Filled with Gratitude: My Lay Counseling Certificate Experience

Elizabeth Olmstead, a recent Lay Counseling Certificate program participant, shares the impact of her time at The Allender Center. Learn more about our Certificate programs here.

There’s a notebook in the bottom drawer of my nightstand. It’s maroon, thin, and the edges are slightly worn. On the inside flap is a small group of index cards held together by a paperclip.

I’ve looked at these cards a few times over the past year and I could describe each of them to you from memory. Each is different than the others, and as I go through each card, not only do I see different handwriting and ink color, but I see a different face that journeyed with me throughout The Allender Center’s Lay Counseling Certificate program.

The first time we all sat in a room together in contrast to the last is proof of the transformation that occurred throughout the program. We began that first time together with introductions, nervous smiles, and searched for the courage to share our stories with one another. We ended with familiarity, trust, gratitude, and a longing to have just a few more minutes before we said goodbye.

In the middle of the Lay Counseling Certificate program I experienced a lot of unexpected transition in my life. It felt like a tidal wave had swept over me and, despite my best efforts to get to the surface, I was running out of oxygen. The timing of The Allender Center Certificate training weekends throughout this transition were powerful and healing. Much of that came from the way my group surrounded and cared for me.

There was one specific moment in the middle of our second weekend when I was sharing with my group what was happening at home. While I was talking I started to pay close attention to each of their faces. Their expressions held anger, concern, and kindness.

All of a sudden it hit me—they had entered into my story with me. Though no one had said a word, they were engaging with me simply by letting me see what they were experiencing through their facial expression. It was like a light went off in my head and suddenly I had a different understanding of what it meant to bring myself—my voice, my presence, and my face—to someone’s story.

When I finished sharing, my group leader turned toward me and asked what I needed. After a few seconds she realized that I couldn’t think of anything and she asked if it would be okay if my group prayed for me. I nodded and watched everyone get out of their chairs and circle around me. I can still feel the weight of their hands on my shoulders and their voices praying for rest, peace, and healing.

A few days later, I realized that in this moment my group gave me something I most needed and yet I could have never asked them for it.

From time to time I open the bottom drawer of my nightstand and I pull out these cards and I linger in moments like this. When I hold those cards in my hand, I remember the faces that entered into my story with me and almost instantly I am filled with gratitude.