Yesterday morning, Patrick helped me walk the sheep into the barn and corral the ram lambs into Coco's old stall. Maggie guarded the door. As the sheep dashed from one side of the stall to the other, en masse, Patrick and I dove in, grabbed for some wool and a horn, and captured the intendeds. Five years ago we couldn't have done that job. Ten month old ram lambs are big, are strong and agile, and rather intimidating if they are Jacob sheep with those amazing four horns.
Patrick commented on how grateful he was that our sheep have wool. You see, the sheep are part wild, since they are raised on pasture, instead of in the barn with a bucket of grain. They don't just follow us like the dogs. But a few years ago we had a lot more trouble getting them to cooperate, and it is nice to see that some experience, along with developing some confidence and muscle bulk, has made lamb loadup relatively painless.
We dove in, grabbed a fistful of wool with confidence and gently but firmly moved each fellow through the barn door and up into the bed of the truck. No need for a trailer for such a small load.
Then we showered up, kids got on the bus and I headed to West Virginia to our butcher. Somewhat sad to say goodbye to the trio of January rams I like to call the Three Musketeers. They have played together, hung out, bullied, chased the girls and consumed their fair share of nice green grass. If one is raising sheep for meat, one can't get terribly sentimental about taking lambs to the butcher. That is the destiny for most of the male sheep. We have a handful of wethered males and keep them for wool, but our farm can't sustain any more without overgrazing.
So instead of thinking about the destiny of most ram lambs, I drank my coffee and enjoyed the most amazing drive through the mountains. Maybe it is because I am from Texas and long drives are a part of your destiny if you want to get from point A to point B. Maybe because I am around people a LOT and a nice long drive means solitude for me. Who knows, but taking a drive, especially on a fall day, seemed like a pretty nice gift for this girl. And no guilt for driving all the way to West Virginia on a Monday when there was laundry to be done and floors to be swept when the drive was work related. I had to take those lambs! People are waiting on that delicious, healthy meat. And I need to sell that meat to pay bills over the winter.
So, I put in a Fernando Ortega compilation of hymns and cranked up the volume. Growing up in a little Southern Baptist church out in the country, with a piano playing mom and music leader dad, meant lots of hymn singing for me. We would sing around the piano with our friends, Keith and Kathy Hamburger for hours in the evenings when they would come over for supper. We would sing as we drove around. We sang in the church out at Naruna, over a hundred years old, surrounded by live oaks and graves and farms, deer munching acorns and the big old windows open, my dad adjuring the congregation to sing out like they meant it.
So maybe you think hymns are boring and can't imagine why anyone would want to listen to them cranked up loud while driving through scenic countryside in the Allegheny Highland, but to me, they sound like home. Especially if they are arranged by Fernando Ortega and he sings in just the right key for me to join in with a tenor or alto part.
The leaves in the mountains were just barely past their peak. Reds and browns and golds fluttered and whirled. Heavy grey clouds and misty rain caused the color to be even brighter and more spectacular.
As I drove the words to the hymn "How Firm a Foundation" spoke to me like never before. We have felt like we were going through the deep waters, way before Philip died. We have felt like we were being pushed along in a river of woe. I thought about that as I drove past the James River and saw it tumbling over the rocks and boulders. In our fiery trials, we have been provided exceedingly abundant grace. And when I felt my soul shaken by hell, I knew, deep down in my inmost parts, that I was not forsaken. My God has given me aid, has walked by my side, has carried me, never abandoned me.
I sang and worshiped God. I thanked him for his grace and provision for me. Each hymn pouring out my heart, lifting it up as a small thank you note.
Trees and river and rocky escarpments the most amazing of sanctuary and my truck a great pew.
The drive home took a secular turn and I had fun belting out contemporary pop songs. Believe it or not, I think that was an act of worship as well. The whole package deal. Hymns, clouds, sunshine, colorful leaves, seasonal changes, harvest time of produce and meat, solitude, peace, even the coming home to be with the kids and hurry hurry to get everyone where they needed to go for the evening.
"Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise him all creatures here below,
Praise him above, ye heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen."