December, 2019 
Dear Family and Friends,                                                      

Considering this year, the phrase hanging by a thread comes to mind. The expression came during the time of King Dionysis in Ancient Syracuse. Being annoyed by Damocle, his courtier, and his constant flattery, the king held a banquet in his honor. He suspended a sword, held only by a thread over Damocles’s chair, showing his fragile position in court and life. Thus, hanging by a thread denotes “ready to fall apart or the situation can change in an instant.”

You judge whether that fits our year.

How thick that thread that we hang onto may depend on who you ask. The boys’ thread seems less secure than I would wish. But not as fragile as they might like.

When Rachel instructed, “Emma (5), five more minutes and we’ll start school.”
Emma responded, “Can we start school now, before anything bothers me?”
“What’s going to bother you?”
“I don’t know, but I could start whining at any minute.”

Our situations can change in an instant. When Jeremiah asks his questions, I’m not always ready to hear them. “How long would it take to walk around the moon? Could you fall off? Is it flat? Can you fall off the earth?”

The thread hanging above me was pretty thin during last year’s unexplained symptoms. Surgery removed three cysts, one close to 7 centimeters. I could breathe and eat again. The thread stopped swaying over my head. But threatened a different part. One morning I couldn’t see out of my left eye. The eye doctor said, “We’ll watch it.” (How was I to “watch it”?) It’s been more than an adjustment to compensate, especially playing the piano and reading. Sometimes it’s not worth holding onto the thread.

When I was helping Jacob with school, he complained that he couldn’t see—poison oak had swollen his eyelid. He said, “We both couldn’t see the problem.” And I definitely won’t be seeing to thread that needle.

When the boys work, I never know what kind of thread holds them to safety and earth.
James corralled a horse that jumped a 7’ fence—twice.
At midnight the boys left to take a customer home after he drove his truck off the cliff.
Jonas’s thread took the form of barbed wire as he strung a seven-strand barbed wire fence. 
Josh asked if he was trying to keep in cats. Jonas replied, “No, just horses and squirrels.”

The thread between life and death can be measured sometimes in hours. James hatched one hundred and twenty eggs at one time. He already had them sold before they were a week old.
Jeremiah was given quail eggs and hatched them. 
When Jeremiah’s ducks began laying eggs, he put twenty eggs under one hen. When he asked James, “Is the temperature of ducks the same as chickens?”
James responded, “Depends on if the ducks are cold and the chickens are hot.”
Jeremiah clarified, “Well, if they are moving around.”
James answered, “Their temperature doesn’t change that much.”
Jeremiah finally gave the context, “Well, while they are incubating.”
Alas, the thread to life is fragile, especially when dogs get loose while we aren’t home. Jeremiah’s flock was decimated.

Later he purchased two sets of ducks to raise from eggs for their eggs. When Jeremiah expressed how much money he was going to make, Jonas tried to bring him back to reality. “Don’t sell chickens, ducks, pigs, goats, cows, sheep,…if you want to earn a lot of money.”
When I asked him, “What do you do?”
He said, “Know a rich uncle.” Any givers?

Josh, Jeremiah and Joey ran in a Spartan Race, complete with climbing ropes, mud, monkey bars, hauling cement up and down a hill and other obstacles. When they finished, Josh used his medal as target practice. When asked why he didn’t keep his shirt, he said, “It says ‘Finisher’.” His thread of what he wants to remember is very selective.

James described Josh’s weedwacking as time spent chasing mice with his weedwacker. Josh shrugged and said, “I don’t do lizards too often—cause that would be cold-blooded murder.”

Hanging by a thread could describe the relationship between Jeremiah and Joshua, especially when they work together. When Jeremiah told how he was growing a mustache, Josh said, “A Mexican mustache—with one hair.”
Jeremiah commented, “I’ve learned not to stick my tongue out and lick the stuff off when I’m weedwacking dog kennels.” Was that a learned experience?
After working with Josh, a friend retold the conversation with the customer. The customer mentioned how hot it was—Josh responded, “It was cool for awhile, and not too hot.” The customer said, how hard they worked—Josh said, “not too hard.” How it took awhile—Josh said, “not too long.” The customer finally said, “You just don’t complain about anything, do you?” Josh just shrugged. The friend laughed.
Jeremiah commented after they told their story that he didn’t complain either. In the next sentence he said, “It was too hot.” 
I said, “There you go.” 
Jonas tightened the thread over his head and told him, “Busted.”

The boys killed two rattlesnakes one day—a four-footer going in one hole and a three-footer coming out another hole. I clarified, “It wasn’t just the same one, measured differently?”

Sometimes the thread is all in what or how you say something. When I asked about catching a ride to the mechanics, James suggested using his truck. I said, “Not in your truck. I must drive something 20-years-old, that’s all mine, so I can mess it up.” Jacob interjected, “I’m 20 years old, and I’m all yours.”

Jacob felt he had sufficient weed-wacking experience. He tested to become an insurance agent and went to a special conference for training. Hustling to meet customers and managing clients, functioning in school, working side jobs—all stretched his line a bit. He found a closer job—at Reedley College with the agriculture department. He still does all of this. Taunt lines mean no sleep.

Jonas was hired at a ranch to train their horses until the thread between his horse and his jeans were separated. The injury resulted in months of healing without riding. The first thing Josh told him when we brought him home from the accident was, “So this is what it takes for you to get a day off.” Within a week of being released to ride again, a jarring mishap put him off any horses for much longer. Sometimes we just can’t hang on.

Jones rescued a rancher’s calf from a dog attack. The rancher gave it up for dead. James kept him alive, treating his hide-less leg for months. It would never walk on that leg, but did manage to live. When he reached some weight, the boys “harvested it” (the new term for butchering). When it came to cutting up the meat, James and I, with a friend, were the only ones available. (The others had helped quarter and freeze it.) We cut a lot of roasts and stew meat. I had about seven packages labeled, “Looks like tri-tip.” When James’s meat cutting class covered the cuts of meat, he said, “This would have helped before we processed the meat.” Jacob commented that we should cut all the meat, “’cause we get seven trip-tips from one cow.”

James’s line keeps him busy as he’s tackled 19 credit hours this semester at Reedley. Not with fluff classes, but with chemistry, trigonometry, history, and composition. If he’s not in class, he’s in lab. The string keeps him close to school.

Josh played baseball last year for Babe Ruth. He pitched and caught. In between weed-wacking and school, he managed to make it to his practices and games. 

When Jonas commented about cutting his hair again, Jeremiah suggested he “shave his head bald and make it shiny.” Later, Jonas administered a haircut to Jeremiah. It wasn’t bald, but from Jeremiah’s complaints the sword (or scissors in this case) hung close to his head, compliments excluded.

Preparing for the upcoming wedding required Josh to be fitted for a suit along with the other boys who were in the wedding. Josh tried without success to convince us he wouldn’t need it. Jonas told him, “You are getting a suit and wearing it every week to church and NEEDING IT.”

Josiah and Dana married in May. During their reception, they received many blessings, advice and songs offered by their guests. It was a testimony that a three-cord union is not quickly broken (Eccl 4:12). The day after their wedding, both Dana and Josiah graduated from nursing school. Another tie is broken.

Some threads of friendship are more shaky. Jeremiah splashed, then submerged a visiting friend in his duck pond. After drying off, they remained outside due to their rank smell. His friend was threatened to be tied to the top of the car for their drive home. Her clothes were left in a bag on their porch. I think the thread was strong enough. They still write each other letters.

When Jonas planned an outing with a special friend using a borrowed truck, he ran out of gas. His brothers razed him, “On your first date—running out of gas. Right.”
On his second date, he planned a picnic that became the standard for all comparison. He again ran out of gas, this time with the quad. The friend should be getting use to the thin thread hanging over Jonas. Jacob consulted me for food ideas for one of his picnics with his friend. He didn’t choose just one of my ideas, but used them all. When they left for the National Park, someone asked me when they’d be back. I didn’t know, but they had enough food to last a week.

Sometimes that thread doesn’t fall far from the tree. The boys bemoan when others compare them to Dad. James said he’d take a cold shower “like Dad”, then tell himself, “Why am I doing this? Enjoy life.” When Joey called a patient, who was also a weedwacking customer of the boys’, they said, “You sound just like Jacob!” Family ties give anchors.

When Jonas was sharing how he finished off a girl’s lunch at work, Josh thought that was gross. I said, “Wait a minute. When you hunt, you don’t wash your hands, eat on the dirt, but—” 
Josh interrupted, “But I don’t eat off a plate that a girl did.”

Jonas purchased a non-op truck. After Jacob drove the three hour trip home, it would not start. Josh suggested throwing lighter fluid on it. It would start—like a kick start. When they towed it to the mechanics, the steering wheel came off. The truck’s saga continued. It works now, but maybe by a thread and a prayer.

James commented about seeing better after his glasses were adjusted. He told Jacob, “It’s good to see when you drive.” Jacob wasn’t sure of the value of seeing too well. It remains to be seen if he ever will.

Jacob sold his motorcycle in the early part of the year, but purchased another one recently. He’s building his “club” of motorcyclists who ride with him, James included (behind him).

Threads can travel far.
James visited family in Canada, then went to Florida to help friends with their mobile coffee truck. Jacob wished, “You might finally learn how to make a decent cup of coffee.”
Jonas instructed him later, “That’s when you know you’ve made good coffee—when the sugar stands on the top.”
Upon James’s return, Jonas told him regarding the chores, “If you could be responsible and stay somewhere longer than two weeks, maybe you would be able to…”

Jacob and Jonas have taken several visits to Idaho.
Jeremiah spent two weeks with Uncle Albee.
Josh was drawn for a hunting trip—complete with guide, spotter and transportation over a ranch providing meals and bed. He returned successful. Venison jerky anyone?
Joey went to Korea. He brought back octopus jerky. Those were some hard strings. He also had several weeks’ worth of training to keep current as he continues to jump out of planes when able.
Joey and I took several weekend trips with errands for the Army: LA up the coast, around Monterey, and a third from SF down to Big Sur. Keeps our threads secure and tight.
Josh was also drawn for two pheasant hunts. His bullets thread through the air just right.

Even Jonas’s dogs took trips. When Jonas left for the week at the ranch, TJ, his dog, moped. Once when TJ wasn’t tied, he jumped the fence and followed Jonas. Jonas clocked him at 25 m/hr. James found him a mile down the road. By the time I chased him down, he was hiking back home. A thicker thread will keep him home after that, maybe.

When Jonas stated that Jill (also his dog) was too fat to jump into his truck bed, I didn’t make the connection until he said puppies were due mid-month. Threads around puppies only get chewed.

Though puppies tug at heart strings, Josh did not allow them, especially when he heard crackling in his ear and a flea escaped from it. He did wish the threads to the dogs and Jonas, his roommate were farther from his room. 

While talking to our grandchildren on Hangouts, Grace (3) had a banana, but said it didn’t swim. Someone asked if it floated. The girls couldn’t understand the concept of “Banana floats.”
Jonathan said, “Know what we have to have tonight.” Words connect concepts better than thread, sometimes.

When Jonathan spoke of working night shift, Joey John questioned his hours. 8 PM-12PM.
Joey John redefined it, “So you’re working evenings.”
Jonathan clarified it farther, “Well nights to 1 AM or morning.”
We also enjoy the interaction between designing engineer and crane operator: those who build vs those who use what’s built. There is a strong cord between them.

Machines can be held together by a thin wire. Josiah’s tire went flat, then the Excursion’s, then our water pump went out, then the washing machine, then the hot water heater, all within two month’s time. Just a thin wire held me from total frustration.

In spite of all the thin threads, sometimes it’s good for normal things. Joey asked James if he wanted a backrub. Josh appeared from the other side of the house for his.
Dad suggested to Josh as he rubbed James’s head, “Consider brushing your future wife’s hair—it’s relaxing.” Josh responded, “It shouldn’t feel that great.And if that’s what I gotta do for a wife, I won’t get one.”

Sometimes, a hanging thread is just too much. We rented a dumpster to declutter. Working through our mud room and garage, some threads had to go. We now have space.

Hanging by a thread could also describe waiting—waiting for grandbabies.
When asked what she would name their new baby, Emma pointed to her dad with a disgusted expression, “Not Joey.” She said with, not one, but two “Joey’s” sitting there. 
Jonathan and McKenna, after a hard pregnancy, delivered 5 lb. Elanna Silver on Labor Day.
Joey John said, “Thanks for making me an uncle.”
A week later, Anne, with an “E” was added to Joey John and Rachel’s home and our hearts.
The boys are a bit concerned about the odds growing against them. But the threads to the heart will hold. Those strands grew while I went to TX to see Jonathan’s family for a week. 
One son realized as I was leaving that I wouldn’t be home to do his laundry. He could only groan.
Josh became chef while I was gone. When I asked, “Is my job threatened?” James responded immediately, “Not a chance, Mom.”
Joey met me at the end of the week for his own introduction to Elanna. We enjoyed watching Jonathan’s gentleness with such a wee one and McKenna’s care of both of them.
The following week four of us traveled to WI to meet Anne Harmony. And of course play with Emma and Grace. Oh, and visit their parents—Joey John and Rachel. The thread squeezes us closer together.
Waiting continues as Josiah and Dana await their own little one, another girl. They live just down the hill. What will it be like to have grandchildren close? Hope our chords don’t squeeze the life out of them. 

Threads, this time electrical, were the subject of one meal when Josh asked, “Why does shocking the heart restart it?” After Joey explained it, Josh said, “Why don’t they teach these kind of things in school, instead of all those unnecessary things?” Not sure how to make the threads of what is fundamental connect to those that Josh sees as important.

Jeremiah and I built a shed. Why? To keep a thin thread to my sanity. It’s for Jeremiah to work on his art. He received two first place and two second place ribbons at the Fresno County Fair for his entries. He sold some of his art work at a students’ art show. His threads are strategically placed on paper. They result in success.

We always enjoy when the boys bring their girls for dinner. They bring a feminine perspective.
Otherwise we get things like: Jacob commenting that Josh’s hair was “looking like an unhealthy rat.” Instead of taking offense, Josh agreed, rubbing his head, “Yeah, I was noticing my hair was kinda thin.” The girls add a softer approach. And laughter.

We continue taking Dr. Aardsma’s supplement (available at My need for pain medicine is gone. Jonas’s headaches are gone. Energy and motivation has returned to work on projects—like decluttering. Other issues too many to elaborate here continue to improve. The thread between aging symptoms and its cure continues to unfold.

Though the thread may stretch or shrink, the ties that bind us to those important and the chords that hold us to our work and activities, though important, are nothing compared to the unbreakable thread that keeps us tied to the heart of God. Though we talk about the manger, it didn’t start there. It began long before creation, when God wanted our fellowship. By sending His Son, He showed us He hadn’t forgotten our need. We must know God to be fulfilled and content. He’s like the Father who won’t allow His wayward child to go too far. Those ties draw us to Him, in spite of our bungee cords of independence and rebellion that yank us away from Him. It starts with recognizing we need Him and submit to Him. And He really does the rest. 

Hanging on by a thread?
You bet! But that thread was made by God and there’s no breaking it. It’s not based on how tightly we hold to the thread. But it all depends on Who holds the thread at the other end. God has it. I can rest, even while my boys are doing dangerous things, because that thread ain’t going to break for nothin’.

Submit to God Who can bring all the shredded threads of your life together to make you whole again.

Joey and Sonya, Jonas, Jacob, James, Josh and Jeremiah

With Joey and Rachel’s family: Emma, Grace and Anne,
Jonathan and McKenna and Elanna. And Josiah and Dana and Miriam Joy (baby coming)

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
Three Book Series



Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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