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Embrace Your Beautiful Uniqueness

In my family, we have the tradition of putting up our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. My husband has off work, and thus can make the time in his otherwise busy schedule to bring up the boxes, fiddle around with the branches that have gotten bent in storage, and change the miniature bulbs as he strings all 5000 lights. (Okay, so maybe not quite 5000, but it sure seems like it!)

Once he does the hard work of putting together everything into some resemblance of a tree, we then bring up five boxes of ornaments—one for each of my children. Like many of you, we give our children a special ornament every Christmas. And of course, their boxes wouldn’t be complete without all of the handcrafted ornaments they’ve made.

As you can imagine, over the years our tree has become more and more crowded. Odd-shaped beaded candy canes, marker-scribbled snowmen, and blue stained glass Santas adorn the branches. Those handmade ornaments intermingle with the more glamorous mementos to Baby’s 1st Christmas, special hamsters, and Star Wars creatures.

The first week or so after our tree is decorated, my youngest children like to play with their ornaments. They take off a few, have a mini-family reunion with them under the tree, then put them back on—usually on the branch already bent with several heavy ornaments. They repeat this many times each day, crowding even more ornaments into the same spot, so that eventually the tree starts to lean.

Then there’s the cat. He thinks the tree and all the dangling ornaments are especially designed for his pouncing pleasure.

You get the point. By mid-December, my Christmas tree looks like a mini-tornado has hit it.

Occasionally in the past, I would tell myself I really needed to get a new tree without the wobbly branches, one that I can decorate with matching ribbons and glass balls, one with all of the glitzy and glimmering ornaments that I drool over at Pier 1 Imports.

Nevertheless, I’ve resisted the temptation. And eventually I’ve come to realize that my teetering, slightly dilapidated, very imperfect tree is actually quite beautiful.

Beautiful, you ask? How so?

For one very important reason—because the tree is uniquely mine.

It represents me and my family to the fullest essence. From the crazy crowded chaos down to the oddest ornament, each aspect of the tree stands for years of memories (both the joys and sorrows), layers of family differences, and all of the wonderful ingredients that make my family (and me) unique.

If I tried to copy some other family’s tree, or tried to make our tree look like a page out of Better Homes & Gardens, I’d miss the wonderful beauty that makes up my family.

In a world that pressures us to conform, it’s all too easy to overlook the unique beauty that each one of us has in our families and individually. We’re bombarded with ads and entertainment that subtly (and not so subtly) push us to be like everyone else.

Even in the writing world, we often feel the pressure to conform to a certain mold in order to make our books appealing and saleable. And yet we can’t lose sight of the little things, nuances, quirks, and aspects that make up who we are. All of those things come together to form our unique, beautiful identity that helps us to stand apart from everyone else.

This holiday season I urge us all to embrace the unique beauty inside ourselves and our families. Let your life (and Christmas tree!) reflect the uniqueness of YOU. And let your writing reflect all of the unique beauty of your experiences, personality, and depth of who you are.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

P.S. I will be taking a break from blogging next week. See you on Tuesday Jan. 3.

30 comments:

  1. Sweet post and lovely analogy. Wishing you a Merry Christmas, Jody. :)

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  2. We have two trees: a hodgepodge family tree like the one you mention, and a music tree in the living room near our front window. That one is also dear to me because it's filled with ornaments from my music students: treble clefs, instruments, etc. Most are store-bought, which gives it a more "serious" feel than our family tree.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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  3. Goodmorning Deborah and Gwen!! Lovely to see you both! Your music tree sounds very unique, Gwen! Wishing you and your families a Merry Christmas!

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  4. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family, Jody! This was the most uplifting Christmas "card" I've had the pleasure of reading this season. Enjoy your blogging break, and enjoy your unique family. :) See you next year.

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  5. You know I love this post!

    Our tree is down to two strings of working lights, is teetering precariously close to falling over, and has a smattering of preschool craft ornaments slapped in bunches in random clusterings around the tree, but yup, you nailed it. I love our tree. :)

    Merry Christmas, Jody!
    ~ Wendy

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  6. Merry Christmas Barb and Wendy! So glad you both liked the post! :-) Wishing you both many blessings in the coming year!

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  7. Hi, Jody! Loved this!

    Our "white" Christmas tree has now faded to a soft yellow over the past several years, but it's still quite pretty trimmed in red ornaments, garland, beads, and lights. Oh, and let's not forget the hundreds of red icycles that my dear husband patiently places upon each and every tree branch.

    It's not really about HOW our tree is decorated, but the memories and uniqueness connected to it, like you said. And I bet yours is beautiful!

    Merry Christmas!

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  8. As the owner of another quirky, family-oriented tree (no designer tree here!), I think that's a charming story. Your tree reflects your family and that makes it special.

    A very merry Christmas and a happy new year to you and whole family. See you in 2012!

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  9. Hi Cynthia and Jen! Some of us will perhaps a bit more glitz and glamor to our trees, and that's okay too! Don't want to insinuate that those kinds of trees can't be unique too!

    Merry Christmas to you both! And a Happy New Year!

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  10. I love it, Jody! That's such a great analogy. :)

    My mom always had 2 trees: her "pretty" tree, with stands of pearls, beautiful glass ornaments, and pink bows, and our kids tree, with a hodgepodge of ornaments such as you've described.

    Now that my mom has passed away, I have continued her tradition (well, we'll have a kids tree once we have kids, anyway). Erecting a tree and placing her ornaments on it is a memorial of sorts to my mom. It makes me feel close to her even though she's not here anymore, and reminds me of our wonderful Christmases of the past.

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  11. Jody,
    What a beautiful and blessed tradition you have with your children and the Christmas tree. Have a wonderful Christmas with your family. God Bless.

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  12. We get our tree on the first weekend of December. We're still trying to find the sweet spot for arranging the living room. Last year the tree was right next to a radiator and dried up pretty fast. This year's tree is faring much better.

    Merry Christmas, Jody!

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  13. Hey Lindsay, Tonnie, & Paul! Happy holidays and many fun adventures to each of you this Christmas! (Sounds like you have a beautiful tradition planned, Lindsay!)

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  14. Your Christmas tree sounds just like ours! I love having a tree that has a little bit of fun from everyone, even if it doesn't always (or ever) look perfect.

    Merry Christmas Jody! I hope it's a great one for you and your family.

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  15. Jody, your family's tree looks dear, and so meaningful. All those handmade ornaments made by your children are precious!

    My tree is covered with ornaments that each carry a special memory. Funny, how I can go back some 30 plus years now and recall a special person or time when I decorate our Christmas tree. Our tree is definitely unique, and always inspires me with its beauty and hope. A very Merry Christmas to you and your lovely family.

    With love.

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  16. Jody- our tree is the same way--unique and beautiful. My favorite ornaments are the ones my children have made.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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  17. A box of my grown children's hand made ornaments accidently got put out to the curb with the trash one year. I cried for the longest. A decorator tree is beautiful, but not nearly as meaningful as something crafted with love by a child. Your tree is magnificent. Merry Christmas to you all.

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  18. Last week I posted about Christmas traditions and included a photo of the silvery beaded cross that my parents bought for their tree the year I was born, then passed it on to me when I married. It's been on our tree every year along with the few ornaments that my husband and I bought the first year we were married, and the homemade additions created through the years by our children. It's been a "memory tree" for all of us.

    One year a daughter put up a second tree in the foyer and decorated it with all her musical instrument ornaments and that became the first of our "theme trees". When she married, she took those ornaments with her, but I carried on the idea with a winter theme ... white snowballs, frosted pinecones, lots of snowflakes and a few chickadees. The theme trees have reflected our personal interests. But this year we're back to just one tree again, and it's hung with an eclectic assortment -- my favourite snowflakes, family heritage ornaments from parents and grandparents, special ones from friends, and the old memory ones from our children. I think it's my favourite!

    If you haven't seen it, you might enjoy the DVD, "A Heartland Christmas". It isn't a Christian story, but one of family values and community, and there are a couple tree decorating scenes that made me smile.

    Blessings to you and your family, Jody. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

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  19. A beautiful tree!!! Merry Christmas to you and your family! :O)

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  20. Your tree sounds like ours - ornaments collected over the years, handmade ones from kids and grandkids, and ones recieved from those same kids. But only 600 lights - not 5000.

    And I understand perfectly about the cat -- the bottom two rows of branches are empty on one side and I will have to go hunting through the house to find what has been carted off as toys.

    Jody, have a blessed, Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

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  21. Merry Christmas, Jody!

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  22. Thank you and Merry Christmas to you and yours, too!

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  23. Lovely post, Jody! We don't have the tradition of giving ornaments but we do have a ton of ornaments made at school and I love how it looks too. I don't understand how families with small children would want a fancy pants magazine look tree anyway.
    Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas x

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  24. I think it's special that you have such a unique tree. As you say, no one else has that tree, and there are extra-special handmade ornaments by your family on there. So beautiful.

    Merry Christmas!

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  25. Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2012, Jody!

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  27. Hi Jody!

    Just wanted to let you know that I've really enjoyed your books and can't wait to see what you come up with next! Historical fiction is my favorite genre and your stories are a real treat for my book lover's heart.

    Hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas-lopsided tree and all...God Bless! :)

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  28. Hi Christina,

    Thank you so much for the lovely compliment about my books! I'm thrilled that you've enjoyed them! I absolutely adore reading historical fiction too, so I know exactly how you feel! :-)

    Blessed holidays to you as well!

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  29. Beautiful post about a beautiful tree!!

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  30. Hi Friend-- what a lovely post and a lovely reminder. Happy new year and can't wait to read what you have to say in 2012!

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