This too Shall Pass: 7 Lessons Learned During a Dormancy Season
Each Season Has a Purpose – Part 2, The Season of Dormancy
In my last post, I shared my love for farming and what it teaches me about walking with God. I mentioned how the Christian farmer marries his faith in God to his understanding of science, knowing God is the designer of science, the master of the farm, and the changer of the seasons.
I think there is so much more to seasons than we realize. Just as seasons affect the farm, seasons affect our lives, and just as the farm responds to seasons, so do we respond to seasons. Sometimes, however, God’s natural environment is much better in its response than we are. The plants and animals and water and soil trust the creator, ebbing with the seasons as they come and go, sometimes gently pushing against the season in perseverance to survive, but ultimately giving way to what each season brings, adjusting and adapting in response to current conditions. The farm is still the farm, just growing and changing over time. God is our creator, just as he is of the land, the plants and animals. But He is more to us! He is our Savior, our Redeemer!! How much more we need to trust the seasons he brings to our lives!
Now. I write this and express this to you with all the conviction my pen can form. But I must confess, living it out in my life has been much harder. In fact, it has taken me years to learn; I’m still learning. Even in all my ignorance and hard-headedness, ironically, I have always firmly believed my purpose was to honor and glorify him and to lead others to him.
About seven years ago, he began teaching me about seasons of dormancy. I’d like to share what I’ve learned.
7 Lessons from the Season
1) Dormancy is normal
Dormant: a state of having normal functions suspended or slowed down for a period of time; the state when the plant is alive, but not actively growing; temporary inactivity.
The state of dormant is perfectly normal and often necessary. To an outsider, a farm or field may look neglected and forgotten, used up, even dead. A field may have overgrowth or no growth. During the summer this dormancy might look like an overgrown, tangled mess. During the winter dormancy might look brown, dead, scraggily.
The farmer knows seasons are normal. He views the land with a trained eye. He sees potential. He knows what a plot of land is capable of growing once it comes out of dormancy. He knows that during the winter, the hens go somewhat dormant with their egg production. He doesn’t panic. He doesn’t think something is wrong with his chickens. He waits patiently. He knows, come spring, he’ll have farm fresh eggs again. The farmer knows it’s perfectly normal for the perennial plants on his land to go into a dormant state. He doesn’t expect delicate blooms in the harsh of freezing winter. As a matter of fact, the farmer’s experience is that if one of his perennials blooms too early, before the last frost, there will be no fruit behind that bloom.
You may be in a dormant state right now in your life. That dormant state may be in all areas of your life or in just one area. To everyone else looking at you, you may look like a hot mess. You may even look in the mirror and shake your head in hopelessness. You may feel neglected and forgotten, overgrown with “stuff”. Or, you may feel tired, worn down from life. Often, during these times, we say we feel “blah”, nothing is really wrong, nothing is really right, just “blah”. Know these seasons are normal and nothing is wrong with you. Most importantly, know that God, your Creator, looks at you with a very trained eye because he formed every fiber of your being. He sees the potential. He knows the beauty you are capable of as you come out of this season of dormancy. Trust him. Trust the season.
2) Dormancy is not Uniform
“You can’t compare apples to oranges.”—cliché, but true. The season for dormancy varies from plant to plant, from animal to animal, from location to location. In agriculture there are zones. We live in Zone 7. I have to know my zone in order to know my growing season. I have two apple trees and two peach trees. Their seasons of dormancy are different. They are at different times and they are for different durations. In Zone 7, an apple tree will stay dormant longer than a peach tree. Dormancy is normal, but not uniformed, not in specific times, nor in length of dormancy.
We can learn so much about dormancy from horticulture. A plant’s growing season and season of dormancy is unique and directly affected by the environment. I love flowers as well as vegetables. I have a mother-in-law plant or snake plant, as some call it. I had no idea that it could bloom until my sister told me. She said if I’ll not transplant, but allow the plant to become rootbound, it will actually produce a flower. I researched to make sure she was correct. No surprise, she was 100% accurate. According to botanists, this only happens about every ten years. Imagine the marvel if I ever see mine blooming. The rarity of the bloom will bring me much joy. Imagine God’s design of this unique plant. My cousin has a plant in her flower garden in West Georgia that only blooms once a year, at midnight, and only lasts that one evening. She has it calculated and usually is able to catch the bloom. What a phenomenon of science, designed by God! One of my favorite deck flowers is the begonia. I have a shaded back yard and it tolerates the partial shade very well. This is an ever-giving, beautiful blooming plant that blooms and blooms and blooms. I put it out early in the spring and it lasts until a hard freeze. Almost every day of the summer, I smile when I see this plant because it is faithful to bring me beauty, not rare, but faithful.
As Christians, we are bad to compare. You may see a sister in Christ who is in a dormant state while you are blooming bright and big. Don’t make her feel less because she isn’t in the same season. And the same goes for yourself; don’t beat yourself up because your season of dormancy seems to be going on forever. It might not be God’s purpose for you to have that hearty begonia bloom. It might be that one rare bloom God gifts you with that brings many wayward souls to the awe and wonder of Christ and God’s majesty.
3) The Good and Bad of Dormancy
The worst part of dormancy is the waiting. It’s just that period of time when nothing is happening. For the most part, on the farm, winter is also the season of dormancy. By January, most farmers are already growing impatient and browsing seed catalogs. Imagine though if the soil had to continually give nutrients to the plants. There are two main purposes for dormancy for the soil—rest and health.
If a farmer continually keeps something growing on a plot of land without letting the soil rest, it becomes depleted of nutrients because it has had to feed the plants for so long without recovery. Almost every year, we had to add nitrogen to our corn because our spot had become depleted. If a plot of ground is allowed to grow the food through the summer. During the autumn the remains of the plants go through the rotting process and add back so many nutrients to the ground.
Also, the dormancy can heal the soil. Often, plants will bring fungus to the soil. By allowing a natural time of winter dormancy, the fungi or disease don’t have a food source and die off. Farmers also usually rotate crops in order to prevent disease as well. Tomatoes might be feeding a disease or pest, but the same disease or pest might not can survive on beans so by rotating the crops, you are starving the disease/pest out. Old farmers used to say that a plot needed to rest every seven years for these same reasons.
The hardest thing in our lives is waiting. We are impatient people. The inactivity in any or all areas of our lives drives us insane. It’s during this time we can start questioning God, wondering what’s going on? The simple scripture, Be still and know that I am God, is so powerful. To me this scripture says two things. Be still. Spend time with Me. God is telling us this is the only way we’ll really get to know him, by spending some beautiful quiet time with Him. But it also means, “Rest easy, Child. I got this.” During your season of dormancy, he may be letting you rest. The pace of living in this sin-scared world can be exhausting. This dormancy might also be a time of healing. Don’t rush the healing process. He may be healing some old wounds you’re not even aware of. Rest assured, just because you aren’t busy during this season, he is. He’s at work, designing things for his glory and for your good. Rest and Heal!
4) God Prepares, God Warns
I teach the Teen Sunday School Class at church. For months we’ve been looking deeply at the life of Joseph (not Mary’s Joseph 😉). What an amazing young man of God. In Genesis 41, Pharaoh has a dream about cows standing on the banks of the Nile River. First, there were 7 plump cows, grazing. Then, along came 7 thin, ugly cows. The 7 thin, ugly cows ate the 7 plump cows. Pharaoh has another dream. First, there are 7 ears of good, healthy corn. Then, 7 poor ears of corn produce and consume the good ears. Joseph’s interpretation—God was laying out the next fourteen years for Egypt. For seven years, weather and environmental conditions would be perfect and produce food in abundance. (First Farmers’ Almanac lol ) There would be more food than all the people in Egypt could possible eat. Then, there would come seven years of struggle. The east wind would bring blight to all crops and there would be seven horrific years of famine. God was warning the leaders to prepare for the year of dormancy ahead of time. Put aside food for the hard years.
Let that sink in. Seven years’ worth of food was not only going to feed the people through the growing season and into the winter, but seven years’ worth of food was going to feed the entire population of Egypt for fourteen years! The story continues, and I’ll let you read further on your own, but those seven years of abundance feeds more than even just the people of Egypt.
Many times in our lives, God prepares us ahead of time. In 2012, he let me know we were in for some type of long haul. Interestingly enough, it happened to be seven years as well, just as it had been for the Egyptians. In my scriptures from 2012, there was a warning, but there was also promise. The promise let me rest easy during difficult days. The promise is what made my heart skip a beat in excitement, wondering exactly what God would do at the end of the dormancy.
Our farm had seen years of so much activity. Our land was worn out and so were we, quite honestly. Then, abruptly our little Mill Creek Farm went into a dormant state. It was sad, but I still rested in God’s promise, believing in his provision.
Just as quickly, God said, that season is over. Wake up little farm. Wake up Child of Mine.
There will be seasons of abundance in your life. There will be seasons where everything you touch falls into place. There will be seasons of success. There will be seasons where God is speaking to you through his word and you are so full spiritually, you’re not sure you can handle any more. Store it. Hold on to it. For, there will be times where you feel like you can’t even hear from God, times when you aren’t seeing God active in your life. Don’t let yourself starve during this time of dormancy. You’ve hid God’s word in your heart. Stand on that! Believe what he told you during those times of abundance. Let your time of abundance with God carry you through your time of famine.
5) Don’t Stay Dormant Too Long
Now, I must say when we “surveyed” our farm with our eyes that day in August, I became a little overwhelmed. There were places it didn’t even look the same as it had at one time. The creek was so overgrown, a stranger wouldn’t even know it was there. Where we once had been able to bush hog and mow to keep in shape, would now take chain saws and stump grinders. The only places that even remotely looked familiar were the little orchard, the lower pasture where we let some neighbor farmers cut hay, and the high pasture where we let another farmer keep his cattle. Before we can even begin to get back to where we once were with farming, much less go into new farming ventures as we had once dreamed, fencing and clearing would have to be done. If you know anything about farming, you know this isn’t the fun part. A couple more years of dormancy would have caused a lot of problems. One of our barns couldn’t withstand much more overgrowth. We had not worked it physically for so long, we would have to build back our physical endurance. We aren’t seven years younger so we’re a little daunted by the task at hand.
On the left, the creek in 2007. On the right, the creek in 2019 can hardly be seen for the overgrowth.
A place of dormancy can be pretty hard on the psyche. It can bring a sense of complacency. It can also cause you to feel overwhelmed. It can make you lazy if you aren’t careful. Don’t get lazy on God. Don’t get lazy on yourself. When he says, “Wake up Child”, don’t go back to bed because you’re overwhelmed. Don’t stay dormant one minute longer than you need to. Stand on the promise and picture of what he showed you was going to happen when the season changed. Your job is to obey him. Your job is to work for his kingdom. Roll up your sleeves.
6) When the Dormant Ends, Get Ready to Work, Prepare for Blessings!
The end of dormancy does mean work, but it means blessings too! Jim and I have been so blessed with our children and our daughters-in-law. Our daughters-in-law are family. They are my girls as much as if they were born to me. They are always all in. If our family decides to do something, they are right with us. The personalities of our adult children came out that day in August as I asked the question, “Jim, how in the world will we get this place back in shape?” Luke’s response, “Be alright. One tree, one weed at a time.” He’s our ever-hopeful, always positive. Zeb said, “We’ll bust our tails.” He’s our workhorse, always tackling a big job head-on. And Hannah, she already had some ideas of what the farm could be turned into. She’s our dreamer, our visionary.
No doubt, hard work was ahead, like Zeb indicated, and we were ready! We were ready to work hard. We were ready for God to bless those labors! Hannah’s vision would drive us, and Luke’s encouragement would keep us going and lift us up when we become discouraged.
Overgrowth. You actually can’t even see the cattle shoot.
I thought of so many promises God had fulfilled and how he had been magnified through those promises all throughout our lives. But I also thought about promises not yet fulfilled. God showed me a picture of other things in our lives he would bring to pass, promises he’d made years ago and would keep because he is faithful. I took a deep breath because I knew it meant work for me. Good work that would wear me out, but bring satisfaction and blessings to me, and glory to him.
What’s he got waiting for you at the end of your dormant season? Prepare yourself to be busy. Work is good thing. The process of work itself is a blessing, but the rewards afterward are too. Then, God puts his spin on it and you can’t even imagine what is in store! Sometimes we’ve lived in a state of depletion for so long, we are afraid of the good things he wants to bring. I lived for years like this. My life had been so hard growing up and into early adulthood, I had grown comfortable with lack. I had become accustomed to struggling and being beat down, and was frightened when I saw a glimpse of goodness. This is how God wants you to live. When God blesses us, he wants our arms open wide! Your dormant season is over now. Put own your work gloves and open wide your arms!
7) Learn to Ebb and Flow with Each Season
The farmer can’t change the season. In his wisdom, he knows this and this brings a certain amount of peace. He can look ahead. He can plan. He can prepare. He can adapt and adjust with the season. Farming techniques over history have been ingenious—greenhouses, high tunnels, aquatic farming, mixed cropping, burning, terracing on mountain slopes. These are adaptations and modifications in responding to the environment and the seasons. The farmer calculates and reflects from past experience with seasons, letting his wisdom grow. He learns to ebb and flow, to work when it’s time to work, to rest when it’s time to rest. He knows a season can be short or long, but never permanent.
Know this in your life. If you’re dormant right now, know a season of rebirth is coming! If you’re in a time of abundance, be wise. Know if will not last forever. You’ve experienced hard seasons before. Don’t be surprised when they come again. Seasons are aren’t permanent. God’s faithfulness to you is.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 To every thing there is a season, a time to every purpose under the heaven:
4:11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time…
Those are my lessons learned during the dormant season. In this part, I share some of our farming story.
My husband and I have always gardened and he spent his entire childhood and beyond in animal husbandry, only taking a break while he served in the military, and then in the last ten years or so. Currently, I haven’t raised a garden since 2012. Any small amount of canning or freezing I’ve done in the last seven years has been from food I’ve purchased from farmers’ markets or been given by other local farmers, and that has been miniscule.
This is a stark contrast to our lives prior to 2012. From the time we were married in 1985, Jim had provided some of our meat. We always had enough venison to eat two or three times a week. I quickly learned how to ruin a good deer roast or how to take great pains to thaw slowly, marinate a couple of days to overcome the wild taste, and then cook slowly enough to tenderize. We also would get beef roast and steaks from cattle he and his father raised. Over the years, some of our protein and dairy sources have been Addis Dairy (delicious whole milk!), and a chicken farmer who always kept us in as many eggs as we could eat. Jim’s and my boys’ love of hunting also gave us other occasional protein treats. Wild turkey. I learned the hard way and my family paid the price for the lesson, wild turkeys and store-bought turkeys don’t cook the same. My youngest son once raised and trained beagles to rabbit hunt. Rabbit with gravy is much like tenderloin. It’s delicious and one of the cleanest meats I’ve ever handled. I’ve cooked squirrel. Once. Never ate it. Never will. Don’t think I’ll even let it into my kitchen again. The best thing from the wild I’ve ever cooked and ate…dove breast. Cleaned, seasoned, and wrapped in bacon, then grilled—a delicacy! For years about half of our meat came from our hands and the other half from the meat department of a local grocery store.
I would get all our staples from the grocery store unless I could find someone who had ground their own wheat or cornmeal. When our kids were toddlers, I made loaves of bread each week, not in a bread machine, but by hand. There is something very satisfying about watching the chemical reaction of the ingredients as the bread sits and rises, even more, satisfying is the warmth and aroma it brings to your kitchen. Also, when our kids were little, I never bought a pickle or relish or jelly from the store. I made them all from fruit or vegetables grown on our farm or gifted by friends.
I have a small orchard of a few apple trees, peach trees, and nectarines, but these haven’t really produced much.
One of our very first peaches from several years ago. In 2019, a mature peach tree is good for climbing!, Our grandson, Case.
We’ve had blueberry bushes and grapevines on occasion. But growing wild and in abundance in the upper pasture are all the blackberries and poke salad you can pick. Wild black walnut trees line the creek bank if you’re willing to let them cure and crack the outer and inner shells to get to the strong flavor of the nut. They mix great into a pound cake!
The veggies! This is my area of expertise. At times, I’ve had as many as three good size gardens at one time. Between 2007 and 2012, we cut back to two large gardens. Some might say I overdid it on growing our own vegetables… I might have been a little obsessed, but I loved it. As labor-intensive as it was, I loved the end result. I love the fact that between soil, seed, sunshine, and water and with my hands, from dirt under my fingernails to aching fingers and slumped shoulders from canning beans, my family could have a nutritious and delicious meal. Many, many years I’ve had bumper crops of one thing or another. One year the rain might help produce seven bushels of green beans. My kids and I would put up what we needed for a year’s supply—at least 52-quart jars so we could eat green beans once a week. We didn’t mind having them twice a week on a good year. Then, we’d give the surplus to friends and neighbors. If there were still beans coming, we’d can more, knowing we wouldn’t have to plant as many the next summer. One year the focus of my OCD was tomatoes. I planted 70 plants, s.e.v.e.n.t.y. 70! Never again. We were making spaghetti sauce, canned tomatoes, ketchup, you name it.
I loved the calculations and preparation. I would decide how many meals of a particular item we needed for a year, allowing a margin for extra and always planning for a “poor” crop to have enough. Then we would always draw a sketch off of how we wanted to lay the rows off, rotating the crops every few years for the health of the soil. We kept all our canned goods in an old smokehouse on the farm. I loved looking at my jars of beautiful food that lined the shelves.
We didn’t have to eat homegrown food. Jim and I both worked. We could have bought it all from the grocery store, as we do now. But, there was just something special about being a part of every step. It was a privilege to see the miracle of life, as the food cycled from seed to table. Only a God who loves us would provide for us in such away. I learned a type of gratitude to my God that grew over the years by gardening. I learned to pray for strength at the beginning of a day when I knew harvest would be laborious or when canning would last from early morning until the sun went down. I also learned to thank Him when I would hear the pop, pop of each lid as they sealed, knowing he had indeed given me the strength I’d ask for. I learned to cherish the wisdom that grew little by little each year as I learned something new or tried something new or failed at something.
These years were hard physically, but hard in a very good way. Every year was different. There were years of too much rain at the wrong time and I would have to get the tomatoes before they burst open from too much water. There were years of drought where only okra would thrive. Years of drought can be very difficult. When rain wasn’t enough for the plants to survive, we attached a soaker hose to our well water. One summer, it was so dry, we were afraid we had almost tapped out the well so we put an immersible pump into the creek and pumped water to the crops so they wouldn’t burn up.
Preparing for Sour Kraut
These were good years, but we were busy raising our kids, working jobs, attending ballgames and other extracurricular activities for the kids. We always dreamed of taking our farming to another level, learning new skills, venturing out. It seemed that God had placed this desire within our hearts to farm.
It was exciting just talking and dreaming….believing that one day it surely would happen.
There were other dreams we had. Jim and I had both grown up in pretty meager homes. We raised our three children in a two-bedroom home. We had always lived very frugally. We both worked hard and had what we needed and more, but we both strived and dreamed to continue to make a better lifestyle for ourselves and for our children. We had a mental list, as most do, of things we hoped for. We knew none of this would come without effort so our goals included hard work, job advancements, and continued education.
Eventually, our kids started college and began creating lives of their own. It seemed the time was right for things to start falling into place with some of our dreams.
Then began a culmination of events that kept hindering us—new job opportunities, longer work hours, grad school, health issues, extended family health issues, and conflicts.
By 2012, I realized we were in some type of “situation”. Often it felt like a battle, a real attack from the enemy. Some of the dreams seemed to be coming to fruition. But the farm seemed to become more and more distant in reality, though in our hearts the desire was still just as strong.
Here is where I must tell you several times during my life, God has spoken to me through his Word. To clarify, He always speaks to me through his word. But there have been a few times when he clearly gave me messages about my life or our family through his word. During these times, he would lead me to scripture that I didn’t know very well and it was as if the word was written directly to me. Then, he would speak to my heart, giving me promises or directions. Usually, I write these down. I have some of these scriptures marked in my Bible and messages written on paper and placed in my Bible. Is 64: 1, 21-34 was a set of scripture God gave me somewhere between 1991 and 2001.
When something would knock us on our feet, God would send me right back to these promises and directions. Some of the messages he had given me years and years ago and it was as if I were seeing what they actually were meant for thirty years later.
Somewhere around the middle of the year in 2012, he gave me some new promises and directions, along with additional scripture, all of which confirmed what he’d previously spoken to me and actually brought even more clarity. Joshua 7:10; Joshua 14:9; Joshua 14:10-15; Joshua 21:45; Ezekiel chps 8-14; Jeremiah chps 28-29; II King 4:7; Luke 22:10-12. God’s timing is always timely. He gave those scriptures ahead of me needing them. He knew there would be times I would want to give up and throw in the towel on so many things, but because I know he is a faithful God, true to his word, I was able to stand on that, even during times I wanted to buckle. These scriptures even had some specific details, numbers and dates, and cardinal directions. At the time, I just thought these were irrelevant details that “just happened” to be a part of the scripture he’d sent me to. Ezekiel 8:5; Ezekiel 11:23; Jeremiah 28:17.
By 2018, things were still crazy busy for Jim and me, but a different kind of busy. Life was still throwing a curveball every now and then. But we were settling into some type of new rhythm, a good rhythm. Several doors had opened and promises of God were fulfilled. We were rejoicing in God’s goodness. We began to talk about the farm again, just a little.
In 2019, a series of major events began to take place, rather rapidly. I knew God was fulfilling what he’d promised years ago. After the dust had settled a bit, I was reading my Bible one night and happened to look at the scriptures from 2012. It was then that I realized those details weren’t arbitrary AT ALL. Those details (dates and directions) were in direct correlation with events and circumstances we had just experienced.
We are now at a place where we are ready to farm again. It will not happen overnight; that’s for sure. You see, our farm has sat dormant for seven years. There is a lot of work to do to wake up the little farm. I knew from the scripture in 2012, we would be in a “holding” place for a while. It was not until August of 2019 when Jim took me and our children, their spouses, and our grandsons, walking along the property lines and down the back pastures, and to the lower barn that I realized how overgrown the farm had become. Standing in front of the old cattle shoot, overgrown with trees and vines, God told me the farm had been dormant, but that was okay. The season of dormancy was over. I knew then Jim and I, as well, had been in a dormant state in one area of our lives for the past seven years. But all was well. Within a four-week period, God was bringing us out of this dormancy.
The dormancy was normal, for the farm and for Jim and me. I see now, it was even necessary. It’s now I reflect over the past seven years and also think ahead to the years in front of us.