“Devote yourselves to prayer being watchful and thankful.” ~Colossians 4:2
For as long as I can remember, one of my favorite holiday activities has been baking Christmas cookies. Even when I had to stop eating gluten almost 10 years ago, I delighted in the experience of crafting beautiful, delicious treats (even if just to watch others enjoy them). But I was so thrilled when I started being successful with some Christmas cookie favorites that I could also enjoy!
So, all that being said, here is one of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes adapted to be gluten- free friendly! Enjoy!
Gluten-Free Classic Spritz Cookies (Adapted from the Pampered Chef Classic Spritz Cookies recipe)
You will need a cookie press
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups Pamela’s all purpose gluten-free flour mix (this is my favorite flour, because it can be used in the same ratio as regular flour, and you don’t need to add xanthan gum)
Colored sugar or sprinkles (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 375F. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed of the electric mixer about 3 minutes or until creamy, scraping down sides as necessary. Add the egg and vanilla; beat well. Add the flour, mix on low speed just until blended (the dough will be soft, do not refrigerate).
2. Fit the cookie press with the desired disk and fill it with the dough. Press the dough onto a cookie sheet about 1inch apart. Decorate the cookies with sprinkles or colored sugar if desired. Bake 10-12 minutes, then remove from cookie sheet and place on a cooling rack.
Makes app. 6-7 dozen
Heather Cofer is a wife and mother with a passion for encouraging others to love Jesus with all their hearts. This comes through writing, leading worship, and being actively involved in life-on-life discipleship alongside her husband, Judah, who is one of the pastors at their church. She is also a regular contributor for the ministry of Set Apart Girl, and is in the process of starting up her own blog in the near future (visit her landing page here)
Heather loves spending her days with their three young children, enjoying quality time with Judah, and having sweet conversations over cups coffee with friends.
Heather is a Colorado native, but spent most of her childhood in the country of Mongolia, which is where she and Judah met after his family also moved there several years later. After getting married in 2011, they moved to Windsor, Colorado, and have been there ever since.
Below is a post from one of my dear friends from my college days at CIU. I know her words will encourage and inspire you as they have me.
Dying to Live
By Erin Elizabeth Austin
I’ve become fairly adept at dying. After living with three different chronic illnesses for the past fifteen years, I’ve nearly died on five separate occasions. You could say it’s become a way of life.
Now I don’t want to give the impression that I’ve always handled being handed a death sentence by a doctor in a graceful manner, because I haven’t. The first time it happened I was only twenty-one years old and I responded with as much fear and anxiety as could be expected. The second time the fear only slightly lessened, but by the third incident, I was livid. I was ready to quit fighting to live. Even worse, I was ready to quit on God. It was wrong of God to allow me to suffer so much, so why should I pretend like I was okay worshipping a cruel, aloof dictator? I actually went to throw my Bible, a once-prized possession, in the trash. Yet I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it, so I gave God an ultimatum. I told Him I no longer thought He was a kind, loving God, and I was going to give Him one chance to convince me otherwise. I then proceeded to spend the next year pouring myself into studying God’s Word. Due to being on multiple immunosuppressants, I was literally confined to my house aside from regular doctor and hospital visits. As painful as that year was, it was a transforming, life-defining year.
I learned that my understanding of God and the Bible was wrong. My definition of good means no pain, but that’s not feasible. Somewhere along the way, we got the idea that having a relationship with Jesus meant we didn’t have to suffer. Yet because we live in a broken world, we aren’t exempt. The only way for us to no longer endure brokenness is to no longer live on this earth, meaning we’re dead and in Heaven. So, where’s the hope?
One of my favorite passages of Scripture is found in Daniel 3 when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were thrown into a fiery furnace for not denouncing their faith. The reason I love this passage is twofold. First and foremost, we see in verses 24-25 they weren’t alone in their suffering. Jesus joined them in the fire. Therein lies the great promise to those who have a relationship with Christ and the reason why we can have a joy-filled, thankful heart. Yes, we will endure suffering and hardship in this life just like everyone else, but we don’t walk through our trials alone. We have been promised that God will never leave us or forsake us (Deut. 31:6). Because of Jesus willingly choosing to die on the cross so that we might have a relationship with Him, we are offered comfort only God can give to His children who are going through hard times. He may not take away the suffering, but He does ease the burden. Even better, God will use our trials and turn them into something good. One of my favorite verses in all of the Bible is found in Daniel 3:27 when it says, “The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king’s high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them.”
Have you ever been around a campfire? As fun as they are, the smell is awful once you step away from the fire. The smell of smoke permeates everything on your body. That’s what normally happens when a person endures a personal trial. It negatively impacts him or her. Yet when we have a relationship with God, if we keep our focus on Him and have a spirit of gratitude, it doesn’t matter how severe the trial or how big the fire. We will come through and we won’t smell like smoke.
Talk about a testimony! Have you ever been around someone who radiates joy despite all they’ve had to endure? Compared to someone who is negative and bitter, the difference is astounding. People are drawn to those who have hope and joy even though their lives are challenging, and because God made it possible for us to have a relationship with Him, we get to be those people who point others to God no matter what. I want that more than anything else! Yes, I have three chronic illnesses, but it doesn’t have to destroy me because my God is bigger than any fiery furnace this life throws at me.
Since I’ve learned this truth, I’ve endured two other times where I should have died. The most recent happened last month. I contracted meningitis from the vaccine. Even though I wasn’t contagious, I could have and should have died. I knew I was experiencing pain, but I kept reminding myself of Nehemiah 8:10 which says, “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” When my doctor finally figured out what was wrong, she asked me how I was not only surviving, but actually living and going to work. My answer? “Thanking God each day and praying Scripture.”
God is walking with us through the fire. Do you see Him? Are you looking? More importantly, do you smell like smoke?
Erin Elizabeth Austin a writer, speaker, and the founder of Broken but Priceless Ministries, a non-profit organization which helps caregivers and people suffering with a chronic illness. In her spare time, she loves to spend time with family, friends, and play superheroes with her nephews. Her goal for each day is to have an adventure, laugh, love, and eat chocolate.
“In everything give thanks.”
Over the years I have heard this statement either in song or from scripture (1 Thessalonians 5:18). I love this statement because it doesn’t imply that I should give thanks only on the days where everything is going my way and all is right in my world. It states that I should give thanks in all situations I go through. I honestly believed that I knew how to do this without hesitation. In every situation, give thanks to the Lord and be thankful for everything. Thanksgiving is an attitude of the heart. It is an attitude of thanking God for everything I face daily. Even if I don’t know the reasons for what I am going through.
It seems as though what I have easily done in the past, be thankful in everything, has been hard lately. I’m in a hard season of my life and yet there are many beautiful parts to it as well. Recently, I have been going through some hurtful things. My heart has been hurt intentionally and well, possibly unintentionally and it has been very hard to give thanks for much during this season of heartache. But I do, some days through gritted teeth and other days through tears of the pain, I give thanks. I am learning that I don’t need to just survive what I am going through, I need and desire to thrive. I want to learn and grow through these times that can overwhelm my heart and mind. Cultivating a heart of thankfulness does not come easy. There is no four-step process on how to be thankful in everything. I wish there was!
For me, I learned a long time ago that when I go through the hard times (the ones that only few people in my world know about) it is good practice to intentionally encourage others. I choose to write. I write cards of encouragement to family and friends that I know who may or may not be struggling like I am. I want others to know they are being thought of and prayed for.
I found this act to be one that I can use to cultivate a thankful heart amidst the heartache. I pray for the person I am writing the card to. This helps take the focus off of me and my own struggles. I worry less when I write to others and pray for them. I see God’s heart for those around me in a bigger way.
Does the pain go away when I do this? No, it is definitely still there. It lessens enough that I can move forward and face the day. Giving thanks in all situations allows my heart to grow and it makes me even more thankful for the great days that are ahead.
I am thankful that I’ve been given a gift that God can use to encourage others and maybe bring a little hope to someone else’s life.
About the Author:
Becky Bernier grew up and currently lives in North Carolina. She is passionate about many things including: her faith, family, friends, writing, and being outdoors as much as possible. She has an older brother who has cerebral palsy and understands what it is like to live with the joys and struggles of a family member with a disability. She currently works for Joni and Friends and will be finishing her bachelors degree in Special Education next May.
“I thank God every time I remember you.” ~Philippians 1:3
Happy Veterans Day! I am so thankful for all of the veterans who have served in the armed forces over the years. The freedoms we experience and enjoy today are thanks to all those who have fought in years past, and also the ones who are currently fighting.
America is a different place now than when this holiday was first declared. We have progressed in so many positive ways in our politics and military service. Unfortunately though, we as a country and world are also facing more struggles now than ever before in my lifetime. As I’m writing this my mind goes to September 11 to present day, and the division we face in the United States and world. All one needs to do is turn on the television for evidence of violence, terrorism, and divisions in race and religion. Most recently, the attack in NYC last week, the shooting in Las Vegas, the church shooting in Texas, and various other tragedies are evidence of these issues. Even though some of these incidents may not all be war and terrorism related, it is still very heartbreaking for our country, and proves all the more why we need the assistance of our armed forces. The day to day struggles that we face in our lives pales in comparison to the suffering occurring in our country and around the world.
Even though it is hard for families to send off their loved ones into the military, we need their efforts to do what needs to be done, and we need to give them more encouragement and support than ever before. The military today continues the good fight that so many other veterans began in the past. It is so easy to only focus our attention on ourselves, and the circumstances we face personally— that we forget the liberties that make our lives easier are not free. Sadly, many folks use that freedom to impact and disrespect the flag and country in negative ways, which is why we need to give praise to our country and veterans every chance we get.
The month of November not only celebrates Veterans Day but also Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving reminds us to have gratitude for all that we have been blessed with. That being said, we need to be thankful not just on certain holidays, but every day for those brave men and women whose jobs have protected our rights. So today on this holiday that honors the veterans who have fought for us — take time to tell them thank you for their service and give them the respect and praise that they have earned. I’m sure each of us are friends with some veterans or have some in our family, so whether it’s a meal, phone call, or note, let them know how thankful you are for their service. Regardless of political views we as Americans need to give Veterans 100% of our support.
While there has been much tragedy in our country lately, I am thankful to be an American and live in this country. Lately, it seems that all the good in America has been overshadowed by the bad. However, in all of the National disasters from Houston, Florida, California, etc., it has been neat to see Americans from all walks of life lend their support and be united in serving and helping others. My prayer is for those types of actions to continue and that all of the Veterans who are alive to celebrate today, that they receive the same love and support. Each day we need to pray for our country, it’s leaders, and our military, and ask God to give them wisdom in decision making and the strength to press on.