Hannah Stonehouse/ Stonehouse Photography

Hannah Stonehouse/ Stonehouse Photography

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

When you hear this expression, I imagine your mind drifts to a time that you looked at a picture in disbelief, knowing it was depicting a revelation, a conversation, or an experience you once had but just couldn’t put words to. I was listening to Alistair Begg this morning on Truth for Life, and he was telling a story about how he and his wife were strolling along the boulevard one afternoon, and this guy on a bike rode by holding his dog who was at complete rest in the middle of his master’s chest, with his paws gently curled underneath him. They watched intently as he stopped to talk with some other people, marveling that the dog never wrestled, or even moved. They went on about their walk, and at the other end of the boardwalk, ran into him again. They stopped and inquired about the dog’s temperament, and the owner explained that he rescued the animal from a shelter. Since the day he brought him home, he has “rested in my arms because he trusts me.”

This story reminded me of this picture of Schoep, the arthritic dog who became an Internet sensation when he was photographed floating peacefully in Lake Superior in his owner’s arms. It was “their place,” a place where Schoep found comfort and soothing relief from the daily pain and struggle with arthritis. A place where John Unger, his owner, if only for a little while, could enjoy time with his beloved dog in a pain-free state. Deep communication was taking place, but not with words.

These two pictures have left me pondering my relationships, especially with my kids. Kids are not dogs, but how often I have tried to manufacture this kind of space with them and around them, only to fumble it all in my imperfect effort and lack of understanding. My
intention to “help” and “comfort” has at times been like a bulldozer clearing a path. The passing was certainly cleared, but the clean-up was so very costly.

In Deuteronomy 33:12, we are reminded to “Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders” (NIV). As a parent or caretaker, our ability to be a resting place for those that depend on us is directly related to our own willingness to rest in Him and His care first. At those moments when I feel like getting in the bulldozer, choosing to stop, turn, and receive rest and reassurance first can and does drastically change the outcome of my interactions with those whom I love and who need me. The ability to emotionally connect with my kids, to lean into the pain and discomfort of their daily lives and yet be still enough to allow them a safe place to rest, to process life – without the interference of any reactionary engine noise – well, it is an art, a dance, and one I can certainly not provide without being willing to receive it first.

When I feel seen, heard, and understood, I am then more emotionally available to hear, to see,
and to understand those around me. There is certainly pain in the connection at times, and even more so with loss, but there is also life, and a truer joy that is experienced because of it.

Dr. John and Dr. Julie Gottman provide an exercise for parents called “Remembering Life as a Child” in their Emotion Coaching, the Heart of Parenting workshop. It is a short, but wonderful tool to connect with what life was like when you were your child’s age. If you are interested in a copy of this exercise, or if you are interested in joining one of our Emotion Coaching Workshops for parents, send me an email at laura@acorncounseling.services.
Let’s fumble through the art of learning to connect together.

Laura Westbrook, LPC Intern, Supervised by Christy Graham, LPC S

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