Monday, August 31, 2009

I will be on my knees for a while, hope you will too

It's been an intense few days complete with lots of praying for lots of different people. Every need listed below needs your prayers as well. Please keep these people/families/situations in your thoughts and prayers....

~Our home study documents did not go out last week as planned because our social workers' sister passed away. Please help this family understand and heal.

~My previous cube mate's niece has been diagnosed with 17 months old. This little girl is a fighter. She was born very premature weighing in at only 1 pound 5 ounces and beat the odds then. Please pray for strength and healing for little Jolee and her family.

~A family close to us is struggling with martial and family issues. Please pray they will understand how important their family is and how small the other things are.

~My best friend's grandmother passed away last week. Please pray for strength and healing in their family.

~My mother was put in the hospital last night. She is a severe diabetic and it has been uncontrollable for many years. Her neuropathy moved to her bladder a few months ago and rendered it useless (she now has to cath herself). We have found out it has moved to her heart and she collapsed at church last night. We are waiting to hear if she has had a heart attack or what is going on. Please keep my mom in your prayers and pray we will know more about what is going on. Her body is tired and so is her soul. Please pray for my step dad to have the strength to deal with this as well.

Sorry for the depressing post, but I feel like this is more important to share than anything else. Please take the time today when you can to say a little prayer for everyone on this list.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kyleigh: The 1st Grader

This summer seemed to fly by and today was Kyleigh's first day of 1st grade! She was so excited the night before and was up several times...nervous energy I guess. She finally tapped out in the bed with us at some point and took over my spot whenever I got up and got in the shower. Here is what I was up against trying to get her up this morning:

I lost to their "sleeping force field" for at least 20 minutes.

I finally got her up and I had made cinnamon buns for her, but she was so excited about school she only ate two bites and was done :-)

Da Buns...

I got up early knowing I had to make and pack lunch and get them both out the door on time, but still managed to be rushing somehow. Here is a shot of Kyleigh before we went out the door:

It's not the cutest shirt, but she picked it out and loves it
She did good going right in, sitting down and shoo'ing me out the door. We are really hoping we have a better year teacher wise than we did last year and are giving this school another shot. Her teacher seems very nice and on the ball, so our hopes are high!

Who missed her the most today? Well, yesterday I let her stay home and watch the new Hanna Montana movie and just have a relaxing day before starting school, which consisted of her snuggling with the pets.

At a loss for their snuggle partner, they had to settle for each other:
Reece has started in the Pre K class this week at her daycare as well. This teacher is known to be tough, so we will see who has the most stamina...her or Reece! So far, she has had two great reports and we hope she is back to being sweet Reece and not talking back Reece anymore!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day 6 - Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom! This was also a park that I was looking so forward too. I wanted to get there early so we could be one of the first for the Safari that they ran (knowing that the hotter in the day it gets, the less likely you are to catch the animals out). We timed it just right and were able to get on fairly quickly. It was so great! You rode in a big jeep and they even made the roads feel like you were out on the back roads. The scenery was beautiful and I can just imagine how beautiful Africa really is. Check out the Savanna:

So beautiful to me...

Most of the animals were out and we got to see some really up close! There was even a giraffe that seemed to be following our jeep :-)
Animal Kingdom is split up into several different areas, but we explored Africa first. Not ever having been to Africa, I have nothing to compare it to, but I loved how authentic they seemed to make the buildings and all of the surroundings. I couldn't get my friend Meredith off of my mind, knowing she would be going to Africa soon to be joined with her little baby :-) At the center piece of Animal Kingdom was the tree of life, which had numerous carvings of all kinds of different animals in it. This was truly a sight and I cannot imagine how long it took to do all of that art. My picture does it no justice:

The Tree of Life from the outside
One of the carvings inside the tree

We took a train ride over to Rafiki's conservation island and we really enjoyed this because we could see some of the insects and amphibians a little closer. We even got to watch a bit behind the scenes where the vets were giving a physical to a set of small monkeys! They had a little petting zoo where you could brush domesticated animals, but they only had one kind of animal out at a time.
They also had conservation stations set up in each section of the park where the girls could learn different things and then stamp their books. We wanted to make sure to get all of their stamps!
Kyleigh being a good listener at the conservation station
After coming back over from the island, we decided to eat in Africa at a place called Tusker House. They had a mix of American and African food on their buffet. This was a little costly, but worth it to get to try some different kinds of food and also to look around at all of the character it had.

That's Kyleigh not wanting to pose

After this, we headed to Asia. I was excited to see if this had as much character as Africa did, especially after all of the reading I have been doing about Korea. It was so neat to see all of the buildings and the paintings on them, especially the tigers as they are revered in Asian culture. Bobby and I also took on the Everest roller coaster, which was a huge surprise, while his mom took the girls to Dinoland to play at the park there.
Playing at Dinoland

Tiger painting on the wall in Asia....and a random woman adjusting her pants

Running through the streets of Asia
Real fat and happy tigers
We met up and rode a few more rides at Dinoland and decided to hit "Nemo the Musical". We got there late, but ended up with really good seats! If you go to Animal Kingdom, don't miss this show!!
When we got back outside, we noticed it had gotten at bit darker (there was a 70% chance of rain) and we figured our time was going to be cut short soon. We scrambled to get the last few stamps for the girl's conservation books, and decided on the way to get the last one we would go see the show "It's tough to be a bug" in the tree of life.
Well. This was another one of those interactive, very realistic shows in 3D that started out cute, but ended up with my girls on the floor scared and several other kids crying. The beginning is really cute with Flick being the host, but then he starts talking about how we are outnumbered by insects and I guess they were trying to get even with us? So all of a sudden it was like different insects were coming at felt like they were flying around your shirts (highly pressurized air) and looked like they were coming at you if you were wearing the glasses. The worst part was the buzzing and then something poked through your seat, like you were being stung in the back. At the end of it, you had to wait until the bugs left to get to leave (I'm not giving that surprise away). Again, while this might be cute and fun for adults and older kids, beware for your younger ones and maybe hold them in your lap and don't let them sit in the seats if you think this might scare them.
Once we got outside, the bottom let out! We barely got to our last conservation station when it was raining so hard the ponchos were not doing much good. We put them on anyway and tried to find our way out, but I have to say it was fun and really made the adventure more authentic. Everyone out there was pretty much soaked, just like if we had been in a rain forest anyway!

We ended up getting back to the condo earlier than what we thought, so Bobby and I decided to take advantage and get out just by ourselves and go have dinner and a movie at Downtown Disney. We figured it had been almost FOUR years since we had seen a movie together! I really enjoyed our dinner and date night and it was so much fun just to get out together.
Yup, no savings today :-(
What was your favorite?
Brandi: "the safari, all of the character in the buildings, the Everest roller coaster, "Nemo the musical" getting a date alone with Bobby"
Bobby: "the safari and the Everest roller coaster"
Kyleigh: "visiting the conservation stations and getting all of my stamps"
Reece: "the gorillas"
Same warning for "It's tough to be a bug show" as in previous posts about these interactive shows and little ones. Bobby and his mom said the Primeval Whirl in Dinoland is really jerky, so keep that in mind. Of course, Kyleigh loved it.

Day 5 - Richard Petty/Pool/Downtown Disney

On Day 5 Bobby had his Richard Petty Driving Experience bright and early at 8am. I had booked a ride along for him as well as 8 solo laps for Father's Day this year. I wanted to go with him, but the girls defiantly needed a relaxing morning to recoup from the last few days and just hang out at the pool. I'm sure from the great time Bobby had driving that car that I will be able to go with him another time :-)

The girls had a ball at the pool except for a meltdown Reece had over the water slide that she was too little to go down :-( Kyleigh also did great and finally let go of her floaters in the water. We all knew, and I think she did too, that she could swim just fine, but it always takes Kyleigh a little bit longer to gain that confidence for herself. She did a great job and certainly wore herself out showing us how she could swim back and forth under water with no help. We hadn't really decided what we were doing for the rest of the day, which was good because all of that swimming made Kyleigh take an almost 2 hour nap, something she hasn't done in years! Maybe we need a swimming pool in our backyard after all!!

Bobby got back around 11 and everyone pretty much hung around the apartment and rested until about 4:30 when we decided to go to Downtown Disney. I had reservations for us for dinner at the Rainforest Cafe that night (which was pretty neat by the way). The girls' favorite place was definitely Lego Land. They built cars out of Lego's to race and of course we walked out of there with a couple Lego sets for them (but I think Bobby had the most fun putting these together :-)

Lego playground paradise
We really enjoyed eating at Rainforest Cafe. The food was great and the atmosphere was set up to make you feel like you were in the middle of a real rain forest, complete with thunder storms and animals everywhere!

Got a shot in front of the huge aquarium


The "volcano"

We hung out a bit more and shopped and then headed back to the condo. It was a nice quiet day to give a break between all of the walking and rushing around we had been doing!


Not much to report here. We stayed at the condo/pool most of the day, so I guess that saved money in itself!

What was your favorite???

Brandi: "Hearing the message on my phone when Bobby was done with his driving experience. He had such a great time and sounded so excited!"
Bobby: "Richard Petty Driving Experience.....hands down"
Kyleigh: "Swimming in the pool with grandma"
Reece: "The pool"

None, we all enjoyed our day (well, except for Reece who would have like to have been taller so she could go down the huge water slide!)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Day 4 - Magic Kingdom

On Day 4, we set off to Magic Kingdom with no plans other than to let the day happen to us. The girls really enjoyed the monorail ride over and seeing the castle down Main Street was breath taking!

We started off with Big Thunder Mountain railroad, a roller coaster we all could ride:

The girls screamed, but loved it! We got a fast pass for splash mountain and then took in pretty much every ride along the way and of course had to ride Dumbo! This was by far the longest wait for a ride we had there.....and it was in the beating hot sun, but the girls really enjoyed it and so did I.

One of the shows we really enjoyed was called Mickey's Philharmagic. It was indoors and in 3D, but with the same warning that I gave with the Little Mermaid show in Hollywood Studios, the effects felt sometimes very real. But, it was a very cute show and Reece actually did really well with it. I don't want to tell you too much about it, but definitely a must see if you go!

We snuck into a princess shop for some cool air and shopping and then headed out to ride even more rides and get some lunch. We literally hit every ride in Fantasyland except one, which was a hour wait that we just didn't want to do.

Did I mention how hot it was on this day? I think it was over 100 heat index. The girls had fans with water in them they could spray...but what does our Reece do? Decide to water the plants with it!

Next after a couple more rides we were off to visit Minnie and Mickey at their houses! Reece was especially excited to visit and get to look around. Check out Mickey's bedroom:

The houses were really cute and (after standing in line another 45 minutes) we were actually able to meet Minnie and Mickey in person! I think the girls were a little overwhelmed at this point, but you cannot go to Disneyworld and not meet them!

We went over to Liberty Tree Tavern and ate dinner (which was great by the way) and then decided to stick around for the parade. We got great seats right in the front! I wasn't sure how the girls were going to do in the dark and out so late, but they really did good and the parade was awesome. This was definitely our busiest, longest and latest day, but filled with some really great memories!

No zoom needed! We had great seats!
Kyleigh being a ham and making fun of grandma's hat
$140 meal for 5 at Liberty Tavern = FREE using our Disney Rewards Points
$45 lunch for 5 at Cosmic Rays = FREE using our Disney Rewards Points
What was your favorite?
Brandi:"watching Reece having a BALL driving the car on the Tomorrow Land Indy Speedway."
Bobby:"Splash Mountain and the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad"
Kyleigh:"Splash Mountain"
Reece: " Going to Minnie's house"
Dislikes/things to avoid?
The line for Peter Pan's flight was really long, so we got a fast pass for this....and I'm glad we did. The ride started out cool, but ended up being a disappointment for all of us. I'm glad we didn't wait in line an hour for that!!!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Day 3 - Epcot/Hollywood Studios

On Monday we all get up early because we have reservations for our "Princess Breakfast" at Epcot. I've never really taken the girls to see any sort of characters up close like that, so I knew this was going to be interesting!

Kyleigh pretty much wouldn't get into any of the pictures. We got only one with both of them below:

After breakfast, the crowds were still low, so we went and rode Test Track. I was excited that all of us could ride it (height restrictions were sometimes a problem with Reece) and we all loved it! Who knew our girls would like those fast rides? You should have seen their faces when that first drop happened, priceless!

After that, we went to the Nemo ride and also did Turtle Talk with Crush, which was great! We let the girls run around a bit in the play area there and headed over to the Soaring ride, which ended up being a 70 minute wait time. The girls did so great during the wait and the ride was so worth it! We ate lunch and decided to head on over to Hollywood Studios instead of taking on the rest of Epcot and all of the different countries.

At Hollywood Studies, we had to plan very carefully because there were several shows we wanted to see at different times. We had some time to spare because the "Little Mermaid" show started later and got some ice cream to cool off and then went in. The show was very interactive and great, but scary and a little too real at times for little Reece.

Kyleigh never left her grandma's side the entire trip!

Bobby wanted to check out the Lights, Motors, Action show, so we hurried as quick as we could over. This was a behind the scenes show about how high speed car chases and other car tricks are filmed. It was pretty cool, but definitely loud and did not make Reece's ears happy (note for anyone with little kids that don't like very loud noises, bring ear plugs to this one for your little one).
After that we rushed to the center of the park for the High School Musical 3 Parade and show they were having. We got there early enough to get right in the front for the entire thing. The performers did a great job and performed a 10 minute montage of different HSM3 songs.


Bobby and I then headed over to ride the Tower of Terror, a haunted hotel where the elevator drops you several floors at a time (not sure how many because I was too busy screaming!) and got in line for the Rock and Roll Roller coaster.
Sigh again here. I could not see how crazy this coaster was and was getting nervous every minute that passed....and it was a 60 minute wait!!!! We had just gotten to the door to enter in where people were boarding and there was all of this pushing as people were coming back out. Yes folks, just minutes before we were going to board, they shut it down for "technical difficulties". Gee that makes me feel warm and fuzzy for getting on another roller coaster!!
Bobby and I waited for the girls to get out of another show with his mom and we "attempted" to find somewhere to eat. 1- We didn't' know the park closed early on Mondays (FYI @ 7pm) & 2- Reece was having a complete meltdown....and everyone on that side of the park knew it. Have you ever tried to do a time out in the middle of Disney? Well I hope you have better luck than I did!!! We ended up just going through a Chickfila drive through, which was perfect for everyone and heading back to the condo. It had been a busy day and we were all tired and needed to rest. Tomorrow was going to be the biggest day of all for the girls.....Magic Kingdom!!!
On a side note, I was especially emotional on this day because this was my dad's birthday. He would have been 61 and it was hard to be with the girls experiencing one more thing that I couldn't share with him. Miss you so much Dad.
We got a Disney rewards Visa and put all of our bills, gas and groceries on it the last couple of months. You earn a dollar for every $100 you spend, so we would charge and then immediately pay off. We could use our rewards points for food all around the parks
The Princess breakfast at around $130 was completely free using our points!!!!
What was your favorite thing?
Brandi:"Soaring" ride at Epcot & "Tower of Terror" ride @ Hollywood studios
Bobby: "Soaring" ride at Epcot & "Lights, Motors, Action" ride @ Hollywood studios
Kyleigh: "Soaring" ride at Epcot & "Test Track" ride at Epcot. HSM3 show @ Hollywood studios
Reece: "Soaring" ride at Epcot. HSM3 show @ Hollywood studios
Anything to avoid/dislikes?
Beware how interactive the Little Mermaid show is at Hollywood studios. While we adults thought it was very cool, there were several scared little ones. You will have water sprayed on you, pressurized air blown at you and there are dark scary parts for little ones when Ursala comes out.
We all also thought the Nemo ride at Epcot was kind of boring and Turtle Talk with Crush was much better.

Day 2 - SeaWorld

On day 2 of our trip, we planned to head on over to SeaWorld. For me, this was one of the highlights I was really looking forward to. I am completely head over heels in love with animals and so excited because this was one area that we "splurged". Along with the tickets, we also bought the VIP tour passes. This is a 7 hour tour for a group of 12 or less all around the park, with reserved seats for the shows, lunch, skip passes for the rides and opportunities to hand feed some of the animals there.

Here we all are just before we left the condo (the girls still had no clue where we were going!)

Our tour started at 10am and we joined another family of four and a guy and his teenage son. Our tour guide, Alma, was absolutely great! We started out by walking through the park and catching some of the animals along the way. Here are Kyleigh's favorite birds, flamingos!!
Did you know they are pink because of the shrimp they eat??

We made our way to our first experience, feeding dolphins! Keeping the girls from going over the edge of the feeding pool was the goal here! We each got a carton of fish and they swam right over to us. We fed them and got to rub them as well. It was awesome!!! Kyleigh was a little scared to touch them, but Reece of course reached right out! It was also great because we got to skip the line on the tour and did not have to wait in line in the very hot sun. We also got to feed the sting rays, which was weird because their mouths are on the bottom of their bodies and you had to hold the fish in between two fingers at the bottom of the tank and they would suction them up. Really strange feeling!!!
All smiles there at the ray pool

After this we went to our first show of the day which was a dolphin show. These performers are amazing. It was a really beautiful show and we all had a great time. After that, we were led to THE MANTA. Sigh. This was my first roller coaster. It laid you on your stomach and it was suppose to mimic the way manta rays "fly" through the water. I have to admit as nervous as I was, it was a blast!
Trainer floating with one of the most beautiful animals I have ever seen

We saw another show with sea lions after this which was really cute and also got to walk over and feed them too. By this time, it was lunch, which was also going to be a special treat because part of the VIP package was lunch behind the Believe show, where the trainers would bring back a killer whale after the show and you would get to see right beside your table some of the moves they were working on. This was just great and the food was really good too!

Sea Lion show

We went after lunch to the penguin encounter to check out some of sweet little penguins they had and then to our last show, Believe.

At the previous shows, we had been sat up high with great seats to see the whole show, but we all asked on this one to sit in the "splash zone". They had reserved us seats in the center front.....and I mean center front! There was a rail in front of us and if I would have stood at it during the show, I could have reached out and touched the trainers and the whales. It was UNBELIEVABLE!!!! When the show started and the whales and trainers came out, I was just overwhelmed by the whole thing. I am such a dork and I cannot believe I am admitting to this, but just seeing those animals close enough to touch truly brought a tear to my eyes. These people were doing what they loved to do everyday. The show itself was fantastic....then they showed everyone the hand symbol for splash. We were all set, thinking it was going to be a small one. We saw him moving around the ring, splashing his tail and everyone in the stands. Then he went under water....and his head came up right in front of us! We were looking right into his eyes....maybe 5 feet from this gorgeous creature! At that point we were snapped out of our trance as his tail came down and GALLONS of 54 degree salt water came all over us!!!!! We were so wet! That is a memory I will never forget, looking into the eyes of that beautiful animal was truly something that touched me.

Right in front of our eyes! No zoom required!!

Your mouth would be wide open by this point!!
After that was a couple more rides, the Krakin (which Bobby and his mom rode) and Journey to Atlantis, which everyone rode.
There are so many things to take from SeaWorld, but the experiences we had with the animals were something I know we all really enjoyed and appreciated. Seeing those dolphins and killer whales up in the air just takes your breath away. We ate at Shark's grill that night after the tour and left the park about 8:30. What a great day! Take my word for it, if you have the chance to go to SeaWorld and you can do the VIP tour, don't pass it up!!!!!

Lowes employees get a 20% discount on SeaWorld tickets!
What was your favorite thing??
Brandi: "The entire VIP tour was my favorite. I didn't have to constantly worry about planning out the next ride/experience or rushing from one thing to the next to get a seat. It was all taken care of and we could really take it in and enjoy it."
Bobby: "The Krakin, the dolphin show and the Believe show"
Kyleigh: "Journey to Atlantis"
Reece: "my sea world trainer barbie"
Anything to avoid/dislikes?
No! The whole day was great!!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

7 Days of Disney - Day 1 Travel to Florida

So, we are back home and have just completed what was the biggest vacation any of us has ever had.....7 days of Disney! I am going to do a post for each day we were gone, including some tips we discovered either before or during and some money saving tips for those who love them like we do! All in all, we were really pleased with the trip and had a great time! Here is Day 1!

Day 1

I woke up bright and early...well really not 3:15am. We wanted to be at our condo by 4pm for check in and to be there to receive our stroller (more info below on that).

Grandma showed up on Friday afternoon, but the girls were still clueless that they were going to be going on a trip. I couldn't believe we had kept it a secret the whole time! The only thing Kyleigh asked was why we hadn't put groceries up we had bought earlier that week (I had bags of stuff to take all on the counters). We thought about telling them Friday night, but since they hadn't figured it out yet, maybe we could keep it a secret the whole time! The girls went to bed Friday night without a clue I would be waking them up at 4:30am the next morning:

On the road the girls were really good and I couldn't believe how well Bobby got the car packed! We arrived at our condo around 3:30 and were able to check in early. I had done a lot of researching putting this trip together and choose the condo because of the cost difference when you have a family of 5 (evidently Disney caters more towards families of 4, who knew! Check out my cost comparison below). The condo was in a private gated community and it was very spacious (we each had our own rooms as opposed to staying all together in one hotel room), laundry room, full kitchen, two full baths, etc. Of course the best part for the girls was the pool they had.

I know this looks like a brochure picture, but this was really what it looked like!

And only second to that were the lizards that were all down the walkway to the pool. Here is Kyleigh with one of several that she caught

The best part? Let's don't forget the girls STILL had no idea what was in store for them! All they knew was they were in Florida. Kyleigh was so into the movie she was watching on the way, she completely missed the signs for Disney (the condo was 1.5 miles from Disney). We got everyone in bed early that night in preparation for a big day 2 at SeaWorld!!!
Below every day, I will list some cost savings we were able to find and also what everyone liked the most that day. This may not be helpful to some of you, but I thought it was always great to read other family's reviews on restaurants, facilities and definately ways to save money! Whether you are planning to do now or a few years from now, I hope these help!
Lodging (family of 5, suite so we have our own rooms and are not sleeping in the living room together)
Coronado Springs on Disney property - 6 nights = $350/night X 6 = $2,100
Winsor Hills ( 1.5 miles from Disney - 6 nights = $120/night X 6 =$720
THAT'S A $1,300 SAVINGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
5 round trip airplane tickets to Orlando = $1,250
3 tanks of gas = $135
THAT'S A $1,115 SAVINGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Stroller Rental
4 days of stroller rental at Disney Parks $31/per X 4 = $124
1 day of stroller rental at SeaWorld $18/day
TOTAL = $142
(not counting the hassle of having to leave it there and carry your kids, bags and shopping back to the car)
7 days of stroller rental from Orlando Stroller Rentals, LLC = $85 (they brought it to our condo and picked it up. It was roomy for both girls and we had it the whole week)
THAT'S A $57 SAVINGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Windsor Hills gets a thumbs up. Great property, great condo, very close to everything
Orlando Stroller Rentals, LLC gets a thumbs up. So much cheaper, the stroller was great quality and so nice to not have to bring our own and have it all day for the girls and our bags.
Black Angus Steakhouse gets a huge thumbs down. Steak was horrible and we even saw insects crawling up the wall. EWWWWW.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Looking Beyond Forgiveness

A definition of forgiveness:
A decision to release yourself from anger, resentment, hate, or the urge for revenge despite the injury you suffered.

To some, forgiveness is crazy...I mean, someone has done something horrible to you, hurt you beyond belief....and you FORGIVE them?? How can you do that?

I think sometimes we should really breakdown what it means to forgive. First of all, forgiveness doesn't mean you forget. If something truly horrible has been done to you or a member of your family, that is with you forever. Nothing can take away those memories, they may shape how you feel about certain people, places and things maybe forever. Many people feel out of control when bad things happen. They don't understand why it had to occur...why them, why then? They hate what has happened, hate the person that did it. It's human nature and perfectly natural to feel that way. I'm not saying here that you shouldn't remorse over what has happened, what I'm saying is don't let it define you. Don't let what has happened be the deciding factor for the rest of your life. Take control. How do you do this??? FORGIVENESS

Let me preface this with...forgiveness is one of the hardest things you can ever do. It may take many trys before you truly forgive. You may think you have and then those same thoughts of revenue or anger come back. We are not perfect. Forgiveness is not perfect. It may take you days or several years to get there. It took me many many many years to get there....and I still struggle with it sometimes.

A heavy burden

All of those feelings for me were like carrying around a huge backpack. I had all sorts of emotions...sadness, fear, betrayal, resentment, anger, confusion and pain. I carried them around with me for many years, letting this situation and these feelings hold me back, just like a heavy backpack would. It was harder to climb those mountains in life, because my burden was so heavy. I fatigued easily because my burden was so heavy. I took easier roads to travel because my burden was so heavy.

I put my backpack down last year and left it and started a journey onto a road not knowing where it was leading, but I knew one thing...I was lighter, I was free, I felt good. It was the greatest release I've ever felt, an unimaginable freedom. It was not easy. It still is not easy. I was called to forgive, as it wasn't my burden to bear. Forgiveness is not about overlooking or excusing what happened to you, it is about RELEASING yourself from the emotions you feel.

Today I'm calling you to start thinking about forgiveness...yes you!! Whether your spouse has done something minor or the unthinkable, whether your friend has betrayed you, whether your childhood just matter what the situation. I found forgiveness through God's strength, but whether you reading this are religious or not, please take the time to ponder this...think about it, pray about it. What an awesome gift to give yourself and that person. Don't go into it with certain expectations, be open. Be open to their might experience tears of relief together, you might experience a re-birth of your relationship with that person, they may say nothing at all. The point is you are now free, you can now put down your bag and go freely.