Transition Can Be Like a Jigsaw Puzzle

Once again, I find myself in the middle of transition. I know it is part of life living overseas, but it is not my favorite part. Maybe it is all the packing or the good-byes and the tears, but I think it is something more. What really bothers me is that God just doesn’t put out the entire plan for us. It’s like he gives my husband and I a package. We tear into it like a two-year old at a birthday party. We turn the box over and over wondering what’s inside. We open it to find puzzle pieces, but no picture to show us what the puzzle actually looks like.

After some blank stares we dive into it. Who doesn’t like a challenge? Some pieces fit nicely and excitement grows. We high-five each other – another adventure to put on our belt. Then when we’ve exhausted ourselves and can’t find any of the other 978 pieces to fit we sigh and maybe even begin to question if we got the right box. Isn’t it funny how we can go from confident to doubting so quickly?

Can any of you relate?

As the date of departure speeds up at an alarming rate the picture seems to come together, yet there are still some puzzle pieces missing, and they seem like pretty BIG pieces to me.

At the time of writing this, we are to move to a new city in about a month – but we have NO housing. We spent a week at the new location and thought we had found a place, but no. My husband went back for a weekend looking with the same result. Am I nervous? Okay maybe a little, but we’ve been here before. Let me back up…

Four years ago, my husband resigned as the principal to a Christian school in Taiwan to work for the nonprofit we helped start. It was a huge decision, which is a story all in itself – but we had one month left on our apartment contract. One month led to two weeks, which led to one week, which led to two days. YES, 2 DAYS with still no home to move to. I had visions of the five of us huddled under a cardboard box in the rain. Okay, we did have friends offer for us to live with them temporarily, but I still felt a little frantic. Then like a miracle there was a phone call. It seemed like God was holding that one HUGE puzzle piece smiling, waiting to amaze us. And amazed we were. It was the perfect home for that time in our life.

Flash forward two years. Another move which pretty much was the same story. Though, not quite as tight as two days, but it was within a few weeks before we found a place.

So, I’ve been down this road before: God hands us a jigsaw puzzle with no picture and waits until the last minute to give us the housing piece. Yet, from my past experiences with God and his Word I can trust him to provide exactly what is needed at the right time. That little phrase that I bolded is never when I think is the right time. No, it’s when God knows it is the right time. I find that His timing always challenges me to trust and obey him completely. Thanks, Patti for reminding me of that hymn!

I don’t always feel confident in not having all the puzzle pieces in order and put together. I’m sure I’m not alone. So here are some ways that I have used to help put a stop to my heart racing and the worry machine in my head start to turn on. First, I find passages in my Bible on God’s faithfulness and his character. It is a good reminder that God takes care of His people. Second, I remind myself how God has provided in the past. This only builds up my trust to know that God will provide in His time. Third, I turn on my music and praise Him for who He is. It takes my focus off myself and onto where it should be – Him.

Are you also in transition with a few major puzzle pieces missing? It doesn’t have to be housing, it could be a job, a team to do ministry with, or maybe even the ministry isn’t clearly defined. Whatever the puzzle piece(s) that are missing, you can be sure that God will provide.



  1. Beth Everett May 13, 2015

    Thanks for sharing MaDonna! I so relate! Lots of missing puzzle pieces at the moment.

    One of the songs on my go-to list of music is Sovereign. Love these words that speak about the pieces …

    In your everlasting arms
    All the pieces of my life
    From beginning to the end
    I can trust you

    1. MaDonna May 14, 2015

      I actually was thinking of you, Beth, as I was writing this piece because I knew you were also in transition. Thanks for sharing the song. LOVE those words – so comforting to know that he has our pieces and knows where they belong.

  2. Carrie Anne Hudson May 13, 2015

    YES! Transition is like mopping, it’s constant and just when we think we’ve finished it we seem to be doing it again. Living in China has taught this control hoarder to prepare daily for transition and it is hard! Appreciate your words about His timing being ultimate and perfect. I’ve really had to work diligently at my complaining spirit when transition is knocking at our door.

    1. MaDonna May 14, 2015

      Carrie Anne, I LOVE your analogy of mopping. That is brilliant – and so true! Thanks for the laugh, as I really do NOT like mopping or transition. HA!

      Ahh, yes I’ve found myself on the complaining bench a few times myself. It seems that it is sometimes easier to say good-bye if I can find fault in the current location. Maturity and understanding the process of leaving has helped me, but this is an area in my life where God’s not finished with me yet. Transition is hard and can feel ugly and uncomfortable. It’s at those times when I dialogue with God and journal that I learn so much from him – but sometimes survival mode makes it difficult to find that time that is needed. So thankful for the retreat that Velvet Ashes offered – was so needed for me.

    2. Monica F May 15, 2015

      Oh my word Carrie, this is an awesome analogy!  China has definitely forced me to become more flexible and ‘let go’ of my control-freak tendencies.  As our family goes through a new transition (of delaying our return to China) I definitely feel like there are some pieces missing, and I’m really having to brings myself to the feet of Jesus everyday… rest in Him, and know that He will provide all I need.


  3. Jennifer Ott May 14, 2015

    yes!!!  We are in the midst of moving to Africa, but we have 3 months here still.  While the puzzle pieces are fitting together there (housing, vehicle, etc.), here they are falling apart (no vehicle…4 kids…6,000 miles of trips scheduled).  Waiting on Him…

    1. MaDonna May 14, 2015

      Oh dear…. I will pray for you, Jennifer.

      Lord, I just come before you on behalf of Jennifer tonight. Lord, we know that you are the perfect Father that gives good gifts. We know that you already know our needs before we even know or ask for them. Tonight, Lord, I just ask that you would provide a vehicle that their family would be able to use for the next three months. Lord, may you put this family on the heart of a fellow Christian brother/sister who would have an extra car for them. I ask that you would surprise and amaze them, Lord. Lord, I pray that you’d give Jennifer and her husband peace. I pray for all the other logistics of moving with a family – that it would all be smooth. I pray for healthy good-byes for the whole family. I pray for a smooth transition into their new home, culture, language, and community. I pray for new friendships for her children and for Jennifer and her husband as well. Lord, thank you for loving us. Thank you for taking care of our every need. Bless this family and encourage them as they walk in obedience to You. ~ Amen

      1. Jennifer Ott May 14, 2015

        Thank you!  I am always amazed at the love and support we get from others; thank you for taking the time to pray and to care for us!

        1. MaDonna May 14, 2015

          You are welcome. I love that about this group as well, Jennifer. Though we may not have ever met, there is an understanding that stirs our hearts to pray for each other.

  4. JulieB May 14, 2015

    The transitions…..times when I am so NOT in control!  The thoughts come….is it really going to be OK again THIS time?  I don’t like it very much when I can’t find the missing puzzle pieces.  However,  I have found Him to be always trustworthy.    As Moses was transitioning leadership to Joshua –  listen to what he told Joshua- ” The Lord HIMSELF goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  (Deut 31:8).  God gave me this verse as we were moving overseas a couple of years ago….I asked my friend to write it out in her beautiful calligraphy and have it framed in my home to remind me.  God HIMSELF is with me (His Holy Spirit lives in me – wow!) and will go with me as HE puts the puzzle pieces together.  Thanks for the good word of encouragement, MaDonna.

    1. MaDonna May 14, 2015

      “God HIMSELF is with me (His Holy Spirit lives in me – wow!) and will go with me as HE puts the puzzle pieces together. ”

      Thanks Julie for your encouraging words. Isn’t it amazing to think that God goes before us and is with us? Truly comforting and encouraging – powerful words. 

  5. Amy May 14, 2015

    I love this!! Just like a puzzle. I used this analogy when talking to women’s groups as we were raising support and sharing about our journey. I gave them an easy puzzle….but without the box. So they didn’t have the picture. After a few minutes of trying to put it together, I explained that this is how our lives felt. We didn’t know that big picture and God just revealed a little at a time.


    Now we have been in South Africa for 4 months and a few more of the puzzle pieces are together. Not all….but a few more! And I am (slowly) learning to be thankful for those few. I am a “big picture” girl and a planner so the Lord really has me out of my comfort zone. But He is so faithful and so true and so loving. Thank you for sharing!

    1. MaDonna May 14, 2015

      Amy, that is such a great idea to tangibly teach this principle. I will be mentally filing this away to use sometime, I’m sure.

      How exciting to see some more puzzle pieces come together for you! That is encouraging to me, as I feel we have the BIG picture of what we will be doing in our new city – but lack the pieces to make them happen. HA! Trusting God will hand those pieces over when the time is right.

  6. Kristin Jakola May 14, 2015

    Our Guys’ Group has been working through Philippians over the past half year and it’s amazing how much is written in that short letter about suffering in the Christian life. In God’s economy, it’s these difficult times; these times of hardship, through which God is building our character and demanding from us a complete trust in Him. For sure they are trying, though, and at times, painful, but we can be confident that he’s got our back!

    “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.” Philippians 1:29.

  7. MaDonna May 14, 2015

    “In God’s economy, it’s these difficult times; these times of hardship, through which God is building our character and demanding from us a complete trust in Him.”

    YES! YES! YES! Great words! I try to remind myself during those trying times that God is character building and my life is under construction. I remember a song from my childhood titled “He’s Still Working on Me.” When I think about that – I know that the uncomfortable, the pain is not all in vain. As you’ve said, “he’s got my back” and I can trust him. Thanks, Kristin!

  8. Kimberlynn May 14, 2015

    I’m a visual learner and I’ve always appreciated stories and analogies that help a lesson stick in my brain. Picturing our transitions as a jigsaw puzzle without the complete picture before us is very, very accurate analogy. Thanks for that!

    Awhile back, I didn’t think being afraid was that bad and couldn’t figure out why it would be a sin to worry. When I finally learned that fear is the opposite of trust, it put things in a whole new perspective for me. When I’m fearful or when I worry, I’m not trusting the Lord. What better hands to be in control of my life than Him??

    1. MaDonna May 14, 2015

      Thanks Kimberly! “Fear is the opposite of trust” needs to be framed in our home. I needed to hear that. Yesterday was one of those days where I was feeling unsettled and anxious…reading that phrase brought some light. Thanks!

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