Crosses

Whew! Crosses!

“Do not worry about . . . what you are to say” (Luke 12:11).

In my mind lately, I’ve wanted to write and to share but I haven’t found the words, time, or energy. I’m still here fighting to empty myself for what really matters. Well, students I’m am definitely running on empty and yes I’m singing Jackson Browne as I peck this out. I’m hopping off of the pity party wagon today and feel like my tank is being restored. Whew! The Holy Spirit (We call it the HS at my house.) has been nudging me to share words so here I go.

Crosses. I love them. Unconsciously I have filled my home with them. The symbolism of them brings me joy. Studying and reflecting lately the meaning and connection of crosses in my life has taken on a whole new meaning.

Crosses are responsibilities and events in our lives. They are heavy and burdensome. They do not discriminate according to race, economic status, or social status. They come in all shapes and sizes. They have many names: death, cancer, strokes, ALS, Alzheimer’s, bankruptcy, homelessness, Autism, Parkinson’s, debt, mental illness, unemployment, estranged family members, addictions, and plain ole loneliness barely scrape the many types of crosses we bear on our earthly journey. Makes you want to wave the white flag doesn’t it? I hear the back row saying, “Amen! It’s too tough. Let’s stop this lesson and just have recess every day!” Calm down. Breathe. Adjust that cross on your back and carry it with all your strength. Embrace it. Settle down back row and quit making the Cuckoo gesture. I’m not crazy. Your cross-training (I love this pun!) is to strengthen you, embellish you, and transform you into the vessel needed to complete your purpose for the greater good. It is.

Those crosses teach you patience. They teach you humility. They connect you with the suffering of Christ. They are unexplainable mercies of God that when the cross is lifted, Grace engulfs you. You get 20/20 vision and the lightbulb becomes blinding showing you the abundance of fruits from your labor.

Still don’t believe me? Think of a horrible time in your life. If you’re honest with yourself, you found a rainbow after the storm. You learned to appreciate something you overlooked. You learned to control your tongue. You quit blaming others for your shortcomings. You had the courage to right a wrong and say, “Forgive me. I’m so sorry.” You learned to pray instead of lashing out on social media or try to numb yourself with alcohol or drugs. I saw your jaws drop open. You get it. 😀

Students, you have a pop quiz today. No, I don’t love to torture you; I just love you. I want to fill your tank. Today, identify a cross you are carrying. Whatever it is, big or small, whisper, “God, I accept this cross for you. Help me. Use it for YOUR plan, not mine. I’m weary and tired. Give me strength. Thank you for hearing me and helping me bring joy into my valleys. Amen.”
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Cross-bearing Gal

Quote of the Day:
“True teachers use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own.”
Nikos Kazantzakis

Eternal Home

“God . . . has planted eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3: 11 NLT).

When I was born, my family lived on Perry Circle in our small town. Although it was part of our government housing authority or the “Jets” or “The West Side,” it was home. My mother was so grateful for indoor plumbing and the amenities of “city living.” She took pride in that opportunity to have a home that was safe for her five children. She had many angels that helped her deal with life’s bumps: an unreliable alcoholic husband, five children, and acquiring a skill to provide for her family.

My amazing mother was able to complete a CNA license and find decent work to provide stability in our home. My father was able to pull himself together long enough for us to get a special assistance loan to buy a house in a small neighborhood. The mortgage note was $80 for 30 years. It guaranteed my mother’s children a home and set down roots for all of us. My mother had social workers that advised her to hang on to her house. They were proud of my hard working mother for fighting through poverty and becoming self-sufficient. Our new home was a blessing.

Today, I think of my mother’s story. The first chapter that was written as a sharecropper’s daughter and the struggles that shape you. The chapters about marrying young to a charismatic, charming alcoholic that left her with a broken heart and a lot of strife. The chapters of overcoming poverty and reconciling with a husband fighting to find redemption in his sobriety that spoke volumes of character to her children. My mother is now living her final chapters of this earthly life in the home that she paid for with blood, sweat, and tears. Thanks be to God she still lives there today even though Alzheimer’s disease is threatening her earthly finale.

My mother knew how important having a home is. She knew her earthly chapter urged her to make a home for her children. My wise mother also knew that her final earthly home wasn’t her last destination. Regardless of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, she stills tells us that there is more.

I love the home that my husband and I have built together. It’s been a refuge for our children, family, and grandchildren. It’s only 7 miles from where my story began on Perry Circle. Like my mother, I’ve enjoyed my earthly journey potholes included. My heart seeks for a more eternal home just as hers does.

My heart is sadden by those who have lost faith that there is more. Not realizing there is a God. The culture of our world implies that peace and happiness are attainable through satisfying our human desires through selfishness, freedom, and indulgence. Have you ever heard someone say, “I want to be miserable?” Me either but when I roll around in my chair I see an awful lot of miserable people. I’m so grateful for my mom who “walked the walk” and showed me true love and happiness. She did everything out of love. Why? God had whispered to her through many prayers and written on her heart that we are all on a journey through this life to eternity where we will find our home in the heart of God.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Eternal Home Loving Gal

Quote of the Day:
“When you hold your baby in your arms the first time, and you think of all the things you can say and do to influence him, it’s a tremendous responsibility. What you do with him can influence not only him, but everyone he meets and not for a day or a month or a year but for time and eternity.”
Rose Kennedy

Grateful

Grateful

In my mind today, I’m thinking about the meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday. As I read and prayed this morning, the word grateful kept popping up. The more I sat in the stillness, the more I was filled with such gratefulness. Each day is such a gift. Ken and I know this all to well.

I’m so grateful our family is growing. We have a new three month old member, Owen Monroe. My son’s fiancé Carlin’s family joined us creating more love and diversity. There were old recipes and new. The bounty of food was so abundant. The joining of families is such a beautiful sight. The saying, “The More the Merrier” is definitely true.

After Thanksgiving, I felt oh, so peaceful. The last three months have been harrowing. As we held hands and prayed (yes back row, just like The Whos down in Whoville,) a warmth spread all over Sal the Prayerful Gal’s body. Tears brimmed my eyes as the realization hit me. Lots of my prayers have been answered. My niece who had been deathly sick is on the road to recovery. She looks healthier and stronger than I have seen her in years. My precious mother that has short-term memory issues still remembers our names and has snuggles and hugs that are priceless. Our Grands lost their father seven years ago, but have a wonderful, stable home and are growing into happy, healthy, and amazing people. My husband had a good time enjoying all the company despite his ever present cannula and health issues. And last but not least, my great nephew sat on my scoot with me when he could have easily been on the other side of heaven just a few weeks ago. Ladies and Gentlemen, God is Good ALL the Time. He gave us a day of such love and gratefulness. I will always treasure and be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Being thankful in all things is easy when prayers are answered. There are going to be days and times when God answers our prayers in ways we don’t quite understand. We as mere humans have to be okay with those answers as well. This is where some hearts turn cold, angry, and bitter. Students, please try to be thankful in all things. I pray continually for God to help me find His blessings in all things: the Good and the Bad.

Here lies your lesson for Thanksgiving this year. Back row I know you want me to drop the holiday lessons, but I’m a teacher 365 days of the year so quit grumbling and listen. Continue to pray always without ceasing. If someone or something is causing you pain, pray and ask for guidance. In everything be thankful. God doesn’t take days off. He hasn’t forgotten you. The unanswered prayers often turn out to be blessings in disguise. Just be still, patient, and thankful. Always, always be Grateful.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the ever so Grateful Gal

Dedicated to my family’s miracles of 2017

Quotes of the Day:

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” —Zig Ziglar

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” —Oprah Winfrey

“The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.” —Dalai Lama

“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” —Willie Nelson

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” —Charles Dickens

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” —Albert Einstein

Wired, Hope, & Hearts

 

Wired, Hope, & Hearts

In my mind today I’m thinking about being wired, “Hoping against Hope,”and eyes of the heart. Having a disease like ALS, I have to be “wired” most of the time. My devotion today suggested I unplug. I chuckled as I was reading it on my iPhone. My hands are too weak to hold a physical book and use paper and pen. My modus operandi is reading and pecking away on my phone. Sadly, this too is going to end eventually. Don’t cheer back row, because some earthly angels have gifted me with a Dynavox: a device where I use my eyes to type and communicate. So, hopefully my blogging, teaching, and writing will go on a bit longer. I hear moaning back there! So Sal the Wired Gal still needs to zone out occasionally without these electronic devices and so do you. Yes, here’s your first assignment of the day: pick a small block of time and turn off your phone, tablet, lap top, or PC. I used to sometimes spend my lunches or planning periods at school alone in my room in the dark. I would begin praying, meditating, and often times sleeping. I do that now every day sometime between 8 AM and 11 AM. You know what? It recharges me. Front row, you caught that pun didn’t you? Yes back grow, this is a grade.

My phrase of the day is “Hoping against Hope.” In the Alley family, we’ve had and continue to have a lot of “Hoping against Hope” scenarios. It has been a harrowing past few months. My husband crashed in the ER and was slowly brought back from a vent. A dear niece of mine almost lost her life to lung disease. My great-nephew endured a traumatic, life threatening head injury. My older brother is on the brink of self-destruction with addiction issues. My dear mother continues to decline mentally with Alzheimer’s. Of course, I continue to fight ALS. This all seems surreal. It’s sounds like a Lifetime movie and fiction. It’s simply life. Just like the quote from Ian Maclauren, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” This is ever so true. We are all “Hoping against Hope.” I hear you asking, “Ms. Alley, how can we continue on? It all seems so hopeless.” Ah, but “Hoping against Hope” is not hopeless and here’s your second assignment. Use your prayers and petitions to summon a miracle. Right now after reading this, whisper a prayer for something you feel hopeless about. Ask for guidance. Unplug yourself and listen. Remember I’m a teacher at heart. I’m tying this lesson together. There’s always Hope. It’s one of the big three: Faith, Hope, and Love.

I’ll end with eyes of the heart. I stumbled across this or it was planted in my mind the other day: eyes of the heart. I thought to myself how beautiful? Back row I see you looking perplexed picturing a heart with literal eyeballs on it. It’s so much deeper than that. I think looking at problems, people, and situations with your heart is something of divinity. When as a mere human, we begin to seek and to see with a humble, all encompassing heart then we are literally in the heart of our maker. I know I’m getting a bit cheesy here but let me share this quick story. During mass one Sunday, I had an epiphany. As I prayed, looked at the crucifix, and took communion, I realized God had escaped my heart. I was now being carried inside of His heart. Yes, back row Ms. Alley is a bit Cuckoo. I had the realization that I was free from ALS. I was now being carried through this earthly life for something greater. People always ask, “How do you do all that you do?” Well this is the answer. I now look with God’s heart as I roll around in my wheelchair. He moves me, puts people in my life to assist me, and carries me through each adventure. Eyes of the Heart.

Last assignment I promise. Today when you unplug, “Hope against Hope, and look with your heart, smile because you have been given another day to make the world a better place. Be grateful for the good and the bad. Each day is a new beginning to begin anew. If you are reading this, you have a purpose to fill and jobs yet to do. Get out there! Go in Peace to love and serve others.
Sal the Spiritual Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley

Quotes of the Day:

“Hope against hope, and ask till ye receive.”
James Montgomery

 

“I’m a romantic; a sentimental person thinks things will last, a romantic person hopes against hope that they won’t.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”
Jesus Christ

The Worst

The Worst

In my mind and heart today, I’m feeling warm and fuzzy. I was able to spend the whole day with my sweet, strong, loving mother. My Aunt, her loving sister Linda, brought her over, and we had such a wonderful day.

Three years ago my condition worsened greatly. My diaphragm was failing, and I was close to death. I made it through it, but my mother’s mind began to slip. Every time we were together I could literally see her heart break. She couldn’t bear to see her youngest in such a weakened physical state. I was her tomboy that loved the outdoors and every sport imaginable. I chuckle when she tells me Sarah Anne you exercised too much. Ironically, she had lost her baby sister to the same horrible disease. My aunt was only 43 years old. This was such a hard time for our family especially for those sisters and her only son.

As I progress, so does my mom which is the worst. It makes our times together fewer. The logistics for me are hard but as she progresses she becomes less compliant to go on adventures and outings. I’m busily trying to live and advocate for education, social justice, love, and a cure for ALS until I take my last breath which ties up my days. I keep hearing Willie Nelson in my head “Still is still moving to me” as I keep rolling. I know my mom wants me to fight on.

Alzheimer’s is the worst. She is confused easily and her short term memory is shot. When I’m with her, we revisit the past. It’s always full of knee-slapping laughter and occasionally tears. It’s never a disappointment even if we laugh at the same story 20 times. I’m still so blessed by her love and earthly presence. Once after all of her fuzzy-headedness(this is one of her descriptions) started, she told my sister “Judy, I think God is helping me forget so I can deal with Sarah being so sick.” I think she may be on to something.

My mom and I both have bumpy journeys ahead. ALS and Alzheimer’s are really two of the worst fates for any human to bear. I always remind my healthy brain to focus on each minute while trying to prepare for the worst. This has always been my modus operandi with ALS and my advice for others who share my bumpy path. While you are able do these things if you can: handicap your bathroom, find equipment in loan closets, register with the local ALS Chapter, educate your friends and family, and then enjoy each moment one day at a time. The storm is coming and you will encounter many break-downs as you look into the future of living with ALS. It’s very ugly, hard, and expensive. But, I know someone will rather you be here even if it is excruciating at times. Just like my mom keeps reminding me when we talk, “Young lady, you cannot go before me. You are my baby.” I know momma. I know. I’m fighting very hard to stay.
Sarah Anderson Alley

Dedicated to all those who live and love through Alzheimer’s.

Quotes of the Day:
“If you learn to listen for clues as to how I feel instead of what I say, you will be able to  understand me much better.”
— Mara Botonis

“We remember their love when they can no longer remember.”
— Unknown

“It occurred to me that at one point it was like I had two diseases — one was Alzheimer’s, and the other was knowing I had Alzheimer’s.”
— Terry Pratchett