Our little flock was shorn this past September, leaving behind piles of wool that were a far cry from the snow-white mounds I had once imagined there would be. Even after sorting out the dags and the dirt and the stains, what remained was still dingy and unimpressive to an untrained eye like mine. I was hard pressed to see how anything good could come of it. I resigned myself to spreading it as garden mulch next spring or offering it to someone who might have the time, patience, and skill to actually do something more ambitious with it. So, into bags the whole of it went, sorted by the lamb it came from.
I glanced at that heap of white trash bags for several weeks, cast aside in the horses’ wash stall where the pine shavings and muck buckets are stored. The cold weather was setting in. I knew I’d have to do something with them soon, before the mice took up residence in them for the winter. On a whim, I opened a couple of the bags and gave the contents a second look. Hmmmmm. I wondered what a good wash and rinse would do. I’d seen my breeder friends do marvelous things with Valais wool. Unfortunately, I don’t have a crafty bone in my body. But as a writer, what I do have is imagination. 😁
Before long, I was off to Hobby Lobby, a stranger in a strange land filled with confident, crafty women on a mission (yikes!). Nevertheless, I was able to cobble together a styrofoam ring, some floral pins, some Christmas ribbon and some ornamental picks. Oh, and bells. The “Valais” bells were a must-have, though I wasn’t sure how any of this would fit together. I was like a contestant on a game show, hurriedly grabbing this and that until my basket was full and then racing to the register to get home to work on my “project.” Little did I know that shopping at Hobby Lobby would be the easy part.
Hand-washing and hand-picking through raw wool is no joke, and even less so when one has no idea what they’re doing. The rubber buckets I use for horse hay turned into wash-and-rinse basins for the shorn wool I curated from the bags in the barn, making sure to grab locks from each of our beloved spring lambs. Once thoroughly washed and rinsed (three times!), every outdoor chair was strewn with strands of wet Valais wool. The sun was shining. The wool was definitely whiter. But there were still disheartening stains, tangles, vegetable matter, and felting that needed clipping. I inspected and trimmed every single handful of locks, choosing only the whitest and brightest to make the final cut. My back and my hands were awfully sore. But I had a vision now of what could be if I could just see it through…
Many (many!) hours later, I had reinvented those original, bedraggled fleeces into something glorious in my sight. The woolly Christmas wreath pictured here will forever remind me of the first lambs born on our farm … the miracle of life, the delight of lamb's breath on my cheek, the privilege and profound joy of helping to bring these babies into the world and being their shepherdess.
It also reminds me that not too long ago, I didn’t know how to be a shepherdess. We become by desire. We become by doing. We become by imagining who and what we can be and by having the courage to reinvent ourselves under the gentle leading of the Holy Spirit — just like a pile of raw wool in a dark corner, we too, in the right hands, can become something beautiful.
Indeed, in the hands of the Good Shepherd, I have been washed. I have been cleansed by His blood. I have been made whiter than snow (Ps. 51:9). And, just as I am still “becoming” a shepherdess, I am still “becoming” a disciple of Jesus, day by day, as I strive to follow in the footsteps of my Savior.
Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall become has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.
~ 1 John 3:2-3
Wow. We shall see him as he is. While I’m convinced that the beauty, goodness, truth, majesty, glory, purity, and Person of God is beyond anything I can comprehend with my human mind, I can and do imagine it, for it keeps my hope and striving for heaven strong. St. Paul further asserts: He who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. ~Phil. 1:6
Jesus, the Master Craftsman and Good Shepherd, is already deftly working on us from the inside out, day in and day out. Someday, we'll shed these mere coverings of skin and bones, like sheep who have been shorn, and our souls will rise in all their glory.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
~ 2 Cor. 3:18
Transforming a pile of dingy wool into a joyful Christmas wreath ... it's a lowly shepherd's metaphor for what Jesus does for us, pouring out the sanctifying grace we need to turn from sinners into saints. He sees the rising glory in us even when we can't see or imagine it in ourselves. And although we're still "becoming" and awaiting the fullness of revelation, we're promised that a great multitude will worship before the throne of God, comprised of those who have washed their robes and made them white in blood of the Lamb. (Rev. 7:14)
Through the merits of the Cross and the gift of faith, I pray that I may be counted among them, clothed in a garment as pure and white as winter's first snow. "Behold, I make all things new," says the Lord. All things. Even — and especially — his beloved children.
Oh, imagine that!