Piece by Piece

Tonight, my girls are making a puzzle. It’s 300 pieces and involves puppy dogs, pet shops and flowers. There are about 40 brown pieces, 85 black pieces, and some white thrown in, with pops of color for the flowers.

To be honest, I’m supposed to be helping them. We call it “family puzzles,” but I usually do more watching than piecing together. Then when all the kids are in bed, the husband comes to the table and finishes the puzzle. (It’s almost a compulsion, as though he can’t help himself. I gently remind him it’s supposed to be a family puzzle, worked on by all of us, completed by no one in particular. But no matter, he finishes the puzzles while everyone else is sound asleep – a little like the tooth fairy, but no money.)

They started this one excitedly, organizing pieces, trying to do all the edges. I’m watching them while typing, half amused, and more than half glad I have a legitimate task to do so I don’t have to help. I think I’m the only family member who isn’t a little puzzle obsessed. The rest seem to think puzzles are a great way to pass the time. It’s cute and precious and all things sweet. However, my attention span is about 5 seconds long, so after the second piece that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere, I feel an overwhelming urge to wander into another room and pretend to be busy.

The girls have set up the pet shop picture in front of them as they work. They’ve glanced at it over and over, in an effort to understand if they are working on a paw or nose or window ledge. They’re genuinely excited over every piece that fits. So am I.

But lately life feels a little bit like a big puzzle with no big picture. Just today, I told a friend that I most long to fast-forward one year and just catch a glimpse of what lies ahead. There are a whole lot of unanswered questions, and my daily tasks of putting the puzzle pieces together have felt more confusing than comforting.

A friend on the phone helped me put a few pieces together today. We love as much as we can while we can. It’s a message for all months and all days, not just Valentine’s. It helps me let go of needing the bigger picture. I’m loving hard. And I’m loving for however long I’m given.

One girl is under the table looking for a piece she dropped. She finds it and runs away, ready for something a little more active I suppose. The other girl is still working, cheering over each piece. I wish I could add a little video of her dance moves for every piece. She’s nowhere near the end. I would estimate she has about 20 pieces completed. Only 280 more to go…..

The pieces of our puzzle can feel a little never ending. Maybe I need to cheer more over each completed piece, take a break, do a little dance over small moments and find happiness without seeing the big picture.

The next puzzle in her case of puzzles has 500 pieces. She’s already looking forward to that one, as though she knows whether she finishes or not, there’s more to look forward to. (Or maybe she knows the puzzle fairy can’t help himself from working on all the family puzzles into the late hours of the night.)

There’s no puzzle fairy in real life. But there are beautiful pictures that we only get to see when we’ve finished the hard work of faithfully putting every piece together. I’ll keep putting each piece in, just a little at a time, praying that the bigger picture is almost ready to be revealed.

Runaway girl just returned to the table, helping again. They’re back at it together, finding pieces and cheering together again.

In spite of what the puzzle fairy might think, the hardest pieces are better when someone helps you fit them in and find their place. The joy of seeing created work that we all worked on is why we do family puzzles. It’s the promise of what at first looked like a pile of mess becoming a masterpiece.