December, 2023
Dear Family and Friends,                                     

We bring our years to an end like a sigh. Psalm 90:9.

You decide whether that’s a sigh of exhaustion or contentment after you hear about our year.  

During Oklahoma’s winter (OK for those in ID, we aren’t used to it), February 4th brought Joey and I flying to Hawaii to visit friends. We felt honored they’d invite us, until we found they’d asked “everyone.” We were one of the few who accepted! We saw Pearl Harbor where the warning was ignored and the tragic attack was not anticipated. Sigh. Dole Plantation, Diamond Head, the lighthouse, gardens, the wall of wind—where constant wind keeps you standing (islanders thought their fortress was secure, no one should climb the steep cliffs around it because of the wind. But the enemy did and attacked and won.) Another sigh.

Upon returning to Oklahoma’s winter, Joey’s office was closed. A water pipe burst, flooding the first floor. The break enabled us to visit my sister and her family from Canada while they were in Indianapolis. It was the first time, in a long time, all of us girls were together. It was the last time for us to see mom. Sigh.

In March, I met with a specialist in adrenal fatigue. Started the program with extensive supplements and a special diet. He predicted a long process to bring my system back to normal. Deep sigh.

Joey ran a Spartan Race in Texas. I was sighing, no gasping, trying to watch him. As we left, our tires acted wonky from parking in the cattle pasture. We stopped in a small town, late Saturday morning before they closed. We sighed over all the details—that we even stopped, the store was open, and had our tires. We left with four new tires. God was in the details.

Went to a seminar on how to retire from the army (tells you a lot right there.). The eight-hour class caused many sighs from me—why people who spend their lives serving their country, must fight for every benefit they earned and were promised? None of the departments talk with each other, so can only help with one thing. How do we make sure everything is done? Sigh…ALL…DAY, then as Joey works with the government system to get it done, bigger sigh.

Easter came with all the boys and their families visiting, except Josiah and Dana with Miriam and Heidi, (too close to baby time). When one misses, there’s always a hole. But always enjoy those who come. It was good to sing together again. Always enjoy playing with Jacob and Inna. 

Joey John and Rachel, with their three girls, Emma, Grace and Anne, became house owners in IL. We were all excited after their long wait. It’s nice watching them adapt their house for their needs.

Our brother-in-law was diagnosed with bone cancer. We made a weekend trip to see him. 
Also dropped off Jeremiah to visit his siblings before going to Squaw Valley to work with friends at their AirBnB for the summer. Last son growing up. Long sigh.
Found my projects were actually my projects—meaning I had to do them. No boys to help. I had to say, “Nope, can’t do that.” Big adjustment. Deep sigh.

In May, we saw our new addition, Joanna, (Josiah and Dana’s) weighing 8 lbs. 3 oz. Always an adjustment, especially with now three little ones. It’s daddy time for Heidi.
Also attended Inna’s graduation. Gammy joined us, too. Visits are too short. Sigh.

In June, Joey was gone two and a half weeks for army. While gone, Josh helped pick up some bagged gravel for one of my projects. When we went in our ’97 Dodge, he asked, “How many pounds would it be?” The bags were in cubic feet, so I thought I figured the pounds right. Wasn’t too much…When they loaded the 50 bags with a fork lift and the truck sank into the pavement, I was glad Josh was driving. On the way home, Josh mentioned he should have borrowed a trailer… I thanked him profusely,  “I know it’s not a big thing for you to drive, but it is for me.” His comment said it all, “No, Mom, that load was a big thing for me.” We arrived home safely. THAT was a sigh of relief.
When he unloaded the truck—all fifty bags, I sighed again.
Later, moving just one bag, I pulled some muscles ini my back. Couldn’t move for two weeks. Josh brought meals home. I did a lot of sighing over doing nothing!

After my mom broke her hip, she wouldn’t do physical therapy (with her dementia, she couldn’t understand), so she could not return home to my sister’s. Went to a nursing home. Frustrated sigh.

One weekend in July, all of the boys met us in LA to see Gammy, Joey’s mom. Surgery had removed three large, cancer masses (15 cm, 7 cm, and 4 cm). The doctor had given her a month to live. In spite of the short notice, everyone, except Rachel (Joey John’s wife) and their three girls, were able to come. Time went fast.

James started paramedic school, full-time for 8 months. His long wait while caring for my mom over, though he visited regularly at the nursing home. He still lives in Indpls, too far for quick visits. Sigh.

While Jeremiah was gone, his hamster died. (I was feeding it.) Sigh.
We also put down one of our dogs of 12 years. Sigh.
Because of the hot summer, we brought our dogs inside (just in the entryway). Though treating their fleas, apparently not enough, for soon we all had them. After multiple home-remedy failures, we had a professional spray the house—twice.
When everyone else stopped itching, I scratched, with no new bites or were they?. My skin seemed over-sensitive, who’s surprised? I stopped using fragrances in soap, laundry detergent, etc. (My boys will testify, I didn’t allow much fragrances anyway.) Still got bites. Was it bites, allergies, or me just making it up? Joey said, “Hot showers can cause itching.” Not changing those!…Steroids didn’t knock it out. Six months is a L-O-N-G time to itch. Sigh and scratch.

Joey and I wanted less baggage than an RV but more comfort than a tent. Car camping it is! We tested our arrangement at Natural Falls State Park. When we walked fifty yards to the spectacular falls, rather than hike 3 miles of steep terrain to finally see the view, it almost took away the sight’s splendor. But the falls were still appreciated. Will car camp again.

Keeping track of everyone’s birthday is an ALL YEAR event for me. Getting a card in the mail ON TIME but not too early taxes my ability! 

Jonathan and McKenna moved from Dallas area to Sherman (only 2 hours from us), closer to his work, in a house for the kids and bigger as McKenna’s brother Kai also stays there too.
We celebrated Elanna’s fourth birthday indoor sky diving. 
While there, we received a call that Josh, who rode his motorcycle and left earlier than we did, hadn’t made it home. The ER doctor told us as we drove the 2 hours home, Josh’s helmet, leather jacket, pants and boots saved his life. I said, “No, God saved him.” The more I heard about his accident, the more I knew it was only God. 
He escaped every possible scenario imaginable, as he hit a cement pillar and flew over his bike. He came away with his life and a shattered knee cap. Surgery, pins and wire netting later, he was home. (Ever cage a wild animal? Only while it’s immobilized by pain. Ever try to keep a bird from flying? Impossible. Ever make a squirrel sit still? Not recommended.) Yeah. Sigh. 
His healing was miraculous. Three weeks and he was back to work. Limping, but soon ditching the crutches and driving his semi. Physical therapy should strengthen and bring mobility back.

While in the hospital with Josh, James texted. My mom died. 
Psalms 90:3,5,10 also says, You return man to dust and say, ‘Return, O children of man! grass that is renewed in the morning….The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.

Mom was 90; her life filled with toil. She’s done with trouble. She’s now resting with Jesus. 
My sisters arranged a memorial service for later. 
Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 says there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heaven: a time to be born and a time to die.
Though inevitable, those who remain still sigh over the loss.

TWO weeks later, Jonas and Jane welcomed, long awaited little Ruth weighing 5 lbs. 14 oz. How such a little one can change everyone’s life! Long sigh. Later this year, Jonas will move his family from ID to CA as he finishes his training of horses and will work at the ranch in CA.

Jacob finished remodeling their RV and moved to Josiah’s driveway. Their daily two little visitors, Miriam and Heidi, liven up their place. 

Two weeks after Jacob and Inna’s due date and 2 days of contractions, little Finley Joshua arrived at 7 lbs. 1 oz.
Lesson one of motherhood…it’s not how you think it’ll be. Babies come, not according to our plans or time, but on their own time and way. 
All mothers, babies and fathers are doing well. Big sigh.

Papa and Nana are praising God for all ten of our “GRAND” children. Nana’s itching for a trip West to see the new additions. Shouldn’t say, itching...scratch, scratch, scratch.

Jeremiah, while in California, practiced driving. He was driving when a deer hit him. Jeremiah is reported to have kept his calm, not swerved and pulled over as soon as he could. Upon returning to Oklahoma, he passed his driver’s license. Not sure if the sigh is for his completion or that he now has freedom to drive. He searched extensively, and now also has his own set of wheels (and car to go with them.) Big accomplishments. Glad for the jobs that enabled him to save enough. Sigh.

In one of our dinner discussions, I recounted a quote shared with Family Viber. “A toddler can do more in one unsupervised moment than most people can do all day.” Josh said the answer to that is not to have children. I responded, “Life would be very quiet.”
He smiled, “And peaceful. There’s how you make world peace.”
Yet children teach us so much. When Dana asked Miriam (4), “When are you going to pick up your things?” She answered, “Tuesday and Saturday.” When asked what she’ll be doing the other days, she said, “I’ll be busy.” 
Joey John had been working on a car repair. Grace, headed to the garage with a notebook, said, “I’m going to watch Dad and make a book of instructions for my husband in case he ever does anything like this.” She’s 7! She’s going to have quite the comprehensive book by the time she marries. Joey and I pray daily for their spouses. Sigh.

Joey attended a conference in Nashville. I joined him. I didn’t go for the songs and music, but for the fall colors, gardens and company. Sigh of relaxation.

Joey’s mom, still receiving chemo, was found to have another cancer; this one larger. Surgery was not an option, chemo was not aggressive enough. We returned to LA to see her.

Thanksgiving weekend we spent with Jonathan and McKenna, Kai, and the kids in Galveston Texas. Playing miniature golf with two little ones makes for a unique game—never know what ball you should be hitting. Batting cages were also a hit (pun intended). 
As we returned, we received news: Gammy died. a time to be born and a time to die. 
She waited until we all had said our “goodbyes”  and were “ready.” (As ready as anyone can be for loss.) She was ready. It is us who remain who sigh deeply.

How does a person live with so many sighs? The next verse in Psalms tells us. 
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90: 12.

We are never told we will understand the reason for all the sighs—look at Job, who suffered yet never knew why. But what Job did find was the greatness of God. And therein lies the wisdom. The fear of the of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Proverbs 9:10.
Those sighs came as a result of man’s disobedience. Man chooses to stay as far away from God—and His wisdom, as he can. But God sent His Son to deliver us from the bondage of sin and paid the penalty to allow us back into His presence. But we must chose to come. 
Without God, our lives are just a series of sighs, then death. And judgment.
But with God, we find even those sighs are worth it—they cause us to look to Him and find His greatness. Our sighs have purpose. We don’t suffer in vain. Troubles make us look to Him for answers. And we find He is enough.

May your sighs bring you closer to God and His wisdom,

Joey, Sonya, Joshua and Jeremiah

Displaying all 2 comments

Good times and bad times
But think you both came out
Warmest Regards

I'd already read this, but read it again, more slowly this time. You certainly did have a lot of sighs this past year, but trust '24 will smooth out. Isn't it ironic that when we have a large family, we don't see all those years ahead when they are grown and this somewhat "manageable" family becomes overwhelming. I'm with you, there are just SO many! Now that Bob and I have married, there are FORTY birthdays to remember, plus our own sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, friends, etc. It's too much, but I still keep trying. Just today realized I forgot a birthday tomorrow, so I'll have to just send an ecard. Love ecards and I use them more and more, just cannot stay on top of it all otherwise. And before the end of each month I check the next month for birthdays or those at the beginning of the month will get left behind. Thanks for your writings, Sonya, I so enjoy them.

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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under the Table of Contents. Also available in book form.
Articles on Suffering can be found  here, 
under Table of Contents. Also available in book form.
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