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.




  1. Linda Foh said,

    July 15, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    I like your phrase “in the meantime we will just live in different realms for a while.” We here on earth and our loved ones in heaven are all in God’s loving care. It reminds me of verse 4 of this hymn:

    The Lord is King! Lift up thy voice,
    O earth; and all ye heavens, rejoice:
    From world to world the joy shall ring,
    The Lord omnipotent is king.

    The Lord is King! Who then shall dare
    Resist his will, distrust his care,
    Or murmur at his wise decrees,
    Or doubt his royal promises?

    The Lord is King! Child of the dust,
    The judge of all the earth is just;
    Holy and true are all his ways:
    Let every creature speak his praise.

    Alike pervaded by his eye,
    All parts of his dominion lie;
    This world of ours, and worlds unseen,
    And thin the boundary between.

    One Lord, one empire, all secures;
    He reigns, and life and death are yours:
    Through earth and heaven one song shall ring,
    “The Lord omnipotent is King!”

  2. Judy Parnell said,

    July 15, 2007 at 8:35 pm

    Bless you Libby. We love you.
    Judy & Ray

  3. Jan Kreft said,

    July 16, 2007 at 4:05 am

    I still check these daily, although am only responding a couple of days on! Thank you for the testimony you are prepared to hold up for us to see and treasure and learn from.

    Love you dearly, Jan,

  4. Chris Fisher said,

    July 17, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    Ah yes, summer evenings and the fireflies, peace and the wonderment of God’s immeasurable love…..I’ve often wished lately that I’d cherished more the times here…….we all learn with losses to hold dear each day. Love to all, Chris

  5. Becky Wilson said,

    July 19, 2007 at 1:44 am

    My dad says, “Bye for now” when we end our phone conversations. Just yesterday I thought of the comfort it is to know that, even when we’ve had our last earthly conversation, it still will be true that it is just “bye for now.”

    And I bet I am not the only one that’s going to hunt down that Casting Crowns CD. How kind of God to give us music. Can you imagine a world devoid of it? How flat life would be.

    Thank you for all that you included in this update. Every last paragraph. Every last ordinary detail. God uses those sentences. Many of us want to know how to walk alongside of the hurting people in our lives (whether those pains are fresh or not). Bev Fitzpatrick and I had this conversation just a week or so ago. How can we all do it well? We are mindful that it is easy to miss the mark in being a comfort. We haven’t known what to say but we’ve said it anyway, causing more hurt. (Not that deafening silence is the answer, of course.) Through your family’s transparency in this blog, we can see the shape of grief, how it affects different members of the same family in differing ways, how it hits when it’s least expected, how everyone can do something to be a blessing.

    And through it all we are seeing Jesus in fresh ways, too. Thank you for pointing us to badly needed Truth!

  6. Larissa said,

    July 22, 2007 at 7:53 am

    I was able to read most of this today and was so heartened to hear news from you. Thank you for the bit about the fireflies and night air…i was right there with you enjoying the magic and our father’s presence. hope to see you soon. lots of love, Larissa

  7. Shelah said,

    July 23, 2007 at 8:37 am

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

    this phrase has done so much in my heart! I love it that God gives us the faith to lift our eyes to Him when we’re hurting. One of my friends shared this Spurgeon quote with me which has touched my heart:

    “This is how to deal with God. Praise Him before you are delivered. Praise Him for what is coming. Adore Him for what He is going to do. I do not think there is a sweeter song in God’s ear than the song of one who blesses Him for grace that has not yet been tasted, who blesses Him for answers that have not been received but are sure to come.”

    Charles Spurgeon

  8. Eileen Barclay said,

    July 26, 2007 at 12:50 am

    Thank you for the encouragement to sing to Jesus
    Blessed be Your name
    On the road marked with suffering
    Though there’s pain in the offering
    Blessed be Your name

    Every blessing You pour out
    I’ll turn back to praise
    And when the darkness closes in
    Lord still I will say

    Blessed be the name of the Lord
    Blessed be your name
    Blessed be the name of the Lord
    Blessed be your Glorious name
    Because He Gave His Life, Eileen Barclay

  9. laurie hartman said,

    August 8, 2007 at 7:52 am

    Thought of you this morning.
    As I read your entry, I began thinking about Jesus and His walk here on earth. So many times, He commented on the phenomenon that God is always communicating – but only those with eyes to see and/or ears to hear get to receive this precious gift.
    From the moment I met you, over 30 years ago, I have been struck by the way you notice good things – and express sincere gratitude.
    May you continue to delight in His displays of goodness.
    Love you! – Laurie

  10. Manu said,

    May 30, 2011 at 12:22 am

    Thanks Libby. We love you.

    Andy rose

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