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Nicole Johnson looks at the new year as the puzzle that it is and reflects on how it will all come together.

For those five minutes or so, all was right with the world. Like a warm blanket on the most bitter of nights, my fragile mama’s soul was wrapped in the reminder that there is so much joy in this journey. 

We were thirty minutes out from my family arriving to celebrate Christmas day. I was in the bathroom donning my makeup and my youngest was snuggled in my bed playing on her new iPad. My middle guy had been roused from his sleep coma and had exited the warmth of his own bed just to walk down the hall and crawl under the covers with his little sis to relish a quick squeeze before he was rushed into the shower. A few minutes later, I heard three voices coming from the room and realized, much to my delight, my oldest had joined the party. Tucked on either side of their sister, my boys were coaching her through her game and the three of them were shouting and laughing—and—it. was. everything. And even if the Queen herself was showing up for dinner, I wouldn’t have dreamed of disturbing the moment. 

The new year. Ugh. I find it daunting. It’s full of possibility: 365 days of open-road-opportunity. I should be excited, and thankful, and in many ways I am. Yet, sitting at the beginning of this journey, I’m gonna be completely honest—I feel so very vulnerable and overwhelmed. When that calendar turns, it’s not just my path that lies in the shape of a question mark, but the paths of my three babes who I wish would stay snuggled and safe under the covers. 

My husband gave me a puzzle for Christmas made from six pictures of our family. It made for the perfect activity over the rainy holiday week and is a spot-on representation of how my mama’s heart is feeling this Monday morning when life gets unpaused and the fragmented busyness begins again.


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When that calendar turns, it’s not just my path that lies in the shape of a question mark, but the paths of my three babes. #catholicmom

“Making the decision to have a child—it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” I’ve always loved this quote. It’s one of those things that is hard to understand until you actually live it. You come close if you are fortunate enough to know the uninhibited love of a mother, father, or cherished sibling—or when you find your soul mate. But the difference in the love for a child is the truth and magnitude of your responsibility in helping them find their way—in placing every last piece where it needs to be in order to complete the picture.


jigsaw puzzle with few pieces done


This is about where I’m at this morning. I’ve got the border in place but the rest of my heart feels scattered and unkempt. My youngest is back at school and my stomach is once again in knots wondering whether or not this extra-chromosome carrying little love will choose to follow the rules or run from her feelings of discomfort by breaking every middle-school norm her well-intentioned team tries to get her to conform to. This child is that piece of the puzzle I just can’t seem to fill no matter how hard I try. I pick up a piece I’m sure is going to fit, turn it every which way and it never seems to be just right.

Then there’s my middle guy: as free-spirited as they come. He’s made of many different pieces and from day to day, I’m never quite sure which one will fit. He is serious and introspective; he is carefree and outspoken. He is a senior in high school and he is so ready to open his wings and leave the nest. Acceptance letters are coming in and my heart is at once full with pride and paralyzed with the need to let go. And my oldest—now 20—a sophomore in college and a piece of the puzzle most often missing as he leads this full and independent life that leaves me both proud and mourning his presence.


family jigsaw puzzle with few pieces done


There’s no getting around it. The year will hold many different phases of this puzzle. There will be times when everything fits just right, days when the pieces are scattered every which way and weeks when things are looking pretty good but the picture is not entirely complete.

But that's the thing with puzzles, and with life. You always start with the border, setting the framework in which you will work and taking your time to fill in the rest. My prayer as we move through this new year is that as my children grow and change, they will always take time to move back within the border, trusting in the peace and unconditional love they will find here. As for me, I’ll take the hard with the good, keep working the puzzle, and relish those moments when it all comes together.


family jigsaw puzzle


Copyright 2022 Nicole Johnson
Images: (top) Canva Pro; all others copyright 2022 Nicole Johnson, all rights reserved.