Joy, Joy, Joy

Joy, Joy, Joy

In my mind I’m thinking of joy. I’ve been experiencing a lot of joy as of late. Joy in the warm spring days. Joy because my garden fairy niece is milling around in my yard. Joy of spending time with my precious niece and great-nephew. Joy with the chances I’m given to be useful. Joy in my abundant friendships. And especially, joy in my children.

About three months ago, my oldest child came into my bedroom while I was doing my daily reading, praying, and reflecting. He said, “Momma, will you pray for me to get this job I’ve applied for with Canadian National Railroad? I really want it. This is my dream job.” I told him I would get right on it. I then thanked God because this was a huge leap for him.

I knew this was a dream job indeed. He has always loved trains. When my sister kept him as a toddler while I worked and went back to school, she would take him daily to watch the train come by her house. Then of course we collected everything “Thomas the Train” from train tables to video tapes. In elementary school, he would draw trains with his friend Grant. Of course, now he collects model trains. My sisters still today call him their “Engine, Engine number 9.” I was so grateful he had discovered a vocation and opportunity. Watching your child struggle is so painful.

When it became evident that Ken and I were going to be fighting and struggling to stay on this side of heaven to see our children into adulthood because of our health situations coupled with losing a child, their older brother, at 26 years of age and an estranged older sister, they became bitter. All of the years we attended church and lived our faith dissolved for them. They were so angry with God. Many times they would ask me, “How can you love a God that took Nick and allowed you and Dad to be terminally sick?” I would tell them this is my cross to bear. Your father and I know that there is more than this life on earth. So Ken and I fight to be here despite end-stage emphysema and ALS. God and prayer has helped sustain us. This bitterness has been lingering for several years and my boys refused to enter our church because they wanted no part of a God who let their brother die and parents have emphysema and ALS. I can hear them asking, “Why won’t your God get you out of that chair? Where’s your miracle?”

My oldest has been desperately floundering for the last two years. He had given up his teaching career. He was searching and trying to find a vocation. Nothing was going his way. So for these last two years he has done odd jobs from climbing under trailers fixing broken sewer pipes to climbing on top of houses patching roofs. He’s come home bruised, cut, and covered in filth from head to toe never complaining. Always searching. At supper each night we hold hands while I pray aloud for each of their futures and give thanks for our blessings whether they want to hear it or not. We endure always.

I marvel at the gifts of my children. I know now I have been given miracles through them. Ken and I both have. You see, we are still here because of the deep love they have for us. That is a direct gift from the God that they don’t understand. He is always for this little Alley Clan even as I roll in my chair and Ken drags his oxygen tanks to work each day. Yes, we struggle but never in vain for he sends us little miracles through family and friends every day. So when Ian came and asked me for prayer a few months ago, I began to cry and pray thanksgiving.

Ian went to Illinois to an all day interview for the railroad on a wing and lots of prayers this past February. He started sliding in the pew beside us on Sunday mornings at church. That first appearance my youngest told me, “Mom I started crying when I saw Ian’s car in the parking lot at church.” He helped me and the youth group Palm Sunday with the Easter Egg Hunt and pancake breakfast. The past few Sundays he has been playing guitar again in the choir loft. Yesterday, I wept tears of joy as I heard his guitar improvising with the hymns. This Saturday, he leaves to go to school in Chicago, Illinois to start his seven week school training for his dream job. My God does give miracles. I will not cease to pray for my children’s futures, but I’ve given a big thank you to my “Sky Daddy” for answered prayers. I’ve got joy, joy, joy down in my heart.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Joyful Gal

Quotes of the Day:
“Peace is the beauty of life. It is sunshine. It is the smile of a child, the love of a mother, the joy of a father, the togetherness of a family. It is the advancement of man, the victory of a just cause, the triumph of truth.”
Menachem Begin

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.”
Richard Bach

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”
Buddha

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”
Tecumseh

“Where’s your Sky Daddy Sal?”
Ian & Ben Alley

Be Not Afraid

Be Not Afraid

In my mind today, I have lots of situations in Sal the ALS Gal’s world that need attention. There are loose ends which need tied everywhere! I need to make calls, make lists, organize my calendar, and run errands. Ack! I’m drowning! I had to literally force myself to open my meditation materials first before diving into the tangled web of loose ends that are looming over me. I hear the back row snickering because Sal the Cool as a Cucumber Gal is having a bit of a meltdown.

As I read and cleared my mind, I read about Jonah being tossed into the raging sea, a person being forgiven of a huge debt then messing it up by choking someone who owed him a small sum, and forgiving those who hurt you not just seven times but infinity times seven. Here’s the kicker. We need to forgive them even if they hurt us over and over in the same way. I hear you back row. Sometimes people make you want to choke them and toss them overboard. Here’s the big BUT; we have to act with humility, kindness, forgiveness, and mercy. I heard someone say, “This is whack! Why?” The more we open our hearts to humility and mercy, the better person we become. It’s not for the person hurting you but for your salvation. Yes front row it does sound like an oxymoron. Look it up back row!

While reading and thinking, my worries began to literally shrink in importance. I reminded myself that I just needed to focus on one loose end at a time. Then I read something that “shook” me. Do you know what words Jesus said more than any other? My guess was to love your neighbor as yourself. Wrong! It was “Be not afraid.” When I read this Sal the Show-tunes Gal immediately started sing the hymn “Be not afraid.” He does go before us always. If we come to Him, he will give us rest. He is with us tangled in the loose ends of our daily struggles. Call me crazy or Sal the Cuckoo Gal, but I not only believe this I feel it. So many times He comes to my rescue to help me tie my loose ends. One thing is for certain, I will not be afraid of loose ends, sickness, or death. Do you have problems looming over you? Is it at work? Is it a loved one fighting cancer? Has someone hurt you in any way? Have you had to let go of a loved one as they traversed to the other side of heaven? Is your schedule overbooked and you feel like giving up? Whatever the loose end or situation you are in I encourage you to “Be not afraid.”

Sarah Alley
Sal the Fearless Gal

Dedicated to Quintella “Nessie” Dyson Rest In Peace sweet friend. You lived an amazing, big-hearted existence. You always had my back on the basketball court.

Brenda, Teresa, Kelly Jo, Julie, Tracy, and the many other amazing, hard-working, loving people fighting to “Be not afraid” as they look cancer in the face. You are heroes for all of us.

Quotes of the Day:
“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”
Marcus Aurelius

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”
Steve Jobs

“When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.”
Tecumseh

Dharma

Dharma

In my mind today I’m thinking like Brittany Spears, “Oops I did it again.” I haven’t been able to write as of late because I’ve done it again. I’m going to ballgames, teaching at church, and being a youth minister. Some call it “burning the candle at both ends” but Sal the Dharma Gal calls it living with ALS not dying. It feels so good to live with purpose. I’ve given you a break back row so let’s get started and no bathroom breaks during instruction time.

First, what in the world is dharma? Back row not the tv show, Dharma and Greg! It’s what I’ve been harping on for my high school students in religion class each Sunday. We are trying to form good habits and shake old ones. We want to grow. Here’s the definition of dharma: virtue, righteousness, and duty, especially social and caste duty in accord with the cosmic order.

In Sal the ALS Gal’s world, I’ve been fulfilling my cosmic duties to the best of my abilities. God has allowed me to immerse myself in serving once again and I’m so giddy. My modus operandi is to teach. When I sleep, I almost always have vivid dreams. 90% of my dreams involve me teaching and the other 10% I’m playing a sport. Really. So recently I’ve been gifted a new teaching assignment. I’m teaching my great nephew, who suffered a tragic brain injury, two days a week. He’s on homebound instruction. Searching ideas, planning a curriculum, and creating lesson plans gives me so much new life. In my brokenness, I’ve been given purpose. Smile with me.

Not only am I being a teacher once again, but I’m also going to share art and use it once a month at my beloved local library with local middle school students. I’m calling it Art Therapy with Sal the ALS Gal. Giggle with me. I’m so happy.

Now students, why am I so giddy? No, back row I’m not hitting the old peace pipe! I’ve been given the gift of service. I get to serve! We are all called to a purpose and that purpose always has an element of service. I encourage you to find yours.

I know your lives are so full of work, family, church, little-league, boy/girl scouts, and obligations. Somewhere in the web of your life, find a way to help and serve others. It can be through your job or life activities. Just find someway to help those around you. You don’t have to visit a third world country. Seek and you will find a way to live a life fulfilled. Sal the Philosophical Gal knows a life well lived doesn’t involve a big bank account, fancy cars, and designer stuff. It’s about using your gifts to help others. Find your dharm aka path of righteous living.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Servant Gal

Quotes of the Day:
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Gandhi

“The highest form of worship is the worship of unselfish Christian service. The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless.”
Billy Graham

“Everyone has a purpose in life and a unique talent to give to others. And when we blend this unique talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy and exultation of own spirit, which is the ultimate goal of all goals.”
Kallam Anji Reddy

 

Obstacles

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Obstacles

 

 


In my mind today, I’m thinking of obstacles. I’ve had lots of obstacles lately but haven’t we all? I’ve been desperately wanting to write, but life has gotten in the way. I’ve had to deal with my youngest having Influenza Type B, DSCC fundraiser, Valentine’s Day, Ash Wednesday, book club, and Vanderbilt doctor appointments. Whew! Obstacles.

Finally, I’m here to write and it’s Lent. I was thinking maybe God wants me to give up writing for Lent? Nah. My back row students need this time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving instruction. We have discussed prayer and we are going to do more of it for certain, right back row? I saw that paper wad flying back there. Let’s begin.

Fasting is not only about food. It can be giving up a habit or desire. Lots of us are so immersed in the digital realm from television to social media. I observe when I’m out and about the multitude of humans attached to electronic devices. Back row quit grumbling, we are not giving up our electronics. Hey, I’m guilty, too. Let me make a point here. I want you to fast from the future for Lent. Yes, the future. I’m talking about living in the moment, second by second, minute by minute. I know things have to be planned like doctor appointments, but starting NOW make a conscious decision to choose good in each moment. You, my students, are given thousands of choices every day. Focus on each moment and make the best, honorable, wisest decision that you can. Here are some examples: cheat on a test or not, exercise or play on your phone, say something cruel or keep your mouth shut, eat junk food or choose something healthy, and argue or agree to disagree. We are bombarded with choices each second so focus on your choices in each moment. That’s it and yes that’s an assignment. We miss many moments or chances to do good, build character, and foster our happiness not being in our moments. Yes, that’s a fact Jack!

After a wonderful outing Friday, sitting with my flu infested daughter Saturday and Sunday, doctor appointment Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, and book club last night, I’m Sal the Rolling Stone Gal. I’m pushing onward. I’m trying to be in the moments. Sitting at mass Wednesday waiting on my ashes, I saw so many opportunities for doing good. I urged the non-Catholic who sits with an elderly parishioner to go get her ashes. I was able to give words of love to a beautiful friend who just lost her husband. I grabbed and held the hand of a friend with Parkinson’s and whispered “God Bless You.” I prayed for a sweet cousin who just got diagnosed with the C word. I shared a sandwich and conversation with parishioners who gathered for fellowship in the parish hall after mass. So thinking, reading, and writing helped me reflect. Am I Sal the Teacher Gal practicing what I’m preaching? I’m trying really, really hard and I hope you do, too. Life is so very fleeting. You only have your moments to act. Regardless of the obstacles in your life, make the most of your moments.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Live in the Moments Gal

Quotes of the Day:
“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
Buddha

“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”
Omar Khayyam

“The best way to pay for a lovely moment is to enjoy it.”
Richard Bach

“Friends can help each other. A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself – and especially to feel. Or, not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is.”
Jim Morrison

Prayer

Prayer

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In my mind today, I’m thinking of prayer. You hear and see it often among friends and family. Being Catholic, prayer is key. We have many formal prayers: the Our Father, Hail Mary, and the Glory Be. These are common. Prayer is a way to “love others as we love ourselves.”

Scrolling through social media there are always petitions for prayers. The world is hurting. I see friends battling cancer, surgery, deaths, and just life. Prayer is such a gift.

I love to pray. It’s in those still moments that I consciously seek to commune with my maker. As a Catholic, you may think my prayers are formal. Yes, I clutch a worn rosary during my prayerful times, but I have quite the Protestant slant to many of my prayers. I plead and beg God for needs of my family and friends in plain speech. Sometimes I just think of the person or situation and let God do the rest. There are so many ways to pray. There are short “Jesus, Help Me” or “Thank you” prayers and long pleading prayers from our hearts. The wonderful thing is that I really think God hears all prayers.

Lent is coming. As a Sunday School teacher and Youth Minister at my little parish church, I’m going to focus on prayer with my students. They are an answered prayer for me. I’m given an outlet to still physically teach each Sunday for 60 minutes. This is some of my most beloved and cherished time.

The forty days before Easter are a time of reflection and renewal. A time to cultivate healthy habits. Many “give up’ a vice for lent, but I’m going to suggest we add more prayer. I know it will enhance the and stoke the “light” in our world. Do you have a Lenten goal? Whatever your faith, I hope you join me and my students as we pray for each other, our churches, our schools, our towns, and our world. Prayer works. Can I get an Amen?

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Love to Pray Gal

Quotes of the Day:
“Prayer is the key of the morning and the bolt of the evening.”
Gandhi

“Joy is prayer; joy is strength: joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”
Mother Teresa

“Three of the best prayers: Thanks, Help, and Forgive me.”
Sarah Alley aka Sal the ALS Gal

Hail Mary,
Full of Grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary,
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of death.
Amen.

Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.
Amen

Impulses

Impulses

In my mind today, I’m thinking about impulses. We all have them. We have bad and good impulses. That’s human frailty, but I’m focusing on good impulses. The questions are: where do they come from, should we act on them, and why do we get them?

I’ve always had impulses even as a small child. I remember seeing an older man desperately struggling to find something in a grocery store. I watched as he asked several people passing by, “Is this real orange juice?” Each of the women he asked shirked him off with a “humph.” I did notice he was unkempt and scruffy looking. I had an impulse to help him so I did. I was small and around 6 or 7 years old. I walked up to the man and pointed to the orange juice. I said, “Mister, this is orange juice.” He was so grateful and that’s the first time I remember giving mercy. Guess what? It felt good. On the way home I asked my mom, “Why would no one help him?” She said, “Sweetheart, he was poor, illiterate, and probably homeless.” My heart literally hurt for him.

I still get very strong impulses today. Do I act on them? Yes, I try to always act on them whether it’s a mother trying to decide what to put back at the checkout counter or a person sitting alone in a restaurant. I get impulses to act. Do you get impulses? More importantly can you act on them?

Not only have I acted on impulses but I’ve often been on the other side of mercy. Once on one of our many trips to Vanderbilt to my neurologist, I was given a beautiful act of mercy. If you know my Ken, he is a creature of habit. He has to be because I’m so willy-nilly. Bless him for dealing with me and my impulsive self. Anyway we always stop at the same Pilot service station to and from Nashville each time we travel. Often the same homeless man with his sign and dog are there. This particular day was a bad one for me. I was swollen, not breathing well, and literally dying. I usually stay in the van in my chair and wait with the ramp down so I can stretch my legs until they get back. The homeless man saw me. I smiled. As Abbey and Ken were loading up, he ran up the ramp and put a pumpkin in the van seat by me that he had carved the word LOVE onto with his pocket knife. He never utter a word. He quickly exited the van. Ken was freaking out. He said, “He stole that pumpkin! We could get in trouble!” I said, “He just wanted to spread love.” I left my stolen, impulse, mercy-love pumpkin proudly displayed in my classroom that fall and winter. Later that winter, I was hospitalized with a failing diaphragm from my disease and almost died. That homeless man saw my exhausted, weary body and acted on his impulse. I felt love and mercy.

So where do these gut-wrenching impulses come from? Sal the Spiritual Gal thinks they are urged of the divine within us: the Holy Spirit. I roll through this chapter of my life hoping to find more impulses or small ways to serve while I’m still here. That, my students, is why we get those impulses. They are calls to give mercy. Your assignment is to answer those calls of mercy or impulses as you go through each day of your lives. Listen with your heart.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Impulse Gal

Quotes of the Day:

“Most people think that shadows follow, precede or surround beings or objects. The truth is that they also surround words, ideas, desires, deeds, impulses and memories.”
Elie Wiesel

“Mistrust first impulses; they are nearly always good.”
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand

All these primary impulses, not easily described in words, are the springs of man’s actions.”
Albert Einstein

“One of the reasons why so few of us ever act, instead of react, is because we are continually stifling our deepest impulses.”
Henry Miller

‘Till Death Do Us Part

‘Till Death Do Us Part


In my mind today, I’m thinking about true partnerships and commitments. Yesterday was a dear friend’s birthday. We’ve know each other for years, but as of late we’ve become “soul sisters.”

Our lives have eerily paralleled. We married young to older men who had children. We love being a mother. We put love into creating and sustaining our marriages. We both deal with health issues of our spouses and our own. Thirty years ago when we fell in love with these men, we never envisioned the mountains we would climb. We both know where we draw our strength to push forward relishing every grandchild and moments of true love.

It’s not all roses and we both have our crying days. I know that I can be real with her. We both miss so many of the same things. We let each other know it’s okay to grieve our healthy years. With the help of our amazing husbands, we’ve grown to understand and cherish “In sickness and in health and until death do us part.” Would we change any of it? Never.

She recently had a birthday. In the wee hours, she awoke to another bout of sickness. In the mist of cleaning up after her physically challenged, dearly loved husband she found a letter he had written to her before the “stomach bug” attacked. She read it to me and I felt tears fall down my cheeks. How lovely to be cherished and loved so, so much. Even better is to know and realize God’s blessings amid the storms of life and be so blessed with true love. This is truly what life is about.

Happy Birthday my friend. You are the wind beneath so many wings. Like the wind, you go unnoticed but always felt. You always are thinking of ways to serve others unbeknownst. I love and treasure my “soul sister.” Thank you for being that wind beneath my wings when I feel like giving up. Happy, Happy Birthday!

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Soul Sister Gal

Dedicated to Tracy

Quotes of the Day:
“You need a lot of luck to find people with whom you want to spend the rest of your life. Some people manage to find their soul mate. Others don’t. I think love is like a lottery.”
Kylie Minogue

“There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.”
George Sand

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
Lao Tzu

“Thank you for teaching me the true meaning of family.”
R.W.C.

“I love you more than peach milkshakes, enough said.”
R.W.C.