My oldest daughter Emily and I have a great love for jigsaw puzzles. We came by it honestly. My mom and aunt seemed to always have a jigsaw puzzle going when I was growing up. Each of them had card tables set up expressly for their puzzling passion.
When Emily lived at home, we often had a jigsaw puzzle going. We always got a big kick out of working on a masterpiece, even though it was a bit of a struggle – thanks to our cat Alexa who loves to lay right in the middle of everything, swatting pieces onto the floor just because she can. Her involvement actually added a whole new level of difficulty to the process, but that’s okay, we like a good challenge.
Working jigsaw puzzles is actually an outstanding stress-relieving activity. Whenever we have a puzzle set out, every member of the family gets in on the fun. Whenever any of us passes by a puzzle in progress, we feel compelled to try to find a few pieces to magically fit in place. I haven’t had a puzzle going in a while – it seems to be one of those things that I do more frequently in seasons other than summer. Like updating blogs! Summer cuts into my writing and updating like a sharp knife cuts into a watermelon.
The last jigsaw puzzle my family and I had going was a real beauty. There were six big, colorful hot air balloons against a blue sky with just enough fluffy clouds to make it one of the most puzzling puzzles ever. The only one I can remember being tougher was a Times Square one that was just vicious… it’s actually still too soon to talk about that one.
One afternoon Emily and I were hard at work on the Hot Air Balloons puzzle, sipping coffee and strategically trying to find pieces of the sky that would consent to fit together. We got tickled once because we caught ourselves trying to enforce our will a couple of times. I mockingly acted like I was pounding one in with my fist. It, of course, didn’t see things my way – no matter how hard I pounded. I decided to accept the inevitable and took the “difficult” piece on the same tour the last pieces of a puzzle get… a visit to each open bay or available peninsula.
Please tell me I”m not the only one to think of puzzle pieces geographically.
Life, interestingly enough, is often like a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes it hums along beautifully. All the pieces fit perfectly. We see the big picture of our life the way we see the big picture on the front of a puzzle’s box. We have money in the bank, food in the refrigerator, the kids are being down-right saintly, our spouse is so close to perfect it scares us… all’s right in the world.
The pieces fit effortlessly.
Other times it seems like we can’t catch a break. Money’s tight, the kids are getting into everything, our spouse is in the worst mood in the history of moods, bills are piling up and… Days (sometimes weeks!) when you’d be hard-pressed to find an answer if someone asked, “What are you most thankful for today?”
The pieces don’t fit.. no matter how hard we pound!
Yet, all the pieces are necessary to complete the big picture – the masterpiece that will be our life.
Have you ever worked a puzzle only to find a few pieces missing? If you have a cat like Alexa, it probably happens regularly. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve crawled around on my hands and knees peeking under sofas, appliances, tables, etc for missing pieces she swatted. I suspect it’s all part of the game she plays called, “Let’s see how many crazy things I can make the humans do today.”
A puzzle is anything but a work of art when there’s even just one piece missing. Isn’t that crazy? There can be 999 pieces beautifully in place, but if there’s one tiny piece missing, it messes everything up. The entire picture is ruined.
Difficult times in our lives… the pieces that don’t fit… are just as necessary to complete the “big picture.” They may take extra time, work, and patience, but they’re necessary – every bit as necessary as the pieces that glide into place. In fact, these times will probably always have a special place in your heart. After our Hot Air Balloon puzzle was completed, we’d all talk about the sky each time we looked at it! We’d remember what a struggle it was to find just the right pieces of white for each cloud and we’d remember asking each other, “How many shades of blue can actually exist?!” Looking at the beautiful cloud-filled sky may have even been more gratifying than the big beautiful balloons.
When we look back over trying times in our lives, we’ll be able to get a certain kind of satisfaction and relief from just knowing we made it through alive! If the events made us stronger, the satisfaction will be even greater.
I’ve heard from quite a few people lately who are currently going through difficult times. I know that there are many others out there who are just trying to find ways to make the pieces fit. When I correspond with friends I meet through Self Help Daily, one of the things I always say is, “Stay Strong…” I should say one of the many things – anyone who knows me knows that some of my e-mails should come divided into chapters! “Stay Strong” may seem like simple little words, but if you keep them as your mindset, they can help see you through anything.
Staying strong is the key to making it through to the other side a stronger, better person. It’s the key to hanging in there long enough to make the pieces of the puzzle fit.
Whatever puzzle lies before you, know that you hold all of the pieces. Keep the big picture in front of you and… yes… stay strong.