by Meg McBride

Every year when we go on our annual vacation, I select a challenging puzzle that will keep us occupied over the course of the week. Our goal is complete the puzzle before our time away ends – to snap one photo of the completed project before we have to take it all apart and return it to its box. This year, I choose a 1500 piece Disney puzzle that featured many of the Disney characters my sons grew up with and loved. Disney World was a frequent vacation destination when my boys were kids (it helped a lot that their grandparents had a Disney timeshare and in the early 90’s a yearly Disney pass was a mere $200). I thought the puzzle would offer a sweet nostalgia.

The first step in puzzling is to dump all the pieces onto the table: looking for what I call the “bonus pieces” (the pieces that are still together from the factory!), then turning all the pieces right side up and searching and separating out the boarder pieces – the pieces with one straight edge that will hold the puzzle together and create its boundaries. As I began my work, I happened to be listening to a podcast on forming cooperative parishes among different churches to create collaborative communities who come together around a common and shared mission. I listened to the speakers challenge the listeners to create communities of inclusiveness, restoration, and holy friendships. As I began organizing my puzzle pieces, I noticed that many of the pieces contained faces – good character faces like Cinderella and Belle, as well as “bad” character faces like Ursula the sea witch (one of my favorites) and Captain Hook… even some of the pieces had the faces of character animals. So many faces of the Disney community in one place.

I couldn’t help but notice the metaphor for Hope Recovery Church (which is never far from my thoughts – even during this time of rest, I see symbolism everywhere). I pray that there will be many different faces that will interact with Hope Recovery Church. In those faces, the goal is to show deep value to every person so that every person can be lead back to their true and real identity in God and live as their most authentic selves. Value is defined as honoring each other’s unique personal experiences. These personal stories lend to distinct voices — all which contribute to our human story set within God’s story of God’s creation. Value is defined as respecting each other’s right to choose for one’s self — whether we individually agree or disagree with someone’s choices, we each have free will to decide for ourselves, recognizing that every choice has a consequence (some good and some not so good). Value is defined in being sensitive to and honoring each other’s boundaries as we recognize that each of us carries within us traumas, hurts and histories that often require the healing balm of God’s love and the security of real friendship that can be found in authentic community. We admit that healing takes time, patience and boundless mercy and grace — relationships are messy, hard, and challenging, but necessary for life. Relationships are a place of constant growth, adjustment, relearning and discovering new levels of sacrifice.

Forgetting to measure the card table I’d chosen before starting my project, I quickly realized that the completed puzzle will be bigger than the table… and so I set to the task of carefully relocating 3/4 of the assembled border and the many small puzzle piece connections I was able to make to a new location. I was reminded that the building of anything requires the flexibility to change directions, the openness to keep moving forward and not get stuck in disappointment — and a bit of humor to laugh at yourself. I believe that the Disney puzzle has been a gift offered to me as a metaphor for the church-planting work that awaits when I get back to Wilmington after vacation is over. For the next several days, I plan to focus on the faces before me — Disney faces and more importantly, the faces of my family as I continue to practice showing value, mercy and grace.

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