Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Abuse is not...An anger issue

Abusers often have a temper. They often seem angry and completely out of control.

They’re not.

This was a biggie for me. I truly believed my husband had problems with self control. He did lots of work around anger management with his various counsellors and therapists over the years, he bought books on it and devoured them. All to no avail. Why?

Because he wasn’t angry.

Some of my friends and family were ‘privileged’ enough to witness him simmering and even the occasional outburst (albeit nothing compared to the outbursts when they weren’t there) when I tell them that I have come to realise he didn’t have an anger problem they look at me in utter disbelief. He convinced everyone that he was a decent guy deep down who had problems controlling his anger. And even though many people are well aware that he’s not ‘decent’ that he is devious, manipulative and abusive it’s still difficult to shift the notion of him being out of control, because he does just flip.

So how do I know?

There’s a couple of giveaways. First is the fact that he only ever ‘lost the plot’ to the extent that I witnessed when there was nobody else there. Yes he would snap and simmer, he’d create an atmosphere and happily shout at me and the children in front of others, but nothing, absolutely nothing like the terrifying rages he’d get into in the privacy of our home. If someone is out of control the existence of an audience won’t make a blind bit of difference. If he could control himself in front of our pastor, his customers and my dad he could control himself all the time.  I’ll give you three examples of many incidents I can recall that demonstrate that he was well aware of what he was doing and had drawn certain lines he was perfectly capable of keeping within.

1- He was a strangler. He was very fond of grabbing me by the throat and putting me in a choke hold. He wouldn’t let go and I could feel my head getting lighter and the world going dimmer as I struggled, scared for my life. Yet he always let go at the same point; when my body relaxed and went all floppy. Towards the end I stopped struggling as I knew he wasn’t going to let go until I was about to pass out, I would just relax to get it over and done with as soon as possible and hope he didn’t mis-judge it. A man who is out of control, who has no idea what he is doing doesn’t have the ability to stop at the same point every time. He had drawn the line at the point I passed out- in his mind choking your wife until she passes out is unacceptable, that’s what abusers do. So he didn’t cross the line.  That’s control.

2. I remember the last time his mental health worker came to visit us. About five mins before he was due to arrive my husband had got ‘angry’ about something and had pushed me into the corner of the sofa .He was astride me screaming in my face so much he was spitting. As I looked at him I saw a man so out of control he was foaming at the mouth. By this point I had ceased to care about what he might do to me and I remember thinking to myself “good (mental health worker) might see just how crazy he is now and do something to help him.” However, literally a minute before the arrival time he suddenly stopped screaming and went upstairs saying “you can talk to …. when he gets here” a few seconds later there was a knock on the door. My husband strode down the stairs like nothing had happened, sat and chatted to his mental health worker, calm as a daisy while I sat shaken in the corner. When he left the shouting resumed. How could someone so out of control calm down for the time a professional arrived?

3. Most of the physical violence came from being shoved up against doors and tables or in the form of choke holds, but on one occasion he decided to completely beat me black and blue. I cowered in the corner of the bathroom while he shouted abuse and rained down punches on me, blow after blow, before he just stopped and left. He later told me he sort of ‘blacked out’ that one minute he was running towards me and the next I was lying on the floor and he realised he’d beat me up. He tells me he didn’t know what he was doing, he wasn’t in control, he wasn’t even there. Yet every single blow hit me round the legs and buttocks. The only tiny mark to my forehead was from where I fell. He was careful not to bruise me where it would show. Not only this but despite the fact that he’s a 22 stone powerlifter he managed not to break any bones or cause any injuries that would need medical attention- that would draw attention to what he’d done. That’s amazing considering our size difference. He was so in control when he beat me up. Again he didn’t cross certain lines he had clearly drawn in his own mind.

I would be willing to bet that every woman who has come out of an abusive relationship can tell similar tales, I could give you loads more. And I bet that many women who are living with ‘angry men’ if they thought about it would find their partners are not as out of control as they have led them to believe.

Abuse is about power and control. Anger is not, it’s the opposite, it’s about a loss of control. An abusers goal is to control you, and his seeming anger is just a tool by which to do this. He’s not angry, he’s choosing to be abusive.

Please check out the rest of the Abuse is not series by clicking on the tab at the top of this post

Sunday, 27 April 2014

How leaving an abusive marriage changed my attitude to homosexuality

I recently came across this blog post. It’s one that this time last year I would have probably agreed with. Today I found it truly offensive.

I could spend a long time going into detail about each question but I’ll just address the one that particularly irked me. It was Question 3
“What do you say to those people who are genuinely ex-gay or to those who are still same-sex attracted but have chosen to separate themselves to the Lord unless He changes them?”

It irritated me because it suggests that someone who is struggling with being gay can pray and if they pray hard enough and have enough faith then they will be made heterosexual by God, even if they have to wait sometime.

A while back I read an interview with Justin Lee, a gay Christian in which he explains how he felt exactly that. He describes how earnestly he prayed to not be gay, and when he still was gay he felt that there must be something wrong with him that God didn’t answer his prayers.
I identified with his comments so much. It reminded me how earnestly I prayed for God to fix my marriage. Just like Justin Lee knew he wanted to be straight because "God disapproves of homosexuality" I knew I wanted to remain married to my abusive husband because “God hates divorce” (it says so in the bible)

And just like Justin Lee felt about being gay, I felt shame and embarrassment that my marriage didn’t work. I felt that if I had enough faith God would transform my marriage and I was reminded of a testimony I heard as a child about an abusive husband transformed by God who fixed his marriage.

Just as the gay Christian hears stories of ex gay Christians I had heard stories of miracles within marriage, of marriages restored by Jesus.

So when I left my husband I felt I had failed. And I know there are Christians out there who do believe that a wife should stay with her abusive partner. In fact it is something I would once have believed, because I would have believed that God would put the situation right if she honoured her vows, especially if her husband was also a Christian as mine was.

But I learned that my beliefs around marriage and divorce were wrong.  I learned  through being in a situation where I was abused, where I am divorcing. It was not a case of me bending scripture to suit my situation, it was a case of God using my situation to instruct me, to transform me how HE wanted to transform me and most importantly to love me, just as I am.

If I can be wrong about marriage, I can be wrong about homosexuality. I don’t know if I am or not. I do know though that when I was wrong about marriage God loved me, when in my error I ignorantly behaved sinfully, he loved me. That he loves me now whether I am right or wrong, and he loves me when I get it wrong and don't even realise I am sinning. That whether our doctrine and the way we live our doctrine is right or whether we’ve got it horribly wrong, if we’re genuinely walking our journey with Christ then we are not eternally damned for our mistakes, but that in God-time we will be instructed, gently, lovingly, not by preachy Christians on blogs but by God. And this is why, if I believe another Christian has got their doctrine completely arse about face, if I believe that the way they are living is utterly sinful I’ll still be patient with them, I will still trust in their relationship with Christ and I will trust Jesus to do his thing, because it might not be them he gently shows the error of their ways, it might just be me. 

Friday, 25 April 2014

Chocolate Banana Muffins

My children and I had the most fantastic Easter holidays this year. We  were relaxed and happy and had loads and loads of fantastic fun family days out.  We were lucky we had the good weather but on a couple of days it was rainy and we had to find things to do at home.

One thing my kids like to do is bake, now baking isn’t my strong point and normally my cakes are better for using as building blocks than for eating. But this time we had success making these delicious chocolate banana muffins, recipe courtesy of…..well me actually 

I’m sharing the recipe with you because if I can make them anyone can….. enjoy.

You will need:
100g Butter
225g self raising flour
100g golden caster sugar
150g (at least) block of chocolate…I used dairy milk.
2 eggs
2 tablespoons honey
3 bananas- as ripe as possible.

This is how you do it
  1.   Pre-heat the oven – 180C, 350F, gas mark 4
  2.   Rub the butter and flour together until they are like breadcrumbs.
  3.   Chop the chocolate into small chunks and add it to the mixture.
  4. Add the sugar, eggs and honey- give it a stir
  5. Mash the bananas and add them- give it another stir.
  6. I have a very awesome Pampered Chef square muffin tin that doesn’t need any grease and is still non stick, if you have something like this you can use it, otherwise pop the mixture into muffin cases in a regular muffin tin.
  7. Bake for about 15 mins.
  8. Eat…yummy yum yum…

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Who the heck is Sally Hope?

Regular readers will notice I’ve suddenly adopted a pseudonym and made my blog anonymous.

Why? I hear you ask….what happened to the lady who said “I’m not ashamed to stand up and say I was abused” why is she suddenly hiding?

I’m not.

I’m still not ashamed that I was abused.

My husband was not charged with his crimes because, like many women who are abused I retracted my statement.  I don’t really know much about libel laws but I have learned enough to realise that by being identifiable in my blog I make my husband identifiable and this limits my options legally in terms of how far and wide I could publish it.

I have had to ask myself what is more important to me. Taking a personal stand against the abuse I was subject to; making it clear who I am and who my ex-husband is; or getting my message out as far and wide as possible and informing and encouraging as many people as possible about abuse. I decided that the latter was more important.

But it’s not only this practical consideration that impacted my decision.

Most people have been very supportive and encouraging about my decision to write this blog but a few people whose opinion I greatly respect have questioned my motivations in writing. Was it to help others or was it to seek justice against my husband? To “out” him as an abuser. It has been pointed out that if I am to move forward I have to leave justice to God.

I prayed about this a lot. I have asked God at every juncture to help me check my motives.  Do I only want to raise awareness about abuse or is there a part of me, maybe only a small part, that delights in the idea of my husband’s friends reading this blog and knowing who and what he is? Is there a part of me that hopes that somehow I’ll get some justice against him from this blog? And I do need to be able to leave justice to God if I am to move on and forgive my husband. I need to be able to trust God to deal with whatever he may do to someone else in the future and realise that I have no power or control over this, and no amount of shouting or impassioned writing will make the blindest bit of difference to his ability to manipulate and control another person, nor his willingness to admit he did it to me and my boys.  Of course this hasn’t been the motivation for my writing but I have to make sure it stays that way.

By making my blog anonymous I am being true to the vision I have for it. This blog is not about my husband. It’s about my recovery, it’s about my future and it’s also about you….you the rest of society who has to live in this world where domestic abuse remains a dirty little secret. You who needs to know what to do if your friends or family are being abused. You who needs to be able to spot if you’re being abused. You who needs to know that none of us are alone in this battle.  I am removing any identifying references to my husband because in doing so I make myself accountable to myself and to you, to keep this blog about hope and only about hope.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Abuse is not...

There are many myths surrounding Domestic Abuse. These myths not only create a society where women are not supported to speak out against abuse and where abusers feel justified in their abuse, but they also mean that many women in abusive situations are unable to even comprehend that what is happening to them is abuse. This means that they stay trapped for longer.

So today I want to start a new series. This is my ‘Abuse is not…’ series which explains what abuse ISN’T. Every Wednesday  I will talk about what myths I believed when I was in my abusive relationship, and using examples from that relationship I will explain how I now realise I was wrong.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE share this blog series with as many women as you can. If even one woman reads these posts and comprehends the reality of her situation we have saved another person from enduring what I endured for so long, and that is good. The truth about abuse is that it is everywhere.  Anyone can be affected by abuse and most people who know them will have no idea. So please share, because you DO know people affected by domestic abuse, whether you realise it or not.

So here’s my first post…

Abuse is not: Only abuse if you’re being punched/ kicked/ hospitalised.

Abuse creeps up on you slowly. I genuinely didn’t realise that I was being abused, despite the fact that by the end I was often bruised or tender somewhere from my husband’s violence.

I thought if he’d done it ‘by accident’ by ‘not realising his own strength’ or just ‘lashing out’; then that was different to intentionally setting out to do me physical harm. In reality, ALL abusive men say “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”  None of us really know their intentions, but that doesn’t really matter does it. They did cause harm and they did have a choice not to.

My husband only actually “beat me up” punching me repeatedly once. He was more inclined to grab me under the chin and shout in my face, or push me up against a wall/door/kitchen counter, often bruising my back or shoulders. He would grab me and hold me whilst shouting at me or block the doorway and refuse to let me leave. Sometimes he’d shout so much and so close to my face he’d be spitting in my face. I didn’t see any of this as “abuse” because I wasn’t being punched, kicked or hospitalised.  Regardless of whether bones are broken or marks are left, regardless of whether it’s a loss of control or a calculated premeditated act, all these are acts of violence, they are all against the law, they are all assault and all abuse.  The same if they are done to your child.

In addition I thought abuse happened on a daily basis. This is not the case.  Abuse cycles, there will be an explosion- sometimes an act of violence but not necessarily; it could be shouting or crying or attempting suicide.
This will be followed by what is termed “the honeymoon period” at this stage he re-builds your confidence that he’s a good guy. These are the ” highs”  that most abuse victims feel make up for “the lows” during this time you will feel loved and special and as though your relationship is “just meant to be.” Slowly you’ll find yourself in the next phase of the cycle, “tension building” this is the time he is simmering, he’s moody and bad tempered, nothing you do is right, you’re walking on eggshells trying to make him happy, trying to get back to the honeymoon phase. Instead this phase ends with an explosion and the whole thing starts again. At first these cycles could last a year or more and slowly, ever so slowly they got shorter and shorter until they were happening on an almost daily basis. The fact that what we traditionally deem to be abuse was happening infrequently led me to believe I wasn’t being abused. In truth the whole cycle is abuse, because the whole cycle is about keeping the victim under control.

Finally abuse is not always physical, and even when it is it’s unlikely to be JUST physical. Abuse is about maintaining control of the other person and most abusers will not turn to violence as a means to do that if there is another way. Emotional abuse was by far a bigger part of my relationship than anything else. I could write a book detailing the emotional abuse he inflicted on me but the easiest way to sum it up is this: 
If you spend your time walking on eggshells, changing the way you act, dress, speak or think either because of someone else’s emotional reaction to it or because of the way someone else has made you feel then chances are you are in an emotionally abusive relationship.

Not all emotionally abusive relationships will lead to physical violence but you can guarantee that most physically violent relationships will have started as emotional abuse.

For me I spent years thinking “it’s not that bad I’ll leave if he…..” and then when he did I’d just move that boundary a bit further. By the time he actually beat me up I didn’t even know where the boundaries were anymore.  He had been abusing me for about 12 years. I was broken, his constant emotional abuse had led me to a place where I made excuses for him without realising I did it, where I was unable to think rationally or clearly, where I couldn’t imagine a life without him and where leaving was as scary as staying, so I still didn’t leave. I would urge anyone who thinks they are being abused to act now, not to put it off until it gets worse, because it will get worse and it may be too late by then.

For more information about whether to spot if you are in an emotionally abusive relationship check out these links…..

Please check out the rest of the Abuse is not series by clicking on the tab at the top of this post

(Thank you to Carolyn Phillips for designing the banner for this series and providing photographs for this post. She takes beautiful pictures. Check out her blog here.) 

Monday, 21 April 2014


“What's in a name? that which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet;” (Romeo and Juliet)

Actually there’s quite a lot in my name. It means Princess. And my husband used to remind me of this, calling me his Princess

Sounds nice doesn’t it. Sometimes it was, at first I was a Princess and he was my Prince Charming, I believed the whole “love at first sight and happy ever after fairytale”  I felt special, he would write me love letters telling me how special I was to him, how he wanted to treat me like royalty, how I was his princess, given to him by God to cherish and protect.

And if he’d done that it would have been fab. But he didn’t. I felt more like Princess Barbie as he convinced me to keep my hair long, dye it blonde, as he bought me outfit after outfit and dressed me up exactly how he wanted HIS Princess to look. As I got older hints were dropped about having a boob job and keeping myself the right body shape in the gym- of course for my own happiness, a Princess deserves to be happy.  

Then when he got angry and beat me up he shouted that I was “a f-ing Princess who always has to have her own way” it really hurt to have his special name for me used to insult me as he punched me. After that everytime he affectionately called me his princess it served to remind me of what would happen if I stepped out of line. It reminded me that I was his possession and I was to behave as such. After he beat me up I always felt sick at being called Princess, he knew that but he still did it.

One of the things that any woman who has left an abusive relationship will tell you is that the worst thing about abuse isn’t the beatings or the living in fear; it’s the erosion of your identity. I have been protected somewhat from that because of my faith, when he insulted me I didn’t believe him because I knew I was God’s child, I knew God loves me so much he sacrificed his son for me. I figured if my husband thought these terrible things about me it must be him who had a problem. My identity was chipped away at and there has been work to be done to re build that, but it’s not been as bad as it would have been had I not already got my identity firmly rooted in Christ.

But by far the biggest chip to my identity has been my name. My name has always been the same, it was my name before I met him and it always will be. This is part of who I am. But he took my name and made it forever connected to my relationship with him, he used the meaning of my name to denote his ownership of me, and hearing it reminded me daily of the abuse. It’s something I have struggled with a lot recently.

God really knows what’s on our hearts because on the last night of my divorce care group I was handed a piece of paper which read: 
“[your name] Originates from the Hebrew name ‘Sarah’ which means ‘princess’. Daughter of the King.”
 In that instant I knew that God had removed my husbands ‘ownership’ of me and claimed it for himself. I do not belong to him, I belong to God. My name does not mean I am any man’s Princess, it means I am the daughter of the King. The daughter of the most high. The daughter of the creator of the universe, the daughter of the one and only everlasting God- yeah he’s my daddy, that’s where my identity always was, that’s why it couldn’t be eroded and that’s even what my name means. I am Sarah- Princess- God’s little girl!

And it reminds me of this amazing speech- this is Him, this is my Father: 

Friday, 18 April 2014

Freedom at Easter

If the Son sets you free you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)

No doubt you’ve seen this symbol a lot over the last week.
What does it mean to you?

To me it means freedom.

Today we will remember Jesus' death on the cross, and on Sunday we’ll celebrate his resurrection. For Christians this is the time we celebrate that Christ took the punishment for the stuff we do wrong and freed us from that punishment,  we celebrate our salvation and the fact that we can now have a relationship with God.

But for me it’s also representative of how Christ has freed me from abuse. It was Easter Sunday last year that I realised I needed to get out of my marriage and had the strength to do so. I do not believe I could have survived this year in my own strength, I’ve needed to be held up by God at every turn. Easter is a time to celebrate my eternal freedom from sin, and also my freedom here and now from sin.

And it doesn’t end there.

On the ‘first Easter’ Christ freed me from death.
Last Easter he freed me from abuse.
This Easter he is freeing me from pain and bitterness.

The last few weeks have been a struggle for me as the twelve month anniversary has rolled round. It’s been very emotional. But in all that I have reflected on my journey over the last twelve months, how whilst I might not ‘feel’ better I am now in a place of knowledge and have taken back control of my life, I have started to think about how I go about forgiving my husband. I have started to take steps towards removing the hold abuse has kept on my life even though I have left. This Easter I will look again at that cross, and grasp a little more of the freedom it brings by taking some more of my hurt, some more of my anger, some of my sadness and some of my burdens and leaving them at the foot of the cross for Jesus to shoulder for me. His yoke is easy and his burden is light.

Whoever you are and wherever you are on your own personal journey I encourage you to join me today and leave whatever it is you’re carrying around with you here, don’t worry, Jesus has broad shoulders and he’ll carry it for you. Come and enjoy some of this freedom that Christ brings, and on Sunday we’ll praise him for defeating those burdens. 

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
 (Charles Wesley)

Monday, 14 April 2014

Bittersweet Family Fun

Squished Jam Butties Anyone?
It’s the Easter Holidays and my children and I have been spending lots of quality family time together, sometimes hanging at home but often going for lovely family days out. We’ve been having fun together and I am realising how lucky I am.

It’s bittersweet though because I am realising how much I have missed in the haze I have been in the last few years. I have these beautiful, adorable children who won’t be little forever. This week I’ve watched them play and laugh, I’ve picked them up and given them magic kisses when they’ve fallen over and I’ve tucked them into bed every night, with one kiss and 16 hugs for one twin and 2 kisses and 17 hugs for the other who insists on having one more kiss and hug than his brother.

We have got up in the mornings when we felt like it, happily got ourselves dressed with no drama, jumped in the car and driven off for a fun day out, jam butties getting squished in our picnic in the boot. I am so grateful that I stepped out from the place I was in and can do this now, and enjoy the wonderful boys God has blessed me with.
"Are we nearly there yet?"

When I was with my husband we didn’t go out for family days out very often, there was always a reason- it was too much walking, he was tired, it was too expensive. And when we did go it wasn’t a fun experience. When I think of all the times I was persuaded to leave the children with my mum and dad while we did something “romantic” or something he enjoyed, or worked in the business we own. What a waste.

It’s also bittersweet because as we’re having such a lovely family life together my mind often wanders to how my husband could have been a part of this but chose not to be.  Even after I asked him to leave he always had the choice to change, to stop being abusive, to be a husband and a father and come home, but he didn’t want to. Instead of facing up to the hurt he caused he chose to surround himself with friends who would justify his abuse telling him I deserved it, that I needed “a bit of the Ike Turner treatment.”  To hang out with guys who cheat on their wives and encourage his drug use.’ I feel sad for him that the life he has now has come at the cost of having real relationships with a loving family.

It’s the one year anniversary of the abuse coming to it’s peak and me asking him to leave this Easter. It brings painful memories which both sadden me and draw a remarkable contrast to the happy home I now have. I can see how far I have come in that twelve months, I now realise how extensively I was abused, I realise he’s  never going to change or be the father my children deserve. In realising this I am in a position to forgive and move forward. And that’s when I realise how far I still have to go. I still feel conflicted feelings about the end of my marriage; I still both love and hate him at the same time. I know these things have to pass and there’s still stuff for me to work through before I can declare myself healed, but unlike last year I can see the road I am on and I can see the sun rising on the horizon.

The rest of this week I will continue to enjoy this special time with my children, and yes it will be bittersweet but I’m still not missing a minute of it.

Friday, 11 April 2014


My new house has a tiny little raised bed at the front. When we moved here it had a tiny fuchsia n the corner and the apple tree that my eldest son brought with us from our old house.

Now I’m not much of a gardener in fact I seem to have the touch of death for most things green, but I decided that since it was a small bed, not too daunting I’d try to cheer it up a bit. I bought a couple of heathers and my mum donated another bush from her garden and it was starting to look a bit prettier.

During the half term holidays I was fortunate enough to get a little time with each of my children individually while the other two were off out doing other things. One of my twins and I decided to plant some bulbs during his Mummy time and ever since my children have been asking me when we’ll have flowers- it’s actually been a really nice time of anticipation for them.

And now the anticipation is over. Every time I step outside my front door I am greeted by a lovely patch of colour. When I arrive home, even if I have to open my door to find horrible post on the doormat or a big mess left by my children I’m always cheered up by the beautiful flowers on my doorstep, they remind me of the newness of the season, that after the bleakness of winter springs something new, alive and colourful. They make me smile each day.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Children See. Children Do.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

My children are both the reason I stayed in my marriage and the reason I left, and in both cases it was for the reasons we see in this video.

I desperately wanted my boys to have a good male role model and I wanted that to be their Daddy. I don’t think anyone has more influence on a boy’s development than his Dad.  And often he was a great Dad and that gave me hope to cling to that these qualities would become consistent. He used to take my eldest son for Dad’s days out to look at cars, and my son tells me he has some happy memories of these days. He would snuggle on the sofa with the little ones and play ‘tickle spider.’  He’d take all the boys to our gym, it was an enormous exciting playground for the little ones who would sit on the equipment wanting to be like Daddy. Thing is, whilst he was good at ‘hanging’ with my boys, when he felt like it, I don’t think I can pinpoint even one good behaviour or characteristic he role modelled to them.   

And as my sons started to copy my husband’s aggression and disrespect I felt more and more worried that I hadn’t given them a good Dad to learn from.  My husband and I listened to a sermon where the preacher told us that boys learn how to treat their mothers and ultimately their wives from watching how their fathers treat them and that played on my mind as I saw my eldest son increasingly growing disrespectful towards me.

Ultimately I left because I saw my husband terrorise my smallest child screaming and shouting whilst my tiny boy curled in a ball shaking.  My ultimate decision to leave was not as much about changing my boys’ role model as it was about keeping them safe.  I felt terrible that in making this decision they were to end up children of a single mum because statistics told me that children deprived of a father didn’t do as well as children with a good dad.

The most useful conversation I had, and one that has encouraged me daily since, was with my very wise big sister. I sobbed on her that “it takes two people to raise a child” and she replied “no it takes a village, don’t make it a one person job.” Ever since I have not only allowed but encouraged all those in my life, male and female, who can influence my children for the better to be a part of their lives.

And I’ve felt encouraged that rather than deprive my children of a Dad I have removed a negative and abusive influence from their lives. There is a mis-conception in the UK, in family courts, in churches, in schools, that a father can be abusive to his children’s mother and still be a good Dad. This is not true. I have seen the effects of living with abuse on my children and I am seeing recovery and healing since I removed them from that situation. My children are flourishing in a way I never imagined when we lived with my husband and every day I am proud of each and every one of them.

And my children are not without a Dad, better than a Dad who sporadically lavishes them with praise then almost instantaneously tells them they’re ungrateful little shits, they have a heavenly father. The bible tells us that God is “a father to the fatherless and a protector of widows” (Psalm 68:5) and as my youngest children no longer eat their dinner so they can be big like Daddy but instead so they can “be big like Jesus” I see his hand upon their lives, loving them, protecting them, guiding them and influencing them to see and do in imitation of Him, what better role model could I want for my boys.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Friendships lost and found.

I’ve had a tough year since I left my abusive husband, it’s been a time when I’ve learned who my real true friends were. I lost a lot of friends along the way who believed the lies he told them about me or who thought it was okay to “not take sides” or even just people uncomfortable with the whole situation. And losing friends hurt, a lot.

But there were other friends too, friends who he had worked hard to isolate me from, who I had only a little contact with and who I thought I’d lost. Friends who came rushing across the country to tell me I did the right thing, to simply take me out for coffee for an hour and to support me. I had friends from years and years gone contact me and send me messages of support and encouragement. And I even had new acquaintances who he had prevented me from forming good friendships with offer practical help. I found that actually my best friends (and that includes family too by the way) have always been in the background, thinking of me, waiting for me to realise what surreal thing was happening to me and pick up the pieces of the 19 year old girl he broke and help me put them back together.

Sometimes in life we find we are like a tree full of dead branches that we haven’t noticed died. If we try to put some weight through those branches they’ll simply give way under us. But if we cut them away, we can more easily see the stronger branches that can help take our weight, that can hold us when we need a rest, and with the dead branches gone we can take time to cultivate our tree and build solid relationships with those who are life affirming.

It’s a shame that it can take a terrible life event, or a hard time for us to realise this, and it can be painful when those dead branches are all cut away at once- our tree can look pretty bare. But I’d rather be a small tree with only a few branches that’s growing, healing, thriving and bearing fruit than a huge diseased tree full of dead wood. I’m so grateful for those ‘strong branches’ on my tree of friendship, thank you for holding me up when I have needed it.

Saturday, 5 April 2014


I recently blogged about Psalm 56. In this blog post I talked about how God is on the side of the abused, about how I’m learning not to act impulsively based on my own sense of injustice, but rather pray, consider and trust God even when it seems like the abuser is getting away with it.

Well I have to admit, the key word in that sentence is “learning” and you know, sometimes we stumble and fall, we do the things we know we shouldn’t and we let things get to us that shouldn’t. 

Today has been one of those days for me.

It’s been a rough week here.   We’re getting into the meat of the divorce process and it gets to me from so many angles. For a start it’s not something I ever imagined I’d do, I thought my marriage would be for life. The divorce process reminds me, not of the loss of my husband (because really that’s no great loss) but of the loss of my dreams, those dreams of having a happy marriage, being one of those old couples you see on greetings cards- walking down a beach hand in hand celebrating their golden wedding anniversary and still besotted with each other. It reminds me not only of what I don’t have, but actually of what I never really had in the first place.

So it’s not a good place to start from anyway, but then there’s the whole nastiness of it. I’m sure getting a divorce from anyone can be pretty acrimonious but divorcing a manipulative and abusive controller takes things to a whole new level. And it’s tough when someone you always thought the best of is deliberately cruel and difficult. More than this, one of the things I regret most about my relationship is how my husband brought out the worst in me, I always had a tendency to be a bit sharp and cutting and my relationship seemed to cultivate that. In the year since I have left I have found that the desire to be that person isn’t there, and in fact it’s no effort for me to be gentler and kinder. Except for when he’s getting to me, and then ‘The Mrs’ starts to rear her ugly head again, I don’t like that, if I am allowing him to affect my behaviour and my thoughts like this I’m allowing him to continue to control me

So today I did something I am not proud of and I didn’t do what I said I was learning to do. I didn’t pray, I didn’t trust God. I saw him behaving in an unjust way and I reacted impulsively. And I’m cross with myself, not just because I played into his hands, but more because I allowed him to influence me, to exert a tiny bit of control over me, I allowed him to get to me and I didn’t trust God to deal with it.

And I wanted to blog about this because it’s all well and good me saying “life is so much better without abuse” and “I got through it so other people can too” but I think it’s important to be honest. I don’t sail through it, I stumble through it, I find my way but I make mistakes. If you or someone you know is in this position you’ll make mistakes too, and I think it’s important to know you’re not alone in that.

But it’s also important to know that tomorrow is another day. In the words of Confucius “Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall” And tomorrow we get back up again, we brush the dust of today off our feet. We repent. Yes, we repent.  And you know what, our wonderful God forgives us and gets back to the business of standing by us in our suffering and making just the unjust.

So tomorrow I will get up, I will not complain about what he has got out of all this, I will not worry about what games he is playing or what he is up to. I will look at my children, I will look at their pictures on the wall and mess under my feet, I will check out the flowers in my garden, I will hang with my friends and family and I will worship my God, knowing that man can take nothing of any real value from me. 

I might just be singing along to Chumbawumba too...

Friday, 4 April 2014

Beautiful Mess

My children had a bit of a shock last week, the sky box packed in and they were thrust into the dark ages where they didn’t have ten million channels of kids shows to choose from and couldn’t pause the TV when they needed the loo or when I called them into the kitchen for dinner. Thankfully, while they were all out at school the engineer showed up to fix it- complete with his hard hat.

I think when he stepped into my house he was pleased he had the hard hat! He initially went into the living room to check the box but I was mortified to realise he needed to work on the cable which runs through the dining room.

You see my dining room is more like what you’d call ‘the family room’ or even ‘the playroom.’ It’s where my family does life, the younger children keep most of their toys in there and play on the floor and the dining table is usually covered in letters from school, post, their artwork- lots and lots of their artwork, and often a whole pile of unfinished projects. That day it was covered in paint, paint pots and brushes, glue, bits of cut up card and paper- it was a real mess from the Easter project they were all working on the previous night. The floor was at it’s worst too, they’d had the Lego out, and instead of keeping it all on the tablecloth I give them to play with it on they’d scattered it around the room, along with a bunch of other stuff too; action man, spiderman, a batmobile, pieces of a playmobil castle- these things were strewn- abandoned on the floor.

I was embarrassed by the mess.

The sky engineer said “I take it you have children” I laughed and blushed “is it obvious?” I spent the rest of the time he was there fluctuating between apologising for the mess “I’m so sorry these toys are in your way” making excuses “it’s been a really busy week” and trying to laugh it off “kids eh, they make a mess faster than I can tidy!” I pottered round the room picking up toys while he worked. In between my profuse apologies we chatted about the toys, he told me how the action man toys brought back memories of his own childhood, he shared how he’d enjoyed building Lego with his son, and laughed at my twin’s escapades, telling me his sister had twins and they were a right handful too. In fact I was starting to forget my embarrassment when he asked if he could use the loo……

“Um yes, and I am so sorry it’s so mingin’ it’s cause I have three boys”

I realise though that I shouldn’t have been embarrassed by my home, I should have been proud of it. A stranger came into my home and the first thing he noticed was that it’s a home where children play and are happy. Whilst he was in my home this man was reminded of fun times with his own family and felt safe to share his cherished memories with me, he clearly recognised a house full of love, warmth, fun and family. Yes it was untidy, because the priorities in this house are spending time together, having fun and being creative. My home is a place where my children are free to make a noise, make a mess, express themselves and basically do what children do. The first thing you see when you walk in my dining room (well apart from the toys on the floor) is a massive wall full of my children’s artwork. I am so proud of how clever and creative my children are, I love to display their work on the wall; it’s beautiful, just as beautiful as the Chas Jacobs and Banksy pictures that adorn my other walls. And you know their mess, well that’s beautiful too, because it’s their mess, it’s my family’s mess. It’s our mess.
My Childrens Art Wall

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Tears in a Bottle

Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
    all day long an attacker oppresses me;
 my enemies trample on me all day long,
    for many attack me proudly.
 When I am afraid,
    I put my trust in you.
 In God, whose word I praise,
    in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
    What can flesh do to me?

 All day long they injure my cause;
    all their thoughts are against me for evil.
They stir up strife, they lurk;
    they watch my steps,
    as they have waited for my life.

 For their crime will they escape?
    In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!

 You have kept count of my tossings;[
    put my tears in your bottle.
    Are they not in your book?
 Then my enemies will turn back
    in the day when I call.
    This I know, that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise,
    in the Lord, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
    What can man do to me?

I must perform my vows to you, O God;
    I will render thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered my soul from death,
    yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
    in the light of life.
  (Psalm 56)

God has put this psalm in front of me a lot recently, whenever my abuser has been particularly nasty, and I’ve found it really helpful.  David describes feeling like someone is utterly out to hurt him and cause him harm, that they spend all day plotting against him; watching him, waiting for their opportunity to cause him to suffer. He wonders if they will escape justice and get away with their crime. I think all abused women can relate to these feelings, I know I can.

But he goes on to tell us we are not alone in our suffering, it’s not going unnoticed, 
God is on the side of the abused.  How beautiful a picture he paints of God putting our tears in a bottle. God counts all the hurts we suffer he knows every single pain we feel and tear we shed, and he stands with us in that pain. I’m lucky I have a wonderful family who know when to just stand and hug me, and God’s like that, he stands with us, he holds us, he cares. What more do we need in our pain than the support of a loving father and Almighty God?

But more than this, David tells us three times to trust God. I don’t know about you but I have a tendency to lean on my own ability to defend myself when I feel cornered. I am impulsive and during this time so many ways I could get revenge or fight back cross my mind. But I’m learning not to impulsively take action based on my own sense of injustice. Rather I try to give the matter to God, to talk to God about what I feel I should do and wait a while before I act. I’m learning to trust God with the situation. Sometimes it feels like the abuser will escape justice, like we aren’t doing enough to stop them, but we need to trust God, he’s got our back.

We’re also told to praise God. It’s difficult to praise God when we hurt, we’re so consumed by our pain, or by what is happening to us we tend to go to God with a list of problems. But it’s good to know that whatever happens God is unchanging. He is God. God deserves  our praise whatever our life circumstances.  And it is when we ‘delight ourselves in the Lord that he will give us the desires of our heart’ (Psalm 37 3-5)

Finally we’re assured of the win. Now bear in mind this might not look how we expect it to, but ultimately we’re asked “what can man do to me?” now think about it…what can he do? There’s a lot an abuser can do to harm us physically, financially, even emotionally but ultimately nothing can separate you from the love of God, you’re under his protection and nothing that actually matters in the grand scheme of things can be taken from you. Abusers sap our freedoms, even when we leave they keep control over us, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It may seem that they have the power but they don’t. God does, and we’re assured that if we trust in Him, praise Him and remain faithful to him we’ll be able to “Walk before God in the Light of Life” and for me this is the pinnacle of my triumph over abuse, because I have stepped out from the dark shadowy place he kept me in and now I walk in the light of life, and he can’t take that from me.