In Memory of My Pastor's Wife

It has been somewhat of an emotional week, which is why I did not get a post up last Tuesday. My pastor's wife had been diagnosed with terminal cancer a couple of years ago and two weeks ago, she was moved to hospice care. Then, last Tuesday, the day before her birthday, she graduated on to Heaven.

To say the words peace, heartbreak, joy, and grief in one sentence wouldn't come close to how my heart has felt the last few days.

I have peace because I know she is with our Savior.

My heart has broken because I know how much her family and our church family has loved her and will miss her dearly.

I have joy because how awesome is that to be in heaven celebrating with God and His angels, fully healed! What an amazing birthday gift!

And yet we grieve because we are no longer together here on this earth.

Her daughter said that all her mother wanted to do was be an encouragement to others and to live out life as God would want her to. And she did that. Her life was a testament to the goodness of the Lord. With all the hate and disgust out there, she was a beacon of light. She was one of the greatest examples of a true Christian. She was such a wonderful woman of God. She never complained and always had a smile on her face. She loved God with all of her heart and she loved people. I will miss that sweet lady dearly.

On Sunday, we held a memorial service for our dear pastor's wife and this was one of the songs that was sung. It is a beautiful song and I would encourage you all to listen to it! (I may have teared up listening to this song, especially towards the end, so if you're like me, you may want a tissue handy!)

Mrs. Laura, I am thankful for your influence in my life. See you again one day. Love you.

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My Cover to Cover Bible Journey

This post contains affiliate links.

One of my goals this year is to read the Bible from cover to cover. Despite having accepted Christ at a young age, I have actually never read the Bible all the way through.

When I lived at home, for family devotions, we read a chapter of the Bible a night, so technically, I've "heard" the Bible from cover to cover. But, let's be honest. I don't remember much from then other than the usual Bible stories. In youth group, we were given many devotions to work through. And I also went to a Christian school and college, where I took many, many Bible classes. Not going to lie, but by my early twenties, I was completely "Christian-ed" out. That's a completely terrible thing to say, but it's true. I figured "I know my Bible... I'm good. I don't need to really read it."

Wrong!

A few years ago, I started feeling like I was empty. I knew I needed to get back in the Word. And that's around the time I stumbled upon Daily Grace Co. I decided to buy one of the devotionals to work on. Around this time, I started finding other Christian bloggers and podcasters who were also sharing their testimonies. One podcaster/blogger in particular caught my attention-- Lindsay Dryer from the Let's Be Real podcast. I love following her on Instagram! She has such a love for God and His Word. Last year, she decided to read the Bible from cover to cover and completed it in 62 days. I was absolutely blown away! That is crazy!

That's when I realized that there is no magic formula for reading the Bible. I just had to do it. I started on January 1st. And I just started reading. I didn't have a set number of chapters. I just read until I felt like stopping. And that's how I'll be doing this journey. 

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I decided to just "free-read" because I don't want to get caught up in the numbers. I don't want to limit myself in how many chapters I should read because every day is different for me. Some days, I may only read one chapter, other days, I may read ten.

I am also not giving myself a goal date to finish. My goal is to simply FINISH.

When I told Dan about this, he looked at me a little funny and said, "This is great, but if you're not getting anything out of reading (because I was reading so freely), what's the point in reading the Bible cover to cover?" I totally get it! It almost sounds a little rogue just reading the Bible cover to cover with no plan to follow.

However, in this journey, there are a couple of things I'm looking out for.

This may sound nerdy, but I love ancestry and history. In this journey, I'm looking out for is the people, places, numbers, genealogies, etc. and I want to connect the dots. I find that sort of thing really interesting now (even though as a kid, I found it so boring and unnecessary!).

I'm also looking out for character traits of God. And where does God show up? I know all the Sunday School stories... like how God showed up when Elijah, the widow and her son were fed throughout the famine. Or when the Israelites escaped Pharoah and Egypt. But, are there more that I'm missing? I'm sure there are!

I have a few tools to help me with this journey and staying engaged:

1) The Bible
I got this Journal the Word Bible from Amazon. I love it! It has wide margins for notes and the paper isn't too thin, so I can write in it without worrying about ripping the pages. This particular Bible contains a ton of headers, so you have an idea of what you are reading. This is especially helpful with the genealogies. For example, Genesis 49, where Jacob is giving his prophecy and blessing, contains many headers separating each son and their particular message.

If you are looking for a Bible that isn't hardbound or maybe something that's more neutral looking, my dad owns this one and it's also really nice!

 
Bible
 

2) The Story of Redemption Series
There are a lot of things in the Bible that I just don't get. And frankly, there are some things that just go over my head. I am loving this four-part series which takes you through the Bible from Genesis to Revelations. After reading my Bible, I've gone back to The Story of Redemption Series to re-read and soak in what I've read. Sometimes, I'll even go back to my Bible and read a particular verse or chapter that stood out to me.

 
Story of Redemption
 

3) Highlighters
Along with reading my BIble cover to cover, I am also doing an in-depth study of Ecclesiastes. I've been using Ecclesiastes: Wisdom for Living Well study. (I'm two weeks away from finishing! YAY!) With this study, I have been using a highlighting method introduced at the beginning of the devotional. I figured, might as well keep it consistent. And now, I am highlighting as I go.

I highly recommend these highlighters from the Daily Grace Co.! They don't bleed at all! Also, I need red and grey, so I bought these highlighters from Amazon as well.

 
Highlighters and GMG
 

Along with reading my Bible cover to cover, I am also doing an in-depth study to dive a little deeper into each book of the Bible. Right now, I am finishing up Ecclesiastes: Wisdom for Living Well study. After, I'll be doing either Proverbs or Psalms from the Daily Grace Co. I haven't decided yet. :-)

I'm documenting my journey on Instagram-- so feel free to follow me there! (@blissfulsouthernlife) I'll also occasionally be checking in and letting you all know my progress here on the blog!

Let me encourage you-- if you've never read the Bible cover to cover, it's never too late to start! Just jump on in. And if you do, let me know! We can encourage each other to keep going.

Let me know in the comments-- are you studying the Bible this year? What are you studying? I hope you all are off to a great start this 2018! 

Why, Hello, 2018 + My Three Goals and Word of the Year

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While 2017 was a good year to us, I am ready for a new year and new chapter. I know every year is a new beginning, but I feel as though I've been given a fresh start in 2018. The last three years have been a roller coaster ride with many ups and downs, bumps, twists, turns, and just full of a lot of change.

When 2014 turned into 2015, I didn't make any real resolution or goal-- I just wanted to survive. My job had become very difficult and I dealt with a lot of drama. I just wanted to finish that job strong and not quit. Then, mid-January, we found out we were expecting our first baby. And that's when everything changed (for good, of course!).

Here is a pic of us from Christmas 2014-- at this time, we didn't realize it, but this was our last "just the two of us" Christmas!

 
Family 2014
 

When 2015 turned into 2016, Dan and I had just gone through a job crisis. He had been employed for five months and I just wasn't making enough at my current job. I'll be honest. While Elli brought so much joy into our lives, the last half of 2015 was stressful. We had to put our talk of "hey, just trust in God" into action. Thankfully, the Lord gave both of us jobs at the end of 2015 and we had the same start date in January. So, again, I didn't make any resolution or goal. I just wanted to figure out our new norm.

Here's a pic from 2015 with lil Elli. :)

 
Family 2015
 

As 2016 started wrapping up, we were surprised by the news that I was once again pregnant. I wasn't planning on having kids close together, but obviously, God had other plans. Once again, on top of caring for a toddler, balancing work and changes that happened there, and then being pregnant threw resolutions and goals out the window. In 2017, I just decided to go with the flow.

Here's a snapshot of our attempted baby announcement photoshoot. We didn't take a family picture this year because I was so sick and not feeling it. Also-- do you know how dang hard it is to get a one year old to pose the way you want her to? I think I took 60 pictures and 5 turned out decently. Haha!

 
Baby Makes 4 2016
 

And, I guess it's a good thing I made my mind up early in 2017, because, man! More changes! I mean, I thought I could handle it, but there were moments where I thought, "No more change, Lord! Can't I just master one thing at a time?" But, in 2017, God really stretched me and taught me how to be flexible. He showed me that His ways are greater. And I would still come out stronger at the end of the year.

 
Family 2017
 

As 2017 started to wrap up, I started to reflect on the last three years. It had been a whirlwind of events and to be honest, I was a little scared of going into 2018. What changes are going to happen this year? What crazy, wild thing is going to occur? In my panic, Proverbs 3:5-6 came to mind:

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

And that's when I came up with my word for 2018.

TRUST.

Trust the Lord. Lean on Him. Seek Him more.

Despite having grown up in church, going to a Christian school and college, I've never been great about reading the Bible. But I want to make my time with Him intentional. How can I learn how to trust the Lord if I don't delve into His promises?

That leads me to a few of my Goals for 2018...

The first goal is to read my Bible cover to cover.

Lindsay Dryer from the Let's Be Real podcast inspired me last year. She committed to reading her Bible from cover to cover and did it in-- wait for it-- 62 Days.

YUP. 62 DAYS.

I followed her instastories and goodness, Lindsay is SO uplifting and encouraging. Was it easy? No. Was it doable? ABSOLUTELY. Seriously, if she can read her Bible in 62 days, I can read it all in 365. I'll be chronicling my journey throughout my blog and also on Instagram. (@Blissfulsouthernlife)

My second goal is to blog once a week.

Once a week isn't a lot, but it's manageable. I love writing. But, putting out content that's worth writing and reading takes time and I get burned out trying to blog everyday. So, what you can expect is a post every Tuesday morning. A sub-goal for blogging includes being on Instagram and Facebook a little more consistently than I had been. I'll be using Facebook to share my blog posts and share interesting and encouraging posts from my other blogger friends, and Instagram is just going to be me unfiltered. You can follow me @blissfulsouthernlife!

My third goal is to form community.

As a kid, it was easy to say to the random girl on the playground, "Will you be my friend?" But now, as an adult, it's hard. And as an introvert, it's painfully hard. However, forming your community is so important. And biblical! Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says "Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up."

Y'all. We need each other. We need each other to build each other up in the faith. We need to help each other when we struggle. We need to be lifting each other up and not tearing each other down.

I've been there... feeling alone in a personal struggle isn't fun. It's hard to get out of that rut! And you know what? In the last year, I realized that there are others out there just like me-- struggling to find that community. I've noticed that there is a lot of emphasis on moms needing community, but honestly, all of us young Christian adults, whether married or single, need community too. Regardless where one is in life, we can learn from each other. We should stop dividing up the singles and marrieds, but rather be putting them together.

There it is, y'all-- my three main goals for 2018 and my word and verse for the year in a nutshell!

Anyone else do this sort of thing? Link it up in the comments! I love hearing from you!