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…
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!
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?
The people in the street market set up their booths early in the morning as the sun is coming over the horizon. This market is about two blocks long; the booths set up on both sides of a main street near the airport. I walk from our house carrying three large sacolas (bags) down a hill on a dirt trail about two blocks long, then half a block on a brick-paved street where women are outside of their walled houses, sweeping the side walk.
I have my list in my hands, the translated names for the fruit and vegetables are on the paper so if the people working in the booths don’t understand my accent, I can show them the names of what I want.
I’ve carefully calculated that ½ kilo = 1.1 lb., 1 kilo = 2.2 lb., 250 gramas = ½ lb. and I’m ready to watch the balance scales closely as someone rapidly throws the proper balance weight into one side of the scale and then piles the fruits or vegetables on the other side to balance it out.
My written list of words comes in handy for I’m not yet succeeding in saying well words like pera (pear), goiabada (guava), mamão (papaya), cenoura (carrot), alface (lettuce) … and oh! So many more!
One of the street urchins who earns money by carrying people’s sacolas comes up to see if I want his help. Three bags = 3 boys. The haggling of who are the 3 is completed: I give a sacola to each one, and turn back to my shopping.
About five minutes later, I hear kids behind me, laughing. I turn to see what they are laughing at and, to my dismay, I discover they are laughing at me! I return to my shopping, trying to ignore the laughter.
But it becomes too much to ignore, so I turn to look again. Now, it isn’t just the three boys, but there are about 8 boys following me; every time I say something to someone in a booth they start laughing, some of them even falling down and rolling on the ground – laughing at the way I am talking.
I am chagrined! I don’t dare let them know how much they are upsetting me, so I turn, finish my bargaining and put the rest of the fruits and vegetables in the bags, and head for home. As I walk, I pray that this whole gang will not follow me all the way home. Thank God, they didn’t! The lure of making some money carrying sacolas for others walking in the market was stronger than being able to laugh at this strange lady and her barbaric murder of the Portuguese language.
As I walk back up the hill to our house in the mid-morning heat, those sacolas are heavy for those kids carrying them, but I feel no mercy. I’m still steaming!
We arrive at my home, I pay them for their help; they thank me and turn, giggling and run back down the dirt path.
I carry the bags, heavy with those strange named fruits and vegetables, into the house; then I slam the door – HARD!
My family looks up, startled. “Mom, what’s the matter?”
My voice almost cracks as I answer heatedly, between tears and laughter: “It’s one thing to have adults smile huge smiles when they hear me speak, but I DID NOT BARGAIN FOR THIS – TO HAVE THESE LITTLE STREET KIDS ROLL ON THE GROUND LAUGHING, EVERY TIME I OPEN MY MOUTH TO SAY SOMETHING!”
I want to go into the bedroom and have a good cry! Instead, I head up the stairs to the kitchen – to get cold water, cool off, and tackle the extra prep cleaning necessary to use what I’d brought home.
As I work, I have a very detailed conversation with God about the whole situation! I gradually calm down. Yes, my pride was hurt – but I also had to smile a little. “Those kids definitely had had a good time . . . and I don’t think they have many opportunities for fun – even if it was at my expense. But, oh! Dear Lord, is it going to happen again at the next street market? HELP!”
I wonder: how many times have you gotten things you didn’t bargain for?
That aren’t supposed to be part of your life?
Have you been laughed at? Made to feel foolish?
The thing I have to keep asking myself:
“Is my self-esteem based upon what others think of me? Or upon the fact that God calls me His child and Jesus Christ, the Son of God, calls me His friend?” And the ever present reality that I am loved by Him! Thank You, Father and Lord!
“I sought the Lord, and He answered me.
He delivered me from all my fears.”
Psalms 34:4 NIV
“Father, thank You for this day I will never forget. I, a farmer’s daughter, am on a ship that crossed the equator!
At times this all seems as a dream, even though I am awake.