A Gifted Woman In Tragic Circumstances

I’ve introduced you to Jenny Rowbury before*. Though I’ve never met her in person, our hearts have been connected through her parents and her poetry. Jenny is an incredible woman.  A vivacious and creative person, Jenny was struck down with a rare disease that has left her bed-ridden and in constant pain for over sixteen years. In spite of that, however, she continues to engage the Father’s love and her tragedy in profound and playful ways. The combination is transformative. I’ve shared her poetry before because she is a powerful example of endurance in what you know, even if your prayers are disappointed. She’s a living testimony to the fact that while prayer may not always change our circumstances it can hold our heart in his presence while he shapes us.

She is releasing a new book of her poetry this week — We are Winter People.  There’s a video launch party set for this Wednesday, September 8 at 7:30 pm London time, which is 11:30 am Pacific Daylight Time.  This launch coincides with fundraising for her to have surgery in the U.S., which is not available in her country. I will be reading her poem, Gethsemane, which is one of my favorites for heronline book launch.

If you can watch that on Wednesday, please do.  I’m sure the video will be up long after the live show. I’m also encouraging my friends to buy her book; you won’t be disappointed. The poems are powerful and moving and I’ve found them encouraging to my own relationship with God. And if you can help her with raise the money necessary to have the surgery she needs in the U.S., please contribute to her fundraising page, which is gofundme.com/savejenny.

Jenny Rowbory was born in 1986 in Ashford, Middlesex, and currently lives in Wales. During her first year at university in 2004, she became ill with a virus that caused severe Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord), causing Jenny to become bed-bound and acutely ill for the last sixteen and a half years. In May 2015, after genetic testing, Jenny was also diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. This genetic disorder causes the body to produce faulty collagen. The biggest problem for Jenny is that the faulty collagen causes the ligaments and connective tissue in her neck to be lax, which means that it can’t support the spine or skull. So the vertebrae and skull move around and subluxate (subluxation is like dislocation) and blood flow is severely reduced, causing increasing numbness. Jenny had to have an operation in January 2020 to try to fuse her neck in place to save her life, as well as a decompression surgery for Chiari Malformation. Unfortunately, the fusion surgery was not a success .

The only neurosurgeon in the world who specializes in fusion (and fusion revision) surgeries and invasive bolt traction testing to determine the correct fusion position for highly complex Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome patients, is in the USA. Jenny is clinging to life by the skin of her teeth and has been trying to hang on for over a year while trying to fundraise enough money for the three surgeries that this neurosurgeon has said Jenny needs to have hope of staying alive and regaining some sort of quality of life. The money raised by the sales of We Are The Winter People will go directly towards this goal of getting Jenny to America to have the life-saving surgeries she desperately needs.

If you can help her, please purchase her wonderful book of poetry, or give to her gofundme page.


Here is what I wrote about Jenny’s poetry almost a decade ago:

Allow me to introduce to you a young poet, in the midst of an overwhelming challenge who has produced an amazing collection of poetry for all fellow-travelers in this life of living loved. How do you do find God’s love in the midst of excruciating pain and incomprehensible need?

I met Jenny through a book she sent to me when I was near her home in Suffolk England. In it she had written a personal note:

“You don’t know me but I just wanted to say thank you to you. I’ve read So you Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, listened to the Transition series and sometimes manage to listen to The God Journey podcast. They are great and have set me off on a journey and anew way of thinking. It’s like discovering the truth that was actually already there in your heart, but hadn’t quite realized it yet. Anyway, this is just a small token of my gratitude.”

The book was titled Rainbows In My Eyes and you’ll have to read the poem called “The Rainbow Bird” to understand it, but that one alone is worth getting this anthology. And you can find out more about it and Jenny on her website www.jkrowbory.co.uk.

Jenny RowboryThe story behind the poems is as tragic as the poems are triumphant. During her first year at university in 2004, she became ill with a virus that caused severe Myalgic Encephalomyelitis: inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. M.E. affects all bodily systems, causing Jenny to be bed-bound and unable to sit up because of strain on her cardiovascular system. 

Though deeply touched by her story, I was not prepared for the poetry within. Most books I receive with a tragic backstory like this one usually do not contain writing of this caliber or with this depth of insight. I am recommending the book to you, not out of compassion for Jenny’s condition, though I’m deeply touched by her need and now pray for her regularly, but because in her poetry she captures the God I know and the honest place of dealing with suffering in the face of a loving and all-powerful God. She is both playful with God and gut-wrenchingly honest. You’ll find in her words language to help deal with your own challenges and desire to engage the Abba Father.

To give you a taste of some of her poetry, I’ve included three of her shorter ones here

Can’t You Be A Magician, God?
© Copyright 2009 by Jennifer Karen Rowbory – Used by Permission
Can’t you be a magician, God,
if only for one day?
Forget about being wise and good
and do exactly what I say.

Can’t our prayers be spells, God,
if only for one day?
The right words in the right order
and bingo! We’ll have our way.

Make me better now, Lord
please no more delay.
I want to force your hand, Lord,
to make my illness go away.

© Copyright 2009 by Jennifer Karen Rowbory – Used by Permission
Pinned here
I kick and scream
try to punch my way out.
But your arms are too strong.

Pinned here
I sulk and ignore you,
try to freeze you out.
But you are too patient.

Pinned here
I spit and abuse you,
try to provoke you.
But your love is too great.

Pinned here I cry,
break your heart with my pain.
But you will not let me go.

Pinned here,
too exhausted to wrestle any more.
In the stillness I see
I’m in an embrace not a headlock.

© Copyright 2009 by Jennifer Karen Rowbory – Used by Permission
You are my treasure,
my pearl beyond price.
I forsake all my riches,
my wealth in heaven,
to come and seek you out.