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.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Yet I Will Rejoice

It's easy to rejoice and find joy in the Lord when everything in our lives is going smoothly. However, it is even more important to rejoice during the difficult times. This type of rejoicing is much harder and requires a conscious decision on our part. We see an example of this in Habakkuk 3:17-18.

Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.

Despite the difficulties Habakkuk was enduring, he chose to rejoice. After a list of the problems facing him, he boldly declares YET I will rejoice. He chose to rejoice despite those circumstances.

I am striving to implement this lesson in my own life. Despite the big issues (the pain and heartbreak of a broken relationship & the fact that we are facing an upcoming transition with uncertain outcomes) and the little issues (the oven isn't working and the printer has an attitude) we are currently facing, I can (and will!) consciously choose to rejoice in the Lord, my Savior! There is so much to find joy in - a strong marriage, a beautiful home, a thriving teaching ministry - but ultimately joy comes from my salvation and relationship with Jesus Christ.

 Do you find it hard to rejoice during the difficult times?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Scrapbooking 2016

Do you ever just need a day off - a day to spend in your craft room, scrapbooking memories, gluing pretty pieces of paper together, listening to country music, and ignoring your to-do list? Yesterday was that kind of day for me. . . and it was very productive! 

I scrapped quite a few pages last year with memories from the year, so now I'm working back through those 2016 chronological albums, filling in missing photos and stories (excluding our vacations, which I'll start on once I finish these album reviews.) Here's a look at the pages that complete the first half of 2016.

Have you taken a day off to scrapbook lately?

Monday, August 7, 2017

Monday's Mail Memo - A Very ACTIVE Seven Weeks

Once again it seems like time is flying by - seven weeks since my last Monday catch-up! There's been a little happy mail, and lots of ACTIVE and FUN days this summer! (Warning - this post is long & has lots of photos!)

I received the latest Sweet To The Soul Bible Study & Bible Journaling Kit from my friend Jana Kennedy- Spicer and a happy card from Tonya Hamilton of Messy Bible during the month of July.

And one day a large flat box arrived! It contained the new table I ordered for my craft room. Robbie put it together that evening & now I have double the work space!!

Our 12-year-old twin nieces each spent a week with us this summer, and we had so much FUN! As is the tradition before a visit, they each made a list of the things of things to do.

I taught each of them to ice skate (and even scrapped about it already!). There was a morning of swimming with each one, too. During Laurie's visit, we also enjoyed a minor league baseball game, checked out and read several library books, watched movies, played a couple of games of Life, and worked many crossword puzzles. She even participated in a couple of local karate classes to see how they were different from her regular classes. During Paige's visit, we spent lots of time doing illustrated Bible journaling, painted mini-canvases, read several library books, played games, and worked a couple of jigsaw puzzles. She also attended my Christmas in July Card Class. (Yes, we checked everything off their lists!)

I've been very ACTIVE teaching these past several weeks. I taught a small class for residents at a local assisted living facility, sharing how to use gelatos to decorate a hymnal page.

On July 1, I had a huge surprise when my sister and two of my nieces showed up to take my Intro to Bible Journaling Workshop at Scrappin' Goodtime! (I thought they would be arriving around noon to pick up Laurie, but they drove in the day before so they could attend my class!) It was a great class, followed by lunch with Robbie, my sister, brother-in-law, and three nieces (plus one boyfriend!). That afternoon I taught the scripture frame class and the ladies did a fabulous job on these happy frames!

Then there was the Christmas in July Card Class at Personal Scrapbook.

The last Saturday in July, I taught a Bible journaling mini-retreat for a church in Durant, Oklahoma. There were 25 ladies there, and we had a FUN day diving into the Word and trying lots of illustrated journaling techniques.

This past weekend, I co-taught two Creative Lettering Bible Journaling workshops with Jana Kennedy-Spicer at Scrappin' Goodtime. I love seeing everyone giving creative lettering a try!

In other teaching news, there was the launch of the Alive in Christ ~ A Weekend Renewal event. I created a website for the event, and Kelley Raetzsch and I recorded a video to announce the opening of registration. The weekend is already half-full! I also began a free four-part Bible journaling devotional series on the Proverbs 31 Woman for my email list this week. (Click HERE to sign up to receive illustrated Bible journaling INSPIRATION and information on my upcoming workshops & events.)

One weekend, Robbie and I headed to a trading card show here in the Dallas area. Former Dallas Cowboys Defensive End Ed "Too Tall" Jones was there signing autographs, and I couldn't resist asking to have a FUN photo taken with him!

We also enjoyed a stroll around the Lufkin zoo with my sister and her family during one of our meet-ups for the twins' visits. It was an overcast day, which was perfect because it kept the temperatures bearable!

I celebrated my birthday a couple of weeks ago. It was a beautiful sunshiny day, and (as always) Robbie spoiled me with breakfast in bed, lots of gifts, a gorgeous cake, and a made-to-order home-cooked supper!

Well, I think that catches me up to this week, which I'll be spending doing household chores and taking care of car maintenance and catching up on some blog reading! What have you been up to lately?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

August Bible Journaling Workshops at Personal Scrapbook

Each class will begin with a teaching from the books of 1, 2 & 3 John, followed by illustrated Bible journaling tips and techniques. There will be a variety of Bible journaling supplies for you to try out and time to illustrate your faith in the margins (or across the whole page) of your Bible. 

In the first workshop, we'll explore the theme of love that is prevalent in these books. The second workshop will focus on other themes within these books, including truth, working together, and writing letters. Each workshop will include ideas and time to illustrate the important lessons we learn in these three short books.

We will be working in a Journaling Bible, but feel free to bring any Bible and/or a journal to work in. Also, bring your favorite Bible journaling supplies to class & don’t forget a journaling pen!

Call Personal Scrapbook today (972.351.8717) to reserve your spot and join Melissa Gross for these workshops merging art and faith!

The Curious Christian - book review

I was intrigued and excited when I read the title and subtitle of the latest book I received free from B&H Publishers in exchange for an honest review. The Curious Christian: How Discovering Wonder Enriches Every Part of Life sounded so interesting, however, it was a little disappointing.

It starts out by reminding us that we all need curiosity, something that is prevalent in kids but seems to wane as we age into adulthood. The book talks about being curious in all areas of our lives. The disappointing fact is that the author makes snide "hidden" remarks at times that detracted from the book's message - obviously he doesn't like hunting or rednecks or Southern Baptist preachers or a myriad of other things.


There were, however, several quote worthy ideas: 

A library that is unused is simply shelf upon shelf of wasted paper, and our unexercised knowledge is no better.

Nothing is out of bounds so long as our curiosity honors God and loves others.

Our knowledge is as trite or meaningful as what we do with it for the love of others and God's glory.

The book did spark my curiosity as I wondered what the Bible has to say about it. I didn't find the word curiosity in the Bible, although one particular scripture came up in all my searches.

He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in his own authority. ~Acts 1:7

Thursday, July 27, 2017

One Little Word - June & July

I'm excited to be caught up with the prompts in the One Little Word 2017 class! For June, there was a printout with questions to help us evaluate where we are with our word mid-way through the year. I printed the questions on pink paper and wrote my answers in purple ink in keeping with the color scheme I chose at the beginning of the year. I added washi tape to the top and the bottom of the page and also created a transparency to go in my binder before the printout.

Reflecting on my word, I have to admit that I've felt a little disconnected to my word, despite the fact that I've had a very ACTIVE year. I've enjoyed catching up on these prompts because it's given me time to reconnect with the goals I set at the beginning of the year.

The May prompt was a creative meditation where we designed mixed media encouragement cards to add to our binders. I pulled a four-pocket page and cut white cardstock into 4x6 pieces. I wanted to follow along with many of the steps that Ali demonstrated as she created her cards this month, so I pulled a variety of products - paint, stencils, stamps, ink, etc. I enjoyed working through this step-by-step process.

I started with the Tim Holtz star stencil and used white acrylic paint to create the first layer on my cards.

Then I added a layer of light purple paint - it covered a little more the stars than I wanted on the first card, so I made sure to just put a thin layer on the others.

The pink ink and lined stamp I used as the next layer was very light and actually ended up not showing up much on the final cards, however I think that is often the case with mixed media projects. We build layers and some things will be covered up along the way, but the process is extremely therapeutic.

I felt like these light colored cards needed a border, so I chalked the edges with Midnight Confession Powder Puff chalking ink.

I used black StazOn ink and letter stamps to add the encouragement messages I need to remember as I continue my ACTIVE year.

One of my border stamps makes a great arrow stencil, so I used that and the white acrylic paint to point to these messages.

I used a circle stencil and speech bubble rub-ons on the cards to include additional white elements. Word stickers reinforce and add to the messages on each card.

And, finally, I wanted to bring in some pink to go with the colors in my binder, so I searched through my small embellishments drawer and add glittery stars to each card.

As I look forward to the rest of this ACTIVE year, I will Just Move, Have FUN, and Choose Joy, knowing that It's All Good!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Be Still & Know

I have a large post-it note inside the front cover of my journaling Bible with a list of scriptures. Each item on this list represents a page where I began an illustration that is not yet complete. Some of these illustrations I began during a class I was taking, others I started on a day that got busy before I the page was complete, and a few include items I added as part of a demonstration in a workshop I was teaching.

The purpose of illustrated Bible journaling is to illustrate and journal what we are learning in the Word, the messages God is speaking to our hearts, and our prayers to Him. This part of the process is very personal and often requires some time of quiet reflection. This week I've been working through my list, taking time to read and reflect on the scriptures as I complete these pages.

Over a year ago, I took a class at The Little Blue House in Keller, Texas, and Tracy Pounds shared a photo that she'd printed on clear sticker paper. The picture shows an old wooden sign with these words on it: BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD. During the class, I adhered the photo in my bible next to Psalm 46.

Psalm 46 is a reminder that God is our refuge, and I used one of my favorite journaling techniques (rewriting and personalizing scriptures) and a Micron pen to add journaling to this page.

Then I took time to outline the scripture and add letter stickers and embellishments to reinforce this reminder to be still and remember that He is my God!

The final step for me is adding the date with a date stamp (which I did after snapping the photo).

When you take a Bible journaling workshop, do you always complete the project or "assignment" during the class? Or, like me, do you leave having tried a new technique or product on a page that needs to be finished?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

First Time Ice Skating

When I had the opportunity to teach  my oldest niece Nichole to ice skate on our trip to New York in 2007, I had no idea that I would eventually teach all my nieces. Honestly, I'm not really all that good of an ice skater myself. I was 30-years-old the first time I tried ice skating at an outdoor rink in Beaver Creek, Colorado. It was wonderful! It snowed and my skates made little tracks through the snow while I was skating around. I remember thinking how it was very similar to roller skating (which I'd been doing all my life), yet different because the blade was so narrow and the ice was really slick!

Back in 2010, I created a layout about that first ice skating adventure.

Over the past ten years, I've had the chance to teach all four of my nieces to ice skate. In fact, one of the ACTIVE things I've been up to over the past month was taking each of the twins on their first ice skating adventure. When I saw the asymmetrical sketch and layout assignment in Week One of Cathy Zielske's new workshop, Design Your Life 2.0, I knew this was the story I wanted to tell.

I printed a photo of me with each of the girls and absolutely love the way this layout turned out. It just makes me so happy to have this connections story scrapped!

It's been a couple of months since I've created a layout, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time in my craft room with pretty paper and FUN photos! What story have you scrapbooked lately?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

One Little Word - April & May

When I chose ACTIVE as my word for 2017, my desire was to take a look at a variety of areas of my life and make improvements and changes to create a better balance overall. I wanted to invite more ACTIVITY into my weekly routine and to be ACTIVELY involved in things that add value and joy to my everyday life. While I'm not sure that I've necessarily put in the work to engage with my word, I have definitely been ACTIVE this year!

This weekend, I'm catching up with the prompts in the One Little Word 2017 class. The April prompt suggested putting sticky notes with questions (about my word) around the house where I'd see them throughout the month. I didn't actually do this, but I did write some questions & my reflections a couple of months ago. I created three cards that I slipped into the back of the page protector I used for the February prompt.

For May, Ali encouraged us to choose photos depicting how our word was working in our lives. Since one of my ACTIVE goals is to be intentional about investing time in relationships that add value and joy to my life, I chose photos from January through May that represent this goal in action. I printed nine photos so that I could add them to the back of the page protector I used in January. I added a label sticker, a handwritten description, and a puffy heart sticker to each photo.

I'm excited to have made some progress on these prompts and hope to complete the June reflections and July creative prompt shortly!

Have you been ACTIVELY engaging with your word this year? What photos would you use to show your word in action?

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Polished Arrow Hidden In His Quiver

And He has made My mouth like a sharp sword;
In the shadow of His hand He has hidden Me,
And made Me a polished arrow;
In His quiver He has hidden Me.
~Isaiah 49:2

This scripture was referenced in one of last week's devotionals in the Streams in the Desert book I'm using during my quiet time this year. The author talked about the polished arrow and how polishing is the result of grinding off the sharp edges until the arrow is smooth and ready for use. Just like the arrow, we often need to be "polished." Our polishing is the result of difficulties in our lives; we may not understand at the time, but these difficulties smooth us and prepare us to serve the Lord when He calls.

I wanted to remember this idea, so I took time to illustrate it in my Bible using bits & pieces from the Sweet to the Soul I Am Not Alone Bible Journaling Kit, which contains a couple of arrow die cuts. I also included letter stickers, a "God is With Me" sticker quote, and a decorative paperclip from the kit. Then I added some creative lettering and doodling along with handwritten journaling to complete the page.

I had a previous illustration in the margin next to this scripture, so I simply added this new illustration and journaling on the opposite page.

I love these reminders that God is polishing us and preparing us and protecting us and is always with us!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Reading for Education, Entertainment, and Expansion

I haven't read as many books this year as I normally do, however I'm still completing an eclectic mix of books.



Lean In: Women, Work , and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg was recommended by a business coach who helps women scale and grow their business. As my teaching business/ministry continues to grow, I'm reading more books for inspiration and knowledge.

Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook. She shares her story as she encourages women to stay in the workplace and lean in to success. She discusses the "leadership ambition gap" and says that "choosing to leave the workforce was not the choice we thought so many of you wound make" when talking to/about other women who have left the workforce to care for families or due to frustration.

Honestly, I didn't like her much at the beginning of the book and felt like it was a whine-fest about why there are not more women in leadership positions. However, she was honest about her own decisions and how her husband helps her as she discussed becoming a mother and making hard choices (like leaving the office at 5:30 everyday to be home for dinner, but not letting everyone know she was leaving then). She made some good points about women needing to stand up for themselves and "sit at the table" and about the need for men to support women in the workplace. I don't necessarily agree with all her views, however it is a very readable and thought-provoking book.


https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0395616190/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0395616190&linkCode=as2&tag=dalibipi-20&linkId=108444a55b830b8abedd37b25899172b    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0446696331/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0446696331&linkCode=as2&tag=dalibipi-20&linkId=9bcb8f395efc9201ef84a75a73ff5104    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0736912916/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0736912916&linkCode=as2&tag=dalibipi-20&linkId=5330a9aef30122fa1ef49e4081a06ee9

All three books I've read purely for entertainment recently have been loaned to me. First, my niece Laurie shared her copy of A Murder for Her Majesty by Beth Hilgartner. This was a great read! The story is set in Elizabethan times and the main character is 11-year-old young Alice who witnesses her father's murder. She then flees on foot to York because she fears the murderers are after her. She is befriended by several choirboys and they decide to hide her in the choir by disguising her as a boy and calling her Pup. This is an engaging read that has a very satisfying ending.

These next two are the books my sister Brenda sent me as part of our monthly book swap this year. The June book was A Brother's Journey by Richard B. Pelzer, the younger brother of Dave Pelzer who shared his story of abuse in A Child Called It (which I read many years ago). Honestly, this book was somewhat disjointed as Richard shared about growing up in an abusive home. Reading it I felt like he was just trying to build off the story of his brother to have a book published. And, unfortunately, there was no real resolution  to the story as he simply ended it when he was a teenager still living with his terribly abusive and negligent mom. This was a quick read that brings to light how in the 1970s child abuse was often overlooked or simply ignored by others who didn't want to get involved.

The July book my sister shared was Sophie's Heart by Lori Wick. I read this contemporary Christian romance many years ago, also. I only remembered the very basics of the story, so I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading it earlier this week. Sophie comes to America from Czechoslovakia, but finds it difficult to get a job because her English isn't perfect (despite speaking four other languages). She eventually becomes a housekeeper for Alec, a widower, and his three children. She does a fantastic job taking care of this family and their home and builds relationships with each of the children. Alec, still grieving and spending many extra hours working doesn't really notice her until much later. As you might have guessed, they fall in love and are eventually married.

[As a side note - the recent books I sent my sister were Invisible by Jennifer Rothschild (which I reviewed here) and Journey to the Well by Diana Wallis Taylor (which I reviewed here).]


https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0143105507/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0143105507&linkCode=as2&tag=dalibipi-20&linkId=880ffba5391800e83264ed28d956ca9c    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0802124941/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0802124941&linkCode=as2&tag=dalibipi-20&linkId=3a342839326299b51ea6ef0fe0f6291a

And, I continue to expand and challenge my reading with the Fiction Pulitzer Prize Winners. The 1995 winner, The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields, was an enjoyable read and very well-written. The story chronicles the life of Daisy Goodwill, from birth to death, and is written from the perspective of Daisy looking back on her life. She alludes to the fact that some of the stories are made up or romanticized, especially since she obviously would not remember her birth. Daisy's mother died in childbirth and she was raised by a neighbor and the neighbor's grown son until the age of 12. She then lives with her father, grows up, graduates from college, and eventually marries a man who dies on their honeymoon when he falls out of a window. She reconnects with the neighbor's son and they are married and have three children. After his death, she has a career writing a column as Mrs. Green Thumb, then eventually retires to Florida. I really enjoyed this book and the way that each chapter of her life was written differently - one chapter was simply a collection of letters to Daisy during that particular season of her life.

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen was last year's winner. This novel is about the Vietnam War and is told from the point of view of a VietCong spy. He is a northern communist, serving with the southern army to learn information he forwards to his superiors in the north. He is the illegitimate child of a Vietnamese mother and a French priest father (who never acknowledges him). Before the war, he was educated in the United States, and he has the ability to see and sympathize with multiple views. This book started out as a good read as he told his story, however it digressed when he is forced to be a part of a couple of murders . . . and the ghosts follow him from then on. He is eventually captured and tortured and sent to "reeducation" and the story digresses further with hideous scenes of torture and rape. His story is actually written in the form of a confession that he was forced to write during the reeducation process. The story definitely captures the complexity of war, especially the Vietnam War and all its controversies, with lots of references to how Americans did not understand the Vietnamese. A disturbing and somewhat difficult book to read.

Have you read any of these books? If so, please share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Creative Lettering

Last month I enjoyed co-teaching a couple of Creative Lettering Bible Journaling Workshops with Jana Kennedy- Spicer of Sweet To The Soul. Jana demonstrated how to create a variety of different letters as well as decorative fills and doodles. I haven't quite mastered all the techniques, but I'm definitely enjoying adding creative lettering and doodling to my time in the Word! I like the idea of using different letter types for various words.

It's also especially FUN to combine the creative lettering with other techniques and products. In the example below, I added paint, stickers, hexis and a tab to the lettering and doodling that reiterates the message I wanted to emphasize in these scriptures.

Jana and I are teaming up again next month to bring the Creative Lettering Bible Journaling Workshops to Scrappin' Goodtime in Corsicana, Texas. Check out all the details below!

Creative Lettering Bible Journaling Workshops
 with Melissa Gross & Jana Kennedy-Spicer
 Saturday, August 5, 2017
Scrappin’ Goodtime, Corsicana TX

        Creative Lettering & Coloring/Painting                 10am-1pm   $30
Combining Creative Lettering w/Other Elements      2pm-5pm   $30
Register for Both Classes for Only $50

Melissa & Jana are teaming up to bring you two workshops packed with Bible study and illustrated journaling techniques. You will learn a variety of creative lettering techniques, coloring and painting techniques, and how/when to combine creative lettering with other Bible journaling elements like die cuts, stickers, and washi tape. We’ll practice these techniques as we illustrate our faith in the margins of our Bibles.

You will receive a creative lettering booklet, journaling pen & other goodies in these workshops.

We will be working in a Journaling Bible, but feel free to bring any Bible and/or a journal to work in. Also, bring your favorite Bible journaling supplies to class!

Creative Lettering & Coloring/Painting
In this class, you’ll learn creative lettering techniques, along with coloring and painting techniques. We will share a devotional and then take time to illustrate what we learn in our Bibles.

Combining Creative Lettering w/Other Elements
In this class, you will learn additional creative lettering techniques, along with how/when to combine lettering with other Bible journaling elements including die cuts, stickers and washi tape. We will share a devotional and then take time to illustrate what we learn in our Bibles.

Call Scrappin’ Goodtime (903-641-0855) to reserve your spot & join Melissa & Jana for these workshops merging art and faith!