I worked a lot of puzzles as a child. Puzzles were a great way to pass time, especially in winter. I’m a grown up now and would rather read a book or watch TV than work puzzles but I married a lady who comes from a family of puzzle workers. Shawn loves puzzles. In her way of thinking puzzles bring family and friends together, slow the pace of life, foster unencumbered talking, and trigger much laughter.
But puzzles can be harmful to your health. We usually have an old black and white classic movie running in the background. The Thin Man series with William Powell and Myrna Loy is always a good choice. Last night we watched Mr. Blandings in his struggle to build the dream house. I like to snack and while puzzling over puzzle pieces I can demolish a bowl of chips in seconds. Then I see the empty bowl and wonder, “Who ate my chips?” I must have forgotten to get them in the first place and the kitchen is close by for an easy refill. As I sit motionless working my mind but not my body, stuffing my face with chips and peanut butter balls and Christmas cookies, a change happens. The Christmas Dividend arrives. ButterBall has nothing on me! Maybe we will talk more about that later. And maybe not!
There are rules when I work puzzles with my wife. I did not know the rules during our dating phase and the first time I worked a puzzle with Shawn and her Mom I quickly learned. Rules can change any time but for now here are the major points to remember in case you stop by to play puzzle with Shawn.
1. All the pieces have to be turned picture side up before any are assembled.
2. Pick out the border pieces and work the border first. This is a good rule if your puzzle is close to the size of the work space. Rotating the puzzle becomes difficult after parts are assembled.
3. Group the obvious pieces in piles, a color matching exercise.
4. Figure out which part Shawn wants to work and move to the other side so the Master Puzzler can get on with it.
5. Make sure any kids (or simple minded husbands) have an easy part to work so they feel some degree of accomplishment. (I added this rule myself!)
Life is like a jigsaw puzzle. There are lots of pieces to fit together. Some days pieces fall into place. Other days we turn them around and around trying to find edges that match. And when we get a part of life worked, doesn’t it feel good?
Puzzles for children are obvious. There are a few large pieces and no tricks. We have some wooden ones with marks where at least one of the daughters cut her teeth. Those simple puzzles were outgrown quickly as the kids matured for more challenging action.
The next puzzle is a bad joke and for some reason we keep it. Imagine sitting and staring at these items for a couple of hours! I do love those Twinkies®.
We have a Christmas cartoon puzzle. The 8 hour Bugs Bunny DVD needs to be running in the background for the appropriate ambiance. Notice the repeating patterns? This is 500 pieces of raw challenge.
Noah’s Ark, a reasonable sized 1500 piece work, is one of my favorites.
And here is the latest 2000 piece monstrosity in progress. Notice the doll house at the left which is the biggest piece worked so far. I did that. After Shawn picked out the pieces and put them on a pizza pan so I had room to work. An unworked puzzle has magnetism that draws me as I stroll by. Soon I forget what it was that brought me to the living room in the first place.
I have heard there are puzzles with only one color and even puzzles with pictures on both sides. OK, now that is just mean!
Puzzling work requires us to pace ourselves. It takes time and some degree of trial and error. There are periods of frustration and long stretches with no progress. Sometimes the best solution is to walk away for a while and do something else (like fix supper!). When we come back to the table that piece which eluded us for so long is readily found.
I like to have the box top with the picture of the finished puzzle. Seeing the goal helps. With the picture it is possible to analyze a single piece to see how it fits into the whole, a technique I learned from my brother, Jeff. Is there such a picture we can place over our lives to see how the little pieces connect? I think so. In the Scripture the Apostle Paul shared his puzzle picture.
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Philippians 1:21 NASB
Lofty goals are reached one step at a time. Or one piece at a time with a puzzle. Each piece of our life puzzle needs to be worked with this idea in mind:
“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
I Corinthians 10:31 NASB
My prayer is the New Year will bring exciting pieces to your puzzle. And together may we learn how to fit the pieces in so God gets the glory.
Happy New Year!
Love and prayers,
John and Shawn
Copyright © 2013, John W. Nichols. All rights reserved.