After Tamara Leigh earned a Master’s Degree in Speech and Language Pathology, she and her husband decided to start a family, with plans for Tamara to continue in her career once she became a mother.
When the blessing of children proved elusive, Tamara became convicted to find a way to work out of her home in order to raise the children she and her husband longed to have. She turned to writing, at which she had only ever dreamed of being successful, and began attending church. Shortly thereafter, her agent called with news of Bantam Books’ offer of a four-book contract. That same day, Tamara’s pregnancy was confirmed. Within the next year, she gave up her speech pathology career, committed her life to Christ, her first child was born, and her first historical romance novel was released.
As Tamara continued to write for the secular market, publishing three more novels with HarperCollins and Dorchester, she infused her growing Christian beliefs into her writing. But it was not enough, and though her novels earned awards and were national bestsellers, she knew her stories were lacking. After struggling with the certainty that her writing was not honoring God as it should, she made the decision to write books that not only reveal Christianity to non-believers, but serve as an inspiration for those who have accepted Christ as their Savior. Her inspirational romances are peopled with characters in varying stages of Christian faith, from mature believers to new believers to non-believers on the threshold of awakening.
Tamara Leigh enjoys time with her family, volunteer work, faux painting, and reading. She lives near Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, David, and two sons, Skyler and Maxen.
Tell us about your first Christmas memory?
Goodness, this is going to sound like a sob story, but it isn’t. It’s just…different. When I was growing up, our family attended a church that didn’t allow for the celebration of Christmas, Easter, or birthdays–due, in part, to the commercialization. Thus, my earliest Christmas memories are of peering through a window as the other kids on our block burst from their homes with new bikes, rollerskates, balls, etc. Though my father said we were Christians, Christmas day was hardly different from the next. When I was a teenager, my mother rebelled a bit and made a beautiful white macrame tree that she hung from the ceiling. She wove lights through it and that was the first Christmas we celebrated in our home, complete with a few gifts. Unfortunately, I don’t think it had much to do with Jesus.
Growing up, did your family have Christmas traditions? Tell us how you incorporated them into your family life. Or, how you created new ones.
Obviously no Christmas traditions to carry on, but we have created our own. On Christmas Day, we go easy, especially now that are boys are older (no more wild, pajama-flying sprints to the gifts beneath the tree). Before we open our gifts, we each write down what we are giving to Jesus for Christmas (i.e. reading the Bible more, practicing patience, NOT bugging our little brother). We share these with each other, then place them in little boxes that we keep on our mantle as a reminder throughout the upcoming year.
Then there are the gifts that we give to one another… We do this one at a time and each gift is passed around so that everyone can see and enjoy it. After we have opened a couple of presents each, we break so that the presents can be enjoyed rather than balanced on a teetering pile.
When we come back together to open more presents, there are fingerfoods and hot drinks. This can last for hours and it’s more enjoyable than plowing through presents, at the end of which time no one knows what gifts the others received.
When do you put up your tree? At my house, it goes up when my kids’ begging is louder than my procrastination (around December 1). My husband works assembles my prelighted tree. I do the rest. Describe the decorating at your house.
The later the better. Otherwise, the newness and beauty seem to wear off and it ceases to dazzle 🙂 Usually the tree is up one to two weeks after Thanksgiving. A real one–wahoo! Well, not quite real. But once the tree is unboxed and each limb affixed, it does look like a real evergreen. While we put up the tree, we watch a Christmas movie, one of my favorites being “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Fingerfoods abound, as do hundreds of tiny tissues as the ornaments are unwrapped.
What is your favorite Christmas song or album? I recently bough Unexpected Gifts and I love it! They are old favorites sung in a new way. Includes “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (Bethany Dillon); “Do You Hear What I Hear” (Nichole Nordeman); “O Little Town of Bethlehem” (Steven Curtis Chapman); and “Silent Night” (Sanctus Real).
The Christmas collections of Mannheim Steamroller are always uplifting.
Seems to me snow and Christmas go together, and in Montana that’s almost a given! Tell us about your Christmas setting?
When we lived in the foothills of Lake Tahoe, we often had snow, even if only a little. Now that we live in Tennessee, snow is a rarity and when it does fall, it’s usually light. And very icy! Some Christmases are briskly cold with frost on the sleeping grass. Others are warm enough to go outside to throw a ball around.
It’s Christmas Eve… Describe your day and evening.
Christmas Eve consists of last minute present wrapping and pre-baking of our Christmas day meal. Later, we attend a Christmas mass at our church. When we return home, we usually stay up late playing Christmas music and watching a movie like “Polar Express.”
Confession time. Shop on line or at the mall?
More and more ON LINE! I do not like crowded malls.
Christmas grows more and more commercial every year. Setting the hustle and bustle aside, what does Christmas really mean to you?
The older I get, the more Christmas means “Jesus”–as it should, though at times I get so busy with something approaching a production (to make up for those lost Christmases, I suppose), that the decorations and food and presents are uppermost in my mind. And for this reason, our family strives to “simplify” with less emphasis on the presents and more emphasis on our blessings and the One who makes them possible.
It’s Christmas day… what’s for dinner? Do you make cookies or other traditional foods?
Ham! I simply cannot make a turkey without drying the poor thing out (honestly, with as much jaw action that goes on, one would think we had peanut butter in our mouths). Then there’s sweet potatoes, green apple and cranberry stuffing, yeast rolls, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce… Pretty much a repeat of Thanksgiving, but it’s what we like.
Tell us about your favorite Christmas memory.
Though chaos reigned, one of my favorite Christmas memories is of the last time I was with my entire family for Christmas. My oldest son was 5 and his brother was toddling. It was a mess flying from the east to the west coast with two young children, but once we were all squished into my sister’s house–relatives abounding–it was wonderful. Yes, the wrapping paper went flying. Yes, it was noisy. Yes, it was exhausting. But it was blessed to be in the midst of so much love.
What are your plans for this season?
Unless my husband has something in the works that he hasn’t let me in on, we’ll be staying put and enjoying being home with each other–well, that’s the idea 🙂 As for shopping that can’t be done online, that gets done during the off hours when the boys are in school.
Any final thoughts on Christmas?
I am so grateful that I finally know and can celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. As commercial as we’ve allowed it to become, the easiest way to enjoy it is to simply close your eyes and thank God for sending his son to die for us.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Merry Christmas to you too, Tamara!