There’s a deep contentment in my heart this weekend, that springs from many things, many of them linked to the season. The rains have come and washed away the heat for good. There may be an Indian summer left, but the middle of September is here and in this blessed mountain climate fall really is truly under way. And at the end, I’m including a recipe for a very fall-flavored treat.
The biggest reason for joy is actually not tied to fall. I was blessed to attend a 4-day workshop this summer that included teaching on blessing people’s spirits. I have been more aware of my spiritual life since then, sometimes remembering to look outward to God rather than to the world in moments of rest, and – it’s hard to describe in words – but to sort of unfurl my spirit, unclench from trying to have things under control or come out “right” and instead open up to God pouring his love and life into my spirit.
I’ve also been blessed to have some times of intense prayer for my students. Have you seen “War Room” yet? It’s a movie about the power of prayer and seeing it just before the school year started was perfect. I no longer lamented the empty hour between my 9am and 11am classes 3 days a week – instead I dedicated half of it to God! (The other half is for grading so I don’t have to carry as many papers home with me to stare accusingly at me after dinner when I just want to put my feet up and turn off my brain before bed.) So yeah, having that time set aside to pray for students, current or past, as well as family and friends and missionaries near and far, in addition to my regular times with the Word, has been excellent.
Having students means school is in session! While there are certainly things to enjoy about the empty weeks of summer, I was more than ready to get back to structured time and to using some of the gifts God gave me. I’m so alive when I’m teaching! And while I’ve never had a truly horrible class, I do have one extraordinary class this semester that has blown my socks off. They are diverse in age and background, they are enthusiastic and prepared, they participate in all the activities to the point that I finally have to interrupt their group/partner English-language discussions so we can move on. And we are each other’s last class of the day, 5:10-6pm – that amazes and blesses me even more, that they have so much energy left and I can reflect it back to them rather than wilt in my 10th-11th hour of the work day!
In addition to school, the farmer’s market has started carrying fresh, local, wax-free apples, the joy of my daily snacking! It’s sad to see the variety of produce decrease now that summer has waned, but I’ll enjoy the squashes and other fall fruits for now and then I can look forward to next spring again. I cooked the first small “sugar pumpkin” that I grew and it was good, first baked stuffed with rice, bacon, green pepper, onion, garlic, and a little liquid, and then thinly sliced and reheated with all that stuffing in a small pan with a little chicken powder and water.
Mom and Dad visited yesterday as rugby season started up for the fall. I made a Chicken & Mushroom Cobbler with a mix of gluten-free flours and almond milk subbed in, cheese/tomato/basil crackers/nut thins for hors d’oeuvres, and a GF carrot cake for dessert. A friend and her husband joined us for dinner (she brought a salad to balance the meal!) and it was very nice.
Plus I cleaned the apartment after 2 weeks of school plus 1 week of preparing for school – it’s silly but that’s one more reason I love having guests, it gets me to deal with the piles of papers and incomplete tasks that tend to accumulate around the house. That means I got the herb garden back to full health as well (replacing parsley that was chucked out when I discovered it crawling with ants and rosemary that plain ol’ died) and I transplanted the little lemon tree I started from seed last fall into a bigger pot. And it means Dad now has the 2 pear trees I bought him from the nursery here for a combined Father’s Day & birthday gift! I hope they grow well in the yard at home.
This is getting long, so I’ll just list the other blessings of the recent past like so:
- Worship in two churches this morning (Grace Covenant & Freedom Fellowship)
- Sermons from both my pastor and the Church at Brook Hills podcast
- Cream cheese frosting made with just a little milk and some maple syrup mixed into the cheese
- The now-grown-up family of cardinals – 5 males!!! and several females – plus many other birds that have come to my feeders all summer
- My $150 deposit for power being refunded to my account after 12 months of faithful bill payment – that should cover my electric bills through Thanksgiving at least!
- I’ve gotten to know a group of Ethiopian immigrants a little recently, a culture I didn’t have any experience with until this year
- I’ve found a group of people in a similar phase of life (working or in grad school and single) who meet for conversation, worship, and prayer – we’re starting a Bible study tonight
- The sound of geese honking for the first time this fall, an hour ago
- A friend here is interested in moving to the same country I’m thinking of moving to next year
I’m just drinking all this fall glory in knowing that I may be in a different climate both physically and spiritually next year. It’s such a gift.
OK, now for the promised recipe! This goes together in about 10 minutes, from getting out the ingredients to washing the dishes. It is SUPER fast! Then you just have to wait for it to cool :)
- 2 cups full-fat milk + 1/2 cup full-fat milk*
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
Put 2 cups of the milk in a medium saucepan over medium or medium-high heat. While it’s coming to a boil, mix the dry ingredients, then slowly pour in the other 1/2 cup milk while whisking steadily. When it’s smooth, whisk in the eggs.
Once the milk is at a boil, take it off the heat and slowly pour it into the egg mixture, whisking all the time to prevent the eggs from curdling (turning into scrambled eggs in your pudding). Once the hot milk is mixed in, pour it all back into the saucepan and put back on medium heat. Keep whisking gently while it comes back to a simmer and then for 1 minute longer to fully cook the cornstarch and egg. It should be starting to thicken during this last minute.
Remove it from the heat and whisk in the vanilla and pumpkin, then pour it into a serving bowl or several smaller bowls. (I estimate it would make 8 nice servings or 6 very large ones.) If you don’t want it to develop a “skin” on top as it cools, place a piece of waxed or parchment paper or plastic wrap directly on the pudding’s surface. Refrigerate once it’s reached room temperature.
*If you tend to buy skim milk like me, mix in a little heavy whipping cream in place of a few tablespoons of the milk you’re heating. Then go ahead and whip up the rest of the carton to serve on top with freshly-grated nutmeg, since you’ve got it in the fridge now anyway!