The Ministry of Lisa Copen

Lisa Copen, Founder of Rest Ministries which serves the chronically ill, shares about mothering, illness, ministry and more.

Yes, I am Sick. . . But I’m Also a Mom

Josh swimming

Josh swimming

You know the story. Last week my throat was swollen, but I thought it was the fibromyalgia, because I felt “fine” (whatever ‘fine’ is, right?) My parents were here so I was talking more than usual. I was tired, but then we were going and doing things and spending more time in the sun.

By Sunday, I thought I may be getting sick. Not ill, but sick. People with chronic illness know the difference. We are ill because of our disease, but we aren’t sick. We are sick when we catch a bug or the flu. Sometimes we are doomed to catch everything little germ floating around because of our poor immune systems. Other times we seem to have a weird immunity because of our current medications or for some other reason.

By Sunday, I was really tired. Not sleepy-tired, but I-don’t-want-to-move-tired. I wanted to go to church but I knew by the time I got out of the shower, my ability to dress and go would gone. I needed to try to get some rest so I could survive the rest of the week, right? My husband and son went.

Monday I woke up knowing I was truly sick. Only. . . the housekeeper was scheduled to come. I tried calling her to reschedule but she’d already left. So. . . I had about 6 hours I needed to be out of the house. All I wanted to do was lay in bed a few more minutes but I got myself up so my husband could pull the sheets off and put them in the wash for the housekeeper to put back on later.

Josh is home from school for summer, so we had to find something to do for six hours that didn’t involve sitting in the sun, at some point other children were present, didn’t involve spending much money or tempting him to say, “I want something!” I felt guilty. Why could I not get to church yesterday, but I could get out of the house today?

The first stop was the pharmacy where I bought cold medicine and downed that in the car. We went to the post office, Office Depot, the thrift stores, and McDonald’s to play. Lastly to the library where I tried to read a few books out loud between coughs to Josh and a little girl who followed him around while her mom was on the computer.

Tuesday I woke up feeling SICK. I was coughing a lot and knew I should call the doctor. Maybe today we could just rest? But then Josh mentioned the pool party we’d been invited to. He was half asleep the night before when I brought it up (thinking at that point surely I could go). I said maybe. By noon my cough wasn’t so bad — Meaning I could go and people wouldn’t give me “the look” of you-better-not-get-me-sick. Besides, I felt terrible. My reasoning there? I just didn’t want to pretend to be Indiana Jones today. If we stayed home I would end up letting my sonplay video games and watch too much TV.

Those of us with illness know how to pull off looking well when we are sick. I wore a white shirt, put lots of concealer below the eyes, dusted the rest of the face with a healthy brozer and flat ironed my hair to a “golden sheen” (that needs the gray touched up something awful).

I packed my Nutrisystem lunch and salad, snacks for Josh, he got entirely ready by himself (though he did end up with 2 different flip flops on his feet.) He said, “I am so excited!” it was his first pool party where he could get in the water by himself and feel somewhat safe since we’d just finished the 3rd level of swim lessons last week.

I zipped through the coffee cottage drive thru and ordered a 20-oz iced coffee with sugar-free white chocolate. I turned up Kenny Chesney on the radio. I told Josh, “Someday when you are all grown up you will hear Kenny Chesney and it will remind you of when you were 6 and 7 and mommy and you doing fun things during the summer.” He smiled.

I had thought I’d find a corner at my girlfriend’s patio and relax, but you know how you start to chat and it feels nice to actually have an adult conversation? I sipped my coffee and tried to suppress my cough. Josh was in the water for 2 1/2 hours before I made him get out and get something to eat. He fearlessly swam to the deep end riding a pool noodle or a boogie board.

After 4 hours of fun, we got into the car; I was exhausted but content and Josh said, “Where are we going now, Mom?” I said, “Home!” Where do kids get their energy and why won’t God let us have just a dose of it to keep up better?

Wednesday – Today I woke up very sick. My throat hurt all night and usually a sore throat is just a distraction. When you cope with daily pain, a sore throat is no big deal. But I definitely need to call the doctor and see if I can get in or get a prescription z-pack. I’m waiting to see if Josh can get into a day camp at 9:30 , but Kidsville doesn’t open until 9:30. The camp starts at 9:30 and I forgot to call yesterday. After I know, I will call my doctor.

Somewhere in all that I got out the email about the Rest Ministries store having our Grand Opening (I’ve been working on it since October and it opened yesterday) and the newsletters for Rest Ministries and Scrapbook My Adoption.

The normal, typical person would likely recommend that if one is getting sick, one should get some rest. Maybe not do a day of errands or go to a pool party. But those of us with illness are used to pushing even when are utterly exhausted.

As moms with illness, we weigh each decision. For example, do I stay home and have to come up with activities for the day and have the neighbors come over and play and end up watching 3 kids? Or do I get in the car and take him somewhere with social activities and friends, while I can watch and sip my coffee?

Do I want my son to remember mommy saying, “Mommy is too tired” or “Mommy is sick?” Or do I want him to remember cruising with the windows down singing “My my my, my key lime pie”?

Halfway home I looked to the back seat and he was sitting in the car seat completely asleep. He was still holding his drink and looking so grown up in his new wet suit (that he didn’t wear in the pool, but put on after swimming to “show the girls.”) He looked so precious.  So “6” –somewhere between being a child and starting to be a boy.

Some people argue that those of us with illness shouldn’t have children or adopt children. Most healthy parents say that they would do anything for their child, give up their life for their child.

But those of us with chronic illness? Each day, each moment, we choose to live for our child. Every day is precious.


  Sheryl Smith wrote @

That was both beatiful and heart wrenching, Lisa. What a wonderful mom you are!

Hugs, Sheryl (Splashes)

  Mary Jo Stein wrote @

I identified with that so much. my kids are 12 and 17, and I hope they don’t remember their mom as always asleep.( of course we always try to hide our pain). I too, push myself to do activities that used to be so much fun for me, but now I do them only out of the love of the kids.

  Annette wrote @

Lisa, you have a wonderful way of “telling it like it really is” without whining! Thank you for putting my feelings into words so many times.
I am trying to make those good memories with my granddaughters.

  Jenni Saake, author, Hannah’s Hope wrote @

You have me crying here, Lisa! There are so many days I’m not the mom I want to be and the guilt can be overwhelming especially when we have wanted and waited for these blessing for such a long time! Thank you for describing the journey so beautifully!

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