(Some of) The Results Are In!

I PASSED!!!

They finally sent scores out this morning for the objective portion of comps, and I passed! I don't believe in posting my actual grade, so if you are curious you'll just have to ask me in person :-). But I obviously did better than 65%, which was the cutoff for passing.

Oh, happy day....how wonderful to have the results in my hand, and have no more worrying or wondering! Now I just have to wait, like, a month for the faculty to return from summer break to grade our essays/papers. Boo.

But for today, PARTAY!!!

God is good :-)

MyTube

You may have read my recent post on "Painting Pictures of Egypt", a song by Sara Groves. This is a song that has resonated with me since I first heard it. When I struggle with returning to an old sin or with impatience for God's blessings, this song helps me to see my discontent for what it is. It's ok to be honest with God about our feelings and our struggles, and to question His purposes, when the result is us turning back to the truth of His sovereignty.

Anyway, the reason I bring it up again is to say that Laurie and I recently sang this song in church. This was a huge deal for me because I am a chronic microphone phobic. This was the first time I ever sang a solo/duet where people could really hear me singing all by myself. Scary!

Laurie's hubby, Josh, recorded the song like any proud father would, and the result is that I can embed it here for your viewing (and listening) pleasure (or at least for your viewing and listening, even if it isn't pleasurable). It's like my own private YouTube - I call it MyTube.


video

Too bad you can't see my face at all. Wish I'd known!

Hopefully the video doesn't take up too much bandwidth. Let me know if it takes, like, an hour to load, ok?

Getting Brighter...

I know it's there, and now I can see it shining dimly in the distance, growing brighter and drawing nearer with every checkmark on my to-do list.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel!

A very wise father-in-law once remarked that you shouldn't get off the train in the middle of the tunnel. Which is probably great advice, because the last thing you want when you are considering throwing yourself from a train is to become badly maimed AND unable to find your way out of a dark, scary place. The perfect analogy for doctoral school, don't you think?

But it really was a great piece of guidance. When things are looking bleak and black and endless, there is nothing quite so helpful as a reminder that this, too, has come to pass. Grad school has not come to stay, thankfully, but is a season of my life that will be over really pretty quickly. I'm not sure at this point whether to say "all too soon" or "not soon enough"...I think there are elements of both perspectives going on here.

To return to my original point, that gleaming beacon of hope called graduation has just moved, nay LEAPT light-years closer within the past few days.

It's called Comprehensive Exams. And it is very, very dark and scary...I would go so far as to say that this obstacle to my doctoral candidacy has represented the very epitome of darkness and terror as it has loomed for three years over my educational path. And IT IS OVER!!!!!!

PRAISE the LORD in the highest heavens. And THANK YOU to those who have been earnestly and steadfastly covering my Comps experience in many layers of prayer! I can honestly say that never before have I felt so at peace concerning something so significant and daunting. This was a test that, if failed, had the potential to stop my doctoral training in its tracks. There's an opportunity for a re-take in six weeks, but after that you have to wait until next summer to try again. Talk about some far-reaching implications! But the Lord is so good, and I would love nothing more than to testify to His grace and sovereignty in the past few days.

The morning of comps dawned (far too) bright and early. Before I rolled out of bed, I lay awake for a few minutes and contemplated the task before me. And I prayed. Oh, how I prayed. But it wasn't the desperate prayer that might have been expected. Rather, I committed the day to the Lord and surrendered my test performance to Him. I said Lord, You alone are sovereign in my life, and You alone hold sway over my future. Whatever the outcome of this exam, may it be to Your glory.

And with that, the greatest sense of peace swept over me. I am just amazed at how serene and ok I felt going into Comps that morning! Of course my mind would dance around vague thoughts of how incredibly important this test was, but I didn't really have fear of not doing well. And I don't attribute that to any great feats of preparation on my part! Rather, I believe God was allowing me to rest in His grace and provision. I really trusted that if the Lord had called me to be a psychologist and has brought me this far, surely He would not abandon me to my own devices on Comps day!

The research question was a slightly different story. There was a period of about ten minutes prior to receiving my personalized research question from my dissertation chair when I thought I was seriously going to need to leave the room to throw up. Fortunately that feeling passed, and truly the Lord exercised His good grace over my research question because it was closely related to my dissertation, as hoped, and I felt relatively confident in my ability to draft a research proposal completely from memory, citing relevant studies and formulating appropriate hypotheses and methodologies. Phew.

Looking back, it is so evident through my feeling of peace both before and after the day of examination that I was completely and thoroughly soaked with the prayers of God's people. No other explanation could begin to account for the smoothness with which I moved through the most taxing experience of my life. Indeed, thanks to the Lord's watchcare it didn't even feel that taxing. It was really very hard, and my brain almost exploded, but at the same time I felt really ok. If that makes any sense at all.

So thank you to you faithful prayer warriors. My loving husband, Mom and Dad (both sets!), Scott and Becca, Brittany, Jess and Natali, Barb and Bill, Ken, Joe, to only just scratch the surface of the army of believers raising prayer on my behalf. I'm so encouraged and humbled by your efforts on my behalf. Be assured that the Lord was faithful to honor your prayers!

Just one last task left, and that is an integration "essay" (read: 12-40 page paper ["some people can answer the questions in only 12 pages, others have written closer to 40"]) that we have 48 hours to complete and turn in. I should probably be working on that right now. But I just couldn't wait to share with all three of you how good the Lord has been. And also there may be just a teeny bit of avoidance going on...which is a defense mechanism that has been triggered by my anxiety, and helps me avoid feeling overwhelmed by having to write this huge paper in only 2 days. It also might be a form of self-handicapping, wherein if I procrastinate long enough then I can attribute poor performance to my procrastination rather than to my inability to write a good essay. But you didn't need to know all that. But I DID YESTERDAY. Booyah, Comps.

Behind the Blogging Silence...

...is frantic reviewing of everything I have ever learned about psychology.

Comprehensive Exam 2008, first thing Monday morning. Your prayers are appreciated.

Praise the Lord that He is sovereign and will sustain me through this exam. The outcome is in His hands, and I believe that He will have me pass because He has called me to a career in psychology.

Of course, if I don't pass, this theory will come under serious scrutiny and re-thinking. At which point I will probably quit the program and have babies. It's a win-win situation, really.

Watch for more blogging after this season of great trial and longsuffering (and caffeine, the Lord's natural means of blessing the graduate student with endurance and stamina).

Pictures of Egypt

When the Israelites were led out of Egypt, they spent 40 long years in the wilderness, following the Lord around and around in circles, waiting to enter the Promised Land. Their time in the desert was characterized more often than not by discontent, grumbling, looking back on their time of slavery in Egypt with longing. "At least when we were slaves," they would say, "we had plenty of food to eat! If only we had died in Egypt!" Had they already forgotten the terrible bondage they had been in, the cruelty of the slavedrivers, the sting of their whips?

But don't we do the same thing? In the words of one Sara Groves, don't we often "paint pictures of Egypt, leaving out what it lacks," fooling ourselves into believing that we long to be back in our sin, rather than waiting in (seeming) limbo for the Lord's promises? We don't always feel like we are in the promised land of great blessing, and it is so easy to look back over our shoulders and see only what we want to see in the past. We forget that, in our sin, we are broken, captive, headed straight for death and destruction.

But sin tastes sweet if you haven't tasted the Lord. Kind of like how frozen dinners taste pretty good until you've had a real, charbroiled, flame-kissed sirloin steak.

I seem to appreciate food analogies, don't I?

So if you were promised a steak, but had to wait a long time for it, and just trust the word of the chef that it was coming...would your stomach start to rumble and maybe your mouth would water for some chicken nuggets?

Read on for the words to a powerful song, which is an honest reflection on our tendency to look back toward the sin that was so full of death, and long for it with too short a memory for its destructive power. Maybe we do have a few miles of wilderness yet ahead, but we can trust and wait for the Lord, knowing that He is with us, and that where He is, there is yet sweetness and life. Thank God for His gracious provision, that He holds us securely in His hand and promises to guide us safely across the wilderness of this world.

Painting Pictures of Egypt, by Sara Groves

"I don't want to leave here, I don't want to stay;
It feels like pinching to me either way.
But the places I long for the most are the places where I've been,
And it's calling out to me like a long lost friend.

It's not about losing faith, and it's not about trust;
It's all about comfortable, when you move so much.
And the place I was, wasn't perfect, but I had found a way to live,
And it wasn't milk or honey, but then...neither is this.

I am painting pictures of Egypt, and leaving out what it lacks.
The future feels so hard, and I want to go back.
But the places that used to fit me cannot hold the things I've learned,
And those roads were closed off to me while my back was turned.

The past is so tangible, I know it by heart,
And familiar things are never easy to discard.
And I was dying for some freedom, but now I hesitate to go,
I am caught between the promise and the things I know.

I am painting pictures of Egypt, and leaving out what it lacks.
The future feels so hard, and I want to go back.
But the places that used to fit me cannot hold the things I've learned,
And those roads were closed off to me while my back was turned.

If it comes too quick, I may not recognize it...
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?
If it comes too quick, I may not appreciate it...
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?"

What is your Egypt? What does your wilderness look like? Can you see what the Lord has for you in the place of waiting and wandering, or are you too busy longing for what you left behind? We often look ahead to the land of milk and honey and forget that God is with us now, in the in-between. The Lord dwelt among the Israelites; He gave them His tabernacle and promised to travel with them and guide them. The promise holds for us today: He has poured out His Holy Spirit on His church and dwells in us, empowering us for this life. Trust in Him, wait for what He has in store, and enjoy the richness of His presence even now as we travel down this long, winding road.

A Double-Edged Sword

It has been said that "the truth of God, in the hands of God, is sufficient for [the people of God]" (Wells, 2008), and Scripture says that "the Word of God...[is s]harper than any double-edged sword" (Heb. 4:12, NIV). I believe these things with all my heart, but until I saw for myself the power of the Truth to divide soul and spirit, to judge the thoughts and attitudes of my heart, I confess that I did not fully appreciate the magnitude of the influence of the living Word in the hands of the living God, whose I am.

There are no words to describe the condition of the soul when it is pierced through, to its very quick, by the simple and utter truth of God. But I shall try to capture some element of this experience here, else my blogging is in vain today.

I am the chief of sinners. There is no two ways about it. A wretch, lost, blind. I am Israel in every sense, chosen of the Lord through no merit of my own, and ever restored to the Lord's favor by His chastening rod, ever reminded of His faithfulness which is magnified by my own fallenness.

Today's sermon focused on the commandment that we are not to make for ourselves any idols or images. Pastor Mullen pointed out that the words for idol and image in the Greek refer to things created, shaped, of our own invention. We are not to have anything less or else than God foremost in our hearts and lives. He challenged us to think about what pops up on the "screensaver" of our minds; what is our "wallpaper" when nothing else is going on. The thing that your mind turns to - is it an idol? Do your thoughts naturally run toward the Savior and Lover of your soul, or do they turn to other, lesser or contrary things?

I was stricken. As a thief stealing across a dark field is illuminated in a spotlight, my sin was laid bare within me as in the brightness of day. Utterly grieved, I prayed for the Lord to change my heart, to help me in my repentance. How greedily I cling to my sin, ugly though it is, in hopes that I can just keep it in this one area of my heart, that I might return to it time and again as though visiting a favored, though forbidden, pet. But Pastor Mullen beat no circles around the proverbial bush as he declared that we cannot keep our sin under control. In his words, God sliced clean through my heart. Who am I to think that I can keep my sin fenced in? Already I could feel it pressing against its fence, seeping beyond its confines and poisoning everything it touched. When I willingly entertain sin, when I feed it bits of my time and energy, it grows exponentially until it towers, overwhelms my ability to manage it. I become a different person.

Praise my Father in heaven for His discipline! I thank Him from the depths of my being that He has allowed me to taste of His goodness such that I now recognize and abhor the bitter dregs of sin. I remember a time in my life when I could have continued to justify and rationalize my sin, when it would have seemed more attractive to me than a life of purity before the Lord.

But, oh, this morning my soul leapt when it heard the words of its Master! Like a lost sheep whose Shepherd has come suddenly upon it, I looked into my Lord's face and was at once broken and healed. Holy, holy, holy is He who judges and restores. My spirit literally trembled within me, overwhelmed with gratitude that He would change my heart so quickly and dramatically, that He would sweep me back into His arms so readily when I have been so rebellious.

Reformed theology holds that it is the Lord who draws us to Himself, that we can do nothing to choose or love Him without His initiative, His preparatory work in our hearts. If I didn't understand this before, I now see His sovereignty in brilliant technicolor. I was so happy in my sin, embracing my rebellion, I would never have willingly turned from it. Indeed, in the past it was a much longer, more difficult battle for the Lord to wrest my heart from evil. Today I witnessed great evidence that the Lord has been increasing His hold upon my heart, has been growing the power of His Word in my life. How I rejoice now to see that, while I am not impervious to the wiles of sin, my repentance and restoration is much more quickly wrought!

This repentance and restoration, though it happened quickly, was not without pain. It is true that the Word of the Lord divided soul from spirit, joints from marrow. But it was a pain that was accompanied by healing, and though it pierced sharply, it left wholeness in its wake. It is difficult to describe what this experience was like, but I felt simultaneously weak and strong, broken and repaired, trembling yet secure.

Today I thank God for the life He has given me, for the love of Himself that He has placed in my heart. I witnessed tangible evidence that He is cultivating my heart, and that I am so far from where I have been before. I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine...His love is sweeter than honey, far sweeter than fine wine. And I say this truly, having tasted for myself and loving Him with every fiber of my being. Like the prodigal son, I am amazed at the Lord's ever-ready welcome and grateful for my safe return.

To Our Future Guests

Are you planning to visit us in the near future? Will your stay involve overnight accommodations at La Casa de Pearce?

Good news!
We have recently increased your sleeping comfort by about five.

Inches, that is, of feel-good mattress support.



We recently upgraded (we think) from our sleeper sofa in the Blue Room (if you've been here, you understand the name) to a futon with an incredibly thick, supportive mattress. Having lain upon it myself for all of five minutes, I can attest to the vast increase in back support that this new bed will provide. It's a little narrower than the sleeper sofa, and slightly shorter, but what we sacrifice in space we make up for in comfort. Besides, you all like your spouses pretty well, right?

Sorry to the Hardiskys for not making the upgrade sooner. It's nothing personal - Brittany's boss/coworker was selling his futon today and we nabbed it for a great bargain. But to the Steeles, Pearces, and more Pearces, you have much to look forward to!

La Casa de Pearce, meeting your lodging needs since September '07.

I think we need a sign out front.

Also, a shout out is in order to Craigslist.com, where the postings in the furniture category grew by over 100 in the few hours after I listed the blue couch, and where it is possible to sell a sleeper sofa within five hours of deciding it must go. Holla!

How Many Cats?


Optical illusion: How many cats do you see in this picture?


If you said one, you're WRONG.

If you said two, then you must have magical x-ray night-vision that allows you to see invisible ninjas who are in stealth-mode.

There are not one, but two cats in the above picture, and one of them is a ninja. Her name is Niko, and she is utilizing her high-tech cloaking device known as Sitting on a Black Futon With Eyes Closed. Oh, but she is a tricky one.

The obvious cat is Merlot. She couldn't begin to hide from you under any circumstances whatsoever. Sometimes she tries, and then it turns out that she just put her head into a bag. It's like if she can't see you, then you can't see her either. But look at those eyes...she may not be a ninja, but I wouldn't want to meet her in a dark alley.