Being on steroids around Christmas time has certainly had its advantages! I was prescribed a healthy dose of prednisone as a last-ditch effort to conquer my chronic sinusitis. Four rounds of rigorous antibiotics this year have provided temporary relief from headaches and popping ears. But the pressure inevitably mounted after each prescription so my doctor suggested we attempt to expand the passages with steroids. I’m tired of being tired so I said, “Sure.”
Three nights in a row I found myself surfacing around 3:30AM, planning my life in great detail. I figured it had to do with the time of year. Coming up with an impressive to-do list around the first of December is not hard to do! But then I began to worry that my sleep habits were changing. I was morphing into an insomniac who would feel victorious with my mind working overtime at night. But, in the morning, I realized my decisive planning in the dark of night did not result in any actual, decisive actions. It only caused exhaustion. This was not a good trend! About 6AM on the third night, after cataloguing my entire Christmas-prep details in my foggy head, it dawned on me that it might just be the ‘roids. Three days in to my 6-pill-a-day dosage; three nights of no sleep. I decided there was a connection!
I kicked off the prednisone regimen with four days in a row of six tiny white pills. I reduced the amount by one pill, doing two days of five pills, two days of four, and so on. 54 tiny explosions to clear my narrowed sinuses so as to avoid surgical intervention. I believe that my passageways were effectively blown open–but so were my eyes and mind! At the break of day I set out to accomplish the intricate plan of action I had mapped out each night in the comfort of my bed. I discovered that I would break into a run on occasion, feeling as if I had Herculean fitness from which to draw. This is not normal for me! I quickly understood why competitive athletes slipped these into their own drink to get Super-Mario Star Power on the court, field or track. Ten Lords-a-Leaping had nothing on me with my energy to dart from store to store, buying presents and enthusiastically greeting people I met. I picked up my daughter one afternoon and she noticed that I sang along to all the Christmas music on the radio. I also kept rhythm by pounding on the steering wheel and tapping my left foot to the music vigorously. I was out of the car almost before it stopped at each spot on our itinerary. I told her I was all jacked up on steroids and couldn’t be held accountable for my actions. Just add it to the catalogue of her embarrassing moments I’ve inflicted upon her as her mom.
Even though I had pep in my step there is such a thing as cumulative sleep deprivation. So this was the down side. My momentary thoughts of finding a sport in which I could excel were diminished. Artificially inflated power surges seemed advantageous at first. But I was weary of continual revving from deep within. It was hard to concentrate on writing a sermon or preparing to teach a class. My head continually wanted to bob in time to any number of unlikely outside noises. Feeling as if I had the soaring power of Prancer and Vixon seemed freeing for a time. But then I realized that I wanted the traditional gifts of Advent: peace and quiet joy. Headbanging probably never caught on with Christmas carols for a reason.
So today I took the last of my little white pills. I took it later in the day so that I would be able to focus on writing a sermon that held together theologically. Fifty four pills taken and I’m still going to need some sort of procedure to clear out and calm down my poor sinuses. If Neti Pot and steam treatments, antibiotics and nose-blowing couldn’t do the job, it was time to let a professional take charge. I’m hoping I won’t be charged with sinus abuse after all my efforts to clear my head! I can hear my ENT doc commanding, “Step away from the nostrils!” Gladly, sir.
So I thought having ‘roid rush in December would give me the edge I needed to conquer my Christmas-prep list. But I learned what I’ve always preached: Advent is not about running in circles to set the trappings of Christmas in perfect order. The weeks leading up to the celebration of Christ’s birth are for peaceful moments with family and quiet reflection on God’s willingness to bust into our world with the greatest love letter ever written. Last Sunday forty youth and children in our congregation told the beautiful story of Jesus’ birth through drama, music and scripture. This is a necessary step in my Christmas preparation and all it requires is that I sit in the pews with my people and allow our children to lead me in grateful reflection.
So much of the season is about gifts. Not the kind that you hunt down on amazon, wrap in a frenzy and throw under the tree before moving on to the sugar cookie production. The gifts come from folks who, like me, are trying to wrap their hearts around the promise God made in Jesus to love us for who we are and redeem us from the messes of our own making. That doesn’t require a treadmill or a prominent drumbeat for me. The promise invites me to sit in the loveliness of the season with the people I love and a heart filled with holy wonder.