The little pictures

This enormous mosaic of happily-ever-after was created one tiny tile at a time.  Cinderella's castle, Walt Disney World, August 2003

This enormous mosaic of happily-ever-after was created one tiny tile at a time.
Cinderella’s castle, Walt Disney World, August 2003

“Change enough of the little pictures, and you’ll find you’ve changed the big picture.”Ashleigh Brilliant

For many years — almost since I first discovered Ashleigh’s work in  1990 — I’ve had this quote on my refrigerator door.  It reminds me to be patient when results come slowly, and not to feel helpless if I am only able to accomplish small things when I long to achieve great ones.  It helps me realize that it’s better to take small steps in faith rather than be overwhelmed by the enormity of any endeavor.

So many remarkable accomplishments involve far more time and work than is understood by those of us who benefit from someone else’s labor of love.  Whether it’s a meticulously prepared meal, a colorful mosaic or a soaring cathedral, we tend to spend far less time enjoying it than its creator(s) spent putting it together.  That’s natural, of course, but it can build into us a sort of impatience for results that is unrealistic and frustrating when we are the ones expending the effort to build something worthwhile.

If your day involves many tedious or seemingly insignificant tasks, consider that the importance of your tiny brushstrokes may be less obvious because you are unable to see the entire canvas from close range.  Eventually, when you are able to step back and see the results of months (or years) of determined diligence from you and others in your world, the beauty of your life may take your breath away.

One year ago today:

In even the smallest detail


  1. Nancy

    The mural is even more important to view after our labors are finished when children are involved, Julia. Thanks for reminding me they are a work in progress, like we all are.

    • Thank you, Nancy – your painting is already beautiful! So I look forward to how it will look as time goes by. Love to you and your sons!

  2. MaryAnn

    A friend recently related a very special saying from her mother.
    When you get to Heaven, Jesus will show you a crowd of people who you have influenced for good; most of whom you may not know or remember.
    Another way to imagine the “little” things having great meaning!
    Thanks, Julia! 🙂

    • You’re welcome, Mary Ann. I always found it sobering to reflect that, in the only direct description of “Judgment Day” that Jesus gives, EVERYBODY is surprised. Those who are praised and rewarded say “What did I ever do to deserve this?” Those who are reprimanded and punished say “Wait a minute, look at all the great things I did for you! Why don’t I get my reward?” There’s a lot of food for thought there, among which is the crucial importance of humility. I think the purest good deeds may very well be the ones we don’t think about or remember, they just spring naturally from who we are (or hope to become).

  3. Sheila

    Julia, sometimes I think my insignificant tasks (in our business) are a conglomeration! I like to answer the phone personally, instead of automated, and I still make paper charts and I still have an appointment book! I know everything will change when I retire. I guess my brushstrokes will be obvious though. I’m keeping you close in my heart. 🙂

    • Hi Sheila, Kudos to you for answering the phone with a live voice instead of a machine. I get so fed up with being forced to talk to robots that I almost started a blog called “Talking to Robots” — it would have been the opposite of this one, a place to vent frustrations of contemporary life. I’m glad I chose this, but I wouldn’t rule the other one out. 🙂 Meanwhile keep shining that light of caring!

      Speaking of which, guess what we got in the mail today? I’m about to email you a photo! Thanks so much for your friendship – Matt LOVED his gifts.

      • Sheila

        Julia, I often laugh at receiving the occasional (not so pleasant) phone call that can leave one feeling like “chopped liver”. 😦 That’s alright! Without the phone ringing we would be out of business!
        I’m really glad Matt’s little package arrived to his delight! 🙂 Thank you for the email and photo.

        • Sheila, lately I have been having a real gripefest about the phone service. We still have a landline phone and we get way too many junk calls. In general I don’t like the phone, so I would not be as good at your job as you are! It’s wonderful you can see the good angle of getting a lot of phone calls. Any sort of service job is very demanding, so I admire that you are able to stay sunny. 🙂 Matt’s gifts are adorning our kitchen table and he is still describing them to me when we’re in the kitchen, telling me about who all is on the mug! So fun.

  4. raynard

    Juila how did that song go, “you otta be in pictures, you’re the picture of health lol. got busy yesterday and did read this on my not so new ( smarter than me phone) I’ll tell you more about my latest project( a book based on my blogs with music added to it) . And a “sneak hint for you. the latest cake to bake this Saturday’s potluck is “drum roll a spring/ Easter Blue Velvet cake with either vanilla or cream cheese icing.. tell me what you think.. be blessed

    • Hey Raynard I need to send you a photo of the Easter Basket cake my mother made one year for my friend’s birthday party – you might like to try it, it wasn’t that hard to do (easy for me to say since I am not the one who did it) but I think you would have no problem with it. I’ll try to find a digital copy of it someplace to send to you although it might not get there in time for Easter this year…I vote for the cream cheese icing! Yummy!

  5. Michael

    This quote, which I have read a number of times, has a multitude of dimensions as there are lots of different “pictures” in each of our lives. It is very hopeful as we can usually change a small picture, while if we think about changing a big one we might become discouraged.
    Also the thought that came to me was about the definition of insanity- as one who keeps doing the same thing over and over-expecting a different result while getting just the same.
    Sometimes you have to change a small picture. Or maybe a different small picture from the one you keep changing.
    You might also say that only God sees the big picture and while we can’t see it now-through all the pain, disappointment and discouragement God sees what we have done and calls it beautiful. And again the “Master Weaver” poem comes to mind. Today I will try and change a small picture. Just a small one. How does that look to you?
    Impatience for results is part of our cultural malaise.

    • Michael, I agree totally. Your comments also remind me of a thought I heard attributed to Corrie Ten Boom (not sure if the attribution was correct but it sounds typical of her) that we are looking at our lives from the wrong side of the embroidery. We see all the tangles and knots and loose threads, but God sees the beautiful picture on the front, and maybe others do too. Think of the amazing tapestries and needlepoint pictures that have been done one stitch at a time. Needlework, like other forms of artistry, is probably a good antidote to the widespread epidemic of impatience.

  6. Michael

    How big is the mural?

    • It’s been so many years I can’t vouch for the accuracy of my memory, but I think it was pretty large. It was inside the castle and took up at least the size of an entire wall of a “normal” room, as I recall.

  7. Michael

    I agree that,” needlepoint is the answer”. You could do a t-shirt.

    • I used to do counted cross stitch years ago, but I was never all that good at it. Now that my eyesight is not as good, I’d probably be worse at it now. I’d settle for doing some basic mending 🙂 as long as I could listen to an audiobook while I was doing it.

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