In celebration of my book, Prayers of Hope for Caregivers, I’m introducing you to real-life caregivers who have served selflessly and faithfully. My prayer is that their stories and tips will encourage you in your own caregiving journey. No matter how hard or lonely the path, remember you’re not alone!
Today, I’m so excited to introduce you to my friend Krista Phillips. Krista’s story is extra special to me because we both have family members with “heart transplant birthdays.” In fact, while I was waiting with my sister for her heart, Krista was waiting for her daughter Annabelle to get a new heart, and both of them had their surgeries one month apart from each other.
It’s been a joy to see Annabelle’s progress in the past eight years, and I know Krista’s words below will encourage you if you’re in a pouring-out season. (By the way, Krista happens to write romantic comedy novels that are guaranteed to make you laugh. So if you need something lighthearted to get you through the struggles of caregiving, I can’t recommend her books enough. One of them is featured at the end of this post.)
Now on to the interview…
Welcome, Krista! Who is your care recipient?
My daughter, Annabelle
What are her physical challenges?
Annabelle was born with a complex, rare heart defect that required multiple surgeries and ultimately a heart transplant when she was 8 months old. She was oxygen dependent her first year and feeding tube dependent her first 4 years of life. She also had many other ancillary health challenges along the way.
What has been the biggest challenge in your caregiving journey?
My biggest challenge is probably my quest to manage “all the things.” I have four children and a husband. I also have worked in various capacities throughout the last eight years—at times multiple part-time jobs as well as being an author. Annabelle demands by far the most from me—between medications, doctor appointments, IEP meetings, etc. But the other facets of my life are also important, and managing it all can be tough on even the best days.
I ate a piece of chocolate the other day—you know the kind with the little messages on the back side of the foil wrapper? I was having a particularly rough day trying to balance life, and the message said, “You can do ANYTHING!…. But you can’t do everything.” Such a reminder that God has not called us to do ALL THE THINGS—just the things He’s called us to. And what He has called us to, He will give the strength and ability to do.
What moments of joy have you experienced?
Oh so many. Surgical victories. Every single milestone that we weren’t promised but miraculously given, like the day she took her first step at age 2, or the day she chewed and actually SWALLOWED something for the first time at age 3 (she was g-tube fed). Laughing and playing as a family until our sides hurt. Praying with a fellow heart-mom who is struggling. Telling others about the AMAZING God who has brought us through so much and has been faithful and full of mercy every step of the way.
What Bible verse has been most encouraging to you?
This is a hard one. There are so many. I’m gonna take a different direction… Throughout our journey with Annabelle, God has consistently brought me back to the scene where Jesus was in the garden—
Matthew 26:39 – “He went a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, ‘My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.'”
He knew exactly the suffering that was to come—yet He knew that out of His suffering, the course of the world would be forever changed.
And while on a much, much smaller scale, I felt God calling me to pray the same. “If it’s possible, let this cup of suffering be taken from our family—from my sweet, tiny baby. Yet I want Your will to be done, not mine.”
We were never promised that Annabelle would live. In fact, I sat there and watched them manually pump her heart with their fingers to save her life more times than I can count—and I knew that we very well might lose her. She’s eight and doing GREAT now—but the “rejection” word is an ever-present danger, as is her greater risk for cancer or infection or coronary artery disease.
And still God asks me to surrender my own desire for His will, no matter what.
Maybe that doesn’t sound like a happy-promise verse—but it has been a constant for me for the last eight years and a reminder to look to Jesus instead of my circumstances, because Jesus and Heaven are the one thing I can always count on.
What practical steps or tips have helped you through caregiving?
Don’t let the busyness keep you from prayer or reading your Bible. In fact, those things are critical for getting you through.
Ask for help and don’t be ashamed about it. God created us as members of the BODY of Christ, and let the other members help you. It will be a blessing to THEM TOO, I promise.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
What spiritual practices have been helpful for you?
Like above, prayer and reading my Bible. Even on my worst days—and maybe especially on my worst days.
What would you say to another caregiver in your shoes right now?
God’s got this—which means YOU’VE got this. Take a breath and make it through today. Tomorrow will be there in the morning. No need to fret about it just yet.
Wow, I LOVE those final words, Krista. Thank you for sharing about the highs and lows of your journey. I’m continuing to pray and praise alongside you.
Krista Phillips writes contemporary romance sprinkled with two of her favorite things, laughter and Jesus. And sometimes chocolate for kicks and giggles. She lives in Middle Tennessee with her husband and their four beautiful daughters, and is an advocate for congenital heart defect and organ donation awareness. Visit her online at www.kristaphillips.com.
The Engagement Plot
Six months ago, William stole Hanna’s heart and shattered it in front of millions of people on a reality TV dating show. And now the big-wig CEO is back on Hanna’s home turf in Minnesota and wants her to forgive him? Fat chance of that. But life is swirling around faster than snow in a blizzard, and despite her objections, teaming up with William seems like the only option to rescue her reputation.
William has never regretted anything more than the day he gave that ill-fated interview for the reality show, The Price of Love. But while he can’t change the past, he’s determined to fix the future. He just needs to convince Hanna to forgive him—and pretend to be engaged with him. Simple, right?
When the media erupts with even worse accusations, teaming up and pretending to be engaged seems to be the only way to salvage their reputations. Despite the media frenzy that swirls around them, an attraction neither of them can fight off begins to surface. Could this love run deeper than a scandal, or will old wounds tear them apart once and for all? When all seems lost, it’s only with help from above that Hanna and Will may find their happily-ever-after.