sweet, sacred, beautiful

IMG_0532.jpgdonald miller talks about how we should live a story worth telling.

elizabeth gilbert says that we don’t have to be this thing walking around just paying bills.

shauna niequest writes that we are more than dust and bones- we are the spirit & power & image of God.

I pray and think regularly about how I should be using my time.  I often feel conflicted, broken, and discontent in this area.

I deeply care about work, teaching my students well, and being prepared each day.  This requires an extraordinary amount of my time.

I feel it absolutely necessary to take Ian and I’s health and finances seriously by eating as many meals as possible at home.  This requires many hours devoted to grocery shopping, meal prepping, and cooking.

I am comforted and settled when our house is clean, tidy, and organized.  This requires time and effort each day to make this possible.

I find life unbearable when I go too long without spending quality time with friends and family.  This requires planning, sacrifice, and traveling time.

The relationship I have with my husband is the livelihood of my entire life.  It must be nurtured constantly to remain strong and fulfilled.

I feel most alive and energized when I am writing or creating.  This requires my diligence, time, and patience.

The ways in which I devote to learning about and being with God take various forms.  All of them require my attention and time and heart.

In addition to all of these things, I must rest. In Mark 6:30-31, the disciples were teaching and doing- they didn’t even have a chance to eat.  Jesus said, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

In 2015 I write, “Lord, all I have known for the past 8 years is typing away at lesson plans and planning in order to be the best version of myself for students every single day.  When I take a step back, I wonder what it’s doing to the rest of me?”

It is difficult to put my all into so many things that I value so highly. It is virtually impossible to give 100% to everything, so this results in me feeling overwhelmed and disappointed.  When looking at the above list, I can speculate that work and food most often get taken care of before anything else. The other things that make my existence whole sit on a carousel waiting for their turn to participate in my life.

I start to feel like the person Elizabeth Gilbert says we don’t have to be– this thing just walking around paying bills.  I am paying bills, chopping vegetables, doing laundry, unloading the dishwasher, writing lesson plans, grading papers, mopping the floor, making a grocery list, wiping the countertops, refilling our Brita filter.  I am NOT writing  a story or in my journal, practicing my calligraphy, reading a novel, painting with watercolors, riding my bike, laughing with my husband, traveling to a festival, sweating in a yoga class, hiking with a friend, shopping with my mom, talking to my dad, exploring a new city, doodling on the corner of a napkin.

it is hard for me to do all of it.

shauna niquiest writes that the sacred mixes with the daily.  it is like a firefly and a great song. she thanks God every time she eats crusty bread and garlicky olives, when she smells clean laundry or hears fingers on a guitar.

I do this too. I feel the warmth and freshness of clothes just out of the dryer.  I smile at the sound of the dishwasher running and the smell of chili in the crockpot.  I put on socks and light candles and wrap my hands around a hot mug of coffee that my husband made for me.  I feel accomplished and satisfied when I click “post lesson plans” or “save” in the gradebook. I hang up the phone with my brother feeling refreshed and alive.  I savor the process of finding a new recipe and taking the time to create it.  I dip the brush in the watercolors and savor the strokes of color upon white paper.  I feel the tingling of being completely sweaty or completely clean.

life has sweet, sacred, beautiful spots and a more complex purpose than I understand sometimes.  my only choice is to cling to Him tightly through it all.


little black dog in cage 36

As is very clear by Ian and I’s social medias, a new addition was recently made to the Gregory-Graff family… our puppy Bentley!  Although pet ownership is an extremely common practice, it was originally something I had zero interest in.  Let me explain…

Ian is obsessed with dogs and had essentially been begging me for one for the entire duration of our marriage (about two years at this point).  I grew up with a family that had dogs, but only outside dogs.  I did not understand the concept of a dog living inside the house with you.  And having access to your furniture.  And animal hair in your house.  All of it was very foreign to me and very unappealing.  I had also noticed myself develop allergies to dogs when I was exposed to them in other people’s houses.  I did not noticed any allergies growing up with dogs, but I assumed this was because the dogs we had were always outside.

The fact that Ian and I lived in New Orleans in a very small apartment for the first two years of our marriage was very convenient for me and the dog predicament.  Anytime Ian brought up the desire to get a dog, it was very easy for me to rebuttal with the “our apartment is too small/we don’t have a yard” response.  It was a very real problem that he could not deny.  Eventually, we made the decision to move back to Lafayette.  This is when my defense wouldn’t exactly work anymore because we knew we were moving into a bigger place with a sizeable yard.  Soooo, I promised Ian we could get a dog when we moved back to Lafayette.

Several months later, we were back in Lafayette.  After settling in, the dog search began. We proceeded to have some really odd encounters with adopting a pet procedures.  We had been told by several other pet-owners that adopting a dog was a piece of cake.  We did not have that experience at first.  I was still under the impression that I was allergic to all dogs, so we were searching for hypo-allergenic at first.  We learned that those are very expensive.   I visited a shelter in Metairie that was highly sketchy, and the dog we were interested in proceeded to use the bathroom on the floor within 1 minute of meeting her.  This sketchy shelter also wouldn’t allow us to adopt a dog unless we lived 15 minutes from the shelter.  We filled out an application with another organization and got denied because we would be at work too long.  We visited another shelter and were told by them that they didn’t keep dogs on the premises.  Ian felt very defeated and I agreed that things seemed hopeless.  Although I actually didn’t care for a dog, I also didn’t want to deprive my husband of something that he really wanted.

Separately and together, Ian and I went to three more shelters.  At each one, there was a dog that one of us was somewhat interested in.  We didn’t want to take any of them home at first meeting because one of us felt the need to think about it.  After the three meetings, we decided we would like to adopt one of the dogs, but we still weren’t certain on which one.  We also realized it wasn’t guaranteed that they would still be there when we went back for them.  However, we knew we wanted to adopt one of them, so we needed to actually get pet things so that our house was ready for a new puppy.

Here began the meltdown in Petsmart.

I was already VERY on edge and anxious about having a pet live in our house with us.  We both had different opinions about where it was going to sleep, where we were going to allow it to go, how often it would be outside…We had kind of discussed setting up a pen, installing a doggie door, etc., but none of it was fully decided.  When we got to Petsmart to start buying things, we both had different perceptions of what we were there to buy and how much money and investment we were willing to put into this.  The Petsmart trip ended with us having a frustrating disagreement in the kennel aisle, and walking out with only a pet bed and a leash.

Fast forward to after we took a few days to decompress, got advice from our friend Emily about how we should set up the house, and we finally came to a decision.  We wanted to go back to the Opelousas shelter to adopt the “little black dog in cage 36.”

All we knew about this dog is that he was the sweetest little pup when he first met us– he came right out of his cage and snuggled up to me and sat on my lap.  He walked up to Ian and licked his hand right away.  He was so sweet with us, and even the shelter workers were in awe of how much he liked us right away.  The things we were originally concerned about was that he was filthy, obviously had fleas, and he shed like crazy.  We also weren’t sure if he would give us any expensive medical problems, and we weren’t sure how he would affect my allergies.  One of the things Emily helped us with was assuring us that even the sketchiest dog can be fixed right up with a vet visit, the right shots, and a flea pill.  This super helped us in making our decision, because “the little black dog in cage 36” was by far our favorite.

When we were filling out the paperwork with the shelter, they revealed to us that his name was actually Bentley.  We loved this name and decided to keep it.  They had to send him to the vet immediately after adoption, and we were to pick him up from the vet the next day.  We went home to finish preparing our house for Bentley.

Since bringing Bentley home from the shelter and vet, nothing has been the same.  Having him has taught me so much about animal ownership and what that means.  I understand the concept of having a pet be a part of your family; something I never understood about other people and other families before.  It has taught me how to think beyond just Ian and I– feeding him, walking him, taking care of him when he’s sick.  Learning how to understand his wants and needs by his mannerisms and actions.  Learning his little personality has been so fun!  Also, seeing how happy Ian is to have his own dog is priceless and worth it in itself.

Having Bentley comes with the good and the bad.  It comes with him stealing our shoes, destroying his pet beds, or ripping a harness off of his own body.  It also comes with him barking at a cat outside our house trying to protect us and him being excited to see us when we get home from school.  It comes with him forcing us to go outside to play with him to us trying new places to walk him.  It comes with him biting us and our friends, and stealing apples and potatoes from our pantry.  It comes with him being cute with babies and him teaching Ian and I responsibility.

All in all, adopting a dog was a great decision for Ian and I.  Bentley has brought so much joy and growth in our lives that I now can’t imagine our lives without him.  All the things that come along with us having a Bentley –stolen potatoes, my short-lived rule of not allowing him on the furniture, puppy meltdowns near any form of water, inability to not tear apart your own bed, shedding like a maniac throughout our house (nothing our recent roomba purchase can’t fix), and a 6-foot tall man who couldn’t be happier– it’s all worth it.