Surviving Isn’t Living
by Victoria Dillen
flickered open. The song of the meadowlark played in my ears as
the warm breeze stirred the white sheers, and the late spring
blue of the sky filtered through. It was a beautiful day, and I
'Make it through today and it’s the
back the covers, I stepped onto the cool flowered linoleum.
Three weeks and school would be out. The sweet smell of
anticipation seemed to waft in through the open window. I
quickly pulled on my dress and did my hair. I forgot myself in
those seconds, almost running, and pounding down the stairs,
opened the door into the kitchen.
what’s the matter with you, running and making all that noise?”
Mom screamed, ripping me back to reality. “Your dad’s sleeping.
You know better than that.”
Mom,” I clenched my fingers into my hands to keep from crying.
My nails bit into me like her words. I felt like I had been
slapped. Gone was the joy of the moment, of the day, of my life.
Reality set in and I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible,
quiet, mousey. Being careful not to bang any dishes, I ate some
cereal, and watched as my brother and sister got their
breakfast. We all welcomed the silence as Mom went back to bed.
cleaned up any crumbs and left for school. I walked beside
Jamie, who was a year older than me.
leaving to visit Grandma on Sunday.” Jamie scuffed a pebble.
Maybe she’ll come back happier. She’s going to miss my birthday
“Yeah, I know.”
doesn’t really matter.” It really didn’t matter, but it hurt a
bit thinking no one thought it did.
The day flew
by, and walking home in the afternoon sun, I tried to recapture
the happy feelings of the morning. But, they eluded me. They
to be in better spirits when I got home, and everything was
normal. Of course, being yelled at was normal. I went to my
bedroom, under the guise of studying for tests, and sank down on
my pillow with my book. Soon I was riding the wind on a
stallion, free, with the warm air racing across my face. Books
were my refuge, my escape from the abuse of our angry and
arrived and mom was packed, and getting ready to leave on the
bus. It was a two-day ride, if she didn’t do any layovers, and
she was planning to be gone two weeks. Dad worked a lot, which
meant….freedom. Two glorious weeks of it, or so I thought.
Five days later…
The stairs creaked. I clutched the covers,
submerging my whole being into them, until I was buried with my
face barely showing. My racing heart pounded loudly.
Can he hear it?
The creaking grew louder, as every inch of my
being strained to hear, dreading the steps I heard.
I scream, will he go away? Why is he doing…?
Lying in bed, my back to the door, I heard it
open. I hoped it appeared I was asleep, hoped he would leave.
He moved around the bed so he could see my face.
“You stayed home from school,” he said quietly as
he lay across the double bed, his face unbearably close.
I could hardly breathe as I opened my eyes, and
managed, “Yeah, I wasn’t feeling well.” Not because I was
physically sick, but emotionally I was almost destroyed by
confusion and fear of what had been happening.
“Well, you get some rest,” he said as he leaned
closer and gave what was not a normal father/daughter kiss. I
lay frozen, petrified as he left my room, went down the creaking
stairs, and left for work.
I wanted to scream, run and hide, but the terror
that kept me silent as he left my room engulfed my whole being.
I trembled as I wiped my mouth with the sheet. I wanted to scrub
it all away. The last two days were a nightmare of surreal
events that left me panicked and helpless. Dad’s strange
behavior, the unwanted and unfamiliar touches, all left me
confused and frightened. Unanswered questions screamed in my
Why is Dad doing this? Why is mom away?
The waves of confusion and fear enveloped me,
pulling me down, bottling the tears that would not pour out.
The day was excruciatingly long waiting for my
older sister to come home from school. The emotions of the last
two days tumbled out as I told Kelly all that happened. I felt
devastated when she burst into tears, and I realized she could
not help me. “Dad’s been doing those horrible things to me since
I was ten. He told me not to tell. He said it was all my fault.”
She could not stop crying, and we tried to
console each other. We both knew we had to get help. Her sobbing
finally became the resolve I needed as I dialed the phone.
“Mom, there’s something wrong with Dad, he’s
doing things,” I started out strong and then the emotion of what
I was saying overcame me, and my voice broke.
“Please, come home, we need you.” Uncontrolled
tears poured from the bottled heartache that finally shattered.
Mom assured me she would come, but we knew it would take two
days by bus, if she could even get on one that evening. Kelly
and I waited by the phone while Mom contacted friends, hoping we
could stay with them until she arrived.
My heart was in my throat, when I heard the back
door. It was Jamie, who finally got home from his after school
job. I tried to tell him what had happened, but the tears would
not stop. He struggled to understand, but was confused, as were
Kelly and I. It was getting late, and we knew Dad would be
coming home from work. Fear threatened to choke us as we all
dreaded the thought of being in the house with him. The terror
engulfed us when Mom finally called back, saying we could stay
with friends and they were sending a taxi for us.
We raced up the stairs to our rooms, throwing our
belongings into grocery bags, and grabbing what we needed from
closets. The taxi driver looked perplexed as we ran to the car,
our arms overly laden with clothes. In our panic to escape, we
left all the lights on in the house.
After school the next day, I forced myself to go
home to pick up forgotten homework I was trembling but relieved
when I saw Dad was not at home. After removing my shoes at the
backdoor as always, I moved silently through the house afraid to
make any noise, and gathered up my books from the dining room
I froze instantly when I heard his car door shut.
The back door of the house opened.
I was trapped. Barely able to breathe, terror
gripping me like a vice, I forced my legs to take those last
steps from the dining room into the kitchen. Dad stepped from
the back porch into the kitchen, blocking my escape.
He had been crying, and seemed surprised to see
me. He cleared his throat.
“I wanted to tell you…I wanted to stop doing all
those things for a long time. Somehow, I knew you wouldn’t take
it. That’s why I tried those things with you. I am so sorry. I
really do love you, you know.”
Tears ran down my face as I gave him a quick hug.
Still terrified and confused, but not knowing what else to do in
our broken lives and broken home. Words failed me, until I
choked out, ‘I need to go”.
With that I made my escape. Running by the time I
hit the front sidewalk.
It was the best summer of my life. Even with the
heartache and family separation, and living with our
grandparents in their one bedroom house, it still was. They
lived a block from the lake and somehow we managed to connect
with the local teens. When we were all at the beach, there were
eleven of us getting baked in the hot sun, and swimming
everyday. It made it easy to forget what we had come from. But
it couldn’t last. I guess I knew that.
Late August rolled around and it was getting
difficult for my grandparents to deal with three teenagers and
their crowded home. My oldest brother had left home so they were
spared a bit of overcrowding. Mom worked cleaning at a motel,
and when Dad phoned one evening, I dreaded what Mom was going to
say. Hanging up the phone, she called us together.
“Dad wants us to come home. He says he’s going to
a church now and has accepted Jesus as his Savior. He wants our
forgiveness. He wants us to start over.”
There really was no choice. I could tell Mom had
already said yes, and we all knew we couldn’t keep staying with
Grandma and Grandpa. The three of us agreed we should go back,
even though we had no idea what the church and Jesus issue were
about. We had always been sent to whatever Sunday School was
closest when we were growing up, so Mom and Dad could sleep in.
Attendance to any church was intermittent at best when we were
younger and non–existent for some time.
We returned home, with much fear and trepidation.
Inside, I knew I would make it. I was a survivor.
was a spectacular day. I had turned sixteen and that day I felt
older and the feelings of maturity extended spiritually. It was
two years since I began my walk with Christ. Smiling, I walked
happily into our kitchen.
“It’s weird, Mom. I feel older today, more
Moving from the counter where she had been
peeling potatoes, Mom sat rather quickly on her kitchen chair.
She seemed troubled.
“That’s really good. I need to tell you some
things. I want you to know that when you were growing up, I
always had to leave the kitchen when you were there. I hated you
so much. I always left to keep from stabbing you with the
butcher knife. I need you to know I don’t feel that anymore. I
no longer want to kill you.” Mom stayed seated, her finger
tapping the table, her face emotionless.
My mouth gaping, I struggled to comprehend what
she said. “I’m glad,” seemed pitiful, but the absolute shock
overwhelmed, allowing nothing more. My mind moved in slow
motion, numb. To avoid her stare, I glanced at the counter. It
seemed a cruel irony when I noticed the butcher knife lying
beside the potatoes. Feelings exploded within me, repugnant
thoughts engulfing my mind, as choking bile stung my throat.
Mom has always wanted me dead. She hated me, wanted to kill me,
to escape the kitchen, get away from Mom. A forced smile allowed
the desperate retreat to my bedroom. No longer mature, but a
child again, I was fully unnerved. The imagery and horror that
overwhelmed my mind equaled my sense of revulsion and rejection,
completely submerging me. I was drowning in a sea of emotion and
Did she sit down because she still feels that way? Is that why
she always yelled at me, and was so mean? Why did she tell me
now? Why did it take her two years since accepting Christ to
stop those feelings? She never loved me. Why?
Oh, Father, please help me.
Collapsing onto my bed, I
pulled my knees to my chest and buried my face in my arms.
Somehow, I would make it through this, with God’s help. I was a
Walking into the kitchen later, it was as if
nothing had happened, like nothing had been said. That is how it
you,” was ringing in my mind as I hung up. I had just endured a
long and emotional conversation with Mom, unloading with
difficulty, all the baggage I had padlocked away. At
twenty-eight, I had been wrestling with memories that I thought
were gone, but God knew better.
Drained, I had waited uncertainly for Mom to
Please, tell me no more lies, Mom,
For the first time that I could remember, Mom
finally said, “I love you.”
I needed those words, and hung onto them the same
way I had gripped the phone. Inwardly, I struggled to believe
Lies, abuse, and fear had been in abundance in
our unforgiving home. Even though coming to Christ a few weeks
after returning home that summer of our separation, it had not
been easy. We moved from a controlling home of abuse into the
model Christian family on the outside, but on the inside, many
things stayed the same.
Little did I know that the baggage of these
things was to be swept under the rug under the guise and excuse
of “dad was an alcoholic”, “he had a nervous breakdown”, and
“don’t you ever bring that up or mention it.” If things were
ever brought up in times of frustration or with a need to try
and deal with the lingering feelings, Dad became the victim, not
us girls. We were supposed to forget it. That was the way it had
always been, and becoming Christians merely added seemed to add
the forgive aspect. I am thankful Christ carried me through all
of this, and it wasn’t until having my own family and children
that the need to deal with the painful memories became
overwhelming. Forgiveness wasn’t difficult with Christ, and He
kept me safe. But, forgetting and dealing with the consequences
of those sinful things needed to be dealt with. Everything is in
God’s perfect timing, and He prepares us for growth with trials.
The memories and images of my childhood flashed
as if from yesterday. Dad’s abuse, Mom’s lies, her hatred of me,
the ever- present anger and varied abuse, the desire to
eliminate me, to kill me, to stab me, all threatened to consume
“Lord, please take it all from me,” I prayed,
tears pouring down my burning cheeks.
Exhausted, I went into the living room and dropped onto the
couch, my eyes red and swollen. Pulling our children close, I
whispered, “I love you.”
Hearing, “Love you, Mommy,” from each, soothed my
aching heart. As we cuddled, my husband’s soft, “I love you,”
brought a contented sigh, a smile and prayer.
Thank you Father, for giving me a family where love has
blossomed, and is not a lie.
It has been many years and I have learned that
there is a difference between surviving and living. Surviving is
not the answer. Living for Christ means being free from sin, and
being free from holding onto the consequences of sin. It means
being free, not necessarily from physical consequences, but
spiritual consequences. Complete dependence on Him is
real living. Complete trust in Him and knowing that nothing can
separate us from His love, is life itself.
Philippians 1:21 For to me to
live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Matthew 6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your
heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not
men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your
Matthew 18:21-35 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft
shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven
times? 22. Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until
seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall
tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or
nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we
are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the
slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither
death, nor life, nor angels, nor
principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to
come, Nor height,
nor depth, nor
any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love
of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath
anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent
me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the
captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable
year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to
comfort all that mourn; 3 To appoint unto them that mourn in
Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for
mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting
of the LORD, that he might be glorified.
Luke 4:14 And Jesus returned in the power
of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him
through all the region round about.
15 And he taught in their synagogues, being
glorified of all.
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had
been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the
synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
17 And there was delivered unto him the
book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he
found the place where it was written,
Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to
preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the
brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and
recovering of sight to the
blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
19 To preach the acceptable year of the
he closed the book, and he gave it
again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them
that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
21 And he began to say unto them, This day
is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
© 2008 Victoria Dillen
Copyright . All articles are the sole property of SeekGod.ca and Vicky Dillen.
All Scripture King James Version unless otherwise
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