We have been receiving Christmas and holiday letters from friends and family, and we appreciate every single one and the memories and hopes that go with them of treasured experiences together that the letters and cards represent. Often they bring tears of joy for the special times we have shared. Sometimes they bring tears of sadness, for we have reached the years when the frequent departure of friends and loved ones places them out of reach of everything but our prayers of gratitude for having known them. We want you to know that we send not only our greetings but our thanks and prayers for your lives, and our continuing praise to God for all of you wonderful people we have known and for the saving grace of Jesus Christ, who assures us that there is always more in store for our lives than what we have yet seen.

While this holiday time carries so much meaning in so many ways, for us it is still at its core an incarnation of the love of God in the Messiah who came, is yet to come, and is coming soon. In awe and mystery we see that loving person in the humblest of places, akin to the places where we have found ourselves and met you. Humbly we bow to adore Jesus, through whom we find that the ineffable Ruler of this universe (and all possible universes) does care for each of us.

Most of what we might report to you about our events and thoughts during this year has been on the “Gary Chapman” Facebook page or on chaplinesblog.com.  We have lived in Burlington, Iowa, for twenty seven years, and part-time in Bella Vista, Arkansas, for fifteen years. Au and Alicia just celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, Brandi and Nathan recently celebrated their eighteenth, all continuing in their jobs and locales, with the addition of Alicia going to work as a receptionist at an O’Fallon assisted living center and  nursing home, in addition to her contracts as a theatrical costumer. Grandchildren Willow graduated from the University of Illinois and began graduate studies in paleontology at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln, where she is deep into the Barstovian Era (into  whose isotopes few researchers have gone before); Meadow just played seven characters in Sweet Charity as well as a lead in her first movie while a junior at Indiana University; and sweet Symphony turned purple as Ursula the Sea Witch in Little Mermaid, after being white as an Addams Family ancestor (and being green as Oz’s wicked witch two years ago)—she will graduate from O’Fallon High School with her Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees from Southwestern Illinois College, at the same time, in the coming May, then on to either Purdue University or Indiana University. Why do we feel that the pace of time is accelerating?

Jan’s mother fell and broke her neck C2 vertebra in August. She survived the fall, but now she contends with a brace that holds her head in place and protects her spinal cord. She had to leave her home and take up residence at the local nursing home, where our step-father of eighteen years, Glenn Edwards, visits daily. In order to identify with her mother (not intentionally!) Jan fell at the end of September, not breaking anything, but injuring herself severely anyway—we are thankful it wasn’t worse and she has been recovering well.

Gary enjoyed the responses of many people to the publishing of Out of My Hands and The River Flows Both Ways, and he is still editing Our Land! Our People!, a much longer narrative about the child John Bell on the Trail of Tears and his interesting life afterwards. During the year Jan and five distant cousins descended from her Great-great Grandfather John Bell had DNA testing to support or disprove his Native American ancestry, since the documentary evidence to corroborate the family tradition about John Bell was thin. Jan learned that she and her cousins have ancient Far East Asian and Yakutian (Siberian) DNA, common to Native Americans in the DNA records, which is as much supporting evidence as we can gain at the present time. It was nice to learn that we had Asians in our family before our beloved Au joined us, and that she had ancestors in America before her Puritan New England and seafaring ancestors arrived (or the Germans, Irish, or English Quakers who came later to the Middle Colonies and Illinois). DNA can only give us a little glimpse into the recesses of our past. Eventually it must show that we are all related anyway—one family in one world, all deeply in need of reconciliation.

It has not been an easy year, but we have enjoyed it anyway. More heart issues developed for Gary, but he runs regularly anyway. He has also continued teaching philosophy and ethics at Southeastern Community College, but this year it was all online, making travel easier during the courses. We made the usual travel circuit of Burlington, Bella Vista, O’Fallon, Champaign, Paxton, Mt. Sterling; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Bloomington, Indiana, adding another trip to the Black Hills and Mammoth Site, and a journey with Gary’s two brothers and sisters-in-law to Sevierville, Tennessee, at the height of the marvelous fall color, to celebrate all of our milestone birthdays—seventy, seventy-five, and eighty (a few months ahead of time for some of us).

We have plenty of cause for thanksgiving, and our prayers for the coming year include you and our hopes to be with you. May the peace of God bless you abundantly.