Update 10/20

Posted in From Al & Libbie, Updates at 3:28 pm by Libbie

It’s been more than a week since I put anything here on the site, so here is an update.  

Al’s physical condition seems to have reached a better plateau recently, for which we are very thankful. His legs still swell if he’s on them for any length of time, but even when they are swollen they’re not overly painful, so that’s a definite plus. He is coughing up less blood at this point, which is great. He does have some headaches, but so far they are not terrible. Often there is swelling in the brain 2-3 weeks after finishing radiation, so that may be the reason for the current headaches. And best of all, his stomach is finally feeling less traumatized. For weeks he’s felt wretched every time he eats, so he’s frequently just foregone eating for most of each day, especially if he has anything important to do that requires concentration. But recently he’s been able to eat and not feel so bad. He’s even had breakfast several days this week and not suffered overly from it. Hallelujah! Getting the stomach under control has been the key factor in Al’s feeling better. Also, the odd visual episodes he was having, caused by one of the smaller tumors in his brain, have not gotten any worse, so it may be that the radiation was effective this time in stopping the tumor growth. That would be good news too. We won’t know for sure what’s going on in his brain until an MRI in late November. So, all that adds up to feeling some physical reprieve. Al is very tired, but then he’s been tired for years, so that seems sort of normal. He is shaky and unstable, a response to the radiation we think. It happened in June when he had the gamma knife procedure and continued for about month. So there is hope that this second bout with shakiness and weakness will pass soon.

In other arenas, last week Al was able to give the charge to our very good friend Doug Green when he was inaugurated as full professor of Old Testament at Westminster. That was a special day. Doug has been a wonderful colleague, and he and his family have been great friends of ours for years, and it was an honor for Al to be able to participate in Doug’s inauguration.  

Then last weekend we had a visit from many of Al’s family members. His parents, sister, niece, and great-niece came from Florida; one of Al’s brothers came from California with one of his sons, and that same brother’s daughter and son-in-law drove down from Massachusetts. It was great to be together for the weekend. Some of our Philly friends were out of town and let all the Groves out-of-towners stay at their house, which is only about a mile from our house, and other friends sent over food and help. We continue to be overwhelmingly blessed. By coincidence of timing, Mom’s birthday was the day that everybody arrived, so we celebrated it together—the first time Al’s been able to do that in 35 years. We talked, laughed, cried occasionally, and had a good time all weekend, and Sunday afternoon we shared a time that was more serious. Al also filmed his parents talking about their lives and experiences, and at one point Dad, who is not known to be a comedian, had us all hooting with laughter. We’re so glad they were able to come.  

Now that Al’s teaching and speaking engagements are done we are in a place of regrouping, strategizing, setting priorities, and trying to make the wisest use of however much time we have. Please pray for wisdom for us, and for time for both of us to work on the writing projects Al would like to finish.  

Not too much else to report. Becky is remaining afloat in the turbulent waters of her new job, replacing her predecessor with only the tiniest bit of training and trying to find ways through the construction and traffic that can make her commute up to two hours each way. Alasdair is absolutely loving his seminary classes. Lauren is pressing on like a trooper at her job. (Her parents are coming to visit this weekend, and we can’t wait to see them.) Eowyn is busy as ever with her friends, school, and lots of different things. And Alden is keeping up with school, soccer, fantasy football, a friend’s Bar Mitzvah, etc. We (he and I) are in the throes of our family’s VERY LAST science fair project ever, and when it’s done in December I think we’ll have a wild party to celebrate. Whoopee!

At times like this when Al’s health is fairly stable, the fact of his cancer can seem surreal. I sometimes think that I’m going to wake up and find that the last 10 months have been a weird dream. But I would have to say that if I did wake up and find that this had all been a dream, I would come away from it with an indelible sense of God’s phenomenal, overwhelming, and unfailing love. That has been our most lasting impression from this time. God has shown his towering, tender, protective love to us in ways that we’ve never seen it before. He has loved us directly, by his Spirit, and through his people. As Al has commented many times, this is not the path he would have chosen, but what he has experienced of God’s love on this path he wouldn’t trade away for anything. Its worth is beyond anything that can be valued or measured.  

So, on we go… What the next stage of the journey will look like, we don’t know. But God will be with us on it, and that’s all that matters.  

Thank you for loving us so abundantly,  



  1. Ron said,

    October 20, 2006 at 5:02 pm

    Grace to you all in all that you are going through. You have given far more than you have received, and modeled a life and love far beyond anything I’ve ever experienced.

    Much love from us both,
    ron (and judi)

  2. Gerard Norton said,

    October 20, 2006 at 6:59 pm

    Ron has said it so well.

    Going through a bumpy patch myself, I feel you are the holiest people I know, and ask you all to remember me in your prayers this weekend.

    Choked up,

  3. Sung Min Hong said,

    October 21, 2006 at 8:17 am

    I have heard and sung a song “I’m trading my sorrows” but I can clealry know what it means through you. Your powerful testimony reminds me that Romans 8 is great and living truth.You guys are always in my and my friends’ prayer.

    With love,
    Sung Min

  4. Julie and Soetji Anto said,

    October 21, 2006 at 11:34 pm

    Dearest Al, Libbie and family,

    We have thought so much about you and are continually blessed by your faithful and sincere faith. How it sharpens ours! Thank you for taking time and great effort to write, Libbie, and for sharing such wonderfully personal thoughts and family times with us. We love you so very much. How much more our Father does us all.

    Fondly, in Jesus’ tender mercies,
    Julie, Soetji and Eilis

  5. Fred said,

    October 23, 2006 at 6:51 am

    Hi, Al & Libbie,

    Thanks for the “newsyletter”.

    You comments about it being a dream, Libbie, reminded me of a friend who said, upon retiring from a long life of ministry on the mission field, teaching, pastoring, and mentoring “We have spent some time thinking and talking about our lives, and have realized that if we had to do it all over, we wouldn’t change a single circumstance. We wouldn’t trade our lives with anybody’s. Sure, we might have wished that we had “their” house or “that” car or job, if we had to trade *everything* for *everything*, we’d rather have what the Lord gave us.” He is blind in one eye, and his wife had suffered tremendously, nearly dying at one point (and in bed for months), and has a permanent condition that few would choose to live with. And the joy of the Lord fills their lives.

    To find it *all* a dream would mean no blog, and that would be very sad. Thanks again for typing up all this news–your ministry to *us* is precious.

    I’ll be praying for the wisdom, strength and clarity to write well.



  6. Mark A. Stone said,

    October 24, 2006 at 9:23 am

    Thank you for the lengthy update. While God is always good, He has chosen to show you a brief respite in terms of Al’s health. I continue to be encouraged to worship our God as I see your, your family’s, and Al’s testimony of His love in your lives. I believe Al must have more work to do on this earth given his improved health. I will pray that you will have the wisdom to know how to allocate his “good” hours for the advancement of the Kingdom.

  7. Craig Combs said,

    October 24, 2006 at 1:36 pm

    Dear Al and Libby,
    Thank you for the 10/20 update which I just read (I’ve been offline a few days). It really is a blessing to me that you take the time to manage the blog and that you reamain vulnerable and honest.

    I still pray for you (I am praying right this minute, and weeping, too, since we are being honest and vulnerable).

    The Lord has been good to me and I am deeply aware of my unworthiness today. I am encouraged by what you shared from Al (about this not being the path he would have chosen, but how he would not trade it, either…)

    That is an exhortation to me, one I need. The Lord has been as good to me as he has to you, and I need to be as grateful to Him as you are (I fall pretty short).

    As you keep learning things, and experiencing grace at work, please keep the door cracked and let us continue to peek in. It is having a good effect, for Jesus’ sake.

    I, for my part, will continue to bring your names before the gracious throne, where the wildest imaginations and most extravagant requests of the children of God appear shrunken, tame and impoverished compared to the vast, unbridled and incalculable things the Father will give in return — things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard.

    May his rich treasury of delights be yours today and forever in Jesus Christ our Lord.

    In His Grip,

  8. Caio said,

    October 25, 2006 at 11:51 am

    Dears! I’m a student of theology in Brazil. Stevan Nash is my teacher, and he said about you to my class.
    I want pray to your great life and family to our God! I belive that Jesus can do anything in ours lives!!!
    Know that here, in São Paulo, i’ll be praying and living waiting the greats actions of God!
    Please, if you, or yours sons had msn, add me to talk, pray and chy togheter. My msn is: c_ceneme@hotmail.com

    God stay with you and bless you: today, tomorrow and forever and ever! Amem
    In portuguese: Deus esteja com vocês e abençoe vocês: hoje, amanhã, pra sempre e sempre! Amem!


  9. barbarafinlay said,

    October 25, 2006 at 11:59 am

    Dear Al and Libbie,

    Thanks so much for update, I rejoice with you that Al’s physical condition has shown some improvement especially his stomach for which we were much in prayer. Your blog is always such a blessing, in the midst of all the pain and trials your spirit is amazing and an inspiration to us all. We continue to stand with you in prayer for the days that lie ahead that God will give you continued peace and much wisdom every step of the way.

    much love

  10. Paul said,

    October 26, 2006 at 9:05 pm

    Dear Al,

    Still praying for you brother. Keep up the good fight!


  11. Tom Nicholas said,

    October 29, 2006 at 6:50 pm

    Al, it’s a good thing you saw the Dallas game.

    Tom A. Nicholas

  12. Grace Zhao said,

    October 31, 2006 at 10:31 am

    Dear Al and Libbie:

    When I read Libbie’s comments, I can not stop crying. I should have more desire to treasure the difficulties God has sent and will send to my life. Seeing His faithfulness and love in your lives, I can feel the strength in me grow stronger. I can face yesterday, today and tomorrow because He is so awesome, so real, and so faithful.

    You guys must be very beautiful in our Father’s eyes. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.


  13. Tim Bathurst said,

    November 2, 2006 at 11:18 am

    Al & Libbie,

    Just wanted to send a brief note to let you know that Amy and I are praying for you. We get somewhat regular updates from Mike Kelly. I appreciate the fact that you are sharing your journey through this website. It is an encouragement to our faith. I praise God for the grace He has shown you and your family

    Peace to you,

    Tim Bathurst

  14. Nancy McCaffrey said,

    November 3, 2006 at 9:24 am

    Dear Al and Libby,

    I haven’t dropped in here for a while and just read the latest update. I am going through a rough patch in my life but I am experiencing God’s love in new ways. I’ve always carried God around in my hip pocket, knowing that I could take him out when I needed Him. I’ve now discovered that I need to be holding him in my hand all the time – in good times and bad.

    I know that you and Libby have suffered through these past months, but I also see the tremendous grace that God has shown you – and that you have shown others. Thank you for giving us all an example of how to live in Christ!

    Nancy McCaffrey

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