Needing Grace In November

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What has made your heart come alive in 2019? My heart matters and this year has been an adventure in trying to find what makes it sing, what makes it come alive.  As I have struggled with sleep, I have realized that grace and beauty speak into my heart and I need more.

November is a great month to focus on what this year has brought and set a focus on how the year could end so that the next year can start off right.  To make it through the last of November and into December I need my heart to come alive. But life can’t be all adventures.  Life is lived in the dailies and doesn’t have to always be fantastic.

2019 has had plenty of fantastic things take place in it, but it has also been a daily grind.  If I want my heart to come alive I need to remember to search for beauty when I am stuck at work or when the unexpected comes my way.

I need grace when things don’t go my way.  I need grace for when things do go my way.

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This year plenty has gone my way.  My heart came alive when April and I walked into the home we would buy.  God’s hands were all over us being able to buy our home, but as many of you know, owning a home is not easy.  Owning a home is a beautiful adventure, but a home needs much from its owner.  We’ve already needed to replace all of the windows and gutters.  God has provided April and me with a home and I know I cannot take care of it without him.  When I feel anxious about all my home needs, He reminds me He is in control and gives me the grace to remember that He will provide, He will protect, and His presence will rule in my house even if I have to spend more money on my home.  Right now the oven is hardly working and if April’s baking adventure is ever to take off, we need a better one.

In July we finally went on our honeymoon to Europe.  As we boarded our plane, all of me was ready for a holiday.

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My spring semester at school was stressful and then because I am a glutton for punishment, I decided to teach summer school.  So, I needed to be refilled, but I was nervous about how my sleeping problems would mess with our trip.  On the first night in London I was exhausted (I hadn’t slept on the flight over and then it took us five hours to travel from Heathrow Airport to our hotel over in the Docklands).  This was an adventure, but even though my eyelids were weighed down I struggled to fall asleep.

I was terrified I would be too tired to do anything and ruin our honeymoon. Before we left for Europe, I didn’t take the time to work on my sleep problems. Now I was sure it was going to ruin the trip.  And then in a quiet whispered moment, April reminded me to be gracious to myself.  “Jet-lag is a very real,” she said and that I should just give my body grace when I couldn’t fall to sleep because it was just trying to figure out its new rhythm.  This saved me and helped make for an incredible month in England, Scotland, Amsterdam, and Ireland.  The sunset that night was God reminding me that he would take care of us.

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And then we returned to Colorado, I started back up at work, and now we are at the end of November, and I’m thinking about how I need grace for my life.  I’ve had quite a few beautiful moments this semester, but some hard ones too.

As November came I didn’t think we would need a new car, but her completely paid off Ford Focus died and we could no longer rely on it to transport her to work and back.  We really needed a new car, but buying cars doesn’t make my heart come alive.  We bought a Honda C-RV and I love it, but I had not planned on making another big purchase this year (The house, the trip to Europe, and a couple things for the house were all I wanted to buy, but not the car).  Buying the car could have stressed me out, its drastically changing our budget, but I am remembering to give myself grace and I am choosing to remember that providing for my wife is truly an awesome adventure.  God is in control and even in the daily grind he will provide fantastic elements to my day.

God providing for me is what makes my heart come alive and that is what I need.  He knows my heart matters and he will take care of my finances, my house, and my job.  With our new car I have the ability to go up into the mountains.  With my house I can invite friends over for a movie.  And with my job I can share my love of stories.  These are all things that make my heart come alive and that is what I really need.

My goal for December 2019 and into 2020 is that I slow down and meet the needs of my heart so that I am able to live a life fully alive, but I know I will mess up and there will be bumps along the way.  That’s why I am thankful for grace!

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Anxiety, Adventures, and Aspens

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Do not be anxious about anything, but pray and be thankful.- Philippians 4:6 Yeah, but what about my life?  Last week after I posted about needing to open up about my sleep problems I was attacked by two straight nights of anxiety filled sleep.

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Yay, time to practice all the advice I gave out (I am not sure you can sense my sarcasm).  After midnight, my mind doesn’t want to think logically.  It just wants to sleep so when my heart feels the flames of fear and my brain begins to bounce back and fourth from one thought to another, it has taken practice to slow myself down.  But I took a breath and remembered all of the times God has provided for me in times of turmoil.

I am learning to breathe in and think of beautiful things.  Breathe out and release my fear.  Beauty beats anxiety.

The world we live in is beautiful.  No I am not naive, I know of pain and suffering, but even in the darkest of times God’s beauty abounds.

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Two weeks ago April and I traveled up to Breckenridge to go aspen leaf peeping.   The beauty of Breckenridge in the fall is astounding.  As we drove up Boreas Pass I was reflecting on the last year and all my sleep struggles.  The previous year when we came up to Breckenridge my sleep was an absolute mess and I had hoped that a little time away would fix it.  It didn’t.  But the beauty of the aspens left needing to catch my breath. When aspen leaves rustle in the wind, I am not sure there is a more calming sound.

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Aspens are amazing in how they are all one organism so that each tree supports the collective whole.  Every year aspens cycle through life.  In the spring they start to bud new leaves that turn deep great through the next couple months of summer.  In the fall they made their most drastic change when the leaves change from green to gold, red, and yellow only to fall off by winter time.  All winter aspens are bare, but then they are reborn in the spring.  This happens every year.  God takes care of his creation.

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Driving over Boreas Pass God took me up into his beauty and reminded me that if he cares that much to create a beautiful tree he also cares for me.  On our way down to Como, on the other side of the pass, April and I parked our car and walked down into a grove of aspens.  Standing under the rustling leaves I felt Jesus was next to me saying, “look out over the aspens and don’t be anxious.  Don’t worry about if you sleep well or if work goes well.  Aspens don’t work, they are fed by me.  If I cloth the aspens in such beauty, don’t you think I will take care of you too?”

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He cares about beauty and goodness.  So I whatever is good and beautiful, think on those things. When I am struggling to sleep, I’ve started to think about the beautiful aspens up in the mountains. Remembering that God has provided for me in the past and he will provide for me in the future.

He has sent me on beautiful adventures, both big and small so when my brain boiled with fear this week I decided to remember the beauty of Boreas Pass and how God loves me more than aspen trees.  Because of that I know that the best is yet to come.

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Stress, Sleep, and Surrender: September 2019

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Maybe you are reading this because you haven’t mastered the tick to falling asleep.  Maybe you are like me and sleep has started to evade you.  Surrendering to sleep seems like a weird thing that we do every day.  Sleep is vulnerable, we lie there, prone and oblivious to all that is going on in the world, and yet without it we will waste away.  Worrying about what will happen to me while I sleep is not why I’ve had trouble slipping off into sleep.  What I get anxious about is plain old sleep and work.  My brain just won’t turn off sometimes because I am stuck in a cycle of anxiety and stress.  As I have struggled to sleep God kept reminding me He wanted my heart no matter the situation. I couldn’t control my life.  He was taking back the things that were his anyway.  God wanted me to surrender and open up about my struggles.

Finally, a little over a year ago, I told my older sister that I was struggling with sleep.  She said, “me too.”  That moment of connection was what I needed.  It was as if I had been heard.  I started to sleep soundly again.  Yet here we are deep into 2019 and I am taking a small amount of sleeping pills during the work week and I still occasionally wake up sweaty.

I am not sure why my sleep patterns haven’t fixed themselves and I am doing my best not to stress over the answer.  The best thing to do while going through a difficult or painful situation is not to ask why or try to interpret what is going on.  Struggling to figure out the meaning of my sleepless nights only led to more sleepless nights.  Maybe part of why sleep has not come easy could be my silence; my refusal to surrender to God’s will and share what He has been doing in my life.

But this September I felt challenged to open up about my sleep problems.  Every September I celebrate how God showed up when I was in the hospital due to Necrotizing Pneumonia.  I realized if I can share about how God used that pain, I needed to open up about what God was doing in my life now.  I was being selfish by holding back on talking about my sleep pain.  I would rather have God use my pain than waste it.  So I am opening up.  Millions of Americans suffer from sleep deprivation and maybe I can help.

I have learned that instead of asking God why I am awake in the middle of the night or unable to fall asleep, I want to ask God what are you doing in me?  He wants my heart no matter the situation.  So each night I am practicing letting go of my own desires.  God has taken care of my finances, my wife, my health, and everything else I have surrendered to him.  If I do not sleep well, he gives me what I need to make it through the next day.

I do not want to keep silent about my sleep or lack thereof because God has been too good to me and I want to praise him for that.  At night when I can’t sleep, I have decided to sit with Him and pray.  Some nights I leave my bed and go to the couch where I sit with my hands palm up on my knees.  I breathe deeply and listen for God.  I think of the beauty I have seen in His world and know that He is in control.  I surrender to him and trust that if He can make a world where Aspens exist, He can love me even in my stress. He might never heal me of this sleep problem, but all the while He is making me into the man he created me to be.  And isn’t that the ultimate adventure?

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Stress and Sleeplessness

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Teachers live for summer, right? Freedom for adventure right at your feet, or just to use the bathroom whenever. Oh and all the extra sleep, but sleep started to stress me out during the summer of 2018.

Yes, that was over a year ago, but for the longest time I felt like if I talked about how much I was struggling to sleep, my sleep patterns would worsen.  But I don’t believe that anymore and here is how God helped me change my mindset.

In 2018 my adventures seemed limited to waking up in the middle of the night, taking care of my landlords house, and worrying about being able to provide for my wife.  I was attempting to control my little world but God wanted me to surrender.

When I would wake up worrying about our finances.  He would tell me he was in control anyway.  I would wake up worried about healthy eating and my physical health.  God would remind me that he has always taken care of me and that no matter what he wants the best for me. I started worrying about taking care of the house we were living in.  I didn’t want to be thinking about these things so early in the morning. Time and time again God would remind me that the best life is a life surrendered to him.

Yet, I stressed on.  I wanted to be able to provide for April, buy us a house, and make us successful.  Surrender is difficult, so I didn’t sleep.

Without sleep, my rhythm has been off. I cannot blame it on where I live, bad air conditioning, poor heating, or the fact that my wife is a furnace.  Figuratively and literally! When we are next to one another in bed my body temp starts to rise, which doesn’t let me sleep.  Like I said, last summer I started stressing about many different things, but most of all I stressed about how hot I was when I was hoping to be asleep or I would stress about sleep.

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A little history on my sleep patterns.  When I was in the seventh and eighth grade I started struggling to fall asleep because I was too busy thinking up the statistics for Terrill Davis and the other Denver Broncos. During 1998, when TD would run for 2008 yards on the season, I started calculating what he needed to do to reach that feat each night as I lay in bed.  Soon sleep outweighed my desire to not worry about stats.  My solution was a fan to drown out my thoughts.  Over the years the fan has morphed into prayer time at night, a thankfulness journal, and a rain noise app on my phone.

On nights when none of these solutions worked, I used I would envision a peaceful field or hike and I would take myself into that situation and fall into a dream so over the last year when I just couldn’t fall back to sleep I was unsure what to do when my mind would not shut off.

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I felt like I was lost in a sleep deprived haze.  My brain buzzed.  I was waking up with my heart pounding and in a puddle of sweat. I was stressed, but I didn’t want to talk about it and this made me feel alone. Why was this happening? Over the last year I feel like I would turn a corner and recapture that mythic ability to sleep through the night and then I would go and talk about it.  Someone would ask me, “how are you sleeping” and I would crash.  I was convinced that if I talked about my sleep, I would start stressing about it, and therefore, I wouldn’t sleep well.  So I kept silent. I refused to surrender and my adventure seemed to stall out.  But that would change in September.  More on that next week.

 

40 Years of Love

DSC_1004June came and went in a flash.  But in-between, God moved.  In the lead up to June I’d been excited about the upcoming celebration of my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary.  When they met they were kids, literally.  My dad was in the 8th grade and my mom was in the 6th.  When they married they were hardly adults.  And yet, 40 years later, they have a beautiful legacy of love.

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Love is what highlights our lives.  Love is what stops one day from rolling into the next without direction or meaning.  Choosing love slows me down and helps me remember to live in the moment.  Maybe I learned that from my parents.

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Because of their choices I am part of a family who is founded in Christ’s firm love.  And so we, meaning my entire family (Katie, Michael, and their crazy five kid crew made the trek as did my younger sister Emmy), celebrated them in the best way possible, up in the mountains.  The mountains are love.  They slow life down and help us know how much we are loved.

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Being in the mountains gave us time to gather around a fire and laugh as we burned our marshmallows.  It gave us time to have deep conversations about our struggles and triumphs as we built a 400 piece Peanuts puzzle only to realize at the end that the box only contained 397 pieces.  The weekend was rainy but we made it outside for the hot tub and zip line.  Spending Uncle time with my nieces and nephews was amazing!

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I captured Emerson, the youngest, crawling for the first time.  I told stories with Breck, in the story he was born a T-Rex but actually a Velociraptor.  I played games and built puzzles with Addi and Linc.  I even started a tickle fight with Treagan.   Because my parents chose to love Christ and love each other day in and day out, I am blessed to be an uncle.  But even more amazing is how my nieces and nephews choosing a life of love and freedom in Christ.

 

As June was rushing by, Linc, my oldest nephew, asked to be baptized.   The morning of the big day he joined me in the living room as I spent time in prayer.  He woke up early, came and sat on the couch, and asked me to help him start a Bible reading plan.  I love that at eight he is making choices to live a life founded on love.  His baptism was beautiful.  I love Lincoln.

 

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My parents’ love has given me the ability to love my wife.  April and I are set to celebrate our second wedding anniversary on the 7th of July.  We are off on an adventure to England, Ireland, Scotland, and Amsterdam. What an adventure!  My prayer has been that this next month doesn’t flash by, but that God stops us, opens our eyes and our hearts so we can experience His love.

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Love is not scientific and so I have no clear idea how my parents did it, but, I would bet it all came down to their choices.  Years ago when my parents were younger my dad took Katie and me on a hike.  I was a baby and my older sister was old enough to complain about how difficult the hike was. My parents hadn’t packed any food, nor brought any water.  We were miserable.  My dad, in all his wisdom, created this beautiful simile, ” Life is like a mountain.  You just have to choose to get over it.”  Katie stated the obvious, “I hate life.”  Yet in love, there are times when it is difficult and you just have to choose to move through it.  My parents’ love is not a difficult mountain, it is warm, open, and consistent, and it, like my favorite mountains, has stood the test of time.  I am so proud that each day they choose to love even when it feels hard.  What an adventure!

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I am sure if you asked either of them, the 40 years came and went in a flash.  But in-between, God moved.

Moose and March Moving Madness!

IMG_4527My wife is learning to be a hiker.  Me, well, I’ve grown up outdoors and I love to mountain bike, hike, trail run, and spend just about as much time meandering through the great outdoors as possible.  So this last summer, when she made reservations for us in Estes Park over our first anniversary, I was shocked!

Rocky Mountain National Park sits right outside Estes Park, a town well worth visiting on its own even if you don’t want to go into the national park.  Yet, RMNP is magnificent with the purple mountains that help make Colorado a rocky adventure.

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People visit the park to find adventure and many, like me, come for the wildlife and time in God’s creation so they can sense his power and love in the stillness of nature.

Making our way slowly up to the lake I could tell April was discouraged.  It was hot and our breaks were often.  As we sat for a minute and and guzzled our water, a father and daughter approached us quietly from the opposite direction.

“There is a Moose up ahead,” said the dad in a whisper.  I have always wanted to see a Moose in the wild.  They are wild, powerful, and majestic.  Might this Moose be the miracle I was hoping for and help make April an avid hiker?

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We plodded up the trail.  My eyes were wide open for any movement.  As much as I desired to see a Moose, I knew how dangerous they can be.  About ten minutes later, we turned a corner and saw, not one, but two Moose wading through a small lake.  Majestic doesn’t begin to describe it.

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The baby Moose stood behind its mom.  Both were long and lean and had their heads dipped in the water.  We watched as they mucked through the water, not minding us as we stood amazed.

It was an awesome experience to be granted on our first wedding anniversary.  Yet God wasn’t done.  A month later we decided to go back to Rocky Mountain National Park.  As we drove past the entrance and parked near Beaver Lake Trail, I longed for that magic again. Maybe if God sent us another Moose, April really would love hiking.

We hiked up the trail, past Alberta Falls, and on toward the lake.  The trail was packed with visitors.  April was not enjoying this hike.  It was hotter than last time and flies buzzed around our heads.  I forced us on.

You don’t see wild animals from your couch, but neither did we as we trekked on.  We reached the lake and April informed me that we wouldn’t be hiking up into Sky Pond.  She was done.  We had to make our way back down the mountain.

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Marriage is not all about compromising.  It is more about giving up of yourself so that you can love your spouse.  Maybe I could have kept hiking and found that elusive experience.  Sky Pond is breathtaking and I wanted to capture that movement with my wife. Maybe turning back honored my wife and acknowledged I can’t always have my way.

My choice was clear, march back down this trail with my wife and trust that the best is yet to come.

As I hiked down the path, my legs swinging on their own, my mind was on my prayer life.  I had prayed for another Moose to show up, but logically I knew there were too many people for any wild life, let alone any Moose to show up.

I am the type of man who likes to be consistent. This shows up in much of what I do.  I work out consistently.  I walk consistently and I pray consistently.  Sometimes I pray while I go on my walks.  Not every time that I pray do I feel God.  Sometimes it just feels like I am checking a box off my list, but I know that by spending time in prayer I am making my heart more receptive of the times God does show up.

But God shows up.

And right as April asked for me to slow down and take another water break a Moose showed up.  He walked right out on the trail right in front of me.  There were about five other people near April and me.  Like frightened animals, they all scrambled off into the wild.  The Moose made his way straight toward me.  My heart soared!

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Maybe I should have run, but I felt God tell me to stay.  He reminded me that he is in control.  And so I trusted him.  The Moose turned off the trail, in the direction everyone had scrambled.  What an adventure!

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Sometimes, like with my prayer life, when I am out on the trail nothing shows up, but I am not going to experience God or any wild life if I am not looking.

My prayer for this year has been that my eyes, my ears, and my heart are all open to all that God has for April and me.

Maybe God has more Moose for me, but most likely he is up to more massive adventures in my life.

This year April and I realized we were ready to move.  God blessed us with a beautiful basement apartment, but my heart had become strained by the stress of renting and the call to own our own home.  But here in Denver, the home buying process can take months.  Yet, He had something more magical in store.  As we dream to start a family, I knew moving needed to happen.  We started our house hunt with our eyes wide open.  After two weeks we found a beautiful house we wanted to make an offer on.  I doubted that our offer would be accepted.  I had heard stories, but I wanted to try because if you don’t try to buy a house, you will never buy a house.

On Tuesday March, 12th my friend Luke, who is also an awesome agent, called me and asked if I was okay.  I said I was, but I really was not.  My stomach was in knots.  I wanted God to show up again and bless us with this house.  I also knew that we would be okay if he didn’t.  We could hunt on.  “Well good,” he said, “Because they accepted your offer!” So we bought a house and are moving!

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But I know that the best is yet to come because God has not failed to show up  when I have stepped out to connect with him.  But dang he is wild.

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Behind The Times: What I Watched This Year When Not Out On Adventures

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I turned the screen off in shock.  My mind was spinning.  I had just finished the final episode of the latest season of Game of Thrones.  “Not his real name! He’s more than, but what! Oh my gosh!” -Immediately I felt the need to talk about my feelings, but no one wanted to talk to me.  I’d finished the show a year after everyone else.  That’s just how behind the times I am.

Yep, we are nerds!

I don’t like being behind the times.  I would rather be up on all the pop culture happenings.  I go to comic cons.  I am a pop culture nerd.  But I don’t always get what I want.  I would love to have the last say on what I watch, but well, I love my wife even more.  So when April asks to watch something or she refuses to watch Game of Thrones with me, I let her pick.  God is asking me to be a little behind on the times so I can love my wife better.  Anyway, I didn’t get to watch the show on time and it turns out it was a good thing.

Yes, I know that if you watch the show and are more behind than I was, you could easily figure out who I am talking about and realize that it is a spoiler.  That is why I won’t remind you that this is a shocking revelation about the identity of a lead character who has grown up thinking he’s a bastard but in truth he is the son of the true King.

But, here’s what I say to any worries about spoilers.  I managed to stay spoiler free with a show that’s been out for a year and if a guy who has been teaching, coaching, and sneaking in episodes when his wife wasn’t around managed to finish season seven, you can manage it too.  If you do take the time to finish the show, be prepared for some powerful truth.

This wasn’t the only truth I learned this past summer while I was catching up on the best that TV has to offer.  At my wife’s request, I dove head first into This Is Us.

Tuesday nights and Chicken Parm!

After watching most of season one in a week I was in tears.  In the episode Jack, the selfless husband teaches his wife how to love football.  Neither Jack, nor Rebecca wanted a marriage like their parents. They grew up in families where their parents weren’t on the same team.  I didn’t expect the episode to hit me the way it did, but I guess the truth is I want my wife to love football too so she isn’t just a mistress to my team during football season, but a teammate in heartbreak and joy.

Before the Buffs Blew it.

My tear-filled reaction was born out of the desire to have a wife who loves football, but it was more than that.  I want to make sure my marriage is a healthy team.  And sometimes I don’t know if we are a team because of her refusal to like football or to give Game of Thrones a try.  That’s one reason why I picked up one of April’s shows so that we could share our time together and be on the same team.

April’s first Bronco’s game!

I spent much of 2017 telling her I would not watch This Is Us.  It just didn’t interest me as it seemed like it was too dramatic.  But I am glad I did.  Yes, I know I’m behind the times and am about two years late to the party.  No, I have not cried during every episode (That’s April’s job), but yes I do think it is one of the best written shows on TV.  And I started watching it right when I needed to.  See, I am behind the times, but this is what happens when you’re a teacher, coach, uncle, friend, and most importantly a new husband.

It might seem a little lame that I used my first free summer in two years to catch up on TV, but sometimes watching a good TV show can be just as adventurous as going up to Rocky Mountain National Park and seeing Moose, which I did twice this past summer.

Last year, as I documented, I married April, which has been the best thing to happen to me, like ever, but I had to work all summer so we could pay for our wedding.  I also coached basketball if you remember. While I worked my butt off during the school year and summer, I let my story consumption slip.  I hardly read last year.  I didn’t want that to happen again this year.  This is me being back in control of how I spend my time.

Yes, the World Cup was included in on what I watched.

Books, movies, and tv shows we consume are teachers if we let them.  Recently I started asking God what he has for me in what I am watching or reading.  Since I started this practice, it has helped me be okay with how I consume movies, tv, and books.  But it has also made me weary.  Not everything I consume is good for me.  I can’t do horror and I hate stories that depict the world as hopeless, so when April has us watching The Handmaid’s Tale I have to chase it with episodes of Fuller House.

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Can you see the ghosts in the picture?

After teaching a summer school focused on the horror genre (why I can’t do horror right now), I started not sleeping well and started looking for something positive to fill my mind and Game of Thrones did not disappoint.  I finished episode seven of Game of Thrones in early July and I felt God telling me, what lies are you living in?  Am I like the character who has been living under a false identity his whole life thinking that he is less than he actually is?

So on a sleepless night after finishing Game of Thrones, God told me, Brendan you are my son.  You are my child.  A son of the King, just like John Snow.  Do not worry, I have an amazing adventure planed for you.

These men are teaching me how to be a young king.

A couple of weeks later April and I were watching season two of This Is Us.  We were balling our eyes out as Jack loved his family perfectly.  I heard God say, not in an audible voice, but it was still clear, “My love is perfect and it sets you free.  I have given you a teammate who loves you and even if she doesn’t like football or she hasn’t agreed to watch the best show on television, she is with you in all your heartbreak and all your joys.”

I might have been behind the times on the TV shows, but I would say that I watched them right on time.  The messages I learned from these shows are helping me live free and connect with the love God has for me.

So this year, 2018, I watched plenty of TV, and I am not ashamed I did.  God used each well written show to speak his loving truth into my life.  Here are five shows you might like and what I learned from them (Honorable Mention: Lost in Space and Longmire):

Yes, I read the book first.
  1. The Haunting of Hill House scared the heck out of me, but reminded me that we are all broken and in need of healing.
  2. A Series of Unfortunate Events made me laugh and hit me with the fact that kids are strong and smart and I should empower my students to live to their fullest poential.
  3. The Walking Dead made my heart race and taught me that when the world goes to hell I can choose to love those around me like Rick did.
  4. Better Call Saul was so beautiful and tragic.  You can be good at heart, but if you break when the world is against you and don’t let love heal you, you might go bad.
  5. Stranger Things season two won me over with heart and horror.  Never bet against kids and don’t adopt baby alien creatures even if they are cute.
Doctor Who didn’t make the watchlist this year.  April is mad at the show, so I am waiting for her to get back into the TARDIS and travel with me.
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First world problems