Who Has Control?

December, 2016
Dear Family and Friends,                                                                                                                      

What do you control? Our house pulsates with someone vying for control, ownership, and dominion. Even our body wash promises control: Old Spice—Bear Glove: for the commanding man. Do we need a soap enforcing this idea?

Controlling children: it’s a battle parents must win. When our dentist drills for a filling, that child must sit still. Control is for his safety.

Control must be parceled off as responsibility grows and boys become men. Boys aren’t suddenly men and wise enough to make their own decisions. Sometimes allowing them control helps make them into the men they should be; other times, we can only wonder.

We started this year on a mountaintop. With friends by our side, we rappelled down cliffs to canyons only those willing to let go of the rope and fall into their beauty could see. After the first cliff, I never saw Michael who stayed with our guides in the lead. One guide at the end asked, “If I felt empowered?” I hadn’t controlled anything. I was with my family for our “family vacation.” What was to control?

Jonas volunteered to take Michael on his errands, but said, “I refuse to take you if you have mis-matched, fluffy socks.” Michael found matching fluffy socks. Jonas conceded. Another time, Michael told Jonas he would do anything to go with him. Jonas asked, “How about obeying every day, then Mom will let you go.” Michael’s response, “Oh, that’s too hard.” Control is hard to learn.

When the boys were removing carpet at church, I texted Jacob asking how Josh and Michael were doing. He replied, “Great.” I thought good. Later, when Jacob commented on how horrific the experience was, I reminded him he said “Great.” He looked at me with exasperation. “Mom, that was without an “!” That means a sarcastic response.” Control over words and punctuation is essential for communication.

Control seems to be paramount at our house. It just depends on whose control you’re talking about. After removing popcorn and painting from the bedroom ceiling, Josh thought he was a master. I informed him, “Doing it once, doesn’t make you an expert.” Still staying on top, he said, “Well, I’m experienced.”

Along the same expert lines, Josh was discussing baseball. Rachel told him, “If you played as well as you talked, you’d be an athlete.” He and Michael played baseball this year on the same team. They finished the season as three-year champions, although we daily struggle with incorporating that “team spirit.”

After schooling for heavy equipment, and a few months’ job searching, Jonathan landed in Dallas, Texas. He started as a crane operator—on top of towers, constructing multi-level buildings. His other equipment training has also come into play. (If play is the right word for a job he loves to do.) He thrives with controlling his world of dirt, and high elevation. He’s exercised his control when a co-worker was directing his bucket of cement to the proper spot. Jonathan told him, “Don’t touch my bucket.” [Touching his bucket can knock the man off his metal support.] When the co-worker continued to touch it. Jonathan said, “I will turn off my machine and leave my post, if you touch it again.” The man didn’t touch his bucket. Jonathan does exercise control.

After celebrating his graduation, Jonas left for his training at Farrier School in Missouri (Horseshoeing and blacksmithing.) After considering taking his dog, he didn’t. In the end, the only animal he took, he said, “Was Jacob.” Jacob drove out with him, then flew home.

Before making their way to Missouri, they stopped at WI (where Joey John lives). We received pictures of Jonas having a tea party with Emma (3). Josh said, “How lucky!” The quest for whose control continued as Jonas told Emma, “I’ll cut her fingernails, if she’d get the nail clippers.” She wanted him to get them. He said she would have to. She sat on his lap, kissed him, then asked to be carried to the bathroom to get them. Now who has control? Do my boys have a chance against any female?

Before Jonas was gone four days, Michael informed James, “I’ll give you Jonas’s horse, so I can have yours.” As if he was in control!

Joey took Josh and Jacob to Frontsight for rifle training. In a man-to-man contest, against some stiff competition, Jacob earned a first. Impressive! He had control.

James controls through serving. Although in charge of the chickens for years, he’s walked in Jonas’s footsteps with the cow management. Now with Jonas in school, all the animals were delegated to him. He milked and managed the pastures for all their cows and horses. Jonas treats animals as a business. James holds them in his heart. Every morning he moved them to their respective fields. One evening, while getting a stubborn calf moving toward home, his milk cow ate Oleander (a poisonous plant). She ate but a few mouthfuls, before James re-directed her home. A little poison went a long way. She died. Control over heart issues is hard.

James bemoaned not driving, especially when he had to recruit a trailer, truck and driver to move his cows. He counted the days till he could take his permit test. In CA he cannot drive, even after his permit test, without taking a lesson from a preapproved agency. The day was scheduled. Michael said, “He hoped he wasn’t alive when James got it.” James added, “We hope so, too.” (Does such honesty happen with girls?) The evening before the scheduled lesson, reports differ as to whether James “just fell off” or the horse dumped him. Josh bemoaned either way. “Too bad you didn’t get thrown, falling off your horse is not very exciting.” James assured everyone he “didn’t fall off.” The horse did scrape her nose and forehead, attesting to the stumbling part. It was at this time, James commented about the klutzy pregnant horse. The report of the horse stumbling and falling seemed more probable. James confirmed again. “She did stumble and fall.”

This was the first I’d heard she was pregnant. Apparently, a neighbor’s donkey jumped the fence while our horses were grazing at another neighbor’s months ago. I asked, “When I was going to be told about all this?” James smiled his sheepish grin. “When she delivered.” I told him, “Pregnancy took a while for a reason—so all people involved, including his mom, are ready. What happens that we (the parents) have no idea? Maybe the idea to control is a fallacy.

We went to Valley Children’s for x-rays, after canceling James’s long-awaited driver’s appointment. HIs wrist was fractured, delaying his driving, again. Another spill from his horse when a borrowed saddle’s cinch broke, makes me wonder if it should be the year for him to drive at all.

Now that James is driving, with adult supervision, Jonas said, he “Would medicate his cows if James was ‘legal’ to drive.” James said, “It’s not like I’m some alien from China.” If I remember right, it wasn’t too long ago, I felt the same about Jonas.

Although Jacob tells us our Squaw Valley culture is unique, we can’t be totally red-necked, because we don’t do this...Jonas told of “Top Knot,” a student in his class in MO, who jumped out of the truck for a possum lying on the road. While attempting to kill the faking animal with his pocket knife, he stabbed his own leg. He was sent home.

When asked about his school nicknames, Jonas said he corrected someone at school. The student was told, “You’ve been ‘home-schooled!’” His nicknamed stuck: “Homeschooled.” His other nickname was “Merry, Merry quite Contrary.” Or “Merry” for short.

One girl was nicknamed “Pineapple.” She was brunette on the outside and blonde on the inside. She started to cry, so the name didn’t stick. The instructor gave it to another girl. She said she “didn’t get it.” The name stuck.

I wonder if we’ve prepared our boys for girls. How do you do that? One student couldn’t walk around Jonas’s extended mirrors on his truck. She continually pushed them toward his doors. In Walmart, his mirrors were folded again. The girl’s keys were left in her car in the parking lot. Jonas moved her car and left.

Jonathan invited friends on Facebook to his wedding. As his invitation ended, he requested someone to bring him a bride, so he could marry in a timely manner. Along the same lines, Jonathan met a girl from “heaven” at a mall. I warned him, “Lucifer was from heaven, but he was cast out.” Not all heavenly things touched by earth are good. Some things are not for man to control.

While Joey and I visited Joey John, Rachel and Emma in WI, Emma played teacher. She’d cough, before speaking, then pause with nothing more to say. When I was teacher, I explained students must raise their hands before they talked. She listened carefully, then ran to her mom asking for another teacher. When Joey taught, she raised her hand, then whispered to him, looking at me. Girls are so different!

Birth timing is only in God’s control. We came home from our visit without seeing any grandbaby. Our second granddaughter Grace arrived April 4th to a very ready family.

Forget dancing like no one is watching, dance like a toddler. They don’t even care if there’s music—We so enjoy our Emma and Grace!

While we were gone, Michael made an ancestor tree—a painted rock for each member, complete with hair from dogs, goats, deer, and not sure I should ask what else. James commented, “We’re a bunch of rock stars.” Later, Michael painted rocks to resemble M&M’s. Now when someone asks for my M&M’s, I can offer them the bright, colorful version on my desk. They decline. Thank you, Michael!

After months searching auctions, Craig’s list, checking VINs for accidents and hidden problems, Jacob bought his first truck. While others offered full price, the seller waited until Jacob arrived because she “liked his polite and caring voice on the phone.” Moms worry about the control behind a wheel of a car, but when Jacob mentioned he was improving his gas mileage, driving slower, more consistent…maybe I have less to worry about…or maybe he’s not stopping when he should? Do I have any control anyway?

After Michael pestered James to pet his hamsters or hold his birds, James said, “Pet your fish. You never pet your fish. I never ask to pet your fish.”

With more rain this year, the boys’ yard care service extended far into the summer. We were all weary of picking bull-heads from our feet and digging stickers from our clothes. Jacob found scheduling and organizing the day wearisome. When Josh returned, with a dirt circle around his eyes, I asked why the other boys didn’t get it. Jacob explained, “He’s low to the ground.” After educating Michael that the boys didn’t whine about heat to their “patients,” Josh questioned my word, “Patients.” Jonas responded, “It’s with great patience anyone works with Josh.”

Jacob brought Josh home early from a job, calling first to prepare me. Josh had been chain sawing. He sawed through his glove and needed stitches. Glad Joey controls the stitches, and God controls the healing and protection.

With the added weeds, we also saw more animal activity. We open doors at night to cool down the house. Later, when the doors were closed, Michael met a rattlesnake inside. Between Michael holding its neck with a hoe, and my slicing with dull knife, we eliminated the threat.

Another time, James and I chased a bat out of the house. Its sonar avoided our control for a while.

Josh found a tarantula in his bedding. Josiah’s friend hesitated to sleep in the same room. During the night, when the cat rubbed against him, he kicked it across the room. Tarantulas aren’t that big, but in his half-sleep, imagined state, they were.

With the afternoon heat, I don’t like being touched. Every dinner, James’s cat slinks under the table and rubs against only me. I whispered to James, “I don’t like hair rubbing on my legs in hot weather.”

James in his practical, forthright manner said, “Shave them.”

Since no one is home long enough to clean and water plants, I told the boys I needed a “low-maintenance house.” Jacob said, “I need a self-cleaning truck.” James suggested, “Just don’t get in it.” Maybe that’s the only way I’ll get the low-maintenance house, too. Who has control over dirt?

Michael told Jonas, “He was mean for making his dog stay at the door.” Jonas replied, “You’re mean, if you don’t discipline your children. No one will love them.” James added, “If he gets married and has children.”

Jonas instructed Michael and Josh, “When you get to be my age and you’ve obeyed, Mom and Dad might like you.” Michael responded, “They already do.” Jonas corrected, “They love you unconditionally, because they have to. But they don’t have to like you.”

I told the boys, “I didn’t want any watermelon, but someone may cut it up.” Jonas gave some to me. I ate it. Jonas nodded to the boys. “There’s a lesson on how women think.” What did he know about women? He proceeded to tell us. “They say, don’t get me anything, but if you don’t, they’re mad.” I asked Jonas what else he knew about women, he wisely said, “That’s about all.”

After Jonathan purchased a motorcycle, a police officer told him, “Either don’t speed or speed so they can’t catch you.” Makes me wonder about TX. Makes my boys want to move to TX. What would life be like without controls?

For Michael’s birthday, Jonas, James and Josh scared him as he came out of the bathroom. Joey said, “That’s what happens when you’re double digits.” James added, “We’ll stop when you’re triple digits, so you don’t have a heart attack.” Should I feel relieved?

Jonas took Michael to a musical. When asked if he understood it, he said, “No.” I told him the story was told in the songs. He said, “I didn’t listen to the songs.” Then you won’t understand the story.

Joey John is realizing control is important even with perfect grandchildren. He told Emma she’d have to wait until she grew up for something she wanted to do. She wanted to grow up now. She stood, lifted her arms, clenched her fists and closed her eyes with a smile. When she opened her eyes, and she hadn’t grown up, her smile left. Joey John repeated she’d have to wait. She closed her eyes again and still wasn’t grown up when she opened them. After several times, she cried. We can’t control everything, even how fast they grow up. Isn’t that a good thing?

Jonas was instructing James on how to negotiate a price for his cows. “When someone asks you, what’s your lowest price, you don’t tell them. You say, ‘Make me an offer.’ Then you counteroffer. But never tell how low you’ll go.”

James is still teased by ducks he purchased several years ago. The owner had said, “I was going to sell them for $20, but for you, I’ll charge $25.” Jacob heard but waited until later to speak of it. Now he just says, “For you, it’ll be $25.” Yet, James is the man with the money. He pays for his animal expenses, even while raising hamsters for fun not profit, and loans generously to brothers and gives to his mother whenever in need. I’d say he’s got the negotiating down all right. Even if the ducks were $25.

A neighbor on Pepperweed called informing James he had his cow. We arrived to find Hazel had jumped his fence, and disappeared. After an afternoon of searching on horseback, James drove her home.

Jacob acquired sheep. Somehow we (the parents) weren’t informed (again). Two were killed by neighbor dogs while at a neighbor’s pasture. I do hate the ‘fallenness’ of creation. How can anyone expect to control everything that happens?

Controlling everyone’s schedule should be easy. Jonathan came home for ten days. Jonas traveled from school to WI then home, then to Canada to help harvest, then back to WI for his truck, then drove home. Josiah visited his mentor in NJ after working construction all summer and before starting school. Jacob worked in KY for a few weeks, helped my mom move on a weekend, and arrived in time for school to start. Then I needed to remember when Joey jumped from planes, or had Army drill, and which office he worked for the day. I would daily ask—who is going to what job, where, in what vehicle. One son became frustrated with me when he had to repeat where he was going. Although it may seem to that one son, I’m scatterbrained (My brain is torn in ten different directions on a given moment), I don’t control the schedule, just try to know it one-day-at-a-time. If I tried to control it, I would have already lost my mind.

Josh was old enough to hunt this year. When archery season came, he went along for the hike, carrying 60-pounds of deer to assist those who took him (he weighs only 85 lbs). He had enough time to take a deep breath and pursue his school with great furry before rifle season came. This time he took his rifle. He asked if he should take a shower before hunting. He doesn’t even take a shower before going to church. (Did I lose control? Or did I only think I had it?) He came back with plenty of stories and fish. The deer controlled the hunt this year.

Sometimes controlling pronunciation isn’t worth it to me. Jacob corrected Josh. “It’s not nethermind. It’s never mind.” Michael asked “What’s the difference?” He told him, “Never mind.”

Josiah visited his professor from Bible School in NJ. Dr. Stone counselled Josiah on numerous occasions, especially at school, when Joey was deployed. He influenced Josiah greatly. After his visit, Dr. Stone died. A faithful Soldier loved by his God. He knew Who controlled his future.

Working over the summer with a contractor enabled Josiah to learn skills of control over his environment. He’s eliminated my high-pitched squeaky dryer’s problem. He re-planed and re-assembled our deck. It’s great not to fall into holes and get whacked on the head by tipping boards! He’s realizing, even when you try to control all the details, done isn’t perfect, but done is good.

Josiah was behind the scenes, corralling the boys to purchase a dishwasher for me. Their thoughtfulness made me cry. Jacob said, “I wasn’t sure if this purchase was for us or for you.” (They do the dinner dishes and their own through the day.) Control over dirty dishes does make me happy!

When the lights in the kitchen all stopped at one time, Josiah again worked behind the scenes to have Jacob bring home replacements to bring light into my room. I could get use to this kind of control!

After working in 110° weather replacing roofs, Josiah adjusted into school life. This time at Fresno State. Although good story tellers, nurses aren’t teachers. Covering five chapters in a two-hour class session leaves much on the student to learn on his own. Josiah is learning tighter control on his time. One student asked him why he was happy. That was after his car died and it wasn’t worth more than $100 in scrap metal. The entire class listened as he explained, “His joy came from God because He was in control of all the details.” Another time after receiving their failing test grades, (Josiah passed), one student asked him why he could smile. He said, “When God controls it all, I don’t have to worry about things outside my control.”

When Josiah was feeding his assigned patient in his rotation, the man learned Josiah enjoyed singing. Later, although the man was reserved, he demanded everyone’s attention in the room and introduced Josiah. “He was ‘home-raised’ and would now sing a song.” “Home-raised” made us all laugh—as if we were some slab of beef for dinner. Does home-raised mean we like to control our environment?

The hospital personnel were trying to find why another patient’s blood sugar kept spiking over 280. Josiah was there when the patient chose his breakfast. Instead of checking the box for what was offered, he said, “Make another box and put this as my selection.” Then when his breakfast did come, he traded with other patients for the whole banana that he wanted. He also solicited his family to bring him Snickers. Even in a “controlled” environment, we just might have control.

Jacob is taking Spanish and Introductory Business at Reedley College as he finishes high school. Much of the business class advice, Joey has already given him over the years, but Jacob’s not so apt to tell him. Learning the guitar relieves what tensions classes may bring and we’ve enjoyed hearing him play. He thrives with his night-time hours when all is quiet and he can enjoy his cup of tea. I’ll leave him to controlling the night-time hours. But when Jacob lounged on my chair and adjusted my a/c remote, I told him, “Just because you sit in my chair, does not mean you control my world.” I’m not sure he even heard me.

Adoption process continued this year. This was out of our control since day one. Each step brought us closer to completion. The lawyer had never experienced so many set-backs. On December 9th, Michael became Jeremiah Albert Contreras and our son. We celebrated (with control.)

We surprised Joey’s mom for her 80th birthday with a party. (It’s hard to deceive a mom.)

Life would be amiss if we didn’t mention Joey’s promotion to Lt. Colonel. Although an honor, it comes with added responsibility. Something Joey has little time for. He’s worked at home on an Army course that normally takes nine months full-time. Army lingo, acronyms and style is not my editing specialty, but his papers have improved. We both look forward to this class’s completion. Learning new things always takes things out of the control of the known, doesn’t it?

For those who are readers, my second book I Have Called You by Name in the series Tell of My Kingdom’s Glory, was published in July. It can be found on Amazon or Smashwords (for various e-book formats). It takes the Israelites from the Reed Sea to the entrance of the Promised Land, where they learn Who is in control.

Baptism is an act of obedience and an identification, showing the world, a believer has given God control over his life. Joey baptized Jonas, Jacob, James and Josh this year. We’ve seen God’s Spirit working to conform their lives to His as the struggle for control continues.

Who is in control?

I instructed one of the boys who kept interrupting with random inserts, “The world doesn’t revolve around you. Wait your turn.” Jonas added what he had learned from his reading. “One of the hindrances of personality development is thinking the sun revolves around you.” What does that say about those who haven’t learned that?

If I believed in luck or chance or just the bigger dog wins, I would have no hope or joy. Life would be a fight for control. Too many things are out of my control. I don’t control anything.

But I know Someone Who does.

God controls everything.

That gives me peace, even in hardship, because I can rest in His control. I must daily submit to Him.

He seeks those willing to submit to Him. But He lets you choose, now. When I submit to Him, recognizing His ownership (He created me for His pleasure and sent His Son to redeem me from my wrong choices and sinfulness), He works to perfect me.

The world hasn’t changed since Jesus came. People weren’t seeking His control. They didn’t yield to Him. Today, they still don’t. In fact, evil seems stronger.

When time ends, God will right all things. All knees will bend; all heads will bow to His control. There will be no more choosing. It will be too late. He will cast from Him forever those who choose to ignore His control. He will reign supreme. They will find living in eternity with all the time in the world, they chose poorly.

May this Christmas season find you choosing the Savior and kneeling at His feet in worship, acknowledging His control.

Joey, Sonya, Josiah (23), Jonathan (21), Jonas (19), Jacob (17), James (16), Joshua (13), Jeremiah (Michael) (10)

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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Tell of My Kingdom's Glory
Three Book Series