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.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Rain . . . Finally!

We've had a long dry spell here in Texas, so the rainfall this month was much-needed and quite refreshing. Fortunately here in our area we did not experience the flooding that has occurred in several areas throughout the state.

Unfortunately, I've also had a little dry spell in my scrapbooking lately. The last time I created a layout was in mid-September! I've been busy preparing and teaching Bible Journaling Workshops, and I have a major project going on here at home - moving several rooms, including my craft room! (More on that in a future post.)

However, today I finally just had to have some rain scrapbooking time, so I printed three FUN photos from last weekend and found INSPIRATION from a sketch in the Stretch Your Sketches eBook. I used mostly older stash for this layout; a piece of orange mulberry paper and a die-cut piece of cardstock (that I created with a Lucky 8 punch three years ago) for my background.


I wanted to include a little more orange in the background before adding my photo, so I adhered these two die cut balloon shapes that I've had for so long that I don't remember when or where I acquired them.


I lined my photos up across the page, then added border strips, a title, and embellishments.


I included my one-sentence journaling along the bottom edge of the die-cut background piece.


Journaling reads: I was thrilled that we were getting some much-needed rain . . . but honestly I was more excited about finally getting to wear my new yellow rain boots!

It feels so good to have the drought ended around here! Have you experienced drought conditions lately?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Book Review - The Road

I actually read The Road by Cormac McCarthy shortly after it was first published in 2007 because Robbie read it and we were planning to see the movie. I remember that I thought it was a long drawn-out story that didn't have a great ending. The movie, too, was dark and dreary and somewhat of a downer.

However, since I'm challenging myself to read all the Pulitzer Prize winners in fiction as part of my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50, I checked the book out of the library and re-read it on our flights to and from Ohio for a recent vacation


There were quite a few things that I didn't remember about the book: there are no chapters, simply extra space between sections; some of the sections are simply a two-sentence paragraph; and, there's no punctuation for dialogue. While I'm not fond of this format, I must admit it works really well with this story.

This postapocalyptic story follows a man and his son as they trek south to the coast. The country is burned and they have to scavenge for food and shelter and clothes as they avoid gangs in this lawless wasteland. I did remember correctly that the story just goes on and on as they slowly make progress south, defending themselves with a pistol when necessary, running out of food, eating whatever is available, sheltering under a tarp to avoid rain, and covering with ratty blankets to keep out the never-ceasing cold because the sun can't penetrate the gray ash that covers everything and floats in the air all around them.

What I didn't remember, however, was the desire to keep reading, the hope that (even though I already knew the ending) they would somehow find the answer to how to not only survive, but to begin to rebuild and restore the world that was lost. I also didn't remember how sensitive the boy was and his desire to help others, despite the fact that he was starving and never sure who was a "good guy" or a "bad guy." [Spoiler Alert!] The story doesn't really end, it just stops and leaves the reader wondering how the boy fairs as he continues on after his father's death. Yet, honestly, despite the dreariness of the book, I like to think that he grew up and somehow found sunlight and happiness.

Have you read The Road? Please share your thoughts about it in the comments.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Bible Journaling INSPIRATION

There are many sources of INSPIRATION for what to journal or illustrate when it comes to Bible Journaling. (In a previous post, I discussed the difference between INSPIRATION for what and how we journal.) One primary source of content for me is sermons that I've heard at church.

During Sunday morning service, I typically take notes on the pastor's sermon, usually on the bulletin. These notes are often scribbled hurriedly and may run in several directions on the page if there's not a notes page in the bulletin. I try to capture the main points of the sermon as well as quotes or comments that stand out to me. Later I'll review my scribbles and pull out the pieces I want to include on a Bible Journaling page.

One recent sermon focused on Hebrews 12:1-3, and I recorded the five main points in my new journaling Bible because I want to remember that while "running the race set before me"
*I can draw encouragement from the great cloud of witnesses,
*I should lay aside every weight and encumbrance and sin,
*I will run with endurance,
*I must look away from other things to look to Jesus,
*and, when I consider Christ, I won't become weary and discouraged in my soul.


In his sermon last week, our pastor asked us if we were "professional Christians" or "Christ followers" - definitely a though-provoking question.


I actually came home and added this page to my Bible later that afternoon.


Do you take notes on sermons you here? What do you do with those notes?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Book Trees & Minions

It's always FUN to find interesting INSPIRATION when I'm out and about! This display promoting the new Harper Lee book (which I reviewed here) was definitely attention-grabbing.


I really like how the train and track and tree are displayed on an open book, but the most intriguing part of this display is the fact that all those pieces are made from book pages!




I found another FUN book-related display in the children's section of our local library.


It's perfect that the Minions are all reading books - it was at the library after all. Of course, this book title totally made me laugh out loud.


And just for FUN, here's one more Minion that was standing guard at a cute boutique.


Have you found any crafty INSPIRATION while you were out and about lately?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Two Unusual Things To Do Before A Trip


Getting ready for an upcoming trip is an exciting time. The process of planning and preparing often add to the enjoyment of the actual trip. Our primary actions are often focused on the necessary details - making reservations, planning the itinerary, stopping the mail delivery, checking the weather forecasts, and packing the right clothing and essentials. However, adding two additional items - reading books and watching movies - to our pre-trip to-do list can increase the anticipation and excitement before a trip and add more FUN and enjoyment during the trip.

1. Reading Books

Once we have a destination and itinerary in mind, we often find that there is a book (or books) that will help us prepare for the trip. I'm not talking about travel books here, although those can definitely be useful. The kind of books we read are ones that are related to our destination or the activities we'll be enjoying.

For example, we will be visiting Gettysburg this fall, so Robbie is reading the Fiction Pulitzer Prize winning book The Killer Angels. I read this historical novel earlier this year (and reviewed it here). It is a fictionalized account of the battle of Gettysburg. When we drive through Gettysburg National Military Park, we'll not only see the actual battle sites, we'll also have a better understanding of why and how the battle became one of the bloodiest engagements of the Civil War.

On our upcoming trip, we are also planning to see the movie The Martian. I just recently discovered that this movie is based on a fiction book by Andy Weir, so I am (of course) reading the book first! The Martian is a hard-to-put-down story about astronaut Mark Watney who is stranded on Mars when his crew assumes he is dead and leaves without him. I admit that I might have stayed up a bit later than usual last night and am halfway through the book. I only stopped because I couldn't hold my eyes open any longer. (And I'm not allowing myself to pick it up again today until I accomplish some of the items on my to-do list!) I'm looking forward to seeing the movie adaptation of this book.

Sometimes books can be the INSPIRATION for where we choose to go and what we do on our trips, too. Our visit to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homes & Museum in Mansfield, Missouri, earlier this year was actually prompted by the fact that I had recently re-read all the Little House books and completed two online courses about Laura Ingalls Wilder's writing life. I had spent a good bit of time immersed in the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, which greatly added to my enjoyment of the homes and museums. In fact, there were several times that I wanted to jump in and add to the tour guides commentary!

2. Watching Movies

As I mentioned, we'll be visiting Gettysburg soon, so it was only logical that we prepare ourselves by watching the Gettysburg movie. Although I read The Killer Angels back in February, I am not the best at remembering historical details. This film adaptation of Michael Shaara's book was filmed at the actual battle sites and is a great review of the material I read. Having read the book and now seeing the movie will make visiting the site more memorable and help me to more accurately understand and visualize what happened during that epic battle.

Last year before our trip to Florida, we re-watched all eight of  the Harry Potter movies in preparation for our visit to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios. Although we've both read the books and watched all the movies several times before, having so recently watched the dementors searching the Hogwarts Express for Sirius Black certainly made the dementor shadows seem more real (and creepy) on our trip from Kings Cross Station (at Universal Studios) to Hogsmeade (at Universal's Islands of Adventure).

Similarly, we watched Night at the Museum before our trip to New York in 2007, adding to our enjoyment when visiting The Museum of Natural History. Unfortunately, on our daytime visit, none of the exhibits came to life!

However, our most unusual movie watching experience associated with a trip was Robbie's unique idea to watch The Poseidon Adventure, not before our 10th Anniversary cruise, but on the actual cruise itself . . . on New Year's Eve! We brought along our portable DVD player and the movie so we could ring in the New Year in our stateroom, enjoying a movie!



What unusual things do you do to prepare for a trip?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Less-Than-Stellar Bible Journaling Pages

As promised in a previous post, today I'm sharing some of my less-than-stellar Bible Journaling pages and what I learned from them.

I tried to draw an illustration of the parable of the sower in Matthew Chapter 13 . . . and it kinda looks like a kindergarten student's drawing.


However, in the side and bottom margins, I used letter stickers and a journaling pen to record the message that I wanted to remember from a recent sermon at our church. The pastor mentioned the parable, which I've heard many times, but when he commented that it all started with the sower going out to sow, it struck me that the entire parable was irrelevant unless the sower actually went out and threw the seed. If the sower never went out, the seeds never fell in any of the four places mentioned in the parable!

I realize that might not be a revelation to some of you, but somehow I hadn't quite considered that as a main point to the parable. However, while I was drawing my rudimentary picture, I had time to meditate on and then journal the importance of this first part of the parable. So, it really doesn't matter that the drawing isn't all that great; it simply matters that I spent time in the Word pondering how this lesson applies to my life.

Another page that didn't turn out like I had envisioned was this one at the end of the book of Esther. I wanted to portray the celebration that the Jews participated in after God turned their sorrow into joy. In my mind the banner pieces would look like fancy decorations fit for a celebration in a palace, however I'm not sure I was very successful.


But in all honesty, it doesn't matter that I didn't perfectly capture the image in my head. The important thing is that I took time to create something that reminds me that God can turn any situation around, even those that seem impossible. He will make a way to turn my sorrow into joy.

And finally, I saw a sample page online that I wanted to emulate as I was studying and preparing a devotional on Love for one of my Bible Journaling Workshops. The word "love" had been painted in large bold letters across the page. I knew I would be sharing about using watercolors during the workshop, so I boldly painted the word love across the page four times and added some stamped hearts. It definitely did not turn out to have the regal look of the page I had originally been inspired by.


Yet, as I flip through this Bible, this page reminds me of how big God's love is for me . . . so big that He gave His only Son to die for my sins!

The thing I want you to take away from this post is simply that no matter what your Bible Journaling pages look like, spending time in the Word is the main thing. There's really nothing wrong with any of the pages I've shared today; they simply are not ones that I think are particularly artistic. But each one still served the purpose that is behind the Illustrated Faith/Bible Journaling movement - using our creative gifts to spend time in the Word and draw closer to Him!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Time Is Free But It's Priceless

The new Kaisercraft Time Machine Collection is filled with beautiful papers, clocks, and quotes about time. I chose this Harvey Mackey quote as the INSPIRATION for a recent home decor project.


The 12"X12" acetate clock was the perfect piece to use as a background. I backed it with one paper, then trimmed around the clock and matted both pieces onto another patterned paper.


The four decorative strips are simply the reverse side of the bar code strips from the ends of several of the papers in this collection!


The "shelf" created by those strips holds the matted quote and lots of FUN embellishments. Everything except the paper flowers and Tim Holtz spinners used as clock hands came from the Time Machine Collection.

I removed the glass from a 12x12 frame that I had on hand so that this dimensional piece could be displayed easily.


This piece is currently on display at Scrappin' Goodtime, but will eventually return to me where I can display it as a reminder to enjoy the precious and priceless commodity of time!

How have you been spending your time lately?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Overcoming Obstacles to Getting Started with Bible Journaling

"I'm really not sure where to start!"

This is the comment I've received several times here on my blog and in the Bible journaling workshops I'm teaching. There are three common obstacles that seem to make it difficult to get started: (1) a new Bible, (2) too much INSPIRATION, and (3) intimidation.

First, let me say that there are no rules in Bible journaling! The purpose of this hobby is to grow closer to the Lord and spend time in His word. Take time to pray each time you sit down with your Bible and let the Holy Spirit lead you. I believe the Lord rewards and delights in those who seek Him.

Now, let's talk about each of these hurdles and how to make the leap to get started in this fulfilling hobby.

A New Bible

I've had several ladies show up to a workshop with a brand new journaling Bible, eager to get started, but finding it difficult to make those first marks in a pristine new book! Some are anxious about making a mistake or doing something wrong.

As I mentioned in a previous post, although I had already started Bible journaling using one of the Bibles in my library (and in Bibles for display at Scrappin' Goodtime and Personal Scrapbook), I still found it a little difficult to make the first marks in my new journaling Bible.

My solution to this obstacle is to begin with an introduction page. Choose one of the pages at the beginning of the Bible - the presentation page or title page - and just start. Add some color using pens, markers, colored pencils, or watercolors. It can be something very simple, like adding a favorite scripture and a few stickers. This is the first activity in my Intro to Bible Journaling Workshops.


I also provide a punched tab for participants in my classes and suggest that they add it to the contents page so it's easy to find. Many long-time Christians have memorized the books of the Bible and rarely use the page that lists the books of the Bible when they are flipping to a scripture. Others don't want to use the table of contents because it might imply that they don't know where all the books are . . . so they idly flip through all those lesser prophets trying to find Nahum rather than just look it up. (Seriously - you know who you are, right!)


This first page can be a space to give yourself permission to illustrate your faith in this new Bible. It can be as simple or elaborate as you want and is a great way to leap over that first hurtle to using your journaling Bible as a place of worship.



Too much INSPIRATION

There are two different types of INSPIRATION when it comes to illustrated Bible journaling. Since the purpose is to use our creative gifts to draw closer to the Lord and spend time in the Word, I believe INSPIRATION for illustrated pages comes from the Word itself as well as from sermons, devotionals, quotes, prayer, the Holy Spirit, etc. This is the INSPIRATION that determines what we journal and/or illustrate.

As the Bible journaling and Illustrated Faith movement has grown, the amount of INSPIRATION online has increased, too. Illustrated pages are showing up on blogs, Pinterest boards, Facebook groups, Instagram feeds,websites, online classes, YouTube videos, etc. This is the INSPIRATION that determines how we journal.

For example, the first section in the Illustrated Faith Genesis Devotional is about beginning something new (like illustrated Bible journaling). While the devotional is not actually focused on the book of Genesis, it caused me to think about creation and how in the beginning God created such a beautiful world. I was inspired to re-read Genesis chapter 1 and illustrate that story. The devotional inspired what I wanted to illustrate, and an idea I had seen online inspired how I would illustrate it.

I printed a coloring page about creation, which I then traced onto my Bible page. (Most Bible pages are thin enough that you can put a printout under it and trace onto the page). I traced the picture with pencil, then went over the pencil lines with colored pen, and finally colored in the picture using colored pencils. I strategically added a few stickers around the page so that they would not cover up the words.


While I was illustrating this page, taking time to trace and color and add embellishments, I was able to meditate on the creativity of God and marvel at how He turned a void into something so beautiful. He invented everything from nothing - amazing! Remember that what you journal or illustrate is much more important than how you do it!

Intimidation

This last obstacle is one that many of us struggle with in various areas of our lives. We are intimidated by all the "artistic" and "creative" and "perfect" illustrated Bible pages we see online and don't think we can do work that is anywhere near as good as all that. I've even met women who have no intention of sharing their pages online who feel intimidated and don't want to create pages because they won't measure up to the examples.

The solution to overcoming this barrier is to return to the purpose behind creating illustrated Bible pages - to draw closer to the Lord and spend time in His Word. Remind yourself that the Lord sees your heart, not the crooked lines or the imperfect drawing or mismatched colors or the smeared paint! And besides, I believe it's all beautiful to Him. (He is after all the one who causes rivers to meander rather than flow in straight lines, creates snowflakes that are each unique and unlike any other, and smears a multitude of colors across the sky!)


If you're still feeling intimidated, check back in a few days when I'll share some of my less-than-stellar pages and what I learned from them.

Have you started Bible journaling? What obstacles did you overcome (or are you still trying to overcome) in your quest to spend time in the Word?

Saturday, October 3, 2015

INSPIRATION - September Review & October Plans

September turned out much differently than I'd planned. For some time, I've been contemplating going back to teaching, and I had the opportunity to interview for a couple of unexpected openings at local school districts. I was offered a position and spent a week in the (high school) classroom. However, it is difficult to take over a class in the middle of a semester, especially when the previous teacher/coach had very low expectations and an extremely casual classroom structure, so I've decided to continue my "unofficial sabbatical" concentrating on having FUN and finding and acting on INSPIRATION!

September Review
1. Top Five - I'm challenging myself to scrap my top five (photos or stories or events) from the previous month. I completed two layouts from my May Top Five list.

2. Blog Series INSPIRATION A-Z - I completed a couple more posts in this blog series. Click a letter below to check out any that you  may have missed.

A(Art)   B(Baking)   C(Creativity)   D(Drawing)   
E(Experiences)   F(Finishing)   G(Goals)
H(Hiking)   I(Immersion)

3. Reading for INSPIRATION - Oddly, I did not do much reading in September.

During September, I taught four Intro to Bible Journaling classes and completed quite a few Bible Journaling pages. In these classes, I discussed the beginnings of Illustrated Faith, demonstrated using pencil colors, water colors, pens and markers in the margins of the Bible, and then shared a devotional which class participants used as INSPIRATION for their own Bible Journaling. They did a fabulous job!
 

Other creative INSPIRATION in September led to 2 completed layouts, 1 canvas, 5 cards, and 1 framed home decor piece (which I'll share in a future post). I also completed a 40-page scrap- book-for-hire album. I published 12 blog posts (+2 on the Scrappin' Goodtime blog and 1 on the Personal Scrapbook blog). I updated and reviewed my INSPIRATION notebook and completed quite a few items on the INSPIRATION to-do list I created mid-month. I didn't actually participate in Shimelle's Learn Something New Every Day class this year, but I did read the prompts each day. (One of my pages from 2013 is actually featured in the handout for the 21st!)

For the month of October, I'll be exploring and acting on INSPIRATION in several ways:

1. Top Five - I'm challenging myself to scrap my top five (photos or stories or events) from the previous month. I'll be working on my layouts for May, June, July, August and September. Here's one of my favorite photos from September - just me and Robbie out and about on a Saturday.


2. Blog Series INSPIRATION A-Z - I'll be working on the next series of posts for my blog series on INSPIRATION.

3. Bible Journaling Workshops - I started this month out by teaching two Bible Journaling workshops at Scrappin' Goodtime and have three more scheduled at Personal Scrapbook in the next couple of weeks. (Check out all the details HERE.)

4. Reading for INSPIRATION - I'm hoping to get back to reading and sharing INSPIRATION from Creative Girl, Creative Doodling & Beyond, and Art Journal Freedom this month. 

5. Travel - We have a FUN trip scheduled for later this month, which includes a meet-up with Cheri! I'm sure I'll find INSPIRATION for lots of photography along the way, too!

What kind of INSPIRATION did you enjoy in September? What are your plans for exploring and acting on INSPIRATION in October?