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

Finding My Identity

On Tuesday, I asked you to read a post about identity rupture to better understand me and where I come from. Here’s a snippet (but the full post is so much better!):

Today, Take Root defines Identity Rupture as abrupt, extreme changes in the following:

Autobiographical facts about the child’s life, such as name, date of birth, place of birth, names of family members…

Environmental factors in the child’s life; the people, places and things with which the child is familiar…

The expected and acceptable behaviors…

This happened to me when I was four, when my mother took me from my father. I would like to point out, however, that this also happened again when I was twelve and was taken away from my mother. She was taken to prison, and I was introduced to my dad, his (new-to-me) wife, and my brother. Even though my autobiographical details reverted back to the legal truth, they still changed. Obviously my environmental factors changed; I moved from Oklahoma City to the Dallas area, and into a new house with people I didn’t know or trust. And as is natural any time one moves from living with one family to another, the expectations and standards for acceptable behaviors changed.

While my being “found” ended the period of my life of official “abduction,” it was very similar to being abducted again. The same thing basically happened to me twice, in the practical implications and in the way it made me feel. Thus, my identity was this sort of fluid para-reality; I didn’t really know who I was, but I was also very frustrated about other people not truly knowing who I was. I still struggle with this sometimes, when I let the enemy run away with my insecurities.

It doesn’t matter if I go by Angie or Ang or A.J. or Amy or Angela. It doesn’t matter which last name I had in which grade, or whether I had a middle name or what it was. It doesn’t matter whether my birthday was in August or October. It doesn’t matter who I pretended to be when I was told to pretend, or who I pretended to be when I felt like I had to pretend just to keep my heart safe. It doesn’t matter.

What matters is the truth.

Who am I?

I am unique and treasured and purposefully created.

Psalm 139:13-16
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

I am intimately known.

Psalm 139:1-4
O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.

I am loved.

1 John 3:1
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

I am part of a heavenly and holy family.

Galatians 3:26-27
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

I am intended for future glory, for His glory, for eternity.

Colossians 3:3-4
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

I am made new, so that I might be an ambassador for Him.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

What about you? Do you know who you are? What is your story? You see, I firmly believe that all of our lives either go one way or the other. They either further God’s kingdom or the enemy’s. Everyone has hard times; everyone has hurt. But what do you do with it?

I love the story of Joseph in the Old Testament. There’s not space for me to explain it all here, but he had a really dysfunctional family that did awful things to him. And in the end, he repaid them by saving their lives during a severe famine, and even by comforting them when they were afraid of retribution for their sin. Here’s what he said to those who had hurt him so profoundly:

Genesis 50:20
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Now that is the kind of person I want to be. I want that kind of perspective. The enemy worked much evil against him, and Joseph suffered for years and years as a result. Still, he chose to stay faithful and open to God, even in the most hopeless of circumstances. He refused to be bitter. Because of that, years later, Joseph was promoted (out of unjust slavery and imprisonment) to a very powerful political position that he would have never, ever had available to him if his brothers hadn’t hurt him. Many lives were saved through his godly leadership, and his character had become so much like God’s that he was able to naturally respond in love and grace to the very people who had acted so selfishly and evilly against him in the past.

The lesson:  God is in control all the time. The enemy means it for evil, but God means it for good. Joseph chose good, and many were blessed.

In a small way, that is what I hope for my story. That by sharing it, you will see Him. That you will see in my life that although the enemy meant to destroy me, God meant to teach me more about Himself. That God wooed me even as a little girl, teaching me of His mercies in the dark and scary times. That He whispered His love. That you might even hear His whispers as I tell you my story. That you will come to know that through the hurt and the sorrow, He is there. And that now, years later, I am beginning to see the good. I can see little glimpses of the “why” of it all. That my story, just like yours, is a story of glory. Of His glory.

So take the time to find His glory in your story — allow Him to turn your mourning into dancing — and then tell people! You never know who might be saved because you had the courage to be vulnerable and share your brokenness.

Pressure to Be Okay

“The enormity of the abduction experience is not something that’s easy to appreciate,” Kirkpatrick says. “People think of it as a person being pulled into a controlled environment, but what’s harder is that it’s as if their whole world has been taken away from them.”

“Everything that happened on the outside,” he says, “is turned inside out.”

Haviv calls it identity rupture.

That loss of identity and heavy pressure to “be OK” has pushed more than a quarter of those involved in the Take Root support program to report that they have at some point attempted suicide.

Take Root’s research also suggests that formerly abducted children are at high risk for drug addiction, depression and other medical problems.

(Sourceemphasis added)


To be normal.

To move on.

To fit in.

To feel a certain way.

To forget.

To remember.

To understand.

To love.

To hate.

To leave.

To stay.

All that pressure.

It felt like everyone had an idea of how I should be handling it or not handling it. How well-adjusted I should be, or how devastated I should be. How I should feel about my dad or about my mom or about myself. I felt watched and judged. Of course, I was a teenager, and I think all teenagers feel watched and judged — mainly because they are. So because of this, I pretended.

My whole life I pretended to be okay, keeping others away from my heart. I let very few in, and I’m still that way. It’s hard to trust. It’s hard to be real. It’s hard to show that I’m not okay when I’m not.

And sometimes I’m not. You know, because everyone has times of not being okay.

And sometimes I still feel watched and judged. Sometimes I still feel all that pressure. Eighteen years after being found, twenty-six years after being taken. These experiences have deeply affected how I view myself and how I relate to others. I have to fight to trust. I have to fight to be vulnerable. My default is to smile and to say I’m doing just great.

Oh because sometimes the truth takes so long to tell.

But that is exactly why God gave me my story. To tell it. And that is why I write.


I had a post scheduled for today. This morning, an hour before its scheduled time, I canceled it. For some reason, I just don’t feel a peace about it. As I said before, I want my words to be helpful to others and glorifying to God; perhaps that post was not one or either of those things. I’m not sure, but I’m not posting it. That means that I do not have a personal post for today! Boo!

What I want to do instead is share with you these powerful stories, which have touched me deeply. None of them tell my story — we all have different experiences — yet they all tell pieces of my story. This is my unique community; these are my true peers. These former missing kids represent the only ones in the world who could truly identify with me. Please, please click on the picture below to watch the video that so profoundly affected me years ago:

“The Other Missing Kids” by Tony Loftis

The article referenced in my title is so great and right on target. I have been personally very blessed by Take Root, as it was amazing to finally (and very unexpectedly) find a community of people who understood me! They are doing such great work, and I am hopeful for the future of missing child recovery. Perhaps through the perseverance of Take Root, child recovery services will actually help missing children recover!

When people think about missing children, images of scary white vans and bus stop grabs rush through their heads. But for most abducted children, it is a parent’s car, not a scary van that rips them from everything they have ever known. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that more than 203,000 children were victims of family abductions in 2002 alone. It is easy for some to dismiss parental or family abduction as a tiff between parents, or a disagreement over custody issues. It is also easy to assume that the child is safe because he is with a parent. But family abductions are just that —abductions. They wreak havoc on the psyche of young children and devastate lives.

Please take the time to read the full post 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.