Monday, December 15, 2014

Surprise! (A Christmas Classic)

This happened almost exactly 6 years ago... but it's still a story that warms my heart. I've made some changes to the original Grapevine post - hope you enjoy it. Merry Christmas!

Back in December of 2008, we were given the rare & wonderful gift of a day at the Disneyland Resort by friend who works for WDI (Walt Disney Imagineering)... his generosity enable us to experience both Disneyland & California Adventure for the day. We had a wonderful time riding the rides & watching our boys experience the parks.

But the story starts a bit farther back, as Shari & I decided to surprise the boys with this trip... especially the final destination. We'd been hinting that a special surprise was coming - but not that it was a trip. When we locked down the details with a few weeks to go, we began letting them know that a trip was coming, but not where we were going.

Braeden tried to figure it out, seeing if how far we were traveling (4 hours) or where we staying (Anaheim) would tell him anything... but that's one of the disadvantages of being 7 - he didn't realize that Disneyland was in Anaheim, just 4 hours away.

We did all sorts of things to keep things hidden - I took a different (slightly longer) route into Orange County to avoid all the Disneyland signs along I-5. (Plus, I hate driving through downtown L.A. on the 5... even at mid-day, it's stop-n-go traffic.) We brought the boys in through the side entrance of the hotel so they wouldn't see the big Mickey Mouse statue in the lobby. I even hid the Disney ads in the room so they wouldn't be reminded.

We had all kinds of slip-ups & near misses as well - a good friend wished us a great day at Disneyland with the boys in the room, but they didn't notice. Shari & I had to cover up a question about the Christmas parade at the parks with a long-winded discussion about the Visalia & Caruthers Christmas parades. I was very aware that I was talking about the theme parks a lot - so I tried to find ways to make the conversation seem "natural"... ha.

I'm not sure why, but Collin was pretty sure that he was going to Disneyland. Braeden patiently explained to him Tuesday afternoon why that couldn't be true (he thought we'd driven the wrong direction).

The close calls kept coming - our hotel was about a mile & a half from the parks, but it was right by one of the major intersections for Disney Way. Tuesday night, we could hear the fireworks in our room, but the boys were distracted by the TV and didn't seem to notice.

The next morning, we loaded back into our car and headed out to Dad's "meeting" (with my Imagineering friend)... and as we drove past the entrance sign, Braeden saw it.

"Where do you think we're going, buddy?" I asked.

"Disneyland," he answered.

"So what's the surprise?" she asked.

With a catch in his voice, he questioned, "Disneyland?," and when Shari & I told him he was right, he started laughing & yelling, "Collin, we're going to Disneyland!" The surprise & excitement in his voice was worth all the effort.

If you want more details about the trip, I blogged about most of it...
On the way home (we drove back after Disneyland closed), I had lots of time to think & pray - Shari & the boys fell asleep and I had 4 hours of driving to do. So my mind wandered from surprise trips to Christmas celebrations at Disneyland to the real reason for the Christmas season.

Some random thoughts:
  • it was a surprise to the Jews, even though God had littered clues all the way through the Old Testament writings - starting with Genesis 3 and continuing through the promises to the patriarchs... and just in case they hadn't figured it out by then, He gave the prophets one hint after another
  • just like Braeden, even with the evidence staring them in the face, it seemed too good to be true that the Messiah had finally come...
  • as I pondered this stuff, I realized that my role in the story is similar to the Enemy's role in our story, as he attempts to  distract us from the story of Jesus Christ at the center of Christmas and instead tries to get us to focus on other things
  • finally, as cool as Disneyland is (and I'm a HUGE Disney parks fan), it doesn't compare to how amazing & wonderful it is that God sent Jesus to Earth
  • How much surprise is left in your Christmas celebration? No,  I'm not talking about the sticker shock you have when the Visa bill shows up in mid-January... I'm talking about Braeden-like wonder & awe at having been given such an incredible gift.

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