One of My Most Important Posts Ever. (So Please Read It!)

This past Saturday, May 25, was National Missing Children’s Day.

Angela Blog PosterIf you have been following my blog in recent days, you know that I was that child. From the age of four to the age of twelve, I was missing. I was on those posters; I was on Unsolved Mysteries; if it were today, my picture would be circulated on Facebook for sure. But then after I was found, I felt more lost than ever, for reasons I’ve written about on this blog.

I remember a few years back I was talking to my brother, and I said to him in frustration that I wish I’d been in counseling for longer when I was a teenager; even though I resisted it and hated it, I really needed it. And he answered, “What could that counselor have done for you? What could anyone have done for you? Nobody knew what to do.” That’s true, and that’s the problem. No one knew what to do for me; nobody knew exactly what I was struggling with or how to help me heal from it, and I had no idea how to ask for help. So during what is just normally a really rough stage for everyone – adolescence – I also struggled with issues of identity, trust, fear, depression, anger – and those struggles continued well into adulthood. There just simply was no one who knew what to do.

But now, that has changed. Now there are people who know what to do. There’s a whole organization of people who are like me, who were taken by a family member away from other family members, and they have worked together with mental health professionals to amass a body of research uniquely relevant to our experiences. From that research was birthed a training program with tools for parents handling abducted children. The organization is called Take Root, and the training program is called Kid Gloves. Now comes the request.

It’s extremely rare for me to ask for money, but I am asking for money. Two hundred thousand children every year are the victims of family strife and are taken into hiding by a family member. If we do the math just from the year I was taken through 2012, that’s 5,400,000 kids.

FIVE MILLION, FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND little boys and little girls like me.

And that’s 5,400,000 kids who carry with them the weight of depression, fear, mistrust — all of the struggles I had and still deal with — but their families and counselors were and are simply ill-equipped to help them heal. A program like Kid Gloves can save years of pain. So, I’m asking you to give a few dollars.

I know, it’s frustrating and annoying when people ask for money, but I would ask you: how much do you spend to get your hair done? How much for your morning coffee on the way to work every day? What about lunch, or a soda every day from the breakroom? What about shoes or ice cream or thrift store shopping just for fun?

And how much have you given this year to help children who are in deep pain?  

Two hundred thousand kids every year. They’re dying inside. I’m just asking you to give a little bit. Money’s tight, I know. It might be a sacrifice. But what if it were your kid? It was me, and nobody knew how to help me. But now they do. Please help!

“Finding a missing child is called making a recovery, but being found is really just the very first step on a long and difficult road. It’s often not the happy ending people imagine.”
– Melissa Haviv, Executive Director Take Root

Angela's Photo


Make a Difference on National Missing Children’s Day

Two hundred thousand children are abducted by family members every year. There are many reasons for this — every story is unique — and some reasons can be compelling. Still, the data collected from parentally-abducted kids participating in Take Root is clear: Being taken away from a parent has a profound and often detrimental effect on the child that can become a life-long struggle for him or her. It doesn’t matter what the taking parent’s reasons were.

One of the major problems in missing child recovery is the lack of information and resources available to families after a child is found. After years of being a support system for adults who were once missing kids and speaking out on behalf of missing children, Take Root has a very exciting opportunity to make a difference in countless lives. (Maybe not countless. Potentially as many as 200,000 every year!) Their latest initiative is an online learning lab called Kid Gloves, and it “will provide self-paced online training and tools to families in the process of recovery.”

Kid Gloves is based on research conducted on people like me (and including me). It’s like advice from missing kids to parents of missing kids. What could possibly be more practical or more helpful?

You can help, too. This initiative costs money, and Take Root is a small, non-profit organization. Would you consider donating a few dollars to help little boys and girls like me? It could change a child’s life.

Angela's Photo

“Finding a missing child is called making a recovery, but being found is really just the very first step on a long and difficult road. It’s often not the happy ending people imagine.” – Melissa Haviv, Executive Director Take Root

Identity Rupture

How many people do you know who were abducted as a child? I never met any. I have always felt isolated and unique — not in a good way — in my experiences. In a low moment several years back,  when my husband was away for work, or something, I started looking on the internet for information about parental abduction, and I was quickly directed to Take Root‘s site. It is a group that offers support and encouragement to former missing children who are now adults. There’s no other group like it that I know of; every member was abducted as a child. I read and watched testimonies of people that absolutely floored me. Although I was staring at the computer screen, looking at strangers in a video, the words coming out of their mouths told my story. It completely wrecked me.

I had never encountered ANYONE with my story. I had always felt completely alone and, despite others’ good intentions, completely misunderstood.

Total relief and validation filled my spirit as tears poured down my face. I wasn’t alone. Other people knew what it was like to be taken from family. To be taught to lie to teachers and, well, to everybody. To be given a new name and a new birthday. To be scared of the police. To be on the move all the time. That floored me.

Before I continue with more of my experiences related to being “missing,” I would like to share this amazing post by the director of Take Root. Please read it, and know that you are reading my story:

Click here → Identity Rupture

Someone is Turning One!

This year went by so fast! I’ve learned and grown so much, and my life is so different than it was a year ago! Tomorrow is my blog’s birthday, and I’m sure she’s awfully excited about it. 😉

Last May, I coincided the launch of this site with the upcoming observance of National Missing Children’s Day, and I told some of my story in increments. You see, I was a missing child. I was on Unsolved Mysteries. I was on bulletin boards at grocery stores. That was me for eight years — eight very formative years of my childhood. From the age of four until I was twelve, I was “missing.”

Because this blog is about me, I felt like that was a good place to start. My identity is forever imprinted by my experiences — as is yours by your own. Since that series, I haven’t written much on here about this aspect of my life, and there are a few reasons for that. The most practical reason is that, although my childhood experiences profoundly impacted me, I don’t think about them every day. I try to learn from the past, but not dwell in it. Another reason is that it’s hard to write about. Sometimes emotionally difficult, but it’s also just difficult to compose a blog post that expresses what I want to say to my satisfaction. I have several drafts about my experiences related to being “missing” that have been in draft status for months and months, and may always be that way. A third reason is that I want my words to be helpful to others and glorifying to God. Not everything I think and feel is either of those things, so much doesn’t get published.

Still, I have felt that I have more to say. National Missing Children’s Day is upon us again (May 25), and it has me thinking of what to share next. This article in particular has given me some direction, and so I will be sharing more this week. Stay tuned!

(In the meantime, you can catch my childhood story here.)

Now What?

New to the site? Start with Part One of the story: Divorce and Departure

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.

~Exodus 20:12

That’s God talking. You know what He never said? He never said, “Follow your heart,” or “Do what makes you happy.” That’s what the world says, which is really just a reflection of the enemy’s lies. (Remember Eve? Remember how he promised her great things if she ignored a command and just did what she wanted? Yeah. Big bummer for all of us.) The problem with both of those bits of worldly “wisdom” is the Bible, which tells us that the heart is deceitful and desperately sick, but happy is he who follows God’s commandments! For the love of God, literally, don’t follow your heart! Obey God instead. (←Um, can I link to the whole Bible there?)

Many of God’s commandments put us in a pickle. Take, for example, #5 out of the Big Ten. Honor both of my parents? I mean, it’s like the Hatfields and McCoys up in here; there’s got to be some sort of clause exempting me from this! It’s impossible!

 Well friends, there’s no asterisk or fine print. I looked. (A lot.) What you see is what you get. Obey and please God, or choose your own way like Eve did. 

Many people wonder, when they hear my story, about my relationship now with both of my parents. Well, here’s the honest answer: neither relationship is what it could have been, and it’s been a long road just to get me this far. I’ve tried “following my heart;” I’ve tried to weigh the stories and choose one over the other; I’ve tried to ignore everything. None of those gets me to obedience. What does?

A forgiving heart. 

I’m still learning how to forgive, but God has shown me that the past is the past. Love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs. It’s done, and we’re here now. So I’m learning how to see the good now and how to love people now. This approach doesn’t always please everyone, but I believe that it is God’s desire. After decades of praying and lamenting and begging God for answers, I found out that His answer is not an easy one. Love and forgive. I’ve a long way to go before being a model daughter or a model Christian, but I know this is the answer, and I’m trying. I have learned to be thankful for God’s choice for my life and for my family, because it is teaching me to be more like Him.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothingIf I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

~1 Corinthians 13, emphasis mine

This is the final installment in a series in honor of National Missing Children’s Day

After the Worst Day

New to the site? Start with Part One of the story: Divorce and Departure

In the days after the worst day, which was Christmas break from school, I met a new family. Nineteen-year-old brother, step-mother, and two really sweet dogs.  It was unreal. I lost my mom and walked into a ready-made family of strangers. Everyone acted nice, but I still tried to lay low. I remember making my bed faithfully every morning; I didn’t know what might set my dad off.

Turned out, nothing ever did.

I spent the next five years in my dad’s house, living like a normal teenager. After attending the same junior high school for the rest of 7th grade, then all of 8th and 9th, which was definitely the longest I’d ever been at one school, I went to high school with all my friends. (Honestly, that was really very awesome!) I started going to church and got baptized, and I got some really great discipling that cultivated the seed planted at the time of my salvation so many years earlier. Looking at me, you’d think I was a happy kid with lots of potential. You’d be only half right, though, because I struggled with inner turmoil the entire time and did a whole lot of pretending.

Frankly, I figured out what people wanted. For the most part, I did it. I wasn’t perfect, but I was generally a good kid and still kept laying low. Get good grades, follow the rules, don’t argue much – that’s a pretty safe recipe for teenage success. It works especially well if you just want people to leave you alone so they can’t see what’s really going on inside. (Makes so much more sense to me than the kids who act out and get in trouble all the time; don’t they see how much worse that makes everything?) Even though I was pretty successful in academics and extra-curriculars, and even though I had a solid group of great friends, I battled anger and confusion. I doubt I really need to explain the anger, but I should say that I don’t think I even recognized that it was there at the time. I discovered that years later. Confusion, though – let’s talk about that.

You see, I wouldn’t have been confused if my father had beaten the crap out of me. Or screamed at me constantly. Or anything else that showed the type of malevolence I expected when I first met him. Any of that would have made complete sense, but he didn’t do any of those things.

To compound the problem, I heard a whole new set of explanations and stories that didn’t match what I had known about my early life. I was stuck in the middle, which felt more than unfair, and it was too much for me to handle.

This is the fourth installment in a series in honor of National Missing Children’s Day. Read the conclusion here.

The Worst Day

New to the site? Start with Part One of the story: Divorce and Departure

At the station, the police said they were working on letting me stay with my grandmother on a sort of house arrest or something, if only for that night. I don’t know if that was ever true, but at some point it wasn’t true, and they simply chose not to tell me. I was there for several hours, waiting.

They fed me pizza and let me call friends to explain that everything I’d told them about me — my name, my family story — was a lie. (That was actually amazing—I’d never had the opportunity to call friends and tell them I was leaving. I got to say goodbye!) I also played solitaire and scoffed at the very inaccurate age-enhanced photo of me. At some point after 10 p.m., one of the officers surprised me with the news that my dad was there to take me “home.” He lived about three or four hours away, so I’m guessing that I was the only surprised one in the building.

“Surprised” really doesn’t cut it; try scared and furious and faced with a stranger in the hallway who was apparently my father. We spent awkward moments on a bench while my insides burned and I looked away. I was determined not to cry because I didn’t want to seem weak, but it wasn’t weakness that pushed the tears to the brim of my eyelids. It was fury, grief, and a very real fear that this man would take out years of rage on me as soon as there was no one to see it.

Obviously, I had to go home with him. He was my father, so what was the problem again?

There was no way out the bathroom window at the police station; I did actually check. Besides, as I found out shortly, the media was waiting for us outside anyway. Man! What a twist on the story that would have been! “Girl to be reunited with father after 8 years tries to escape through the bathroom window of the city police station. Apprehended by police and released to father.”

Hey, at least they would have known that I didn’t want to go with him! Instead, it was reported as a happy reunion. When I saw it on TV later, that really bothered me because it really was the worst day of my life. No one watching that news story knew that I was terrified, or that I went to bed in his house that night with my regular clothes on.

This is the third installment in a series in honor of National Missing Children’s Day. Read part four here.

On the Run

New to the site? Here is Part One of the story: Divorce and Departure

I found out as an adult (through an agency called “Take Root”) that what my mom did is professionally termed “parental abduction.” I wouldn’t have called it that, because I didn’t feel abducted. As time went on, I really didn’t remember my father, and my life with my mom was just… life. I was a kid, kind of a wimpy one when it came right down to it – you should have heard me scream bloody murder when I got my first honeybee sting! – but just a kid. I think I felt like a regular kid, but then again I didn’t know any other life.

There were definitely hard situations: like seeing myself on “Unsolved Mysteries” during dinner and knowing it was time to move again and that I couldn’t say goodbye to my friends; like being asked a question that I didn’t know how to answer because I knew I couldn’t tell the truth; like making myself write my new name a million times so it felt natural and so I didn’t accidentally write my last alias on a school paper; like being called to the counselor’s office at a new school for grief counseling that one time my story was that my dad had just died (I was embarrassed to say “divorce” at the Christian school, so I think that’s maybe why we came up with this story). Still, though, I took dance class, got sunburned at field day, had crushes on little boys, sang in the Christmas pageant, made the honor roll, rode my bike with the neighborhood kids, acted silly with other silly girls, enjoyed Coke floats, and the very best of all, I even met Jesus in kindergarten. I was just a kid, and an awfully blessed one. I just had to lie about my name and birthday, and a few other things here and there. It just always was, so it was normal.

We were gone, moving around a lot, for 8 years before our house got surrounded by a SWAT team, and my mom was extricated from my life in handcuffs. My entire life crashed down around me as my mom had to awkwardly hug me goodbye with her wrists in restraints – a sad embrace that had to last me for many years. We were removed in separate squad cars. I was twelve.

From my now-adult opinion, this extraction was handled very poorly and left me very scarred – mostly because the police lied to me, and I ended up unexpectedly facing my biggest fear all alone. It was the worst day of my life.

This is the second installment in a series in honor of National Missing Children’s Day. Read part three here.

Divorce and Departure

You want to know my story? Well, it depends who you ask. You’re on my blog, so we’ll just assume you’re asking me! That means you’ll get my story, but that also means that there are a lot of unanswered questions. I know two different versions of my very early life that cannot both be totally true at the same time. There’s not much I can say about that. Therefore, my story is just what I can confidently say I know – which is only what I have experienced.

In 1982, I was born to a man and a woman who were married and who both had a child of their own in addition to me. So baby Angela made five. Five unhappy people — from what I’ve heard, anyhow. I will share this particular piece of hearsay because I don’t think anyone disagrees on this point. I have zero memories of this time, but many very painful stories have been shared with me. I cannot, however, verify any of it; I simply don’t remember. Although I do have memories from being a very small child, even before my parents divorced, those early memories of my mother and of my father are entirely segregated. Maybe that’s best.

After a nasty divorce, my dad won full custody of me when I was about four years old. I remember my mom coming to get me after what must have been the final ruling. I had been at a woman’s house napping, or perhaps pretending to nap, in her college daughter’s room. In her bed, there was a stuffed animal, a white cat, that I found terribly cute.

And then there are no memories of my father after that, because my mom and I ran away from him.

This is the first installment in a series in honor of National Missing Children’s Day. Read part two here.