One of the ways in which we fundraised to bring our daughter, Lulu, home last year was through a jigsaw puzzle fundraiser, suggested by a fellow adoptive Mama. Perhaps you’re familiar with it — we reached out to family and friends asking them to sponsor pieces of a puzzle to raise the $5,800 orphanage donation that was due before we traveled.
The plan was to write each family’s name on the pieces and to frame the puzzle in a special keepsake frame (glass on both sides) so our precious Lulu can see how very loved she was, way before she even came home. That puzzle is long since completed — not framed or hung yet — but the pieces are all together, and the fundraiser served its purpose well. We pray the children in Lulu’s orphanage were blessed by those funds that so many dear ones rallied to provide.
I find it fascinating how our daughter, Lulu, is truly like a jigsaw puzzle herself. Her file, as a “Special Focus” child, indicated a variety of special needs — some of which were accurate, and some not so much. As her parents, we thoughtfully navigate and strategize to make her puzzle whole, carefully connecting the pieces of her design — and her complexities — together one by one, gently interlocking them without forcing them into the wrong places.
Sometimes the pieces don’t come together the way we expect. Though Lulu doesn’t actually have some of the medical issues that were noted in her file, we are still discovering new ones in the process. Our daughter presented with a “hemiplegia” diagnosis as her main medical concern.
And as we delve into the box, we discover how so many areas of her whole being are connected and affected. What started out as “weakness on one side” has now revealed a chain of medical conditions and a need to test for genetic abnormalities and syndromes. All of these pieces, even the ones that we never imagined for our daughter, form to complete her most perfect and beautiful picture.
Sometimes our focus shifts to another area of the puzzle. Like switching concentration from the edges to the middle, we quickly realized that Lulu’s emotional needs and behaviors were so much more complex than we anticipated, and — honestly – parenting this child has taught us hard lessons about ourselves and our constant need to lean on Jesus daily; to strive for compassion, even when we’re forced to hit our restart buttons for lack of grace.
There are times when we’ve just had to stop working — plain exhausted — and come back “to the table” another day when our heads have cleared and our bodies have rested.
Some people may think the puzzle is way too complicated or has too many pieces. It’s a magnificent picture that the completed puzzle displays, but many people tend to look at the box and say, “I can’t do that puzzle — it’s too hard. It will take too much effort. There are just too many pieces.”
But our God is bigger, and we, as parents of special needs children, know what a privilege it is to have been given these gifts – these unique and complex puzzles – and to have the chance to give them our unconditional love and figure them out. We cry out for the Fruit of the Spirit, because sometimes that process can take months if not longer and, as I know from experience, patience can be sorely lacking.
But we are better for loving them.
When the puzzle is complete, it reveals a masterpiece. Our beautiful adopted children are masterpieces in their own right, aren’t they? We know our precious children are fearfully and wonderfully made, and all that we’ve poured into them — our love, our time, our energy — it’s not lost on us.
The words that spread over our daughter’s jigsaw puzzle are popular in our adoption world and oh-so poignant:
I was chosen.
I was wanted.
I was cherished.
I grew in their hearts.
I was the missing piece.
I was loved.
I was prayed for.
I was adopted.
She was. She still is.
And every time we leave another doctor’s appointment, every time I witness one of those priceless moments when Lulu just blows me away with her might and determination, I have more and more admiration for this warrior child… for all that she’s overcome, for all that she’ll be. It is such God-given gift to work with this magnificent puzzle constructed by our Heavenly Father, piece by piece, and we will not give up until every last piece is in place.