by Deanna Kell

Have you ever witnessed a child involved in the creative process? The excitement of turning a box into a spaceship or water colors blobs on paper become a rainbow or a tree or a family and their pets? A trip to grandmas becomes a trip to the moon. An afternoon walk becomes a search and rescue mission of all the misplaced pet rocks in the world.

Webster’s defines creativity as “the use of imagination or original ideas to create something.” Life lived through the lens of childhood trauma defines creativity as “if I color within the lines, maybe they will love me, or maybe they won’t notice me, perhaps I can just blend in.”

We don’t understand this when we’re children, but creativity gives us hope.  It helps us to forget our trials in life and focuses our minds on fun and playfulness. And most of all, it helps us to connect our hearts to the hearts of others, especially people we care about.

When you are a child growing up in trauma, your creativity is stifled. You are simply trying to survive each day. But as an adult, when you work hard to heal that trauma, boy, life can be fun! Creativity becomes a bridge that brings the traumatized child to the healed adult and the healed adult to the traumatized child. 

Recovering trauma survivors can find it is un to be a child when you are an adult and you’ve never really been a child before.  Everything becomes an opportunity to reinvent yourself. Wash the dishes, throw in a dance move while soap bubbles float to the ceiling. Make your first homemade Halloween costume – poor children, but yay you! Your children trick-or-treat as a box/roll of toilet tissue/Spiderman/princess, all at once!

Go to the grocery store and become a professional singer to the 70’s mix tape playing over the intercom system. Don’t forget to embarrass your children. Drive your kids to football practice, perform in a dramatic concert performance with your hairbrush and your radio. Don’t forget to wave and smile at your fellow travelers in the next lane! Throw out some slang to your teenagers but make sure it’s slang from the previous decade. We can’t have them thinking we are cool and creative.

Here’s one of my favorites: dress up the dog and cat. Dress them up in anything, a towel becomes a cape, a sock becomes a hat. They don’t mind and the act gets the creative juices (and laughter) flowing.  

Go to the beach? Draw your family in the sand, stick figures, of course. You are no Picasso, after all. Make your children hang around for pictures with their stick figure doppelganger! Write short stories. If you are feeling particularly brave and creative, do a cartwheel. (Just have the insurance card handy.) Buy all the things from your local craft store and glue it all together, as though you are gluing your very soul back together. Maybe you are.

You don’t know what you are doing, what you are making, but you are creating and it feels good and it feels fun and suddenly, you haven’t missed childhood like you thought. Maybe you even appreciate childhood as an adult more than you ever could have as a child.

And every day, every moment that you invest in your creativity, another little place in you is healed until one day you notice with your newfound childish creativity, you have sewn together a beautiful tapestry of memories and new experiences, and lot of glued together craft store “stuff” sits in your home and makes you smile and makes your children laugh, and you come to understand redemption and restoration. You realize your life is a Romans 8:28 story. Though you have experienced trauma as a child, you kept your child-like faith tucked away in your heart and God has caused it all to work together for your good. 

And the craft store loves to see you coming, “break out the glue and the Popsicle sticks, Karen, here she comes!”

Deanna Kell is a single mom to two boys, one 25 and one 14. She has two beautiful grandchildren as well. She says, “I have struggled and fought for my faith my entire life, but God has never left me and I would be lost without Him.” She loves to read, write, hike and fish!  She’s a Southern girl through and through.