Choose to See Beauty

I love fall, so when I heard we were going to get several inches of snow in mid-November I was incredibly disappointed.

The last time this happened, it knocked all of the colorful leaves off of the trees prematurely, and our fall was cut short. It’s already such a short season so to have it made even shorter was frustrating.

We have a glorious red tree in our backyard and I was not thrilled that the leaves would now be covered with snow.

However, this morning I noticed that the melting snow actually made our tree and its leaves even more vibrant. The cold, white undesirable, snowy background highlights the beauty of the red leaves more than the lush, green grass does.


Do you see where I’m going with this? The analogy was too perfect to pass up.

I’m obviously not just talking about leaves.

This is a perfect example of how there is beauty in the broken.

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In life, when bad things happen or things do not go the way we think they should, we can choose to see it two ways: we can focus on the bad, ignoring the beauty around, or we can notice how the good shines even greater in the midst of the bad.

We would not appreciate the good if everything were always perfect – we wouldn’t realize that life could go any differently! But, when less than perfect conditions arise, it gives us an opportunity to truly appreciate life and the joy that it brings.

Our family will never feel whole because we will always be missing one. Tori is living an abundant, full life without us right now and we will join her someday. But, what we endured has made us find so much MORE joy in the life we have now. The twins may be challenging at times, but they are such a blessing and a joy, and we appreciate them so much more because their sister existed and was taken away from us (#KrabbeSucks).

Believe me, I am not happy about the snow (and I am not happy that Tori had to go to Heaven so soon). But, I choose to allow it to help me see the beauty in the life that I do have, instead of focusing on what the snow has taken away.


I’m sure you’ve seen this meme before:

joyinsnow

It’s so true. So, this winter, as much as I am dreading the cold and the snow, I will remember this as often as possible. I will choose to (somehow) find joy in the snow. ❤

Twenty-Three Weeks

Not long ago I opened the calendar app on my phone and counted the number of weeks between Tori’s birth and the onset of Krabbe. I was surprised to find that she became fully symptomatic at exactly twenty-three weeks. To the day.

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Last photo of Tori smiling, taken at age 22 weeks 6 days (January 6, 2015)

That’s how old the boys are today.

Our healthy, strong, Krabbe-free identical twin boys are the same age today as Tori was when a horrific disease began to steal everything from her – her smile, her laugh, her ability to swallow, and eventually her life.

Twenty-three weeks.

As I was typing this, I momentarily thought “I wish I would have known that she’d never smile again so I could have treasured it.” But my next thought was, “Hmmm…would I really want to know?”

So often we say that we would, but is it ever a good idea when it’s something we can’t change? I think in most instances we’d end up worrying so much about what was about to happen that we would be unable to be fully present. Instead, I will treasure the smiles she did have as well as the smiles from her brothers each day.


I have been asked many times if I think I have some degree of PTSD, and after considering the question, I can honestly answer no. Sure, there are things that will never be the same about me – or my parenting – after Tori (for instance, I definitely check to make sure the twins are breathing far more than I expected to do), but I most certainly do not have PTSD. Brennan would tell you the same. We are living in joy and peace.

And that leads me to wonder why.

Why are we okay when so many who’ve walked in our shoes aren’t okay?


I had a conversation with my chiropractor during my most recent visit and it helped me in unexpected ways.

She remarked that she has loved seeing how Brennan and I have walked through this journey with grace and joy (we take no credit for that), and she loves how we’ve chosen to live out our faith. Her encouraging words (and great adjustment) would have been enough, but the Lord chose to continue to speak through her.

I told her that I often wonder why Brennan and I seem to be set apart from so many who have lost children, how we seem to be handling it so differently than most, even than other believers.

It’s not that we never think or talk about Tori (quite the opposite). She’s very much a part of our home and we will make sure the boys know everything about their big sister. It’s not that we’ve “gotten over it” because you really don’t ever “get over it” when you’ve lost a child.

(Side note: who defines what that actually looks like? Who makes the rules? Not getting over it doesn’t have to mean crying all the time or living your life depressed. It simply means that you are never the same, but it has such an unnecessarily negative connotation. We will never “be over” losing Tori but we also choose to live the life we think she’d want us to live – she’s in Heaven, happy as can be, so why wouldn’t she want us to live in joy?)

I expressed to her that I feel sorry (not pity, but genuine sadness) for those who can’t move on, who cry daily, who can’t seem to find joy in their lives after a tragedy like child loss. I mentioned my blog post about not visiting Tori’s grave. That we’re different but I can’t figure out why. That I wonder if we’re “doing it wrong” because we’re genuinely doing well and so many around us aren’t.

And then she said this: “it’s because you don’t let it define you. It’s because you find your identity in something (someone!) greater.”

In that moment, it clicked. She is totally right.

It’s not my identity. I’m not a victim, and I’m not a martyr.

Yes, I lost a child. Yes, it was terrible.

And yet, losing Tori doesn’t define me.

Did it impact me? Of course. But that’s not what defines me. The love of God (and my love for Him) defines me and my life. His mercy and grace overwhelm me and fill me with abundant gratitude. His faithfulness reminds me that we will see Tori again in Heaven for an ETERNITY. In a perfect place. With perfect bodies. No Krabbe. Forever.

I could elaborate more, but I already did in Even So, Joy 😉

We all have to choose what defines us, and I choose to NOT be defined by child loss. ❤


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As I watch Tori’s brothers today, I am amazed at their strength, at their smiles, at their health. They are doing things that Tori was never physically able to do – before or after Krabbe – and each new achievement is worthy of celebration. Every milestone reached fills us with awe.

That’s why I wanted to count the weeks.

That’s why I wrote a note on the calendar to pay attention to their development at twenty-three weeks.

Not because of PTSD. Not because of grief.

But because I am so indescribably thankful for God’s blessings to us. For his faithfulness. For His love. For every smile that these precious boys display. Everything. I don’t deserve this abundant life He has given to me, but I will embrace it and praise Him for it.

Even so, it is well with my soul. ❤

The What or The Who (Not the Band)

Last week’s sermon hasn’t left my mind much since I heard it.

The focus was on 2 Corinthians 5:14-16, 19-20.

“Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!

For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!””

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:14-16, 19-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This passage highlights a few important things for our life on this earth:

  • Christ’s love should control us. Not influence us, but CONTROL everything we are and do.
  • We are ultimately here to help people know Jesus and to see them as He sees them.
  • We are ambassadors entrusted with this great work!

The pastor commented that so often in this life we (are taught to) stress about the answer to the question, “what am I here for?

We wonder if we’re accomplishing that which we are here to do, and we often allow that question to cause unnecessary anxiety and fear. “What is my purpose? What if I never find it?” We allow that to drive our choices and actions.

I know people who have left their “secular” career to do something more “spiritual” while missing the fact that God needed them exactly where they were to be a light for Him (#MissionalLiving).

Instead of focusing on what we should be doing, the pastor said that we should be focusing on this question: “For whom am I here?

Who, not what.

Who has God placed in our sphere of influence? Our family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers are our purpose here.

Most importantly, we should never pursue the “what” at the expense of the “who” because EVERYTHING we do is just an excuse or a platform to lead others to Jesus. Everything.

We all have gifts and strengths and we have roles to play with those gifts and strengths; and we all have stories that others need to hear. God can use any job, any situation for His purposes, if we allow Him to do so.

In closing, he encouraged us to ask God to breathe mission into our current life and circumstances instead of asking Him to change them, to be content with the what and focus on the who.


This is relevant to me in a unique way:

Lately I’ve been struggling with being content with the sales of my book. Numbers. Rankings. Influence. This part of my journey has not gone as I expected.

Before it went to press, I had a modest goal in mind, one that I deemed easily – and quickly – attainable. I poured my heart into telling Tori’s story and it is the most vulnerable thing I have ever done. Her life and the lessons learned from her life matter and I just knew that I would sell thousands and thousands of copies!

As of today I have only reached 10% of that goal. Ten.

(I don’t tell you that to make you feel guilty if you haven’t bought it – though I wouldn’t mind if you did decide to buy it! 😉 There’s a point to all of this.)

Of course, I’m humbly thrilled that ANYONE has wanted to read it, and each sale means that someone new has learned about Krabbe, about Tori, and about our Heavenly Father. THAT is what matters.

But, if I am honest, I am also disappointed because I thought I would sell more given the number of people who have followed Tori from the beginning.

I’m human, after all. Pride sneaks in when we least expect to see it. I worked hard on the book and emotionally invested myself in it, so I obviously want it to “succeed” in terms of high numbers. But is that success?

I had been trying to brainstorm how to increase sales, how to market it on a greater scale (with zero dollars) in order to get the numbers up. It began to consume my thoughts (when I wasn’t caring for babies).

And then I heard that sermon last weekend and I understood what the Lord was asking of me:

Do I really trust the God of the universe to put my book in the hands of those who truly need the message? Is it about the number sold or about the soul reading it?

As one of my favorite songs says, “You’ve brought me this far, why would I question You now?” He opened the doors for it to be published, but do I trust His intentions? Yes. I just needed to be reminded, to refocus.

It’s not about numbers, it’s not about selling millions (though that would be incredible): it’s about my obedience in telling our story and allowing God to use it as He sees fit. Him, not me.

It’s so much more than just book sales. My book is just another way – not the only way – God is using my circumstances, my story, my faith, and my life to reconcile people to Him.

I have to remember this. Daily. And whenever I am tempted to be concerned with the numbers (often), I need to surrender it all to the One who is in control. And I need to pray that He will continue to use my life for His Kingdom and glory.

That’s what it’s all about.

Going Viral

We were so blessed to have the amazing Erin Fortney Photography capture the birth of our twins because it has made me feel like I was more involved and actually present in the room after delivery.

One of the photos she posted garnered a great deal of attention, to all of our surprise:

We love the photo and what it represents, but we didn’t expect what happened next. We were amazed to be contacted by so many reporters regarding our story and it went viral.

They were enamored with Brennan’s persistence in doing skin-to-skin in the O.R. (which to us is interesting because it wasn’t a question in our minds that he should have that experience with the boys, as well) and we definitely talked about that, but we also recognized the potential for Krabbe awareness and made sure they focused on Tori and her story, as well as Newborn Screening. THIS is our true passion in life!

Here’s the current list of publications that have written about us:

Babble: https://www.babble.com/parenting/skin-to-skin-dad-twins-photo/

Motherly: https://www.mother.ly/news/viral-pictures-show-dad-doing-skin-to-skin-with-his-twin-babies-for-a-very-good-reason

Love What Matters: http://www.lovewhatmatters.com/six-weeks-later-she-was-handed-a-death-sentence-how-dads-amazing-skin-to-skin-contact-with-twins-helps-heal-family-after-devastating-loss/

Birth Becomes Her: https://www.facebook.com/56901132/posts/10100975465821040/

CafeMom: https://thestir.cafemom.com/parenting_news/212461/dad-skin-to-skin-rainbow-twins

People: https://people.com/human-interest/brennan-brackbill-skin-twin-sons-death-toddler/

The Epoch Times: https://m.theepochtimes.com/uplift/father-gives-his-newborn-twins-a-shirtless-hug-right-after-theyre-born_2544565.html

The Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5849873/Pictures-father-cuddling-newborn-twins-skin-skin-delivery-room.html

Huge thanks to Erin Fortney for this image and for the write-up on Birth Becomes Her that started it all ❤ :

Dad had requested skin-to-skin in the OR from the moment that he stepped foot in the hospital… he must have mentioned it a dozen times.

He + his wife were preparing to welcome twins in to the world after losing their first-born to Krabbe Leukodystrophy at the young age of 20 months.

Staff told him that it would be tough since he would have two babies and needed to be in a scrub suit over his clothes … So he promptly and without question explained that he had a large arm-span that was ready and waiting to hold his two boys and then took his shirt off and zipped up his scrubs announcing, ‘well then.. problem solved!’

This nurse made sure to advocate for him to all 24 other people in the OR that day — and personally made sure that his request was fulfilled.  – Erin Fortney

Welcome to Our World

On September 1, 2017 this embryo was transferred…

…and we found out on September 25th that we were expecting identical twins.

On January 2nd we found out that we were expecting BOYS.

Today, we are thrilled to announce the arrival of The Brackbill Twins 😍

Introducing Baby A, or Isaiah Richard:

Weight: 5lbs 15oz

Length: 19″

Time: 10:07am

Isaiah means “Yahweh is Salvation.” Richard means brave. His middle name is from Brennan’s side, from his father, Kim.

Though unplanned, Isaiah has the sound “A” in it, and he is Baby A.

Isaiah was a prophet of the Lord, one who went willingly even though the messages given to him to preach were difficult and unpopular.

“Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.”” Isaiah‬ ‭6:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬


And Baby B, or Caleb Kenneth:

Weight: 6lbs

Length: 19″

Time: 10:09am

Caleb means brave, wholehearted. Kenneth means handsome. Kenneth is a family name from Lesa’s side – his middle name is from his grandfather, great-grandfather, uncle, great-uncle, and a long-time family friend.

Though unplanned, Caleb ends in B, and he is Baby B.

The Caleb of the Bible was an explorer (a spy, really), and a loyal follower of God. He did what was right even when those around him were turning away. He was courageous, and he was an example to all who knew him, as we hope our Caleb will be.

“For my part, I wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God. So that day Moses solemnly promised me, ‘The land of Canaan on which you were just walking will be your grant of land and that of your descendants forever, because you wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God.’” Joshua‬ ‭14:8b-9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“But my servant Caleb has a different attitude than the others have. He has remained loyal to me, so I will bring him into the land he explored. His descendants will possess their full share of that land.” Numbers‬ ‭14:24‬ ‭NLT‬‬


Our hope for these boys is that they will live lives that honor the Lord, that they will love well and be filled with joy, that they will be unafraid of speaking the truth and sharing the Gospel.


After we chose their names, we realized that the initials of our children (in birth order) are VIC, which is the first part of Victoria. The Lord is so faithful to His children!

We cannot wait to tell them stories about their sister and to make her a part of their lives. After all, she technically saved their lives and for that we are so grateful.

Thank you all for your love and support throughout this journey. We are so thankful for you!

Even When Plans Fail, There’s Joy…

This entire book process has made us laugh so many times because nothing has gone as expected.

But, our launch party was going to be smooth and perfect! The plans were set and everything was going to happen as we expected…

Or not 😉

When we arrived at the venue, no one was there to open it for us. We waited and waited, tried to contact the owners (who are out of town and this isn’t their fault at all!). It was cold and rainy, but we thought we could just do it in the courtyard outside the cafe.

Brennan’s sister, Kelly, had the idea to go around the corner to the movie theatre (CocoaPlex) to see if they could help, and they said we could set up in the lobby! 🍿 🎥 So we made a note (thanks, Gina!), moved our party over there, and had a great time! We had wanted a unique venue, and how much more unique can you get than the lobby of a movie theatre?! 😉 And, it was FREE, so we appreciated that!

We just happened to have a table in our van that worked well for signing books, and the bench in the lobby made a perfect display area.

As my book says many times, joy is a CHOICE, and tonight we chose to roll with the unexpected and make the most out of the evening…and it was GREAT. ❤

Thanks to all who came out to celebrate with us! Thanks to Karen for the amazing cupcakes! And huge thanks to CocoaPlex for allowing us to use your lobby!

 

 

Reminders of Krabbe and Choosing to Be Joyful

There will always be reminders of Krabbe and its effects on Tori in the least expected places.

The other night, for instance, on The Good Doctor, they had a patient who was unable to smile because her cranial nerves were not working properly.

Just like Krabbe.

This is just one example, of course. These situations always catch us by surprise, and it’s hard to believe that even just four years ago something like this wouldn’t have phased us. We would have enjoyed the episode of the show but it wouldn’t have made us think about anything else.

When times like this happen, we have a choice: focus on what Krabbe stole from her – and us – with sadness, or focus on all that Heaven restored to her with joy.

And, as always, we choose joy.

Her smile was amazing, even though we only saw it for five months. I think we will appreciate her brothers’ smiles far more because of this. Each smile, each expression…such joy.

We remember her smile with such love and eagerly await seeing it again soon – but not yet ❤️