My story

I was born in Dudley Rd Hospital in Birmingham in July 1957 to a 22 year old mother.  My dad was 29 and 2+ years later I had a little brother.  We gradually moved southwest down the route of what is now the M5 as Daddy worked across the region as a sales manager for HyMac diggers.  

I started school in Longlevens outside Gloucester and went to junior school in a village called East Brent in Somerset. It was not a happy childhood – apart from holidays in the wonderful Isles of Scilly, which is still my favourite place in the world.  There was a lot of arguing and fighting: my mother was fiery and beautiful, and insecure in the marriage.  My father had a bad temper and shouted a LOT. In fact I don’t remember much of my childhood now, but I certainly remember him shouting at me… I know now he is not really like that underneath: there are always reasons for things.  My mum descended into severe depression.  When I was 12 years old we came home to find her on the kitchen floor and I never saw her again.  You can read the story of Byllie on the Archives page.

Byllie

It was 1969: my brother and I were both sent to boarding school. So at the age of 12 I lost my mother, and effectively my father and brother, my home and own bedroom… and I found Jesus and community and playing guitar. Sunny Hill became my family and my safe place. I started to sing and studied the Bible: I didn’t like going home in the holidays.

My father remarried when I was 14 and soon afterwards my brother managed to get himself expelled from school…  They bought a hotel and in the summer Simon and I slept in a shed in the garden – until we both got too old!  I couldn’t wait to leave home and got myself a place at Barts Hospital in London to do nursing, starting in August 1975…

Again I found a Christian community there and made a lot of friends.  I enjoyed the training and being in London, qualified RCN in 1978 and stayed on as a staff nurse for a year.  But by then the old insecurites were making themselves felt, my faith was being tested and the world was beckoning…  I told the Lord I couldn’t live half-heartedly as a Christian (it is impossible) and chose to go my own way and throw myself into the life that beckoned all around me…

Looking for love

At 21 I was pretty lost and desperate.  Christians around me seemed so constrained and I didn’t fit in: I felt judged. There was no small measure of rebellion at work in me!  But my basic lack of security and the need to be loved really took over: I threw myself into London life, parties, drunkeness and one night stands.  Like all girls, I just wanted to find someone to love me… it was pretty hard and pretty humiliating.  What a trail of devastation – not really fun at all.  I was under the age-old curse on woman, “Your desire will be for him and he will rule over you” (Gen 3v16). The ‘high point’ of those 4 years was a six month affair with a Californian cello player in Cambridge: read more about that in Shaken and Stirred on the Archives page – written of course, with the benefit of hindsight.

To draw a hasty veil over all that… I was finally rescued by my knight in shining armour.  My first words to Martin were, “Can I hide behind you please?” – and I have been doing it ever since!  He took me on when I was quite depressed.  I was still away from God and he wasn’t a Christian: I refused to come back unless it was wholehearted this time… and I wanted Martin more. We started living together in early 1981 and soon got engaged – through mutual agreement that we couldn’t imagine ever splitting up – though some of our friends disagreed and my Christian friends definitely disapproved.  At our wedding, on 18th September 1982, we had Psalm 139 as the reading and included the hymn ‘Lead us Heavenly Father lead us…’  In my heart I knew God was still there.

Now I was married I should have been happy and secure. I was certainly very loved, and have remained so: my marriage is one of the happiest I can imagine and my husband is loyal, gentle, wise and kind.  But I didn’t know who this ‘Mrs Dyer’ was!  And life soon fell apart completely when 3 months after our wedding impossibly intelligent Martin failed his medical finals.  It was a fluke, but the whole house of cards came tumbling down; there could not have been a bigger shock and a harder blow.

Restoration

We left Cambridge and had to move in with his parents for 6 weeks while he took the exams again in London… which of course he passed with no problem.  A completely new set of house jobs were then lined up, which took us to live in North London for 6 months, very close to the friends who had looked after Martin during his re-sits.  John and Sarah were Christians from my nursing days who had kept in touch with me and come to our wedding – and they simply started to pray.  Amidst the pressures of his new job and 1 in 3 on call Martin started to think about his recent experience of failure and humiliation and the big questions of life – while  I already knew I was at rock bottom and had nowhere else to turn.  One evening he walked into the pub after work and said, “What are we going to do about God?” So we started to go to church with our friends.  Within a short time I had recommitted myself to Jesus and soon after, through reading the book ‘Who moved the Stone?’, Martin concluded that he believed in the Resurrection.  He made his commitment in March 1983.  I have never ceased to be grateful that the Lord used me to bring Martin and Martin to bring me back: if we were not together in our walk of faith our lives would have been so different.

It was quite a change for us and a long period of adjustment. Martin was a new Christian with no background to speak of while all my past understanding, Biblical knowlege and VERY loud singing voice were immediately restored.  He had a new wife!  It took some years to put in the proper foundations and become ‘equally yoked’ – and I in particular had a lot of forgiving and asking forgiveness to do…  After London we moved to Brighton for 6 months, where I became pregnant, and then to Lymington, Hants for 6 months for a medical job in the small hospital there. In both places we attended Baptist churches, and I started singing in the worship groups they had.

Every birth is contested

But in Lymington disaster struck.  At 16 weeks pregnant I contracted German Measles: our first child was in danger of being handicapped or almost certainly deaf. I had one friend in the church to pray with and spent 5 months clinging on to the Scripture “No harm will befall you, no disaster shall come near your tent” Psalm 91v10: the pregnancy dress seemed like a tent to me! It was a very hard time.  However, Martin had a gift of faith: he quite simply knew that our baby would be alright. Rebecca Ann was born on 17th September 1984 in Southampton, the day before our 2nd wedding anniversary.  A doctor came to check her out, and at only 2 days old she was responding to all stimuli and obviously a complete star.  She has been A* ever since!  God delivered her – and us – from all evil 🙂

A growing family…

Those were happy days as a new family, living in Southampton.  We were part of a medical ‘housegroup’ at a local church with various other doctors and nurses, while Martin worked in 3 different 6 month jobs as a Senior House Officer. He was also studying for his Member of the Royal College of Physicians exams, so with on-calls as well was very busy and tired, but Rebecca was our joy and delight and I was a full-time mum.  Martin managed to pass his exam and after going to a job interview in Cambridge for a post he wasn’t really qualified for, came home with a specially created research registrar job, starting on 1st January 1986.  They had created it for him seeing the potential in combining his choice of the clinical speciality of haematology with the skills he’d developed in Oxford working with monoclonal antibodies – while doing his DPhil in immunology before we met.  So we moved again, into a hospital flat at Addenbrooke’s – and not long after started the process of buying our first home.  Also this time round in Cambridge we were Christians and soon found a family-friendly community that welcomed us into a church in Arbury.  We were settled for the next 4 years.

Those were days of mother and toddler groups and making friends, working in the house and looking after my husband and little girl. I didn’t always find it easy, but I learned a lot and was growing (see The power of submission post for some more about that!) I was a singer and had a heart for worship in church and I focussed on developing friendships with the other mothers, while Martin cycled round the ring-road to work every day.  And of course I wanted another baby…

Rebecca had been a wonderful surprise to us, but Sam took a bit more effort, longing and calculations over a few months…  Eventually after quite an emotional struggle through the pregnancy he burst into the world on 12th May 1987 at a rather large 9lb 6oz!  What a wonderful, overwhelming, exhausting, life-changing time.  We were so blessed:  Samuel means, “God hears”. I was delighted to have a daughter and a son  – and determined not to go through all that again! But as anyone who has a family knows, the ‘fun’ was … only just beginning!


You can see what came next by taking a look at the ‘family snapshots’ page which has photos and comments from the years the children were growing up… Thanks for your interest and support for us all 🙂


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8 Responses to My story

  1. christine says:

    It has been brilliant reading your story, my lovely friend, and finding the episodes and bits in between the parts that I know. How amazing that Martin googled your Cambridge cellist. I love the blog. Keep writing, keep sharing your heart, you do it so well. God is in the telling.

  2. Kate maltby says:

    Oh Sally Ann, it’s like reading my own history, I lost my Mum at 15 after a lifetime of ill health & my Dad when I was 24 from suicide and I totally understand the “Mummy shaped hole”.
    It means we have no role model for mothering, we have to muddle our own way through wondering if this is indeed how it’s done with no-one to ask for advice. Oh how I yearned for her on my wedding day, and when our daughter was born.
    I’m still waiting after 22 years for Kevin to find the Lord but I remain hopeful and prayerful.
    You have such an eloquence and beauty in relating your life stories.
    With love and prayers. ❤

  3. Sally Ann, that is SO powerful…what a story! healing and wholeness prevails. x

  4. MattPage says:

    Thanks Sally Ann, very touching and helpful

    Matt

    PS – I never knew Becca was conceived in Brighton. Talk about coming full circle! And the glasses on the dog is such a Dyer thing to do!

    • Sally Ann says:

      Thanks Matt! Well – it must be a Woodward thing: that was my mum. But yes, I am very happy to be a Dyer now and we Dyer women do have a certain wit… 😉

  5. ROBERT SAMUELSON says:

    Sally Ann,

    I have been meaning to read your story for a long while as you are definitely one of life’s more intruiging characters. I got woken in the middle of the night by little Carmen and couldn’t get back to sleep and by virtue of a facebook link found myself here.

    What treasure and heartache there is in your story and what a privilege it is to read it. Thank you.

    So what is my response? Well here goes…

    There is a tendency in Christians to deny pain and not recount stories of troubles, trials and failures. In doing this we often fail to help others when they go through similar yet unique life experiences. What is encouraging about your story that in getting through these painful moments and periods you will inspire others diverse and dispersed because of your openness and perseverance. Keep doing it.
    P.S. I can see why you and Martin found each other. What a handsome couple!

    I’m just entering a period of retrospection. How did I end up here? 31, two wonderful kids, a successful beautiful wife, two deceased parents, a childhood sweetheart tragically killed, depression, disappointment, confusion, success, boarding school, a mean temper and yet hope, faith in a loving yet sometime distant God. I seem a complicated and sometimes toxic mix. May God give me the courage to ‘get on’ as you have done and the understanding to glean from you the gems of wisdom that will enrich my own journey and bring me closer to Him.

    Give Martin a hug from me! Respect to you both and courage in your present trials (and joys)

    Rob

  6. Jessa says:

    I can definitely see a lot of your mother in not only you, but Sam and Becca as well. What a blessing to have such fantastic genes!

  7. Dawn Safar. says:

    You are such a great writer…loved reading it…xx

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