Things About Faith: The Danger of Presumption

MacKenzie and the HIB 

My girls were not immunized as infants. I don't remember even discussing the prospect of immunizations with David. There was a general sense in my immature mind that if the system was pushing it, it had to be wrong. David and I hadn't applied for a marriage license before our wedding and the girls didn't have birth certificates or social security numbers for several years until we realized the long term implications of these choices for our kids.

I vaguely remember the midwife mentioning inoculations because the law required her to at least verbalize the availability of vaccinations at birth. It was our personal decision (albeit uninformed) to withhold all immunizations. When MacKenzie was two and a  half, she became ill. It was the fall of 1999, and David and I had just moved into what was the beginning of a straw bale house that we were building on the property we had purchased from the original investors at Marble.

When we moved in the pole structure consisted of posts standing on a cement footing, dirt floor, with exposed straw bales stacked on the first story. The second floor had no walls at all and while the roof was constructed, it was covered only in sheeting and tar paper. In the late summer we slept in a tent on the second floor of the house. We eventually got straw bales stacked for the second story walls and covered with plastic before fall hit. The only running water we had was a hose threaded through an unfinished window opening into the kitchen sink. Our toilet was an outhouse next to the building.

When MacKenzie got sick, I was about six months pregnant with my fourth baby. After several days MacKenzie seemed to be getting worse. Dr. Currigan (a member of Marble) checked on her a couple of times and reassured us it was a flu bug and just needed to run its course. After nearly two weeks MacKenzie was listless and struggling to breathe.

Dr. Currigan came to see her again and recommended that we take her to the emergency room after the church leaders came and prayed for her. Looking back, with the limited medical training I have had since then, I know that what he saw that day was a very sick baby. MacKenzie had Haemophilus Influenzae Type B, a virus that was once a frequent killer of babies before immunizations became commonplace.

By the time we took her to the emergency room she was on the brink of sepsis and had double pneumonia. She was transported by ambulance to Sacred Heart in Spokane where we spent two weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. MacKenzie almost died. I don’t think that reality actually dawned on me until years later.

I sat next to her day after day, with tubes piping volumes of bloody puss out of both of her lungs, and watched and waited for the wild-eyed redheaded spirit to come back into her frail body.

 My journal entry following the incident was trite. I mentioned trusting God and how I knew it would be fine, even when she needed a blood transfusion and our own belief system (supported by leadership) dictated that she not be given a stranger’s blood. David is a universal donor so he donated blood. It miraculously passed the first screening so MacKenzie was able to receive his blood within hours.

My words seem flippant when I talk about the community rallying around us and taking care of us during this time. When I mention the medical bills that we had no insurance for but how “God will provide” (ultimately the state footed the bill since we were penniless) I see the presumption and entitlement of a naive fool. Looking back now I understand the doctors and the concern with which they held the young, willfully ignorant couple that we were.

In spite of the rift in my family at this time, my parents and other extended family, including David’s dad, all reached out in support and unconditional love during the two weeks we spent at the NICU. MacKenzie left the hospital with a central port for the antibiotics that she was still receiving. We went home to the unfinished "hay house" as my kids would later call it as soon as MacKenzie was able to eat on her own again. The less-than-sterile surroundings we were living in make me shudder now, but at the time, I was just happy to be home.

As the years went on and I had more children, I became firmly convinced in not only the reality and science behind immunizations, but more importantly, on the need for well-balanced education about inoculations. Moving forward, we chose to give our babies most routine immunizations, withholding certain ones for the first few weeks to allow some natural immunity to develop.

Neighbors pitch in to help build the 
On a positive note, what I can say about that time in our lives was that a fairly large group of community members (led by a neighbor) spearheaded a work party to come and stucco most of our house to enclosing it before the winter. This is an example of the beautiful side of a community. To this day I am grateful for the good people (some of whom still live at Marble) who contributed time, materials, and energy to making our home safer for my small children as the weather changed. Many of the homes on Marble were built debt-free, one work party at a time, with the support of cell groups and neighbors. For clarification, individual families purchased lots of the Marble town site from the original investors and owned their property separate from the community.

But these efforts could also be exploited. It was always impressed upon us the importance of community service. We spent many community work days contributing to projects at the church or barn even when our own homes were barely fit to live in. Leaders would commandeer work parties for their own homes, remodels and landscaping jobs, usually comprised of young people who were impressed upon to honor their spiritual authority in such fashion.

Christmas Child 

My third baby would also be born at home, supervised only by a community member (who also happened to be one of my best friends)  who felt like the Lord was calling her into midwifery. She  had worked as an apprentice under the first midwife who had left Marble by this time, but had no formal training or experience outside of our little community. At the time it all made sense in the world that she would deliver my baby. Looking back, we both shake our heads in wonder that the adult leaders in the community allowed this to happen. We are also both extremely grateful that there were no complications in labor. At the time I was 23 and she was 24. Looking back I understand now that a midwife (trained or not) was a necessity in their minds  for the self- sustainability that Y2K would demand from Marble.

I went into false labor on New Years eve of 1999. There had been such a build up for Y2K at Marble. Anne and Barry believed strongly that it was the opportunity they had been awaiting - a chance to move into power in the larger community when the established infrastructure fell. We stood in the church together as a community on New Years Eve waiting for the moment of imminent collapse. The excitement was palpable.  Leadership and much of the congregation were crestfallen when nothing happened and had to begin looking for a new moment to build toward.

The stockpiles of dehydrated foods came in handy for us even though life remained the same since we were still living well below poverty level. When Nat was born our “straw bale house” was in the same condition it was when MacKenzie was hospitalized. With some improvements of straw bales stacked for the second floor walls and an indoor toilet surrounded by hanging bed sheet walls. A luxury I demanded giving birth at home without medical support in January.

Natalee's birth in the very unfinished "hay house"
Natalee was born on January 5th in the year 2000. Her name (which was also my great-grandmother’s) meant Christmas Child. My pregnancy with Natalee was the only planned one of all four. In the year leading  up to her birth there was a strong push in the community toward re-establishing the covenant that had been “violated” by members who had left. Many of them family.

I  had tackled the issues in my marriage with new zeal and I was determined to become an integral part of the kingdom, not allowing conflict with David or my own discontent to hold me back. Having another baby seemed to be a good buy-in to the lifestyle. My drive carried me through for some time, and Natalee's early years are not shrouded in the same fog of pain that memories of my first two babies bring. But my journals are still fraught with turmoil about the lost relationship with my parents and dark days of questioning everything that I wanted so badly to believe in.

Rebel With a Cause

Shortly after Natalee was born I wrote a long, well thought out, and biblically researched appeal to my husband and church leaders to begin taking college classes online. I had done my homework. I could get enough financial aid and student loans to buy a computer. I wouldn’t have to leave the kids but I could start studying at home. In my appeal I offered to teach the homeschool students and contribute to the Prep School with my eventual degree in hand. I had already been offering drama and literature classes for the younger grades and doing the majority of the script writing, directing and choreography for productions during Marble’s 4th of July God and Country Days and other events in the community.

I had a ten year plan to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology. Leadership shot it down before they got through the first paragraph. Barry told me that I hadn’t demonstrated submission and contentment at home. They didn’t “witness” to my plan.

Regardless of leadership’s decision, my husband was actually supportive of the idea because the financial aid and student loans meant a hefty supplement to the work that he was doing for Jim Buck at sub-par wages. I defied the counsel of leadership. I bought a brand new Gateway Computer. The boxes it was shipped in were black and white like Oreo Cookie cows.

I can still taste the joy of that whole experience like it was yesterday. I was connected to the outside world. I was using my brain. I felt alive for the first time in years even though I was in rebellion to spiritual authority. I started communicating through email with my parents on a more regular basis, even though they were still supposed to be cut off. Higher education was the beginning of the end for me at Marble. I think leadership saw that writing on the wall. I was already questioning enough without any new ideas from the outside.

Things About Justice

Injustice begins with the belief that not all men are created equal. That some, by designation of race, social status, belief, or physical ability, are relegated to different treatment than the rest of us. Whether this belief is subconscious (as it is for many of us) or overt and intentional, it is the driving force of injustice. 

I have been asked repeatedly about my motivations for telling the story of my time at Marble. I have said that my goal is not to destroy the lifestyle or even to change the minds of people who live at Marble. I believe in their right to practice any belief, lifestyle and philosophy they choose. I have had several discussions lately with friends and family members about freedom of thought and belief and how far it can go before it encroaches upon even more fundamental rights of others. As with any extremism, the belief in one absolute pathway to righteousness results in the oppression, injustice and abuse of anyone who does not follow the same pathway, calling or belief system. 

Throughout centuries of human civilization, long before the bible, before Jesus' lifetime, before Islam was established, human beings have annihilated other cultures for the sake of righteousness. The only guard against this is equality: the deep rooted belief that none of us has a more direct pathway to righteousness than any other. Freedom of religion for one person or sect ends where the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of another human being is threatened. 

I have been asked what action I believe needs to be taken against Marble, or toward the leaders of that place. My answer is none, unless it can be proved that they are still infringing on the basic human rights of other people as they did when I lived at Marble. This trespass can only be proved if someone who is experiencing that oppression, injustice and abuse speaks out. 

The experiences I had at Marble took place more than 16 years ago. The people who remain will tell you that Marble's leadership style has changed. That Marble has changed. I want with all of my heart to believe that, but I have yet to see evidence of this. In March of 1997, Jim Buck preached a sermon at Marble about repentance. "True repentance means understanding in our heart the injury we have caused by our wrong,"  he said. I wrote this quote in my notes, along with scriptures that Buck offered to back up his description of what real repentance looks like. 

I have never seen this spirit in the leadership for anything that has happened over the years at Marble. I have spoken to many former and current members who have voiced their deep remorse and sadness for their part in harmful processes that exacerbated or even triggered deep brokenness in individuals and families, but I have never heard or seen a Core Group leader take responsibility for any wrong doing. I believe this is because they still believe that they were not wrong. 

After leaving Marble in 2004, I returned often with my kids for God and Country Days. Keeping silent about my experiences at Marble had allowed me to remain in fellowship with the community in spite of our differences and since most of my adult life and my friends and family were there, I visited many times. In 2014, I worked for the weekend at one of the food vendor booths where I had the opportunity to meet Matt Shea, Michelle Fiori and many other who's-whos of the patriot movement. (If you don't know these names by now, I encourage you to Google them.) In 2015, Marble hosted Pastor John Weaver as a key-note speaker for their 21st Annual God and Country Days on  Independence Day weekend.

John Weaver is a pastor who hails from Georgia. He uses the story in Genesis of Noah condemning descendants of his son Ham to servitude in order to to claim that God ordained slavery. In a sermon contrasting "biblical" and "pagan" slavery, Weaver says: "Slavery cannot be inherently evil in and of itself," arguing that Jesus would not have used slavery as an analogy of his ministry if it was inherently evil. Weaver goes on to preach that anything that the infallible bible says must be correct, including referring to human beings such as slaves and wives as the property of another. I would encourage everyone to listen to some of Weaver's sermons if you have any questions about how damaging a literal interpretation of the bible can be and to understand the elitist ideals that dominionist religion creates. I recommend his piece "The Sins of the Jews" for a good starting point. This is where inequality is born. This is where injustice begins. 

I have been asked repeatedly about whether I saw or heard racism, white supremacy or Christian Identity concepts and principles at play during my time at Marble. When I joined Marble I was completely naive to this doctrine. I had no idea, as an 18-year-old, that one of the main reasons that my parents had given Marble a wide berth for so long was because they were very well acquainted with Anne and Barry Byrd's involvement in the Christian Identity movement, stemming from their time at the Ark out in Cedar Creek and a belief in the theology of British Israel. These concepts are displayed shamelessly on the sleeve of their bluegrass band's first album, Judah's Advance. 

The record sleeve describes in no uncertain terms their belief in the westward migration of the "true children of Israel" who eventually settled in Scotland, Ireland, Britain and "every other Christian, Anglo-Saxon nation in the world today." (side note: the Byrd's grandson is named Saxon.)

This album was produced in 1984, only three years before my family moved to Colville. When my parents took us back to Washington DC in 1985, this was the soundtrack to our road trip. We listened to it so much that I can still sing every word to every song to this day. For years the sound of a banjo made me carsick. (Update: I am now a huge bluegrass fan.)

While My parents liked the overall patriotic theme, they were unable to reconcile the extreme religious insinuations that they heard preached by the Byrds and their cohorts and could not support Anne and Barry's new community when it launched not long after we moved to Stevens County.

Judah's Advance was followed in 1988 by the Remnant Resolves, a treatise on god and government authored and signed by a committee that included Barry Byrd, Brad Bulla, and several others who traveled in the Christian Identity movement of the late '80s.

This riveting piece of literature states: "It is blasphemous to regard antichrists as 'God's chosen people' and allow them to rule over or hold public office in a Christian nation," it goes on to declare that "interracial marriage pollutes the integrity of the family," and lumps homosexuality into the same pool of egregious sin as abortion and pornography.

After Marble faced an onslaught from local media about their background and involvement in white supremacy circles, the Byrds and other leaders faced a political decision point. They authored a position paper on Christian Identity that they released sometime in the late '90s, distancing themselves from their former beliefs and stating that Marble would neither teach nor support this theology. This position paper gave my parents enough comfort to give Marble a chance but it was around this time that a sizable exodus happened from the church when people who had come to Marble to live in an intentional community with this shared belief system realized that the Byrds were making the political decision to refrain from teaching identity doctrine and they left.

I came to Marble not long before this shift happened and was blissfully unaware of everything except for complaints from the pulpit about attacks from the media, as Anne addressed in November of 1996: "The system's reproach is not disgrace." Throughout my time in cell groups and the occasional interactions I was allowed with the prep school, Anne made veiled references to British Israel ideology, always followed with a "but we aren't going there" statement and throwing her hands in the air.

I do believe the Byrds and other leaders tried to downplay the role that British Israel theology played into their overall dominionist perspective. I believe if you asked most of the congregation at Marble during the late '90s and early 2000s, there would be very few instances of exposure to Christian Identity philosophies except in the closest inner circles. The ties weren't severed completely, however, as I reference patriot leader Bo Gritz on my list of prayer request in October of 1996 (I had no idea who he was at the time), indicating that the Byrds were still in close contact with Gritz and the far-right political spectrum.

This intentional move away from shouting their questionable ideologies from the rooftops only fed into the top-secret, elitism that came to be one of the most intriguing and compelling parts of Marble. Only the most trustworthy were allowed into the inner sanctum, developing strategies and planning for the eventual deployment of the kingdom of god in Stevens County.

When John Weaver was announced as Marble's "Patriot Pastor" for God and Country Days in 2015, his prevailing themes were brought to my attention by another former member of Marble. They had voiced their concern to leaders about what the introduction of someone like Weaver would do to the reputation of Marble that the Byrds had worked so hard to rebuild. I also told event planners that I felt like hosting Weaver would be a decisively destructive move to their PR, even if he didn't preach on his more inflammatory topics and even if the community "didn't support" everything he taught. Our cries fell on deaf ears. The response I received was that the decision was made by Anne and Barry and would not be questioned. They would not back down. From my perspective, the Byrds delivered their own death blow to Marble with this decision.

Both the choice of Weaver as a keynote speaker and the inability to sway the Byrd's destructive decision making tell me that little has changed at Marble. As in the late 1990s, they have learned to strategically mask and carefully hide their practices and true beliefs for more a politically and socially acceptable appearance, but with Weaver, they overplayed their hand.

In response to whether or not Marble and the people who reside there are racist, my answer continues to be that every last one of us is racist to some extent. We cannot know the experiences we haven't had. The question is about motive and execution. My racism manifests unintentionally in insensitivity that I don't even realize I am displaying, but my worldview could never include the presupposition that god loves me more or has a bigger, better plan for me than for any other human. The Byrd's racism stems from a belief that god has chosen them for a specific purpose over and above other human beings of different races and theologies.

The more important question is whether or not Marble and the people who reside there are dangerous. My answer to that is no - conditionally. For perspective, many of the people who live at Marble now do not even go to church there. A few are peripherally involved in political things (such as the Liberty State movement). Only a handful of families remain at Marble that are still deeply involved in the church. Most of these people are good, kind citizens who have every intention of living peacefully in a lifestyle that seems strange to any of us who haven't been there. It's just another form of prejudice to think that the different way they have chosen to live is sub-par or wrong... It's not a lifestyle I want any more, but I once did and I understand why they do. They educate their children (boys and girls), they socialize, they enjoy life just like the rest of us, with very few variations. As long as they do so peacefully without bringing harm to the life or liberty of other human beings, I support their right to do so.

It's when the radicalized beliefs of people like Anne Byrd are fed into innocent minds, minds that lack the critical thinking skills that exposure to diverse lifestyles and philosophies provides, this is when they become dangerous. Marble has always attracted the broken and lost, the ones seeking direction and purpose. The Byrds provide that, and using the tactics that are taught in Dedication and Leadership, and the Self Confrontation Guide, they create loyalty and leverage to stir up passion in young followers. This passion is only dangerous if it is engaged by an outside force.

The worst fate imaginable for megolamaniacs like Anne Byrd would be to die out slowly without meaning anything. To go quietly into the night without leaving a mark. She's looking for a fight and always has been. To stir up any reaction to her and the movement she has been fanning the flames of for years is to play right into her hand and offer her the fantasy of martyrdom that she has long cried for. The Byrds would love to die for their beliefs. This would be fine if it weren't for the innocent lives they'd sacrifice in the crossfire to make it happen. Marble is only dangerous if they have an enemy. As the community surrounding them, the best hope and safety we can provide for them and for ourselves is to let them live in peace. Do not vote them into office. Do not instigate war with them. Do not allow them the political relevance they've been seeking for decades.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

To cut off or shun members of Marble because of how they believe would make us no better than them. They can be members of the larger community (and many are) without subverting local government with religious dominionism (which some are trying to do). My admonishment to the citizens of Stevens County is to become educated about the people who are running for office.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Religious liberty isn't omni-directional. Religious liberty ends where it infringes on the life or liberty of another human being. Anne and Barry Byrd, much like radicalized Muslims with their sharia law, do not hold this belief. For the Byrds, there is one religion and one way to practice, and one people chosen by god. It is not just, it is not equal and it is not what this nation was founded on. It is not what men and women, heroes like Martin Luther King, Jr. have fought and died to defend.

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Things That Shatter: Family Ties

My Family

My parents, who had moved to Marble after my wedding and become fully involved in the community, decided to leave Marble in February of 1998. My mom asked in a community meeting if there was any sort of budget for the tithes, restitution and other income for the church that could be shared with the congregation. She was immediately condemned for daring to question the word of the lord (through Anne Byrd), and called out for a spirit of Jezebel that would sow seeds of mistrust in the community. 

The final straw for them came when another family at Marble (which happened to be Anne Byrd's brother and his wife) dared to question Anne and Barry and were formally excommunicated. We were told we could have no communication with this family or hear their side of the story. Their confessed sins were recited by Anne and Barry for the entire congregation to cast judgement and vote for excommunication, guided carefully by leadership. We were told that Anne's brother carried a spirit of Absolom, a character from the bible who was King David's third son, a rebel who set himself against his father and was killed.

The vote was almost unanimous, with a few abstentions from families who would leave Marble shortly thereafter. Community involvement in processes like this were a way for leadership to disperse responsibility for actions taken across the congregation so that no fingers could point directly at them. The guilt of our involvement in these events is the overwhelming reason that most of us who have left Marble have not told our stories. We all live with the burden of shame for our participation. After the excommunication, my parents had had enough, and they made plans to leave. 

When it became clear that my parents were making an exodus, Anne Byrd cautioned them that if they chose to “slander” Marble to the outside world that they, as leaders, would be forced to share with the community the sins that my parents had confessed to leadership. This was a reference to my father’s “confessed” lack of strong leadership and my mother’s insubordination to spiritual authority.

Shortly after this meeting, my dad was called into a meeting with some of the male leaders (my mother was not invited) and was told that he needed to get his household in order and bring his wife under submission. When leadership found little traction in this approach, my mom was counseled to “Matthew 18” my dad for his lack of leadership and apostasy of his spiritual authority over her.

My sister, who was turning19 in April of 1998, was desperate to stay in the community where she (as I) had found a network of peers were she felt that she belonged. The chronic church-hopping of our childhood and being homeschooled made us hungry to connect and belong in one place with people our own age.   

Even though she was legally an adult, the strength of belief in spiritual authority that both my family and the church carried meant that she could not stay on her own independent of a male covering. This was one thing that my parents and leadership agreed on. Until she was married there was no question in my parents' minds that our father would be the only appropriate covering for her. They would not give their blessing for my sister to stay.

My sister wrote a letter of appeal to Anne and Barry, requesting to be allowed to stay at Marble. In her letter she wrote that she felt called to Marble and that she couldn't follow my father away from the church because she lacked faith in his spiritual leadership. She wrote that she feared spiritual death if she would be required to stay with my family. 

The men then called a meeting and were required to vote either for or against taking ownership of my sister’s spiritual covering. My sister was planning to go into the Prep School and would be living in Steve Parker’s house and under his authority. Steve Melzer also took personal responsibility for her spiritual covering and after Prep School she would live with the Melzers until she was married.

At the meeting, her letter of appeal was shared but my parents were not given an opportunity to give their side of the story, nor even allowed to attend. Later, long after my dad requested a meeting with Barry about the issue, Barry responded with a scathing letter to my dad telling him how rebellious and insubordinate his spirit was in the request and how he couldn't think of indulging such a spirit. Having read both my father's letters to Barry and Barry's response recently, my stomach turns at the outright and oppressive bullying tactics that Barry employs in his response.  

It was made clear to the men that were gathered in that meeting that my father refused to hear the Holy Spirit regarding his daughter, basing the accusations once again on my dad's confessed weakness in spiritual leadership, and every man in the meeting (except for one) voted in support of the church assuming the role of her spiritual covering against my parent’s wishes. This was another example of the Byrds systematically use of the congregation to pass down decisions which they impressed upon members as revelation from god. 

The Shunning

After my parents left, momentum was building among families who had also cut ties with Marble, including my father-in-law, Paul Glanville, Anne’s brother and his family and several other people who departed from the community after the excommunication. From these families, letters were written to leadership, and up the accountability line to Dennis Peacocke and the Fellowship of Christian Leaders, the authority council that Anne and Barry claimed to be submitted to, as well as several letters sent to community members, pointing out damaging leadership style if not calling Marble out as a cult. 

My parents wrote a letter to Barry in defense of Jay Grimstead, a philosopher and pastor of some repute in the theological circles that we belonged to. Jay had made a public statement decrying Anne and Barry’s lack of accountability, controlling leadership style and the warning signs he saw during several months at Marble when he and his wife lived there during a sabbatical. Grimstead, along with other former members who dared to speak out, or "slander" leaders at Marble, was heralded as heretics and false prophets, according to one of Barry’s sermons. Slander became one of the hottest buzz words at Marble during this time, used liberally to refer to anything said about Marble that leadership didn't agree with. 

We were warned to keep our distance from the dissenters and the spirit of rebellion that was seeking to destroy the work of the lord. At the end of 1998, it was determined that all relationships with slandering former members should be cut off. They should be “shunned” from fellowship, with the intention of using “tough love” to bring them back into covenantal relationship. For me and my sister, this meant that we needed to tell our parents that we could not longer have relationship with them until they repented for the slander and rebellious attack against Marble.

We wrote letters to them, delineating the trespasses that they had committed against us and our covenant family and casting judgement on them for their spiritual rebellion. 

Until my sister married some time later. My dad could not bring himself to recognize the newly, self-appointed spiritual authority in her  life and the rift was painful. When she married her husband (who had come to the prep school from a sister church in Zillah), she was walked down the aisle by Steve Melzer. My parents were invited at the last minute through a special dispensation of grace from leadership, but they decided against coming to bear witness to the rejection of their role in her life. 

The repercussions of this process on our family would last for years. My journal is filled with entries crying out about the deeply conflicting thoughts, beliefs and feelings about cutting off relationship with my parents. In one journal entry I list off several repentances I needed to make, including one to Anne Byrd for "Unholy loyalty based on uncovenantal relationships and damaged trust." I remember having several conversations with Anne and Cheryl about how wrong it felt, how dishonoring I thought I was being. The response was sympathetic but staunch. Anne had, after all, excommunicated her own brother and his family. 

Excerpt from a letter to my parents, dated May 4th, 2002: 
    “Today is Emily’s wedding, and the place that only you can fill is painfully empty, but I believe God has a plan for all of us in this. Emily has so much to learn, and many of life’s lessons require the pain of many people. I am thankful for your willingness to endure the pain for the sake of growth. 
  "I confidently speak for Emily when I say that you are the best and only parents that we could have asked for, to raise us into our destiny and make us who we need to be to maximize God’s plan for our lives. We love you, and we thank God for you.”

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