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Sometimes I think back on my pre-Thailand life and all the feelings threaten to overwhelm me. I miss the church services that happened without us planning and leading them. I miss the friends we had everywhere we turned and the family that was only a visit away. I miss feeling apart of things rather than trying to fit in. I miss the plans I had for when my kids left home and how we'd always provide a soft place to land. I miss the holiday gatherings or random visits I had planned with my adult kids, where we'd just drop everything and spend time together. I miss the dreams I had for my life.

But you know what I don't miss? I don't miss living for me. I don't miss chasing my own dreams and plans rather than submitting to God's. I don't miss the selfishness that so easily consumed me in my old life. But don't for a minute get me wrong ... I'm still selfish.

But I see it now and then I often didn't.

When Micah was growing up, he loved birds. Everything about them. He'd draw them and paint them and color them and he'd save his money to buy them. By the time he reached his teens, he'd had a good number of feathered friends. As he grew, however, other things took precedence over his interest in winged creatures, but something had been planted within me without my even realizing it.

I love birds. Not dogs, not cats, definitely not snakes, but birds. And it's much to my delight that God gave us an African Gray.

We named her Lottie Rayne (because we got her in the wet season when there was "a lotta rain") and she's just a baby with still a few months to go before she reaches her first birthday. But she has soooo much personality and never runs out of things to "say". Her chatter is still just vocalizations but she has an endless supply of them.

One morning a month or so ago, I heard Abi's little dog barking. It persisted so I went to the office to see why. When I got there, I found no dog at all. What I did find was a big gray bird barking just like that little ball of fur.

And then, not too many days later, I was outside the house when I heard my phone ring from inside. I went to go get it when I realized my phone was tucked in my apron pocket. My bird was ringing in the exact same tone my phone does.

It seems she's maybe having an identity crisis ... a dog one minute, a phone the next, and another time she's cat calling. (Thanks, Robs) She doesn't know who she is but sometimes it hits me, I don't always know who I am, either.

In my mind, I'm still that wife of a firefighter and mother of 8 living on that mountain in Virginia with Stanley Cash (if you know, you know!) parked firmly in my driveway stealing my internet. And sometimes those images of myself in the past hold me back from embracing the present. But God is showing me He used those years to prepare me for now. They weren't wasted and they're not lost. They're serving the very purpose He intended.

So no matter how much "barking like a dog" or "ringing like a phone" I might do trying to grab something behind or ahead, He always brings me back to center. He reminds me He's given me purpose now that is preparing me for later. Isn't it funny how we always seem to think it is later. That somehow we've arrived at where we were headed instead of understanding we're still traveling down the road?

I have no idea what's ahead, but I do know God isn't asking me to be someone or something else. He's asking that I allow Him to stretch and grow me. He's asking me to trust Him that the hard times are worth it. He's asking that I believe Him that the best is yet to come.

And He's promising that if I choose to stay in the moment, He'll give me wings to fly like the bird Lottie sometimes forgets she is.


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