Finding hope in a pile of puzzle pieces

Published 11:27 am Sunday, March 20, 2022

By Ronnie Michel

I can’t sit down with a puzzle without thinking of Melinda Berteau.

When my daughter Elise was ten years old, she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. We received calls, visits, flowers, gift, pots of food, and platters of desserts. Then there was my friend Melinda.

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“I’ll drop off some puzzles.”

I wanted to say, “Puzzles? Don’t I have enough to figure out?” Elise’s medical appointments were the clear priority, and our family was trying the best we could to manage everything else – four other children, my husband’s travel schedule, and my job – around that.  Now Melinda was suggesting I sit down and put together puzzles.

But Elise and I did. We started with the borders. Once we got that clear boundary for the puzzles, everything else was just a heap of broken pieces. But deep down I found a glimmer of hope that from this pile of pieces an image would emerge. We sat and focused until one small, fragmented piece at a time, sharp edges and smooth ones, blended to form a whole, complete, picture without even one missing piece.

Whenever I look back on that Fall 2002 I see – through grateful tears – a completed work from one of the most difficult times of my life.

During that time Elise asked, “Mom, what do people who don’t know Jesus do at times like this?”

I told her I couldn’t imagine. The pieces of my life were a mound of reports I didn’t want to accept, treatments I wanted to pick up Elise and run from, and questions I was grateful she trusted me to answer. That stack also held family and friends, comfort food and even more comforting conversations, prayers and the promises in God’s Word – the ever-present border of my life.

If I had to title that season, it would be the framed Scripture Dianna Faucheux gave me during that time. It sits on my kitchen windowsill to this day, “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted,” Job 5:9

Ronny can be reached at