Doris Moreland was waiting in line for a holiday ham when she decided her Christmas needed changing.

"It was so cold. The line was huge. And nobody had a smile on their face," she remembers."Then I started really looking at people at Christmas time -- people at malls, people at church. And whether they were shopping or celebrating the birth of Christ, all I could see was the stress on their faces.

"It started me on the journey of wanting to really celebrate Christmas."

The fact that her children, Brent, now 14, and Deanna, 12, were watching made her all the more determined.

"I did not want my kids to see a stressed-out, unjoyful, unhappy mother at Christmas time when we're supposed to be celebrating the birth of Christ," she said. "I feel I'm being very hypocritical as a Christian if I do not show the peace He brought."

So Moreland, a stay-at-home mom and wife of a Baptist minister, began searching for the secret to a simpler Christmas.

Along the way she found a book/workbook set called "Unplug the Christmas Machine," by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli (William Morrow Co., New York). Today she leads workshops at her church based on the exercises recommended in the book.

"It comes down to the old statement, if it's really important to you, you'll find a way to change," Moreland says. Here are the steps she recommends to start you on your way.

Step One: Look at what you presently do during the holidays. Take an inventory of the money you spend, the gifts you buy, the parties you give and attend, the halls you deck, the errands you run, the food you prepare, the gifts you wrap and ship -- the whole shebang.

"You'll look at it and say, 'Wow, no wonder I'm stressed. I do a lot,' " Moreland says.

Step Two: Look at your values. What is really most important to you during the holidays? Compare what you value with what you really do.

Step Three: Design a Christmas fantasy your way. Erase the board, and pretend you can have anything you want at Christmas. Write it down.

"So many times I see tears when people do this," Moreland says.

"People who have lost family members and wish they could have them back, people who are trapped in routines they feel they can't get out of can react very strongly to this."

She tells the story of a couple who live in Knoxville, Tenn., but both have extended family in Chattanooga.

"They drive to Chattanooga on Christmas Eve to spend it with one of the families. Then it's back that evening for Christmas morning at home. Then it's back to Chattanooga on Christmas Day for dinner with the other family. When they finally get home Christmas evening, they are totally exhausted.

"What I try to suggest is: If it's really important to you to make a change, if what's going on isn't right in your heart, you can find a way to get out of that trap."

Of course Moreland recognizes nobody can have their perfect Christmas.

"Most of the time the things that cannot change have to do with relationships. You can't change the in-laws. But you can learn how to change your attitude, your actions and reactions."

Step Four: Put a plan on paper. Find two or three ways that are really important to you to make Christmas more holy or more simple. And develop specific plans to make sure you accomplish those things.

"I love Christmas books. They make me feel good," Moreland says. "So I make a point to make more time to read."

Along the road to her simpler holidays, Moreland has trimmed back the number of parties she attends.

"Mark is expected to go to lots of different get-togethers, and often I let him go and enjoy the evening with the kids," she says.

She also has struggled with the annual gift-giving dilemma.

"One year I said, 'OK, I'm really going to stick to a budget.' But that caused a lot of stress, especially when I was shopping for teenage cousins.

"Another year I said, 'I'm not even going to look, I'll just get out the credit cards.' But when the Visa bill came in, we were hurting for months."

Now Moreland tries to strike a happy medium. While she'll spend a little more on the cousins, she gives her adult siblings, friends and neighbors homemade gifts and gifts of her time. When her own children were younger, they knew to expect just three gifts each from Santa Claus, representing the three gifts the wise men brought to Jesus. Mom and Dad rounded out the stack a bit more. As teens, and as their requests get pricier, they may find only one gift under the tree.

As Moreland and her family enjoy more peaceful Christmases of late, one question springs to mind: Would she still find herself in that long, dreary line for ham?

She laughs.

"I would be in line for the ham, but I'd be trying to reach into those frowns around me and get a smile. I'd have the peace and the energy to be more sensitive to other people out there experiencing chaos. And maybe some of that peace would rub off."