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,



  1. Paul said,

    June 24, 2007 at 12:25 am

    Thank you for continuing to share these things. I know plenty of other people have said it, but I’ll add my own voice: This blog has been a great encouragement. Thank you.

    The Lord be with you.

  2. laurie hartman said,

    June 24, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    Have been thinking of you lots. Knew that Father’s Day would be tough – but did not realize that it fell on your anniversary….. Like the idea of “getting it over in one chunk.”

    Bless you as you go through Al’s things. On a smaller note, since David has moved to New York, I have been going through his room. He was good about packing what he wanted to take. However, much of what he did not take, he left behind in his room. As I was going through a particularly mountainous pile of paper, I came across some of the songs he wrote in high school. I had a laugh calling him to ask him what was on his mind when he penned the song entitled, “Parental Conspiracy.” Sometimes, it’s nice not to know what they’re thinking until the moment is over…. 🙂

    Bless you and your family!

    – laurie

  3. Becky Wilson said,

    June 25, 2007 at 10:44 pm

    You’ve given us so much to think about I hardly know where to start, but maybe “THANK YOU” is as good a place as any.

    Thank you for including us in the ongoing-ness of your days. I find myself nodding and interacting with what you’ve written almost as if we were having a conversation.

    I’m so glad that God brought you and Jayne together. You were helped by her wise ways and she was no doubt satisfied to serve the friend she loves.

    Thanks for all the specifics on each family member. You speak of them knowledgably, personally, individually. In so doing, you do what Jesus does, calling us by name, knowing us better than we know ourselves.

    Thank you for doing the next thing, thing by thing, and letting us know what is going on. I know I speak for hundreds of people when I say that you (and your family) are loved.

  4. PJ said,

    June 26, 2007 at 12:59 am

    I have been about a clean up of my own this week of my WTS files. I came across a paper I wrote for Al. His insight was striking. I remember, kiddingly, ribbing him half way after the semester I submitted my paper for his comments. H e told me they would come. When I received them, he had opened a whole new perspective to me on the passage that I had written about. What a blessing his teaching was to those who desired to understand the Sripture more fully and to communicate it in all of it’s glory!

  5. Holly Cov said,

    June 27, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    Thank you, Libbie, for continuing to share with us and so give us pictures of God’s work and grace. You are such an encouragement. We continue to pray for you and the fam!

  6. Christian Cryder said,

    July 2, 2007 at 11:13 pm

    Just want to say thanks for sharing, one more time (feel like I’m being repetitive, but I really do mean it – it is SO good to get a little glimpse into how you all are doing. It helps us pray for you, and I think it also gives us hope, like watching a really good runner gut out a really brutal race: “Wow. So that’s how you do it. Amazing.” So really, thanks for sharing, and please keep it up.)

  7. Judy Parnell said,

    July 5, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    Dear Libby,

    I am always so touched how you can just freely share your thoughts and feelings. What a gift to me and I’m sure to everyone reading the blog. As many of us will walk down this same road at some point in our lives, what you and Al have shared and shown us will be a great blessing.

    Thank you.

    With love,

  8. David & Sharon Covington said,

    July 8, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    Hi, Dear Libbie–

    Thank you so much for keeping us up on both the doings and the ruminations of the Grovim. Our prayers haven’t stopped for you all, and it is good to see God at work. I particularly loved your Jayne adventure. Jayne helped David work with paper and schedule clutter, and is such a graceful manager! Hurray. I wish I could get her to come to California for similar ministry.

    I am so grateful for your transparency and your details of challenges. Many of us will face later what you have faced now and you are a hope-giving ice-breaker, showing God’s mercy and giving us a picture of His faithfulness in the midst. Thank you.

    I sure love and miss you! Perhaps we’ll see you in September when we are briefly nearby. Hugs all around!

    Sharon (with love from David, who has just emerged from rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, but who isn’t home yet.)

  9. Sonja Bakker said,

    July 8, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    He Libbie, something going wrong?

    I see:

  10. Rita Harris said,

    July 8, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    I just came back from a week at Harvey Cedars with Stephen and Olivia (Alexandra and Jessica are at Temple) and I wanted to let you know that there were many people asking of how you were doing. I responded that you always have a smile on your face and that’s grace is very evident. You are loved by so many people,


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