That's our Katie. But the thing is, she isn't so little anymore. She's nine-going-on-teenager and I find myself taken aback as I walk into a room and see her tall, lean legs standing on her tippy toes, filling up the coffee pot with water to brew yet another pot for our coffee-loving family. Where did all the squishy rolls and curly pigtails go? When our oldest kids turned nine, it was a pretty big deal. They were the oldest. But with Katie, things are different. She isn't the oldest, she isn't the youngest, and she doesn't really know where she fits. She doesn't think or act like the bigs, but neither does she think or act like the littles. She is clearly stuck in the middle. And she feels it. I have been trying to be more intentional about spending time with her, helping her navigate this presently-lonely path. It's not that she doesn't spend time with the other kids —she does—but you can just see from the look on her face that her place in the family isn't quite comfortable. It'll do, but she's hoping for something better. A few weeks ago, she asked me to take pictures of her. She is starting to take more notice of her looks, always wanting to find cute outfits and work on doing her hair. Photos are a way to show how old she is looking, and she wanted them. Plus, she wanted the extra time with me. As I was editing these photos and thinking through where she is in life, it struck me: I don't know where I fit in either. Like Katie, I am the middle of three girls and I never felt like I could measure up to them. My older sister's artistic ability put my measly attempts at creativity to shame. My younger sister's charm and social skills made me realize just how awkward and shy I truly was. But, it isn't in those ways I feel stuck now. It's really just being stuck in the middle — of life. I'm not young (the big 4-0 is calling my name), but I'm not old. I'm not approaching an empty nest, but I'm not rocking babies, either. I am not a published author or famous speaker, but I'm also not lacking in basic skills and desires to reach people with truth. I have dreams for the future, but am still very committed to the right now. Really, I am just asking, "Where do I fit in?' Katie watches Alaina, now 14, and wants to be like her. She sees how good Alaina is with hair and fashion and so Katie tries. A few weeks ago, she wanted to curl her hair. She got burned. Katie watches Bethany, almost 6. She sees how cute and funny and full of spunk she is and Katie tries to be like her. Except, it isn't cute when it is contrived. That's me. I look at those "ahead" of me, whether in age, experience, or opportunity, and I want to be like them. I think of the books I want to write and the lessons I want to teach. But I know if I run ahead of the place God has me in, I'll get burned. I look at those "behind" me, again, whether in age, experience, or opportunity and I think longingly of who I once was. But, I am not that woman anymore. I have grown and matured and been humbled beyond all recognition. My kids have grown and matured as well. I don't fit in mommy-and-me playgroups and I'm not at the grasping-for-two-minutes-to-go-to-the-bathroom-in-private place in life (at least most of the time!) Caring for little ones isn't an this-is-all-I-can-do process anymore and yet, Lord willing, I still have 14+ years of kids in the home, who, regardless of age or ability, still need their mama. Who am I? Where do I fit in? I'm very aware of the passing of days, of months, of years, of lifetimes. Always the idealist, I have always been fearful of wasting my life—getting to the end and wondering what I had done and if any of it mattered. Not wasting a life will look 100 different ways for a 100 different women. But I have a deep desire to know that it looks like for my life. Does it mean finding joy in the seemingly small but oh-so-important task of raising these six precious children? Does it mean that as the years offer me new hours with a choice of how they are spent, they should be used in a specific way? Does not wasting my life look like me waiting for God to open doors for using the gifts and abilities He has given me or for me to seek opportunities, praying for HIs blessing along the way? I just don't know. But, I'm not fretting. I know that God knows. And I know that if I ask for this wisdom, He will give it. I also know I have women in my life who know me, my heart, my family, and my intentions and will help guide me as I seek God's will for the use of my time, money, and emotions. I don't know where I fit in, but He does. And so, like Katie, I'll try to find rest in not being big or being little, and I will just enjoy the present day, recognizing that I am not who I want to be, but I am not who I once was, either.
"Katie, what do you want to be when you grow up?"
"Um...a hot dog stealer!"
Our sweet Katie will turn nine next week. It's hard to believe. I still think of her as the spunky little three-year-old who entertained Facebook with all of her crazy quotes.