15 years after she was kidnapped from her bedroom in 2002 and held captive for nine months before being rescued, Elizabeth Smart is opening up about her husband, children and the normal life she once thought was impossible.

“My children have brought so much happiness and joy,” she told PEOPLE. “To me, they’re the very definition of love.”

RELATED: Elizabeth Smart gets brutally honest about some of her darkest moments in captivity

Since being rescued, the now 30 year old has gone on to marry the love of her life, husband Matthew Gilmour. The couple, who lives in a ski-resort town in Utah, share two children: Chloe, 2, and James, 8 months. Looking back on her life, she admitted she has a lot to be thankful for.

“Today, I’m so grateful for the small things,” Smart said. “I’m grateful for rain, because when I was kidnapped, that meant that I had something to drink. I was grateful for when people would throw out their leftovers at restaurants in those doggy bags, because that meant that sometimes I had something to eat. I’m grateful for the sunshine, because it warmed me when I was cold. Certainly, I was grateful for my family and who they were and who my parents were.”

Now, the kidnapping survivor wakes up every morning feeling like “a very lucky and blessed woman.” However, her traumatic experience is never far from her mind. As a mom, she struggles to find the balance between allowing her children to explore and keeping them safe.

“There’s a part of me that’s always thinking, ‘Are the windows shut? Where is she at? Who is by her? Can I see her?’ I don’t want to let Chloe out of my sight,” she said of her daughter. “I will never regret being there for my children, watching them, making sure they’ll be okay. But I might regret not being there for them.”

RELATED: Elizabeth Smart says she’s finally ready for a movie to tell her story

This month, Smart will have her harrowing story told in the two-part Lifetime movie “I Am Elizabeth Smart,” a project she chose to help produce “because they wanted me involved every step of the way, and I thought it might also help other victims and survivors.” With the movie set to premiere on November 18, she will follow it up with the release of her second book “Where There’s Hope” this spring.

Kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart reflects on the normal life she never thought she’d have Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP
Carlin Becker About the author:
Carlin Becker is an Associate Content Editor at Rare. Follow her on Twitter @_carlbeck.
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