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

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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Mountain Roads // Heart Roads

As I ride in the passenger seat on long, winding, constantly ascending & descending roads, I feel revived.  I am so accustomed to the flat roads and direct routes of South Florida that these country roads feel alien.  The more I admire and absorb the changes in the landscape through a humble car window, the more I’m reminded how natural the hills truly are.

Even the ‘highways’ throughout the Virginia landscape preserve the natural shape of the land by curving with the mountains rather than cutting straight through them.  The land guides my altitude inch by inch.  Only by removing myself from my normal atmosphere do I realize just how much flat roads flat-line my soul.

As each hill makes me feel more and more alive, I see a deeper parallel from simple asphalt roads to the complicated emotional roads of life.

It is so dangerously easy to fall into regularity; a standard routine or comfort zone.  We don’t realize how numb we’ve become until a change in altitude awakens us.  Whether it’s schooling, career, friendships, relationships, or emotional challenges, we need trials and changes, ascending and descending, to keep us alive.

In order to feel the high points of joy & excitement you have to feel the low points of sadness, frustration, & fear.  Without these mountains & valleys we end up driving our lives on straight emotional roads and missing out on beautiful depths the landscape naturally provides.

Sometimes this requires the bravery of making a change, other times it is accepting a battle of emotions.  Either way, we cannot remain numb.

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.”  Psalm 51:12

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

“Jesus wept.”  John 11:35

Part of life is pain.  Without the lows of pain we cannot taste the sweetness of joy.  If we lived on joy alone it would become normal and thus, mundane.  In order to taste joy we must endure the sadness.  Know that feeling is natural, no matter how difficult.

Weep if you must.  Do not remain on the flat roads, let your heart climb.

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7.17.2016

Summer Photos // Jenna

2016 is proving to be an exciting year for Jenna!  She recently graduated from 5th grade, got her first horse, and is preparing to begin middle school.

Naturally such a time in life calls for a photoshoot to capture memories!

Not only is Jenna a dear friend & one of my piano students, she is a little reflection of myself at her age.  From her joy and determination, to her love for music and horses, the more time I spend with  Jenna the more I experience snippets of déjà vu.

At her age, I spent my days either riding horses or behind a piano, & I see the same passion mirrored in her soul that has grown in mine.  I’m honored to have a window into Jenna’s life, the opportunity to capture the love between her and her horse Bob (with a special appearance from her rodeo horse, JD), and to have her as a friend.  She is a joyful soul, a hard worker, and a true cowgirl.

“I don’t show, I rodeo!”


Jenna Heywang
2016

 

6.4.2016

inspired by Acts 17:24-28

It refreshes my soul
It restores my joy
It causes my heart to beat

The breath of my Creator.

It leads me out of stagnance
It humbles me to my knees
It gives me hope in hopelessness

The breath of my Savior

It brings me to reach for God when I can not see
It protects me from life’s heat
It moves my cold heart to action

The breath of my Father

It drips down a wooden cross
It cleanses my impurities
It defines me

The love of my God