Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Dannah Gresh: After receiving troublesome life-changing news, Heidi Jo Fulk knew God was teaching her an important lesson.

Heidi Jo Fulk: He was merciful—merciful—to give us this huge thing right at the start of our marriage to say, “Your dependence is going to be on Me, and I am more than sufficient.”

Dannah: This is the Revive Our Hearts podcast with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of You Can Trust God to Write Your Story, for April 15, 2021. I’m Dannah Gresh.

You don’t have to trust God as much when things are easy, do you? When life is going the way you planned, the way you dreamed? But sometimes our lives take unexpected twists and turns.

Here’s one from my life. It’s kind of a silly one, but I thought I was going to marry a long-haired, blue-eyed fella. (laughter) If you met Bob Gresh, he’s tall, dark, and handsome—at least in my heart I think he’s tall, dark, and handsome.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: So that was the happy surprise.

Dannah: That was a happy surprise. But there are sometimes shifts and changes and devastations that we didn’t expect. And we can trust God then, can’t we?

Nancy: Yes. And the fact is, we need to trust God all the time, even when things are going according to what we thought or expected or planned. But it’s when our plans are turned upside down and inside out that we find out whether we really are trusting Him.

I watched you and that dark and handsome husband of yours go through that in the last year, finding out that your son and his wife were expecting their first child—you thought. Turned out to be two children. So that was such a happy, thrilling thing for you and Bob and for Robbie and Aleigha.

But then you discovered that there were some issues. Aleigha had to have a lot of waiting and stillness and quiet in the hospital before the delivery. And then those children were born, and it just wasn’t the easiest thing. Your worlds got turned topsy-turvy.

They’re beautiful healthy babies now, but there was a time when you guys were holding your breath and saying, “What’s God doing here?”

Dannah: And we all have those times. We all have those times when we’re saying, “God, I didn’t see this one coming. And if I could choose it, I’d wish it wasn’t here.” But we have to make the choice: Do we trust Him to write our stories?

Our guest today has a wonderful testimony that has encouraged me, and I think it will encourage you as you listen. She chose to trust God when there was an unexpected twist in her journey.

We’re going to talk to Heidi Jo Fulk. Welcome to the program, Heidi.

Heidi Jo: Thanks so much, Dannah, and Nancy, it’s so good to have this opportunity to talk with you both.

Dannah: Heidi is a member of our blogging team here at Revive Our Hearts. You and your husband Dan live in Michigan with four children, and you lead the women’s ministry in your church. Is that right?

Heidi Jo: That’s correct.

Dannah: Anything else we should know about you? What are the important things?

Heidi Jo: As a part of my job as the Women’s Ministry Director, my greatest joy is teaching women the Bible. I do that and have done that for several years now with a partner. Coming to women and opening God’s Word is definitely my heart and passion.

Dannah: Teaching has always been in your heart and passion because as a college student you trained to be a teacher—an elementary school teacher.

Heidi Jo: That’s right. I even got to do my student teaching with my own first grade teacher.

Nancy: The woman who taught you in first grade?

Heidi Jo: Yes, ma’am. Yes. The first day going into the teacher’s lounge, I was so the kid again. I was like, “I can’t believe I’m allowed in here! This is so cool.”

Nancy: You were in the same school where you went to school?

Heidi Jo: Yes.

Nancy: How fun is that!

Heidi Jo: Yes. And then that teacher got to tell all of students the stories about when I had been a student. It turned out to be a really fun exchange that we got to have.

Nancy: It had to be really sweet for her.

Heidi Jo: It was! I think it was a joy and encouragement to her to know, “Hey, this person that I poured into how many years ago is now . . .”

Nancy: She can actually read!

Heidi Jo: (laughter) Yes!

Nancy: And now she’s going to teach! I love that!

Dannah: Did you always want to be a teacher? When did you decide, “I’m going to be a teacher”?

Heidi Jo: Yes. I’m a classic first-born girl, and . . .

Nancy: Let me guess, because I am, too. When you were a kid, did you play school, and you had to be the teacher?

Heidi Jo: Absolutely! I’m the oldest. I just have one younger brother, but I’m the oldest of all my cousins. I made them come to my classroom in the basement, and I taught them. I had always just taken any opportunity to be the student tutor or anything like that. I wanted to be in those teaching roles.

So that was my dream . . . except in the fourth grade, for about six months, I wanted to be an astronaut, but then I got out of that. So every opportunity that I had to teach or to walk towards teaching, I did that.

My dream forever was to be not only a teacher, but a first-grade teacher, and to be married and be a mom. Those were the dreams that I was walking towards as I was in college and after.

Dannah: So it all looked pretty good. You were newly married, and you were about to start your first job as a first grade teacher—your lifelong dream.

Heidi Jo: Yes.

Dannah: Tell us about those first few days of being a first grade teacher.

Heidi Jo: I was absolutely ecstatic. I could not believe that it was a brand new school building, on top of everything else. It was literally my own classroom and my bulletin board and my desk. I was just overjoyed to welcome twenty-four children into my classroom. I was so excited to be teaching and telling my husband about it every night as I came home.

At the same time, I was expecting . . . because in college when you are in an education program, they pretty much warn you that you’re going to (especially that first year of teaching). . probably pick up anything that the kids bring in—whatever cold, whatever sickness. Whatever they have, you’re going to get that first year until you build up your immunities.

So I was having headaches all the time, and thinking, “All right. This makes sense. I’m doing a job full-time for the first time. It’s new.” While it was joyful, there was also those stresses. We were in a brand new building, so weird smells and other environmental things were going on.

I didn’t think it was altogether strange that I was having headaches every single day. They were often accompanied by nausea. I’d only been married less than eighteen months at that point, so I thought, Maybe I’m pregnant. So I took pregnancy tests, but I was not pregnant. Then I thought, Maybe I’m not having enough caffeine. So I started drinking more Coca Cola in the afternoons after school. I was still having headaches.

Because my husband had just started his job as well, our insurance had not kicked in yet. When it did finally kick in, I called the primary care physician we’d been assigned to to say, “Can I come in and find out why I’ve been having headaches?” 

And they said, “Sure, you can come in in six months.” So that wasn’t going to work.

We literally called the emergency room to say, “Can we come in? This isn’t really an emergency, but. . . (That was kind of before Urgent Care.) “Can we come in and find out—does she have some kind of virus or something? What can you do to help my wife?” (I made my husband be the one to call.)

We went in that day to the emergency room, and thankfully, we had a doctor that thought the worse. She said, “You’ve been having headaches every day. You’re only twenty-three. We’re going to think you have a brain tumor, and we’re going to give you a CAT scan.” And I thought . . .

Dannah: Oh my!

Heidi Jo: Yes! She literally said that to me. I thought she was completely insane. I’m, like, “I’m around twenty-four little kids every day. Give me some medicine and send me home.”

Actually, that CAT scan did not show exactly what was going on. It showed that the ventricles in my brain were enlarged. There was too much fluid in my brain. So then I got into the doctor real quick—I didn’t have to wait that six months. They sent me in for an MRI.

That MRI revealed that there was a 2.5 cm tumor in the dead center of my brain in my pineal gland that was blocking the movement of all of the fluid in my brain. That’s why I was having the headaches, and that’s why I had the nausea.

And the doctor who I had only met one time so she could order the MRI, called me on the phone to tell me that information, that I had a tumor.

Nancy: You were at home when you got the call?

Heidi Jo: I was. My husband and I had gone to . . . My brother went to the Naval Academy and he was on the football team. We had gone to watch him in a football game. When we came home, I went to church to audition for a Christmas play. And while I was there, my husband got the message on our answering machine that I was supposed to call the doctor.

When I came home from the audition, I did call the doctor. And sitting on our couch, she let me know that information while my husband sat beside me. After I got off the phone, he had heard bits and pieces, I explained it to him. I was scheduled to go see a neurologist the next day. She said, “No, you need to go to a neurosurgeon because you’re going to have to have this removed.”

We called each set of our parents.

Nancy: So what was the atmosphere like at that moment? Were you guys panicked? 

Heidi Jo: Yes. I’m kind of famous, especially in my younger years—thankfully the Lord has refined me—for big over-reactions. But in that moment, the Lord was already saying to me, “I have entrusted this tumor to you.”

As overwhelming and as scary as parts of the next few days and weeks and months were, I had a very sure sense from that very first moment of that phone call that God was going to use that to shape us.

We shared that news with our parents, and then we called our pastor. We had only been going to that church for about eight months. We let them know the news so that we could get people praying. We just knew that we were going to need that team of people praying around us. And praise God, He gave us so many people that did pray us through that.

Dannah: Before you tell us more about your journey, I’m wondering, what prepared you to have that kind of response? What happened in your life leading up to that, that would make you have this sense of peace and this sense of, really, right away, choosing to trust God?

Heidi Jo: I became a believer at a very young age, when I was five. My faith was very shallow and very surface for most of my life. When I went to college, I began to be taught the Word. I went to a Christian college, so I began to be taught the Word in a new way. I began realizing the breadth and depth of God’s Word in a new way.

I also began to realize my responsibility to live it out—whether or not I had been equipped to do that through my family or . . . I do have a believing family and parents. I praise God for that. But even if I hadn’t been equipped in every way by my church that I grew up in or by my family, I still have a responsibility to live out the truth of God’s Word and to believe the truth of God’s Word, whether or not I’d been given everything I think that I need human-wise to live that out.

Nancy: Sometimes it’s the crisis that God uses to help us learn how to live it out. If you never have any adverse circumstances, you don’t have to learn to trust God in quite the same way that you do when you get that kind of medical report.

Heidi Jo: Right. And realizing I had been a pretty successful student, I had been with my husband—we started dating when we were fifteen. So I kind of had the guy settled. I’d been wanting to be a teacher since I was a little girl, and I had the job settled. I thought that this was how my life was going to go . . . it was happening.

Those things were happening, and then to get this news where I was not in control of the situation. I wasn’t the bossy, oldest sibling, cousin, all of those things. I was fully and wholly dependent on God. Because it was so early in our marriage, what I thought about what marriage looked like was about to be shaped in all kinds of ways from that dependence on God, but also a dependence that I was about to have on my husband both physically and mentally and spiritually.

Dannah: Tell us about that. I think even when we’re in difficult times, when our life stories take a plot twist and we choose to trust God, it doesn’t take away the pain of the process. How did it impact your marriage, your job, your dreams?

Heidi Jo: My surgery was scheduled for just two weeks after we got the news about my tumor. So just the practical working outs of that, it meant I had to get a long-term sub. That meant my husband was going to have to take time off work. That means we were going to have to figure out insurance stuff. All of those things.

God worked miraculously in many ways. He brought a substitute teacher that had gone to the same college that I had gone to to be my substitute teacher. He brought a boss into my husband’s life that said anytime he went to work, “Go home. Be with Heidi.”

He provided a doctor who was one of only two doctors in Michigan at that time who was able to get into the place in my brain where my tumor was. That was who my HMO assigned me to, one of these two doctors.

Nancy: You’re saying you can trust God to write your story?

Heidi Jo: (laughter) Yes, a little bit!

Dannah: I’m going to say that I’m not sure you always see those miracles when you’re not trusting God. It’s so much easier to have blinders on to see the miracles because you’re focused on what’s wrong and what’s hurting.

Heidi Jo: Yes.

Dannah: When you choose to trust God, He gives you the eyes to see how He is at work.

Nancy: Yes. That’s good, Dannah.

Heidi Jo: It’s really true. I was twenty-three. I was still working out not only our marriage, but also my own faith in what our family was going to look like. I did have some doubts about God. I did have doubts about how we were going to live that out.

He was merciful—merciful—to give us this huge thing right at the start of our marriage to say, “Your dependence is going to be on Me, and I am more than sufficient. I am more than able. You’re going to find this in your work life. You’re going to find this in your marriage. You are going to find this in your family. And I am going to be more than enough for you.”

What a kindness that God gave me that. I could have found that out in other ways, or I could have not found that out. But He was merciful to give me this tumor in the center of my brain, that I was going to be able to keep my dependence on Him in all kinds of ways.

Nancy: Of course, you’re seeing that He was merciful as you look now through the rearview mirror.

Heidi Jo: Sure.

Nancy: When you’re in the middle of this, you couldn’t see then what you can see now.

Heidi Jo: No.

Nancy: This was a kindness of the Lord. I think that’s something important for us to remember when we’re in the crisis. There will come a day when I will be able to look back and see in the rearview mirror what I can’t see today. All I have at that moment is raw, naked faith. What I can’t see, God does see. What I don’t know, He does know.

So through the tears, through the mystery, through the uncertainty, your testimony now, in retrospect, is something that can help us when we’re in the middle of it. To say, “I’ve heard this story from this Heidi woman who talked on Revive Our Hearts, and she’s now saying that this was a mercy, this was a kindness of God.”

I think for us to be able to remind ourselves: The day will come when I will see about my current circumstance that this, too, was a merciful work and a kind act of God in my life.

Heidi Jo: Yes. In the midst of it, just taking each step and each part of what God is revealing to you, but knowing that hope of mercy and knowing that hope of purpose is out there. I think that gives you a lot more fuel to take those little steps and to reset your perspective.

Dannah: You mentioned that you had dreams about being a wife, and that was being hit by this battle with the brain tumor. You had dreams about being a teacher. That was impacted. You were taken out of the classroom for a time.

What about your dreams of becoming a mother? What kinds of fears or impact did you experience as a result of this?

Heidi Jo: One of the big things that happened was, after I had my original surgery, and they removed the tumor, it was benign. But my brain did not learn how to move fluid. So a month after my original surgery, I had a shunt implanted. The shunt drains fluid from my brain through my abdomen.

When we first found out about this shunt, I was asking questions like, “Is this going to prevent me from (even though I realize the baby isn’t actually in your belly, it’s still in that general area) having children?”

“No, but we do want you to wait about a year before you would try to get pregnant because even though it was benign, we want to make sure your tumor is not going to come back.”

After about a month after my surgery, I did go back to the classroom. And then a year after my surgery, we did get cleared. The tumor had not come back. My shunt was working correctly. They cleared us to go ahead and start trying to get pregnant.

Mercifully, God provided a “yes” answer for a child that very first month. But we found out about nine weeks into that pregnancy that we had lost that baby. Going through the loss of our first child, especially just a little over a year after my surgery, was incredibly difficult. As much mercy and grace and peace as I had felt and received from the Lord during that brain tumor season, I was not feeling that with the loss of that child.

In fact, I felt responsible because I thought that there was something that I didn’t learn in that trial, there was something that I didn’t do correctly, and that’s why God chose to take my child, because I didn’t learn something—which was a complete lie. Thankfully, I had friends around me, and I confessed that fear to one of my friends who spoke truth to me and love and compassion to me that that was not a punishment from God.

It was another opportunity for me to realize my great dependence on God. I was not controlling my health. I was not controlling my marriage. And now I was not controlling my motherhood. I was realizing in more ways every day that God was absolutely in control and could glorify Himself in me in any way He chose. It was not in the way that I may have pictured, but in any way that He chose.

Nancy: Were you tempted at any points to resent the choices God was making in your life?

Heidi Jo: Not resent, but I did feel sorry for myself. The practical realities of life that I had to endure because of the brain tumor and things like that, just the physical ramifications, and then now physical ramifications from a miscarriage, and then wondering if I was going to be going through a season of infertility. I was just feeling sorry for myself.

Like, “Hey! I had a good attitude about a brain tumor. Why aren’t You giving me a baby?” Just feeling sorry for myself—not so much resentment, but, “Hey! I’ve already done a hard thing. Why another one?”

Nancy: And how did the Lord walk you through that process of coming to trust His goodness and His faithfulness and His wisdom with a story that made no sense to you?

Heidi Jo: Well, in His mercy, He gave me some friends and His Word to start shaping my mind.

The very first time I was ever going to share my testimony about my brain tumor was just two days after I had found out that I had lost my baby. I’m not saying that this night solved everything, and I moved on from there. In fact, the guilt trip conversation that I just talked about, happened after this.

But I learned a very, very important truth: That speaking God’s truth, even when I don’t feel like it, is a very powerful thing. I chose to still give my testimony, because I was learning a very important truth that declaring God’s goodness and truth, even when I don’t feel like it, is essential in my walk as a believer.

I had planned on using verses from 1 Peter 1. I still read these verses with that baby who was not alive in my body. I stood up and said, “You rejoice in this, even though now, for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief and trials, so that the proven character of your faith, more valuable than gold, which, though perishable, is refined by fire, may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Those verses were still true even though I had that very great loss of our first child. The truth of the various trials that we had gone through with my brain tumor. And now—and it seems like that was a short time—and now, with another child even in the midst of another trial, God was still good. He was still working His glory through me and in me, and I knew that it was essential for me to declare that.

Dannah: Wow! Heidi Jo, there is such strength in your voice as I hear you tell this story.

Nancy: And such a powerful principle that we’ve seen in our lives and heard from so many other women, the power of declaring the truth about God, His Word, His ways, when your emotions are screaming exactly the opposite.

We often say here at Revive Our Hearts, “Counsel our hearts according to truth.” And it’s saying, “I affirm that what God says is true. I’m going to reject the lies. I’m going to proclaim His faithfulness and His goodness when my life feels like it’s exactly the opposite.”

And you’ve just illustrated so beautifully the power of the truth that sets us free.

Now, there’s more to this story. And, Dannah, we’re going to pick that up tomorrow with Heidi.

Dannah: And I think, Nancy, this is a really good time to pause and just ask our own hearts, whatever hard things we’re in right now, wherever the story doesn’t look like we had planned, or whatever disappointment we’re experiencing: Are we choosing to open God’s Word and proclaim the truth despite how we feel?

Nancy: Lord, You are faithful. You are good. You don’t make mistakes. You love me. You are wise. I think sometimes just needing to say those things, or do as Heidi did, and declare the Scripture, that these present sufferings and trials will produce a good fruit in me. And I feel that, but to say it even if I don’t feel it, until I do believe it.

Dannah: I think one of the greatest opportunities we have to glorify God is when we are hurting, because it’s easy to glorify Him with our lips when everything is going well. But let us choose right now, in the face of whatever’s not going well, to proclaim His goodness.

Heidi Jo Fulk, thank you for teaching us to trust God when life doesn’t go as expected. This conversation has certainly highlighted the importance of counseling our hearts in truth even when it’s difficult to believe.

Of course, that reminds me of: Heaven rules!

It’s a phrase from Scripture, and one Nancy says pretty often. It’s a promise of hope that we can cling to in the face of trials and difficulties. When the world feels out of control, and it just doesn’t seem like God is near, we can speak the truth to our hearts that heaven rules.

One way for you to remind yourself and those around you of this promise is through the new Heaven Rules note cards from Revive Our Hearts. Each card in the set is inscribed with a verse and a message of encouragement from Nancy, because sometimes we just need to see truth written down as a visual reminder when we’re struggling to believe God. And, of course, in that note card, you’re going to get to add our own personal encouragement to each friend or family member you send one to.

This set of note cards is just our way to remember the comfort and joy found in the Lord no matter what circumstances you’re facing. You can get the Heaven Rules note cards right now when you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. We’re going to send them to you as our way of saying thanks for your gift to this ministry. Visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us right now at 1–800–569–5959.

Well, just like Nancy said earlier, Heidi Jo will be back with us tomorrow to share the rest of her story. We’re going to hear how God used it to reach other women and how He gave Heidi Jo a passion for teaching His Word. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth encourages you to trust God in the middle of your story. This program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.

About the Guest

Heidi Jo Fulk

Heidi Jo Fulk

Heidi Jo desires to know and live God’s Word, then teach and challenge other women to do the same. Heidi and her husband, Dan, live in Michigan with their four children and she leads women's ministries at her church.