Monday, September 8, 2014

Puzzling Connections

My father taught me how to do puzzles when I was a kid. You always find the corners first. Then you do the edges. Then you fill in the middle in chunks, as you see pieces of the picture becoming clearer. In the beginning, you refer to the picture a lot for reference, but as you get going, and the picture becomes clearer, you suddenly find that you no longer need the picture. I love doing puzzles. 

You know, life is a lot like doing this imaginary puzzle where the specifics are unknown. Sometimes, you connect with people, and you don't even know if those pieces are part of the puzzle you're working on, or if they somehow jumped in from another box. You usually don't have a picture for reference. And you don't even know how many pieces the puzzle is. Is this a difficult puzzle or an easy one? How long will it take to do? 

This weekend's adventure took us to a writer's workshop in beautiful (read sarcastically) Atlantic City, NJ. It wasn't long before I knew that the weekend was about connections more than writing.

It was a lovely evening, so after a relaxing dinner, we decided to sit outside of our B&B (Come Wright Inn, owned by Stephen and Diane Wright). There was this adorable little Assemblies of God church across the street, and I walked to the street to see if I could see the sign, which might tell me the service time. Just then, a woman walked by who "just happened" to go to that church. She told me all about how wonderful Pastor Stephen was. He'd founded the church, and he left, but there was this great Filipino pastor there now.  
The Way of Life Church, Ventnor, NJ
"Wow, how cool was that?" I said to Brian, after she left. Pretty cool, he agreed. Click-there's one of the corners. (But he still thought I was crazy because I just talk to anyone). 
Fellow B&B guests, Joe and Tracie...the sweetest couple

A little later, another guest came out to his car, which was parked out front. Joe introduced himself. He had heard me talking to this woman on the street. He and his girlfriend, Tracie came from Pennsylvania for the weekend, and were thinking of visiting this little church across the street. We talked for awhile and discovered that we had a common interest-The Lord. That caused us to talk longer!

"Wow, how cool is that?" I said again. Brian agreed that it was pretty cool. Connection-another corner.

Meanwhile, I had been in contact with two of my cousins, who lived in South Jersey. I'd thrown out the idea of meeting for dinner on Saturday after the workshop. They loved it! 
My cousins, Donna (L) and Helene (R)

We had never been close growing up. My family moved North when I was young, and we just never got together. And even when we did, there just wasn't a closeness, like some families have. There was a...disconnection. Now, as adults, I'd seen them three times in the past several years: Sadly, each time was a funeral. We'd reconnected through Facebook (yes, it does have its merits!) and were determined to meet under a happier occasion. Connection. Another corner.
Innkeepers (and founders of
The Way of Life Church),
Stephen & Diane Wright

While I was checking out on Sunday, I started talking (as usual) to our innkeeper, Diane. I asked her if she'd ever been to the church across the street. "We started it," she told me. Oooohhhh...THAT Pastor Stephen is the same Stephen as the guy who just cooked my breakfast? Connection. The fourth corner.

We headed over to church and saw Joe and Tracie there. Later, Stephen and Diane came in (they had to clean up our breakfast dishes first!). 

The church service was simple, like the building. There were under 50 people. A  teenager led worship. It warmed my heart to see such a young person so capable of leading and with such a heart for the Lord. We had Communion. The guy who was in charge of communion was late and apologized for it. I liked him. He was real. A toddler ran back and forth in front of the stage. Three teenagers in front of me talked and played with their cell phones. I wanted to bang their head together, like on the Three Stooges. People wandered in almost an hour late. A message was given. And everyone embraced us with a smile and a hug...and I do mean everyone. It felt like home. No pretense. 

What a lovely weekend we had. So many connections. So many pieces to this puzzle we call life. And sometimes it can be quite puzzling! So much had transpired, that I'd almost forgotten about the whole day of writing that we'd gone down there for! But there was one more connection to be had!
See this place? It looks kind of like it could be the whole top edge to the puzzle, doesn't it? It's called Hot Diggedy Dog, in Chatsworth, NJ, and it's basically a hot dog stand in someone's front yard in the middle of the Pine Barrens. We decided to take the scenic route home, and I was hungry. We saw this place with a line of people, so we stopped. There are coolers with drinks, a hot dog cart, a sno-cone machine, and assorted snacks. You can sit at the picnic tables in their side yard. Well, we went to sit down but there were no available tables. So a tattooed woman with short red hair says, "You can sit on the other side here, honey." So we did. Remember, I'll talk to anyone?

Her name was Amanda and her husband's name was...I forget. Max maybe. This is a favorite stop of theirs when they're on their bikes (yes, Amanda has a shiny red Honda...she got it when she turned 50, although they both looked not even 40). It's kind of a biker bar sort of hotdog stand. We talked about audio books and bikes and hotdogs and writing and....curiously, blogs. Max, or whatever his name was, is a computer guy and he gave me some blog tips.

You're probably wondering, since we're discussing, or, well, I'm talking and you're (hopefully still) reading about puzzles and do all of these things connect, Mare?
So glad I made a connection with this guy
12 years ago this month!

Well...they don't. At least not to you. But to me...well, they still don't. My cousin connection doesn't connect to my innkeeper/founder of the church/Joe and Tracie connection doesn't connect to my biker bar/hotdog stand connection. But somehow, they all do. Sometimes one person has a piece of a puzzle, and another has another piece. Maybe they're on opposite sides of the puzzle and will never meet, never connect with each other. But each piece is somehow a piece of my bigger puzzle. Each person gave me something I needed, and hopefully, I gave each person something they needed. 

Never ignore an opportunity to connect, because without the piece that is uniquely you, the puzzle is incomplete. You don't need to try to figure it out. Just collect and connect the pieces as you go. And one day, God will reveal the bigger picture to you.

Blessings Along the Puzzling Path as You Connect,

Song of the Day: just because they sang it at that wonderful little church today and it's so beautiful (I do not own any of the rights to this song)
Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)

Connecting today with Janis, of Sunday Stillness, Naomi at What Joy is Mine (Monday Musings), Holly at Testimony Tuesday, Woman2Woman Word Filled Wednesday, Playdates With God


  1. I love connections too. I am so happy you are part of Sunday Stillness.
    If we watch everything around us we will see God connecting us. I love Backaby's Bible study Experiencing God. But I don't like IPads as I can't seem to correct myself. That was Blackaby.

  2. That's very funny Janis! I agree. And I knew you meant Blackaby. Experiencing God was one of the best bible studies I ever did.

  3. We had a wonderful time as well Mary! So lovely to meet you and Brian! Before we left we stopped at the beach that Sunday afternoon and Joe knelt on his knee and asked me to be his wife! Yay wooooohooooo! Thank you for being a part of my most precious day!

  4. Wow that is so wonderful! I'm so glad that we were a part of that! And what a beautiful comment to be on this blog! congratulations to you both. You're both such sweet people.

    1. Thanks Mary! I am so excited! Once we decide on a date, I'll be busy planning our big celebration. You and Brian are more than welcome to come! Perhaps you'll see more of our puzzle filled in. ☺

  5. I also love puzzles - the ones that come in a box anyway. I'm not such a fan of the real-life kind!!

    I have had so many *coincidental* meetings - times when I just knew that God had somehow coordinated a *chance* meeting with someone. He has a way of doing that. We recently went to a Western festival in Utah, and spent some time with two couples that we *randomly* met a few years ago. Lo and behold, they are wonderful Christians. What a time of fun and fellowship. And, I very often find that the people that I engage in conversation in the market or bank or drugstore or restaurant are also believers - especially when I need a dose of encouragement.

    God sees the whole picture. And I'm just glad that He has chosen me, a raggedy little puzzle piece, to be part of the glorious picture He's creating in the world.