Executive Functioning, my old enemy, we meet again or How my kid chose to be like Batman

Lately, I have been trying to wrap my mind around Executive Functioning as it pertains to the special needs of my family. Last week I watched a webinar on the subject that said that people affected with ADHD and/or the autism spectrum often, if not always, have executive functioning challenges. One of the ways this manifests itself is not being able to do hard things well, or not being able to overcome life challenges that present themselves without outside prompting/help.

This is hard for both of my boys, but especially hard for my Caleb. We have been working on this for years. When he brings home a homework assignment, for example, that he has dubbed a challenge, he will talk negatively about it in a state of emotional paralysis waaaaaaaay longer than it takes to get the assignment done, effectively wasting an hour instead of getting the assignment done in 15 minutes. I am still working on this with him and I know that we will triumph in the end, but it is a process. This affects all areas of life, however,  and I was reminded of this when Caleb went on a ski trip with his 7th-grade class this last week.

Caleb likes to ski and was looking forward to getting to ski for a whole school week with not one dreaded homework assignment, but his trip presented another big challenge.

On day one, he skied on a hill that he was quite comfortable with. On that same day, he had a ski lesson, teaching Caleb and all of his classmates ski techniques and how to use their ski poles effectively on some of the higher, steeper slopes.

On day two, the kids were required to ski only on the steeper slope, and they could not go back to the smaller slope. This presented a problem. It was hard. Caleb and his classmates were repeatedly falling over; it was super challenging. Caleb was not feeling confident in what he was doing at all. On day two, Caleb was 100% ready to throw in the towel. He was so over it. After two emotional phone calls to me from the slopes (both asking me, imploring me, to pick him up), I made the decision to play tough love and told him that I would not pick him up. He needed to figure it out.

Uuuugh! You guys, this was so hard. Other kids without special needs were being picked up by their parents because they were scared and did not want to face the steep slope. I, however, felt a prompting from the Holy Spirit, or maybe just the recollection of what wiser parents before me have done, and made the decision to say no. I knew/hoped that the Lord had a great lesson in store for my boy. I immediately wrote to my bible study group and a group of 2 ladies that I meet with on a weekly basis and asked them to pray with me over my boy. I did not want him to just come home at the end of the week totally bitter that I did not pick him up; I wanted him to do well and see what he could do when God would help him through hard things. And God answered our fervent prayers in a way that brought me great joy…tears, in fact.

By Thursday, he sent me this text message:

This is my Caleb on Friday when I picked him up. Look at that smile.

Casey went to see the new Joker movie. I was sure that I would not like it, so I have not seen it. Everyone was saying that it just takes one bad day to go bad like Joker, but I really like what Casey said about that. He said, “yeah, but Batman had a bad day too.” Caleb did not lose both of his parents to a gunman in an alley (thankfully…since I am his mom), but he did have a really bad day or days, and he was able to choose joy and overcome the challenge, instead of focusing on bitterness in the end, so in a way, he chose to be like Batman. And for him, this is part of his road to overcoming some of his life challenges, becoming more of a man, and step-by-step more like Jesus.

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Albania Level 1 and Level 2 Soccer Coaches Training Course, November 2019

The Lord continues to bring people to him through JV Edge Football (soccer) in Albania. So many churches want to be trained by JV Edge and want to be a part of the league. This is so exciting!

This last week, Casey and Gabe (the JV Bulgaria country leader) traveled to a village near Vlore, Albania to conduct the second JV Edge coaches’ training course. The exciting part about this is that coaches that were trained in level 1 skills last time were now being trained by Casey in level 2 skills, while Gabe took on the new level 1s.

Even though this was a decently large course with 16 level 1s and 7 level 2s, there were coaches/churches that Ermal (JV Edge Sports leader in Albania) had to turn away. Why in the world would he do that? Ermal is discipling the coaches/churches that have been trained on how to reach those that do not yet know Christ and discipling those that do. That is a lot for one person, so he wants JV Edge sports to start out slowly so that he can keep up with the growth.

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Juljan (the JV country leader for Albania) said that they had a goal of networking with and training a certain number of churches in the south of Albania, and now each of those churches has a trained JV coach and is part of our JV league. In addition to having their coaches trained by JV, if a church would like to be a part of our JV Edge league, they are first trained as a church on how to reach those that do not yet know Christ and how to disciple them once they do.

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Praise God for what he is doing!

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Northern Ireland Football Training, Fall 2019

 

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When Casey was trying to figure out just exactly how we were going to get more trained coaches from the UK, Canada, the U.S., or even one of the countries where we serve, it was suggested to him by one of our board members in the U.K. to put on a football training? Another one? Yes, another one. Paul Bowman, a member of the Josiah Venture board in the U.K. and leader of vast quantities of teams from Northern Ireland that have served in Josiah Venture English camps in Czech over the years, had a point.

Why not just ask people to help? Because giving them valuable training and showing them what they would be providing for others would be a way more effective strategy to inspire them to help.

Casey, with the help of a super highly qualified coaches’ trainer from Northern Ireland, and our friend and coworker Rachael, put on a day and a half training for 7 local Northern Irish coaches.

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Above: These are the 5 challenges of Christ that are taught at all of the Edge Sports coaches’ trainings. I love how it shows that any person is in one of these stages and all people have an opportunity to grow closer to Christ.

IMG_0263 Rachael telling stories of people coming to Christ, growing in their relationship to the Lord and, through the years, how the Lord has grown them into disciplers themselves.

Casey had some help from some friends in Northern Ireland to get the soccer field, a meeting room, and to advertise about our training. Because Casey had been traveling and bound to so many other things this fall, he did not have a lot of time to commit to the promotion of this event. As a result, upon first glance, it seemed like a failed event on account of so few people signed up. Fortunately, God’s economy is different from ours. These were exactly the people that needed to be there and, out of the 7 coaches present, 3 have committed to regularly help Josiah Venture train coaches in central and eastern Europe. Consequently, this was one of the best promotional events that Josiah Venture has ever done to recruit people from Northern Ireland to help JV!

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Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. Psalm 37:5 (ESV)

Well, the Lord acted alright!

 

 

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Lest I forget…

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When we first found out that our kids were on the spectrum, I went to a conference on Social Cognitive Behavior to learn more about all of the things. One thing that the speaker said that struck me was that sometimes it’s hardest for the ones that don’t look like they have special needs. Oh, how true it is.

First of all, I am NOT going to downplay the challenges of those children and adults that clearly have special needs and those that care for them. Hats off to them in all the ways. I have watched this sweet lady walk her adult son to “school” by the hand for years here in Cesky Tesin, Czech.  He always has a bib slung around his neck to catch all of the drool, is non-verbal, and laughs intermittently at seemingly nothing. Their life holds all sorts of different challenges that I will never know.

But, it is also hard when a child or adult appears “normal” with their challenges under the surface. Such people are expected to act a certain way but often respond to life’s challenges, changes, and triumphs in unexpected ways.

Sadly, because my kids look typical, I even forget sometimes.:

  • when studying for a test and Beni cannot remember a thing of all of the topics that we studied at least 4 times. The stress of an upcoming test and Beni’s highly visual self does not match well with verbally studying something.
  • When I just want my kids to help out at home and they have a hard time stopping what they expected to be doing to do something else. Change is oh so hard for them.
  • When I see other 10-year olds riding a bike and Beni not even close. Beni cannot help his balance.
  • When Caleb forgets about Beni’s special needs and ridicules him for his challenges. Caleb needs help understanding people too.
  • When Caleb cannot understand the social cues of his peers and does some really off the wall stuff. It does not come naturally to him.
  • When Beni’s assistant at school (no assistants are trained to help special needs kids here, by the way) gets stressed about his lack of skill in a certain area, and I turn around and get anxious at him myself. Shouldn’t I be his defender against a cruel world that does not get him?

I mean, they don’t have shirts that say, “I am on the spectrum, mom. You remembering that would really help right now. Have a little more patience with me, please.” I think that shirt could help me a lot, actually.

When I went to Prague a few weeks ago, I picked up the book, pictured above. What a great reminder of just the fact that we are all different from each other in some way. We would all benefit from being patient with each other. I think there are a lot more people walking around God’s green earth with autism or some other special need or handicap than we all realize—with it all hidden just under the surface.

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Our Home Garden Construction Project

First of all, if you are reading this because you had anything to do with funding this project and/or praying for our family, THANK YOU!

Ever since we bought our home back in 2014, we have wanted the pool in the backyard to be G.O.N.E. Why would you not want to have a pool in your back yard, you might ask? It just was not safe for our family. For the first few years that we lived here, our youngest could not swim, so we kept the water level really low. In addition, it was a pool made out of a grain silo placed into the ground with the top sawed off, a very thick layer of concrete was poured as its floor, and then the top rim was edged with very thick concrete. So, when the water level was low, my kid might not drown, but he might break his neck if he were to fall in.  In addition, I cannot even count the number of times the neighborhood kids would run around the rim of the pool when they were playing tag and hide-and-go-seek. No matter how many times I warned them not to do that, that is exactly how they played. Oh, the stress!  It also did not help that Casey traveled so much, so keeping up with pool repairs…no. It literally just became a murky steel-rimmed pond with various critters living in it. One time, my neighbor even asked me if I could please get rid of my frogs because his wife could not sleep at night. My frogs? Oh, bother.

Casey even put in some ultimate effort to start the process, but as the project got more and more involved, we realized that we needed help and how were we going to afford this?

Part of the challenge of living in a foreign place is that you do not have the same tools and resources that you are used to. You do not know where to go for things or who to ask. Often we know what we would need in the States but what is it even called here?

Fortunately, during our 6-month exile outside of Czech, Casey thought to involve a few friends that we have to get their suggestions on what we could do. We ended up hiring a project manager and he hired a landscaping company that he knew. Praise God. The owner used to work for Josiah Venture and we did not even know that he owned such a company. They were great.

We mostly just wanted a safe place for our kids to play with no “ponds” or gaping holes for them to fall into. In addition, we had a greenhouse in our yard that we never used with broken glass panels, and our sidewalk pavers were all falling apart. They helped us with that too.

We also found out in the process, thanks to a neighbor that was observing our progress, that in a few years we would have to update our septic system and all of the drainage lines. This would cost us thousands extra if we had to tear up our sidewalk in a few years. I remember getting that phone call as we were driving through Slovakia heading down to Bulgaria for our first ministry stop for the summer this July. We had loads of stuff, our kids, and our intern team in the car, and were faced with the possibility that our project would have to be stopped because of these drainage lines. We just stopped and prayed that God would provide some solutions because we did not know what to do (the whole not knowing who to call, what info. you need, or where to get said resources, person or info struck again).  The Lord brought a friend from Czech to mind that worked for the local septic company that served our septic tank regularly. I put him in contact with our landscaping friend. Within minutes, we got a phone call back that the project was back on. That one call saved the day.  Praise God for HIS resources!

A few years ago, we realized that most of the walls on our first floor were wet and growing mold (it’s a concrete home thing) so we had to have extensive repairs done to the interior of our home. A year later, we were noticing that some of those walls were getting moist again (NO!!!). This construction helped with those problem walls because they were able to bust up the concrete on the outside of the house that was holding water against the house like a sponge. Above, that big slab of concrete by the door was one of the major culprits. It has now been smashed to smithereens and removed (YES!!!).

This project turned out to be for so much more than just beautification (even though our backyard truly does look beautiful with a nice big patio area, planters, and nicely landscaped and seeded lawn… grow, grass, grow!). I am so thankful for the repairs that will help our family to not only have a safer yard to hang out in, but it has helped us to maintain dry walls and keep mold at bay.

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Czech Ultimate Frisbee training and league launch, September 2019

We are so excited to have our first JV Edge league start in Czech. We have been praying for JV Czech to find a JV Edge Sports Country leader for years. The leader is Tomas and he is an enthusiastic quality Ultimate Frisbee (U.F.) coach who is ready to make this happen! IMG_7468During the training, Casey was able to help mold Tomas’ experience as an Ultimate Frisbee coach into JV’s coaching framework. Many of the coaches that came have already been coaching U.F. through their local churches in Czech, but being part of our league not only gives them the opportunity to compete but provides them with a model for evangelism and disciple-making. IMG_7471One nice thing about this sport is that it can be very co-ed, so it is possible to get more females involved. At this coaches’ training weekend, there were two female coaches present. There were 15 participants at this training weekend including Casey, Tomas, and Fanny. Our good friend Greg Strock (JV Czech missionary who lives close-by) even came and shared on evangelism on one of the evenings.IMG_7489One of the females present was able to see some but was legally blind and has a heart for the Czech special needs community (halleluiah). For now, she is going to be an assistant U.F. coach but would love to do an Edge fitness group for the handicapped. How cool is that! More groups that often are getting overlooked getting seen. Praise God!

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Romania Soccer Training and Launch, September 2019

Back in February 2019, Casey went to Romania and did a level one soccer training with potential soccer coaches and local church leaders. His training was both a time to train coaches but also to present the idea of developing an evangelistic JV Edge soccer league to many Romanian local churches. Some showed great interest and some went back to their churches to present the idea and see if their church wanted to get involved.

A few weeks ago, Casey returned to Bucharest and, with the help of D.U. and Bogdan (black hat) from Romania and Michael from Northern Ireland (blue jersey), he conducted a second long training weekend for coaches that were committed to forming the league.

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The attendees were 12 assorted coaches and assistant coaches (including one female. unusual but rad). Casey was really enthused to train this group of people because they were super quality individuals, and they were excited about all of the principles and ideas being taught, both about coaching soccer and reaching those that do not yet know Jesus as their Lord and savior.

One of the attendees was a former drug-user whose goal was to go back to Teen Challenge (the Christian program that helped clean him up) and start a team with the residents there that are still struggling.

Franz (a dutchman) is a missionary in a Roma (gypsy) village in Romania. He brought 3 of the guys that he is disciplining with him. When they were presented with some of the discipleship/evangelism materials, two of them shared that they could not use it because they could not read.

How beautiful that the Lord is bringing even the illiterate to our trainings. They are learning to share their faith without the use of the written word. JV Edge Sports is bringing the gospel to groups that may not be reached in other more traditional ways. Praise God.

Another highlight in Romania is that Michael Stoneman (a former JV summer intern who is currently a soccer coach and youth leader in Northern Ireland) came to help lead this training. He loved what we are doing to share the gospel through sport and is interested in helping Casey do training in the future. Yes! Casey sure needs the help!

 

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