Thursday, May 7, 2015

Marvel at the mosaic of your life

What does a memoir and a mosaic have in common?

You’ve probably known about mosaics since you were a little kid, but today let’s take another look.  

A mosaic is a collection of small stones (or bits of colored glass, tiles, pebbles, paper squares, seashells, or similar materials) which, when arranged and glued together just so, create a large picture, a piece of art.

Think of your life as a mosaic, and then read these words from Henri Nouwen. They’ll get the wheels turning in your head:

“A mosaic consists of thousands of little stones.
Some are blue, some are green,
some are yellow, some are gold.
When we bring our faces close to the mosaic,
we can admire the beauty of each stone.
But as we step back from it,
we can see that all those little stones
reveal to us a beautiful picture,
telling a story none of these stones can tell by itself.”
Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
(emphasis mine)

In the story of your life, stones of one color represent one experience, stones of a different color represent another experience.

Stones of other colors represent:

each person who comes into your life,
each choice,
each victory,
each relationship,
each heartbreak,
each celebration,
each new job,
each mistake,
each new home,
each joy,
each setback,
each surprise,
each significant life event.

Each little piece has a size and shape and color and texture of its own. Some are light and crisp and fresh. Others are dark and dull and brooding, while others are shiny and intense.

Each little piece plays a special part.

We often recognize the individual pieces—the individual events and people—of our lives and appreciate them up close at the time, but what about the bigger picture?

In writing memoir, we deliberately do what Nouwen says:

We step back, take a broader, deeper, higher look.
We glimpse the bigger picture, The Big Picture
and WOW, it can surprise us!
It can bring us to tears.
Taken together, like Nouwen says,
it can “reveal to us a beautiful picture,
telling a story none of these stones can tell by itself.”

And we realize that without each piece, the larger picture would lack in vibrancy and beauty, and it would be incomplete.

Make time to recognize not only the smaller bits and pieces of your life, but to stand back and marvel at the big picture.

When you do, you might hear God whisper in your ear: “Remember all the times I told you I knew the plans I had for you? They have been good plans, plans to prosper, not harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

When you look at the big picture, you’ll witness the way God brings beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3).

You’ll see that God does make everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Look for God’s fingerprints and footprints all over the mosaic of your life. Notice the ways God has guided you and brought you to where and who you are today. He is making a beautiful picture out of you and your life.

When you write your memoir, 
assemble the pieces—
the small bits of colored glass, stone, tiles, 
pebbles, paper squares, seashells—
and you’ll begin to see that, together, 


  1. I like this mosaic metaphor. I've often used a patchwork quilt metaphor, but few men find that apt. Mosaic crosses the gender line.

    1. Good insight, Sharon. I've also used a granny square illustration. It's somewhere on this blog..... :) Each little crocheted granny square is like a vignette, and when all the individual squares/vignettes are complete, we stitch them together to make the whole--the cozy throw or the completed memoir. Thanks for stopping by Sharon. I always enjoy hearing from you. :)

  2. Dear Linda, what an apt metaphor for memoir. I love "telling a story none of these stones can tell by itself." I too use the patchwork quilt metaphor but I like this one even more. Lovely post. Thank you!

    1. Well, Hi, Kathy! So nice to have you stop by! I, too, enjoyed Nouwen's idea of a mosaic. I'd never thought of memoir in that way before but it works! Blessings to you, dear Kathy. :)