Life is Like a 1,000 Piece Puzzle

One by one, I turned over the pieces. My excitement was a bit diminished by the task- tedious and monotonous.  One thousand pieces was daunting. The tiny cardboard cut-outs appeared so insignificant and disjuncted. Yet, I knew this was an imperative step I would not regret later.

Life is like this 1,000 piece puzzle: sometimes daunting, at moments seemingly impossible, pieces and parts that appear elusive to the bigger picture, progress is slow, but bit by bit an image is born.

I studied the box’s glossy image, captivated by the night time cityscape. It was peaceful and serene, so unlike the scattered mess that lay before me. The edge pieces would prove so much easier than the middle (this I knew from experience), so I tackled them first. Without these, the more challenging parts would lose their definition and purpose.

I know the “edges” that frame the whole must be constructed meaningfully and purposefully. It would be simple to fashion the framework into a “self- gratifying, grab for the gusto, it’s all about me” picture. But the more arduous effort is trusting the Divine power outside myself to be the framework that will hold up and support all the smaller parts. God as Master of me, hemming me in before and behind, sometimes chaffs against my self-sufficiency, my sense of accomplishment even. Yet, deep down my soul cries out for Him.

With the edges complete, I decide to piece together a part that seems most challenging, for fear that if I leave it for last, I will become discouraged and give up. It is the reflection of lights on water; lights that appear almost identical except for a few variances in color. After this section, the other parts flow together nicely, until I tackle the night sky, which is a vast expanse of blackness, save a few small stars. I want to rip out my hair. It is driving me nuts!

Some seasons of my life have been this night sky: perplexing, discouraging, even enraging. I can’t see how things fit and I certainly am NOT enjoying it. Time stretches out before me vast and uninviting. I have to tell myself to remember WHO: frames me in, keeps me safe in His loving, watchful care, and knows the plan far beyond the moment of difficulty I see.

Other seasons have been the more pleasing satisfying parts: the “easy” pieces that fit together on the first try, the ones you spot amongst the messy pile and just pop them right into their spot. These pieces are like the breath of fresh air, the lovely lingering sense of a job well done or just the simple pleasure of being with family and friends. These are the days you wake up and feel at peace, when your faith buoys you above the surface and anchors your soul to rest in the bigger picture.

I gingerly place together pieces 999 then 1,000. Running my hand over the completed picture, I sit back in my chair satisfied and wonder how many hours this took me. Does it matter? Not really. I am finished and now relish the fruit of my labors both easy and difficult. 

My “life” puzzle isn’t finished until I draw my last breath. The sum of the parts make the picture that God intended- and those will never look just like anyone else’s.  My own finished product will be uniquely mine, fashioned and put together by the Creator of the universe. What could be more beautiful than that?!

white flag

I threw in my little “corner of a napkin on a toothpick” white flag, yet deep down I knew it wasn’t enough. That was a paltry excuse for surrender but it was all I could muster.

I had to be broken and emptied of all my own efforts before I would give in. Or was it give up? Yes, that was the word I was frightened of; the word that would convey that I had somehow lost my control or even {gulp} been overcome. In my mind the words surrender and defeat seemed synonymous. And I don’t go down easily- never without a fight.

Try as I might, I was unable to manipulate circumstances to my liking. I came at it from the guilt angle. I came at it from the fear angle. I came at it from the “learn form me and my mistakes” angle. Nothing worked.  The longer the battle drug on, I found the one thing that made me feel better- anger. I would shun him. I would stand in my corner with my guns drawn- my words were weapons and I used them unrelentingly. If I could injure enough, would he come back- hurt, defeated, humiliated? Would I conquer and overcome?

No. Just the opposite. Right before my very eyes there was withdrawal and disengagement- but not the kind you want. He was sauntering away from the battle lines with a self- satisfied kind of grin on his face. He was through with my antics and was about to walk away victorious- the one that was happier, more satisfied with life and in cool headed control. (Or so it would seem.)

That is when I did it. I picked up the white surrender flag and waved it furiously and unabashedly. My agenda was smashed. My will was turned. My battle plan- to control the situation, to have things turn out MY way, to put up my dukes and fight like I meant it- failed. He didn’t win though. God won. God had his way with my heart- finally.

Maybe this is your response in a trial or life situation. You are, like I did for so long, flicking in the itty-bitty white flag, thinking that’ll suffice; that all God needs is that little corner of your heart and will, not the WHOLE thing. To wholly surrender would be to lose: to lose your identity, your own dignity or self-satisfying sense of accomplishment. It would change everything and leave you feeling uncomfortably vulnerable, open to something that is scary and unknown.

Yes, that was me. That has been me so many times in life and for certain, I will be there again; grasping for control, asserting myself over something, someone or a situation. I will have to surrender to a holy plan, one that may not suit me or seem to make sense. But I know deep down that only wholly surrender will be the place of true solace, the place where the battle is not mine, but God’s, the place where giving in does not mean defeat, but true soul quenching rest.White Flag

man, oh man!

Staring.  I can’t help myself. The words sound like the “wah, wah, wah, wah” of the teacher on Peanuts cartoons. Everything feels a bit surreal and fuzzy.

Sitting across the table is a man. His eyes are still the vibrant blue of the sky on a sunny day. The pile of curly out of control hair on his head is representative of the phase he is in right now. Still an adolescent, but an adult in a few short days: my boy and yet a man.

I have to keep my mushy-gushy mommy emotions to myself. I’m no crier, but I do feel a haze of sadness creep over me. (It is more wrought by some disappointments at the moment and not by sentimentalities.)

His dad and I are at a special lunch having “the talk”- no, not that talk. That one happened years ago. This is harder but in a less awkward way. Our topic is a heart strings tugging one about what happens when he is an adult: how and what will change, how he lives within our home as a man and yet still our child. It is sticky business.

I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like this Sam I am. I do not like it one little bit. It makes me sad and want to throw a fit.  I will miss his antics here and there. I will miss the adventure that took us anywhere. I miss those carefree boyhood days. Not a fan of (some of) your manhood ways.

How did I get here, to this place? A flood of memories rushes in like the time lapse  films I’ve seen- overwhelming and beautiful all at once. Sensory overload. I am reminded of all the mistakes I’ve made- and it pains me to my very core. Then comes the sweet picture of the sleepy toddler cuddled against my chest. I can almost feel his baby soft skin as he contentedly sucks his thumb.

I am the mother of a man, but he wasn’t always one. Things will change from this day forward. Some changes I will welcome; others I will not. But one constant will remain: my deep abiding love for my firstborn son.

unraveling…

unraveling….

Like a loosely woven skein of yarn, some days I come undone.

It can be nothing in particular sometime. I just wake up feeling as if little devilish imps are tugging yards out of me. (Do they come in the night to torment me all day?)

Or some days, it is the rebellious taunt made by my son that he is moving out at 12:01 the day of his 18th birthday- a fresh twist of the proverbial rebel’s knife and my emotions well up, uncontrollably.

Even other days, it is the thought that I have NO IDEA WHAT THE FUTRUE HOLDS FOR OUR FAMILY. Will we move again for the 11th time in 20 years? (Long story for another post, I promise). The gypsy lifestyle runs so CONTRA to my personal bents. Yet, it would seem to be God’s comical way of keeping me supple, humble, detached from the material “stuff” of life and even people if you will.

I sometimes think, “OK, God, am I REALLY that hard headed, that you need to keep driving the SAME lessons home to me?”

~ Here’s a “need to know” about me: I used to cry almost daily. I have also struggled majorly with depression in the past (yes, another post about this one too). But, as I have been worked like taffy in a “puller”, God has seen fit to stabilize my emotional roller coaster a bit. For that, I am truly humbled and thankful every day.~

Despite this, the unraveling is SO unpleasant. And it’s not like I sit by idly watching it happen! I fight it. I pray. I dig in mentally and remember the words of God that He does not give me more than I am able to bear or that He never leaves me or forsakes me. I cast my cares on Him and wait. And some days honestly, I feel nothing. Is this all a big joke? Doesn’t He (or anyone for that matter) see what’s happening to me?

Maybe it is God Himself wrenching out pieces of me – a purposeful discomfort, a test of my control freakish nature- to make me into someone different, better??

I am conflicted. For if my beautiful yarn were being woven into a lovely shawl or intricate blanket, I would feel satisfied, happy even. But I DO NOT see the string’s end! All I feel is the tug. I don’t comprehend the purpose!

This is the essence of my faith-  “Faith is being sure of what we hope for. It is being certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

However it is being yanked from me, I conclude that all I can do is trust the elusive picture I cannot see. If I balk and try to tuck it’s length back in, I will fail. You know you can never wind the yarn back the way it was. If I let it go, even allow the extraction to happen, I have to rest in God’s providential work, however painful the process.

He is the skilled weaver and can make the gnarled, knotted, yards of string into something beautiful in His time.

unraveling for a purpose…

Quaking in my Converse®

FDR once said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Obviously, he was too busy being Mr. smarty-pants president and not with raising his 6 children. I have two teenagers plus a tweener right now and I can heartily assure you that I fear more than fear itself.

The past few months, I have likened raising children into adulthood to walking along the edge of a cliff. It is slow going, laborious, scary as hell, nerve-wracking and many days, just a rather unpleasant experience. Every day, here I go, one foot in front of the other, not exactly seeing what lies up ahead; never knowing for sure if I will loose my footing and take a tumble or make it safely over to the other side. Most often, I am so hot (under the collar- that is), bewildered and frustrated, I am totally unable to take in any scenery (if there is anything beautiful worth seeing). But every once in a while, (oh, say, when there is a blue moon) a cool refreshing breeze blows, bringing with it a smile of relief and refreshment; giving just enough respite to keep me going. Then I begin to say to myself: “one step at a time” like a mantra over and over again.

The high and lows come in dizzying cycles. Just when I think: “Oh ok, I am getting the hang of this walking along the edge of a cliff thing”, SHABAM! an evil wind of change comes blowing, threatening to either knock me on my booty or off the ledge, plummeting to my undoing altogether! I relegate myself to sit down, collect my nerve, soothe frazzled emotions (drink some wine maybe) and take a deep breath before going on.

Accompanying me every step of the way is FEAR- downright abject doses of it- the kind that makes my tummy feel swirly and my knees weak. And here’s the million dollar question that runs continuously, like an electronic banner through my frontal lobe:

How will my kids turn out in the end?

I can almost hear what some of you are saying to me right now: “You think too much. You don’t trust God enough. You forget that your children belong to Him anyways. Don’t you just pray when you feel afraid?” Yes to every query! But that still doesn’t change the fact that every day when my children are away from the safety cocoon we call “home”, they are doing, saying, thinking, acting, only God knows what/how.

A friend spoke some wise words to me this week (as I was taking a chillaxing break on my little cliff edge). She said: Stop striving to be the thermostat keeper of the home, always adjusting the temperature, trying to keep it a perfectly, comfortable 78 degrees. In other words, some days it’s gonna get hot, real hot. Other days, it will be so chilly, it may feel as if your toes would fall off. Stop trying to control every point in your children’s existence. OUCH! That hurt my control-freakish nature. But I was forced to admit that if I have nurtured my kids in light of my faith, to the very best of my ability (keeping in mind own mile-long list of faults and failures), I have to trust that they will turn out OK- whatever that looks like. (Which, in all likelihood won’t match my cookie cutter impression of what I’d imagined).

If I’m being honest, and I am, my fear is holding me, gripping me, sometimes paralyzing me. It is the very component that keeps me walking the precipice, frightened. I wage an all out mental war with myself not to jump off or just sit down and say, “Forget it. This is WAY TOO HARD!”

For now, all that keeps me going is prayer and the reminder that someday, in the not so very distant future, I will be ambling down a serene path, unafraid, knowing exactly how my kids turned out.

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