Once upon a Christmas dream

by Annette Bridges. ©2008. All rights reserved.

There’s something about Christmas that has always brought dreams of all that I longed and hoped for.

And it seems I’m not the only one who’s had Christmas dreams. Clara dreamed of her Nutcracker Prince coming to life. Children had visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads. And others dreamed of home and a white Christmas. And everyone undoubtedly hopes the dreams they dare to dream today will come true!

Twenty-nine years ago Karen Carpenter sang words that resonated with my girlish dreams: “Merry Christmas, darling. We’re apart, that’s true. But I can dream and in my dreams I’m Christmasing with you.”

Even though I had not yet met my darling, I remember trying to imagine him — along with the day we would meet.

It was a “different” holiday season for me that year. My mother had remarried, and suddenly all of our family traditions were changed. I came home from college, only to leave again with my mother and her new husband to spend Christmas at his mother’s house along with his children.

It was Christmas Eve. Everyone had gone to bed, and I was trying to sleep on the sofa in front of the Christmas tree. I had just nestled in for the long winter’s night when the Carpenter’s song played on the radio.

I pondered how different this Christmas was from the previous year that I had spent mostly with my boyfriend’s family. We had broken up since then, and once again I was dreaming of when I would meet the man of my dreams.

Christmas in any age brings the promise of dreams fulfilled. I can’t think about the coming of the promised Messiah without being encouraged and strengthened by hope and grand expectations. So my dreams for love in my life were grounded in the knowledge that God’s unconditional and boundless love for His children could not help but mean my life would be filled with love.

I was learning to accept my mom’s marriage because I yearned very much for her to be happy, and I certainly wished her life to be filled with love, too.

Granted, I knew companionship and love could be expressed in many ways — not only in the form of a husband. Since the break-up with my boyfriend, I was rekindling friendships I had neglected, trying to be a good “big sister” to younger dorm mates, spending more time with family members and doing community service. So I wasn’t feeling lonely.

That Christmas Eve I was not merely longing for the day I would meet my dream man but looking forward to that day — a day I felt was soon to come. My dreams were packed with conviction and confidence.

One lesson I had learned well taught me that expectation of good enables one to recognize good when it appears. That same lesson taught me when one is gloomy and depressed, it is possible to miss the good that may be right in front of you.

I was quite certain that our heavenly Father promises our dreams will come true. Maybe not always in the exact way we imagine but always better than we dream. This is, of course, because God’s plan for good is always grander than our often limited vision.

I did meet the man of my dreams about six months later. And we met in the most unexpected way and moment. I could never have dreamed it! By Christmas Eve, we were announcing our engagement. That was twenty-eight years ago this year!

Don’t give up on your dreams, my friends. Keep your faith strong and certain. Change is sometimes needed in order for the best to come along. May all your Christmas dreams come true this Christmas and the whole year through.

Christmas blues

by Annette Bridges. ©2008. All rights reserved.

We bought our Christmas tree today. Picking out a tree the weekend following Thanksgiving has long been our family tradition. But I have many friends who started their Christmas traditions earlier than normal this year. They just couldn’t wait to swing into the spirit of the season.

I’ve heard this desire voiced by strangers at my hairdresser’s shop, too. It seems there is an anxious longing to ease economic stress and worries, which has prompted some to get out their holiday decorations and music before Thanksgiving.

For many, Christmas brings a happy and blissful feeling, and yet for others, Christmas brings only sad memories and depression. Or this is what I believed before I began writing this column.

I have long held the opinion that an overdose of Christmas cheer generally pushes those teetering on the mental health brink over the edge. I had assumed that those who were “without” were depressed by those “with” — sometimes to the point of suicide. In fact, I was certain that the month of December was America’s psychologically most-menacing month, and I would have guessed that our nation’s highest suicide rate was on Christmas Day.

After doing a bit of research, however, I find evidence that suggests — as one study put it — “holiday depression is about as real as a red-nosed reindeer.”

Indeed, studies verify our national suicide rate in December has been either average or below average. One study cited the national average rate of suicides as 34 per million, with the average rate on Christmas Day as 30 per million. And the lowest point of the year was identified as taking place during the one to two weeks prior to Christmas.

While one suicide is one too many, I’m ashamed to admit that I was surprised that the national average was even as low as it is. I say ashamed because I think my surprise suggests that I need more faith in myself and my fellow human beings and our ability to cope with adversity. But I was heartened to learn that Christmas day and the days preceding it often have a lower number of people who feel inclined to end their lives.

I’m not dismissing the struggles some may be dealing with or the immense sadness some may be honestly feeling at Christmas or any other time. Still, I’m not sure why I have ever accepted that some troubles could be too overwhelming to recover from when my own personal experiences have taught me better.

My Christmases have not always been filled with merry gatherings and acquiring the gifts of my dreams. I can recall at least three family deaths that occurred in the days just prior to Christmas and a separation from almost all of my family during another Christmas. Many divorces among my family members have regrettably changed the face of our get-togethers over the years. And plenty of Christmas celebrations that were financially strained and even one when I was homeless.

But yet through them all, Christmas brought hope, peace, joy, fresh inspiration and comfort as well as the promise of a more prosperous and satisfying New Year.

Certainly I’ve lamented when loved ones were missing. And coping with change has often not been easy. But for me, Christmas has always helped to make everything brighter rather than the opposite.

Perhaps it’s the remembrance Christmas brings of the coming of a promised Saviour. I suspect it is the fulfilling of that divine promise that brings reassurance at Christmastime today. The gift of Christ Jesus was God’s most precious gift to humanity — a gift that is always with us. His healing message affirmed we are not frail, fear-driven mortals but rather spiritually strong, immortal sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. This is encouraging news!

So, if you are one of those who is struggling to feel the promise of a better tomorrow or you’re feeling very alone, please remember that just as God kept his promise long ago and sent His son to be our Saviour, He will continue to send His children — you and me — whatever we need to lift us out of the deep pit we may feel trapped in.

A Christmas love note …

by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.

I asked some friends to join me in writing a Christmas love note to you. Whether you’re surrounded by family or alone this Christmas, we hope you know you’re never completely alone, because your Father-Mother God is ever by your side — ready to help, guide and give you strength, support and wisdom. He has an endless supply of healing balm for wounded and weary hearts. And you, my friends, are so very loved and precious in His sight.

Perhaps you’re feeling like Charlie Brown when he lamented, “I just don’t understand Christmas. Instead of feeling happy, I feel sort of let down.”

We don’t know why Charlie Brown had these feelings. He might have lost a parent or had a friend who moved far away or maybe a brother deployed overseas or perhaps he was snubbed once again by the little redheaded girl. Like Charlie Brown, some people find the holiday season to be a difficult time — one of sadness and loneliness, self-evaluation and reflection about the past, or anxiety about the future.

For someone grieving over a loss or struggling with memories of holidays past and loved ones no longer present, Christmas may not feel very merry. A dear friend of mine emailed me recently to say her precious mother had passed on. And I’m trying to find some words of comfort to share when I call her.

Mostly, I want her to know how much I love and cherish her friendship, and I want to tell her I’m here if she needs me in any way. I hope she and everyone will find some encouraging and strengthening words in the love notes that follow:

— — —

Christmas is so much more than a time, word, gift or season … it’s a power. And it’s found right where you are — this moment. Christmas blooms as we step aside and let Love shine. Love’s light is here for all of us. Feel it, dear heart. Feel it in quiet, and find it in loving.

Your friend,

— — —

This Christmas all three of my daughters will be with their birth mothers. You may think this would leave me feeling sad or empty, but it is the greatest gift that anyone could have given me. It means that I have learned to let go and have taught my daughters how to love expansively. Each of their birth mothers is a young woman I believe in and am so grateful to. Each of them gave me the greatest gifts of my life — my daughters to love and cherish. Sharing them this Christmas is a special joy. May each of your readers find joy in expanding their definition of family through the spirit of adoption.

With Love,

— — —

The holidays are a time of great joy — and sometimes of a sweet sadness, too, for those who have transitioned on. I’m grateful for all the feelings, because that’s what makes us feel truly alive.


— — —

The thing I realize most about Christmas is that it isn’t once a year — it’s every day. Every day has opportunities for giving and receiving, loving and cherishing. I try to open my consciousness to receive the Christ and see the Christ in everyone I meet. Sure, the annual celebration is a huge event, and sometimes it seems too much, but celebrating it each day helps us cancel out the overwhelmingness of it all. And each day you receive a present — God’s love.

Much love,

— — —

Our family celebration has changed over the years as our children have started their own families and traditions. For the past five or so years, John and I have invited our friends or friends of friends who have no family in the area, or who are single or alone for one reason or another, to spend Christmas with us. We call it our Christmas of giving. We have had anywhere from one to five or six people sitting down with us on Christmas Day. John and I love this holiday tradition as much as our friends do.


— — —

“Christmas Love” is an everlasting love. It’s really with us every day as we shine forth God’s Love. You will see it and feel it around you. Your loved ones become nearer and dearer than ever, as you see the glory of God expressed in simple ways, even with the sunrise. The love of the Christ is loving you, and you are basking in that Christly Love as you watch Christmas candles and lights glow. So let the Christ light shine through you, dear one. Nothing can stop the Christ from lighting the way for you.

With Christly Love,

— — —

I heard someone mention that when we need healing, we can place our thought in the manger of Christ. There we find Joseph’s strength and protection, Mary’s love and peace, and the Christ’s promise of healing and salvation for all. So this message of love is for all mankind to feel that peaceful and blessed place.


— — —

All of these tender messages remind me that friends are one of the greatest of God’s gifts to his children. We may have never met before, but we are friends embraced together by a loving and caring God.

Imagine a world where we know that we are all friends, and we treat each other as such — with love, with peace and with good will.

Merry Christmas, friend!

Peace in times of family turmoil

by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.

Christmas 1968. We were on a westbound journey. I don’t think we knew what or where our final destination was. Or at least I didn’t. I was ten years old. All I knew was we had left Georgia suddenly, late one evening, to escape my dad, who, I felt was rarely happy and was almost always angry about something.

My parents had divorced after 25 years of marriage, and my dad just couldn’t seem to let go of my mom. She was like a possession that he’d had a long time and didn’t want to loose.

Now he’d begun a “cat-and-mouse” chase that lasted several months. We left everything behind us –most of our clothes, my toys, my dog. All I remember taking along were our ice cream freezer, Bible, and a blue and white paperback book a friend had recently given to my mom, Science and Health.

As we passed through Mobile, Alabama, my dad found us, and we were literally in a car chase, with Mom and me driving very fast and making lots of turns to try to shake him off. We did . . . for a while.

That Christmas found us in a mobile home in Beaumont, Texas. We stayed in mobile-home parks instead of hotels as we traveled west, so as to be more elusive as the chase continued.

There was little to no money to be spent on gifts. But my mom and I were safe – and in several ways we were happy.

Christmas in Beaumont had no glitz or glimmer. There was no family gathering, no holiday feast. We got ourselves a tiny Christmas tree. It was so small I suspect it was like the tree in the cartoon classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas” – the tree nobody wanted. We didn’t have any decorations. Not even a tree stand. So, we found a way to hang the tree from the ceiling. I remember thinking how cool that was. We strung popcorn and made paper strings. This too, I remember, was fun.

What is perhaps most remarkable as I look back on it now, is that my memory of that Christmas is not one of fear and uncertainty, but of peace. It’s almost hard for me to understand how, in the midst of such a violent and unstable time in my life, my memories could be so dear, so special. In fact, I’ve often said that was the best Christmas ever. How could that be true?

Since childhood I had been taught that God loved me. That God is good. That God is everywhere. I had learned the Bible stories of Daniel in the lions’ den and of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being thrown into the fiery furnace. I think I was confident of God’s care, even though my life was apparently in danger and my future most uncertain and at risk.

My Bible study had begun to involve the Science and Health my mom had been given. It never ceased to amaze me by explaining and putting into words what was somehow already written in my heart. It was filled with powerful affirmations of God’s saving power and helpful explanations of the mission of Jesus. The book assured me that all things were possible to God and that I could never be separated from Him.

Certainly, the Bible teaches these things, but my study of Science and Health clarified many Bible passages for me and convinced me that what I was learning in the Bible was true. If I was ever in doubt, this book would defend the Bible’s claim and strengthen my trust.

I was not a member of a Church of Christ, Scientist. In fact, I had recently been baptized in another denomination. But it was very natural to include Science and Health with my Bible study. It provided extra assurance that I, too, could be as safe as those Bible characters.

“Love is much stronger than hate and
can dispel fear, uncertainty, and doubt”

Two years later, I did join a Church of Christ, Scientist, and have been blessed in more ways that I could ever have imagined during my childhood.

We made our way up to Dallas after that Christmas, where my mom found a job. I found myself in a new school making new friends. We established a new home, and my mom married the friend who had given her that paperback Science and Health. I even got my dog back. My grandmother had rescued him and cared for him.

And what happened to my dad? He ended his chase, went back to Georgia, and began a new life of his own. I never had the opportunity to see him again, as he passed on several months later. But I like to think that, before he passed on, he was as happy as we were in our new life.

Now, I try to take a few moments every holiday season to remember the Christmas of 1968. Our modest celebration taught me that peace and hope can be felt in the midst of threats of violence; that joy is not dependent on money and circumstances; that love is much stronger than hate and can dispel fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

The greatest gift

by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.

What’s the greatest Christmas gift in the world? Perfect for any age or gender?

It was over twelve years ago when 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 again. But we haven’t kept that promise. That is, until a couple of weeks ago. The three of us once again went on a memorable journey together.

And that brings me back to the greatest Christmas gift. How many times have I never done what I said I was going to do?

And why not?

There has 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 have wasted worrying about not having enough time. And consequently getting nothing done because I’m too busy fretting about not having enough time to accomplish what I want or need to do.

Recently, I came across an article written by spirituality and health reformer, Mary Baker Eddy (See www.marybakereddy.org), which was published in 1903. Titled “Now and Then”, its timeless ideas are now transforming my every decision and action.

Ideas such as ….

”A lost opportunity is the greatest of losses.”

“We own no past, no future, we possess only now.”

“If the reliable now is carelessly lost in speaking or in acting, it comes not back again.”

“Faith in divine Love supplies the ever-present help and now, and gives the power to act in the living present.”

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

I think it’s – today.

Perhaps that really is why it’s called – the present.

I’m going to try and give as many “todays” as I can this year. Look for present possibilities to make memorable moments with friends and loved ones. I think it may be the greatest gift I can give. And maybe the most memorable.