In the early hours of a morning in September, 1995, it seemed our two small ponies had gotten loose from the tether we thought we’d secured earlier the previous evening. They had wandered up to the front of our house and then out into the road. An unsuspecting driver came up over the ridge, and in the darkness and patchy fog, didn’t see them, and her car struck my oldest daughter’s pony, Rose. Thankfully the driver of the car, a young mother, was not injured. And somehow, Rose survived.
As a Christian, I believe in the power of prayer and in God’s ability to heal. I believe animals are not an exception, nor are they out of God’s reach or His concern. And so the following days were full of petitions that God would make Rose well.
The vet had suggested giving Rose one week. If there was no improvement, we’d have to put her down. I watched as my daughter, Kristine, then 7 years old, prayed for her pony, and daily went out to feed her, water her, and love her.
When the week had passed with no change, my husband had no choice but to put Rose out of her misery. We buried her in a field behind our house, and Kristine marked Rose’s grave with a cross.
The hardest part of it all was trying to explain to my daughter why God did not answer our prayers. It was especially difficult because I didn’t understand it myself and I was angry with God. I truly grieved over that horse. But more than that, I struggled in my heart with God’s resounding, “No.” All I could tell Kristine was, “Sometimes God says ‘no.’ ”
Soon after that, a close friend spoke what was to prove prophetic, “Kim, I believe God could be using this to prepare you for something else.”
That something else was not far off.
In July of 1996, I and my husband, Mike, and our two daughters, Kristine and Kate (then 8 and 5) left the States for a 2-year missions assignment in Lithuania. As 10-year veterans in Children’s ministry, we planned to train workers and write curriculum for the churches in Lithuania. We had prepared for months and left with great plans and dreams.
Three weeks into our term, Mike experienced a seizure. Within 24 hours, a CT scan revealed a brain tumor. The neurologist confirmed this was cancer, that it was coming from somewhere else in Mike’s body, and that we needed to return to the States immediately.
We left Lithuania on August 16, 1996. Sadly, our time there was little more than an extended vacation.
Upon our arrival in the States, we went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. By the following Tuesday, August 20, two additional tumors were discovered in the brain, as well as a mass in his lungs. Surgery was not an option. Mike was diagnosed with “non-small-cell squamous carcinoma, Stage IV”. This cancer was very aggressive.
This was shocking, as Mike was never a smoker, and we were told this type of cancer is "smoker's cancer." It just didn't make sense.
Mike underwent ten radiation treatments for the brain tumors, followed by three chemotherapy treatments over the next several weeks.
During those uncertain weeks, I asked this question, “How much faith does it take?” and “What does ‘faith’ really mean?” In an email to friends, I wrote: “I have learned what real faith is: it is believing GOD CAN, without the guarantee that HE WILL. There IS no guarantee of that. Good grief, if the quantity of prayers were enough, we’d be back in Lithuania right now…but I know God will do His will in every situation, and this is no exception. I know that sometimes God says ‘no’.”
In spite of all the medical team at Mayo tried to do, and in spite of all the prayers, Mike left us suddenly on November 1, 1996, just 9 weeks after the diagnosis.
If someone had told me I’d face a challenge like this, I’d have said, “Prepare for two funerals. I will never survive that.” However, in God’s mercy He gently reminded me of the two beautiful daughters I had to raise. I also remembered the journey I had taken when we lost our pony. He gently spoke that I was His child and that my life was in His hands.
In my search for answers to the “whys”, God simply told me, “When you demand answers, you sacrifice peace.” That was a truth I hid deep within my heart. I knew I would rather have the peace that is beyond understanding, than to be plagued with questions He was not obligated to answer. There was no contest. I knew God was still a loving and wise God. He did not make “cancer” happen to us, and I knew that Mike HAD received the ultimate healing.
You know, when we dedicate our children to God, and pray for our husbands, I think we’re afraid to really give them back to Him. We’re afraid of what He might choose to do. What it boils down to is a question of TRUST. I came to learn a whole new level of trusting God with what wasn’t really mine to begin with. And in giving all my fears, questions and uncertainties to Him, I truly discovered the “peace that passes understanding.” I discovered in myself a strength I never knew. I found I am capable and bright. And while none of that made the ache in my heart any less, it gave me HOPE for a promising future.
In the years that followed, I bought a house, managed our life on my own, and then met an amazing man who is now my husband and wonderful Dad to my girls. And Mark and I now have two active sons.
Mike’s death was not the end of my challenges: in April of 1999 I suffered a stroke as a result of a routine chiropractic adjustment. And on July 4, 2000, my son, Colton, was born. One week later Colton was diagnosed with severe Hemophilia A/Factor VIII deficiency.
In spite of all these things, I have learned that God is good. All the time. When He says “no”, He has something else in mind for us. We are called to glorify our Lord, trusting Him with all we are and all we have. After all, “all things work together for the GOOD of those He calls according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28, my paraphrase).
When you demand answers, you sacrifice peace. Which will you choose?