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If I had used the time before I got married to thoroughly check out my husband then I might have escaped a nightmare. Well, to be honest, the first indication that there was a major problem should have been obvious within a month of meeting him. Unfortunately, something happened that made it impossible to see how serious this issue was until after we were married. A month after I was married I was wondering what on earth I had got myself into. Six months later I knew there was another layer of issues. Nine years later a series of discomforts exploded into a nightmare and gained a label.

It was increasingly obvious that I was not finding married life easy but it never felt right to jump ship and start a new life. There were no shortage of reasons to start again. It was just that I thought it was wrong. The problem was I was not strong enough to cope in the situation I found myself in. My imperfections were magnified by his and life became a nightmare. Our imperfections led to us making choices in terms of what we spent and where we lived that made the situation worse.

Looking back it was these imperfections that led to me staying put for so many years. In the end, I got the order of the boot because he could no longer stand my imperfections. There again it was also the grace of God that I got a second chance. I had learned a lot of lessons the hard way and I had the opportunity to do things differently next time.

One major reason why we stay stuck

In the beginning, one of my main reasons for sticking things out was that I thought that God had led me into that situation. These days I see things a bit differently. You see I had nothing to hang the idea that God had encouraged me to get married so therefore it must be the right thing for me to be married. Therefore to walk away from the situation was to go against what God’s best for me.

That view was strengthened by all the teaching in the church about divorce being wrong and should be avoided at all costs. On top of that when I was a child there were some major changes in the divorce law and as a result, there was a lot of media interest in the topic. I had heard so much criticism about divorce that there was no way that I would willingly go in that direction. In a sense that was my problem.

Today I see things very differently. I know God allowed me to be there for a season. I also know that when I finally realised that I was in a situation that I needed to be rescued from He did so. Good friends who were solid Christians suggested that I walked away from that marriage and I refused to listen to them. I was put in that situation and I needed to stay there.

How did I finally escape? One day I was just so frustrated that I screamed at God. I said that I was stuck and that I needed to get unstuck so that I could serve Him better, That was totally out of character for me but I was at the end of my tether. I could not take any more.

That was when I learnt a big lesson about free will. Once I allowed God to change things in the way that He wanted to change them my life started changing. It was really quite strange. I did not have to do much as things sort of happened around me. There were times when God must have got really quite sick of me because he wanted to do things to change my life and I was resisting Him. Even as he was carrying me out I was trying to stay in and make things better.

Looking back He encouraged me to go in that direction for a reason. There were many lessons that I could have only learnt by being in that situation. Like the idea of our freewill getting in His way at times. My free will kept me in a nightmare for years. When I handed the reins over to Him and let Him take control of the situation He got me out of there quickly and relatively painlessly.

In one sense this has made it hard for me to see other people stuck in what I consider to be the wrong way of thinking. Things like I deserve this or nothing good happens to me. Or even I have to have a job or else I will not have enough money.

You see these things sound normal and natural to them. It is just part of the way things are for them. Having a job seems a normal part of life yet it might not be God’s best for you. I believe that if you are following your calling and doing what He wants you to do God has ways and means of making sure that you have all the money you need.

Being desperately unhappy and nothing changing can seem to be your lot in life. Well, it was for me for many years. It just seemed normal to me and having anything good in life seemed totally abnormal.

This is why I would be concerned if any of the things you have read about sound good but you have a nagging doubt that these good things could be part of your life. My response if I heard you say this, would be to go home and pray for you. You see I believe that you need to stop trying to steer your life in the direction that you think it should go and start letting God steer it for you. I would want Him to help you recognise this for yourself.

Remember what the father of the child who rolled on the floor and threw himself into a fire said when Jesus questioned his level of belief. He asked Jesus to help his unbelief. There are times when we need to do the same. There are also times when we need God to show us the whole unadulterated truth about our situations. Why not trying praying the following prayer?

Lord, please let me see things accurately. If I am blinded by something or someone open my eyes so that I can see the truth. If I am looking through a distorted lens then take it off so that I can see clearly. I trust that you will do this in a way that will help me and enable me to be and do all that you want me to do.

Amen

Starting again is not easy.

At least I had it easier than some do. I have heard some sad stories over the years. For example, there was the lady who asked for help in a Facebook group regarding what to do in relation to proving her identity. She was in her 50s and had walked out of a previous home with just the clothes she had on. She could not retrieve anything she had left behind because the man she left in the house had gathered up all her stuff and burnt it all on a huge bonfire. There are legal ways of retrieving property left behind in such situations but once your clothes and any correspondence to previous addresses have been burnt there is no point even trying to retrieve anything.

In that situation even getting help from some sources is not easy. How do you prove your identity without the passport or driving license you left behind? How do you replace them without a permanent address? These days you need some form of identity to claim benefit or rent a house or open a bank account. Without past correspondence how do you sort out any entitlement to a pension or contact old friends? Silly little things like who do you send Christmas cards to if you no longer have your old address book or the loss of old family photographs just add to your distress.

There was one lady I knew who worked tirelessly to support others in the community. Part of her story was that she had put everything that she could in a wheelbarrow and walked away from an abusive relationship taking her two children with her.

When I started again I was able to go back again and again with a huge bag on wheels. I was not sure if I would be able to take anything else out of the house but then I found that I could rent a storage container in a field. That meant that I could get some men and a van to move my remaining personal items like books and papers. Even the table that the computer I am using to write this is sitting on was stored in that box for a few months. Someone had given that to me personally but I could not fit it into my first new home.

How do you prepare for that kind of snow?

One of the things I was thankful for was the big bag on wheels that I had. I did not buy it for that purpose but it proved to be really useful. I also had a little trolley that I could put storage boxes on. The original reason for buying the trolley went back to Y2K. I had two large water containers that I could use to collect water from a standpipe if necessary. When I saw the trolley I realised it would help me move those large water containers. In the end, it was never needed to move full water containers but it was needed to move full storage boxes.

There is something to say for having a separate bank account with whatever money you can gather tucked away for a rainy day. My grandma said that she kept some money tucked away just in case. Her idea was that if there was a problem that grandad did not have the funds to cope with in an emergency then she could produce that money.

Where do you get the money to put in that bank account? It might be possible to scrimp and save. I never quite mastered the art of that. After buying food, there were always more things that I wanted to buy with my housekeeping allowance. For example, there were the visits to the charity shop for clothes or dental treatment for myself.

Another form of preparation is building up a network of contacts. It could include the outreach worker from the local domestic violence project. It could be restoring relationships with old friends or family members. Such restoration is necessary because an abusive partner usually makes it so much harder for you to maintain contact with other people. If you have faced a torrent of verbal abuse for answering a phone call from a family member then you will be wary of doing the same thing again. Sometimes when someone realises that you are in that kind of situation they will find it a struggle to stay in touch with you. They may even stop trying to contact you in case you have to face that abuse again.

Sometimes there is a bit of time to stop and think about preparing your escape plans. You might not have a lot of time to make your move. Think of the lady who had a phone call from a psychiatrist. He could delay her husband for a couple of hours but if she wanted to be out of the house before he arrived home she had to get out quickly.

You might have enough time to go shopping and buy a bag that you can pack and then hide. That will give you the time to think about what you really need to take with you. Do you need your file of qualifications? It would be useful if sometime in the future you go to a job interview and you need to produce your certificates. What important letters or papers do you need to pack? That is in addition to useful things like a change of clothes and any medications you need.

Remember right at the beginning I said that the Proverbs 31 woman had some skills to draw on that she could use to make money. That in many ways is one of the best ways of protecting yourself when things go wrong. Amongst my friends and neighbours, there have been two ladies who had a part time job when they were widowed. They both had daughters to bring up on their own. The fact they already had a part time job made it possible to increase their income by working longer hours for the same employer. They had both unwittingly made preparation for the future so it was possible for them to provide a home for their children.

One of the things that I am firmly in favour of is having a home-based business and a job at the same time. If the business struggles you have the income from the job to depend upon. If the job disappears then you have a head start with a business making it easier to grow it into something that you can depend on for an income. It gives you options which then helps you to become more resilient.

Unbalanced working

Those ladies who could increase their part time jobs to full time ones were in a better position than many. They were able to adjust to their new circumstances with the help of their employers and work the hours that met their needs. There are many more who are struggling to find a way to support their families. There are two extremes that create problems.

The secular world says women should be equally represented at all levels of big business. However, in order to reach those levels, it means making sacrifices. In some industries working long hours is essential if you are going to progress your career. A woman who avoids even the occasional 18+ hour day because of family responsibilities is unlikely to reach the top. The sacrifice is too great. To be honest what is expected from employees who want to reach the top is too much for some people. They just could not have the sort of life that is described in Proverbs 31.

At the other end of the extreme, there are those with zero hour contracts. They are tied to an employer with a contract but they have no guarantee of being given any work to do. If they have no work they have no money. What is worse is that if they are tied to an employer they might not be able to work for someone else. So what happens when they do not have any income? Well if there is no other income coming into the home the only thing that they can do is claim benefits.

Life can be tough at either end of the extremes. No wonder the idea of working from home like the Proverbs 31 woman did looks attractive. Personally, I wonder if it is God’s best for women to be working outside the home. However, this is not always easy in the modern world. It should be easier when so many people work in an office using computers and communicate via emails. They can switch to working from home when the weather makes travelling into the office very difficult.

One of the issues is the employer/employee relationship. Those who believe their employees have to be whipped into action and closely supervised are unlikely to feel comfortable allowing people to work at home. It is only those who believe that their employees can be trusted to work alone who are able to let them work from home. This, of course, means that such arrangements are only possible for those who can prove that they have the character and work ethic to do it and do it well.

Yes, of course, there are many jobs that require face to face contact so are hard to do from home. Schools, hospitals, catering/hospitality establishments and those producing physical products all need the physical presence of human beings, including women, to function. These did not exist in the era of the Proverbs 31 woman. However, even those working in those kinds of places can do a lot to avoid the kind of unbalanced working life that destroys families.

Running a business from home

The Proverbs 31 woman was a businesswoman who worked from home. That is one of the attractions of setting up an online business. Yes, I know that it does not have the best of reputations because of all the scammers out there. Yet it must be possible because there are people who are able to make a full-time income by working online.

It needs to be a genuine product or service that is being provided such as building websites or offering others the benefit of their years of experience in a particular field. As with everything else you need the right skills and the right character. In other words, you use the same principles outlined in this book and transfer them to a different kind of business.

It is no more or less risky than running a brick and mortar business. Neither of them gives you a cast iron guarantee of success. There are so many variables. Are you the right person to develop that business idea? Are you meeting a genuine need? Remember the Proverbs 31 woman was meeting the needs of those who wanted something to wear. Is this the right time and place for that idea to succeed?

That is why the idea of starting small is so important. A first business is really an apprenticeship. Few people succeed at their first attempt. If you don’t believe me read a few of the biographies of the celebrities in the business world. Even once you have a bit of experience in the business arena starting a new venture needs to be done carefully. Jumping into something without running pilot tests or setting up prototypes is a recipe for disaster. Testing so that you learn as you go is an essential factor in a successful business. Guess what, you can often make a start doing that at home and even in the spare time you have when you are not working for others.

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