Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Website!

Thanks to friends who are far more technologically advanced than me (it doesn't take much), I have a new website! I'll no longer be updating this blog and everything from here is now over there. You can update your bookmarks and go on and keep up with what's new over there: www.sarahpish.com.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Inadequate Leaders: We're Not Alone


While rewatching “The King's Speech” recently, there was a part that stood out to me in ways that hadn’t before.

Photo from www.kingsspeech.com
The movie is about Bertie, aka. King George VI, a stutterer who was confirmed as the new king and would be taking over from his brother who relinquished the throne. When it was official that he would becoming the king, the weight of responsibility was overwhelming and Bertie, crying, exclaims: “I’m not a king! I’m a naval officer, that’s all I know!”

Tears filled my eyes. I could relate. Sometimes God calls us to do some crazy things that we feel insanely inadequate to do. Positions that are far bigger than we feel capable. Opportunities that make us feel sorely inadequate.

When Joshua took over leadership from Moses, God had a message for him: “be strong and courageous”. The torch had been passed and Joshua’s fear was evident. I can imagine Joshua saying, “I’m not a leader of Israel! Sure, I’ve helped Moses and led in other ways but that’s all I know”.

And so, God has been saying the same to me. Before, I was a part of God’s vision for others but now, God has passed the torch to me. As much as I can cry out “I’m not a teacher! I’m not a school administrator! I have no idea how to start a school from the ground up! This is not what I know!”, God’s plans are greater and bigger than my own.

As I've told God how I don’t know what I doing, feelings of inadequacy rise along with insecurity. In my weakness, He is seen. My security and adequacy must be in Him alone. Anything else would result in arrogance or self-reliance.

In my fear and trembling, God has continually encouraged me to “be strong and courageous” but not in me. I can’t find my strength and courage in myself, because, well, it’s not there. I must look to Him to find strength and courage. My fears stem from seeing the challenge and only relying on my own limited resources when instead, I need to rely on the unlimited resources that God has. Easy to say and yet, so difficult to do. I’ve been discovering that the greater my trust in the Lord is, the less my fear is. He truly wipes away our fears.

When Joshua took over, God began to do miracles. With the Promised Land sprawling before them, God said to His people: "love the Lord your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Joshua 22:5). As they were setting up their new lives, they needed to live those lives with a focus on God.

As God started telling me “no” to jumping back into my old ministry here, I was confused but now can understand why. He has given me these months as a gift.  After years of wandering, God has brought me here, to this Promised Land.  As I look to live here all the days of my life, I need to live with that focus. This is a time to intensely learn language but also to intensely learn more about Him; a time to strengthen and deepen relationships here. This is a time of preparation that God knew I needed. As I set the foundation for all the days of my life here, it must be set so firmly in Him.

As I step into this huge vision from God, I have to rely solely on Him. What He has called me to is far bigger than I could ever dream of much less do on my own. On my own, I'm inadequate and incapable. It is my loving God who goes before me, is right by my side and who guides me along the way. 

Pray for me that I daily put this trust in Him and not myself. While you're at it, pray for all of the leaders in your life. I have this odd feeling that I'm not the only one battling with this.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Of The Time That I Got Locked Inside Of My Bedroom


A couple weekends ago I went out of town, planning for painters to come and paint my upstairs in my absence. I was excited to get that part of my house projects done and to return home to it completed.

Clearly, my expectations were too high. I came back to a poorly done and unfinished job as well as a rummaged through fridge (seriously guys!?). When I entered my room, I saw part of my door handle sitting on my nightstand. As I investigated the remaining handle on the door, I realized that the handle could no longer turn to open the door. Thus, if the door was closed and you were inside of the room, you couldn’t get out.

That’s a very important detail…

…and one that I didn’t remember until 11:00pm that night. When the door closed. And I was inside of the room.

Almost immediately after the door closed, I remembered. I tried in vain for 10 minutes to pry the door open with no success. At that point, panic entered.

I called my neighbor to see what my options were. Normally, no one else has a key to my place but luckily, another woman on our compound did thanks to her needing to open the door for the painters. My neighbor tried texting her and knocking on her door to no response.

I’m not one to get claustrophobic but…I’ve never felt more trapped in my life. I had no idea how long I would be stuck in my room. What if I needed to use the bathroom? Would I have to wait to be let out in the morning like a dog? The walls felt like they were closing in on me.

My mind was racing. I scanned my room, desperate to find something to help me get that door open. In that moment, I remembered an episode of Columbo when this woman was being held hostage by her stalker. He locked her into a room so she couldn’t get out but would come in to give her food. She used olive oil and a knife to pry the hinges off of the door.

I eyed the hinges. I had no olive oil or knife. Plus, I was pretty sure these hinges hadn’t been tampered with in 50 years.

I found masking tape and decided to MacGyver the handle back together in hopes that it would work again.

Yes, it’s true: in times of panic, I draw all of my heroic inspiration from 80’s sitcoms.

I channeled MacGyver’s mullet and taped that thing back together. Every time it didn’t work, I added more and more tape until finally…IT OPENED!

FREEDOM!! I can’t even tell you the relief! I almost cried.

I feel like I have a whole new appreciation for people in prison or animals in cages. It's the knowledge that you can't get out that's most disturbing. 

Said from a girl who experienced a pansy 20 minutes of it.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Saying No To Say Yes


In order to say “yes” to God, we have to say “no” to something else. Actually, everything else. That's seen in our lives from salvation on.

I’ve been battling with this for the past month. When I came back to Uganda, I wanted to jump right in where I left off. I was so anxious to see my kids and even more anxious to start up the Bible study with the girls again. I was doing all these things plus trying to settle and set up my house and focus on language studies and oh, don’t I still have 500 books to read for WorldVenture? and plan for the future and…and…and…

About three weeks ago, God said a very hard “no”. I kept trying to do the Bible study with the girls but had no peace about it in my heart. I attributed it to selfishness. I mean, why else would I not feel as though that's what I should be doing? But then God made it clear. Through strangers, friends, His Word and more, He had a message for me:

Not now. The time will come when you will teach. For now, you just need to listen. I’ve given you this time as a gift; a time to fully focus on me. A time to dig deep in my Word. A time for us. Take all other distractions away. Now is the time to focus.

I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. How could God say no to this? On my return, my girls expressed excitement for the study to start up again as it hadn’t been continued in my absence. These girls mean the world to me. I want to spend as much time with them as I can. 

I can do all these "good" things but if it's not what God wants, then it's not right. 

I had to surrender my girls into the hands of God. They’re not mine; they are His. What better hands to give them to?

Through the pain, I felt relief. I finally had clarity on the restlessness inside of me. I had direction on what God wanted me to be doing.  I now have more focus than I did before. I went on a solitude retreat this past weekend to listen. He reiterated what He had already been saying:

Focus, Sarah, focus. The task before you is big. You need to prepare yourself. Focus.

Since then, I’ve been looking at my life and asking God, “what else?”. God, what else is in the way of You right now? What else is distracting me from Your purpose?  God, help me strip all of that away and be completely focused on You. 

He hasn’t given clear answers on that yet but, here I wait: ear pressed closely to His mouth and waiting to hear.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Stories of the Abused


In the past two weeks, two girls opened up their lives to me…and my heart is still breaking.

---

Tears streamed down her face as I held her.

“What things did she say to you?”, I asked.

“I…can't...”, she replied, breaking down into fresh sobs.

She explained how she had tried everything to make her aunt love her. Some days were good. But nothing could stop the continual verbal and physical abuse. Mentioning the more often bad days made the tears brimming at her eyes spill down her face. All of the effort was for nothing.

As I wiped tears from her face, I felt helpless.

---

It started when I asked her who she lived with. With the younger kids, I always ask them if they get beaten at home, in an attempt to get a glimpse of how things are really going at home. When she said “yes”, I followed by asking her if they over-beat her. Her tears answered “yes”. When I asked what her mom beats her with, tears rolled down and her tiny frame shook with sobs as she whispered, “stones”. I was so surprised that I asked her to repeat it, praying that I didn't hear her right. After admitting the abuse, she repeatedly begged, “Please don’t tell my mummy that I told you. She will beat me even more. Please, please don’t tell mummy”.

I hate it. I hate injustice. I hate abuse. I hate seeing the pain of my girls as they are so often mistreated. I hate sin. I hate how it takes over lives. I hate the effect of it, as it spills onto everyone around. I hate knowing that these aren't the only ones being mistreated. I hate knowing that so many girls are overworked, overbeaten and uncared for. Tears brimmed my eyes as I held them and I choked back sobs. Oh, God, what can be done?

There was nothing that I could do. No solutions to offer. No quick fix. No answer to the heartbreaking problem.

As much as I wanted to wrap them in my love, I know how small my love is. I feel protective of these girls and feel like Mama Bear when I hear of their hurts and struggles. However, my Mama Bear love is no match for God's Abba love.

I remember when God showed me Himself as my Daddy. I was 13. God gave me a vision of running to Him, pigtails flailing, and jumping in His lap like a little girl. I melted into His embrace, feeling loved and secure in His arms. It brought a depth and intimacy to my relationship with God that I cherish to this day. It is that love that I pray for these girls. As much as our earthly parents are sinful humans, Abba isn’t. No, He is the Daddy that we’ve dreamed of. He will never fail. He will never leave or abandon us. He won’t abuse us. He will love us through our unfaithfulness. He will comfort us and heal our wounds. He will hold us in His arms, knowing us completely and yet grace over flowing.

Oh Abba, help these girls. They are Yours. Hold them in Your arms. Show them that with You, they don’t need to earn Your love.  God, I know that if I feel like my heart will burst out with love for them that Yours is even greater. I know that the outrage that I feel about their abuse is nothing compared to Yours. Oh God, help them draw closer to You and see that you are their Abba.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Awkward Dance of Culture


I've heard culture described like an onion: full of numerous layers, difficult to get to the core and sometimes, stinky to deal with (ok, I added that last part). Culture is complex. Some days I feel as though I’m fitting into Ugandan culture whereas other days it’s like dancing the wrong steps in a dance.

Oh wait, that sounds familiar.

The bride and groom!
My good friends Chris and Kevin (a girl’s name here) are getting married soon and a few weeks ago they had their kwanjula, the traditional wedding of the couple. Bride prices are a part of the culture and the night before the celebration, the groom and his family come to bring the price that the bride’s family has given. If the bride’s family accepts, then the party can go on as planned. After the kwanjula, the couple is traditionally married but law in Uganda requires a church wedding as well.
Lonnah and I waiting in the bride's room, dressed in a gomesi. Check out those shoulders!
 I was honored when Kevin asked me to be a part of her bridal group for the kwanjula. Well, honored and uncertain. Though I’ve been to many Ugandan weddings, I had never been around for the kwanjula. The only thing I knew about the day was when and where to be.

The dearest of friends: Lonnah, Dorothy and I waiting for the festivities to begin
 The bride and her girls were hidden away most of the day until it was our time to bring out the bride. I think it was then that it was casually mentioned that we would be dancing our way out.

Dancing? Not so much my “thing”. Dancing in front of a few hundred people? Oh man. I tried to reassure myself that all I would need to do was to sway a bit to the beat…while walking…and smiling…and holding up my gomesi (seen above) so that I wouldn’t fall. No. Biggie.

And then it happened. Every one else started dancing the same choreographed dance…a dance that I didn’t know. Panic started to rise and I fumbled, attempting clumsy moves.

Kevin and I
In that moment, I felt so out of place. Sometimes living in a different culture is like awkwardly dancing a dance that everyone else seems to know the moves to besides you. We all want to belong and yet, some days, living in a different culture makes you feel like you never will. When everyone else knows the dance of living in this culture and you stand out, making the wrong steps with language and misunderstanding cultural meaning behind things. Uganda is home to me but my skin color will always make me stand out, no matter how many years I'm here. There are some discouraging days when my being a foreigner is just so obvious. It’s a difficult thing to trudge through. It’s awkward. It’s clumsy.
 
And, as there are those days, there are many others that balance that out.

Later on in the night, the bridal party sat on a mat on the ground while the groom’s family danced and brought gifts to Kevin, welcoming her into the family.  The music was loud. The beat was infectious. In a line, the family danced in, smiles so big and cheers so loud that it took over the whole place. As each family member brought their gifts, everything from fruits and vegetables to crates of soda and more, they danced, cheered and celebrated. In that moment, I struggled to hold back my tears. I felt completely humbled and honored. True, I’m a foreigner. I’m not from here. Yet, I have the dearest of friends that open their culture and lives to me. They open up themselves and let me in. They extend their love and friendship to me. They see all of my missteps and awkward moments and guide me. They answer my millions of questions. They love me.

Georgina and I, the best of friends
In that moment, I felt so honored to be a part of that day, awkward dancing and all. What an honor to stand by two of my dear friends at such a big day in their lives. What an absolute honor to not only live in Uganda but have dear friends who are willing to share their dance moves to a crazy white girl.

A most beautiful bride and friend
I am seriously blessed.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Story of a Foolish Girl and Her Sandy Foundation


A classic Sunday School song for me was the one about building your house upon the rocks, not the sand. The wise man built his house upon the rocks (ie. God) and the foolish man built his house upon the sand (ie. anything but God). The rains came down, the floods came up and I took special joy when the house on the sand went SPLAT. You too? I knew it wasn’t just me.

God’s been teaching me about building lately. He’s been showing me that what I’m doing now is building a foundation for life in Uganda.

This foundation process has been as slow as stinking molasses. It’s killing me. I’m all “but God, when do we get to the GOOD stuff? The walls, the windows, the d├ęcor!?” and God’s all, “seriously, the foundation is pretty important.” I so want to rush through this process. I want to at last be settled in Uganda (for the love, can’t a girl just get her container already!?), fly through language training and just get to curriculum formation, discipleship, and forming this crazy awesome school. You know, the GOOD stuff.  I don’t want to live in the present stage that God has me. Really, what that says is: I don’t want to be where God has me now. That in itself is a life long struggle for being content where God has me.

I was so busy rushing through this stage that I was wearing myself out. I about near had an emotional breakdown. And the state of my foundation? I’m a foolish woman. I was building this foundation on my own strength and effort.

The new Hillsong album has a song “Cornerstone” that has been wrecking me. It’s like God wrote it for me for this time. Not only am I building a foundation for life in Uganda, but Christ must be my cornerstone.  Fleshing that concept out in my life has been well, life changing.

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus' blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
but wholly trust in Jesus' name

Christ alone, Cornerstone
Weak made strong, in the Savior's love
Through the storm
He is Lord, Lord of All

I was so busy, reconnecting, traveling, busting through To Do lists and I mean, Christ was there but…my Cornerstone? Hardly.

Situationally, it’s been a really difficult last few months. The rains have come down, the floods have come up and I’ve felt like I was drowning.  It’s Christ alone. That’s the only way this can all happen. I have to be so deeply founded in Him, wholly trusting in Him,

The day before I left Uganda last year, I got a call from my friend saying God had given her husband a message for me. What he told me has rung in my ears and heart ever since. He told me that what God was going to do through me would not just affect me but would affect generations to come. Because of this, I was not to lose focus. I must remain focused on God and be in His Word.  My life affects more than just me. That’s true of all of us.  Those words have especially been ringing in my ears lately, reminding me of my purpose. 

I’m beginning this crazy awesome life in Uganda. My foundation must be firm. My Cornerstone must be Christ. This house is being built by Him and for Him. No need for any SPLATs.