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Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt from the book “Sisters, Arise!” by Lynne Perry Christofferson. The book is available at Seagull Book, Deseret Book, and Amazon.com.

I was in a songwriting mood—itching to write, but with no ideas for a topic. After restlessly pacing around the house for half an hour I flopped down on the edge of my bed, empty notebook in hand, and stared out the bay window which looks into our pasture. The scruffy winter wool of our small flock of sheep stood out against their dark red shed and, weary of my fruitless search for a song topic, I shifted my focus to the animals. It had been awhile since I’d taken a long look at them and I was surprised to realize they were full grown. When had that happened?

Two springs earlier, a friend mentioned that his father raised sheep, and each year there were “bummer lambs” whose mothers had died giving birth, or had twin or triplet births and couldn’t feed all their newborns. Jeremy told us we were welcome to come choose some lambs to take home and raise, and we thought it would be a great opportunity for our children. What a sweet experience awaited us as we drove one frigid morning to a high mountain valley to meet our new wooly babies. There are few sights as charming as day-old lambs, bleating and leaping on their spindly little legs. We let the kids pick four of them to bring home.

Four times a day, armed with bottles, we trudged out to the old turkey pen which served as a shelter for our hungry lambs. They sucked so greedily that they occasionally pulled the bottles right out of our hands; all the while their long tails wiggled in rhythm with their eager mouths. Looking out my window twenty months later, I realized how much I missed those days. I felt a surprisingly strong urge to bottle feed lambs again; to stroke their wooly little heads and marvel again at the coarse texture. How strange to think that some of those sheep now looked to be the size of the love seat in our family room.

My mind didn’t dwell on the sheep for long. I noticed suddenly that I was seeing the pasture through a blur of tears as I thought of my little human flock which was growing at least as fast as the animals. My heart ached as I pictured each of my children and how changed they were from their baby days. Of course I’ve loved them at every age, but I couldn’t help imagining how sweet it would be to hold them again—tiny, toothless, and so soft in my arms. The intensity of my longing was startling. (I suppose that’s why the Lord “invented” grandchildren.) It occurred to me that the perfect song topic was staring me in the face. I opened my notebook and began scribbling:

  Keeping Sheep

I have a little flock of sheep

and they are mine to tend and keep,

and I must guard them every day

for little lambs, when left alone, will lose their way.

So many voices say to me,

“A sheep fold is no place to be.

your time in there is dull and slow,

and lambs leave very little room for you to grow.”

Oh, if I ever start to stray,

deceived by thoughts of greener pastures,

remind me, Lord, that keeping sheep

will lead to happier ever afters.

Oh, surely there will come a day

when all the lambs have left my side

and I am free to roam about

and go exploring other meadows, green and wide.

Yet, something whispers in my heart

that when my sheep have left this pen

I’ll long to stroke their little heads,

to draw them close to me and have them young again.

So, if I ever start to stray,

deceived by thoughts of greener pastures,

remind me, Lord, that keeping sheep

will lead to happier ever afters. (1)

For years it seemed I was drowning in diapers, but somehow—when I wasn’t looking—we slipped into a new stage, the one where you can leave the house without an industrial sized diaper bag. The stage where you rarely have to help anyone get dressed, and more often than not, everyone sleeps through the night. YES! While much about this new stage was exciting for me, it was sobering to realize that since my oldest child was nearing her teens, my influence on her might begin to decrease as she was exposed more and more to new ideas and standards, some of which might not coincide with the teachings she had received at home. I felt as if the winds of change were suddenly blowing around my family, leaving me with a sense of urgency to focus on my children for the short time they would be in my care…

Lately, I find myself thinking of the story of the prophet Nehemiah. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf shares this account: “Nehemiah of the Old Testament is a great example of staying focused and committed to an important task. Nehemiah was an Israelite who lived in exile in Babylon… One day the king …gave Nehemiah the authority to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city. However, not everyone was happy with this plan. In fact, several rulers who lived near Jerusalem…“took great indignation, and mocked the Jews.”

“Fearless, Nehemiah did not allow the opposition to distract him. Instead, he organized his resources and manpower and moved forward rebuilding the city…But as the walls of the city began to rise, opposition intensified. Nehemiah’s enemies threatened, conspired, and ridiculed. Their threats were very real…As the work continued, Nehemiah’s enemies…entreated him to leave the safety of the city and meet with them under the pretense of resolving the conflict, but Nehemiah knew that their intent was to do him harm. Each time they approached him, he responded with the same answer: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.” (Nehemiah 6:3)

“What a remarkable response! With that clear and unchanging purpose of heart and mind, with that great resolve, the walls of Jerusalem rose until they were rebuilt in an astonishing 52 days. Nehemiah refused to allow distractions to prevent him from doing what the Lord wanted him to do.” (2)

For those blessed with the privilege of raising children, let us embrace and honor the different seasons of motherhood. In the midst of our mothering, if we are ever “deceived by thoughts of greener pastures,” let us have the strength to say, like the prophet Nehemiah, “I am doing a great work…I cannot come down.” (Nehemiah 6:3) Let us refuse to allow distractions to prevent us from fulfilling our God given responsibility to mother.

“So while they still are in my care,

I pray that I will clearly see

these little lambs within my fold

are tender gifts the Master Shepherd has given me.” (3)

  1. Lynne Perry Christofferson, “Keeping Sheep,” Keeping Sheep, (album), 2001.
  2. Deiter F. Uchtdorf, “We Are Doing a Great Work and Cannot Come Down,” Ensign, May 2009.
  3. Lynne Perry Christofferson, “Keeping Sheep,” Keeping Sheep, (album), 2001.

Keeping Sheep

Music and lyrics by Lynne Perry Christofferson

Vocalist: Lynne Perry Christofferson

You can download the sheet music for free by clicking here