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, June 30, 2016

June Round Up - Continuing the Conversation

I always enjoy receiving comments and questions here on my blog. This month I had to laugh when I read the last part of Lorna's comment (on my Grand Canyon hiking post)...Well done with the selfie-stick - I still can't get to grips with mine :) [Check back in a few days to see some FUN selfie-stick outtakes and you'll be laughing, too!]

After reading the God's Love Is A Circle post, Beverly asked...How did I not know you sent weekly emails?! Actually, I think this was the first time I've mentioned it here. After I taught several illustrated Bible journaling classes back in the fall, I set up an email list to let participants know when and where I'd be teaching next. I really didn't want my emails to be all "marketing," so now I send INSPIRATION, information, and links about Bible journaling several times a month as well. If you'd like to be added to my list, please email me! Here's a screen shot of one recent email.


After reading about our weekend at home, MaryLou said...Ah yes laundry after a trip - that in it self could discourage the faint of heart. I also like to read the books & then watch the movies, the Harry Potter series being one set. I think the only time I liked a movie better than the book was The Martian & only because the book was SO detailed. I enjoyed The Martian book and movie, too, although I agree that the book was very detailed as it described life on Mars.

And after learning that they've never read it, I must challenge/ encourage Sian, Cheri, and Susanne to read Gone with the Wind!

Thanks, everyone, for continuing the conversation! 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 - Glamping

When I added glamping trip to my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list, I described it like this: I've seen quite a few magazine articles about glamping - camping but with glamour - and it sounds like something I could really enjoy. Maybe a nice big tent that also has electric lights and running hot water!  I knew it would be an adventure, and I was not disappointed when Robbie and I spent three days and two nights at Raven's Nest Nature Sanctuary near Patagonia, Arizona, this past March.


Everything about the adventure was absolutely perfect, which is why I've procrastinated so long in sharing about it. I'd planned to write about it and share photos right after we returned home, but as we settled back into our routines here at home I kept putting it off waiting to find time to write up the perfect post. From my first phone conversation with Claudia Campos-Pinto, co-owner of Raven's Way with her husband Vincent, I knew we'd found the perfect spot for our first glamping experience. Claudia exudes hospitality and provided just the right amount of personalized attention throughout our stay. Her policy is not to overlap guests, so we had the entire camp to ourselves until late on the morning of our departure.


Accommodations

Our luxury tent was fantastic! It's set up on a wood platform that also serves as an outdoor deck area.


Inside the tent, the queen size bed was covered in beautiful and comfortable linens, including an electric blanket, which was very much appreciated when the temperatures dipped into the 40s at night. The tent also held rustic wooden furniture (nightstands, bookshelves, chairs, a bench, etc), lamps, heaters, and nature books and art.



Amenities

A short path from our tent, we had our own private enclosure with a shower & sink and a completely enclosed private bathroom containing an incinerator toilet. (Yes, there is such a thing!)


Meals

We elected to have all our meals at the camp. Claudia prepared five absolutely delicious all-organic meals for us!

 
These meals were served in the outdoor dining areas, and the table was set with beautiful pottery and  an abundance of food at each meal!


Lots of battery-powered candles were added for extra ambience at the evening meals.


Here's the menu from just one of our meals:
*Organic roasted pepper & kale soup served with Focaccia
*Arugula with balsamic vinegar & mustard dressing
*Mesquite Chicken
*Organic corn & red peppers with black sesame seeds
*Roasted asparagus with Parmesan & garlic
*Purple potatoes with Raven's Nest homemade salsa
*Free-Trade hot chocolate (When Claudia learned that we don't drink coffee, she prepared hot chocolate for us instead!)
*Coconut Cranberry Cake with Raspberry sauce, coconut & almonds

Nature

When we weren't enjoying one of Claudia's fabulous meals or sleeping cozily in our tent, we were enjoying the outdoors.


There are numerous trails throughout the preserve. We strolled through a Stone Age Village (which Vincent uses to teach survival skills) and the Lizard Labyrinth (that Vincent created as a gift for Claudia's birthday one year), taking lots of photos along the way.


The nature preserve is home to lots of wildlife. We saw a roadrunner on our first afternoon there, and heard a pack of coyotes hunting each evening.


We saw lots of species of birds, including a Vermillion flycatcher, which Claudia informed us is very rare (although we didn't capture a photo of it).
 

We also enjoyed simply relaxing and reading. I even did some Bible journaling and some still-life photography (which I'll share in another post)!


And the hammock was the perfect place to watch the sunset.


Raven's Way Wild Journeys also offers lots of other experiences - bird watching, survival skills, sustainable living practices, and nature science schools. Vincent spends most of his time teaching and guiding, while Claudia ensures that everything runs smoothly at the camp and prepares those delicious meals. Their home is on top of the mountain overlooking the entire camp, which you can see in the photo below. Those small tents were set up to accommodate university students who were arriving for hands on learning after our visit. To the left of the photo are the two luxury safari tents for glamping adventures.


Our glamping experience definitely exceeded our expectations, and it probably goes without say, but we highly recommend Raven's Way if you're ready to give glamping a try!


Here's a look at the completed page in my 50 Things mini- album.


Have you ever been glamping? Please share your experience in the comments.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Memorandum Monday - A Weekend At Home

I returned home in the wee hours of Friday morning after a FUN four days in New York with friends, so I spent a good portion of the day catching up on sleep and a little laundry. Robbie spent the day at work trying to catch up after being home sick a few days earlier in the week. So, we were definitely ready for a nice relaxing weekend at home.

Reading Books - New & Old

   

I finished up three books over the weekend; two that I'd read before and one that was new (to-me). Gone with the Wind is one of my favorite books, despite the fact that it is quite a reading commitment at over 1,000 pages. I enjoy how Scarlett O'Hara's story is intertwined with so much history of the south before, during and after the Civil War. This book contains vivid descriptions that make the land, the cities, the plantations, the homes, and the people come to life. However, Scarlett's selfishness and youthful infatuation with Ashley Wilkes often keep her from taking notice of the changes around her. She is hardheaded and doesn't mind pushing her way in front of others and using deception to get what she wants. Yet, I have to admire the way she goes after what she wants and that Rhett Butler falls in love with her despite seeing her for her true self. It's such a shame that she doesn't realize until the very end that she loves him, too. If you've never invested the time to read this book, I highly recommend!

I also finished up the second book in the Anne of Green Gables series. Anne of Avonlea continues the story of Anne Shirley during the two years she teaches at the Avonlea school. Although she's growing up, her imagination is still fabulous and she finds two new kindred spirits in her small student, Paul Irving, and an newfound neighbor, Miss Lavender Lewis. She's also challenged and kept busy helping Marilla with the twins Dora and Davy who come to live with them after their mother passes away. Anne, of course, continues to get into some hilarious situations - selling her cow only to discover she actually sold the neighbor's cow, rubbing red dye instead of freckle cream on her nose and then answering the door to a distinguished guest, and getting stuck in a duck house roof! I'm definitely enjoying my re-read of this series.

I read The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures for the first time. I had heard of this book on a Paperclipping Roundtable episode several years ago, and my friend Minetta recently loaned me her copy. (Thanks Minetta!) This novel is in the form of an old scrapbook, with vintage photos and ephemera covering the pages, along with Frankie Pratt's typewritten journaling. The story follows Frankie from her high school graduation through college at Vassar, to a year in New York, to an ocean voyage to France, to a year in Paris, and finally back to her home town of Cornish, New Hampshire. I especially enjoyed seeing how this scrapbook format told the story of her life during those years.

Robbie also complete three books that he read (& enjoyed) for the first time: The Litigators by John Grisham, and Independence Day and Silent Zone from The Complete Independence Day Omnibus.

Watching A TV Show & Movie

Friday evening we finally watched the first episodes of the new season of The Last Ship,which aired the previous Sunday after I'd already left for my trip. So we were all caught up before the new episode aired yesterday.

Since I had finished reading Gone with the Wind, we invested four hours of Saturday evening watching the Gone with the Wind movie. I always find it interesting to watch a movie right after completing a book as I can easily spot what's been changed and/or omitted. I think this is a great movie adaptation as it contains all the major scenes to portray Scarlett's story, although so much had to be omitted to make it a manageable movie. I highly recommend reading the book first because it helps the historical context come alive more in the movie.

Learning New Words

I often encounter words that I'm not familiar with when I'm reading, however I'm usually able to get a good sense of the word through the context so I simply continue reading. But occasionally a word will catch my attention and I take time to look it up, which is so simple now that my iPhone is usually handy. I've just started reading through the The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Vol. 1: 1889-1910 and have learned two new words in the process.

RACONTEUR - A raconteur is a gifted storyteller, a person who tells anecdotes in a gifted and talented way. (The long winters in Cavendish were conducive to visiting, gossiping, and honing one's skills as a raconteur.)

RUCTION - A ruction is a disturbance or quarrel, a noisy fight. (There is going to be a big ruction in school tomorrow.)

Recuperating

While Robbie was feeling much better this weekend after a bout with sinusitis earlier this week, I began to feel poorly and had to make a trip to the doctor. This is the first time this year I've had to see a doctor for illness, but fortunately I was able to get in quickly and get a shot and prescription for the sinus infection and possible strep throat. I'm feeling better today but have very little energy, so I'm just going to rest a little more and catch up on some blog reading!


Joining in today with Sian, a wonderful raconteur, for her 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).

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Upcoming Workshops & Events

As we near the end of June, I am looking forward to teaching new classes on illustrated Bible journaling in the coming months. Right now I'm spending time with the Lord, studying the Word, illustrating new examples, writing devotional materials, and putting together goody bags in preparation for these upcoming classes and events, so I thought today I'd share a little about what, when and where I'll be teaching.

Every time I teach a workshop on illustrated Bible journaling, I include two components: (1) techniques, tips and ideas for illustrating, and (2) devotionals to help participants dive into the Word. Each class combines these two components as we take time to illustrate our faith.


Intro to Bible Journaling Workshops 

In my Intro to Bible Journaling workshops, we discuss the beginnings of Illustrated Faith Bible Journaling, why and how to use a Journaling Bible (or a Worship Journal if preferred), supply tips and tricks, various journaling styles and techniques, and where to find inspiration for illustrated journaling. I share a devotional and we take time to illustrate our faith in the margins of our Bibles.


This class is perfect for anyone new or just getting started with Bible Journaling, as well as those who have taken a technique workshop but missed the Intro class.

We work in a Journaling Bible, but participants are encouraged to bring any Bible and/or a journal to work in. Participants receive an Illustrated Faith You Rule Bible Mat and Journaling Pen, and all additional items needed to create are provided by myself and the store/church where I'm teaching.

My next Intro to Bible Journaling Workshops are scheduled for:

   Saturday, July 9, 2016 (10:00am-12:30pm)
   Scrappin' Goodtime, Corsicana TX
   (Click HERE for all the details.)

   Saturday, July 30, 2016 (10:00am-12:30pm)
   Personal Scrapbook, Allen, TX
   (Click HERE for all the details.)


Demos & Devotionals Bible Journaling "Crop"

The Demos & Devotionals events are similar to a scrapbooking crop, providing time and space for us to take time to simply work on our illustrated Bible journaling pages. I share short devotionals and product/technique demonstrations (including several make-n-takes) throughout the afternoon. Each participant receives new Bible Journaling product and a goody bag with bits & pieces to use on journaling pages. This event is perfect for those who would like to have some extended time to dive into the Word, try new products, practice techniques, and find ideas for journaling entries.


Participants bring their Bible and/or journal, along with their favorite Bible journaling supplies, for this event designed to help us find time and inspiration to dive into the Word and enjoy creatively illustrating in the margins (or across the entire page!) of our Bibles.

My next Demos & Devotionals Bible Journaling "Crops" are scheduled for:

   Saturday, July 9, 2016 (1pm-7pm)
   Scrappin' Goodtime, Corsicana TX
   (Click HERE for all the details.)

   Saturday, July 30, 2016 (1pm-7pm)
   Personal Scrapbook, Allen, TX
   (Click HERE for all the details.)


Bible Journaling Camp for Teens/Tweens

I am excited to be working on something new this summer - my very first Bible Journaling Camp for tweens & teens. In this camp, we'll spend four fun-filled afternoons diving into the Word, learning illustrated Bible journaling techniques, and creating a personalized Praise Book.


Campers will enjoy a variety of creative activities including coloring, drawing, tracing, painting, cutting, stamping, gluing, and punching, and they'll use a variety of fun products like stickers, watercolors, gelatos, stencils, pens, stamps, colored pencils, and washi tape. They will learn about illustrated Bible journaling (what it is, how it all started) and how they can use these techniques in a Journaling Bible or Worship journal. They will also learn where to find inspiration for illustrated journaling.

All the activities are designed to encourage the use of creativity and color to help participants draw closer to the Lord and strengthen their faith through studying and illustrating the Word. Each session will begin with prayer, and I will share examples and hands-on demonstrations along with devotionals and scriptures for each activity. The camp includes four afternoons, experienced & skilled instruction, set of colored pencils, and use of store supplies and tools to complete several craft projects, including a personalized Praise Book. This class is intended for mature tweens/teens ages 10 and up.

My first Bible Journaling Camp for Tweens/Teens is scheduled for:

   Tues-Fri, August  9-12, 2016 (1pm-4pm)
   Personal Scrapbook, Allen, TX
   (Click HERE for all the details.)


Bible Journaling Technique Workshops

I'm currently also preparing to teach customized technique workshops for a church women's group and two private retreats. I'll be sharing a variety of products and techniques along with devotionals I'm writing specifically for each event.

The complete schedule of my upcoming workshops and events can be found HERE. I am truly blessed to be able to share this FUN hobby with others who want to draw closer to the Lord and use their creative skills to dive into His Word!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Snap 11 - Greeting Cards

Last week I spent a day wandering through the booths at the Great American Scrapbook Convention in Arlington, Texas, and I couldn't help snapping photos of the beautiful card samples! Lots of FUN and so much INSPIRATION!










Joining in today with Helena's meme - Snap - a visually linked set of between 2 and 4 images.  The set can be based on colour or shape or subject.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sunday Musings - God's Love Is A Circle

Several months ago I stamped an image in my Bible during a class I was teaching about using stamps and stickers for illustrated Bible journaling. One of the class participants had brought some stamps to class, and she graciously offered to let us use them. (Thanks Doris!!!)

I really liked one particular stamp that had a beautiful round image and quote, and I quickly stamped it in the front of my Bible. (In fact, I stamped it so quickly I forgot to use my Bible mat, so I didn't have a smooth surface underneath the page and several small areas of the image did not appear at all!) Last week I took time to trace and color that image.

I stamped this image using Powder Puff Chalking Ink, then outlined it using Micron pens and Zig markers. I colored in some of the elements using colored pencils and used a Glaze pen for the blue dots. 

What I enjoyed most about coloring this image was going around the circle with each color while I meditated on the idea of God's love being a circle. Isn't it awesome that we serve a God who loves us completely and continues to give us His love again and again and again! A circle goes around and around without any breaks in it, just like God's love goes on and on. He never stops loving us!

If you look closely at my image, you can see that it's not perfect. I often got out of the lines with my tracing or coloring, and I simply free-handed the parts that didn't stamp well so it's not exactly symmetrical. But none of that matters because the time I spent thinking about and feeling grateful for God's unfailing love is what makes this image beautiful. Remember, His love is perfect, and He loves us in all our imperfections.



**Did you know that I have an email list for anyone interested in illustrated Bible journaling. I typically send three to four emails each month. One email describes my upcoming workshops and events, while the other emails provide INSPIRATION and links for illustrated Bible journaling and using your creative gifts to dive into the Word. If you're interested in being added to my list, please email me with SUBSCRIBE TO LIST in the subject line.**

Friday, June 17, 2016

50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 - Hike In the Grand Canyon

The fist item on my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list originally read hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. This is one of the few goals that I've wanted to do for years, long before I created my 50 Things list around the time of my 45th birthday. However, the essence of my goal was to visit the Grand Canyon and do some hiking, so I'm perfectly content to check off this item after Robbie and I spent a day hiking along the 2.8 mile South Rim Trail on our Arizona Road Trip earlier this year.


It was an absolutely beautiful morning when we arrived at the Visitor Center parking lot. The temperature was only 54 degrees, but with the sunshine it was the perfect weather for hiking. After picking up a trail map, we headed out and got our first glimpse of the canyon. (Click on any photo in this post for a larger view!)


While I've seen lots of photos and heard reports of how amazing it is, I was still completely awed at the magnitude of the canyon.


There were lots of other hikers, however it never felt really crowded along the trail as it wasn't yet high tourist season.


We took tons of photos along the way.




I used the panoramic mode on my iPhone for this shot.


Along the way I also got lots of practice using the selfie stick.


The views truly were breathtaking.


I even made a few short videos, which I've spliced together here for your enjoyment!


I converted one of my favorite photos to black and white for the page in my 50 Things mini-album. You can see that I marked through to the bottom of and simply added the word in so that my accomplished goal reads: Hike in the Grand Canyon.


Check out my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 page to see the entire list and which items I've checked off so far!