Whatever Your Hand Finds To Do
March, 1999
Dear Friends and Family

If we could summarize this past years’ experiences into one lesson, it would be “whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might,” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

If we were to start with our animals with this lesson, we would find our one goat who “freshened” (bore a kid) three days before our Thanksgiving trip to Indy. Our hopes were great as we milked a quart of milk without effort before we left for our vacation. Our caretaker was willing to milk her for us. Upon our return, we found to our disappointment, that the person didn’t and we were unable to milk more than half cup per milking. Our hand lost what we had; a visible lesson on “When you don’t use it, you lose it.”

Early spring brought another adventure to our household. We sent for 16 ducks through the mail. We enjoyed watching their daily growth. When five months came, time for eggs and a visible difference in the gender, we found that we had three females and 13 males. Not good odds when we purchased them for eggs. Our hand still found only 1-2 eggs laid haphazardly on the bank of the pond in a month’s time. Joey decided that our hands better have more eggs. So our troop went to the pond to move our flock now numbering seven. Have you ever tried chasing and cornering seven ducks on five acres? WE caught only the females and put them in our kennel. The next morning, the males were honking outside the kennel for admittance and we had in our hands three eggs.

We purchased another run of ducks, paying for 15 females. Several mishaps and fox/owl runs later we are now down to two of the original females, one male, and ten females from the second patch. Our hands are now bringing in eggs from the maturing second batch. We were excited yesterday with six eggs.

Our two goats we tried to breed in June with an ornery bossy male (taller than me and definitely more stubborn) but to no avail. We tried again in November—this time off our property (my hand was just too full of experiences of the male from last time). We are still waiting freshening sometime in April from both of them (we hope.)

Our cow provided us after two years of mowing our lawn with a full freezer and some tasty jerky.

Our pigs this year are finished and on their way to the freezer.

God certainly puts different tools in each of our hands. We saw this distinctly when Shepherd, our snake and watch dog died on New Year’s Eve. Joey John responded by crying off and on for several days. After Josiah was told, there was a long pause and then he said, “Well, we only have one dog now to feed.” (A major chore on cold mornings!) Jonathan, our unpredictable three-year-old, told someone, “We have a dead dog in our car port.” He left a big hole. I knew when the children were out and about the he would be with them and could smell out a snake before danger struck. Our hands feel rather empty, although I know four guardian angels that are kept extra busy now.

In June, we had a teenager live with us—it was a lesson on how some hands have desire but need training to bring out the skills that are there. Joey felt like we lost a son when he went to live with his grandma.

Joey John’s hands, at seven years, have been busy with school this year. His progress with reading, interest in the world, and development in reasoning have kept my hands busy as well. We’ve been pleased to see seeds of responsibility growing in his hands.

The hands of Josiah, five years, have once again fulfilled his name’s meaning, the healer. He is on call to lend a hand with Jonas, at 20 months. He can often be seen giving a prolonged wagon ride to a pleased passenger or carrying him on all their adventures over the property. When he is not helping someone, his hands are busy writing important messages or coloring.

Jonathan’s hands are usually weed-wacking, chain sawing or circular sawing some piece of scrap wood with his designated machine, RRRRRing, completely oblivious to others’ actions. His tools can be anything from a piece of wood to his own hand, but they are most busy. I was relieved at Christmastime when he had asked for a ‘real’ chain saw, rototiller, circular saw and weed-wacker that an aunt had bought him a play dough kit that had what he called a ‘chain saw’ in it for the play dough. When his daddy is home, he is his shadow, helping to haul the biggest piece of wood, pushing the wagon full of supplies or when Joey butchered the ducks, Jonathan was right there within inches, hands on knees cheering him with, “OK, Daddy, go ahead.”

The question that should be asked of Jonas, is not what is in his hand, although that can be anything from bugs, pig food, flowers or mud, but what is in his pocket. Of course, that could be anything mentioned above, but I’ve also found him sticking pineapples, weeds, and spaghetti, not to mention the all-time standby of just walking around the grounds with his hands in them. He’s my afternoon helper when it comes to corralling the ducks into their pen. He wanders or rather chases after them with his arms outstretched bringing them around to their doorway. He may not be much bigger than they are but they know who is boss.

Joey’s hands have been overly filled. He was sworn into the Army Reserves this February with an unofficial designation with the Special Forces, to be made official in several weeks.

His job after a year of six days a week all the time was given a break by another P.A. that was hired in September. After a series of happenings, much prayer and counsel, Joey put his resignation to take effect February 5th. He took two months off, doing part-time work. Now he is working in dermatology laser surgery.

Our hands were especially full as we waited for our fifth arrival. We were concerned about the baby’s size especially his lung development when I wasn’t catching up as I always had done. An ultrasound a week before the due date showed a new due date of March 20th; six more weeks give or take three weeks. (I thought, give or take three weeks! That’s like telling me it will be next year sometime.) I filled my hands with projects that had been put on hold till “later.”

After going in and out of labor for a week, Thursday, Joey’s first day at his new job—I went into hard labor. I thought that I could make it until after he went to the men’s morning prayer meeting. By 6:40 AM I called Joey home. We had a friend from Joey’s past work help with the children, and the same midwives as with Jonathan and Jonas. “We” labored from 5 AM until 11:49 AM, our shortest intense labor, to receive Jacob Amos into our hands. All the boys did well throughout the labor. When Jacob arrived, all of them gathered around, solemn and concerned. Jonathan burst into tears when the blood spilled out. He clung to Joey for a while after he calmed down. They have all been a great help, throughout labor and now. Joey John has acquired the chore of goat and duck care. Josiah still cares for the two dogs, a stray puppy adopted us a week and a half before the baby came. Jonathan helps with the bedding each morn and night. Jonas makes sure mommy has her slippers on wherever she goes. All of them patiently take turns holding the baby, although it’s difficult, especially for Jonas to wait. Joey’s folks came the evening of the birth to spend some time. They, too, have been a God-send of help.

WE have been blessed—indeed our hands are full of what God has given. This year has been a time to reach up our hands with open hearts to listen to His Words, to use what He has placed in our hands for Him.

Some of you wondered about not receiving our normal Christmas letter. We had made an attempt to empty our hands of extras during the season to be in tune with what God would want in our hands. And since our baby was due in February, I thought that we could combine our news to place in your hands our newest news.

In His Hands,

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

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

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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