"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.