You Can't Do It All: Finding the Courage to Ask for Help

By Richella Parham

God's Brave Women - Richella's Story


My knees shook as I walked across the room. My hands shook as I picked up the phone and dialed 911. My voice shook as I answered the dispatcher’s questions.

I still get a little shaky as I remember that day, now many years past. My husband had just gone through major open-heart surgery and seemed to be recovering well. But this day had been long and hard – hours spent in the surgeon’s waiting room for a post-op check-up, then the ordeal of having 52 staples removed from my husband’s chest. Finally we’d arrived back at home, where my husband rested while I prepared dinner for us and our three sons.

We’d just said grace before dinner when my husband’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t feel too well,” he said. “Y’all go ahead; I think I’ll go lie down.” The rest of us began fixing our plates when we heard an alarming thump from the next room.

Unbeknownst to us, some post-surgical swelling around my husband’s heart prompted an incident of arrhythmia. His blood pressure plummeted, and the thump we heard was his body hitting the couch as he passed out.

Somehow I managed not to pass out as I called 911, then opened the door for the EMTs who arrived via ambulance. I’ll never forget how it felt to climb into the front of the ambulance for the ride to the emergency room while my husband was being treated in the back. We’d been home from the hospital for just two weeks, and now here we were again – my husband confined to a hospital bed, me stationed by his side.

And yet, of all the things I did that day, only one stands out in my memory as an act of bravery. I look back on everything I was called upon to do, and one thing took more courage than all the others combined.

You see, I’d always tried to be the wife and mom who had it all together. I prided myself on rising to every occasion, cheerfully doing whatever needed to be done. I was happiest when I was offering to help someone else, but boy, did I hate to ask for help.


"I’d always tried to be the wife and mom who had it all together. I prided myself on rising to every occasion, cheerfully doing whatever needed to be done. I was happiest when I was offering to help someone else, but boy, did I hate to ask for help."

Of course, I sent a text message to some friends, asking for prayer for my husband. But when my dear friend and next-door neighbor texted back and said, “I am home and available. What do you need?” I hesitated.

I did need something, but could I ask for help?

I had prepared dinner for my family, but when my husband fell, my sons and I all rushed from the table, leaving everything right where it was. Uneaten food sat on our plates; pots and pans soaked in the sink. The kitchen was a mess, and I couldn’t take care of it.

As I write those words, I shake my head at the memory. Of course I couldn’t have taken care of the dirty dishes. But at the time, I felt that somehow I should have been able to do it. I was ashamed that I hadn’t cleaned all the pots and pans before I set the table. I was ashamed that I hadn’t trained my sons well enough that they cleaned the kitchen as soon as my husband and I rolled away in the ambulance. I was ashamed that I hadn’t somehow magically foreseen that there could be an emergency, that I didn’t have some kind of contingency plan in place to take care of every circumstance.

In other words, I was ashamed that I needed help.


"I was ashamed that I hadn’t somehow magically foreseen that there could be an emergency, that I didn’t have some kind of contingency plan in place to take care of every circumstance. In other words, I was ashamed that I needed help."


But my friend persisted, and I finally summoned the courage to ask her to clean my kitchen.

I’m grateful to say that my husband recovered fully and is now doing well. And I’m grateful to say that I’ve learned a lot since then. I’ve learned that, in addition to being exhausted, I was misguided in trying to do everything by myself.

I thought I was being righteous in trying to be perfectly self-sufficient. What I’ve learned since then is that God created me – created all of us – to be in relationship, just as God himself is an eternal relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


"I thought I was being righteous in trying to be perfectly self-sufficient. What I’ve learned since then is that God created me – created all of us – to be in relationship, just as God himself is an eternal relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."

My friend gladly cleaned my kitchen that evening, just as I would have done for her. In fact, my vulnerability in asking her to do my dishes was a gift to her – she wanted to help, and in admitting that I needed help, I gave her the chance.

I’m convinced that this kind of life – a life of compassion and connection – is how we were designed to live. 1 John 1:7 tells us, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.” But to have it, we must be brave enough to admit our needs, humble enough to ask for help, and gracious enough to accept that help when it comes.

"1 John 1:7 tells us, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.” But to have it, we must be brave enough to admit our needs, humble enough to ask for help, and gracious enough to accept that help when it comes."


Brave Woman Manifesto