Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

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Next weekend, I’m going to a retreat with my writer friends. As a board member and program chair, I usually have at least a small part in the planning for the event. So naturally, I’ve had retreats on my mind lately.

I’ve probably been to as many Christian women’s retreat as I have writers’ retreats, and I can’t honestly say I like one more than the other. Both are filled with women whom I enjoy spending time, most of whom are Christians.

The retreat that stands out in my mind is one I went to with the church ladies. We stayed in a big hotel.

Back to the retreat. The four of us went to bed and I finally went to sleep. About three in the morning, there was a loud MEEH! MEEH! MEEH! (that supposed to be the sound of an alarm over the intercom) and a light started flashing.

We all jumped out of bed, our hearts slamming against our rib cages as a voice boomed into our room. “EMERGENCY! There is a fire in the building. Please exit as quickly as possible. EMERGENCY! There is a fire in the building. Please exit as quickly as possible. The alarm sounded again, and the message repeated.

One of our women rushed to the window, then paced to the door and back again. “We need to pray!”

Do you want us on our knees right now? I wondered. (Like I said, it was the middle of the night.)

Another woman insisted on getting dressed, and I didn’t blame her. I got dressed, too.

The first woman finally said, “You can get dressed, but I’m not waiting.” She took off, fighting her way to the elevator in a hall crowded with women ALL going the other way.

When she got there, she found out elevators don’t work in an emergency of that type, and had to fight her way back to the stairs, which just happened to be right next to our room. (I’d checked that out when we got there.)

We were dressed and leaving our room just as she made it back. She jumped into the stairwell, and we followed her down. The other woman who got dressed could only take a step at a time, much like a small child. She did her best, struggling to get to the ground floor as quickly as possible while the women behind us naturally flowed around and past us.

Finally we made it and went outside into the drizzling rain. As we left the building, we looked down the sidewalk where a hotel employee was waving us into another part of the hotel. When we got there, we found we were reentering the same building through a different entrance (the club) and were directed back to the lobby–just several floors below where we’d started.

When all the women had finally gathered (my friend and I were nearly the last) a hotel employee announced we’d experienced a false alarm, caused by lightning hitting the alarm system.

All the excitement of a hotel fire with none of the disaster! 🙂 Made it my most memorable retreat ever. Not necessarily my favorite one.

My favorite would probably be one I attended while in college. I was with lots of strangers and just a few people I knew, but we were out in the woods and had time to spend alone with the Lord.

Because I’m an early riser, I often get some morning time alone at our RWI retreats. And because we usually go to cabins in a wooded area, there are lots of places to spend time with the Lord to listen and pray.

The best part to any retreat.


♪♫ The Day . . . the Trailer . . . Died ♪♫

♪♫ I started singing, ♪♫

♪♫ Bye, bye Miss American . . .  ♪♫

Okay, the song doesn’t quite fit. But we had a time. Not really fun because, after all, it was a lot of work. But not really bad because I spent time with my man, two of my sons and my DIL2b.

We headed over fairly early (for a Saturday morning.) We weren’t particularly thrilled about spending our day at hard labor, but we were ecstatic about getting rid of the trailer.

Baby Boy lives in College Town, so he got there right after we did.

Middle Son (in orange) had to work Saturday morning, but he came over as soon as he could get there.

We all worked hard. What do you mean you don’t see me working? Someone had to save the day for posterity. (With the camera aka phone.)

Our kids went to college right after high school, and they took many of the things they’d had through hs.

Remember this guy? One of my boys was a real Garfield fan. (I’m not sure which one, but his initials might be MS.)

They were all big Simpson fans. So big, they’d play Simpson trivia games anytime they had a few spare moments. We found Bart abandoned in the trailer’s shed. 😦

And then there’s this guy.

I might have sent this to them once as a joke. I really don’t remember. I’m just glad they didn’t use it to start a fire. 🙂

I saved the best for last–a book called God’s Little Instruction Book for Graduates. It was given to BB when he graduated in 2003 by friends John and Becki Hawkins.

I jumped for joy when I found this book in the trailer, not boxed up in the shed. I don’t know how often the boys read it, but it has been read.

Here’s the first page:

When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a manner that when you die the world cries and you rejoice.

(How often do we mamas pray for that for our kids? AND ourselves!)

“The memory of the righteous will be a blessing.” Proverbs 10:7.

A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.

“Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thiings; and I will receive you.”  2 Corinthians 6:17

This one stopped me and made me think:

A man never discloses his own character so clearly as when he describes another’s.

“A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.” Matthew 12:35

The trailer is no longer ours, but I’m forever grateful for it. It was a safe place for my boys to stay together until they finished college and headed into life. I pray it kept them close (although I once broke a telephone when an argument was going between the boys through me) for a lifetime.

No one can love you more than family.

Did you (or your kids) spend your college time in dorms or someplace else?


What We Treasure

How have you spent your morning?

I’ve spent mine praying.

“Thank you, Jesus for the thunder. Bring on the rain! Thank you, Jesus, for controlling the fires with the rain You sent. Send more!

“Thank you, Jesus, that no lives were lost in those atrocious fires. Be with those who lost their property. Those who lost their buildings. Their homes.

“Father, be with those who lost everything.  My heart breaks for them.”

I talked to so many people yesterday as we ran around town, getting ready for our monthly birthday party at work. Conversations were all about the fires. The people who’d had to pack up and leave their homes and most of what they owned behind.

Many I talked to said they couldn’t have done it. Others said they would have to take their pictures. (I totally understand that one! Of course, it would take an entire moving van to get all of mine, but I understand where they’re coming from.) Or the treasures they’d saved over the years.

One woman told of her friend who’d been evacuated, but went back to her home time and again for things she remembered and couldn’t live without. Happily, she had a home to go back to and was able to get out safely.

My sister, who works at one of the stores I hit in preparation for the party, gently reminded me (and the other woman who happened to be there) of the people in Joplin. They had almost no warning. No time to gather things to take with them. They were so lucky to get themselves and their children underground before the F-5 tornado wiped a clean path through their town.

They know how lucky they are to have their loved ones.

Brings a scripture to mind, doesn’t it?

Matthew 6:19-21– “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Donations of money and clothes are being taken for those who lost everything in the fires. Let me know if you’d like to donate and I’ll get the specifics for you.

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Resurrection Sunday

Yesterday I was reading Beth Moore’s blog, The Body and The Blood, and wondering how to get her permission to reprint it here. After I read it, I started scrolling through the comments. The very first comment hit me like a bolt from Above.

I’d never before considered what Michele received from God yesterday morning. “We are Barabbas.”

 We. Are. Barabbas. (The murderer the people wanted released as they shouted to crucify Christ.) Jesus died that we might live.

As I read her blog I realized, we are Judas. We betray Christ each time we sin.

 We are the nails in His hands. His love for us held Him to the cross. Matthew 26:53–“Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”

We’re the spear that pierced his side, his punishment and his wounds. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5.

Our sins were the stone closing his tomb. But Jesus removed our sins as far as the east is from the west. “Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. John 16:2-4

 He’s who the prophets talked about. “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” Rev 22:16

He’s the light in the sunrise. “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” Rev. 21:23

He is Life. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10.

Here’s part of Beth’s prayer–

My Dearest Abba and my Savior and Redeemer, Jesus,

Cause me to be moved and mindful of this death and resurrection season – Of this, the most important annual celebration we commemorate as Your church. Cause me to be awake and aware in You, Lord. I am so grateful for the sacrifice of this One spotless Lamb of God. For just a moment, I try to imagine myself on that same road of suffering with that same cross on my flesh-torn back, pierced, hung, and exposed on that same tree and I shudder.  My sins outweigh my frame, Lord. I am unable to bear them. Thank You, Jesus, for not only bearing the pain but for enduring the shame.

You can read all of Beth’s wonderful post here.

And you can read Michele thought provoking,  We are Barabbas here.

Have a wonderful Resurrection Sunday.