This is a guest post by Wellspring Living volunteer, Misty Barrere.
Keep in mind that the person to write for is yourself.
Tell the story that you most desperately want to read.
Last year, I had the privilege of teaching a Creative Writing class at a Wellspring home. I didn’t set out to teach grammar or punctuation. In fact, the women giggled and poked each other when I reminded them to write at the top of their journals: I am free to write the worst junk imaginable.
We called it THE BEST WRITING CLASS EVER. The goal was to focus every topic on positive memories, not gloss over the bad ones, but search for treasures God left in their lives along the way. At the beginning of every session, we’d talk a little about the topic. First, we did Best Birthday. Then, the timer was set and the writing began. For fifteen minutes, no one was supposed to let their pen leave the page.
“No crossing out. No internal editing, either,” I said. “Just let your mind float through the memory.” Sometimes, I’d ask a few questions while they were writing. “What made the day special? Who was there? Vanilla or chocolate cake? Did you have a special outfit?” At the end, I’d ask if anyone wanted to share. It was completely up to them. No pressure.
One session, the topic was Best Memory of a Pet. Pets, I discovered, are almost as good as The Best Thing I Ever Ate. That day, we listened to memories of psychotic cats, furry dogs, and galloping horses. We laughed a lot. Each time someone shared, another would turn and say, “You never told me that!” It was neat to watch as they uncovered things about one another, strengthening the bonds of friendship.
Once we’d exhausted our BEST ideas and were more comfortable sharing written work, we moved on to new topics. We looked up what our names meant and spent time writing about who named us and how we felt about our names.
Again, fifteen minutes. No editing.
“My grandmother named me,” one woman said. “I wrote about how she would be glad I was here, making this change, leaving that man. She was a godly woman.”
“My daddy named me after a little girl in a toothpaste commercial,” another said with a smile. “My daddy is a funny man.”
A woman who’d never spoken a word said she’d like to share. She read straight from her notebook, without looking up once, saying she used a different name while she was trafficked. She disassociated herself from the experience by taking on an alternate identity, believing what was happening wouldn’t affect her as much with her “stronger” name.
“I was wrong,” she said. “It was a false armor. Not real at all.”
Now that she felt safe and restored at Wellspring, she was using her given name, which she discovered meant Follower of Christ.
“Isn’t that funny?” she asked, holding my gaze. “The most positive memories of my life are now.”
Later, she asked me to pray with her.
Before, I’d encouraged the women about jobs and G.E.D.’s, but this was the first time I’d been asked to pray.
Doubt rose up in me – telling me her needs were too big for my words, that I wouldn’t get it right, that I might forget her name, stumble over everything and disappoint her, even offend her- all ridiculous, but that doubt swirled and grew while her eyes sought mine, asking for help.
Thankfully, His calm squelched the doubt. I took a breath and we prayed.
For growing strength to overshadowed her struggle.
For a clear mind, so she’d always remember her identity in Christ.
And for laughter. Amen.
She thanked me, squeezed my hand. And the next time I went to the Wellspring home, she had graduated.