Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Those who have read any portion of my Blest Atheist book or blog by the same name are well aware of the immense abuse suffered during our childhood by me and my seven siblings, monikered "the 8-pack" by Rollie, one of my younger brothers. Although my sister Katrina never planned on growing up, certain that she would be killed by my mother sometime before achieving adulthood, we did indeed all survive extensive physical abuse (e.g., being stabbed, thrown into walls, kicked into unconsciousness, and the like), emotional abuse (e.g., being sat on a staircase and listening to my mother, who held a can of kerosene and a book of matches in her hands, tell us how she was going to set us on fire), and sexual abuse (various male relatives had their way with both the boys and the girls on a regular, nearly weekly, basis). We had each other for support: the 8-pack was very important to all of us in an age when neighbors and teachers looked the other way. As an atheist, I assumed that I, as the oldest, needed to stand up to Ma and the other abusers in our lives in order to encourage the younger kids. My brother, Rollie, says that for him and the others I was the real father in the house. It was not easy; as an atheist, I had only my own internal fortitude for personal support -- and, of course, the courage that springs almost unbidden when one must fight for people one loves, whether those be children, friends, employees, or, in this case, siblings. Remarkably, contrary to what most of today's doctors or psychologists would expect, we all reached adulthood not only in one piece but without any long-lasting evidence of physical abuse or any significant emotional scars.

After coming to faith, I commented to God, “If only I had had You with me during those earlier, difficult days, how much easier it would have been.” To that, the quiet but impressive Voice that to this day startles me when I hear it, responded “I was with you.” Had I only known...

Telling this one day to my sister, Danielle, I also remarked that I found it unfathomable as to why we would be so protected by God, especially since clearly not everyone is. Why should we receive special treatment? She looked at me curiously and said, "I thought you knew."

"Knew what?" I asked.

"What the boys [our younger brothers] knew. What all the rest of us kids knew."


"The very first thing I remember in my entire life -- perhaps I was only two or three years old -- was realizing what a predicament we were in, and I said a prayer: "Dear God, Dad is gone all the time, and Ma is a child. So, would you please raise us?"

I have since wondered if the answer to my question about why we grew up intact, why we seemed to have been protected (no infections from some very deep stabs, no improper healing of broken bones, no low self-esteem), why we all grew up to be be extremely ethical and moral (even, in my case, as an atheist), could be that simple. Could the explanation simply be that God chose to answer the prayer of a precocious three-year-old?


  1. What a sad, tragic, beautiful, and eventually happy, blessed testimony! Thank you for sharing it with us.

  2. It is the most simple explanation, and it has great appeal (I would think) to all of us who believe God is not just somewhere out there but essentially disconnected from his creation.

    And to explain it otherwise - the complexity - I would hate to even start untangling those threads.

    You can ask Him, someday.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Shadowlands and Pennyyak. They are appreciated.

  4. Whenever I read about your life the scripture, "Jesus wept" hits me powerfully. I believe He did. No child should ever have to suffer like this. That you all made it through childhood relatively unscathed is a powerful testimony that God is our true Father, we are only lent to our earthly parents. Your capacity for forgiveness is deeply inspiring, our human parents are supposed to treasure their children never, ever, abuse them. I'm sure the prayer of a little tiny child must have had a lot to do with how your family managed to live through this. Also, too, the Holy Spirit praying in the soul of a little atheist :) Blest Atheist was truly an inspired title for your book! My childhood was tough but nothing compared to this. God blessed my parents with conversions when I was a teenager. By then my heart was really hard , it took me years to forgive them. God has done amazing things in their lives, though! My father stopped drinking many, many years ago. He is still bi-polar but medication has helped Him immensely. God took away my mom's anger and replaced it with his love. She is an incredible woman :) They both felt terribly bad for how we were raised and have told us all many times. When I was young I used to rage against God as to why he would allow certain things to happen. I was abused physically and verbally, the verbal abuse took a larger toll than the physical because it was so frequent. I couldn't figure out why I was so unlovable. I used to walk up the stairs in my house backward so I wouldn't be caught offguard, I liked to know what was coming at me:) As I've grown older I can see the good that He brought out of evil. My past has given me a great compassion for those who suffer, it taught me patience, fortitude, forgiveness [once I understood that we were all in the same boat with our fallen natures], and a love for the oppressed and homeless. I still fall but now I feel loved no matter what :) Thank you for being so forthright and honest with your posts. We are given a big glimpse of how God transforms people no matter how tough a person's life has been. God's grace and mercy is bigger than even the greatest evil. God bless you, Elizabeth!

  5. Oh, wow, Mary, your comment overwhelmed me. Thanks for sharing your reaction, your experiences, and your thoughts.

  6. And I as well suffered physical and emotional abuse. I spent a lot of my childhood being terrified and feeling quite unloved by parents. Thank God I had my amazing grandparents to see me through. What a testimony Elizabeth, isn't it amazing what has transpired since then? God bless you..and your courage in sharing this. I did not know you had written a book.

  7. Hi Cheri, Yes, I wrote a book called Blest Atheist, which chronicles those years of abuse along with how they were overcome and my conversion. Now I am working on a book about my children -- 50% are handicapped (or handicapable). Tentatively, I am calling it Raising God's Rainbow Makers, but that may change. Glad you had grandparents who could help you. My grandfather was one of the sexual abusers in the family. Oh, well, it's past and forgiven, and God turned much of it to good in the long run.