, My dear Lord Jesus Christ will take care of everything. Her sense of relief was palpable as the burdens rolled off her shoulders into Gods hands. What a gift.

One of my sisters and I were there together (the other two having been there earlier), and apart from one truly awful night, the time with Mom was wonderful. We reminisced, and talked, and helped the staff with her care as we were able. One night she and I sang some hymns, and I was surprised, given how weak she was, how much gusto she mustered to sing them. She talked eagerly about being in heaven soon and how good that would be, and she talked about seeing the Lord, and seeing various people who have died, including Al.

The whole thing was amazing. It seemed as if the Holy Spirit had instantaneously downloaded a deep, immediate, intimate grasp of Gods grace. Im so thankful for those days I had with her. I had to leave Sunday, but two of my sisters were there on Tuesday, when she died. I miss her.

We split up the job of calling relatives and friends, and when I called our only relative in Pennsylvania, a cousin of my dads who has always been the coolest lady and whom I love to death, I learned that she had just been put on hospice with congestive heart failure. I drove out to Harrisburg to see her that Saturday, and the next Wednesday the kids and I were able to visit her for the last time. She was physically weak, but sharp as a tack and funny as ever with her delightful dry wit. She passed away exactly one month after my mom.

My heart felt awfully weary from missing people I love.

Death was not meant to be a part of this world the way God originally made it. It came in as part of an assault on his character and remains an affront to his nature as the Creator of Life. When Jesus was here he felt the anguish of death. He wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. It is at times like these that I am SO thankful that he came to fix the problem of Death! Because he experienced death himself and then rose from the dead, he has broken its power over himself and over his people. That makes all the difference!

Today, as I think of Al, and my mom, and Franny in heaven, free from pain, sin and sadness and enjoying LIFE to the fullest, I am comforted. I know that they are in Gods very presence, and God is present with us, so the divide between us seems minimal. Only a matter of a few years (however long we live here) separates us, and then we will be together again. We will move from life to LIFE, just as they have, all thanks to Jesus.

[so as not to delay another couple of weeks in posting this, I am going to stop here and hope to continue sometime soon. Blessings to one and all Libbie]


Two Years Later

Posted in General at 11:24 pm by Libbie

Dear Friends,

Thursday having been the two-year anniversary of Als death, I thought Id write a brief update to let you know how were doing and whats up, since I havent written anything here since November.

There have been a number of holidays in the interim, and of course they always make us think of Al and feel his absence. Thanksgiving we celebrated here with friends from the areaor from far enough away that it was too far for them to go home. On Als birthday the plan was to get together as a family for a dinner of some of Als favorite foods. But in the afternoon Lauren called to say that the company she works for, which has season tickets to box seats at the sports arenas downtown, had 6 free tickets to the 76ers game that night, complete with complimentary food. We decided that Al would have jumped at the chance to go to the game (basketball being natures perfect sport), so we went in his place and had a great time cheering and feasting. Christmas Eve Eowyn was in a drama, but aside from that Christmas was low-key, which was really nice. We stayed in our pajamas all day, watched movies together, and relaxed. Then my birthday coincided with the start of the January term.

In that term I was the Teaching Assistant for a Hebrew course that crams a full semester into 4 weeks. Talk about intense! It was a month of lots of work and not much sleep, but I loved it. Karyn Traphagen was the instructor, and she is FABULOUS. I learned so much working for and with her (as well as figuring out technological things like how to import Hebrew fonts into Word documents, etc) that I commented to Alden at one point that I thought I could actually feel my brain growing. So that is what Ive been doing (apart from the endless and time-consuming process of applying for financial aid for Eowyn for next year).

Eowyn is in that lull in the college application process between the flurry of paperwork involved in getting the applications in (essays, more essays, never-ending forms, etc.) and the business of deciding where to go once the acceptance/rejection/financial aid letters arrive in the spring. Shes glad to have the ball be in the colleges court for a while so she can take a breather. Meanwhile she has been co-leading a group of the junior high girls at church and loving being involved with them.

Alden has been enjoying hanging out with friends, playing pick-up sports and doing just enough school work to do well but not stressing out about it. When he has a group of friends over to play Rock Band or to watch a movie, I have strict instructions about how much I am allowed to be in evidence.

Becky is still working at a nearby non-profit organization where they are riding the ragged edge of the economic downturn. Non-profits everywhere are getting slammed by the faltering economy, with lay-offs or salary cuts, or both, so the future feels uncertain. If you have any extra dollars, consider sending a few to your favorite non-profit. Many of our friends in various professions are finding themselves suddenly out of work. In fact, we are grieving with and praying for a number of friends who were laid off from one institution just today. But Becky is always fun to have around in spite of any sense of impending doom in the economic world.

Alasdair is in his last semester at Westminster, so he and I will graduate together in May, and Lauren is still working at the same job shes had since 06. The big news is that they are expecting a baby in Junea little girl! Needless to say we are incredibly excited!!! Alden is rooting for his niece to be born on his birthday.

And that brings us to the present. On the anniversary of Als death we had supper together as a family, and earlier in the day a few of us got together for lunch in one of Als old haunts. It was good, if tearful, to reflect on the past two years. In some ways, the event seemed sadder than last years marking of it, and Ive since thought about why that might be.

A year ago someone commented to one of us that we were finally almost done with all the firststhe first holidays, birthdays, etc. without Al. The first of each of those is hard because of course you feel the absence of the person who is gone, and you remember how he was there with you just the year before. Nonetheless, I remember thinking at the time that I didnt really want to be done with the firsts. That first year was like a river we were floating down, and while we were passing all those landmarks, we were still closely connected to the event that had initiated themAls death. But once we reached the end of the firsts, we left the familiarity of the river and were propelled into the big sea of the rest of our lives. We had crossed a boundary. Sure, we would continue to mark time, and to celebrate birthdays and holidays, and to observe the anniversary of Als passing, but it would all be part of life after Al in a more nebulous way that would just stretch into countless years. The first year was tightly connected to its inception in a way that all subsequent years wouldnt be. Maybe its just that during the series of firsts you brace yourself for each event, and adrenalin kicks in, and there is something acute about each one that links you painfully but intimately with the one who is gone. After that, they become just things that mark the passage of timea time of unknown durationuntil we are together again.

Anyway, I have found that Ive missed Al more over the past six weeks or so. The best explanation Ive come up with for that is that being involved in winter Hebrew was like stepping back into Als old world, except that he was not there. Al taught that winter Hebrew class for years, and years, and years, and as we went over grammar rules, or vocabulary, or issues in translation, I kept being reminded of him talking about those things. I could almost hear his voice saying some of the same things Karyn was saying It was sort of odd to be there in the class and not to see Al come strolling in to begin the lecture.

On the other hand, I have been so busy that I havent had much time to dwell on missing Al. Once before I wrote that I think there are (at least) three modes that we function in: (1) doing life, (2) feeling the sadness of missing Al, and (3) rejoicing as we think about the indescribably wonderful life he is living that we have to look forward to. All three weave in and out of our days in a ramshackle fashion. But I have been so busy lately that Ive had my mind mostly on (1). With the frequent reminders of Al that I mentioned above, there has been a fair bit of (2) as well, but not as much of (3). I need to stop what Im doing and take some time to slip into the Throne Room, to kneel quietly before the majestic God who sits on the throne, to take in his glory, to marvel at his grace, to soak up the bright light of his presence, to dare to gaze into his eyes and see there the smile, and the love and the welcome of my Father. When I do that, the clouds break, the weight (of single parenting, of tasks undone, of the future) lifts, and I remember whator rather Wholife is all about. At those moments, I am so glad for Al that he is there already, seeing with his own eyes what I only catch occasional glorious glimpses of. What must that be like! Ah, to breathe the fresh air of heaven and to be in Gods presence!

Of course I live in Gods presence even now. Not as fully and really as Al is doing, only in a more distant way, but in his presence nonetheless. Id like to remember that in the course of daily life, when Im washing dishes, or grading Hebrew quizzes, or having dinner with the kids. And Id like to make sure that I purposely stop into the throne room more often, too, for the reality checks that I need.

Well, its gotten late, so I will post this, put away the vacuum cleaner and go to bed. In these days of economic uncertainty, may you find rest in the One who knows the end from the beginning and who takes infinite care of his children,



Wish You Were Here!!

Posted in General, Photos at 7:42 pm by Libbie


This came as a postcard from the mother of the family that Alden is staying with
in Spain. Pretty cool, huh?


February 10, 2007 Memorial Service Video Archives

Posted in General at 1:25 pm by Karyn

The February 10, 2007, webcast from the Memorial Service for Al is now available for viewing at your convenience. Click on the links below to stream the video from the various sections of the service. The streaming archives are in Quicktime format. If you do not have the Quicktime player and you have a PC, you can download it free here. If you have a Mac and you need to download Quicktime, click here.

Thank you for your patience in waiting for this video to be available. You can download a PDF copy of the Memorial Service program here.

Webcast Archive 1: 16 minutes
Welcome & Opening Prayer Terry Traylor
In Christ Alone
Psalm 84 Tremper Longman

Webcast Archive 2: 23 minutes
Reflections Rebeckah Groves, Warren Groves, Mike Kelly

Webcast Archive 3: 24 minutes
Take My Life
We Sing Your Mercies
Ephesians 3:14-21 Lauren Groves
Reflections owyn Groves, Bryan Groves, Ed Welch

Webcast Archive 4: 25 minutes

Shout to the Lord
Psalm 121:1-4 (in Hebrew) Pete Enns

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

Reflections Alden Groves, Doug Green, Alasdair Groves

Webcast Archive 5: 5 minutes
O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing

Webcast Archive 6: 20 minutes

Homily Sinclair Ferguson

Webcast Archive 7: 21 minutes

Blessed Be Your Name
On Jordans Stormy Banks I Stand
Closing Prayer Angelo Juliani

Worship Team Rick Winter (Worship Leader), Todd Bellinger, Kim Clement, Elaine Douds, Frank Horvath, Audrey Kress, Al Morris, Steve Ritter


A Letter Al Wrote for This Occasion

Posted in General at 5:43 pm by Karyn

This is the letter that was printed in the bulletin for the Memorial Service on Saturday.

program_cover.gifAs I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death, I have walked hand-in-hand with Jesus, the one who has already walked through that valley and come out the other side, alive, raised from the dead. And as I hold his hand and trust him, I too am raised with him, for this was his purpose in walking that path: to raise those who trusted in him. His rod and staff, his cross of suffering have become my comfort. Now as I have died, I come before the God, the king of the universe, and I come in Christ. He chose to suffer and die on the cross in my place, so that on account of him I might have forgiveness from sin and victory over death. And now I have received the resurrection and eternal life that has been my only hope, past, present and forever.

I have led a truly blessed life. At a young age, I realized that Jesus was not just a story in a comic book, but that he was real and I could actually know him. I wish I could describe to you what a powerful moment of understanding that was, and I have thought about it many times over the years, marveling over and over at the truth of this central fact. The Lord placed me into the perfect family where I was raised by loving parents with wonderful siblings. God gave me a wonderful wife who has been my joy as we have raised four wonderful children together. The Lord has given me the opportunity to be intimately involved in the lives of so many wonderful brothers and sisters, in our fellowship at college, as a pastor in Vermont, as an elder at New Life Church and as a professor at Westminster Seminary. Through family and ministry, I have had the privilege of loving and being loved by all of you, and I have been struck again and again by the deposit that each of you has left in my life. Read the rest of this entry »

More Photos

Posted in General at 9:00 am by Karyn


Hal Scanlin: “BHQ Editorial Committee members in Bad Urach, Germany, pictured left to right, Gerard Norton, Yohanan Goldman, Steve Pisano. Bob Bascom, Soetjianto, Hal Scanlin, Al Groves, Arie van der Kooij. Ray Dillard also attended a portion of the meeting to present his work on the book of Esther. Ray died several months later.”


Don Macha snapped this photo with his nokia cell phone camera: “At the New Life elders Christmas party this past December , Al began to share what God had taught him from Isaiah. Suddenly his weary face beamed as he shared the glory of the Messiah. Ron Lusk and I could only bask in the reflected light of the Savior Al loved so much!”


Tune In…

Posted in General at 9:04 am by Karyn

The family here in Philadelphia invites family and friends far and near to “tune in” with their internet connection to participate in the Memorial Service for Al.

Starting just prior to 2 PM (EST) we will begin streaming live from New Covenant Church in Philadelphia (the site of the Memorial Service). At that time (please wait until just before 2pm to connect), you can click on the link below and a new window will pop up with the webcast. If access gets overwhelmed and you are not able to connect, we will still make available the recording of the service later this week.

Memorial Service for Al Groves
Saturday, Feb 10, 2 PM (EST)
Live Streaming Webcast
Click Here

For best audio, move the slider to just behind the download feed. This will eliminate any “choppy” audio.

We will post a copy of the service bulletin as soon as we can (we are sorry that we did not have that in time for the service).

UPDATE NOTE: There were over 400 computers (many representing multiple people) accessing the webcast. We are so thankful that you were able to participate in remembering Al along with those in Philadelphia. An archive of the broadcast will be made available online later this week.


Memorial Service Live Webcast

Posted in General at 3:31 pm by Karyn

We have been able to successfully arrange for Al’s Memorial Service on Saturday to be available live on the internet for family and friends who are unable to attend the service in Philadelphia. The service begins at 2pm (EST) on Saturday, and we will begin live broadcasting just prior to that time. Please come back to the blog on Saturday at 2pm and use the link that will be in place to direct you to the live webcast. If you are unable to watch the live webcast we will be making an edited streaming version available as an archive later in the week.

To view the broadcast you should have Windows Media Player installed on your computer. If you do not already have the player, you can download it for free here.


Two Notes

Posted in From Al & Libbie, General, Updates at 7:31 am by Libbie

Here are two notes relative to the memorial service on Saturday, one for those who cannot come, and one for those who can:

If you cannot attend the service, experiments are underway to try to film it in such a way that you can watch it live on this blog site. If the technological wizards who know how to do such things succeed, that will be confirmed here so you will know ahead of time. Al was always fascinated by developments in technology, so we know hewould get such a charge out of this.

If you are planning to come to the service, I thought I would let you know how the children and I are planning to dress. We will wear black because of the deep sorrow and terrible loss that death has dealt us. But we will also be wearing colorful clothes to celebrate the fact that death is defeated and Al is now enjoying Life, and health, and beauty and color that wecan’t even imagine. You may feel free to wear strictly somber colors, if you prefer,or to join us in including splashes of bright colors of victory if you are comfortable doing so. We look forward to seeing you there!




Posted in From Al & Libbie, General, Reflections at 10:14 pm by Libbie

Here is the obituary that was sent to the Philadelphia paper. If they print it at all, they will probably shorten it, so I thought I’d just put it up here as well. [UPDATE NOTE: The Philadelphia Inquirer obituary is now online here.] If you are interested in an account of Al’s more academic life, there is one on the Westminster website.

James Alan Groves was born December 17, 1952 in Springfield, Missouri to James and Jacqueline Groves. He was later joined by brother Warren, sister Jill, and brother Bryan. Their family lived in Springfield, Missouri; Bartlesville and Cushing, Oklahoma; Mankato and Rochester Minnesota; and Aberdeen, South Dakota, where Al graduated from high school in 1971. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted in General at 12:16 pm by Karyn

If you have a photograph of Al and would like to share it (with a brief description of the photo), please email it here. We will format the photos and post as many as we can on the blog (so keep checking back to see new additions).

Linda Foh passes on this photo: “That famous dance team “Longman, Groves & Dillard”, representing the WTS O.T. Dept., entertained at Fun Night in November 1982.” (The infamous Tiqtol through the Tulips… or was it Yiqtol through the Tiqtols… but in any case, the rendition was surely better than even Tiny Tim‘s own forTiptoe through the Tulips.)

Joe Troutman sends this photo, “This was taken on 1/31/07 at Al and Libbie’s home. We enjoyed a wonderful visit, and Al, always the pastor, took the time to pray for Elisabeth, Jennifer and me.”

Joe & Bev Fitzpatrick: “This is a photo of the last time we saw Al in May. We were in town briefly, stopping by for a “quick” hello at 7pm and Al offered to help Joe with a
computer problem. Hours later, long after we felt we had worn out our welcome (with 3 kids along), Al continued to problem-solve with his wonderful patience and persistence.”

George Kong: “This is photo of our two families when the Groves visited us in Idaho during the summer of 2001.”
Read the rest of this entry »

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