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.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

March Round Up - Continuing the Conversation

This month's round-up of comments and replies from my March blog posts begins with one of my favorite things about the blogging community - receiving suggestions for places to visit. Mary-Lou commented on my Hello March post that if I ever get the chance to visit Newfoundland (& Labrador) - it is one of most beautiful provinces. Gros Morne National Park is a national treasure.

Sandra, KarenMary-Lou, and Cheri would like to a visit a flea market like the one I shared in my Memorandum Monday - Canton Trade Days post. Those trade days happen the weekend before the first Monday of every month - if any of you are ever in the Dallas area, let's meet up there!

After sharing some book reviews, I was glad to learn that (in Better Than Before terminology) Missus Wookie is also an Upholder. Alexa says she's probably a Questioner and Cheri is a died-in-the-wool Obliger. There were also several book recommendations: Karen said: When Breath Becomes Air---a moving memoir by a neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer at 36, and passed away a little over a year later. Now I'm reading My Brilliant Friend. It's a perfect book for vacation---engaging story, interesting characters, set in Naples, Italy. It's long, and it's just the first of a four book series which I'm sure I'll want to read as well. Mary-Lou said: I have just finished The Nightingale, which I really enjoyed. Beverly said: I just finished reading Driving the Birds, a disturbing book but one I recommend.

After sharing about Hannah's Faith, I asked: Who has influenced you and helped you become the person you are today? Beverly said: Of course my parents but also my grandmother and great aunt influenced my faith. Cheri said: My Mom (the one that raised me) was the single biggest influence on the person I am today. Juliann said: My mom and dad.

When I shared a photo of some altered composition books, I learned from Sian that We don't have composition books like yours, so when we were in Florida we bought a few.  It's always interesting to learn which items are available (or not) around the globe!

When I shared my February gratitude pages, Becky said: I am grateful in February for my mum coming successfully through surgery and for finding a physician who can help me with my migraines. Sian said: For finally feeling better and not needing any more antibiotics for sinus problems. Karen said: I always have a lot to be grateful for, but one thing for sure was the much milder weather than we had last February! 

As always, I am grateful for each of you who stop by regularly and leave such wonderful comments to continue the conversation!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 - Dye Easter Eggs Again

I've dyed Easter eggs lots of times! I remember dying eggs as a kid, and I had my nieces and nephew over to dye eggs many times when I still lived near them. However, in the 14+ years that Robbie and I have been married, we have dyed eggs only one time. It's a FUN activity, so I added this simple item to my  50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list to ensure that we made time for it again.

I found a FUN idea online several weeks ago, so we donned our Minions T-shirts and set to work!


I created five cute little minions . . . .


. . . plus one "naked" minion and one evil minion (that didn't quite turn out purple).


Robbie created four cute minions . . . and one Dogbert (just for FUN).


You just have to smile seeing them all together, don't you?


They look so cute in the egg carton . . .


even when it's closed!


We both enjoyed creating these FUN eggs, and I'm excited to check off another item on my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list!


I added a photo, the date, and a couple of lines of journaling to this page in my 50 Things mini-album.


HAPPY EASTER Y'ALL!!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Fit March 2016

Earlier this week we returned from a 10-day road trip (that I'll be sharing lots more about soon!), which means I need to get back into my exercise routine and refocus on making healthy choices. I took time today to check out the March materials in the FIT 2016 workshop and to catch up on my monthly pages.

I actually created the front of my March page on the first of the month after weighing in, taking my measurements and snapping a photo. (I'm using elements from the class to complete one page per month that I'm adding to my calendar/planner.)


I have to admit that I was disappointed that my weight was the same as my February 1st check-in and my measurements had not changed much either. However, I was not surprised since I did not exercise nearly as much in February nor did I take time to track my eating each day. This month has been similar, so I don't expect to see much change when I look at my numbers again next week.

After listening to Cathy's video message in the classroom today, I took time to journal on the back side of my March page . . . and to go back and do the journaling on my February page (since I had not done that yet!). I also reviewed what I'd written in January. The class materials and  the journaling were good reminders that it's not all about the numbers, it's about making good choices that lead to a healthy lifestyle so that I can feel better, have more energy, and enjoy our wonderful life.


I'm feeling good this evening and will be getting an exercise session in on the stationary bike after I publish this post and slip these happy pages into my binder.


How are you doing on your healthy living goals for the year?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Gratitude Journal - February

I've just finished the February pages in my Gratitude Journal, and I am truly enjoying this project!



Once again I used the collage background elements on the first page as the base for my journaling. The two main things I'm grateful for in February were being able to teach so many illustrated Bible journaling workshops and celebrating my parent's 50th anniversary, so I included short notes about those two events. I added the lists I decided to include each month: movies watched, TV shows watched, books read, and type of exercise each day. Then I added in FUN embellishments - washi tape, part of a Supergirl Valentine, stickers, and scattered hearts.


This month's pocket page includes space for six 3x4 elements on each side. I included a few of my favorite photos from the month - Mama & Daddy's anniversary and me teaching a class, along with other photos that probably won't make it onto a scrapbook layout - a tree from our walk in the park, us outside the movie theater, the new binder shelves we built, and a deli-type lunch Robbie put together one weekend. I added several bits of memorabilia as well - ticket stubs, cards from the two scrapbook stores where I'm teaching, and a florist card from one of the bouquets Robbie sent me last month.



The final page is the one I filled out at the end of each day throughout the month. I finished it off with some ribbon, stickers and washi tape.


What were you most grateful for in February?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Amish Markets, Safe Friendships, A German Soldier & A Dog

Over the past couple of weeks, I've completed four books . . . none of which count toward any of my goals or reading challenges for this year! While I definitely want to focus on those goals and challenges, my main reasons for reading are for enjoyment, entertainment, inspiration/motivation and education, all of which I received from this group of books.


An Amish Market is actually four novellas, each by a different author. I thoroughly enjoyed these easy-to-read love stories. The stories are not related, however each one is set in or around a store or shop located near an Amish community and provides a glimpse into Amish customs and family life. As in many relationships, there's some type of obstacle or misunderstanding which must be overcome for the main characters to find love. I recommend this book for those who enjoy charming love stories and reading about the Amish and their way of life. (I received this book free from Booklook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.)


I actually won a copy of this next book by leaving a comment on Pamela Havey Lau's post on the womensministry.net blog. A Friend in Me: How to Be a Safe Haven for Other Women is about older women building relationships with and mentoring younger women. The author shares stories from difficult times in her own life: her mother left the family when she was 14-years-old and her brother-in-law and his fiancee were killed in an accident when she was a newlywed. She shares about her need for friendship with other women who would provide a safe place for her to process her feelings and confusion during those times. I thoroughly enjoyed the encouragement to be committed to relationships with younger women, to be non-judgmental and build trust, to talk about faith and forgiveness and vocation and sex and pain and suffering, and to share our own stories to help others.

I have to admit that I only had a vague idea about the book when I won it, however I moved it to the top of my (rather intimidating) to-read pile because mentoring is a topic that I believe is so important. For several years,  I mentored teen girls in my church and encouraged women to build friendships with other women. I believe these types of relationships are so important for us as women. I highly recommend this book! (Pamela Havey Lau also has a free A Friend in Me video series, which you can sign up for on her blog, that I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend as well.)


Robbie and I spent almost 8 hours listening to the audio book of Summer of My German Soldier by Betty Greene. This is an extremely well-written book (and well read by Dale Dickey) set in Arkansas during World War II. The story centers around 12-year-old Patty Ann, who helps a German soldier who runs away from the POW camp near her home. Patty Ann has an abusive father and a mother who is rather distant and self-absorbed, along with a pretty sister who is well-loved by everyone. Ruth, the family's housekeeper and nanny, a black woman, is Patty Ann's only friend until she meets Anton, the German soldier. This is a very interesting story that is well-paced, however we were both disappointed by the anticlimactic ending that did not resolve/wrap-up many of the stories in the book. (Robbie did some research later and discovered that there is a sequel that continues the story.)

There were numerous wonderful quotes in this book, and I admit to pausing the audio to write a few of them down. Here are some favorites:

Ruth tells Patty Ann to "Keep your jubilee in easy reach."

Anton tells Patty Ann the first time they meet: "Genius is the ability to give an adequate response to a great challenge."

Ruth talking about Patty Ann's mom and her self-absorption: "A fruit-bearing tree knows better than to try to look like a young sapling."

Anton, when he gives Patty Ann the ring he received from his grandfather: "The greater the value, the greater the pleasure in giving it."

Anton tells Patty she is "a person of value."


We also listened to the children's book, Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, winner of the Newberry medal. This is a great story about a young boy,  Marty, who finds a dog that's been abused by its owner, Judd Travers. Marty hides the dog, but it gets hurt and he ends up working to earn the dog from Judd ... and as unlikely as it seems, along the way, Marty and Judd learn to get along. Marty also discovers that it's often hard to discern right from wrong, that telling one lie often leads to another, and that his actions affect his entire family (his parents & 2 younger sisters). A wonderfully read (3 hour) story that we thoroughly enjoyed.

Have you read any of these books? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Miscellaneous Crafting

Just sharing a few miscellaneous things I've created recently!

Altered Composition Books


Blessings Postcard
(created using the new Illustrated Faith postcards, stickers, die cuts and washi tape during the product reveal at The Little Blue House local scrapbook store)



Perfect Day Card
(created with Bo Bunny Beautiful Dreamer paper scraps leftover after creating a layout showcasing one of my high school graduation photos)


Spring Break Galveston Beach Layout
(created with Bo Bunny Beach Therapy papers)


What crafting have you done lately?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sunday Musings - Hannah's Faith

When I introduce myself to new participants in my Bible Journaling workshops, I always tell them that I've been in church all my life. Literally - I was born on a Friday and that following Sunday morning I was in church for the first time! The story of who I am really began before I was born, with my parents. I am blessed with Christian parents who took me to church, prayed for me, and taught me about that Lord. These things influenced my life and helped me become the person I am today.

In the book of First Samuel in the Bible, we learn about Hannah, Samuel's mother. Her prayers and faith are really the beginning of Samuel's story.


Hannah's story of faith is a great example of how God answers prayers. She prayed earnestly for a child, she vowed to give her child to the Lord, and she conceived and bore a son. After he was weaned, she gave Samuel to the priest Eli so that he could serve in the house of the Lord at Shiloh. Then she rejoiced . . . and was blessed by the Lord with other children.


I love this story and believe that Hannah's example of  faith surely had a huge influence on Samuel and helped him to become a great leader and prophet of the Lord. It's also a beautiful example of placing our hope in the Lord.

Rebekah Jones shared an indepth devotional and Bible art journaling video on this story at the beginning of the year as part of her new Heaven is Calling Bible Art Journaling Challenge Series. (I highly recommend her website!)

Who has influenced you and helped you become the person you are today?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Cascade Gardens - My First Layout Kit

Last week I created my very first layout kit! During one of my numerous visits to Personal Scrapbook, our local scrapbook store, I offered to create a layout and kit with some beautiful yellow and green papers. I enjoy trying new things and this was definitely a new way of creating a layout.

As always, I started by pulling photos that I thought would work well with the papers, then built my layout around those. Then I starting cutting papers and decided on the layout design.


Once I had the basic design established, I had to make notes of the sizes of each paper so I could cut everything for the kits. I also added additional elements, like punched flowers and borders.


I put together a sample layout with all the items from the kit and took photos to create a flyer to go with the kit. Then I was able to complete my sample layout with photos from our trip to Cascade Gardens. I also customized my layout by chalking the edges of all the papers, adding dots and bling to the center of the flowers, and cutting a title (with the extra papers included in the kit) with my Cricut.


This was a FUN experience, so I just might be creating more kits in the coming months. Check out my post on the Personal Scrapbook blog for more photos of this 2-page layout kit!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Book Reviews & Reading Challenges Update

So far this year, I've made a little progress on some of my reading goals and challenges, although I haven't even started on a couple of them! I completed one fiction Pulitzer Prize winner, bringing my total read to 15 (out of 60+). I definitely need to make these a priority if I'm going to be able to check that goal off my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list!

Although I missed the book club discussion (and it is not yet posted online), I did finish the February book for the Simple Scrapper Book Club last week. (So I'm doing great reading the books for this online book club!) Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits by Gretchen Rubin was an interesting read. I like the idea that sparked the book title: "Perfection may be an impossible goal, but habits help us to do better. Making headway toward a good habit, doing better than before, saves us from facing the end of another year with the mournful wish, once again, that we'd done things differently." The author claims that we each fall into one of four categories: Upholders, who meet outer and inner expectations, Questioners, who resist outer, but meet inner expectations, Obligers, who meet outer, but resist inner expectations, and Rebels, who resist all expectations. I'm pretty sure I fall into the Upholder category, and I find that the pillars of habits (monitoring, foundation, scheduling, accountability) work well for me.

 
 

I've read four more books in the Trixie Belden series. In all four of them, Trixie and her friends are traveling (to New York or Cobbett's Island or Williamsburg, Virginia, or St. Louis) and find themselves in the midst of a mystery . . . and some rather dangerous situations, which are not quite as believable as the first books in the series. All four of these books are part of my children's/young adult collection that I'm reading through and count for The Lady Detectives 2016 Reading Challenge, qualifying me for the middle level: Jane 4-6 books (You’re quite the clever old bird, but the local constabulary really wish you’d keep out of it.)

I have not started the Anne of Green Gables books yet, so no progress towards the 2016 Anne of Green Gables Reading Challenge. I've not read any steampunk yet, so no credit for the Clocks, Cogs and Mechanisms Reading Challenge 2016 either. And I did not complete any bingos for the Bookish Bingo: Holiday 2015 challenge, which ended on February 29.

 

I read The 5th Wave after Robbie finished it early this year and highly recommended it. I enjoyed it, although some of the middle parts really slowed down the pace of the story. We both thought the movie that debuted in January was an excellent adaptation and that most of the changes from the book to the screen play eliminated those slow parts of the story. I have the second book in the series in my to-read pile!

Are you working on any reading goals or challenges this year? How are you doing?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Memorandum Monday - Canton Trade Days

This weekend was the first one in six weeks that we didn't have something scheduled, so Robbie and I headed out Saturday morning to enjoy the sunshine at Canton Trade Days, a huge flea market a little over an hour away.


There are hundreds of vendors spread out over acres of land, so we've never covered the entire flea market in a day. We typically just start near an area in the back and wander around looking for items to add to Robbie's collectibles. It's always interesting to see all the junk stuff for sale.



There are lots of food vendors spread throughout the flea market as well, and we tried something for the first time - fried Oreos! They were quite tasty: Oreo cookies covered with funnel cake batter, deep fried to golden perfection, all washed down with an ice-cold Coca Cola. (Yes, I realize that doesn't sound like the healthy eating choices I'm trying to make this year, but I promise we walked quite a few miles and probably burned off some of those calories at least!)

I was ready for a snack by the time Robbie chose these from one of the food trailers, so I forgot to snap a photo and had to go back for this picture of the sign!


Joining in today with Sian's Memorandum Monday meme sharing something NEW (something you did over the weekend FOR THE FIRST TIME or something you learned and DIDN'T KNOW BEFORE).