My video interview for New Wine Conference, 2017 – on my journey of faith, chronic illness, and the silences of God
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).
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.
Writer, Broadcaster, Campaigner:
- I write regularly for online magazines She Loves Magazine, and Mudroom (USA and worldwide). I have also written for The Spectator, Relevant Magazine.com (USA), Premier Christianity Magazine (UK), Threads (UK), and BigBible.
- I am a broadcaster who has been featured in BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio Devon, and UK’s Premier Christian Radio (audio), and Big Bible Project, BBC Spotlight, Change for ME documentary (video).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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’.
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:
Hi Tanya. A friend sent me the link for your blog. I have severe M.E. I can walk short distances with my stick but can’t do much around the house etc. I’m a Christian as is my wonderful husband Jeff. We have two lovely sons who are in their twenties.
I try to stay positive but I’m not saying it’s easy. As well as working full time until four years ago I used to also be the Worship leader at church. Now I can’t sing much because I’m breathless, hold a guitar or even clap but I know I can encourage and pray for people so that’s what I try to concentrate on.
The hardest thing is when people don’t understand but my husband and sons are great and I have a good circle of friends who are very supportive so I’m blessed
So lovely to see you on here! I’m very glad that you found my blog.
I agree that the hardest thing is when people don’t understand – and it’s also hard saying goodbye to the things that were once so precious – like worship leading for you. Hope it’s a temporary goodbye and that your health improves.
Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment – I appreciate the time and energy taken.
Has anyone ever read Mitochondria not Hypochondria by Dr Sarah Myhill…as one with a relative with cfs,I would recommend it.
However,I am fortunate enough to have been trained as a scientist .
If anyone has any questions on reading this,I would be happy to answer.
Welli Hello .! How are you . I want all my days to be with and about God . I think i can do much better in my life . I am disabled and all i have to do is accomplish myself with the help of God .. Amen Thank you Jesus Christ . I am so happy and full of joy that you are my lord and Saviour .It is growing inside me like a mustard seed
Sorry this is nt a reply Tanya but couldn t see how to comment. My almost 16 yr old grandson suffers ME since meningitis 3 yrs ago. Next year is gcse time . He has dropped 2 subjects and now needs to drop more. He makes into school for a few hrs a day. The rest of his time is spent on his computer, hrs at a time. His mental health is suffering esp as his 2 sisters are now at ini and this was his dream. He has few friends as they race ahead of him in every way . His parents are distraught and feel so helpless. His has a good OT who he talks to occasionally. He doesn t eat well being a typical teenager. It s heartbreaking . His faith in God is waning as nothing changes. He is terrified for his future
Tanya you are a amazing women, I was touched reading about you god bless you
Thanks for sharing your story. I find it so encouraging to discover a blog where someone writes about chronic illness and faith so helpfully and clearly. I feel like I have been searching for that sort of blog for a while. I have Ankylosing Spondylitis, a chronic inflammatory arthritis and autoimmune disease. It limits my mobility, causes me fatigue, and gives me lots of pain. I was only diagnosed two years ago and I feel as if I am still working through what this all means for my life. I’ve always considered myself to be adventurous and independent and this disease seems to be limiting both. I wish I knew what God was doing! I guess it’s to do with trusting Him nonetheless. Not easy though. I hope you keep writing.
Thank you so much Lindsay. It’s really comforting to know there are others out there going through similar things physically and emotionally! Thanks for taking the time to encourage me. xx
I was moved by the article I read on your blog yesterday focusing on ME awareness. ME is condition my Mum has suffered with in the past. I’ve had only Glandular Fever. A nasty dose, and I can empathise with some of your frustrations. I had no idea ME/CFS was so complex or contested. Do you have an email address you would be happy for me to approach you by? I’m a Christian woman who has been removed from Church for some time because of overwhelming life issues, but I’d love to share. I have information I’d like to pass on to you, which could be pertinent to your blog and the treatment options and medical opinions you have become unhappy with. I don’t like to simply post a link as I’m not confident enough what I’d like to share would be universally beneficial to sufferers of ME, and would prefer to tell you more about myself and give a testimony.
Thanks for this! I’ve emailed you – do get in touch. xx
Hi Tanya, My names Dawn age 51 a Christian and a mother of 6, although only 2 live at home. 3 years ago I was self employed owner of a childrens day nursery and mum of 6 and grandma of 2. I am now housebound and need a wheelchair. The biggest thing I found that I struggled with was giving up control. Now I struggle with control of anything. How we take our life for granted. I relly dont see how anyone could go through this without the Lord. He has def been there for me through this illness and the troubles we had before. (I have 2 daughters with ME, and i had one who was anerexic and nearly died) Even though I didnt know then, but God brought us through all this. I think my body just couldbt cope with the stress of everything and now Im having to learn patience, not easy. While ill I have become much closer to the Lord and becoming a prayer warrier while I cant do anything else. Thank you for your posts as all very interesting. Keep well and God Bless xx
Thank you so much for getting in touch. I am reminded that Jesus spent 3 years doing ministry, 30 years just ‘living’, and an eternity either side of that chatting with his heavenly Father, which is a good reality check of what our priorities should be! Viewed from the perspective of eternity, your role as a prayer warrior is far from wasted… Praying that God will continue to be close to you. Much love xx
My situation is similar to yours and I’ve just discovered your blog.
You said: I am reminded that Jesus spent 3 years doing ministry, 30 years just ‘living’, and an eternity either side of that chatting with his heavenly Father, which is a good reality check of what our priorities should be! Viewed from the perspective of eternity, your role as a prayer warrior is far from wasted.”
Wow! this speaks so much encouragement to me!! Thank you!!!
I’m really pleased to have been signposted to your blog by a dear friend, Roz Arnold. I too am a Christian, wife, mother (of two small girls, aged 4 and 1), and ME sufferer, and am so encouraged to read the thoughts and experiences (albeit in small chunks as time and energy allow) of someone who feels and experiences similar things! The thoughts, opinions and wisdom shared both in your blog and responses are encouraging and challenging, such that I have been somewhat reluctant to get in touch, knowing that my thoughts are fog-bound and others’ comments communicate better than I would be able to… But then I realised the mutual benefit of understanding and being understood, the potential for friendship and learning from others, and sharing life’s joys and trials, and realised that I would be missing out if I didn’t reach out. And that maybe I can offer some of those things to you, or other readers, and that God can be working through my contributions to touch lives too… And so here I am saying hello, and looking forward to reading, digesting and travelling this section of life’s journey with you. Thank you. Kate.x
Thank you so much for getting in touch!
Your comment made me think of this quote from C.S. Lewis:
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
I very much value anything that you can share, as you have the energy. Actually, just knowing about you helps – I think it’s that thing of not being alone in this, and it being comforting that this is meaningful to others. Thank you so much for taking the time and energy to make a connection; I know how costly these things are.
Much love x
p.s. if you ever need to offload – do get in touch – ask Roz for my email address.
found you via a retweet to your blog on being a prophet – see my reply.
Truly humbled when I read your brief autobiog.
I’m interested in keeping in touch and will explore your blogs as and when – I’m currently having to have a serious de-clutter. I’m recently retired, making way for having my mum come and live with me (which will restrict my going out as she will need quite a lot of care), and have been finding out what I can do via the internet – have found some really interesting and helpful people via twitter (couldn’t seem to make sense of it at first)
Hi there – Thanks for getting in touch and your kind words. Blessings
you’ll have to excuse me — i’m a bit stunned at the moment over some significant things that you & i have in common . . . i am ALSO a Christian, wife, mother, & have an invisible illness that left me entirely incapacitated for quite a while (although i am very humbled to be on a positive, albeit slow, path of recovery & healing). and i am also tanya . . . 🙂
what a true pleasure to meet you, my new friend. i haven’t even snooped around your posts just yet because i had to go straight to finding out about you! so i look forward to hearing your heart. and while we do not share the same diagnosis, your symptoms describe my health journey to a tee, wheelchair & all. and so i want you to know that there’s somebody out there who understands.
hugs to you, dear soul,
Hi there! Welcome! Great to see you on here – thanks so much for getting in touch. It’s really heartening to hear of others in a similar situation, and to have friendly words!
And what a fabulous name you have! Hope you enjoy your look around. xxx
Just read your blog and found it so encouraging. The link was sent to me by Catherine Straker.
I too have M.E., am a Christian and am more or less housebound, but can get out a bit and have a little walk each day. It’s good to hear of another Christian with the illness and I’ll definitely keep up with it now!
I’ll be praying for you.
Hi there Vicky! Great to hear from you, and so glad that you found the blog encouraging. ME is such an ‘invisible’ illness that I find it comforting to hear there are other people in a similar situation.
Do comment whenever you have the energy and share your thoughts too – I’d love to hear them!