DIY Wall Advent Tree & Great Light Devotional

This post is about a year in the making.

It took me that long to figure out what Advent was and figure one out for my family and then make the darn thing…

I mean, granted I feel like I didn't really hear what Advent was until about two years ago.

I had downloaded the free Advent Book from John Piper last year but it never really hit me to actually do it with my kids. (I know, I'm a genius... why the Lord gave me children...)

A simple break down of Advent is when you basically spend the 25 days of Christmas highlighting the Birth of Christ. There are a zillion (and that is the official term I'm sure) different versions of Advent you could do. Some involve Candy or activities or follow books already made up…

Tons of options that you can find that will work best for your family.

I picked one I thought might work for ours. We'll find out by Christmas if it did but it definitely was not for the faint of heart.

While it was a blast to do, it did take me a pretty long time…
Granted I just had a baby and it's the busiest McCarty season ever with parties and family and turkey…

But let me just jump right in:

Last year I built a DIY Wall Advent Tree -

I was  attempting to find an Advent that worked for me and my family and if it didn't work one year, try another the next until I found the one that really impacted my kids.

The one that really got what the entire season is about.

Jesus Christ.

Knowing me, and that my children are little mini-me's... I knew I couldn't do the cool advent that had presents attached to each day. My kiddos wouldn't understand that Advent is about preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ the Savior, they would just see it as an awesome time to get more gifts.

They get enough gifts. They have four amazing grandparents.

So I started with a tree and had the idea to use ornaments that the kids could put on the tree each day.
At the time it was a great idea. Did it work? No. Did the tree work? Yep.

I had this crazy cool idea of how to make an Advent tree with numbers…

While explaining my idea it kind of went like this to my husband:

It will go on the column and it will kind of be like the scrabble pieces that hold the letters you know? And we can drill holes and hang the ornaments off of it!

Yea, he was just as confused as you probably are. This by the way is how all my ideas start off. Me, incoherently trying to explain what is going on in my brain.

I figured I could use some molding to create my tree pieces. I went to Home Depot and scoured all the molding cause I was positive I could find what I wanted.

And I did.

See! They look like scrabble blocks to hold the letters don't they!?
No? ok...

Well, I bought one 8ft piece for under $15 bucks and brought it home.
I measured out my column and then decided how to break my tree up into pieces where all 25 days could fit on it.

I marked it on my molding and my sexy man cut them for me.

Then I took them and spray painted them green.

It was starting to look like a tree!

I took the last piece and painted it brown by hand to make it look like the tree trunk. 

I asked my math loving husband to help mark where I should put the holes for the ornaments so they would look even. 

Then I drilled them out.

I had to figure out a way to attach it to the column without actually putting nails in it.
In came the amazing Command Strips.

I just added them to the back and then stuck them up on the wall. You should use the Picture Framing ones. They work WAY BETTER than just the sticky ones I used last year… when I removed the sticky ones it pulled off my paint because I had to just yank it off since I couldn't get to the little tab. 

My husband came behind me and made sure they were level and centered and it looked amazing!

It's a tree! Success!!

Now I needed to make my numbers to indicate the days and let my budding crafter at the time help me out. Little did I know he would be a full blown crafty artist within a year. Ah… memories...

So, this was the tree last year. Purdy isn't it? 

As I said before the ornament idea didn't really work… cause I actually didn't have 25 Jesus themed ornaments. But the tree looked awesome so I had to incorporate it into another Advent somehow…

Like with most things I just love everything Amy Fleming does. She did this post last year about an Advent she wrote out for her kids highlighting the Names of God. You can see it here

I told her I wanted to do that and she came over and we had a Felt Party and went nuts!

She has an amazing quilt her mom made but since Quilting still scares me to pieces I opted to make a manger scene out of felt. It truly is a blast to hand sew felt. :) 

It took me two months but I think the results look stunning plus it will last for years! (It better…) 

 Each of the stars represent a name of God. Amy stitched mine on for me. Seriously, so blessed by her!

Each of the little people are added on certain days as well with Jesus being added on Christmas!

Simple enough right? We even have a beautiful book Amy designed to go with it.
I know. She's a bit too perfect but you get use to it after awhile but I'm crazy thankful for her since she constantly helps me be a better mom and we all know I need that.

To keep the little things attached to my felt background I cut out little velcro pieces. 

Then I hot glued the entire thing to a dowel rod and hung it on my column with care! This is what it will look like tonight so we can start adding things on throughout the Advent season. This Advent is only 18 days which gives us some wiggle room if we miss a day because let's face it… life happens. 
But hopefully by Christmas it will look like this: 

So, it may have taken a long time and prevented me from doing any other Christmas crafts but… I think it will really make a difference with my kids and that is worth all the effort. 

Don't have an advent plan? Find one that works for you and your family. 

This meant a lot to me but for a normal person it probably seems like a lot of work… which it was. I won't sugar coat it haha… but hopefully I am done forever now!!! 

I hope you have an amazing Christmas season and I am blessed by each of you.

God Bless & Much Love,


Year Six: The Murder Mystery Wedding

I grew up loving the board game Clue.
My friend Kristen and I would play for hours and hours and hours while watching the movie Clue.

A great fun murder mystery? Super grand time in my book.

Naturally, when I discovered there were Mystery dinners and mystery theatre… well…
that just opened a whole new world of crazy fun possibilities!

In 2008 I convinced Bryan we should do a Murder Mystery Dinner. It went awesome so when it came to our next wedding I threw out the idea to do it as a giant Murder Mystery Wedding.

He loved the idea!

I'm sure there are like a ton of sites you could buy a pre-written murder mystery from but…
considering I like to write and the thought of asking people to memorize lines did not sound like fun, I decided to write it myself to prevent me from wasting money and re-writing whatever I bought.

I only have a few odd gifts and coming up with fun stories is one of them.

First we had to think of a story… and that starts with a dead body.

We didn't want to kill the bride or groom. Super bummer at a wedding.
We needed a villain of sorts that a bunch of people would have a motive to kill.
In came Col. Reginald Cumberbottom.

I called up one of my friends and asked if he would perform our wedding for us that year…
(That is him above and his lovely wife Sarah, whom I crazy adore) and if we could kill him off.
I bet he didn't even flinch on the other side of the phone. Although most normal people would if you called them up and asked if you could kill them… but since he had been my friend for awhile he probably wasn't surprised in the least.

Now once you have someone to kill… then the motives and characters just start rolling in.

I called up a few of my friends and asked if they would be game to be apart of my Mystery. Then I started creating their characters. I tried to pick certain personality traits my friends either had or didn't have and make it the focal points of their character they would play for the evening.

My murder Mystery parties are basically all improve. I pick the players and send them a packet in the mail. In the packet is their entire character: their name, their personality, what they would be likely to wear and their motive. {Because everyone has a motive} Along with that at the very bottom I tell them if they are the killer or not. Only two people usually know who the killer is and it's me and the killer. Not even the person getting killed finds out till the end so that they can vote too.

With everything they need to become another person for the evening it's then all the characters jobs to inform the guests through casual conversations or often open fights between other characters their backgrounds and motives or other characters motives. This turns the entire evening into an interactive adventure that the guests have to pay attention too or they will be stumped when someone suddenly drops dead.

Here were all my characters:

And here was our main story that went out to all of our guests:

Bryan & Jessica O'Brian have been happily married for over six years... or so they thought. When they tried to set up a trust for their two kids with their newly inherited fortune from their Great Aunt Margo their lawyer informed them of a crucial fact… their Marriage was never legal. Which means any children birthed during that time would not be eligible for Great Aunt Margo’s fortune as a stipulation in her will.  
         Since they had been dirt broke when they wed an old family friend had offered his service to marry them for free. Yet, Colonel Reginald’s “online ordination” was about as legit as his corrupt business empire and the O’Brian’s aren’t the only people Colonel Reginald has caused issue for over the years. In an attempt to confront Colonel Reginald with his dastardly doings the O’Brian’s are getting re-married by the now officially ordained Colonel again with many of the invited guests Dying to speak their minds to Colonel Reginald. It will be a wedding to Die for.

Fun huh? :)

Thankfully, it's actually a proven fact that I only make friends with Awesome people. I don't set out to do this. Everyone I meet and am blessed to form a friendship with just turn out to be completely AWESOME.

I mean what other people would agree to my crazy shenanigans?! (Besides Bryan who adores them)

The evening went amazing. I had coached everyone to stay in character no matter what but I was so overwhelmed by their awesome performances and how blessed I was to even know these people… I broke character almost the whole night with laughter.

Col. Reginald loved his "special mug". He drank his sweet tea out of it like a true Southerner. Yet, his beloved cup would be his demise as throughout the night our characters were taking it from him… one may have even slipped something in it..

If I could have recorded any wedding I wish we would have done this one. They went crazy with their characters, especially my friend Jason Fite who married us that evening. I'm pretty sure we should have paid to see his awesome performance as Colonel Cumberbottom… he was that great.

Yet, his grand skills couldn't get him out of what happened shortly after we cut the cake…

It literally had to be one of the longest death scenes ever… He even came back a few times to randomly shout things just for good measure. 

After his demise the jig was up and all of our guests had to vote on which one of us done it.

Was it the cut off step-son? His angry cheese-making wife?
Was it the bride and groom whose fortune was going to go to Cumberbottom instead of their kids?
How about his right hand man who knew all his dastardly deeds?

I'd tell you… but then you might be next.

I think we'll have to have a Murder Mystery Wedding every few years…

It was killer.

God Bless and Much Love,


Year Four: Get Married by Elvis!

When Bryan and I started our Anniversary Tradition we both joked that we wanted to one day get married by Elvis in Las Vegas. I'd always seen people on tv shows and movies getting married in Vegas and it looked like a total blast.

After having Elliot we thought it would be a great time to go to Vegas before we started trying for Baby Mac #2. We are firm believers in taking vacations without your kids. It helps to refresh your relationship with your husband but also with your kids!

Sometimes taking even a night away from your kids helps refresh you to not only give them fresh grace but give you fresh grace because parenting is hard. I know I need to be reminded pretty much every hour that I'm not as evil of a parent as I think I am or that my kids are as evil as they seem!

We made our plans. Found the best Elvis Chapel to re-new our vows, booked a posh hotel, got tickets to the Cirque show 'O' and even convinced Bryan's brother and his wife to come with us! And after we returned we'd get preggos.

Well, if you have read my blog for long you know God has the best time tweaking my plans.

So, off we went to Vegas to get married… 8 weeks pregnant with Ethan.

Now I was going to at least get my money's worth at the buffets.

Back to the Wedding…

This was probably our easiest wedding to throw as we just had to show up.
They sent a limo to our hotel, picked us up, provided a photographer and even webcast the entire wedding live for our family and friends back home to see.

It was pretty epic.

As a themed wedding expert (who has no certification or any expertise whatsoever…) I would definitely recommend renewing your vows with Elvis. He puts on one awesome show.

Riding in style.

When we explained why we were getting married to Elvis he was a bit surprised then just ran with it.
He worked in our story throughout the ceremony as well as so many Elvis song references it kept us in stitches the entire time.

Each year along with memories I've also been collecting wedding rings.
On the cruise ship we used a piece of confetti from one of Disney's deck celebrations they had shot in the air. For the Prom wedding it was a tacky ribbon and for the shotgun wedding we bought a $9 yellow diamond from Wal-Mart.
This massive blue diamond surprised Elvis so much it actually tripped him up and he had to start his sentence over. Pretty impressive since I'm sure he has seen quite a lot of crazy in Vegas...

There was a ton of singing and dancing. Though it only lasted about 9 minutes it was so much fun.

Our Vegas wedding was everything and more than I could have ever imagined.
I mean how can you go wrong with Elvis?

Thank ya, thank you very much.

God Bless and Much Love,


Missed a Wedding? Check them out here! 
Year One - The Cruise ship Wedding
Year Two - The Ugly Prom Wedding
Year Three - The Shotgun Weddin