Saturday, January 18, 2014

Little Lost Sheep Found, Big Lessons Learned

Me and Junior

Oh, the adventure this little fella had yesterday! He's back with his mama now...and his mama and her compadres are also back where they belong. The past few days have been crazy, with all this "missing sheep saga" business.

It all began one dark and stormy night...

Well, not exactly. See, here on the ranch, we're responsible for a small herd of Barbado Blackbelly sheep. These sheep are not pets. They're wild and love to hang out waaay at the back of the 350 acres, up on some rocky hills. Lately they've allowed hubby to get fairly close, as long as he is doling out corn by the handful. I call him the Sheep Whisperer. It makes me smile.

Last week we couldn't find the sheep. That's not that unusual, as they can be pretty elusive. There are lots of hills and valleys and gullies throughout the property where they can hide. After several days, however, hubby called some guys to come help walk the fence line, because it was obvious at this point the sheep had gotten out somehow.

Let me pause a moment here to state emphatically that this is the part of the story where I want to seriously knock some sense into someone's pea brain!

It wasn't long before we discovered that someone had used wire cutters to cut the 8' high game fence that encloses the entire property, pulled a section back, and left a gaping hole plenty big for a herd of goofy sheep to wander through. Which is precisely what they'd done. The sheep were gone, gone, gone.

I was devastated.

"Why, God?" I kept asking. Lately I'd been feeling like God wasn't listening to me. Like he wasn't hearing my cries for help in a lot of areas. I didn't know why, and I didn't know quite what to do about it. In my quiet time the next morning, I remembered the passage of scripture in 1 Samuel 9:3-20 where Saul (later King Saul) is looking for his dad's missing donkeys. God knew where those donkeys were, and in the course of time let them be found (v. 20). It reminded me that God knew where our sheep were. They were lost to me but not to him. So I prayed, "Lord, you see those sheep. Please bring them home." Had he heard my cry for help?

Around noon, Sheep Whisperer and Jesse, a guy who works on the ranch occasionally, decide to drive over to the larger ranch where the sheep originally came from, thinking they might head in that direction. They hadn't been gone but a few minutes when I get a text from hubby saying, miracle of miracles, our sheep are in the road just down from our gate! They were wandering the county road, snagging mouthfuls of grass as they went. Numerous people, including sheriff's deputies, had been down that road the past two days with no sightings. What are the odds of the sheep being in the middle of the road, just down from our gate, at the precise moment Brian and Jesse decide to go for a drive?

The next five hours were spent trying to herd sheep that did not want to be herded. Me in a Jeep, hubby on foot, Jesse and several other guys in trucks and on foot, a few sheriff's deputies (who weren't all that helpful) and one amazing stranger in a truck, worked to get those dad-gum, stubborn, ridiculously skittish sheep onto the neighbors property (because our gate has a cattle guard) so we could then get them through a section of fence that we purposely cut for that reason.

Let me just stop and say, it is nearly impossible to make wild sheep go where they do not want to go. They were in and out of neighboring properties, crossing the road with cars coming and going, in the middle of the road, on the side of the road, running north, running south. Yeesh!

In the midst of all this chaos, one of the babies, Junior, got separated from his mama. We'd lost sight of the herd at this point, so Junior had to come home with me. He stayed in our guest bedroom -- where else! -- while I went back to work. Meanwhile, hubby and the gang are finally able to get the sheep onto our property. Hooray!!

But what about Junior? It would be dark soon, and I didn't want to keep him overnight. I jumped in the Jeep with him cradled in my lap and went looking for his family. I found the herd fairly easily traveling along the fence line that separates our employer's land from her dad's land. They were extremely skittish and on the move. Carrying Junior up high so he could see them, I followed the herd for a bit. They stopped and watched me, and Junior started making soft noises. I thought, "Great! This is going to be easy!" Just a little further and I'd put him down so he could run to his mama, bringing a happy ending to the whole crazy ordeal.

Except Junior did not know about my plans. When I put him down, he ran the wrong way! I bolted after him, the herd bolted down the hill and out of sight, and Junior managed to get through the fence and ran onto our employer's dad's property -- 700+ acres. If I didn't catch Junior, he'd never make it.

Here is where I need to confess something.

I yelled at God.

A lot.

As I was running after that little lamb, crying, stumbling over rocks and weaving through trees, I let God know exactly how I felt about Him letting Junior go the wrong direction; about someone cutting the fence and letting the sheep escape in the first place; about all the trust I'd given him only to have all these trials and tribulations come our way this past year. In those frantic, broken moments, I literally cried out:

"Jesus, pleeeeeeeeeze!!!!!"

That two-word prayer pretty much encompassed everything going on in my life at that moment. From the lost lamb to the desperate need for a job for our son to the lost souls I've been praying for for years. I think it was my cry for God to just hear me!

Breathless from chasing the lamb, I called hubby to come help. Miraculously the cell phone reception worked -- it usually doesn't out here in the boonies -- and he arrived in a couple minutes. The little lamb knew the Sheep Whisperer's voice and stopped near a tree. While Brian distracted him from a distance, I snuck up from behind the tree, praying like crazy. "Jesus, keep that lamb still so I can grab him!" And you know what? Jesus kept that lamb still so I could grab him! The picture above was taken a few minutes later.

Determined to get Junior back to his mama, we set off in the ATV to find the herd again. Searching, searching, with the sun sinking toward the horizon, we finally spotted them headed to the back of the property. Sheep Whisperer grabbed his bucket of corn and started calling them while Junior and I circled around from the other direction. But the sheep weren't buying it today. They'd had enough of people and vehicles and kept moving away.

"Lord, we need some help," I prayed.

Junior, who'd been silent this entire time, started making little bleating sounds. I inched closer to the herd, they inched farther away. I held Junior up a bit, hoping he'd catch sight of them, although I have no idea how good a 3-week old lamb's eyesight is. His little sounds got a bit louder. The herd stopped to look. Then came the most wondrous sound ever!

"Baaaaaa." Mama sheep was calling her lost baby!

"Baaa," Junior responded in his wee little voice.



Mama came racing down the hill. I ducked behind some tall wild grass so she wouldn't see me, holding Junior up above my head. I wasn't taking any chances of him going the wrong way again, so I hung on to him while he and Mama baa'ed back and forth. When she was close enough for me to be certain he wouldn't go the wrong direction, I held my breath...and let him go.

Oh, how I wish I'd had a video camera on their sweet reunion. Junior ran to Mama. Mama ran to Junior. They sniffed and nosed each other for a good long time before Mama turned and went back to the herd with Junior at her side.

I, for my part, sat there behind the tall grass and cried. All my prayers for those crazy sheep had been answered. I (and lots of other people) had prayed God would bring them home. He did. I prayed like a mad woman when Junior escaped. God put him back in my arms. I asked God to let us get Junior back to his mama. They are together even now. Using the lost sheep as his backdrop, God made it abundantly clear to me that he does indeed hear me. And not only does he hear me, he cares very much.

"I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live." Psalm 116:1-2

Lost sheep can absolutely be found.

This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are:
USA, Russia, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Malaysia, Poland, United Kingdom, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Romania, Netherlands, South Korea


Wanda Couzens-Smith said...

Love your story. So glad Mama & baby found each other!!!

Michelle Shocklee said...

Thank you, Wanda! Me too!!

Terri Masters said...

I knew Mama Michelle wouldn't give up looking for her sheep! So thankful you were able to reunite sweet Junior with Mama. We've all been a bit angry with the Lord at times and question why. I'm learning that He wants to hear us, whether we're happy or angry. For He does hear our heart's cries! He is faithful. I'm learning to place my trust in the God who created me! Who could love me more than Him! Thanks for your beautiful story! Love you, my friend! Terri

Michelle Shocklee said...

Love you too, Terri Lee! Yep, we are sooo loved by our Father. Which I find truly amazing, since I find myself pretty un-lovable a lot of the time. =/ Hugs and love, sweetie!