At 2:00 am this morning a pretty fatigued ER Nurse/ Farmer/ Dad and husband went to the back of the pasture to check sheep. We have 5-6 who are due any day now and "checking sheep" happens every few hours round the clock when we are this close to lambing. I flicked my flashlight back and forth to catch eyes of the sheep in the darkness and it found the reflection of a ewe off to herself. Now when a stockman sees one animal away from the others by itself it can only mean 3 things and 2 of which are bad. The one good thing it can potentially be....you guessed it delivering a fresh one. By time I crossed the fence and got close I heard a soft "blatt" letting me know the baby was already born and breathing. When I could see them through the tall grass I found a cleaned up, new baby girl already up on her feet. A big sigh of relief from me, and I pulled up a tall tuft of grass to watch the pair for a moment. "I'll sleep much better once I see it nurse" I thought. So I waited. It was vary dark with heavy cloud cover. A thick humid quiet held us as she lowly grunted and licked her newborn baby. This is one of those moments when things change from not being at all, to all of the sudden getting very real. In my mind I can process that she has been carrying this baby for 5 months now as it grew, but now everything is different that I can touch her and watch her nuzzle into her mother.
This time of year a lot of different versions of me come together. There is some flicker of a romantic notion of being a member of an old club of people who tend to sheep. Even when it is very late and I'm sitting on an overturned 5 gal bucket in the sheep barn that is lit by gas lantern ,being a shepherd still feels right. I have learned a lot about myself from being with sheep. The Christmas season is my very favoritest time of the year. The practical farmer life I lead slams head first into the hopeful story of Emmanuel. Luke 2 runs over and over in my thoughts and I am glad that when the best news was announced that it was to people like my family and I. Hearing Linus on a Charlie Brown Christmas tell of shepherds watching their flocks at night makes the reason for the season seem close enough for me to grab onto. If we are honest with ourselves we would admit that in the post Christmas morning sea of gift wrap that all we really want is to be together and be loved. We crave family this time of year even more so than any other time. That feeling in your guts is the living breathing example of Christmas. We desire "WITH-NESS". Withness is what God did for us on Christmas and the expected became very real indeed. Sitting on that 5 gallon bucket I have decided that Withness has been the biggest force in my life and has the potential to be my biggest opportunity if I let it. Withness, changes things where money, argument or teaching can't reach. All the good will in the world is no subsitute for being present. It's harder to be mad when we are together, harder to fight face to face, harder to let disagreement fester. Real change can happen when are together. God knows that, which is why he sent his own son to be with us. The Christmas story changed our world and lives forever and I am a better shepherd for it. Let me encourage me for a minute if I may. This Christmas season take the small risk of being with people, and in doing so let yourself feel closer to the sheep and the shepherd. See y'all in the barn.