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 write…so 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 can’t 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 mother’s death, (3) Alasdair’s 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. We’ll 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! We’ll see if that happens…]

In Eowyn’s 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 don’t remember. It’s a no brainer what event has most changed Eowyn’s life. I knew she was working on this project, but I didn’t know the details. She invited me to come in to observe on the day she presented, and I did. Oh man.

One of Eowyn’s 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 Al’s 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 learner’s permit with great excitement, and Al rang a little bell from atop the ladder, but she couldn’t 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 walked—alone—down 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 Eowyn’s heart, and all of ours, for the world to see—the 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 Al’s 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 Groves’s 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 home—a 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 people’s 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 world’s 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 didn’t need to worry about anything. (At times it was almost comical as she told the nurses they didn’t 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 God’s 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 God’s grace. I’m 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 dad’s 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 God’s 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]


Father Billy’s Book Presentation

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Updates at 9:50 pm by Libbie

Hello, friends.

When I wrote last I mentioned an event that was coming up at which a friend was going to present his most recent book, which he dedicated to Al (More details in the entry below this one, if you’re interested). That presentation took place last night, and it was WONDERFUL!

Several of us went downtown to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary for the presentation, and it was such a blessing. First of all, the campus itself is fabulous. Those of us who had never been there were quite bowled over by its magnificence. Walking the (very long) corridors toward the library we felt the sense of grandeur and awe. It was also fascinating to step into a different seminary world for a few hours, to be surrounded by some of the priests and teachers who serve there and the young men who are studying to become Catholic priests, all in black clerical robes. Dennis (or more formally “Father Billy”) was introduced (I didn’t realize he had so many degrees that if they were all listed there would probably be as many letters after his name as in it!) and then spoke about the series of books he has written (the Classics with Commentary Series) and about each of the four volumes in it so far, explaining a bit about the individual character of the historical works, about his commentaries on them and about the aim of the series as a whole. I loved seeing Dennis in his new position as scholar in residence, where he seems to be warmly welcomed and appreciated. Al would have been so delighted to see Dennis happily serving a new flock and would have loved having him here in Philadelphia.

When Dennis finished talking about the most recent book in the series he gave the following moving tribute to Al:

At this point, I would like to say a few words about Al Groves, the person to whom I have dedicated my commentary on Spiritual Friendship. I would first like to read the brief biographical note about his life that appears on one of the book’s final pages. It reads:

“J. Alan Groves (1952-2007) was Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and founder of the Westminster Hebrew Institute (recently renamed the J. Alan Groves Center for Advanced Biblical Research). He was internationally known for his work in the application of computer technology to the study and teaching of the Hebrew Bible and language. In addition to being an eminent scholar, teacher, pastor, and administrator, he also had a profound love for God, family, and friends. His wife Libbie and his children—Alasdair, Rebeckah, Eowyn, and Alden—can easily attest to that, as can the many friends he made while a student at Dartmouth College (1971-1976), a pastor of the Congregational Church in West Fairlee, Vermont (1976-1979), and a student and later Professor and Academic Dean at Westminster (1979-2007). Al was a friend of Christ and extended that friendship to others. Everything he did flowed from his love of God and desire to share that love with others.”

I consider it an honor to have known Al and to have called him a good friend in Christ. I went to college with Al. We ran X-Country and track together at Dartmouth College. We were both members of The Dartmouth Christian Fellowship and were leaders of a youth group known as “Crusaders” run out of The Dartmouth Christian Union.

I decided to dedicate this book to him because he was probably the person in my life most responsible for helping me view my relationship with Christ in terms of friendship. Without his influence in my life, I probably never would have chosen a life of ministry in the Church. We came from different faith traditions, but respected each other for the choices we made, looked beyond the differences that separated us, and found a common bond of friendship that centered around our deep love for the Lord.

The dedication and this book presentation are my way of thanking Al publicly for his profound influence on my life and for teaching me something about the meaning of “friendship in Christ.”

The dedication reads:

In memory of
My good friend in Christ
J. Alan Groves (1952-2007)
A man of the Word,
A man of God,
A man of many friends

Al died on February 5, 2007 after a long battle with malignant melanoma, which spread from his lungs to his brain and then to various other parts of his body. He left behind a wife, two sons, two daughters and many close friends in Christ. I count myself blessed to be counted one of them.

Al, I believe you can hear me from the other side, where you celebrate life beyond the pale of death with your Lord, your closest friend and the true love of your life. I wish to thank you for showing me the riches of friendship with Christ. This book is a small sign of gratitude on my part for showing me the one thing that really matters in life. Thanks, Al, for pointing out this pearl of great price. I am grateful and am forever in your debt.

I don’t know about others, but Becky and I certainly didn’t have dry eyes at that point. Dennis himself managed to keep his emotions under control and his voice steady, but he admitted to the crowd that it was a struggle.

Dennis’s way of honoring Al, as he it tied in with Aelred’s teaching about the kind of friendship that Al and Dennis shared—one that encouraged them both in Christ—was so perfect. I can’t think of a better tribute, and I know Al would have been smiling from ear to ear if he had been sitting there in the seats with us. Of course he would have explained that the blessing of their friendship was not about him but was all about God’s gracious work in both of their lives. But he also would have been enormously and deeply touched, right down to the bottom of his big heart.

What an evening. I wish I could describe it better for you. I think there was something intangible about it that made it greater than the sum of its parts, but how to put that into words, even in my own mind, escapes me at this moment.

Anyway, just wanted to let you know what a wonderful, wonderful time it was last night.

God bless—



October 08

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Updates at 10:36 pm by Libbie

Dear Friends,

It’s been a crazy busy fall semester so far and is likely to get worse before it gets better. I am taking two courses and working as the TA for a third, which is great fun but definitely eats up a portion of my available time to study. Plus, Eowyn and I have been visiting colleges from Maine to North Carolina. Those road trips have obviously taken up some time, but they’ve been fun. On the most recent one we got to see my mother and one of my sisters.

Last weekend was a special one, not only because I handed in a big paper and the Phillies nearly won the World Series, but also because Lauren’s parents were in town and Alasdair preached on Sunday. Our church is doing a series on the book of Judges, and Alasdair’s passage covered the stories of Othniel and Ehud. It was such a blessing to hear him take Al’s material on Judges and make it his own, moving ahead into practical applications of the text. I think the sermon is now available on our church’s website: www.newlifeglenside.com if you want to listen to it.

One other thing. Sometime during the summer of 2007 I mentioned that a friend of Al’s had contacted me about a way he wanted to honor Al, and I think I said at the time that I would say more about it later when it came to pass. Now is the time. Dennis Billy, a friend of Al’s from the cross country team at Dartmouth, became a priest in the Redemptorist Order and taught at the Pontifical Institute in Rome for twenty-odd years. In 06 he was back in the States and came to visit Al twice, and he visited us once in 07. Just this summer he moved back to the US and is now stationed (that might not be the right word) at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary here in Philadelphia.

He has written a number of books, including a series of commentaries on works by medieval writers. The most recent one, which just came out, is called “Spiritual Friendship” by Aelred of Riveaulx (12th century). Because of what Al’s friendship meant to Dennis, he dedicated the book to Al and included a brief biographical sketch of Al in the back. Al would be incredibly honored and so touched by this! It would “bless his socks off,” as they say. On Wednesday, Nov 12, 7-8 pm, Dennis is presenting the book at St. Charles. If anyone in the area is interested in going, the public is invited, and details (directions, etc.) are on the St. Charles website: www.scs.edu .

Nothing much more to report, so I’m going back to bury my head in the books. If I can just survive the next 4-6 weeks, it’ll be great…



Much, much later…

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Updates at 6:35 pm by Libbie

Greetings, one and all, after seven months! I apologize that I have not posted anything here for so long. I started a note in April, and then again in July, but I never got one finished. Hopefully this time I will succeed.

The time since the anniversary of Al’s death in early February has been a full time—full of joys and sorrows.

On the joyful side: all of us made it through the school year; Eowyn and Alden each attended two proms/formal dances; we celebrated my nephew’s wedding with all of my extended family; we visited Al’s family in Florida, and one of Al’s brother’s families visited us in Pennsylvania; Becky is loving her job; Lauren competed in her first triathlon; Alasdair donated bone marrow for the second time; Eowyn worked at a day camp this summer, and she also house sat for some friends, a combination which made her seem extremely grown-up and independent; Alden went to Guatemala with Food for the Hungry to work in the mountain village of Vipec Balam, a village that our church partners with; and Alasdair and Eowyn went to Africa to help a pastor there serve his community. Read the rest of this entry »


One year later

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Reflections, Updates at 10:16 pm by Libbie

Yesterday, February 5, was the anniversary of Al’s death, and the Lord made it a special day for us. A few of us brought bag lunches and ate in Al’s old office and shared stories and memories of him. And then in the evening we got together as a family for a special dinner and talked for several hours, reminiscing about Al and about the last week of his life in particular. There were lots and lots of tears, but deep thankfulness as well.

For one thing, we are so thankful for the chances we had to tell Al how much we loved him and to express what he had meant to each of us, to say good-bye and to encourage him when the time came not to look back but to jump up and run into God’s arms. People who lose loved ones suddenly, without warning, don’t experience the gift of having plenty of time to say good-bye. We were blessed.
For another, we are so grateful for the love poured out on us by family and friends. People brought us food, washed our dishes, brought flowers and special CD’s to listen to, sat outside with their cars idling to pray for us, and the list could go on and on and on. One night I was up with Al most of the night, and the next night Alasdair stayed here and split the job with me, but we saw that we couldn’t keep that up. So someone contacted men who would be willing to sit with Al and take care of him for four hour shifts during the nights, and before we knew it they had a whole list of volunteers! As it turned out, Al declined so fast that we only needed one night’s worth of coverage, but it was astonishing and humbling to know that so many busy working men were willing to give up most of a night’s sleep to take care of Al and to let us rest. The only request that Al had expressed, right from the beginning of his cancer diagnosis, was that he hoped he wouldn’t have to spend much time in a hospital. With the support of such friends, he was able to stay right here at home and to die here. That’s a blessing.

Also, Al was very much himself right up to the end. As early as May of 2006, when his first brain tumor was discovered, doctors started asking if we had noticed any personality changes. That thought was scary for both Al and us. It must be so hard when someone you love who has always been kind, patient, considerate, and compassionate becomes mean, irritable, cantankerous and selfish. That’s not the way they want to behave and not the way their family wants to remember them. But in the Lord’s mercy Al was his gracious and friendly self right up until he lost consciousness. Praise God!

We had wonderful times of worship and fellowship around Al’s bed, both before and after he lost consciousness. While there are bits and pieces of those last days that are not pleasant to dwell on, by and large they were days full of precious times that we still savor. It was good to remind each other of them last night.

People often ask how we are doing, so we asked each other that question last night. The short answer is that we continue to sense God’s faithful, tender care for us, shown both directly and through the love and support of people, and because of that we are doing well.

The longer answer is that there are (at least) three states of mind we find ourselves in on a rotating basis:

(1) Sometimes we are just living life, busy with its demands and joys, keeping up with whatever is on our plate at a given moment and purposely enjoying the various blessings the Lord puts in it. That is not avoidance or denial; it is simply trying to walk by faith the path that is put in front of our feet. As the months pass, we find that the percentage of time we spend in this state keeps increasing.

(2) Sometimes we are overcome with grief, fresh and keen, and we miss Al terribly. Some of the things that trigger that grief are predictable—birthdays, Christmas, yesterday, etc.—but some are unexpected. Last week I was driving home from shopping and heard the song “There’s Always Something There to Remind Me.” On any other day I might not have thought twice about it, but that day it hit me as being about Al, and it set me crying. The next song was “I’ll Stand By You,” which so thoroughly described Al that it turned the tears up another notch, and I found that I might as well have been trying to drive home through a waterfall.

(3) And other times it seems as if the curtain is pulled back and we get a glimpse of heaven and the unspeakable joy that Al is getting to experience there, and we are happy for him, even to the point of being a bit envious. I find this happens most often during worship. I have come to think of it as being like flying in an airplane on a cloudy day. Some worship songs have to do with life on this earth, with its challenges, with God’s faithfulness to us during suffering, or with a call to persevere or to serve him with joy, or with the blessings of companionship as we are on the journey together, or whatever else pertaining to the Christian life. Those songs are great, and encouraging, and important, but they are like flying below the clouds. But ahh…other worship songs break through those clouds and lift you right into the heavenly throne room itself. They let you see God in his majesty, reigning in glory, Almighty and Ancient of Days, all-powerful and all-loving. And they let you see Jesus, willingly humbled and slain for us, but raised up in glory and seated at the Father’s right hand, extending his kingdom of love into all the earth as its rightful king. Then I feel the heavenly light on my face and join in with the throng worshipping at his feet with abandon.

Yesterday, in addition to being the anniversary of Al’s going home, was also my first day of spring semester classes (other than the class I’m auditing, which met on Friday but which I missed because Alden was very sick). In one of my classes there was a reason for the professor to reflect on eternal life—both now and in heaven—being understood as knowing God, as Jesus explained in John 17:2-3. He talked about how in heaven what will be so wonderful is precisely seeing, and knowing and worshipping God. I was sitting in the class picturing Al doing just that, beholding God face to face at last, marveling at his majesty, and glory, and love, and holiness, and compassion, and all the other things that make God God. I have pictured that so many times with such joy that as the professor was talking I found my heart leaping and silently shouting, “Yes! Yes! That’s exactly right! Imagine how incredible that will be, and my husband is there already, experiencing those glories!” I wanted to lift my hands in praise right there half way back on the lefthand side of the classroom—but I refrained.

Also, on Sunday, by “coincidence” (if you believe there is such a thing; we know it’s really God’s careful and intentional providence), we sang “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand,” which was such a precious song for us as Al was dying (see the entry from 2.5.07 for the words). Eowyn and Becky were away on a retreat, and ironically they happened to sing it there as well. And by “coincidence” the sermon was on Hebrews 2:10-18 about Jesus becoming one of us and dying and rising to defeat death and break its power over us. That that text happened to be preached on the Sunday before this anniversary of Al’s death and that we sang the song that more than any other reminds us of how we experienced the joyful triumph of the resurrection in the midst of sorrow, was a tender confirmation from the Lord that He is with us in this time, as always. (You can listen to Sunday’s sermon online at www.newlifeglenside.com if you want to. Duane Davis, a current Westminster student, did a great job. In fact, you can catch any of the sermons from the past year, I think, including Alasdair’s from 8.5.07.)
I sense that there is a temporal shift going on in my thinking about heaven. In the past, the “someday” nature of heaven has always had an element of far-distant-future-ness to it. Maybe that is because it is the start of an eternal experience, and eternity by its very nature seems a long way off. Or maybe it just has the same feel to it as waiting for Jesus’ return: I know for certain it will happen, but whether it will be tomorrow or thousands of years from now is unknown, and therefore it feels far off. (No less certain, just chronologically distant.) But what I have been dwelling on and marveling at is that right now, this very minute Al is there enjoying heaven. That is not a new thought–obviously I’ve known that from the very moment Al died–but it has struck me with new force and clarity. For each of us here heaven could be only a breath away. Even if we live another 50 or 100 years, heaven is that close, that soon. In the scope of eternity of course 100 years is not even a blip, but even in the context of this life on earth, that sort of time span suddenly seems wonderfully short, with the joy of heaven right around the corner. (Maybe all this was prompted by my turning 50 recently…) This realization feels like the last stretch of time before a fantastic trip you’ve been anticipating for a long, long time or the last couple months of a long engagement. When you hit the homestretch, the waiting takes on a different character. The trip or wedding seems suddenly real in a way it didn’t before. Somehow heaven has seemed closer not only spatially/conceptually (that certainly has been true since Al died and moved there) but also chronologically. It will be soon, whatever that term may mean for any of us. Just as a year seems to fly by faster and faster the older I get, I suddenly feel that the time lapse until we arrive in heaven is as nothing. Even right now we’re almost there. That is an exciting thought! It also makes Al seem much closer–waiting for us just around the bend.

Anyway, there is more to say—about Christmas, and the birthday party my kids threw for me, etc. But I’m beat and need to get to bed, and I want to post something now, in proximity to the anniversary of Al’s death. So I’ll close and say thank you again to all of you who have loved us so incredibly. We have all been surprised at how many people have remembered this anniversary date and have let us know they are thinking of us and praying for us. We thank you so much!

Blessings to you all—




Posted in From Al & Libbie, Updates at 2:24 pm by Libbie

There is a lot that I could (and will eventually) write about from the last month, but that will have to wait.

Today I just want to mention that my kids are hosting a party for my 50th birthday (which was 1/6), and if you happen to live nearby and want to come, you are invited. It will be Friday 1/25 at our church, New Life, on Easton and Jenkintown roads in Glenside from 7-10 pm, and it will be a talent night / open mic night where those who like to perform can do so, and where those who don’t, can watch them. I’m looking forward to it!

If you would like come, just RSVP here so we have a rough idea of numbers, and if you’d like to perform (skit, song, dance, poem, whatever…), mention that too. Becky will get back to you to find out what sort of thing you will be doing and if you need any sound equipment.

If you are able to bring an appetizer or dessert, great, but ABSOLUTELY NO GIFTS!!

Maybe I’ll see you there…



Update December 21, 2007

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Updates at 9:56 pm by Libbie

Well, it’s Friday night, and everybody else is out shopping or with friends, so I’m taking a little break in the Christmas preparations to write a note here.

Al’s birthday was an emotional day for all of us. I found that the tears were never far from the surface and spilled over easily with the slightest nudge. Alden’s biology class happened by coincidence to start their unit on cancer that day. Eowyn actually found that the day after Al’s birthday was much harder for her. Anyway, all the kids were here for dinner, and we had a special meal that Al loved—sausages made from his grandfather’s recipe—and shared favorite memories of Al. Around the dinner table most of the stories were funny ones that prompted a lot of laughter. Later in the car there were more serious ones about the deeper things we appreciated about him. After dinner we all went to see a movie, since that is what Al often chose to do for his birthday: treat the family to a new release. The choice had been narrowed down to Disney’s “Enchanted” or Will Smith in “I Am Legend.” Sunday night after watching trailers for them both online Eowyn had the wisdom of the hour, which was that the day was probably going to be emotionally stretching enough without watching a gut-wrenching film. I think she was right. So we saw Enchanted, which was cute and which Alden graciously endured.

Now the kids are finally out of school (hallelujah!) and we are ready for some vacation. I finished my finals last Thursday and Alasdair his on Friday. Lauren and Becky are off work for a number of days, and (drum roll, please…) Becky will be starting a new job in January. She’ll be working for a local mission agency as the right hand man to a woman whom she thoroughly enjoys and respects. Her job managing temp workers for the past year and a half has given her lots of valuable experience and on-the-job training and has been the Lord’s provision, but she was very isolated (in a cubicle down a hallway with no one in it), and the job, by its nature, meant that she was a middle man who constantly took flack from both sides for things that generally she had no control over. I’m very proud of her for sticking with it, especially through the extensive patch during which many of her regional colleagues left. Now she is delighted to be moving to a job where she will have co-workers again. Yee-haw! I’m really happy for her.

I had planned to write some reflections about Al, but my yawns are threatening to split my head, so I think I’ll just go to bed and hopefully write another time soon. Just in case that doesn’t happen before Tuesday, may you have a happy holiday, and if it is Christmas you celebrate, may it be a wonderful one, filled with new wonder that God came down into this broken world to share our sorrows and to break death’s power over us.

In his love,



Dec 17th

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Updates at 4:01 pm by Libbie

Today is Al’s birthday. He would be 55.

I started writing something to post here, but I see that I’m not going to get it done today, so I’ll just mention that today is Al’s birthday and ask you to pray especially for his mom and dad. My “mother’s heart” tells me that it must be incredibly hard to lose one of your children, no matter how old they are.




Update, November 9th

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Reflections, Updates at 8:27 am by Libbie

Hello again. I thought I’d try to write a little update before too many weeks go by and too many thoughts collect that result in a lengthy tome like the 10/3 entry.

Perhaps the most significant event to report from the last several weeks is the dedication on October 22 of a conversation area at WTS in Al’s memory. The students—past and present—contributed money to buy nice outdoor furniture (think European outdoor café) for the lovely stone courtyard behind the oldest building on Westminster’s campus to create an area where students can gather, talk, continue conversations begun in classes, and deepen their friendships. That kind of connection with people was so much a part of who Al was, and he would be so happy to think that people wanted to honor him by making a place that will enable and foster such connections. What a perfectly fitting idea.


The dedication was during the chapel time, and Pete Enns gave a great message, encouraging us all to invest in people (as Al did). Eowyn and Alden got out of school to come, Becky and Lauren took early lunch breaks from work, and Alasdair and I were on campus for class anyway, so we were all there. It was a blessing. Of course these things are sensitive emotionally, but also wonderful. Grieving is greatly eased by having others who share your grief, and it is a very real comfort to know that others who knew and loved Al miss him as we do.


Other things have made me miss Al a lot recently, some predictable and some out of the blue. I am finally finishing the process of ordering a memorial stone for Al’s grave, and that carries with it a sadness that is expected. I was reading this morning from the little Bible Al carried with him when he traveled here and there around the world, and that made me miss him, too, not surprisingly. A good friend of ours who was a fellow seminary student of Al’s in the late 70’s spoke at the preaching conference at Westminster recently (and did an outstanding job), and it was so good to see him. Sharing memories from way back then was fun and funny—and also wistful. Another seminary friend from a decade or so ago who became one of Al’s long-distance colleagues, spoke at a women’s conference a few weeks ago (and also did a terrific job), and again it was wonderful to see her, and made us both miss Al anew. In my class on the prophetic books we started Isaiah this week. That was Al’s book. He taught Isaiah for years, and even last fall when he was weak and had painful blot clots in his legs, he went in to the Prophets class and taught on Isaiah. Mike Kelly, who teaches that class, and I both knew that when he (Mike) taught that material this year it would be emotionally challenging. We both teared up just a little bit when he started out, but after that it wasn’t too bad, and Mike did a great job, as I knew he would.

But there are other things that push emotional buttons that I don’t necessarily anticipate. Recently the faculty voted unanimously to dispense with the bells that have been ringing at the beginning and end of classes for as long as the classroom building has been standing. No big deal. But as I listened to a faculty member recount with humor and relish that brief part of the faculty meeting, I knew that if Al were alive he would have thoroughly enjoyed the interactions and camaraderie at the meeting and would have come home and told us all about it with smiles and jolly laughter. I couldn’t help shedding a few quiet tears in the back of the classroom.

Much more forceful was a dream I had a week or so ago. You may have had the experience of being away somewhere for long enough—whether on vacation or extended travel, or living somewhere else for a time—that the life/world/routine you’re used to begins to seem like a dream. And then when you return to your normal world the alternate place quickly fades to a dreamlike status. If you’ve experienced it more than once, you know ahead of time that the vacation place that seems so real to you when you’re there is going to fade and seem like a dream. You may even tell yourself that you’ll find a way to keep that from happening, but the fade is inevitable.

Well, Al has been in many of my dreams since he died. Usually he is just part of whatever is going on in the dream, and it seems perfectly natural to have him there, and it is only after I wake up that I realize there was anything odd about the picture. At those times I smile and am thankful to have shared a dream experience with him, even if it’s only in my sleeping mind. But last week I had a dream that was different. This time I was aware in the dream that he had died and that I was only dreaming. He wrapped his arms around me, as he had so often, and we talked about what it was like without him being here. Actually, it was very reminiscent of occasional times during 2006 when he would bring up the subject and we would talk about the future and about what life might be like without him. I assured him that the Lord was going to take very good care of us, which we both knew was true and which has certainly turned out to be, but there was no getting around the fact that we were going to miss him terribly. He would hold me, and we would face and feel that sadness together. My dream last week seemed so real and so like one of those precious times. Just as you know on vacation that you will return to reality, and just as we knew last year that there would be a time ahead when he would be gone, I was aware in the dream, with keen regret, that once I woke up it would have been only a dream and would fade in the face of current life. I said so to him in the dream, and we both agreed that that was going to be very sad. It was. I cried a lot the next day as I missed Al.

But I take comfort in knowing that one day we will be together again and this whole present life will seem like a dream. Not because I want to rush through this life or that I am unable to enjoy its many very wonderful blessings now, but because as good as this life is, life in heaven will be infinitely more wonderful, more vibrant, and more real, and I will be happily content at that point for this good life to have become a faded dream.

Not everything has been sad, though. There have been lots of happy times too.

Eowyn’s choir at school hosted a Coffee House recently at which each of the members was supposed to perform, with others if desired. Eowyn, Kristen (our housemate) and I put on overalls and bandanas and sang a down-homey version of “I’ll Fly Away” best known recently from the movie “O Brother Where Art Thou,” complete with harmonica, kazoo, rolling pin, and a wooden spoon on a cheese grater (we couldn’t find a washboard). It was pretty much a hoot.

This time of year there are lots of costume events going on, and we have been making the most of them. I hope to get some pictures up here soon so you can enjoy the craziness too.

I got to do a little drama this week. Every year I do a dramatic recitation of Genesis 1 in Hebrew for Doug Green’s Old Testament History and Theology class, and it is SO MUCH FUN to do! I’m glad he keeps letting me come back.

Alden’s school soccer season has ended, and his club soccer season will wrap up next weekend. In the most recent game two kids left with broken bones!

Eowyn’s play is next week, Nov. 15 and 16. It’s Antigone, a classic Greek tragedy with everybody dying at the end—a real “upper.” She plays Antigone. If anyone in the Glenside area is interested in going, it’s at Abington High School at 7:30 each night, and tickets are $5. You can get them from us (just call) or at the door.

Here is something related to that that blew me away. Every year the professional meetings for The Society of Biblical Literature are held the weekend (actually Thursday – Tuesday) before Thanksgiving, someplace in the US—this year in San Diego. They are important on lots of levels, and we always knew that that weekend had to be blocked out for Al to go to SBL. Over the years there were occasionally family events that conflicted with the SBL meeting, and Al would have to weigh options and make judgment calls about whether he should miss some or all of the meetings for the particular family commitment. Sometimes he went one way and sometimes the other. Well, I found out that Doug Green, Al’s colleague, is going to go to the meetings a day late this year so that he can be here for the first night of Eowyn’s play! What amazing kind of love is that for our family that he would voluntarily put himself in the position of making the hard choice Al would have had to make if he were here so that he can stand in for Eowyn’s father and cheer her on? We are blessed beyond words to have such good friends!

And on we go. It is easy for me to feel overwhelmed at times, especially trying to carve out the time I need to work on reading, translation, paper-writing, etc. for my classes in the midst of life with busy teenagers, taking care of running a household alone (administrative details have never been my strong suit!), figuring out parenting issues alone, and dealing with the hundred and one out-of-the-ordinary things that come up all the time. But I was reminded last week from Matthew 6 that fretting about things doesn’t help at all, and that my heavenly Father knows exactly what I need and will provide it. I’m trying to remind myself of that in the moments when I’m feeling stressed. Of course, birds are busy working to find food all the time, and that is part of the very process by which God feeds them (which is an example Jesus uses in Matthew 6). So remembering that God will take care of me doesn’t change the fact that I still need to get the things done, but it does diffuse the feeling of pressure in the situation, and that is really helpful. Remembering that I have a Father who cares intimately about me and who will take care of me and of my needs (who in fact knows what my needs really are better than I do myself), enables me to let go, and relax, and trust him that he will work out whatever it is I’m stewing about. Matthew 6, when it came up in our women’s Bible study, was a timely reminder.

Well, this has become sort of long after all, so I’ll stop. I hope you are experiencing the tender care of our loving heavenly Father, too.




Posted in From Al & Libbie, Updates at 8:51 pm by Libbie

Eowyn got her driver’s license today! She’s a very competent driver, and she’s been chomping at the bit for the required six-month wait during which she’s had her learner’s permit, and finally today she was able to take the driving test–and passed. She is over the moon, and we are all excited for her. Alden treated her to dinner from her favorite restaurant (Rocky’s) to celebrate. Now the challenge of sharing the car begins, but also the benefit of sharing the chauffeuring responsibilities.
Just had to share the good news.



October 2007 update

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Reflections, Updates at 7:55 pm by Libbie

First of all, apologies to those of you who tried to check this site during the past few days and received an intimidating message saying you were forbidden access to it. There was a problem with security on the server, but apparently it is now solved.

It’s now been more than a month and a half since I posted anything here. I have wanted to write for quite a while and even started a note on September 15, but I never got it finished. Now, of course, I have way too much that I want to write about, and this will probably be ridiculously long.

The last few weeks of summer flew by. Eowyn had one further week of service-type work as a counselor on our church’s junior high retreat, and other than that both she and Alden had a little down time, which was good. I continued to slog away here in the house and in Al’s office at Westminster. The week after Jayne and I tackled the office and storage closet there, Alasdair and I took a full day and went through all of Al’s books at the seminary. Once that was done I heaved a sigh of relief, knowing that at least all the Westminster work was basically done. But apparently I was mistaken. Two days later Alasdair got an email from the man who is now acting as VP for Academic Affairs (Al’s last job) saying that he had found some books of Al’s in that office, and a while later I talked to the man who is running the Hebrew Institute that Al started, who said he would be glad to show me all the material of Al’s that is still stored there. Sigh… Someday we will have succeeded in going through all of Al’s stuff, but it won’t be soon. I have yet to even touch the basement and attic at home, and I can tell you that they’re pretty frightful. Maybe next summer I’ll get to them. On the other hand, I have to remember that we did manage to get an amazing amount of sorting done this summer, and I’m very thankful for that.

Over Labor Day weekend I had the blessing of going to Amsterdam for the wedding of a good friend, who is also the son of good friends of ours. In the past we have mentioned our very dear friends Eep and Lies and their two sons. Lies died almost exactly a year before Al, and it was for her funeral that Al and I traveled to Amsterdam just after we learned that Al had tumors in his lungs but before it had been definitively confirmed that they were melanoma. Three years ago Lies and their younger son, ArendJan, came to America for Alasdair and Lauren’s wedding. Over Labor Day their older son, Harmen, got married, and I was so glad to be able to be there for the celebration.

As you can imagine, there was sorrow mixed in with the joy of the wedding for everyone there, since Lies was not there to see and be part of it. For me there was the sorrow of Al being absent as well. But there was such happiness too. Harmen’s wife is a WONDERFUL young woman in every way, and I am happy beyond words, as I know Lies would be too, to see God blessing them with each other. The day was great from start to finish (10 am until after midnight!), I got to see and reconnect with many people I knew, and my Dutch (such as it is) came back more quickly than I expected.

The day before the wedding I was able to visit two friends, one of whom is 92 and in failing health and whom I am sure I won’t see again. Also, while I was there I borrowed a bike and rode all around the neighborhood where we lived as a family in 1995 and in 2002. I saw our apartments, the kids’ school, the park where they played, the canals we skated on, our favorite little café, and I rode on our favorite bike ride along the Gein River, where we had biked countless times. I can’t begin to recount all the memories that were triggered by those places: the place where Al kept taking sunset pictures until he got the perfect one, the conversations we had about the article he was writing on Zion in the historical books as we biked along the river, the stretch where Al used to race the barges or the trains (giving a big handicap to the slower vehicle), one of the windmills where we took our family picture, and on and on and on. SO MANY wonderful, happy memories! I wished the kids were there with me to share them all, and more than that, of course, I missed Al acutely.

So it was a pretty intense weekend, emotionally. Since Al died, we have certainly experienced life being “joy and sorrow sweetly mingled,” as a song says. The trip to Amsterdam for the wedding was that same mixture, only magnified and intensified a whole lot. The sorrow was very deep, but the joy was equally great, and I’m so thankful that I got to go. (BTW, my flight out of Philadelphia was delayed 7 hours! What is it about me and flying? At least we did get off the ground this time, but the delay cost me seeing one special friend with whom I was only going to overlap for a few hours and in whose apartment I stayed even though she was away. Missing out on seeing her was disappointing.)

School started just three days after I got back. But one other thing intervened before the start of school: we spent a day at the beach. The way our school district works, everybody starts school on the Wednesday after Labor Day except the upper classmen at the junior high and high school. (That gives the kids in the youngest grade a day to get to know the building without all the hordes of bigger kids around.) This year both Eowyn and Alden happen to be upperclassmen, so they didn’t have to start until Thursday. So, at the suggestion of Kristen (who was the kids’ youth group leader for a number of years and a good friend and who is now living with us), we took off for the beach on that Wednesday and spent the day riding the waves and relaxing on the sand. Now, a day at the beach is delightful anytime, but I have to tell you, there is something extra sweet about floating in the surf when you know that most of your peers are sitting in school classrooms! Legal hooky-playing—you can’t beat it.

In addition to coming up with the beach idea in the first place, Kristen said something there that stuck with me. She collects shells and said she used to search for perfect, unbroken ones (and rarely found them), but now she picks up broken shells and enjoys beautiful things about them—unusual colors, interesting shapes and so on. She just made an offhand comment that maybe that’s how life is: we want things to be perfect, but they rarely are, and instead we can learn to look for and appreciate the surprising beauty that God works into the broken world around us.

I think that is some of what has happened for me this past year. Up until a year and a half ago my life seemed pretty close to perfect. I grew up in a wonderful family where I was loved, nurtured and encouraged. I married a wonderful man who loved me and with whom I shared a wonderful life of God’s love. I have four wonderful children who are an incredible blessing to me. But now I have a slightly better picture—or at least a little glimpse—of the way most of the rest of humanity regularly experiences life. It’s a rare person who gets to live a “perfect life.” Most people’s lives have lots of brokenness in them, or they are worn down by the constant tossing of the waves. And yet God brings joy, blessings, beauty, and redemption into the brokenness. It is good to see and experience that—to feel pain and sadness and yet to see God’s infinite and transforming grace in the midst of it, perhaps even more clearly for the contrast.

The kids definitely did NOT want to go back to school. Usually there is a combination of not wanting summer to end, on the one hand, and an underlying excitement about seeing friends again, starting a new year, finding out who is in your classes, etc. on the other. But this year there was none of the latter sentiment. Not a trace. I think it is because last year was so hard, and we were so relieved to survive it and to stagger across the finish line into the reprieve of summer vacation. The thought of going back to the way things were last spring seemed about as appealing as a kick in the gut. For Eowyn, knowing that the workload junior year is extremely heavy didn’t help. Last spring was grueling, as she tried to dig out of the hole of schoolwork that piled up around the time that Al died, and the idea of this year being even worse than that was horrifying. However, as demanding as junior year will be, it will not be as bas as that, because she won’t be starting out being many weeks behind and then trying to catch up.

In fact, the transition back to school went better than Eowyn and Alden had expected, I think. They do have lots of homework, and they are still doing school and life without their dad being here, but it is manageable, and certainly better than last spring. Alden made the school soccer team, and Eowyn made the school play, neither of which were to be taken for granted. When we received those bits of good news I realized something about the outlook on life we had come to hold. A song we like to sing called “Blessed Be Your Name” talks about two contrasting sets of circumstances: one is the land that is plentiful, where God’s streams of abundance flow, where the sun is shining down on me and the world is all as it should be. The other is a desert place in the wilderness, a road marked with suffering, with pain in the offering. The song talks about blessing the name of the Lord in both sorts of times. This past year and a half we have done a lot of walking on the desert road and have definitely seen and felt God’s love and tenderness in the midst of suffering. That has been a deep blessing. As the school year started up again, I think we subconsciously braced ourselves for more tough times, automatically assuming without even thinking about it that life would be hard, challenging, and full of disappointments and sadness, but that we would know God’s care in the midst of heaviness. When Alden made the team and Eowyn got the title role in the play, I think we were all fairly astonished. The sunny road of abundant, happy blessing that we used to walk on regularly in years past now felt foreign to us. We had forgotten that life can be like that too.

I don’t think there is inherent virtue in expecting a “default setting” that renders life either easy or difficult. Expecting that God will give abundant pleasant blessings all the time can be the result of a secure grasp of God’s generosity, but it can also potentially come from presumption and selfishness. On the other hand, expecting that God will send hardship and trials as daily fare can flow from an appreciation of the hidden blessing of growing closer to God in suffering (it may even “feel holy” somehow), but it can also potentially stem from doubting his goodness. Rather than expecting either one, assuming we know what the Lord has in mind for us and why, I think he wants us to simply walk with him on whatever path he chooses for a given day or season. He wants us to be content to put our hand in his and trust him because he is the Lord, because he will bring into our lives what he alone knows is best, because he will walk the path with us, and because he has promised that ultimately he will turn every circumstance to our blessing and his glory.

That trust, of course, has to be a continual choice. For me, these days, there are so many details to deal with and stay on top of that I can feel overwhelmed, and when I discover that I’ve dropped the ball on something important it makes me worry that there are other important balls out there somewhere that I’ve forgotten about and am in danger of dropping, too. I sometimes wake up at 4 or 5 in the morning (possibly because of the birds singing), and, given half a chance, thoughts and worries will rush into my mind and keep me from going back to sleep. They can be as simple as phone calls I’ve forgotten to make or as complex as single parent issues I need to navigate. Last week I was reading Psalm 3 about God being a shield around David, and noticed that David said, “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.” The setting for the psalm is David’s flight from Absalom. David didn’t know whether he would wake up at all or whether Absalom would find him during the night and kill him, yet he was able to lie down and sleep because he trusted in God’s care for him. If God is so reliable that David could rest in him in such dire circumstances (and he didn’t even know about God’s greater love shown in Jesus), then I can too. So now if I wake up at 5:00 I firmly head off the details that would like to storm into my mind, and I choose to remember instead God’s unfailing, trustworthy love and care, and I am able to drift back to sleep.

This fall I am taking two courses at Westminster—both of them outstanding and very interesting. Of course I was already behind by the second week of classes, and way behind by the third week. But I am counting on the sage observation one of my classmates made several years ago, which is, “The sooner you get behind, the more time you have to catch up.” Works for me (I hope).

So, on we go. There are still things that trigger tears, and that is perfectly fine. There are some moments when I think maybe I am feeling some of the healing-of-heart that time brings and that the sadness is less close to the surface. However, I am learning that those times are often followed later in the day by fresh sorrow.

And sometimes the tears are not about grief at all. A friend dropped off a CD recently that has a song on it called “I Can Only Imagine” about what it may be like to be in heaven, seeing and walking with God. The chorus goes like this:

Surrounded by your glory, what will my heart feel?

Will I dance for you, Jesus? Or in awe of you be still?

Will I stand in your presence, or to my knees will I fall?

Will I sing “Hallelujah!”? Will I be able to speak at all?

I can only imagine.

I can only imagine.

Becky played that song for me a long time ago, before Al was even sick, and I loved it. Now I listen to it and think of Al actually being there, singing, dancing and shouting out praises to the Lord or maybe breathless and speechless before his holiness and majesty. Knowing how much Al loved the Lord, how captivated he was by him and how much he longed to see him some day, I really can only imagine what it must be like for Al to be there. The joy, the awe, the wonder he must be experiencing I can only guess at. Sometimes we listen to that song and cry for the joy Al must be finding. At least once when I was alone I knelt down right in the kitchen and joined the worshippers. And sometimes I feel so aware of heaven, as if I were right there in the throne room with Al and with the myriads of others that it seems more real than this world around me. If I just close my eyes, I’m there, almost feeling the light of God’s glory shining on my face… I can only imagine, but that imagining can be very real.

Glad to be on the King’s highway to that place,



Time for an Update

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Updates at 9:57 pm by Libbie

It seems that a lot has happened in the month since I wrote last. Nothing critical or earth-shaking, so you can feel free to stop reading, but if you’re interested in ordinary news about how and what we have been doing, here it is:

A few days after Alden got home from Spain, he, Eowyn and I drove up to New England and visited my oldest sister. This was especially a treat, because we don’t get to see her very often and had never been to the house she and her husband currently live in north of Bangor, Maine. As prearranged, we picked up two little kittens from her who have become part of our family. (Pictures forthcoming, hopefully.) Then we drove to see my parents in Vermont. The plan had been to help them get to a family reunion in Massachusetts, but my dad’s health ended up making that impossible, so we just stayed at their house. It was great to see them.

Right after we got back here, Eowyn left for a week in NYC to attend a “summit” with 34 other high school kids who are concerned about global hunger, poverty, etc. They stayed at Adelphia University on Long Island, and of course the taste of college life suited her to a T. The kids visited the UN, met Ishmael Beah (former child soldier in Sierra Leone and author of “A Long Way Gone”), and learned a lot while having a good time.

Then the day after Eowyn got back from New York she and Alden left with kids from our church to spend a week in a tough section of North Philly doing kids’ clubs and helping with practical needs there. Becky joined them too, taking her vacation week to do so, which still amazes me. It was a really good week for all of them, even though they all came home sick.

During the week of the N. Philly trip we celebrated three birthdays: Becky (7/31), Lauren (8/2), and Alasdair (8/5). Actually, Alasdair got to preach at our church on his 25th birthday, and he did a great job. The passage was a tough one—the second half of Matthew 10—but I thought he did a really good job expounding it. What a thrill to hear your own child explaining the Word of God and bringing it to bear on life! I stayed for both services to hear it again. Becky, Eowyn and Alden all slipped home from the city early to be there to hear him too.

Also during the week that the kids were in Philly Jayne and I tackled clearing out Al’s office at Westminster. Just for my own curiosity I measured the stuff that was in the little office, so let me rattle off some statistics to give you a sense of what we faced: if we had stacked up the piles of papers that were not in file cabinets but were on top of things, under the chairs, etc., the pile would have been twelve and a half feet (~3,8 m) high. (Just FYI, one foot [~30,5 cm] of stacked paper weighs about 30 lbs [13,6 k].) There were 16 file drawers, all full, which would equal another 32 feet (9,75 m) of papers if vertically stacked, 75 shelf-feet (22,9 m) of books, plus 10 more boxes of books, ~20 shelf-feet (~5,9 m) of journals, 23 stacking trays, office supplies, etc., etc. It was daunting. But Jayne gave me the courage to begin, as well as the encouragement to keep going and great practical advice for evaluating files, and we plowed through all the papers not in drawers on Monday and all the ones in the drawers on Tuesday and Wednesday. We finished up the office supplies and miscellaneous things by lunchtime on Thursday. During the week, some of the library staff had mentioned that Al had some things in the large storage closet in the basement, so we went down to take a look at it on Thursday afternoon. Oh man. There was as much material there as there had been in the whole office! I was overwhelmed, but Jayne fortified me again with her seemingly unquenchable determination and enthusiasm. In the end, we hauled out 35 file boxes (plus two huge trash bags), and we just finished by closing time on Friday. Phew! It was a colossal job, but—except for the books—it is done. And Alasdair and I went through the books this past Wednesday, so now once we actually remove the books from the office and take the pictures and diplomas and whatnot off the walls, the place will be empty.

By Wednesday afternoon my brain was fried from sorting literally tens of thousands of pieces of paper, but for most of the project, I was so intent on the task of sifting through the mountains of papers that I didn’t have time to be preoccupied with the grief and finality of what we were doing. But there were a couple of moments when the sadness got to me. One was when I started on Monday morning. The first piece of paper I picked up was a quiz from some course or other, just like hundreds of others I have seen over the years: a verse of Hebrew printed at the top and the simple instructions: “Translate and parse all verbs.” I have been seeing such papers around the house for so long (and using them as scrap paper—in fact Becky told us recently that she was pretty old before she found out that “scrap paper” didn’t necessarily have to have Hebrew on one side) that they seem part and parcel of our life. And they were so Al. It made me miss him, and the tears started flowing. I was afraid it was going to be an impossibly long week. But just at that moment Al’s colleague Mike Kelly walked in, so we cried together. Also, one day during that week I received a book in the mail that is the most recently released volume in a series that Al and Tremper Longman were editing together (“The Gospel According to the Old Testament” series; this volume is “The Gospel According to David” by Mark Boda). Inside it was a tribute from Tremper to Al that made (and still makes) me cry every time I read it. So I had to purposely not think about that tribute as I was working. The third hard moment came toward the end of the week. Jayne and I found a note on top of the bookcase by the door. It obviously was one that Al kept handy there to put up on the door when he had to step out to the bathroom or down the hall to check his mail or something. It said simply, in big bold letters, “Back in Five Minutes.” Oh my. Tears again. When I showed it to Al’s administrative assistant later, she commented that once Al and I are together again it will probably seem as if it’s been only five minutes. I think she’s right. I saved the sign and am going to put it up in my closet or somewhere as a reminder of that time to look forward to.

On a similar note, earlier in July the kids were asking me something specific from the period when Al and I were engaged, and as I told them the story and thought back to those days I missed him intensely. For the next week or ten days I found that grief and tears were always just barely below the surface and that it took nothing at all to make them spill over. But that’s perfectly appropriate, and while not always exactly convenient, and while it sometimes made other people feel awkward because they thought they were responsible for my tears, it was okay.

This weekend I was supposed to go to a wedding in Chicago. Twenty-some years ago we became very good friends with a couple from Zimbabwe who were here at Westminster. They have a son Alasdair’s age and a daughter Becky’s age who were born while they were here, and except for when their daughter visited us for a few days two years ago (which was great fun), I haven’t seen them in 22 years, so I was so excited about seeing them in Chicago. But Thursday I spent 13 hours at Philadelphia airport and never got off the ground. We should have been able to take off several hours before the bad weather moved in from the west, but the airport had only one runway open for some reason (word from the pilot was that they were painting lines on the other runway, although why they were doing it right then he couldn’t imagine, and I hope it is not true or I suspect someone will be minus a job, if not a head), so planes were backed up 30 or 40 deep. Eventually the predicted storms moved in from the west, so departure routes would be alternately opened and then shut down, so after four hours of sitting in the plane on the tarmac, when we were finally number 1 in line, we taxied back to the gate, and then the flight was canceled. So were the next two to Chicago, and then there were 100 people (including me) on standby for the two late night flights, of whom they took zero. No airline had available seats to Chicago on Friday and only a few on Saturday, by which time the wedding would have already happened, so I came home, 16 and a half hours after I had left in the morning. I heard the next day that hundreds of people had had to sleep in the terminal that night. Needless to say I am disappointed not to have seen my dear friends, but they and I accepted that the Lord must have had other plans for other reasons. Maybe if the air traffic controllers had let us take off into the storms we would have crashed. I have no doubt that, if not in this case, at least at some times God protects us from things that we are not even aware of. We tend to complain about the inconvenience and never even realize that it is because he is watching over us.
The up side of not getting to Chicago is that because I was home I was able to see a friend of Al’s from Dartmouth cross-country days, who is a priest in the Redemptorist Order of the Catholic Church and who teaches at the Pontifical Institute in Rome. We had such a wonderful, sweet visit. He told me stories about Al from the time before Al and I met–stories of running, and of friendship and of growing faith–and he told me about a way he wants to honor Al that I know would absolutely “bless Al’s socks off.” I’ll tell you about it when it happens. I also got to have more time than expected with our sort-of-adopted-son Andy (see numerous photos from last year when he lived with Alasdair and Lauren), who is in town for the weekend.

And that about brings you up to date. As Marc Davis, one of our pastors, reminded us in a sermon recently, we live in that time between the Friday night rehearsal and the Saturday afternoon wedding, between Jesus’ resurrection and our own, when there is sorrow and pain but also immense joy to look forward to. It may be hard, and tears are appropriate, but the Lord’s presence and the anticipation of joy make this a good place to live nonetheless.

Glad you’re here with us,



Update July 12, 2007

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Reflections, Updates at 9:50 pm by Libbie

The time since I last wrote an update (not counting the picture of Alden from Spain) has flown by amazingly fast. When I wrote that note Alden was starting his four weeks in Spain, and now he’s back already! He had a WONDERFUL time full of all sorts of fun things and great stories. We are so grateful to the family who took him along and made him part of their family for that time!

Also since that update Eowyn spent 9 days on a trip to Guatemala to work with Food for the Hungry in a village in the Western highlands of the country. Her team ran kids’ clubs and helped work on the foundation of a new classroom for the village’s school. Eowyn had an excellent, stretching, growing time and also came home with lots of stories, some of them very entertaining. What a privilege an experience like that is.

All the kids came over for dinner yesterday when Alden got home, and it was great to have all of us together again and to share stories from the time apart. Of course we missed Al, who loved being part of such times. Eowyn said it had been emotionally hard for her to arrive at the airport knowing that if Al were alive he would certainly have been tracking the flight’s progress on the internet as the other team members’ fathers were doing, but that he would not be there to welcome her home. She said that in an odd sort of way it was actually better that at first we were not there either, because we got slowed down by a car fire that backed up traffic on the turnpike. I’m not sure why our initial absence was better for her, but I’m glad it worked out that way.

The week that both Alden and Eowyn were away I tore into the house again, clearing out, organizing, even ripping up carpet and replacing it with some I had stored in the attic when we replaced the living room carpet several years ago. I would love to know just how many pounds of material have left this house in the last month. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds I would guess. It’s like giving the house one of those super-dooper diet pills on the market these days that are effective to the point of being dangerous.

On Thursday Jayne and I went and assessed the state of Al’s office at Westminster. Oh man, oh man, oh man. You would not believe how much stuff there is in it. There is a whole summer’s worth of sorting contained in that relatively small space. It’s completely and totally overwhelming, and if I had been on my own I would have sat down and cried and given up on the spot. But Jayne encouraged me that it maybe it won’t be as bad as it looks, and she started formulated strategies for tackling it, God bless her. I was SO thankful once again for her company and help.

Then the next day while I was sorting things Jayne went through one of the 12 boxes of Westminster-type papers in our living room at home and found that it was mostly full of papers that could be tossed: photocopied articles, other people’s old papers, etc. She got through 9 of the 12 boxes in just a few hours! Fantastic! That encouraged us that maybe Al’s office really will be better than it seems. It was so kind of the Lord to give that particular encouragement the day after the discouragement in the office. His care is so personal and tender.

Not all the sorting goes quite that fast. It took me 2-3 hours of steady going to get through half a file drawer one evening. But we’re definitely making progress. Eowyn and Alden hardly recognized some parts of the house that are now cleared and organized.

Monday night Eowyn got really sick. She threw up 19 times between Monday night and Tuesday morning, and she lost 9 percent of her body weight in 48 hours (and didn’t have any weight to spare to begin with). We were more worried about dehydration, though, when she couldn’t keep anything down. Last year she ended up in the emergency room with dehydration (heart rate: 210, blood pressure: 78/23!), so we know it’s not something to mess around with. Thankfully, last spring we had air conditioning installed in our bedroom for Al’s sake, so this week when Eowyn was so sick she was in 72 degrees when outside it was 97, and with the humidity the “real feel” was 105-110. If she had been in that heat and unable to keep fluids down, she would certainly have been in trouble. Today she is back to eating a bit and regaining her strength. Whether the sickness was from something in Guatemala or was totally unrelated is impossible to know, but we’re thankful to see her recovering. And I feel a new sympathy for parents in many parts of the world who have to stand by helplessly and watch their children wither away and even die from loss of body fluids.

On a totally unrelated and random note, each evening I go out and sit or stand in the yard and watch the fireflies. I love the season of the year when they are out. The yard is dark and quiet, refreshingly cool(er) after the day’s heat, and the whole place is alive with tiny lights, like a fairyland—almost magical. I like to take that in before I go to bed, to enjoy the beauty and the Lord’s quiet presence. Actually I always step outside and breathe in the night air before bed, even on the coldest winter nights (a fact that the young woman who lived with us for half of last year found amusing, or perhaps endearing), but firefly nights are my favorites.

I was listening to a CD by Casting Crowns recently. It isn’t new, but I hadn’t heard it before. Two of the songs particularly struck me. The first is called “Love Them Like Jesus,” and starts out:

“The love of her life is drifting away.

They’re losing the fight for another day.

The life that she’s known is falling apart.

A fatherless home, a child’s broken heart.”

That started the tears flowing freely. There was especially something about the phrase “the love of her life” that touched something in my heart. I’m not sure I can put it into words, even for myself. I cried a long time after listening to that and anytime I thought of it for days afterwards. I have purposely not listened to it again since. But the chorus goes like this:

“Just love her like Jesus, carry her to him.

His yoke is easy, his burden is light.

You don’t need the answers to all of life’s questions,

Just know that he loves her and stay by her side.

Love her like Jesus.

Love her like Jesus.”

I have to say that people have done just that and have done it so well that we have felt incredibly loved by Jesus through their/your prayers and support. Thank you!

The second song that caught my ear was called “Praise You in This Storm,” and the lyrics go like this:

“I was sure by now

That you would have reached down

And wiped our tears away,

Stepped in and saved the day,

But once again, I say ‘amen’, and it’s still raining.

As the thunder rolls

I barely hear you whisper through the rain

‘I’m with you’.

And as your mercy falls

I raise my hands and praise the God who gives

And takes away.

I’ll praise you in this storm,

And I will lift my hands,

For You are who You are

No matter where I am.

Every tear I’ve cried

You hold in Your hand.

You never left my side.

And though my heart is torn,

I will praise You in this storm.”

That is where I choose to live. God is powerful and sovereign over everything that happens in our lives, and he is unfailingly good and faithful to bless us, to draw us close to him, and to be with us in the hard as well as in the easy times of life. He sees the bigger picture and knows how it all fits together, and I am content to trust that to him and to rest in his care.

One more thing. As I was going through one of many file drawers of Al’s things, I ran across this excerpt that he had hand copied from something by Jim Elliott (who was a young husband and father when he was killed in missionary service years ago). I don’t know what the source was, but I would guess Jim Elliott wrote it before his only child Valerie was born. (Purely by coincidence of arrival times I had the surprise pleasure of meeting and sitting with some of Valerie’s “family-in-law” at Westminster’s graduation banquet this May.) The excerpt was copied in the beautiful handwriting that Al had in his twenties, which was before we had any children either. Here is what it says:

Jim Elliott:

I walked out on the hill just now. It is exalting, delicious, to stand embraced by the shadows of a friendly tree with the wind tugging at your coattail and the heavens hailing your heart, to gaze and glory and give oneself again to God—what more could a man ask? Oh, the fullness, pleasure, sheer excitement of knowing God on earth! I care not if I never raise my voice again for Him. Mayhap in mercy He shall give me a host of children that I may lead them through the vast star fields to explore His delicacies whose finger ends set them to burning. But if not, if only I may see Him, touch His garments, and smile into His eyes—ah then, not starts nor children shall matter, only Himself.

How wonderful to know that Al is seeing God, touching his garments and smiling into his eyes right now. I know how much he looked forward to that through all the years that I knew him. I can only imagine the “delicious pleasure” and “sheer excitement” he must be experiencing, and I’m so glad for him.

Honestly, I can’t fathom how hard it must be to lose someone you love if you don’t know what happens after death. For us there is no sense of finality to the separation we feel now. Al is very much alive—more so than ever, in fact—and eventually we will join him. He’s just gone ahead of us for now. (And in true Al form, I’m sure he’s scouting things out and will be able to brief us on all the details when we arrive.) I look forward to that day—to seeing Al again and to seeing the Lord face to face—and in the meantime we will just live in different realms for a while.

Well, this has become longer than I intended, so I’ll stop.

God is good. He is holding us up well, one day at a time and in answer to many people’s prayers, for which we are thankful. May he bless you abundantly.




Time for an Update

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Updates at 9:06 pm by Libbie

It’s been a very full week, so I thought I’d update you on all that’s gone on.

Last Thursday Alden left for Spain with a friend from school whose father is Spanish and whose family goes to visit relatives in Spain every summer. This year they very generously invited Alden to join them. So he’s larking about the Mediterranean coast for four weeks in a small town nestled between the mountains and the sea, poor fellow. I spoke to him on the phone today, and it sounds as if he’s having a ball.

Eowyn left Monday with a gang of kids from the youth group who are helping out for a week at a camp for mentally and physically challenged children and adults. This is her third or fourth year helping there, and she absolutely loves it.

Becky’s job situation is improving a bit, and she is very thankful for that. A couple of the managerial spots parallel to hers have been filled, and her new boss has been letting Becky know that she recognizes and appreciates the hard work she has been doing in less than ideal circumstances. That appreciation alone goes a long way.

Alasdair’s arm is out of its cast after just two and a half weeks! The doctor had said 4-6 weeks, but apparently it is healing well enough that it was let out on parole for good behavior. Of course Alasdair still has to be VERY careful, and it’s still in a sling, but he is relieved to be able to move, wash, and scratch it at will. By the way, impossible as it seemed, the Lord provided a job for him that he can do with one arm (and not his dominant arm). He is making phone calls ~20 hours a week, and the other hours he is doing an internship at our church.

Lauren’s work has been more lively of late, which is nice, although she is a trooper and doesn’t complain anyway. She and Alasdair are at a wedding in Kansas City this weekend.

And I have been having an amazing week. You may have already figured out that if Eowyn and Alden are both away, I’m home alone this week…

My number one goal for the summer is to go through the whole house and clear out stuff, sort it, cull it, and reorganize what’s left. Not surprisingly, a lot of what I need to sort is Al’s things—papers, books and files by the metric ton—but there is also plenty of miscellaneous junk that belongs to the rest of us that needs to be gotten rid of. So, my plan for this week was to blitz through as much of the house as possible while no one was around to need me for anything. I CANNOT believe the help the Lord provided for me in doing that.

Unbeknownst to me, it turns out that Jayne Clark, a friend of mine who is between jobs at the moment, loves to clear out and organize places and is unbelievably good at it. She has been incredibly generous with her time and has been here with me every day this week, and what we have gotten accomplished in these five days is beyond imagining. Jayne is great at things like: (1) seeing the big picture of the whole project; (2) figuring out where and how to start and then which piece of the puzzle has to be tackled next, and then next, etc.; (3) teaching pack rats like me how to evaluate their stuff, make decisions about it, throw or give things away, and so forth—basically how to think differently and wisely about it; (4) keeping you on task and making you finish one phase completely before you move on to the next; (5) removing the give-away or throw-away stuff so that you start to enjoy the benefits of the clearing-out process immediately; (6) coming up with new ways to organize what you’re keeping so that you can keep it under control, and (7) brainstorming creative and exciting ways to use the space you’ve cleared. There is still plenty left for me to do at this point, but the difference in this house in a single week is barely short of a miracle. I think she should consider doing this professionally! What a gift it’s been to me.

Going through Al’s things hasn’t been too bad so far. Certain items bring a smile, or a tear, or a tug at my heart, but it’s been do-able. I think being a task-oriented person, which can occasionally be a hindrance in relationships, is a boon in situations like this. Of course I’ve run across things that make me stop and ruminate. I’ll give you a for-instance or two:

Al was one for jotting miscellaneous notes all the time—about sermons, about things he was reading, about movies he’d seen or Bible passages he’d been meditating on. They were on every available piece of paper, usually in a certain kind of blue pen, always in the same handwriting, often in such a terse form that they would probably mean nothing to someone who didn’t live with him and hear the things he talked about all the time that were on his heart. I’ve been living in the midst of snowdrifts of these pieces of paper with his cryptic notes on them for years and years. When I started clearing out, my thought was, “Al is not here to need these anymore, so I’ll throw them away.” But then I stopped and reconsidered. My tendency when I’m making a change around the house—painting a room, or rearranging things—is to take pictures of the new situation, because that is what is exciting to me. But I have learned over the years that I have to discipline myself to take pictures of the old set-up, because that’s what is going to fade from memory and therefore be of interest later. Similarly, I am so used to having Al’s notes around that I was only thinking about him not wanting them. But I know that in future years, there will be no more of those notes. So I’m saving a certain number of them with the idea that when I especially miss Al I can pull one out and feel as if I am again sitting next to him as he’s taking notes on a sermon, or as he’s musing about a passage of Scripture or a good movie. Maybe it will make me feel close to him.

Here is another. Besides various medicines, herbal supplements, vitamins and so forth that I ran across today, I found the boxes from two of the many treatments that doctors prescribed over the years for the sores that Al used to get on his scalp. Knowing what a trial those sores were to him, and the feeling of hopelessness we had experienced because nothing seemed to touch them, it made me smile to think that Al is now living healthy and free of all such things. Ahhhh, such glory.

One evening this week I walked over to the cemetery and sat on Al’s grave, enjoying the quiet, peaceful, bird-filled green woods and the delicious weather we’ve been having. It was good to just sit and think about the fact that what Al is seeing these days makes this beauty pale to invisibility in comparison. It must be spectacular.

And lastly, I want to tell you about last Sunday. During the spring I occasionally thought about Father’s Day and how hard it was likely to be for the kids. I also anticipated our anniversary with a tinge of dread. Sometime in May I checked the calendar and realized that this year the two occasions were going to fall on the same day. Ouch.

But actually, it was probably good that the days that hit all of us hardest happened together. That way, not only did we get it all over with at once, but we could support each other through them (except for Alden, who had already left for Spain, so we prayed for him). I asked the kids if they preferred to ignore Father’s Day or to celebrate it, and they all chose to face and embrace it. So we did. Church was hard emotionally, although very encouraging, and we all did a lot of crying, but the rest of the day we did things like eating good food together, watching a movie that Al would have enjoyed and discussing it afterwards (which he thought was very important), and sharing memories of Al that were funny, or poignant, or just dear to us. It was a good day, and I think we all came away from it being deeply thankful—for Al, for each other, and for God’s faithfulness. We have been well loved and richly blessed.

Anyway, we have been experiencing lots of good things and seeing God’s hand in and behind them. Thought I’d share some with you. Thanks for caring,



Miscellaneous Happy Things

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Updates at 5:00 pm by Libbie

Thought I’d write about some recent happy events this time.

Monday was Alden’s 14th birthday, and we had a good time celebrating it. Now we are all looking forward to watching a couple movies he got for his birthday. Last night his youth group small group leader got a birthday cake for him that the boys all shared at their Bible study.
Alden's Birthday
Alden’s Birthday

Eowyn finally turned in her last term paper after two v-e-r-y short nights of sleep. Hurray!

Last night Eowyn went to a prom with a friend from church (nothing romantic between them–just friends who like to have a good time, which I think is by far the best way to go to a prom). It was great fun taking pictures–first here at the house with just Eowyn and Mitch (who looked as dashing and classy as James Bond), then at a nearby park with four seniors from church and their dates, then at a different park with 24 kids, all dressed to the nines. Becky and I tagged along for the whole thing, and it was a blast. Plus, the young man who invited Eowyn is the son of our dear friends (and Al’s colleague and brother-in-arms in the Old Testament Department) Doug and Rose Green, so it was really fun to do all the picture-taking parents-of-the-dates things together with them. Al would have enjoyed the evening so much and been so proud of his lovely daughter.



Titanic, anyone?

The name is Bond. James Bond.

When these special events come along, we miss Al even more. It would be neither right, nor healthy, nor helpful to pretend otherwise. But we just make a choice to set that sadness in the background, to place the happiness of the events in the foreground, front and center, and to enjoy them wholeheartedly.
[This should be a new paragraph, but I can’t get the program to let me enter a space, no matter what I try!] And lastly, completely unrelated to us, here is a link to a performance that is pretty amazing.
Two notes, however:

1. Make sure you have sound on your computer and that it’s on. Without sound it’s just a very good juggler performing. With sound, it’s astounding.

2. I have never been to the website that this performance is located on, but I’m told it contains some less than edifying material. This link, however, should take you directly to the juggling show.





Posted in From Al & Libbie, Updates at 1:17 pm by Libbie

Just wanted to let you know that Alasdair had surgery on his broken arm yesterday, and that it went smoothly and all seems to be going well. The operation was late yesterday afternoon, and they did a nerve block as well as general anesthesia, so the pain has only started to set in in the last hour. It’s becoming distinctly uncomfortable, but hopefully the Vicodin will help. It’s good to have the surgery done so that the healing can begin.
Thanks for caring about us all–


PS: Update as of 5:30 pm. The pain is pretty intense, and Alasdair, Lauren and Becky are on a 7 or 8 hour drive to a wedding in northern New Hampshire, so I know he would appreciate your prayers!


Graduation Day

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Updates at 9:46 pm by Libbie

Whew, what a day it’s been! I anticipated all week that Westminster’s g””raduation would probably be pretty emotional for me this year, as it was last year, and that proved true.

This week one year ago was a humdinger. On the Friday before graduation last year Al ended up in the hospital with a blood clot in his leg, which was extremely painful. In the course of routine testing to make sure they could give him blood thinners, a scan showed up a mass in his brain that had not been there previously. The overwhelming likelihood was that it was melanoma that had metastasized to his brain (which turned out to be correct), and it was in a spot that had the distinct potential to affect Al’s personality—something that was pretty scary to think about. He was released from the hospital in time to attend Ed Welch’s daughter’s wedding, in which Becky was a bridesmaid. That was an emotional time from every angle—sharing the great joy of Ed and his daughter Lisa, watching them walk down the aisle and dance the father-daughter dance at the reception, seeing Becky come down the aisle looking beautiful, knowing that she and Al would not share those fatherdaughter wedding joys in the future.

Then there was also some doubt last year as to whether Al would be able to participate in graduation due to the incapacitating pain in his leg. But he went in a wheel chair, and as Academic Dean he had the privilege of reading the names of all the graduates as they received their diplomas, and then with his leg propped up on a high stool, he gave the charge to the graduating class. He was so thrilled to be there and to be able to be part of sending the class of 2006 off into kingdom service. I sat in the back and bawled, knowing, as we all did, that that would almost certainly be Al’s last graduation. I thought of the time in a few years when, Lord willing, Alasdair and I (and perhaps Lauren) will cross the stage in cap and gown without Al there to see it. It was an emotional time.

Thrown into that week last year we also had a whirlwind visit from Becky, Alden’s long-standing soccer team suddenly folded, and Eowyn was caught in a friend’s consuming teenage crisis.

Now, in 2007, this past week has brought the memories from last year sharply into focus and prompted a number of tears, so I knew today would be probably be draining. In the morning I attended a seminar at Westminster all about the Westminster Hebrew Institute, which was renamed for Al last fall (now “The J. Alan Groves Center for Advanced Biblical Research”). Kirk Lowery, the director, talked with obvious respect and appreciation for Al’s vision and work in starting the center and then about the exciting places the center is heading in the present and the future. (If you are interested in the details, check the Westminster website: wts.edu.) I thought again what a gift Kirk and his co-worker Steve have been to Al and how wonderful it is to see the project that Al began now moving forward in such innovative and beneficial ways.

Also today the new Westminster Bulletin (a publication of the seminary) came out, and it is an edition honoring Al, including wonderful reflections written by former students. Many people find that one of the hardest parts of grieving is that they feel so isolated and alone. What a blessing it is to us to have so many people who remember Al and who walk through this time of mourning with us!

Graduation itself was moving, seeing the graduates—my fellow classmates and friends—receive the degrees they have worked so hard for. Mike Kelly gave the charge to the graduates this year, and he built off of Al’s charge from last year. It was excellent. At the end he closed with a blessing that Al prayed countless times around our dinner table as well as with many other people—that [the graduates] would have eyes to see Jesus, ears to hear him speaking, and hearts to be filled with his spirit. At that point I broke down. But the whole thing was lovely, and I saw old friends who were back in town and met new ones, many of whom shared great stories of Al and how he impacted their lives. More tears, of course, but such a blessing.

What I didn’t anticipate today was getting a phone call in the morning from Alasdair’s summer boss saying that Alasdair had had a bike accident on the way to work and had broken his arm quite badly. I saw him and Lauren in the ER between the morning seminar and graduation, and the arm did indeed look pretty deformed. Sounds as if it will need surgery, but when that will happen hasn’t been determined yet. This Sunday Lauren’s brother is getting married in upstate NY, and Lauren and Alasdair are both in the wedding, which hopefully will work out okay. This broken arm also puts rather a crimp in Alasdair’s summer job as a carpenter, which is a bummer on lots of levels. But the Lord will make the way clear.

Then this afternoon Becky told me that today she learned some unpleasant news relative to work. Her company used to have six on-site managers in this region, of which she was one. Two people left, so they consolidated the positions into four jobs. Since that time, the other three managers have left, so Becky has been covering one position, her boss has been covering one, and the others have been left empty. Needless to say this has caused plenty of stress at work. Today Becky learned that her boss is resigning! That leaves her alone with no fellow managers in the (originally) six slots and with no boss. Not a good situation.

Becky also talked about the wedding she attended last weekend, which was the first one she’s been to since Al died, and which also happened to take place on the one-year anniversary of Lisa’s wedding that I mentioned above. She couldn’t help shedding lots of tears, as you can imagine, trying to be inconspicuous in the process.

My eyes feel like sand pits from all the crying I’ve done today, but I also see the Lord’s hand of blessing so clearly. For instance, I can say with enormous thanks that the scary prospect of Al’s personality changing never materialized. He was completely himself, gracious, patient, loving, and enjoying people literally up to the point when he lost consciousness. Five days before he died he became spatially disoriented, so that after a trip to the bathroom he didn’t know which room he was supposed to go back to or how to get there, and four days before he died, he was unable to get out of bed and didn’t know how to find the cup of water at his bedside, but he still knew every person he saw just as sharply as he ever had, and he interacted with them with obvious delight. Even when he had little strength and talking was an effort, it was clear that he enjoyed seeing people as thoroughly as he always had. Forty-eight hours before he died we had a room full of a dozen recent college grads singing around his bed, and he wanted to be sure he knew or learned each one of their names. What a mercy from the Lord that Al was fully himself right up to the end!

Today he would have been a little embarrassed but also honored and pleased to have been remembered at graduation. And the surprising discovery that just by being himself and loving the Lord with his whole heart he had impacted so many students and others with God’s love and grace would have been (and in fact was) a crowning blessing in his life.

God is so good. I’ve seen and been amazed at his unbelievably personalized, tender care for us in other ways this past week too. In one case I was so blown away by the intimacy and magnitude of his care for us through his people that I bowed my head right there over the soapy dishes and simply sobbed in amazement at his love. It is breath-taking.

May you too be held in his tender arms. And congratulations to all you graduates!



Update May 13th

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Reflections, Updates at 8:23 pm by Libbie

Hello again. Nothing particular to report, necessarily, just a general update.

The Lord is carrying us daily, and as a result we are all doing well. There are still hard moments or days, of course, but they seem to be fewer and farther between, and we are very aware of God’s constant love for us.

The students at Westminster, on their own initiative, wanted to have a time to remember and honor Al, so they dedicated the final chapel of the year, Wednesday, May 2, to that end. It was wonderful. Six students shared memories of Al that captured who he was and the legacy he has left behind. Al would have been so blessed and encouraged. We certainly were. The kids got out of school, and Becky and Lauren took long lunch breaks from work, so we were all able to be there, and afterward we picked up lunch and had a picnic with some friends by Al’s grave in the beautiful sunshine.

The weekend after that I went on our church’s annual women’s retreat—just for the day on Saturday. To my complete surprise, I spent almost the whole day crying. Maybe it was because the retreat was at Harvey Cedars, where we have spent vacations as a family, and it triggered lots of memories and also reminded me of places and times Al will never share with us again? Maybe it was because I stepped out of the busy-ness and responsibility that keeps me occupied and had the leisure to let emotions run unchecked? It started the moment I opened my mouth to sing the first song of the morning: one of Al’s favorites, one that we often sang as a family, and one that Al had everybody sing in the car on the way to the emergency room when Alden broke his arm very badly as a four-year-old. Remembering how tenderly Al had handled that situation (I was away at the time, on the women’s retreat, ironically) reminded me of what a wonderful father he was, and that turned on the faucets of tears. I couldn’t turn them off the rest of the day. In the afternoon I purposely found a solitary spot on the beach with no one around and just cried for several hours with the wind and the waves, the sea gulls and the Lord surrounding me. It was therapeutic. The retreat itself was awesome.

I’m discovering that there are different aspects to this patch of life we’re in. There is a time to focus on the present and just put one foot in front of the other and “do life” in faith, nothing more elaborate than that. There is a time to look ahead and dream and plan for the future, embracing whatever the next phase of life may turn out to hold. And there is a time to step off the path of either doing or planning and to look back at the past, to savor sweet memories and re-live precious times. Each aspect needs to be given room and time to happen. In each there is grief, and there is joy, and there is God’s faithful presence.

Prior to the special chapel and the retreat I had been starting to think creatively about “what I want to do when I grow up.” On the basis of the advice of experts who counsel people about job searches, I tried to think about what I am passionate about and to dream big and think of what I would like to do if there were no limits of any kind. The chapel and retreat put those thoughts on ice for a time, quite appropriately. We found ourselves instead looking back and savoring memories of Al, being thankful for the years we had with him. Planning for the future simply couldn’t fit into the same space. And I think that was perfectly fine. Now I am coming back to thinking about the future again, tempering dreams with realities and seeing what possibilities that produces. It’s an adventure. In some ways I feel like a college student contemplating future employment with the wide world in front of me. Of course I’m a long way from being college age, which both limits and increases the options available. It’s exciting, actually.

So, life goes on from one day to another. Becky, Lauren and Alasdair are in the season of going to weddings, weddings, weddings. Alasdair and I are also taking final exams. Eowyn is closing on her second term paper, and last night she and Alden were part of a talent show of sorts put on by the junior and senior high youth groups to raise money for world hunger (related to World Vision’s 30-hour famine that I mentioned earlier). It was a hoot and a great high-energy time.

Today I woke up to find Alden and Eowyn making bacon and crepes for me for Mother’s Day. Wow. I’m blessed!

May you be richly blessed as well—




Posted in From Al & Libbie, Updates at 6:55 am by Libbie

Eowyn is turning in one of her term papers today! Hallelujah!

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