For the past 16 years, our annual family trips to the pumpkin patch have always culminated with a pumpkin-picking-out ceremony.
Our chosen pumpkin has always been selected based on its various redeeming attributes. A strong stem for easy carrying. A perfectly round shape with no dents or flat sides. A bright orange color with no trace of green or brown spots.
For the past 16 years, our little family would sit down about a week before Halloween and carve the pumpkin. The kids sketch designs, my husband wields the knife, and we all scoop out the seeds for roasting. Family Pumpkin Carving is one of my favorite traditions.
As we’re all aware, traditions are being shaken up a bit this year.
This October in the year of our Lord 2020, a freak snowstorm dumped nearly a foot of snow on all local pumpkin patches. And also, we completely forgot about the family pumpkin.
We’ve been so distracted with online learning, then hybrid learning, increasing covid restrictions, and a monumental (albeit nauseating) presidential election. On the list of things we’re concerned with, pumpkin carving ranks right up there with organizing our dish towels.
It occurred to me that we were a mere 72 hours away from Halloween with no pumpkin. In a frenzied panic, I raced to our local grocery store. The kids were in school (yay hybrid!) so for the first time ever, I found myself single handedly responsible for picking out the family pumpkin.
I whipped into a parking space and mall-walked to the front doors of the store. Maybe I thought hordes of overly-sentimental middle aged mothers would also be scrambling to ensure holiday traditions live on, I’m not sure. But as it turns out, no one in the vicinity seemed to care about pumpkins.
I stood before the display, and I’m here to tell you, you’ve never seen a more pitiful sight. If there was ever was a group of pumpkins that personified the theme of 2020, these guys were it.
There were roughly 9 pumpkins left to choose from. Some were rotting and caving in. I picked one up by the stem and it completely tore off, leaving me holding the soggy appendage in my hand. Mold appeared to be growing on three-fourths of them.
2020, you can’t even get pumpkins right.
Eventually I chose a pumpkin that most closely resembled an actual pumpkin. It still had a nubbin of a stem. It didn’t completely cave in when I touched it. With slumped shoulders and an audible sigh, I declared it the Family Pumpkin of 2020.
As I drove home with my questionable pumpkin riding shotgun, I recalled a favorite memory that comes up often around this time of year.
When my oldest daughter was 3, we were strolling around the old town square where my parents live. She was very intrigued by the fall décor adorning the windows and doorways of all the shops. We approached a group of pumpkins on display, several resting on top of a hay bale.
In an unfortunate turn of events, one of the pumpkins had fallen (or was shoved from behind, we’ll never know the truth) and smashed wide open on the ground, insides exposed and seeds spilling on the sidewalk. My daughter audibly gasped, bending down to inspect the damage. She leaned in closely, tenderly put her hand on top of the pumpkin, and asked, “Are you ok, darlin’?”
I’ll remember the moment as long as I live. Her little 3 year old heart was filled with compassion, and my own heart burst at the sight.
That moment always reminds me of God’s love, and how He overflows with compassion for us.
I think maybe we’ve all felt like that pumpkin at one time or another. Broken. Unfixable. Insides exposed for God to see, unable to hide the yuck inside.
God cares for us, too. No matter the state we’re in. No matter the situation or the circumstance. He has a perfect glimpse of our wounded insides and still cares for us, even on our worst days.
Romans 5:8 tells us that “…God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ Jesus died for us.”
Maybe you need to let that sink in for a bit like I do. He knew we would be imperfect. We can’t do anything to make ourselves more worthy of being loved by Him because Jesus did it all. I’ll never get over it.
I looked over at my sad 2020 pumpkin as I drove home – our Charlie Brown pumpkin – with all of its scratches and dents. With its rotting insides and squishy skin. And it feels so appropriate for 2020. A year that has left many of us beaten and battered. Bruised and crushed. And frankly, probably not much to look at. (Thanks Covid, for the extra time at home spent eating my weight in chocolate and forgetting how to actually fix my hair.)
But our 2020 pumpkin still has a purpose to serve.
We all do. I’m so grateful for a God that doesn’t leave us. He’s a God who chooses us, even though we’re covered in imperfections. Jesus loves us ANYWAY.
So we’re going to carve this pitiful pumpkin, hope and pray the seeds are still edible, and usher in this crazy fall season 2020 style. We’re going to make the best of what we have to work with, just like we’ve been doing for the past 8 months.
And I’m pretty sure we’ll never forget this little darlin’.