expecting the pumpkin.

I've always had a hyperactive imagination, just ask Suzanne Todd, my first grade teacher. Back in the dark ages of 1991 when teachers still included hand written comments on report cards, mine read: Brittany is very animated. And by "animated" she means: Brittany spends the majority of her day in the dramatic play area, mumbles to herself about babies and crayons, and tends to take make-believe to the extreme. I have to hand it to my mother, she volunteered in my class a couple days a week and always offered me the wooden blocks or would you like to try the uncooked noodle-necklace making? Never. I would not turn my back on dramatic play. Call me stubborn, but darnit, I could conjure up an invisible family, a plate of scrambled eggs, two dogs and quiet a fussing babydoll all within the confines of my four year old mind.

To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is to trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define your life, trusting that God molds us according to His love and not according to our fear. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present in the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy or prediction. That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control. -Henri J. Nouwen

But such an imagination has served me well in the past 23 years, and I never once considered that wishing to be a mermaid while I'm supposed to be hammering out Excel spreadsheets might be an odd thought train to board. If anything, it's beneficial because I'm not constrained to what's practical or sensible-which is really great because neither is God. Far beyond our imaginings. Waiting expectantly is a new kind of waiting, unknown to those who don't love Him, and I am praying I learn it well. Deep in your hearts you know that every promise of the Lord your God has come true. - Joshua 23.14 I know we are created in His likeness, so if you multiply by 7, carry the 1....God has a huge imagination, and we could never be fully prepared for what awaits us when we choose to follow Him. He will always surprise us, and if we let Him, our hearts will always be changing, loosening the ties that rope us to ourselves and unleash a love for Him.

I am learning to wait in everything and not to say I am waiting but when will ______ be here? But to say I am waiting and I am grateful in this moment. It's the excitement of waiting without the pressure of anxiety; I am content at the time and will (try to) graciously move on to the next when the next arrives. I start small, with pumpkin butter.

Now I know that the humble pumpkin is a fall celebrity, but when you're in an air conditioned kitchen you're really quite oblivious to whether it's winter or fall outside, so put the calendar away. I was craving it. The spicy cinnamon, earthy pumpkin, the heat in the back of my throat from ground nutmeg-all slathered over wheat toast. I find it's particularly amazing on chilly October mornings, when you finally realize it's time to get your seventy-two scarves out of the closet and put your flip-flops away. But this one takes a bit of patience, a bit of waiting expectantly for an end result that will be worth every minute of stirring and watching.

Spicy Pumpkin Butter
Adapted from All Recipes

1 (29 ounce) can pumpkin puree, approx. 3 1/2 cups
3/4 cup apple juice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice*
1 1/3 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Juice of one lemon

Combine pumpkin, apple juice, spices, and sugar in a large saucepan; stir well. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently. Adjust spices to taste. Stir in lemon juice at the last minute, you'll lose it's citrusy edge if you squeeze too early.

Once cool, pumpkin butter can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge.

To preserve: Spoon hot pumpkin mixture into hot jars, filling to within 1/4 inch from top. Remove air bubbles; wipe jar rims. Cover at once with metal lids, and screw on bands. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

* Don't buy Chinese Five Spice just for this, if you have it then by all means, use it. If not, use an extra teaspoon of ground ginger and 1/2 a teaspoon of ground cloves instead. I happen to adore the anise flavor from the Five Spice that mellows across your tongue after you swallow the butter by the spoonful.

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