Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Merry! Christmas! Glory to God in the Highest!!!

christmasWhen I was in 6th grade (in public school) we did The Christmas Play. I know that dates me, but it’s true. We enacted our version of the birth of Christ.

Cement Angels 012

Now when the teacher, Miss Thelma, told us we were going to do the play, I secretly hoped I’d get to be the angel. I didn’t bother to volunteer because Miss Thelma chose the perfect actor for each part. (Or so she said.) We didn’t try out.

When Miss Thelma announced the parts, our angel actor was, naturally, a pretty blond girl. A dark headed girl was chosen to be Mary. And that was pretty much all the female parts in the play.


Except when the whole bunch of angels came on stage and sang. Everyone else was in the chorus.

Then she announced that I would be the narrator. *Gulp!* (Today, you might call me the voice-over.) Since I stood at the podium so I would have the use of a microphone, I could have read the passage, but Miss Thelma wanted me to memorize it. She’d even typed a paper with the scriptures I was to know.


Of course, they were straight out of the King James Bible.

Luke 2 King James Version (KJV)

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

I don’t remember memorizing verse 2. I guess Miss Thelma didn’t think it was necessary for the story. 🙂

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

If I remember right, there were only three shepherds in our story.

Next, we apparently skipped to Matthew 2 for the wise men.

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

And verse 10

 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

Of course, we only had 3 wise men, because while the wise men entered, the kids in the chorus sang, “We Three Kings.”

Can I still quote the story? Uuuuuh, no. I can say part of it, but not the entire thing. But when someone else reads it, I follow along in my mind.

Kids today are missing a lot by not getting to do the true Christmas Story in school. I guess that means their parents (grandparents and aunts and Sunday School teachers, next door neighbors or lady down the street) are responsible for getting the truth to them.

And maybe that’s a better way, after all.


I’m no angel, but from me to you: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”



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.




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.


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.