To us, August begins with the State Fair (and what a State Fair it was this year!) and then jumps right into breeding season. Admittedly, the worries are my brother-in-law’s, because the sheep are his. The breeding program and the feeding program and the lambing headaches and the showing glories – they’re all his. But with my barn filled with the sweet smell of hay and the low roar of sheep lowing, I can’t help but feel involved. With my husband paying attention for, oh, the fifteenth or so year and standing in said barn for hours at a time when Shepherd Dan’s out there, weighing the pros and cons of using this buck on that ewe and mixing this buck’s daughter with that buck’s lineage, and, on a day like this when Shepherd Dan is off taking ewes to another breeder far away, actually shuffling some ewes around in the barn; with me dubbed the “official” sheep photographer (which is OK by me, as it keeps me safely out of the show ring); with my daughter already clamoring, at age two, to show sheep; well, given all that, I can’t help but feel invested in the sheep, even if it’s mostly on an emotional level.

Seeing the ewes with their hind ends full of whatever color the buck they’re in with has painted on his chest (it’s the only way to tell whether they’re bred or not) has a way of putting reproduction in some sort of perspective for me, especially since I’m pretty full of “lamb” myself. Watching the buck walk around the pen, checking out his assigned lot, with the seriousness of a fighter pilot, has a way of making me forget the lewd jokes I would have had ten years ago to describe the situation.

Breeding season reminds me of God’s purpose for things. Seeing these sheep, reproducing as God intended, with none of the disorders we humans struggle with, reminds me that sex isn’t a bad thing. Our bodies aren’t what’s wrong, and that beautiful design God has for our bodies and our sexuality is really not hard to understand. The marital love between a man and a woman is quite simple. What makes it hard to understand is us (collectively), the warping we’ve allowed in, the sin we continue to – intentionally or not – advocate.

This time of year also makes me (all of us, really) look ahead to January, to those weeks that will be sleepless and full of lambs and hope. Breeding season is always hectic and full of breath-holding weeks when Shepherd Dan will test and find out for sure if the ewes are really bred, if the buck really did his job. This time of year, though, is nothing to the stress that awaits him in January and March, when most of his lambs will be born in three or four weeks. Dan knows it, and he works hard to make sure he’s made the investments right, that he’s planned well, that he’s ready. Even so, there are plenty of surprises, lots of times when he’ll lose a ewe or a lamb because of a bad birthing, and quite a few disappointments. (“Guess that ewe isn’t going to work out with that buck,” the conversation with Prince Charming will begin, and two hours later, I’ll see them emerge from the barn. If they were women, there would likely be cheesecake involved.)

Isn’t that just how life is, though? Even when we think we’ve planned everything out – from our sheep breeding program to our child breeding program – there are surprises, losses, and disappointments.