A woman unexpectedly found a large diamond ring in the pocket of a pair of jeans she bought at Goodwill. Hearing that story, I realized that recently I found a different type of diamond in my life.
I agreed to preach, teach, and lead worship in a Presbyterian church for three weeks in Twin Falls, Idaho, this spring. As the time approached, however, I realized my health wasn’t strong enough. If a cold had not caught a cold just before leaving for Idaho, I would have been right. You might say that cold was my pair of Goodwill jeans in which I would find a diamond.
Whenever I catch a cold, I have to take large doses of prednisone. Prednisone keeps my lungs open and helps prevent my getting pneumonia. It also makes me feel like my brain is spinning with exuberance, creativity, brilliance and omnipotence. I have boundless energy, even cleaning our chandeliers at midnight. On the downside, I get manic, can’t sleep, am easily distracted, angry, irritable and impatient. Except for keeping me alive – a huge benefit – the costs of being on prednisone outweigh its benefits. I can’t stand this drug.
Except for this time. Because of prednisone, the three weeks that I had thought I could not manage became a wonderful gift instead–a diamond in my pocket that reaffirmed my sense of vocation and call. I had a fantastic time.
I did not have to cancel my trip. Prednisone not only kept my lungs open, it gave me the energy to write and preach, lead two worship services and teach two classes each week. I had enough energy to lunch with church members, attend extra church events, fix dinner for my in-laws with whom I was staying, and travel around Idaho a few days each week. I came to know a congregation who is now dear to my heart.
Another Idaho diamond slipped into my pocket while I stayed at the Inn at Ellsworth Estate in Hailey, Idaho (www.ellsworthestate.com) a large,100-year-old restored home on the edge of town. Hailey is a few miles south of Sun Valley, at the base of mountains that were still capped with snow in May.
Mornings began with coffee and homemade biscotti in front of a cozy fire in a stone fireplace. A gourmet three course breakfast (as if I needed any more food!) made by Ronnie, the innkeeper came next. Since I was the only guest in that week of the off-season, Ronnie kept me company at breakfast. We drank coffee and talked about life, resilience, and faith. Beyond the windows, aspen and birch sprouted little green leaves and mountains rose in the distance. The inn, the setting, and Ronnie deserved five stars even before my great adventure happened. Now they’re off the scale.
My adventure began with an ordinary excursion into the mountains of the National Forest to find a stream beside which I could have a picnic and write. Although I had acclimatized slowly, my lungs were still compromised from my cold. An elevation I usually manage well was too much for me. I recognized the symptoms of altitude sickness and headed back to the inn.
The innkeeper’s husband is an RN, EMT, and head of a medical center in Hailey. He had everything on hand to take care of me medically, and Ronnie kept me supplied with Gatorade. We decided I was not yet well enough to drive back to Twin Falls. So I stayed an extra nigh in Hailey, secure in the knowledge that I had my own personal chef, medical staff, and beautiful inn. I stretched out on a leather sofa under soft throws in front of the fireplace while mist rolled by outside. I napped by the fire and read mysteries. I thought about how to reorganize my life in Pasadena and what topics I want to write about. I watched raindrops ran slowly down the window panes.
I can’t remember ever enjoying an illness as much as I did this one. When I imagine myself in front of the fireplace, I feel again the peace that filled my being as I rested there. That day of recovery was an unexpected diamond for which I am truly grateful.
I am still trying to taper my prednisone level and adjust to my loss of omnipotence and pseudo-brilliance. As my cortisol level decreases, so does my energy level–dropping and then leveling off, then repeating the process with each decrease in dosage. I always find these steps frustrating and depressing. I prefer having boundless energy and feeling as though I can succeed at every task I want to undertake.
Now, instead of conquering the world, I nap for hours each day. My body is re-learning how to make its own cortisol and I’m re-adjusting to what normal really is. As I look for the diamond in this pair of jeans, maybe I’ll find it by incorporating those Idaho diamonds into my life here.