Annette Bridges

Annette Bridges

What's the greatest Christmas gift in the world? Perfect for any age or gender? Here's my story of how I came up with an answer!

Several years ago my mom and daughter joined me on a three-week journey. We crossed the country, traveling through much of the Northeast. Three generations of women sharing treasured moments together. It was awesome and unforgettable. So much so, we made a vow to do it every year. But we haven't kept that promise.

How many times have I never done what I said I was going to do? And why not?

There's always been a reason. Or so I would convince myself. The most frequently given excuse has been — not enough time.

Sometimes I wonder how much time I've wasted worrying about not having enough time to accomplish what I want or need to do. And consequently getting nothing done because I'm too busy fretting. I've found that if I don't say or do what I really want or intend in the present moment, it becomes a lost opportunity. And my life was beginning to be haunted by too many lost opportunities.

One day it hit me. Time wasn't the culprit in and of itself. Time was actually more of a self-imposed limitation. Certainly, there are work schedules that function within set parameters, but I realized that even work was a choice I was making in my life, or at least the type of work was a choice.

I began to see the whole of my life as choices. Sometimes what I thought of as the "have-to's" in my life haven't felt like choices — that I had to do them and at certain hours of the day. But still, I was making the choice to do or not to do. As I changed the view of my life and days into choices rather than have-to's, this seemed to also change my concept of time.

I began to see the only way to "beat the clock" was to improve moments, right now. So, I had to learn to live in the present. This was requiring me to leave past regrets behind. This was also requiring me not to put off to the future what might never be if I was always putting it off.

I have stopped letting time determine my days. I'm remembering that God gives us eternity, and certainly eternity is not defined by any human definition of time. Changing my view of time is actually giving me more time to value and enjoy moments. There are no pressures or worries about how much or how little time I have in a day or week. I can better see what's important in my day and life. And consequently there are less lost opportunities.

Not long ago, my mom and daughter and I did have another special excursion together. And we have had other outings, such as shopping or lunch or a game of Rook. When friends call to meet for lunch, I go. When there are opportunities for me to spend special quality time with my daughter, I seize them. When my husband calls me to help him with something, I respond promptly. When my puppy looks like she needs me to play with her, I stop what I'm working on and play. When I need a break from work, I stop and take a walk.

So what's the greatest Christmas gift in the world?

I think it's today — this moment.

Perhaps that really is why it's called — the present.

I'm going to try to give as many "todays" as I can this year. Look for present possibilities to share memorable moments with friends and loved ones. I think it may be the greatest gift I can give or get.

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Annette Bridges is a freelance writer who lives on a north Texas ranch with her husband, John. Her columns are published weekly on United Press International’s ReligionAndSpirituality.com and numerous other websites and newspapers. Visit her Web site and participate in her blog at www.annettebridges.com. She may be reached by e-mail at annettebridges@gmail.com. Her column appears on Sundays.

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