Rest? You've got to be kidding.
There is no such thing as REST this time of year. There are presents to buy. There are candies and cookies to make. There are programs to attend. There are Christmas cards to mail. Those ornaments won't hang themselves on the Christmas tree, and the house must be adorned with twinkling lights so everyone will see we have the holiday spirit at our house.
REST?! You must be joking.
But, maybe that's exactly what we do need. At a Bible study before Thanksgiving, Carrie (one of the Young Hearts blog co-authors) gave us a timely reminder. She had each of us write down this acronym on an index card:
R enew yourself in God's goodness.
E njoy the life God has given you.
S implify your life to magnify God.
T rust God with your everyday life.
Hmmm ... REST, not STRESS!
Is it any wonder that women need a reminder as we enter this Advent season?
With a to-do list that seems to multiply exponentially at this time of year, REST may be the best gift I can give myself and my family - and the best way I can honor the blessed arrival of Baby Jesus.
But there are expectations, right? How can I simplify when everyone has a different favorite food? (Maybe I'm the one who has these high expectations ... not my family members. Probably another idea to ponder ...)
While all of the acronym resonated with me, the "S" really stood out during this Advent season. I really do enjoy holiday baking, but it can also seem overwhelming at times. What's a practical way I could celebrate the Christmas season and still simplify?
A few years ago, one of my friends hosted a holiday cookie exchange. It might be time to brush off that idea. Depending on how many friends or family members you invite, you can end up with a variety of cookies - without spending days upon end in the kitchen.
1. Choose a date and time that is most convenient for people's busy schedules - either weekdays evenings or a Saturday morning usually work well. If you're having the exchange at work, holding it during the lunch hour would probably be most convenient. Plan early. People are more likely to attend if you give as much advance notice as possible early in the season.
2. Invite 8 - 12 friends. You need enough people to have a variety of cookies, but too many people means too much baking for everyone.
3. Instruct each person to make a dozen cookies for every person attending the exchange. (If 8 people are coming to the cookie exchange, each person needs to bake 8 dozen cookies). This is a must so that each person gets to take home the same amount of cookies.
4. When your guests RSVP, be sure to ask them what kind of cookie they are bringing so you can have the best variety possible. You might want to suggest that people make something other than chocolate chip! Also remind them to bring extra containers for the goodies they will be picking up.
5. Have each guest bring enough copies of her recipe so that each guest (and you!) get a copy of the recipe. That way, each guest goes home with new recipes to go along with those cookies!6. Set the mood with holiday music and light a seasonal candle for a little atmosphere.
7. Prepare some simple snacks for your guests to enjoy while they're at the party. If you'd like, you can ask each person to bring an extra half dozen cookies for a communal plate so everyone can sample the cookies at the party. Add a few savory snacks and some beverages - spiced cider, hot chocolate or even milk - and you have a party!
8. Turn your cookie exchange into a cookie gifting party. Set out gift tags, decorative treat bags and pretty ribbon. This will give your guests the chance to assemble gift bags for co-workers, neighbors, teacher and anyone else they'd like to give a delicious, homemade treat.
9. Supply extra plastic bags or containers for guests to transport their cookies home. There are sure to be some who forget to bring their own.
10. Stash the cookies in the freezer until your holiday celebration.
11. Spend the time you saved with your family ... reading the Christmas story, playing board games, playing in the snow ... whatever brings you together as a family!
You can even take a shortcut with the cookies you make for your cookie exchange contribution. No one will be able to tell these tasty cookies started with a cake mix.Jiffy Peanut Butter Cup Cookies1 cup chunk-style peanut butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 2-layer yellow cake mix
2 tbsp. water
Reece's mini Peanut Butter Cups
In large mixer bowl, cut peanut butter and shortening into dry cake mix using low speed of electric mixer. Add eggs and water. Mix well to form dough. Using about 1 tablespoon of dough for each cookie, shape into balls.
Place each ball into a mini-muffin cup. Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes or until cookie is lightly browned. Remove pan to cooling rack. Press unwrapped mini Peanut Butter Cup into each cookie.
After about 15 minutes of cooling, use a knife to remove each cookie from the muffin tins. Cool completely.
Need other ideas? Try these tried-and-true recipes from my kitchen. Just click on the links (the highlighted words) for each recipe:
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Food for Thought February post or even last month's Cranberry Pecan Bars. And I'm sure you have plenty of family favorites you could make for a cookie exchange. Enjoy!
Wishing you REST this holiday season as we look forward to celebrating, yet again, the best gift of all - our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.