Young Love // Building Our Life Together

“Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10a NKJV

The park in these photos is the same one we had our engagement photos taken at. It struck me during this photo shoot, about a year and a half since our engagement shoot, how much life has changed; how much closer we’ve become, & particularly how getting married at a young age has strengthened our foundation for the future.

There’s a lot we don’t know about how the world works because we’re so young, but we’re learning to navigate the challenges it throws our way while supporting (and thankfully being supported by) another soul. 

A personal example for us is buying a home.  Neither of us have done this before and we’re in the process of researching where to even begin.  We’re learning together what it looks like to qualify for a mortgage, budget for household utilities & insurance, and how to be prepared for things like the kitchen pipes bursting or a/c leaking.  Our ideas of a “dream home” are different too. Michael’s two story super-house and my sky lit open-floor-plan-kitchen farmhouse don’t mesh well. So if you opened Zillow on both of our phones, you’d see lots of different results and favorited homes.  But if you look on the laptop where we search ‘together’ you’d get a pretty literal picture of what compromise looks like. Because more than any picturesque dream home, we both want to share a home that’s ours.

Every decision, every word, every day affects another soul rather than just our own.  Sometimes this responsibility is like navigating rapids, but it’s made us better as two than we ever were as one. Rather than adding another piece to our previous lives, we’re building a new life together.  We’re creating our own traditions, experiencing things for the first time together, and facing challenges together.

I recently heard Jeremy Roloff say, (though he might have been quoting someone else) 

“Marriage wasn’t designed to make you happy, it was designed to make you holy.”

Happiness is a beautiful by-product of marriage, but the intent is actually to make us more like our Lord.  We cannot intentionally change or “fix” each other to fit our expectations or routines. Our relationship & pursuit of the Lord together makes us more humble,honest,& holy from the inside out every day. It makes us US, & it makes us more like Jesus.

My role as a wife is to labor alongside my husband, to know what his dreams are, to encourage Him to look to the Lord, and to pray for him.  It’s my privilege to lift him up when he falls to reach for his hand when I fall, and to build our life, not just my own. Getting married young means building habits together that a couple who gets married later on may have already formed and have to re-build as one.  We are discovering how the world works together, and figuring out what “us” looks like along the way.

We aren’t the youngest couple to ever get married, and we definitely aren’t experts. We do have first-hand experience with the challenges and joys of getting married young and love to share with others and answer questions! So that’s the format I’m taking with the rest of this post; answering your questions!

Q: How do you communicate when you’re both mad/upset at each other?

Our initial response to this question was a giggly “we don’t.” Or at least, we didn’t at first. We are both the type to shut down and bottle feelings into a sassy silent treatment. But after a few vice versa instances where we got a taste of our medicine, I think we got too desperate to know what the other was thinking and started to break this mold by asking questions and building the habit of listening until the other was completely finished sharing. (still working on that).

We both still need a little time to let off steam, but we’re learning that it’s not worth the time we lose enjoying each other to hold onto our anger. Breaking the silence usually starts with one of us coming to sit in the same room as the other and asking, “What are you feeling right now?” and working out what the root of the problem is that needs to be apologized for and addressed going forward.

We recently added a tool to our marriage arsenal called The Marriage Journal(not an affiliate link <— I simply love & want to share this resource) it has a set of questions we ask each other weekly. Knowing this time is set aside to build our communication skills and our understanding of the other person’s feelings & desires has helped us not to sweat the small stuff and have uninterrupted time to discuss the big stuff. Now this doesn’t mean we hold onto all our hurts & issues for the week, but it has helped us create a space to work through them.

Q: What to do in a time of waiting for the person you’ll marry?

I think it’s been said many times, but be content in the Lord.  He is going to provide the person, the job, the clarity and whatever else you feel like you’re waiting for, but He’s already provided Himself. If you’re not content with Him while you’re single, you won’t be content with Him in marriage.  Ultimately, you’ll never find contentment apart from Him. Take advantage of this time to build your relationship with Him! Get to know Him, learn to recognize His voice, and let Him teach you who He designed you to be. Also, let Him build your character; become the person you’re looking for, is looking for.

Study scripture, practice forgiveness, & build friendships that will support & challenge you. Pray for the person you’ll marry, before you know them, and not just for what you want them to be, but for whatever they’re learning or experiencing. Pray that they feel God’s love, that they’re content in Him, that they have strength for whatever trials they could be facing, etc. Pray for them as a person, not just to be your person.

Q: How to decide that you’re in the appropriate season of life to get married?

I love how this question was phrased because there really is no ‘right’ or ‘perfect’ time to get married!  God has a unique relationship designed for each couple so the appropriate season can look different for everyone

First off, prayer. If you know your Heavenly Father’s voice, you’ll know if He’s asking you to be still or move forward.  

Secondly, assuming you’re dating and deciding to get engaged, conversation.  A relationship headed toward marriage requires transparency. If you’re sharing honestly your past, dreams, and praying together you’ll know what conversations still need to be had or growth still needs to happen.  I don’t think there are any particular prerequisites for marriage like finishing college or traveling to x amount of countries, or having x amount of savings in the bank. Many of those things are ways to build your life together, but they can also be a measurement of your maturity. If you have some goals, set them, pursue them, and knock those out first!

I pray this testimony encourages you & brings you clarity.  Feel free to comment or e-mail your questions for future posts you’d like to read!

7.31.2019

If you love the photography work in this post check out my friends at https://www.littlepicsphoto.com/ to book your own session!

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One Year Later // Hand-in-Hand

It’s still sinking in that in April we passed the first year mark of our marriage! In some ways it feels as though the year flew by like the wind on these south Florida spring days. In other moments, it feels like together is so precisely how we were supposed to be that it’s difficult to believe we haven’t been in this rhythm of life even longer. It’s hard to remember a life without ‘us’.

Marriage is challenging. It has brought me face to face with my sin & reminded me that I married a sinner Every. Single. Day. But it’s also been such a blessing! It brings a new depth of joy to life & reminds me of how unconditionally my Heavenly Father loves me, despite my sin,
Every! Single! Day!

This year we have learned a LOT.

We experienced a lot of the typical newly-wed trials; navigating making two lives one, communication, skewed & unmet expectations, communication, budgeting together, & did I mention navigating communication?

But we also faced some unexpected challenges, from a job change, to a totaled car & an ER visit, to other medical challenges; we faced a lot of things that were external of our relationship, but required us to be united.

One of the strongest lessons I took away from our first year was to always face challenges hand-in-hand. If we are truly one as man & wife, this is where it gets practical; we have to act in unity.

This reminded me of one of my favorite sermons on marriage I head about four years ago. Pastor Fidel Gomez of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale taught, though he may have been quoting someone else,

“You don’t have to see eye-to-eye to walk hand-in-hand.”

This applies to most of our relationships in life, but I’ve found it to be critical to the intimacy & unity of marriage. No matter what we face, the trials of life or the challenges of making our two lives one; we can disagree, we can have different expectations, & we can have differing opinions, but we have to hold hands as we step.

For me as the wife, this can occasionally lead to the practice of submitting; trusting that my husband is seeking God & allowing him to lead & make a decision I may not entirely agree with. This doesn’t mean I walk behind Him when we disagree on something. It means that we still move forward, because I trust him enough to do so hand-in-hand.

Today I discovered a beautiful parallel in my devotional reading

“We are married to God… just as a wife will often take her husband’s name, God gives us the name of Jesus, which is ‘the name which is above every name’. (Phil. 2:9)”

“the only way to enjoy the privileges that come with Jesus’ name is to move beyond a casual relationship and become fully committed.”

James | Biblical Commentary – Joyce Meyer

Just as we brides take the name of our husband when we marry, as Christians we take on the name of Christ when we commit our hearts to Him, just as we vow our lives to our husbands on our wedding day. What a beautiful reminder of our identity change, not just in marriage, but in Christ as our Savior. Both examples of unity come with joyful privileges.

A lot of great things happened to us this year too! We traveled quite a bit, welcomed another niece (who is also our God-daughter!) into the world, bought a new-to-us car, adopted a kitten, & laughed more together than I ever remember laughing when we were apart.

It’s been a blessing of a year, & we’re ecstatic to be tackling year two, hand-in-hand!

4.30.2019

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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

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

PASSION 2017 // Photo Journal

“Adventure is out there”

This week was one of the most challenging and fruitful adventures I think I’ve ever ventured on.  21 people, traveling and living together, encountering God together, & battling spiritual warfare together.

Day 1: Three packed cars caravanned from Davie, Florida to Atlanta, Georgia.  We ran late due to traffic, arrived nearly freezing rain, and finally joined 55,000 other college students to worship in the Georgia Dome.  Later, we had our own devotional as a community group in the house we were renting.

Day 2: Four PASSION sessions in one day is like drinking from a fire hose.  Add in navigating an unfamiliar city and temperatures in the forties, and it’s exhausting.  But God’s Word never returns to Him void, and it overwhelmed my soul like a wildfire.

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Day 3:  We sat closer for the last session and looking up from the floor at the vast amount of people all singing to one Lord and Savior blew my mind!  Having another devotional time at the house refreshed me immensely.  Exploring downtown from a horse drawn carriage and breaking bread together (okay it was pizza) definitely revived my energy.

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Day 4: With a final devotional and meal in the house, we re-packed our caravan and headed home.  A long car ride provided a sweet time for me to rest my body & mind, and process all that God did and taught me this week.

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We faced massive spiritual warfare throughout these four days.  There were disagreements, delays, and unintentional emotional daggers.  But God, oh that is truly my favorite phrase.  But God, crushed us intentionally.  He allowed us to struggle in order to bear greater fruit and the fruit still blooming now that we are home is oh so sweet.

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He taught me to breathe.  He taught me to love at all times.  (Proverbs 17:17)  He taught me to forgive.  He brought me to know the grace and love He pours out on me and broke down the dam in my heart to let that continue flowing through me and into the hearts of others & to instead build a dam of humility, patience, and love blockading the rivers of strife that flow in every human heart.

“If anyone returns evil for good, evil will not depart from his house.  The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.”  Proverbs 17:13-14

Despite the challenges we faced I’m so glad we made this trip.  I’m glad we got to know each other more intimately.  Our pain will not be wasted.  I’m grateful we were seen worthy enough to embrace a challenge.  I learned so much about keeping my eyes on other people and caring for them more carefully and vocalizing how I love them.  I also learned to keep myself accountable to my own advice and practice everything I preach.

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“When you know Jesus, nothing in this world can satisfy.” – Beth Moore

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.  And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” Philippians 4:12-14

“Train for the trial you are not yet in.” – Levi Lusko

2017-01-05-05.22.44-1.jpg.jpg21 strangers did not embark on this trip, 21 family members united in Christ did.  We survived this trial because we have trained for it before we knew what it was and we have a common hope in Christ.  Nothing can shake that hope and like natural elements are crushed to produce the sweet fragrance of essential oils, we were crushed to produce a sweet fragrance to our Father.

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This week I learned to be passionate for others through my passion for Christ, to prefer God above all else, and choose to actively love His people every day as He loves me.  If you haven’t faced spiritual warfare yet, you will.  Please train for that trial!  Dig into the Word and be sure you are perceiving life through the lens of the gospel and your hope will endure.  I will not waste my pain because Christ did not waste His and I will love because He loves me.

My dear koinonia family, I love you all so deeply!  Thank you for suffering with me and loving me even during trials.

1.6.2017

Through the Eyes of a Child // Disney Photo Journal

It had been awhile since I’ve been to a Disney theme park.  I must say I remember it being fun & magical, but I had forgotten some of the precious details.

This weekend I returned to the most magical place on earth with three of the most magical kids on earth and I found myself not only enjoying the parks with them, but learning so much from them!

Through Alex’s thrill of competition on rides like Toy Story & Test Track, Caroline’s enthusiasm for meeting princesses & singing along to frozen songs, and Theodore’s pure affection & infectious smile, I got to see Disney once again through the innocent, awe-struck eyes of a child.

In these eyes there are no other worries or distractions.  Although there can sometimes be less patience and perspective causing some emotional moments… When a child’s joy is perfectly fixated on one thing, moment, or thrill, it is uncontainable and incomparable.  Through these little eyes I saw more magic than I thought possible.

I found that once I grasped this magical joy it overflowed from Disney to the drowsy ride home and into the little thrills in life at home.  No lines, no fastpass, no magicband required. All I needed was the eyes of a child.

// For Alex, Caroline, & Theodore, I love you //

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9.20.2016