When You’re Scared and Need a Shepherd

April 8, 2013 | 28 comments

bottle lambs

carrying lamb

She gave birth on a Monday. And just before the last of the three lambs breathed her first earthly breath, the ewe convulsed. The mother’s whole self shook, and the vet said later that she probably had a stroke.

The mama survived, but was paralyzed. And she couldn’t take care for her babies. No milk would come.

Without a helper, all the little lambs would die. 

The neighbors called yesterday afternoon to ask if the girls would like to help bottle-feed the one-week-old lambs. So after church, we pushed open the creaking door of an old barn, and the light of a spring afternoon flooded in with us. We stepped into a place thick with the scent of manure and miracle.

Three lambs bleated, underneath the heat lamp.

And our girls held bottles to lips.

bottle feeding lambs

smiling lamb

“I am the good shepherd.” ~ Jesus Christ


The world convulsed with the pain of labor.

And she shook and growled — this earth broken from the fall, whole parts of it paralyzed. We would have all died, you know, had someone not entered into the stench of a barn to rescue us, the bleating and begging.

The Good Shepherd knows His sheep; knows they could never make it on their own, in this wild and unruly world.  Left to their own defenses, sheep would have no defenses. They can’t flee quickly; they have no claws or defensive teeth. They are at the mercy of the cruelest parts of the world that whisper of death in dark corners.

But the Shepherd won’t have it. He steps into the mess, to care for the flock, and He does so at his own expense — not only arriving as shepherd, but becoming a lamb Himself.

lamb face

compassion sheep

The girls hold the lambs close to their bodies on a Sunday afternoon in Iowa, right there in the stench of a barn, because the neighbor farmer said the little lambs like to be held. I scrape manure from the sole of a shoe. Light falls on the sweet hay.

And my girls — tiny shepherds — hold the sheep close. And they don’t want to let go.

And He never lets go.

hug a lamb

by | April 8, 2013 | 28 comments


  1. Lyla Willingham Lindquist

    Okay, that one, in the middle under the heat lamp?

    It’s smiling. Seriously. It is. But you already know that.


    • dukeslee

      I know! Isn’t that the sweetest? Lydia is raising lamb(s) this spring for 4-H, so we’re just starting to get introduced to lamb/sheep care. I’m already smitten.

      The neighbor-farmer told us that sheep can get out of their pen really easily. I can so relate. (Thank the Lord, He’s always been stubborn after the sheep who go astray.)

  2. ro elliott

    Beautiful ….I just love the sweetness of your girl embracing the little lamb…..He does love us so!

    • dukeslee

      I loved the image, too. So glad the shutter opened and closed at just the right time. 🙂

  3. Caryn Jenkins Christensen

    And the most precious of thoughts? That God holds us the same way, with tenderness and safe arms 😀
    Beautiful reminder with equally beautiful pictures Jennifer!

    • dukeslee

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts in the comment box, Caryn. Leaning on the Shepherd today…

  4. Megan Willome (@meganwillome)

    I have a church calendar, and the picture for this month is of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. When I couldn’t sleep, I looked at that picture and imagined myself as the lamb that Jesus was carrying.

    Love how you put flesh on these stories. Hope your little shepherds do well with their lambs.

  5. Sharon O

    beautiful… I remember on the farm as a little girl holding bottles of milk and feeding the baby calves, I don’t think we had sheep although perhaps we did? It was a wonderful experience and yes one does need boots.

  6. 3dLessons4Life

    I am so thankful that He never lets go.
    This was beautiful.

    • Lynn Morrissey

      So precious, Jennifer, and the analogy is perfect. Surely, God created sheep just so we could relate to Him as Shepherd. When a friend and I were chaperones in the once-Communistic Czech Republic in 2011, when Sheridan’s school choir toured there, I will admit to having trepdidation. The Lord graciously reminded me that HE is the Good Shepherd and He leads those who are w/ young. And we were they, as He led us with young teen singers. We did encounter several dangerous times, and yet I was so aware of our Good Shepherd’s presence and guidance, and each time, He led us to safety. I get chils now just recalling it. He also leads sheep to green pastures and to milk bottles, I daresay. I pray that these little sheepies and yours will continue a nurturing bonding relationship, and that all will be well under the Good (and Great!) Shepherd’s gracious care.

  7. Diane W. Bailey

    “We would have all died, you know, had someone not entered into the stench of a barn to rescue us, the bleating and begging.”

    Oh, my heart, Yes!

    From one bleating heart to yours – Thank you for this good word.

  8. rachel

    this is breathtaking, sweet sister. my name is Rachel, little lamb. this resonates with me, who has always hated my name for being a stupid sheep, a blind follower. and now, I am carried and treasured and died for in the stench of my barn.



  9. Linda Chontos

    I sometimes get lost in the beautiful prose (you have such a gift dear friend), but the message always goes deep. I needed this today.

  10. Shari @ Leaving A Legacy

    I loved the smiling sheep underneath the lamp. It was like heaven’s glory was shining down on the precious baby. Beautiful story.

  11. Lorretta @Dancing On The Dash

    Some powerful good in all of this….the Light of the world stepped down into the darkness–opening our eyes and let us see….smiling sheep and our need for a Shepherd –and the surrogacy that sometimes guides us Home. Precious!

  12. Floyd

    The reality and grief of life and yet the gift in it as well. We all have a time and in the interim we are all in need of protection and provision… not even realizing the full extent to the Hand that provides and protects. Great analogy. Love the pictures of the soon to be lessons, wisdom, and memories…

  13. Maria

    Thank you for the beautiful imagery – in the pictures and the analogy, Jennifer. What a sweet story to illustrate the “good shepherd”.

  14. kendal

    i want to hold one of those lambs. and be held….

  15. S. Etole

    Touches the heart … deeply.

  16. Angie M.

    Several years ago The Lord put a tune and words in my heart about this same subject…”Little lamb, little lamb, why do you worry? for I’ll take care of you,I’ll make your paths straight and help you to walk them for I am patient and true!! I love that He is our shepherd and we are his sheep totally dependant on Him. I truly need Him always, how often I get distracted doing life….thank you for this great reminder

  17. monicasharman

    Okay, I’m about to do it again (put a song in your comment box). So I woke up yesterday with this playing in me, and I found this video with a painting of Jesus holding a lamb, right at the lyric: “Carried in the arms of love and mercy…”

    “Daughter of Grace,” by Twila Paris:

  18. monicasharman

    Yikes. I didn’t know that huge thing would show up there. Sorry. :-}

    • dukeslee

      I love it, Monica. I love it BIG and LOUD. 🙂 I’ve got it cranked up here in my office. 🙂

  19. rkrumpe94

    This post made me cry. My name Rach(a)el means lamb or ewe and references to needing a shepherd resonate so deeply with my heart. I need Him and need to hear His voice and I am so thankful to have a Good Shepherd that calls me by name and will never leave me! Beautiful pictures, by the way:) Blessings, Rachael from Inking the Heart

  20. Being Woven

    This is a fine post, Jennifer, with pictures to match! I have spent some of my quiet time with the Lord pondering the ways of sheep – the helplessness, that they cannot get up on their own if they are turned onto their backs, the way they get lost, and so much about them makes them completely in need of a shepherd I have really been able to identify with those lambs and my need for Jesus, my Shepherd. Thanks for the visual. Caring through Christ, ~ linda

  21. Sandi Stone

    Jennifer, you are such a wonderful writer. This takes me back home, you probably didn’t know that we raised sheep until about the age your girls are. I can just see the lambs’ little butts and tails wiggling, so eager for that bottle of milk.
    I love your recent messages about the storm too. So perfect for God’s guiding light through the darkness.

    Sandi Stone

  22. Trudy L.

    So precious!!! My heart broke about the mama having a stroke as she gave birth and thinking about the little lambs and how frightened they must be. But then my heart rejoiced with your girls who got to comfort and love them. I can’t blame them for never wanting to leave. The pictures are priceless. Makes me wish I knew how to do that pinterest thing so I could pin them!!! Or had a facebook so I could post it on that, or had a twitter, or something from the social media age, but I’m not cool like that. At least I have my slow old computer that allows me to come check your blog from time to time because I can always count on you having wonderful posts like these. God so speaks through you and your sweet girls and sweet farm! Thanks for sharing! 🙂


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