When God Says No

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When God Says No

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I was on top of the world. Everything was going my way and God was right there with me. What a wonderful time to be alive! My wife, Marie, and I had been married for six marvelous years. Our 3-year-old daughter, Kristi, was the apple of her Daddy's eye. She was smart, beautiful, talented and rambunctious--everything you could ask for in a little girl. God was part of our small family, too. We had started saying daily family prayers, following the admonition of our minister. It was awkward at first but we soon got into the routine of kneeling beside our bed every evening and praying aloud. I began, Marie followed and then Kristi prayed. I then concluded our prayer. For some time, Kristi had mentioned that she wanted a little brother or sister to play with. We told her to pray for one and she did. God answered prayers and blessed us in many ways that year. I took Kristi to a park to fly a kite for the first time that spring. Everything went fine until the kite took a dip and wrapped itself around numerous branches high in a giant oak tree. The tree was not even in the park. It was in the front yard across the street from the park. Everything I tried from my end of the string did nothing to set it free. I was sure we'd have to cut the string and lose the kite. I told Kristi if she wanted her kite back, she had better pray because it was stuck for good. We prayed a silent prayer and a gust of wind took the kite, unwrapped it and set it gently on the street. Not long after that Kristi and I were playing with a large ball in her grandmother's back yard. We got the ball stuck high in a young tree. The ball was too high to reach and the tree was too small to climb. Again, we prayed. God knocked the ball out of the tree for us. Later, when we were heading home, Kristi began crying in the back seat. My wife and I turned to see that her arm was stuck in an uncomfortable position in her car seat. My wife told her to pray for help getting it free and in no time the situation was resolved. I, too, had been greatly blessed. God had answered my prayers and healed me of a hernia that had bothered me for eight years. It had completely vanished one day and had not come back. My job also was going well. I was promoted from the production department to become editor of my hometown newspaper. With the promotion I received a raise and a gas allowance which helped with the family budget. At the Minnesota Newspaper Association awards banquet I received a second-place award that year for best editorial cartoon. We were able to purchase a second car from a friend for only $125 and were blessed with free food and toys at Thanksgiving time through a community program that helps low-income families. And then there was the greatest blessing of all. God answered our prayers for a little brother or sister for Kristi. Marie noticed one day that she felt funny and we soon realized a little brother or sister was on its way. We asked Kristi if she wanted a little brother or a little sister. She replied that she wanted a brother AND a sister. She was barely 3 years old, but she drew pictures of Marie and said, "Mommy's tummy's getting bigger" and drew a little brother and sister inside Marie's tummy. Marie did not have health insurance. I could not afford to pay for family coverage on my meager salary. We also were very unhappy with the doctor who had delivered Kristi. Three years before, Marie's water had broken in the middle of the night. It was early on a Monday morning when we rushed to the hospital. Then nothing happened all day. There were IVs and fetal monitors and drugs used to induce labor. There were cramps and contractions but little dilation. The doctor told Marie she would have the baby by 5 p.m. or he would take it by Caesarean section. Kristi didn't come by the deadline and the doctor kept his word. Marie was scared to death to go under the knife for the first time. She did not breathe deeply enough of the gas that was supposed to put her asleep. She felt the knife cutting open her belly and she tried to scream but she couldn't. She heard the doctor say it was a girl before she went completely out. We wondered why the doctor was so insistent that the C-section happen Monday night until we heard that he left for a ski trip in Colorado the next day. We did not want to go through that experience again. We were determined to have our second child naturally. Every day we prayed to God that our child would be healthy and that delivery could be natural. We went to a midwife, but we were not completely satisfied with her service either. She told us she charged $700 whether she could make it to the delivery or not. There had been times when she didn't make it to some of her patients' birthings. We decided we were not going to pay someone $700 (that we did not have) if she might not even make it to the birth. Instead, we read everything we could about natural childbirth. We prepared in every way we could. Then we waited and prayed. We were sure God would answer our prayers. He had gotten Kristi's ball and kite out of trees. He had blessed us with jobs and awards and raises. Surely the healthy birth of this baby was more important than those things. Since God had granted those small favors, we were absolutely confident that He would grant us the healthy birth of our second baby. Others around us became worried, but we were not. Family members and even our minister told us we should go to a doctor, but we told them we had seen a midwife and everything was OK. Marie and I eagerly anticipated the new baby and we picked out names. If it were a boy, we'd name him Steven after my best friend. We thought of Misty Lynn for a girl's name. Kristi and Misty sounded good at first. But the child growing in Marie's womb was not a Misty. It was far more active than Kristi had ever been. It was continually on the move, hitting and kicking its mother and me. Marie said she could move her hand across her belly and our baby would follow right along, bopping her as her hand moved. No, she was not a Misty. We named her Deborah Dee, Deborah meaning "busy as a bee" and Dee meaning "dark" because we imagined her to have very dark hair as Kristi had when she was born. Debbi's due date came and went but she did not arrive. We didn't worry for two reasons. First, everyone had told us the baby comes when it's ready, not when we think it should. And second, we had absolute faith that God would answer our prayers and deliver to us a healthy, happy baby. One Sunday, Marie began several days and nights of labor. The labor pains increased and then went away. We called the midwife for advice. She said the baby would come when it was ready. On Wednesday, Marie became scared. She told me she had not felt the baby move. In fact, she was not sure when the baby had last moved. She poked at her belly, but there was no response as there had been in the past. Others consoled us, saying the baby was probably sleeping. The midwife told us the baby gets still right before the birth. By noon on Thursday there was still no movement. We decided to go to a doctor and listen to the heartbeat. I was so confident that everything was OK I made Marie wait until I had that week's edition of the newspaper ready to go to the printer. I figured we would hear the heartbeat and everything would be fine. I was wrong. I first knew something was wrong when the doctor, in his cramped little examining room, began putting his stethoscope in many different positions on Marie's round belly. He then told us he could not hear the baby's heart. I felt faint and had to force myself to breathe. The next step was ultrasound. The doctor and I searched the little TV screen for movement behind the baby's rib cage. The only movement we could see was some fluid. Our baby was dead. God had let us down. The doctor sent us to a hospital in downtown Minneapolis. He told us it had better ultrasound equipment and maybe the doctors there could find a heartbeat. This hospital also had to accept patients no matter what their financial situation. We went but we were not nearly so confident. Our prayers on that half-hour drive seemed to fall on the deaf ears of God. Doctors in the downtown hospital confirmed the death of Deborah Dee. They wanted Marie to deliver the baby naturally; that would enhance the chance of delivering naturally the next time she was pregnant. I spent the night lying on cushions on the floor of Marie's hospital room. I could not sleep for the grief and tears. I kept asking God why He had let our baby die. I kept wishing we had done something differently. If only we had gone to a doctor sooner! The next day the doctor gave Marie drugs intravenously to induce labor. She protested. Now that the baby was dead, she wanted it out of her body as quickly as possible. Finally, at 8:56 p.m. the doctors gave in and took Deborah Dee by Caesarean section. This time Marie took deeper breaths of the gas, and the doctor was in no hurry to cut because the baby was already dead. We don't know when Deborah Dee died. We don't know why she died. But we do know she was a pretty little girl. The nurse told me so when the baby was taken from Marie's womb. Debbi had been part of our family for nine months. I couldn't say good-bye without seeing her. And after seeing photos of her I had enough courage to hold her. Her body was still warm when the nurse brought her to me, wrapped in a small blanket. I wanted so bad to just breathe life into her little body but I knew it was hopeless. Marie saw Debbi for the first time the next morning. I held her one last time but this time her body felt ice cold. I said no verbal good-byes. It was no use. She couldn't hear me. But something deep inside said farewell to our daughter. It's hard to believe, but Deborah Dee would have recently marked her 14th birthday. We never heard Debbi cry or say her first word. We never saw her get her first tooth, take her first step or get on the school bus for the first time. We have been unable to watch her grow up and enter her teenage years. But she is not gone from our lives. We still have, in a yellowed folder, a lock of her hair. We still have the little cap the nurse put on her head. The folder still contains the plastic straps Debbi wore on her wrists and the souvenir birth certificate with her footprints on it. And there are still the Polaroid photos the nurse had taken. Fourteen years ago, I thought the nightmares of that week would fade. They haven't. As I dredged them up to write this article, they are as fresh as ever. But we no longer think about her as much as we used to. Debbi left us more than a lock of hair, a cap, some pieces of plastic and some paper. Her legacy is that she changed the hearts of her dad and mom. It didn't happen all at once. It took time. As we worked through our grief, we went from sorrow to anger. We both became angry at God and at nothing at all. While jogging one day, I gripped my keys tightly in my fist and flung them with all my might at a stop sign. The keys slammed into the red and white metal. The metal key ring sprang apart and my keys flew all over someone's yard. It took a long time to trust God again. It took a long time to pray intimately with God again. We still had family prayer every night but it was a meaningless ritual, just a routine for the sake of our daughter who was still alive. As time passed our grief and anger diminished. But how could we ever trust God again? We received the answer as we read through the Bible's book of Job. We realized as we read through this unusual book, that only those suffering from severe trials could truly understand what Job went through. He (unlike us) was righteous and blameless, yet he lost nearly everything he had when Satan afflicted him. Job blamed God. In the end of the book, the Almighty God told Job he was not right to blame God. We learned from our experience that the true God is all powerful. He is not a genie in a bottle to give us our every wish or a trained dog that obeys our every command. Why did God allow Debbi to die? I believe one reason was to show us that He is so powerful He does not have to give us our request. He doesn't have to answer "Yes" to all our prayers. Sometimes He answers our prayers with "No." And why did He tell us "No" when we asked for a healthy, happy baby? The answer to this is found in another book of the Bible: "A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better" (Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 [1] A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth. [2] It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. [3] Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. [4] The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
American King James Version×
). Out of the sorrow and loss we felt 14 years ago, Debbi, in her short life, gave her mom and dad a gift that strengthened our hearts. She added compassion and sympathy to hearts that, up to that time, could not fully understand grief and sorrow in others. Through the years we have been able to show compassion and to help many others through their trials, because we had been through similar trials ourselves. Fourteen years ago we asked God for a happy, healthy baby. He said, "No, I have a better idea." Instead of a living baby He gave us compassion, love, mercy and a vision of His greatness that far exceeded our limited concept of God. And then, seven years and a miscarriage after Debbi, when we were sure we would never have another baby, God said "Yes." He blessed us with another beautiful baby girl whom we called our "miracle baby." This time we went to another doctor whom we trusted and liked. We planned a Caesarean section from the beginning. We had no agenda, no ax to grind. We did everything we could on our part to ensure that Marie would give birth to a healthy, happy baby. And we prayed that God would take care of the rest. This time God said "Yes." Everything went well and today we have a beautiful 6-year-old girl named Melissa. Looking back, we have been doubly blessed by God. He made us into much better people by giving us the awful experience of losing Deborah Dee. We now listen compassionately and try to comfort others who tell us of their problems. "Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better." And then He turned around and gave us a second wonderful daughter.