gratitude mural

Kristen E. Woolley shares her journey and how some very special murals represent her feelings about encouraging relationships, the Turning Point Women’s Counseling and Advocacy Center, and her life:

My mural story is about gratitude. My mural represents one piece of trying to find a way to express gratitude for a priceless gift, the gift of saying …”I believe in you.”

My story begins with a little old house that sits on a corner of a busy street in my town. Every day for almost a year I would drive past this old red brick house, I would see the For Sale sign in the yard and I would daydream. I would visualize my dream becoming a reality in this old red brick house.

One day I risked, I risked sharing my dream with a woman who I have respect for, who has wisdom that I admire, who radiates kindness and goodness. At the beginning of my journey she simply was a professional in the same field and over time she became my colleague but most importantly she became my mentor. I risked in sharing my dream with this woman, I was afraid she would tell me it was crazy, too much to make it a reality, way too big for me to do, etc. I thought it would sound ridiculous to this very wise woman. To my surprise, she listened, really listened to my idea, to my dream, to the house calling me and she told me…”Go For It! You can do this, it will be amazing! I believe in you!”

My journey is both a personal and professional journey. The house that was calling me for a year, is what I call my house of healing. It is a nonprofit, a counseling center for women who were sexually abused as children, it is a house of healing for these women to come, to find refuge, to meet other women who carry the same burden, the same sadness, the same weight that is too heavy to carry, for women who say I no longer want to carry this anymore, I want to put it down, I want to place the shame back where it belongs, back with the abuser, I no longer want to be a victim any longer, I want to be a survivor. My house of healing will offer this safety, this warmth, this love and acceptance to help a woman with her journey of releasing her shame. I wanted this house to radiate all of these elements as I know them personally as I too had to learn to let go of the heavy burden of shame and claim survivor hood, for I am one of these women who endured child sexual abuse. I now taste freedom, I no longer carry the shame associated with being abused, I am no longer a victim, I am a survivor. I want to give the gift I have worked hard to claim back to any woman who wants the same for herself.

During the dark times of my journey my mentor helped me navigate my rough waters, she honored my pain, she sometimes took the helm when I wanted to quit, quit it all, quit my healing journey and quit creating my house of healing. Each time self-doubt entered she would help me silence it, she would quietly whisper…You can do this, I believe in you. This priceless gift she gave me is now becoming a reality, I now own this little old red brick house and I am working on creating a healing atmosphere. There are four therapy rooms and each room is designed and decorated after someone who helped me on my journey of healing, a theme to honor them.

This mural is a story to honor my mentor. It is a story to honor her, to say thank you and also to honor her best friend, a woman I never met but is now a part of my house of healing. My mentor had a best friend, she too was a therapist and she did experiential therapies; she used art therapy and sand tray therapy to help her hurting clients. My mentor lost her best friend to cancer. Her friend gave her sand tray therapy items to her knowing she would make sure they were used to do good and help others.

One day when I was at a very dark point, a pivotal point in my journey and I felt like quitting it all, my mentor told me to pause, catch my breath and that she had something for me. She gave me a gift this day, she gave me her friend’s sand tray therapy supplies, she told me both her desire and her friend’s family desire in finding the right place to honor them, to honor her friend, she told me the right place is with you, Kristen.

graititude photo mural

The mural is to capture gratitude, friendship, and honor. The sunset is a favorite photo my mentor took one winter day, the ocean and beach is a stock photo from the Maryland beach they vacationed prior to her friend’s passing. A special trip where they made very special memories together with a group of close friends. The message in the sand was my mentor’s friend’s favorite phrase, the handwriting is my mentor’s handwriting. The mural was created by a very talented young man who took my ideas, my way of capturing two friends in the same room, capturing their love, bond, and friendship and in the process capturing my gratitude. This young man made this possible for me. He deserves the credit for the creative design work.

When I look at this mural I feel the gift my mentor Joan freely gave to me, believing in me, I feel the presence of her as I look at the sunset, I feel the presence of her friend Sallie as I look at the ocean, and as I look at her sand tray therapy items I feel Sallie being with Joan in spirit. When I read the message in the sand I feel inner peace and immense gratitude.

My greatest hope is I am able to guide women who are victims of child sexual abuse in shedding their shame, reclaiming their power, changing their mindset to that of a survivor and that they are able to walk out of the doors of my house of healing with their heads held high with the same belief….it truly does all work out in the end.

Kristen E. Woolley, R.N, B.SN., M.S.W
Founder/Executive Director
Turning Point Women’s Counseling and Advocacy Center

Mural design by:
Mr. Noah Urban
Mazuzu Productions