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I’ve been working on a puzzle recently. It’s what I do when life feels out of control. I can work at a puzzle. There are only so many pieces. I have the picture for directions. And when I get tired of it, I can put it away and work at it again tomorrow. No pressure. No deadlines. I like puzzles.

But today this one showed me something besides the picture on the lid of the box. This is just a stream of consciousness. Take what you want… make what connections you will… and leave the rest.

1. Puzzles are a work in progress. 

You transform seemingly random pieces into a beautiful picture over time. I work on mine a little each day. Sometimes areas come together quickly, like Alice’s hair. There are only so many yellow pieces in the box. Other areas may take longer, like the Mad Hatter’s coat. It is so similar in color to the March Hare I often mixed up which piece should go where. But, as I’ve kept working at it, the two have eventually taken shape.

2. Individual pieces of a puzzle can be misleading or leave us stumped. 

Like I said… Mad Hatter vs. March Hare. Then there are all the white, whitish blue, light blue pieces that were needed in Alice’s dress, the Mad Hatter’s and March Hare’s clothing and the table setting. It took lots of careful study and trying and failing to find where certain pieces where supposed to go. Sometimes I was looking at the pieces upside down or sideways.

3. Pieces without the context of the bigger picture are meaningless. 

Even when I had two or more pieces together, I still couldn’t tell what I was looking at until I got it into the context of the larger picture.

Can you tell what this is?
Or this?
It’s the handle of a spoon.
It’s the bottom edge of a tea cup!

Context can make all the difference. Without understanding the bigger picture, sometimes the little pieces won’t make sense. And even then, sometimes we still won’t get it until the piece is finally placed where it belongs.

4. Sometimes we’ll have missing pieces for awhile. 

We can have every piece around it in place and still come up empty. A hole in our picture. We’ll wonder why we can’t find it. We’ll double and triple check everything and still won’t have what we need to fill in the missing piece. Because sometimes we just can’t see it yet. We get lost in all the other pieces on the table.

Sometimes it may not even be there to find. I separated my colors for this puzzle and put them all in separate bags. Somehow in the sorting process I put a piece of the March Hare’s coat into the “red” bag of Alice’s chair. I couldn’t find the piece until I opened that bag.

5. We may need to jump around during the puzzle process.

Sometimes we can only focus on the easy stuff. Like the blue in Alice’s dress or the bright green in the Hatter’s hat. We may jump from one to the other and back again as we become frustrated or loose our way in the pieces. But if we keep working at it–keep turning the pieces, keep looking at all the angles, keep trying to make it fit, failing and then trying again in a new place or using a new piece–eventually we’ll complete the entire puzzle.

6. In the hard spots we need to pay attention to the things that matter most.

I’m stuck in Alice’s chair right now. Lots of dark red. How will I ever put them together? But I found that if I look closely, some of those dark red pieces have black lines running through them. Some have a spot of green or a tiny bit of purple. If I’ll slow down and look at the things that matter, I’ll see how it comes together instead of getting lost in a sea of red.

7. All the pieces are needed to create a beautiful picture. 

No matter how weird, bizarre, or ugly a specific piece may seem, when combined with the rest the result is a masterpiece. Where would the Hatter’s coat be without the puke yellow of the shading? Bland. Everything would loose depth without the grays, dark yellows, burnt oranges, and purplish hues to create shadow and interest. Take away anyone piece and the picture wouldn’t be whole.

8. The joy is in the process, as frustrating as it can be sometimes. 

If I just wanted the picture, I could have bought it. But there is something about the process of putting together a puzzle that makes me happy–the joy I feel when I finally finish a section or find the missing piece or overcome a challenge. The process helps us to better appreciate and love the outcome.

I could force it, but if I’m patient and follow the clues of color and shape given to me, the puzzle will turn out a masterpiece.

Funny what one can learn from a simple child’s puzzle. I like puzzles.

What’s floating through your brain right now? …It doesn’t even have to be about puzzles. 😉