That’s Puzzling

I love puzzles. This addiction was enhanced during the pandemic. A hard but not too hard 1000-piece puzzle gives my mind a rest. I like one certain brand that has proven over the years to be high quality. I share my pre-worked puzzles with a couple of equally addicted puzzle working relatives.

My last brand-new puzzle confused me in a never-before-experienced way, however. There were five, count them five, DUPLICATE pieces. This means what you think it means. I would find a piece, go to put it where it fit, and it would already be there. This happened five times.

I finished the brand-new puzzle not only with the five duplicate pieces but three missing ones. My brain tried to figure out how in the world this happens. I couldn’t make sense of it. It upset my order of things. I count on puzzles being workable and finishing with a whole picture intact.

I learned a new term lately, coined by the military, VUCA. We live in an increasingly VUCA world. It is an acronym for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. When our world is like this, we kind of need things like puzzles to be predictable.

I have a friend who is a much more professional puzzle worker than me. I asked her if she’d ever experienced this duplicate piece phenomenon. She wrote back, “NEVER!” Her reply took everything to a whole new level of seriousness for me. What in the world?

It led to me doing what I rarely do, which is contacting a company. The first time I ever did this I was about six years old. I was the proud owner of a Mrs. Beasley doll. I know some of you know about Mrs. Beasley. She was the doll owned by Buffy on the show Family Affair. Most girls back then had to have one of those dolls at that time. My Mrs. Beasley doll came without her glasses. I wrote the company a child-printed real snail mail letter and they sent me three (!) pairs of replacement glasses. It was my first consumer triumph.

Later, my own daughter, at about that age, was really upset that her lunch-sized Lays potato chips only had two chips in the bag once. I encouraged her to write Lays. She did and she also got rewarded with a fresh big bag of chips from the company.

The puzzle company did not disappoint either. They cared. They wanted to know all about this troubling puzzle. They wanted to see pictures of my extra pieces, bar codes and the order number and specific puzzle title and number. Yesterday, I got a brand-new, different puzzle from them. The world seemed right again.

I wish real life worked like this, don’t you? When we get short-changed, lose something or someone or when the pieces don’t fit or are already there, wouldn’t it be great to be able write someone or some organization or some authority to share the problem? Why can’t there be a 1-800 number for life or just a Real Life Customer Service Department?

What I’ve learned lately from all of this: when life doesn’t make sense, it sure helps to have someone listen. It doesn’t even matter if there are answers, if someone just takes the issue seriously. What if we just honored one another’s discomfort or pain by listening?

Secondly, it helps even more when someone works at restoration and attempts to make something right. The Mrs. Beasley glasses, new potato chips and a replacement puzzle do create a bit of order and a sense of rightness.

Third, it teaches me to work harder to be a healing, listening, restoring presence in this VUCA world.

I love it when life’s pieces fit together in a way that makes sense. Duplicate pieces, missing pieces upset me.

God, help me be a healer, listener, restorer in this missing piece/extra piece, confusing world. Amen

...speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects of …Christ, from whom the whole body is being fitted and held together...for the building up of love. Ephesians 4:16

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, breast cancer survivor, Mosa to Keller, Pace and River. To read more blogs, see upcoming events or to sign up for her Inner Circle monthly email, go to

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