Crafting journals helps women in recovery reflect on life, learn more about God

By Grace Thornton
The Alabama Baptist

Kristie Johnson said she’s not really sure what came over her the day she walked up to someone on staff at the Lovelady Center and asked if she could teach a class on how to create journals.

“It started when I was making Christmas cards with the ladies, and I thought it would be easy to teach them how to use recycled paper and junk mail to make some journals too,” said Johnson, a member of NorthPark Baptist Church, Trussville.

‘A God thing’

She volunteered to do just that, and the staff at the Lovelady Center — a ministry that helps women restore hope after serving time in prison or going through other difficult life situations — asked if she could expand the idea just a bit.

They wanted her to teach a six-week course on the importance of journaling.

She voiced a reluctant yes — she had always loved scrapbooking, but journaling had always been her least favorite part.

“I went into research mode and found all this stuff about why we should journal, [how] it reduces [stress] and how it could heal your brain, and I haphazardly threw a class together in two weeks,” Johnson said.

It might have felt thrown together, but it turned out to be a God thing, she said. She can sum up everything she taught them in an acrostic she wrote using the letters in the word “journal”:

J — Jot down whatever comes to mind.
O — Open your heart.
U — Untie your emotions.
R — Read what you’ve written.
N — Notice your attitude.
A — Admit the truth.
L — Learn from it all.

“Journaling helps you release your emotions and stress, and you can heal and learn how to protect yourself from those things,” Johnson said. “You can pick up patterns in your emotions and figure out a battle plan for how to deal with them in the future.”

Armor of God

As she went through the different ways to journal, she also taught the women Scripture, how to put on the armor of God and how to express their emotions to God.

“They need to be equipped to deal with the stuff they are writing down once they get it out on paper,” Johnson said.

She also used the handmade journals themselves to teach the women about who they are and how God sees them.

“I tell them, ‘This junk mail and old envelopes we’re using to make these journals is garbage, and sometimes we think we’re junk, garbage, worthless, no good to anybody. But I’m going to show you [something] different,’” Johnson said.

Setting goals

She tells them they can feel worthy again, and she helps them set goals for the future — goals like finding a job or writing their daughters letters every week. Then she helps them formulate a plan for how to achieve those goals.

“It was just fun, good to get to know them,” Johnson said, noting she was starting her second round of the six-week course in March — and some of the women had already asked if they could retake the course.

“I opened up and shared with them, we cried together, we laughed together,” she said. “I hated to see it end. I could do this every day.”