A Typical Day.

Looking through the posts I have written over the last 18 months in Venezuela, I’ve realized that there isn’t much on “what the Burroughs do” during a typical day/week.

While there are things I cannot (and have not purposely) posted due to security reasons, there are still plenty of things during our days that make up the majority of our time/purpose here in Caracas.

So, for those who would like to know what our typical days/weeks look like (a little later than it probably should have been), this will definitely enlighten:

Mornings/Early Afternoons:

5:25 a.m. – The alarm goes off. I stumble blindly into the kitchen to the coffee maker to turn it on (I make sure to set it each night so that I do not have to think/measure first thing in the morning).

5:30-6:00 a.m. – Get ready for the day still halfway asleep and eyeing that coffee dripping down slowly. The hardest part about getting up is always the first 5 minutes… But, I always tell myself I’m fine after those 5 minutes. Oh, the mental games we play.

6:00 a.m.-6:15 a.m. – Head to the kitchen to make breakfast and prep my lunch for the day. By this time Brandon is going through his morning routine (it’s incredible how little time he needs to be perfectly ready for the day).

6:15-6:35 a.m. – Sit down with my cup (cups, let’s be honest) of coffee (finally) and do my devotions, some journaling and quiet time before leaving for work.

6:35 a.m. – Our driver/shuttle comes to pick our group of teachers up to go down to the school. We literally live on top of a mountain, and about a 15 minute walk downhill to school. It’s not because of the walk in itself that we take the shuttle, but, for overall safety reasons.

6:40-7:00 a.m. – Emailing, prepping all my classes’ materials for the day, running last minute errands and copies, etc.

7:00-7:20 a.m. – We begin each day with a faculty devotional, rotating between prayer, small groups, Bible Study and worship that Brandon and I get to lead about once a month.

7:30 – 2:35 p.m. – Teaching! Both Brandon and I teach a number of different content and grade levels, so the days for us hop from one subject to the next, whether it’s English Language Arts, or Business Math, it keeps us on our toes. You can see all of the other classes we have taught here and here.

During the lunch times, we either eat with our students (a.k.a. engaging in heated Star Wars discussions, playing games, or watching just how entertaining our students can be), attending Friday Secondary Chapel (where Brandon and I get to lead weekly worship), or I am sitting through the Student Leadership Team’s bi-weekly meetings as the advisor. Lunches are fun because although we still supervise, we can just be with our students in a non-teaching setting. For those of you teachers out there, you know what it’s like to be “on”. Yes, we are still “on,” however, we are able to spend time not teaching new topics and facilitating learning in the classroom, but, actually getting to know more about who our students are and who Rey’s father really is. This is a good time for both us and our students to build those relationships that have really marked and made all of the difference this past year and a half.

Afternoons/Evenings:

After the school bell rings at 2:35 p.m., it generally takes a bit of time to funnel students out of the class, to their lockers, and on their way home. Brandon and I have led a number of after-school clubs, currently being Soccer Club on Tuesdays! For one hour, we run around in the heat with some of our 6-12th Grade students, having fun, occasionally scoring, and laughing a lot.

On days that we do not have clubs after school, we have been running a lot more (4-5 times a week) as we are training for two upcoming Half Marathons later this Spring (April) in Caracas and Summer (July) in California. Yes, we’re crazy. At least we’re sane enough to not do another full marathon. Guys, if I ever say I want to do another full marathon, you can definitely shake me (gently) and tell me not to do it.

Weekly, we try to maintain a set schedule for “life things,” such as:

  • Monday: Grocery Shopping (either at the supermarket or the local fruitería – a literal fruit/veggie shop) & Weekly Game & Tea Hour we host at our apartment for our teacher friends/neighbors (same thing)
  • Tuesday: Date Night (always dinner and alternating between either seeing a movie, coffee shop + reading/talking, or cozying it up at home). It’s a big deal when we stay up past 9:30 p.m
  • Thursday: Spanish Tutoring with a dear friend from church, Alba, for 45-minute lessons each
  • Fridays: We try to do no any work on these nights, saving it to relax and spend time either together or with other people
  • Saturday/Sunday: Long runs in the morning, lesson planning for the week, food prep for the week (cleaning, peeling, chopping, roasting, cooking, baking), laundry, church, grading, resting, spending time with people, talking with family (basically: our life & school “catch up” days)

I’ve always known that Brandon and I are “list” and routine people, but, we’ve seen both the productivity and the rest that comes from planning life, professionally, spiritually and even in the “fun” things. Yes, there are lots of things we plan that never actually happen (hello, living overseas & life in general), but, keeping in this routine has made us less frazzled and more effective individually, professionally and as a couple.

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Our handy white board (master list).

One thing we are wanting to add more of to our schedule in these upcoming months is outside of school time with our Secondary students. We had a group of them over not that long ago for a game night and had tons of fun. We have a very creative, goofy yet strategic group of students who make playing strategy games quite enjoyable and interesting. As there are not many things that are safe and fun for our students to do after school (with many of them going home and not going out again until the following morning), providing activities and hang out times in a safe environment is a very easy and meaningful way to show that we care outside of the classroom.

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Game night at the Burroughs.

Life in Caracas has taken time to adjust to, as many people stay indoors once it begins to get dark (generally around 6:00 p.m.), including ourselves. But, we are learning what it looks like to maximize our hours (both daylight and dark) and still build in necessary rest time without going stir-crazy. We’ve found that you can create a warm, cozy atmosphere with what you have, but, more importantly in the manner you use your time. It’s easy to lounge the night away. We all are tired after working and can come up with a billion excuses to just sit and watch Netflix or scroll through hours of Instagram and Facebook. However, we have seen for us the life-giving and effective results of using our time in a more meaningful way. And, yes, we still definitely watch shows and relax but all in balance.

Yes, there are always many things that I could do to make even more use of my time in a way that glorifies the Lord and serve others, but isn’t that life? There is always more of what we should be doing? I think there needs to be a level of contentment that comes with 1) intentionally planning your time wisely and 2) not adding on more and more and more (even if they are good things) to that schedule. There is beauty and fullness in simplicity, service, flexibility, organization and a lack of busyness.

I know for me, I am craving that calm, peaceful and gentle spirit that begins intentionally and internally and then spills out into the days and weeks.

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On Word-Watching and Chatter.

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If I am going to be completely honest, I find there is something (sickly) satisfying about listening to someone complaining or a story about someone getting what they “deserved”. You know that feeling where you sit enthralled, nodding your head as you sit on the edge of your seat, excusing something all in the name of “justice”? Even more with the honesty, it feels good to be the one complaining. And when you’re the one retelling that story, you feel like you are gifting the world with a righteous tale. Key word in this description above: sickly satisfying. Because it is exactly that: a sickness.

I am definitely not perfect in this, and I know very few people whose words are consistently uplifting and encouraging, not speaking bad of anyone else (my husband). Truthfully, I have found myself get frustrated when he lovingly won’t go along with my complaints and abruptly shuts down my gossip. How thankful I am for him.

This morning while I was reading, I came across this (righteous) dagger to the heart:

Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. (2 Timothy 2:16). 

Whoops and amen? Is it possible to be 100% convicted and so sure of the truth in something at the same time?

I’ve seen and experienced how bit by bit, this “chatter” (in the form of complaints, gossip, rehashing the past, etc.) slowly turns me into a monster. While on the outside I seem bubbly and loving, my insides are dripping with ugly thoughts and feelings.

Even more so, it doesn’t say avoid only complaining and gossiping, it says avoid ALL GODLESS CHATTER. Isn’t that basically all of my speech, then?

Is me saying how tired I am actually helpful? Does me voicing my doubts about what the dentist recently did to my teeth constitute as chatter? Maybe not the first time (because a girl’s got to process), but, the 5th, 6th, and 20th time? Yes. Definitely, yes.

I am not saying that every single word out of my mouth needs to come straight from the Old Testament. But, we know (at least I do) when what we’re saying is actually something that does no one any good. When it’s just words. And grumpy ones at that.

I need to be thinking before I speak, more. I need to practice speaking life-giving words and not empty, life-sucking words.

Breaks, Beaches and the Delta.

The past couple of weeks have been full and stretching, challenging yet rewarding, and absolutely unforgettable. Semana Santa (Spring Break) rolled in at the beginning of this month with a much-needed week off of school. The kids were ready. The teachers were ready. It was the perfect time to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and rest.

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Excited for the beach!

Brandon and I had the opportunity to visit some beautiful beaches Venezuela offers on the coast. Since coming here in July, we have not had the time nor the opportunity to visit a beach!

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Amazed by the sunset and the view.

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BEFORE: Pre-beach excitement.

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BEFORE: Little did we know we were about to get fried.

However, after the very first day at the beach, the sun reminded us of why we don’t “do” these beach trips very often. One word: SUNBURN.

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AFTER: Our “we should have known”/sunburned selves.

I have been on sunny beaches before, but, nothing like the blinding light and absolute force of the Venezuelan sun.

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BLINDING LIGHT. But absolutely gorgeous.

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My beach attire for the rest of the trip: hat, long sleeves and towel down to the toes.

It was a sweet and restful time together, and even with our burns and subsequent days of oddly-shaped red marks on our bodies, it was definitely worth it.

We got back into the city and less than a week later, we were preparing for another, very different kind of a trip.

Once a year, several students from the senior and junior class have the opportunity to go on a weeklong-trip to a remote, indigenous village along the river Orinoco that snakes through the western part of Venezuela. This small village has been reached by an incredible missionary and his family over 20 years ago. Peter, also known as Pedro, and sometimes referred to as “Peto” is the very first missionary within the Delta region, and chose many years ago to move to this village with his wife and live within the community, sharing the message of the Gospel. He and his wife raised their two daughters in that same community, all the while learning the local language, their culture, and making an impact through their commitment to relationships. Now that his daughters are attending university in the city, Peter and his wife live a 6 hour boat ride away from Arature (the name of the village), but are constantly making the trek back and forth, saying that their true home is with the Warao people.

This is the backdrop for the adventure that myself, Brandon, another teacher and 5 students went on a little over a week ago.

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Sorting through donations at our apartment before leaving.

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Right before driving to the airport! Note how clean we look.

After 1 flight, a 3 hour bus ride, and a 6.5 hour boat ride later, we arrived in the Warao village. Knowing that there would be no food sources or refrigeration within the village, we brought our own food for the week, along with huge bags stuffed with clothing and medical donations.

***Photo credit for much of these photos goes to the lovely Laura Berkey***

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Boat ride #1.

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A village we stopped at along the way.

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Yes, there is a person camouflaged there. And all of our groceries for the week.

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A view of the Warao community.

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Peter’s house is on the right, and this dock is the only “path” connecting the village.

We immediately got to work hanging up our hammocks that we’d be sleeping in, killing GIANT spiders, wasps, and other odd-yet-terrifying creatures and setting up our “home” for the week inside of Peter’s house. Since Peter is coming back and forth between the community and Tucupita (the city where he is currently living), his house had that “left alone for a couple of weeks” charm. I started unpacking the kitchen (where I would spend some really fun hours over the next couple of days) and felt incredibly like Snow White getting work done in the dwarves’ house.

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The kitchen!

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That opening in the wall was the only source of light in the kitchen… Love/hate relationship.

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The back of Peter’s house, Brandon’s hammock AND him brushing his teeth!

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Upstairs in Peter’s house. My hammock is to the right!

We were excited, nervous, and looking forward to the next couple of days in the village! That is until when 6:00 p.m. rolled around, it was pitch black and time to make dinner. Hmm. Thank you, flashlights. Have you ever tried to make a dinner for 9 people using 1 baby flashlight? Sounds rather romantic, doesn’t it? Yes, until you stub your toe the third time and dropped the beans. We very quickly learned to value the light of day and that the sun is a formidable force that is on its own schedule and will not budge.

However, we also very quickly learned the absolute beauty of the night sky and the millions of stars we were able to see everywhere we looked. Pausing now to picture that complete tranquility and vastness of creation makes me miss it deeply.

The next couple of days looked a little like this:

Mornings:

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A beautiful glimpse of what we would see from the dock of Peter’s house.

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One of the multiple canoes passing throughout the day.

One thing that I loved (granted, I am one of those crazy morning people) was waking up with the sun. From as early as 4:45 a.m., you could hear the sound of people in the village starting to rise along with the bustle of morning preparation. I’d rise (that makes it sound graceful…) from my hammock (more like wiggle out of the hammock and then fall to the ground) and come down to start the coffee (shocking that I put that job on myself?) and begin breakfast preparation with some of the awesome students.

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We’d eat breakfast together on the back porch, watching the sun rise and the people traveling along the glassy-smooth river in their canoes.

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Breakfast time.

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Warao children during the day.

After breakfast and cleaning up, we would get our gear ready for lice removal and first aid in the village. Once we were set, we walked up and down the dock yelling “ami” (lice) and “boci” (first aid) to let everyone know. Thinking about it now, if someone yelled “lice,” and “first aid” from the street, I would think they were crazy. Thankfully, they knew we weren’t crazy and had mercy on us non-Warao speakers (their language). From each hut, kids would emerge and start tagging along, holding our hands, helping us call out to other families. By the time we got back to the small church, we had quite a bundle of lovable and precious kids.

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The dock stretching and connecting the houses in the village.

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On our way to church!

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We definitely learned very important lessons  in how to detangle hair. Seriously, put that on our resumes. While eradicating lice is somewhat impossible given the relatively short amount of time we would be there and the prevalence of it everywhere, showing love and affection by taking the time to work through each child’s (and even some young mothers) hair said so much more than the few phrases we knew in their language.

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It’s incredible how when you break through that physical comfort bubble we love keeping around ourselves, the thoughts that pop into your mind are not the “ew,” rather, the “this is such a beautiful child,” “how in the world did we get so blessed to be here?” “what are their days actually like?” “how else can I show them that I care?”.

There is something incredibly beautiful and simple through these small acts.

Afternoons:

Each afternoon we would do a small Vacation Bible School for the kids in the village (around 70 kids in total). We would play some games, sing songs, peform a skit, craft, and more games.

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VBS! They were busy decorating their animal mask crafts.

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So creative!

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After, we would walk up and down the dock, just being available to talk and be with the people. One day while we were walking, a couple who just recently had a baby asked us to name their child. No joke. Talk about pressure!

After VBS, we would usually go outside and swim in the river to bathe. This always was a highlight of the day because usually within 5 minutes of us jumping in the water with our soap, a group of kids would swim over and join our fun. Even without being able to speak the language, you don’t need a translator to play!

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Swimming/cleaning during the day!

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The kids quickly joined our fun. 🙂

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Evenings: 

Each “evening,” around 4:30 p.m., they would have a community prayer service at their Iglesiata (church). It was incredible to see everyone showing up, singing and clapping along to each song with such gusto. Seriously, everyone, down to the little ones, knew all the words and would be singing right along in Warao. While I had no clue what they were singing and saying, it truly didn’t matter when you know that God is being glorified in that moment. Together, we were a community. It was such a beautiful time. One night, Brandon was asked to share a little message at the church, and I was able to share the next night.

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The students also got really good at playing Nerts.

After the church service, it was a mad rush against the sun to prepare dinner! Guys. Making dinner and doing dishes without light is hard. Everywhere I go now, I will bring a flashlight. While the dinner was getting ready, the students walked around and spent time with people in the community.

Aside from the dinner prep and clean up (which was fun in its own challenging kind of way), the evenings were indescribable. Tired and sunburnt, but utterly full from the interactions from the day, in our time after dinner we would just sit along the river in the company of the stars and choir of frogs thinking and reflecting. When it seemed like it was 10:00 p.m. (in reality, more like 7:00 p.m.) and we were fighting falling asleep, we’d all retreat to our beds to get ready for the next day.

While we were there just for a short while, I know that it has left a life-changing impact on me and each one of the students in many different ways. For me, these are the little thoughts I’m still chewing on, one week later:

  • Serving is not the extravagant. It’s the ordinary, the gross, the small and many times invisible task that simply states, “This needs to be done and I can be the one to do it”. While it is good to make intentional plans to be available and serve in an organized fashion, I am discovering more and more the importance of being open and willing to be useful in all situations. This attentiveness and desire is not natural. I know, you know, we all know and have experienced the struggle that happens between doing what we want to do and doing what needs to get done. But, I have seen the difference in the day when you look at those opportunities as life-giving and what we are actually here to fulfill.
  • We are constantly distracted by and attached to technology. Yes. Understatement of the year. Being there with no electricity, water, convenient appliances, wifi, cell service reminds you that you actually do not needs those things to survive. What’s even more incredible is that you forget about all of those things the second you are there because, guess what? It doesn’t matter. Life is still full and good, and so much better when you are fully present and connected to exactly where you are and who you are with in that moment.
  • God is universal. We are a part of something so beyond ourselves and it’s awesome.
  • It’s so easy to forget, but we have to work hard to remember those thoughts, feelings, interactions and faces. Our stories and experiences teach us so many important things. However, in going back to “regular” life, the challenge is keeping the memories and lessons fresh and meaningful.
  • Appreciate what we have. Even when we have little, we have so much. How can we be thankful for it and generous? Our pastor in California said something once that has stuck with both Brandon and myself, “live adequately, so that you can give extravagantly” .

We are so thankful for this opportunity and time with these great students, some of them graduating this year and going off to do amazing things. Now, it’s gearing up for the last 5 school weeks left of this school year!

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A typical home.

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The community bathroom!

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Such beautiful children.

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Taken the night before returning home, after the boat ride. TIRED, but truly content.

On Haircuts and Taking the Plunge.

I’ve been debating cutting my hair for the past year, now.

No, seriously. Just ask Brandon.

(Don’t give up on this blog post just yet. I promise. It will get more interesting.)

Well, you see, “debating” may have a different meaning here… this “debating” looks more like:

  • I spend hours scrolling through “dream” haircuts, save them on my computer, although in “real life” I am TERRIFIED of actually doing it.
  • I incessantly ask Brandon, “what do you think?” “Should I do it?” or, “ NO REALLY, what do you think? REALLY, should I do it??”
  • I have sudden movements of bravery, making definitive statements aloud to an empty room, such as: “I’m doing it!” Only to be followed by, “…Maybe next year..”

Why, you ask?

It’s just a stinkin’ haircut, Sallie! It grows! it doesn’t even matter!

Well, as it turns out, these things always represent something much more than what’s on the surface (or the scalp, in this case), don’t they?

I don’t know why, but, it has always taken forever for my hair to grow. They say hair grows on average 6 inches a year (don’t worry, I’ve done plenty of research on this one when I should have been actually doing work). My hair, during a good year, grows about 3 inches.

However, those three inches are like runners in the last 3 miles left in a marathon. They are the scraggly, tired, hardly-still-in-one-piece mess. But, nonetheless, I am extremely proud of those ragged beasts.

So, the thought of even trimming one of those little fighters is too much to bear. Truly. I promise I’m not doing this for dramatic purposes. Somewhere deep in me is a “let them be” and “never touch them!” mentality.

Also, even deeper in me, there is this “I was born to have luscious, long locks” belief.

I have equated my most ideal, perfect, and ultimate hair as being long and magazine-cover worthy.

Maybe that is a result of never actually experiencing “mermaid-like” hair. Or, a combination of so many images from the media, friends, magazines, Pinterest, etc. (of COURSE that affects my beliefs, whether I want to deny it or not).

Basically, at the base of it all, what I am confessing is that I believe I am not “good” enough until a piece of me matches up to my image of perfection.

I have subconsciously convinced myself that in order for me to be truly beautiful, I need the Rapunzel-worthy hair.

This can be applied to many other facets of my appearance that I deem “imperfect” or “waiting-to-be-good-enough”. While I may not ever admit to someone that I am withholding acceptance of my hair until it meets my expectations, somewhere deep within me believes it.

While I will not ever complement myself or even admit that a part of me is “good enough” as is, I am holding out until I achieve that nonexistent ideal. I am not happy with my weight… but, eventually. My hair is not long enough, but someday. My teeth are not straight enough, well, after my braces are taken off. My skin is too pale, well, maybe I’ll get a tan during the summer. It sounds ridiculous to say this aloud to something. They would slap some sense into me. However, I still think these things.

What has scared me as a result of this revelation, is that the contentment has never been in the now, in the present. The actual acceptance of myself and all that it entails has always been for a future, unrealistic me.

Which makes me ask the question: Have I ever truly been content with simply just me? Not me 1 month from now, haircut, 5 pounds less/more, bronzed-goddess, straight-toothed me. But, imperfect, quirky, non-supermodel, me.    

I once read somewhere that it would be 100% ridiculous to get angry, disappointed and frustrated with ourselves if we were trying to fit our 7.5 size foot into a size 4 shoe. No amount of yelling or self-degradation would shrink your foot. Also, why in your right mind, would you truly get angry at your foot for not fitting? Clearly, THE SHOE WILL NOT FIT. Never was meant to. Never will.

However, I’m afraid we’ve lost sight of this ridiculousness in regards to other parts of ourselves in the light of our what is our “ideal” self.

Why are we forcing ourselves into an image, that perhaps, was never meant to be for us? What if I end up hating the thing that I strived so long for? Only to figure out after it’s too late that it was never meant to be for me? And even worse, what have we sacrificed on the road to perfection?

While hair is hair, the frustration, discontent, and the never-being-good-enough mentality that comes with always waiting, waiting, waiting for the future and more “perfect” us to come, is real and the opposite of how we should be living.

I’ve been putting this together recently, thanks to coming face-to-face with my own silly example: hair.

We need to stop living for the “future” us. Yes, it is good to strive towards being healthy and whole. However, there is a fine line between both extremes of this pendulum: disdain and excess.

We are us – shoe-size, pant-size, face-shaped, eye-color, hair texture, voice, ethnicity – on purpose. Instead of making excuses and explanations to justify that we are “in progress,” we need to take ownership and actually like who and what we are currently.

Be intentionally you. Get your hair cut. Buy those jeans in the size you are currently. Smile. Laugh. Live and don’t make excuses. Stop worrying. Stop obsessing. Stop comparing.

Be content, because, remember, you are you on purpose.

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Pre-haircut nerves. 

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FREEDOM.

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The guys making fun of us. Good one.

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This was like the 10th picture. That’s why they were making fun of us.

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Freedom for my hair. And for me.

One Year Ago Today.

I guess you can already figure out what this blog post is about.

Well, no trickery here! You’ve guessed correctly.

I suppose the alternate title for this post could be: Isn’t It Amazing How Much One Year Can Bring?

Reading through my journal the other day, I decided to take a trip down memory lane and breeze through previous entries. Confession: I am not a very consistent writer. There are definitely seasons where I have written something down in my journal almost every day. Granted, what I write is not Pulitzer-prize worthy and many times resembles more of a to-do list. And then you see the months-long hiatus where long stretches of time have been forgotten just like that one random sock left without its pair jammed tightly in the corner of a drawer.

Well, I am VERY thankful I had at least captured part of our world this time last year.

We’re going to play a little comparison game of then-and-now! Where, again, you’ve guessed correctly, we’ll be doing exactly that. I told you, no shockers or twists here.

Then: 

Brandon was working at small financial office in California. I was in my second year of teaching Elementary Spanish and Science at a private Christian School.

Now: 

We are working together! Brandon primarily teaches the 11th and 12th graders some pretty awesome Economics, Business Math and Bible! I literally spend my whole day with the middle schoolers teaching Social Studies, Science, English (last semester) and Bible.

Then: 

We were taking grad classes a couple of nights every week, working at coffee shops on weekends, and counting down the days until we graduated!

Now:

While the grad classes are DONE, the lesson planning is our constant companion on Sundays. While we spent a lot of our time after school last semester getting unit plans and paperwork completed for our accreditation this year, we are DONE with that as of this week (CELEBRATE) and are looking forward to more “normal” things during the week nights and weekends.

A funny reality is that since we got married 2 1/2 years ago, we have been involved in something (grad classes, lesson planning or accreditation), which had taken a good chunk of our free time. As a result, this is the first time we have a life not bound by papers, deadlines, and/or unit plans! We don’t know what to do with ourselves. Seriously.

Some things we have found to invest our newly-found time in:

  • Weekly Spanish tutoring with an awesome lady from our church.  Our Saturdays are Spanish-filled from 9-12.
  • Card games. We are currently loving: Nerts, Big 2, Gin. Brandon refuses to play now because I am winning.
  • The usual board games. We’ve even started a board game club every Tuesday with some high school students. We. Are. So. Cool.
  • Cooking!
  • Leisure reading. What?! Yes.
  • Mario Party. I’m awful. I get so frustrated. I want to throw the controller. But, it’s fun. Except Brandon always wins.
  • Spending intentional time with people in our community (inside and outside of the school)
    •  This has been our FAVORITE. To finally have time to pour into relationships. We have high hopes for this, and want to continue being available and intentional.

Then:

We attended an awesome church and were blessed to be a part of their worship team.

Now:

We attend a great (Spanish-speaking) church here! Still involved in the worship team, but, are building up our repertoire of songs in Spanish.

Then:

So much of our “future plans” were big question marks. While at this time last year, we had just officially accepted the teaching positions here in Venezuela for the fall, we didn’t know much/any of the logistics other than the arrival date. We knew a number of classes we could be teaching, didn’t know where we would live, and protests had just rocked the nation this time last year.

I remember having this dread, seeing the place we would be moving to in all the major news headlines. BBC. CNN. All of the 3-letter news outlets. When looking up “Caracas, Venezuela” on Google, seriously, only bad news would pop up. All I could think about this time last year was, “Did we make a mistake?” And sadly, the “Do we really have to go?” kept running silently in the back of my mind as a result of so many unknowns.

Why is it that the second something isn’t “nice” or “comfortable” our initial response is to back out?

I remember calling my parents and just spilling out all of these fears and emotions. In the midst of my mini-panic of whether we made the right, safe, responsible decision, my Dad’s wise response, just like always, was life-changing: In us going, what prayers are being answered? Not in any way am I saying I, Sallie Kae Burroughs am the answer to prayer. It could be absolutely anyone else. But, our hearts were tugged in this direction for a reason, and to not respond because of insecurity would be to ignore God’s plan for us. Recognizing that we were part of God’s bigger, grander plan in this area (school, community, church), and that we could actually fill a role, no matter how practical and small it could be, was like a rush (ok, I’ll be honest, a gentle breeze) of calm to my ever-ready-to-be-anxious heart. Our actions go far beyond just affecting us. They also affect (either positively or negatively) those in the place you are being prepared to go. It doesn’t end with us.

Looking back to my journal entry on February 16th, 2014 (I know, I know, that’s technically tomorrow, but, whatever), I was going through a random Joyce Meyer devotional that sparked this:

Joshua 1:9 – Have not I commanded you? Be strong, vigorous, and very courageous. Be not afraid, neither be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”. 

“While we may take steps of faith to make progress in life, there is no guarantee that we will not experience opposition, hardship, or suffering. But we do have God’s guarantee that He will ALWAYS be with us, and that is truly all we need.”

Now:

Something that so impacted me then and is still a nugget of truth today, is that: We don’t need to know what God is going to do, how He is going to do it, or when He is going to do it. We only need to know He is with us” (thank you, Joyce Meyer). 

While things here are still rocky at times, and the water has been off for a week, inflation is crazy, and there are lines outside of the grocery stores for basic food staples that I haven’t seen in months, God is with us. He has constantly and IS constantly providing. I don’t want you to read this thinking that we are living barely scrapping by. We are totally and 100% ok. But, there is definitely a sense of hopelessness among the people, and there is still a huge question mark as to what will happen here in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.

I still struggle with wanting to know. Know what will happen, in all arenas. Who will come to teach at the school next year as some teachers are not coming back because their contracts have ended or their paths are going elsewhere? Who will be our community this time next year? How will our church be when our pastor and his family go on their sabbatical in the States for the next year? What will happen to this country full of hard-working individuals who have seen and gone through so much without any guarantees or security? Gosh, I want to know so much.

However, we are not guaranteed that knowledge now, and sometimes ever. Looking back over the past year has answered so many questions that I was wrestling with this time last year. But, thankfully, do we really have to know all the details in order to be obedient? To still be a light? To still not grow weary doing good?

There is A LOT more that I could write about. Random updates and thoughts, events, and conversations from the past month. And, if I’m feeling ambitious during Carnaval (Venezuelan holiday) the next two days, I will post some other updates. However, the purpose of this post was to encourage. To reflect. And to prove that God is in the midst of all the question marks.

Looking back to see how God is working is a holy act, I think. He is faithful in providing the people, places, and conversations to show us His sovereign plan.

Are you feeling unsure about so many things in your life right now? Are you deeply desiring just one answer? Big or small? Aren’t we all?

I urge you to stop the rapid-fire mental questioning and anxiety that is so exhausting. I urge you to look back over the past year and really see where you were and how things are different now.

God is constantly at work in us and in our lives. And while we may not have the answers we want or desire, we constantly have his sweet and life-changing guarantee that He is with us. And that is enough.

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Home.

It’s hard to believe that 2.5 weeks have passed in what seems like a blink of an eye! Friday we traveled from Cleveland to Miami. Miami to Panama. Panama to Caracas. Home. A 2,325 mile trek, 70 degree difference in weather, to take us from one “home” to another.

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Don’t we look excited to travel! You would never guess how early this picture was taken.

Home. A concept that has so many different meanings, connotations and feelings associated with it. My thesis my senior year of college was on the importance of Home, and to tell you the truth, even then it was incredibly difficult to put into words a construct so deep, different and dynamic as it is.

Growing up, we moved a lot all throughout high school. However, during that time, it really sunk in that home is not the place, rather the people who make it. Home is the result of the intentionality, dedication, and purpose of the people who form it.

I feel like there is this idea (unspoken or not) that you can only have one “home” at a time. I think that this belief is not only completely incorrect, but, potentially harmful. This is not a simple mathematical problem where you end up subtracting one from the other to get where you are. You do not “lose” one community. Rather, you take those pieces that are life-shaping, those that formed you and stick with you, and incorporate them within the new place you are currently building your life.

Sometimes, I feel like there is a sense of guilt and comparison that comes with this process. Guilt that you shouldn’t be sad or else what you’re doing isn’t “right”. Guilt that you are leaving friends and family behind while you are chasing after your dreams. And comparison that inevitably always happens when something new is different from the way you did it before or just how things were.

It’s in these times that something small but forceful can potentially creep in. Something that seeps its way up into our minds and thoughts when we are not trying to think of it. That quiet, unwelcome question, “Did I make the right decision?”

I feel like this question, while real and true and something that we all have had many times in our lives, is part of that subtraction problem I mentioned earlier. When you begin to doubt whatever decision you made, I feel like it opens the doors for more and more uncertainty to build and take over. This is what I believe robs us of that feeling of “home”. The lack of confidence in our decisions, which, whether intentionally or unintentionally, reflects a lack of trust in God’s plan, impedes our full ability to invest in the new community and others, rather than just focusing internally on our emotions and whether or not we are doing what we should be doing. This is the loss of living fully. The stall in being fully present while you are creating your home.

I feel like this idea of home has been on my mind a lot more due to hopping around some of our other homes and visiting our dear friends and family over vacation. It was so good, rejuvenating and restful to see our family and friends, to walk streets that were familiar, run paths that our feet already knew, to drink coffee (and lots of it) at our old favorite spots.

It is so much easier to talk in person than in Skype, sometimes, and we did a lot of talking over break. A lot of catching up, congratulating, and celebrating. We planned, we laughed, we played, and we were grateful.

If I could use one word to capture our feelings over break, it would be that: grateful.

Grateful for families who takes us out to eat and watch us jump for joy while eating a Chipotle burrito. (In all reality, although I did not jump for joy, I definitely clapped my hands and cheered unintentionally during many meals)

Grateful for parents who have invested time, prayers, encouragement and so much more every step of the way.

Grateful for friends who are absolutely wonderful, life-long pillars in our lives, regardless of the distance and location.

Grateful for nieces and nephews who are full of life, joy, fun, and grow more in their incredibly unique and awesome personalities each time we see them.

Grateful for clean tap water, toilets you can flush paper down, English, familiarity, and stocked grocery stores. It was also during this time where I had to truly come to understand that being grateful, thankful, and appreciative of the homes that we have in California and Ohio should not take away from my feeling grateful to be in Caracas.

Yes, there are differences in these two homes. The obvious ones, and the small, minute things. However, this is where we are investing, planting new roots, and growing together and in community.

When we got to our apartment (at 3 a.m.) and opened our door in our sad, delirious, sleep-deprived state, there was something special, exciting and fulfilling to know that we are here. While it had to be post-poned until the next morning when we were no longer sleep-walking zombies, the feeling was still there.

While I am still trying to balance these emotions, thoughts and meanings of home being in many different places at once, I do know that we are here for a reason. One that is bigger than my thoughts, plans, or dreams. One that is not sustained or lessened by my emotions, but, something placed in our path that I fully believe in.

I don’t have a very organized or succinct way of describing our adventures over our break. So, instead, you can just look through some of the random snapshots (basically, say “hello” to my photo album) to see what we are grateful for in all of our homes over break (Guys, I’m so sorry. I always do this… I don’t post pictures often enough, so, when I finally do, there is a crazy picture overload… I don’t blame you for just briefly glancing. Or not even glancing at all. Seriously.):

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First breakfast in the States: Panera. Awesome.

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Brandon surprised me with tickets to see Wicked for the first time!

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I’m pretty sure he now regrets it. I’ve been singing my own versions of the songs for over 2 weeks now.

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This little nugget enjoying her Christmas presents.

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Getting so big!

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Love my Burroughs family!

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Reunion with such dear, dear friends. Happy heart!

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Slow mornings, french press coffee, and quality time with some of our favorite people.

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We love our friends.

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LAX —> CLE

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Hiking with the family! Cole slept the whole time.

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Enjoying a snow-less Ohio. Definitely no complaining with that.

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Family time in the warehouse.

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My lovely mother.

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The baby whisperer. No. That’s not our baby.

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I’d say my Dad is cooler than yours.

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Morning Cole time. His hand was more interesting than I was… But, I’ll take what I can get.

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Wouldn’t be Christmas without some Ticket to Ride.

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One lucky lady.

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Grateful for straight-up ice cream. Yes. In 20 degree weather.

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Back home in Caracas. Ready for what 2015 brings!

Visas, Sick Days, and Braces.

You know those days that you just have a really intense, wham!, hit-you-in-the-face craving? Today’s one of those days. And it is specifically a hankering for a breakfast burrito. While there are many foods here that are absolutely tasty… There are others that are definitely missed and I cannot remake them quite like the original. I’m talking to you right now, Alberto’s diner & Taco King.

*** Public Service Announcement: Prepare yourself for an overload of pictures ***

Yesterday was a funny day. This past weekend was our staff’s Spiritual Retreat in a small German town named Colonial Tovar about 1.5 hours away. Yes. You read that correctly a GERMAN town in Venezuela. Apparently, at some point in history (the details are fuzzy), the Germans settled within a certain mountainous area, and only within the last 50 years or so were roads to Colonial Tovar made. Keeping it the random gem that it is!

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Photo cred: Kimber Yountz (as I was lying in bed around the time this picture was taken).

We left right after school was out on Friday, all looking forward to a weekend of community and exploring a new area. However, quickly on Friday night, I noticed something wasn’t right. I kept on getting colder and colder throughout the night while trying to sleep, no matter how many layers I put on… This only progressed further into a full-out high fever, stomach aches and complications and quite the daze of a Saturday/Sunday spent all day in bed. Suffice it to say, yesterday was a “forced” sick day from school (praise God I’m feeling better today!), meaning I was told from multiple people that I should not be coming into school. They are wise. While the weekend was a blur, I did get to see the hotel room! Our sweet friends, who drove us back, were nice enough to stop through town so we could pick up some strawberries and jam. A trip back to Colonial Tovar is in the books!

However, with that extra time of rest, I was able to write most of this (much delayed) post!

Three months here!

This past month’s highlights include the following:

1. Curacao!

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How I miss thee!

The new teachers this year were required to go on a short trip (2.5 days) for our visas to remain current. We left early on Friday morning, and arrived at the small island after a short 45-minute flight. What a mix of a culture! It’s a territory of the Netherlands, but, inhabited by people from many nearby places. Therefore, over time, the languages spoken in the area (Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, English) have combined into their own language called Papiamento. What Brandon and I found, interestingly enough, was that it was easier to start conversations in Spanish rather than English, as Papiamento had more commonalities with Spanish.

What a fun, super quick, weekend. It really flew by too quickly. But, what a blessing! We were able to find the equivalent of Costco there to pick up things we haven’t been able to find in Venezuela.

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Treasures from Curacao Costco: Oatmeal, Tortilla Chips, Peanut Butter, Laundry Detergent, Wax Paper. Be grateful for the things you have access to!

Also important, there was a Starbucks on the island. Now, I’ve told you about the coffee situation. The coffee is NOT bad here. It’s good! Truly. But, when you are an ambiance person (my middle name), coffee in a great location = everything. Therefore, something as simple as Starbucks, with some unnamed jazz music playing in the background, was a breath of fresh air (given with a shot of caffeine).

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Starbucks was an absolute dream.

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Sweet simplicity. Enjoy each moment of your life. Soak it in.

We only had one full day on the island. So we packed it in and visited two of the lovely beaches along the coast! Here are some pictures from our trip:

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Each street ended with “weg”. There was even a Franklin Rooseveltweg.

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We loved the beaches!

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My awesome dinner date.

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Beautiful view of the sunset.

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Road trip across the island!

2. Braces!

What? Yes.

Braces.

Who?

Me.

Yes, me.

I know. I am 24 years old and that is generally something done much younger, right? When I was younger, we never even considered it. I don’t think that it was ever even a conversation within my family. My brother and I have fairly naturally straight teeth. However, welcome wisdom teeth! Too many teeth + not enough space in the mouth = crowded. It hasn’t bothered me a bunch, however, it was always on my list of “that would be cool if it worked out…”. We even asked our dentist in the States if it was an option right before going overseas, and she said it would not work doing it long-distance.

So, I thought that was that. Except, when we got here everyone has braces. That’s a bit of an overstatement. However, many many adults have braces here, and it is seen as somewhat of a statement. People actually ask to have the brackets put on just so that they have that “look”. Plus, it’s very economical here.

I ended up making an appointment at the recommendation of a friend, and was really impressed with the place. It is Spanish-speaking only office, and due to the standing appointments I’ll have every couple of weeks, it is awesome (and mandatory) opportunity to be in the city and something “normal-ish” since we are living here. I’ll post pictures below as my formal cyber debut.

I’ll warn you: I look like I’m 12. I looked like I was 16 before, but, this one really does it.

Here it goes, world!

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Transformation Tuesday! Brandon found his own barbershop!

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16 year-old me!

Things I’ve learned from having braces:

1. Food gets stuck easier than flies on honey. Is that a saying? Something like that, right? Well, you get the idea. I was an avid-teeth-brusher before, and that has only intensified now. I have one of those flossy, pipe cleaner hook things, and boy, are those a life saver! However, I tend to forget to bring it to places. Hence, a no-smiling/teeth baring Sallie.

2. They are an extremely humbling experience! You think that having several ounces of metal occupying your mouth would be no big deal, no major change.. Huh, that was wrong thinking on my part! People do notice, people do ask, and it really makes you reevaluate what you place your identity in. Seriously. I just went there. If before I was ever only a “smile,” shame on me! We are more than our features and especially more than what the world deems as “pretty”.

3. It hurts. I’ve finally been able to start slowly chewing little bits of meat on one side of my mouth after 2 weeks. I thought I was ready for it. But, when you think about the fact that your teeth are literally moving, it makes sense.

4. I can relate with my students better. After the newness of it wore off for them, I sense a deeper empathy for those students who have had prior, present or future orthodontia.

5. I’m really indecisive about the color of the rubber bands. Currently, they’re gray. My students want lime green. I told them I’d compromise and get pastel purple. We’ll see what happens. Usually I suffer from regret once the decision is made. Lucky me, the colors change regularly.

6. Straws are my new best friend. I mentioned my teeth-brushing addiction and stain paranoia before. Now with braces, it’s amplified. Coffee does not taste the same through a straw. But. All for the teeth.

Moving away from the teeth.

Our Fall Festival (like a carnival) is this Saturday! It is a family-wide event where parents bring food, the kids have to come up with their own game booths and everyone is there to enjoy time together and raise funds for the school. We’re working hard to prepare, and are hoping for an awesome time for everyone involved.

Also, Brandon’s birthday is next Monday… Woohoo!

Thinking of our friends and family at home, and definitely missing them during this season that’s full of time that would have normally been spent together.

I don’t think there are any other major updates other than Brandon leading his own Soccer club weekly to Middle school and High school guys.. And being awesome at doing that.

I will do my best to check in earlier than every month. Truly. Hopefully, not during any more sick days. 🙂

Oh, and look at these awesome 7th/8th graders:

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Brownies, Cinnamon Rolls, Cupcakes galore!

Joint birthday for two of our students. We all brought treats. Our eyes are way bigger than our stomachs.

Have a beautiful day full of gratitude for the things that make up your day. The normal and the ordinary, the big and the special. All of it.

Love,

Sallie