Blind Mama: The Solution

blind mama

(continued from last post)

At the point when I began calling her Blind Mama, she was following the flock by listening to the sound of their movement, but when they stopped to graze, she would lose them.  Hence, in order to figure out where they were she would constantly bleat.  At first several would respond to her.  I could hear them calling back to her, and hear her responding until she was once again in proximity and safety with the others.  But occasionally they would leave her alone in the pasture and come back to the barnyard for water or shade.

This day, evidently, none of the flock was responding to her cries, and she was desperate.  It was time for me to find a new strategy. As I untangled her from the thicket and led her down to the barnyard, I began to devise a plan.

I would be the leader.  I would take them to pasture.  Blind Mama would follow me, and the rest of the flock would follow Blind Mama.

In the beginning I started with a little grain and a halter.  She knew my voice, so I would talk to her.  “Come Mama, come Mama, here girl.”  Quickly she caught on. She would follow closely listening to my voice and the rattle of the grain.  Over a period of time, I no longer needed a halter or the grain.  My voice was enough.  Mama would put her nose against the back of my knee and she would follow me where ever I led.  The rest of the flock quickly caught on.  We were now a team, Mama and I.

One evening I was switching them to another pasture.  Instead of going down Kitten Creek Road, where traffic might be a safety factor, I decided to take them up across the pasture, down into the hard wood forest, along a ravine on a narrow path, and down into the pole shed pasture.  Mama and I led the way.  “Come girl, come Mama,” I repeated over and over as we made our way up the steep hill to the pasture.  Sixteen sheep followed us.  Mama, with her nose in the back of my knee was once more the leader.  She had no idea where we were going, she did not even realize that she was in danger as we walked the narrow path of the ravine.  Her faith was in me and she blindly followed.  And the rest of the flock obediently trailed.

Walking across the pasture that evening I had a very clear epiphany.  I had been struggling with a sense of inadequacy in that period of my life. I had been given responsibilities and leadership that I did not feel equipped to handle.   “I am not a leader.  I don’t have the answers others are looking for.  I am not wise,” seemed to be a mantra I was continually telling myself.   “But . .  . look at this little parable that is happening right now.  Look how  confident these sheep are in my leadership.  I am like Blind Mama.    I can follow God like she is following me.  With trust, confidence, and faith.  As long as God is my leader, I and anyone else who may be following me will be safely led into His green pastures.”




Blind Mama: The Problem


blind mama

I was making my way across the yard from the garden when I discerned a faint bleating floating down the hill from the pasture.  Listening for a response from the rest of the flock, I heard nothing.  Blind Mama was in trouble again.  The house had been my destination, but instead, I turned to the hillside and made my way up the rocky path to the pasture.  As I rounded the rise of the hill, on my right I could see the flock of sheep quite unconcernedly grazing in tall green prairie grass.  The sound of the bleating was coming from my left.  Poor Mama.  She was lost, totally.  She who had always been the leader of that currently unresponsive flock, had headed blindly into a thicket.  At this point in her life, she navigated the pasture by listening for the sounds of the rest of the flock but they had found the grass and had seemingly tired of responding to her cries for help.

As I untangled her from the thorns of the thicket, I remembered her early years.  She was the very first ewe we had purchased.  My burgeoning flock had begun with her story.

We had met the Clacks at church and found that we had much in common, two of those being the love of horses and of wide open spaces.  Anne and Bob had invited a couple of their grown children,  a  neighbor, Diane,  and Judd and me for a meal at their spacious ranch home. That evening as we sat around the dinner table, the conversation had slowly gravitated to our newly acquired farm .

We are looking for a couple of goats to help us by eating the out-of-control weeds in the fields around the house, we said.  When Diane heard the words goat and weeds together, she became animated.  “You don’t want goats,” she argued, turning to look Judd in the eye.  “What you need,” she said in a very authoritative tone, “are some wooly weed-eaters.  I can guarantee you they will eat your weeds, they will be easy to care for, and I can get you started.”  Diane had her own little flock of sheep and obviously was a champion for the fine practice of raising sheep.  “Besides, you can sell the wool.  You would have a great product produced by your very own sheep.”

Of course, it did not take long to convince me.  Wanting to be a good neighbor, sheep sounded good to Judd, also.  His brother, Phil, had owned goats, and was always getting in trouble with his neighbors over his wide-ranging, unstoppable goats. Judd valued good relationships with our neighbors.

Within a few days we were the owners of our first pregnant ewe.  Little did Judd suspect that I would become captivated with being a “shepherdess.”

“Blind Mama” was not her first name. In the beginning, I had quickly given her the distinguished name of Priscilla.  Priscilla began the clean-up job on our property, and  was soon joined by her son, Aquila, shortened to Willy.

My flock continued to grow, and the old pro, Priscilla, became the accepted leader of the flock.  She would lead them up the hill to pasture, back for water, and to the safety of the barnyard for the night.  They trusted her.  She was wise, patient, and protective, particularly of her lambs.

As she aged, however, her eyesight grew worse and worse.  Somehow, each pregnancy drew from her body the nourishment that her eyes required. With every new lamb that she “threw,” I watched  her cataracts grow thicker, until her eyes were opaque.

Her leadership began to be questionable.  At first, I would find the entire flock packed against a corner of the pen, or wandering down into the dry bed of a stream.  They would quietly stand where they were, waiting for Priscilla to lead them out of the dilemma. I would go out and get Priscilla started in the right direction and rescue her from her embarrassment.  I don’t know how long it took the rest of the flock to realize that she was leading them astray most of the time, but finally a new leader took over.

At this point, I began calling her Blind Mama.  By now she was following the flock by listening to the sound of their movement, but when they stopped to graze, she would lose them.  Hence, in order to figure out where they were she would constantly bleat.  At first several would respond to her.  I could hear them calling back to her, and hear her responding until she was once again close to the rest of the flock.  Occasionally, however, they would leave her standing alone in the pasture as they came back to the barnyard for water or shade.  Poor Mama.  Could I find a solution?



The Barnyard Nursery


Journal Entry  for July 1990

The morning is cool – a refreshing change from the upper nineties and low one hundred degree weather of this past week.  Its  “due time” for Lucy, Reppert’s Jersey mama.  We are keeping her in our barnyard for the time being since I can keep a close watch on her while I tend our own calves.  I have been out several times to check on her and the other three,  Emma, our Jersey, and her two calves.

I have taken some time to sit on the hillside to enjoy the drama of this barnyard nursery.  Lucy and Emma are contentedly tossing small piles of strewn hay looking for clumps of more succulent brome caught in the drier hay.  Eventually, they will clean up the whole pile, but the adventure of finding the best first seems to be a trait common to most of these animals.

The barnyard is packed brown dirt since the rain seems to have passed us by this month. Here and there are little patches of buffalo burr with their yellow flowers peeking through the spiny leaves.  Those yellow flowers will soon become the nasty burrs that stick in tails and manes of the horses, tails of the cows, and the coat of my poor Bear.

I study Lucy for awhile to look for signs that she may be close to calving.  Lucy, her beautiful brown eyes focused on the hay in front of her, is not in the throes of calving; she is too content.

Now I turn my attention to the calves.   Both of the calves belong to Emma now.  We celebrated the birth of the little heifer, Susie, born in the barnyard a week ago.  The other little calf is a bull calf, born to another mother on a dairy farm.  Since he was taken immediately from his mother so she could give her milk to the dairy, we brought him home for Emma to raise.  Most of these dairy calves are bottle-fed, but switching them to another mother is better for the calves.  Emma quickly adopted him and is feeding him as though he were her own calf.

I watch as Lucy’s young heifer wanders far from her mother, totally self-confident and very curious. Our black Lab, Bear, and our yellow cat, Tom are here with me, and the calf is captivated by their movements.  She follows them at a safe distance for a while, and then, risking her margin of safety,occasionally comes nose-to-nose with Bear.  When the Lab reaches out to lick her nose, she jumps in the air and darts away.  Brave, yet there is a limit to the chances any self-respecting calf can take.

The difference between the natural calf and the adopted calf, Charlie, has been very interesting .  After being taken from his own mother, he has a hard time leaving Emma’s side.  Like a little gnat he clung first to her teets, and even now he hovers by her.   He has less of an adventuresome spirit because of his fear of being abandoned again.  Meanwhile, Susie, the little heifer,  wanders through the  weeds in the barnyard, picking fights with the tall grass on the side of the hill.

How long, I wonder, will it take Charlie to realize that Emma will not leave him an orphan again?

I wonder, also, how indelibly it is written in my own soul that He, my Father, will never leave me?  Will I always trust that I am His adopted child forever?  Can I be as confident as that little heifer who is enjoying her freedom?







Painting by the Number (continued)

One evening we gathered in the living room of our little home with people seated on chairs, couch and floor.  We had worked together and eaten together.  Now we were relaxed and spending some time in worship, song, and sharing. Dennis led us, playing a few of our favorite choruses.  Judd and John co-led as we jumped into one of our favorite topics.  The discussion was one that had become familiar, but this time Kathy recorded what we said. What was the next step?  Better yet, what was the big picture that God was painting?

Jane began the discussion in her calm, level voice.   “Perhaps, when you look at the gifts represented here, one focus we have could have is a home for emotionally disturbed children . . . or even family therapy,” she suggested,  her brown eyes resting on Judd in particular.

Ken, leaned forward in his chair intently. “Or we could be a community that welcomed pregnant women who needed shelter and a place to be loved and accepted.”  Ken was also seeing a potential that would possibly meet some of the needs of society and combine them with the gifts of our group and potential of the farm.

After some discussion of these possibilities, Dennis, his blue eyes fixed intently on the floor in front of him, looked up.  He slowly crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair.  “What if we offered a place as a community where others could come to discuss and present ideas for feedback?”

Thayne jumped in and expanded  Dennis’ idea, “Perhaps we could be a community where we were living and supporting one another.  Where we are there to meet each other’s needs . . .  an alternative to the “me” generation.  We could offer an example of Christians living in a fallen world but exhibiting the consistency of God’s character, meeting emotional needs of acceptance, a place where questions will receive listening, and a place where people can come to regain themselves.”

More and more as we talked, we began to identify, not only gifts, but an expression of heart needs.  We would be a community, and together we were molding the shape of what that would look like.  All of those gifts and heart needs, a rainbow of colors, began to blend together to create the foundation of God’s “art work.”

It was a rich experience, this “visioning” together as we began to uncover that particular piece of artwork God was directing.  We all had our paintbrushes out and we were doing a lot of dreaming and coloring.

Of this group, only Charles and Kay and the Swiharts  (including our children’s families . . .Dan and Sara Swihart/Troyer”s  and Nat Bascom’s) would be the ones to finally build that permanent community. The rest of this small focus group would paint some lasting stories and pictures here at the farm before they would spread out into the world to create their own beautiful works of art.



Painting by the Number

Whenever God rejects a “wish dream” it is not out of His disdain for our wishes, but it is always that He has something better.  In rejecting my wish dreams, God did not hold back His blessing from the farm, its ministry, and its supporters.  He had a better plan.

Looking back now I can see that what happened over the years was God’s plan painted in pictures that we could only uncover as we lived under His leadership. His plan was like the old-fashioned paint-by-the number pictures I had done in my childhood.  The pictures came to life when I followed the numbers carefully, choosing the right colors to fill in the spaces until the image began to appear: a galloping horse, a cuddly puppy, or a lovely cabin by a stream.

Those early days were exciting as we began to uncover that particular piece of artwork God was directing.  We all had our paintbrushes out and we were doing a lot of dreaming and coloring.  Sometimes, when we used the wrong color, we had to step back and listen to the Artist again.  Whenever we in Wellspring ran into bumps, disappointments, disagreements through the years, the issues could always be traced back to our own personal dreams and visions of what that final art piece would look like.

We did have vision, excitement, and dreams!  We had no real idea of the big picture God was painting, but we were eager to see what He would do.  That first small rag-tag group anticipated God was going to produce something beautiful . . . and He was going to allow us to work with Him.  Not only Judd and I, but all of us in our newly formed group had visions and dreams, and as a community we had to learn to listen. Listen to what each other had to say, what gifts each brought, and what God was saying into all of this.  Voices arose, flags raised, and we certainly accomplished a lot.

L”Abri had been our model, but we were wise enough to know quite early in that first year that we would not look exactly like L’Abri.   As we looked at the gifts God had given each person in our group, we had a myriad of ideas that led to very interesting discussions.

One evening we gathered around the small living room.  The discussion was one that had become familiar, but this time Kathy recorded what we said that evening.   We represented a variety of potential, experience, and interests in this living room.  Jane, a student at Manhattan Christian College and the leader of the Youth for Christ at Riley County High School; Dennis, the area InterVarsity staff person here at Kansas State University and Emporia State University;  John and Ken, graduate students in the Geography Department; Kathy, our recorder that evening, a grad student in Family Studies; Thayne studied in Fine Arts; Lowell a grad student in architecture; Carol a grad student in Physics; Charles a physician at Kansas State’s Lafene Health Center; Judd teaching in the Family Studies department; and then there was Kay, whose wisdom always put a capstone on our discussions; and as always, our children and I.   Not present were two professors from the Family Studies area at the University, George and Ken.  George was a child psychologist and Ken had many years’ experience in family studies.

What should our focus be?  Where were we going to put our efforts?



Our Christmas at the Farm by Kim Moir


Self-pity was not far from my mind on that Christmas morning many years ago. Currier and Ives images of families gathered around Christmas trees and Norman Rockwell’s ghosts of idealism floated through my mind as we put on our winter coats, boots, and hats. It was only 9 AM and I had already been up for several hours keeping Nicky entertained and out of trouble while he watched Disney videos in his room so he would not wake our other son, Scott.

Bill and I packed up what we would need for our Christmas morning cookout, loaded up the car, and headed west to a place we knew would be a safe and quiet spot where we could spend a few hours of our day. Nicky has autism, and in the earlier years of his life we had help with him in our home for twelve hours a day. His needs were so severe that he needed constant monitoring, engagement, and structured teaching to keep him growing and moving in a positive direction. Because today was Christmas, our workers were at home with their own families, and we were on duty. This routine had been going on for many years.  We were growing weary of having people in and out of our home, sleepless nights, and days filled with tantrums and bites while we tried to coerce Nick into using his language to communicate.

The Farm became our place of quiet this day, and in the car Nicky settled into a place of calm. Driving to this familiar location brought with it an assurance that we would always be welcome, no matter what day of the year it was, or what time it was. Thankfulness replaced my self pity as I realized we were creating memories which were uniquely ours, shared by none. Parking beyond the driveway to the Swihart’s house, we unpacked our car and headed out through the pasture, down the path toward the cabin in the woods.


Nicky knew the way because he frequented this place on other days, with other workers.  He looked forward to a quiet time in the woods where he could pick up rocks, crush leaves, and wander in the beauty of dappled sunlight beaming through overhead trees. A chorus of crunches from our footsteps sounded from the snow and soon we headed slightly downhill and to the left, to the opening in the trees where we would settle for a while with the trees as windbreak. Bill and Scott worked together on the fire as I unpacked the picnic basket, unloading sausages and bagels, juice and utensils. We had unwrapped our stockings at home before we left, and Scott was assured that presents awaited us when we got home.

When hard times come to a family, it is what you do with the everyday moments that create habits of perseverance, character, and hope. Creative choices come when we are willing to explore the landscape provided for us and step out into the unknown. Such was the case this Christmas Day.


Bill and Scott gathered kindling and started a fire while Nick played in the woods and I sat on a rock and waited, thinking of our unique morning. I really didn’t want to be here, but this was a safe option for our morning.  As I look back on this now, I can see God’s hand of provision for us this Christmas day. Sausages cooked on the fire, we prayed, gave thanks for the meal, and quietly ate together as a family. For today this was our manna provided in the woods, a respite away from our home, another sign to us that God saw our need and showed us a way to keep going.