Julie Manning:I don’t feel like my life is any different than someone else’s, because God’s Word says that He knows our days before the foundation of the Earth. And so I want to live today as if it is my last, just like everyone else should be living their life today as if it is their last. And if it’s not, then what a blessing that we get tomorrow.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Julie Manning and her husband John join us today on Focus on the Family. And your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, in February, what’s the big holiday? I hope you remember.
John: Well, Valentine’s Day.
Jim: (Laughter) That’s right.
John: I didn’t miss it.
Jim: It just passed, so I hope you and Dena had a great time.
John: Always. Always nice. And usually time delayed just for convenience sake.
Jim: But here’s one that’s a little tougher. It’s also National Heart Month. Did you know that?
John: That’s a nice coincidence.
Jim: Yeah. So one’s on the emotions and spirit and the other one’s on the physical heart.
John: That’s good.
Jim: But today, we want to talk about both of those with our guests. And our guests have some great insights about their journey and what God has done both for their physical heart, as well as their emotional and spiritual heart.
John: And as I said, Julie and John Manning are with us. Julie is a mom and a pediatric nurse practitioner. And she and John have three boys - Noah, Hunter and Joshua. And there’s a riveting story here that Julie has captured in her bookMy Heart: Every Beat Surrendered To Our Unchanging God.
Jim: John and Julie, welcome to Focus.
Julie Manning: Thank you.
John Manning: Yeah, thanks.
Jim: What an amazing thing. Now, we’re going to unfold this story, obviously, but when we look at you coming together as a couple, describe who you were, what God was doing in your lives. You went to Texas A&M.
Julie: We did.
Jim: You met there, right?
Julie: We did. We were friends then. John was quite goofy at the time. And I...
Jim: (Laughter) Why did you struggle to get that out?
John M.: Little bit of a class clown.
Julie: And I was that studious girl that lived more hours in the library than hanging out socially.
Jim: Somehow, John, you convinced Julie that you were the one. I’m not even going to unfold that story. It just worked out. Let’s call it a miracle.
Julie: That’s right.
Jim: (Laughter) And you both said yes. And you got married. And then you had a miscarriage.
Julie: Mm-hm. We did.
Jim: And I’m sure that was very difficult. Here at Focus, we hear from a lot of you, the listeners, who have gone through something similarly. Emotionally, touch on that. And then let’s move to your second pregnancy and the birth of your second child. Put that together for me. What was happening in your mind and heart at the loss of a baby and then becoming pregnant again, the fears of that? Describe that for our listeners.
Julie: I think that when we became pregnant the first time, you know, as a woman, you just kind of jump to motherhood. You get the positive pregnancy test, you go see the heartbeat for the first time and you’re like, I’m going to be a mom. And you just - your brain goes there. Your heart goes there. Your capacity to love just grows. And - and then with the loss of our child, it was really the first time that John and I mourned together over something. And it allowed us to journey through relying on the Lord together in such a beautiful way that I think suffering sometimes can either pull us apart or draw us together. And God really used that scenario and that circumstance to draw us together in our marriage. Rely on Jesus. Rely on his word for hope and for comfort.
Jim: And obviously, because you tried again with Hunter. Complicated pregnancy, it sounded like. You had a C-section. Tell us about that.
Julie: Yes. So when Hunter was born, we had a - a scheduled repeat C-section, because our first child was born via C-section. And so our doctor wanted to, you know, do a surgery to get Hunter out. And from that perspective, we were fine with that decision. And so you know, when we woke up that morning to go meet Hunter for the first time, we were kind of like, we’ve been there, done that. Like, we know what to expect. We know how it’s going to go. And, fortunately or unfortunately, it went very differently than we had expected it would go. Um...
Jim: Describe how.
Julie: Well, when they had prepped me for the surgery - and then John came in and was standing by my side - but in the middle of, you know, Hunter being taken out and delivered, just everything in the operating room went fuzzy for me. Um, I felt lightheaded. I felt dizzy. I felt as if the physician and the surgical staff and the anesthesiologist, all of their voices were just blurry and kind of echoing in the - in the background.
Jim: Right. You were going out.
Julie: I couldn’t really comprehend exactly what they were saying.
Jim: So baby was fine, but Mom was not.
Julie: Baby was fine. Um, and so because I had worked in an ICU for so many years, my first instinct is to look at the cardiac monitor when I don’t feel very well, because I’m like, what’s going on? And I looked over. And every other heartbeat was an irregular heartbeat, and then I went into a period of where I had multiple irregular heartbeats all in a row. And with my training, I was like, that’s a rhythm that’s not a good heart rhythm. And they might start CPR on me. And then...
Jim: So all this is...
Julie: ...I - I black out.
Jim: ...Flashing through your mind as you’re, uh, on the bed just giving birth, in essence, through C-section to Hunter. But as you’re going out, this is your thought process. And the input’s coming in...
Julie: That’s my thought process.
Jim: John, where were you at that time? Were you in the delivery room, and...?
John M.: Well, when they do a C-section, uh, you know, I don’t have to coach breathing or anything like that. But they - I’m in a waiting room. And then they’ll come get me, I like to say, as I - as they’re rounding third. So just as Hunter is going to, uh, be born and as they’re kind of wrapping up the surgery, they’ll bring me in so I can be there and be present. Um, so as I walk in, I don’t have Julie’s training, so I’m not looking at the cardiac monitor. I’m not really picking up on anything other than kind of squeezing Julie’s hand and kind of seeing the action as Hunter is coming out, being - just being excited, being in a place of excitement, anticipation. Um, I didn’t necessarily understand kind of the gravity of the situation or what was going on.
Jim: So you’re still not totally aware of what’s going on. Your - your attention’s...
John M.: No. I mean, the anesthesiologist, uh, understood what was going on, because they’re trying to track everything going on with Julie. And...
Julie: And the end of it was - is that they didn’t need to start CPR on me that day. My heart spontaneously came back into an - a regularly irregular rhythm (laughter), to say that.Um, and then the next thing I know is that I feel a lot of shoving on my shoulders. And I hear the anesthesiologist going, “Are you OK? I need you to open your eyes. I need you to open your eyes.” And I didn’t want to open up my eyes. And so that went on in the midst of John being called over to, you know, meet Hunter, care for Hunter and all of that. And so I’m not sure what medically they did for me that day, other than kind of take a deep breath, that it didn’t progress to anything more serious.
John F.: Our guests on Focus on the Family today are Julie and John Manning. And Julie has written a book capturing the story, and we’re only partway through it. Uh, the book is calledMy Heart. And, we’ll encourage you to call 800-A-FAMILY or stop by focusonthefamily.com/radio to get your copy.
Jim: So Julie, this is the red flag. I mean, obviously they noticed something was wrong with your heart. This is the first time in your life that you knew. Being a marathon runner in shape through college, your career, um, now something’s going to be different. And you begin to follow up with the cardiologist. What is he or she telling you at that point?
Julie: Um, so the day of Hunter’s birth, they did a lot of testing that day. And they ended up saying, “You know what? I bet this was just the stress of the surgery. Your heart” - from all the other testing that they did, “your heart looks relatively normal, so we’re just going to allow you to keep your baby in your room with you. And we’ll see you up for follow-up six weeks later.” And so over that ensuing six weeks when, you know, we bring Hunter home from the hospital, we’re getting used to being parents of two young children under the age of two, and...
John M.: You’re recovering from C-section.
Julie: ...Recovering from a C-section, and, you know, trying to, you know, get back into some sort of shape after being pregnant. And I just started having symptoms of feeling short of breath. I would get lightheaded when I took a warm shower. And, you know, it’s kind of bad being a nurse, because you - you know just enough information, but you don’t know what you don’t know. And so...
Jim: It’s like going to WebMD (laughter) for everything.
Julie: (Laughter) Exactly. Exactly. Let’s just Google my symptoms. It’d be perfect. Um, and so I thought, oh, I’m just dehydrated. I’m just tired. I’m out of shape. Um, these - and so I wasn’t taking my symptoms seriously. But then I follow up with my cardiologist six weeks later, and we do some more testing. They did an ultrasound of my heart. And that day was the day that I found out that my heart was actually failing, and it was only functioning at half of normal, um...
Jim: How did you process that? I mean, that’s a big diagnosis. That’s, uh, life-threatening, obviously. And how old are you at this point now? You’re early thirties.
Jim: Yeah. So how were you processing that with John? John, how were you processing it? And where is God in all of this as you pray, “Lord, what’s happening?”
Julie: I think time stood still. Um, a lot of denial at first - like, this can’t be happening. This can’t be me. I’m a go-getter. I’m healthy. I’ve - eat right. I exercise. You know, I’m doing all of the right things per the worldly standards. Like, this seems so odd. And, like, why - why is this happening? And so I know that time stood still that day, um, that we learned it. And then I kind of flipped over into medical mode and was like, OK, these are the steps we need to take. She called in medicine for me. I started my medicine, did regular follow-ups. And I think I disassociated myself from processing things emotionally to just intellectually trying to get through those first few months of, what does life look like now? And so I - not that I distanced myself from the Lord in it all. But it was - I kind of was like, “Lord, I need you right now. I can’t do this on my own.” Um, it was very humbling for me, being, like, the type-A, go-getter, achiever personality, to being like, wow, everything - like, feel like my life kind of got turned upside down with all of this.
Jim: Yeah. And I’m sure all that upheaval - of course you have Noah, your firstborn. I - at this point, you’re having to teach him, I think, by the age of two how to dial 911 just in case, John, I guess, you’re out of the house, and you’re having some kind of cardiac issue. I think it’s that - for the listener and for us too, it’s that question of how to live with this day in and day out, that you don’t know - you have no certainty of your next heartbeat. I mean, that, in itself, is stressful and ends up creating a lot of concern. How did you just manage that day to day, that you weren’t sure if you were going to be alive?
Julie: You know, there was, uh, several months of my life where I asked a lot of what-if questions. You know, what if I’m pushing the jogging stroller, and I collapse on the road and by - by myself? Or what if it happens while I’m driving the car? You know, when John would leave for work in the morning, is this the last time I going to kiss him goodbye? So I lived in these what-if sad scenarios that were actually reality. They weren’t, like - you know, several weeks after I found out that I was in heart failure, I also went in for a procedure and learned that I was at risk for sudden cardiac death. And they actually had to shock me several times to bring me back. And so they put a defibrillator in me. So these what-if scenarios were not unrealistic questions to ask. But it certainly caused my brain to spiral down into a state of depression and sadness and darkness, and I didn’t know how to climb my way back out of that.
Jim: And that’s somewhat normal for heart patients particularly, to be in that spot where it becomes overwhelming. How did you manage that with your faith? What practical ways did God intervene for you to give you confidence, to give you a sense of hope for tomorrow even though you have these physical issues that you’re dealing with?
Julie: Well, one, he used my husband. John would bathe me in the Word. And so John would pray, and John would speak God’s truth over me. And the Lord really used our community as well. So whether it was, you know, receiving scripture on my phone, via email or notes written left on our doorstep, God pursued after me. I don’t want to say that I pursued after God in the midst of it, but God really pursued after me. And I couldn’t escape his Word because his Word kept coming at me from all different directions, whether it was through John or our community and our friends and our church. Um...
John M.: I’m kind of glass-is-one-eighth-full type of guy.
John M.: And, uh - and so since I - I maybe didn’t understand the - I don’t want to say the significance. It wasn’t completely like ignorance is bliss. But I tried to avoid thinking through those worst-case scenarios for Julie and her heart. I just believed that God was going to heal her. I believed that - that it was going to be OK regardless of the outcome.
Jim: Yeah. Let me ask Julie, uh - you know, because, again, people who are walking through this kind of thing - um, and I really want to hear from you as the wife. Did John manage that part well, or did it concern you? Or did you feel like he doesn’t grasp always what’s going on? What things did you hide from John because you were afraid?
Julie: I think I hid how deep in the darkness I really was from him because I love him so much. And I, you know, desire his approval. And I desire to please him, from just a standpoint of our relationship. Like, one of my faults is I just don’t want to let him down. Like, that’s devastating for me if I let him down. So that’s one of my faults. But...
Jim: In this case - so let me press you a little bit, because I appreciate the heart of that - but, I mean, these are things that are well beyond your control. It’s not like you created a - a damaged heart. So how - how did you reconcile that as you’re trying to be that incredible spouse to John? But still, it’s not your fault. Did you come to that conclusion that, OK, I...
Julie: Well, yeah...
Jim: I can’t control it?
Julie: I - yes, absolutely. And I think the turning point for us and me allowing him in was going (laughter) - we had tickets to go to an A&M football game. And we (laughter) brought our boys...
Jim: (Laughter) It all comes back to that. (Laughter)
John F.: Which you always have to you accept.
Julie: Right. But we were - we were on a road trip. So we had to drive the two hours to the game. And in the car, like, we actually had uninterrupted two hours of time to talk. And that’s just that day that I just kind of...
Jim: Opened up?
Julie: ...Opened up and let everything out. And, um, I mean, I don’t know how you felt that day...
Jim: Would you describe that - just so I understand it - would you describe that as you allowed John to see the things that you feared, the things that concerned you? And then, John, right - the next obvious question is, how did you feel? And how did you respond? Did it scare you?
John M.: I wouldn’t say it scared me, because by the time that happened, she - it was almost like, this is how I felt. This is where I was. That wasn’t where she was right then. And so in some ways - Julie and I have talked about this - uh, I didn’t get a chance in - to encourage her in certain ways knowing just what - where was her unbelief? What - how was her hope failing? Where were the fears and the lies that she was believing? Um,we’ve been studying, our church, the book of 1 Peter. And it talks about husbands living with their wives in an understanding way or according to knowledge. And so what are the ways that I can better understand Julie, um, her physical condition, but then also emotionally, where is she at? What - what is - how is God teaching her? Where is she learning? How can I encourage her, even press into her, um, and challenge her to put her hope fully in God’s grace?
Jim: Well, and that - that’s a good word. Because, again, eventually, uh, your heart does fail. Describe that day. How old were the boys? Uh, what was the circumstances? What took place?
Julie: So I was doing part of this program. It was a development discipleship-type program at church. And one of our assignments was to kind of share our testimony and share what God has been doing in our lives over the last year. And so (laughter) fast-forward, you know, 15 months. So now Hunter is 15 months old. Noah had just turned 3. And it was my opportunity to share what God had been teaching me over the last year of, like, the Lord bringing me out of this place of depression and how God was working in our marriage and bringing unity and, um, just togetherness in our marriage and encouragement. And - and so this Sunday morning, I shared just all of this, just kind of laid it all out there, was bare, was vulnerable, um, with these group of ladies. And it was so freeing to be able to confess all of that and, at the same time, be encouraged by what God had been doing and kind of seeing, looking back in hindsight, how far the Lord had increased my faith and my desire for Him. And...
Jim: Must have felt like an oasis, really.
Julie: It was...
Jim: Like, a drinking-in of that great water. But what happened?
Julie: So we finished that morning. And John had to leave to go to our other church campus for some responsibilities, and so I went to go pick up the boys from the nursery to just take them home after that service. And while I was walking to get Noah, I started feeling pressure in my neck and in my chest and was like, oh, this feels tight. This feels weird. So I started to try to breathe more calmly. And I went to go pick up Noah, and I signed him out. And, you know, when you have a 3-year-old, they don’t ever, like, stay next to your side. They always just run off and are - you know, you have to, like, chase after them to go get them. And that day, Noah held my hand - it was so uncharacteristic - all the way down the hallway and around the corner to another hallway to pick up Hunter. And by the time I got to Hunter’s room, I just did not feel well at all, to the point that I asked (laughter) the nursery folks - I was like, “Can you help me get them buckled in the car seats? Because I don’t think I can (laughter) get them buckled.”
Jim: Oh, wow. But I’m going to drive. (Laughter)
Julie: But I’m - I’m OK. I can drive home. It’s fine.
John F.: Oh, yeah.
Julie: Um, but by the time - I mean, I remember signing my first name. And then halfway through signing my last name to sign him out, I was like, no, I’m going to collapse to the ground. And I pointed - (laughter) it’s so typical of Julie - I point. I was like, “You need to call 911, and you need to call my husband.” And I handed them my cell phone. And then I dropped to the floor.
Jim: Oh, my goodness.
Julie: Um, and...
Jim: They must’ve panicked too. What a - you know, that’s unusual.
Julie: That - that, and in front of, like, 25 toddlers and my own children. Like, that was one of my worst fears, is collapsing in front of my kids. And so, um - but that day, I had suffered a heart attack. And so 911 was called, and EMS came and got me and rushed me to the hospital. And we had some sweet friends that - you know, obviously all the kids from that room got ushered to a different room. And they - some dear friends took our kids for the day. And anyways, we spent the next 24 hours at the hospital.
Jim: I mean, that -it’s interesting and overwhelming emotionally to think about a young couple with kids that are now 10, eight and three - you adopted your third...
Jim: ...Because being pregnant again would be too much stress, I think, is the story unfolding. And again, people need to get a copy of the book, uh,My Heart, to get more of the details. But Julie, in that regard, uh, give us an update how you’re doing today. And then I want to just close with where people are at generally. It may not be their heart that’s suffering, but they’re suffering in some area. And I want to talk about that to give people hope and the hope that you have today.
Jim: So how are you two doing? Uh, how is your heart? How are the boys? What’s every day like?
Julie:Um, my heart is - my physical heart, um, I’m technically back in the heart failure range again. So over the years, I’ve - you know, my heart has improved some, and then it’s dropped a little bit, and then it’s improved some. And, um, this past May, I found out that I’m technically in that heart failure range again. And so it’s just another one of those opening your hands and surrendering, going, “OK, God, you have my life.” Every - you know, I can’t go down into a dark place just because my heart, physical heart, increases or decreases based on the year that I get tested. And, um, I just - my soul needs to be rooted in who God is and what his Word says about me and the fact that this place here on Earth is not our forever home. Like, our hope is in the eternal life, not just the life that we’ve been given here on Earth. So, um, physically, that’s kind of where I am again. And - and that’s OK. Like, we have - we come at peace knowing that whatever - whatever circumstances befalls us, we’re going to be OK because of Jesus. We’re going to be OK because of Christ.
Jim: Absolutely. But at times, in our humanness and in this world, this temporary life that we live - I love - somebody called it the pre-life, that this is the pre-life.
Julie: That’s good. I like that.
Jim: It is, isn’t it? That the next life to come is actually life eternal forever. This is just, uh, you know, the first quarter. (Laughter) But when you look at it that way, Julie, not many people, especially young people like the two of you with young children, have to face this kind of mortality. Um, and it’s hard. It’s even hard to sit and talk with you, because you’re young and you - you know, you - we talk and we believe in that idea that you’ve got lots of time, but you have to face the reality you don’t know how much time you have. It becomes real every day for you.
Julie: It does. ButI don’t feel like my life is any different than someone else’s, because God’s Word says that He knows our days before the foundation of the Earth. And so I want to live today as if it is my last, just like everyone else should be living their life today as if it is their last. And if it’s not, then what a blessing that we get tomorrow. Um, and even more a blessing if it’s - is our last day, that we’ll actually get to see Jesus face to face.
Jim: I mean, that is the key. And that’s really what I knew, uh, would come from you. And I think it should be an encouragement to all of you, no matter what you’re walking through, that God is with you. It’s so easy in your circumstances to cast off your relationship with the Lord as if he’s abandoned you. He has not.
Jim: And, you know, uh, the thing that I always reference when a young person is looking at life and death issues is that, guess what? We’re all going to go through that door. Nobody gets away from it. Uh, we all, like a funnel, lean in that direction. It just - for some, it may come early. And for others, it comes late. But we all go through that, uh - that threshold. And what I hear you say and what I hear you and watch - and what I hear you say and what I read what you wrote, it’s trusting God. No matter your circumstances, love the Lord and count each day a blessing, and in your case, literally each breath.
I so appreciate you being here and sharing your story and that vulnerability that it takes to say, “I’m broken.” And the reality is, we’re all broken. In your case, you see it physically. You can see the printout as a nurse. You know what that looks like. But the reality is all of humanity is suffering. And, um, I’d like to pray for you. Can I do that?
Jim: Normally, we - we have the guests pray, but I want to pray for you two.
Julie: Thank you.
Jim: Let’s do that. Father, we do take this moment at the end of the program, Lord, to pray for Julie and for her physical well-being. Lord, your hand can re-knitthat heart inside her. And in many ways, Lord, you have done that for her spiritual heart, obviously, and her emotional heart. But Lord, I would pray for her physical body, that you would touch her so it will be a - a witness and a testimony to you. But Lord, also, at the same time, thank you for the faith that Julie and John have in You, that no matter what, no matter the circumstances you place them in, they are going to be faithful to you and love you and love their children. And I pray for the listeners. Lord, if they’re going through something difficult - it may not be, um, their heart physically, it might be something else - I pray, Lord, that, um, you would bring comfort to them and that you would also bring an answer to the yearning in their heart. As you say, Lord, your yoke is easy and your burden is light.
Jim: Help us to carry it in that way. And we pray these things in Christ’s name. Amen.
John M.: Amen.
Jim: Thank you both for being with us.
John M.: Yeah.
Julie: Thanks for having us.
John F.: And, uh, once more, our guests have been John and Julie Manning. And, um, if you’re in a spot, as Jim described, where you’re very uncertain,then please give us a call here. We have, uh, caring Christian counselors on staff, and they can have a short phone conversation with you to kind of, uh, surface some of the main issues that you’re dealing with and then direct you to somebody in your own area that you can have an ongoing conversation with. But our, uh, phone number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY - 800-232-6459. And, uh, online, we’re at focusonthefamily.com/radio.
And, you know, your financial support allows us to create programs like this to get hope out through the airwaves and to provide counselors and to offer resources like Julie’s book,My Heart: Every Beat Surrendered To Our Unchanging God.And, uh, we’d, uh, value your partnership with us. If you can, please contribute to the ministry of Focus on the Family today and help us, uh, continue to reach out, in these different ways.
And when you make a generous contribution of any amount today, we’ll send a gift of Julie’s book. We’ll say thank you for your partnershipby sending a copy ofMy Heartto you and trust that you’ll be able to find a lot of encouragement there. Once again, our number - 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Well next time, we’ll hear from Becky Thompson. She’ll help women find the balance between motherhood and marriage.
Becky Thompson: And then we become parents, or just, really just wives that have had time go on, and we’re looking for their help. We want their help and not their heart.
End of Teaser