This Christmas was a tour around the United States!
The weeks before our Christmas break were a bit different, as Venezuela was having major elections and school was cancelled for a couple of days before leaving for break.
During those days, we were asked to stay local and not to go out, just in case of anything that might result from the elections. So, what do a bunch of teachers hunkered down at their apartments do with free time?
Badminton, that’s what. A lot of Badminton.
Before, I would say that I was a comfortably below-average player. After those few days, though, I’d say I’m pretty average which says a lot.
After the elections, things calmly returned back to normal and we finished out that week of school. We left mid-December for three weeks in the States, dividing up our time to see as much family as possible!
1st Leg: California
Well, let’s be honest, the first real stop of our Christmas break was the Houston Airport. No joke. We flew with the Director of our school and his family, and ate some awesome Ruby’s Burgers as soon as we landed. Then, we picked up a coffee for the next flight to California. Incredible.
It’s the little things, guys.
We were in California for less than a week, but, what a fun week it was! Between game nights at the house, catching up with good friends, shopping for some essentials to bring back with us, and long (flat) runs in the morning, it was good. Because our bodies were still used to a different time zone, we got up ridiculously early and took advantage of not having to rush anywhere in the mornings.
One of the highlights from California was being able to go to our old home church, Foothill Church. We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to go due to the scheduling and timing of everything, but, we were so happy to be able to! We got to see so many people we respect and admire, friends and pastors who have encouraged and supported us through many different seasons in life while we were in California. It was by far a highlight.
Another highlight was Megan (my awesome sister-in-law) getting us passes to Disneyland for the day (!!!). We had mentioned for quite some time that it would be great to go there since it had been years for either one of us. But, if you haven’t seen the prices there in a while, it’s not like buying tickets for a movie… More like take every movie you would see in a year times 30. So, it was the best gift that she made it possible for us to go and we had such a great time.
The only downside: 40 degree weather. I know, I know, 40 degrees is nothing! Say that to people whose bodies are now conditioned to shiver at temperatures below 70. We stayed moving and bundled up as best as we could the whole night.
We celebrated the first of many family Christmases with our California clan, and it was full of love, food, and fun with everyone, including our sweet niece Adeline, who we got to meet for the first time while visiting!
2nd Leg: Dallas, Texas
Brandon and I were so happy we were able to make it to see the extended Burroughs/Branning clan in Texas this year! We had not been able to visit the past couple of years due to moving around/being in different places/not having the time off from work and really wanted to be there this year.
Between the couple of days we were there, we visited both sides of the family, stayed up late playing too many games of Coup and Avalon (look those games up and I promise you won’t be disappointed that you did), ate some great food, and celebrated together.
Brandon and I were able to share a little bit about what our time in Venezuela has looked like, and things that we can continue to be praying about in the months to come.
3rd Leg: Cleveland, Ohio
Straight from Dallas, we flew into Cleveland on Christmas Eve to visit my parents at their incredible warehouse. Seriously. It’s incredible. I’m blown away every time we drive up and see the creation that my parents have so diligently and skillfully put together.
Our time in Cleveland was cold yet so life-giving. Lots of coffee times full of great conversations, catching up on shows we haven’t seen in over 2 years (and starting new ones), sitting on the couch with blankets pulled up around us, and getting to see my dear friend, Kelsey (my Maid of Honor), and her family while we were there.
About 3 days after arriving and drinking gallons of coffee, we packed ourselves in the car for the next leg of the trip:
4th Leg: West Lafayette, Indiana
Six hours (give or take some minutes), multiple coffee/snack stops and bathroom breaks later, we made it to West Lafayette to stay almost a week with my brother, Zach, sister-in-law Lauren, and their sweet 17-month-old son, Cole in their cozy home.
What fun we had hanging out with the whole Hallum+ family (Bran and I are the +) together, running around with Cole, making meals together, taking insanely difficult but fun classes at the gym (difficult for me, piece of cake for my mom and Lo), playing lots of games, movies, and going to eye appointments for me (yay)!
We even snuck in some family photos!
After celebrating the New Year together (a.k.a. forcing ourselves to stay awake until midnight), we packed up the car again to head back to Cleveland.
5th Leg: Cleveland, Ohio + Airport
We had planned to stay until Sunday in Cleveland, not leaving for Caracas until that afternoon. So, leaving Indiana Friday morning we thought we could take advantage of the last bits of time we would have together that day and Saturday.
However, on Friday we found out that the flight we were on was cancelled, which meant we would be taking another flight still leaving Sunday afternoon… but not getting into Caracas until 6 a.m. the following morning. That would be 30 minutes before we were to start work.
Long story short, we were able to find another flight that would get us in Sunday morning at 6:00 a.m., but, that meant leaving on Saturday and flying throughout the night. Bummed to not have a full day with my parents as we thought, but grateful to not be getting in the same exact time that we would have been working, we hastily packed and got ready for our 24 hours of travel.
On the way back, I experienced something for the first time that I feel I should have experienced ages ago: lost baggage. After delayed flights in Newark, forcing us to switch our itinerary entirely (again), we arrived in Caracas, but our bags did not.
Apparently, I was due for a little refresher in the importance of patience and trusting in the Lord, because, this was definitely a scenario that required it.
While we filed the delayed luggage report, took all the necessary steps to ensure that our bags would eventually get there, there was no guarantee when or in what condition the bags would be in. Without sounding dramatic, you really have no clue what the state of your luggage coming in to the country will be (delayed or on time). As we were bringing lots of essentials not only for us that we can’t find here, and bringing important things for friends here, we were praying for days that it would come and everything would be in the bags.
Three days later, our bags were dropped off in the middle of teaching a class. Everything was inside! Obviously we were thrilled when they arrived untouched, however, those days of waiting really showed me that I cannot control certain things (more like, everything) and that the worrying and havoc that occurs in the mind during the waiting game is just distracting and destructive. It is just stuff. Yeah, a bummer to not be able to give out those gifts we brought with us, but, there are more important things in life.
It warms my heart so much looking back to those busy and beautiful three weeks we spent with family and friends all over. While there are still so many people I wish I could have sat down to have coffee and just spend quality time with, activities that we would have loved to do, and the list goes on and on, I am fully grateful for our sweet time with each and every person we saw.
The more time we are here, the more I realize the magnitude of how much I love and cherish those family and friends scattered around those different States. It’s a weird thing to always cherish and miss people no matter where you are, but, it is something I am thankful for.
We are grateful, refreshed and full of special memories with our loved ones that are carried with us here, now that we are back in Caracas and fully in the swing of things!