Ok, it is true that I have written a number of times about our jigsaw building experiences over our CoVid year. And yes, we have done many different ones, some more difficult that others, some very simple, it seemed. We were just about at the point where we thought we would take a bit of a break from the puzzle building and give the kitchen nook table a bit of a breather when what to our wondering eyes should appear but a Christmas present from our beloved sons. Cheri actually opened the present, and with all my other wonderful gifts, I wasn’t listening very closely as she told me what it was. I heard, “Puzzle!” Ok, I thought – that’s fine… another puzzle to put in the pile of ones yet to do, as we finally moved the boxes of puzzles out of my office and into the storage area downstairs,
You know how it is, a little while after presents are all opened, and you have time to go back and look more carefully at the gifts you were given. Well, that’s what I did that early Christmas morning, as I came to realize just precisely what our sons had gifted to us. It indeed was a puzzle. More than that, it was a heavy, big-boxed, non-Hallmark puzzle made by the “Anatolia” puzzle company. Now, frankly, I wasn’t aware that Turkey was such a big producer of jigsaw puzzles. I really have never imagined the Turks sitting at a table and building a jigsaw of little puppies or a big clear jar full of marbles.
I can honestly say that our puzzle was neither of those. I perhaps turned the adjectives around a bit, because it’s not so much that they are a big producer of jigsaw puzzles, as we held in our hands the proof that they are indeed a producer of BIG jigsaw puzzles. The one the boys had picked out was entitled “Venice at Dusk.” The box was actually kind of pretty, and promised a finished creation that would also be “pretty.”
The challenge, however, was that it wasn’t your typical 500 piece puzzle. It wasn’t your more challenging 1000 piece puzzle. Why, we have even put together a couple of 1500 piece puzzle, where we were hard put to find space to lay out all the pieces, separating the border pieces from the main body. Had it only been 1500, we might have just smiled, and gotten right to work. No. the puzzle we were given was a 3000-piece monster! It probably weighed over 5 pounds of little pieces of color and shapes. We left it in the closet for a few weeks, perhaps thinking it would shrink over time.
It did not. As we finished the rest of our pile of other puzzles, we were in agreement to take a little break. Both of us knew what was lurking in the closet, I believe, and we weren’t quite ready to move up to Olympic jigsawing. However, yesterday, as we had finished all the errands and chores we wanted to do, Cheri said, “Well – what do you think? It is time?” I knew what she was asking. In a moment of weakness, I said, “Well, sure, let’s at least put the pieces out on the table.”
You know, don’t you, that you never really accidentally fall off a cliff, right? I mean, as I sit right now at my desk typing, there is zero percent chance of my having that kind of accident. Sure, I could fall off my chair in some freak accident, but falling off a cliff – no. In fact, the only way that happens is when someone on purpose is walking or standing somewhere close to, or at least in the vicinity of a cliff. Even with that, if you saw a cliff 100 yards away while you were, say, standing in a parking lot, again, there is a zero percent chance of an accident occurring. No, you have to actually on purpose walk toward the edge of an abyss, perhaps even putting your toes over the edge into nothing but air, and then, as that moment, you might lose your balance, get blurred vision, uncontrollably sneeze or something like that – right there – which then might result in you slipping and falling, which then people call an accident. I contend it’s not an accident if you are that close to that kind of danger. It’s kind of like cutting the tip of your finger off while you are chopping onions and your eyes are all teared up, and you don’t see the blade coming down on your pinkie. However, that “accident” is simply one of the many possible consequences of picking up the knife in the first place.
So, when Cheri and I say that we accidentally decided to open up the gargantuan of a jigsaw puzzle – it’s on us. There was no threat against us if we didn’t and no gain if we did. We made an intentional decision to do a dumb thing.
In earlier discussions, we had already decided that 3000 pieces would never fit on the kitchen table, and instead, we were going to have to take tablecloth off the dining room table, about 50% larger, and spread out the pieces there. So we began, taking small pile after small pile, turning the pieces over color side up, and with a fairly good pace, separating the border from the normal pieces. After the first 30 minutes or so of just turning pieces over, we realized that 2/3s of the dining room table was already covered with pieces. That meant we needed to change plans. We moved the border pieces we had already culled from the pile onto the kitchen table, and proceeded to try to finish the sort, realizing that now we were going to have the “supply table” and the “building table” in adjacent rooms.
In just under an hour, the first task was done. At least we hope so. We sat in the breakfast nook and began to put pieces together with the fading light of early evening. More than once, we said to each other, “I think we might have missed a few border pieces. We will probably need to go back and look for them…” That probably will be our job for today, as we search back over the acreage of puzzle parts, somehow having the eye strength to discover a flat end that then can join its friends in the other room.
I imagine you are asking yourself, “So, how long to do you think putting the puzzle together will take you” Good question. It’s kind of like asking when winter will be over, or when the leaves will be back on the trees in a beautiful spring. I don’t foresee this being a question of hours. You see, when you have a little puzzle, the number of possibilities of trying to put the wrong pieces together is relatively low. When you add another five hundred or so, the challenge rises. As I said, we have put together a number of 1000 piece puzzles. However, a 3000-piece monster doesn’t just triple the opportunity of picking up the wrong piece – it grows exponentially, especially if you are not acquainted with the Turkish mind. What we do have on our side is time. We can cover the dining room table carefully with a tablecloth and remove it when we want to work on it. Our main dangerous challenge comes in the form of 12 little paws, attached to three very curious cats, who somehow have the physical natures of sticky pawpads that can lift and throw puzzle pieces easily off the tabletop, so that they hide where they can’t be found. These are the dangers we face.
But like I said, and the focus of this column today, is that we aren’t doing all of this by accident. That is, this is not an occurrence that “just happened.” Yes, we may not have fully thought out things in the beginning before we took on the task, similar to what happens in a plumbing job. I remember my mom and sister recounting the time when Dad was going to “fix” under the sink. Dad was not a plumber – no training – no aptitude. A great navigator, but it started dangerously. Mom said she intervened, and called an actual plumber when she saw Dad come out of the bathroom and say, “I’m going to need a blowtorch…”
So, we do many things accidentally, by acting without intending the result, or not thinking, but those “accidents” all have our names on them. Instead, we are far better off pausing in our business, and consider consequences of future acts. Certainly we usually intend good, and success and joy and love and blessing, but there are times in those “good intentions” that we fail to sharpen our focus and our actions to leave out unintended consequences of pain, or suffering, or sadness, or brokenness, or frustration or whatever else may loom around the corner.
That’s all – we are called to think clearly and to act with purpose and good decisions, and not get trapped down a hole, or falling off a cliff, because we think there is no other choice. We always have a decision – it’s just important to ensure we make the best one. Have a great day – on purpose.
Word for the day: kentledge. Pronounced KENT-lodge. Fact is, you either know this word or you don’t. If you have ever been part of a large sailing vessel, you would know the word. It comes originally as quintelage, with the French word, quintal, meaning “100 weight.” Quintelage, or kentledge, is the term for the pig iron, or other scrap iron that is stored in ship’s hold and serves as ballast. Seems strange to make a ship heavier, but the ballast makes the ship more stable, especially in choppy seas.
More spiritually, we can ask, “Where is the kentledge in my life?” What is the “ballast” – the heavy, solid “stuff” that keeps my life afloat and stable? I think that’s a great question, and I won’t try to answer it for you today. Peace.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.