“Goodbye, Papa.” Anna said as her father held her in his arms. She didn't want him to leave.
“Goodbye Anna, I love you. I’ll see you in a few weeks.”
James started walking toward the large herd of sheep in the nearly barren field. Jessie, the sheepdog, kept the sheep in a tight circle.
“Ease up, Jess,” James said. The dog immediately dropped to the ground panting, waiting for her next command.
James took one last look at his daughter.
“Anna, what’s wrong?”
Tears formed in her eyes. “Oh, Papa, please let me come with you. You know how good I am with the sheep. I could be a big help to you. I could cook your meals; gather firewood…”
“Anna, dear Anna.”
“Please, Papa, please.” The desperation in Anna’s voice was almost more than James could stand.
“I wish I could Anna, but your mother needs your help more than I do. It’s hard for her to do all the chores when she is that far along with child. The boys are too young to be of much help.”
“Papa, I’m not interested in woman things, I want to be a shepherd like you.”
James couldn’t contain his laughter. “Woman things, eh?” Sweet Anna, I am not sure why the Good Lord put you in a female body, but I’m sure he had an excellent reason. Someday when you’re older and have a family of your own, you’ll appreciate ‘woman things’.”
“I doubt it,” Anna mumbled, eyes downcast. Anna began walking back toward their humble home, her head slumped between her shoulders.
James opened his mouth to say something, but thought better of it. There wasn't anything he could do to change what she was feeling. He whistled for Jessie to start the sheep moving again. He had a long trip ahead of him to get the sheep to higher grazing ground.
Along the way, he pondered his daughter. God had undeniably gifted that child. She had a way with animals that he hadn't seen for a long time. And she was right, he knew that she’d be helpful and he would love the company. But, he reminded himself, his wife needed her more right now.
Anna kicked a stone all the way back to the house.
Father God, it just doesn't seem fair. Why can’t I go with my father? I want to be a shepherdess. Will I ever get my chance, or will I be stuck working in the house all of my days?
She waited for an answer from God, but nothing came. Why was he being so quiet?
Anna’s mother opened the door, “Anna, please round up the ducks and chickens, feed them and collect any eggs you can find.”
Elizabeth watched her daughter and her heart hurt for her. She knew how badly Anna desired to take the trip with her father. At 11, the girl certainly knew what she wanted. Elizabeth believed God had given her those desires for a special reason.
Elizabeth, ask her to gather some wood by the creek. When she comes back, you may let her go.
Elizabeth didn't understand exactly what God was speaking to her, but she knew it was his voice and she would obey.
Anna had already gathered 3 loads of wood and stacked them near the house. On her fourth trip, she heard a faint, yet familiar sound. She dropped the sticks and ran toward it.
Anna spotted the ewe and her lamb. The lamb’s back leg appeared to be stuck in some roots and sticks in the water. She struggled, but she was able to move some branches and free the lamb from his snare.
Anna led the sheep to the house. Elizabeth saw her through the window and immediately understood God’s message to her.
“You must take them to your father, Anna. If you hurry, you can reach him in a couple of hours.”
“Thank you, mother.”
Anna was ready to go, but her mother said, “Wait here a minute, there’s something else you will need for your journey.”
She came out holding a shepherd’s staff Anna had never seen before.
“This was my father’s and I was saving it for one of the boys, but I think it really belongs to you. Be careful, Anna.”
Anna took the smooth wooden staff, picked up her bag and started her journey as a shepherdess.
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