"So many people grow up to enjoy adulthood because it is better than their childhood, or they forget all together how great childhood was. I chase my childhood every day." --Brooke Shaden

As a little child, the "Big girls" were always my hero. I remember that distinct, fluttery feeling in my stomach when I plopped myself down on the high-school bleachers. The giddy cheerleaders, their hair pulled up in high ponytails and big smiles plastered on, were thrilling to my 7 year old soul. It was like watching a Disney World parade (just minus the lights and princesses and fireworks and with screechy bleachers and high-schoolers and crappy nachos instead). I remember watching Mary-Kate & Ashley in Holiday in the Sun, and just staring in complete awe. Their adventures as teens in the Bahamas, having their own suite, tanning and flirting with early 2000s savvy boys, and saving a yacht from crime all seemed pretty sweet to me. I remember a scene from running into a family friend in the library: "Anna Gray, you're growing up so fast! How old are you?" "Only eight." I remember fighting the presence of my childhood to grow up. I would often daydream about becoming a teenager; a "Big girl", if you please. Sometimes I would fix my eyes on the gold trimmed closet mirror and wonder, "What will I be like when I'm a teenager?" Would I be tall and have lots of freckles? Would I have dark hair and tan skin? Would I be a cheerleader? A singer? Would I be hyper? Sugary sweet? I was curious, and I wanted to grow up...and fast.

I remember waking up as a 13 year old, a teenager, a "Big girl." After years of anticipation, the time had come. Makeup and concert tickets and my first pair of "heels" and other "big girl" things made their way into my life. It was all good, yes, but I still didn't feel quite like the teenager I had always imagined. This could be partially due to the fact that I only wore the same 4 dresses, got cute haircuts and never styled them, and was too small for even a training bra. I remember calling my best friend and the two of us daydreaming about getting jobs and our licenses and going shopping without an adult and having cell phones and wondering what life would be like once we turned 16. So close, yet so far. It's funny how time slips by. I remember waking up as a 16 year old. The camera lens I worked so hard to save for happened to arrive that day. We went to the lake that evening to celebrate, and I remember the cookie cake and exact design and color of the candles that I blew out. I can almost smell the candle smoke - It has that distinct, sharp aroma - the smell of celebration and new beginnings and...well...happiness. I remember walking around the beach the following week and feeling this strange twinge of sadness. I suddenly didn't like this "growing up" and being a "big girl" thing. If only time could be paused. I remember it being dusk and the feeling of loneliness settling in. It wasn't that I was physically alone, but I felt as if my mentality was splitting in two, leaving half of me in reality, and the other half nostalgically reflecting on the past. I didn't think anyone would be able to quite understand these thoughts, and it made me feel lonely. Memories from past birthdays and the innocence of childhood started creeping in. Why in the world did I rush my childhood? If only I could have told my 8 year old self that the years would slip by so quickly. If only I could step back into my childhood for a few, sweet minutes. Weren't those the days that we didn't have a care in the world; the days that boys and girls had cooties and make believe and taking bubble baths with your friend was completely normal and summer days were spent in the hot sun, feet in dirt, and playing with the freedom of imagination until sunset? What happened? Where did it go? It was too much. "I don't want to grow up anymore."

I remember waking up as an 18 year old. Something felt different though. Minus the fact that my hair looked like a bad 80s cut that morning, I was basically in a happy medium. Legally being an "adult" didn't completely excite me, but it didn't completely scare me either. Although I boasted days and weeks prior, "I WILL LEGALLY BE A WOMAN", I simply felt content. "Yay for my first cigar and exotic pet and elopement in Switzerland without my parents' consent!" I realized that, sure, I was growing up; but, BUT - I still had the free spirit of my childhood along with it. I wrote on my Facebook newsfeed on my 18th,

"Though I'm technically considered an 'adult' (And could legally adopt a kid. Weird.), I don't feel any older - I still feel like the same AG that chases childhood. For example, this afternoon I swam in the ocean with a dolphin printed boogie board and for dinner, ate nothing but a basket full of hush puppies and a sweet tea. I think this 'growing up' thing will be okay after all."

I think that so often, we either fight to grow up, or we have this intense fear of growing up and long for childhood instead. It's like there is this assumption that growing up and adulthood means that we can no longer have fun, slow down, or even enjoy life. Now I am not saying that we shouldn't strive for maturity - there is a point in time when we need to ditch the Spaghetti Os and living under Mommy's roof for a taste of the real world - but we shouldn't diminish that spark of childlike eagerness that runs in our blood. We need to learn that it is okay to have that zeal of a child. Let's allow our bodies to grow and mature, but let's also allow that eagerness to grow with us.

Here's to chasing childhood.


on contentment

   In my head, I'm supposed to be buying my new camera right about now. I'm supposed to have sold my other and now have the money to buy the new one. But there it is, still on top of the dresser. In my head, I am supposed to have drawers and a closet full of vintage clothing and retro shoes that really define my style. But every time I open my closet doors and the drawers, there lay 5 or 6 new shirts mangled up with 8th and 9th grade clothing. I am supposed to have already bought the romper and the super cute white oxfords that were such eye candy a month ago, but somehow, I don't.  I am supposed to be financially stable. I am supposed to have several hundred dollars tucked away and a steady source of income. But then Clark's vet bill rang up to the pleasant site of $409. Airport food cost a pretty penny. Fast food stole my dollars; money spent immaturely and unwisely. I'm supposed to be somewhere with my career by now. Perhaps 4 or 5 film credits as background and extras work? 2 at the minimum? Maybe a commercial or 2? Several auditions? Possibly leaping ahead and already being in Los Angeles to study? But here I sit, inexperienced, as amateur as when I began my journey, a feeling of utter hopelessness creeping in, and a starving resume saved onto Word. I am supposed to have a job so that I can pay for my phone bill, my car insurance, save for my big leap to California, buy those super cute white oxfords, and get a taste of the real world. But here I am, still searching, still filling out the never ending applications, still hopping from place to place in a car low on gas and finding it exceedingly difficult to find success. I am supposed to have complete peace of mind, eternal happiness, and things are supposed to be working out exactly how I planned them. Instead, that familiar twinge of fear threatens to rob me. I'm supposed to have good health, all of these bodily symptoms gone. But here I am, still dealing with the same recurring symptoms, and getting 0 answers. In  my head, I'm supposed to have constant happiness like everyone who posts photos of their morning Bible study and latte art. Instead, I feel constantly on edge and anxious and sometimes bitter.

In my head, a lot of things are supposed to happen, because isn't it my right to them? My head is telling me that YES, I have a right and deserve these things, yet they don't happen or I don't get them. No matter how much I kick and scream and fight, I seem to hallucinate rope at my feet every time I begin to enter a doorway, constantly tripping me. I feel no peace and no satisfaction and constantly am on the run for MORE of everything, when in reality, I need less.

"A culture or an individual with a weak base can stand only when the pressure on it is not too great. As an illustration, let us think of a Roman bridge. The Romans built little humpbacked bridges over many of the streams of Europe. People and wagons went over these structures safely for centuries, for two millennia. But if people today drove heavily loaded trucks over these bridges, they would break. It is this way with the lives and value systems of individuals and cultures when they have nothing stronger to build on than their own limitedness, their own finiteness. They can stand when pressures are not too great, but when pressures mount, if then they do not have a sufficient base, they crash-just as a Roman bridge would cave in under the weight of a modern six-wheeled truck. Culture and the freedoms of people are fragile. Without a sufficient base, when such pressures come only time is needed and often not a great deal of time-before there is a collapse." --Francis Schaeffer

Yet we remain shocked when our lives begin to deteriorate? What I keep having to realize is that "things" don't last forever; the camera, the white oxfords. I'm having to realize that happiness doesn't depend upon a steady job or being successful or having money or looking pretty. Sure, those things are great in the mean time, but they don't last forever and they simply cannot bring everlasting happiness. I wondered for so long why there were so many stories about celebrity deaths due to suicide, celebrities entering rehab from drug addiction, why alcohol seemed to take a toll on their lives, and why they never seemed to have happiness. Then it clicked. They have anything and everything they could ever want. Because there is no God in their lives to sustain them, they turn to materialistic things to fulfill that craving for happiness and contentment. They build and build and build their lives upon finite things; wealthy spouses and pretty houses and all things luxe. They are well off for a while, but what happens when crap hits the fan and those things no longer provide happiness? There is nothing more to look to, other than their own human nature, resulting in the horror of what happens in a fallen world.

I could keep going on, but let's practice something together - let's choose contentment. Let's realize that there is only one God who we can put our hope in and only one God who has the power to gift us contentment to fill that aching, empty feeling. Let's apply what we learned when each of us once was a little child, and practice an act of gratefulness for what we do have. All of it is a gift. It's a gift that we don't deserve and a gift that deserves gratitude. My gosh, it's hard, believe me - but it is rewarding. To carry on with life without that nagging push for more is a gift in and of itself.


hello, my name is anna gray

(...You killed my father. Prepare to die. I know; I'm hilarious.)

Photos are nice, but they don't always tell the nitty-gritty, ugly side of things.

And this is my nitty-gritty, ugly side.

I look like a mess almost all the time. I wear yoga pants and old T-shirts or torn up dresses or a dingy romper around the house. I only put on makeup and spruce myself up if I am going somewhere, which is not 24/7. At age (almost) 18, I still have acne that flares up. I have dark lines under my eyes and my eyebrows are almost ghostly, they're so sparse. I screw up this "Totes perf" winged eyeliner 99% of the time (and may or may not shout profanities in my head when I do) and sometimes, end up erasing it altogether. It takes me over an hour to put on makeup - even if it is just to go run a quick errand. I check and recheck to make sure everything looks okay. I'm short and have a somewhat crooked smile and often get annoyed with my body. I have clothes from 7th grade. I'm a terrible student. As much as I hate to say it, I'm apathetic about so many subjects. During math, I'll doodle in the margins of my notebook and spend half an hour in pure distraction - filing my nails, thinking of the future, a photo idea, aspirations, sitting and just staring into space. I almost never get "As" - I get Bs and Cs and totally suck at Chemistry and Math. I will read pages of a book, only to read it 2 and 3 times again because I tend to get creative sparks when I'm supposed to be educating myself. Though I appear as confident to many, I have insecurities. My feelings get hurt over stupid things, I cry at nonsense, I rage over things that 10 minutes later, I don't even think about. I get caught in the trap of always thinking I could look better. No matter how lovely I think a photo of me is at first, I slowly see it as "Just another picture" and feel that twinge of dissatisfaction once again. Nostalgia tears at me. One minute my room is spotless, the next it is an utter disaster (complete with month old banana peel in the trash can that I forgot to put a bag in). I can't stick to a diet to save my life. Oatmeal for breakfast, salad for lunch, and suddenly crap food makes its way back into my life. I get mad at people. One remark, and I let it irritate me the rest of the day. I have gone weeks without even picking up my Bible or having a good, in depth quiet time. I'm scatterbrained and wishy washy. I let precious time slip by because I'm wasting my energy on social media. I have fallen into the trap of comparing myself to others. I can be a total jerk. I can be a pain in the butt. I talk during movies. I'm antsy and restless and am sometimes a little too determined. I spend my money on stupid things. Being submerged in crowds of people makes me self conscious and uncomfortable - sometimes I have to mentally prep myself just to walk into a store. I'm terrible with small talk and I blush really, really easily. I hot glue ripped shorts back together and wear thinned down shirts with holes in them. I replay things that just happened over and over in my head and end up convincing myself that people dislike me or that something is wrong with me. Secular music gives me more hope than most Christian music. Sometimes I should be productive, but instead,  sprawl out on my bed and drift off for hours...or, like school, stare into space. My handwriting is horrendous. I'm not as bold and as poised as social media may portray me. Sometimes I'm obnoxious and sometimes you would never guess that I'm even there. Sometimes I wonder, "Is God even real?" Sometimes I feel like a failure. Sometimes I don't understand my purpose. Sometimes I say things I shouldn't say.  Sometimes I just feel confused. Sometimes I hate my smile. Sometimes I wish I could be taller and slimmer and have a longer bridged nose. Sometimes I remind myself of Laura Wingfield from The Glass Menagerie. Sometimes I love myself, and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I lay wide awake, in the dead of night, because I feel so uneasy. Sometimes I take sarcastic, silly comments to heart. Sometimes I don't feel real. Sometimes I talk too fast and sometimes I have to repeat myself 3 times. Sometimes I go the extra mile to take the long way home, just so I can think for a little bit longer. Sometimes I take a deep breath and find myself exceedingly frustrated at life in general.

Hello, my name is Anna Gray. I don't have everything together. I am not perfect. I have a nitty-gritty, ugly side. I am human.