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

When you crash through the doors of heaven, your loved ones will be anxiously waiting to ask, “Are you okay?”

Clouds

It takes a conscious effort to not allow the struggles and tragedies of life define us in a negative way. Resentment is like a cancer that can destroy our hearts. Pride, jealousy, envy, and judging others also eats away at our hearts. I think it’s helpful to always keep our eye on the eternal perspective. Ask yourself, “Will I want to hold on to this anger eternally?” The answer will always be no. After having a near heaven experience, I can say that you would not want to take any negativity with you. It’s too beautiful and perfect to be blemished with hatred – and there was no hatred in my experience.

Events that have happened to us are in the past and we have no power over the past. Since we can’t change the past, we have two choices. We can hold onto anger, or we can accept what happened. For me. One possible way to respond is that I could hate every person of the same race or religion of the kidnapper and everyone who reminds me of him. Without conscious effort, isn’t this what we do as a society? We judge groups of people because of the actions of a few. How many people hate all black people, hate all white people, or hate people of a different religion, political affiliation, profession, or sexual orientation? So I can hate or I can accept. Whichever road I choose will affect my heart and change who I am and who I will be eternally.

The truth is that the kidnapper never actually hurt me because my spirit remains untouched. We don’t know how or when or body will die, but we all have a shelf life. Our bodies are dying. In 200 years, everyone’s body that is on earth right now will be dust. When our bodies are dust, we will still exist and as we hate, we are hurting this part of ourselves that is eternal.

In life we mistakenly confuse who we are with what we have. Somehow we think our bodies, our houses, our cars, our education, our money, and other external aspects of our lives are who we are.

The truth is that all of these things that we think make up our identity are only temporary and we will one day be stripped of all of the external facades. We will be left with only what’s inside us, and that’s what really matters.

I’ve heard people say that growing old is cruel. Our youth and beauty fades. Our skin, hair, nails, bones, muscles all begin to change. Even our senses begin to fade such as eye sight, hearing, and taste. At first glance, this seems cruel… but maybe it’s really not. Perhaps this is an opportunity to learn and grow to prepare us for when we no longer have this physical body. To help us keep our eye on what is most important. An opportunity to look at, and focus on the part of us that is eternal. Growing old can teach us what is truly important, if we keep our eye on the eternal perspective.

When I had the near heaven experience, there was a clear distinction between all that is good- all that is based in love and all that is not good. Being in a space of pure love was the most amazing experience in my life. I look forward to the day that it will be my turn to return to this beautiful place! I know that I won’t bring anything with me but my heart and soul. This is the treasure at the end of our lives.  This is what matters, the part of us that is eternal. It’s our love, which we take with us.

If you were to hear the news that a loved one was in a car accident, what’s the first thing you would ask? “Are you okay?” You wouldn’t care about the car so much at this moment, the real treasure is who is inside the car.

If you were to hear someone’s home burned down, what’s the first thing you would ask? “Are you okay?” You wouldn’t care about the house, but you would care about the people inside the house.

I know that one day, my body will die. I don’t know if I will die peacefully or traumatically, but I do know that when I crash through the doors of heaven that I will be greeted by a loving community anxiously waiting to ask, “Are you okay?”

We want to still shine brightly inside at the end of our lives; without taking into account the external factors such as our body, house, car, bank account, and so on. Life can be hard and knock us down. We don’t have control of some of the events in our lives, but we are in control of our response. We don’t have to let pain and suffering destroy us. Love is the key. As we choose to forgive; as we choose to love, we don’t allow tragedy to define us. Our spirit can remain untouched. That should be our goal- to shine brightly from the inside out, despite our circumstances so that when we are greeted in heaven by our loving community, they will give a sigh of relief and then cheer. “She made it home! And she is okay!”

 “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.” Gautama Buddha

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Forgiveness – The Road to Peace and Happiness

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One of the questions that I’m asked the most about being kidnapped is if I have forgiven the kidnapper. If I decided NOT to forgive him, I don’t think anyone would blame me. After all, he took me, held me against my will, tortured and attempted to kill me. Finally, he left me in the hills to die. For someone to take an innocent person against their will and hurt them –it’s just wrong!

When I returned home, this was a difficult time for my family. Everyone was happy that I was alive, but there were many other emotions that my family was faced with. Anger, resentment, sadness, fear… everyone was on edge. The kidnapper said he’d come back and kill me if I talked and now the story was all over the news. Would he come back and kill me? Would the police catch him? Would he be punished for his acts or would he continue hurting other innocent children? How could God allow this to happen?

It’s in these tragic moments, when emotions are raw – these are the times that the decisions we make on how to respond become forks in the road of our lives. Our responses to these tragic events determine the level of peace and happiness we will experience for the rest of our lives. (Unless another decision is later made)

It’s not easy! People who hurt innocent children don’t deserve to be forgiven! I’m sure we all agree to that! The problem with staying in that space and hanging on to that anger and resentment is that those emotions will destroy us. They will steal our peace and happiness, along with the peace and happiness of our loved ones. Anger doesn’t destroy who we’re mad it. Anger only destroys the one who is angry.

When I was being held by the kidnapper, I was a victim. I had no power and no control. That was a terrible feeling! If I remain angry and resentful, I remain a victim. If my loved ones remain angry and resentful, then they too become victims – casualties of this tragic event.

We can get past our tragedy. The terrible event can become a simple bump in the road of our life. Our futures are in our own hands and not in the hands of a person or situation that may have harmed us in the past. It takes work, but with perseverance our future is our own. We are free to create the future we want!

Previously, I wrote about how our thoughts determine the degree of suffering we will endure. Our thoughts will also determine the degree of peace and happiness we will experience.

I trust that God will take care of all the details in the end so I don’t need to worry about what will happen to the kidnapper. I don’t need to think about him. God will take care of it.

Forgiveness is not something that you do one time and then you’re done. It’s more of a constant attitude. It begins as a commitment to yourself. Once you choose to forgive, you may have to remind yourself to be loving, to not judge, to let it go over and over. The more you practice forgiveness, the easier it becomes.

When I had the opportunity to have a small sampling of heaven in a near heaven experience, even though my body was dying and in a violent situation, suddenly the terror disappeared and I was part of a completely peaceful and loving experience. There was no fear, no pain, no anger, no resentment – it was pure heaven! I want to live my life like that! Perhaps that’s what Jesus meant in the Lord’s Prayer when He prayed that we would live on earth as it is in heaven.

I would like to challenge you with today with a thought. Instead of focusing on the injustice and bad aspects of your tragedy or struggle in life, begin looking at the difficult situation as a gift – as a blessing. I know that sounds strange, right? How could I possible see my tragedy as a gift? For me, I have had the opportunity to see people’s lives change as I share my story. That’s a gift. When I was kidnapped, I should have died several times and the only explanation is that I experienced miracles. That’s a gift. If I had died, I would have remained in an amazing place! That would have been a gift. Don’t be a victim of the tragedy by hanging onto that anger and resentment. Use that energy to ignite a passion to make a difference in the world.

Let’s live our lives on earth as it is in heaven!

I hope you’ll check out my Instagram page this week. I added some great quotes from Nelson Mandela about forgiveness. (Find us on Instagram at Through the fire book)

Katherine

Throughthefire.blog

 

When slipping into a “Near Heaven” experience, this is what I wanted to share with my loved ones…

As terrifying as the experience of being kidnapped was, it was also one of the most profound experiences of my life. I will share more about the miracles that I experienced firsthand and the many lessons that I learned later. For now, I will say that I’m deeply grateful that God was with me during this entire ordeal. When I was kidnapped, I had what we call a near death experience. I prefer the term “near heaven experience” because it’s much more fitting. As I was slipping into this beautiful place, I remember thinking that my family would be devastated when then they found out how I died. If they only knew that I was okay, I was truly okay. If I had died, I would have remained in this amazingly wonderful place that is filled with love and peace that can’t be compared to anything in this life. Since I didn’t die, I was able to come back home to my loved ones. Either way, there was something wonderful on the other side of the pain. (Through the Fire) I feared that my loved ones would replay my violent death in their minds over and over. They would imagine how I must have felt and what I looked like at the time of death. They would picture me in pain, sad and alone… and they would have been so wrong.  What I was actually experiencing was nothing like what you might imagine based on what my physical body looked like. Initially, I was terrified and in excruciating pain… but then, like a bolt of lightning, the pain vanished and was replaced with super charged loving comfort. There was no more fear, no more pain, and I wasn’t alone. I was experiencing an unimaginable degree of peace, love, and joy, even though my physically body was failing. I wasn’t suffering any more. I actually felt better than I ever have in my entire life.  If my loved ones had a sense of where I truly was, they wouldn’t be sad for me at all. They would be happy because it is THAT amazing. If you have lost a loved one tragically, I can tell you that the experience for them is not at all what you might imagine. There’s something beautiful on the other side of the pain and suffering! Once through the fire there is no pain.

I remember thinking that I wished I could tell my family what my death was really like from my perspective and to let them know that I was in a really good place. Since I have been given the opportunity to live a little longer, I hope to be the voice for those who have passed. I believe that people who have died tragically would also want their loved ones to know that they are in an amazing place filled with love and joy. There is no pain and sadness and they are not alone. They would want their loved ones to think of happy memories they shared together. They wouldn’t want the tragedy to be replayed over and over in the minds of their loved ones. They would want them to live every day to the fullest with love and purpose.

Yes, we are fully confident that we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8

I hope that as I share my story, that I can help people who may be stuck “in the fire” to find peace and happiness. Please follow and share. If you have any questions or comments that you would like to share with me, visit my contact page and leave me a message. I would love to hear from you. Thanks!

Katherine

Throughthefire.blog

When the Going get Tough, the Tough get Going…

When the going gets tough, the tough get going…
These are the words that my dad told to me whenever times were a little hard. I never really liked hearing those words and when I appeared to not like what he was saying, he would follow up with a smile and a wink and say, “ya gotta be tough, right kid?” Life had taught him what I hadn’t yet learned. If you don’t choose to press on, the alternative is worse. The minute you give up, the minute you stop trying, at that moment, you lose your dream. You lose a bit of purpose for your life. That decision becomes a fork in the road of your life. So, you’ve got to be tough. You’ve got to keep trying. There’s no shame in failing. Just keep trying. Don’t give up. It’s hard to keep going sometimes, but it’s better than the alternative.
At the end of my kidnapping experience, I was dropped off in the hills to die. I had been beaten so badly that when my brother saw me, he said he wouldn’t have recognized me. My throat was slashed and blood was soaked into my clothes all the way down to my waist. To say I was exhausted was an understatement. The last thing I felt like doing was hiking through the hills. I wanted to lay down and rest. I found a large rock that was at the perfect angle to lean back and rest my head comfortably so I decided to sit down. My plan was to take a little nap before hiking to find help. Just as I closed my eyes, my mind became very loud. “Wake up! Get up and walk! Wake up! Wake up!” I tried to silence my mind, but it was useless. Perhaps this is how God helps us in our trials. What appears to be a random thought, may actually be help from above. We really are never alone. Since I was unable to rest, I got up and started walking. “You gotta be tough, right kid.”
Growing up, I was never what anyone would have called a “tough” person, but sometimes, being tough is the only choice we have. The doctors told me that if I had fallen asleep, that I wouldn’t have woken up.
In everyday life, we have hard times – very hard times. Even so, we can’t stop trying. We must press on to get to the other side of the storm in our life; to get through the fire. “Tough” is not a quality that’s only available to body builder, or CEO, type A people. Being tough is available to everyone. We have a Heavenly Father who has promised to take our burdens, if we ask. Asking for help is not always easy to do. Sometimes we don’t want to surrender and ask for help, but help is available. That choice is up to us. Our thoughts can get in the way of asking for help so remember… your thoughts determine the amount of suffering that you will endure.
“but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
“Ya gotta be tough, right kid?”