When we go on vacation each summer, we buy a new jigsaw puzzle and lay it out on a table smack in the middle of our rental. At one time or another, each of us has put at least one piece of the puzzle in place. Some of us spend more time than others, but all contribute and the puzzle is complete before we pack up to head home.
The cover of my book, Teachable Moments: Building Blocks of Christian Parenting, has a picture of a home with the puzzle almost all together. As Christian parents, we are all daily picking up random pieces of our family, looking at them from all angles, measuring, trying them out in a place, removing them, trying them out in another place. We look for clues by examining the picture on the box. That would be our ideal picture of how our family should look to the world.
But in our real world, we can't depend on what our family "should" look like. We are who we are. Our jigsaw pieces are three-dimensional, fluid, ever changing shapes. We are left to capture each piece in time and find a fit. We mold our shape to the shape of others in our family. Each of us is ever changing shape and yet fitting together as family in a unique, engaging, loving way.
Oh, for sure, there are times when individual pieces just don't seem to fit the puzzle. Think teens with hormones just trying to figure themselves out. Think terrible twos who are just figuring out how to say "no." Good luck trying to fit them into your concept of your family puzzle. The best we can do is change only that over which we have control. As Christian parents, we make every effort to be healthy, godly role models for our children. We can do that, and what we do and how we are has an enormous influence over our children, but they'll never tell you that.
The second thing we can do is be there for each of our children. Be there with time, with activity, and with heart. When little Tommy is out of sorts, set healthy boundaries, hold and nurture him, and use your go-to active listening to help him sort out his own feelings. Share your wisdom and find teachable moments.
As we go through life, individual puzzle pieces frequently fit together, occasionally . Savor those times. When all the family puzzle pieces align, even just for a moment, praise God, for He is at work in your home. Families are a puzzle.