Sunday, October 30, 2011
The pure splendor wrapped up in this sweet October Sunday left me once again tip toeing around, creeping into unexplored spaces of my mind and heart. This little spiritual walk I'm on continues to surprise me and leave me with my hands reaching up, waiting for more.
With the sun shining brightly and the breeze blowing lightly, I began preparing the picnic table in the backyard for an afternoon of pumpkin carving. While the boys pulled their wagon loads of pumpkins around the house, I lined the table with paper, set out bowls to sort seeds into, and a displayed a wide array of creative tools, scoops and patterns for inspiration.
We selected our pumpkins and began what turned out to be a somewhat tedious process. Just as we got started, and I found myself arm deep in yuck, my mind wandered off (as it too often does) and I got lost deep in thought, analysis and understanding.
Interestingly enough what I found myself pondering was the fact that we, as humans, journeying through our lives, aren't that unlike the pumpkins we were carving.
Each one of us, so uniquely made, completely one of kind. Some round, some tall, some skinny and some not. Some are flat, others thick skinned. They come in shades from white to yellow to orange, red and green. Indeed, there are no two alike.
The process each one must go through to become a masterpiece is different. You never know exactly what's ahead until you open the pumpkin and peer deeply inside at the work to do be done.
Are you following me here? Pumpkins, much like us, are messy inside. When we first dig in we find so much to sort through, each one contains something slightly different than the last. Yes, they all have pulp, some stringy, some mushy. And seeds, of course. Sorting through the seeds you often encounter a few that just aren't good. They must be pulled away from the good seeds and tossed out. Time and again, I find that even after sorting through the seeds, when I finally wash and prepare a batch for roasting I encounter a few bad ones I missed the first time around. This is so true to real life. How often in life do we go through something and think we have learned a valuable lesson, only to have the same issue resurface again later, and we realize that maybe we didn't learn quite everything we needed to the first time around?
It's interesting to notice how some pumpkins clean up a lot faster than others, they just seem perfect right from the start. Obviously this doesn't make it a better pumpkin. Just because it clean, and prepared doesn't mean that the finished product will shine brighter than the pumpkin that you had to spend extra time scooping, sorting and cleaning.
Then the carving begins, not always easy, or error free. It is a process and things don't always go the way you had planned. Sometimes you have no choice but to stop, think, recalculate, improvise and even ask for help.
Austin was quick to ask for help today, and as soon as I was there he made every attempt to just get up, run away and let me do the work. Unfortunately, for him, that wasn't part of the bargain, so I made him sit there while we finished his work together. Needless to say, he carved one pumpkin and headed off to enjoy an autumn afternoon playing outdoors. Then there was Ry, who I watched struggle through each step (in part because he was working on a pumpkin nearly as large as himself....take note: I had told him at least 10 times at the pumpkin patch that his choice would not be an easy one to work with, but hey, what does mom know?) Anyhow, as he attempted to open his pumpkin up I offered guidance. He ignored me. I watched him struggle and get frustrated, but he repeatedly turned down my offers to help. I stepped away and went back to my own project. Ryan continued on diligently and finally got a good look inside his pumpkin. He was pretty dismayed, but nowhere near ready to give up. He dug, and he scooped, and dug some more. He sorted and cleaned. Everyone else finished up, and there he sat still working away. I continued to encourage him and he pushed on, but finally he found himself with teary eyes and too much frustration to finish alone.
I absolutely related the above to what often happens in the real world. We all have such different paths. For some folks things just seem to come together as they stroll though life smiling, often comparing, turning a blind eye or not quite understanding why those around them can't quite keep up. Then there are others who are happy to hand over their troubles and have someone else clean up their messes while they run as fast as they can in another direction. And of course, there are those who struggle through ever step, afraid to ask for help, but longing to persevere. Things take longer to learn, they trip over the same rock, and stumble in the same hole, over and over until they are ready to give up. Thankfully, we are blessed with friends, family, or that complete stranger who's been watching from afar. It seems that when we think we can't go on, there is usually someone who loves us, ready and willing to roll up their sleeves, open their heart and get dirty themselves if that's what it takes to get the job done.
At the end of the day, when the pumpkins are carved, whether it was a simple process or one that was a bit more challenging........the result is the same. You place a candle inside, and those pumpkins all shine brightly. Whether they showcase a scene of magnificence, or big, round, droopy eyes and a crooked, toothless grin, each one brings delight to your heart, smile to your face, and warmth to your inside.
And finally, where my thought ended was that we are exactly like those pumpkins. It doesn't matter who we are, where we have been or what our finished product looks like. As long as we have accepted Jesus, and we allow his light to shine brightly from deep within us, we too delight the hearts of those around us.