Making The Most of Puzzle Pieces That Don't Fit

This summer, my daughter and I visited my mom in her fabulous retirement community.  It's a lovely place tucked neatly in the middle of mountain ranges and rolling meadows.  Residents stroll along the manicured sidewalks, visit with one another on park benches and meet in the commons area for a game of bridge.  One of the most under utilized amenities there is a "thrift shop."

Residents donate items to the shop, other residents and visitors buy the items, and then the money goes to a local community charity.  It's all very warm and fuzzy.  Every time we visit, my daughter and I peruse the goodies.  I search books and costume jewelry.  She looks for unusual knick knacks and scarves.  (I don't really get it since she's not 80 but whatever.) Anyway, my daughter inherited my Dad's gene PL "Puzzle Love."  Even at a young age, she has a remarkable ability to solve even complex puzzles above her age range.

Side note - here's one of my dad's favorite puzzle jokes.

Q: Why did the blonde get so excited when she finished her jigsaw puzzle in only 6 months?

A: Because on the box it said "From 2-4 years."

I can't.

On this particular visit to the thrift store, she found a puzzle that she had to have. It was the most perfect puzzle and look it has birds on it!  Just like your writing thing - you love birds - oh mom we have to get it!  It's perfect.

Deadpan me - "How much is it?"

"Umm, the sticker says 25 cents."

"Okay, I can do 25 cents."

So we bring it back to my mother's apartment and my daughter can't wait to start working on it.  She spreads out the pieces on her dining room table and makes quick work finding the edge pieces first. Oh Dad, you taught her well.  We miss you.

Fast forward to one week ago.  You know how kids are, right?  They get ramped up on one thing, then their scenery changes and that thing they were so excited about slips out of vision and forgotten.  That's what happened to the twenty five cent bird puzzle.  It wasn't finished at my mom's dining room table but hurriedly scooped into a pile, hand bull-dozed into the original box and packed in my daughter's suit case to remain there until the next time we travelled.  Do not judge me.  If it's in her closet, doesn't not contain perishable items and nothing gooey is oozing out of bottles, then I'm okay with her not unpacking. It's her bag.  If she needs something - she'll find it and then the lesson of putting crap away in a timely fashion will be learned.  I'm a parent genius.


She unpacked her bag and found the puzzle.  It became the bright and shiny object of her attention again as if we time traveled back into the retirement community thrift shop.  Her eyes turned into cartoon dreamy blue and her mouth opened in a wide animated smile.   Without any hesitation, she had to complete this puzzle right now.  This very minute!

I didn't have the heart to ask her what she was looking for when she discovered the puzzle.

She spread out the puzzle on the floor of her room by positioning two 3-ring binders stacked upside down and backwards to one another to create an even, flat surface.  I don't know and I don't understand it either - but that's how one learns,  <ahem> engineering.

She managed to put the entire puzzle together under an hour and a half and called out to me.  "Maaaaaohhhmm!  Come see!"

There, on the floor of her room, balanced on two binders was a beautiful bird print.  I stood over it and was impressed that it only took her about the length of two Disney sitcoms.  Her unusual engineered desk was holding too.  I proudly smiled at her, cooed adoration and praise over her ability but managed to avoid eye contact with the rest of her messy room.  #momsanity

She looked at me earnestly, held on to every praise I poured onto her work but her expression told me it wasn't enough.  Something was missing.

I said, "It's beautiful and you worked so hard on it. I'm glad you found it at Gran's Thrift Shop."

 "But it's all wrong."

"Hmmm?  What do you mean?"

"It's missing a piece - right there!"

I looked over the print and honestly didn't notice the one piece that was gone.  It was near the bottom of the puzzle and didn't take away from the beauty of the picture at all.  Once she pointed it out - it became everything.  It was all both of us could see.  The one missing piece was the white, empty place on the whole makeshift binder board. The rest of the picture was not as pretty since that one piece was gone.



Her puzzle was a disappointment but I saw it as a life lesson.  Rather, God impressed upon me one of easy-to-understand parables that made me feel like I was 8 years old in VBS or Sunday School.  He gives moms like me simple mental crafts to pass on to our children at exactly the right moment.  We feel good about Jesus, get a good message and then pass it on...Here it is:


**Are we focusing on what's missing in our life or focusing on all that we have?**


Bam!  Elementary piece to swallow.  We understood the clear message and made a quick visual trip around the puzzle board to take in the color and beauty of the picture then big hugs all around.  My daughter and I fit in the last piece of this brilliant life lesson and decided it was the most beautiful, puzzle ever because it was in the thrift shop, it only cost a quarter and we learned such a valuable lesson.

Bless. Our. Hearts.

You think we're done.  We're not, because just like rediscovering the puzzle in the depths of her suitcase which should have been unpacked months ago - there's always more to God's message.

I called my mom and told her about her youngest granddaughter completing the puzzle and missing the one piece.  I went on to mention that her own daughter had been inspired by The Holy Spirit and delivered the message about focusing on all that is there rather than what is missing.  That way, I'd save her some time and Gran could be proud of both of us.

She says - "That's great - but you're not missing the piece because I mailed it to you, remember?  I found the piece underneath a placemat after you left and so I dropped it in a card and mailed it.  Do you remember?"

Yes.  Yes I do remember.  My mother mailed that one piece and that single puzzle piece sat on the breakfast bar, next to a candle, some pretty rocks from the yard, a dried up dandelion and our stack of paper napkins.  In a rash cleaning fit, I rediscovered the puzzle piece. Decided I had no idea which puzzle this was from, rationalized that I would never know what puzzle it was from - and I tossed it.  Palm to my forehead, I threw the piece away.  I remember now.

God's still not finished.

Saturday mornings are for the love of coffee, planning, list making and laundry whirring.  Coffee comes first or all else fails.  <Finch Truth>  Little Miss Sunshine bounced up to my seat at the kitchen table and she had a great idea.  Great ideas from Sunshine normally create more work for me.  I'm on my second cup, scratching out weekend warrior plans so I'm not sure whether or not her great idea is going to squeeze in between the grocery store or Lowe's.  But oh my word, she's blue-eyed and expressive and on the brink of being a teenager who will not want my help soon so I push my plans away and ask for her idea.

"I want to hot glue the bird picture down onto cardboard so we can keep it forever."

****I'll just insert a space here for you to review the above sentence.****

Her great idea project was as messy and frustrating as you couldn't possibly imagine.  If you ever try to do this - hot glue puzzle pieces onto cardboard - I can give you great tips on what does not work.  But as with life, you'll never learn unless you try and first tries never turn out the way you planned.

I won't go into any detail about why the hot glue nightmare didn't work, but suffice it to say it was fine in the beginning, hit bumps in the middle, then in desperation - we patched it in the end to just make it work - sort of.  There were frustrated tears, puzzle pieces tossed and dried hot glue underneath our fingertips from picking it apart from the cardboard. (Again).  The result was a uneven, hot glued bird puzzle with a seam of imperfection running through the middle of it. But you know what?  It's just like us.  But if we do our best to get as close as we can and not give up when it gets bumpy, God will turn it into something beautiful.


Seeds to Share: 

Romans 8:28 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

2 Chronicles 15:7 - But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded."