Let's take a break from shopping, baking, decorating and all those holiday things we are expected to do and just breathe. That's right, in the middle of all our bustling, let's allow ourselves to truly experience the peace and love that Christmas is supposed to give us. After all, if we are tired and resentful because of the extra work involved, it is almost impossible to experience the feelings of joy, love and peace.

Last year this time, I was grouchy, resentful and Scroogy. I just wanted to shut my eyes and wake up when all the holidays had passed. Every year I dreaded it more and more. I even wrote a poem about all the work, etc involved. Of course I never submitted the poem to anyone, as I didn't want others to know how I really felt about Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year.

This year I took a look at myself to find out what I could do to change. Would I be one of those people who let Christmas float by and only lamented about the money spent and and how commercial every thing was? Would people eventually tire of my complaining and actually call me Scrooge? What was happening to me? I believed in Christmas and the virgin birth of Jesus, but even that did not lift my mood. In fact, I said to myself, I just wanted to celebrate the real meaning, Jesus’ birth and forget about the traditional things.

Then I got an idea. if everything was preying on my mind about what I had to do, why not go ahead and do it? Could this actually be the answer?

A few days before Thanksgiving, I asked my husband, Jim what he thought about putting up the Christmas Tree in time for the Thanksgiving celebration. My good natured husband replied with "whatever makes you happy, Honey." So that is what we did. I can tell you that this is one of the best ideas I have ever had!

Fortunately, all of my shopping was done. Also, my goodie draw contained some extra gifts. Bealls Department store had wrapped my packages that I purchased there, except for bows. I like to buy the wide beautiful ribbon that you can buy at Jo-Anne's Fabrics or Michaels and do my own thing. Anyway, I wrapped the few remaining items that I had purchased at other stores. I placed my beautiful packages under the tree. It seemed at that moment, I could breath better. I felt my body relax and let my mind drift to reindeer floating in the clouds and angels singing beautiful Carols.

Two of my four daughters and their families were able to join us for Thanksgiving Dinner. We looked at the Christmas Tree surrounded by gifts and I basked in the thought that this loving chore had not only been accomplished but made our Thanksgiving Festivities even more delightful.

The days between Thanksgiving and this moment have been filled with stress-free, happy activities. I have always wanted to bake doggie treats and cat treats for others. I know it seems silly, but I just thought it would be fun. It really was fun. I bought some small "Noah's Ark" animal cookie cutters because the "bone" cookie cutters were all too large. I cut out my little animals and baked my dog biscuits. I tried the biscuits out on my dog, Sunny and he loved them.

Feeling inspired, I baked my cat treats. The house reeked of tuna fish. I don't have a cat but I imagine cats were outside my door, picking up the tuna fish aroma. Anyway, I bought some cute jars, placed the treats in the jars and wrapped the mouth of the jar with my beautiful wide ribbon and tied a bow. You are probably thinking that I need to get a life, but this is just a silly thing I wanted to do. If you want the recipe, just click on "Frannie's Fine Recipes from the Heart."

Tomorrow night, we are going to a party. I made my Pecan Tarts that you will also find on "Frannie's Fine Recipes from the heart." However, I made a decision today. I am going to buy a beautiful desert, perhaps a Red Velvet Cake from Sams to also take along to the party. I will do this instead of baking a second desert. This is a gift to myself - the gift of time.

I hope you do the same. Take a few short-cuts to give yourself the gift of time. Does everything have to be home-made? Does everything have to be picture-perfect? If it does, why not get someone to help you? Also, if everyone brings food to the Christmas hostess, it will be more enjoyable for all. No hostess should have to do all the cooking herself/himself.

Let children help with Christmas. They will feel better about themselves if they are not always on the receiving end of things. Also, it gives them a feeling of accomplishment.

One more thing I would like to say. I do not think Christmas is too commercial. I do not think there is anything wrong with Santa. To me, it does not contradict the real meaning of Christmas. It does, in fact reinforce what Jesus said. He said what we do for our brothers, we do for him! So when we lovingly prepare foods or wrap presents or decorate, we are loving and doing for our brothers.

Jim and I always read the Christmas Story from the Bible to our four daughters on Christmas Eve. They always knew we were celebrating the birth of our dear Savior. Therefore, they knew when they gave to others, they were doing what Christ would do.

Author's Bio: 

Francine Larson is the co-author of "Character Keys to a Bright Future," a work-book/short story booklet for young teens that teaches good character traits. She also writes poetry and short stories.