A Fallow Season

field 2

Fallow, according to google’s dictionary: land plowed and harrowed but left unsown for a period in order to restore its fertility; from the Old English fealgian, to break up land for sowing.

Tomorrow, Sunday, it will be a month since I’ve been the pastor of a church.  The task of transitioning the congregation to a new outlook and a new permanent pastor is complete; the gifts have been given and the thank-you notes written; a loose end appears here and there, but is quickly addressed.

I’ve had a few possibilities for the future: one that turned out not to be, one from which I withdrew, a couple of which went to someone else.  Others are in process.  But on the whole, I am in a fallow season: ground plowed and harrowed, but, for the time being, devoid of seedlings.

Friends have encouraged me to relax, to think of this as a sabbatical.  If I had another call lined up, if I could say that as of May 1 I will be thus and so, here or there, I would revel in this time.  I would take a trip, be more adventurous with my time and money.  But with income and health insurance uncertain, I am staying close to home and trying to guard resources.

I wonder, every day: Wait for a church?  Put my energies into more adjunct teaching, into more writing?  Fill my time with volunteer work?  I am doing a little of each (except for new volunteer work; while I have looked into it, I am unwilling to make a commitment I may not be able to keep).  Mostly, I am trying to pay attention ~ to what I am thinking and feeling, to what people ask of me or say to me.  In Ignatian terms, I am seeking to interpret the movement of spirits, of The Spirit.  I don’t have to act in haste, to jam a request into an already overloaded day; I can respond, or not, and consider whether I am being led in one direction or another.  If someone asks a favor of me, is that all it is, or is it a portent of deeper possibility?  Do the small jobs piling up as I struggle to find motivation with no real schedule or deadlines hide more expansive possibilities?

I am a girl who likes jobs and lists and charts and achievement.  A fallow field poses a direct challenge to the core of my being.  Perhaps therein lies the point.



Overwhelmed by Choices


I went to a carpet store today and was nearly undone.

We “need” new carpet, in the first world sense that two months ago we completed the repair and painting of a guest bedroom, and in the sense that our stairs’ carpeting has not been replaced in 35, yes, 35, years.

Can you tell that home decorating is not an activity which captivates me?  I have been a miserable customer for the various contractors who have worked on our home over the past three decades, all of them always asking me so hopefully for my input on color and design.  “Just choose something,” I tell them.  And sometimes I add, “Blue.  Or gray.  But you figure it out.”

But this afternoon I dutifully drove half-an-hour to a carpet store, worked for a bit with a quiet salesman who was not at all pushy, and came home with several samples.  Different colors, different textures, different other things I’m sure, about which I know nothing.

I was completely overwhelmed by that store and the vast number of selections it presented.

I teach, actually, discernment; Ignatian discernment, to be specific.  But none of the tools that I have used or suggested to others for major life decisions were of any help.

  • I had no gut feeling about any of the choices.
  • I do not think that I could bear to spend time making a chart of carpet pros and cons.
  • I have no feelings of consolation or desolation drawing me toward or from carpet selections.
  • I am pretty sure that, on my deathbed, I will not be considering carpet.  And I have no counsel to offer anyone else on the subject of carpeting.

I don’t mean to offend.  I know that there are people as fascinated by the variations and possibilities inherent in carpeting as I am by the same things in birds.  But I, alas,  am not one of them.  I inherited these things from my grandmother: both the disinterest in carpeting and the fascination with birds.

It did occur to me, however, on the way back from the carpet emporium, that if we were purchasing our home today, and if any of the carpet swatches I have now brought home were lying on the floors of any of the rooms in the form of actual carpets, we would say, “Good! – Don’t have to think about that!”

Lesson in discernment:  If the matter in question is not of significance to you, then choose and move on!




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