Fallow Ground

I have really enjoyed FaceBook and reconnecting with old friends and family. However, FaceBook gets a lot of “flack”. My husband wrote a terrific, short post on his blog about this very topic and you can view it by clicking here. FaceBook has become much more than a way to “re-connect”. Because it is so simple to use, I use it connect to people I care about every single day. One can quickly see what people in your life are up to and honestly? It makes it easy to write a quick word of encouragement.

It also has some games. I’m not a big game person, but FarmVille is a popular one. I’ve become a little complacent about my own “farm”, but it is still fun to check in each day. I allow much of my farmland to be “fallow”. My busier, more industrious farming neighbors will “drop by” from time to time to take care of my fallow ground and plow it for me. If I’m really lazy and don’t plant anything, they will also fertilize the newly tilled ground.

I get tickled at the fact I don’t have to do a whole lot of work to my farm some weeks. At times, I wish that fallow ground would stay that way because it saves work for me later. (Like I said, I’ve become a lazy farmer). I grew up on the farm. Fallow ground is an important part of farming. Sections of farmland are intentionally left unplowed and unseeded during a regular growing season. Even though it is undeveloped, it is potentially useful to the farmer because it allows the ground to “recover”. The stubble left over from the previous harvest will break down and leave valuable nutrients in the ground. Because of my own sections of fallow ground on FarmVille, I have been thinking quite a bit about the concept of fallow ground.

Fallow Ground Symbolism

The Bible mentions fallow ground in Hosea 10:12 and Jeremiah 4:3. In both places it talks about breaking up the fallow ground as a word picture of cultivating your heart and life so that you can serve and minister to others. It lends the idea that a heart or life can be “hard” and unusable.

For a farmer, however, fallow ground IS useful. I am a big supporter of taking time off and having a designated time of reflection. Perhaps it is because I recognize that we are all way to BUSY. I have been emailing a lady in her 30’s who is a referral from Johns Hopkins Listening Center (their cochlear implant clinic). I’ve agreed to be a mentor and contact for people who are considering cochlear implants. (I’ve asked her permission to share this). It is difficult to be blind-sided by an acquired disability. Sometimes, the change can be sudden, extreme and permanent. Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) had robbed this lady of her ability to hear well. She is feeling overwhelmed and at the breaking point. Her life has been in over-drive for some time, and SSHL made her feel like someone had “jerked the carpet out from under her and she lay dazed staring at the ceiling” (her words).

I said, “What you need is to allow some fallow time in your life. You are so busy and yet trying to cope with a major life-altering change. You are giving so much of yourself to so many others, you aren’t even able to weigh the pros and cons and investigate CI’s. I recommend taking time off. Allow your life to go fallow for a designated time. You need this time to re-group, think, and rest”.

She is now doing “just that”. She isn’t WASTING time. She is deliberately taking some time for herself so that she can work through her thoughts, feelings, and investigate cochlear implants.

“Fallow” is not Wasted

I think more people should determine to take time to reflect. I try to meditate and pray at least once a day. There are occasions where I take longer periods of time. But let’s face it… most of us are too busy to really have the time for reflection. What can we do about this?

This is an unpopular idea, but I firmly believe everyone should step back from “all their extra-curricular activities” from time to time. I believe elected (and volunteer) community service, non-profit, and support group positions should have specific limits on terms of service. It forces a change in leadership and allows over-worked, committed volunteers to rest (provided they don’t launch themselves into some new role).

Before insecticides and chemical fertilizers, more farmer’s left ground fallow to aid in replenishing the minerals that occur naturally from “resting the ground”. Today, leaving ground fallow may cut potential yield and profit. I believe that too many of us believe the same in our lives. If we do not keep volunteering for everything, who will do the work?

I had a real test of this in 2010. I have been told by folks I respect that, “If you step down from a leadership role, the vacancy allows God to fill it with someone He has already prepared for that position”. In 2010 I would be beginning the last year of school, and just simply could not lead my local chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America. Numerous personal reasons and simply feeling BURNED OUT had me dreading yet another year of having to step up in a leadership role. The young mother who had taken the “reins” for 2009 had done an excellent job. I made the mistake of simply “moving” my available volunteer hours to another position of leadership within the chapter. As 2009 came to a close, this busy young mother wisely chose not to run another term. I was getting some pressure to step back up to “the plate”. Because I knew what this last year would entail for me I had to really think about it. Because I was already weary, burned out, and overwhelmed, I decided to put a “year sabbatical” to a vote for the chapter members. Incredulous that I was not going to step up and fill the vacant role, they unanimously but grudgingly agreed to a “year off”. I could tell that many were worried! We have elections in October and November each year. I actually had high hopes that God would press on someone ELSE’S heart the desire to step forward so that our chapter would not really have to close for a whole year.

I waited.

No volunteers stepped forward.

I “stuck to my guns” and we entered 2010 only meeting virtually. You know what? We didn’t “fold”, nor close our doors. As a matter of fact, numerous people once in leadership roles really needed this year off for various reasons. Elections are already underway for 2011, and we have a wonderful lady who is now able to devote her time and resources to leading our chapter in 2011. She wasn’t available last year. She needed this year off too!

I felt a little bit of pressure from well-meaning “others” to step back into the role of newsletter editor for 2011. I chose not to do so, simply because I know what my 2011 is gonna “look like” (to some degree… like many of you it is the part I DON’T know that causes significant stress – grin!). I need a “fallow” year. I’ll be finishing up school soon and will be starting to put an effort into finding that career… that position that helps shape a “better me”. Really this last year my free time was taken up with doing school! Next year? I need my life to become “fallow” in terms of allowing a rest and reprieve from even worthwhile activities and groups of which I am passionate about. I’ll still be an HLAA active member and participant, but my free time I need to be “me time”. I feel undernourished. I refuse to feel guilty.

How about you? Do you feel guilty when you aren’t OVER-involved in important, mission-minded organizations? Do you feel like you have to say “yes” to everything? Do you yearn for a bit of quiet and time to rest your soul, mind, and body?

I came across a poem written by a lady I know from FaceBook. (Like I explained earlier FaceBook is far more than reconnecting with high school classmates). She wrote a beautiful poem that I really felt “fit” the idea of needed and necessary “fallow” time in life. She agreed to let me share it here at Hearing Elmo.

Ocean’s Healing Grace
by Nancy Wilder

a lone figure sits easily on the sand
bare feet playing tag with icy foam;
so small in this vast ocean panorama
she gazes out over the horizon hues.

heart heavy and a mind in turmoil
sand and surf her refuge of choice;
breathing in the strength of nature
an open invitation for healing balm.

dawn has come and turned to morn
gray sky meets water in chilly repose;
pretty escape is not what she requires
peace provides nourishment to heart.

slowly the small figure begins to ease
battered mind gently clears in relief;
absently tiny fingers draw in the sand
as gulls dive for their morning repast.

the ocean’s healing grace envelops
urging an embattled soul to find joy;
life’s small blessings are apt minion
to supply happiness on daily course.

acceptance calls a smile to gentle lips
as she stands, the sun kisses the sky;
twirling gaily she casts away sadness
her heart and mind embrace a new day.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and near burn-out, I challenge you to allow yourself to become “fallow”. Don’t falsely bully yourself into believing this time is wasted. Go find an ocean…

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

3 thoughts on “Fallow Ground

  1. like! 🙂 Sorry, couldn’t resist the Facebook culture!

    As usual, another great post!

    I am a HUGE advocate of quiet time and taking breaks. Too many people think that being busy means being productive and they don’t realize that they are spending too much time worrying about plowing the ground rather than focusing on ways to improve and produce better crops.

  2. What a beautiful post, as always. I agree that we need some fallow time. The world and our lives have become so busy and complicated, we forget to take care of our own “ground”. Your post is a subtle reminder that we need to do that more often. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  3. Taking “fallow time” is sanctified by God:

    1. [3] Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof;
    2. [4] But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.
    3. [12] For it is the jubile; it shall be holy unto you: ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field.
    4. [31] But the houses of the villages which have no wall round about them shall be counted as the fields of the country: they may be redeemed, and they shall go out in the jubile.
    5. [34] But the field of the suburbs of their cities may not be sold; for it is their perpetual possession.

    Hence, the academic “sabbatical.” Actually, originally meant taking one year off out of every seven.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s