do it all and be it all

I can't. I just can't. There is no way I can do everything, be everything, AND do everything and be everything well. It's simply not possible. Not for me and not, I truly believe, for anyone.


I do believe I can make more consistent efforts to simplify, streamline, and organize my life. The problem I've had so far is that it's tough for someone like me - a free-spirited yet somehow still quite obsessive/compulsive person - to strike the balance between checking off the to-do list and not being super rigid. I swing between one extreme or the other. I'm either in a super lazy mood, wasting time thinking about random shit or I'm go-go-go-do-all-the-things like a Stepford wife on steroids. 

Here are my issues (let's add these to the ongoing list, shall we?): I struggle to eat well because I have a baby and I'm already spending an hour at night preparing her bags, my bags, our outfits, etc. for the next day and I often forget to make my breakfast and/or lunch. Solution? Chick-Fil-A. DUH. Which means that I sometimes don't stick to the weekly spending allowance that Hubby and I both have for ourselves. So this then turns into a budget issue where money gets tight because I'm not doing my part and then I find myself thinking,"Hey! I'll clean out my closet/drawers and sell/donate everything (which I should make a seasonal habit anyway because, HELLO, we accumulate a lot of junk)" but it's hard to find the time to do this because of the issues I already mentioned. Oh, and working out? Yeah. Right. It's just an absurd cycle of first-world problems, you guys. 

Before my grandfather passed away, I had already planned on letting Lucy stay with my mom this past weekend while Pierce was on his church trip in order to spend some time at home streamlining. Internally and externally. I needed a refresher. And I got it...just not in the way I had planned.

So here I am again, trying to figure out the best ways to eat well, save money, use my time, and enjoy this thing called life. Does anyone ever get this right? I love to cook, but find that I don't want to spend the time making good meals because Lucy is a baby and, let's face it, babies need our constant attention. So, instead, when she's down for the count I'm trying to spend time with Pierce or just relax. But then that pile of laundry that's been crouching in the corner like a giant cotton demon starts staring at me, along with the rug that desperately needs vacuuming and the floor that's gathering dog hair like it wants to knit me a sweater. 

It's just too much. But like all cycles, it can only be broken if I cut into it with a new habit that, effectively, transforms all the other habits out of sheer necessity. Like eating. How about I spend one hour a week making a meal plan? My husband has a cafeteria at work so it's not like I have to worry about what he eats during the day. Then I can set aside another hour during the week (before I pick up Lucy) shopping for things that are on that list and storing them here at my in-laws where I work remotely (so I can be close  to Lucy's daycare and still hold down a job). That way I won't have to pack them all up each night and add our cooler to the four bags I already bring with me each day (diaper, pump, purse, and computer). Theeeeeeen I won't spend money eating out as much or subsequently panic about our finances. Sounds easy enough.

But. It's hard. I've tried it before and it can be difficult to maintain my motivation. Perhaps I sound like a whiny slob who is entirely too spoiled and needs to learn some self-control. I wouldn't argue with you there. So I'm trying to make it work. I seriously long to be a good steward of the things I own and the things I have been equipped to use. I don't want them to own or use me and, up until this point, that's exactly what they've been doing.

Anyone have any tips on how to organize and streamline life without making it feel like you live by a checklist? I'm open for suggestions. Until then, please just pray I don't keep wasting time. It goes by too fast.

what I've learned about family

I don't think I've shared this on the blog yet, but my sweet, sweet grandfather passed away a few weeks ago. It wasn't sudden. He had been ill for a few years, mostly because he spent the last sixty plus years of his life smoking and drinking nothing but coffee and Coke. He had to take his oxygen tank everywhere and walking was a bit of a job for him. But it was a stroke that finally pulled the last ounce of energy from his body and, in the stillness of a quiet February morning, he slowly took his last breath with his only daughter and youngest son - my aunt Christy and my daddy - by his side.

What a guy he was, my Grandpa Pete. I wish you could have known him. From the outside, his life didn't look like much, I suppose. He lived in an old mobile home in Wedowee, Alabama for as long as I can remember and he was a mechanic for many years. But he was incredibly smart and innovative, constantly reading and learning. He once invented a machine that would gather rain water and disperse it to the tomato plants growing in his backyard. He restored an old John Deere tractor from the 1930s to its original glory, just for fun. He loved karaoke. There were probably a thousand cassette tapes and CDs in his home.

My favorite memory of Grandpa Pete is probably from my junior year of high school, when my dad took me to his house so I could interview him for a World History project. The assignment was to interview someone who lived through either the Great Depression, World War II (or both), tape the interview, transcribe it, and then write a paper on what we had learned. The tapes and transcripts were then given to our local library to store in the archives. Grandpa Pete - whose real name was John Thomas - was born in 1936 so he was still very young at that time, but he remembered ration cards for butter and sugar, the contagious excitement of D-Day, and listening to FDR's Fireside Chats.

But, still...the best story about my grandfather comes from ten years ago when he was summoned for jury duty. After receiving a small check for his service, my grandfather proceeded to write the district court a letter about how it was an honor to serve his country and to be paid for simply fulfilling a role that many people in this world would love to have was absolutely ridiculous. He sent the check back and the letter along with it. The story was printed in the local paper.

That's just the kind of guy he was. Not perfect. But good. All the way down to his bones.

On Sunday afternoon my family spent the whole day together, celebrating a man who had given us so much. We listened to a tape of him singing an old hymn, and we all blubbered like babies. We scattered his ashes in the mountains of Alabama and shouted "Pete, you were a good ol' boy!" into the breeze as what remained of his life here on earth slowly floated down and settled into the water below. It was a really good day.

There aren't many things I know, really. But what I do know is that our families are a part of us, even if we deny them. Even if we're angry at them. Even if we love them to the moon and back. They are stitched into our skin and if we feel the bones beneath we'll feel the long lines of our father's arms, the wide, round nose of our uncles, our mother's high cheekbones, the birthing hips of our great-great grandmother. We will never be removed from them because they're inside us...and we can't get away from ourselves.

Being a family is hard. The people we love can be difficult to like sometimes. But it's worth the effort to push through the things we struggle with - loud voices, interruptions, stubborn refusals to change - in order to find what's underneath all of that: tenderness, compassion, fierce loyalty, laughter, and love. If we don't make the effort, who will tell our stories when we're gone? Who will remember the way we joked with one another? Who will remember my grandmother's dressing recipe? Who will tell my children's children that they are a chapter in an ongoing tale of grace? Because that's the most important lesson my family has taught me: we might shout at one another...we might gossip just a little too much...and we might get our feelings hurt...but there is grace for all of us. More than enough of it, in fact. And it's what keeps me coming back to this crazy, obnoxious, amazing, fun-loving group of people time and time again.

They are mine. And I am theirs. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

mommy diaries // 3 months + happy weekend!

Happy Friday folks! I love Fridays. They're always my favorite. It's the start of the weekend and a few glorious days with no plans (or tons of plans, depending on the season). On Fridays, Monday still seems so far away. And since I don't like Mondays, it's a win-win for me.

But today is a special Friday: our little Lucy is three months old! Happy birthday, baby girl!

She grows by leaps and bounds each day and it's such a joy to watch her learn. Since the moment she emerged into this world, Lucy has had this glorious kind of curiosity about her and it makes my mama heart proud. Curiosity cultivates imagination, and imagination is the cure for all kinds of aches and pains because it gives us the one thing that cannot die: hope. 

These days, Lucy is an expert smile-giver and is on the threshold of her first laugh. Oh, I cannot wait for the day that she bursts into a giggle! It's so close, you guys. 

The sweetest moments now come from feeling Lucy's body grow rounder and stronger each day. Formula is a God-send and I don't care what anyone else says (that's not entirely true; I still carry around a lot of guilt about it because of the myriad bloggers/other moms who say formula is, actually, of the devil). For me, I have the best of both worlds. Lucy is still nursing and I pump every day. But she has formula at daycare, as I've noted before, and since she has gone from 3-4 oz. bottles every three hours to 5-6 oz. bottles every three hours in the last few weeks (!), I realize that she is now getting more formula than boobie. But I'm sticking with it. It's a special bonding experience for us and it won't last forever, so I'm in no hurry to stop even though it's easy to feel discouraged at times because I'm not doing it exclusively. I 'm a huge advocate for breastfeeding and I do it as much as possible, but sometimes it's just not logistically possible and I'm learning to let go of a perfect standard in favor of what will allow me to truly be present and available for my daughter, whether I'm holding a bottle or a breast.

At our last doctor's visit, Lucy was up from thirteen ounces in just eleven days! As it turns out, she was satisfied with the amount of food she was getting, and we fed her frequently enough, but she simply wasn't taking in quite as much as she needed to actually gain. Plus, the girl has grown FOUR inches since she was born so she was basically stretching faster than she could plump. We have another weight check in a few weeks so hopefully she'll be up close to the twelve pound range by that point.

Lucy baby, you are a delight. You're holding your head up so well and you don't hate tummy time so much anymore. You're almost big enough for me to hold on my hip and, man, those sweet little smirks are enough to stop my heart. I adore you. Happy three month birthday!

the "why" of blogging

The changes I recently made to the blog were done because I really wanted to eliminate the things I was doing for the sole purpose of trying to be like other bloggers. Instead, I want to write about what lights up my soul, what makes me truly long to share, and what gives me the opportunity to actually connect with this community, however small or large it might be.

When I started A Bundle of Contradictions, I gave it that name for two reasons: 1) It's an excerpt from Anne Frank's diary and she is the whole reason I began writing in the first place, and 2) because that's what I felt like I was: a bundle of contradictions. I still am. But becoming a mom has centered me a bit more in terms of what I long to become in life. It has streamlined my vision. I still have a wide variety of interests, but more than anything I want these three things:

1) To be a disciple of Christ and allow Him to work through me, every day, so that others might see Him more clearly
2) To love my husband and my daughter and love them well
3) To write and use my writing as a tool for service

Everything else, all my other passions and dreams, fall under these categories. So I gave this blog a new name - my name - because my identity isn't quite as confusing as I felt it was before. 

Along with a new name, I'm going to be sharing a few new series on the blog, ones I hope to continue with for as long as possible. I've done some series in the past but, again, they were short-lived and I only did them in hopes of making myself more relevant. That's not a bad thing, but it shouldn't be my focus. All I need to be concerned about any longer is being true and being real. That's what I want to read from other bloggers and that's what I want to give here.

And so I will. I hope you'll join me!

the death of (my) anxiety

It's no secret here on this blog that I've struggled with anxiety and anxiety-induced depression for the last few years. In fact, I was in the throes of the most anxious season of my life when I found out I was pregnant. During my pregnancy, I often worried about my risk for postpartum depression (PPD) and, more specifically, postpartum anxiety (PPA). There are some medical professionals who believe PPD and PPA are just different manifestations of the same illness but, for now, I'm going to refer to my condition as PPA since any depression I experience results only from my anxiety. 

I was surprised to find that, although I faced a number of typical new mom worries while pregnant with Lucy, my anxiety was greatly reduced by the excitement of going through such an incredible experience. I was terrified of becoming a mother but, at the same time, I was overjoyed by the idea that God had chosen me to be this little girl's mama. What a gift, you know? What a blessing to be able to carry her inside of me! But I avoided really thinking about what life would be like post-baby. I didn't want to go there in my head because, for me, pregnancy was the easy part. I was good at being pregnant. But would I be a good mother? How would I thrive in this new role if anxiety was still a part of my existence?

It's a question I still face every single day. 

Every moment, in fact.

Right this very second. 

The truth is that PPA, while not healthy, is common, especially for those of us who already struggle with OCD and anxiety. I often find it hard not to correct people who use such phrases casually, like those who say "I'm so OCD! I just can't stand for my house to be messy!" Wanting your home to be clean is not OCD. Even having difficulty being able to sit and rest until things are clean is not OCD. Having the need to clean something repeatedly until it "feels right" - otherwise you won't be able to rest from the sheer panic of being afraid that it will throw off the teetering balance of your life - is OCD. That's not how OCD manifests itself for me; it's just one example. In short, OCD is frequent, irrational fear (obsessions) and the ways in which we try to cope with them (compulsions). 

And now that I've gotten that out, I'm going to get this out, too. It's hard to admit, but I'm going to do it anyway: 

I am terrified of being alone with my daughter.

I've spent my whole life being afraid of making mistakes. I am an expert guilt-feeler. As a child, I believed any negative feeling, thought, or emotion was sinful or bad. I never really learned to accept my humanity. I grew up with an incredibly strong faith...but I also had an incredibly strong fear of becoming a "bad" person. I think the two go hand-in-hand for many of us who love Jesus. We want to desperately to please Him, but since we're only human we're bound to mess up. Grace bridges the gap between our humanity and God, but we find ourselves still fighting the battle Jesus has already won. We are already good. We've already been made perfect in Christ. The question is: how to we walk in that Truth every day? What does living a grace-filled life look like in the mundane, the restless, and the anxious moments?

So, as a person who loves deeply, my greatest fears have always centered around the thought of hurting someone I love or being the cause of anyone's pain. I don't stress too much about work or money. I stress about people and relationships. I long for harmony and peace. Conversation and affection are my love languages. If you buy me a cup of coffee, sit and talk with me, or give me a hug, it's pretty much guaranteed that we'll be friends. 

As a result, my anxiety stems from an irrational fear of hurting or losing the people I love the most. The very things that bring me so much joy also bring me great pain. To be more specific, loving my daughter makes me feel - at once - filled to bursting with happiness AND filled to my depths with despair because I wonder how God could have ever deemed me worthy to be her mom when I struggle with such paralyzing anxiety. 

A few years ago, I faced this monster - this panic-inducing anxiety - for the very first time. It started with an intrusive thought that disturbed me so much I barely ate for weeks. I didn't know then that unwanted, intrusive thoughts are incredibly common. The distinction is that people who suffer from OCD have severe difficulty casting these thoughts aside. We ask, "Why would I think that? Oh my gosh! Does that mean it's going to come true? Am I a terrible person?" and a vicious cycle of self-doubt and self-loathing begins. What we know in our hearts to be true becomes overshadowed by the lies our anxiety shouts at us. We don't want to think these things so we chew on them, over and over, trying to figure out why they happened in the first place. Of course, this only causes us to focus on them more, thereby increasing our anxiety and pushing us to seek some sort of coping mechanism. My coping mechanism is avoidance. I follow my husband around the house when I've got Lucy in my arms. I leave the house with her when he leaves. I went back to work in part because I didn't want to be left alone with her for more than a few minutes. I think back to simple, everyday moments and question them over and over. I try to remember every detail so when  my anxiety visits again I can shut the door in its face by saying, "See this? This is exactly what happened and you can't tell me otherwise. So there!" The problem with this coping mechanism is that - in my effort to get control over it - I actually lose control because it becomes a necessity for me to perform this little dance all day, every day. And who can possibly do that? Who wants to? We weren't designed to be caged by anxiety and fear. We were designed to be loved into freedom.

I believe in a holistic approach to these issues. We are not simply physical beings. We have souls. We were created by God. And so while I wholeheartedly agree that God works through medication and science to bring healing (and celebrate that fact), I also believe in the awesome power of prayer and His Word. And I am not afraid to admit that I believe Satan knows what makes me vulnerable and tries to pounce on those things whenever he gets the chance. 

I took a long walk around the neighborhood the other day and talked aloud to God. I do this a lot, in fact, usually while I'm driving and Lucy is asleep in the backseat. I kept asking Him why He chose me to be Lucy's mom when I feel so inadequate. Why would He give me a heart so big if it just keeps getting filled with fear? I knew He could bring beauty from ashes...but I didn't want to give Him ashes! And, somewhere, in the middle of my monologue, I started to understand something crucial.

My fears are not true. And while it's tough to rejoice in my suffering, I can be encouraged by the fact that I must be pretty darn amazing if the enemy is trying so hard to destroy me. He is terrorized by the thought of my love for people, by the thought of my succeeding as a mother, and, most importantly, by the thought of my raising another believer. This is the real truth: if I don't believe him and, instead, choose to believe what my heavenly Father says about me, then he has lost again. 

My biggest mistake has been approaching this anxiety in only one way at a time. I've prayed and prayed and prayed some more. I've written Bible verses on my hand to keep them close by in times of distress. I've taken medications (thus far in only short-term increments, like a few weeks or months at a time). I've spent hours upon hours seeking guidance from my husband, my parents, and like-minded peers. I have not, however, done all of these things at once while also seeking professional counseling.

I write all of this today because I've decided it's time to get the help I need. It's time to go down deep and dig out the root of these fears. It's time to gain the practical tools I need to walk in the faith I have. I hope you'll seek help, too, if you've been struggling with any sort of anxiety or depression. And I ask that you pray for me and my family right now, if you're the praying type (and, perhaps, even if you're not). 

For the first time since Lucy was born, I feel like maybe, just maybe, this story will have a happy ending.

new beginnings

So, as you can see, the blog has a new name and a new look! I designed it myself because 1) I'm really impatient, 2) I'm broke and can't pay for a designer, and 3) because I wanted it to be something I imagined. It's simple and clean and quiet here now. And I could use a little quiet in my life. It's pretty loud in my head most of the time.

Which brings me to what's really on my mind today.

This morning, my husband and I got up, got dressed, and took care of Lucy just like we usually do. I had my coffee made, my lunch packed, and all of Lucy's stuff ready to go. We made it out the door on time and I was feeling really good about today.

But then Lucy started crying in her car seat.

And crying. And crying. And crying.

She doesn't mind when we're driving on the interstate, but she'll scream at the top of her lungs when we stop  at a red light. I've almost perfected the art of using my go-go-gadget arms to reach back, retrieve her paci from the depths of her car seat, and put it back in her mouth. Sometimes she'll calm right down. But sometimes, like this morning for instance, she'll spit it right back out and keep on screaming. 

Often times I can tune out her cries if the morning show I listen to is on their game. Or if my favorite song is on and I sing really, really loudly. But not today. No, today I had a bit of a meltdown. Today, I kind of lost it.

It's always a terrible feeling when your day gets off to a good start but then one small thing flips everything around and, suddenly, you feel like you just got beaten up by life. It's even worse when that "one small thing" is actually a very important little person who can't explain why she's unhappy. So the fact that you (read: I) feel so close to screaming just makes you think you're the worst mother ever because, hey, it's not her fault you put her in this stupid car seat. And it's definitely not her fault that you chose to bring her into this world where things are sometimes uncomfortable. And it's most certainly not her fault that you are letting one moment (albeit a prolonged moment) ruin your entire morning. Don't you know that sometimes things aren't always rainbows and sunshine? Don't you know that your sweet little girl has emotions, too? And if anyone in this equation should be keeping their shit together it should be you because you're the adult

But I didn't keep my shit together, you guys. For one second I let myself fall apart and I shouted, with my hands gripped tightly on the steering wheel, for Lucy to shut up. 

And then I cried because isn't that what always happens?

She probably didn't even hear me over her own screaming. And she definitely doesn't know what I said. But I'm sure she felt my anxiety and frustration and that's what hurts my heart. That's why, when she finally passed out just two miles from her babysitter's house, I looked in the rear view mirror at her tiny, peaceful expression and told her I was so, so sorry. 

So far, I've prided myself on my ability to keep my patience since Lucy was born. I'm not normally a very patient person (at least not with adults), but God knew that already and it's been one of His greatest gifts to me as a mother. Unfortunately, I'm still human and my patience finally ran out this morning. Worst of all, it ran out over a situation I've already experienced countless times because my daughter always cries in the car...and it ran out much faster than I would have liked. 

Before I left the sitter's house, I held Lucy for a long time and repeatedly whispered how sorry I was. She has a little cough right now and isn't feeling 100%, but I couldn't help thinking her refusal to smile at me was because I'd lost my temper. It couldn't actually be because she's under the weather or because she was worn out from crying. Nope. It must have been about me.

And that's what I have to let go of. Right now. It's not all about me. 

I keep thinking that I have to be the perfect mother, but she just doesn't exist. I spend more time agonizing over how to do that (and beating myself up when I don't have the answers) than I do enjoying the time I have with my child. It's a constant battle between the Spirit and the flesh, between the desire to be perfect and the inability to do it on my own.

Thank God I don't have to. Thank God He has given me the grace to start over every day. And thank God I'm not just me anymore. The war has been won.

I am His. I am forgiven. 

I am already perfect.

(But I'm still sorry, Lucy Goose! Mama loves you more than words.)