The Shepherd Doesn't Sleep

I had the incredible opportunity to model as Mary for artist Caitlin Jensen, and my Emmalee portrayed baby Jesus. You can buy a print of this painting and see more of her art  here . The original hangs in my home. (You can read a little more about my experience below).

I had the incredible opportunity to model as Mary for artist Caitlin Jensen, and my Emmalee portrayed baby Jesus. You can buy a print of this painting and see more of her art here. The original hangs in my home. (You can read a little more about my experience below).

The Shepherd Doesn’t Sleep

I was at church one Sunday when a leader of our congregation was being released from his calling as a Bishop, which is our immediate ecclesiastical leader. A new Bishop was being sustained by the members to take his place. He, who was now responsible for almost 300 people, obviously had a lot on his mind. The Stake President (someone that is over the bishop as well as other bishops within a larger boundary called a stake) shared his experiences with our newly called Bishop. (If you would like to find out more about these terms and my religion, you can visit LDS.org).

One evening the bishop called me and he said, “President, I’m not sleeping. Is this normal?”

To which I replied, “Bishop, the Shepherd doesn’t sleep.”

When I heard this I was immediately filled with love for our new bishop. Can you imagine the weight and responsibility of knowing that you are to look over and care for nearly 300 men, women and children? Surely you would be up at night worrying about those individuals with their various needs. Often in the scriptures we hear Jesus compared to a Shepherd watching over his flock. Time and time again in the scriptures we read about the ONE. We see Jesus going around blessing people one by one, personally and individually.

But for whatever reason, when I heard those words, “The Shepherd doesn’t sleep,” I was also filled with thoughts about myself. Suddenly I was flooded with these four words, “You are a shepherd.” The moment I held my first daughter in my arms for the very first time, I was a shepherd over this precious soul. Sleep was definitely scarce, and although I was exhausted, I wouldn’t trade those sleepless nights. To be honest, even though I no longer have a newborn, I still don’t sleep. Whether they are sleepless nights worrying about my 9 month old’s development, or my 2 year old’s reoccurring tantrums and how I can show her more love, or my 4 year old’s ability to make friends because other children were mean to her at the playground, or being awake in the night with a sick child, cleaning sheets because my toddler wet the bed again, or nursing my baby back to sleep—time and time again, I am not sleeping.

When my 3rd daughter was just 3 weeks old she had to be life-flighted. With the unknowns of whether or not our little baby girl was going to make it, I definitely didn’t sleep. I wanted to be awake to witness every little change that occurred, whether good or bad. I wanted to witness her eyes again for the first time. I desperately wanted to see her move. I wanted to be able to hold her again. And if none of those things happened, I wanted to be there if the moment came where I had to say goodbye. The shepherd doesn’t sleep.

I love this image from one of my children’s picture books titled, When You Are Young by Ashmae Hoiland for  rags.com .

I love this image from one of my children’s picture books titled, When You Are Young by Ashmae Hoiland for rags.com.

Jeffrey R. Holland gave the most beautiful talk about mothers to which I want to share an excerpt:

“To all mothers everywhere, past, present or future, I say, ‘thank you’. Thank you for giving birth, for shaping souls. for forming character and for demonstrating the pure love of Christ…to all mothers in every circumstance, including those who struggle-and all will, I say, ‘you are doing better than you think you are!’… In fact, you are saviors on Mount Zion, and like the master you follow, your love never faileth.”

-Jeffery R Holland, Behold Thy Mother, October 2015 General Conference

Just to reiterate, “LIKE THE MASTER YOU FOLLOW, YOUR LOVE NEVER FAILETH.” Wow. I think Jeffrey R Holland just compared the divinity of your love for your child to the Savior’s perfect love for you. Think of it, surely the Savior was the ultimate shepherd watching after his flock, and going after the one as needed. As a mother, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you fiercely watch over your children day and night? You are constantly worrying about them, praying for them, dreaming for them, sacrificing for them, and fighting for them. YOU are a shepherd.

So, to anyone that looks at you and thinks, “She doesn’t look like she takes care of herself very well,” or, “Wow, she has definitely gained weight since high school,” or, “She looks so tired all the time,” I say yes, those statements could all be true, but do you know why? Because she is fiercely watching over her flock. She is fiercely sacrificing every ounce of herself for those babies just as the Savior does and did for you.

You keep on sacrificing. You keep on not sleeping. The Lord will sustain you. He does sustain you. You will be glorified for the eternities in heaven to come for being a mother on Earth. Like the master you follow, you are a shepherd, and the shepherd doesn’t sleep.

About The Painting

As I was given the opportunity to portray Mary, the mother of Jesus, I had an interesting experience. I was able to pose as Mary for the same artist the previous year with my nephew portraying the baby Jesus. Both times, the infants were completely peaceful and calm, yet wide awake. I felt the warmth of the spirit totally encompassing the room, both times. However this time, as I held MY two week old baby, I felt something different.

I looked at my own newborn baby with the incredible unconditional love that a mother has for her child, and yet, I beheld this same infant in terms of a child and thinking, “This is my Savior”. I can’t say that I know all that Mary felt, but I believe I was able to get a better glimpse of her incredible love as a mother, and yet as a child, looking to the savior and saying,

“Please save me Master”.