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By Spencer Keroff

I will never forget the overwhelming feelings of anticipation and love that I sensed on the morning of December 25, 2000.

That fall my life had been a whirlwind. I was a full-time student at North Central University in Minneapolis finally finishing my undergrad program in pastoral studies. I was taking five classes for a total of fifteen credit hours, making every effort to stay on the dean’s list, and working thirty-two hours a week in order to go to school debt free. I was ministering at our church as a worship leader, Sunday School teacher, and volunteer in our young adult ministry. In addition, I served on the student council and hosted a campus radio program every Sunday night from 10:00 to midnight as part of my classroom requirements for one of my electives. To say my life was extremely hectic would be an understatement, tantamount to saying Bill Gates has “some money.”

In the midst of all of this activity, I was dating/courting Lisa (we called it “dourting”), who was also finishing her degree at North Central. Our first date had been May 27 and I was hooked. After praying for eleven years for a wife, I was seeing the answer to my prayers right before my eyes.

Unbeknownst to Lisa, I had begun saving for an engagement ring. Even back then private Christian colleges were expensive and money was always tight, but saving for a ring forced me to become even more frugal. Ramen noodles and peanut butter became my short-term companions. I picked up overtime shifts at work, squeezing four hours of Sunday afternoon retail in between church worship services. Every available dollar beyond my tithe, offering, and school and living expenses went toward that ring.

As days turned into weeks, my expectancy intensified. My plan was to propose on Christmas morning. I called Lisa’s parents and shared my intentions, saying, “I’ve been out shopping for Lisa’s Christmas present, and with your permission I would like to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.”

Her dad’s classic response was “That’s fine with us, but what do you think she will say?”

Keroff family pictureChristmas is one of Lisa’s favorite times of the year. As we prepared for the season, we agreed to exchange our presents on Christmas morning before heading over to a young adult gathering for brunch for the handful of us that could not be with family that year.

I could hardly sleep on Christmas Eve. Finally the day arrived. I had wrapped a box within a box numerous times over. Lisa was left unwrapping box after box until she unwrapped a small package. Tucked inside the container was a card on which I had written the lyrics from “our song.” After the last line I had written the words: “Now look up at me.” As she turned toward me, I got down on one knee with her ring in hand and proposed. It was a fairytale-like moment.

As I think back on our courtship and those days of pinching every penny, I realize that never once did I think, “This is such a sacrifice. This is so costly!” Love eclipsed my sacrifice.

May your love for Jesus (and His love for those around you) eclipse any sacrifices you may make this Christmas season. Extravagance is a privilege and generosity an honor. Follow the example of our heavenly Father: “For this is how much God loved the world – he gave his one and only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in him will never perish but experience everlasting life” (John 3:16, TPT).

About The Author

Spencer Keroff
Senior Pastor

Pastor Spencer, the lead pastor of First Church of the Open Bible in Des Moines, Iowa, is passionate about the life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ. He holds a B. A. from North Central University in Minneapolis and an M. Div. at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul. The Keroffs homeschool their four children and strongly emphasize home discipleship in their marriage and ministry.