Grace and Mercy

December 2004
Dear Family and Friends,
Have you ever thought of how God’s grace and mercy show itself in everyday life?
God’s grace--receiving what we do not deserve: His goodness, His love, His favor.
God’s mercy—not receiving what we do deserve: His judgment, our punishment, our consequences. What a year for us to think about Him!

My surgery took place on December 31—what a way to usher in the New Year. It was a vivid reminder of God’s grace and mercy to us when the normal hour and a half surgery turned into five hours, my heart rate dropped to 15 beats/minutes, and several complications hindered recovery. After two days in the hospital, Joey brought me home, and then he returned to his Army service. I had t accept our dear friends keeping Joshua for two weeks. A hard lesson in letting God be “God.” I had to make the choice between getting better and nursing the baby…after nursing for twelve years straight; it was a choice not easy to make. God’s mercy—giving us Joshua’s life and mine, providing the three months of in-bed healing, encouraging the boys and me while Joey was still doing Army service.

Many times, the little things reminded me that God’s mercy was at work. My mom stayed from mid-December to February to help with the everyday things. Friends took the boys to Sunday School, church and AWANA every week in spite of the 45-minute drive one-way, out of their way. The Mennonite Community up here in our hills faithfully brought us meals. Our church people came at a moment’s notice to fix our water problems, or transport our cow to be bred. The little things like learning the hard way what a relief and yes, pleasure, to be able to go to the bathroom without pain. God’s mercy coupled with His grace made those times livable.

Our strength was waning on the home front. Joey was still full-time Army buy was notable several times to come home on the weekends. Another testimony showing God’s grace. When Joey finally was finished with his full time service, he came home in April. A long year—an example of God’s sustaining grace for all of us.

Joey went to work in Fresno and requested Fridays off from work to help with school and catch up on all the ‘stuff.’ That continues to be the day of help—God’s grace at work. We all enjoy having him home.

When asked what he would like to do, Joey John (13), without hesitation said, “I’d like to crawl in tunnels.” While he and Joey rappelled 167 feet in a narrow hole in the pit of the ground, the other boys walked 165 steps to see other parts of the cave. Mom sat waiting at the top with the two youngest, waiting and obviously praying. God displayed His mercy t what a mom could imagine that could happen but did not.

For our 14th anniversary, Joey arranged a night away. We kept Joshua, while the other boys stayed with our dear friends. (We had never left them for anything other than emergencies.) WE spent Friday evening like the ones we use to when were newlyweds—browsing in a bookstore. We were actually able to finish sentences without interruption, carry on an intelligent conversation (well, Joey, did, I just listened), and almost felt like we were alone. It was a time for enjoying the blessing of God’s grace.

Healing has come from the surgery, and all can feel the benefits. I don’t have to rest after putting a pan of water on the stove to boil. The timing was hard but the best when we look back at God’s providing grace.

The boys continue to make me laugh and challenge me and bless me. We had just purchased underwear for the boys—getting the right size for all those growing bodies. James (3) fits into size 4, Jacob (5) fits into size 6, Jonas (7) fits into size 8,… Jacob turns to me and asks, “Mom, what size do you wear?” Then after a moment of stunned silence, he added, “Oh never mind, I know, you wear size 40.” I hit the ceiling, “40! What do you mean? 40? I may feel 40 and be 40 but I do not wear 40!” God’s grace given through the years (or should I say decades?).

Joey John helped our mechanic replace the Blazer’s engine, tightening a bolt here, holding a wrench there. You should have seen his smile when they turned the key to start the engine! He is my resident mechanic when something needs adjusted or fixed when joey’s not home. He is willing to try and has an aptitude for how things should work. God’s grace at work in the nuts and bolts of things.

Blessing us with both his song and his songbirds, Josiah (11) has a gift to care for the big and little creatures. He tends his parakeets as they sit on his shoulder and cares for our milking cow—as we wait the birth of her second calf. He reminds us of God’s grace for the little things.

After over $1,000 in wire damage done to our vehicles by squirrels, I went on a poison campaign. I had to tow the Excursion 45 miles to the dealer once when squirrels ate through the main control panel for the entire electrical unit. Another time they chewed through the brake line God’s mercy kept us from what could have been.

Joey helped coach the boys’ 10-13 year-old flag football team. While they practiced, Jacob (5) helped pull flags. He was ecstatic (so were the rest of us), when he actually played in a 6-9 year-old game twice when they were short players. He played against Jonathan (9) and Jonas (7). Now for which team would you cheer? It was a “good throw, Jonas…RUN, Jonathan…Pull his flag, Jacob” kind of game. How does God cheer us on…with so many on both sides of the field? God’s grace revealed to all of us.

Mutton Bustin’, an event in a rodeo geared for children was another highlight for the boys. James, Jacob and Jonas rode sheep. Jonathan, Josiah and Joey John rode small bucking steers. The announcer prepared the crowd for the next contestant, while preparation in the cattle shoot was finished, complete with helmet, padded vest and a rope. Stores of previous accidents circulated to build the suspense in the bleachers. The door opens, out runs the ‘wild’ animal, off falls the rider. Quite the 1.5 to 6 second ride after all that anticipation. When it is all over, a relief settles over Mom, a sense of pride fills Dad, and an excitement of a challenge on lights up each boy’s face. God’s mercy given even when common sense isn’t.

Joshua (1), what a joy he brings to us all. He knows when the outside door opens. If the person isn’t fast enough to shut the door, he will be outside! James (3) is his buddy, protecting him from things he should not have, reporting to me during school time when he is doing. What a picture of God’s mercy, daily, protecting all of them on the near misses of danger, of harm, of the almost calamities. It is a good thing that we do not know what could have been, or would have been, I would be a nervous wreck.

As we reflect on the year with its evidence of God’s grace and mercy, we are reminded anew of the ultimate example of God’s grace when we sent His Son to be like us so that we could know Him. What mercy it took to redeem fallen man to restoration with Him. What grace to accept us as His sons. Puts all the world’s problems and this year’s in perspective.

May God’s mercy and grace rest on you and yours in Christmas season and the coming year.

Joey, Sonya, Joey John, Josiah, Jonathan, Jonas, Jacob, James, and Joshua




I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

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Tell of My Kingdom's Glory
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