Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Church Doors Art Journal Page

I haven't done much art journaling this year, however, I recently tore a page from a magazine because I liked the photo of a church door. We've been searching for a new church home after a couple of years of being inconsistent with our church attendance, so this image really jumped out at me.

I cut out the image & created a page in one of my art journals. I stenciled in some random numbers, then added journaling around the edge of the door image.

This was a FUN, quick page!

Have you done any art journaling lately?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sunday Musings - Faith Can Move Mountains

Faith - a simple, five-letter word that holds so much meaning and potential in our lives. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." So, we must have hope and we must believe in things we cannot see to realize the full potential our faith!

Faith has so much power that in Matthew 17:20 Jesus says, "for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you."

It sounds so simple, doesn't it? Just hope and believe the Lord for things that can't be seen. Just a little bit of faith, the size of a mustard seed will be enough to move mountains. And, yet, it's almost incomprehensible for us to imagine telling a mountain to move from one place to another.

However, we face many "mountains" in our lives, and it's faith that will help us move them! Are you facing any seemingly insurmountable mountains? Have faith - hope in the Lord and believe in the answer you cannot yet see - and watch as that mountain moves out of your way!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Monday's Mail Memo - Travel Planning

Airline tickets have been purchased, hotels have been books, and these exciting pocket guides showed up in the mail today!

So excited to be planning an upcoming vacation! Please share your tips and not-to-be missed attractions, eateries, and/or activities for these three locations in the comments.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sunday Musings - Step Boldly Into God's Plan

In Joshua, chapter 3, we read about the Israelites crossing over the Jordan river. It was during the time of harvest, and the river was overflowing its banks. Yet, they walked across on dry land!

God outlined the plan to Joshua, which began with Joshua commanding the priests who carried the ark of the covenant saying, "When you have come to the edge of the water of the Jordan, you shall stand in the Jordan." Then "the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap." And, finally, all the people would cross over the Jordan on dry ground.

It's important to note here that the waters would not be cut off (or stop flowing or be backed up in a heap) until after the priests stood in the Jordan! The priests had to walk boldly into the water FIRST - then, and only then, would God stop the waters.

Because the priests followed Joshua's instructions from the Lord, they witnessed a mighty miracle. I wonder what would have happened if they had not stepped into the water? I know God would have still fulfilled His promise to the Israelites. They would have still been given the promised land, yet it might have been that they had to wander in the desert a little longer.

This is a lesson that we can each apply. When God instructs us to move forward, do we step out boldly? Or do we wait for God to perform a miracle first? Would we wait for the waters to stop flowing before we stepped into a river at flood stage? Or would we boldly put our feet in the water, confident that He would bring us to the other side?

Oh, Lord, help me to step boldly in the direction You have for my life, that I may see Your miracles manifested!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Happy World Card Making Day!

I haven't had time to make any cards to celebrate World Card Making Day today, however I have a few cards I created earlier this year to share for INSPIRATION. These first two were created using paper scraps, washi tape, and a stamped sentiment.

These next cards were created during a class on using watercolors for card making. The cat and dogs were all stamped images that I painted with distress inks or watercolors (and sometimes finished with colored pencils).

I used Authentique papers and a sentiment cut from the barcode strip of one of the papers for this final card.

Did you make any cards to celebrate World Card Making Day?

Friday, October 6, 2017

Fiction Book Reviews

The library book club started up again last month, and we began with an interesting discussion of A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. In chapter one of this story about Ove, a man in Sweden living in a row house, Ove is at a computer store buying an ipad. The next chapter goes back three weeks earlier and continues chronologically as it tells the story of how he tries to kill himself multiple times. However, something always keeps him from "success" - new neighbors driving into his mailbox, old neighbors stopping by with problems, a frayed rope, etc. Ove is a very unique character, and everything in his life is black and white, it's either right or wrong, there are no gray areas according to his philosophy.

It turns out that Ove's wife had passed away several months before and he had recently been "retired" from the company he'd worked at since he was a teenager. Every day he goes to visit his wife's grave, bringing her flowers and discussing recent events. This was a fairly good story, however it was a very (very!) slow read. Since I already knew that his suicide attempts were not successful (because of chapter one), I was simply curious whether he was buying the computer for himself or the young family that recently moved to the neighborhood. There are several interesting characters in the book, but it honestly didn't hold my attention. The story has been made into a movie, which several ladies in the book club said they enjoyed.

This month we read The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis. Like many recent novels, this one is set in two different time periods - 1952 and 2016; however, both stories take place in New York City and focus on life in the Barbizon Hotel. The older story centers around Darby, a recent arrival to the hotel, and the friendship she enjoys with the hotel maid, Esme. While Darby tries to succeed at secretarial school and avoid the mean antics of the Ford models living at the hotel, Esme encourages her to get out and enjoy the jazz scene and even perform as a backup singer at one point. The modern story centers around Rose, a journalist researching and writing a story about the accident that occurred at the hotel in 1952 when one of the women fell to her death from the rooftop balcony.

This was an easy-to-read story. I found it enjoyable, however, most of us at the book club agreed that these were not characters that we became really invested in because they each seem so helpless in her own way and don't seem to grow or mature as the story goes forward. We also agreed that the ending was satisfactory, but it was all wrapped up so quickly and in a rather unbelievable way.

I especially enjoyed learning about The Barbizon Hotel as the author did a lot of research about life at the hotel (before it was turned into the very expensive condos housed there today). Here's a link to a great article about the hotel and some of its more famous occupants through the years. It's interesting to note that there are still ten women living in rent-controlled apartments on one of the floors. These women have lived there many years, and the author interviewed them as part of her research for the book. (One of the great things about our book club leader is that she always finds author interviews and other interesting articles like this one that relate to the books we're reading!) Here's a link to one of the author interviews.

I actually first heard about Ready Player One at one of the Stay Calm & Read On events at the library last year. This story is set in the year 2044, a time when everyone spends most of their waking hours in a virtual reality game because the real world is an ugly place. The main character is Wade Watts, a teenager living with his aunt in the "stacks" - scaffolding like contraptions that allow trailers and campers to be stored (and lived in) on top of each other.

When the creator of this all-consuming virtual reality game dies, his will specifies that the person who wins the final game (full of puzzles with allusions to the 1980s pop culture the creator was obsessed with) would inherit massive power and fortune and the rights to the game. Wade is the first one to stumble onto the first clue, and then the competition heats up as others in the virtual world begin to close in on the ultimate prize. I did find it extremely disturbing that the virtual world was more important to many of the characters than their lives in the real world.

This was a very interesting read with a nice conclusion. I enjoyed the pop culture references, although there were many that were lost on me as I wasn't into many video games during that time and never owned one of the (then) new home game systems. I put this book in Robbie's to-read pile, so we'll be all ready for the movie when it premiers next spring.

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

Thursday, October 5, 2017

October 5 in 5 - It's Fall Y'all

Here in Texas, fall is often referred to as second summer. The weather's really not all that much different - the sun's still shining most days, the temperatures are in the 80s and 90s, grass is still green, and most of the trees are holding tight to their leaves.

All except one of the trees in our front yard. I'm not sure exactly what kind of tree it is, but there are several in the neighborhood, and they are always the first to lose their leaves! 

These leaves don't even have the decency to provide beautiful colors before turning brown seemingly overnight.

They just drop from the tree and collect in little piles throughout the yard, around the porch, and ...

... along the sidewalk.

I snapped these photos this morning in order to capture this "fall activity" before the lawn service arrives later today. The leaves will be blown out of the beds and off the sidewalk and mulched into the grass, erasing all signs that fall has arrived.

Joining in with this month's 5 in 5 photography meme hosted by Sandi. What have you taken 5 minutes to snap photos of lately?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Symmetry & Repetition

Although I did not complete Cathy Zielske's Design Your Life 2.0 workshop this summer, I did create a few layouts using some of the digital templates provided with the class (along with some digital papers and embellishments from my stash).

This asymmetrical layout has the same design as the First Time Ice Skating layout I shared previously. I love how the digital format allowed me to use a photo for the background. And, of course, the memories from our glamping adventure make me smile!

For the symmetrical layout, I chose to highlight then and now photos from our wedding day and our 15th anniversary. The original template had the photos and journaling switched, however I wanted us to be looking into the layout and felt pretty accomplished that I got it all turned around correctly.

Repetition is what makes this next layout stand out - all those layered hearts draw the eye to the photos from National Scrapbook Day earlier this year. I added an extra border around this layout as well as the border strip at the bottom. Finally, I'm learning how to modify templates and add a little of my own touches.

Did you participate in DYL 2.0? Have you created any digital layouts lately?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Sometimes You Just Have To Stop and Organize the Pantry

Do you ever have those days when you feel overwhelmed with the amount of items on your to-do list and you have no idea where to start? Do you feel like your mind is going to explode with all the random thoughts and ideas bumbling around in there?

When this happens to me, sometimes I just need to stop trying to figure it all out. I can best do this by choosing an organizing project to work on, something that I can start and finish in a relatively short time period. While I'm working on this project, my mind relaxes and I'm able to return to that same to-do list with a new perspective.

After compiling a complete to-do and goals list (covering several pages!) for the remainder of the year recently, the overwhelm set in. I knew that in reality there was plenty of time to prioritize and work through the list over the remainder of the year, so I decided to stop thinking about it and organize our pantry, which had become cluttered and disordered. It wasn't necessarily terrible, it had just gotten jumbled . . . and (I discovered) we had purchased a few items more than once!

I basically divided this project into three parts. Starting with the section on the left, I cleared/straightened/ reorganized each shelf top to bottom. (In the photos below, check out the BEFORE on the left, AFTER on the right.)

Next I did the same thing with the right section, removing items from each shelf, wiping the shelf clean, then putting everything in place again, organizing along the way. I'm happy to report that there were only a handful of expired or stale items that had to be thrown out.

By re-arranging everything neatly, I was also able to get the bread basket off the counter top and back in the pantry. I was also able to make note of items we typically stock up on before the holidays!

My favorite part of this pantry is the spice rack hanging on the back of the door. It's an Elfa unit that we purchased years ago. I keep the spices in alphabetical order, with the exception of a few larger items that I have on the middle or bottom racks.

Now, I realize that you may not see much difference in the before and after photos, however this project allowed me to take one space that was out of order in my home and get it organized while my mind was able to begin to organize the massive to-dos I want to accomplish in the coming months.

I also realize that organizing the pantry (or some other area) might not be enjoyable or relaxing for you. However, there's probably some task or activity that would allow your mind to rest and release the feeling of overwhelm - maybe it's taking a 15 minute walk or creating a greeting card or baking a cake. Do you know what helps you relax in order to process and overcome overwhelm? Please share in the comments.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Monday's Mail Memo - Happy Mail

I love to discover Happy Mail in the midst of the bills and advertisements that crowd the mailbox most days!

The most exciting piece of mail I've received recently came from Jann Gray of Illuminated Journaling. Jann's brand new book, Stones of Remembrance, is all about leaving a legacy through Bible journaling. Jann shares a wonderful plan along with sample pages and prompts that will have you diving into the Word and using your creativity to record and share your prayers, stories and faith walk.

I was so blessed when Jann asked me to read the book and offer feedback on the content while it was being written! So, yes, that is my name you see there in the acknowledgements! It was a wonderful experience, and I'm looking forward to reading it again (and seeing which of my suggestions she implemented!).

This cute card and all these bits and pieces perfect for Bible journaling came from my friend Jana of Sweet to the Soul. It always makes me smile to see an envelope with her creative lettering!

She even labels the envelopes "Happy Mail" when she sends out the latest Bible study and journaling kit! Thanks Jana!!

I was thrilled to find this packet of brand new Bella Blvd products waiting for me one day.

Of course, the latest edition of Uppercase magazine always makes me smile - it's so colorful and full of INSPIRATION!

And, finally, I thoroughly enjoy wearing the DOER t-shirts I ordered from Make Me Available, so I decided to treat myself to a sweatshirt . . . and a new bag, too!

Have you found any Happy Mail nestled among the bills and advertisements in your mailbox lately?

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Sunday Musings - She Walks Uprightly

Psalm 15 describes the character of those who may dwell with the Lord. The characteristics begin with one who "walks uprightly" and "works righteousness," someone who acts according to God's laws, demonstrating ethical standards.

To highlight this message in my journaling Bible, I traced an illustration from a recent issue of Life: Beautiful magazine. This image depicts a woman walking uprightly physically, a great way to emphasize the lessons of walking uprightly spiritually as described in this Psalm.

For the one sentence journaling, I chose to use "she" as the pronoun because it helps to personalize the scripture and its lesson.

Walking uprightly physically has several advantages, including good posture, renewed confidence, and easier breathing. For the person who walks uprightly spiritually, this Psalm ends with a promise that whoever does these things "shall never be moved."

Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?
He who walks uprightly,
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart;
He who does not backbite with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbor,
Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend;
In whose eyes a vile person is despised,
But he honors those who fear the Lord;
He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
He who does not put out his money at usury,
Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.
 ~Psalm 15

Saturday, September 30, 2017

August & September Goings On Around Here

The last couple of months have been filled with lots of ACTIVE pursuits! Here's a little peek at what's been going on since my last update in early August.

Teaching Illustrated Bible Journaling

The 1, 2 & 3 John Bible Journaling Workshops at Personal Scrapbook in late August were completely full! I enjoyed spending the day diving into the Word and seeing this beautiful group of ladies (ages 11 to 72!) use their creativity to illustrate the lessons from these three New Testament books.

In addition, I shared an introduction to Bible journaling for a small group hosted by my friend Darlene. I also created a four-part Bible journaling devotional series on The Proverbs 31 Woman incorporating audios, pdf tutorials, and a video tutorial. (I'll share more about this series and how you can access it in the coming weeks.)

FUN Stuff

One Saturday in August, despite the heat (95 degrees!), we drove up to Eisenhower State Park for a short hike and a couple of hours in the shade. Robbie read while I worked on an illustrated Bible journaling page.

On a recent Friday afternoon, I took myself ice skating (there's no rule that I have to wait for one of the nieces to visit to go to the rink, right?). Last weekend, I attended a retreat that I'll share more about in a future post. And we enjoyed catching a few new summer movies - Spider-Man:Homecoming and Despicable Me 3!

Not-so-FUN stuff

The devastation here in Texas from Hurricane (& Tropical Storm) Harvey was unbelievable. In the Dallas area, we were well north of it, however it was heartbreaking to watch this storm tear through our state. My sister and her family in southeast Texas were surrounded by water! Although they did not get water inside their home, they are still working to get things back to normal after water was several feet deep in their garage and the extra house on their property (where my niece Pun'kin was living at the time). We talked and texted all through the night the storm hit that area as they watched the water come within an inch of the threshold. Here's a photo looking out into their backyard the morning after Harvey.

Of course, there have been many other tragic events over the past few months - earthquakes in Mexico, Hurricane Irma in Florida, forest fires in several western states, etc! Many people will be dealing with the aftermath of these disasters for months (and possibly years) to come. We feel blessed to not have been directly affected . . .unless you count the self-imposed fuel shortage that stormed through our area when the news reported that several Gulf coast refineries were shut down temporarily due to Hurricane Harvey. Honestly, I laughed out loud when I walked to the bank to make a deposit and discovered a line of cars over a mile long waiting to get gas.

Home Improvement

Over the past few years, our front flowerbeds have gotten in pretty bad shape. After a few years of drought-like conditions and water restrictions, most of the bushes we planted shriveled up and died. I pulled most of those up in the spring, which left plenty of room for weeds to thrive! I had our lawn maintenance crew come out and clean everything out (except the crepe myrtles and rose bushes) and add a layer of mulch.

We also had the trees trimmed as several branches were touching the house and others were very low-hanging. It's hard to tell in the before and after photos (below), but this work made a huge difference. It's so nice to have this work done. The beds will be easy to maintain through the winter and ready for some new plantings in the spring!

It's hard to believe tomorrow begins the last quarter of 2017! My plans include: (1) blogging every day in October, (2) completing some additional home improvement projects, (3) traveling, (4) celebrating the holidays, and (5) checking several things off my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list. Any guesses as to which items I'll be checking off? Here's a photo hint for one of them!

What are your plans for the last quarter of the year?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Welcome to Daily Life - Bits & Pieces

As promised in yesterday's post, today I'm sharing an introductory post with information to welcome new visitors to Daily Life - Bits & Pieces. If you've been around a while and are scrolling this in your reader or email, I hope you'll pop over to the blog and see how this information has been added to the sidebar. I've updated my photo on the sidebar and will be making a few additional changes over the next several days to help with navigation and readability.

Here's my introduction! Please let me know what you think in the comments. Is there anything I missed?

Hi - I'm Melissa Gross, a dynamic and interactive teacher and speaker called to lead and encourage Christian women in their walk with the Lord. I live and craft and serve the Lord in the great state of Texas with my best friend/husband Robbie.

Welcome to my website, where I share our everyday adventures, Bible Journaling pages, scrapbook layouts, handmade cards, and other crafty projects. Here you can learn more About Me, find a list of my Upcoming Workshops & Events, connect with me on YouTube and Pinterest, and check out my progress on the 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 goals I set a few years ago. I also post photos, ramble about books I'm reading, stuff I'm organizing, our travels, and other FUN bits & pieces of our wonderful life.

I offer classes, workshops and retreats incorporating Bible study, devotionals, illustrated Bible journaling, paper crafting and mixed media projects that merge faith and art that bring God’s Word to life so that we can dive into the Word and draw closer to the Lord! If you're interested in scheduling an event, please Email Me for more information.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

I'm Still Here & Moving Forward

With the exception of that month I took off back in 2013, I've published less posts this month than at any other time during the 7 1/2 years I've been sharing bits & pieces of our daily life here on my blog. And, quite honestly, I've missed it!

Over the past couple of years, I have become more and more involved and ACTIVE in teaching illustrated Bible journaling workshops and mini-retreats. I absolutely love this new hobby and the fact that I have been able to turn my teaching into a business venture that brings so much joy and meaning to my life. This year I've worked through a few courses with business coaches and have learned a great deal about identifying my ideal client, creating a sales funnel, and building a brand.

However, as I've contemplated the many suggestions regarding websites in these classes, I've realized that what I love most about this blog and my little space here on the Internet is that it is a place where I can freely share stories, INSPIRATION, ideas, and opinions, along with my creativity, illustrated Bible journaling, scrapbooking, card-making, mixed media projects, and other crafty endeavors. I enjoy sharing book reviews, photos, our travels, the goals I've set (and achieved), and the results of my latest organizing project. This is a FUN place where I can just be myself as I share whatever and whenever I want. And I've decided to keep it that way!

If you've been reading along for a while, you will have noticed more posts about my upcoming events. These types of posts will still appear as I schedule new workshops, retreats, and events, along with posts sharing photos and the creativity of the participants in these classes. Rather than create a separate space for the posts about this one part of my life, I'll be incorporating them in amidst the creativity and other ramblings you've come to expect. In fact, tomorrow I'll be sharing an introductory post that can be pinned to the top of this site to welcome new visitors and let them know what to expect here.

I'm looking forward to many more years of sharing here at Daily Life - Bits & Pieces, just being me, striving to enjoy each day and to serve the Lord in my everyday life! Watch this space over the next few days to learn what I've been up to these past several weeks, what we'll be doing the last three months of the year, and my plans to blog every day in October.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Desires of My Heart

The first time a pastor quoted Psalm 37:4 to me, my thoughts went something like this . . . "right, it's easy for you to quote that scripture because everything's ok in your life, you don't have to worry about things like I do right now, you haven't been divorced, you're not living all alone wondering how you reached this place, you're not fighting depression and feeling insecure, you haven't lost your friends and don't have your church family judging your actions, you have no idea what you're talking about!"

Of course, I'd been taught to respect my elders and always use my Southern manners, so my actual spoken response was more like this . . . "Yes, ma'am. Thank you for sharing that. I'll just keep praying and believing God for all things."

I made a mental note that if somehow I ever found myself in a comfortable place again, where life was going along smoothly and my needs were met and I didn't have to worry so much, that I would never quote that scripture to anyone in a place of desperation seeking comfort and advice! Of course, I've shared this story many times in the ensuing 17 years, along with the story of how God never failed me, never left me, and did in fact give me the desires of my heart.

You see, the deepest desires of my heart were to find security, to have connection, and to be loved. I had been seeking those things from relationships with others, from money, from activities, and from material possessions. In reality, only the Lord could fill those needs. Once I surrendered to Him and quit trying to control everything on my own, I found security and connection in His unfathomable love for me. Then, He blessed me beyond my wildest imagination!

I recently used a Clear Scraps Acrylic & Chipboard round frame to create a mixed media home decor piece using a variety of patterned papers and embellishments to highlight this scripture. I'm excited to hang this piece in my craft room where it will remind me that the Word of God never fails and life truly is delightful when we live surrendered to Him. He alone can fill the deepest desires of our hearts!

 (If you'd like to create your own Delightful Scripture Frame, I created kits
that are being sold exclusively by Personal Scrapbook in Allen, Texas.)

Have you ever silently resented someone who quoted scripture to you during a difficult time? Please share what you learned from that experience in the comments.