Just the Way You Are

A few weeks ago, I was running on the treadmill. I have a playlist for running but also am technologically challenged. Somehow I had synced every device so that songs I normally would not hear while working out started playing. Have you tried running to Sarah McLachlan? It would be like playing your kids’ most annoying CD of songs that they dearly love but that you passionately hate (“This old man, he played one, he played knick-knack on my thumb…”) to get in the mood with your mate (“AHH, get away from me or we might have to buy more CD’s like this!”). I quickly skipped her before my meager motivation became a ball of mush and tears.

I was similarly caught off guard when a particular song came on during my run. This time I listened. And this time I did become a ball of mush and tears. I cried like a baby on that moving belt of torture, but the pain was emotional not physical.

“Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars came out around the end of 2010. By early 2011, it was duly overplayed on all pop and hip-hop stations. At about the same time, Mike and I had officially started our adoption process. Being somewhat of a dreamer, I had already imagined many of the “what-if’s” and mentally pictured the time we would travel overseas to get her. I even imagined announcing her addition to our family by making a video slideshow of our journey. This song seemed to be the perfect accompaniment for snapshots that I had already visualized so far in advance.

When I see your face, there’s not a thing that I would change.
‘Cause you’re amazing, just the way you are.
And when you smile, the whole world stops and stares for awhile,
‘Cause girl, you’re amazing, just the way you are.

Years before I would potentially hold her or even see a picture of her, I knew she was perfect. I knew that I would love her with deep intensity. I knew that she would be amazing to me, just the way she was. She was technically a stranger, yet I was singing Mars’ lyrics to her before she was even conceived.

2012 knocked that dream out of the biosphere. 2012 was insanely difficult and a huge game-changer for our family. It was also filled with cloudy confusion that still covers us to this day. We try not to dwell on it. We have been successfully moving on since that topic has gotten old for us (and you, too). However, there are moments that force those thoughts to recur in our minds. What I had thought was over and done with suddenly had me back in surprised grief on the treadmill with Bruno singing words I never got to deliver to their intended subject.

A couple weeks after that bereavement session, I was outside running with my iPod. The song came on again. With this 2nd hearing, I was moving on in my stages from depression to acceptance. (I thought I had already done that earlier, but grief is ongoing and cyclical like that.) As I gazed on the majestic mountains filling my view, I felt the “This is surreal” feeling again. A year ago I would never have imagined myself RUNNING (!!) IN ALBUQUERQUE (!!!). Never. I imagined being on a plane bringing back our daughter to live with us in Chicago.

During the time of these reunions with Bruno, I had also been reading through Isaiah. That blessed book was my career counselor leading me to social work during my college years. It got me through the worst physical pain I have endured in my life when I had two herniated discs and subsequent surgery. It always comforts me in my inherent faithlessness by reminding me of His unchanging love. It felt right to read it again in my surreal life where the theme has been to be spiritually awake.

Isaiah’s words, mountain views, and a runner’s high replaced the former sorrow with convicting inspiration. Adopting a child into our family may not be the way to honor Isaiah’s (& Bruno’s) verses right now. However, I asked myself how could I still sing those lyrics to others? Everyone deserves to know that they are loved just the way they are. This is the truth of the gospel. How can I spread it? I have no clear answers. But I want to be open, to be actively pursuing and to find other ways to adopt the orphan, free the oppressed, and share my bread.

It is easier said than done. These honorable notions often get as clouded as my confusion over our uprooted plans. Life, largely in the form of myself, gets in the way. Remember that scene in Schindler’s List when Schindler is leaving his factory for good? His accountant Stern gives him a gold ring of gratitude from the hundreds of Jewish workers whose lives he rescued. In that moment, he recognizes with regret that he could have done so much more. Even the gifted gold ring he translates into two more lives he could have saved. It is a profound moment that I can relate to in some ways. In hindsight, so much of my life will seem frivolous, wasteful and almost criminal. I can predict that I will say I could have done so much more with what I have.

Two more lives

Two more lives

What is the purpose of my life and am I fulfilling it? I have a long way to go in living radically for good. While wondering how to do so and reduce later regret, I simultaneously recognized the profundity of being faithful in the little things. Maybe it is building inner strength in my older son when he feels nervous as he often does these days. Maybe it is filling my younger son’s life with the affection he craves to counter all my barking orders of the day. Maybe it is squeezing my husband’s hand three times to remind him of our secret (or not so secret now) way of communicating that we love each other. Maybe it is remembering that close to the holy words admonishing me to fast by clothing the naked are the words to eat, drink, and be glad (Ecc. 8:15).

Who knew Bruno Mars could bring about existential thoughts? 🙂 My hope and prayer for myself and for you is that we are continually telling others in our lives with words and deeds that they are amazing, just the way they are.

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