Monday, December 15, 2014


So Christmas is all about surprises, right?

  • Children's eyes lighting up with joy when they discover the bike they hoped for.  
  • Aged parents answering the doorbell and finding the children they thought couldn't come, standing on the threshold.
  • The perfect silence of an unexpected snowfall.
  • The look of shock on the face of a husband or wife when they unwrap the very item they had pondered all year long.
And oh the delight for the heart of the "giver" of such surprise gifts!

Well, yesterday our entire church experienced that kind of delight!

For weeks there had been a considerable amount of secrecy going on in our office.  At one point, I stepped into the front office and declared to John and the others, "You aren't very discreet.  I want to know what's going on."

John never even looked up from the computer screen.  "You know what time of year it is!  Just don't ask! You'll find out eventually."

And with that, I was banished to the waiting room of the UN-informed!

Even the children had more information than Frank and I did.  At our board and staff party Friday night, a twelve year old looked up at one of the board members.  She gave a cagey smile, started nodding her head and said with meaning, "See you on SUNDAY!"

Oh, the agony of being in the dark!

Saturday night I finally approached Frank about it.  "Do YOU know what they're up to?"

"Nope!"  And with that, he kept right on getting his things ready for our early morning departure.  He didn't even seem to be bothered by the fact that we had NO FACTS!

My sigh of exasperation didn't phase him either.  Although I did catch a little smile peeking from under his calm facade.

(I'm too excited about this news to drag the story out any more;  here you go! )

Between services, we were told there would be a brief reception so everyone could enjoy connecting for Christmas.  Okay.

The reception took only moments and suddenly everyone started moving back to the sanctuary.  Okay.

They called us to the stage almost immediately and one of our dear board members read a prepared statement.  He used gracious terms to explain that we have served Garden Grove Church for almost ten years.  The board and staff wanted to mark this (in conjunction with Christmas) in an extra special way.

A table containing nine gift bags (all numbered) sat to our left.  And gift ten, a beautifully wrapped box, sat in front of us.  Frank and I were instructed to open each gift bag in order, then hold up the items.  The congregation laughed at our puzzled expressions and applauded with each gift........
  1. Febreeze  air freshener
  2. Hand sanitizer
  3. Mints
  4. Soap container
  5. Toothbrush/toothpaste
And so on.......

Bag number nine contained an extremely nice passport wallet.  Frank and I exchanged quick looks and smiles.  But we never could have imagined what was about to happen.

"Now, open the big box."

We moved forward and removed the wrapping paper.  Inside was a small duffel bag with a note attached.  "Look inside!"

Two envelopes.

One marked, "Pastor Sheri, read this one first."  Which I did and promptly began to cry.  More kind words about our service to our precious congregation finished with  "......because of this, we are sending you both to......"

Second envelope to be opened by Pastor Frank.

He pulled out a card that set me squealing and jumping around like I did over my Barbie doll house when I was nine years old.

Frank didn't even have time to read it all.  Because the words were written over................a flag of Israel! 

In 2015, our church will send us on the trip of our dreams.  We will go to Israel!

(I'm grinning like something silly even as I type those words!)

We would never have dared to anticipate something so grand; so generous; so impossible for a church our size.  Yet, they made it happen!  SURPRISE!!

And we couldn't be more grateful and excited!

There's more to this story, of course.  So I'll try to get part two out there tomorrow.  Just thought you might like something this Monday morning to smile about, too!

I'd love to hear about your favorite Christmas Surprise! Please click the response button and let us know.


  1. Wow!!! What a fantastic surprise!! How thoughtful, caring and loving of your congregation to do this for the two of you! :)

    A few years ago, when my son was living in Texas at Christmas time, I was completely surprised when he showed up at the door!! He had told me that he couldn't get away (he was playing semi-pro basketball and said he had mandatory practices) and I missed him so, so much. It had been MONTHS since I'd seen him. Well, he DID show up (everyone knew he was coming except me) and I screamed and then proceeded to cry like a baby. That boy of mine got so many hugs over the next few days! It makes me cry right now just thinking about it. It was the best Christmas present I have ever gotten. I sure am glad that he lives in Nebraska again and is only 1-1/2 hours away rather than 12 hours away! :)

    Wishing you and your family a very happy and blessed Christmas!

    1. PS: Our church is organizing a trip to Israel for this coming February. We won't be able to go ($$$) but it looks like it would be completely awesome. We are putting that trip on our 'bucket list' and hope to get to take it some day after we retire. What a wonderful opportunity for you! Enjoy!!

    2. What a Wonderful Christmas Surprise!! Thanks for sharing your story, Leeanne. And you're so right, we serve the most amazing congregation! I was told that there wasn't a dry eye in the house on Sunday. Christmas Blessings to you and your family as well!

  2. your wonderful so deserved surprise trip had me tearing up and so happy for you. I think your congregation must love you all as much as we love our pastor and family. May God continue to richly bless you with all the things that Money can't buy.......

    1. Our congregation truly IS wonderful! And you must have heard Frank's wonderful line, "Favor is better than money!" So very much that money can't buy. Merry Christmas!!

  3. Replies
    1. Yes, Enjay, and we're so thankful! Of course, the Father loves us each one and that's the greatest news!