Who are You?

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In my mind today I’m bufuzzled. I ran across this verse last week, “Who are you?” My brain wants to add o’s and sing it like the band The Who does. Just when you think you have it all figured out, you do or say something and think did that come from my mouth? It’s so tough to be the person that you are called to be.

This whole ponderment has had me shaken. Am I being the best person I can be? I’m at a crossroads. My mission is about to change. It’s been tough letting go of the work and person I have been in the past few years. With ALS, we have plateaus and valleys. I’m in the middle of a valley and figuring out the next season. The work will be new and rejuvenating. This work has been calling me for more than a year. I have no clue if I will be successful or not. I just have to try. Why? It is a calling from God. I have been blessed with a good mind, three degrees, and a broken body. It doesn’t matter folks. God will carry me and qualify me as I go.

It’s a New Year! Lots of resolutions. I remember every January grumbling at the YMCA because of the huge flux of people who were going to get in shape. I chuckle remembering that season of my life with my Y buds. I was a different person then with different jobs. Every season needs to be lived and cherished. There is truly knowledge to be learned and jobs to be done until our last breath.

I’ve been on a sabbatical of sorts. I’m powering up for the next Sal the I Know Who I Am Gal. Who am I? I’m first and foremost a Child of God. Read, listen, and pray today. Figure it out. Who are you?

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Child of God Gal

Quotes of the Day:

They asked John the Baptist, “Who are you?”
He replied, ”I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’
as Isaiah the prophet said.”

Christmas is Almost Here!

In my mind today, I’m thinking that Christmas is practically here!!! The second week of Advent flew by and now we are on the cusp of the final week of Advent. Christmas is just around the corner!

Christmas is a time for little miracles. They happen with gifts of love from our families and friends. Sometimes random strangers do random works of kindness. You may slip a struggling family a Christmas card with a bit of cash. You might help a young adult go to a conference. You may take meals to those shut-in and lonely. So many family and friends get the ultimate vacation to heaven. All of the above, I have witnessed this season. Here is the best thing. My little parish is learning to love like this all year. That is really the goal isn’t it? Embracing and celebrating God by loving your fellow men and women. I’m so proud Holy Angels Catholic Church is being Christ in our little community all year. If you need a church family, come let us love you.

I love Christmas! I can’t shout it enough! It’s a time when the secular world joins the religious and shout, “Joy to the World!” There’s something different here. The world really does fall in love. You know what I love the most? Time slows down. We get breaks from routines. Visiting with family and friends, attending choir concerts, and sharing meals and traditions, these are the joys of the season. Creating those memories that will last a lifetime and re-living the times that we’ve shared. Such happiness abounds.

In my little life, in my little corner of the world, in my little burg, and in my little parish, I am so blessed to know and feel the true meaning of this season. So much so that I want to make everyday Christmas. I think this was God’s goal all along. Peace on Earth and Good Will to Men.
Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Sal the Christmas Loving Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley

Quote of the Day:
“Christmas is the day that holds all time together.”
Alexander Smith

First week of Advent


Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side. Psalm 23:4

In my mind today I am thinking about evil. Evil exists. Psalm 23 reminds us never to fear even in death. This is the darkest time of year here in my little burg. We get less sunshine than any other season. It just so happens that it is our first week of Advent. Happy New Liturgical Year!

In the darkest hours, we search for light. We have been promised a second coming. If Jesus Christ appeared in our little burg today, what we would he find? Parents stressing over the latest toys? Left behind elderly people at home and in facilities? Parents refunding charitable gifts so they can get another hit? People locked away in jails and prisons without a single Christmas greeting? Like John Lennon, I imagine all of the lonely people in my burg.

This little town is my playing field or basketball ball court now. Instead of touchdowns and jump shots, where can I bring the light of Advent? Where can the most light be spread to aleveate some despair and loneliness? If you attend church, look around. If you are working, look around. At the grocery store, look around. I’m sure you can find someone to give a gift card to or take a meal. What about volunteering to help out a single, working mom with providing food and coats for her kids? I know people who give all year long. Why? They get it. They have been enlightened by the Christ that lives within them. We should live our Advent all year long. I hope you find ways to bless others this season.
Happy Advent!
Sal the Christmas Loving Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley

Quotes of the Day:

“Be the Grinch that stole Christmas!”
Sal the Grinch Loving Gal

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!”
Ebenezer Scrooge

“For it is in giving that we receive.”
St. Francis of Assisi

52-12-95-17-26-80


In my mind lately, I’ve been on a respite. The Autumn March for ALS consumes me for about four months and then poof! We are finished and amazed at how everything fell together. The last words I spoke to my committee the night before the race was, “Whom shall we fear?” God is always for us. Really He is.

In my respite, my small world saw many start their next chapter. I was riddled with grief and disbelief. Why do some get 95 years while others only get 12 years? To suddenly leave your precious wife, children, and grandchildren at 52 short years is so unfair. God, I know you hear me. I understand that we all are born and we all have to die. That magic exit number is what baffles me. To see old friends and classmates leave us behind too soon never ceases to hurt. There will always be holes in our hearts when people we love die.

80 and 95 are those blessed with longevity. They are rewarded with many seasons of love and memories. They have also lived through so many heartbreaks and hearts riddled with holes. How? They are worn and weary from the journey. They anticipate their homecoming. They begin talking of another home. They are prepared. I thank God for those who lived and have shown us how to trudge through the losses in this life and to embrace our fellowmen and women with the amazing love that is completely sacrificial. Sharing in their grief being the loving hands of Christ is what you and I are called to do.

12, 26, and 17 are oh so hard. Parents never, never, NEVER, want to outlive a child. My sweet mother of 80 has always told us the only thing she has been really strict about in her prayers to God is for her to go before us. When a child no matter the age leaves this Earth, parents hearts are obliterated. It’s more than holes. Marriages fail, parents continuingly ask why, and parents cry and beg for this to all be a bad dream. We have to learn to trust that God has a plan. We have to fight to be closer to something bigger, stronger than we are. We have to fight through our days of “firsts.” First Thanksgiving without our child and then as time passes, we continue to ask what if our son or daughter had lived. Never forgotten. NEVER.

Death is a part of this life. Grief is a part of this life. But also true, sacrificial love is what carries us in these days of death: a kind note, a card, a hug, attending the service, unexpected meals brought by, yards being mowed, and a call. We see all of the beauty of that life through the people they touched. We hear stories by those that love us and our loved one. That gives us strength to keep going until the bell tolls for us. I read somewhere once that people who lose loved ones to death would rather you speak of their loved one instead of tip-toing around it. It spurs those memories and let’s people know their loved ones are not forgotten. Never Forgotten.

I always come back to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Losing a child in this world is an unfair tradegy for so many of us. The Son of Mary brought hope into this world. She didn’t understand either. She did what she could for her precious boy: took Him down from the cross, washed him, and prepared His body for His last journey. Like us, she continued to push on to live and find an explanation. The most wonderful example she gave us was she always trusted God’s plan. Let His will, not mine be done. She never took her eyes off of God and the promise her son would live. He was truly the boy who lived. After all is said and done in this life, let His will be done. Know there is more, much more. Your sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends will all face death. What kind of example will you be for them? Were you that light of hope on their dark day? Helping them keep their eyes toward heaven. If you didn’t, there is still time. Death is not the end. Never.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Help us God Gal

Quotes of the Day:

“The Son who lived paid the price for ALL to be in eternity.”

“Do the good in the world for those who are gone. Carry one of their torches. There is no better way to feel them walk in death beside you.”
Sal the People Loving Gal

Treasures

In my mind today, I am thinking about treasures. It’s been a crazy, hectic, and amazing October. I have been frantically zipping all over my little burg advocating the Autumn March for ALS. Meetings, designing shirts, collecting donations, and praying for a beautiful event day have had Sal the Autumn March Gal busy as a bee, literally! Am I exhausted and on the brink of mutiny? Of course, but I love it! As long as I can roll in my scooter and breathe, I will advocate for a cure for ALS, establish scholarships for my local school systems, and give to local non-profits. There are so many treasures when look outside of yourself and work for unity.

The Autumn March has so many treasures. First and foremost are the people on our small committee. Each one gives 110% of their time, talent, and treasure to make this race successful. All have been personally touched by ALS either through my battle or with a family member’s fight. They are true treasures. Their love and support is priceless.

My little burg where I’ve grown up is also a treasure. I love knowing so many people. All small towns have their drawbacks, but knowing and loving the people with whom you share a pinpoint on the map is a priceless treasure. Community is so important. My vocation as a teacher continues to bless me as familiar adults approach me and ask, “Ms. Alley, is that you?” And then a family reunion begins as my former students tell me about their lives and families. They will always be my kids, too. This is such a treasure. At the Autumn March each year, I see so many students that I have taught. Each year it’s a different mix. It fills my heart to see them being such productive adults and wonderful parents.

Some of the biggest treasures in my life are packaged as family and friends. Without my family and friends none of this could ever happen. They feed me. They dress me. They clean me, they chaffeur me to my activities, and they love me. They do this even when they don’t want to or are exhausted themselves. When I join another committee or create another club, they patiently indulge me without rolling their eyes. That was for my back row students. They want me to live. Family and friends are definitely a treasure.

What I treasure most in this life is my faith in God through my Catholic faith. Yes, I’ve had my moments of anger and sadness living with ALS, but as my body has grown weaker my faith has grown exponentially. I see the big picture of my purpose, even though I have such limited physically ability. It’s not about me or ALS or money. It’s about “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done.” Not my will but God’s. We have made such a mess of our gifts from the Creator. When we start using those gifts for the greater good, we spread love, give people respect and dignity no matter their station in life, and emptying ourselves for service to others during our earthly time mimics heaven. ALS has helped me weed through the narcissistic frivolities of humanity. It has given me a supernatural ability to know where the true treasures of this life lie. Back row students, it’s like the Spidey senses that Spiderman has. Your homework today is to investigate where your treasures are. I remember a quote from a writer who said, “I have never seen a U-Haul hitched to the back of a hearse.” We are simply left with our souls and our works for a better world when we are called to leave this beautiful Earth. Look for your treasures and you will find your heart.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Autumn March Gal

Quotes of the Day:

“Where a man’s heart is, there is his treasure also.”
Saint Ambrose

“Just as treasures are uncovered from the earth, so virtue appears from good deeds, and wisdom appears from a pure and peaceful mind. To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue.”
Buddha

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
Buddha

“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”
Jesus Christ

Take Nothing for the Journey


Take nothing for the journey. Luke 9:3
I read these words over in my mind this morning. Each day I wake I lose something to ALS. It’s not until I try to use a muscle that I realize the disease has creeped further into my neurological system taking something else. My life sounds like a sci-fi movie. Ironically, it looks like it, too. I’m not complaining; I’m rejoicing. The more of ourselves and possessions we leave behind, the closer we are to our next adventure. Humans can’t comprehend needing nothing. When you realize what is valuable usually it’s time to go be with your creator. The light bulb comes on and your gone. If you are part of the ones that get what life is all about, you are a special person. It’s a gift.
Take nothing and give all. The things you give are not burdensome or hard to carry: time and attention. They are sacrificial. They are precious. When they are well spent, the memories, feelings, smells, and warmth will stay with you your entire life. They bridge you to the next world. They feed you soul for the journey. I know so many wonderful people who are blessed to do this through their vocations. In my first season, I was blessed to be able to serve others as a teacher. Whether you are a nurse, waitress, Wal-Mart greeter, lawyer, or politician, it’s all about serving and giving to those in your life path. Give time and attention to each person you encounter. If you do, it’s a game changer not just for them.

Today’s message is a message to me. As I shed the baggage of this earthly life, I am lighter and stronger. In my physically healthy life, I don’t think I could have left behind everything. I couldn’t leave my job, my car, my house, etcetera. A vow of poverty? Delete that. I had been born into hard working, low income family. I earned my degrees and wanted to give my children the opportunities I didn’t have. I wanted them to be proud of me. I wanted them to love me like I loved them with all of my heart. Fast forward 20 years. ALS has taken so much. It took all of the things that I would have had to leave behind: nice, trendy clothes, new cars, shoes, makeup, but we have been blessed to still have our home. It is renovated for this rolling gal. Things are not done to my expectations, but things get done. I’m good with that. My family and friends are doing so much. They envelope me with true love. I have let so much go. Now I’m baggless, stripped down, and free. Free? Yes. Free from social anxiety, competition, and comparing. I go where I’m needed. I use my time, talent, and treasure to serve others. My journey has been and is a beautiful one.

The other part of this message to me is my daughter is considering the religious life. She’s a special one. She gets it. She wants embrace poverty out of the gate. This may change after four years of college. Only God knows. I’m amazed at the selflessness of her and others for considering giving their lives literally for others. These special people take a vow of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. They go where the need is. Their lives are never about what they want. It’s always about what God needs. This perspective was a gift from God through ALS. Just like nuns and monks, I take nothing for the journey except the light He puts in me.

Today think about what makes your heart so heavy. There are so many ways to be bogged down: selfish individuality, competition with co-workers and neighbors, gambling and shopping addictions, alcohol and drug addictions, self hate, and feeling sorry for yourself. It’s time to de-clutter. It’s time to be kind. It’s time to pray for yourself and your neighbors. Bob Dylan sings, “You gotta serve somebody. It might be the devil or it may be the Lord. But you gotta serve somebody.” Remember your actions speak louder than words.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Let it Behind Gal

Quotes of the Day:

In the third grade, a nun stuffed me in a garbage can under her desk because she said that’s where I belonged. I also had the distinction of being the only altar boy knocked down by a priest during mass.
Bruce Springsteen

Your daily life is your temple and your religion. When you enter into it take with you your all.
Kahalil Gibran

However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them?
Buddha

Punitive versus Restorative


Recently, my life has been filled with recovery time. August is a busy time for parents and teachers. School starting and renewing routines take a lot out of us. August also happens to be the month that I begin searching for sponsors for the annual Autumn March for ALS. I have to take several days to recover from the bursts of activity. This affords me lots of reading time. I am currently reading four books as well as daily scriptures and reflections. At the Alley Casa last night we had a debate on whether to move a smart TV into my bedroom. Sal the ALS Gal, me, was all for it. I told him I could lie in bed and just watch whatever. Like most other Americans I am into binging shows, you know like overindulging. My husband reminded me by saying, “Sarah, why did you not allow the kids to have TVs in their rooms while they were growing up?” Needless to say, I don’t have a smart TV in my bedroom. It would keep me from a lot of productivity like reading four books at a time. So I am missing out on some great TV shows but I am also writing which is even better.

One of the books that I am currently reading has brought up the topic of punitive versus restorative justice within Christianity. God in the old testament is very punitive but always loving. The idea of doing something to receive salvation has been ingrained into us. Oftentimes we are too focused on the individualistic aspect of Christianity instead of the communal aspect. The Western culture we live in is so competitive. We want to say you are in and you are out. It is this way not that way. Our popular culture is feeding into the selfish individuality as well. You know it’s all about me. Just like Eddie Murphy has said before in his stand up routine, “What have you done for me lately?” Look at our broken justice system with overflowing prisons and jails. There needs to be a paradigm shift. There needs to be rehabilitation. Many of us have loved ones who have been a part of this broken system. Often times people come out of the system so broken they are not repairable. They sink deeper into debauchery. I fear it is just a way to separate people from main stream society and just throwing them away. I don’t think that Jesus ever threw anyone away. He was drawn towards the broken. My heart hurts for all of the broken that are living in cages. What is worse is they are trapped within a consciousness of defeat. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying let all the rapscallions loose. I’m saying that there could be rehabilitation and education and most of all love to help these hurting individuals. Kudos to my community for people and non-profits like Tiffany Boyd, Sue Ann Cloar, Judy Boehmler, Transitions, and Matthew 25:40. We are reaching out and try to rehabilitate with love.

Restorative justice is not a new concept. It is involving those that are betrayed with the betrayer. Working out a way to educate each other on the cause of the betrayal. Both sides work on a solution to help avoid further trespasses. It helps people figure out why they are doing things that are against moral precepts. It helps to build skills that many children are not getting these days because of our broken family structures. It helps to build relationships with adults who in turn learn forgiveness. These adults see how people become broken and immoral. I remember a principal who told me I wish I had more teachers like you who tried to understand where children are coming from each day. It would definitely be an eye-opener. He said that most teachers want these children just paddled but that’s only part of trying to correct bad behavior. After all other attempts are exhausted, then the paddling was a part of our restorative justice. I genuinely cared about each of those children. Rarely, was a paddling given. I wanted them to grow and to choose to be the good not forced into silence or submission. I rarely had a child that could not read my heart and try to be the best they could be. It’s about relationships. It’s about community. It’s not about groups or individuals who carry the right way to salvation. This is where we are broken in our Christianity. We are too busy trying to get on the right bus to ensure our salvation and we are leaving behind God’s chosen people: the poor, the addicted, the prostitutes, and the mentally ill. This is the short list of those left behind. We are not to gather on buses cheering and chanting our way to heaven because we made it. We are to be among all of those who are hurting and needy. There is no joy if there is still so much pain in our communities. To the least of these always enters my mind when I am rolling out around in my community. My mind is constantly whirling on the jobs that need to be done. I am constantly asking myself how can I help? How could I be the Christ within me to my little community? I want restoration. I know that I cannot eliminate all of the hurt, but I could help those that are on my path. Some may say “Bah humbug! Ms. Alley you are wasting your time and resources on all these losers.” (Front row I hope this isn’t you. The back row kids are a handful but we love them.) You know why I don’t listen to the naysayers? I have proof in my Catholic Christianity: The prodigal Son, the book of Habbkuk, Ezekiel chapter 16, and Jeremiah chapter 31:31. God wants us to love and restore each other. His love cannot be put in a set of rules and regulations. We have it within us. We just need to give it to others in our community. I truly believe this is what we are called to do before we are to enter into our next adventure with God.

Today’s reflection was quite an academic one. As I have said before, I am always learning. I am constantly seeking a deeper connection with God. I am trying to live in joy not fear. Last but not least, I am taking each moment as a gift. It is so exciting to be a light bearer. Today’s saints I read about were infamous. They both were huge sinners. One had a concubine, was a lawyer, and a slave to his flesh until he was in his thirties. He then had an Awakening. The other was an escaped Ethiopian slave who had a dangerous gang that pillaged communities. He fled into the desert and encountered Christian Monks. He was educated on the way, the truth, and the light. He had a change of heart. He still had a lot of anger. In one of his angry fits the Abbot took him to the roof top at dawn. He said, “Look! It takes time for the light to overcome the darkness.” Don’t lose heart. Where there is light there is always hope. Sinners do become saints. Can I get a amen back row?
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Light-bearing Gal

Quotes of the day:
“Go away and sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.”
St. Moses the Black
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
St Augustine of Hippo