Sane for the Holidays:My Perfect, Unpinnable, Revolutionary Christmas

Leanne Penny is exactly who she pretends to be on the internet, which couldn’t be higher praise. She is honest, earnest, and really and truly someone who will sit with people in the grief, the waiting, the hard places of advent. I am not quite sure how we found each other online, but I hold her friendship very close to my heart. This piece is classic Leanne, and I hope you will love it as much as I love her.

My Christmas tree is perfect, absolutely perfect.. and completely un-pinnable. I am writing this blog post in it’s light as it stands all fat and wedged in the corner between our entertainment stand and fireplace.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving we loaded up our high-mileage mini-van and headed to a local tree farm, to meet Santa, drink cocoa and cut down The 2015 Penny Family Christmas Tree.

When we arrived, we got the low-down, grabbed a saw and looked over the price list/ tree farm map. The average tree on the lot ran from $30- $85 dollars, which is a lot of money for something we’ll to kick to the curb in 5 weeks. So, off we went, on the hunt for a cheap, scotch pine, sure to cover my house in needles while saving my budget.

We soon realized that we were not the only ones with this mentality and that most of the cheap trees were utter crap. It was at this moment that our 4 year old son fell in love with a Frasier Fir, a tree of the $85 variety.


He plopped down next to it, proud that he was able to spot THE PERFECT tree for his mama. When we suggested another tree his lip came out and he promptly burst into tears. So, like good parents who don’t cater to their kids… we promptly wrote a check for $85 and strapped his dream tree to the top of the mini-van.

Hey, you pick your battles, right?

So we get the Gucci Tree home and prop it up in the tree stand. I logged onto Pinterest to see what they have to say about stringing lights and garland, maybe I’ve been doing it wrong.IMG_0517.JPG

Then I realized something, rather profound. 2015 is not going to be the year of the Pinnable christmas tree.

In fact, I don’t know that any Christmas ever will be.

You see, my entire life has led to this year’s Christmas tree, my Christmas tree tells my story, not only of a 4 year old’s first evergreen love story, It speaks of preschool ornaments, Hallmark memories, WalMart inspirations and toddler craft projects.

My Christmas tree is perfectly imperfect, just like me and those I share a home with and the story I’ve been writing these 33 years.

Every year since I was born my Grandmother, who passed away this year, has been giving me Christmas ornaments. I was never allowed to take them out of the box, but I loved them nonetheless.

My Mom squirreled each one away in her cedar chest and now, all grown with a family of my own, I take those ornaments from their boxes, year after year, and watch my kids hang too many of them on one branch as I reminisce and remember.

My grandmother’s ornaments aren’t alone, there’s a weird, glittery plastic acorn from our first real Christmas tree as a couple, a baby’s first Christmas ornament, a little drumer boy, a key that reads “our first home.” There’s also a Winnie the Pooh on Skis for reasons I can’t really understand anymore. At the top of it all there is my favorite ornament of all, ared Santa in a silver space suit, “cosmic santa” as he is formally named. He was my Dad’s favorite ornament and I inherited him when he passed away 10 years ago.

These ornaments tell a story of a life well lived and a soul well loved, of many souls intertwined on the overpriced branches. My Christmas tree will never impress anyone on Pinterest and you know what? Good, because my tree has a story to tell, it doesn’t have time to be judged on symmetry and color schemes.

If your tree looks like mine, a hodgepodge of ornaments from here there and everywhere, know this: To have a tree that tells a good story is a blessing in the extreme. And good stories aren’t all sweet, don’t believe that for a second, that’s a lie.


Pinnable trees are easy to come by but a tree as rich as ours my friend? Priceless and profound.

This is the sort of Christmas I wish upon you, one that is so perfectly imperfect and unpinnable that your soul finds it’s worth in the mess of it all.

That the smells, family recipes and quirky decorations remind you of the thrill of hope, make your weary soul rejoice as yonder breaks a new and glorious reminder of the real, flesh and blood, soul quenching, earth shattering gift of baby Jesus, the redeemer of my story.

There was nothing pinnable, pretty or perfect about the first Christmas, it was a bloody, uncomfortable mess that changed our world forever. It was the culmination of a story eons in the making.

I’m glad that my tree ties into that, to me at least, that it speaks to mess and story, moments and years and redemption.
So this Christmas, when you feel the imposing weight of the perfect, tell it off. Remind yourself that your story has a purpose and that your imperfect Christmas with it’s random ornaments and cookie dough stickiness is the best tree your family could ever have. It tells your story as you add it to the story at large which whispers of love at the center of it all.

Leanne Penny is a writer, wife, mother and wavering hope ambassador who is passionate about partnering with God in the business of redemption. She lives with her husband and three kidlets in SouthWest Michigan where she writes, cooks, folds laundry and dreams of a day with a few less dishes. Find more of Leanne right here.


3 thoughts on “Sane for the Holidays:My Perfect, Unpinnable, Revolutionary Christmas


  2. Oh, I loved this. Thank you. I think I put about 10 ornaments on my tree this year. The rest were put on by my 10, 7, and 5 year old. And it is a perfectly imperfect tree, which is the best kind. I’ve also been receiving an ornament for Christmas every year since I was born, so have my kids. I love the memories attached to our tree and to each of our Christmas traditions. Here’s to Practicing Imperfect! Thanks. 🙂

  3. Wonderful (first time reading your work)! I still hang the ornaments my kids made on the tree. The fruit loop cereal wreath is down to only a few loops and the pinkie finger on my son’s salt dough hand ornament has been glued back on twice, but as you say, they are symbols of lives well lived. Merry Christmas!

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