Hat Tip Monday

In the busy-ness of getting ready for our Christmas visit to New Jersey (and wrapping up grading papers, and baking cookies, and finalizing the gifts), I'm afraid I don't quite have the time to post all those scintillating thoughts on Isaiah and The Shack, which I am reading for critical thinking and dialoguing purposes.

See Challies' review of the book here.

But, in the interest of pointing you in the direction of some good reading, please check out Joel's Information Overload over at token lines. More from me later!

Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin?

You do what you are, according to Mark Driscoll (and Scripture!). You're a sinner by nature, who as a result has sin in your life. You're not a good person...deep down, you're a really bad person! According to Psalm 5:5, God hates those who do evil! There is no separation of the sinful deed from the one who is sinful in God's eyes. This is why it's so imperative that we be covered in the shed blood of Christ, who once and for all bought us and rescued us from the wrath of God which we justly deserve. In Christ, we are a new creation. Just as the sin cannot be separated from the sinner, so Christ's righteousness cannot be separated from those who are in Him. Our sins are forgiven and are as far from us as east is from west. Be assured, beloved of Christ, that your standing is certain before the Lord.

How incredibly humbling...

Do not flatter yourself so much that you cannot detect or hate your sin (Psalm 36:2). As believers, we are still in the process of sanctification. We ought to live holy and blameless lives out of obedience to our Father, who has adopted us as sons and daughters through Christ. We are no longer slaves to the law, in that we are not condemned for our failings and are given life apart from it. However, we are slaves to righteousness, Paul says, and should draw on the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome temptation and seek to live out our love for God.

Isn't That the Point of Prophecy?

For the last couple of weeks, the book of Isaiah has been repeatedly grabbing my attention. Which is, ironically, kind of what the prophets were originally designed to do. I'm sure this is at least partially due to the whole Advent season thing, what with Isaiah containing lots of prophecies about the coming Savior and all that. But situational influence or no, I plan to devote substantial time in the coming weeks to reading through this entire beautiful book.

Just thought I'd let you know, in case you found yourself staying awake at night wondering what in the world I plan to read during Christmas break.

Also, I hope to have some blog content deriving from Isaiah, to share the messages that impact me the most and what the Holy Spirit impressed upon me through my reading.

If you weren't already staying awake thinking about my reading habits, I know you'll spend the next week sleeplessly anticipating my thoughts on Isaiah.

For Those Who Care

Map of Interview Locations

I wish there were some just a little further west...

Realtime Update

Hey there, sports fans, how about a little live blogging to keep you updated on the oh-so-hot AAPIC action?

The Jersey connection will be excited to hear that I have an interview with Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital, date TBA. That's only about 45 minutes from y'all! I'll be contacting you soon to invite myself to spend the night when I have my interview :-).


I'm up to 2 interviews, with three sites left to hear from...still a long shot, but hope springs eternal!

I Need a Tums Milkshake

Remember that old wooden dueling coaster called the Racer? Of course you do, if you are one of my three readers from the Pittsburgh area. Oh, Kennywood, surely established before the days of safety codes, how fondly do I cherish my memories of your Log Jammer and Raging Rapids, and the slightly life-threatening Jackrabbit. Oh and that one that takes you through the morbid remains of some creepy mining town or something (why would they put that in Pittsburgh?).

Ok, so the Racer: say there's an internship on the Red train and a baby on the Blue train.

I feel like we're at the part where they both go in crazy circle-loops right before they pull back into the final stretch where you see which train wins. (And don't worry, the baby is very well-padded and tightly secured...and apparently immune to the whole shaken baby thing.)

I have absolutely no idea, literally zero, of what the next year of our life will bring. So far I have one interview, and yet to hear from several sites tomorrow as to whether they'd like to interview me. If I had no interviews, we would know that an internship is off the table and we can hop on the baby train, but nooooo I have ONE interview. Which means that the internship odds are against me, but certainly still there.

I am a planner, people. Meaning that I would much prefer to have a PA realtor on speed-dial, our future address safely on the in-laws' refrigerator, and Joel's resume on the desks of every HR person from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, not to mention our budget for 2009-2010 delineated in a highly detailed Excel spreadsheet.

This would be the appropriate time to remind me of that Lord-of-the-crapshoot post I did way back when.

Joel and I are so grateful to our great God for the promises in His revealed Word and for the faithfulness He has already demonstrated so consistently in our lives. Were it not for the trustworthiness of our Lord, we would be all sorts of messed up over this time of uncertainty. As it is, the emotions come and go, but we rejoice that we are not subject to their whims for our long-term security. Our feet are upon the solid rock of Christ, who will go before and behind us through this next year and forever. My heart is quiet only at the feet of my God, of whom I beg: remind me every moment that You are the one who directs my path.

I do not ask to see the way
My feet will have to tread
But only that my soul may feed
Upon the living Bread.
'Tis better far that I should walk
By faith close to His side;
I may not know the way I go, But oh, I know my Guide.
His love can never fail, His love can never fail,
My soul is satisfied to know His love can never fail.
My soul is satisfied to know His love can never fail.
[Matthew Smith, "His Love Can Never Fail"]

Ok, I was mistaken about having literally zero idea of what the next year will bring. By God's grace, we will enjoy the great bounty of His blessings as we have always done. And if He has hardship in store, may our hearts rejoice in that, too, as our portion from Him and an opportunity for Him to do a great work in our lives.

The Bethlehem Star

For an incredibly thorough and awe-inspiring explanation of the Bethlehem star, click here.

Click on "1. Setting the Stage" and proceed through the presentation. It will take some time, but it is worth it to learn more than you thought possible about the astrology involved in Christ's birth and, later, in his crucifixion. I would tell you more, but really the presentation builds in such a dramatic way that I don't want to give anything away. I'll give you just this much: it wasn't a meteor, a comet, or a supernova. Then what could it have been??

In the last segment, "What Does This Mean?", the presentation follows an evangelistic message with this closing statement:

For if the Star wasn't magic or a special miracle from outside of the natural order, then it was something even more startling. It was a Clockwork Star. And that is overwhelming. The movement of the heavenly bodies is regular, like a great clock. The Clockwork Star finally means that from the very instant at which God flung the universe into existence, he also knew the moment he would enter human history in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He marked it in the stars. And from before the beginning of time as we experience it, God knew the very moment when Messiah would breath his last on the cross.

Jesus is "the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world."
Revelation 13:8

I am humbled to my knees before the great God who orchestrated the starry dance that would coincide in myriad marvelous ways to tell the story of His Son, our Savior.

[ht: rayfowler.org]

Sabbath Rest

"Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord thy God. In it, thou shalt not do any work; thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor the stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that in them is, but on the seventh day He rested. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it." ~the fourth commandment

disclaimer: dictated by my husband, whose memory may be fallible, though the Word he may be misquoting is not.

The Lord takes the Sabbath very seriously. This commandment refers to the act of Creation - He created all that is in only six days. Should we not also be able to get our business taken care of in six days? The Sabbath is given to us for rest, but it is not only because of our need that we take a Sabbath. It is because the Lord God Himself, Yahweh and Elohim, has ordained that it is good and commanded us thus.

Who am I to argue?

For what it's worth, it makes all the difference in the Pearce household. As our pastors preached through the ten commandments recently, we talked about our observance of the Sabbath and whether we indeed keep it holy. We made a decision to set aside the Lord's Day as one of rest, to be focused on fellowship with other believers, preaching of the Word and the sacraments at church, and on rest and worship at home. Though it doesn't happen every single week, I try to make dinner in the crock pot and we enjoy leftovers for supper. The afternoon is spent with friends, enjoying or extending hospitality, reading the Word and related things, and/or listening to recorded sermons and lectures. And of course, taking the Sabbath Nap.

I can't emphasize enough what a difference it makes to truly set aside an entire day to the Lord. The things that He commands are to His glory and for our benefit - and the Sabbath rest is a great example of this. We find ourselves nourished by His Word, replenished in His grace, and ready for another week of labor for the Kingdom. Not only is the Lord's Day a source of rest and nourishment, but what assurance we receive from the preaching of Christ each Sunday! The rest of life is placed in its proper perspective when we return week in and week out to the Source of life Himself.

But even if it made no difference whatever in our experience, His commandment would be no less true and binding.

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." ~Matthew 24:35

There are those who argue for a cultural or contextual view of the fourth commandment, saying that the Sabbath rest doesn't apply to us in our time and culture (or that it's just impossible/impractical to observe the Sabbath). But which of the other commandments is culturally bound? Has the Lord ceased to be our God? Is He any less jealous of our love and worship? Are we to steal and murder at will? Our culture is far from the law of the Lord on these matters, endorsing the self and experience as god and abortion as a viable option (but another post on that...). But the covenant elect are to remain faithful to His Word and to His Law, joyful at the revelation of His character and standards and grateful for His grace through Christ's atoning work since we can never perfectly achieve those standards.

I will close with this thought concerning the beauty of the law:

"The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple." ~Psalm 19:7

Thank God that we are righteous in Christ. But thank Him also for His law and statutes that bring nourishment to those who are alive in Him! When I am able by His grace to keep His laws, even in my fragmented, human way, He is glorified and reflected in me. When I walk in His ways, then do I most fully reflect His image. May this be the chief end for which we strive: to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever! (Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 1)

How my heart leaps at those words!

It's Science

I've just completed a highly scientific analysis of the data that Google Analytics tracks from my blog, regarding blog traffic, hits, time spent on the blog, etc. I noticed that there have been several spikes in blog hits over the past month, and clever me decided to see what was happening on the blog when those spikes occurred.

You'll never guess.

They occurred when I actually POSTED.

So here is my profound thought for today, designed solely to lure you to my blog:

Consider yourself suckered in.

Also, my (our) semester is FINALLY winding down, meaning after this week I will have only (!) to propose my dissertation (we FINALLY scheduled it for next Tuesday!!!) and then a random final on December 18, after I will have been school-less for a good two weeks.

What does this mean to you, fair reader? Actual blog-worthy content, I hope! My thoughts will turn from frenetic checking of school, internship, and dissertation-related to-do lists to....frenetic checking of home and Christmas-related to-do lists, I'm sure. But also deep introspection and weighty ponderings about the Christmas season and the mysterious workings of the Holy Spirit in my life.

You know, the serious, meaningful things upon which this blog was founded. Right.

A cat, a belt, and long rubber gloves

I don't know if it's her, um, generous girth, but Merlot seems to have difficulty cleaning herself. We've noticed lately that her fur has been rather oily and dull, and decided that something needed to be done. I mentioned this to our friend Josh several weeks ago, and ever since he has been asking me whether we've washed the cat yet.

Yeah. During all that extra time we've had.

So today Josh was here working on our consultation paper with me, and I confess we weren't being very productive. He brought cinnamon scones to snack on...we started with those, and it was downhill from there.

But I do have a headstart on rental housing in Reading, should I match for internship there.

Obviously, we needed some incentive. And, as is his custom, Josh asked if we had yet washed the cat. No, Josh, that has not been at the top of our to-do list. But his query sparked an idea in my mind...Joel isn't all that enthusiastic about taking time to wash the cat, but if I can get some free help from Josh, and he would be immensely entertained by washing the cat...win-win situation, right?

So we agreed that if we finished our paper elements by 4:30, he could go to the store for cat shampoo while I synthesized our paper and then we would wash Merlot before his 6:00 class.

You know you want to see the pictures.

I couldn't find our camera, due to lazy unpacking efforts since our return late Sunday night, so these are from my phone...

Merlot sans dignity:

That's a belt around her middle. It's amazing how merely a sense of being restrained can render a cat quite serene. Only after we removed the belt for one final rinse did she begin struggling and mewing to break your heart.

Merlot enjoying a bit of after-bath refreshment:

I think a half-hour at the spa really did wonders for her complexion. She looks cleaner, healthier, younger even. And, dare I say....thinner?

I blame the fifty or so hairballs left in the bathtub.

We're still waiting for her to dry. She's been parked in the dark hallway for the last 45 minutes licking her wet paws and wounded pride. Niko acts sympathetic, but you can tell she's laughing inside. Hopefully Merlot will venture out soon and forgive me for scandalizing her delicate sensibilities with two different showerhead settings. But I hope she'll also realize that she can stop craning her neck to get at those hard to reach places and thus arrive at a place of contentment and gratitude.

How like a cat I am...how many times has the Lord washed me of some sin, only for me to struggle and protest, ignorant of my need? May I always be grateful for His firm hand and cleansing Spirit. (I'm sure it would help if He were to provide a bowl of delicious Good Kitty after the fact...)

Overflowing with Thanks

Wouldn't it be neat if I set a blogging goal of posting each day this week about something for which I am thankful?

It would last until tomorrow, when Joel and I will take the road before us until the wee hours, driving over the river and dashing through the snow to get home for the holidays.

Could there be more cheesy musical allusions in one sentence? I think not.

Anyway, right, I don't foresee myself blogging terribly much for the rest of the week.

But two days in a row of blogging about thankfulness constitutes a legitimate blogging streak, don't you think? A veritable trend.

And for what am I thankful today? I thought you'd never ask.

Today, the Lord shined His light of providence into my life and illuminated just the next step or two of this long, windy road I tread. Today, He saw fit to grant assurance that the last four years of my life have not been in vain. Today, I was officially invited for an interview at the Reading Hospital and Medical Center!

Praise God for condescending to the needs of my weak, human heart. I've been trusting Him to the best of my abilities - and it has required a daily laying down of my fears and anxieties at His feet! I am grateful that He has seen fit to lighten my heart's burden by showing me tangible evidence of His continuing provision. This interview doesn't guarantee me an internship spot by any means, but it does mean that the next small hurdle has been leaped and God has rolled out the road just that much further beneath my feet.

I really was going to wait until Thanksgiving to tell y'all important people "in person", or at least over the phone, but I am just overflowing with excitement! I just had to tell the good news, and what better way to tell the fewest possible people than to post it on my blog?

One Tiny, Huge Blessing

My apologies to those who endured several moments of gut-wrenching disbelief until you spotted the all-important "niece or nephew" line.]

As we roll into Thanksgiving later this week, I'm reminded to reflect on the blessings in my own life, the things for which I'm truly thankful. And while there are myriad extravagant ways in which the Lord has lavished His grace upon the Va Beach Pearces this year, one deserves special mention tonight.

Is it a lentil? Perhaps a kumquat or a lime?

Nay, gentle readers. We would not be this grateful for such sundry produce.

This long-awaited little one, though it has apparently resembled a variety of food items in its short life, is none other than Joel's and my very first future niece or nephew! We are so thankful for this tiny treasure, this bundle of developing life that is the answer to countless prayers! What a miracle that the Lord is, even now, knitting together a (not-so) wee human in Becca's belly, fearfully and wonderfully.

And in a few days, we will be even more thankful to learn the baby's sex, which Becca and Scott are selfishly withholding until Thanksgiving. Who do they think they are, the baby's parents or something? For now, Joel and I are left to pore over small, grainy ultrasound photos and ponder whether that one spot is its legs or...you know...gender-specific parts.

We can't wait!!

...for so many things, of course, but for now: Is it Harold or Harold-etta?

What's your prediction?

Scott's blog, with ultrasound photos!

Break out the Saran-Wrap

Lest you envy the balmy climes of Va Beach in error, I am pleased to inform you that Winter '08 has (un)officially begun:

We experienced our first snowfall today!

And by snowfall, I mean a few flurries that I didn't even have the pleasure of observing before they died a quick, steamy death a few inches above the ground. Blink and you miss it, seriously, folks.

But it was COLD. Cold enough for me to learn about yet another deluxe feature of my car. This vehicle, my friends, is so thoughtful and concerned for my well-being that it kindly informs me the second the remotest possibility of unsafe driving conditions blips onto its radar. And it accomplishes all this with the utmost in efficiency, a single word added above the digital display that tells me exactly how many miles lie between me and desperate prayers for a WaWa station.

The word? ICY.

I was so touched, I didn't have the heart to tell my sweet love machine that water actually freezes at 32 degrees Farenheit, rather than the toasty 38 at which the warning blinked on.

How far I've come since my days of praying to reach my destination with all four wheels attached.

But perhaps the thermometer of my little bundle of highway happiness would serve well as an advanced warning system for the poor palm trees that have been imported to our fake-tropical resort city. They are no doubt eager for their "Christmas wrapping", as it were, to preserve them from cold damage, which is often manifested in the form of stunted growth, root damage, and increased susceptibility to infection.

(yes, I researched palm tree winterization solely to sound intelligent in this blog post...and discovered a whole new brand of botany nerd out there on the interweb.)

(not me, I mean those guys with the palm tree blogs.)

Palm tree winterization, for you ignoramuses, is rarely neat and never pretty:

Full disclosure: I totally ripped this photo from someone's Flickr account. But at least I'm honest about it, right? When I get a chance I'll get you a photo of real, live, authentic Va Beach palm trees all bundled up for winter. Sometimes they even have Christmas lights draped around them, like it's not depressing enough already to see a palm tree on life support, now they have to draw attention to it like some poor carnival misfit.

Oh, ye north, how I long for your frosty winters and honest, deciduous flora.

Please, reward my loyal yearnings with a blanket of snow for Thanksgiving? Preferably falling promptly on Thanksgiving and completely melting no later than Sunday noon, thanks. The Nissan may be deluxe, but there's no reason to press our luck now.

Landslide Victory

The final tally for our Christmas Spirit vote looked like this:

Why wait? Deck the Halls! - 5
Give it another week or so - 3
At least wait until after Thanksgiving - 4
Christmas Eve? - 1
You're as bad as the retailers! - 1

Since it has now been close to a week since I originally opened the polls, I would consider the first two categories to be essentially the same vote. Therefore, a total of 8 votes were cast for seeing the Christmas colors fly before Thanksgiving. Those of you who voted for after Thanksgiving - I hear you, I really do. We won't decorate our house until Thanksgiving (well, actually, we'll probably do it early so that we arrive home from PA to full Christmas regalia). But the Christmas season is just so darn short - hardly a month of Christmas decor before I would need to change it up for "winter" in January. I'm thankful that so many of you support an immediate overhaul!

More regular posts coming soon...in theory...

Cast a Vote That Matters!

So I can't wait to deck the blog out in new Christmas decor. You vote - how soon is too soon? Make your voice heard via the poll over there on the right side of the blog.

Incidentally, when I glanced at my calendar to see how long I should keep the poll open, I realized that Thanksgiving is only two weeks away anyway! Woohoo!

Thank goodness I started my online Christmas shopping today :-).

Another Post Office Success Story

Well, y'all, I tell you what. It is utterly fabulous to be done with all this internship baloney!

And by baloney, I mean "important, significant, life-determining obstacle to getting my doctoral degree".

I could DANCE, people. In fact, I'm surprised that I haven't. Actually....be right back....


Yes, I did just go dance mid-post. Just because I CAN and I don't have ANYTHING BETTER TO DO!

Except write all the course-related papers that I've been putting off because of internship cover letters and essays, but ya know.

Allow me to testify to God's ongoing faithfulness, and His divine blessing of total peace about this process. Some have told me that the time between sending applications and hearing about interviews is the most stressful (though I think the week or two leading up to Match Day would be worse) because all you have to do is wait. But I feel, again, totally chill, and more excited than nervous to see what God has in store for us. Out of the 15 sites to which I applied, I could really see myself at any of them (though of course, mom and dad, the Pittsburgh/Cleveland sites look SO GOOD).

That last parenthetical was to make up for the email that went out from Dad Pearce stating that I am seeking an internship in eastern PA or NJ...

Really we would be happy anywhere that is less than 7 hours from any given relative.

And you know what Joel said last night that made my heart so happy? We were thinking about where this next year will take us, and he said, "You know what's crazy? Not to get your hopes up, but think about one year from now when you'll be on internship and...you might even be pregnant by then!"

Oh my stars, people.

God is so good, and we will indeed see where the next year takes us. We pray that He will give us the desires of our hearts - namely, an internship close to home (whichever home that might be) and a little one on the way. But if not, He is still the Lord of our lives and we will rejoice in our portion from Him. 'In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.' [Prov. 16:9].

Another Two Bite the Dust

Two more apps out today - the Pittsburgh VA and Applewood Centers in Cleveland. Yes, we are open to living in Cleveland for a year, and no, I don't know what's come over us.

It continues to be an emotional challenge to mail my application packets. That whole relinquishing control thing can be a doozy. Today went better though... I really didn't think about it until I was on my way out of the post office - at which point I had a mild anxiety episode when I realized I had casually handed my packets off to the postal guy without so much as a mental rundown of their contents.

Then I remembered that I had checked and double-re-checked the checklist (imagine that) and no less than signed my name on each of manila folder to "certify" that the packet was complete. Props to Josh for suggesting that OCD-relieving technique! Now if I'm ever concerned, I can look back at my folders and be assured that I checked the packet thoroughly prior to mailing. Yay!

I sure hope all this work pays off with a few interviews. Either way, though, the Lord is in control and for all my application-mailing OCD, I'm supernaturally chill about the whole process. It's the peace that passes understanding, and I know where it's coming from (hint: Jesus).

Irony Defined

Today I stood in line for over three hours in order to cast my ballot. The lady directly behind me was an outspoken, far-left Democrat, and passed the time by sharing her opinions with anyone who would listen - and even with those who weren't particularly interested, as I learned. Could she have been more different from me? I spent most of the time with a book open in front of me, trying to concentrate, but alas, she would not have it. I learned about her views on abortion, rights for gay domestic partners, and economic policy. I heard the details of her recent knee injury and exactly why it was difficult for her to stand in line for such a long time (my own tennis-knee throbbed in sympathy). I can tell you how long she's lived in Virginia Beach, and the length of poll lines for each election in which she has voted (twelve in our locality, but she has been in Virginia Beach since 1962). Amazing.

The book I was trying to read?

Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.

That's what you call a hands-on learning experience. Teach me, Lord.

But I will testify that, after a period of (relative) silence during which I managed to finish my chapter, I tucked the book back into my purse feeling a refreshed sense of, well, contentment. I engaged La Democrat in conversation for the rest of our time together, expressing interest, sympathy, or whatever emotion seemed most polite. Best of all, I chatted with several weary poll workers, making jokes about taking up a collection and ordering a hundred pizzas for those trapped in the crowded gymnasium.

La Democrat inquired about the book I was reading - of course - wondering if it was something for school (I had mentioned Regent University, so I'm sure that was a guess based on a stereotype). I told her it was for a Bible study, and said a silent prayer that the Lord would somehow be evident to her in my response and in my interactions with her.

I truly believe that the Lord redeemed those three hours by softening my heart to those around me and helping me to view them for who they were - a mass of people teeming with humanity, each with our own political views and leanings, but each with our own joys and sufferings. And I was privileged to briefly come alongside these people and peer into their lives. We're all really just the same underneath...broken, sinful people in need of a Savior.

More of My Crazy

This is how I know the Lord has a sense of humor.

Today, one of my big internship tasks was to send out my undergraduate transcript request (why some of these sites still care about my undergrad GPA is beyond me, but oh well). So I printed off the request, wrote the check, stamped the envelope, and debated the best way to mail it. (Read: method for quickest pickup/fastest delivery)

Being the technology junkie that I am, and knowing that our mail is delivered around 1:30/2:00, I decided to hop on usps.com to see whether I could get this sucker out any earlier than that (without hiking all the way to a bona fide post office, of course). I'm on a time frame, people. So I found several mailbox locations and selected the closest one. I went so far as to look at the "street view" so I would know exactly which Chinese restaurant the mailbox would be in front of.


I pulled up to the collection box location and found not a big blue monster eager to devour my letter, but an empty sandblasted-looking patch of sidewalk. The heck?? Like they knew I was coming and thought it would be funny to move the mailbox. I could practically hear the angels snickering as they looked on.

Fortunately, I was aware of another nearby (though slightly further away) collection box and struck out immediately. I arrived only to find out that I had missed the most recent pickup by a whopping ten minutes. Once again, the cherubic chuckling was almost audible. The next pickup was at 2:30, slightly later than it would be collected from our house, but I dropped my letter in anyway so as not to waste a trip. Then I headed home.

And passed a mail truck on our street. At 12:20. On its way to our mailbox, whose little red flag was sticking up. Indicating the presence of other outgoing mail that will be collected a solid two hours before my urgent little transcript request.

I just...this is my life, people.

A Multilingual Post

The milestones just keep on coming! Today I baked my first from-scratch apple crumb pie all on my own. I count this as my first pie because my previous experience involved Laurie, who is a culinary genius. Just as you can't really say you rode a bike when there were training wheels attached, my first pie-baking experience was very closely guided and I was afforded few opportunities to screw up.

But today I did it ALL BY MYSELF when I should have been writing cover letters. Ahem. Did I admit to that?

The illustrated version:
It all began this morning when I acknowledged my hankering for home-made baked goods, and kind of a yearning for an afternoon in the kitchen. So I grabbed the grocery list, added apples and unsalted butter at the bottom, and set off to finally re-stock our kitchen. Funny how the supplies dwindle when you've got two people/grad students scrounging for sustenance and nobody really organizing the food detail. Anyhoodle...

So I obviously started with the pie crust. No illustrations from the process, but it went pretty smoothly and, after much chilling, rolling and delicate moving, resulted in this beauty:

Whilst it chilled, I busied myself with peeling and coring the Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples for the filling and also pastry-blending the crumb topping. Here is my "work station" with all the parts ready to be put together:

In go the apples...(pretty green stripe courtesy of Blogger photo uploads)

And the crumb topping:

By far the best picture is of Joel's face when I showed him the oven-ready pie; it is truly for his delight that I toil:

And 45 minutes later...voila!

Thankfully the red-eye in that last one doesn't seem to show up here. I actually named the file "Demon Baker" when I saved it because it is quite frightening. As in, I wouldn't feel comfortable eating my own pie if I knew someone with those eyes baked it.
*Note: If you click on the photo and open it in its full size, you will apparently SEE WHAT I MEAN. Yich!

Now for a close-up, and The Slicing:

Bon Appetit! Like, good appetite or whatever, not like the Grove City food service. Though I hear they've come a long way, I remain adverse to having my culinary endeavors compared with theirs.

Also, congratulations to the Kings on the birth of baby Jacob!! He's a Halloweenie, and in honor of the happy occasion we took the first piece of pie to Michele in the hospital. Due to a muy rapidalmente birth (Spanish for, a very rapidly birth), he doesn't look nearly as squished and funky as most newborns. In fact, he looks very much like Chris with a hint of Michele's nose:

Congratulations to the Kings, and Happy Halloweenie all around!

And yes, I totally just preempted Jacob's parents by being the first (I think) to publish a photo of him on the blogosphere. W00t!

Starfruit Takes First Place

I received my first return postcard yesterday from Philhaven, one of the early-due-date sites that I applied to last week (or whenever that was). So exciting!!

Also, I'm not superstitious, but I had a fortune cookie recently that said "Your next interview will result in a job." We'll see...

I Think I'm Guy #7ish

Just a quick political post here in this season of heated political debate. Against tax breaks for the rich? Check out this link, which has been making the rounds recently. Which guy are you, and do you want guy #10 to stay home? Down with socialism, people.

Bar Stool Economics

Disclaimer: I'm not really a political fanatic, I just play one on TV.

Also, thanks to my husband for passing along this illustration.

Sassy McSass

Got me a new hairdo, wanna see?

The pensive look, an apparent favorite of mine when it comes to self-photos.

It only took a little bit of persuading to convince Joel that my long (for me) hair was overrated. It took slightly more persuading to be allowed to book an appointment at Ron Paul, a slightly pricey but highly excellent salon. I've been going to [cheap-0 chain salon] for the last few years, and only twice a year. By my math, I've saved enough to deserve a short, sassy 'do from a nice salon. But it is amusing that I just paid more for one haircut than I've paid in a year and a half!

And I have vowed never to return to [cheap-0 chain salon]. It may have been an economical grad-student choice while it lasted, but my experience at Ron Paul has changed my life.

And by changed my life, I mean embarrassed me horribly when the following conversation took place:

Master Stylist [that's what they're called]:Um, where did you go before?
Me: Er - why?
M.S.: You've got a giant hole right here.
Me: Really?
M.S.: Yeah see here where it goes straight back and then drops? Who did this to you?
Me: I don't want to tell you.
M.S.: [thankfully let it slide]
~several minutes of consultation, during which she informs me that I can't look like my photo of Posh Spice because of this giant hole in my layers and I try in vain to understand salon physics~
M.S.: Ok seriously, you have to tell me where you went before. Was it a Hair Cuttery?
Me: I really don't want to talk about it.
M.S.: C'mon!
Me: I went to a [mumble mumble cheap-o chain mumble].
M.S.: Oh yeah. Those places sometimes have really talented hairstylists, they just don't apply themselves.

Oooh. So I guess they are the hair salon equivalent of those kids who cut class to smoke pot? (You know who you are.)

But why would they do such a terrible hack job on me (of which, for the record, I was totally ignorant for like six months until this most recent semi-annual haircut...Willie Wonka, anyone?) that I wound up in Ron Paul begging the forgiveness of a Master Stylist with whom I was barely acquainted? That's just not right, yo.

The moral of this story: A good haircut is worth the money. All you ladies are rolling your eyes and wondering how I manage to cross the street. Yeah yeah. Next you'll be telling me I should splurge on the two-ply toilet paper.

Just kidding - nothing but Angel Soft here. Priorities, people, priorities. Though mine might be slightly questionable if my toilet paper quality supersedes that of my hair salon. What do you think?

I Can't Imagine the First Day of Kindergarten

So, um, I did it.

I mailed out my first batch of internship applications - which consisted of all of three packets.

But still, it's a big step, especially when you consider that it means ALL of my packets are 90% ready to go except for personalized cover letters.

Can I tell you how difficult it was to let them go?

I was all business, working the automated postage machine for all it was worth and neatly printing my labels. Then I gathered my three packets in my arms and headed over to Big Blue with the intention of washing my hands of them forever.

Then I realized that I was about to wash my hands of them forever. And people, I FREAKED OUT inside. It was half excitement, half nervousness, and half ambiguous jittery feeling. If you think the math doesn't add up, just IMAGINE HOW I WAS FEELING. Goodness gracious, sakes alive.

I took a deep breath, pulled the thingymajig open and dropped my packets inside. I gazed upon them for one last moment and then pushed Big Blue's big blue mouth closed. And that, my friends, was the most tangible experience of a total relinquishing of control. It was a most underwhelming moment - it really seemed like there should have been gongs, whistles, fireworks, something to commemorate this huge milestone. I have now officially applied to three internship sites - and nobody even knows it yet. (Except, my lucky readers, for you!)

I just can't even tell you. It is out of my hands. Except for those 11 other packets that need their cover letters.

Next trip to the post office I am definitely taking a camera, a friend, and a bottle of champagne. Possibly kazoos also.

Just think, someday I will have to drop my kids off at school.

I'm a Star Fruit

I have to admit, I never expected to be in a position of deciding which tropical fruit is the most professional.

Guava? Kiwi? Papaya sounds sophisticated. But would passion fruit convey better the zeal with which I am applying for an internship?

Allow me to explain my dilemma.

Now, I am a perfectionist. And internship applications represent the epitome of OCD-requiring endeavors. My packets are characterized by ivory linen paper, all staples going in the same direction (perpendicular, not diagonal), matching ivory envelopes for reference letters, bright white paper for the AAPI and essays (98 brightness, not 96), and elegant clear labels so as not to clash with the 9x12 ivory packet envelopes. These suckers are gonna look SHARP and attention-grabbing - at least for the first five seconds before some secretary tears into it and dumps all the materials unceremoniously in a training director's inbox. But I digress. The emphasis here is on my anality and how everything must convey the utmost in professionalism and conservatism.

Imagine my delight yesterday at the post office when I requested stamps for my return postcards and the nice postal worker whipped out these little beauties:

Sure they look delicious, but do they really make you think "Hmm. I bet this individual is very professional and conservative."

Granted, it could have been worse...

But I'm still left debating the first-impression psychology of pomegranates against a baby blue background vs. guava against a soft pink. Tell me, which tropical fruit speaks most deeply to you?

Holy Crapshoot, Batman!

My devotional time this morning yielded a great insight regarding my internship match program. Allow me to share:

In Acts 1, the remaining 11 disciples are gathered and must choose who will replace Judas (who fell headlong and burst open, his bowels spilling forth. Gory details in the Bible yessss). They raised up two men, Joseph and Matthias, and prayed to the Lord regarding their final decision. When they had committed the selection process to the Lord, who knows the hearts of all, how do you think they made their choice?

Did they hash it out and debate the qualities and shortcomings of the two men?

Maybe they gave each guy a stick and told them to "audition" (a la Dark Knight). Ok, probably not.

But they did something just as improbable, in my opinion. They cast lots. Can you imagine determining the leadership of your church by a roll of the dice? Now granted they were choosing between two qualified men, so presumably neither would have been a poor choice. But I don't think it's a method we often think to employ: committing a decision to the Lord and then leaving it up to "chance", trusting that the Lord is in control of something as random as a crapshoot.

Which brings me to this internship thing.

A big crapshoot, remember?

Thus Acts 1 is a huge comfort to me as I send out applications in the next week or so. I'm applying to 15 sites where I could potentially see myself working for the next year, and now it's truly in the Lord's hands. I have literally no control over who will invite me for interviews or how the sites will rank me. But the God of crapshoots will preside over the decision-making process and I trust that He will place Joel and me in the right location.

Well. It spoke to my heart, anyway.

Not Worryin 'Bout a Ting

My first batch of applications go out on Monday, and I am so close to being ready for that deadline! My essays are finished, as are my APPIC applications, Curriculum Vitae, reference letters (just have to pick up my last set from Covenant Counseling on Monday), and return postcards. I have lovely ivory linen resume paper, ivory envelopes with sophisticated clear labels - quite the epitome of professionalism, if I do say so. I am feeling confident that my applications will go out kicking butts and taking names. Or at least not portraying me as an incompetent slob who was accepted to graduate school via a gigantic misunderstanding involving the cosmos, the United States Postal Service, and my undergraduate registrar's office.

That last sentence is almost a direct quote from a hilarious article titled "Fledgling Therapist Disorder". I wish I could take credit.

Anyway, God has been so gracious in the last week or so to quell my anxieties and fill me with a sense of His sovereignty. It is always nice when my emotions line up with the promises of God, and I attribute it all to the prayers of His people on my behalf. Everything is going to be just fine because this entire internship situation is entirely in the palm of His hand. It may be a crapshoot as to whether I match, but it is a divinely fixed crapshoot and I look forward to the next year of my life, whatever it might bring.

Someone email me a link to this blog post on February 19, ok? I might be needing a dose of blessed assurance about then.

In the words of a great philosopher, "Every little ting is gonna be alright."

Ok, so I don't actually endorse Mr. Marley (mad reggae skills aside). But certainly his lyrics represent a rough synthesis of Matthew 6:34 and Romans 8:28? Think about it...

Not-So-Brief Status Update

Things are coming along! I thank you for your prayers, and for the encouragement I have received from so many of you through phone calls (well, voicemails, since I don't often answer these days), offers of meals, and shared stories of the Lord's provision. This is how the body of Christ ought to work! I can't even tell you what a blessing it is to know that your strong arms are there, metaphorically at least, and that I'm not on my own! Special thanks to my wonderful husband as well, who has been absolutely fabulous about supplying sandwiches, coffee, and hugs and helping around the house when I am in my dissertation cave. It has been more than enough to make up for the little stomach bug incident last week!

I recently had a somewhat amusing conversation with my mother that opened my eyes to how very little I am communicating with even very important people in my life. She and my dad recently visited Joel's parents in New Jersey, and apparently the Pearces are much more informed about my goings on than are my own parents! Many of my mom's sentences began with "Well, Linda told us..." and ended with me saying, "I never told you that??"

Simply tragic that my parents have to drive across the state to find out what's going on with me!

So, in the interest of updating everyone on at least a few aspects of life, here you go:

I have submitted another two revisions to my dissertation chair, and pending another draft or two of small changes, it should be polished enough to propose! According to my chair, I will be proposing at the very end of November or perhaps the first week of December. Sadly, this is not open to the public - it will be just me, alone in the room with my chair and committee member. But don't worry, read on to find out how and when you can become involved!

My internship applications will be going out in a few waves, with the first batch mailed out next Monday. Wee!! That means that this week is a whirlwind of writing and proofreading essays, gathering recommendation letters, compiling application packets, and checking and re-checking everything ad nauseum. I will have another week and a half to obsess over the remaining applications, which need to be out by the end of October. I will start hearing from sites hopefully soon after that to schedule interviews, and should know by December 15 how many interviews I will have. Interviews will take place primarily in January, all across the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania and into New Jersey.

By February 7, I will need to submit to the National Matching Service a ranked list of the sites who interviewed me. Sites will also submit ranked lists of their interviewees. This information will all be fed into the national database (imagine lots of clanking, smoking, and hissing)....out pops the match list! On February 20 I will receive an email that begins in one of two ways: "We are pleased to inform you" or "We regret to inform you". I sure hope to be pleasing someone that day! So, February 20 is Yes/No Day. The following Monday is Match Day, when those who matched find out WHERE they will be going for the next twelve months of training, and those who did not match scramble and submit applications through the Clearinghouse, which matches orphan applicants and sites to each other. It is possible to not match through Clearinghouse either, since there is such a large ratio of applicants to sites. Many of us will be re-applying next year, and use the time in between to pursue further training or, I don't know, have babies.

And that's the internship process!

Regarding dissertation: I am already collecting data through the clinical trial of the Hope-Focused Couples Approach. My data should be finished by next May, and I will conduct data analysis over the summer. My goal date to defend is October 2009, and YOU ARE ALL INVITED!!! Send flowers, throw confetti, pour champagne (but hide it until after my defense, lest my slurred speech dampen my success), we are going to PARTAY when it is over!! Oh that will be the day...

Oh and also I am still in school. So I have classes til next June as well, but thankfully only two at a time.

As of this past September when I officially passed comprehensive exams, I am a Doctoral Candidate in Clinical Psychology. I was also recently hired as an Adjunct Faculty Member for Regent's Undergrad Psychology program, and I'll begin teaching an online Developmental Psychology course in a few weeks. I'm able to do that because I "graduated" with my nested Master's degree this past spring. Exciting!

I really think that about does it. Internship, dissertation, teaching, and coursework. Please accept my most humble apologies for not answering my phone and/or not utilizing it to contact you. I am admittedly hiding in a cave until some major deadlines have been met, focus being absolutely crucial at this point. (And yes, I realize that I am blogging right now instead of writing essays.) I still love you all (unless you are a random person who stumbled across this blog, in which case...oh I still love you, in that agape sort of way. Jesus saves!) and will catch up with you when the dust has settled.

I wish life weren't so boring.

Another Quotable

Please read this fabulous post by John Piper on his Desiring God blog: "The Godward Focus of Faithfulness".

A tempting morsel to whet your appetite:

"There is a great biblical antidote for our pride. God keeps covenant for his name’s sake:

“Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name” (Ezekiel 36:22)."

God is faithful to us because of who He is, not because of who we are. What a simple, humbling thought.


Oh yeah, and have you ever noticed how it's when you're most swamped and stressed that Satan does his worst with your soul? Man, sin has been everywhere for me lately. Praise the Lord God for His faithfulness to provide a way out of temptation, even if you've already waded in up to your ankles!

Just thought I'd testify.

Can I get a witness?

Amen, yo. Word up in the hizzy.

Sorry, I'm just my parents' daughter...

Kermit Was Wrong

I find it interesting that the first item of Five Quick Ways to De-Stress Yourself is to look at something green. Perhaps this is why I have been wearing a lot of green lately? No really, maybe my subconscious has been helping me by drawing me to more soothing, de-stressing colors of clothing. I shudder to think what I would do without my subconscious. Then again, I think overall it probably does more harm than good, so...

Anyway this was meant to be a brief de-stressing blog post, and it is in danger of becoming a lengthy time-wasting blog post. Enjoy the link and picture me in the middle of that huge pile of papers. Fun!

*Oh, except if that were really me, the papers would all be neatly organized in clearly labeled file folders, stacked according to priority and category - dissertation, internship, coursework, adjunct faculty materials. Oh wait, that sounds like my living room.

Who is My God?

When my spirit is in turmoil, as it has been of late, I turn to my God for comfort. I'm reminded of a postcard my mother sent me back - when, in college? before that? - I only know that I still have it, and remember what it said after all this time.

"God will get you through, not somehow, but triumphantly!"

What a great reminder that even when I think "please, somehow...", my God has already fixed a path before my feet such that I will arrive "triumphantly!"

"Stop telling God how big your storm is, and start telling your storm how big your God is."

A rather trite Christian-ese little soundbite, but this one contains a beautiful nugget of truth. How often do we focus on our storms, our stresses, our burdens, and forget Who is (ought to be) really at the center of our lives? God is so much bigger than anything I might weather in this life. Indeed, sometimes He calms the storm...and sometimes He calms His child.

And just Who is my God?

He is El: mighty, strong, prominent. [Genesis 7:1]
He is El-Shaddai: God Almighty, God all-sufficient [Genesis 17:1,2]
He is Adonai: my Lord [Genesis 15:2]
He is Jehovah, Yahweh: I AM WHO I AM [Exodus 3]
He is Jehovah-Jireh: The Lord who provides [Genesis 14:22]
He is Jehovah-Rophe: The Lord who heals, physically, spiritually and emotionally [Exodus 15:22-26]
He is Jehovah-Shalom: The Lord our peace [Judges 6:24]
He is El-Elyon: The Most High [Genesis 14:18]
He is Jehovah-Nissi: The Lord our banner [Exodus 17:15]
He is Jehovah-Sabaoth: The Lord of hosts [Isaiah 1:24]

My God is mighty, strong, all-sufficient...He will be Who He will be...He provides, heals, brings peace...He is the Most High, a banner over me and the Lord of hosts. If my God is for me, then who can be against me? [Romans 8:31]

To the great storms in my life: My God holds you in the palm of His hand! Just as my path has been ordained for me, so too has yours. The Lord is a banner over me and a shield about me. Who do you think you are? You have no power over me except what God has granted. You have no place here at the table set before me. My cup runneth over, my portion is great because it is from the Lord.

El-Shaddai, El-Shaddai, El-Elyon na Adonai! Most High, my All Sufficient, I bow before you and believe that my storm is no greater than the grace You have given me to endure it. Jehovah-Jireh, please grant me strength for the journey. Jehovah-Shalom, grant me also Your peace that passes the understanding of man. Jehovah-Rophe, I call upon Your healing hand to knit together my emotions and to bring me spiritual wholeness in this most challenging time. Oh Yahweh, my Abba, how strange and wonderful that I can call You by each of these names You have given Yourself. Both mighty and tender, You are greater than the road before me and loving enough to walk with me upon it. Your hand hems me in, both behind and before. Rehearse Your promises to my spirit, that I might be confident enough in them to relinquish my own hold and rest securely in Yours.

Abba, Daddy, I love You.

Death Warmed Over

To a toasty 102.11 degrees, that is. That's right, whatever Joel had on Monday, he tenderly passed along to me with a heartfelt "Thanks for the Gatorade, you can have what's left".

I slept for most of the afternoon, watched The Dark Knight online when I was conscious, and now I'm on my own while Joel has class until 9:00. Who knows whether I'm coherent enough to blog, but people, you're all I've got right now!! Poor, sick, lonely me.

All together now: awwwwwww.

Thank you for that vote of collective sympathy. Thank you very much indeed.

Also, the irony is that my dissertation chair just let me know in no uncertain terms that I can't get sick, slack off, or take a break between now and proposal time (tentatively scheduled for end of November/early December). It's like my immune system read the email over my shoulder, laughed sardonically, and said "We'll show HER!"

So yeah that's how I'm doing. You?

I Love Valerie

Maybe it's the stress, but I seem to be falling in love quite easily these days. While my heart still beats for Joel, my body belongs to Valerie.

She is my soulmate masseuse.

Tonight I was in so much back pain that I grabbed the spafinder gift certificate that I have had for, oh, like a year and scheduled an emergency one-hour session at Virginia Beach Massage Therapy.

I would compare this place to something that is fairly ugly and unimpressive on the outside but is like heaven once you get inside.

Thoughtful metaphor, I know.

But this place is located next to Mount Trashmore, our classy garbage-dump-turned-municipal-park, in a slightly sketch office plaza. Valerie insisted on watching me walk out to my car when she was finished throttling me. What a sweetheart!

I walked in and was initially unimpressed at the simple furnishings. There was nothing wrong with it, per se, but I have been in far posher massage offices. I filled out the necessary forms, and Valerie came out to greet me. The first few minutes of the massage were also so-so, as she placed heat across my shoulders and lightly massaged my scalp and temples.

But then, oh my friends, then the fireworks began.

This amply-proportioned African-American lady had me right where she wanted me, and leaned all her weight into me with her forearms and elbows, all up and down my back and stretching my neck at shocking angles. She checked periodically to make sure I was ok, and must have decided that if I had enough oxygen to grunt at her then I was doing just fine. In reality I was in excruciating, wonderful pain. I wish I could have stayed for two hours, nay two days. This was by far the best massage I have ever had, and I hereby shamelessly plug Virginia Beach Massage Therapy and especially my sweet Valerie. Call today, book your flight if need be, and go see this magnificant lady!

p.s. does anyone else think that these presidential candidates are sounding like broken records? if I hear "main street", "middle class", or "corruption on Wall Street" (or any other of their myriad catch phrases) one more time I might just scrap it all and move to Germany.

Mom Would Be So Proud

If the first kitchen fire is a milestone for young marrieds, then surely the second represents a landmark in life experience. We have faced death and destruction together and triumphed - not once, but twice.

Perhaps we should also look into a remedial kitchen safety course.

Allow me to share what happened:

Joel was wrapping up his film paper for tomorrow's class, and I was on a roll with dinner. Potatoes in the oven, stuffing in the microwave, chicken mostly done and waiting on the back burner, and broccoli simmering away happily on the front burner.

That is, until it burst into flames.

Joel's version is somewhat amusing, particularly to me since I have no recollection of many of the details...he was in the living room, out of sight of the stove, and had just stood up for some irrelevant reason. He heard me squeal (I was positive that I had shrieked at the top of my lungs), and thought perhaps I had dropped something on the floor. Heading around the corner to check it out and say hello (he is notorious for wanting hugs whilst I am culinarily occupied), he says he first saw the look of utter panic on my face and, milliseconds later, the front left burner completely aflame.

Me, wearing oven mitts and staring at the flames: "IT'S ON FIRE! IT'S ON FIRE! IT'S ON FIRE!"
Joel, halfway to the fire extinguisher already: "Take it off-"
Me, certain that we were moments from standing on the front lawn looking at the smoking remains of our home: "TAKE WHAT OFF? IT'S ON FIRE!"
Joel: "Take it off the burner!"
Me: "oh...."

Thankfully the Lord allowed whatever it was to burn out enough for me to fearlessly reach through the remaining flames and snatch the pot off of the burner. My spice rack was barely even melted!

And the broccoli was perfectly done. We still don't know what caught fire. The broccoli was in water, which last time I checked, does not typically burst into flames. Joel informed me that I'm lucky to have a husband who stays cool like he does. I responded that I am usually pretty level-headed myself, when ordinary household items are not spontaneously combusting directly in front of my face. Hmph.

So our house is still standing and dinner was surprisingly tasty, all things considered. I say we are complete pros now at domestic emergencies - just look at us racking up all this aged wisdom!

Quotables II

As I have continued to read "Against Christianity" (see post below), Leithart's conception of Christianity has become more clear. I wanted to post this additional quote as a help to clarify this for you all as well:

"On the one hand, the Church is called to withdraw from the world, to be a counterculture, a separate city within the world's cities, challenging and clashing with the world by unapologetically speaking her own language, telling her own stories, enacting her own rites, practicing her own way of life. Though she shares considerable cultural space with the world, the Church is not an institution in the world alongside other institutions. She is an alternative world unto herself, with her roots in heaven, formed by being drawn into the community of Father, Son and Spirit.

The Church is not, however, simply a counterculture. She has been given the subversive mission of converting whatever culture she finds herself in. She works to the end that her language, her rites, and her way of life might become formative for an entire society. She withdraws from the world for the sake of the world. Having been drawn into the communion of the triune God, she participates also in the mission of the triune God.

Christianity cannot carry out this mission, because Christianity proposes only ideas; it does not form a world or a city. Christianity offers the Church only as a new sort of religious association, not as a new, eschatological ordering of human life. So long as Christianity reigns, the Church cannot really be separate; and so long as Christianity reigns, the Church can never convert anything.

Unless we renounce Christianity, we will have no Christendom." (p. 123-124)


Quotables & Recommendation

During all that free time I have, I've been reading a provocative little book titled "Against Christianity," a volume by Peter J. Leithart which I highly recommend. While it sounds heretical, the book actually decries the heresy that is modern Christianity and calls for a return to the all-encompassing counter-cultural revolution that is the Biblical gospel. Written in the style of early philosophical works, "Against Christianity" is a compilation of short essays and comments that approach the subject from a variety of angles.

Leithart's main theses (though I highly recommend that you read the book yourself, lest my brief summary does an injustice to his work) exhort believers to view their religion as a culture that involves habits, rituals, and practices that train us in worship as a way of life. He points out that cultures inherently possess language, symbols and rites that define them, or that at least characterize the culture in their expression - such as our singing the National Anthem as Americans. Singing the song doesn't make us American, but it does evoke certain emotions and encourage certain actions that remind us that we are American. And these functions of American ritual cannot be separated from "our instruction in American history, our memories of life in America, the stated goals and aspirations of the American experiment." So too do Christian language, symbols, and rituals arise out of our instruction and shared lives as Christians.

So, modern "Christianity" as a paranthetical aspect of life, or as a "system of beliefs" that we hold in private, is not Scriptural Christian-ness at all. Religion must not, indeed can not, be separated from culture, and so as Christians we must embrace our faith as the pervasive, life-changing culture that it is.

All of that to say, here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book so far:

"The gospel is the story of the Church as well as the story of Jesus. Following the apostolic example, the fathers saw the brides and harlots of the Old Testament history as the Church under various guises, and thus they could view Old Testament history as the story of Yahweh's stormy betrothal with His headstrong bride, fulfilled now in the Father's arranged marriage of His Son to the Spirit-prepared Church." (p. 57, on typological interpretation of the Old Testament)

"The Psalms, Calvin said, are a virtual textbook of the human soul, the central text in biblical psychology. As such, the Psalms give expression to all the experiences of the Christian life; they give words to our pains, joys, afflictions, despair, and by giving language to our experience they bring those experiences under description, make them knowable as our Father's loving care for us...prayer is not a "quiet time" but a time of wrestling and passion. Contemporary hymnology, by contrast, gives us words for a small segment of our experience, the happy, fluffy, light experiences of life. If we are trained in prayer by contemporary praise choruses, when we face the pains and tests of life, we will lack the vocabulary to name them." (p. 67, on worship as psychology class)

"[T]he redemptive-historical move that the New Testament announces is not from ritual to non-ritual, from Old Covenant economy of signs to a New Covenant economy beyond signs. The movement instead is from rituals and signs of distance and exclusion (the temple veil, cutting of the flesh, sacrificial smoke ascending to heaven, laws of cleanliness) to signs and rituals of inclusion and incorporation (the rent veil, the common baptismal bath, the common meal). Rituals are as essential to the New Covenant order as to the Old; they are simply different rituals." (p. 80, on the importance of rituals).

Leithart writes extensively and interestingly on the importance of rituals. He comments on contemporary society's de-emphasis of ritual, on modern man's pride at being liberated from rites and symbolic acts because he is intellectual and "beyond" the need for ritual. But Leithart points out that a culture without ritual is no culture at all; the modern city of man is the anti-city. We have no symbols and rituals that connect us with one another, that create true community. We have gatherings of people for the purpose of "manufactured spectacle", events that garner a superficial emotionality in order to help people feel connected for a brief moment - think of sports stadiums, movie theaters, the like. But as Leithart says, "[t]he result is the anti-city, a mass of people with no communal center or identity."

This is a fascinating read, and one I recommend that you pick up. Leithart's provocative critique of contemporary Christianity (and modernity in general) inspires a thoughtful reflection on all aspects of Biblical faith.

Brief Status Update

Dissertation Proposal: Complete draft submitted to chair. Awaiting revisions [read: severe emotional breakdown following the return of my draft, which my chair will no doubt make bleed with her many comments...all in the interest of honing my proposal to a sharp point, of course.] Data collection underway via Hope clinical trial. Presentation proposal pending for CAPS National conference in April (Orlando, FL!) thanks to dissertation chair.

Internship Applications: Mail merge completed, pending confirmation of certain information from a small handful of sites. APPIC general application completed. To do: Finish essays, write cover letters, obtain graduate transcripts (and a few undergrad ones....who even cares about undergrad anymore?), finalize APPIC application, add final updates to Curriculum Vita, obtain advisor signature on Eligibility & Readiness form, solicit reference letter from Director of Clinical Training, create an application packet for each of 17 sites. Check and re-check application packets twelve times. Send first batch by October 20.

Classes: Consultation proposal due Thursday; almost complete, will meet with co-consultant tomorrow to finalize proposal and contract. Supervision of second-year student underway. Will write papers for each class someday when application task list has been completed.

Stress: 95% and holding steady
Caffeine: 2 cups o'coffee today
Hope: There's a light at the end of the tunnel. Just keep swimming. I think I can, I think I can. [insert inspirational cliche here]

"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1

Baby Bug 2

Those who have been with me since the inception of the blog will remember the original Baby Bug post. I believe the incubation period (no pun intended) of this illness has passed and it is now in its fullness, making my life a rather unbalanced place at times.

Today I was moping around the house WILLING my body to find energy somewhere, anywhere, for the work that needed to be accomplished. As the walls closed in around me and my brain refused to engage in any dissertation or internship-related activity, I opted for some erranding. Surely it would be good to get out, breathe some fresh (95% humidity) air, accomplish a few necessities. Oh, I need to purchase a gift for a friend's baby shower tomorrow...

So I set out for Babies 'R Us down in Greenbrier. In my condition.

Emotional suicide, or what?

By the time I had finished my shopping (for two items), I could completely envision the nursery in our home in the event of either a boy or a girl, and imagined my beautiful infants (yes, plural) wiggling around in their Sleep Sacks atop Carter's deluxe waterproof crib pads, perhaps with the First Years Air Flow Sleep Positioner to help them stay in place.

I was a big emotional puddle. Not pretty.

I was in such a state leaving Babies 'R Us that I immediately called my husband at work, demanding to understand why he knowingly allowed me to walk into Babies 'R Us when I was ALREADY having a bad day. The conversation culminated in me wailing that I will be the last mommy EVER on the WHOLE PLANET, because everyone else will have a baby by the time we FINALLY start a family.

Joel, you are a strong, patient man to put up with me.

When my husband had sufficiently assured me that we would, in fact, have children one day, and that before I turn 40, I took a deep breath and wished him a lovely last hour of work. I am nothing if not sanguine and resilient.

Although I confess that I debated purchasing a pregnancy test on my way home because, hello, who gets that emotional over a trip to Babies 'R Us without some serious hormonal interference?

And then I remembered that the book we are reading for my ladies' Bible study is called "Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment." Rare jewel indeed.

Oh Lord, quiet my spirit and GIVE ME A BABY. In Your perfect timing, of course. Amen.

**this is hilarious and tragic (and true):
Joel: I just got an email about a possible Christmas present for you.
Me: really really??? is it a baby?
Joel: yeah, it was an email from the stork king

Of Mice and Men

"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." ~Proverbs 16:9

"And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." ~Romans 8:28

There was a time, about a month and a half ago, when I was really uncertain about my resignation as music director for our church. I prayed about it, I sought much wise counsel, and I turned my reasons over and over in my heart. In the end, I felt that the Lord was affirming my decision to step down, and so I did. But there was always this nagging feeling of letting the church down, of failing to use my gifts to God's glory, and a variety of other guilt responses. Basically, I felt like I was being dishonest because, technically, there were still enough hours in my day for me to fulfill the responsibilities of music director.

The stress level was another story.

But I was so torn because if I possess the ability and have the time, then what should stop me from working in ministry? I love the Lord, and my great passion for the church flows from my passion for her Master. How could I let them both down by bailing out on the music ministry?

God began to speak to me about calling, about gifts, and about spreading myself too thin. Didn't He call me to a doctoral program in clinical psychology? Didn't He bless me with the exact combination of gifts, strengths and weaknesses that I possess? Why am I questioning the wisdom of others who know me and believe I would be right to lessen my workload?

Standing now on the other end of my first month as a church nobody (I kid), I realize that it has been a most gracious gift from the Lord - a time of spiritual rest and refreshment on the Lord's Day rather than a time of stress and work. There is certainly a place for ministry work, and there is no doubt that I will one day exercise my musical gifts in a church again, but for now...it is good to just be in the presence of the Lord and to breathe deeply of His goodness.

Of course I miss playing, and I hope that Miss Kelsey will let me sit at the piano one of these days. And of course the transition has had its ups and downs. Some weeks I am so distracted, and others it's as though God nails me right between the eyes with His grace and His Word. But overall, I am learning to be content and to be thankful that the Lord knows what He's doing. He has affirmed my need for this break from ministry, such that I can't imagine myself continuing to try to manage the church's music right now. The Lord knows that we need rest, and regardless of what my heart's motivation was when I resigned, He knew that I needed to step down at that time. Thank God that He knows all my anxious thoughts and works for my (ultimate) good in spite of them! This time the good really felt like good...that's not always the case, but may I always rejoice in my portion from the Lord.

Caffeine Headache, Part 1

So titled because I'm fairly certain there will be more episodes to this saga.

My love affair with hazelnut coffee? It's backfiring. Because I refuse to act like I am caffeine-dependent or something. But apparently taking a morning off from a bright-and-early cuppa joe is bad news for my neurotransmitters - ouch!

You'll be happy to know that I am NOT giving in. It is much better to ravage my body with a roller-coaster of caffeine than to actually be ADDICTED or something. Although withdrawal effects = diagnostic criterion for substance dependence, soooo...too late?

At least you don't see me on the street corners, hawking ten-page papers to graduate students for a quick fix.

All in all, I am in a very good place, just to update all three of you who rely on the blog to inform you of my well-being. Slightly crazed and unable to stop working, perhaps, but overall this is a good thing. As many of our professors have assured us, there is no such thing as a successful doctoral student who is not just a tad OCD. The correlation between OCD symptoms and graduate school success is probably inverted-u-shaped, though, because at some point it must become debilitating. Although I certainly haven't found that point...yet. No diminishing returns here.

And now, you must excuse me whilst I carry on with my self-abuse.

Dissertation Fatigue

This should be an actual psychological diagnosis. I have been cranking out dissertation for two days straight, breaking only to sleep and eat (a record for diligence and productivity). 32 pages and counting!

It's been great for my stress level to ratchet up the velocity on my dissertation proposal, but my brain. is. tired.

And my sentences keep getting shorter and shorter.

I'm seriously tempted to end my dissertation with, "In conclusion, I write good. The end. Love, Elizabeth."

Scholarly stuff.

Back to the grind...see you in November!

Also - let me know if you have a hankering for some light reading. Perhaps you'd like to proofred a little blurb I like to call "Efficacy Expectations as a Mediating Variable in Marital Conflict Resolution".

Happy Monday!

You'll be thrilled to learn that my nose feels much better this morning. Joel's head is a bit swollen and painful this morning, unfortunately. That just goes to show you that if you are about to get stung, you should quickly thrust a cartilaginous body part forward (such as a nose or upper ear) in lieu of something more fleshy or meaty (like, you know, your head).

You'll also be inspired to cartwheels to learn that I am, in fact, DISSERTATING this morning! And by dissertating I mean that I am about to start working on it, having already exhausted what time I feel is excusable on Facebook, evite, and blogspot. Oh wait, I haven't read my husband's blog!

I am well on my way to a stress-free week with all this proactivity!


*author's note: I just discovered, to my great chagrin, that we are out of Half and Half! Lest this tragedy come between me and my precious Hazelnut, I hereby decree that none shall cross the threshold of my home except that they bear upon their person a pint of this precious nectar.

Gigantic Nose-ache

You read that right. Have you ever had a nose-ache before? Here's the story:

So Joel and I were over at our friends' house playing Cornhole. This is an addictive variation of beanbag toss, and Ryan made his own boards and beanbags, so we enjoyed several hours playing with him and his wife, Jess. A lovely time was had by all, until...

Joel was sitting in a chair, awaiting his turn and generally minding his own business, when all of a sudden, with no warning whatsoever (which is generally what is meant by "all of a sudden"), he was reacting to some apparent pain. Astonished, we all asked him what had happened. He claimed that something bit him in the back of the head, just behind his left ear. We looked and could just make out a tiny pinprick, and soon the area was red. It was as though he had been dive-bombed by a hit-and-run stinger! Weird.

So we made sure he was alright and moved on with our game, assuming it had been just a weird, freakish anomaly.

A short time later, we had finished the game and let their frisky puppies out to run in the backyard. I was perched on a chair next to Joel, who was sitting in the same chair where the dive-bombing had happened earlier.

I can't even tell you how it happened.

Those watching said everything was normal and then all of a sudden, they heard a noise like a yap or yelp, and I was holding my nose.

All I know is that there was lots of black flapping chaos in front of my face and a sharp PAIN.

It reminded me a lot of a nightmare I had as a child of a huge butterfly landing on my nose and biting it. Only this time I didn't wake up screaming.

But just as soon as it (whatever it was) had stung me, it was gone! Another hit-and-run stinging.

I spent the rest of the evening with an ice pack on my nose, and I think it helped because you can't really see anything. But I have an enormous nose-ache that is radiating through the rest of my head, as though that rabid insect's venom is seeping through my brain.

And that is the story of two Pearce dive-bombings in one day. If I weren't so psychologically well-adjusted I would start to wonder if some queen bee somewhere has it in for us.

Only two months later...

...and I've just gotten my official comprehensive exam results!

The Lord is so gracious. My letter began with "We are pleased to inform you". 'Nuff said.

But in case you have never received an official decision letter, that means HEY GIRL, YOU PASSED! You can stop thinking about comps FOREVER and move on to more important things, like proposing your dissertation so that you can change your email signature to "Doctoral Candidate in Clinical Psychology."

It's the little things.

Thanks for your prayers :-).

On My Welsh Heritage

For much of my life, I've had this sort of undercurrent of curiosity about my cultural roots. I think we all have a desire to locate ourselves within a broader context, a longing to really understand our identity as part of a larger whole. At least, this has been the case for me. I've wondered about who I am and how I've become myself, as it were.

Recently, several of these pieces have fallen into place. And by recently, I mean tonight as I researched Welsh culture on Wikipedia. What prompted me to do this? I'm so glad you asked...

My grandmother, Betty Maclay, is no less than a remarkable woman. She is strong and faithful, one I am proud to call matriarch of my family. The Maclays are not, by nature, people who boast or even speak too freely of themselves, and so it is only in my recent adult years that I've learned enough of my Mama, as we call her, to understand the humble greatness that she carries with her.

So this post might be more about my Maclay and Boucher heritage, but Mama takes great pride in her Welsh roots so I consider it to be one and the same.

Let me try to piece this together for you the way it's come together for me. Perhaps the easiest way to start is to describe some salient traits of myself, and then talk about how these have emerged as significant trends in the noble ladies of my family. Of course, there have been great men as well, particularly my Papa who has gone to be with the Lord. But the strongest pull on my heart is what connects me with the Maclay women.

It's been obvious from an early age that I'm a strong-willed one. Just ask my mother. Also wild at heart, feisty if you will, and yet tender, romantic. I've always had a special fondness for Celtic lands and culture and wished that I could identify with them...I could just see myself standing on a moor in Britain, hair flying in the wind, intensely alive and fiercely strong. A bit dramatic, perhaps, but you see what I mean about the wildness and romanticism.

Somehow, I never put it together that Wales = Celtic. As I read a bit on Wikipedia, I learned about the early Briton/Saxon history of Wales, and the strong Celtic roots that are evident in Welsh culture. It all fits! My love for Celtic Woman makes sense! You laugh (Becca!), but this is joyful news for me. It's like finding the place where your edges fit perfectly, when all along you thought perhaps you were just awkwardly shaped.

But Wikipedia has nothing on my Mama's memoirs. She has recently been occupied with the task of recording significant memories, and I was fortunate to be forwarded a copy by my mother, who was typing them up for her. Never have I identified more strongly with a woman who came before me! These memoirs served as impetus for a fabulous conversation between my mother and me on the ways in which many traits seemed to pass down identically from Mama to her, and now to me. Allow me to explain...

The Maclay women are, above all, strong. When I say strong, I mean that strength that is dark and bright at the same time, fierceness and tenderness together. We take care of business, but I believe we pour our souls into it. We aren't an emotional bunch, per se, but our loyalties and love are evident in our service to those around us. Mama cared for the physical needs of everyone in her family, and watched each of her parents and four sisters pass into the Lord's presence. I believe that her Creator blessed her with a special strength for this, and that this quality is a mighty river that flows through her offspring. Both my mother and I commented to one another that we have always thought of ourselves as "the strong one"...and I think this was the first time we had shared this with each other. This is no coincidence to me.

The Maclay women are sentimental in our own way. Another theme in my conversation with my mother is that we believe ourselves to be unemotional. However, I don't think this is the case. Our emotions are often converted (sublimated, to use psychobabble) into acts of service...I've noticed this in both my mother and me, and it would not surprise me to learn that Mama is the same. I show my love in my provision, my labor for others, my desire to care for details, my presence, my offering of myself as a rock on which to lean. I can buckle down and care for practical matters when all around me are broken...the strong one. Yet my emotions for those closest to me are fiercely strong, and the first chords of certain songs can set me to tears because they tug at the ties that bind me to my family. "How Great Thou Art" is one, "I Hope You Dance" is another. Don't mess with my loyalty, don't cross my love.

The Maclay women are smart. We are an educated bunch, and we don't hesitate to seek answers and solve problems. I think this goes with the strength aspect of our traits - our minds are sharp and deftly wielded.

The Maclay women are faithful. A stronger legacy of faith I doubt you could find...it has been said of the Welsh that the first thing they would build upon arrival in America was a church (the French, a tradingpost; the German, a beer hall; the Welsh, a church). I am amazed at the conviction that has been passed through my mother's family. My name means "consecrated one", or "devoted to the Lord", and I believe this situates me firmly in this covenant heritage. In the midst of my Papa's illness and passing to glory, I witnessed such faith as I never thought possible. This is truly the source of their great strength. I felt so much admiration for these Maclays and such honor to be one of them - and immense gratitude to the Lord for this family.

Papa's death was very painful for me, but it also served as a hallmark in my identity formation as I came together for the first time as an adult with all the Maclays. My journey to Pennsylvania with Beth, hours spent alongside my mother and her sisters, my first true insights into the woman who is Betty Maclay, all came together in a powerful way to show me who I am. I had always thought of myself as a "Northern European mutt" with a mixed bag of cultural identities, but then I saw myself for the first time as part of a distinct line, particularly of women.

I am so proud to be a Maclay, even if that was two names and a generation ago for me. I consider myself to be a bearer of the name even though it was never on my official papers. I am also proud to be Welsh; even if the bloodline has been diluted through the generations, it is no less who I am.

I could write volumes more about this family, especially expanding to include the men like my Papa and his sons. I could fill books with my Steele legacy as well. But for now I am content to relish the continuity that connects mother with daughter throughout the generations. Like so many ladies of the moor holding strong against the squalling gale. For a moment I am not a wanderer; I am home.

On the Welsh
The Boucher Crest
Welsh National Anthem