There was a time I loved doing puzzles.
Growing up in Alaska meant that the summer days were long and glorious. My childhood was spent driving hours out into the middle of nowhere. We drenched ourselves in Deet as we made our way through the thick trees until we found my dad’s favorite fishing spot. We would celebrate arriving by opening up the cooler and digging out our favorite soda and sandwich. We knew the ones cut diagonally were meant for us kids. We rolled up the bottoms of our pants and stood in rocky rivers while we waited for that firm tug on our fishing poles. Summer in Alaska were peaceful and beautiful.
The winters weren’t as easy. The few hours of daylight and harsh freezing weather left us searching for different things to do. And on those days that were too cold for sledding and snow machining, board games and puzzles seemed to be our salvation. I have fond memories of smack talking over games like Candyland and Battleship. We laughed as we played Spades and spent 75 percent of it accusing each other of cheating. But on certain days my mom or dad would come into the house holding a brand new puzzle.
There was an excitement in the air as the pieces would get dumped on the coffee table. We would all take turns staring at the box, trying our best to take in what the picture would look like in the end. We would grab some popcorn and then go for it. Slowly we would start to piece together the picture. There was a peace in the air besides the random “OH COME ON!” my dad would shout at the game playing in the background on the TV.
The puzzles were too big to finish in a day. So we would just leave it there for all of us to work on at leisure. Eventually we would finish, glue it together and hang it in the garage. I loved the whole process of this. I loved that it brought us together as a family. I appreciated that it took time because it made the whole ending that much sweeter. Further more I enjoyed staring at the finished product. It was a reminder to my heart of what a little patience and determination can bring.
However, as I got older , my love for puzzles dwindled. My mom would come down the stairs revealing a new puzzle she bought and my smile was now replaced with an eye roll. I didn’t have time for puzzles. I was a teenager now and I had friends to text, and MSN messenger convos to have. I no longer saw the joy of things taking time. In fact, I just wish things would hurry up and resolve themselves already. My life was already so full of hope being deferred and it was making my heart very sick.
It’s been years since I have done a puzzle. In fact, I haven’t missed it or even thought of one for well over a decade. Yet the other day I found myself staring out the window as I watched the sunset and my mind wandered over to puzzles. I smiled as I remembered all of the time I spent piecing them together as a child. I thought of the sense of pride I felt when it was all put together. Then I remembered the way my love for that whole process suddenly grew cold. And long after the sun set, I couldn’t stop questioning why. Why did I no longer love piecing together puzzles?
Slowly my heart began to answer my question. I realized around that time in my life I was dealing with incredible hurt and disappointment. I was over holding my breath for things to resolve themselves. I wanted my quick fixes and drive though dreams. It’s not that I was lazy. It’s just my heart was exhausted. It was over getting glimpses of what my future could look like, but seeing nothing but scattered pieces in front of me. I was overwhelmed. It just seemed like by the time things finally fell into place, it would be way too late.
I learned to turn my back on scattered pieces. I’d slowly back away as Life dumped situations before me that I wasn’t sure how to mend together. This whole patience and determination thing just wasn’t for me anymore. Besides, life had left me hurt and broken. I was sure that I had one too many pieces stolen that would keep me from ever having a whole life. Naw, I’d save that process for others. I’d leave it to the ones who had their ish together and weren’t terrified of once again getting their heart broken.
But I’m realizing that I was born to do puzzles.
We all are.
At some point in all of our journeys, it will feel like someone brought out a giant box of mixed puzzle pieces and dumped them on the floor in front of us. I’m there right now, friends. I’ve been sitting on the ground cross legged, trying to figure out just how all these pieces of who I am and my story fit together.
I have come to some conclusions:
I remind myself that although I have some ideas of what my life might look like, I’m painfully aware that I don’t know the full picture. In fact, I suspect there are pieces I need to complete this puzzle that I haven’t been given yet. There are still people I’m destined to meet, and experiences life is going to walk me through.
So I think I’ll just trust the process. I’ll appreciate the fact that it takes time, because it makes the ending that much sweeter. I won’t allow myself to be overwhelmed. I’ll inhale faith and exhale peace. I’ll watch God take what seems to be just a hodgepodge of random pieces and turn it all into something beautiful. After all, I’ve felt the joy of a completed puzzle before. It’s amazing what a little patience and determination can bring.