About Me

My video interview for New Wine Conference, 2017 – on my journey of faith, chronic illness, and the silences of God

tanya profile pic 2016

© Tanya Marlow – Profile Picture

Bio in brief: 

Tanya Marlow is an author, speaker and broadcaster on faith and spirituality.

She is also a campaigner for those with chronic illness, disability and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

Formerly a lecturer in biblical theology, with a decade of experience in Christian ministry, she has been published by The Spectator, Relevant, Premier Christianity magazine and others. She admits to a weakness for karaoke, sunny days and laughing at her own jokes. You can find her in a vicarage in Devon, England with her husband and bouncy son, or writing honestly about finding God in hard places and the messy edges of life at www.tanyamarlow.com.


Author of Three Books: 

She is the author of Those Who Wait: Finding God in disappointment, doubt and delay (Malcolm Down Publishing, 2017) – a creative and transformative journey through the lives of four Bible characters who waited impatiently – and found God in their frustrated longings. Preorder from Wordery (free worldwide delivery) or look out for the introductory offer 16-26th October on Amazon.

She is a contributor to Soul Bare – Stories of Redemption ed. Cara Sexton (IVP USA, 2016) alongside Seth Haines, Sarah Bessey, Emily P Freeman and more.

Her first book, Coming Back to God When You Feel Empty (2015), intertwines her own story with the biblical book of Ruth, offering a path back to God after disappointment and loss. (Get it for FREE here).

tanya profile pic garden

What do I write about?

My writing covers a whole host of topics, but circles around the spirituality of suffering:

  • How do we relate to God when hard times come?
  • What if God doesn’t feel near?
  • Where can God be found?
  • What if we are plagued with doubt?
  • How does it really feel to have chronic illness?
  • Where does the church fit in?
  • What if we find ourselves in a wilderness or limbo state?

My background is in theology and ministry, but I have an English Literature degree, and I like to tackle these topics creatively, interweaving story and metaphor with spiritual truth.

I love exploring the Bible so it gets under your skin, ministers to your spirit, and leads you to Jesus.

Vulnerability and authenticity is a way to unlock courage in other people, so I write honestly about my life and weaknesses.

I dabble in feisty social justice, especially M.E. advocacy, rights for disabled people, and feminism.

This is a space for people who feel like they don’t belong. It is a place for doubters, lamenters, broken, disappointed, wobbly or lost – those who have seen the muck and of life and somehow still seek gold therein. This blog is for cynics and hopers, word-lovers and God-seekers. (I also habitually recommend good books and am occasionally hilariously funny*.) You are welcome here, and I’d love to get to know you more.

*honestly, I am.

tanya marlow feisty pic

Writer, Broadcaster, Campaigner:

  • I was the founder of Compassionate Britain, a grassroots campaign that united Christians to speak up for disabled people against the government cuts affecting their essential support. I also campaign for better treatment and funding for M.E. patients with #MEAction Network.  

Birthday Trip out of the house


  • I was formerly a lecturer in Biblical Theology, and Associate Director for a homiletics training course (accredited by St Mark and St John University, Plymouth, UK).
  • I have had ten years’ experience as a Christian minister in both church and student ministry, and have been a speaker and preacher at national Christian conferences (Spring Harvest, New Wine, Greenbelt etc). I hold a post-graduate qualification in pastoral counselling. 

Tanya profile pic wall


My health:

  • In 2007, I was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, a debilitating chronic autoimmune neurological disease, which affects my mobility and energy, and comes with a plethora of annoying symptoms. You can read more about it here.
2016 M.E. Action Protests for Better research and treatment

Sept 2016 – M.E. Action Protests for Better research and treatment

  • In 2010, my world changed when I gave birth and my M.E. tipped over into ‘severe M.E.’ Since then I have been housebound, needing to spend approximately 21 hours per day in bed, only able to leave the house once or twice a month for a brief trip out in my wheelchair. I now measure out my life in teaspoons. I need to rest much of the day, and have to strictly ration my time talking with friends, writing, or playing with my son.
  • In 2014 I was also diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), which means my body does not enjoy being upright, and my heart goes crazy when I stand up.
  • Living with chronic illness has shaped and refined my theology, and made me passionate about justice for marginalised people. You can read more about my response to this in Why Thorns and Gold?



My family:

  • I have an amazing husband who is a vicar (church minister) in the Church of England, and we live by the sea in Devon, UK. (NB the picture above is NOT Devon. It’s Greece…) He’s an artist, scholar, wine connoisseur, preacher-man and organiser of legendary kids’ parties. He blogs sporadically here.
  • We have a small-but-loud golden-haired son whose company we enjoy immensely. To protect him from future teenage friends googling his name and finding out all the cute things he did as a toddler, I refer to him online as ‘boy’.

tanya pic lounge

Wanna know even more about me? Click on my More About Me page for some fun facts.

But enough about me – what about you?  Please do introduce yourself, say, hi, interact and leave a comment, tell me your story – I’d love to hear it.

Wanna keep in touch? Please do! The best way is to subscribe to my blog (unsubscribe at any time). Just enter your email below and get your book, Coming Back to God When You Feel Empty, for FREE:




182 Responses to About Me

  1. Cathy 14th December, 2016 at 8:24 pm #

    Hi Tanya, I’ve just connected with you via Twitter in the last few days. It’s so inspiring to hear your story and see how you are doing enormously valuable work. I’m looking forward to reading more of your content and getting to know you better.

    Cathy x

    • Tanya 20th February, 2017 at 4:22 pm #

      Thanks, Cathy! Was great to ‘meet’ you via Cat, too!

  2. Andrea ( aka rokinrev) Stoeckel 5th September, 2016 at 3:19 pm #

    Hi Tanya! Good morning from Syracuse NY! My name is Andrea, and I am an early ( forced) retiree from the ministry do to neurological “blips” from being a fetal alcohol effect baby. This problem was intially diagnosed as early onset Alzheimers, but has been diagnosed as a sub arachnoid cyst. I’ll be 60 this fall. I use a walker. At 5’9″ I’ve always been a “weeble”( a US kid’s toy set of egg shaped no legs people) who wobbles but doesn’t fall down….but I do fall now. And my neurons can’t fire like they used to so I can’t sustain breathing like I used to, so singing, which I love, has been curtailed.

    I was gobsmacked to read about your adventures with the airline on RD this morning. I reposted it to my local church even who sometimes forgets me in the pew @at Communion….heck I don’t look disabled….I just can’t sit in a pew easily with a walker…so we tuck it out of the way.

    My spouse is my advocate big time. When we recently took our first trip since “tiara” the walker, she called Amtrak and we were treated royally…first on/ last off escorted, elevators…whole nine yards. But others also handicapped and didn’t tell the train, they got to sit in the cordened off seating area, they took the stairs, struggled with seating…etc. I wish everyone was respected enough to ask uf they need assistance…but, as we know…we don’t look disabled to society…ergo….we are assumed Faker…or Liar….or SSDI scammer….and as we know…assume means…..”make an ass out of you and me”

    • Tanya 9th October, 2016 at 11:44 am #

      Hi Andrea! Thanks so much for getting in touch all the way from Syracuse! I’m sorry to read about your early retirement and the loss of singing – I can definitely relate to both of those. Glad you have a good advocate in your spouse. Please do hang around my blog and don’t forget to download your free ebook if you haven’t already! Best wishes.

  3. Helen 15th August, 2016 at 12:29 pm #

    Hi Tanya. Just discovered your blog. And it’s just what I need! After a plethora of tests I got a diagnosis of CFS/ME last week. Whilst I’m relieved that I have nothing “sinister” (we thought possibly Cancer a tumour or MS at different points along the way) I’m frustrated that there seems such little consensus about what will actually help! I am left with no next steps, no treatment plan to follow no magic pill that will make it better… Nothing! I’m just not sure what to do now. I am a busy mum of 4 boys raging in age from 2 to 11 and quite frankly I can’t look after them, never mind get on top of housework or do anything exciting for me. I have been very involved with church leadership roles but am having to cut back on what I do. It seems that every new day I’m having to limit myself more. And I’m desperate to start going in the other direction! I feel as if I’m in my 80s not 30s and long to be able to squeeze more out of life than I realistically can. We are often challenged to dream big. Well my problem isn’t having the big dreams. All I do is dream big! It’s the executing I can’t do. I guess I’m just reaching out to others at this stage who I can journey with – others who are further along in the journey than I am. Your blog is like well needed nourishment to my floundering soul right now! As I am today, I have ALL of the questions ALL of the fears ALL of the frustrations and ALL of the tears. Looking forward to reading more of your wisdom as I seek to move forward and beyond, even if my circumstances remain unchanged. Thank you for putting yourself out there to encourage people like me.

    Helen x

    • Tanya 9th October, 2016 at 11:42 am #

      Dear Helen
      So sorry it’s taken so long to reply to this. I’m really glad you got in touch. I totally understand that panic and desperation you’re feeling right now. It feels impossible and terrifying. I know that there’s little support from doctors. My only ‘advice’, patient to patient, is a) make sure that you really have been tested for everything you should have. ‘Full blood count’, for example, does not mean that they’ve tested for everything. If you have any unusual symptoms that don’t quite fit, make sure they are aware of those, and don’t assume it’s the ME. Heliobacter Pylori, for example, is something they don’t usually test for, but ought to in many cases. POTs, too. Once you’re sure that the diagnosis fits, my second advice would be to put your health first so you have the best chance of recovery. As a mother, this is the hardest thing, because your instinct is to put your children first. But you getting worse will make it more difficult for your children in the long run. It’s a delicate balancing act. For me, I found that resting, pacing and varying activity, resting, resting and resting some more have been the most effective treatments. Worth looking into Magnesium and B12 injections, probiotics, vitamin C. We had to get help to look after my children. It’s worth knowing that you can make a case for adult social care if you need help to look after your children. It can be a bit of a fight, because they’re used to dealing with elderly people rather than younger, but that can be a way to access social care.
      But anyway – the advice only goes so far – and people are full of advice. I just wanted to say I’m really sorry this is happening to you – and it will get easier to deal with. Thank you for using your energy to contact me. How are you doing today? T

  4. Monika Bucher 16th January, 2016 at 10:32 pm #

    Dear Tanya, I just wrote a far too long comment on your blog and added the ‘about me’ bits. So here goes: I googled for ME support today and you were my find, really the Lord’s hand in this, since I am a believer too. I am a grandma of 7, soon 9 grandchildren and have ME since 2006. My main symptoms have been fatigue and achy legs, able to get about at home but limited walking. I had a pretty good year in 2014, able to walk 20 – 30 min, but a year ago a big relapse and have not got out of it. The unpredictability of ME gets to me at times, but thankfully I don’t have to be in bed all day. I love knitting, reading and listening to audio books and spending my early morning in God’s word and devotional reading. He’s certainly my anchor. My word for this year: ‘trust’ – in Him, no matter whether I have a good day or bad one. Bless all you mothers with young children out there, I admire you greatly and will pray for you!

    • Tanya 12th October, 2016 at 10:15 am #

      So sorry I came to this so late! It’s been great getting to know you more this past year

  5. Heather 23rd May, 2015 at 8:21 pm #

    Hi Tanya, I found your page after a friend from church suggested it to me. I have had ME since 2008. Originally housebound but over the years have managed to keep my job albeit from full to part time and I found my faith again! I spent 10 years away from church until the illness hit, I now have other health problems but I know God is guiding me and that every relapse brings new knowledge and experience. This is a great blog and im so grateful to find it. Wishing you well and gentle hugs and prayers 🙂

    • Tanya 21st June, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

      Hi Heather – thank you so much for stopping by, taking the time to tell me something of your story, and make that connection. I’m so glad that you have found God in the midst of chronic illness – thank you for your kind words about my blog! Come by anytime 🙂

  6. Ren 4th April, 2015 at 10:48 pm #

    Hello Tanya

    I have just finished reading your e-book Thorns and Gold.

    Much of the book was fresh and insightful. There was one area though that I felt I needed to write about – it was how Ruth’s actions were interpreted when she approached Boaz. With our modern eyes, it is easy to misunderstand Naomi’s advice and see Ruth’s approach as questionable.

    Naomi wisely sees that Boaz is the kinsman-redeemer provided for in the law of the Lord (see Deut 25: 5-10) who could marry Ruth. Naomi asks Ruth to approach Boaz at night because it would have been unseemly in that time and culture for a woman to approach a man in broad daylight. When we go back to an understanding of the culture Ruth and Boaz were operating in, we see that Naomi was not advising Ruth to seduce Boaz nor was there a hint of impurity in Ruth’s words or actions. Boaz knew what she meant as we see by his reply in verse 11 (‘you are a virtuous woman’) – he saw her as highly moral and her request appropriate. In essence, Naomi and Ruth were asking Boaz to exercise his office of kinsman-redeemer according to the law laid down by the Lord.

    Ruth could have gone for a younger man but she took the path of God’s Word and God’s way – rather than making her own best arrangements, she chose to follow the Lord’s covenant provision for a redeemer and humbly chose to offer herself to Boaz out of covenant faithfulness to Naomi and her family. No wonder Boaz said ‘ The Lord bless you!’.

    Our women’s bible study group have been reading excerpts of your book and I know that it is blessing many women and being read by many so I felt it was important to have the biblical understanding in this one area of Ruth’s approach to Boaz.

    In Christ

    • Tanya 7th April, 2015 at 12:05 pm #

      Dear Ren
      Thank you so much for this comment, and for reading and discussing my book. I’m delighted that it’s provoking discussion, and I’m grateful to you for writing so that I can perhaps clarify where I’m coming from in this particular regard. I’m so glad to be in touch with a fellow lover of God’s word, and clearly you also have a passion to teach it faithfully, which I deeply respect.

      I think we are both seeking to have ‘the biblical understanding’ when we’re approaching the book of Ruth, but I think we need to be careful when claiming we know the motivation of the characters, when we are not specifically told that in the text. I’m just going on what I think is the best explanation of the facts (which I appreciate may end up in a different place to you). However, I don’t think we’re as far apart as you perhaps think, so allow me to clarify a few things.

      It looks like you thought I was saying that Naomi told Ruth to seduce Boaz. If you read more closely, you will see that I didn’t say that. However, I do think there is an element of danger, more than a whiff of sexuality, and although it ends happily, it could have been so much worse for Ruth (or Boaz). I think we are meant to see the similarities between Tamar, so that the differences stand out all the more and the righteousness of Ruth and Boaz is seen all the more.

      What happens on the threshing floor, and what was Ruth’s intention? There is ambiguity in the text, and so the job of the biblical interpreter is to look at the facts and put together the most plausible story.

      We’re not told what Naomi intended or what Ruth thought may happen when she went to the threshing floor. Some think that Ruth and Boaz had sexual intercourse here: I don’t think they did, partly because we’re not told they did (and the Old Testament doesn’t shy away from telling us that people slept together, even when they shouldn’t have done), and partly because Boaz admits he knows that someone else has a prior claim on marrying Ruth, and I find it unlikely that someone who is described as righteous would have slept with a woman who could have been someone else’s wife. Others think that it was Naomi and Ruth’s intention to seduce Boaz. Again, although this is a possible interpretation, because she dresses seductively/attractively and wears perfume, it’s not one I agree with, because although we are told Ruth lies next to Boaz, her proposal is not that he should ‘lie with her’ but that he should be her kinsman-redeemer. Although it’s a little ambiguous, I think that ‘spread the corner of your garment over me’ sounds more like a plea for protection than a Potiphah’s wife-style ‘come and lie with me’. Although we can’t be sure about Ruth’s and Naomi’s intentions, I believe that Ruth’s actions were a bold and risky marriage proposal, rather than a Tamar-syle trickery or an attempt to make herself pregnant.

      However, there are elements about that narrative that do highlight the fact that Boaz could easily have construed it differently – he could have taken advantage of her, or thought that she was behaving as a harlot and denounced her:
      – she is dressed in her best clothes and wearing perfume;
      – she comes at night and lies down next to him, uncovering him in some way (either his feet or genitals, depending on how you read it).
      – we are told that Boaz has drunk till he was ‘in good spirits’ (which does suggest somewhere on the scale of tipsy to drunk).
      I’m not sure if I’ve understood you correctly, but you seem to suggest that it would be more seemly for Ruth to approach him in this way than in broad daylight. I find that unconvincing, especially as we are told that Ruth and Boaz conversed in broad daylight quite happily, and that Boaz tells her to leave while it is still dark, so that no one would see her there. If it is unseemly for a woman to approach a man and propose marriage in that culture (which I agree, it probably was), how much more risky was it to do so at the dead of night? While wearing perfume and her best clothes, lying next to a man who had been drinking? I think that Boaz’s righteousness is shown all the more in this context. I think we’re meant to see the desperation of Ruth and Naomi in this act, and the potential danger that Ruth was in.

      Another thing worth pointing out is that although you say Naomi and Ruth were asking Boaz to exercise his office of kinsman-redeemer, that was not actually his office to exercise at this point. He was NOT ‘The kinsman redeemer’ – there was a nearer relative. The other dude was the rightful kinsman-redeemer, the one with the sandal. It is he whom Ruth should have married, according to the the law, the Lord’s covenenant provision. The fact that the sandal-dude kinsman-redeemer reneged on his responsibility to Ruth was a relief all round.

      Did Ruth and Naomi know that Boaz was not the first in line? We’re not told. Perhaps they did, but they wanted Boaz. Perhaps they didn’t, but Boaz knew, and wanted to do what was right. I agree with you that it’s likely Ruth offered herself to Boaz out of covenant faithfulness to Naomi (and hopefully perhaps because she too had been impressed by his character and kindness).

      I don’t think any of this takes away from Ruth’s righteousness (she chooses Boaz, she does what Naomi says, and I don’t think she sleeps with Boaz). I do, however, think it is worth acknowledging the risk and the danger of what she did. I think we’re meant to gasp at the story, and fear for Ruth’s safety at that point – knowing what would happen in most situations (which I don’t think is limited to our contemporary culture, but is timeless and universal – especially if you consider how often rape and extramarital sex occurs in the Old Testament, even amongst God’s people), but hoping that Boaz’s righteousness would shine through, as it did. I think we’re meant to see the surprise of Boaz – that this is an unexpected and unconventional meeting, and that although he could have denounced it as inappropriate or harlotry, he chose to see through to Ruth’s noble character, and attribute it as kindness. I think we’re meant to see the parallels with Tamar (as she’s in the family tree and mentioned by name in the book) so that the differences between the characters and the outcome are highlighted all the more.

      Why did Naomi suggest Ruth go at night, perfumed etc? What were her motivations? Why did she put Ruth at risk? I think this is a little fuzzier – and we’re not given a clear explanation, so it’s open to interpretation.

      I really appreciate you getting in touch to explain your differing position on this issue. I’m sure many Bible-believing Christians have slightly differing explanations of the motivations of the characters, trying to best find the story that fits with the facts of the narrative. I hope that this serves to clarify my particular understanding.

      I’m so glad you got in touch! I’m really grateful for this discussion – I hope you enjoyed it too. Do pass this on to the women’s Bible study group, if you get a chance – I hope they also benefit from the wider discussion surrounding the interpretation of this passage. There are so many riches to be mined from God’s word!

      Many thanks,

      • Ren 12th April, 2015 at 10:15 pm #

        Hi Tanya

        Many thanks for taking the time to clarify your understanding of Ruth’s approach to Boaz. I agree that our understanding of this incident, though different, is not as far apart as I initially thought. I see your point that Ruth’s approach was unconventional and risky though I feel Naomi’s and Ruth’s motivations were honourable. It was very good of you to give us a full and clear explanation which was very helpful.


  7. Kelsey Munger 28th January, 2015 at 6:41 pm #

    Hi Tanya! I only just wondered over to your blog, still getting the lay of the land, but that I’d say hello. I love that you have a Must-Read Posts section; it cuts down on the “Where should I start?” dilemma I experience when discovering a new neighbor in the blogosphere.


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