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!

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.

 

 

Encouraging Quotes for the New Year

New Year 2018.jpg

As we count down to the New Year, we get to reflect and prepare for what’s ahead. For all the bad news that seemed to dominate our collective experience of 2017, there are countless stories from the year that remind us of the good in people. These stories give us hope for a bright future and bond us together as a community.

I hope that my story will help people who are struggling to make sense of suffering in the world. The book, Through the Fire will be released soon. The editing is complete, the page design is complete, and now we are working on the cover. I can’t wait to share the cover with everyone! I’m working with the talented artist Phil Roberts, who is creating beautiful artwork for the cover.

I’m grateful to everyone who reads, throughthefire.blog and especially to everyone who has followed, shared, and commented. Visitors have come from all over the world! It’s fascinating to me that I can write in my little home in the US and then have these words travel across the globe. There are readers from the following places: Greece, Canada, South Korea, Ireland, India, UK, Bosnia, Australia, Philippines, New Zealand, China, Spain, Columbia, Chile, Singapore, Turkey, Nigeria, Greenland, Trinidad, Kuwait, Sweden, Japan, Nepal, Kenya, Malaysia, Russia, Oman, Zambia, Taiwan, Ukraine, Germany, and South Africa! Thank you all for reading! It has been a privilege to share my story with all of you and to read the stories of those who have messaged to me. I am truly humbled as I read your stories and witness your strength, bravery and courage as you choose to live lives of love. The world is seeming much smaller as I see that across the globe, we all have similar struggles and joys in life.  Regardless of our geographical location, socioeconomic status, race, religion, political affiliations, or gender, we are all faced with the same dilemma, how will we face the struggles in life and how will we face our achievements?

As we look forward to 2018, we might be a little hesitant to set new goals, especially if we  want to achieve the same goal that we had as a resolution last year and maybe even the year before and the year before that. If we didn’t meet our goals last year, we begin the new year with a feeling of discouragement. ‘If I couldn’t accomplish my goal last year, how am I going to do it this year?’ First, we have to change our thinking. In order to succeed, we must first believe that we can!

To achieve our goals, we need accountability, determination, encouragement, and perseverance – we can never give up.  Here are some of my favorite quotes for encouragement on not giving up.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill

“I never lose. I either win or learn.” Nelson Mandela

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. Time will pass anyway.” Earl Nightingale

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Edison referring to the light bulb

“To conquer frustration, one must remain intensely focused on the outcome, not the obstacles.” T.F. Hodge

Let us not become wearing of doing good for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Confucius

The question is not if we will have struggles and hardships, but rather “how” will we meet them? When we fall, will we rise? Will we continue to persevere and walk through the struggle? #throughthefire

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I wish you all the best for 2018! Happy New Year!

Do everything in love. 1 Corinthians 16:14

 

 

Merry Christmas!

whos-down-in-whoville

Early Christmas morning, while everyone is still sleeping is one of my favorite times. It is so peaceful after all of the hustle and bustle leading up to Christmas. After a month of planning and preparation, everything is perfect. Of course it’s not really “perfect”, but it’s what we created out of love and this makes us happy. It truly is in the giving that we receive. There is such a joy that comes from giving gifts and seeing the joy that it gives another person. Christmas is love in action!

Christmas also gives us a time to pause and reflect on the important things around us – a time when we can look back on the year that has passed and prepare for the year ahead.

I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

“I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all year.” Charles Dickens

If God is good, why do we have so much suffering?

 

Thanksgiving beach.jpgA question that readers many times ask is, “If there is a God and if he is good, why is there child abuse, war, and violence?” I understand how difficult it is to see violence in the world; especially when innocent children are hurt. Having been one of these children who was hurt, I understand how people feel. I was fortunate that as I was going through this terrifying ordeal, that I witnessed many miracles, including a near heaven experience. My conclusion from these experiences is that God didn’t cause the pain, but He is with us and helps us during difficult times. We are all given free will and unfortunately the kidnapper used his free will to hurt me. God clearly helped me through the kidnapping and for that, I’m so thankful.

Someone wrote to me this week and said that she understands my need to believe in this imaginary God, but that, “it was only my strong spirit that got me through. A loving God would never allow such things.” I appreciate this reader’s message. This is a topic that people have struggled with since the beginning of time. Historians all agree that Jesus lived on earth. In 1980, award winning investigative reporter, Lee Strobel, utilized his skills to try to disprove the claims of Christianity. His wife was a new Christian and he wanted to scientifically prove that atheism is right and God was imaginary. To this investigator’s surprise, he proved to himself that Christianity is true. The book, and now movie, is called Case for Christ.

That being said, when innocent people get hurt, it’s hard to process. There are terrible things that happen to good people. Really painful. We can’t change what people have done in the past, but I love the teachings of Jesus because he shows us how to respond in ways that we can live with peace and happiness, despite what has happened in the past. He is always there to help us to get “Through the Fire.”

Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

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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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