Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Merry Christmas Eve!

Merry Christmas Eve!

Are you ready for the big day? I’m not sure I’m ever really ready, but since I have yet to learn how to stop time, it’s coming anyway. 😉

One of my favorite things about Christmas has always been the Sunday before. I have tons of memories of me, my sisters and Mama, all in matching velvet dresses on Christmas Sunday. Sometimes Mom got Jeffrey in a matching velvet vest, but for some reason could never get Dad in one. 🙂


I still love church on Christmas Sunday. We sing all the songs I’ve always loved, or most of them. And we hear about the Bethlehem Adventure–or at least part of it, depending on the preacher and what God gives him to share.

I love learning what I think I know and realize I don’t know. Like the wise men. You know, like the song. “We Three Kings of Orient are . . . ” and learning I don’t know how many Wise Men there were. (No one does.) And the idea that Mary rode a donkey when she and Joseph went to Bethlehem. Go back and read it again. Where’s that donkey? 😦 Poor Mary.


More than anything, I like the reminder that Immanuel (God with us) who created the universe, became an infant so that thirty odd years later He could die for our sins. Our sins, not His. (He was perfect.) No matter how many rules we had, we couldn’t be perfect enough. But He is God, so He’s perfect, the Lamb of God, sacrificed for our sins.

His presence (remember, He’s Immanuel, God with us) is our present for eternity.

I like that so very, very much.


The Greatest Gift

Okay, what I’m talking about today isn’t the absolute GREATEST, but nearly. 🙂

Seems like this time of year is rife with Christmas parties. Anybody stepping in that with me??

Last night was my final “official” party of the season. It was a family/company Christmas. Up until twenty-two years ago, my grandmother hosted the evening in her home. (Except it was only family, not employees.)

Grandmother had all kinds of candies, snacks, goodies and punch. (Gotta have the punch!) After Grandmother’s death, we started having a party and inviting the office help. Last night was the party for 2013.

I’ve also attended an in-office party and a writers’ party this year.

There’s never any alcohol, so we don’t have a problem with fights–for anyone over 15. 😉 At the in-office and writers’ parties, we played dirty santa. (Insert evil laugh here.)

If you haven’t played Dirty Santa, you’re missing a fun time of cheering, whining and tons of laughter. Warning: set the rules BEFORE you play and don’t let them change as you go.

Honestly, though, the best gift anyone gets at Christmas (except for Jesus) is time with their friends and family. Don’t you love it? 🙂


Cement Angels 012If you have a moment, go back and read the title to my last blog.


It’s the time of year when I rush around and try to finish everything in time for Christmas. Balance out the gifts, get the stuffers (wail about why I started the stocking thing in the first place) finish trimming the last tree and haul all the empty boxes back to the attic for a few days before we drag them out again to fill and put away.

It’s that time of year. You know? Someone mentioned a book to me that she was reading and her conclusions, and yeah, it made sense. No one in the fam really NEEDS anything. Everyone surely knows that they are loved. After all this time, they have to know it. Right?

But still.

Still, I’m wishing that this Christmas will be memorable and sweet and joyful and all the things the kiddos could hope for. So I’m doing all I can do.

Then this morning, December 21, I got up and checked the weather. (Did the ice storm hit? Will the roads passable enough for me to get to church on Christmas morning tomorrow? Will we get to have our Big Christmas Party at that fantastic steak place?)

That’s when I saw it on a local news channel. A C-Town family’s child had died in the night while driving on the icy roads.

matt and grandmommie_edited-1

The story hits much too close to home, and I remember the day five members of my family died in a car accident. Circumstances weren’t the same, but the absolute soul rending lostness must be.

Our wreck happened in May, and by December I still wasn’t ready to celebrate. But with three little boys


and a loving husband, how could we skip it? I got through it by focusing on Jesus.

After all, with our silly trees and little ornaments (many of them made by my boys) we were celebrating His birthday. Then I realized–my family lost in the wreck were Home for a party the likes of which we couldn’t know. The party that must go on in Heaven when they celebrate His birthday.


Imagine the ultimate joy!

Can you even think how beautiful the light is? (Jesus is the Light)

Just try to conjure up the heavenly chorus shouting Hosanna. Can your mind hold it?

The dancing, the celebration, the joyous, wondrous, ecstatic love. My family had been called Home so they could be there for the celebration. So has this child who’s so new to Heaven.

I’m praying for this family. (Please join me.) I’m praying they’ll be able to find some joy this season, even if it’s just remembering Christmases past.

I’m praying that at Christmas in the years to come, they’ll celebrate his life and heavenly graduation. And the pain in their hearts will dim because Jesus has filled it so full of His love.



‘Twas the Week Before Christmas and My Hair Was On Fire

Going nuts yet?

🙂 I am. Absolutely, top of the mark, never been anyone nuttier, nuts.

I always do this time of year. After all, it’s only 9 days before Christmas.

It’s the time of year when everyone looks forward to receiving gifts and I’m worried I won’t get them right thing.

It’s the time of year when I want my house to look fabulous. It’s still crowded with boxes of decoration. (Maybe I’ll toss a little tinsel at them and declare it’s supposed to look like that.)

It’s the time of year when food’s supposed to be the b-e-s-t. The most flavorful. When just looking at it makes you smile. And I don’t know what to fix. (sigh)

Can you define pressure?

So far this year, everything is normal. If they’re honest, most women are feeling at least a touch of this pressure about now. Oh, I know a woman or two who might be as behind as me and aren’t pressured, and while I’d love to be that laid back, I doubt I ever will be.

And I know a woman or two who are totally finished shopping and wrapping and baking and gifting, but I don’t think they’re human. How do they buy their children’s Christmas gifts in January, as some women tell me they do? If they buy it in January, how do they know it’s something they’re going to want by December? How do they know what’s going to come on the market by the next Christmas season? Impossible!

And I know a woman or two who just won’t bother to shop. They’ve discovered the beautiful truth that loved ones will continue to love them, even if they never send a gift. I’m just not sure my loved ones like me that much. 😛

My mom spent the month of December shopping for her six kiddos (and later their spouses and her grandchildren) decorating, cooking, baking, practicing for everyone’s Church plays and cantatas, and pretty much rushing around as if her hair was on fire.

That’s normal, isn’t it? Well, it was normal for mom (although most people didn’t see it) so it seems normal for me.

Every year I plan to start decorating as soon as November hits. I plan to get my menus all lined out. And gifts bought and wrapped THE MINUTE THEY COME IN THE DOOR.

Usually, though, I’m still putting away decoration boxes on Christmas Eve morning, running to the store for food, buying gift bags to cram presents into and hiding a stash of cash just in case I screwed somebody’s list up or left someone out.

(Nightmare: I wake up on Christmas morning and realize I’ve forgotten I have a fourth son, so I start furiously knitting a stocking to sneak onto the fireplace mantle and robbing the other boys’ presents to give the forgotten one something so he won’t know just how completely I’ve forgotten him.)

Happily, that hasn’t happened. 😉

So, I’m rushing off to do my hair and head out to work and a party with food and (probably) the wrong gift so I can play Dirty Santa.

Dirty Santa. Every play? Ever notice the players fight over the rules and/or the rules change as you play the game?

Now where’s that hair-fire extinguisher?


I Know the Big Guy!

I know the real Santa.

Don’t raise your eyebrows. It’s true, I do know him.

I met him a long time ago, back when my kids were small.

Here’s how I know him. Every year, St. Nick visited C-Town. When my kids were little, even though we lived in Pryor Creek and had our own parade there, the boys insisted we had to come home to C-Town because that was the only place where the real Santa made it for the parade.

So we’d come home. We watched the bands and floats and Shriners entertain, and even though there was a wonderful show going on, the boys only wanted one thing. Okay, two things. Candy and to see Santa riding on the big red fire engine.

And when Santa cruised past, he always waved his hand at our corner of the parade route and shouted, “Hi Danny! Hi Kyle! Hi Matt! Hi Brad! Hi Grant! Hi Melanie!  Merry Christmas.” For him to know their names, he had to be the authentic Kris Kringle, didn’t he?

Santa also took time to come to our church to visit with the kids after the Christmas program. He not only knew their names, he gave them  each a bag of candy, too.

So #1 son deducted that he HAD to be the only real Santa.

Who was I to argue?

SHAY KIDS DO NOT READ THIS!!! (I mean it. You’ve been warned.)

PS:  Don’t tell my kiddos, but the Big Guy was represented by a Christian man in our church. His suit was made by one of the wonderfully talented women in our church. (Don’t you love people who donate their time and talent so freely?)

This man was kind and loving to the kids in town and very, very patient. (With the length of some of the lists and the crying the babies did, he had to have a ton of patience!)

Not only was he a member of the church we went to most of my life, but he was also a neighbor. They make the best Santas, don’t they?

Way back when I was a kid and one of my sibs recognized the Santa we visited or noticed his beard wasn’t real, Mama always explained it by telling them the man was Santa’s helper. He had to have helpers like that because the Big Guy was so busy at the North Pole getting ready to fill up that sleigh and make his whirl-wind trip to all the boys and girls in the world.

Wow. Remember believing that? What a sweet time it was when we really believed that all the world received gifts. Back before we knew about hate, unhappiness, prejudice and my-way-or-the-highway kinds of life. And before we knew about poverty in parts of the world that make you cry to think about.

I still believe in Santa. (Even though Paula told me the truth when I was four. BTW–it’s okay, Paula. I enjoyed knowing and helping Mom keep the secret all those years.)

Besides, Santa is the Spirit of giving and Christmas and forgetting old hurts and loving one another. So of course, I BELIEVE!

Do you?