The Still Within

The Still Within
I am the good shepherd. . . . My sheep know my voice, and I know them. —John 10: 14, 27

In my mind today, I’m thinking of the hectic past month. I’m missing my silent morning moments. It makes me think of one of my favorite English teachers Ms. Marjorie Neal. Her motto was, “Go, Go, Go!” Her bubbly personality, short red, curly hair, and petite stature are still with me. After long bursts of activity when I feel like becoming a hermit, I hear her mantra, “Go, Go, Go!” I see her occasionally at restaurants in our little burg. I always speak, but I know she doesn’t recognize the present Sal. Then I was six feet tall, skinny as a rail, and a goofy gal. Now I’m in a scoot, growing a voluptuous buddha belly, and hidden by my disease. All that is trivial though because Mrs. Neal gave me something to use on my journey and God knows how to do this unbeknownst. So we roll with it.

Lately my mind has been screaming “No, No, No!” I’ve gotten use to my silent times with my maker and as of late my phone is constantly ringing or dinging. My calendar has been chocked full. The to do list has lengthened. As soon as I check off a task another two are added. I just pull up my dipe and put my scoot in rabbit mode and “Go, Go, Go!” Whew!

Every night my sweet “Chuck” aka Abbey jumps into my bed and we have our “Snuggle-time.” Last night I listened to her hectic life of Calculus, honors English, and standardized test oh my! She was trying to be positive and look passed her to do list. She’s summing up her high school chapter and it’s a whirlwind of college applications, ACT/SAT’s, and homework. As I listened, I realized she was exhausted and frustrated like me. She’s missing her times of solitude and silence. We discussed ways to order her day so all items would be neatly checked off. We talked about the busyness of this season and how to survive. What did we do? We added to our list! 😮 Our plan was to rise at 5:30 AM and walk through our neighborhood together then we would jump start our day. The coffee would call us home, and we would have an extra hour to begin our beginning.

It worked! The stars and moon greeted us as our coonhound bayed on our stroll. We shook the cobwebs and solved a few Alley “porbrums.” (Alley speak for problems) It was beautiful. It was a bit of solitude and communion with the Maker as we watched as the sun began to illum the day. We felt more prepared to face our calendars, homework, tests, and tasks. My “Chuck” and I are learning to carry our silence within us because there are plans and places God needs us go and to accomplish. All of this is part of it. The Still Within is bigger than any standardized test or bursting calendar. It sustains us. It keeps us rolling on and checking off our lists. All we need to do is take a brief pause, breathe, and let it fill our lives. Amazingly our “No, No, No’s” become “Go, Go, Go’s!”

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Go, Go, Go Gal

Quotes of the day from a dear friend fighting breast cancer and leukemia while being a caregiver of her husband who has championed a massive stroke AND is the best event planner and MUMA this side of heaven, Tracy Cupples. She sent me these encouraging words after me sending my “pity pot” to do list this morning.

“You know that’s how you roll. I have come to realize…….. that’s a big part of what’s keeping you alive. You don’t slow down long enough to realize what is going on with your body………AND …….the biggest reason…….God is keeping you rolling for HIM because no one is a brighter light.”

“Sarah, one day we’ll all stop rolling. So roll on and spread love and light. That’s who you are…..that’s who you’ve always been…… before ALS. Here’s the thing…… people listen with intent now. God knows who will roll on for HIM. Your house is waiting on you and that crown too………. We win either way, Sarah!!!!”
Ms. Tracy “Muma” Cupples

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

Turn, Turn, Turn

A time to love, and a time to hate. (Ecclesiastes 3:8)

 

In my mind today, I’m mulling over my readings. I was excited to read Ecclesiastes today. I hear the song “Turn, Turn, Turn” and smile. These verses are so poetic. I love anything linguistic: words, rhymes, puns, or sentence structure. It makes my brain hum. I drive my family crazy with my nonsensical outbursts as I turn everything into a show tunes sing-a-long.

Hate is such a strong word. As I’ve grown, I’ve mellowed. I don’t have the heart to hate anymore. People that is. I truly see and know we are all part of something big and are created for good. Each life has a purpose.

I admit it. There are things I hate. I hate when I find out former students have died too soon. I hate cancer, ALS/MND, Alzheimer’s, mental illnesses, strokes, and freak, fatal accidents. I hate addictions. I hate parental neglect. I hate prejudice. I hate that some people feel unloved. I hate that we value things over human life. I hate that we are so easy to judge and resent others. I hate that my hands are too weak to Blog like I used to Blog. I hate that my body is betraying me. I hate being sick. It’s true. There is a time to hate.

One of the last books we read at our local bookclub, “Turn the Page,” was The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. One of the characters in the novel was hated by the village because of his German heritage. The village had lost many sons at the hands of the Germans during WWI. He was a simple young man, a baker. Amid the slurs and taunting, he smiled. His wife asked him, “How can you forgive and be so happy?” He told her, “I can forgive and forget… it is so much less exhausting. You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering all the bad things.” When this quote was used to end our discussion all of us had an “aha” moment. So there are also times to forgive and forget. I think this is so hard for us as humans. We cling to our anger and resentment like it’s a gem. Don’t. Life is too short; it’s but a breath on the timeline of time. Make your breath a refreshing one. One that breathes life into everyone on your life path. Let it fill the air with sounds of love and affirmations. Let it sing praise. “Turn, Turn, Turn” your hate into love.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Things I Hate Gal

Quotes of the Day:

Right and wrong can be like bloody snakes: so tangled that you can’t tell which is which until you’ve shot them both, and then it’s too late.
M. L. Stedman – The Light Between Oceans

To have any kind of a future you’ve got to give up hope of ever changing your past
M. L. Stedman – The Light Between Oceans

We always have a choice. All of us
M. L. Stedman – The Light Between Oceans

Thorns

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In my thoughts today I’m reminded of thorns. Thorns come in all shapes and sizes to the human existence. We have emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical thorns to deal with all throughout our lives.

Summer is the time of relaxing, holidays with family, and lazy days. I’ve had some wonderful lazy days this summer. I haven’t written as much but I’m reading a lot. The mornings are spent reading and studying. This particular morning I read: A thorn in the flesh . . . (2 Corinthians 12:7). I feel ya Paul. Oy vey the thorns already. In this beautiful season there are thorns growing rapidly in the gardens of our hearts. God help us.

Thorns are not always so visible. Everyone can see the thorn I bear. Paul’s thorn he bore is still a mystery to us. I think that was part of the Holy Spirit’s plan. We all have some type of thorn to bear. When God doesn’t relieve Paul of his thorn, it speaks so loud to my own heart and soul. I feel God’s Grace and power and feel the Holy Spirit minding the garden of my soul. Every little thing is gonna be alright. I know that.

I’ve seen several horrific thorns as of late. Parents on meth and children suffering their parents choices. Parents separated from their new born child. People dying from incurable diseases like cancer. Thorns. I’m praying hard that God will remove these thorns. My heart literally aches within my chest when I witness such sadness.

I will embrace my thorns. I will continue to pray. I will trust His Grace is sufficient. Every prayer is answered but not always in ways we want. The plans God has supersedes anything our small minds can fathom. The answers may come to us on the other side of heaven. When your thorns become unbearable, remember the answer Paul received and take heart. It is what speaks to my heart each morning.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Embrace your thorns and be glad.

Sal the Thorn Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley

Quotes of the Day:
“If you enjoy the fragrance of a rose, you must accept the thorns”
Issac Hayes

“Life is thickly sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.”
Voltaire

“Truths and roses have thorns about them.”
Henry David Thoreau

“Although the life of a person is in a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”
Pope Francis

They Kept the Faith

In my mind today, I’m pretty rattled. In all truth the past few weeks have been full of grief. A classmate and former student of mine started their new chapter in heaven. This earthly life is one of many questions and uncertainties. Keeping the faith is so hard when sadness is all around. My prayers lately are “God help me keep the faith. I know I’m but a wretched sinner myself and do not deserve all the good that you give me. Just use me as part of your plan and please forgive my mean words, thoughts, and actions.” Yes, we all have chinks in our character, me especially.

This morning I read about Peter and Paul. It helped to remind me that all is not lost. We all remember Peter’s big declarations, “Lord, I could never deny you!” Then the old cock crows and he is scared and his faith is shaken. In these tough times, I feel Peter’s pain. I know you do, too. Then after the resurrection he tells Peter to tend and feed his sheep. He understands our two big W’s: weakness and wretchedness.

Then we have the Persecutor Saul/Paul. He was super wretched. He was responsible for many deaths of early Christians. God took his sight so he could be able to see the real truth and meaning of life. He became one of the best vehicles for spreading truth and light into our muddled world. The letters of Paul never fail to ignite my heart.

I want to think that today our lives are the worst they’ve ever been. People dying of cancer too soon, brokenness of families, suffering children, and rampant addictions coupled with ignorance make me want to just give up. Toss it all away and just take care of my family and forget all of the nuts out there. My faith just wavers some days like it has the past few weeks. I want to be like Peter and run or roll away in my wheelchair. I make myself pick up my devotional, Bible, and spiritual reading and whisper prayers “God help me. God protect my loved ones. God help me. The world is getting to me. Please hear me. Let me be a light. Don’t let me give up. Help me understand that this life is not all that we have. Thank you for listening.” Your Wretched & Weary Gal Sal
Amen
I keep the faith. Why? It’s all we really have. The world has always been a mess and will continue to be so because humans are broken. Here’s the objective kids: In keeping the Faith, doing good deeds, and creating a culture of love, we win the race. We finish well. Each of our little lives matter in the big picture. I’m trying hard not to give up. Don’t ever give up and walk with me by Faith and not by sight.

Sal the Rolling by Faith Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley

Dedicated to:
Kelly Jo Blair Hicks
Teresa Hughes Milligan

Quote of the Day:
“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”
Mother Teresa

“Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.”
Rabindranath Tagore

“Our last earthly breath is the beginning of happily ever after.”
Sarah Anderson Alley

54 and So Much More

54 and So Much More

In my mind today I’m focused on my first cousin. I attended her wake this past Monday. Her precious mother sitting there receiving visitors to give condolences for losing her oldest child. Aunt Linda is now a member of the “Parents who outlived their child club” or as I like to call it “The Eternal Hole in My Heart Club.” Heart-crushing.

Brenda was her first child. The child that is usually the strongest. This child has to experience a mother figuring out how to be a mother. They grow and learn together. There is such a strong bond between mother and her first fledgling. The first child is the brunt of a lot of learning experiences of which some are wonderful but sometimes are tough. Typically the first child survives and thrives often becoming strong and very protective of his or her mother and siblings. This was the case of my Aunt and her first, Brenda.

As I watched the slideshow of my cousin’s life, I saw her seasons of sun. Her unbeknownst physical beauty that encompassed an elegant, selfless soul. She grew into a fierce protector and provider for her mother, children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and siblings. I can’t remember a time when she didn’t work. She started at the tender age of 14 years old working in a restaurant. The first big purchase she made was a beautiful, warm coat for her mother. She always worked with a servant’s heart. She never coveted money, wealth, or materialistic things for herself. She always provided for others never thinking of herself. Selfless.

She had battled cancer almost 10 years ago. She won. Two months ago cancer came back for round two. Two months ago she went to her mother’s home and asked, “Mom, can I stay with you? I’m so, so tired.” In her heart and my Aunt Linda’s, they knew the C-word was back. This time it had brought multiple tumors and seeped into her bones growing and spreading with each passing day. My Aunt Linda then did what she does best; she helped her strong daughter pass with love and dignity to her new season. As cancer consumed her physical body, her fear of death subsided and her faith grew. The love of her siblings grew. Her children’s compassion, respect, and love for her grew.

We all knew our strong Brenda was going to go before us. It hurts to think of someone so young battling cancer. When I look at the news, social media feeds, and prayer petitions, it’s flooded with loved ones facing this earthly life stealing disease. Although cancer steals years, it can’t steal our joy, spirit, and love. These are eternally carried within our souls and not touched by cancer. I can give cancer one compliment. It helps us declutter our selfish lives, live in the moment, grow in gratitude, and realize there is so much more even if someone you hold dear is like our strong, beautiful Brenda who was given only 54 earthly years. There is so much more.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the I HATE CANCER Gal

Dedicated to Brenda Darby Reed, Kelly Jo Blair Hicks, Callie Cupples DeSpain, Tracy Cupples, Linda Darby, Kim Toombs Evans,Teresa Archer, Cindy Enochs, Rhonda Mayfield, Penny Guthrie, Java Renyolds Stanley. Moody Thompson Permenter, George Hancock, Colt Lemons, Jeremy Maze, Gerald Darby, George Wesley Anderson, Logan Anderson, & all of those touched by cancer.

Quotes of the Day:
“I will thank God for the day and the moment I have.”

“Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

Jim Valvano

 

Take this Cup from Me…

Take this cup from me…

 

In my mind today I’m thinking of Holy Week on the church calendar. Sal the Youth Minister Gal is weak and weary. I had a very long, busy week and weekend. I could barely hold the communion cup at mass Sunday. We pulled off a pancake breakfast and egg hunt between services. I’m so proud of my church and the youth. It is melding into such a group of loving servants.

This was Palm Sunday when we reenact the wretchedness of turning Jesus over to the chief priests and then chant “Crucify him!” It makes my heart squeeze knowing that we are all wretched just like the mob demanding Jesus be put to death when days before we lauded his entrance into town for the Passover Feast. This is a tough week to be a Christian. We examine more closely our motives and actions. We realize that we are not worthy of such a BIG love. So as we sang our hymns I felt those tears find the path of wrinkles down to my cheeks.

As the disciples slept and we do too sometimes in church (back row,) Jesus poured out his heart and asked God to take the cup from him if it was His will. He cried saying, “Not my will but yours be done.” So he kept the cup and we were delivered from our wretched humanness. The suffering was for the greater good. I totally relate to this.

What about you? Do you find yourself praying God take this cup (insert cancer, addiction, death, divorce, financial ruin, ALS, etc.) from me and my family? Sure you do. I have many times closed my eyes and prayed, “God if it’s Your will, get me out of this chair. Strengthen my arms so I can write with a pencil again and give those backbone crushing hugs. How about just strengthening my diaphragm a bit? So I can breathe easy without my machine for longer periods.” Then I think of Jesus and add, “It’s all about you God and not me. I’m your servant. Use me for your purpose. Your will be done.” I don’t feel sad because I’m still waking up partially paralyzed. I feel grateful I’m given another day to be used in bigger purpose.

This week reminds us we all have “cups” to bear. Living is part of dying. Heartbreak is part of true love. Sin is part of redemption. We want to skip the tough parts and get on with the parties. Life just doesn’t work like that. The “cups” we graciously bear are what build our virtues and character creating a lighted path for others. We become strong warriors although we may wear diapers and sit in wheelchairs wearing a Darth Vader mask to breathe. I also whoosh around like BB8 or R2D2. Go ahead and laugh students. I am! This Holy Week, bear your “cups” for Jesus. Offer up all your suffering and pain. This is all temporal, fleeting. We are not bodies with a soul. We are eternal souls with a body. Take your cup this Holy Week.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Cup Bearing Gal

Quotes of the Day:
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
MLK Jr.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
Helen Keller

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”
Khalil Gibran

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”
Helen Keller