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Puzzling

Published: Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 1:40 p.m. CST • Updated: Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 9:43 a.m. CST

We got a puzzle. I'm not sure what prompted us to buy it, but the design of a collage of coffee cups was appealing. The box clearly stated "500 pieces." It seemed like a good winter activity. We opened the box and poured it out on an old enamel table in the kitchen, immediately catching the puzzle bug.

I have no idea why we were somewhat obsessed with putting together this puzzle, but it was difficult to walk by the puzzle pieces without stopping at that table and finding a piece or two that would fit. Other times, several minutes would go by, as piece after piece were fit together. The entire puzzle took one week. We were pretty proud of our handiwork.

OK, we couldn't wait to go out and get another one. Since we accomplished the 500-piece puzzle in such a short time, we opted for a 750-piece one this time.

Mistake.

This puzzle has an intricate design of front doors. It was rather daunting, and the box laid unopened on that same enamel table for a couple of weeks. Finally, though, I opened it up, and was quite surprised. The 750 pieces looked more like 7,500 pieces, and each piece was very small. I put the lid back on the box and continued to ignore it.

Remember those puzzles you had as a kid? You sorted through the pieces, searching for all the ones with a straight edge, since those pieces would create the border of your picture. Then you started filling in the blank space inside the border; before long, your picture was complete. Not so easy.

I stood in front of the puzzle pieces and attempted to find the ones with the straight edges. I'm sure we spent hours on that task alone. Finally accomplishing the border wasn't very satisfying, especially with what seemed like a bazillion more pieces staring back at me from inside the box. To make matters worse, it was difficult to actually see any of the patterns on the pieces with my not-so-young eyes. And on top of that, it was difficult to tell if the pieces really fit, or they just kind of fit ... which usually meant they didn't fit at all.

And so it was the other night when I pulled up a kitchen chair to the table and sat before a mountain of puzzle pieces that had yet to find a home. I attempted a few pieces that didn't come close to fitting and sorted through the mountain of remaining puzzle pieces. Before I knew it ... I was lost in thought instead of focusing on this collage of front doors before me.

Probably 30 minutes went by before I came to a realization that has continued to knock on the front door in my own mind. I found it rather ironic that night that as I sat before this conglomeration of puzzle pieces, of how much this puzzle resembled my life ... maybe your life too?

You see, when we first start out, we are given a lot of guidelines about life ... kind of like the border pieces of the puzzle before me. And then ... a myriad of circumstances/experiences happen in our lives — kind of like the myriad of puzzle pieces before me. Like we attempt to make all those puzzle pieces fit inside the border, so do we attempt to make all of life's experiences/circumstances fit too. Sometimes the pieces fit; sometimes they don't ... as we attempt to finish our own personal picture.

Putting together the puzzle — whether it's the one on the old, antique enamel table or the one of my life — is a process. And when you finally put that last piece into the jigsaw puzzle — or you take your last breath and finish your personal puzzle, you end up with a picture that tells the trials and tribulations, the good and the bad, the irregular issues and the common pieces that make up your life.

Puzzling? Perhaps I shouldn't get so nutty about making all the pieces fit ... rather just enjoy the process of putting all those pieces together.

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