Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Puzzling Parts of Life

Hi Friends,

Well, crazy week around here. Besides Jayna's broken arm and my substantive edits that are coming due, the whole family came down with some kind of awful flu bug. Being cooped up in the house with five sick kids with edits due hasn't been so much fun. But this morning as the twins were coughing and putting together a puzzle on the living room floor, I was reminded of a story when Joelle was putting together the same puzzle a few years ago. And that story reminded me that this piece of my life's puzzle (the one full of whiny kids and tissues and bottles of medicine) may not look so great, but even it fits into God's plan for the whole.

Anyway, I found the story encouraging and hope you will too. It went goes like this:

“No, Sweetie, that doesn’t go there.” I pointed my finger at the puzzle piece in my two-year-old daughter’s hand.

Joelle studied the bright piece and frowned. Vivid reds and pinks splashed over the cardboard surface. “Flower. Go dere.” She again pushed it into the open space along one side of the puzzle.

“It won’t fit. You’re not ready for that piece yet.”

“Fit. Go dere.” Her brows furrowed as she turned the piece sideways and tried again. Push, turn, shove, turn, stare, frown. And still the piece wouldn’t slide into place.

I tapped my fingers on the table and reached for the puzzle piece.

Joelle hid it against her chest.

I had to admit, it was a beautiful piece. Rose petals shone against the deep green background and created an enticing image of color. But no matter how hard Joelle tried, it wouldn’t fit into spot she had chosen for it.

I watched her struggle for a few more minutes, then searched through the pile for the right piece. I finally found it – a piece covered in shades of ugly brown with dark knobs for the tree trunk. “Here, love, try this one.” I handed her the picture of the brown trunk.

She looked at the piece in my hand, then at the pretty flowers in hers. She pushed my hand away. “No.”

I wiggled my fingers. “This is the one you need.”

“No.” She pointed at my hand. “Yucky.”

I looked down at the piece. She was right. It was yucky compared to the flowers. But it was the piece she needed at this time. The only one that would fit in order to make the picture complete.
The difference was that I had the whole picture in mind, the whole puzzle. She, only the piece in her hand. It took Joelle five full minutes to finally put down the flowered piece and try the one I was holding out to her.

Not that I blamed her. I prefer flowered pieces too. In the picture of my life, I’ve often tried to shove in the pretty piece – something that looks good, seems appealing. I want success in my career now. I want my relationships to be easy and comfortable. I want my children to always choose what’s right, and my health to be excellent.

But sometimes God holds out a piece that isn’t nearly so attractive. He calls me to a difficult task, to face failure or fear, to endure a painful situation, or to invest in a relationship that seems to bring only heartache. At those times, the piece He’s giving me looks brown, gnarled, and ugly when I want bright and beautiful.

And sometimes, I, too, want to hang on to my idea of how my life should be right now. Sometimes I want to force a pretty piece, one I like better, when God’s giving me the less attractive piece because in the end that’s the one that will make the picture of my life right.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” God tells the people of Israel in Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV), “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And the same holds true for me. He knows the plans He has for me. His plans, not mine. Plans that take into account the whole picture of my life, the picture He is creating especially for me.

So today, as I watched my girls put puzzle pieces together, I was reminded that God knows all the pieces of my life, where they fit, and in what order they must be placed.

And when he hands me a piece that isn’t all flowers, I need to trust that He sees the whole picture, and one day that picture will be beautiful.


Deena said...

Oh, MARLO! How timely! I too am in a dark, ugly piece of life! I mean, I love my life, my kids, my Jesus, and stuff...yet it is all so overwhelming right now. And my body hurts so much, the baby is testing us...and our daughter can't seem to find a place to live. Plus, our oldest is away for the 1st time on Thanksgiving and Christmas...away from us and away from God. It's all just so hard right now....but I know Whom I have believed in, and am persuaded that He will keep that which I've committed to Him until that final day. I cling to that.

Thanks for the reminder!

Marlo Schalesky said...

Thanks so much for your comment and encouragement, Deena! Before I posted on the Puzzling Parts of Life, I was praying that I could just say something that was useful to somebody. How neat to hear that God answered that prayer.

Hugs and blessings and strength to you!


joyee said...

Jeremiah 29:11
one of my favorite verses from the Word.
everything looks hard at this moment (yah)but i still have more walks to do. Sometimes it's realy hard for me to accept the puzzle piece that GOD wants, but the only way to get through with it is to obey Him and get the puzzle piece from His loving arms.

Thank you so much.