Few things bring me sweeter joy than driving from Cincinnati, Ohio to Bargersville, Indiana in the middle of summer after a long day of work.
As I leave the Queen City in the passenger seat of Mike’s rattling black Mustang from the mid-2000s, I watch the hills flatten into fields. Rows of corn and soybeans end at the horizon, dotted with homesteads and barns (some of which date back to the early 1900s). Bright green John Deere combines await their job orders, and deep red Case tractors rest from the April and May planting.
It’s cliche but it’s true: there’s beauty in the ordinary. I stare out the window as the pinks, purples and oranges dance across the sky, signaling the day’s impending end. Mike shifts gears and I’m pulled out of my trance.
“Are you going to tell me again how beautiful Indiana is?” he asks with a smile on his face and his eyes on the road.
“I wasn’t going to say anything,” I assert. “But it is so beautiful I could start crying.” He doesn’t need to look at me to know I’m telling the truth. If 15 months of marriage have taught him one thing, it’s that I cry far more freely over the beautiful than the tragic.
I like to think my awe and reverence over Indiana’s farmland isn’t unfounded. There are few things quite so magnificent as seeing land, stewarded by those who love it, produce bountifully. It’s the way the world is supposed to be.
In 2012, I witnessed and reported on one of the worst droughts in American history. I saw first-hand that land doesn’t always sustain life. I’ve learned that harvest and the feast that follows should never be taken for granted.
I look at my life since moving to Cincinnati and there’s been no overarching tragedy that has defined it like a drought can define a harvest. But I’ve experienced fallowness in my new life.
Leaving land fallow is an agricultural practice where farmland is intentionally not used to grow a crop. It’s not a passive practice where a farmer simply leaves the land after harvest. Fallow land is typically plowed and harrowed, but not sowed.
The goal of fallow land? To restore fertility and nutrients for a future harvest.
On June 8, 2014, Mike and I packed our cars with wedding gifts, clothing and my personal belongings. We waved good-bye to my parents, saying farewell to my home of 24 years and making my way to my new home.
I was leaving a season of feasting. My year in Indianapolis after college graduation had been rich. My job with the Indiana State Department of Agriculture was a perfect fit. My relationship with my parents became a sweet friendship. My college and high school friendships that traveled with me to Indy went deep. My church was a place of peace to wrestle with doubt and grow in worship.
I came to Cincinnati with a part-time job, a handful of surface relationships, no immediate family and a church unlike the one I came from.
It became my season of fallow. There was no huge tragedy that broke my heart and changed my life. While thankfulness for the gifts I had been given ran deep, there was a lurking bareness to this new season of life that left me downcast.
I threw my resume at companies and sent cold-pitch emails, but nothing came. The good cooking I was known for often flopped. While there were some faithful, beautiful people who welcomed me with open arms, the deep kindred-spirit-like relationships I longed for were hard to find. Church was a sweet place of rest on Sunday mornings, but I often felt like an outsider, with few people making the effort to enter my life and let me into theirs.
The plowing and harrowing rightly brought introspection. The brokenness that rests deep inside my being met me again. I wrestled with my proclivity to need people versus love them, turn inward on myself and make a name for Abigail Murrish.
It was my season of fallow. A season not chosen by me but ordained by my Creator. A season where the land of my life was plowed and harrowed, raked through and shaken up.
The time to plant became clear, fittingly enough this spring. I planted the seeds I was given, as the Author of all Life pushed them through the soil that was prepared through work, waiting and barren land.
I took on some new writing jobs, facilitated a women’s book study with a new friend, nestled into a place at church, traveled to a far-off land with Mike.
Like farming, my life is not some neat and tidy ordeal where all things go as planned. Some relationships are broken. I’m not very good at keeping our home clean. I’ve failed to meet some of my business goals.
Farmers scout their fields, watch grain prices and plan for the next year, responding to circumstances outside their control and trusting a harvest will come. My harvest remains a mystery, but my job is not to know the harvest but anticipate and remain faithful in the land I’ve been given.
“…new life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark,” writes Barbara Brown Taylor.
As seeds begin to peek through the ground readied through fallowness, I wait, I work and I anticipate, knowing that the harvest and feasting has begun and knowing that fallow will come again. From the land I’ve been given, new life will burgeon. It will be as beautiful as an Indiana soybean field at sunset in the mid of summer. And I will probably cry over the glory of it all.