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Looking back....

I've done a lot of looking back in the last couple of months. One of the things I overlooked last year was getting our beautifully written Christmas letter by my Leah published. So for the sake of looking back and remembering to never forget....

“Courage, dear heart”

One of my favorite memories with my Dad was when he would read us the Narnia stories. Clustered onto the living room couches in our warm pajamas and soft blankets, we would await the newest installment in the adventures of the Pevensie children. The way the words leapt from the page and were spun into a magical story in both my siblings’ minds and my own, aided by my Dad’s colorful character impressions, created a memory that I will never forget. Besides simply being an entertaining exercise for the imagination, these stories through their imagery and allegory also introduced me to elements of God’s character (Aslan) and gave an example through the Pevensie’s journey of what it means to be a follower of Him. Throughout the many years that have followed me having these stories read to me, much of these stories, and therefore the truths and comforting words wrapped up in them, have remained with me. One of these strings of comforting words is what I have placed at the top of this letter. These words are something I have often repeated to myself in difficult times: “Courage, dear heart”. This three-letter sentence became a sort of mantra for me over the past few years of my life and its usage reached its peak in the past year or so. These words have reminded me of the courage God can give us, how he loves us, and just why it is that our hearts so desperately need Him. Allow me to share with you exactly what I mean by that.Courage Admittedly, I am about as courageous as a mouse. Worry, anxiety, and fear are all things that have and do plague and (at times) control me. It is not uncommon to fear. Fear can be small, or it can be debilitating. It can take over, seeping into every aspect of your life until you no longer see clearly. So, when faced with the reality that I was going to lose something so precious to me, something I never thought I would lose, my Dad, I was terrified. My mind and heart were broken, I did not know what to do, how to handle this fact, or even accept completely that it was true. Fear became my existence. I had no control over what would happen to my Dad, and there was absolutely nothing I could do but turn to Jesus and his word. There, he gave me courage. From reading about Job, the Israelites, and others I was reminded that He is with me, to strengthen and to help, and uphold me. The same God who made the vast expanse of space, the unfathomable depths of the sea, and the complexity of the world around is with us, and he is powerful. Because of this, I knew that whatever the circumstance I could find solace in His plans.Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10Dear Do you know how truly, vastly, and deeply God loves you? I know, it can be difficult to believe sometimes with all the awful things that come about in life and because it just doesn’t seem possible. However, it is truly, vastly, deeply, true. God tells us how much he loves and shows just how much he loves us in the Bible. He came out of the perfection of heaven into our broken and hurting world and became human. He suffered, and died on the cross for us, so we could be reunited with Him. Nails were driven into his hands, he was beaten, mocked, and experienced pains many of us will never come close to experiencing. All of this, Jesus did because he loves all of us so very much. He will not forget you or forsake you, even when it may feel as though he has. This is something I have always known, but, in the last year, I have been shown even more clearly. When my Dad was sick, the church and our friends and even those we barely knew or did not know, showed us an incredible, unbelievable amount of love. From meals, to making paying off bills possible, to buying my siblings and I Christmas presents, my family and I have been loved well by God through all of those who helped us. Thank you so very much.Heart We all know that we are not perfect. We can all agree that we fail, are unkind, even cruel, fearful, liars, lazy, etc. When I look at my own heart, it is a marvel that anyone, let alone a perfect God could ever love me. Yet, it is true. Our hearts state is quite the opposite of what God is, he is good and we are not, and that is why we so desperately need Him. God came into this world as both God and man, Jesus, for a single purpose. That is, to reconcile our evil hearts to him. Jesus lived a perfect and blameless life, one that would later end for a short time with his death on the cross. Three days later, after he had been placed into a tomb, he came back to life! By doing this he paid the price for our sins and conquered death, giving us direct access to God through Jesus, and rescuing those who repent from their sins and believe in him.As celebrate Jesus’ birth this year, I hope you will remember the courage He can give, how deeply he loves you, and just why it is we need Him. Merry Christmas!

Now, onto the family updates…Mom (Sara) Anyone who knows my mom is aware just how wonderful she is. To quote my Dad, “A more beautiful woman, I've never met. Christ is that radiant in her.” This beauty is and has been evident every day to me and my siblings as we trudge through our new lives without my Dad. She leads us wisely and well, looking to and pointing us to God, our hope and redeemer, through it all. Christianna (20) Currently a junior in college at Ole Miss, Christianna is doing well in all her endeavors to become a high school English teacher. Whether it be excellence in learning to be a teacher, taking care of herself and others, or working her job at Marshals. Christianna does it well. Throughout the tough times of this past year or so she has always given a listening and caring ear to those who need it. Caring, confident, beautiful, intelligent, responsible, and funny are all words you could use to describe her. I am always impressed at how clever she can be at creating puns. She recently had her wisdom tooth removed, but unfortunately there are not any funny Christianna-on-drugs stories to share.Leah (18) I’m not going to say much about myself as I feel like that would be a bit weird. I am currently attending Volunteer State Community College, where I am doing pre-dental hygiene. Oh, and my hair is purple now? This is where mom has to break in... Leah is such a creative soul. Her studies have gone so well this first semester of college. She is often telling me about compliments her professors are giving her concerning her work! If I have to run errands and Leah is home, I come home to a clean house and laundry folded—not because I asked her but because she finds joy in serving people. She continues to keep her job as a house cleaner and her customers are her friends. I often get awakened by her, Mira and Joshua watching x-files at night while eating Leah’s homemade vegan queso or fries! She is an amazing cook, always busy cooking up love for everyone. Josh (17) Joshua is in his third year of high school this year and is constantly amazing everyone by the art he makes and the moon photos he takes (check out his Instagram @josh_vanh). On a clear night, you will often find him outside, gazing through the telescope up at the moon, planets, or nearby galaxies. If not outside, he is probably making meme references with friends, playing fortnite, or drawing. Joshua continues to be an incredibly wise and loving brother to all of us (though Abby especially).Mira (14) Mira, a freshman in high school, has recently funneled her passionate nature into the hobby of photography (check out her Instagram @merianphotos), and she is quite good. Her vision and creativity are impressive and admirable. I look forward to seeing her skills continue to grow. As her roommate, I am always impressed by how conscientious and studious she is, something her teachers have noticed as well. She is a good friend and is growing up to be absolutely gorgeous inside and out. Like Joshua, Mira loves her siblings well.Ellie (11) Ellie, sweet, loving, lovely, and charming as can be, is now in sixth grade and continues to be a dazzlingly beautiful ballerina. Her grace and poise while dancing is simply angelic. I am so proud of how hard she works. She also has recently developed a talent for concert planning as our family has often had the pleasure of watching her “Orphan-with-Magic-Defeats-The-Evil-Monster the Musical” shows starring siblings and friends as well as her piano concerts. She is growing much too fast, and I am constantly taken aback by just how grown up she looks and acts.Daniel (9) Flag Football player, player, all around cool guy, that’s Daniel for you. If you feel as though you need to talk about life with someone, I would highly recommend Daniel. He has an interesting, insightful, and sometimes humorous outlook on many things in the world most people would not take the time to consider. Because of this, in addition to his innate curiosity about life, I believe that he would make a great scientist. Although, if you ask him about future job prospects, he will probably tell you about his plan to become a professional football player. Daniel is also growing much too fast.Helaena (6) If Helaena was a type of cookie, she would be a ginger snap. She is unbelievably sweet and loveable but has some spunk to her. Also, a ballerina, Helaena is always showing me just how talented a six-year-old can be. She dances more like a fairy or some sort of sprite than like an angel, but is equally as beautiful when she does. Lanie or Helaena is full of silly laughter that you can easily hear by just tickling her, and she is always up for a game. Someday, she plans on being an actress. I think I probably don’t need to say this again, but Helaena is also growing too fast. Abby (3) The chubbiest bean you will ever meet…… the scroofinest scroofin……. adored by all and by all squeezed……..that is Abigail. Abby has also joined the rank of ballerina. The sight of her in full ballet getup, leotard, tights, slippers, and bun will not only make you want to squeeze her, but your heart will melt as well. She loves a good complement (she will probably respond with “I know”), can talk for hours, and never forgets to wish me a good day at college followed by a quick hug. Abby is not only growing too quickly, but her knowledge of bedtime excuses is growing as well. I’m not sure I can keep up.

Merry Christmas from the Van Hooreweghe family!!!!

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