Gratitude Within The Storm

Storm

Thanksgiving is a time that we look at life and contemplate what we’re thankful for. When life is going well, this is a fun and an easy task; however when life brings us challenges, acknowledging what we are thankful for can be difficult.

The second half of 2018 was particularly difficult for me. Hiking is one of my favorite pass times and for years, I have enjoyed hiking at least a couple of times each week. On the week-end I challenged myself to long, strenuous hikes and loved every minute of it! In May 2018, I began feeling tired. I thought that I was fighting some sort of flu bug. This feeling increasingly became worse and worse to the point that it was difficult for me to even walk up my stairs. My Fitbit recorded my heart rate and I noticed that my resting heart increased from an average of 65 beats per minutes to 125 beats per minute, while lying in bed. To my dismay, I quickly watched my muscles disappear.

After running a series of tests, the doctor informed me that I had an autoimmune disorder and that there is no cure… She said that I can expect to continue to lose muscle, I may lose all of my hair, and I may not be able to work…ever.

It took a little time for me to process this information. At first, I was in shock. I kept replaying the doctor’s quotes over and over in my mind. “There is no cure.” I thought, Is this my new normal? Will I ever hike again? Will I be able to work? What will my life look like? Do I need to shift my hopes and dreams to match the “new normal”?

After the shock wore off, I found that I was a little angry. I have always been an active person and I had so many things that I wanted to do in life, but my physical body yelled back, “NO”! The anger turned to sadness and I went through a time of mourning the loss of the future that I saw for myself. This was a dark time when I focused what I CAN’T do.

Through self-reflection, I realized that I wasn’t being very kind to myself. I thought of what I might say to someone else who was going through this. After some time, I realized that I needed to accept myself exactly where I was. This wasn’t my new normal, but this is where I was on that particular day. I vowed to stop comparing myself to others and to stop comparing myself to myself 2 months ago. Instead of looking at what I could NOT do, I started looking at and celebrating what I COULD do. I stopped saying things like, “I only did….” Or “I just did….” Because the words only and just really took away from the accomplishments. I started to get excited and to be thankful for the little acts that I could do. I accepted myself 100% and honored myself exactly where I was each day. As I celebrated and acknowledged the small stuff, I noticed that I started getting better…getting stronger. I began swimming because swimming is a gentle exercise that strengthens all of your body. Initially, I could do 2 laps. I fought my mind that wanted to say, “I ONLY could go 2 laps. I used to climb mountains and now I JUST did 2 laps. Instead I celebrated, “Yesterday, I did nothing. Today is the beginning. I swam 2 laps!” 2 laps increased to 4, then 6, then 8, then 10. Today I swam 40 laps. There were ups and downs and I had days that I was tired and felt that it would be best if I didn’t exercise. I have taken on the mindset to except myself each day, no matter what; to never say statements that would make me feel bad that I didn’t do something. I will be a loving cheerleader for myself.

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8)

Re-building my strength has been challenging. This experience has highlighted to me that in order for us to overcome any challenge, we must become the master of our minds. What we think matters. We can’t be overcome with negativity. We can’t wallow in the doctor’s words and give up. (i.e., “There is no cure.”) We can’t judge ourselves and compare ourselves to others or compare our abilities to what we used to do.

I noticed that as I began to acknowledge my small accomplishments and feel gratitude for where I was in the moment, I started to see new possibilities. I felt empowered and this is where the healing began!

I found myself stumbling upon many natural healing solutions. I changed the way I ate and cut out gluten, soy, and dairy. I increased my fruit and vegetable intake and bought organic, non-GMO, everything. I begin each morning with 16 ounces of celery juice. I replaced my home products with natural products to eliminate as many chemicals as possible.

I’m pleased to announce that to my doctor’s surprise that I am healing. I have been quickly weaning myself off of medication. The doctor said that I may be off of all medicine in December! If I am not off of the last of the medicine in December, I will continue to celebrate the milestones and focus on what I CAN do and how far I have come. I accept myself unconditionally throughout this journey!

Looking back, I do not think healing would have been possible without first finding gratitude within the storm. Without feeling gratitude, it would have been impossible to celebrate the small steps (which were actually huge) and then to build on that to become stronger and stronger.

I’m grateful for my healthy body and for where I am today.

What are you grateful for?

Katherine

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***For those of you who may not have heard yet, Through The Fire is now available on Amazon. I wanted to give a special thanks to so many of you who have already purchased the book and I really appreciate all of the thoughtful messages. I’m so pleased that the book has had such a positive response. If you know someone who may be struggling and may benefit from this story or someone who may enjoy the book, please share. Thank you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Through The Fire ~ On Amazon Today

Book Cover

After nearly a lifetime of preparation and years of writing, re-writing, and going through the grueling steps of the publishing process, I’m very pleased to announce that my book, Through the Fire, is available today on Amazon. For years, I have had this project in the back of my mind constantly. I was always working on an aspect of this process. It’s such a strange, silent, and still feeling to be at this stage of this project. I hope that in sharing my story that others who have experienced struggles in their lives will find greater peace.

Kidnapped and left to die- this was the headline the kidnapper expected to read after abducting twelve-year-old Katherine. However, God had a different plan. Join the author as she recalls the inspiring true story of suspense, survival, and miracles. You will be amazed as this determined little girl works side-by-side with the investigators to stop the kidnapper from hurting others in the future. The bravery she revealed at the trial as she stood face to face with the man who swore to kill her if she talked was extraordinary.

Have you ever wondered where God is in our suffering? Katherine shares numerous miracles, including a near-heaven experience. Through this story, she shows how God is with us in our darkest hour. God doesn’t cause the struggles in our lives, but He is there to help us through the fire. You will be on the edge of your seat as you witness these miracles and Katherine’s description of how she finds her way to freedom.

After a traumatic event such as this, are we really free? Is it possible to forgive the unforgivable? You will be inspired to see how this young girl found strength beyond her own to survive and move past this traumatic event. Read how it is possible to break the chains of yesterday’s suffering and move forward into a life filled with love and happiness.

Thank you for sharing! Happy reading!

Struggles are Part of the Journey

Butterfly 2

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further.

So the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon.

The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.

The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.

Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.

What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were Life’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. Remember nature needs no help, just no interference. There are processes of life, things we all go through. The struggles are a part of our journey and are preparing us for what awaits. They are preparing us to fly.
-unknown

#throughthefire

Walk a Mile in His Moccasins

Walk a mile

This week, I had the opportunity to attend CABA which is an autism conference for my work. My favorite part of the conference was listening to talks from amazing women who are mothers of children with autism. These woman were at the forefront of fighting for services for their children. They gave up successful careers to take care of their families. The most heartbreaking part of their stories wasn’t the fact that they gave up their careers, have dealt with daily tantrum behavior, aren’t able to go out to eat and vacation like the rest of us, the lack of sleep, or even what it feels like to have therapists in their home daily. The most heartbreaking part of their stories is when they share the reaction from the community. The hurtful quotes that people have said to them and the lack of support shown by neighbors, friends, and family was shocking. Despite these difficult situations, these woman have great lives and love their families. One of the moms shared this poem and I wanted to share it with you.

The poem Walk a Mile in His Moccasins was written by Mary T. Lathrap in 1895. The original title was Judge Softly. Here is the original poem.

Pray, don’t find fault with the man that limps, Or stumbles along the road. Unless you have worn the moccasins he wears, Or stumbled beneath the same load.

There may be tears in his soles that hurt Though hidden away from view. The burden he bears placed on your back May cause you to stumble and fall, too.

Don’t sneer at the man who is down today Unless you have felt the same blow That caused his fall or felt the shame That only the fallen know.

You may be strong, but still the blows That were his, unknown to you in the same way, May cause you to stagger and fall, too.

Don’t be too harsh with the man that sins. Or pelt him with words, or stone, or disdain. Unless you are sure you have no sins of your own, And it’s only wisdom and love that your heart contains.

For you know if the tempter’s voice Should whisper as soft to you, As it did to him when he went astray, It might cause you to falter, too.

Just walk a mile in his moccasins Before you abuse, criticize and accuse. If just for one hour, you could find a way To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.

I believe  you’d be surprised to see That you’ve been blind and narrow minded, even unkind. There are people on reservations and in the ghettos Who have so little hope, and too much worry on their minds.

Brother, there but for the grace of God go you and I. Just for a moment, slip into his mind and traditions And see the world through his spirit and eyes Before you cast a stone or falsely judge his conditions.

Remember to walk a mile in his moccasins And remember the lessons of humanity taught to you by your elders. We will be known forever by the tracks we leave In other people’s lives, our kindnesses and generosity.

Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins.

 

 

Love is a Verb ~ Without Action, it’s Merely a Word

 

Butterfly Love.jpg

This is a repost of an article that was posted several months ago. Since it’s Valentine’s month, it seemed like a good article to repost. Love is a Verb-

Hiking through the hills after being kidnapped, was probably the most difficult time in my life. Having severe injuries, a blood soaked dress, covered in bruises from beatings, and being emotionally and physically exhausted, each step took extreme effort. One thought that kept me going was that I knew that if I kept walking that I would soon run into caring people who would help me to make it back home. All I had to do was make it back to civilization. I was sure that the first person that saw me would pull over their car and help me. I just needed to find one person and I would be saved! This is what I thought; however I would soon discover that I was very wrong. I would soon experience a profound sense of disappointment as car after car passed me without stopping. By passers slowed their cars enough to get a good look at me with shock and then continued to drive on. Each time this happened, my heart sunk. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t stop and help me. As I came to a residential area, and passed people as we walked on the sidewalk, I felt that these weren’t “bad” people, yet everyone avoided me, looked away or sped off quickly. As disappointing as it was to experience how the kidnapper could be so cruel and thoughtless, the fact that others wouldn’t help me may have been even more disappointing. They looked at me as if I was “trouble”. Maybe they thought I was a runaway, homeless, or mixed up with the wrong type of people. Maybe they were afraid that if they stopped to help that they may be accused of hurting me or maybe they thought that the person who did this to me would hurt them if they got involved. Maybe they felt it was none of their business, not their responsibility; someone else will help me. Maybe they were just busy.  Maybe they never really thought about helping other people before. We will never understand why the people who passed me that day didn’t stop and help. There’s nothing we can do now to change the past. I hope by sharing my story that I can bring awareness so that we, as a society, will become brave and caring individuals and help people who desperately need our assistance.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta devoted her life to showing love to people who were dying in the streets. She picked them up, brought them to a home where they could die with love, joy and the peace of Christ. Mother Teresa spoke of loving with actions, rather than words. One time, she was inviting to a conference about ending world hunger. When she arrived to the conference, right in front of the door where hundreds of people passed to go into the conference to discuss how they would end hunger within 15 years, she found a dying man. Mother Teresa didn’t attend the conference that day, instead she brought the dying man home. He soon died – he died of hunger. Everyone in the conference talked about ending hunger, and the man that they passed on their way in died.

I wonder if one reason we don’t help others is because we judge. Did the people who passed the dying man judge him and is this why they didn’t help him? Did they feel their work in the conference was more important than the man? We are all precious to God. The man in the streets, those who are wealthy, those with disabilities, those who are healthy, all shades of skin color, you, me, and everyone – He loves all of us.

“A new command I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Jesus spent his time loving and doing good deeds. If we are trying to live like Jesus then we need to put our love in action also. Just as our Heavenly Father sent Jesus, He sent us to love one another.

“We show love by thoughtfulness, by kindness, by sharing joy, by sharing a smile… through the little things.” Mother Teresa

Love is a verb and has to be put into action to have real meaning. We have all seen vicious arguments on social media where people are trying to convince others with their words to do good works. While many of the intentions of those arguing may have started with a good hearted intentions, talking alone isn’t enough. Instead of talking, we need to take action. We need to become comfortable being inconvenienced; to go out of our way to help others.

With all of the problems in the world, it can be difficult to know where to help. Mother Teresa has beautifully offered advice for us-

“I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I only look at the individual. I can love only one person at a time. I can only feed one person at a time. Just one, one, one. You get closer to Christ by coming closer to each other. As Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me.” So you begin….I begin. I pick up one person – maybe if I didn’t pick up that one person I wouldn’t have picked up 42,000. The whole work is only a drop in the ocean. But if I didn’t put the drop in, the ocean would be one drop less. Same thing for you, same thing in your family, same thing in your church where you go, just begin…. One, one, one.

At the end of our life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how may great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was naked and you clothed me I was homeless and you took me in.’

Hungry not only for bread – but hungry for love.

Naked not only for clothing – but naked of human dignity and respect.

Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks – but homeless because of rejection.

This is Christ in distressing disguise.” Mother Teresa

Let’s be people who love with our actions – on earth as it is in heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

Only Light Can Drive Out Darkness ~ MLK

MLK Photo.jpg

Today we celebrate a man who dedicated his life to making the world a better and more loving place. His mission was to fight for the oppressed and in doing so, he showed the world keys to bringing forth change. He understood how to creatively use his anger to make change in a loving way. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.” He understood and demonstrated the power of love. “I have decided to love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” He watched as society hated through their actions as people retaliated over and over. It was clear to Martin Luther King, Jr that hate created more hate. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” We must put aside our differences and work together to achieve peace. “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

When bad things happen to good people, we naturally become angry and want justice. Trust that God will take care of the details. We don’t need to retaliate and hate. God will take care everything in time. Our job is to create peace. “Never succumb to bitterness.” The road of bitterness will destroy us if we allow it. “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

It is difficult to accept an injustice that has happened. When bad things have happened, we can’t change that fact, but we can work towards a better tomorrow. If we remain bitter, we remain part of the problem of hate creating more hate. “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” We must keep our eyes on the eternal perspective and work towards a better tomorrow.

We can all make steps to make the world a better place. The first and most important step lies within our own hearts as we chose to love, rather than to hate. As we collectively love, the world will shift for the better. “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Love is patient, love is kind. It always trusts, always perseveres. Love never fails.                   1 Corinthians 13:4, 7-8

My Dad’s Response to my Kidnapping

Dad

My dad was the family provider and protector. When I was kidnapped and he wasn’t able to protect me, this was very difficult for my dad and he went to extreme measures to assure my future safety.

The kidnapping experience didn’t only affect me, it affected my entire family and many friends in different ways. I didn’t realize how people were affected until many years later and I am still learning different ways that people were affected to this day.

From the perspective of a 12 year-old, I didn’t understand how difficult this time in life was for my parents. Now that I’m a parent myself, I can only imagine how devastating the kidnapping and the aftermath of the kidnapping must have been for them. I recently learned how my dad was affected.

My dad lived a healthy, happy life until the age of 70, when he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). He was strong and took amazing care of his body. Not many 70 year old can do 200 push-ups, but he could. When the disease progressed to where he needed more help, he moved to live around the corner from me so I could help take care of him. For a man that was so independent, it was extremely difficult for him to ask for help, but he had no choice.

He had Bulbar ALS, which begins in the throat area. One of the first skills that he lost was the ability to verbally speak. Thankfully, he had the ability to write so he carried a little note pad in his pocket and wrote down everything he wanted to say.

During the 3 years of silence, I saw my dad’s heart change. He tried to fight the disease every step of the way. He ate well, took supplements and exercised like an Olympian. As the disease continued to progress, he became angry and asked, “Why me?” He continued to fight, but despite his best efforts, his body withered away. I watched as he struggled to accept his fate. He teetered between sadness and anger for a long time. He was forced to let go of all of his hopes and dreams that he had for his life.

ALS doesn’t affect the mind at all. My dad’s thoughts remained clear until the day he died. ALS is a difficult disease to live with. There is one gift that ALS offers and that is quiet time to ponder. ALS allows the person to put their affairs in order and clean up any relationships or any other work they need to.

We hadn’t talked about the kidnapping for years; however as he was faced with his own death, he wanted to discuss this topic. My dad was always a protector. When he grew up, he was the oldest son with six siblings. He fought bullies for his brothers and sisters and took on the role of the protector of goodness. When his daughter was hurt by evil, my dad felt helpless and became very angry with God. His view of God changed. He thought, God is either a good God that isn’t strong enough to help us when we need Him, or He is a bad God that is strong, but chooses not to help us. Either way, who needs God if good people have to go through terrible situations?

My dad had carried this burden for so long. I shared with my dad for the first time about the near heaven experience. God did not leave me alone in this dark situation. He was right there comforting me. I’m so grateful and feel closer to God after seeing how loving He truly is. I explained to my dad all that I learned from this experience and how I felt confident that we all had purpose in life.

My dad was still mad and wrote, “How could a good God allow such bad things to happen!” I believe that we all given free will to live our lives as we choose. He doesn’t stop us when we make bad choices. There are consequences to our actions and hopefully these consequences will have us choose better next time, but we aren’t stopped. Free will is something that everyone wants. Unfortunately, sometimes people take that free will and hurt others. I wish people would make better choices, but I’m not mad at God for it, because He didn’t cause the suffering. God steps in and comforts us during these difficult times and He is able to take terrible situations and turn them into beautiful situations. As horrible as my kidnapping experience was, there were many blessings sprinkled into this situation. I’m so thankful that I was able to experience a small sampling of heaven. Every time that I share my story and someone tells me how hearing this story helped them in some way, I am amazed and grateful that God can take a dark story and turn it around into a story of hope that improves the lives of others. So God didn’t cause the tragic event, but He can turn it into something beautiful. So I’m not mad at God for this suffering. Instead, I love him even more for comforting me, showering me with peace and love and showing me the importance of living a life of purpose within the suffering.

I could tell that my dad held on to resentment for the kidnapper. Just talking about the kidnapper, you could see the anger in my dad’s eyes. I explained to my dad that I had forgiven the kidnapper. My dad was shocked upon hearing this, “Huh!” I explained to him that hanging onto anger doesn’t hurt the person we’re angry at; it only hurts the one who is angry. I can’t change the fact that I was kidnapped. We can’t change the fact that my dad had ALS. But we are in control of our response to what happens to us. We talked about how resentment hurts the person who is resentful and not the person we are mad at. My dad had to ponder on this idea for a couple of days, but I could see his heart beginning to soften.

I thanked my dad for taking care of me. After I made it back home from the kidnapping, I described where the kidnapper took me and what his car looked like and what he looked like in great detail. I didn’t realize at the time, but my dad was taking meticulous notes and then set out to find and kill the kidnapper who had promised to come back and kill me if I talked. My dad was going to stop the kidnapper before he could come back and kill me. I’m grateful that the detectives found the kidnapper before my dad found him, because I wouldn’t want my dad to go to jail for murder. His willingness to kill for me was such a selfless act of love. Words can’t even describe how this feels to have him willing to give up his life for me. I thanked him for his support and love. Then I explained how happy I was that he wasn’t able to follow through with killing the kidnapper.

“Greater love has no one than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13

I explained to my dad that if I had died when I was kidnapped, my soul would have been fine, but I would have been so sad about the way my loved ones responded to my death. I wouldn’t have wanted them to hold onto anger. This would have made them a secondary victim of that crime. I would have wanted them to live a happy, purposeful life, with love in their heart. The only way to achieve this is through forgiveness. It’s impossible to feel love and anger simultaneously.

Shortly before my dad passed away, we spent an entire day together, as he had doctors’ appointments and testing for hours. He was irritated all day and kept bringing up the topics of God, the kidnapping, having ALS, and suffering. He wasn’t able to speak as a result of the ALS, but he could write. He was writing so fast and with capital letters to represent raising his voice. When I finally drove my dad back home, he quickly waved which meant that he wanted me to leave. I told him that I would leave, but first I suggested that he spend the evening in prayer and then to listen. Know that God is good and that He only wants the best for us. Sit in silence and feel his love, ask Him for peace. Believe in the bigger plan. Look at life from the eternal perspective. He listened and then waved again for me to leave, so I went home.

The next day, I came back to my dad’s house. He was sitting in his chair and when he saw me, he quickly tried to get out of his chair. I was surprised to see his face. He looked so peaceful, so happy – not irritated like the previous day. I told him that he didn’t need to get up and encouraged him to stay seated. He shook his head no and insisted on getting up. At this stage of ALS, getting up was no easy task. I walked over to him and he reached into his pocket and took out a note he had pre-written and handed it to me. I took the note and looked down and it simply read, “Thank You!” I looked into his blue eyes which were full of water and intensely bright. He nodded his head yes and then gave me a huge, meaningful hug. He was so happy! My dad forgave God, forgave himself and let go of all the resentment he had been holding inside. Seven days later, my dad left this world to be with the Lord. His work here was done. I’m so happy that he found peace before he died.

Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28