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

Seeds

In my mind today I’m having an emotional day. Being a mom of a college student is much tougher than I ever imagined. I miss my bird but know God has plans and has planted so many seeds in her soul. The visits are brief and I hate to see her taillights in the drive but seeds were made to grow and produce fruit. 

Recently I read one of my favorite parables in the Bible. Yes, it was about seeds. I look at family and friends and I am ever so blessed to have such a fruitful life. The Alley ground has been fertilized by love. The harvest is so beautiful. 

We are all seeds planted here on Earth with so much potential to do good. Three years ago I was asked to be a keynote speaker for the local school’s BETA Club, my high school. They are at the academic top of their class. Talk about potential. Oh the places these seeds will go! They have started the adult season of college, marriage, and jobs; I see them being fruitful and knowing that I was their teacher at one time makes me so very happy. It’s all about the harvest. The parable has so many ways seeds can fail: rocky ground, dry, weedy, and depleted. I’ve been here this week. Depleted. Remember the Bible verse about flowering and fading? We all have to to it, fade. Fading is a part of it. Look at a farmer’s field. There is some serious fading happening in my little burg; the fields are void of vegetation. One day we will all fade but how can we cultivate our hearts so that we can be the good? 

We at times all have weedy, depleted, rocky, hard hearts especially when our friends and family are in turmoil around us. As a Christian, we can pray instead of react in a negative way. We can react with kindness when our loved ones lash out at us for not enabling them. Sometimes the best thing is to keep your distance but always pray. If your heart is so heavy, find a time to be alone and cry. Scream and let all of the frustrations out. Literally tell God you are mad at Him and hurting. I have had to do this and still do when I see so many hurting around me. I cry, scream out, and then talk to God. Note I can’t talk until the ugly cry and screaming session. The release helps me to calmly talk to God about my doubts and frustrations. All of my why’s that have built up for example why is someone precious being attacked with something as horrible as cancer, why is addiction so rampant, and why are there so many children hurting. Where are you God? Then I pray. I pray for God to let me be Jesus on this earth to help others. I ask him in my prayers to show me a way. He always finds a way into my mind to show me how to help. My prayer after receiving ALS was for God to use me until there was nothing left: let your will be done.

Keep your heart fertile. Let the seeds of goodness grow. Sometimes we all have a heart that needs a little tending to, but remember that you could also plant seeds of goodness in your daily lives. All it takes is a kind word to brighten someone’s day. You actually help to cultivate kindness in the hearts of others. Punxsutawney Phil said ring is just around the corner. Do you have your seeds ready? Is your heart ready to grow in goodness? I hope this message plants a seed in your heart.
Sal the Be the Good GalSarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the Day:
“When life hands you dirt plant seeds.”
“A seed neither fears light nor darkness, but uses both to grow.”Matshona Dhliwayo

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 wonderment 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

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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