Where is your joy?

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In my mind today I am thinking of all of the people who fight chronic illnesses: ALS, cancer, addictions, MS, Duchenne MD, or Alzheimer’s. The list could fill the entire page. What makes one jolly and another bitter and sullen? I read this just this morning:
The testing of your faith produces perseverance so that you may be perfect and complete.
I hear this often, “How can you believe in a God that tortures and tests you?”

This life is so much bigger than my illness. There are so many people suffering in this world. An average lifespan of a human is 79 years. There have been only five generations since the Mayflower landing. Time for all of us is limited and it flies by so quickly we waste so much time being depressed or upset about trivial matters when we could be spending time together with family and friends sharing meals, conversation, and love whether we are sick or not. Times a’wasting my friends.

Do you realize we are all tested every day of our lives? We are the sons and daughters of God. We are made in His image to love and to be loved. So many people are not loved in our society today. It is just a shame. Our path to goodness has been clouded by social media, the internet, drug addictions, and children who are neglected. I get really sad when I think of the people who are addicted and cannot love themselves. I have people very close to me who do not love themselves; therefore, they could not love others. They are hurt from their childhood and are taught by the hard knocks of life. They are suffering, too. Please stop and say a prayer for all of those who are living with or affected by addiction. Never stop praying for them.

As a teacher, I administered many tests. The kids hated them. As a teacher, I looked forward to the tests to see how much the students have learned. It’s an indicator. It helped me to see where their weakness lie. Back row, not because I could just put red ink all over their paper and say “Ah-hah, you didn’t study did you?” The scores showed me where my students needed help. Then I could go back and fill in the gaps so they understood the content of the lesson. Of course, I would allow them to retake it. Here’s an analogy, you learn more when you are unsuccessful. Your brain will say, “I’m not falling for that again!”

Our trials and test in this life show how much we have learned. I have learned living with ALS that there is purpose in my suffering. My mornings are spent with prayer and quiet time. I find messages that come through scriptures and prayers. Just like today. In the book of James, he tells us to offer it up to God. How do you survive living with cancer, ALS, MS, addictions, Alzheimer, or any other condition that steals your joy? We will all die one day and that is just a fact. How we die is just a minor detail. The main objective students is not how we die but how do we live? The precious time that is given to us whether it be 79 years or less is indeed precious.

Teaching my high school students in PRE(Parish Religious Education) yesterday I shared one of my dark times with them. Yes, I have dark times. We all do healthy or not. I told them about my daughter at college getting free tickets to a front row opera from someone. She went Valentine’s Day by herself to see this opera. She reported that it was one of the best Valentine’s Days ever. It made me sad because in my mind I envisioned the gal without ALS. In my mind I could see me rushing from work and going to Memphis to the opera with her. I cry every time I visit that vision. I get angry. Then, I offer it up. I thank God for my songbird, her life, and her happiness. My students already know that I am cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs so the tears don’t scare them much anymore. But in my closing prayer, I thanked God for all of them and for my ability to be there. You see we all have work to do. Regardless of our station whether we are in jail or living at home waiting on hospice there is work to be done. There is joy to be had in the journey. That joy does not come from success in this world. It comes from something much bigger. Do you have something to offer up? Right now just say these words, “Dear God, I cannot do this alone. Please help me to find my joy in you. Use me dear God for your good. All of my struggles I give them up for the good of your kingdom. Help me dear God to be a light for others. Help me to love the child of God you created in me so I can find my joy in you.”

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Offer it up Gal

Quotes of the day:
Psalm 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear
1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Exodus 15:2 The Lord is my strength and my song

Are we burning down the House?

Students, I really don’t know where to begin. I have had such turmoil the past week that it was hard to focus on anything. Do you have weeks like that? I’m sure you do. Sometimes we call it getting on the pity pot. Life has just been happening at such a breakneck speed lately that I am totally exhausted. I just like the poem by Robert Frost still have miles to go before I sleep. I remember weeks and days like this when I was healthier. I remember how bone tired I was. With a body ravaged with atrophy still going a hundred and fifty miles an hour makes for a great disaster. So today I am licking my wounds and getting on with it. Remember how I have been urging you to find a church home? This week could have never been possible without my church family. From painting with the youth group and the baptism and reception of my grandchild, it just would not have happened. Now let’s throw in my daughter’s senior prom along with a liver biopsy and voila we have an amazing train wreck.
This morning I read an article about church attendance falling from 70% to 50% since 1999. I witness it with many of my friends. I grew up without a church family. I know what it’s like not to have people to be there and want the very best for you and your future. I ask myself what is happening? When I read articles and listen to NPR news lots of horrible things are happening. Within the last few weeks there have been several churches burned and bombed. The areas have been geographically spread all over the world. Just in California yesterday there was a synagogue in which I shooter tried to kill the rabbi. Why? Three of the major world religions have suffered in the last few weeks with tragedies. Is this a way to blame God for what is wrong with the world? Or is this away to attack God hoping to rid the world of God? In the face of adversity we need more than ever Church families. We need God.
This past Sunday was a Divine Mercy Sunday. It is our continuation celebrating Easter in the Catholic Church. My grandson was baptized yesterday. It was so beautiful. I was so peaceful and full of praise and thanksgiving. To watch your child follow in faith with their own children is a miracle to behold. As I watched our George be baptized, I drifted back remembering the baptisms of my children. My promises to God to raise them it a godly way with rules and gifts of the sacraments. It really does take a village. It is so nice to have a village in which your child can grow and be loved. Students, I think this is one reason the world has gone so terribly wrong. We need to get back to our churches to revamp our villages. The center of our village needs to be God. The rules God gives are truly not to harm us. Can we turn back to God? Sal the Optimistic Gal knows we can.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Weary Gal
Quotes of the day:
About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing.
Joan of Arc
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Life and Death

Last Friday was a special day students. It is the birthday of my last child, Abbey. As a mother every child you have bears a special place in your heart. Each one’s birthday is a special day. We have an Independence Day baby, Labor Day baby, Christmas baby, a Mother’s Day baby, and Easter baby. Lots of Alley babies and each one is a treasure and gift from God. Besides celebrating there was lots of work to be done. Working the soup kitchen on Saturday and church Sunday coupled with a COPD exacerbation by Ken made our schedules harried. Papa Ratz aka Papa Smurf has been ordered meds and rest. Two things he hates. He fights to live each day and is a literal miracle. He has end stage COPD. Most people know about Sal the ALS Gal but not about my sweet, amazing husband. Whisper a prayer for him today students. God blessed Ms. Alley with this hard working and selfless man. I’m not ready to live in a world without him.
Students we have covered many virtues. Seven ways to make a difference. Today I read about life and death. Death is something we all have to face. Humans have a different consciousness than do other animals. We have a consciousness that knows we are going to die. Other animals live their lives without worries about the end of their earthly existence. Why? I believe we are created in the image of the creator. The Creator is eternal and therefore a part of us is as well. How do we deal with this? We are one week away from Holy week. Holy week is the week that we march Christ to the cross. We escort him to his death. This is the Pinnacle of our faith. In this heinous act, death was defeated. We are given answers to our own death. Jesus showed us that there is life after death. He paved our path to ressurrection. Living with disabilities and illnesses is only a part of our journey. I believe our death is a birth into the eternal. Be not afraid students.
Today’s lesson was a heavy lesson. No one wants to think about death. So let’s talk about life. Life is what happens between birth and death. How is your life? Is it full? Are you disappointed? Are you angry? I hope your life is going well. If it isn’t students you need to take inventory. On my journey sometimes I reach a dark patch and I find that I am focusing inward. I am counting all the crosses that I bear. I am wanting to know why they are there. Why did someone so young in the middle of life end their earthly journey? Why do good people have horrible cancers? I become angry. I want to lash out at God. Guess what students? There are days that I lash out but they are becoming fewer and fewer as I journey toward my death. You see God is not a rescuer; He is a redeemer. It is so easy to confuse the two. We mere humans want to be rescued from cancer, strokes, COPD, ALS, young deaths of children, and all the other unexplicable tragedies that we traverse through on Earth. There in lies our mystery. The mystery that our journey redeems us to be born again in death to the next life. So if you are not in a happy place in your life, try to practice you’re virtues. Remember as a Christian you have a job to do. You are to live your faith. That means more than showing up to church once a week. Being a Christian has to be the most important part of your life. That Sunday that you do attend church should redeem and refresh you for your job you have each week. It is hard back row, but I believe you can do it. I implore you to be found. Next week begins our Holy Week of Lent. We will relive the death of our savior, Jesus Christ. But on that third day our tears will be dried and our hearts will be full because we know we are redeemed. We are preparing to live our lives with purpose and at our deaths we are restored to everlasting life.
Sal the Redemption Loving Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quote of the day:
I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.
Leonardo da Vinci
Back row, not the blue Ninja turtle!

The Last Things

 

The Last Things
In my mind today, I’m thinking of the thing that happens to all life on earth. Obligations and time seem to keep me too busy to stop and contemplate these last things. I’m so busy like most of you checking off my list and busy living. The last things don’t scare me as they once did. I have accepted it.

Last Saturday, I had a dear friend and “cuz” visit that I hadn’t seen in person for two decades. After high school, life happened and our paths only crossed once in 31 years. She and her mother always had and still have such big hearts. Here’s an example. Most know in high school I played basketball and was pretty good. Each year there is a homecoming game. In high school every girl dreams of being homecoming queen. Not Sal. As reality hit me about the costs of such things, dresses in particular, I dreaded being nominated for the court. Why? My family couldn’t afford a dress. So my mother would reach out to people she worked with at the hospital and we would find a formal to borrow. We pulled it off but my senior year was harder financially than most years. You see, my mother had to take a leave of absence from her job at the hospital. Her mother, my grandmother, was dying of cancer. My mother moved her in with us to care for her until she started her chapter in heaven. My eyes are leaking again as I visit this time. Her connections at the hospital were not there as they had been. I knew this year would be the most humbling. My dear “cuz” and her mom loaned me a beautiful white dress. I never dreamed of being homecoming queen but at least I would have a beautiful dress to wear. I always remember this kindness in such a hard time in my life.

This past weekend my “cuz” and her mother paid me a visit. She and her mother love Christmas and decorating more than I do and that’s a lot! Since ALS, I’ve depended on my son and fiancé to help. They are now married, working, creating their own nest so this year was to be simple. I tried not to think of it and mourn my illness. Then, a message appeared from my sweet sister telling me Shan aka “cuz” and her mom wanted to bless me once again. They rummaged through all of my Christmas decorations and created breathtaking trees and adorned my rooms downstairs. The best ornaments, the ones made by my children, were given places of precedence just as I would have done. These two beautiful hearts were the hands of Christ and heavenly sent once again.

Memory lane gets me every time students. Quit yawning back row. So back to the last things. Last night I was called on to teach the R.C.I.A. Class (Rites of Christian Incitation) because our priest is in Rome on vacation. Lucky him! The lesson was The Last Things: Death, Judgement, Heaven/Hell, & Purgatory.

Catholics have a plan and I’m so glad. We are often looked at like a three-eyed monster because some of our beliefs are odd especially in a small southern town with only one Catholic Church amongst 100 Protestant churches. I don’t want to argue theology but I want to spread some light or knowledge about something we all have to face and how we Catholics view the last things. Neither you or I are the judge so quit squirming back row.

Purgatory is a place for those a part of God’s family who die with sin. It’s like Mr. Holmes explained in class last night. Think of a teenager who wrecks the family car. The parents are so relieved their child is okay. They do not disown them, but there is a price for the transgression. Probably no car privileges for a while, but eventually they get the right to drive the car. God loves us all. We are part of his family. We are His children. We are like children, too. We sin A LOT! I hear snickers from the back row. Sometimes death comes while we have wrecked the car. So, we go somewhere until our punishment is paid: purgatory. Once baptized you are one of the lucky ones. You are in the flock. The closer you live to Christ, the sooner you go to heaven. God wants us all there: EVERYONE. No exceptions. As one priest once used in a sermon “I’ll take purgatory any death day because I will see God.” It’s coming. I wanna be there and I hope you do, too.

After braving the weather and coming home from teaching class last night I was tired, cold, hungry, and happy. I had been a nervous wreck but I felt the Class went well. I waited for Ken to warm up my supper and feed me. I clicked on Facebook with frozen fingers. The first thing I saw was that another comrade with ALS met death, Sarah. This Sarah is special to me. We share not only a name but we are both writers, mothers, wives, and advocates for a cure for ALS. She’s one of my heroes. She is Wonder Woman and I’m just Super Girl. She’s raised awareness and hundreds of thousands of dollars for a cure. Forget Mike. I wanna be like Sarah C. She is on to the last things and faced them so bravely. I’m going to continue to fight for a cure until until Death greets me.

Please say a prayer today for Sarah, her family, and a cure. Death be not proud because Sarah won. I want you to win, too. It’s coming. Are you living with a heart of love? Are you on track for heaven? Do you bring joy and happiness to others like my “cuz” and her mom. I want to run a good race, but it takes practice. Stop groaning back row. Let’s all remember the last things and start making a plan and training to meet the Ultimate Coach. You’re going back row whether you like it or not. See you soon Sarah C. You’re free.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Purgatory Loving Gal

Dedicated to Sarah C, R.C.I.A. Class, Shan and Diane

Quotes of the Day:
Please read about Sarah C

http://www.speed4sarah.com/sarah-is-old/

Night Prayer by St. Alphonsus Liguori

Jesus Christ, my God, I adore Thee and thank Thee for all the graces bestowed on me this day. I offer Thee my sleep and all
the moments of this night, and I beg Thee to keep me from sin. Therefore, I place myself
at Thy most sacred side and under the protecting mantle of our Lady, my Mother.
May the holy angels help me and keep me in peace, and may Thy blessing be upon me.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, assist me in my last agony.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, may I breathe forth my soul in peace in your loving arms.
Letting not the sun set on my wrath,
may I now close my eyes in peace with my God and my fellow men.
Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Amen