Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Puzzling Thoughts

The Puzzle of Life

There’s something about the long nights of winter that create a puzzling feeling in me. Oh, not that I’m confused mind you, well, no more so than usual, but rather I’m filled with an urge to reassemble a picture that’s been chopped up into a thousand pieces. The concept of jigsaw puzzling is really quite bizarre if you consider it thoroughly, so I try not to. I just look at it as a way to pass the series of dark, cold hours that come packaged at the end of each winter day.

Like any task that has a lot of steps or pieces, there’s a format or an order in which to accomplish them; jigsaw puzzling is no different. I try to follow a regimented process to ensure the least amount of anxiety to a daunting mission.

Step 1: Preparing the Surface.
The first thing I do is get out the square board that sits atop the somewhat plush topped card table. Trying to connect the pieces on the plush top is vexing at best; they simply do not join properly, nor do they stay together for any length of tyme. The solid surface is a must.

Step 2: Setting Boundaries
Just like anything else in life, I need to know where the constraints of my task are in order to give me a concise workspace. So, I sort through all the pieces of the puzzle and separate the pieces with straight edges from those without.  Once I’ve sifted through each piece, I setout to form the puzzle’s border, hoping that I was observant and found all the needed pieces the first tyme through; if not, the process repeats.

Step 3: Breaking it Down:
I’ve come to the conclusion that the world is made up of different minded people; a stunning revelation, I know. In this sense of the thought however, I’m not referring to what people think, but rather how they think.  In reference to jigsaw puzzling, some people think in color, some in pictures and some in shapes. Personally, I am shape minded for the most part when it comes to assembling the pieces, but with just the border together, I have to momentarily adapt my way of thinking.  Faced with a box full of jumbled up pieces can be overwhelming, so I consider the image I am attempting to create and I start pulling out pieces by color, pieces that have a good chance of fitting in the same general area.  I usually try to concentrate on the largest span of solid color in the picture because once I isolate a significant amount of those pieces, my shape minded brain can set to work.

Step 4: Organizing the Chaos
Working a thousand piece puzzle on a card table does not leave excessive amounts of space to organize pieces. Not just that, but arranging pieces on the table is not exactly conducive to easy access. You end up having to stretch across the puzzle or walk around the table to try and see the pieces you have laid out. I’m all about stretching and walking when it comes to exercise, but when puzzling it just adds the possibility of error and frankly, it gets old after the first few minutes. Instead, I take baking trays, the kind with raised edges, and line up my pieces on those. This way, while sitting in front of my work area, I can easily access the tray and secure the pieces I need. Not to mention, when this is done, it does well to accent the shapes of the pieces.

Step 5: Focusing - One Piece at a Tyme
Have you ever met someone with an inability to focus? (pick me!) They might almost seem jittery or very face paced, moving from one thing to the next, leaving each task incomplete and, in short, accomplishing nothing. Of this, I am very guilty. While perhaps not jittery, I do have a profound inability to concentrate on one specific task, something that does not lend itself well to the art of puzzling. Still, somehow, when I sit down to a puzzle I find a way to put my brain in a different gear. I know that hundreds of pieces are there, waiting to be set in their correct location, but I don’t concern myself with them.  Even though I’m looking at them, all laid out on the baking trays, I’m only focused on one specific piece of the puzzle, the one I need. To concern myself with every piece of the puzzle would be far too overwhelming to endure, much like life would be if we focused on every piece of it.

In fact, I find that the steps of puzzling do well to liken themselves to the walk of life. In step 1, we found we needed a firm foundation under our puzzle pieces in order to connect them. Just like that, in life, I’ve found that I need Jesus Christ as my firm foundation or my pieces simply do not connect. Jesus is the one Who keeps my pieces together. 

In step 2, we formed the border of our puzzle, knowing that once assembled, all of our work would be within those parameters. Fortunately for us, God has already built the border to the puzzle of life.  He started it with Genesis, ended it with Revelation and called it the Bible.  Everything we need to know can be found inside its pages and therefore, we don’t need to work outside of it to assemble the pieces of life’s puzzle.

In step 3, we broke the down the picture of the puzzle and I noted that even though I like to concentrate on the shapes of the pieces as a way to assemble them, some tymes I have to change my approach. Just like in life, things do not always work out the way we think they should. Some tymes we’re forced to look at happenings or situations in a manner that is foreign to us. Our standard approach of handling, dealing or coping does not lend itself to certain occurrences and our only option is to adapt.  Every tyme something like that comes about however, God is with us as we try the new adaptation on for size; After all, God is the Ultimate Tailor, able to mend that which we tear.

In step 4, we organized our jungle of pieces, laying them out so that we could see each one if we desired. The process not only made us aware of what we had to work with, but also it created an easy way to access our tools. Let’s face it; life can get chaotic at tymes.  We have places to go and people to see and often tymes we feel burdened by our ….oh… so…. many…. tasks.  However, if we take the tyme to lay those tasks out neatly (on our baking trays) we find that each task or at least in each task is a blessing. So, you have to finish the laundry, pick up the kids from soccer, fix dinner and make it to the PTA meeting by 7:00?  How exciting that you have clothes to wear, kids that need you and love you, food to eat and a way to make a difference!  It’s all in our perspective!

And finally, step 5.  Have you ever wished you could see the “big picture”?  You feel frustrated because you cannot see the fruits of your labor or the results of your effort. You wish God would just show you everything so that you could make sense of what you’re doing or going through.  In step 5, with our puzzle, we took it one piece at a tyme, a process that applies well to the puzzle of life. God knows that the whole picture would be far too overwhelming for us, so He charges us with our pieces. When we focus on one piece or one day at a tyme and how it connects with the other pieces or days we’ve already fit together, well, it is far less daunting of a task than focusing on all the pieces at once.

The bottom line is, with a jigsaw puzzle, there’s no right or wrong way to go about it. Some ways might be more organized than others and lighten the load of the task, but as long as you get it together properly, it’s the end result that matters.  The puzzle of life, however, well there is a right way and that’s with Jesus. Just like you can’t put a puzzle together in the dark, you need The Light of the world to navigate through life’s perplexing moments.  As long as you have Him as your foundation, the pieces will fit; perhaps not always where you think they should, but they will fit. You just have to trust the puzzle’s Manufacturer! 

So, the next tyme we set out to put a jigsaw puzzle together, be it in our living room or on the card table of life, let’s remember, instead of pieces, to count our blessings and that, eventually, we will be wowed by the big picture that our puzzle pieces created.

© L.D. Kirklin