Journey of the Wood Thrush

Laughter, Tears, and Our Teen Years, by McKennaugh

It’s hard to be a teenager. We’re stuck somewhere between childhood and adulthood and everyone seems to be asking us what we are going to do and who we are going to be. A lot of the time we answer their questions with, “I don’t know,” because it’s true; we don’t. With a million decisions looming over us, we aren’t sure what choice to make. Or, if we do feel that God is leading us in a certain direction, we often rebel, because it’s not the path that we would choose, were it left up to us. Do you wonder, sometimes, if there really is a plan for you, or if you are simply slogging through life? I do. But then I think about the wood thrush. They frequent the Pennsylvania forest around my home all summer, raising their broods and singing their stunning songs from some concealed branch.  

Their appearances are, in fact, rather plain. They are brown and spotted, but their voices make them sound like they belong in the jungle. Every summer these birds fly from Central America back to the eastern states, including the woods behind my Pennsylvanian home. I love to fall asleep listening to their evening songs drifting through my window after the other songbirds have dropped into slumber.  

I could say much more about the peaceful trill of this thrush, but there is something else that I admire about it more than its song. While people fight against God’s plan for them, insist that they know how to run their lives, these little birds are rising up out of the trees and flying for thousands of miles in order to reach their winter home. And, then, each year, they make the return trip. Why? Because they know that that is what they are supposed to do with their lives. They don’t insist that they should have a different destiny than the one laid out in front of them. What if a thrush decided that it didn’t have to listen to the inner voice calling it away after a long Pennsylvania summer? Then the snows would come, whip around the poor bird, and it would die. Instinct tells the wood thrush that it must go on; it cannot stay behind.  

Black-capped chickadees are amazing, too. They watch as other birds take off so they can escape the wind and snow. And, yet, the chickadee stays behind. Those little birds could easily think, “This is unfair! Why do I have to suffer here in the cold? I should follow the crowd!” But they don’t. No, they flutter from branch to icy branch, their voices ringing out; a cheery chirping in a frozen world.  

The wood thrush does not complain that it must take flight for an immeasurable amount of miles. The chickadee does not complain that it must stay behind. They both know that this is the plan for them; that they are unique and different. Each has hardships, yet they do not consider disobeying that inner voice.  

We, as people, on the other hand, argue with God. “No!” we say. “Don’t send me there! I don’t want to! It’s too hard!” Or, “God, when are you going to change this life of mine? I’ve been stuck in this place forever.”  

And, I think all of us ask, “What is your will for me? What is your plan for me?”  

If only we would take a lesson from the birds. They do not fret over what they are supposed to do. They know. Perhaps if you wait and listen to that inner voice of your own, you will understand the journey God has mapped out for you. Jesus had a point when he said that he knows each little sparrow that falls. If he shows birds their purposes in life, won’t he show you your purpose, as well?  


McKennaugh Kelley ( is sixteen years old. She lives in Troy, Pennsylvania with a handful of crazy, creative, but mostly wonderful little brothers.

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