As we celebrate 20 years here at Rest Ministries, founder Lisa Copen shares a couple of changes that are taking place as she enters into a new season with her chronic illness, rheumatoid arthritis.
I have shared from my heart a couple times this last year and I wanted to give you an update on Rest Ministries, as well as our social network, The Sunroom. Before you become worried, know that we aren’t going anywhere. In fact, it is hard to believe, but it was 20 years ago that I felt God stirring my heart to meet the needs of those with chronic illness with Him being the center of it.
By the summer of 1996 I was on a drug-study and barely moving (I got the placebo), but I was going to our local library and coming home with stacks of books on writing and how to start a nonprofit. That is how it began. We’ve gone through a few seasons here and we are moving into the next one this week.
After much prayer and consideration, a couple things are changing here at Rest Ministries:
(1) I will be sending out devotionals Monday – Friday, with occasional special posts on the weekend.
(2) The Sunroom will be closing down Friday, tomorrow, at Ning.com and we will be moving our online peer support to a Facebook group.
Why the changes? What’s up?
There are many reasons for these two decisions, but I want to share a few of them with you.
First, in the last six months my disease has rapidly progressed in the number of joints with permanent damage. My pain and fatigue level have placed me in a season that will not improve. The pain is no longer from flares, but rather from the permanent damage of bone-on-bone all over my body. It is just the result of 23 years of rheumatoid arthritis that never responded to medication. I won’t go into the details, but I simply cannot keep up with it all–just standing and getting from one room to another is a challenge, every day, all day.
In addition, I have a few other things going– I am trying to homeschool my son (which wasn’t planned)… my husband has been out of work for 11 months and returned to college (another thing not planned). And we started Gutsy Goodness, our jewelry/necklace business and praise the Lord, it is doing well. As many of you know, I have never paid myself since I began Rest Ministries–not for my time, my books in our shop–nothing. My husband was able to provide for us and so not only did we not “charge” the ministry for my time, but we made donations to RM keep it going many months.
Our family’s finances have changed. Our much-needed health insurance is over $2000 a month… and it is a huge answer to prayer that our jewelry business can help with these expenses. So, yes, I know you may see a post on Facebook for my jewelry and think “she has the energy to do that, so why is she choosing this over Rest Ministries?” Please know that I am thrilled God has given me the chance to help contribute to the overwhelming expenses my health demands. Gutsy Goodness is our only source of income right now (and yes, the whole family is working for it. Can you imagine all the homeschool lessons to be taught?).
I believe with all my heart that God gave it to us, as I didn’t even plan to “start a business.” It was just going to be a little hobby for my creative outlet. I had purchased the supplies before my husband ever was laid off.
The other reason we are closing the Sunroom is just logistics. We pay $60 a month for the hosting of the software on a platform that has not been updated in 3 years. The company abandoned it ever since they bought it from another company. It is not safe in the ‘internet security’ arena and I cannot login most of the time to even moderate.
I have worked on alternative platforms over the last few years, but the amount time to just troubleshoot and maintain a message board system on our site is more than we can handle–both time-wise and financially. This was feasible for when I was home alone 6 hours each day and could pace myself. Even if I had assistance it would be more than I could handle.
So, we are moving it to a Facebook group for now. We’ll see what God does. I have been praying about this since August, so I didn’t make this decision lightly. But I felt many nudges, a few times God pointed an arrow at something directly, and since I made the decision I have felt an overwhelming peace.
The software, the restrictions on it–all of it was hindering us, holding us back. I am eager to see what God will do now that we have taken this step of faith. Next week we will have the new Sunroom group open on Facebook. We will ask you to fill out a brief questionnaire and then approve you for membership. (So, if you find the Sunroom group before that, we will contact you next week to fill out the form).
We will plan some events, like book studies, chats, and more, which we’ve not been able to do with the old software. So there will be fun new things to look forward to.
God DOES give us more than we can handle
I never like the phrase “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” Yes, He does allow more than we can handle… because He wants us to need Him, to not depend on our own strength. And right now, I need Him. And that means shifting around some of what is on my Must-Happen-Today-No-Matter-What List.
Some people have asked me if I shouldn’t just “shut down” Rest Ministries, that I have done it 20 years and maybe all the chaos in life is God telling me that it’s time to move on. The problem with that is Rest Ministries is not just a project to me–it’s my heart. I love you all. I love what I still see God do here daily. Even I need Rest Ministries. It is part of who I am and I even just got out of bed to write this because I didn’t want to delay one more day.
But right now, I am tired. My body is screaming out “REST!” (Ironic, isn’t it?) I will soon be scheduling foot surgery–another foot needing rebuilt, pins, fusing, and bone shaved off (Yeah, it was a 3-month recovery before, but now the pain is keeping me up 2-3 hours a night, so I am going forward with it.)
And like you may be, I am just praying that other unforeseen health challenges don’t wipe me out the second half of the year.
But for now, I need to create a place in my day where I can rest without feeling anxious or guilty or frustrated that I am letting people down. I need God to lift some of the burdens, and since He seems to be piling them on instead, I believe He is trying to teach me how to be wise and choose the right priorities. And when I have in the past, like being obedient to homeschool when I never felt called to that, He loads on the blessings at Rest Ministries.
So, please know I SEE you. And I CHOOSE you. But I also choose God and my family… and I am trying to learn to choose myself (I hate even writing that).
But that means, I choose to lay down before I fall down. I choose to give myself reasonable expectations, not goals that are out of my reach. I choose to make some healthy decisions, so my body doesn’t rebel against me and choose them for me. I choose that when I wake up from pain at 3 AM I don’t have to think about all the people I will let down because I didn’t get a devotional out on time.
So, count on devotionals Monday – Friday. I will be attaching videos occasionally, but not every day. And watch for our new Sunroom to be announced next week.
I am so, so weak. Not just physically, but spiritually. I fail every day. And I am sad. I am letting go of some of my dreams, my plans, my assumptions about how God would bless me if I was a good sport about illness and homeschooling and job loss. I’m not myself. And that is okay. Because I know who the source is of all strength, holiness, and comfort. So, as always, thanks for going on this strange journey alongside me. I couldn’t live with this illness and all that goes along with it, without you.
Below is what I sent out last night to members of the Sunroom:
I write to you to let you know that the time has come that we will be closing the Sunroom here on this network on Friday. February 19th, 2016 will be our last day on this site.
There are many reasons, most of which is because the software this platform was based on was sold a few years ago and the new company has done little to even acknowledge it. There have been many problems with logging in (myself included, even today it took me over an hour to get the site to work to send this message out). And the cost continues to rise despite their abandonment of the software.
I have paid out $60 a month for over 2 years to keep this little place on the web going–and now they are raising the cost even more. For safety reasons (we want the safest environment for you online!) and more challenges and hurdles here with Ning.com, the time has come.
This week we opened a Facebook group called “Rest Ministries Sunroom” and you can expect and invitation in the next few days.
I know that many of you do not like Facebook which is why I have tried to build another Sunroom network for a couple of years. However, at this time Facebook provides us with the ability to continue to communicate with one another and I expect that God will do great things, despite the reluctance of some of us. I hope you will join us.
In the next few days if you want to save any of your photos, videos, messages, feel free to download YOUR OWN content that you want to make sure you have. There is no way to do this but to copy and paste one message at a time or one image at a time. Please know that due to privacy issues we do NOT grant permission for you to download the messages or posts of others.
I know this is a transition time for many of us in our own lives and having something familiar to us pulled out from under us can be disheartening. I too am going through a season of grief right now with my own body’s deterioration as well as my husband’s new journey as a student at 50 years old. I do truly apologize for making your life any harder than it already is. I have spent over 3 years and 1000 hours trying to build/code a Sunroom similar to this one, but alas, God had other plans. I am trying to remember that He always knows what is best, even if it comes wrapped up in gift wrap that I don’t really care for.
If you have not been to our website lately at http://restministries.com , I encourage you to drop by and make sure you get the daily devotionals and connect with people through the comments of them each day. We have a thriving community on our main site and perhaps this and the Facebook page can fill the gap that the closing of our Sunroom on the Ning platform may cause.
Please note that I can rarely get into the Sunroom. That means if you email me through the Sunroom, I cannot respond since I don’t have your actual email (which is why some of you have emailed me and not heard from me recently.)
Please feel free to email me at email@example.com. I will do my *best* to respond, but know that I am in the worse physical shape I have ever been in and am struggling with daily tasks. If you don’t hear from me immediately, please know I have received it and am just taking care of the daily requirements for life right now and triaging all emails.
Most sincerely yours as we celebrate 20 years at Rest Ministries,
Founder and Director