Puzzling Puzzles







I stand, looking at the puzzle.

The outside border is done:  you know, all those pieces with at least one straight line that eventually give the physical limits to the puzzle.  On the table are groupings of different colors and designs, carefully separated.  Inside the border, pieces locked into place, the puzzle is taking shape, coming towards the center at all sorts of different angles.

Those doing the puzzle must have the patience of Job.  It is certain I don’t have it!

As I stand, gazing, I remember years ago . . .1977  –  the first time my husband separated from our children and me. . . and what I learned from God about puzzles.

We are living in Belo Horizonte, our house on the side of a mountain overlooking the city.  I love the view of the sky from our big veranda.

This evening, I sit and watch the changing colors in the bowl of the sky that hovers over a valley and the heart of a city of 3 million. While the sun is rapidly disappearing behind the hills on the left, to my right the dark night sky is creeping up from behind the mountains. This is home. Adventures here?  Many!  Laughter, along with tears bathed in prayers.

I am still, watching the sky; feeling the breeze and the change of temperature as the sun disappears from sight and night is suddenly here.  I feel a slight chill, but don’t want to go in. I have much to talk over with God.

The house is emptier.  Our older son married in the states.  Our oldest daughter married in this living room, behind me. Our second daughter is preparing to go to the states to study, leaving our three younger ones at home.

But this is only a house, not a home.  My husband put it on the market to sell, and my younger three and I must find a place to live.  He would rather not live with us.  I prefer not staying in Belo Horizonte, for what kind of an example are we now: but where do we go?  I have no idea.

Ideas of different places chase each other through my mind as I face a new reality.  One day, I’m sitting in utter desperation in the car, talking to God.  I hear a voice (in my mind or outside my mind, I don’t know – but it is audible) and it is telling me “go to the United States.”

God knows I don’t want to go to the states.  I tell Him:  “Ok, I’ll go, Lord, if You really want me to go, but You know . . .” and I then give Him a list of things that have to happen for us to travel.  I think I’m safe– for, although they are realistic needs, I know they are absolutely impossible!

God’s answer . . .

Four months later, the house is sold, I’ve packed and stored some things in

the attic (with the new owner’s permission), sold most of the furniture. Lanae and our youngest son, leave on a plane for the states while our two youngest daughters and I continue camping out in the house as I finish their travel papers.

The day finally comes.

My estranged husband* drives us across the city to the airport. I pray all the way that God will not let us get on that plane: for the motor to die or something!  His answer is to get us safely to the airport.

The two girls and I board the plane to Rio, then another plane to Miami. Another plane to Dallas/Ft Worth, then the last plane to Portland.    It’s a long trip…into the unknown, especially since I do not want to be here!


What does all of this have to do with a puzzle?  

A trip like this is exhausting, and questions are battering my mind.   Why, God!?  What is going to happen?  And Lord, there are lives in Belo Horizonte that I’ve been sharing with about YOU?  What is going to happen to them?  Why do we need to leave? ? ? ? ? 

In my mind, I see a puzzle on a table. The outer borders are in place, some of the puzzle filled in, pieces spread out on the table, awaiting their turn to be fitted into their places.  The Holy Spirit ** shows me that these pieces have to be placed in their proper order.  There is no way to simply put a piece in the middle unless there is a specific place to lock it into…              puzzle piece and hands

 My Father, God, is taking me out of that puzzle for now.

Some of the other pieces have to be put in place before He can use me there again.  I can yell, kick and scream; or I can trust Him, relax in Him, let Him use me where and when He wants to.  It’s my choice.  I’m the one who decides. 

This is still true today in 2015.

He continues using you and me in the puzzles of life.  There is much I do not understand! He is the designer of each puzzle and knows where the pieces belong.  I don’t. My role is to put myself, my life in His hands, allowing Him to place me where He desires. 

It’s a challenge at times, yes!  However, the longer I live, the more joy I find in loving and trusting God – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each day, some of joy, other times with tears; in all of them HE is here with me.  He challenges me – in His Word and in my life – to trust Him. When I do, I discover joy and peace unimaginable!  When I don’t trust Him, I’m miserable. Believe me, it is worth learning how to trust Him!

What about you?  Where are you in your life’s puzzles? Is He moving you from one to another?  Do you need to let go of an old puzzle, to be used in a new one? Are you hurting, as you learn to trust? 19095279-two-3d-people-are-putting-the-last-puzzle-piece

2 Cor 1:3-4  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  NIV


* estranged husband – I am not using his name. He is still living and I respect his privacy.

** Holy Spirit – I’m not being super-spiritual.  He has different ways of speaking with each one of us.  Are you aware of how He speaks with you?


Jihad and God’s Kingdom?

It’s dark outside- midnight black
. Looking out the window I see street lights scattered out over the area. It’s cold, dark, not a scene I want to walk into – and I’m thankful that our small apartment is warm.  I am playing music from a pan flute on my computer as I think about these past two days.  The calming Indian melody is soothing to my mind.

Since yesterday, our home has been invaded by people: reporters, victims, FBI; a continuous parade of images, commentators, more questions than answers. The television is showing a tragedy in a normal community in California, as a man and wife, radical Muslim jihadists, used automatic weapons to literally mow down people who had come together for a Christmas party.  The added touches of unreality: these were friends and co-workers they killed and maimed, and they left their six-month old child at home with a relative to go out and kill people they knew.  Their motive: these people were infidels and deserved to die.


I am still attempting to absorb this.

I live in Oregon at this time – the state to the north of California.  I’ve walked on the streets of San Bernardino, felt the sun on my back. I’ve been there. This wasn’t in Paris.
This was here, in the United States.


The world has shifted.  The nation I once knew as home, changed gradually, then like a snowball the changes picked up speed. At times, it is frightening to learn of the new laws against the citizens of this nation and against Christianity that are enacted behind the fabric and façade of a theater-in-the-round in Washington DC.  Our eyes are pulled to one scene of action while the setting hides what is really happening on another part of the stage.


What does all of this mean to me personally?  As I work through the sorrow and sick feeling in the pit of my stomach?


One: I no longer fit into this culture. 

The nation I once called “home” no longer exists.
The stage setting is still the same: looking at a Google map, mountains, cities, rivers, lakes, oceans – they are still where they belong.  However, there is fear in the land.  An unease is in the air we breathe.


I remember the fear and unease after Pearl Harbor, and during the 2nd World War. I was only a child, but I picked up on it. I also remember how the nation came together as grief was a companion to all of us.  I still remember the pain of learning that a young man we’d learned to love would not be coming back. The feeling of desolation.


That feeling has been repeated too many times these last years as a new word, terrorist, has become part of our daily vocabulary. However, now the word terrorist is no longer just a word. It is a living, breathing person.  And the nation is no longer united but splintered into factions, a set-up for attack.


That old song, “This Old World Is Not My Home”, carries an added depth in its words, as I comprehend that I don’t feel at home here . . . and search to understand.


Two:  I’m not supposed to fit into this culture.

Jesus the Christ tells us that we live in this world, but we’re not of this world.
I live here, but I don’t fit in.  My home is in His Kingdom: a nation made up of people scattered all over the world.

Luke 16:16
God’s Law and the Prophets climaxed in John;
Now it’s all kingdom of God — the glad news
and compelling invitation to every man and woman.

(from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language
© 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)

Christ’s followers are a unique people, considered strange by many.

We are to follow Him, King above all kings, the creator of the incredible complexities of and in nature, on this planet and all the vast extents of the universe:  a King who came to live among his subjects, His kingly lineage hidden under the disguise of common clothing, walking in sandals on dusty roads; unafraid, not forced into the religious traditions of the day, speaking and moving with truth in love, allowing himself to be killed because He was a threat to the religious leaders. Then after completing an item of law (remember, on the cross He said, “It is finished”) He entered hell and tore the gates of death from the entrance to Satan’s abode. Finally, He rose from the dead – victorious over death so we don’t have to fear it.

Once again, donning His kingly robes, He was given even more authority than He’d had previously; He is alive today, involved personally in our lives, when we choose to follow Him and live in His kingdom. 

Just as I chose to move to Brazil, learn their laws and obey them, so I choose to live in the Kingdom of God. I know the King personally and He calls me His sister! ( But I don’t have squabbles with Him, for He is also my King.)

You know? I’ve never been invited to know or speak with the president of Brazil but I know my King and speak to Him several times each day. And He answers me!

Does that sound a little crazy to you?  Remember, I said Jesus Christ’s followers don’t really fit into this world we live in.  We follow a different drumbeat and hear a new and fresh melody.

Can you hear it, too?

– Voni