Faith Reflections

Puzzled Lessons

This past weekend we received an abundance of snow. While nine inches fell at my home, some nearby were blanketed with over 14″ from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning. It is a winter wonderland here and I love it.

The gorgeous view from my deck.

We weren’t surprised by this storm, so I took the opportunity on Friday to go to my parent’s house and borrow a couple of puzzles from my mom’s stash in the basement. She has a collection of puzzles she purchased for her mom when she was in the senior care center and I’m cheap. Free puzzles! I decided a potential snowstorm was the perfect opportunity to tackle one of the larger 1,000 piece puzzles. Yes, I live an exciting life. Full stop with the jealousy, friends.

Choosing Joy

My word for 2019 is submit, to abandon outcomes to God. One practice I’m attempting is to do more things that bring me joy while abandoning any outcomes or expectations. (I decided this way before adorable little Marie Kondo took over Netflix and the world with her show and choosing joy!)

I’ve always loved art and creating things. But as I’ve gotten older, my addiction to productivity has grown and my art supplies have been banished to my closet. When I feel the urge to create, my inner voice talks me out of it because it isn’t productive. You’re not going to give your art to anyone. You’re not going to hang it. Why waste time and resources when you could be doing something more “productive”? Why read fiction work when I could read something to help me be a better person, pastor, or leader? (I know … a total falsehood since fiction writing can teach us some of the greatest life lessons!)

Working on a puzzle seems frivolous when there is so much to be done. “What is the point?” I’ll spend several hours on this and, in the end, break it apart and put it back in the box.

But I did it anyway. (Actually, I’m still doing it since I haven’t finished it yet.)

My almost completed puzzle.
My almost completed puzzle.
It is healthy for me to have unfinished things in my living room. I repeat, it is healthy for me.

Puzzled Lessons

I learned a few things this weekend from my “frivolous” activity.

  1. It is good to take a break and walk away. I had the most success when I walked away from the puzzle for a few hours to do other things. The longer I stared at the pieces, the less I could see. Life is this way. The more we sit in a problem, the harder it is for us to see what our next step should be. Stepping away, going for a walk, giving it a day, etc. can give us space and margin to bring new energy and clarity to whatever decision we are struggling with in life. When I would come back to the puzzle after hours away, I usually made some quick progress with things I had stopped seeing the day before.
  2. Keep the big picture in view. Thank goodness for the large picture on the back of the puzzle box. Without it, I doubt I’d ever finish the puzzle. I held the box most of the time as I would reference it to figure out where pieces fit. Having the big picture in mind is helpful in life so we don’t get lost or overwhelmed by the small things. When I think about raising kids, it is easy to get buried in the immediate and pressing needs. Laundry isn’t done. Separate practices across town. Assignments due. But when we keep the bigger picture in view of the kind of humans we wish to raise, it can help us see where the small pieces of life go each day.
  3. Small things do matter. Why we have to keep the big picture in mind, we also have to pay attention to the small things. In challenging puzzles, noticing the smallest details can make a big difference. Often, the only way for me to figure out where a puzzle piece belongs is by the most unique detail. A unique color or shape or pattern. Towards the end, I’m randomly picking up a piece, studying it intently for something unique, and then referencing the larger picture. Eventually, I see where it fits.
  4. Not everything needs to be productive or a life lesson. I did connect some dots in life along with some puzzle pieces. But it would be absolutely okay if I had simply put together a puzzle while watching Hallmark movies and football (Go, Chiefs!). God calls us to rest from pursuit and productivity. Our Creator designed us to be creative. Our Parent delights when we enjoy our lives and one another.

I’m still working on my puzzle and I’m still working on abandoning outcomes. One piece at a time.

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One Comment

  • John Mathews

    As I was reminded while trying to shovel my way to the street this week, your puzzle story reminds me of my favorite story:
    “‘How do you eat an elephant?’ ‘One bite at a time!'”
    My life decisions often paralyzed me, until I started looking for that one piece, one bite, that first step…that allowed me to start or return to my journey. Sometimes seeing the whole picture is less important than knowing the first step.

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