Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Christmas is Coming (and there’s nothing we can do about it.)

How’s your December going? Everything on schedule? All decorated and wrapped, just waiting for the big guy to make his appearance?

Is anybody out there waving your hand, yelling, “Me! Me! Me!”? If so, come on over to my house.

I need help.

(Big surprise.) (Not.) 😀

One thing I am staying on top of is my daily reading, “The Greatest Gift” by Ann Voskamp. I have to fight myself to keep from reading ahead.

If I ever met this woman, I’ll have to give her a big hug.

I do have one tree up and decorated. It’s the wild tree with ornaments from friends and from my kiddos when they were small and ones I’ve made and they’ve made. It’s my favorite tree.

My other tree is also my favorite tree. It has Grandmother’s ornaments on it. And some antique ornaments I’ve collected. I can’t share it with you today because it’s not up yet.

I will share some of my ornaments from my Everything Tree. They aren’t my favorites, because I don’t have favorites. Trying to chose the one I like best would be like trying to choose the friend I liked best. Or my favorite Bible verse. I just can’t do it.

But I can share some with you.

treeThis one was made by a friend.


A can lid, turned into a beautiful tree by one of my kiddos. (Trash to Treasure. A miracle of Christmas.)


Another treasure, made by one of my kiddos.


Dirty Santa ornament exchange with my writing sisters. I love, love, love these.


Three of my best gifts ever–Danny, Matt and Brad.


A friend was taking a stained glass class the year I got this one. It’s too heavy for a “real” tree, so I had to start buying fake ones just so it could be on it. 😀


From my secret sister once, years and years ago. That friend was a sweetheart and I miss her terribly.


I bought this bunch of unbreakable ornaments the year Danny was 11 months old on Christmas. The still give me a smile.

I have OSU ornaments from when my boys were in college, a dog and cat ornament because we’re pet people, and lots of stars. I love stars. They’re a great reminder. Read Philippians 2:15 and see if you can guess just one of the reasons why. Of course, you’ll need to read it in the New International Version to see what I’m talking about. 😉

My absolute favorite thing at Christmas? The best gift. The best feeling. The best anything?

There's only one gift better than this.

There’s only one gift better than this.


The gift of salvation.

Any hints for getting everything done, finished, baked, wrapped and gorgeous before Dec. 24th? I need all the help I can get!





True Christmas

The Christmas Season is on us. Are you ready? I’m not. Rarely am before Christmas Eve. And then, I’m usually afraid I’ve forgotten, missed, messed up or lost something important.

Because I want Christmas to be perfect like mine was when I was a kid.

Hopefully, though, this year is going to be different.

Yup. I say that every year. I know I do, but this year I mean it. (I hope!)

Since one definition of crazy is doing things exactly the same way and expecting a different outcome, I had to change something. So this year, I’ve added to what I’m doing this Christmas Season.

While some people might think doing anything extra during this hurried, harried time of year is just nuts, I’ve added in a new Bible study that’s not just something to get through. It’s a time to slow down and remember what the Christmas Season is truly about.

It’s called, The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. I bought it last year, and ended up saving it until this Christmas because I didn’t have time to catch up. Sigh.

Ann starts at the beginning of the Bible and leads us to Jesus. She teaches us about the Jesse Tree, which I’ve never heard of before. And about Advent, which I’ve heard of but never observed.

The funny thing about the study is that I can’t just zoom through it. If I’m in running mode, I can’t hear what she has to say. I have to slow down and breathe to read her words. (If I want them to make sense.)

Today, she talked about Jacob when he had the dream about the angels going up and down the ladder to Heaven, and the Lord was at the top. (Genesis 28: 10-16) Remember?

In her words for today she writes,

If, just for a moment, you stand in the doorway, linger a bit in front of the tree

(My tree isn’t up yet.–ss)

it’s strange how you can see it–how every Christmas tree is a ladder, and Jesus is your ladder who hung on that tree . . . so you have the gift of rest. When you are wrung out, that’s a sign you’ve been reaching for the rungs. The work at the very heart of salvation is the work at the very heart of Christmas: simply rest.

Here is holy.

The wonder of all this–God looks at you at your lowest and loves you all the way to the sky.

God carries you all the way home.

Like Heaven opening up slow everywhere.

Wow. Just, wow!

Imagine, someone telling us to relax through Christmas. No worries. No stress.

And she has a sticky note for each day. You can see them here.

I wish I’d read this study a long time ago, when my children were small or even when my mother was young and running herself ragged to have a perfect Christmas for all of her kids.

But maybe she didn’t need it. Mom worked hard to get Christmas right (even sewing dresses for all her girls most years) but she had a calm, inner peace that I sometimes forget and don’t think I inherited.

Some of us just need a hand from others like Ann Voskamp to have the real joy of Christmas.

I’m not asking you to buy her book. I’m just asking you to slow down and celebrate True Christmas.




Measuring Stick or Burning Bush

Today’s blog is just for me. That way, I can go back and read it again and again.

Maybe I’ll even copy it to my hard drive. That way, if she gives it the ax someday, I’ll still have it.

It’s about what women (girls) do. And we don’t just do it to ourselves, we do it to other women (girls) and let them do it to us. Sometimes, even guys (never men) try to do it to hurt us.

It’s a smack-yourself-on-the-forehead-I-should-have-had-a-V-8 thing.

Let me know what you think.

Ps: Thanks, Ann, for talking to me today.




My Gifts

Sometimes, I’m a little slow to catch on. I’m never the first to find anything. To be honest, few people are. (No matter what they tell you.)

One of the things I was slow to catch on to was Ann Voskamp.

Ann VoskampLuckily, people around me are much faster on the uptake and share happily with me. A chance conversation a few days before Christmas brought this woman to my attention.

I doubt if I’ll ever meet her, this side of heaven. She lives in Canada with her husband and six (6!) kids and she homeschools.


She does take some speaking engagements, so I might hear her one day. If I’m lucky.

Ann is one of those killer serene people whose voice is calm and calming. What she writes reads like poetry. Beautiful, God-smack-in-the-middle poetry. I have to calm my center to be able to hear what she’s saying when I read it. I adore her work!

I read her blog A Holy Experience faithfully.

aholyexperience-logoAt least, as faithfully as I read anything.

Anyway, the point of my blog. I’m reading her book, ONE THOUSAND GIFTS.

1000 gifts

I also gave a copy to one of my favorite people in the world, who is one of my top gifts. This over-achieving gift of mine is ahead of me in the book and in making her list of gifts.

And that’s okay. We each move at our own pace and learn in different ways. I think instead of trying to only learn from the book, I’m trying to absorb it. Soak it in. (Okay, I want to wallow in it.)

Can I tell you one of the things on my list of gifts from God? Today, even though it’s been a long winter, I’m thankful for snow. (Don’t smack me.)

It’s absolutely beautiful drifting down. I love the way it covers the earth’s uglies and makes it “perfect” (at least for a time) while reminding me that I’m Washed in The Blood, so I’m Whiter than Snow.

Snow isn’t first on my list. And my list isn’t in order of what I’m most grateful for. Like me, it’s a helter-skelter bunch of thankful words, sprouting from a (sometimes) thankful heart.

Yes, I said sometimes. I’m not going to lie to you. Sometimes I’m not so thankful, and sometimes I forget. Whichever it is, I’m learning.

If you haven’t read Ann, please check out her blog. I think you’ll like it.  (The pics all came from there. She’s a great photographer!) And if you’re curious about her 1000 GIFTS, read it, too.

You might just put Ann and her book on your gift list. (I did.)