In the Kingdom of Nerds, there is a special place for those of us who enjoy a good jigsaw puzzle. I’m not especially talented at assembling them but—in just the right circumstances—fitting two tiny puzzle pieces together can be pretty exciting.


For instance, take my recent experience with a 500-piece puzzle of the Grand Canyon my mother-in-law gave us. My daughter and I dumped out the tiny irregularly shaped pieces and sorted them. We stood the lid to the puzzle box against the box so that we could reference the picture from time to time.


Seeing that we’re highly developed humans, we started by constructing the edges of the puzzle. (Only a Neanderthal would begin a puzzle any other way.) Finding a piece with a flat edge is like panning for gold and finding…a flat-edged puzzle piece. (As exhilarating as the find can be, it’s probably not the same as actually finding gold.)


After the bottom and sides were mostly done, we worked on the blue and white pieces that made up the 1-inch strip of sky along the top. Everything was rolling along until we hit a snag. We realized that the remaining 400 pieces were variations of brownish-orange and orangey-brown. Suddenly, the puzzle became less of a fun treat and more of an obligation. My daughter—the only other one in my immediate family who would help me with the puzzle—abandoned me for other activities.


Now the puzzle has sat there, on the living room table for the last couple of days, mocking me with my failure to follow through and finish what I started. I’ll give it a few minutes throughout the day, attempting to join two seemingly compatible pieces together only to find that they are just millimeters from connecting. But all my brute force won’t make them fit. The only way to complete this puzzle is to sit down and do it, piece by piece by piece.


As I trudge on to defeat the jigsaw puzzle, I do have a very important advantage (unfortunately it’s not patience). I have the lid to the box. I have the picture I’m trying to recreate. I have the explanation for the darker pieces (shadow) and the greenish pieces (tree branches). With the information the lid gives me, even though it may be difficult, it’s not impossible.


If only I could see the whole picture more often. Maybe then I could better understand suffering and loss. Maybe I could have some grasp of the why’s and the how’s and the when’s I ask every day.


But I don’t have the box lid to the jigsaw puzzle that is my life. I don’t have all the answers and it’s frustrating because I can’t see how this is all supposed to end. Without any type of guidance, I just sit down and get to work. I find a piece and try it at every available, logical spot until it fits. Sometimes that works, and sometimes that piece gets thrown into a pile of pieces I can’t figure out. Pieces that seem to have no place or purpose.


We may not have the full picture but we do have a Lord willing to live out each step with us. When the Psalmist wrote: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” He should’ve added “and a box lid to my jigsaw.” It’s my responsibility to walk along the path but He offers to be our guide. He wants to sit by me as I construct the puzzle, reminding me where to place each piece if only I’m willing to listen.


I won’t give up just because things are confusing and unpredictable and difficult. I am stronger than this jigsaw puzzle. I refuse to be defeated.


I Love Fall

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Fall is for brown-eyed brunettes. It’s our time to shine. Our mousy brown locks suddenly takes on streaks of auburn and honey-gold in the slanting afternoon sunlight. We can easily pull off warm, autumnal colors. That’s why our wardrobe is full of chocolate brown.


Speaking of chocolate, Fall is also for the less-than-slender. Gone are the summer days when you had to wrestle your way into a bathing suit. Now our outfits are like onions—layer upon layer. We are even able to wear skinny jeans or even jeggings because the roly-poly parts will be covered in over-sized tunics and long shirts, sweaters and sweatshirts.


Now that you mention it: Fall is for sweatshirts. What can possibly match the blissful feeling of slipping into a big hooded sweatshirt on a chilly day? You remove the uncomfortable business casual you’ve lived in for the past eight hours. Then you sigh and bask in the relief offered by the fleecy soft inside of your favorite hoodie. Once properly attired, you can prop up your feet and watch TV or a crackling fire.


Fall is for bonfires. The sooty smell is unmistakable on an autumn night. If you are fortunate enough to be present at a bonfire, you bring home the bonfire smell on your clothes and in your hair. It lingers like a perfume and it speaks of more than just scent. It says that you are rugged and you like being outdoors. It also says you enjoy s’mores over an open fire.


Besides the bonfire scent, Fall smells of cinnamon and wet leaves. It smells like silk floral wreaths and roasted pumpkin seeds, chili in the crockpot and cornbread in the oven.


I’m so grateful to live in a place with changing seasons. Fall comes at exactly the right moment for me. I welcome Summer when it comes calling around Memorial Day, but I’m never sad to see it go. By late September, I’m ready for something different.


The author of Ecclesiastes saw the beauty of changing seasons: “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.” (NLT)


Sometimes life seems to be spinning out of control. Changes come as uninvited guests. If we choose to relinquish our role as “spinner of the universe,” we might see these changes as opportunities. We might see this new season as a gift.