Read on down to the bottom. In honor of my Tumahversary I’m doing my very first Bloggy giveaway!
I was reading a devotional yesterday by Lysa Terkeurst and in it she relates a conversation she’d had with a friend. Her friend had been encouraging her to stay the course on something hard, not for outward rewards, but because she wanted to please God. She said these words to Lysa: “Be rare.”
Rare. I have a funny relationship with that word. Most of you know that in June of 2010, when I was 16 weeks pregnant with my Lainey, I found out that I had a rare tumor called a paraganglioma on my carotid artery. When the doctor called to give me the news he literally had to look it up on Google and Wikipedia to give me any information about it. It was that rare. I’ve read figures that say 1 out of every 100,000 people will have this tumor and figures that say 3-8 out of every million people with get a pheochromocytoma or a paraganglioma.
A year ago today I had that tumor removed at the National Institutes of Health (which is, incidentally 3000 miles away from my home ;)). If you want to read that story check it out over here. Today is my Tumahversary.
Everybody feels ordinary sometimes. Every body feels like they are ‘nothing special really.’ Like there is nothing notable about them. When I was diagnosed, suddenly there was something notable about me. It made doctors look at me with interest, scrutinizing me like I was a lab specimen. I could see them get excited and could almost hear them bragging to their cronies, ‘I had a patient with a carotid body tumor today!’ I thought for a good part of the year that perhaps I had underestimated ordinariness. Truly, I think one of my biggest lessons of the year was to NOT devalue those things that are ordinary. That every moment is precious if simply because it comes around only once in all of time. The ordinary moment truly is, it turns out, rare. In this way I’m learning to SEE rare, though I do so VERY imperfectly.
But I think another lesson that God is teasing out of me in all of this is the challenge to BE rare. Just as Lysa says. Do I want to be the Zebra the doctors get excited to see at office visits because of my strange medical history and dogged insistence that we continue to be vigilant? No.
Do I want to be the girl who is less afraid to take risks? Less afraid to stick her neck out? Less afraid to play the odds and believe that they could fall in my favor? Less afraid to try even though I might fail? Yes. That’s the kind of rare I want to be…. the kind of rare that Lysa’s friend was referring to.
Did I tell you that I started entering contests and raffles this year? I always saw myself as the girl who didn’t have the luck for those sorts of things. I always sat and watched other people’s names be drawn out of a hat. I never thought it was worth it to play the odds until the odds played me.
Now I give it a shot. I’ve even won stuff. Free books, jewelry, raffle prizes at MOPS, giveaways. I figure if I’ve got 3-8 per million look, I might as well try to use it in my favor.
I’ve learned to stick my neck out… to be audacious.
I want to be like some of the incredible friends I’ve met on the journey. For some of these people those ‘improbable odds’ really socked them. Not only did they get rare tumors, but they got rare tumors that recurred, or metastasized or were genetic. They had the odds stack up against them and survived over and over. They hike mountains and go mountain biking and boldly knock on doors to fight for themselves or for others who also play the lottery of life and come out with the improbable. I want to face the scary stuff of life and come out swinging and still loving life, like these friends.
I also want to be like the gentleman I saw in the Naval Hospital Pharmacy this week.
Everyone at the Naval Hospital Pharmacy is cagey, impatient, tired of hurry up and wait and then more waiting. We’ve all been to our appointment, or waited in Urgent Care for too long.
But this gentleman had a sparkle in his eye and he spoke with kindness and cheer to everyone he saw. He made his way up to Carolyn and I (we were getting medicine for an ear ache after a trip to the Urgent Care) and asked her and another little girl sitting across from us if they listened to their mamas. They nodded shyly and he asked them if he knew why they should listen to their Mamas. And then he told them that it’s because their Mamas love them, and because God asks us to listen to our Mamas and Dads. He pulled out two golden dollar coins and gave them to the girls for being good listeners and then turned to me. He told me that he thought I had one of the hardest and most important jobs ever and that he was grateful that I did it and took it seriously. He, a Navy veteran, essentially thanked ME for my service. As he walked away I watched him approach other service members and retirees with a kind word for all of them. He was very much like the guy in the short film Validation just walking around giving encouragement to people.
What struck me in that drab environment full of impatient people just tired of waiting and barely masking their frustration in that was that this man was being rare. He chose a different path. Instead of blending in with the grey seats and the grey people surrounding him he was a flash of brightness encouraging those around him.
I’m on the cusp of a few changes that need to be made–as we all are often. Hard changes, but the every day kind. So many times I would get overwhelmed at the enormity of things. Make excuses and say, “It’s unlikely that this will ever really work so why bother?”
It’s beginning to occur to me–I can make the choice to be rare. I can let this challenge me to be audacious. I can make the choice to stick it out. I can make the choice to do the things I do, not for external validation, but to honor God. I can make the choice to be a ray of light amongst grey drabness. I can make the choice to stand up for what I believe in even when almost no one else sitting around me does. I can BE rare in all these ways too.
Getting something “rare” is teaching me to BE RARE and to SEE RARE. It’s teaching me to take the risks, and try, though it seems like failure is most likely. It’s teaching me to SEE the exquisiteness of every moment because they all come around only once.
I’m one year out from surgery today. It’s my Tumahversary. And I am thankful that the lessons it took me so long to see and give words to are emerging.
So to celebrate I wanted to give away a book written by another person who–much more gracefully and poetically than I–has learned and is teaching others how to see the Rareness of each moment. I want to give away a copy of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts.
Now I don’t delude myself into thinking that I have scores of visitors at this here blog, the odds may truly be in your favor (and I suspect more than a couple of you have already read this book–but maybe you know someone who needs a present ;)), but… If you’d like to enter this giveaway, leave me a comment before Midnight tomorrow (2-24). Tell me one way that you’ve been given the grace to BE rare or SEE rare. I’ll pick names of commenters out of a hat and send a copy of the book someone’s way. Go ahead. Be audacious. 🙂