Sunday evening after the girls [and Brent…ahem] woke up from some pretty glorious naps, we busted out our Christmas decorations.

Now I'll be the first to tell you that I'm not one of those over-the-top, counting down the days until I can put up lights and tinsel, kind of people. No, I'm not at all. I'm the girl who stole a Christmas tree from her college, remember?

 However, there is nostalgia in decorating, and I am a huge fan of nostalgia. So every year we Brent goes to the attic and drags down the tub of Christmas stuff and our stolen tree. We pour some egg nog [this is a MUST] in our fanciest glasses, I allow Christmas music as long as it is classic and not to jangle-ly, and we Christmas up the place.

My family tradition was to always purchase a Hallmark ornament [the day after Christmas when they were marked WAY down], and even though we lost many in a garage fire when I was in high school, it is always fun to reminisce and pull them from their labeled boxes, some of which are singed and black from their fiery escape. Brent also has many ornaments from his childhood, and we started the tradition in utero with each of our girls. Our tree is getting quite full with a hodge podge of mis-matched, unique ornaments. Someday I will have a "themed" tree, but for now this is beautiful to us.

There is another item in our tub of decorations though that I hadn't really noticed much. A puzzle.
Not just any puzzle though: a puzzle gifted to Brent when he was a little boy. He and his mom used to put the puzzle together most years and she saved it for him.

I hadn't ever really paid much attention to it, and just made sure it got back in the box and back to the attic every year.

But this year, as I am trying to do more stuff side by side with Brent and turn off the tv and live better stories, I asked him if he wanted to put it together one night after the girls were asleep.

I'm not going to lie, his enthusiasm freaked me out a little bit. I had never entertained the thought that he could possibly be a puzzle-person.

We found a large piece of cardboard that could be our workstation, and we dumped the box.

"How many pieces is this thing?" I asked him.


I thought it was just going to be a little thing we could do for fun, but 500 pieces is quite a bit, let me assure you. We hatched a plan to separate colors and set to work. I took control of the border because, in my limited puzzle experience, I thought edge pieces were the easiest to work with and that, typically, once the perimeter is established the rest falls into place more easily.

A couple hours in I realized I had been wrong. This puzzle was a circle so the edge pieces were, well, tricky. And there was no checking with the picture on the box because it was ALL green with a few pieces of red and white.

Brent had the entire snowman and all the animals together and I was still cursing the edge pieces. He kept telling me to stop. He assured me it would be easiest to finish the inside and then adjoin the edge as the last thing. He was right. It would have been easier that way. But by golly I had started and I was not going to give up that easily. So I pushed on.

I had forgotten what it was like to do a real puzzle. I have been doing too many puzzles with Blythe where you just plop the shape in the right place. I had forgotten all the strategies that go into it and the brain capacity it takes!

This was definitely a "side by side" activity because we didn't talk much…to each other. There was talking, but most of it was self-directed. I kept telling myself things like, "Look for the dark green sticky-out piece." I had to repeat that over and over while I searched or my brain would fry and I couldn't remember what I was looking for and I would pick up a light green NOT sticky-out piece. [I started calling them "male" and "female" to be more succinct in my brain.]

I also couldn't believe how many times I would try the same piece in the same spot. I knew it didn't fit last time, but maybe THIS time it would. Surely. Nope. It never did.

As I worked I realized that sometimes I would be too close. I was so focused on finding that certain piece that I wasn't thinking about the perimeter as a whole and was missing something obvious.

Holy cow. You guys, this was a lot of work.

I got nearly all of it together, and Brent brought the snowman over and fit it in. That helped a lot, and also made me realize that I think a piece is missing. It would have been nice to know that from the start!

After that I finally relented and started working on another section. Finally, after 11:30, I told Brent we had to go to bed. But it was so hard to make ourselves stop without completing it! Who knew a puzzle could be so much fun? Well, I don't know that fun is the word: demanding? entertaining? all-consuming?

As we made a game plan to find a place to store it away from grabby little toddler fingers, I thought about what that little puzzle had revealed to me, and how much of my life is just like trying to fit together that crazy border.

How often do I lose focus, stop repeating what needs to be repeated in order to remember, and pick up the piece I don't need? And once I pick it up, how often do I insist on trying to jam it into a place that has proved it won't work? And I can assure you, I very often get too close to a small part and forget to step back and see the whole.

I need to whisper to myself, shout out loud, read, breathe, repeat Jesus to myself. If I don't I end up picking up pride. Or worry. Or doubt. Or greed.

Or I pick up volunteering-for-too-much or looking-at-my-phone or a perfectly-organized-house and try and make it work in spaces that can only fit family. And rest. And Jesus. 

And so often I am so close to my own worry, my own trouble, my own pity-partying, that I forget to step back and look at the box picture that says, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

This puzzle Brent and I worked on is old. 25 years probably. And some of the pieces needed to be firmly reminded that they did fit together. It was frustrating to find a piece and know it had to be the right piece, only to have to work to get it in place.

I'm afraid I've been like that for God a lot. He knows I belong in a certain place, but I kick and scream so he has to show me I fit. I have to be reminded I fit.

Brent and I have a date with those 500 pieces tomorrow night again [actually I'm pretty sure it's 499 and that is why I couldn't finish the border…]. I'm sure we will be able to finish it. And I'm sure as my hands flit about trying to find the right pieces I'll be reminded to slow down, whisper Jesus, and let Him place me where He knows I belong.

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Brent said...

yes! I love puzzle-ing. ;)

Hannah said...

puzzles are so fun! I love doing them! It has been too long since I've actually [helped] put a whole puzzle together. The most I've worked a puzzle is a few pieces here and there when we visit one of Landon's grandmas house :)

*carrie* said...

I LOVED this post!! It made me laugh out loud. I am pretty much the only member of my family (both my current home and the one I grew up in) who is not a fan of puzzles. I don't really find them fun.

Eric and Nathan are the biggest fans at our house.

And I love the real-life connections you made at the end. Saving to re-read again later.