My phone alarm goes off, signaling that it’s time for another round of medication. One little pink pill that helps my stomach to empty, one big purple capsule that helps the food stay down, and one tiny white tablet that dissolves on my tongue and temporarily dissolves the nausea. I reset the alarm and settle in to wait for the next round of relief. 

I feel like I have spent an entire year waiting. Waiting for appointments, waiting for tests, waiting for results, waiting for prescriptions to be filled, waiting for surgery, waiting for phone calls, waiting for answers, waiting to heal, waiting to get back to living. Waiting, waiting, waiting. I never imagined that last December, when I started vomiting nearly every day, that I would still be looking for a solution a year later. I did not understand how long it can take to heal a body that has broken down and how helpless patients are in speeding that process. 

I’m a driver, a “high D” for those of you familiar with the DISC assessment. An Eight for you Enneagram types. I thrive on moving things forward and live life as one big glorious race to a thousand finish lines that I set up every day. I value autonomy above almost all else, and I find assurance in my ability to influence outcomes. This year of illness has robbed much of my autonomy and has shattered my illusions of influence. At twenty-four, I am staying with my parents, am unable to work, and no matter how often I call my doctor, I cannot make lab work come back any faster. And so, I have found myself waiting, and trying very hard to find purpose in this suddenly blank space. 

Perhaps in gracious irony, some of the hardest weeks of waiting coincided with Advent. I went out of work on December 6, just a few days after an appointment at which I was placed on a liquid formula diet to help me maintain my weight and was instructed (you guessed it) to wait for labs to come back. Our hope was that in fifteen neatly labelled vials of blood, there might be an explanation of why my stomach has decided to stop working. As the winter solstice approached, my heart and my head fell into darkness with the days. Each day was the same: meds, formula, sleep, wait for the phone. My life, so full of color, had gone blank and black, like a night with no stars. 

In the dark, I turned to the light of others, and encountered this wisdom from Henri Nouwen:

We seem to have a fear of empty spaces…we want to fill up what is empty. Our lives stay very full. And when we are not blinded by busyness, we fill our inner space with guilt about things of the past or worries about things to come. Perhaps part of our fear comes from the fact that an empty place means that something may happen to us that we cannot predict, that is new, that leads us to a place we might not want to go. I might not want to hear what God has to say.

There can be creativity in darkness. In the absence of all else, great newness can spring forth. Indeed, out of darkness came the glory of creation. But over the last year, I have watched my beloved life slip through my fingers like dry sand, and I would rather just have all of those grains back instead of participating in any kind of new creation. But time, and nature, and the flow of life around us pulls us on—even when we sit in a puddle of inertia. The new year still comes. The days get longer. Test results do eventually come back. 

This is the grace of God: that in our darkest grief and our most motionless despondency, He continues to move. In all of this waiting and in these days of stillness, the bulbs are in the mud, fighting the frost, fighting towards the sun. 

I don’t know when I’ll be strong enough to go back to work, or to go skiing. I don’t know when I’ll be able to eat pizza again (and I really want to eat pizza again). I don’t know if I’ll be able to have a well-crafted cocktail anytime in the foreseeable future. Deeper grief comes when I wonder about dating—about finding a partner for the next adventures. I worry that I might have to move home.

There is no easy hope in this kind of darkness. And there is no hope except by way of grief. The joy I find in these days of waiting comes from wondering about what newness might come out of the space made by loss. Our creativity is limited by what we know, but God works best out of nothing and out of our weakness. In this faith I sit, waiting in the dark.

18 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Chronic illness/pain is a unique kind of hell. I thank God both for his un-ending grace (even when we’re thoroughly pissed off at Him) and for the other image-bearers in our lives who have energy for joy and hope when we just don’t.

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      How right you are. It’s a battle that I didn’t fully understand until I was in the midst of it. Thanks for reading. I hope you’re doing well!

      Reply
  2. Avatar

    Have you ever looked into vagus nerve disorders? I know quite a few people who had nausea, upset stomach, and bowel issues related to the vagus nerve being stretched or pinched. Just something to think about.

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Thanks for the advice! We are exploring all kinds of potential diagnoses, including those rooted in nervous system dysfunction.

      Reply
  3. Avatar

    Hey Ansley, I pray that you will find answers sooner rather than later. O, Lord have mercy.
    My word, you write well, girl. Thanks for your insightful, offered-up-as prayer thoughts expressed under such spirit-emptying circumstances. I also wanted to let you know that “Santa” brought me a copy of The Second Mountain for Christmas and I look forward to reading it.

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      Thank you for your prayers Dean. They mean a great deal. And I’m delighted to hear that you got a copy of the book! I think you’ll find it a timely and enjoyable read. Cheers!

      Reply
  4. Avatar

    This brought me to tears Ansley. It’s so beautifully written. I am so sorry you are going through this. Praying every morning for you. This blog gives me more insight into how to focus my prayers.

    Reply
    • Avatar

      I so appreciate your prayers and encouragement. God is good, even when life is hard. Thanks for the love ❤️

      Reply
  5. Kyric Koning

    Your posts are always a delight. Even when they have the same theme, you unpack it in new ways, peel off a new shade, find a depth I relish plunging into. Your thoughtful journey will reward you, I believe, in ways that may surprise. Continue on. May strength and patience travel with you.

    God bless.

    P.S. Henri Nouwen is one of my absolute favorites.

    Reply
    • Avatar

      You’re generous in your assessment Kyric, thank you for reading. I’m hoping to have sunnier inspiration soon, but I find value in these grey-day ruminations.
      Blessings to you,
      Ansley

      Reply
  6. Avatar

    Hi, Ansley! I went to high school with your uncle Clinton a few years ago (and am floored realizing how many that was). My daughter, four years younger than you, is going through similar circumstances. I can’t claim to have any astounding insights for you, but I was very impressed with your writing. I’ll show it to my daughter when I get a chance, as she often feels like she’s the only one like her, since her docs are flummoxed. I do believe God has a goal in mind for you, but in the meantime He’ll use you to encourage her. And I deeply appreciate that.

    Reply
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      Hi Matt! I’m so sorry that she is dealing with some of these issues. If it helps, I was diagnosed with gastroparesis following a smart pill capsule endoscopy that showed delayed gastric emptying. I’ve been getting all of my care at Cleveland Clinic and will be undergoing a “POP” procedure at the beginning of February. There is lots of helpful info on the CC website. I hope that she is able to find answers and to maintain hope on the journey.

      Peace,
      Ansley

      Reply
  7. Avatar

    Ansley your words and the writing by should certainly remind all of us that the answers to some of our most difficult moments, trials, and questions do not always align with our own expectations. Moreover, it is at these times that we will come to a crossroads with absolutely no idea on which way we are going to turn. Ansley, I am so sorry that you have to deal with this. I will continue to pray that the directions and expectations start to become discernible. Sadly in this thing we call life waiting is at times is the only thing that we can do and at times waiting is by far the most difficult thing that we can do.

    Your words are also very reminiscent of the song “While I Wait” by Lincoln Brewster. The words and the chorus from this song are a great comfort and they remind me of the very difficult days that I was facing after my serious fall 4 plus years ago when it seemed as if life had come to a complete stop and the answers were blank sheets of paper.

    I live by faith, and not by sight
    Sometimes miracles take time
    While I wait, I will worship
    Lord, I’ll worship Your name
    While I wait, I will trust You
    Lord, I’ll trust You all the same
    When I fall apart, You are my strength
    Help me not forget
    Seeing every scar, You make me whole
    You’re my healer
    I live by faith, and not by sight
    Sometimes miracles take time.

    If you have not taken the time to ever listen to this song or if you or someone you know is going through a trial that seems to be taking way too long then I would encourage you to listen.

    Reply
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      I love that song but hadn’t thought of it recently. Thank you for the reminder and for the prayers!

      Reply
  8. Avatar

    We are all so sorry for what you and your family are going through. We can’t imagine the stress and disruption that this is causing in your life. Our Life Group has added you to our Prayer List. You will be prayed for everyday of the week. We will keep your Mom and Dad in our prayers as well, because we know that all of this is breaking their hearts.

    Heavenly Father, I lift up Ansley in my prayers. Gracious Father, please send Your Holy Spirit to bring wisdom to Ansley’s doctors and health care workers, so they can give her the very best care and treatment possible. Loving Father, please send Your Holy Spirit to bring comfort to Ansley and her family through the knowledge that Your Son, Jesus Christ, is holding them close to His Heart, and that You, Abba Father, are holding them in the Palm of Your Hand. I pray this in the Name of Your Holy Son, Jesus Christ.

    “Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you…” Exodus 23:25

    “But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the LORD” ~ Jeremiah 30:17

    Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.” ~ Jeremiah 33:6

    “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” ~ 3 John 1:2

    “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 4:19

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Joe your comment was so encouraging tonight as a wave of grief and discouragement settled on me. I am humbled and awed by the many people who are praying—so many people keeping the light of faith lit for me and my family. Thank you for that, and for the beautiful scriptures. They are so perfect!

      Reply
  9. Avatar

    Prayers for you Ansley to be healed by our precious Lord.
    Your story is told beautifully.
    Continued prayers.

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Thank you Anne!

      Reply

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