Things About Being Chosen: Hierarchy, Elitism and Playing Favorites


Throughout my time at Marble I had frequent head-butting sessions with Anne and Barry Byrd’s daughter, who was a few years older than I was.  As time went on at Marble, she would single me out to "hold me accountable" for an ongoing barrage of character flaws and trespasses against the community.  Being the presumptive leader of every prep-school or youth related activity, Dannie would send me home if she didn’t like what I was wearing, or tell me I was disqualified from performing because my home and/or my marriage wasn't in order. The hypocrisy of her treatment of me was absurd and profound. 

The Prep School spent several months one year, planning a trip to Washington DC (American Constitutional history and government was a big part of the academic focus of the Prep School curriculum), and I offered my services to help prepare a script and choreograph a performance that the students would share at churches and other organizations while they were back east. We spent weeks rehearsing. Dannie and I served as ad-hoc directors of the program. I was happy to be involved, even knowing I was not qualified to be invited on the trip. 

During one rehearsal, Dannie sent me home to change my shirt when I came wearing an over sized white t shirt (chosen because it was not form fitting), with big black letters “FBI” printed on the front. My dad bought me the FBI shirt when I visited them in DC the year before. She was insistent that the letters stood for “Female Body Inspector,” calling in one of the male Prep School student leaders to validate her claim. Whether or not he agreed with what she was claiming was irrelevant. Nobody argued with Dannie about anything during this time period. It was far too likely that she would call Anne in to "mediate" the conflict and the reprimand for dishonoring her daughter would be relentless. Dannie demanded I go home and change. The situation was so absurd that I didn’t return to rehearsal that day. 

While I was pregnant with MacKenzie, a closed-door Core Group meeting took place which we found out later was a shotgun wedding for Dannie and a local redneck. Not even into the beginning stages of  what Marble called the “courtship” process (a holy substitute for dating), Dannie had gotten pregnant and they were quietly married. The hush-hush meeting was followed by a community celebration which included a baby shower for the couple. 

Halle's first Christmas, 1996. I was pregnant with MacKenzie.
I remember sitting in the party feeling guilty that I noticed the disparity in public retribution for their fornication when I had suffered so greatly for mine. I kept reminding myself of the parable of the workers, who were all paid equally for an inequitable amount of work, and how the ungrateful ones complained that they were not paid more even though it was the agreed upon amount. And like Jesus said, the last will be first… etc. 

All of this took place not long after Dannie was caught embezzling from the ambulance service where she worked in Colville, using the ambulance fuel cards to fill her own gas tanks. She spent three days in jail (these records should be available on request from Stevens County) and told our cell group that she was away at an EMS training. The disparity in treatment among community members was remarkable. In recent conversations with other former Marbleites, this preferential treatment has come up often. Anne and Barry had specific favorites (including of course, their daughter) singled out for a different level of privilege and an entirely revised gradient of consequence for sin.

When I finally began to challenge Dannie on her abuse of power and arbitrary judgement, I was met with surprise and fear. She knew that I was a threat to her role in the community and I brought at least as much experience, intelligence and talent to all of our team undertakings as she did, if not more. Her personal vendetta toward me kept me constantly in a humiliating checkmate, and many of our peers at the time can attest to her bizarre contempt for me. 

Anne Byrd focused much of her energy on the young adults in the community. She created the Banquet & Ball - which was a sort of prom substitute that allowed all of the young people (high school - marriage) to dress up and dance according to historic rituals and carefully choreographed performances. Dance lessons were required leading up to the ball, as well as etiquette classes for  both the young men and ladies. 

David and I at a "community ball"
that followed the prep school banquet but 
was open to everyone in the church.
In addition to teaching the young ladies the horrors of sex, the young men were instructed on the vulgarity of peeing while standing up and were required to use the toilet sitting down (another of Anne Byrd’s ideas). This new culture of etiquette was enforced up the age ranks throughout the community for several years before the men got sick of it. For all of the patriarchal rumors that circulate about Marble, the place was run without question by Anne Byrd. A male member of the congregation speaking up against Anne was rare, if it ever happened at all. Anne publicly and contemptuously rebuked Barry in front of the congregation on many occasions when he misspoke or she took exception with what he said.

Anne invited me to sit in on the training and the banquet and ball the first year as a sort of scribe/journalist, to take notes and pictures and write about the event. Being married and pregnant and my life all out of order, I wasn’t “qualified” to participate fully, so I sat in a corner of the Byrd’s house where the training took place and the elegant dinner was served and took notes quietly. 

Eventually I was cut off from all involvement with the Prep School and I began teaching Literature and theater classes to elementary aged students at Marble, as well as taking Irish Dance lessons in Kettle Falls and teaching students at Marble Irish dance along with a couple of other girls from the community. Going through my binders of material from the teaching and investment that I put into Marble it boggles my mind. Even so, I was never regarded as a key player in Marble's destiny for dominion, something that was made very clear to me over and over again by leaders in the church.

That's me on the far right.

A Visit to the Outside World

A group from Marble went down for a conference in Spokane at Harvest Christian Fellowship, a sister church that was hosting a worship event. I was enthralled with the big city church and the young couples and families who all seemed to be Godly, upright followers of Christ but also fashionable and pretty chill. I remember coming home from the conference, sitting in a vehicle next to Cheryl Melzer and talking excitedly about how nice all the people were and how fun it would be to do more things with them. Cheryl’s response was a resigned pity for their watered down version of Christianity that precluded them from the grandiose Kingdom plans that Marble was called to. This was typical of Marble’s elitist dominion mandate. 


During the Prep School years, Anne held “inquests” for most of the student. It was an intensive rooting out of issues and speaking life and destiny into each individual. It was a spiritual prophesying of future kingdom roles, responsibilities and giftings. 

I desperately wanted an inquest of my own. I wanted to be spoken into and envisioned by leaders and my peers. My journals capture the excitement I felt when I was finally going to be allowed an inquest of my own. It's clear that I wasn't qualified to go through that process with Anne herself, but Steve and Cheryl Melzer were willing to stand in and humor my request. It was cancelled at the last minute thanks to some errand the Melzers had to run. I am grateful now that it never happened. 

Speaking with former Prep School students who did receive them, they might have been one of the more severe forms of spiritual abuse that happened during that time at Marble. I narrowly escaped. 

One of the most vivid dreams of my entire life was about the inquest I never had. It took place on a dark night at the Melzer’s house (as they often did), and the power was out from a violent thunderstorm outside. The oil lamps and candles around the room gave the whole thing a seance-like aura. I was sitting across from Anne with all of the prep school students around me, as well as Steven and Cheryl Melzer. Everyone was laying hands on me and praying for clear word from God on my behalf. Suddenly, Anne opened her ice-blue eyes and her face went pale. “I’m sorry,” were the first words she said. “I am sorry, but you are not one of the chosen. You don’t make it and there is nothing you can do.” 

“The chosen” refers to the few that are selected by God for the kingdom on earth, based on the scripture about the wedding guests who are thrown out for wearing the wrong garments. The most terrifying thing about this dream is that it is eerily close to what many young people experienced in an inquest. At one meeting, Anne Byrd actually did tell me that I was not wearing the proper garments for the feast of the bridegroom. It was a reprimand to get my life in order at a time when I was striving with everything in me to meet all of the  unreasonable demands placed on me by Anne and Dannie, and still dealing with hell in my own marriage. 

One of my very last conversations with Anne happened years later over lunch at the Mustang Grill. Lunch with Anne was a privilege reserved for either the very anointed or the very messed up, and it’s a safe bet that I was the latter. I am sure it was a last ditch effort to give me a chance to save myself on the way out. 

Somehow we began talking about a girl my age who had recently defected to the real world from Marble. She had moved to the coast and was going to church (at a church loosely connected with Marble, no less), and Anne was grieving over the loss of Melissa (who was one of the select favorites) for the kingdom, and how she was throwing away her destiny. 

I challenged Anne with the idea that Melissa’s destiny might lie outside of Marble, where God still lives and works. I suggested that maybe it looked totally different than Anne imagined and that perhaps Melissa would find her own way with God. Anne looked at me like I had three heads, and that was the moment that I saw her insanity for what it really is. The Byrds have always held, and as far as I know, still hold, the ideal that they have been called - or drafted - according to a sermon by Barry Byrd - to an elite ruling class that most other Christians will never attain, let alone non-believers.

Things to Process

It's the holidays.

The last several chapters of my blog have carried a heavy weight for me and many other people that I still love and care about.

I have many more stories to share, and they're drafted and coming to life one page at a time, but for this season, right now, I need to take a break. My family needs some room to breathe and connect and find the joy of where we are now, which is a good place. I need to focus on the good and beautiful for a few moments before I dive back into the memory-filled trenches.

I am so, so grateful for my family. For my parents, as they walk in humility and grace with me through this process. For my children and the patience and trust they have for me through all of this. I am grateful for the friends who have held me up the quiet ones and the who have voiced their support. I am immensely grateful for the strangers who have reached out to tell me what my stories mean to them, for the ones who share similar stories to mine and walk through the grief once again with me.

But it's the holidays, and for a little while, it's time to bask in the beautiful mess of family. Imperfect, unglamorous family, full of disagreements and disputes and also full of love.

In case my voice has been lost in the drama of the stories, I want to send a message of gratitude out for the life I have had to this point and the future that I look forward to, for myself and my girls, and for all of the others that I love. Everything happens for a reason. It's tattooed on my back, and on my arm. Amor Fati. Love of Fate. Even the people who have done me the greatest wrongs... as I acknowledge the ones whom I have wronged and own my own violations, I thank the ones who have hurt me for the process it has brought in my life. I would not change a thing because it brought me to this place and time, right here, with you, and made me who I am (which is pretty rad, in case you couldn't tell).

Love your people.

Find gratitude in this season for even the hardest things you have endured because they made you you, and you are rad too.

Hold hope loosely.

Trust the winding pathway to bring you to whatever wild and wonderful destination you never imagined.

Enjoy the trip, because really, it does no good not to (I say this to myself, the WORST of complainers).

I will be back after the holiday with the next chapter of my story. I thank you for listening, for hearing me, for believing with me that good can triumph over evil someplace in history. Thank you for your love. Merry, merry Christmas.

Things About Dominion: Control and Intimidation

"God isn't concerned with your present happiness." - Anne Byrd

Stealing Their Joy 

My second pregnancy was overshadowed by a deep depression that I could not shake. Reaching out to my sister and friends for support resulted in a meeting at Anne Byrd’s house. There all of my peers, my sister, best friend, sister-in-law and more all took a turn telling me how my self focus and sloth (the biblical term for depression) had been disillusioning them about marriage and the futures that they were looking forward to. That I was destroying the hope of many young women at Marble. None of these girls were married yet or had any children. We were all around the same age. I had gotten an early start on this “ideal” lifestyle and I think some of them were even jealous of my new family and felt like I was being ungrateful.

Keep in mind, these young women did not know the details of what was going on in my marriage. All they knew was that I was feeling sorry for myself because my life wasn’t the fairy tale I had dreamed of. In that meeting I was asked to repent to all of them for stealing their joy and robbing them of hope for the future. I choked out the words of repentance through blinding tears and went home even more devastated than when I had arrived.

Interestingly enough, not long after this meeting in one of the “training sessions” ahead of Marble’s annual Banquet & Ball event, Anne Byrd herself would warn all of the young ladies that sex was a drudgery that they would be required to perform at some point for their spouse and the greatest gift a husband could give his wife was abstinence. She repeatedly shared her disgust with sex and mocked Barry and other men for their buffoon-like need for it.

My journals during this time include a daily repentance for “self focus” and a constant travail about the self absorption that was holding me back from my place in the Kingdom. This spirit of sloth, self focus, as well as a handful of other random sins, were touted as the disqualifiers for me to be involved in various activities and projects in the community. As time went on I would be accepted into and then removed from Anne Byrd’s newly beginning Prep School. First a “drama instructor” and then as an auditing student.

I wanted so badly to immerse myself in the learning and the social life that I saw my peers enjoying, but I was repeatedly “disqualified” when my house was not kept well (another frequent repentance in my journals), my t-shirt was deemed too tight or I had had an episode of self-pity, crying with a friend, who would promptly report it to Anne. When the sins of my husband and my subsequent self-focus came to light, Anne decided I was no longer qualified to help instruct since my “home wasn’t in order.” She considered letting me audit some classes but after meetings (like the one with all of the girls) she decided I might bring the class down and I wouldn’t be allowed to sit in.

Still intent on staying in the loop, I got some of the teaching materials that Anne was using and did some of the bookwork on my own, including one of her favorite texts to teach from, Dedication and Leadership by Douglas Hyde. Written by a former Marxist, the book outlines the strategy of the party in recruitment and how to strategically maneuver people, applying principles of psychology to manipulate a population into compliance with a specific agenda.

The Secondborn

I wasn’t ready for another baby. I barely knew what to do with the one I had. Halle was such a good, happy girl. Without the support of David’s mom, who lived next door, and Halle’s own resilient personality, I am not sure how I would have taken care of her.

I was confronted again by some members of my Cell Group of  young married couples for my rebellion against God and rejecting the baby he had given me. They held a “prayer counseling” session over me and the baby,  casting out the “spirit of rejection” and my self focus and prophesying an embrace of the new life growing inside of me in spite of my unworthiness. I wept and repented to God for my rebellion against his will.

MacKenzie was born in July. My journals paint a happier picture than I remember, but I was intent on capturing in words the gratitude that would kill my spirit of self focus. The same midwife that delivered Halle was on hand for MacKenzie’s birth. Throughout both pregnancies I had never consulted with a doctor.

MacKenzie came into the world on a blazing hot day. She brought with her a fiery personality to compliment her strawberry blonde hair. She and Halle couldn’t have been more opposite in their demeanors, but both were very good babies, which I count as a mercy being barely 19 years old with a newborn and a one year old.

James Buck and Sons

After a year or two bouncing around between part time and minimum wage jobs, David was hired by Jim Buck, who was a licensed contractor. David had no building experience so to be expected he started at the bottom of the food chain, slightly above minimum wage. After some time on the crew the Bucks pulled all of the families who worked for them together and pitched a proposal to change their corporation into an LLC, with each crew member owning 1% of the business.

They preached an opportunity for us all to become “sons of the vision” and invested in the business, telling us we’d get our percentage of the profits at the end of every year. The only downside, they said, was that we’d be on our own for any L&I, unemployment, and other insurance etc, since the guys would now basically be working for themselves. Being young and naive and wanting to buy in as “sons of the vision” we all agreed, and the business was re-branded James Buck and Sons.

Never once (as far as I know) in the following years did any crew member see a percentage of the profits. Ronnie Buck artfully “reinvested” the profits into “gifts” she could write off and presented us at the end of the year with a selection of crappy items from Walmart. Meanwhile, the young and inexperienced crew had no worker’s compensation coverage, and when work dried up in the winter time, no unemployment benefits. It was brilliant on the part of the Bucks, and the cost to us was on our own heads for foolishly buying in.

As far as ownership or any autonomous perks in the business go, the one time that I tried to appeal a decision that Jim and Ronnie made denying a day off that David and I had requested, I was met with a wrath unlike anything I have ever seen. We caught the Bucks after church and I asked why we were not allowed the day off, and if there was a way around it. I don’t remember why it was important to me now, but I believe there was a family event happening with my parents and siblings.

Ronnie burst into tears and told me that she had never felt so dishonored by someone under her leadership and spiritual authority in her life. She went on a tirade about how much she had laid down her life for us while Jim went and pulled Anne and Barry in to reprimand me for “biting the hand that feeds” us. I was shut down. Hard. It would not be the last time that I would face that kind of fury from a “dishonored” leader.

Core Group members would frequently meet any question of their authority or decision making with an outrage at being “dishonored.” Toni Parker (Steve’s wife) once railed on me for dishonoring her when I asked her son to leave church early to make it on-time to a practice in Kettle Falls (which he had committed to) where a handful of us were studying Irish Dance with Deirdre Abeid. Her reaction was so off the wall outrageous that another leader (again Jeanne Ochs) stepped in and stood her down. I believe we had a “meeting” about it later at which I was required to repent to Toni for dishonoring her.


The principle of restitution was visited upon community members in many arbitrary ways. The most bitter memory for me was after my husband and I had moved into our house on Marble Flats proper, we had enough money from our tax return to buy a brand new washer and dryer from Sears. I was so divinely happy. That set was the nicest, newest thing I had ever owned. My first real appliance. Shortly after we bought and installed the pair a member of our cell group, called a meeting with David and I and Steve and Cheryl Melzer. She told us that while MacKenzie had been hospitalized (more on this later), and she had been “serving us” by doing our laundry, my husband had neglected to clean everything out of his pockets and some nails had made her washer begin to spit rust into loads of clothes, ruining several items.

For restitution, she felt that the only thing that would remedy the distress she experienced would be a brand new washer. The machine I had was identical to hers, only newer. Steve and Cheryl asked if a lesser form of restitution would work, such as us paying for repairs, but the other woman didn’t want to have to deal with fixing the washer and it potentially having problems again. So in order to “restore relationship” I was required to trade appliances with this person.

When we took apart her older washer to fix it, we found no nails - only gobs of rusty bobbi pins (I had never used a bobbi pin in my life and the other woman was an ad-hoc hairdresser at the time). After we cleaned it out it ran like a charm for the rest of my time at Marble. While her brand new washer turned out to be a lemon that she had to pay hundreds of dollars to repair repeatedly. She called a meeting and tried to force me to trade back but the Melzers shut her down.

David’s $9.00/hour salary was also garnished (I don’t remember the amount) when he had to pay “restitution” to the community for sins he confessed to. This restitution went straight into the non-accountable church fund managed by the Byrds, and came straight out of the mouths of my children. This “restitution” went on for months, if not years. Many other individuals and families had to meet similar requirements.

There are endless stories from survivors of Marble about arbitrary restitution, including one family who “donated” thousands of dollars to pay the cost of drilling an unsuccessful well after the head of the household confessed to some sort of transgression and they were accused of bringing "sin into the camp." This violation was thought to have dried up the well site that had been selected based on a word from the Lord. In another instance the theft of a candy bar from the small mercantile was repaid to the tune of $500. Another community member was required to give her electronic keyboard to the church because she had no money to pay restitution for whatever sin she had confessed.

Headmaster Parker

Another involuntary offering that we were required to pay came when Steve Parker and other leaders at Marble decided he had been called to start a high school for the home schooled students of that age. With some teaching background (I have no idea where or what he taught), leadership ordained him as “Headmaster” and required each family at Marble to pay a portion of the amount that Parker deemed necessary to maintain the lifestyle he desired. The total amount was divided equally between every family at Marble, regardless of the age or number of children, or if they had any. I had two small children and the time and our monthly income was already being tapped for “restitution.”

It was during this season that Steve Parker oversaw the high school boys’ fundraiser to build a basketball court at Marble. The young men worked all summer to raise enough to pour a concrete slab, rounding up somewhere in the area of $6000 with car washes and various efforts. A member of the community donated materials to build concrete forms. When all the work was done and the boys needed money to pay for the concrete pour,  Parker sidestepped their request, making them instead rewrite their “mission statement” for the project and rejecting several drafts. After weeks of this type of avoidance, two of the young men leading the charge requested to address the issue in a community meeting.
 At the meeting, Parker opened it with the announcement that two boys were being expelled from the high school after they had been caught looking at porn online. Using this as some sort of verification that the collective of the young men had “disqualified” themselves from the privilege of a basketball court, he went on to claim he expended the money they raised on textbooks. Students who were attending Parker’s high school at the time contend that the handful of books purchased were far from equal to the amount of money raised. When one of the young men stood up and questioned this, he was immediately met with outrage from another leader for “dishonoring” Parker’s decision. The meeting escalated to a shouting match which Barry Byrd shut down with an admonition to the youth to respect and honor their elders. Not another word was to be said about the basketball court.

The details of this incident can be elaborated more eloquently by several of the men that were students at the time. There was some speculation about where the money went, but most of the students in the high school were keenly aware of a new shop being constructed on Steve Parker’s property since they were conscripted to “volunteer” their services to help build it out of respect to their headmaster. This was only one of many free labor projects that the young people were required to perform for leaders.

Looking back through my journals where I kept monthly budgets and expenses, there are hundreds of dollars every month paid to various entities set up to manage “utilities” on Marble. In addition to Marble Utility District, we were paying a decent sized chunk to Marble Flats (which I think was some version of an HOA) and some other bills for which I cannot pinpoint a purpose. None of the budgets for these various funds were available to community members for many years and they were, to my knowledge, managed exclusively by the Byrds and Rick Johnson.

Things To Hide: Deep, Dark Secrets

He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. - Proverbs 28:13

The Husband

Halle was three months old when one of the “winds of the Holy Spirit” blew through Marble. The leadership told us that if we wanted to survive to the next level of the kingdom we had to confess ALL of our deepest, darkest sins and repent publicly. These prophetic winds came arbitrarily according to a word from the Lord through Anne Byrd. This one was impressed upon the congregation as a sort of “do or die” to make it as a chosen one. Leaders and laypeople alike were confessing on an almost nightly basis at community meetings of every variety of trespass. Common offenses were looking at pornography, a spirit of rejection (this was manifest in defensiveness when leadership confronted someone), a spirit of sloth (depression), and other garden-variety transgressions.

My husband came to me first to beg forgiveness before he brought his sin to bear in front of the community. He told me that had been having sexual relations with the horses he was training. This activity was on top of the 3-4 times each day that we were having sex. This was also in addition to the odd deposits of semen I would find in the car, or the dirty laundry, which I would come to understand later were from his compulsive masturbation. I had no idea what it was I was finding everywhere until he told me, masturbation was a term I had read in Dr. Dobson’s 1980s era sex-ed book called “Preparing for Adolescence,” but his vague description still left me in the dark.

It’s easy to imagine now that my my former husband's lack of impulse control was related to some undiagnosed addiction or other illness, but at the time, I had no frame of reference for any of it. My first response to his confession was grace. The first thing I said to him after he told me was that I was relieved it wasn’t another woman. Then, as I processed and asked questions, I felt the whole world going dark around me.

I had followed the rules. I had done things the right way. I had saved myself. This wasn’t right. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. How was I not enough?

The Aftermath

The trauma of those hours and days are more fresh in my mind than the birth of any of my children. That was the time of my birth. It was the moment that I became aware of darkness and evil. My eyes were suddenly open to the possibility that I had not been granted the desires of my heart. I had been robbed. It was the first time that I questioned my marriage as God’s will.

My husband and I went to our cell group leaders. Mark and Angela Black were understandably shocked. I just remember Angela smiling. Smiling awkwardly. Smiling always. I remember sitting there with a tiny baby in my arms and my heart in a thousand pieces as she smiled. They said they’d have to get counsel about it and get back to us. Later we got a call saying that we were being moved to Steve and Cheryl Melzer’s cell group and they’d help us walk through it. I guess I was relieved. Maybe I thought there would be an end to the pain. A solution. I was wrong.

Steve and Cheryl were pragmatic about our problem. The message to me was consistent: this is what God wants for you for some reason. It is part of your process. Honor your husband. Get out of this whatever you need to. Leadership decided that my husband could not confess his sin publicly in front of the community like the rest of us. It was too much. Too sordid. I was told to not tell my friends or family as to not disillusion them. So no one knew.

I remember explaining to Cheryl the deep sense of betrayal and injustice I felt, and asking for help. She asked me what would help to ease the pain, pointing out that there was no feasible resolution. Separation wasn’t an option that was ever discussed. I do believe Cheryl felt empathy toward me. I think she wanted to help, and her experience in the outside world taught me something about cynicism and the fallacy of fairy tales.

Leaders at Marble came from many different backgrounds and operated out of many different motivations. Steve and Cheryl labored under what I believe is misplaced loyalty to the Byrds but were honest seekers of truth and redemption. I do not believe the same about other leaders. I saw many who were motivated by greed and power and a sense of self-importance in their Kingdom of God fantasies.

At some point, some late night, I packed Halle up and drove to my parents house and asked to stay there. I wasn’t allowed to tell them what the issue was. I just felt like I couldn’t be there with him. My dad said if I stayed with them, if I left the covering of my husband’s home for any length of time, I needed to submit to him and I would be treated as one of the kids. I would have a chore list and would not be treated as an adult. He didn’t know. They had no idea what I was facing at home, and the 'sanctity of marriage' is something that my parents value highly. I gathered Halle up and I slept in the car that night. Grimace, the car that had broken down repeatedly and betrayed me in some of the worst moments of our honeymoon had become my only safe place.

Finally, leadership arranged a meeting with our parents and the other Core Group leaders of the church. my husband’s parents, my parents, Rick and Vicki Johnson, Jim and Ronnie Buck, Steve and Cheryl Melzer, Anne and Barry Byrd, Steve and Toni Parker. Troy and Dannie Hopkins were there as well, which struck me as odd since Troy was very new to the community and in my mind they didn’t represent the mature leadership that I expected at this meeting.

Later, my father-in-law would tell me that when my husband made his confession to that group, he thought that he heard his son say that he had had sex with a whore, not a horse. Or maybe, he said, that’s what he wanted to hear. It wasn’t until later that Paul found out what his son actually said that day. 

The Process

I think nobody knew how to deal with the issues my husband had. I think I was an emotional, hormonal, teenage wreck, and no one knew how to deal with me. I do know that at that meeting, and every one before it and after, I was told by every leader I talked to that that was WHAT GOD WANTED FOR ME. The message was consistent and repeated. For some reason, for some future plan, he wanted me to go through this pain.

I understand now that they were wrong. I know that they were as capable of failure as I was, or my husband, or any of us. I know that God doesn’t appoint leaders who don’t make mistakes (if he appoints any at all) and I refuse to believe that God wants any of us to live in pain, day after day, without end, without empathy, without comfort. This is why there are laws, commandments, for restoration and healing. I do believe that everything happens for a reason, that there is purpose in everything, but I believe that abusers should be called into accounting for the harm they have caused others, and no church should shelter them from consequence.

After the deep betrayal that I experienced from my the man that I married, who was supposed to be my god-ordained authority and protector, the injustice propagated by the leaders at Marble, these self-proclaimed ministers of God’s will in my life is one of the more egregious violations by leadership at Marble.

I was not the only victim of this ambivalence toward abuse. There were many more cases of individuals who suffered worse abuse than I did and saw their violators go happily about the community, protected by leaders who enjoyed the power they wielded over them. I also know that this enablement of abusers isn't a unique story to Marble. Many churches have sheltered perpetrators in the name of biblical redemption while victims are left floundering for healing. My hope in sharing these stories is that other victims can reach out and find the healing they were denied, as I am doing now.

My panic attacks had devolved into a dark deadening of my soul. I remember sitting in the corner of my bed. Rocking. Just rocking. Staring at the wall while Halle kicked in her crib next to me. I started to become paranoid about getting pregnant again. I was terrified of the physical process knowing I couldn’t use birth control. I couldn’t stop my husbands’s advances. Especially now that I lived with the constant fear that if I couldn’t meet his needs he would take them elsewhere.

I lived my days in terror and my nights in pain. I talked to a few of the women in leadership and found little to no empathy or support until Jeanne Ochs heard me talking about my terror of another pregnancy. She looked me dead in the eye and said “Livia, you are NOT a broodmare. God did not give you that body and the brain you have to just crank out babies. Go find some form of birth control.” I cried tears of relief and made an appointment with the midwife - the one who had held us accountable for our fornication - to be fitted for a diaphragm. Shortly after that appointment, I found out that I was already pregnant with MacKenzie.

Things That Break: Desires of My Heart

Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Psalm 37:4

The Fornicators

I was pregnant. Doing the math, it must have happened on or near the first time we had sex. I didn’t do the math until long after we returned home. The rest of the honeymoon was a series of nightmares. Grimace broke down in Omaha for a week and we didn't have any money left. My husband's parents and my parents took turns wiring us enough money to cover a hotel room each night as we were waiting for the repairs to be finished.

Our friend Rod loaned us the $1500 it cost to get the car running again. We checked out of the hotel every day hoping the car would be done and sat at a Denny's restaurant with no money to order food. One day we got a side of green beans because it was the cheapest thing on the menu. Another day an old man asked us what our story was, paid for our dinner and encouraged my husband to get a job with the railroad. The waitress overheard our story and the manager footed the bill for our next meal.

The car was fixed after seven days. We loaded up and went to leave only to find the freeway was closed due to a blizzard. I wept as we rolled back to the hotel and checked in again.

The next day we left and drove straight through to Cheney where the alternator (which had not been correctly installed) rattled off and the engine blew up again. I called my parents and they came and picked us up. I will never forget driving past the farmhouse where I grew up, crying silently, and wishing to God I could go back to that pink room and undo the last month.

It was almost December. We had a 16-foot camp trailer to live in. The cabin deal had fallen through. I was still miserably ill and exhausted. As we passed through Colville my mom told me that they and my in-laws had pitched in to build an apartment for us over the shop on the Glanville's property for us to live in. We had no furniture, but I cried tears of relief to have a warm roof and four walls with a flushing toilet.

I had my first appointment with the midwife (who was also a member of the community at Marble) shortly after we returned home. She said that I measured too large to be correct about the dates, and asked if I could have possibly gotten pregnant before we got married. I told her no, insinuating how ridiculous the thought was. She asked if we had had sex before we got married. I blushed and admitted we had, but that there was no way I got pregnant because we weren’t even trying. Once again, I shudder when I imagine what she must have thought of my naive perspective. She measured me again and told me when I had most likely conceived, and then she informed David and I that we had two options: either we tell the church leaders or she would.

When we sat down with Anne and Barry Byrd to tell them about our fornication, Anne looked me in the eye and told me that “what usually happens in these situations is that the young lady seduces the young man and it’s nearly impossible for him to help himself.”

Maybe I liked the sense of power that gave me. I don’t know. What I do know is that when we were told to repent to the community at a public meeting, I stood forward and took responsibility for seducing the man I was betrothed to and causing this failure. For undermining him as my spiritual authority. The leaders nodded their approval and forgiveness as my husband stood behind me at the pulpit of the church.

Fitting In

We were assigned to a “cell group” with leaders who were only a couple of years older than David and I. The leaders thought we’d be a good fit since Mark and Angela Black were busy cranking out babies too, and they’d never even imagine fornicating. Maybe they appeared similar to David and I based on some perception of us being into gardening and trees, etc. I guess David was, and I was into whatever my husband was, so it looked good on paper.

They weren’t particularly helpful when we would talk about issues that young married couples have, like people punching holes in the wall and other violent outbursts. I remember a lot of concerned looks, odd smiles and “hmm, let us get some counsel on that,” from them.

Truth be told I never had much respect for the Blacks because Angela was still rocking the denim jumpers that I thought Marble had freed me from. Maybe that’s why we were in their group. Maybe that’s exactly how the leaders saw me. It would be years before I would have a conversation with Anne Byrd and tell her that having babies and a garden was never on my bucket list, that I would have liked to have gone to college and traveled the world. She was absolutely shocked. I don’t know why that surprised me. I have since learned to be more vocal about who and what I am to avoid confusion like that.

Pregnancy was hard for me. It was even harder since the man I married was so far from the one I had fantasized about. All of my friends were still doing teenage things, school, friends, jobs… the ones I left behind in Colville had moved on with no hole left where I used to be. It filled in like quicksand. Like I had never even been there.

I tried to throw a party in February of ‘96 near Valentine’s Day at our apartment. I was so lonely. I designed Walther PPK silhouette invitations for a James Bond themed movie night. I made cakes and hors d'oeuvres and found a delicious pink brocade dress straight out of the 60s that just fit over my pregnant belly. I mailed out invitations to all of my old friends. I decorated the house in pink and red hearts and James Bond girls and villains. I frosted cookies and made fancy appetizers. Not one showed up. Not one. I was alone. All of my friends at Marble were younger than me, none married, certainly none pregnant. I was no longer the barefoot-soccer playing old-movie-buff-Shakespeare-queen. I was no one.

The Firstborn

Hallelujah Margaret was born on June 15, the day before my dad’s birthday and three days after I turned 19. I delivered at home, naturally, in our small apartment over the shop. I don’t remember much, other than the endlessness of it and then the relief of it finally being over. It was less than 24 hours before it was expected that I resume my wifely duties to the man I married. I remember that pain like it was yesterday.

I hated breastfeeding. Looking back now, I understand that some of what I was going through was symptomatic of sexual abuse and trauma. I was having panic attacks when I nursed Halle. I felt like I was going to explode out of my skin because I loathed my body so much. I despised my breasts, my bleeding and broken teenage body. I had massive stretch marks on the lower part of my abdomen that I hadn’t been able to see until after Halle was born.

The panic attacks started happening more often than just when I was nursing. My husband was the only one I had to turn to. He would hold my hand and I would try to remember how to breathe. I began to view him in some weird, holy and fearful light. I was afraid of him, and I revered him, and even though he inflicted pain on me there was never a moment that I questioned it as part of my duty to him.

I knew nothing else. I had no idea what healthy love looked like. My husband was condescending and narcissistic. Everything was my fault and I found myself perpetually repenting to him for a million petty things as he raged around our small apartment, punching and kicking holes in walls and doors when things didn’t go his way. But that wasn't even the worst of it...

Things That Bind: The Marriage

The Betrothal

I became a member of Marble a few days before my 18th birthday when I was betrothed to David Glanville on June 6, 1995, shortly before my homeschool-high school graduation party. My “betrothal” was sanctioned by my parents, his parents, and the leaders at Marble before I was aware that there was a proposal coming. Of course I said yes.

I was not quite 18 and college, according to my dad was “no place for young ladies.” David was the most sophisticated, worldly and formally educated of all my teenage crushes. In truth, earlier in 1995, I had been grounded for writing letters to another boy I liked, a redneck who lived in Oregon and whom I had denied a kiss the summer before at a church camp. I had kissed one boy before I became betrothed, shortly after my 17th birthday, in the parking lot of the Subway in Colville where I worked.

I know my parents were concerned about my “boy-craziness” and how to best direct me toward a righteous pathway. If you asked them later, they would contend that I was enough of a free spirit that if I had not been allowed to marry David (remember, again, I had no idea he was proposing) they feared I would run away and elope with him anyway. Maybe they gave their blessing out of resignation, or from my perspective, a sense of relief in passing the baton of spiritual authority and responsibility for such a flight risk to a husband.

Hindsight is 20/20. Or in this case probably not that clear, but I want my readers to know that my parents did what they thought was best in raising me, and I love them for that. It is important to understand that in their quest, my parents took unconventional pathways that led us to where we are now but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the choices they made were done in love, if slightly misled, and their hope was always for my happiness and holiness. I have never, for one second, believed that they had anything but my spiritual well being and success in mind. They believed, as I did then, that all of my dreams were coming true.

David and I had been confronted (Matthew 18-ed) by a leader in the church for what she perceived to be us spending too much time together. We had been co-directing a production of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at Marble, which was a ploy I had come up with to spend more time there and with him after taking an English class with several other homeschool students at the church. The English teacher, Angela Black, also a member of core group, felt that David and I were spending too much time together and called in my parents and other church leaders to address the issue.

I was deeply mortified to be in trouble at Marble before I was even a full-fledged member. In the middle of the meeting, which involved most of core group after a Sunday church service in early June, David jumped out of his chair and asked if he could speak to my dad. He and dad walked around the side of the building and came back after a few minutes, when my dad addressed the group and indicated that the issue would be dealt with in the "family government sphere" and the meeting was over. Unbeknownst to me, David had asked my dad if he could court me.

Mom, Dad and David had lunch at Rancho Chico in Colville the next day, where my dad told David that if he was truly hearing from the lord about me as a potential bride, he didn't see the need for courtship since I was already in love and the most logical step, in my parents' minds, was betrothal, which Dad felt was a less "worldly" term than engagement.

From my perspective the leaders at Marble were supportive of the union between David and myself. The Byrds had long been trying to get my parents to buy into Marble on a deeper level and my marriage offered that connection. My whole family began attending church regularly and my parents bought property and began construction on a house not long after I was married. David’s family had been at Marble for a few years before he came along to join them, only after failing out of college in one semester and spending some time back east training horses on a ranch.

He finally made his way to Marble in the winter of ‘94, where his four younger siblings and parents were. He lived in the dingy basement of the old house they had purchased, along with his twin brothers who are five years younger than he was (and the same age as me), younger sister Anne and the baby of the family, Peter, who was a couple years younger than I was.

David’s college experience (as minimal as it was) seemed exotic and worldly to me. He had been an English Lit major, and even though his grades ruled out a return after one semester, he was the first person I knew who had actually gone to college. I met him briefly at a conference about “Restoring American’s Biblical Foundations” put on by a pastor named Paul Jehle in Boise with several other youth from Marble and a few of my own homeschooling associates.

I was instantly enamored with David. He was five years older than I was and the coolest thing I had ever seen. His wavy blonde hair and knee high combat boots were complemented by a ratty, fatigue green ensemble which gave him a Kurt-Cobain-meets-Fidel-Castro sort of appeal, if I even knew who those people were back then. He was undeniably handsome and an unmistakable renegade in our prudish circle of denim skirts and crisp button downs with only one allowable buttonhole freed. I was crushing hard. For all of my goody-two-shoesness, I had a thing for the rebel without a cause. I had a map hanging over my top bunk in the room I shared with my younger sister Emily. I had a thumb tack placed in the state of Virginia, where I knew he was training horses. Every night I would pray that he would come back and notice me. Eventually he did.

The Fall

Shortly into our betrothal period, David began to tell me that he would not be able to wait until we were married to be physically involved. He didn’t think he could control himself and told me he shouldn’t be around me or we would both be in trouble. During one conversation (as I repented to him for the one kiss I had outside of our sacred relationship) he admitted to me that he was “not as pure as he should be.” I took this to mean several kisses, maybe even copping a feel or two. I quickly forgave him and insisted that we were both sinners but all was forgotten. Later, I would learn our perspective on purity was vastly different.

I lost my virginity to David a few weeks before our wedding in his filthy basement room after we had rationalized together that betrothal, in the biblical sense, was the same as marriage, as Joseph and Mary were betrothed and they lived together. That term gave us all the room we needed to fail. As an interesting side note, when I researched betrothal later, I learned that what distinguishes it from engagement is the cultural assumption that it’s an arrangement made without knowledge or consent of one of the parties, usually when one of them is still a child, by the families. Our physical relationship was at once non-stop, aggressive, and became all consuming leading up to the wedding. All of this I attributed to a passionate love, but as I would learn over time, David’s passion rarely extended beyond a compelling urge for physical gratification and rage-filled outbursts.

The Wedding

I was married October 7th of that year. The plan for a year-long betrothal dissolved as David and I pushed against the standards my dad had set for consistent employment and a place to live. At the time, those things seemed like small problems to solve, and in my naive mind, we had more than enough love to fix them. David, who had some background as a professional horse trainer, was waiting for a fall job grafting trees for a local nursery. I had been working at Barman’s lunch counter in Colville, along with some house cleaning and other side jobs. David worked a deal with a property owner to deconstruct and move a small log cabin for us to live in. The deal ultimately fell apart but the plan was enough to get the stamp of approval to move ahead with the wedding.

The wedding was an odd outdoor affair in early October with leaves on the ground and two bonfires to light the ceremony. I wore the satin dress that my grandmother wore in her wedding in the late 1940s. David’s dad, Paul, played his trumpet to announce the arrival of the bridegroom. I was escorted by a “cloud of virgins” to the wedding canopy, representing spiritual authority and covering, held by our brothers and one of my closest (obviously male) friends. A bit of Jewish tradition sprinkled in throughout the ceremony paid homage to David’s eccentricity, the importance of symbolism in the community, and my naive intrigue with anything exciting and new.

On our wedding night, I tasted wine for the first time when David and I took wedding communion. I hated it. The wedding reception would later cause a major scandal and a series of community meetings at Marble which I would miss while on my month-and-a-half long honeymoon. I was obsessed with the movie “Swingkids” in the mid 90s and all of my dorky homeschooling friends loved pretending to know how to swing dance. So of course my reception playlist included several swing hits. We all threw off our shoes and went wild. My grandmother even demonstrated some of the spins and rolls that she remembered from the actual era.

It was one of the best memories of the wedding. Perhaps even of the marriage. But later Anne Byrd would call the young people at Marble into accounting for the disorderly and chaotic dancing. Apparently line dancing and some country swing were allowable, but this type of anarchy was a disgrace. Hearing about the meetings was my first exposure to the type of subjective tyranny that I would find everywhere at Marble, and I was shocked.

When I got home I repented for my involvement in the chaos and leading others astray. This type of taste-based judgement was commonplace with Anne. During one meeting I remember her publicly declaring Hawaiian shirts to be effeminate, completely disgusting, and saying that any male who would wear one probably needed to examine his perspective of his role as a man in the Kingdom of God. This incident stands out to me particularly because it’s the first time I heard another leader challenge Anne. Vicki Johnson told Anne that growing up in California, all the manliest studs wore Hawaiian shirts, and it was completely a matter of subjective opinion. Anne was shocked, both with Vicki’s public challenge and her (clearly deviant) taste.

My parents had given me a 1972 Volvo that I had seen in someone’s backyard and fallen in love with for my graduation present that summer. The dark blue paint had oxidized to purple and it didn’t run. Before it was fixed, I bought paint and painted flowers all over the sides and named it “Grimace.” We got it running (barely) and planned a honeymoon road trip all the way from Marble to Wisconsin to stay at a lake cabin that belonged to David’s aunt and uncle after a few days on the Oregon Coast, where all of my best childhood vacation memories had taken place.

Some of my best friends had snuck out of the reception to decorate Grimace for our departure, using spray bottles of whipping cream to write epithets on the windshield, and every other surface. Melting whipped cream was dripping from the car when we clambered in with me still clumsily lumbering around in my grandmother’s antique satin wedding gown. We drove toward Chewelah where David’s mom, Donna, had booked us a night at a bed and breakfast well off the beaten path. The melting fat on the windshield was smeared like frosting by the crusty old windshield wipers. It turns out that windshield wiper fluid wasn’t a thing in 1972.

A mile from the church, David had to pull off to the side of Highway 25 and use the only liquid in the car (the remainder of our communion wine) to clean off the windshield. Following tradition, a few cars of well-wishers were behind us, honking and waving and shooing us on our way. One of them pulled up alongside to make sure that we weren’t having any serious issues. Before they could even offer help, the innocent family friends of my parents stopped and rolled down their window and were introduced to David’s short temper. I sat mortified in the front seat.

“Go back to hell where you came from,” he screamed in frustration at them. I sank down into my seat and fought back tears as I watched them huffily roll up their window and take off. 40 minutes later, we coasted into a gas station in Colville where Grimace’s battery died. David was forced to ask for help from the only other vehicle there, which happened to be the nice family he blew up at. He offered some form of apology, which in David’s repertoire always includes a justification, and they gave us a reluctant jump-start while I cried.

I wish I could say there was a happy moment on our honeymoon. That first moment set off a chain of events that went from bad to worse, and I had my first encounter with David’s potential for violence soon after we got to the Oregon Coast. All of my childhood memories on those beaches began to fade as they were replaced with the seared images of pain and confusion that I was faced with for nearly a week there. David’s demand for sex was non-stop. I wasn’t feeling well, and I was in pain. Once, when I asked him to stop because something was hurting me, he punched the pillow right next to my head and shouted at me that I was his wife and I was not allowed to defraud him. I rarely tried to stop him after that. I was devastated.

We went on to Wisconsin, and the most poignant memory I have of the trip is the sense of abject misery. I was sick. I was battling a terrible yeast infection, and bladder infection, and who knows what else. With no way to see a doctor, we called David’s dad (a medical doctor) who recommended some yogurt. I was so exhausted and completely disillusioned. My laid back, knight-in-shining-armor now seemed like a nightmare to me. Shortly after we got to Wisconsin, I was in bad enough shape that his uncle, who was a pharmacist, suggested I take a pregnancy test. I scoffed. There was no way. We hadn’t even been trying to get pregnant. How ignorant I must have seemed to those nice people. How naive. How broken.

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