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.




Wish You Were Here!!

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


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