Today was the day.

The day when one knows summer’s over, and it’s time to prepare for the coming cold.

The season of flowers has ended, and the time for falling leaves has arrived.

So I rolled up my sleeves and stepped out into sunshine, though my heart felt cloudy. As I pulled up zinnias and marigolds that had beautifully lined one of our walkways for months, I lamented. Though they were already very much asleep, I felt sad pulling them up by their roots — as though I was telling them they’d never have another chance.

The pile grew, and with it, a mountain of woes. All that work in the spring. The planting of seeds. The waiting for the first signs of life. The watering and fertilizing — for what? For this? For death come November?

I then cleaned off our front porch — sweeping up the remnants of ferns that had hung with vitality, had been homes for baby birds and had offered some shade on summer days as I sat on the rockers or on our porch swing. At least these had been moved to the safety of the greenhouse where they might survive until spring. I hoped.

While I was at it, I got the wheelbarrow from the garage to remove several moldy and rotting pumpkins that had been on our back deck. As I moved them, fruit flies swarmed out, the smell of decay filling the air. Already? I thought? Hadn’t we just picked these a few weeks earlier?

I headed back inside. As soon as I opened the door, I saw another mess all over the living room floor. Shredded plastic and bits of orange paper were strewn about. Although it had been almost entirely destroyed, I could make out the stem of what had been Allie’s papier-mâché pumpkin, which she’d made in preschool, and I’d used in our autumn decorating each year since. Its imperfections were precious to me, but now it was completely beyond repair.

“Bad dog,” I said in my best “You’re-In-Trouble-Now” voice. Slowly, Prancer, our 1-year old English Cream Golden Retriever, emerged from around the kitchen counter. “Bad dog. Did you do this?” I asked, pointing to the mess on the floor. She hung her head.

I sat down among the remnants of the demolished pumpkin, and noticed pieces of recycled plastic grocery bags. So this is how it was made, I said to myself, fingering its inner workings. I worried briefly, wondering if perhaps Prancer might be sick from eating the painted paper, but I quickly remembered that only non-toxic paint would be used with three and four year olds. Allie will never be three again, my heart complained.

Prancer came close as if to say she was sorry. She’d been bored, and the pumpkin had, after all, been left right at her level. It really wasn’t her fault, I thought, as I scratched her ears. I then began picking up the bigger pieces prior to retrieving the vacuum to finish the job.

And as I swept, it was as if the Lord spoke to my unsettled heart — a heart that, although His, allowed the events of the day to make it sad. The passing of seasons — the dead flowers, the remnants of ferns, rotting gourds and even the destroyed preschool pumpkin — should serve as reminders that God makes all things beautiful in His time (Eccl. 3:11).

“Well, don’t I?” God asked.

Turning off the vacuum, I looked at the clean living room floor. Outside, there was a flowerbed that was now available, perhaps for pansies. There was a porch cleaned up and ready for Christmas decorations in the coming weeks. There were pumpkins waiting for the compost pile — where they’ll very likely propagate new plants next year.

And I now know better how to make a papier-mâché pumpkin with Allie. Maybe we’ll do that before Thanksgiving, and I’ll relish in each of its imperfections. Only this time, I’ll put it high up on a table, out of Prancer’s reach. She’s not really a bad dog. She’s just… a dog.

But we serve an incredibly GOOD GOD!

And with that proclamation, my heart doesn’t feel sad anymore.

Why are you downcast, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me?

Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him. The help of my countenance, and my God.

(Psalm 43:5)