What Really Holds Me Back

(This is quite possibly the most vulnerable post I have ever written…)

On our wedding day I felt as any bride should: beautiful, confident, joyful.

I had worked hard to lose twenty pounds before that day, and it felt so good to be thinner.

And then I got comfortable, as so many married people do…

Over the years I have lost the same amount of weight several times only to gain it back.

I gained over 30 pounds during pregnancy – pounds I hoped would melt away while nursing. Seventeen of those pounds did go away, but I am still carrying fifteen pregnancy pounds in addition to the fifty that I have gained since getting married almost five years ago.

Sixty-five extra pounds.

That is the minimum that I need to lose. According to the “charts” I need to lose 75-85 pounds in order to be a “normal” weight for my height.

How did this even happen?!

Before Tori got sick I was working on losing weight and I felt encouraged about my progress.

But then our world was turned upside-down and I was forced into the role of full-time caregiver and nurse – a role I never imagined myself in, and one that requires all of my time and energy. It often requires more energy than I am able to give.

I want so desperately to lose this weight and feel better about my outward appearance, but I lack the determination and energy required. I don’t get much sleep these days and that makes everything more difficult.

I went shopping recently and couldn’t believe the size that fit me. It was a number I had never wanted to see. That experience was a reminder that I have to figure out a way to take care of myself AND Tori to ensure that I can continue to care for her with all of me.

I find the same lies and excuses swirling around in my head whenever I am tempted with comfort foods:

  • If I don’t eat this now, I may not have the chance to enjoy it again.
  • It’s too hard to find the time to prepare healthy foods.
  • I’ll just start again tomorrow.
  • Everyone thinks I’m fat and that’s all they see.
  • I’ll never be as thin as her, so what does it matter?

So, I give up and eat what sounds good, what will make me feel good in the moment. I have so many things to constantly be aware of in regards to Tori that it feels good to be carefree in just one area of my life.

And then I see photos of myself and I am appalled. Ashamed. I am reminded that I cannot just be carefree about what I eat – my genetics and my history tell me so.

I find myself not wanting to see people I haven’t seen in awhile because I don’t want them to judge my weight. I try to hide it, and I try to avoid those situations to prevent embarrassment.

Why is it that we try to hide the most obvious things about ourselves?

It’s as if we are children in our Sunday best who have been playing in the mud, but we try to hide it from our parents even though it’s obvious that we are dirty.

We try to hide our struggles because fear whispers that if we open up, if we are vulnerable, people will judge, criticize, and laugh at us. People will see how terrible we are and how greatly we have failed.

The reality is that when we are honest, others feel the freedom to share their struggles as well. Vulnerability brings freedom. 

You know what really holds me back? Fear of failure. Instead of remembering that I have successfully done this in the past, I become intimidated by my current situation with Tori and all that it requires of me and I let that affect my attitude.

Instead of trying, I give up before I even start.

I have sacrificed the care of myself because I have convinced myself that I can’t fully care for Tori AND me.

And that is a lie.

Can I spend hours a day working out? No.

Can I prepare elaborate healthy meals for myself and for Brennan on a daily basis? No.

But I can start somewhere.

And that somewhere is writing this extremely vulnerable post, because, as Jon Acuff so wisely said, “fear fears community.” Fear wants you to feel isolated, alone, defeated. Fear hates accountability and solidarity.

But the power of fear is lessened when it is exposed to the world.

I know I am not alone in this. I’m sure there are other women – especially in my shoes as a caregiver – who struggle with this very thing. And I want to figure out a solution because if I don’t take care of myself, how can I fully care for Tori?

What am I going to do about this?

  • To start, I am going to stop focusing on my failures and instead celebrate each success. I’m optimistic in every other area of my life, so why not this? (Examples: I drank all my water today! I ate healthy snacks!)
  • I am going to take it one meal at a time and not be overwhelmed by the length of the journey ahead of me. 
  • I am going to combat those lies above with truth:
    • Ice cream will be there when I reach my short-term goals and want a treat.
    • I do have time to put together simple healthy meals and snacks.
    • I won’t wait until tomorrow to start over – I will start immediately.
    • I will remember that people are just as focused on themselves as I am and they likely aren’t focused on my weight, especially given my circumstances.
    • I will stop comparing myself to other women. Thin doesn’t mean healthy.

For me, it’s not just about the pounds – it is about overall health. I know that several women in my family have developed diabetes and I am terrified of that being my story as well.

I’ve got to start now.

I can’t change Tori’s condition, nor can I change the fact that she doesn’t sleep much (which makes me so tired all the time). But I can do one thing at a time to make progress. I can focus on what I DO accomplish as opposed to what I don’t.

And I can be patient with myself and offer grace when I fall short.

I am going to blog about my progress as forced accountability, because now that you all know what I am trying to do, I feel “required” to report back to you. 🙂

These before pictures are from July 4, 2015; not much has changed, yet, but that changes now.

July 4, 2015 Before Picture

July 4, 2015 Before Picture

Taking Care of Baby for Free

Note: just because we have made these choices doesn’t mean that we are judging those who don’t! All parents have to make the decisions that work best for their family.

The number one thing I have heard about raising kids is how expensive it is. Between diapers, formula, wipes, etc. it can really add up during the first few years of life. On average, parents who choose (or need to use) formula will spend thousands of dollars just to feed their baby. Diapers on average will cost $3,000 per child from birth to potty training. I don’t have links to prove this, but I have heard these stats enough to believe them.

When we found out that we were pregnant, we knew that I would stay at home with the baby (and all future children), which would mean a slight loss of income. So, being the frugal person that I am, I began to research ways that we could save money and still make life great for our children so that our budget would not be greatly impacted.

By cloth diapering, using cloth wipes, and breastfeeding, we spend very little, if any, money on our baby each month.

IMG_3535.JPGIf you had asked me a few years ago if I would ever cloth diaper, I would have said no! It sounded awful and like so much work. However, I have several friends who have cloth diapered and they blogged about their experiences. As I read their blogs, I realized that this was absolutely what we needed – and wanted – to do.

We spent less than $300 up front for our cloth diapers. We have 21 diapers and at least 20 extra liners. Since they need to be washed every 2-3 days anyway, it’s the perfect amount of diapers for one child.

Because Tori is exclusively breastfed (which is also free), washing the diapers is simple: you put them right into the washer. The poop of breastfed babies is water soluble (and doesn’t stink!), so you just do a cold rinse cycle and then add your detergent and wash on hot. So while we have increased our water bill by about $4 per month, we are saving so much more than that!

In addition, Brennan’s step-mom and her daughter-in-law made us cloth wipes for our baby shower. Again, never thought I would use cloth wipes! They are so wonderful and so good for baby’s skin, though! No chemicals, no waste, and you wash them with the diapers. Even our pediatrician said to not use disposable wipes because of the chemicals.

Tori rarely has any diaper rash and she seems to prefer cloth to disposables based upon her demeanor during diaper changes. We do use disposables at times and have them on hand for babysitters who may be uncomfortable with cloth.IMG_3532.JPG

The best part about using cloth is that these will last until she is 35 lbs, and we can use them for all of our children! That means a savings of $11,700 if we have the four kids we would like to have! Granted, if the next baby is born before Tori is potty trained we may need to buy a few more, but we are still saving thousands of dollars.

Kids don’t have to be expensive. It’s all about what your priorities are, I think. You can choose to use disposables, which are easy and convenient, but expensive, or you can choose cloth, which require a little bit more effort and time but save thousands of dollars. We have chosen to save money while also keeping our daughter’s skin away from chemicals, and it is working well for us.

What steps have you taken to save money while raising children?



31 pounds by 31 years


Today was a very motivating day for me in general, and I came up with an audacious goal: I want to lose 31 pounds by my 31st birthday, which is on December 31, 2013. Lots of “1” and “3” up there. 🙂

By the way–I hate posting about this. It’s so much easier to just ignore my problem and tell myself that “it’s not that bad” and that it will be too hard to change. Whatever. From this day forward, I’m declaring war against weight-gain. 🙂

Science tells us that it is safest to lose 1-2 lbs per week. Given that I have 19 weeks, that means that I should be able to lose 38 lbs (my ultimate goal is 45-50) by that time.

How am I going to do this? I know that when I am strict and eat “clean” (and eat NO sugar), the weight comes off so easily. Add working out regularly to that, and I think this should be an easily obtainable goal.

How am I motivating myself? Three main ways:

One, I am not going to allow myself to donate my hair (working on my 4th donation) until the weight is gone. I am really ready to donate it, so this is incentive.

Two, when I lose the weight, Brennan and I will have some updated pictures taken of ourselves, since the last professional pictures were at our wedding nearly three years ago. I really don’t like having pictures taken of me right now, since I am heavier than I have ever been.

Three, I will get to go shopping! I haven’t really bought a ton of new clothes in the past year because I keep saying “when I lose weight…” Well, given the fact that I own ONE pair of jeans now because I can’t fit into the rest of them, this needs to be a major motivation.


The other silly motivation is our Wii Fit. My “Mii” is SO round and it makes me annoyed every time I see it.

According to the Wii, by BMI puts me in the “obese” category (cringing right now as I type that), and I want it to be back to “normal” (though, according to those charts, I need to lose 60 lbs, and that’s not likely to happen).  I want to wear a single-digit size for the first time since high school. I want to be more comfortable around people, not fearing what they are thinking about me.

Most of all, I WANT to be healthy. I want to be active. I want to feel great, and I know that eating clean, cutting out sugar, and starting to exercise more regularly will help tremendously.

So, it starts today. 133 days until I turn 31, and I want that birthday celebration (in California, with my family) to be AMAZING. By our anniversary on November 6th, I want to be able to fit into that black dress that I’ve NEVER worn because it didn’t fit.

I’m going to keep posting updates here because it creates accountability, and it is also forcing me to own up to my weight problem. Vulnerability is freeing and I’m trying to embrace that more often.

Most of all, I want to honor God by taking better care of this body with which He has blessed me, and I never want my weight to hinder me from serving Him in any way.

The Start Experiment, Round 2: Day Three, Part 2

“Don’t ask what the world needs.

Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.

Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

― Howard Thurman

Tonight I attended a meeting of the Harrisburg Social Media Club after being invited by a fellow Start Experimenter who lives nearby. I went on behalf of Essential Harrisburg in hopes that I could learn more about how to utilize social media for my “business” and do some networking.

I assumed that it was going to be like a class where we all sit quietly and learn. I had no idea that they would ask us to introduce ourselves and our organization! So, in front of 30 strangers, I introduced EssentialHarrisburg.com and gave a brief description. That was slightly nerve-wracking – but not because of the public speaking element. Up until that moment, my website had existed only on Facebook in “safe” circles: friends, family, and the Start Experiment community. Now, there are strangers–businesspeople in the surrounding area–who know about it and could possibly check it out. And in the moment, I briefly questioned whether or not I even belonged there…whether or not my idea had value in the world. Fear strikes at the most inconvenient times. 🙂

This is exciting, but it also reminds me of how much work needs to be done to generate quality content. Also, I need to get business cards. I wrote that down on my to-do list last week and spoke with a friend about creating a simple logo for me…now I am very aware that I need to get those done as soon as possible so that in moments like the one tonight, I have something tangible that I can hand out to keep the idea fresh in the recipient’s mind.

I also sent my portfolio and an application to a missions organization tonight to possibly help them out with photojournalism. I’m pretty excited about this organization because they offer very unique service opportunities that would be perfect for Brennan and I to do together.

This thing is real. It is actually happening.

The Start Experiment, Round 2: Day Three

The further into this Start Experiment I go, the more I am filled with wonder and anticipation at what God is doing in my life and in my marriage. The second round is already proving to be more amazing than the first, and I think part of that is simply due to the fact that I have been able to figure out my dream. The other part is that this community of people continues to grow closer together and the momentum continues to build. We’re all in this together.

So far, I am 4.5 lbs down from when I started this project, which isn’t impressive considering that it has been a month. However, I wasn’t as strict as I wanted to be during the first round. I admittedly didn’t try as hard as I should have. But, that has changed. I have newfound determination.

To give myself a visual goal, I hung a dress on my closet door that I want to wear on our anniversary. I currently cannot fit into this dress, but I love it. I really want to wear it on November 6th. But, in order to wear it, I need to lose probably 20 more pounds in the next 83 days. That is a little over 11 weeks from now, and if I lose the recommended 2 pounds per week, I can lose more than 20 by then. That will be about half of my weight-loss goal.

So this is my audacious health-related goal: to lose 20 pounds by my anniversary so that I can wear the black dress.

I have nearly finished my photography portfolio and already submitted it to one organization. I am working with a new friend to finalize captions and things before she helps me submit it to people who might be able to help me reach my audacious dream of being a travel photographer.
Here’s the link to my portfolio: http://www.flickr.com/lesabrackbill

I am also going on a mission trip to Guatemala in February!

God is definitely moving in our lives, and I am SO excited to see what happens.

The Start Experiment, Round 2: Day One

It begins again: 24 days of focused and audacious dreaming and risk-taking. Round One of The Start Experiment brought me such freedom and courage, and I am beyond excited to see what happens next.

My risks for the first round were focused on self-discipline (physical and spiritual), and I am going to continue those elements through this next round (and hopefully for the rest of my life). I will continue to eat clean, exercise, blog, and spend time with God each day.

As a result of the connections made in Round One, I was able to focus in more on what my dream is and what it is going to take to make it a reality.

I asked myself this question: if I could do anything at all for the rest of my life, regardless of whether I made money or not, what would that be? And the answer is this: I would travel around the world and take pictures in order to tell the stories that need to be told (i.e. missions, disaster/response, capturing God’s Creation, etc.).  

That led me to create Essential Harrisburg. I realized that, through this new blog/website, I have an opportunity to grow my skills, increase my audience, share my city with the world, and use this as a way to serve the city in a new way all without having to fly anywhere. I needed to Start somewhere, so I decided to Start in my own backyard.

This leads to what I am risking for round two. The theme is “Audacious” and we were encouraged to be radical, to be risky and do something that really scares us. So, here’s what I’m going to do:

  1. Continue to work on self-discipline risk from Round One.
  2. Focus on writing a minimum of 3 posts a week (which includes photography) for www.essentialharrisburg.com in order to generate content like crazy so that I can approach someone from the City to connect with them and share my goals.
  3. Make contacts with people who can potentially help me obtain my dream job of being able to get paid to travel and do photography/missions.
  4. (the audacious one) Actually send my portfolio to a potential “employer” and not be afraid of rejection.

The next 24 days are going to be amazing…I just know it. I can’t wait to see what God does through this!


The Start Experiment: Reflections

Today is the last day of round one of the Start Experiment, and it has been a great 24 days. Did I perfectly meet all of my goals? No. But that wasn’t my objective. I set specific goals that all revolved around one thing: self-discipline. And I do feel that I made progress toward that goal!

Over the past 24 days, my desire to read my Bible each day has increased. I’ve been working through 1 & 2 Chronicles and have been excited to see what’s going to happen next (since I love history and haven’t read these books in a while, it makes sense that I’m excited!) 🙂 I’m loving watching God’s plan unfold and these stories have taught me some valuable lessons for where I am in life, too.

I haven’t lost much weight, but I have made progress in being more aware of my food choices. We’re working on not having anything that isn’t “clean” in our house, which forces me to cook with only “real food” and nothing processed. We have made it to the gym at least twice a week since we joined, and we’re going to be increasing that each week. Our goal is to go 5 days a week eventually, once our schedule calms down.

I also made progress on my “future” dream of being a travel photographer by creating “Essential Harrisburg” and beginning to generate content.

The road to self-discipline is still long, but I am excited to continue this process. I know that it will enrich my life greatly and will help me to be a better Jesus-follower, a better wife, and a better future mother. This experiment gave me the momentum to “Start” and to stop procrastinating!

I’m looking forward to the second round of The Start Experiment because life will be much less hectic during this round. I went on vacation, started a temp assignment, had my parents here, broke my main camera lens, and had many other disruptions to my “normal” schedule, and that made it difficult to find my groove.

If you’d like to join the second round, you are invited! Registration is only open for 24 hours, so join now. It’s not overwhelming and the daily tasks are simple, yet challenging. The encouragement from the Start Community is unmatched and I am LOVING the interaction in our Facebook group.

To join in, take this survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/StartExpRound2