Three Years: Tori’s Resurrection Day

It’s amazing that it has already been three years since our precious Tori entered the arms of Jesus.

Today could be a devastating, sad day. We could choose to dwell on what we “lost” that day, how our world changed, and that would be an acceptable way to spend the day given the circumstances. I mean, we did lose a child. The world would understand. But, as always, we choose to place our focus on where she is and how she is doing, as well as the fact that we will see her again someday and will never have to say goodbye.

Instead of the worldly form of grief, we choose peace.
Instead of blaming God, we choose faith.
Instead of tears, we choose joy.

We decided two years ago that we would always spend Tori’s Resurrection Day (also called Tori’s Day of Triumph) doing something fun as a family. The activities may vary from year to year, depending on the age of her siblings and their interests, but we want to always celebrate her life and her current/forever place of residence.

So, today we had breakfast at Cracker Barrel and had some fried apples (something she LOVED) together:

We went to see Tori’s tree at the Hershey Gardens for our second annual family photo in front of the tree:

We read “I Can Only Imagine: A Friendship with Jesus Now and Forever” to the boys – something we will do each year as we teach them about Tori, Heaven, and faith in Jesus.

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But most importantly, we enjoyed our time as a family:


I promise we aren’t perfect Christians, nor are we perfect people. We sought out the biblical examples of living after a loved one’s death, and we believe that this is how we are to live. The New Testament, especially, is FILLED with verses about death of fellow believers and how Christians should respond, and it’s always referenced with joy. With peace.

We trust that the God who created the universe can be trusted with every detail of our lives, even when we don’t understand the reasons. 

(If you’d like to hear me go more into depth about this and more, here’s a link to a speaking engagement I had in January. You can also read more in my book, Even So, Joy.)

One of the questions I ask in Even So, Joy is this: If we (as followers of Jesus) truly believe God and His promises, if we truly believe that Heaven is where we belong and where we will spend eternity, then why do we follow the world’s example and allow sorrow and grief to overcome us? It doesn’t have to be this way. 

Would anyone CHOOSE to lose a child? Absolutely not. And yet, we CAN choose our reaction and how we live our lives afterward. We see the example of David losing a child (albeit to very different circumstances) in 2 Samuel 12 and his response:

19 When David saw them whispering, he realized what had happened. “Is the child dead?” he asked.

“Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.”

20 Then David got up from the ground, washed himself, put on lotions,[b]and changed his clothes. He went to the Tabernacle and worshiped the Lord. After that, he returned to the palace and was served food and ate.

21 His advisers were amazed. “We don’t understand you,” they told him. “While the child was still living, you wept and refused to eat. But now that the child is dead, you have stopped your mourning and are eating again.”

22 David replied, “I fasted and wept while the child was alive, for I said, ‘Perhaps the Lord will be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But why should I fast when he is dead? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him one day, but he cannot return to me.”

David got up. He worshiped the sovereign God he knew and trusted. He knew he would see his son again someday and chose to live life.

I think about it this way: If it were me that had died, I would NOT want my parents to stop living life. I would not want them to visit my grave (or, as we call it, Resurrection Site). I would want them to remember that the separation is not forever, that I am where we all, as Believers, are supposed to be. That I am finally HOME. 

Brennan and I chose then – and we choose now – to focus on Tori and how amazingly she is doing now. Tori can SMILE. Walk. Talk. Breathe. Play. Be with Jesus. How incredible is that?! Our precious baby girl was so broken here on earth; now she is healed and WHOLE. That is more than enough reason to rejoice!

Brennan and I know and believe that Heaven is real, that she is having an amazing time, and that we will join her someday. Every day is one day closer to that reunion!

You may not be in a situation like ours, but we all have our own challenges and life struggles. No matter what our circumstances, we each have a daily decision to make, a choice for how we view our journey; we have the opportunity to choose for it to be well with our souls and to focus on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2).

Every day, we each have a decision to make: where is your focus?

Renewed Sense of Purpose

It’s been ten years since I first took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. For the first time, I felt like I knew how to handle budgeting (I used to think it was inhibiting, when it’s actually incredibly freeing) and how to tackle debt. I met Brennan a few months later and eventually taught him what I had learned.

When we got married, we both brought debt (student loan and other debt) into the marriage. Our total amount of debt was $106,929.39. Staggering. Crippling debt. But, we followed Dave’s plan (with a few detours) and committed to knocking that out as quickly as possible.

We bought our first home six years ago because we saw the profit potential and knew it would be a way to become debt-free even faster. And it worked.

In our first six years of marriage we paid off $85,000 and were down to only my student loan. But then we became lazy and, when tempted to take out a large construction loan to remodel our new home, we gave in impulsively to have the instant gratification. While not in debt to the extent we were when we first got married, it’s debt, regardless, and it has been difficult mentally to get over our mistake.

Our new church announced that they were offering the class beginning in January, so we decided that it was time to take it together and get back on track. We have continuously budgeted our entire marriage but it’s time to start the “debt snowball” once more.

Now that we have children in our home again, we’ve realized that THEY are our motivation and purpose. We never want to have to tell them they can’t participate in something because we don’t have the money if debt is the reason. 

Our goal is to be debt-free by the time they turn five. That is fifty months from now.

We have a plan. We’ve tightened up our budget as much as possible – which led us to realize that we surprisingly don’t have a spending problem, but rather an income problem (in terms of having extra to be aggressive with debt payoff). We weren’t sure what to do, but we prayed for opportunities to earn extra money that could be applied directly to our debt.

And, as always, God is faithful to His children.

I was presented with the opportunity for a new part-time job that will not only bring in some extra income but also help us cut our food budget and simplify meal planning (and give me a much-needed break a couple of nights each week).

And then, on Friday, I was offered a promotion at my other part-time job that not only pays more but it’s a lot more responsibility (being the manager on duty – MOD). Not only was this an answer to my prayer, but I was an answer to their “prayers” because it’s only 1-2 weekend days a month and they didn’t know how they would find someone willing to work so few hours. Then they remembered me, my qualifications, and how I’m currently only working there 1-2 times per month, and they said it was the perfect solution all-around. God’s hand is clearly in this. 

This all happened in the last three weeks and we’re still in awe. 

We didn’t pray that God would just hand us money (though we wouldn’t say no 😉 ) – we prayed for opportunities to EARN it, and He came through quickly and amazingly!

I share all of this as an encouragement. ANYONE can do what we’re doing. EVERYONE can become debt-free even though it requires dedication, sacrifice, and hard work. As Dave says, “Live like no one else so that later you can live and give like no one else.”

We are “gazelle intense” and ready to pay off my student loans and this construction loan as soon as we possibly can. The future of our children is worth the sacrifices we make now.

What Motivates You?

Today I cleaned my kitchen.

It took me several hours as I had to do tasks in short stints as the boys allowed, but it looks SO much better, and I feel better about it.

Why am I telling you this? There’s a reason. I’ve learned something recently that I think may help you, as well.

Bottom line: I don’t love housekeeping. My lack of love for it has led me to justify being lazy about it. Add in the excuse of twins, and a loving husband who will come home from work and do whatever needs to be done, and I easily justify and make excuses for not cleaning or tidying my house very often.

I don’t like cleaning, but I also don’t like when my house is messy. So I have had to really think about what motivates me, as a clean house is proving to NOT be motivation in and of itself.

We recently sat down and made priorities for our family, and one of the top three is family time. When I began to evaluate my role as an at home wife and mother with our new priorities in mind, it became clear that I need to use my family as my motivation for the tasks I don’t feel like doing.

When I allow love for my husband and children to be the motivator, I can find joy in the mundane.

My husband works HARD to provide for our family. He is gone for 8-9 hours per day, time he would rather be with his family; yet, he faithfully goes to work so that we can afford to live.

He works hard and deserves to be able to enjoy his children when he comes home instead of doing dishes.

(Note that I didn’t say he should get to just come home and lounge – if he only wanted to do that, I’d find it MUCH harder to want to do these things! But because he loves to serve his family, I want to make sure there’s little for him to do while he’s home.)

When he comes home to a clean (ish) house, he can relax and enjoy our boys. And that will bring joy to my heart as I love seeing him as a father (and it gives me a little break 😉).

As the boys become more mobile, that will be motivation for keeping the floors clean so that they have a clean space in which to crawl and play.

See what I mean?

Chores by themselves are NOT motivating to me at all. Neither is obligation. But knowing that what I am doing is serving and blessing those I love the most makes me do these tasks with joy (most of the time).

Make priorities to guide your family, and use them as your motivation. Having family priorities is truly transforming our home life and I am SO excited about how it will shape us and our future in years to come!

If your motivation for something is negative – or non-existent – try to find something good and positive that can be a motivation. Something outside of yourself.

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters.
But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature.
Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”
– Galatians 5:13 (NLT)

Serving others brings such joy (and it’s biblical), so let that be your motivation for the mundane.

“Love each other with genuine affection,
and take delight in honoring each other.”
– Romans 12:10 (NLT)

Discipline, Freedom, and Walmart Pickup

It’s been almost a year since I blogged about the freedom that comes from discipline and I’m not surprised that it has, yet again, been a theme in my life lately.

In short: I’m in desperate need of structure.

As the twins have been increasingly content to play and occupy themselves, it has given me more time and more opportunities to do things unrelated to them. While it has been great, it has also revealed just how out of control life has become AND how desperately I have been craving structure.

Beginning in childhood, we tend to think that freedom means no rules, no boundaries, no structure.

It’s actually the opposite.

Since the boys were born we have been less strict with following our budget, which leads to overspending and stress.

We’ve eaten out (also not in the budget) WAY more than we should simply because it was easier than meal planning.

When we have free time the LAST thing we want to do is something responsible, but that has led to us feeling burdened by the lack of discipline. In reality, we could have found the time to create more order in our lives if we had really made it a priority.

We’ve allowed our lack of discipline to create mild chaos in our home.


Two weeks ago, at one of the mom groups I attend, the speaker discussed setting priorities. She started by mentioning one of the laws of physics – that an object in motion will stay in motion unless something interferes. The same goes with our priorities – if we want change, it isn’t going to miraculously happen. We have to step in and fight to make it happen.

This week, Brennan and I sat down after brainstorming separately and discussed what our priorities were for our family, our marriage, and ourselves. Not surprisingly, they were almost identical!

I will blog more about them later, but the top three are:

1. Spiritual growth

2. Financial freedom

3. Family time/closeness

Each one has many bullet points and ideas for how to implement them, but we wanted to keep each overall priority simple.


We’re using these priorities to help us make decisions and allocate our time, and it is already making a huge difference.

Example: meal planning

I decided that every other Wednesday (budget day) will be meal planning day. I will also be simplifying the meal rotation to 10-15 meal options so that I have less thinking to do, and we will be using the slow cooker daily if possible to ensure that dinner happens.

I will “shop” that day using the Walmart Pickup (click for $10 off your first order!) app (the BEST THING EVER) so that I am able to see how much we actually need in the budget AND we won’t be able to easily buy impulsively. Immediate savings! Plus, we will save time by pulling up and having them load the groceries into my van!

I will also put each meal on the calendar so that I don’t have to think about what’s for dinner. Instead of wondering what sounds good, we will simply have what is scheduled. This alone will alleviate stress!

Oh, and I also found out that Costco will DELIVER to our house so that’s also a game changer! Now I can stay on budget and only get what we need (we all know how difficult that is at Costco!).

Just taking action in this ONE area helps our budget (financial freedom), helps us eat better, and gives us back time spent grocery shopping multiple times a month (family time).

These things may sound simple – and that’s the point. Right now, my exhausted brain can only handle so much without feeling overwhelmed, so these simple steps to make meal planning (and sticking to the budget) happen are well worth it.

I’ve felt so tired and didn’t think that structure was necessary, but it turns out that the lack of structure was making me even more tired!

I feel SO free and relieved knowing that my groceries are ordered, we stayed within our budget, meals for the next two weeks are scheduled, and my family will eat well.

We’re excited about our new family priorities and cannot wait to see how they shape our lives from here on out.

Do you have priorities that guide your family? I’d love to hear about them!

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!

How We Cut Our Cellular Costs in HALF

Like many people, Brennan and I have recently been trying to figure out where we could cut costs in our budget. There weren’t many obvious possibilities, but we saw a commercial that brought us hope.

We have Comcast internet at home, so when we saw a commercial for Xfinity Mobile we were intrigued. It sounded too good to be true, but it has turned out to be everything it promises.

  • You only pay for the data you use – $12 per GB, or unlimited for $45. This gives you complete control over your bill!
  • You can switch back and forth between unlimited and pay by the gig, even mid month! This means you’re always getting the best deal.
  • Xfinity uses Verizon’s network so we have the same cellular coverage that we did with AT&T.
  • You are automatically connected to Xfinity WiFi hotspots whenever they exist, which is frequent! This means you use less data.

Our first bill with Xfinity will be HALF of what we were paying with AT&T. That’s a savings of $100!

The added benefit has been increased quality time: we’ve been trying to not use our phones at all when WiFi doesn’t exist, so we’ve had more quality time together while we’re away from home.

It’s so easy (especially as an introvert) to just pick up your phone and browse the internet instead of engaging with people; but, because we decided that we will try to use as little data as possible each month and made it a game, it’s also increasing our quality time with others.

It was hard to leave AT&T after fifteen years as a satisfied customer, but so far Xfinity is proving to be a much better way to do mobile and it’s saving us a significant amount of money each month.

This isn’t a paid endorsement, but I’d encourage you to look into services like this if you’re interested! It’s worth the switch.

Even So…

The common theme of the past six months has been hurdles. Things haven’t been going as smoothly as we would like and we’ve come up against some significant challenges.

  • Buying this house came with one obstacle after another and cost more than we anticipated not only to buy it, but to do the necessary renovations (that still aren’t done because we ran out of money). It seems like all of our Dave Ramsey progress was lost and we’re having to start over again in our process to becoming debt-free.
  • We drained our savings (and our HSA) to pay for IVF (though MUCH of the cost was donated by generous and amazing people and we are SO very grateful!), and it’s tough to rebuild it.
  • We started an AirBnB in the apartment upstairs and have LOVED running it. It has brought joy to us and to the families and single mothers we have been able to serve and bless through this venture. It has also been hugely beneficial financially. 

    However, two of our neighbors are “uncomfortable” with the idea for ridiculous reasons (they don’t understand AirBnB at all, essentially) and they filed complaints with the township. We were forced to make a decision to either pay $450 and wait three months (and go to two zoning board hearings) to try to be rezoned for this type of use (no guarantee of approval), or give up and just get a tenant (less income, loss of the opportunity to help others enjoy Hershey and run an AirBnB; loss of space to host family and friends and bands (through RYFO.org) upstairs).

    Ultimately, we’ve decided to try to find a tenant because some battles aren’t worth fighting. The township needs to modify their rules about AirBnB instead of trying to make it fit into other molds and making it impossible for residents to do. I am proud of my letter to the township supervisors and hope that it will make a difference in the future for property owners to use their property as they choose.

  • I haven’t had much time to finish my book proposal or to find an agent, even though my manuscript has been complete (and edited) for six months. I’m struggling to remain positive about it being published, even though I believe that the Lord led me to write it for that purpose.
  • I am committed to do many good things, but finding a balance and remaining disciplined has been a challenge.

Even so, it is well with our souls.

It hasn’ t been ALL bad, but the hard things in life tend to overshadow the good; when we focus on the positive we realize that we have had some GREAT things happen:

  • We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to California, Oregon, Washington, and ALASKA in June and returned home feeling rejuvenated even though the trip was exhausting. Seeing the beauty of God’s creation and spending treasured time with family was worth every lost minute of sleep.
  • We found out that we have THREE embryos (out of the five) that are healthy! Two are not even carriers of Krabbe! The fourth embryo needs to be retested, and the fifth has chromosomal abnormalities that are not survivable. We are thankful for these 3-4 and will hopefully do the first transfer in August.
  • Thanks to my dad spending two weeks out here, we’ve nearly completed the basement projects (laundry room/bathroom drywall and paint, etc.). We’re going to be ready for hosting bands and other guests so soon! Since we’re giving up the AirBnB this space will allow us to continue to minister to bands through RYFO – an amazing network of host homes for touring musicians.
  • Brennan and I are trying to become much more disciplined than we are currently in every area of our lives. It’s a struggle but we must overcome and become self-disciplined.

Through it all, my heart has remained at peace because I trust the Lord completely and I have absolute faith that this is all happening for a reason. As the popular song states, “Let go my soul and trust in Him, the waves and wind still know His name…” He is still on the throne, He is still in charge, and, most importantly, He still LOVES us. In those moments when I feel worry start to encroach on my peace, I stop and pray and remind myself that He’s got this.

And so we press on, knowing that it will all turn out alright.