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.



3 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing .. it must be hard at times, I would like to say your writing style has a certain “ grace” to it ,

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    1. Thank you so much... I seek grace, in my memories, for my failures and for the forgiveness I need to give and receive. Your kind words mean a great deal.

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  2. I am sorry that people get manipulated like the leadership did you, Liv. Their actions don't sound anything Jesus-like to me. Thank you for your courage to share this. Eleanor Mattice

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