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

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Banff Road Trip Photos

We've been back from our road trip to Banff in the Canadian Rockies for almost a month now, and I've been busy this week working on our digital photos, deleting the ones that are too blurry or near duplicates, uploading some to Shutterfly and creating an 8x8 photo book, ordering prints and sorting through memorabilia. The photo book will go on the shelf with the photo book from our May Texas Road Trip as a record of our trip. However, I still ordered quite a few prints for scrapbooking!

Here are some of my favorite photos documenting the places we visited on our trip.

Banff, Alberta, Canada - Beside the Bow River
Mount Rundle - Canadian Rockies




View from the Lake Louise Gondola - Canadian Rockies

Celebrating my Birthday in Colorado

Custer's Grave at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

Beside St. Mary Lake - Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park - Montana

Mount Rushmore - South Dakota
Badlands National Park - South Dakota
Welcome Home!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Christmas Clutter Countdown Week 1

Christmas countdown banner
I am a member of the Yahoo Group Christmas_Clutter_ Countdown. The purpose of the group is to help you declutter your home while you also prepare for the Christmas holidays so that when the holidays roll around you can enjoy them stress-free. The group activities run from mid-August through mid-January. Each week there's a weekly file to download that gives encouragement and lists of things to do to declutter your home and prepare for the holidays.

When my younger sister first told me about the group she said I was probably already doing most of what the group recommended. I have to admit that I'm one of those people who was "born organized" and Robbie says that all my trains run on time.  However, I have gotten lots of ideas from the files that group owner Wendy created for organizing each room of the house and preparing for Christmas. I also get inspired reading posts about what others have accomplished.

The group began on August 16 with week one. I'm a little behind, but here's a summary of what I acomplished for week one of the countdown.

CHRISTMAS WEEK ONE
We were encouraged to think about ways to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, which by the way are the 12 days after Christmas. Planning ahead to celebrate these days leading up to Epiphany or Three Kings' Day on January 6 helps us celebrate the entire Christmas cycle (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany) and eases the let down that often occurs once Christmas Day is over. We've never really done anything special to celebrate these 12 days and I thought this should be the year we did.

I decided it would be fun to plan to watch a movie each evening, ending with The Little Drummer Boy on January 6th. Really that's the only movie that is a Christmas movie that we'll watch during the 12 days since we typically start watching Christmas movies on Thanksgiving Day and end on Christmas Day with The Nativity Story. Dear hubby helped me and here's the list of movies we came up with - we tried to use at least one word from the 12 days of Christmas song to pick a movie. Some of them are a little stretch so I've added our explanation. Enjoy!

DAY 1 - A PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE
The Poseidon Adventure (Susan Day who starred in The Partridge Family also stars in this movie!)
DAY 2 - TWO TURTLE DOVES
Rodan (Story about two flying monsters!)
DAY 3 - THREE FRENCH HENS
Cold Turkey (hens & turkeys – in the same family & both good for eating)
DAY 4 - FOUR CALLING BIRDS
Fantastic Four
DAY 5 - FIVE GOLDEN RINGS
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings
DAY 6 - SIX GEESE A-LAYING
The Wild Geese
DAY 7 - SEVEN SWANS A-SWIMMING
Seven Days in May
DAY 8 - EIGHT MAIDS A-MILKING
Stepford Wives (They were so perfect I’m sure they could milk 8 cows at a time!)
DAY 9 - NINE LADIES DANCING
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (there were originally 9 companions who set out to destroy the ring)
DAY 10 - TEN LORDS A-LEAPING
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
DAY 11 - ELEVEN PIPERS PIPING
Facing the Giants (there are 11 men on a football team)
DAY 12 - TWELVE DRUMMERS DRUMMING
Little Drummer Boy

DECLUTTERING WEEK ONE
Worked on our TV/Exercise/Guest Room, reorganized some of the furniture, put away all the miscellaneous items that were "stored" on the bed, created a spreadsheet inventory of our DVD collection, sorted all the extra linens for guest beds and kept three sets for each bed, donated the remaining linens to our local community outreach, and deep cleaned room. Here are some before and after photos of the room.

Bed and cedar chest with miscellaneous stuff piled on them.
Bed cleaned off, cedar chest moved out, keyboard & guitar moved to this wall out of the way of floor space for exercising.

Bookshelf disorganized.
Bookshelf straighted up and DVDs moved to drawers of armoir.

The armoire and chair and keyboard - everything jammed into this corner.
Dresser moved in beside armoire looks much neater. TV is in the armoire and the drawers hold extra linens for this room's guest bed and our DVD collection.

Week three of the countdown starts today, so I'll be doing a little catch up this week and will hopefully be posting my week two accomplishments in a few days!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Musings

This past Friday evening I attended a ladies' ministry night at our church. The guest speaker was Stephanie Hunter. She is a pastor's wife and talented artist. She shared about herself and then played four monologues that she had recorded previously. She painted a small canvas while each monologue played then read scriptures of encouragement for women in all stages of life.

The first monologue was from the viewpoint of a 19-year-old hurting girl who wanted to cut herself to help heal the pain in her life. The second monologue was from the viewpoint of a 32-year-old mom of five who questioned whether she was being a good mom and whether all that she does is setting a good example and pointing her children toward Christ. The third was a 41-year-old career woman always striving for perfection and loaded down with the stress of her job. The fourth was a 72-year-old woman looking back on her life questioning if she had done things right, if she had done enough, if she was being a good grandmother, regreting mistakes she's made.

At first, I felt a little left out as I don't fit into the mold of any of these women. I'm no longer a teenager, I'm not a mom, I have chosen to stay at home rather than continue teaching as a career, and I haven't yet reached my golden years. However, as I pondered over my feelings of being on the outside of these examples, I realized that I can relate to each one and that the overall message rings true for all women no matter what their circumstances or stage in life.

Like the 19-year-old I have had times when I felt alone and wanted to do anything to lessen the pain in my life. I cried out for attention - fortunately for me I have known the Lord most of my life and would eventually return to Him for comfort.

Like the young mom, I have questioned whether I've been a good example to the children in my life whether that be my nieces and nephews, children I've taught in Sunday School and Children's Church, or the teenagers I've taught in middle school and high school. I wonder if my actions allowed them to see Jesus.

Like the career woman, I strive for perfection. Yes, that's present tense! Over the past few years I've released myself from much of the pressure of trying to be perfect. (Isn't it funny that the pressure was coming from me alone!) I continue to remind myself to allow the Lord to carry my burdens. As my friend Becky often says, I don't have to be everything to everybody all the time!

Like the 72-year-old, I often ponder my past and wonder if I did right, regretting my mistakes and wishing I would have made better choices at various times. I can't go back and change those things now, however I can continue on looking to God for guidance with each decision.

At the end of these monologues, Stephanie put the four canvases together to reveal the face of Christ and encouraged us to keep our focus on Jesus. He alone can help us carry the burdens, fill the emptiness, and shower us with peace and joy. He alone can wash away our sins and guide us on the right path for our remaining days.

How about you? Can you see yourself in any of these women? Do you know where to turn for the peace that passeth all understanding?

Be still and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mini-Album Ready for the Learn Something New Every Day Class

Yesterday, I created a mini-album to use for Shimelle's Learn Something New Every Day class. We will be recording something that we learn each day during the month of September. The decision about how to record what we learn was left up to each individual - mini-album, blog post, journal, etc. I chose to create a 6x6 mini-album.

First, I decided to use 6x6 sheets of Core'dinations cardstock from the recent prize I won. I had two packages of cardstock and both packages contained varying shades of green cardstock. When I pulled all the greens out, there were exactly 30 sheets! Thus, my decision to create my album in varying shades of green.

Next, I prepared the pages. The cardstock can be sanded to give it a distressed look, so I spent some time sanding each sheet - and making quite a mess in the process. In the photo below you can see the top row of papers which have not been sanded and the bottom row which has been sanded for the distressed look.

I chose a green embossed cardstock for the covers of my album. I sanded a 12x12 sheet embossed with the alphabet and numbers which I thought would work great for an album about learning. I cut the sheet into four 6x6 squares.

I cut two 6x6 chipboard pieces and adhered the embossed sheets to the front and back of each piece to create the front and back covers of my mini-album. I also adhered my pages together so that I actually have 15 double-thick pages in the album. I then punched two holes through the covers and pages and added rings to create the blank album.

To add the date to each page, I cut little strips with the day and date from an old mini-calendar I purchased at a flea market a few months back. I had to find two months that started on a Wednesday since the original calendar used the front and back of the pages. I love the way these old calendar strips add another dimension to the distressed look of the cardstrock. [And I have to admit that I goofed on two of the calendar strips and adhered them with the wrong side showing so I had two wrong dates. I simply flipped through the old calendar again and cut out a strip with the correct day and filled in the correct date number with a black pen. For a perfectionist like me, that was a pretty good fix and I can live with those two being a little different.]

Then I used a border punch on a third of the pages. I had planned to use a decorative corner punch on another third of the pages, however the punch I chose would not cut through two layers of cardstock. I found this out when I tried it on the first page, so of course then I had a botched corner! [I ended up using my scalloped circle punch and cutting a "chomp" out of the top corner of a third of the pages - another fix that turned out ok!] I left the edge of the last third of the pages straight.

Next, I created a title block for the front of the album using a scalloped journal block, stickers, alphabet stamps, Scrabble tiles and the word "September" cut from the old calendar. And just because those "chomped" pieces were on my craft table, I created a little corner embellishment for the front cover as well.

Last, I added ribbon to the rings, and the album is all ready for the start of class on September 1st.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sketchy Thursdays 8-26 Sketch Challenge

(I know I've already posted twice today, but I finished up a layout and just had to share it!)

This layout is based on the 8-26 Sketch Challenge on the Sketchy Thursdays blog. This layout came together fairly easy because I started with this great 12x12 patterned paper from My Mind's Eye.

I had these two photos in my 2010 storage binder and knew I wanted to use them on a page about us. I pulled the solid cardstock and both patterned papers from my scrap bin, matted the photos and punched the remaining cardstock and papers into circles. I added a few coordinating embellishments from My Mind's Eye to several of the circles and Prima flowers to a few others.


I love the look of this layout and the one word title says it all - I love my hubby and our life together!

Camp Scrap Prize

I won a prize!! Ok, I actually won this prize over a month ago and it was waiting for me (with all the other mail and packages!) when we returned home earlier this month from our road trip to the Canadian Rockies. I won this prize for simply posting a comment on the message board during the Camp Scrap Workshop at BigPictureScrapbooking.com. The prize was donated by Core'dinations, and I was expecting a few sheets of their textured cardstock. Wow, was I surprised to open the package and find FOUR packages of cardstock. Two packages of 12x12 Embossed ColorCore Cardstock (20 sheets per pack) and two packages of 6x6 ColorCore Cardstock (80 sheets per pack).  These cardstock sheets can be sanded and distressed to reveal the core'dinating core color and embossed image.

I am starting on a project today where I'll be using quite a few of these sheets. I'll tell you all about it in my next post.

Learn Something New Every Day


I am excited about a new class at Shimelle.com called Learn Something New Every Day. You might remember that in a previous post I stated that I believe we should actively pursue lifelong learning. This class is designed to help us be aware of something new that we learn every day. The class runs for the entire month of September and we'll create a mini-album along the way of the things we learn each day. I can hardly wait to get started next week!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

More Layouts Using Divided Page Protectors

Here are the two additional layouts using divided page protectors that I mentioned I needed to create in an earlier post. This first one is basically a summary page of our May 2010 Texas Road Trip. I used three photos and quite a few pieces of memorabilia (brochures, business cards, hotel key card, menu, souvenir coin) to create this layout.

Instead of using one large journaling block, I typed up several lists to summarize the trip.

This next layout is comprised of photos from our visit to the San Jose Mission in San Antonio. I simply used five photos, then created a 4x6 block for the remaining space. I adhered pieces of the brochure and added a date and short journal sentence.

I love the way these pages are so easy to put together. I'll include these pages in our LOM Places We've Been Album.

Scrapbooking with Divided Page Protectors

Several months ago I purchased a package of 12x12 divided page protectors to use when I wanted to create a quick layout with several 4x6 photos. Yesterday I was inspired by this blog post on Sue's Life & Memories blog about divided page protectors and decided it was time to break open the package.

I chose photos from our meal at Rose Hill Manor back in May when we were on our Texas Road Trip. We had a delicious four course dinner, and I took pictures of most of the food. I used nine photos, two postcards, a copy of the menu, one piece of patterned paper, one piece of tan cardstock, and some chalk ink for this layout.

For the left page, I used the Rose Hill Manor postcard and three photos. Then I copied (and reduced the size) of the menu onto a piece of cardstock. I also cut out the Rose Hill Manor's description from the back of a second postcard and added a small handwritten journaling block. I chalked around the menu, postcard and journal block and mounted them on 4x6 pieces of patterned paper and cardstock.


On the right page, I used five photos. Since one of the photos was portrait instead of landscape, I used two 4x6  pieces of  patterned paper in two slots, then cut the photo in half and mounted it to the paper. The patterned paper helps "tie" the two pages together.


Here's the final two-page layout. It only took about 30 minutes to put this entire layout together!


Since I chose to do this layout as a two-page spread, I have the front of one page protector empty and the back of the other one - I'll be browsing my storage binders this week to find photos to create layouts for those empty pages before adding these two pages to my Places We've Been scrapbook.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Back to School & Lifelong Learning

I've had quite a mixture of feelings this week as all my nieces head back to school and Robbie prepares to start the fall semester next Monday, continuing work on his master's degree. In some ways, I'm missing all the hustle and bustle of getting ready for classes - either ones I'm taking or ones I'm teaching. Since completing my master's degree four years ago and taking the past three years off from teaching, I'm no longer really involved in the Back-to-School rush. Sometimes I miss being a part of all the excitement of the first day of school - new books, new clothes, new friends, and all the new learning! Of course, there are many aspects of back-to-school that I don't miss - having to get up at the crack of dawn, lunch duty, learning all the new students' names, lesson plans, research, the price of new textbooks.

As I was pondering these mixed feelings, I realized that regardless of my "school status", I am after all a Lifelong Learner. I believe we never stop learning and that we should contine to actively pursue learning throughout our lives. Here's what I'm doing to continue learning as everyone heads back to school this year:

1. Recommitting to daily Bible reading. Over the past couple of months, I've slacked off on my Bible reading, some weeks reading five or six days, some weeks only a day or two. I want to continually seek God's will for my life, and I believe His Word speaks to each of us . . . . if we will just open it and read it.

2. Learning the new updated versions of several software programs! This week I purchased a new computer and will have to learn all the nuances of Windows 7 and Office 2010. Since I was still using the "old" Office programs, I am at the beginning of the learning curve with these new programs. Gone are the simple days of Menu Bars and Drop Down Menus! I'm also still learning photo editing techniques using Photoshop Elements.

3. I will continue to meet with our local library's bookclub, reading and discussing a new book each month. Many times the books we read are ones that I probably would not have picked out for myself, but I have enjoyed most of them and often learn something new. For example, last year we read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which is set on Guernsey Island during World War II. I do not remember ever hearing of this island before and actually did a little research about it after reading the book. It was the only British land occupied by Germany during the war.

4. In a couple of weeks, I will also begin attending a new Ladies Bible Study. This fall we will be using the book Lies Women Believe by Nancy DeMoss for our study and discussion.

5. And, of course, I will continue to learn new scrapbooking and cardmaking techniques! In fact, there are still several new techniques that were introduced in some of the online classes I've "completed" that I have not tried. I am hoping to go back through the material from several of the classes over the next few months and try some of the new techniques and layouts that I didn't have time for the first time through.

With all this new learning to keep me busy, I guess it's a good thing I'm not starting school after all!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Blogging for Scrapbookers & What You Enjoy About This Blog


A few months ago I signed up for a course at Shimelle.com called Blogging for Scrapbookers. I had just begun my blog, and someone on a scrapbooking forum mentioned the class. It was several months after the initial instructor-led class was over, however, the class was available on a self-paced basis. I signed up for the class and read through all the materials and have tried quite a few of the suggested ideas over the past couple of months.

I know that several of you are regular readers of my blog, and I want to thank you for allowing me to be a part of your blog reading! As I continue on this blogging journey, I would love to hear what you most enjoy about this blog. Would you take a moment and leave a comment, tell me how you found my blog and what you've enjoyed the most. Simply click on the comments (or post a comment) link at the end of this post.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Musings

Reading through Isaiah a month or so ago, these verses stood out to me.

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said,
Here am I; send me.
Isaiah 6:8

Many years ago, this verse was written in a small card I had been given as I began a new job. The implication was that I had stepped up to do the job as God had called me. Unfortunately, as I look back, I realize that I didn't always do the best job that I could and I certainly didn't work "as unto the Lord." I've often wondered if the faith that person placed in me was mis-placed. But I realize now that her faith did not lie in me, but rather in the Lord.

Now as I ponder what direction the Lord would have me take next in my life, I want to stand before Him and say "Here am I, send me." Where will He send me? Will I hear Him when he declares the way? Or will I, once again, blindly follow the way I want to go?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Twins' Visits PAS & Layouts

For the past 20 years, my nieces and nephews have been coming for visits - weekends, Spring Break, summertime, Christmas. I love these visits and over the past eight and half years that we've been married, Robbie and I have enjoyed visits from all of them! The yougest are our twin nieces (not counting the great-nephew) and they came for their first "official-stay-without-our-parents" visit in 2008. I've scrapbooked several pages from their trips over the past three years, however I still had quite a few photos in my storage binders from these visits since I tend to be snapping photos all the time they're here (and they are so totally photogenic). I decided to create a Photo Album Scrapbook (PAS) with some of the remaining photos.

I found these cute photo albums on clearance at Target and picked up several. I'm planning to do the same type of PAS for visits from our 12-year-old niece and visits from our great-nephew (although he hasn't yet started his visits alone).


I pulled all the pages of photos from the twins three trips from my storage binders and sorted through them. I chose 100 photos for this PAS, left a few photos from each year in the storage binder because I had specific layout ideas for them (3 for 2008, 2 for 2009, and 3 for 2010), triaged most of the remaining photos into my category drawers, and then square punched the last few.

I only added a few "scrappy" touches to the album. First, I added a label and tassel to the spine of the album. I am planning to have these small photo albums displayed in our guest room so that on their next visits the nieces and nephews can enjoy them easily. Second, I included three 4x6 journal cards and one 4x6 card with memorabilia (tickets stubs from our visit to the museum). Here's a look at one of the pages inside the album.


Since I've been spending time with these photos, I was inspired to create one of the remaining layouts that came to mind. I completed this one today based on a sketch from Lisa Day for the Big Idea Festival at BigPictureScrapbooking.com.


I am really loving the way this PAS came out and am looking forward to getting one put together for Pun'kin's visits from the past three years. Watch for upcoming posts showcasing new layouts and another PAS soon.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Square Punched Photos

The Library of Memories Community weekly challenge for July 22 was to "Spend 30 minutes square punching photos in your cold storage box. Create a card or a layout with a few of these freshly punched photos." I decided to go through my 2001/2002 cold storage photo box and square punch photos I didn't plan to scrap (or ones that I had already scrapped the duplicate of). I have three different square punches and I used whichever size looked best to punch out faces from the photos.

Prior to doing this, I only had about five square punched photos in my Square Punch Drawers. I now have quite a few photos and am looking forward to adding these to layouts, especially ones where I want to tell a story but don't have a photo that exactly matches the story.


I created a layout with 18 of the square punched photos - all of my niece when she was four-years-old. I love the way she would hold up four fingers to show how old she was right after her fourth birthday.


I'd already used many of these photos in a 2001 photo album and 2002 12x12 scrapbook, however I love the way this layout turned out with photos from the entire year. This layout will go in our Family & Friends LOM album. (This layout design was inspired by of a layout by Elizabeth Dillow for the Big Idea Festival at BigPictureScrapbooking.com.)

Do you have old or duplicate photos laying around that you could square punch? Can you think of a unique layout for them?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Holidays in Hand

Last November, Jessica Sprague offered a free online class called Holidays in Hand. I signed up for the class thinking since it was free and I would have forever access to the materials, I didn't necessarily have to work through it in 2009. But once the class materials came out, I knew I wanted to create the page-a-day album for the month of December 2009. The class itself ran from November 16-23 and was designed to help us prepare for the month-long project by printing prompt cards for each day and preparing materials for our album.

I printed the prompt cards, which were designed to "prompt" us what to write about, photograph, do and create each day. The "do" and "create" blanks were left empty and I filled them in with items to do or create for most days. I created a mini book with the prompt cards so I could keep it with me throughout the month.


Jessica provided digital templates for the scrapbook album pages, however at that time I had not created any digital pages and decided to create my album with paper and supplies that I had on hand. I decided on an 8 1/2 x 11 page that would fit in a white 3-ring binder.  First, I created a sketch of how I would lay out the pages.

Then I actually pre-scrapped all 32 pages - one for each day of December plus a title page.


I used cardstock that I had on hand (white, red, green, tan) and patterned paper that had Happy Holidays printed on it. I also used the digital paper from the Holidays in Hand kit - it is the striped paper which I printed out on white cardstock.

I actually completed the first 9 pages of the album back in December. Then the whole project kinda got pushed to my "to-do-later" pile . . . and a few weeks ago I decided it was time to finish it! I had to complete the journaling blocks, print photos, crop the prompt cards, and add all those items plus sticker embellishments to the last 23 pages. This was a little more difficult than I had anticipated because as the month went on, I didn't always keep up with the prompt cards and didn't have photos for each day. However, I looked back through my calendar and added in what I could on the "do" and "create" blanks, checked off the items I had completed each day, and just left the others blank. I am happy to report that I completed the album earlier today and I'm very pleased with the result. Here are some of the pages:





And finally, I created a page to slip into the front pocket of the 3-ring binder. And now I have another completed theme album to add to my Library of Memories.


Now that this project is complete, I'm looking forward to planning for this year's holiday season. Yes, I know it's hard to think about Christmas when the temperatures are reaching 100 degrees each day (for some of us!). However, I'm a member of a Yahoo group (Christmas_Clutter_Countdown) that begins Christmas planning next week, focusing on decluttering and deep cleaning our homes as we prepare for a stress-free holiday season. I'm looking forward to getting started.