Last weekend I had the honor of speaking and exhibiting at the “Through the Roof” conference sponsored by and Friends , the ministry of Joni Eareckson Tada. I know many of you prayed for me during this time, so I wanted to share with you some of the highlights.
I tried to pace myself during the week, but my son got a bad sinus infection and missed school Monday through Thursday. This kind of changed my plans and priorities but he was a great kid and helped whenever possible.
Thursday afternoon the babysitter arrived and my ride arrived a few minutes later. I drove up to with Julia, the woman who was doing the close-captioned services for the conference. We had a great time and we were able to breeze through most of the Los Angeles freeways in the carpool lanes.
We arrived by eight-thirty and went to our rooms. I quickly collapsed after putting my Cuddle Ewe mattress on the bed. I had every reason to sleep well, but felt half awake all night.
I finally got up about 5:50 and showered and was down at breakfast soon. I wanted to give my hair some time to air dry and get medications into my system. By 7:45 Julia and I had eaten and we were off to Westlake Village Calvary Community Church .
I found my exhibit table and got help carrying in the many boxes and bags. I started unloading as quickly as possible and people started dropping by the table. One woman asked, “Are you THE Lisa Copen?” I started laughing and said, “Can you ask that when my son is around?” Someone brought me a bottle of ice water and I drank the entire thing in one long gulp.
As the people went into workshops I went to the restroom and took off my sweaty clothes, put on some fresh ones, wiped my face down and re-did my makeup until I hoped I looked presentable.
It was a fun day talking with people. One woman said she had received a “Hope Endures” button from our table a few years ago and that she’d kept it on her car’s visor. She said she’d had a very difficult time and she would always look at it and say, “My hope endures. My hope endures.” Hearing this kind of thing is always so touching.
By 5 PM my husband and son arrived. Josh had gone to school and then they’d left as soon as he was out. They helped at my table a few minutes while the day closed. Then we went back to find the hotel. We dropped off their things and then went to Italian Restaurant to have dinner with the other speakers. We were about 20 minutes late so ended up with our own table. One woman came over and said, “Joni said to tell you not to leave until she gets a minute to talk with you.” I looked over and Joni waved and we waved back.
I ate real pasta for the first time in about 8 years (ie. not mac and cheese). Ever since I started eating lo-carb in 2003, pasta hasn’t been on the menu. I was on Day 10 of the 17-Day Diet , but I had small portions. And an unbelievable piece of chocolate cake.
We ran back by the church because I realized I had left my Kindle there at the table and panicked. The only way I ever fall asleep is to read, and since everything is on it, I had nothing else. My husband didn’t even flinch, but ran in for me to retrieve it.
We went back to the hotel and my son finally calmed down enough to get to sleep. I woke up a lot during the night. I was getting so sore and exhausted. I wall-papered my body in pain patches.
I finally got up about 5 AM, took my probiotic pill to get that into my system, and then took a hot shower and then went back to bed. I could barely get across the room and wondered how on earth I was going to get through the day. I prayed for strength!
When the alarm went off at 6:15 I told my husband the shower was all his. I’d already had mine.
We had breakfast and got back over to the church by 8 AM. Joni and Friends staff were amazing and some asked, “How are you this morning?” I smiled and said, “I am here, so I am blessed.” I felt a sense of relief that one day was over, but also worried that I was this tired and still had two 75-minute presentations to do that day.
I spoke on “How to Start a Chronic illness Small Group Ministry” focusing on how to help pastoral staff understand the need. Both presentations went wonderfully. The first time I felt like I rambled a bit and was trying to make sure everything was covered. The second time I felt a bit more focused and knew the timing a bit better. (Note: Next week I will be working on the DVD of this to have available in our store.)
My husband ran 2 video cameras and my son ran the DVD player to show the stories that you sent to me, the videos and the audio clips. When I played them I could hear people gasp at the response of some and see them smile at others. Thank you for being part of my day and allowing me to share your stories to truly help people literally hear the need for illness ministry.
I ran back to the table and spoke with more people until the day closed. I was able to go into the main room and participate in worship and hear Joni speak. By the time I came out my husband had our entire table cleaned up and packed into the car. Wow!
Through it all, I met so many encouraging people. I spoke to 15-year-old girls who were twins and very expressive of the depression one was experiencing. I spoke to some women I have seen at many conferences over the years who always encourage me. I was able to visit with a woman, Lisa P. who attended. She worked for me in 2003 and 2004, when my son was first born. We saw old friends from a church we used to attend who have now founded the performance group, “.”
Saturday night I limped back to the room and laid on the bed. We decided to eat a burger downstairs. I had my husband go buy me band-aids for my toes that had blisters and then we went down. Afterwards I took a hot shower while Josh and Joel went in the hot tub. We all ended up in the beds watching “” on TV. I could barely walk. My knees had fluid, my feet were twice the normal size, but I had done it. I felt a sense of relief… and hope that God had worked through my weaknesses!
Sunday morning we made it downstairs for breakfast and then packed everything up. I re-papered my wrists, shoulders, and knees with pain patches. I could barely put weight on my feet, so I gathered up my stuff and told my husband he’d have to help with some of the things like the refrigerator. He said, of course, he had planned on it.
We stopped in Hollywood for what was to be a few minutes since Joshua wanted to see the on the hill. By that time the pain patches had started helping and so when a little tour bus operator asked if we were interested in a “tour” of the area, we asked, “How long and how much?” He said he would charge us half price for an hour. I said “Yes, lets!”
My husband looked at me with surprise, hoping I could even get into the bus, but my knee was feeling better and I wanted to do something fun for my son. He had missed the country fair at his school Friday night and I wanted him to have something fun to tell the kids he did when he returned back to school on Monday.
We saw the star’s homes, popular restaurants, Bel Air, Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, etc. It was interesting. I’ve not done this in about 30 years. But it was also somewhat sad. To see the immense wealth and yet how it does not bring happiness.
We had just left a conference where people with disabilities are trying to figure out how best to reach out to others with disabilities who need Christ’s love in their darkest moments. And the next day we are seeing where the lost never found peace and died alone (Michael Jackson), where lives where destroyed by drugs (Whitney Houston); where marriages have split (Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver); where sin abounds (the Playboy Mansion).
We were home by 6 PM and God was kind in giving us perfect traffic all the way. I called my mom to check in and she sounded awful on the phone. She had been in the hospital ER the entire night before until 5 AM with what they discovered to be a kidney infection. With her diabetes and quickly getting dehydrated it was serious.
“Mom! You should have called me!”
She and my dad said, “You had enough to worry about.”
“If I had done that to you though, you would have been mad,” I said.
“I told her you would say that,” said my dad.
I am going to check in with her in a few minutes this morning. The physician put her on medication that she is somewhat allergic to but it was evidently the only one available for her particular strain of infection.
Thank you, friends, for sharing your testimonies, your needs, your joys. I can tell you whole-heartedly that there are many churches who care a great deal about the chronically ill. . . they just do not always know how to reach out and do it most effectively. One man came by my table and looked at everything on the table and said, “We have visitation and healing services, and all kinds of things for the chronically ill, but we don’t have ANYTHING like this!”
“That is why we are here,” I said. “That is why we are here.”
Lisa Copen is the founder of Rest Ministries and has lived with rheumatoid arthritis since 1993. She is recovering now from last week, catching up on emails, and was pleasantly surprised to see that she lost 1.5 pounds over the weekend despite the pasta and chocolate cake. All that lettuce and water must have helped.