Several years ago before we moved overseas, my dear friend gave me a Jesse Tree devotional book. I was completely unfamiliar with the concept, but I quickly fell in love with it as a perfect Advent devotion. It's based on the concept of the Branch of Jesse from Isaiah 15 and traces the story of Jesus beginning with creation and ending with His birth. As a family, you go through devotions every day in December tracing the story of Christ throughout scripture. You make ornaments to go along with each story and you hang it on you"Jesse tree" each day during the month. I've since discovered that there are MANY resources out there for an Advent Jesse Tree. Search for Jesse Tree on Pinterest and you will see what I mean. In the past, I've used a mini Christmas tree and done a random collection of homemade or toy-like ornaments (for example a play apple for the story of Adam and Eve, a drawing of Noah's ark). I describe it here. This year, mainly because I looked at pinterest, I decided I wanted to do it differently and have some ornaments that would be a little more durable.
We also changed up our devotions a bit and didn't just use the one book that we've used in the past. With the age range of our girls, family devotion time can be challenging as we want to engage the teen/tweenager and the school ager and toddler. Ann Voscamp has a downloadable devotional book on her blog that you can find here. It also includes printables for the ornaments if you don't want to make your own. We used a combination of Ann's devotions and The Jesus Storybook Bible which I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. If you're unfamiliar with it, this link describes it and how it can be used as an advent devotional guide.
As I have mentioned many times before, I am somewhat crafting impaired. I am also not so great with follow through. I get really excited about ideas and concepts, but often don't carry them through the way I intend to. Case in point. Christmas stockings. Y'all. Our Christmas stockings are PA-THE-TIC. They don't match, they are random sizes, I think one or two of them came from the dollar store and Anabelle doesn't even have one. So. I decided this was the year that I would make Christmas stockings. I went with some friends down to the downtown shopping area here which is quite an experience in itself. Street vendors, shops of knick-knacks, produce, anything and everything you want, including material. So I bought some material in kind of fun, Middle Eastern type patterns and had it all planned out. Making the stockings that is. Here is the fabric I bought, with contrasting colors for the lining and cuff and gold thread to stitch our names....
AAANNDDD. The fabric is still in that bag. Just like that. Great IDEA, right? In my defense, I got my sewing machine down out of the closet for the first time in our 10 years overseas. I've somehow become scared of it over the years. I promise I used to sew. Back in the days of 2 kids and living in America, I actually sewed clothes for my girls. I hand smocked dresses and sewed them on my sewing machine. I made the bumper pad cover and curtains for Abbey's baby nursery. I sewed stuff! See, here's proof. Me with my two babies wearing dresses that I smocked and sewed...
(how precious are they?!)
Sorry for that little rant. I started Arabic classes again this week and I've discovered that doing so puts me in a constant state of needing to prove my intelligence and my abilities to anyone and everyone around me. When you feel SO dumb, you just want to prove that you can do SOMETHING. When my teacher looks at me with that look of "what planet are you from?", I just want to say, "I KNOW STUFF! I'M SMART"... Sorry, I digress, that might should be a subject for another post.
So, back to my sewing maching. It has been in a closet in 3 different overseas homes and traveled in an open bed truck across Syria with the rest of our belongings last year, so I don't know why in the world I wasn't more surprised when a pretty important part was completely missing and I couldn't get the thing to work to save my life. A friend did offer to let me borrow hers, but in the craziness of the Christmas season, it just didn't happen. But I didn't pack the material up and maybe I'll get to them before NEXT Christmas.
Ok, back to the Jesse Tree. If I'm being totally honest, I don't know that we have EVER actually completed all 25 days of our Jesse tree devotions. So there. However, this was the year that all that was going to change! So I knew I needed to plan well in advance. With the stockings being a complete and total bust, I was determined to carry this project through. I had Jason's mom bring me a few packs of felt because after consulting pinterest, I knew a felt tree and ornaments was the way I wanted to go. I thought I would be able to find large pieces of felt here, but sadly, that didn't happen in time. Thankfully, Jason visited some of our friends in a neighboring country and she is like crafting queen. The amount of crafting ability I have in my entire self, she has in her pinky. I promise this is not a lie. She also has an amazing stash of crafting supplies. So I called her while Jason was still there to see if she had some extra felt sitting around in large pieces that she could send me. Sure enough- she even had green! Yay!
So we made the background for our tree. (which I will actually probably change next year because the black wasn't quite big enough and I want to make a place to hang each ornament below the tree (like this) or maybe even put numbers on the back of them and just stick them below the tree (like this). (I'm telling you, TONS of ideas out there!). I loved the idea of hanging the ornaments using buttons sewed on to the felt and next year I'm going to try to get my hands on some jingle bells to add to it. I looked at several different options for felt ornaments and ultimately I liked the idea of all round ornaments finished off around the edge with a blanket stitch in a complimenting color from the ornament.
Here's the finished product!
And a close up of our ornaments...
Some of them I may need to re-do next year like the poor camel. I couldn't find my brown felt at the time, so I colored white felt with a brown marker. Poor camel...
Overall we were so pleased with the results! The girls loved helping me create the ornaments and really did anticipate each night what the story would be.
This has been a great way to keep the true meaning in Christmas!