Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A little over a year ago the Lord put it on my heart to homeschool my children (then ages 12 and 7). After researching available Christian curriculums I felt confident that my children would have access to well-developed learning materials -- but I was less confident of my ability to administer those materials; I also was a bit frightened by the New York State law that requires homeschooled children grades 4 and up to test within the 33rd percentile (nationally) on standardized testing (my son is autistic and his last round of standardized testing placed him well below this requirement).

Despite my concerns I knew that I needed to follow the Lord's calling and presented the school district with our letter of intent to homeschool. To help assuage the fears that loomed overhead, the Lord encouraged me by consistently revealing the exciting advantages of homeschooling, such as the ability to school on a year-round schedule (something that's extremely important for my son) and the ability to shorten the school day.

When we began homeschooling in June 2014, it was a nightmare. My daughter was not having any issues but my son was another story completely; he seemed to be getting absolutely nothing out of the materials, and I was at a loss in how to help him. Each day I questioned my teaching ability as well as my son's ability to score high enough on the standardized tests -- but each day the Lord continued to encourage and strengthen me. Some days He would simply remind me of how much better a homeschool environment is for my son's learning needs. Other days He would reveal to me the reason for my son's struggle and how I could help him through that difficulty; the outcome of those revelations would be a joyful smile on my son's face as he realized that he is capable of understanding things he once thought impossible.

Little by little things have gotten easier (although we still have our moments!), and the Lord continues to lead us in our adventure. At the end of March my son took his standardized tests; we received the results yesterday:

Language, March 2014 - 9th Percentile
Language, March 2015 - 46th Percentile

Math, March 2014 - 13th Percentile
Math, March 2015 - 46th Percentile

Reading, March 2014 - 16th Percentile
Reading, March 2015 - 54th Percentile

All of this is because of God's amazing grace!

-Trish Gerstel

Friday, April 3, 2015

My sister-in-law has advanced Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and is confined to a power wheel chair. She is a disabled veteran and had recently planned a trip to Aspen, Colorado, to participate in the Disabled Veterans' Winter Clinic; when her aide said she couldn't go with her, my sister-in-law was devastated because this was a chance for her to do something special. When I heard about what happened I felt called to go with my sister-in-law, as it may be her last trip (MS is a disease that deteriorates the muscles in your body until function is lost, and effects the way you think).
Today is Day 5 of our trip, and every day is a physical challenge as well as an emotional challenge for both of us. By constant prayer and by God's grace I am able to do this! He has given me compassion, patience, and strength to perform in order to make this an amazing trip for my sister-in-law. As I attend to her needs I think of how Jesus came to this world to serve others, and this week I have strived to serve her as well as others who I come into contact with. Without Him I could not do it and I praise Him with all my heart!
"I can do every thing through Him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13.
Stacey Sicko

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Over the past week or so I have been the target of several people's misdirected anger. This is something that happens from time to time and normally would not be a huge deal, except one of those people is my spouse. After several days of receiving "the silent treatment" and being subjected to unpredictable outbursts of anger and snide comments on the home front, it's that much more difficult to brush-off other people's nastiness.

By yesterday morning I was emotionally drained and particularly vulnerable; when my spouse abruptly turned away from me during a mundane discussion about a kitchen appliance -- walking out of the house without another word to me -- it was the straw that broke the camel's back. I found myself at God's throne of grace, tearfully praying for wisdom and strength.

While I lobbed my questions and pleas at God (I haven't done anything wrong - why is my spouse taking this out on me?! What am I supposed to do? I need You to do this, because I definitely can't!), He gave me a very clear and powerful answer: I began to envision scenes from the movie "The Passion of the Christ" (a very carefully-produced portrayal of what our Lord Jesus Christ suffered when He was beaten, mocked, and hung on a shameful cross for us), and the Lord said to me, "I endured this for you. I did nothing wrong, but I allowed myself to be broken because I love you. I am asking you to endure the pain from your spouse's anger because of your love for Me." With those words, and with my humble submission to His request, He has given me strength and peace to continue through this trial.