A Book A Month // January 2019

In the past I’ve fallen into the trap of setting goals that are too broad. Like I’ll do this more or I’ll do that less. They were ideas I was too scared to commit to, because I was too scared to fail them. I didn’t put specific boundaries on them so I couldn’t technically “fail”. One of these broad brush strokes was, I’m going to read more. I was constantly disappointing myself with the result even though I had no measure to test myself by.

This year I decided to get specific. With a clear road map written on paper, I’m more driven to work on meeting my goal. I found the trick to this is to keep it simple & attainable. I’ve also let myself know; I might fail. If I do, I can still measure my progress (even if it wasn’t as much as I hoped for) & I’ll know exactly where I need to do better, plus I’ll have read more books than none at all which is really a success!

2019 goal:  Read at least one book per month.

For January I decided to kick start the habit by finishing the three books on my nightstand that I had dipped into but not completed. Some of them I just restarted entirely to get the full context. So here are my book suggestions for January!

#1 Soul Keeping – John Ortberg

Soul Keeping was so refreshing! It studies caring for your soul by spending time with God, being refreshed by His Word, & how it will produce fruit in your ministry & community. There is so much depth to this book I didn’t expect and it’s all grounded on scripture. I love that it gives some practical points but this is NOT a simple self-care book. It’s goal is to help you honor God with the soul He created in you.

#2 The Meaning of Marriage – Timothy & Kathy Keller

I started this book and read bits & pieces throughout our engagement & first few months of marriage so for January I restarted & plowed all the way through. This book is packed with so much truth & application that I recommend it not only to married & engaged couples, but to singles & dating couples as well.

If you have any desire to get married reading this will help you become the person that the person you’re looking for is looking is looking for. (Go ahead, re-read it until it makes sense! I might expand on this in a future post, but I highly encourage friends not to look for the perfect person, but work on becoming the person your future spouse is looking for)

If you feel that your view of marriage has become a negative one, whether by how you were raised or the examples you saw in your life, it will help lift the fog you might see over marriage

If you’re already married; it’s NOT too late to read! This book has helped me deeper understand my connection to, communication with, & care for my husband. I’m considering setting a new goal of re-reading this book each year.

Do you ever re-read books to dig deeper or refresh your memory?

#3 Five Points Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace – John Piper

This is my home-stretch for January. I love John Piper’s poetic tone that’s as filled with truth as it is beauty. I admire & agree with his doctrine & I’m being challenged to put my beliefs into words & check them all according to scripture. I’m still reading this book so keep me accountable to finishing it this month!

What are you reading this month? Do you have a reading schedule or goal for the year? Let me know in the comments or share this post on your social media & answer in the caption! Be sure to tag me & share your book suggestions!

1.22.2019

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From Ms. to Mrs. // 2018

“Oh you got married?! Congratulations MRS!

Hello MRS. Curran!

How’s married life MRS?!”

Yes! I got married! Yes I am now Mrs. Curran!  This was absolutely the highlight of my 2018, but it was not just a single event or instant change. This transformation has been such a rich journey!

As we wrap up this year & begin to set goals & dream for 2019, I’ve been looking back on what I learned this year and these are just a few things that have stood out and helped me grow.

So this is my initial journal entry of what’s it’s like to go from Ms. to Mrs. and what it’s taught me thus far.

On April 7th, 2018, I married Mr. Michael Curran; my best friend, my greatest blessing, and especially lately, my greatest comforter. He’s also the FIRST to laugh at me when I mispronounce words or get a joke punchline wrong, but he’s the first to pick me up when I’m down, to wipe my tears away, and encourage me in things I can’t see in myself.

Being married has taught me some priceless lessons about Michael, about myself, and about how we function in our life together. There’s a lot I still have to learn and experience, but I’m taking these nuggets with me as we continue our adventure.

Lesson #1 // My identity has changed.

Not only have I gone from Ms. to Mrs. but from Ms. Alibrandi George to Mrs. Alibrandi Curran. I have a new drivers license to prove it!  I am learning to embrace the title of Wife and know that my goals & dreams are now blended with supporting my husband’s.

This new filter has changed my intentions & actions in everything, from job decisions, to ministry decisions, to scheduling decisions, all the way down to my  choice of words.  My words usually affect my husbands’ feelings directly or his reputation indirectly, & with the identity of wife I have to consider how my words, whether to him or about him, support & build him up.

Lesson #2 // Patience is key, especially with myself

When I say patience is key, I mean it pretty literally. Patience is like a key that we carry and can choose to utilize or ignore & waste time and energy pounding on doors and never actually getting anywhere.

I initially set all the bars way too high for myself. The meal prepping bar, the homemaking bar, the working two jobs while being the homemaker bar, & the do over the top thoughtful things to serve and surprise my husband bar. By my own expectations, I have failed every single one. I expected too much of myself and I haven’t had the ability to do all the things I wanted and have failed some of the ones I’ve tried.

But, when pouring out all this failure (mingled with some tears) to Michael, (enter my comforting husband yet again) he didn’t see failure because he didn’t see the bars. He simply saw his wife doing her best and absolutely loved & appreciated it. So when it comes to those imaginary bars of unrealistic expectations, confront them. Do your best, take the time to learn what your husband needs or wants first, and then you’ll still mess up.

When you find that your spouse just wants to have fun & enjoy the adventure of life with you, the bars disappear and you have a lot more fun laughing at your mistakes, learning from them, and finding new ways to embrace your new identity.

It also takes patience to merge two lifestyles.  Your practical habits will collide; no doubt about it.  In marriage, the habits themselves are truly small and typically unimportant.  It’s the communication concerning them that will turn into nagging, frustration, bitterness, or neglect when not handled well.  I’ve found it’s important for me to communicate in all gentleness and love why some habits bother me so I don’t harbor any afore mentioned negativity and so I can receive communication about habits I should strive to change.

Lesson #3 // I’m the most selfish person I know.

When you’re a ‘Ms.’ (or a single Mr. for that matter, just writing my perspective) your daily, practical focuses really do revolve around you.

When you become a ‘Mrs.’ those focuses and goals change even if you haven’t caught on to them yet.  Your ‘I’ is now ‘We’ and that sounds easy enough when it’s, ‘What do we want to cook tonight and what movie do we want to see?’ but it’s the topics that are a lot more subtle where this gets deeper.

Having to stop and merge some very different expectations & desires has made me realize just how much my flesh really cares about it’s own desires and just how sacrificial love needs to be.  I may not always want to do whatever the task or event at hand is, I may not even feel that I need to, but if it’s something that my husband wants, I have to consider how we are going to proceed, not just how I am.

Lesson #4 // I’m not perfect, I need to be constantly humbled

I recently heard this lesson worded best this way,

“marriage is the nicest way to confront your own inadequacies on a daily basis”

Y’all this is so true.

Beyond false expectations or unrealistic goals, there are some ways we just downright fail. I have had to acknowledge that I need help. I need to help my husband however I can, but I have to accept his help too. He has the best role in my life to say, “I know you can, but I’m here so you don’t have to.”

I had lots of help & preparation going into marriage, from family, mentors, friends, scripture, books, etc. but there are things that you have to experience to truly understand and failures only a spouse could point out for you to truly accept & that has been so enlightening for me.  Marriage is humbling and this has been extremely fruitful for me.

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In addition to sharing these more difficult lessons I’ve learned, I must close by sharing that marrying my best friend is the best decision I’ve ever made aside from accepting God as my Lord & Savior.  Amidst all challenges, marriage has been a blast!  Living, traveling, & learning with my husband brings me joy every single day!

I’m only 8 months in, but the amount that I’ve learned in this time has only made me that much more excited for all the lessons and growth to come!  With all the challenges, joys, & growth we’ve seen in 2018, I know God will do even more marvelous things in 2019 and we are striving to pursue Him together.

~ Mrs. Curran
12.31.2018

Falling In Love Again // PASSION 2018 Photo Journal

It’s becoming one of my favorite traditions.  To pack up the thickest clothes I own, borrow the ones I don’t own because I’m a Floridian, pack them as lightly as possible and road trip with my bunch of crazies, lots of coffee, & little sleep.  It’s always astounding how much love, disagreement, and worship we can cram into four days.

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This year finally felt like we got a groove.  Things ran smoothly and the challenges that remained were mostly internal.  I found even the painful things were given the attention they needed to provide growth & clarity so that the rest was truly fun.  We acted like a team, or better yet, a family, helping each other fight those battles and praying over each other fervently.

This trip reminded me that my biggest issue, the thing that gets in my way, and the thing that I find conflict with the most, is me.

I am my own biggest obstacle between me and God.

Even as I write this I’m condemned by “I don’t have the words”, “I can’t figure out where to take this”,  & “I can’t write what I want to” when all along I know it’s God’s words I want written through me.

In everything I feel opposition, the common factor is me.  Friends & family are my support & protection far more than they are my conflict.  I am my conflict.

  Every commitment I make, every time I fail, every emotion that is too overwhelming to bear, comes back to the fact that I am unable, on my own strength, to do anything well.  I’m learning all over to rely on God, but there was another realization before this one, that made admitting my own failure significantly easier.

Jesus loves me.  Yes this I know.  But have I let the Bible tell me so?  Have I allowed Him to wrap His arms around me?  Have I embraced Him as a being that cares for me and love Him back?  Have I declared in my actions that I belong to Him and let Him take my weakness & make it strong?

God is not something I can set aside and expect to pick up where I left off.  Our relationship needs work just like any other face-to-face relationship does, both ways.  I need to be in the Word.  I need to be praying.  I need to vocalize my love for my Lord.

His name alone is blessed!  (Psalm 113:2)  Who am I to go to Him with constant requests without even acknowledging how deeply He loves me and reciprocating that to Him?

I have fallen in love with my Lord, again.  And I’m astounded by how much He loves me!  Beyond what He did for my salvation and my 21 years of life on earth, last week alone He used 20 hours & 1,200 miles roundtrip on the road to listen to His praise, 25 people that I treasure to wipe my tears, and 6 sessions of speakers screaming His word, all to simply tell me,

“I love you.”

I am overwhelmed by God’s love; unending, unrelenting, unconditional.  I am re-learning to delight in Him, to keep His commands, to see Him in the characteristics He has hidden in the people around me, and to speak to Him as to a friend.

John Piper said it best, “We were reconciled to God the person, not reconciled simply to get into Heaven or out of hell.  We take joy in God the person, not only things He does or makes for us; we use those things to get to know HIM.”

If you truly love God more than His gifts to you, you’ll be satisfied in His will no matter how it aligns or doesn’t align with yours.  “In every act & thing of creation the love of God is made manifest for us to taste Him & lead us further into Him so we can love Him directly.” – John Piper

0230faec-47d0-444f-b572-9a8dffb8823b“The 7th piece of armor in Ephesians 6: is prayer.  God’s house is a house of prayer, not great preaching, great singing, lights, fog or cafés.  We need to take up the weapon of prayer.” – Priscilla Shirer

“Salvation is not based on you, it’s placed on you.” – Levi Lusko

I’m getting out of the way.  I’m letting Jesus love me, speak through me, and work in me because I can’t do it myself.  I’m allowing myself to delight in Him!  & I’m letting love open the gates for His strength to flood me to accomplish His will because my strength is drained.  I am falling in love all over again, and I’m finally out of the way.

“But I will hope continually,
And will praise You yet more and more.
My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness
And Your salvation all the day,
For I do not know their limits.
I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD;
I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only.”
Psalm 71:14-16

1.9.2018

Our Love Story // The Proposal Photo Journal

Tuesday, August 15, 2017. On a pallet platform, under string lights and baby’s breath, and beside our family, I said yes to the proposal that outdid the proposals of my dreams.

I’m engaged to my best friend!

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With the ring on and wedding date in the works, I felt it was time to document the dating chapter of our love story and share it in more depth with those who have loved and supported us so dearly.

it all started with chipotle…
hahaha, you think I’m kidding.

God’s absolutely divine plan for Michael & I to meet, build a relationship, and love each other actually started long before either of us were born, and I’m so calmed to know God is 100% in control and I am not, because I nearly let the good one get away.

Michael and I both grew up homeschooled in South Florida, attended a homeschool P.E group called S.A.I.N.T.S and had many mutual friends but didn’t meet until Fall of 2015. Our paths came so close, but were not yet ready to cross.

The first time I met Michael he visited Wednesday evening service, invited by some of said mutual friends, and went to our traditional post-church gathering at Chick-fil-A.  I already knew the friend he came with so we caught up and he introduced me to Michael so over milkshakes and waffle fries I got to know him.

Nothing crossed my mind. Yet.

As we left Chick-fil-A he complimented the curls in my hair. Blurting it out like he had been wanting to say it all night. I was caught off guard and desperately shy, but thanked him, and now I realize the roots had started to take place.

Michael started coming to the Sunday evening bible study I’ve been a part of for the last few years. He joined the worship team, that I shortly thereafter took over, and we bonded over worship practices and talks about our mutual love for chipotle.  He had me at chipotle, or something romantic & cheesy like that…

We “talked”. We updated each other when chipotle coupons were released.  We rubbed in a photo when one got chipotle to make the other crave it.  And then we were talking about work and passions and school and emotions and worship songs and and sharing scriptures and testimonies and the weather and anything that could continue conversation.

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And then we went to chipotle.

I was planning a night of worship, so Michael offered to help choose songs and layout the set, at chipotle.  By now I knew what was coming and I was intrigued, so I agreed.  This was our first ice breaker, hours of talking and planning the worship set until the guacamole was gone.

If you’ve spent any time with us you’ve probably heard our joke, “Third time’s a charm.”  He asked me out that evening at chipotle, but we didn’t actually begin dating until roughly five months later.  We talked and prayed but twice we discussed the desire and both times there was just no peace about it.  After the second no I thought God was making himself clear, but I had the feeling I let the good one get away, and I never ‘got over him.’  But God’s plan prevailed, and after building a stronger friendship and enduring a lot more growth as individuals, the pieces finally settled into peace.

On September 19th, 2016, I became his girlfriend.

Since then we’ve enjoyed countless adventures and had our disagreements along the way.  We’ve learned to communicate, to pursue, study, & learn each other, to be patient and to reflect the other constantly back to Christ.

Then, on the pallet platform, under string lights and baby’s breath, and beside our family, I said yes to the proposal that outdid the proposals of my dreams.  He pulled off the greatest surprise, had our family there to celebrate, captured it in photos, and now we are embarking on the new adventure of marriage!

I’ve often heard it said that life is full of struggles, no matter how much you’ve struggled up to now, still more struggles are ahead, and one of the biggest decisions in this life is choosing who you are going to struggle with.  I have found the one my soul loves; the one who cherishes me, the one I want to struggle with & smile with.  This is the man I am going to spend my life with, do ministry with, and raise a family with.

This is the man I’m going to marry!
Michael, I love you!

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Thank you to our parents, siblings, & grandparents who not only helped pull off a beautiful proposal but have loved, supported, and encouraged us in our entire relationship and to our dear friend Pam for capturing these photos!

Colossians 3:14 (ESV)
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”

8.26.2017

Kindling the Soul // Peace River // Photo Journal

“to shine on the outside you have to BURN on the inside”
– Pastor Doug Sauder

Sunday in church that sentence rang in my ears while the muscles in my arms reminded me how sore they were & my heavy eye lids reminded me how tired I was.  But every bit of soreness made me smile.

Saturday’s canoe trip may have taken a toll on my achy muscles and energy levels, but it fueled the fire in my soul.  A little laughter, exploration, and a few deep breaths of fresh air with people you love can be absolutely medicinal.  & I absolutely love the people of Koinonia.

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From fear of spending too much time on myself and missing opportunities to fuel others, I find I don’t kindle my soul enough.  But I’m learning the balance.  I was so refreshed by this exhausting trip.  Crazy, I know!  I nearly didn’t go at all due to exhaustion and injury, but it was definitely the reset button I needed.

Peace river was my kindling.  To get through the last 46 days of school.  To keep serving with a smile.  To keep burning for Christ.

I can do nothing of my own strength.  I have to remind myself of this every. single. day.  The Lord is my sole source of strength, that’s my reset button.

Thank you to my dear friends of Koinonia for reminding me of that, and for supporting me by always pointing me back to Jesus.

I am constantly surrending control back to God, stubbornly trying to take over, and surrending to Him again.  He never fails to take my pieces & need for control and give me peace.

This peace kindled my soul.

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Proverbs 3:5  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (ESV)

Ephesians 6:10 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” (ESV)

Psalm 28:7  “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” (ESV)

41 people.  20 canoes.  15 miles of river.  5 hours of driving.  1 sweet memory.
3.25.2017

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Disney World // Photo Journal Slideshow

This semester I took my first photography class with Liberty University Online.  This was a dream!  Not only did it strengthen my basic knowledge of photography and heighten the quality of my photos, it gave me a deeper level of joy and gratitude in each photo I take.

My final assignment was to do a slideshow of original photos, and this past trip to Disney proved to be the perfect opportunity to collect some memories!  Photographs are my favorite medium, and I hope that through these photos (which were extremely difficult to narrow down) you get to experience not only the joy I get in taking these photos, but some Disney magic!

Thank you to Michael, John-Marc, Matt, Elliot, & Mitchel for their patience in enduring my endless shooting this weekend!

Liberty University
ARTS 361

the truth about writing

Lately I’ve been desperate to write.  To update this site.  To update you all on some adventurous part of my life.  But it’s been a struggle.  I long for some poetic and profound words to flow and inspire you.  Truth be told, I haven’t felt inspired.

I want to encourage you in some way.  Inspire you to be creative, bold, productive, or unique.  I want to bring you words of comfort.  But I haven’t known what to say.  Truth is, writing is not always writing.

Lately, the blank paper has begun to taunt me.  Without words to put down the white expanse stares me down, tantalizingly challenging me.  It tells me to try, but my words won’t be good enough.  It tells me to try, but I’ll be disappointed in myself.  It tells me to try, but no one will read it anyway.  
I tried switching from paper to digital hoping for a disconnect from the dreadful voice.  Digital seemed easier, faster, more productive by 21st century standards.  No longer having to run my fingers across paper’s sensitive pores, I could simply type away.  Without the emotional connection, detest at my own handwriting, or smudged ink slowing me down.   But the blank screen shouts the same threats.
Even faster than I can get the words down, I stretch my smallest and most fearful finger to the back space key, tapping it repeatedly like a fearful case of OCD locks the door 17 times for assured safety.
Just like that it’s all gone.
It was terrible anyway, so I try again.  This time it flows a little longer and I get an entire stream of thought out and breathe to re-read it.  It’s terrible.  It’s not complete.  What else could I say?  It’s too obvious.  A child could write this.  It’s not original, everyone knows this anyway.  I have better things to do with my time.  The timid tapping begins, each pixel is deleted and the door is locked for the 34th time.
I think back to the times I stared paper down before and conquered it.  How it magically turned into a tool, how I wrote the sweetest poem or blog post or letter that I’m still so proud of to this day.
But I’ll never live up to again.  
I don’t remember what inspired me.  How I got past the blank paper.  How I was content with the words.  These days I listen to and read other words so much that I’m filled up with ideas, stories, and truths.  I get inspired but find myself paraphrasing someone else’s idea and sadly realize I have nothing to add.  It’s not mine to share.  It’s cool, but it’s not me, it’s not new, and it’s not who I want to be.  So I sheepishly stretch out my pinky, tap, and the door is locked for the 51st time.
Truth is, writing is painful.  It’s pouring yourself out and exposing parts of yourself you may not want to.  It’s not all the artistic sweet posts, best selling books, or top charting song lyrics.  It’s exercise, stretching you constantly and making you sore.  It often takes turning off all the other voices and distractions, asking yourself a hard question, and following through with the answer.
Inspiration doesn’t always fall in your lap, you have to work for it.
If you want to be a writer, that’s the truth.  Anything fruitful is going to come after planting, watering, and struggling.  I want to be a writer.  So I’ll keep staring, battling, watering, growing, typing, erasing, re-typing, and struggling, until I get to the writing.  I’ll tame that timid finger, and leave the door unlocked.
2.21.2017