Julie Manning was in the middle of giving birth to her second child when doctors noticed an irregularity in her heartbeat. Within six weeks, tests revealed it was no one-time occurrence.
But God had been preparing her for this moment.
At the age of 25, Julie left her career in corporate America to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing. While in nursing school, the Lord birthed a passion within Julie to care for children born with heart disease.
Little did she know seven years later, she would learn that her own heart was sick.
The Lord’s pursuit of Julie’s heart and soul through the valley of facing many uncertainties has developed a fire within her to live intentionally from moment to moment as if it may be her last.
Manning’s book, My Heart: Every Beat Surrendered to Our Unchanging God, is the first-person account of her journey from then to now – from a healthy woman’s normal expectations and self-reliance to the surrendering of her dreams, plans, and deepest desires into the hands of our unchanging God.
Part retelling and reflection, part in-the-moment prayer journal, her story takes you with honest vulnerability into the jaws of fear and suffering, and speaks realistic hope into your own story, leaving you with well-fought, well-placed confidence for the road ahead.
Facts & Trends asked Manning about her book, her life since the diagnosis, and how all of it has deepened her relationship with God.
What led you to write this book and share your story?
A few years ago, I became convicted that the Lord actually wanted for me to share with others how He was working in my heart and my life. By “others,” I mean my friends, my children and my local church.
If you would have asked me if I imagined that this conviction would lead to writing a book, I would have said, “You’re crazy!”
But the thing about our God is that He doesn’t conform to my plan or your plan, He changes our hearts to see and follow His plan for our life.
So, the words that fill the pages of My Heart were truly birthed from following Jesus out of obedience. Nothing more. Nothing less.
How has your perspective on life, on your family and on your walk with Christ changed since your diagnosis?
Since my diagnosis, my perspective on this life — that is, life this side of heaven — has indeed changed. I view life and life’s circumstances with more of an eternal perspective.
When I sit back and observe a crowded room filled with people, I no longer merely see people, but I see a room full of souls in need of Jesus, just like I need Jesus.
Prior to my diagnosis, I truly found my worth and my identity in how productive and efficient I could be throughout each day. A completed “to-do” list was rather satisfying.
However, I found that my eyes were too often focused on the assignment, the task, the accomplishment and not on the soul.
So, I would say that I am now more concerned with loving and nurturing the souls of my three boys, serving and being attentive to the needs of others and pausing to have conversations with the grocery clerk, my neighbors, and my patient families with the hope of displaying the love of Jesus.
How has your perspective on God’s trustworthiness and His heart changed over the past few years?
Simply put, the Lord has increased my faith in Him: His unchanging character, His steadfastness, and His trustworthiness.
He has given me faith to believe that God is who He says He is in the scriptures. I am so thankful for this. Left to my own devices, I would never have been pulled out of the darkness.
God’s ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts. He works in and through every circumstance for His glory and for my good.
I now cling to His promises stated in scripture instead of my own “wisdom” as we face what each day holds for our family.
Without fail, when I cling to Him as my anchor, His indescribable peace covers my soul so that no matter what comes, I will be able to say, “It is well with my soul.”
The prayers and journal entries after each chapter are so moving. Why did you choose to share the prayers and letters to your boys?
Should the Lord take me home while my children are young, I want them to know who their mother is … who their mother was … and the gloriousness of knowing and trusting Jesus.
I want them to know how I pray over them. And, as I pray over them, I am reminded that I am in need of those same prayers for my life, too.
I am not a perfect mommy. I make mistakes every day. My pride creeps in. My selfishness reappears no matter how hard I try to suppress it. My desire to control my children is a battle I fight daily.
I want my children to know that I need Jesus and that any goodness in my life is because of God’s grace over my life. I know the same is true for them … and so, I bow my head and pray.
How does the reality of living with a heart defect affect your daily life?
I will say that there are many things that I used to be able to do that I am no longer allowed to do.
You may laugh at this, but I am no longer allowed to do pushups. Ha! I’m not exactly sad about that one!
I’ve grown accustomed to my “new normal,” and I view life with the attitude of gratefulness for the things I can do versus focusing on the things that I am no longer allowed to do.
Of most significance to me is how thankful I am for the daily reminder that my life is not my own.
Every time I feel my heart palpitating, every time I experience shortness of breath climbing a flight of stairs, every time I take my medications – I am reminded that I am not the One who is ultimately in control of my life.
I know Who Is. And I need Him. I don’t want to live without a desperation for Jesus. My heart disease is a conduit reminding me of His worth to my life.
How do you hope readers will grow from reading your story?
It is my hope that the reader will learn more about God, His character and begin to see how the Lord is working in and through the reader’s life.
It’s my hope that the reader might just begin to live with an eternal perspective, seeing this life in light of eternity.
I pray that the reader will love God more deeply, seek out Jesus more fervently, and lean into the Holy Spirit’s directing of his/her life.
I pray that the reader would grow to love and daily depend on the Word of God. May Jesus turn His children’s hearts to worship Him with their lives – in both the exhilarating and mundane facets of this life.