Wednesday, May 25, 2011

God's Thumbprints: Daystar is a new start

Without giving too much information, I will share that Hunter has been having some struggles emotionally. I would imagine that it's not abnormal to experience these types of problems after having survived the type of ordeal that he has survived. We have no shame about it. I would just prefer to not broadcast the details of all that he's been experiencing.

I recently spoke with a social worker at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital and after interviewing me and Hunter, learning that we are a Christian family, and that Hunter really likes animals, she suggested that I contact a place called Daystar Counseling Ministries.

I came home and of course looked up this facility online. I read about their mission. I was excited to see that they were nonprofit and that they offered a sliding scale option for people who might need financial assistance. Also exciting was the fact that one of the counselors was a man named David Thomas who happened to be a co-author of a book about raising boys that I read last year.

I stumbled upon this book at my local library and it jumped out at me. I mean, look at the cover. How could I NOT want to read it? The best part is that I liked the book. I really really liked it. I'm rather particular about parenting books and I often don't agree with mainstream parenting views. But this book? I got it. (So you should check it out.) When I read the book, I had no idea that Mr. Thomas was local, much less that he worked for a local nonprofit counseling facility. This felt like more than a coincidence that I had just happened to read this book, especially when I called and they set up my first appointment with, you guessed it, Mr. Thomas.

Hunter, Ronin and I made our first trip to Daystar on Monday.

When I first pulled into the driveway, I couldn't believe my eyes. We were in the middle of one of the busiest business districts in Nashville, and here was this little oasis. A retreat. A lovely little spot. My feeling of peace and comfort increased as I walked in the front doors. It's a beautiful little facility and immediately I felt at home. I loved how it was tidy and beautiful and clearly created for the entire family to feel at ease. Child-friendliness is integrated into every nook and cranny of this building. Yes, it's all well decorated and furnished. You could see that everything that they had done was well thought out and carefully planned. From the dollhouse in the main waiting room to the gorgeous (and I do mean gorgeous) art studio room (for people to freely use or to be used during sessions), I was impressed by how much I knew my children would feel at home here.

Mr. Thomas greeted us with a giant grin and a giant dog. His name was Owen. Immediately, we all three liked Mr. Thomas (and Owen for that matter). Hunter isn't always comfortable with people, especially when he first meets them. As a matter of fact, it almost always takes him a while to warm up to people. But not with Mr. Thomas. He was very uncomfortable when we first arrived. We waited for probably twenty minutes and for each minute we waited, be became more and more agitated. He eventually acted out by hitting me and pulling his hair... all over the fact that we were waiting in a new place that made him nervous. Well, the moment Mr. Thomas approached us with his warm welcoming personality and his sweet dog, I saw Hunter's demeanor change. He warmed up to them immediately and was very much at ease for the rest of the time we spent there. Mr. Thomas took us on a tour of the facility. He spoke several times about how glad he was that we were there and how blessed they felt to have been provided with such a lovely facility. He was perfect. I'm a critical person. I pick people apart and I look for their flaws. (Hey, I'm not proud.) I honestly couldn't come up with one thing that the man did or said wrong. He just clearly loves the Lord and loves his job. And better yet, he's good at what he does.

After our tour, Mr. Thomas dropped the kiddos off with two different young ladies who spent the next hour or so playing with them, painting with them, and getting to know them. Then he led me upstairs to his office where I saw this pillow on his sofa and I knew that I had found a very safe place.
I shared our experiences with Mr. Thomas. His kindness and compassion brought out a flood of tears. I felt like I had found them as an answer to prayers. God's hand was clearly in this one, no doubt. Who could deny it? To conclude our interview, Mr. Thomas suggested what he felt our next step should be and he asked me if I felt comfortable with moving forward with that plan. He also told me that he'd take me downstairs to work with the lady in the office who could help us with sliding scale fees if that would be helpful to us at this time (and it totally is). On our way out, I got to meet Blueberry Pancake, another one of the Daystar therapy dogs. Hunter was introduced to Jeremy, the counselor he'll be working with. He was also told to PLEASE bring Maggie with him during his appointments. We were told that Ronin and Drayken were always welcome and that we should feel free to use the facility during Hunter's appointments. This could mean bringing a picnic to eat in the yard, playing games in the game room, doing art in the art studio, or whatever our hearts desired. I found Ronin out back playing basketball with the young lady who had been asked to spend time with her during my interview. She was having a blast.

Hunter and Ronin are already counting down the days until we return to Daystar. Ronin has made some lists of the names of all of the members of our family and put it in her purse which is now hanging next to my purse near the back door all in preparation for our next appointment. She plans to take these lists to the new friends she made at Daystar so that they will remember our names. Hunter had nothing but positive things to say about the experience and looks forward to returning next week to meet with Jeremy and develop a new friendship.

I'm so hopeful now. I honestly didn't know what was going to happen. I felt very discouraged after the last counseling wasn't a great fit for Hunter and I didn't know what to do. I am so excited about this opportunity and I would encourage anyone in the Nashville area who has a child or a teen who could use a mentor to consider taking them to meet with the people at Daystar. This isn't your typical "couch therapy". The counselors are just as likely to be playing basketball with the client as they are to be engaging in a game of checkers with them. But they rarely just sit on the sofa or stay cooped up in one room. Pets play a huge role in the therapy that they do with the children and for kids like Hunter, this is a real breath of fresh air.

Thank you, Daystar, for this new start. With your help, I believe my son is well on his way to achieving complete health: body, mind, and spirit.