Welcome! I'm Melissa Gross, a dynamic and interactive teacher and speaker called to lead and encourage Christian women in their walk with the Lord through classes, workshops and retreats incorporating Bible study, devotionals, illustrated Bible journaling, paper crafting and mixed media projects that merge faith and art bringing God’s Word to life so you can find renewed excitement to dive into the Word, use your creative gifts, and apply the Truth as you draw closer to the Lord and serve Him in your everyday life. This site is where I share my everyday adventures, Bible Journaling pages, scrapbook layouts, handmade cards, and other crafty projects, as well as information on my upcoming workshops and events. I also post photos, ramble about books I'm reading, stuff I'm organizing, and other FUN bits & pieces of my wonderful life.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Ride of a Lifetime

I did it! I finished all six books I set out to read this month. Here's a review of the last one, which I downloaded to my Kindle (free from Booksneeze in exchange for an honest review).


I chose this book based on a brief description:

Once he rode for gold-buckle dreams. Now ride with Lucas McCade as he scouts the back trails over the rolling hills of Oklahoma and encounters the paths of the powers of darkness. It promises to be the ride of a lifetime!

I wasn't exactly sure what to expect, but figured it would be a good Christian fiction read. As it turns out, it was a good read, but not at all what I expected. Rather than simply a story about Lucas McCade and his experiences as a new believer in Christ, this book also brings to light Satanic forces that are at work as they attempt to destroy a large church that Lucas and his family have recently begun to attend. The first look at the church made me smile because it portrayed a "typical" large church with lots of small group activities, no altar calls or spiritual growth, and a pastor more concerned about offending someone than preaching the Word.

This book is definitely not for everyone as there are scenes that involve a human sacrifice, casting out demons in the name of Jesus Christ, Satanic power being demonstrated (by stopping a moving bullet), and angelic warriors arriving in response to prayer. I, however, truly enjoyed the book as it reminds me of the spiritual warfare that is going on around us at all times.

Here's a thought provoking quote from one of the occult members in the book:

Let's just say that evil can sit right beside them on those church pews, and they don't even know it. Everybody is so distracted with things in the world, and honestly, most people can't even comprehend why their God would love them anyway. Most churchgoers are more worried about where they're going to eat Sunday dinner than they are about the things of your God.

Wow - I never want to be one of those Christians who gets so distracted with the things of the world that I worry more about what's for lunch than growing in my relationship with the Lord.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Knoxville TN

I'm sharing another layout inspired by the BPC Double Take sketches today. This sketch only called for four photos, a lot less than I normally use on a two-page spread, however I like the way it turned out and the happy blue of these papers.
 
There were several other photos I wanted to use from this day in Knoxville, so I decided to add a 6x12 page. These two pages will go back to back in a 6x12 page protector, in between the 12x12s in my album. 
Have you added a 6x12 in your albums lately?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

3 More January Book Reviews

I'm reading right along on the six books I chose to read this January. Here are my thoughts on the three I've recently completed.

Barbara Bush's Memoir is the second memoir/autobiography of a First Lady that I've read. (The first was Laura Bush's Spoken from the Heart, which I reviewed here.) This book chronicles Barbara Bush's life from birth through 1993, the year after President George H. W. Bush's last year in office. It's truly a fascinating story and incorporates so much history. George H. W. Bush served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, then spent several years in college and business during the early years of the Bush's marriage. He began serving in the House of Representatives in the mid-1960s, then went on to serve in the Nixon administration (as Ambassador to the United Nations), the Ford administration (as Chief of the US Liaison Office in the People's Republic of China & Director of Central Intelligence), and the Reagan administration (as Vice-President of the United States). He was elected as the 41st President of the United States and served from 1989 -1992. Barbara Bush was by his side through it all and was fortunate to travel around the world, meet many individuals from all walks of life, and enjoy what she calls "a life of privilege and happiness." Mrs. Bush wrote this memoir herself and it's like sitting down to listen to her tell the stories of her life. She claims practically everyone as a "dear friend" and always mentions what an honor it is to be invited into someone's home. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, however they had so many experiences over the years that it almost became redundant - another trip overseas, more dinners with heads of state, another reception or ball, more literacy events, another graduation speech, more games of tennis. The only time her comments took on a negative tone was when someone unjustly criticized her husband and when she mentions the numerous times that the press distorted stories. She ends the book with this thought - "...the things that matter are faith, family, and friends. We have been inordinately blessed, and we know that."

I picked up Texas Stories by Craig Savoye when our local bookstore was going out of business last year. I originally thought it might be a good candidate for Pass the Book: Year Two, however it got lost in the To-Read pile and just resurfaced as I was pulling books to read this month. This non-fiction book is a collection of stories about cowboys, ranchers, and other assorted characters in Texas. It actually reads like a book of tall tales as the author relates the stories in cowboy vernacular. The author interviewed numerous people for the stories in this book, so this is considered non-fiction as everyone related their stories (or stories about their friends & acquaintances) as they remembered (and possible embellished) them. His goal was to preserve the stories for future generations. I enjoyed the stories, however by the end of the book I was getting a little tired. While each chapter was a unique story, there were similarities among them and I tired of the families "with a long history in Texas" and another cowpuncher who was the best at what he did. I would recommend this as a book to read one chapter at a time, now and then, rather than a straight read-through.


Little Bee by Chris Cleave was one of the books considered for the library book club that I attended for five years, however it was never one of the books chosen for our monthly discussions. I wasn't really sure what to expect as I had not read any reviews about this book; I had simply picked up a copy somewhere and added it to my To-Read pile. I was pleasantly surprised that this was a can't-put-it-down type of story. This book is fiction and relates the story of two women - Little Bee, a Nigerian refuge, and Sarah, a mother/wife/magazine editor living in the suburbs of London. The two women have a chance meeting on a beach in Nigerian, a meeting that lasts maybe 30 minutes or less but has life-changing results. The story revolves around their meeting again two years later. There were a few "negative" elements to the book, like Sarah's extramarital affair and the rather risque articles published by the magazine Sarah edits, however overall it is definitely a book worth reading. I had hoped for a happier ending, but the ending as written was really much more realistic. The overall theme is one of survival, and I love this quote from the book: A scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived. (This book was originally published in the UK as The Other Hand.)

I've started on the last book on my list for this month and hope to have a review of it for you before the end of the month along with my list for February. How are you doing on your reading for the year? Have you read any of the books I reviewed today?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Double Page Christmas Scrapping

Back in December, filled with Christmas spirit, I pulled out some holiday papers and Christmas photos to complete a couple of layouts based on sketches in the BPC Double Take workshop. Both of these layouts are from Christmas Day of 2008.

I like the way these layouts feature two different aspects of the day - the fun time we had opening all our Santa gifts and the delicious meal we enjoyed with friends.
 
I also enjoyed reusing these sketches - you can see my original layouts with these sketches here and here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

First 2013 Photo

I finally started my 2013 scrapping this past weekend and created my first three paper layouts for the year. (I'll be sharing those next week along with the challenge I set for myself!) However, I realized that we had not yet taken a single photo in 2013 until Sunday afternoon. Robbie had been busy in the kitchen while I was catching up on some blog reading. Cheryl was sharing a free digital template on her blog, and I was inspired to use it for this first photo of the year. I added one of Cheryl's digital papers, a photo Robbie snapped with his iPhone, and a little journaling to create my first digital layout of the year.

Journaling reads: We're over halfway through the month of January, and this is the first photo we've taken this year - a rather awkwardly oriented iPhone photo of the very cherry berry pie Robbie baked today. Unless we have a big event, January always seems to be the month with the least amount of photos. I think this is because we're so focused on capturing all the holiday events in December that we need a break from the camera. And, of course, this year I got a job after being on an "unofficial sabbatical" for the past 5 1/2 years. It's time to get back into photo-taking mode and begin preserving our 2013 memories!

Do you ever slow down with taking photos after the holiday season? Is your 2013 scrapping off to a good start?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Frontiers of Flight Museum

A couple of years ago, I surprised Robbie with a trip to the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas. We enjoyed seeing the Apollo 7 Command Module and the variety of aircraft on display, and (of course) took a ton of photos. I recently scrapped my favorites using one of the sketches from the BPC Double Take class. (I've been slowly re-working my way through the sketches and other inspiration in this class.)
I like that this sketch allowed for quite a few photos, but also left room for a little patterned paper on the sides and two small embellishment clusters in the bottom corners. I also added a couple of strips of washi tape along the bottom.

My goal this year is to utilize the inspiration from classes that I've taken over the past three years (as opposed to signing up for new classes). Teaching part-time and coaching in the Finding Photo Freedom workshop will keep me pretty busy the next four months, so I know I will not have time to keep up with a live class right now. However, there's lots of inspiration in the forever-access classes I have from Big Picture Classes, Shimelle, Jessica Sprague, and Masterful Scrapbook Design. What are your plans for online classes this year?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Cards For All Occasions

Last year I created cards for a variety of occasions, mainly just using paper scraps with a little stamping or a few stickers added on. Here's a sampling of those cards.
 
Birthday



Friendship

Mother's Day & Father's Day


 
Here's a group of 17 cards I made during a fun evening together with the ladies from our church.
 
And close-ups of a few of my favorites from this bunch.



 
I haven't done any crafting yet this year, but just seeing these cards reminds me how quick & simple it can be to throw together a handmade card. These are not necessarily fancy cards or great masterpieces, but I enjoy using up my scraps and sending these out to family & friends!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2013 Reading Goal & 1st Book Reviews

At the beginning of the year, I chose five books from the To-Read pile beside my bed, plus a sixth book that I downloaded to my Kindle, to read in January. (In all honesty, if I don't read some of the books from my To-Read pile soon, it is likely to topple over and cause some major damage!)

The Ride of a Lifetime by Kitty McGregor
Barbara Bush: A Memoirby Barbara Bush
Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
Texas Stories by Craig Savoye
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
Hannah's List by Debbie Macomber

I've seen some interesting reading challenges in the blogosphere (like this one that Susanne posted about) and was very tempted to join in with one two, however with the new job and my crazy busy schedule this spring I've simply decided to choose six books each month to reach of goal of 72 books for the year. So far I'm doing great as I've completed two books and am almost done with two more (one I'm reading as I ride the stationary bike each day and one I'm reading right before turning out the lights for the night). Here are reviews of the two I completed.

Robbie introduced me to Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank early in our marriage as it is one of his favorite books. This was my third time to read it - yes, it's that good, definitely worth re-reading every few years! The setting of this novel is a small town in Florida; a town that becomes completely isolated after a nuclear war begins and many areas of the United States are completely decimated and others are designated Contaminated Zones. The story focuses on a small group of neighbors who ban together to survive as most commodities that we take for granted quickly disappear. This book was written over 50 years ago, however it is still relevant and paints a picture of what could happen if our world returned to one without electricity or communication or gasoline or indoor plumbing, etc. For example, the library, which did not have much patronage before the disaster, once again became a popular place when competition from movies and other forms of electronic entertainment were gone. If you've never read this book, I highly recommend it.
 
Last year I read and enjoyed Debbie Macomber's non-fiction book, One Perfect Word(see my review here), however she is primarily a fiction writer. Hannah's List is one of her many fiction books; it centers on the story of Dr. Michael Everett whose wife passed away from cancer. On the one year anniversary of her death, he receives a letter (delivered by his brother-in-law) from her. In the letter she shares how much their life together meant to her and then goes on to say that she wants him to remarry. She includes a list of three women she wants him to consider! He is reluctant at first because he is still grieving her death and isn't interested in someone else. However, he does finally meet all three women. The book follows him as he struggles with learning to date again and includes subplots following the lives of these three women. While it was occasionally hard to keep the timeline straight and I thought things moved very quickly, the story was an enjoyable read with excellent themes about love, loss, reconciliation, communication, grief, and marriage. While the topics are deep, the book felt "light" and optimistic. I highly recommend it.

These two books provided a wonderful start to my 2013 reading! Have you completed a book this year? Are you setting a reading goal for the year?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Mama Always Said I Should Be A Teacher

When I was growing up, Mama always said I should be a teacher. However, I didn't think teaching was for me because I wanted to make a lot of money (and we know teachers don't make a lot of money). So when it came time for college I enrolled in the business program and found an office administration job. It took a few years before I would finally admit that maybe Mama was right and I should be a teacher.

All these years later I hold a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and a Master of Business Administration degree, both with a major in Management. I also hold a Texas Teaching Certification in Secondary Composite Business. I've taught everything from middle school technology classes to university level business courses, from Children's Church to the Young-at-Heart (elderly) Sunday School. I've integrated curriculum for 8th grade Careers and Technology courses. I've written and taught a Bible study on the books of I, II & III John. I've lead teacher training sessions and Biblical financial courses. (This list could go on and on, but y'all get the picture.)

We are barely into the new year and I am busy putting those teaching skills to work in several areas:

(1) I will be teaching this spring semester at a local private Christian school. Yes, you read that right. . . I got a job! It all happened so fast that I can hardly believe it myself, but Monday morning bright and early I'll be standing in front of a class of 8th graders teaching Basic Computer Applications. I'll teach three classes, then later in the day I'll teach a high school class on Personal Finance. It's been a busy week here as I've prepared syllabi and lesson plans.

Big Picture Classes
(2) Once again I'll be coaching in Stacy Julian's Finding Photo Freedom workshop that starts on February 7 at Big Picture Classes. This 10-week class walks participants step-by-step through the process of setting up a Library of Memories system (photo organization, digital workflow, inspirational scrapbooking). As one of the coaches, I answer questions on the message boards, contribute to an classroom blog, and share how my system helps me stay organized and scrap when inspired.

(3) Y'all might remember the ladies' retreat that I wrote and presented back in the fall. Well, another local church has asked me to be the guest speaker at their ladies' retreat, presenting those same materials. So, in a couple of weeks, I'll be presenting that material at a one-day retreat. I am so excited (and humbled) at how God is using me to bring this message to ladies in our community. The retreat focuses on the fact that God calls us all to serve with sessions on how God calls us, how He equips us for that calling, what our spiritual gifts are, and whether or not we are willing to answer His call.

(4) And, of course, I continue to monitor the Library of Memories Community classroom, answering questions and sharing ideas with others who use the Library of Memories system.

As you can see from this list, my schedule will be pretty busy for awhile, particularly as I adjust to working outside the home three days a week. However, I am excited about all these opportunities to use my teaching skills in such a variety of ways! Mama was definitely right - I love being a teacher!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Miscellaneous Crafty Stuff

Along with the Memory Jar I shared about for Storytelling Sunday, I completed several other miscellaneous crafty items last year that I'm sharing with y'all today.

Mail Art - I created my own envelope from a take-out menu.

Christmas Ornaments

Altered Mini-Notebooks


Of course, I used items from my scrapbooking stash for each of these projects. What other crafts have you completed using your scrapping stash?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Precious Storytelling Sunday - My Mementos Jar

I'm excited to announce that Sian is continuing her inspiring meme of Storytelling Sunday for the third year, this time with a twist - Pick Your Precious. I have to admit that when I read that blog title, I immediately thought of the The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy while an image of Gollum falling into the Crack of Doom holding his Precious played in my head. In a way, Sian's idea fits right into this notion as she encourages us to choose an item that is precious to us and share a story (in words or photos) about it.

Back in June of last year, I enjoyed the Lift Me Up! workshop taught by Mou Saha at BPC and created a memory jar. The basic idea was to take a discarded glass jar and turn it into a memory capsule. I called my jar Melissa's Mementos, and I believe it will be the perfect start to my Pick Your Precious stories for 2013.

I chose an empty jar from the few I had on a shelf in the garage. I then put several mementos from my childhood & teenage years in the jar, along with a note about what each item is and where I got it. I decorated the top of the jar and added a tag. The items I chose for the jar had been stored in a box with other items in my closet, but now this Memory Jar sits on a shelf in my craft room where I can enjoy them & the memories the evoke.

 Journaling reads:
The mementos in this jar have traveled with me for many years and remind me of snippets of my childhood & teenage years.
1. Red "M" - hung from the rear view mirror of my first car.
2. TJ pin - one of many spirit pins worn to football games.
3. Leo shell - can't remember where this came from but it always had a place  on one of the shelves in my room.
4. Ten Commandments in pink ViewFinder - another item I've had so long I can't remember where it came from or not having it.
5. Indian headband & necklace - from visit to Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation.
6. Red Puppy Dog charm was from a necklace I had.
7. Ice Skater Pin from our trip to see the IceScapades.
Melissa June 2012

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year

If you've stopped by in the last couple of days, you might have noticed a few changes as I brighten up the look of my blog for the new year. What do you think?
 
I'm looking forward to sharing another year of blogging, reading, scrapbooking, organizing, traveling, creating, and enjoying life . . . and will be sharing lots of the bits & pieces of daily life right here. If you receive my posts via email or normally read through a Reader, I'd love for you to click over today and let me know what you think of the new look!
 
Happy New Year Y'all!