Being a Shepherd

“Maria Calabria’s” first day of freedom was amazing; until it wasn’t. Some of you may remember my social media posts about “Half-Pint” (her nickname), the breached calf I rescued and cared for after her mama’s prolapse. Having bottle fed her for over a week, it was wonderful to see her and her mama bonding. I kept them separated from the rest of the herd in the barn and feedlot for three weeks. My goals were making sure “Giblets” (her first-time mama) was allowing her to nurse freely; and that “Maria” would listen to and follow her. Reassured they had their act together, I opened the feedlot gate and little “Maria” experienced her first taste of freedom.

She ran, jumped, played, explored, was welcomed by the herd, and napped with the other calves (her cousins and uncles) all afternoon. I fed evening rations because it would be near freezing this night. The cows and calves all made their way to the bunk feeders (the cows ate the feed while the young calves nursed their mamas). I noticed “Half-Pint” had fallen behind and was calling out to her mama. That’s when I drove up and as soon as she recognized my voice she came running with glee. I hadn’t realized until that moment how I had imprinted her by cleaning, warming and handling, and feeding her when she was first born.

I picked her little 65-pound body up and cradled her in my arms as I started carrying her to where “Giblets” was eating. Walking across the pasture, she pressed her head against my body. Was it the warmth of my jacket, or the warmth of the emotion we shared? Either way, we were both happy. When I set her down near her mama, she turned to me for one more head rub and licked my hand. She stood, looking to her mama, then back to me. I reached down and guided her underneath mama; and knew all would be okay.

Overwhelmed by the affection this calf shows toward me—more than the others—the words of John 10:27 came to mind. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” To this day, she comes running whenever I call her name or am feeding. Most calves are naturally shy and keep a safe distance until they’re weaned. Not “Maria Calabria.” She comes over, nuzzles my leg; and if I don’t rub her head or bend down and take her face in my hands, she’ll tug on my pants leg with her mouth.

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I can’t tell you what a humbling feeling it is, as an old guy with no children around any longer, to have someone love on you. When she cradles herself in my arms, or stands beside me as I scratch the underside of her chin, my heart melts. Do you think God feels the same way when we come to Him in love and adoration? I wonder; is He imprinted upon my soul?

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As the Cross-Dubya’s “caretaker”, I put my best effort into every aspect of farming and ranching. Giving my utmost to care for both the land and livestock God has blessed us with is a form of praising God. I recognize that it’s much less about what I do, but what God does through me. Whether mundane or excitement-filled, each chore and activity has the same goal, to honor God and His blessings upon us.

I pray you’ll reflect upon how much God has imprinted Himself onto your life this week. Do you instinctively run to Him or does He have to chase you around to come visit?

God’s blessings,

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48 thoughts on “Being a Shepherd

  1. What a sweet story! It reminds me of the bond between Billy Crystal and the calf he helped birth in City Slickers. I’m sure the Lord has let us experience the unconditional love from animals to give a little glimpse of the pure love He has for us. You’ve described it well today. Have a blessed holy-day weekend.

    1. Not familiar with City Slickers, but know who Billy Crystal is. I bet I’m larger. LOL In any case, I agree; while God may have given mankind dominion over animals, what He didn’t give them allows them to love unconditionally, provide steadfast adoration, trust the hand that feeds them, and extend comfort. Sometimes I wish I was more like the animals when it comes to my relationship with God.

  2. Sweet, sweet, sweet. “Oh, how great a love the father has bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God.” Amazing love indeed.

    1. Amen Ms. Lori. The animals I try and care for remind me of just how much God loves me. I’m just glad they don’t rebel or talk back to me as much as I do to God sometimes.

  3. Oh, J. D., what a touching story you’ve told us here! I can just picture little Maria seeking you out, wanting your affection. I pray that we all approach God in that same, trusting and loving way.
    Blessings!

    1. It’s a special feeling indeed Ms. Martha. Much like when your granddaughters come running to you ma’am upon your arrival at their house, or theirs to yours. Knowing that God invites and welcomes us in that very same way is such a sweet blessing ma’am. Thank you so much for your comments; and it’s so glad to hear that Mr. Danny is home from the hospital and doing well. God’s blessings my friend.

  4. Oh that we would turn to Him first, with this strong instinct, as the first inclination of our souls! More frequently, I “assign Him a place” in the day’s line-up. What a blessing I am denying myself! How low of me to relegate Him to any position other than a strong first! Thank you for this beautiful reminder, J.D. Blessings, my friend!

    1. Yes! I often think about how the animals all line up and await me each morning; and how sometimes God has to come seek us in our busyness. Thank you Ms. Gena for this great observation ma’am.

  5. Love this and I have a tender spot for her name as you know. Oh the love of God is greater far than tongue or pen could ever tell.. as the hymn says- not enough ink or parchment to tell.

    1. We named this scrappy little calf after my wife’s lifelong friend, Mrs. Maria Calabria (nee LaPiana), who was born in Grosseto, Italy. Ms. Mary was just as feisty and full of life as this little calf is. While she reached heaven’s glory last September, as we miss her terribly, her legacy lives on through her husband and children. A true legacy of love. Thank you so much for your comments my friend. God’s blessings.

  6. Another Godly insight written with the love it intended to show. Your words, gentle as a spring rain, but deeper than the deepest ocean. Outstanding. And thank you.

  7. I love your story and wisdom behind it. You are a blessing. I can picture God smiling when we run to Him just to be near Him. Thanks

    1. Yes! Isn’t that a wonderful mind/heart picture to have. God holding His arms wide, with a huge smile, as He awaits our arrival at His bosom. Oh, how good it feels to be held, loved, and cherished by our Creator God. Amen ma’am. What a beautiful mind-view you provided here. Thank you!

  8. What a beautiful message, filled with hope and love. “Maria” reminds us of the unconditional love our Lord has for us. Do we love like that? Thank you, my friend, for the blessing you have shared today.

  9. I can visualize many beautiful images of the you with this calf and, in turn, the Lord with His children through this post.

    Little “Maria” is blessed to have such a caring rancher tend to her. I hope I appreciate my own Caretaker as much.

    Peace and grace,
    Tammy

    1. I like to think it’s because I have a great teacher Ms. Stephanie. Sometimes I think Jesus wishes He had a better student/disciple in me, but He’s a patient teacher indeed. God’s blessings my friend.

  10. This absolutely warms my heart! When I go to my daughter’s and my little 6 month old grandson sees me and his face lights up and he kicks his legs in excitement – it makes me feel just as you must’ve. That is a beautiful story and a good question we should all ask ourselves. Wishing you and your family a blessed Resurrection Day!!

    1. Yes ma’am. The adoration of someone who loves us unconditionally is a special blessing indeed. I love that I don’t have to try and earn God’s love, or Grandma’s/Nonna’s for that matter, but I can simply enjoy basking in it and knowing more is returned that I can give.

  11. What a beautiful example of God’s Word come alive, as it’s lived out in His creation. What’s the saying, “… even the rocks (and calves) will cry out”? Thank you!

  12. I could feel the love and warmth between you and the calf. How special! I started thinking about the love God has for us. No matter how far we wander, He searches for us to bring us home.

    1. I couldn’t see, but I’m pretty sure she was smiling also Ms. Barbara. To see her jump and bounce her way over to me always brings me a smile. God’s blessings ma’am.

    1. LOL. Not sure everyone understands why I nicknamed her “Half-Pint”, but I’ll try and explain here. When we went inside and corrected her birthing position so she could be delivered (I was very concerned she would be stillborn), I ended up having to clean her off and bottle feed her for about 10 days. When a calf is first born, key to their survival is getting colostrum, which is a cow’s nutrient and antibody-rich “mother’s milk.” If calves don’t get that within the first few hours, their chance of survival is greatly decreased. Since Maria’s mother required surgery, she was unable to nurse her calf. I then prepared a dried, generic bovine colostrum to bottle feed the little calf. For the first couple of days, this required several feedings throughout the day and night because the little calf would only drink about a half-pint of colostrum and milk replacement at a time. 😀 It just seems to fit the little 40-50 lb. calf. And yes, it’s special when she runs up to me and assumes the suckling position or reaches out with her mouth and tugs on my pants leg to get my attention.

  13. So sweet! Some of my dogs’ behavior, especially that of our puppy, makes me think about my relationship with God.

    1. She surely has done this Ms. Sylvia. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I look for her as much as she looks for me whenever I enter the pasture. 🙂 Oh, how important it is to “run to God”.

  14. I can’t do things with me bees, but Raleigh sure can lay on the affection. He loves to wrestle and case after the ball when thrown. I sure love being around animals, even those I watch from a distance. It gives a calming sense of that for a brief moment, all is right with the world.

    1. Yessir; God certainly does give them (animals and nature) peace-giving qualities doesn’t He? And He does it all, just for us! That’s a most amazing blessing indeed my friend.

  15. I love this story, J.D. and your connection to our Heavenly Shepherd who calls our name and leads us along. If I ever get close by, I want to stop in at the Cross Dubya to meet all your critters and experience a little piece of your world.

    1. Ms. Diane and I sure hope you will Ms. Jeanne; and if I ever get time when I fly into Bradley, I would love to come visit and see your little “fairy garden” and enjoy a conversation about how good our God is. Have a blessed Easter my friend; and thank you so much for the comments.

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