The Best Things

The warmer weather has come at just the right time. I truly thought we might go squirrely if we didn’t have a sweet kiss from springtime soon. Our city is notoriously moody when it comes to weather so whenever the sun shines and a warm, drying breeze blows in the month of April, we shout “Hip hip hooray” and seize the moment with bubbles, sidewalk chalk, soccer balls and bicycles. We know it’s entirely possible the snow will return overnight and we’ll be back to making snow angels and snowmen instead.

It’s the music of life: the sound of the neighbour’s power tools and my children’s voices filling the air as the late afternoon sunshine streams down in all its glory.

We hopped in the van one day last week and hit the road to a nearby spot. As we drove, I heard a little voice in the backseat pondering what we were doing in this vehicle.

“We went for a walk AND a drive?” my 2 year old asked, astounded that both of the most exciting events in our life happened in the same day.

I laughed. It’s true, going for a walk and a drive in one day is pretty special in these extraordinary times.

A few weeks ago, when winter’s chill had yet to dissipate, we took the kids on a special visit to their great-grandfather’s grave. It was cold and it took us a while to find the exact spot we had gathered nearly two years ago to say goodbye, but we had important conversations about death and feelings and theology as we went. It was a moment we may have missed if life was running its usual routine.

The beauty of the changing seasons. A shift into a slower pace of life. Opportunities for deeper connection.

Thank you Lord that there are things even a pandemic cannot cancel.

Leftover pastel treats and foil-wrapped bunnies and eggs serve to remind us of an Easter unlike any other. Our family traditions felt more important than ever this year:  family communion on Good Friday, dyeing hardboiled eggs with all sorts of combinations of McCormicks food colouring, hunting for baskets in the morning and eggs in the snow, Easter Sunday morning church and a special family dinner.

Even with our cherished traditions we still felt the sadness of missing our brothers and sisters in Christ and from our extended family. We longed for lingering moments with lifted voices in worship, for the chance to share the good news of Jesus with our students in kids’ church, for eruptions of laughter around a large dinner table afterward. But we know that it won’t always be this way.

We have a hope and a future that will last long after this pandemic is written into the history books. And we are forever grateful that it’s not based on things that can change in the blink of an eye, but rather on the love of Christ! I kept thinking of Romans 8 this week:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

‘For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

(Romans 8:35-39 NIV)

What a beautiful reminder that the best things in life last beyond this life.

Thank You Jesus for your incomparable love! May You carry us in this difficult time, with news headlines that break our hearts into a thousand pieces and tempt us to despair. We will hold on to You as You hold on to us, knowing that nothing can separate us from You.

easter eggs

Easter eggs

Puzzle Pieces

Six years ago, we started a 1000 piece puzzle.

Our then-3 year old daughter had a newfound love for the L. Frank Baum classic, “The Wizard of Oz”. One Sunday afternoon, we popped in the DVD of the 1939 MGM re-telling and she was instantly captivated by the fantastic technicolor land, loveable iconic characters and irresistible soundtrack.

Her eyes grew large when the Wicked Witch appeared and her smile grew even larger when Scarecrow did the silliest of dances. She dressed up as Dorothy every day and would only speak to my husband if he responded in the voice of either the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion or Scarecrow.

Her love for the movie coincided with its 75th Anniversary celebration and we soon found ourselves in possession of a 1000 piece Wizard of Oz puzzle.

Neither of us are puzzlers.

And yet, there we were, with high hopes that we could actually finish this insurmountable task. We spent two winter evenings trying to put the pieces together. Of course when you have toddlers and preschoolers around you just know if you leave a big puzzle on the dining room table the pieces will grow legs and walk quietly into all the nooks and crannies of your house. So we purchased a felt roll, tucked in the pieces we had managed to fit together (the edges and Dorothy and Tin Man’s face), put the rest of the pieces back in the box and stored it on the top shelf of the closet.

It gathered dust while life went on. We eventually found the time to complete a few other puzzle projects, although only in the past two years, so with renewed confidence and extra time in our schedule we pulled out our very first thousand-piecer for another go.

It was a very slow start.

Last weekend I dumped the pieces out onto the table and tried to fit a few together. It was not very encouraging. Slowly, though, more and more of the image began to take shape. I began to feel hopeful we would eventually see this full picture, and it would be even more beautiful because of the work and time we had poured into putting it together.

We’ve bravely left the puzzle in the middle of the table this time, extra pieces sorted and stored in plastic containers on the piano, hoping that any milk spills or potato chunks will be caught before doing permanent damage. One morning at breakfast I lifted a loose piece and showed it to my kids as they ate their oatmeal. A few more parts of the picture were assembled, but we still had a long way to go.

“Where do you think this one goes?” I asked, holding the piece between my finger and thumb.

They shrugged and munched away.

I began to think out loud. “This is kinda like our life. We can only see this little piece of it. We only see what’s right in front of us today – the things happening in the world, the stuff on our to-do list. This puzzle piece looks like it’s part of the yellow brick road or something, but I can’t tell exactly where it goes in this puzzle. We know all the pieces fit together to make a picture because we can see the picture on the box, but if we just look at this piece or that piece or this pile of random pieces, it seems impossible to think it will ever look like that.”

My captive audience listened.

“We only see a part of what God is doing right now, but God sees the whole picture.”

“Yeah, you’re right Mom,” my 7 year old said with wide eyes. She’s always keen to talk about spiritual things.

We went on with our day, but the puzzle is still on the table. It’s not quite finished yet. I’m learning when it comes to puzzling, the darkest pieces are the hardest to fit together.

In the middle of this pandemic-stricken world, I quickly forget that there is a bigger picture. I forget that God is still God, and we cannot see everything that He sees. I desperately need the reminder that I can trust Him, even when things seem like they could never, and possibly will never be a beautiful picture.

My small piece of the puzzle isn’t the final work of art.

Job 38:4 has been coming to mind recently:

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.”

The Lord’s words to Job are striking the depths of my heart in these trying days. As we head toward the darkness of Good Friday and the wonder of Easter Sunday, I am praying that I will remember the invitation from Isaiah 55:1-9 (NIV) —

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
    a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
    and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has endowed you with splendor.”

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

puzzle pieces

A piece of the puzzle (Thomas Kinkade/Wizard of Oz/Ceaco)