Enjoy this devotional from FlourishWriters student Lisa Littlewood
“You do it, babe. You put it in,” I said, nudging my then 7-year-old daughter to put the final piece into the puzzle we had been working on all afternoon.
Smiling widely, she plunked down the last of the 200 pieces snug into its spot. Her older sister, who has never loved puzzles, joined me in clapping as we admired the completed picture––the smiling, forever memorable, animated cast from the movie Frozen standing in front of an icy landscape that sparkled with frosty whites, purples, grays, and blues.
Whether you like puzzles or not, there is something gratifying about seeing the final product, the myriad pieces that once lay mixed up in a heap on the table, sorted, organized, and finally becoming the whole picture they were intended to be.
I like that idea. The idea that random, disorganized pieces can evolve into something beautiful and whole.
Several hours prior to finishing the Frozen puzzle, we struggled to figure out where many of the pieces should go. Some of the pieces didn’t feel like they belonged to the picture at all, their colors and shapes seemed incompatible to what we knew the picture was supposed to look like.
My oldest daughter, the one who grows impatient and frustrated when working on puzzles, looked at me and declared, “Mom, I don’t want to do this anymore. It’s not fun.”
I nodded my head. I understood her feelings, but wanted to encourage her in the process.
“You have to be patient, kiddo. Look at the pieces and start to identify the shapes, colors, and patterns. Group those together,” I told her. “Slowly you’ll begin to see whole sections of the puzzle start to take shape a little bit at a time. Try to enjoy the process.”
As the words came out of my mouth, I knew I needed the lesson as much as she did, not with the actual puzzle, but in embracing some jagged edges and hard-to-place pieces that I was wrestling with in my personal life.
I was enrolled in a nine-month Bible-based class called Healing Journeys at the time. This intensive study was focused on the restoration and healing of old hurts and wounds from a biblical perspective. While I had willingly signed up for the course and started it with optimistic expectations, trudging through the muck that we so often like to keep buried in tightly-covered boxes in our hearts can be tedious and complicated. But this was exactly what the class was designed to do: bring the muck to the forefront to be dealt with, look at the puzzle pieces of your life, so to speak, and begin sorting through them.
At that time, my three girls were 9, 7, and 3 and while I was doing my best to be an upbeat, loving, and intentional stay-at-home-mom, I was suffering from constant overwhelm, anxiety and, if I was really honest, bouts of depression. I would put on my “game” face during the day for the kids—playing games, taking them to play dates and music class, doing crafts, making homemade meals. But in the quiet moments, the ones in the morning before anyone awoke, or at night after everyone was finally in bed, I found myself journaling and praying about the sadness, anxiety, and overwhelm I was feeling.
Despite a consistent commitment to prayer, quiet time with the Lord, seeking counsel from several older women I respected, and even seeing a number of counselors, the heaviness felt relentless and persistent. At times, it made me feel like a bad Christian for not being able to choose joy more easily or alter my perspective by making a deliberate choice to be content. I was trying to choose joy. I was trying to be content, but I’ve since learned that when deep parts of your soul need healing, the work towards joy is more complex.
When I said those words to my daughter about trying to be patient with the process, I realized that I needed to be patient with the process as well—God’s process of healing in my life. It was, and is, a journey towards a picture of wholeness, but at that time I was still in the early stages of sorting through the pieces, some of which were dark grays, and blacks and browns, colors which ultimately add depth to the finished picture, but at that time looked ugly and undesirable to me.
It’s hard to be patient when you just want things fixed. We so often want to see the final outcome sooner than God is ready to reveal it. We want the work to be done when the pieces still need to be sorted.
Over the last few years, I have found great encouragement in Paul’s words in Philippians where he reminds us that we are all a work in progress. “Being confident of this,” Paul says, “that He who began a good work in you will carry it out to completion” (Philippians 1:6).
Do you believe that? Do you believe that God will continue to carry out the work He is doing in you? Are you trusting Him along the way or are you finding yourself impatient with the process?
I know the feeling all too well.
But as I read Paul’s words, I am reminded that God is always at work with full knowledge of the final outcome. He specifically reminds us to be confident of this! To be confident that God already has in mind the beautiful, creative, joyful, peace-filled, loving person that He always intended for you to be, and that He is working things out to help you become that person.
If you yield yourself to the process, you might begin to notice patterns, places where God is speaking, whole sections of color where God offered blessings you weren’t expecting, even black and gray shadow pieces that end up adding depth and dimension to the picture in places it would otherwise be flat and boring.
In the end, every piece of the puzzle serves a purpose.
While He has yet to bring full healing and resolution to all of the places I was feeling restless about during that season, He has redeemed several relationships in ways I couldn’t have predicted. He has also taught me deep truths about His great love for me, even in all of my unfinished places.
As we finished the puzzle that evening, we were all grateful for our part in the process—both my 7-year-old puzzle-finisher, and 9-year-old puzzle-avoider.
“See girls,” I said. “It wasn’t that bad, was it?”
Ava, my oldest, smirked, “No, I guess it wasn’t that bad,” she said as we admired the final outcome. “Maybe it was even a little fun.”
While walking through a healing journey as an adult might not feel like a whole lot of “fun”, I’ve come to learn that the more I trust what God is doing, the more peace, patience and perseverance I experience along the way. Even though I still can’t quite see the whole picture, parts of it are starting to come into focus and I’m learning to trust the process. I’m learning to be confident that God won’t leave things unfinished and excitedly anticipate the work will eventually be carried out to completion.
In the meantime, I might just go start another puzzle with my girls.
Lisa Littlewood is a freelance writer who lives near Buffalo, NY with her 3 girls (13, 11, and 7) and a very outnumbered husband. In her spare time she loves to experiment with new, healthy recipes, always has 5 books going at a time, and enjoys being outdoors (walking, running, or just hanging out) as often as possible. You can find her other musings and ramblings at http://www.lisalittlewood.com.