How to Find Hope in a Puzzle

puzzle piecesThe puzzle I’m currently working on reflects the colors and the design of the Southwest – a region of our nation I love. Turquoise moccasins, Native American pottery and a sunset of desert textures.

Yet beyond the stress-relieving act of fitting my puzzle pieces together, God is teaching me precious lessons of faith.

Think About the Big Picture

Once I found the borders of the puzzle, everything should have begun to snugly fit together. But something didn’t look right.

My son found the answer because he’s a forest guy while I look at the trees. “This piece right here doesn’t fit,” he said. “It skews the big picture.”

He was right and once I found the correct piece, suddenly the picture made more sense.

Sometimes we think a certain direction is best for our lives. But something about the final decision doesn’t seem right. Something doesn’t fit. Red flags stop us or circumstances change.

We can’t see the big picture, but God can. He exists beyond the past, present and future. He knows how to work out our lives and fit each day into the next so our destinies become clear.

Don’t Try to Force an Answer

A puzzle piece may look right and seem to fit, but one side seems to snag or won’t quite align. Forcing the piece into that particular hole can bend it or even break it. Then the puzzle is flawed.

If we try to force something to work or move forward on our own, we can damage ourselves or someone else.

If the circumstances aren’t working out and our pathways seem skewed, trying to force a decision, a relationship or a direction messes with our destinies.

How many of us have forged ahead and forced something to happen, then later regretted our actions?

When God manages the puzzles of our lives, all the pieces end up fitting together – perfectly – without adverse circumstances.

Give It Time

A 300-piece puzzle cannot be completed in one hour. My puzzle has been on the table for several weeks. I work on it now and then, usually a few minutes at a time.

As we face decisions or transitions in life, they take time to percolate and work out all the details.


Patience is learned through the long passage of time. Hurry is the antagonist of patience.


The Alzheimer’s journey is a test of endurance – one 36-hour day after another.

Starting a new job involves a learning curve and perseverance.

Writing a book may involve late nights, early mornings or weekend discipline. One word, one sentence, one character sketch at a time until the final period is typed. Sometimes the process takes years.

The best answers are revealed as a result of a waiting period. The strongest faith is birthed through years of experience, long periods of waiting and the courage to ask questions that may even increase our struggle.

We often don’t see a purpose in the details until patience has completed its perfect work.

The Apostle James underscored this truth. “When the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete” (James 1:3-4 TLB).

God rarely answers our “Why” questions but instead, he urges us to trust – even when we’re so weary we can only continue the journey with an extra measure of God’s grace.

My puzzle gives me joy because I love the colors and the promise of what the final product will be.

Surely God also feels joy when he moves the pieces of our lives together so the final result reflects his love.

©2016 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh

Why Book Signings are So Important

Many authors, especially the more famous ones, avoid book signings. They feel that the amount of work required to put into a book signing doesn’t equal the sales returned. The ROI doesn’t calculate in favor of the author.

But I disagree. Book signings are some of my favorite events.book sign - 2nd book

With my most recent book signing, I was billed as a native of Enid, Oklahoma. The Hastings store in my home town hosted the signing and helped me advertise it.

What makes a successful book signing? Some authors believe selling 10-50 copies constitutes a success. But for me, the success of the event centers around the people who attend.

For example, in Enid, the following people visited my table:

• A prayer partner – a woman who faithfully prays for my ministry as writer, life coach and program director at GateWay of Hope. She also prays for my personal concerns and the cares of my family.

• My former piano teacher – the woman who taught me how to follow the notes but also how to play with my soul. She is still teaching me because every time we visit, I am awed and inspired by her gracious personality and her godly character.

• A high school and college friend – this woman has taught me about the importance of faith, especially when life unravels in different directions. She encourages me through social media and by attending the events that are important to me. She is an example of the believers in the Hebrews’ Hall of Faith.

• The sister of another high school friend – she came to buy each of the books so that she could read them and then send them on to her sister. Every time I see her at church, I am struck by the peace of God that rests on her, and I feel blessed.

• A friend of our family who continues to meet weekly with my mother, walks around the mall with her and drives her to Braum’s so they can have biscuits and gravy together. I have known her all my life and appreciated her kindness to our family.

• My own sister who buys books for six of her friends, filling her Christmas list early and encouraging me in the process. She interrupts her own schedule to fill my needs.

• A pastor and his wife who show loyalty to the family of their parishioners and continue to encourage me in my writing journey.

All these people uplifted me because they took the time on a busy Saturday to drive across town and buy one or more of my books. I know they will read the books and probably tell someone else about them. They will pray for me and that will build up my coverage in heaven for this wordsmithing I do.

But then – just as I began to pack my remaining books away – another person approached the table, picked up a book and asked, “What’s it about?”

“A woman minister,” I said, “who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She lives in assisted living and meets a whole group of interesting characters.”

“Perfect,” she said. “My mother’s best friend just went to live in assisted living. Mom doesn’t know what to do to help her, and she misses her so much – the things they used to do together.”

We talked for a while about how life changes so rapidly and how difficult Alzheimer’s and dementia can be for the caregivers. She bought the first book, “The Unraveling of Reverend G” and slipped a bookmark for the second book, “Intermission for Reverend G” into her purse. She picked up a business card, “So I can follow you online,” she said, “and buy the second book on Amazon.”

Then she moved toward the register, and I continued to pack up my books, grateful that I waited a few more minutes so that I could share hope with this lovely woman.

All my book signings have been successful – that is – I’ve sold more than 10 books. But the best part of the entire process is that I get to meet face to face the people who read the words God has given me. I get to thank them for coming and hopefully bless them with a hug or a handshake.

I meet people who will be encouraged by the story of this brave little minister with Alzheimer’s Disease, people who are caregivers, who experience the 36-hour day and know firsthand how it feels to live with a loved one who sometimes forgets.

Book signings are another way to share the message that no matter how dire life gets – God is still good and he never stops loving us.

©2014 RJ Thesman – “Intermission for Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/1l4oGoo