Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Puzzling Dilemmas

I love puzzles. My dad’s theory was that I came that way. As a young child I remember being thrilled whenever I received puzzles for Christmas. I would spend hours piecing them together. It was also a fun holiday tradition to have a jigsaw puzzle set up somewhere in the house where we could all work together to form the complete picture. 

When I was a teenager I was excited I when my father gave me a large puzzle that he felt would be a supreme challenge. It was of fall leaves, all the same color. As he handed me the box there was a gleam in his eye as he wished me luck with that particular project.

It would take a long time to complete that puzzle. I was a busy teenager involved in a lot of activities, and I worked part-time at a local drive-in as a cook. But in-between the craziness, I persevered and was able to complete that puzzle, much to my father’s amazement. He took a picture to record that accomplishment, before the puzzle was torn apart and put away.

I still love the challenge of fitting complex pieces together to form a whimsical or scenic picture. In recent years, I have taken to preserving the puzzles I put together. They hang in varied places downstairs in our family room. It’s something I usually strive to do during the winter months when the weather is nasty. This winter has been particularly entertaining, (We currently have 3-4 feet of snow on the level) so I excitedly picked out a puzzle that I thought would be a lot of fun. It’s a puzzle that features cartoon characters that I loved as a child. I figured the bright colors and fun figures would delight my grandchildren upon its completion.

This particular puzzle has been quite a challenge—more difficult than it first appeared. It has taken me much longer than I anticipated to complete. But finally, a couple of days ago, I was coming into the home stretch. As I snapped the final pieces into place, it became clear that one piece was missing. This is a disaster for anyone who loves puzzles as I do. I have spent hours searching, moving furniture, retracing steps, all in vain. 

As I have reflected on this great crisis, several analogies have come to mind. Bear with me as I strive to piece one together. (Pun intended). In this life, we are faced with several puzzling challenges. Some make no sense whatsoever. We try to make the pieces fit, but sometimes it takes everything we can do, and then some to figure it out. Often the pieces just don’t fit the way we think they should. There are other times when we know pieces are missing, and sometimes we have to simply continue on, trusting that someday it will fall into place. 

This life is full of incomplete pictures. Perfection cannot be attained within the confines of this mortal sphere. That is something that is promised during the eternities. But it can be frustrating when we want the answers “NOW!” We currently live in a challenging time. Many are facing trials of great magnitude. There are no easy answers. But there is always hope. This is something I have learned through the years. Life may not always turn out the way I envision, but as the hymn advises: “There is hope smiling brightly before us . . .” (Hymn # 19)

Someday the pictures we are “working on” will all come together. The pieces will fall into place and we will understand why things happened the way that they did. Until then, we  have to learn to appreciate the picture as it is now, knowing someday it will reach its full potential.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Bloom Where You're Planted!

Two thoughts are going through my head and heart this morning—two separate and yet related thoughts that pretty well sum up the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017. They are as follows: “Life is change!” & “Bloom where you are planted!” 

As I look back over 2016, I can see that many changes took place in my life, and in the lives of those I love. We welcomed a new little one into our family this past year, and said a temporary goodbye to those who moved on from mortal mode. I spent a goodly portion of this past year giving everything I could muster to a demanding calling, and ended the year by saying goodbye to that same calling, and accepted a new calling in a realm that is totally outside of my comfort zone. I traded the hat of serving as a counselor in our ward R.S. presidency for a cap that designates me as the new Bear Den Leader in the cub scouts—an area I’ve never served in before.

We did our best to raise a successful garden in 2016, and watched in outraged horror as most of it repeatedly froze, shriveling into a pile of dead leaves. And yet, this same pathetic garden produced the best crop of garlic and sage that I have ever grown. Quite ironic. 

My beloved mountain huckleberries suffered greatly this past year. The pickings were rather slim in comparison to other years. And yet, we harvested a bumper crop of apples from our fruit trees. 

We played host to a plethora of family gatherings and fun-filled occasions, most recently the reuniting of our immediate clan over the Christmas holiday season. It was wonderful, exhilarating, and exhausting, all rolled into one. The ecstasy of having everyone here at home was matched by the heartache of bidding them all goodbye at the end of that week. 

Before the holidays descended with a flourish, we moved my m-i-l from her home of ten years to a new location that is closer to family. With the death of her 3rd husband, yet another major change took place. We’ve spent the past few weeks helping her to get settled in new surroundings that are strange and challenging, and yet exciting and appealing.

In the midst of all of that, I was presented with a brand new insulin pump, one that has only been available since August of 2016. I have worked with other insulin pumps in the past—I’m convinced those devices have helped me remain in mortal mode. This newest technical wonder has been a supreme challenge. Instead of keeping track of one small I.V. site, I now keep tabs on a sensor that shares continuous blood sugar data, plus the I.V. site that allows insulin to drip into my system. At the moment, I’m a beeping mess—quite literally, as I learn to master the numerous bells, whistles, alarms, etc. that go along with this newest pump. And I’ve been told that I will trade up again in the spring of 2017 for a pump that will automatically punch in insulin as needed. Go team Cheri!!!

Life is indeed change. I’ve learned that lesson throughout my life—which has been one change after another. Looking back, I know that I’ve seldom been bored in mortal mode. I suspect that was the plan. Our Father knew that we wouldn’t learn anything if things always remained the same. In order to grow and develop as He intended, there must be a continuous influx of challenges, changes, and chocolate. (Okay, I threw that last word in there for the alliteration, and to see if you’re paying attention.) Plus it’s true, in order to survive all of that, one needs things like chocolate. I’m just saying . . .
So the supreme challenge is to be a sport when change comes along. Learning to roll with life’s punches is part of the plan. It’s not always easy, and I’ll admit, there are days when I feel like kicking and screaming in protest, rather than rolling along, but I digress. That’s where the second saying comes into play. “Bloom where you’re planted,” is often a very hard thing to do. Sometimes it feels like one is striving to bloom among a thistle-filled bed of weeds, among rocks that bonk one’s head. There are days when all you want to do is crawl back inside of the dirt and hide. 

That said, I love playing with my flower beds. Each year I do my best to arrange beautiful flowers that will hopefully bloom with flair. It is often a challenge to keep up with the weeds, and to trim plants that tend to overgrow their intended boundaries. Some of my prettiest blossoms suffer through quite a process to reach perfection. They are often transplanted from their original location in the hopes that they will add beauty to a new realm. They are lovingly nurtured, although at first, they may not appreciate that effort. Eventually, bit by bit, they take root and begin to grow and then bloom. It’s quite a process, but one that is worth it in the end.

I suppose that’s what I’m trying to say in this meandering post. Life is change. It was meant to be that way, and the best thing we can do is strive to bloom wherever we are planted. It won’t be perfect—that promise is saved for another time. But we can learn to look for the good, and on bad days, remember that chocolate is always our friend.  ;)