Pentecost is coming!

What is the world of Sal the ALS Gal? Well lately I have been so, so busy. There is always work to do. We Catholics Christians are still celebrating Easter! This was our sixth Sunday of Easter celebrations. We are waiting for the Ascension of Jesus celebration and of course Pentecost. Pentecost is the end of our Easter season so we have a lot of Easter parties left to do. It seems the only places I find peace these days are at my church or in my prayer Spots. It is just a mad, mad world out there! 

I feel like such a bad teacher. Here it is at the end of the year and I just haven’t been able to write. I’ve had so many tough things to deal with in my life and am trying to give these to God. His yoke is easy. Students, you shouldn’t let negative things get in the way of doing good for others. It is our job as we go through this thing we call life. Lately I have been invisible to a lot of you, but know that I have been very busy. I am starting a community garden in my neighborhood. God has given me two gardeners, I call angels, Alan and Marcelo. I hope that the people I live with in this neighborhood will use it to teach especially the children and each other how God provides through gardening. It always makes me think that our hearts and souls are Gardens. They become weedy and lots of the good stuff gets choked out but that’s what Jesus does for us. He de-weeds our horribly weed choked hearts. Let’s not forget the Holy Spirit; it flows through each of us and all around us every day. It is what the beautiful things in the world are created of: the Holy Spirit. The breeze we feel but we cannot see: the Holy Spirit. When I go to a prayer spot or church I let Jesus in my heart and I allow Him to take all those weedy things out that keep me from being close to Him: death of loved ones, diseases that are incurable, senseless violence within our world, and the ever raging wars. The Earth is crying for us to embrace her and to take care of her because our days will be over very soon. Yet our children’s days are all on the horizon. This lets us know that we should teach our children every single day. We are to teach them and guide them until our very last breath. Even the way we die will speak volumes to our children and grandchildren. The way we live speaks even louder. If you are a parent and you are reading this I know that you have a very serious job that will last your entire life. Take heart because that is a blessing. Every child is a gift from God. Whether that child is wanted or not. Remember those widows and orphans of the world just like I preach so much about and don’t forget your immigrants either because we should love each other and help each other to do the good that needs to be done. Remember we are all sojourners on this earth. 

Another thing that I have been blessed to do recently is to give out scholarships again from the race for ALS awareness and also for my beloved friend Bart Williams. Reading through all of the applications and then being able to go and put a face to an essay was exhilarating. That is just the teacher in me of course. It just made my heart so big to see so many young people ready to go on their next Journey. God is really so good. I am so blessed to live in such a little place in West Tennessee that has a tremendous amount of love for each other. This is something that is becoming such a rarity. Places like these have enough love to cover so many shortcomings. If you don’t have it where you live you can come live here or you could start trying to build it where you are. This is our commission to do the good work. The good work also comes at a price. This price is a lot for some people because you have to think of yourself last. This is the opposite of what the world is telling us. I hope many of you are learning to winnow what you hear because the easiest or should I say the most clever deceiver ever has set us up for a huge battle. This battle is for our children.  I may lose a lot of readers from this point on because it’s so hard to believe in something so much bigger than you. With everything we have today it seems like God could be a fairy tale. God could just be mythology remixed according to intellectuals. All I do know  is that I do feel God and I do feel that he lives within my heart. So many people ask me how could you do what you do?  The answer is so simple; it is not me who drives my heart and my soul and my body. It’s no longer I; it is Christ who lives Within Me. So students just give it a chance. Come see me come; talk to me. I’m still here but one day, one glorious morning my soul will rise.  

Another thing that I will be doing during this summer is passing out food for three weeks in June and three  weeks in July to students who are currently in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade along with review material for the upcoming school year. If you would like to be a part of this or if you know someone who would benefit from this please contact me. You can do this on Facebook Messenger or ask someone for my number. It is all free. We will feed the families of these children for 6 weeks out of the summer as well as give them materials to continue to learn while they are out for the summer vacation. The great thing is if these children need help they will have a teacher at our church to help them aka me and a lot of my students from my religious class will be helping to serve all of these children this summer. If there is a child or family with older children I will get those materials and will give them food as well for the week. Please just contact me. God will provide. 

Last but not least I will continue a Bible study at my house throughout this summer on Mondays. This feeds my soul to be able to discuss things together about God. We are currently doing The Chosen series. It is so important students to surround yourself with people who genuinely care about you. This could be in your family, your friends from school, or your work friends. I was just telling my husband that I was so blessed to be surrounded by teachers that knew what was important. If I had not had Labrenda, Tammy, Clara, Andrea, and Mandy I don’t know that I could have continued teaching and blessed more without knowing that God was with me through you. The Bible study is helping me deal with some really hard seasons in my personal life. Most of you know that it is not only me that is sick but also my husband. Barring a miracle this time is becoming shorter each day, but we all understand that death is such a part of life. We are trying our best to live and love each day and enjoy the days we have left together. So if you love my husband or if you know him please reach out. You could call him or come by and visit. Long visits are really hard but he would love to see some of you, read a text, or email. You see his mission field was totally different from mine. He was out there with the common laborers or the people that make this country and so many other countries work. It has been really hard for sure. I think it is just part of the guy thing; girls we always are ready to hug and love each other, but for men it’s a different way to show that you care. Just pray for us because we do know that God is so much bigger than all of these problems. All problems are just Earthly problems. We were told in order to get to see Jesus we had to carry our crosses. I think my husband and I have done a good job of carrying these crosses. We understand that we do not build Treasures here but we build them up in heaven by our acts of kindness and goodness to promote the kingdom of God here on Earth. It is about to be summer break students, but for sure I will be giving you more and more lessons as long as I have breath to breathe. Love to all of you and God bless and keep you. 

Sarah Anderson Alley

“And though their love was hanging on a limb she taught him how to dance and start again.” Neil Young

Winnowing Words and Thoughts

Winnowing your words and thoughts 

In my mind today I am winnowing my words and thoughts.  I know back row; what in the world is winnowing?  I am simply separating and selecting. Students, we each have a finite time to do good.  It is very important to keep your soul and mind on what is important.  There are only so many situations that you can make a difference. You do not need to waste the space in your head or your heart. This has been a new lesson for me. I am getting there slowly but surely. The one thing that is meeting me as I do this is peace. As I eliminate more things that I can do nothing about, these things that I can come to the forefront.  I have told you before that the most precious commodity is this little time we spend together on Earth.  Don’t waste it! 

What if an angel came to you and told you tomorrow you will die? Examine your soul and mind.  What occupies it or both of them? Are they full of things you can do nothing about?  Are you thinking of someone who has hurt you? Are you dwelling on money, the lack of or acquisition of it?  Is the psycho babble of the world rattling in your head and heart?  Are addictions stealing your morals?  Is every thought about yourself? It looks like we all need to winnow our thoughts and souls and words.  I just got an amen from the front row! 

I don’t write to make you feel hopeless; I write to hopefully inspire you to a greater calling: an Agape love. Every single thing in our lives works toward something. Renewal. It is so evident especially in the Spring. Down to the last atom there is a purpose for life.The time-line continues forward infinitely. Atoms of our forefathers greet us in the budding of trees. Nothing is wasted in nature as God intended. One day we will meet eternity. This is a thought worth saving. This thought can help you understand how precious this little life is and do your good works for God on this leg of your journey home.

Homework time! This week students winnow your hearts and minds. Be purposeful.  Choose good life giving words. Fill your mind with thoughts of how you can bless others. Here’s an action plan: pray for those people in life that hurt you, pray for those that are elderly and need love, pray for those who are taking care of people who are in need, if you have a chance to help someone, Do it! Look up Agape and let that love guide you.  I hope you understand that Ms. Alley “agape” loves you!

Sarah Anderson Alley 

Sal the AGAPE GAL 

 Quotes of the Day by Marcus Aurelius:

The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.

Remember: Matter. How tiny your share of it. Time. How brief and fleeting your allotment of it. Fate. How small a role you play in it.

Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.

Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears. 

The best answer to anger is silence. 

The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.

Gethsemane Gardens

In my mind, I have been desperately trying to stay the course, the narrow way. Students when you are looking at memento mori, All things will die, it puts your life in a positive perspective.

Last year at Easter I was in the hospital fighting for my life. Two weeks ago my husband was at Vanderbilt fighting for his life. Four days into his stay at the hospital our youngest granddaughter was rushed to Le bonheur. Both are now home. God’s mercy has rained down once again on the Alley family.

My husband is one of the most honorable men I have ever met. I think in some ways he is a saint for putting up with me. He is also very stubborn. His pulmonologist wanted him to go to the emergency room because his oxygen levels dipped into the 40s as he slept. Remember I said he is very stubborn so he bargained for one more night before going to the emergency room in Nashville. That night was like a night in the garden of Gethsemane for my son and me. He watched till 3 AM and I watched you until 6 AM. Each time he would go into the low numbers we would stir him. Then the next day my son drove him to Nashville to Vanderbilt. My son told me that we almost lost him on the way and he had to continually keep him awake. When he reached the ER his CO2 levels were 100%. The normal level is in the twenties. In the year 2009 they told my husband he had 2 years left on these lungs. With much love and sacrifice from family and friends, the hands and feet of God, have pulled us back out and given us more time together. We know we will die one day. We totally accept that. But students also understand that we are created of flesh and spirit. The spiritual world is a mystery but we are part of it. As our earthly life ends, our spiritual birth will begin. My husband and I know that there is more. Thanks be to God. Our bodies will return to the Earth but our spirits will soar.

Life is more limited for him but he is still here for a time as we all are. Students, our work is not over until all know the truth. The closer I get to heaven the more I feel. Last night I was able to go to Holy Thursday service. I was tired but I stayed the course and I am so glad. I was able to witness 13 young young boys and girls take their 1st communion. As the priest washed their feet just like the disciples that fateful night I wept with happiness. Watching all of the parents and the children built up hope within me that others want to take care of the treasures on this Earth, especially the children. Although this world is upside down there is still a light of Christ that will shine until the very end of time on Earth.

Yesterday I was also blessed to go around my little town square. Every shop I visited and every car that passed was filled with good greetings and love as my Goddaughter and I were getting silent auction gifts to raise money for the local YMCA. God was filling my heart with love that I had thought was leaving our little community. Every word, every conversation, spoke of a greater Love. It gave me hope.

Last Thursday night was the night in the garden of Gethsemane. As we left the church in silence following the Eucharist, I was challenged with my own dark night. Thinking about all of the hurts in all of our families and all of the tragedy of the world. Friends with cancer and friends with strokes received many prayers. I did not sleep much last night. As I awoke Friday morning, I gave thanks to God for one more day. It was indeed a Good Friday. Students find somewhere to celebrate Christ this Sunday; it’s homework!

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Triduum loving Gal

Quotes of the Day:
“Unless there is a Good Friday in your life, there can be no Easter Sunday.“ — Fulton J. Sheen

“What Our Lord did say on the cross was to forgive. Forgive your Pilates, who are too weak to defend your justice; forgive your Herods, who are too sensual to perceive your spirituality; forgive your Judases, who think worth is to be measured in terms of silver.”
Venerable Fulton J. Sheen

“The virtue of hope lies not in the future of time, but beyond the tomb in eternity; its object is not the abundant life of earth, but the eternal love of God.” -Venerable Fulton J. Sheen

Mats

“Do you want to be well?” 

In my mind today I am thinking about my daily readings from yesterday. There was a man who had been crippled for 38 years. He is just lying there waiting for someone to help him get into the waters. 38 years. When Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be well he did not wait for the answer. He told him to pick up the mat and walk. He did.

I can totally relate to the man lying around for 38 years. I have been wheelchair bound since 2015. As I write this blog, I am waiting to get a shower. I can’t get up and do it myself. If it were feasible I would have a shower every single day. In order for me to do that I would have to have some type of time travel device. In order to bathe a quadriplegic it takes about 2 hours to do everything.  Although I cannot walk and carry my mat, I improvise.  Students the mat can be any type of limitation that you have.

I was asked to give a speech last Sunday at our little parish. It definitely was a “mat” situation.  I did not want to do it but God kept pushing me to pick up my “mat.” 

My heart has been very heavy lately. The last thing I wanted to do was to talk about my journey of faith. As I watched, sang and listened to our special guest artist, Sarah Hart, God nudged me.  She was talking about her mother and the legacy of love that mother’s provide. I had already decided to do a 3 point speech about the elephant in the room[me in the scoot with ALS], my/our purpose, and seeking to see Jesus in our lives. Just before leaving to go to make this speech, I got a call from my daughter. She had just been through a traumatic experience. Most of you know my daughter and know that she is a music major as well as an education major.  She has 20 hours this semester. She had 22 hours last semester. My girl has been very busy and exhausted. She is a junior in college. She had text me earlier in the week about a competition in voice that she was going to be auditioning at the University of Memphis. She was super pumped and super excited and super prepared! She thought she had made it to the next level. She kept asking them where her evaluation was. She and a choir friend went together.  She did not make the cut. Her friend did. On top of that they could not find her scores. The scores would help her deal with her failure. She had called me Sunday right before I left to give the speech to tell me about this traumatic experience.  I listened and let her cry. It hurts so much to hear your children cry. She started tearing herself down as I was listening to her.  I simply asked her, Who do you need to worry about impressing in this life? Where do you get most of your joy from singing? I also asked her if she had someone there to hug her?  She told me that she did. I told her I was so thankful that God put some arms there to hug her but to lean into the phone and feel my hug. She laughed and said I have some things to do and I am so glad that I talked to you.  After we got off the phone I had about 15 minutes till time to be at the church. 

 The speech did explain the key points but God put something else on my heart.  I can’t quite remember everything that I shared. I also shared part of the book that I began after being in the hospital last year on this same week in 2021. A lot of people told me I did a fabulous job but I felt like a fabulous flop. The other presenter told me about the wonderful job I did. I told her jokingly that next year whenever I get this book published we would do it again! She agreed, so watch out next March! 

I’m going to end this blog with a little of what I shared. Prayers that I get my homework[my book Resurrection  published]done students. Yes pray for me; it’s homework!

Resurrection

by Sarah Alley

I am going to tell you the story of how God used my broken body one Holy Week during March and April of 2021.

God has (and does!) speak to me as I have been going down this bumpy road with my health. I have a motor neuron disease that takes pieces of my muscle each day I am alive. It destroys my motor neurons so my brain cannot speak to them.

All this has led to so many wonderful miracles because of my weakness.

When I was first diagnosed and knew what the path I was on would be – a body so atrophied – I was very angry with God. I had a sweet friend that told me to stop being bitter and to stop being angry.

“Just because you are having to teach children while using a cane, that should not matter. You should tell God why you’re angry and talk with him.”

She told me to go to my closet and have it out with God.

One thing she told me before she left my classroom that day was, “You need to think about the things you can still do, Sarah. You have to let go of the things you cannot do. I know you’ve always been a runner and an athlete, but you are so much more. When you get home, you tell God how you feel.”

When she left my room, I’m not going to say that I wasn’t angry at her. Part of me grumbled, ‘What does she know? She can still walk.  She can still get out there and play with her students and her children. She is really blessed because she can still wipe her own butt!”

That’s how I judge things these days. If you can wipe your own butt, you are so very blessed. (As a teacher, I often bird walk – so that was a little bird walk.)

That day, when I got home I did go to my closet.

I sat in the wheelchair that I was using part-time, because I was fighting so hard to keep myself from being abnormal.

I wanted to be normal for my students.

In those moments in the closet, I told God I was so angry.

“God, why me? I have such a fruitful job. I’m bringing so many children to You that are broken. I help them to learn to love You, God, but I cannot teach if I cannot walk and be there. God, You know these children. These children are the rowdy children that You have blessed me with, and I have to be physically strong. These are my favorite children, the children that people throw away. God, help me to still be there for them longer.”

I sat there. And cried.

And then, I heard God in my mind.

“My sweet girl, you are so much more than your physical body.”

I had peace.

So, the next day, I did what my friend told me to do.

I embraced all the things I could still do. And those things blessed my road as a teacher.

I am very good with technology. I was still able to teach through technology until my 21st year, and then my body began to give out. I was not able to breathe properly. My diaphragm was dying.

While teaching one day, I passed out.

When I woke up, one of my students, Jari, said, “Ms. Alley, we think you have narcolepsy.”

I knew something was terribly wrong.

That evening, I was rushed to the hospital in Jackson, Tennessee.

My husband got me up. He tried to help me get ready and I was so sick I had a bowel movement all over my body. He had to help me get in the shower, clean me off, put me in the truck, and rush me to the hospital.

The whole time he was driving, my blood pressure and my oxygen levels were fading away. My husband kept putting the oximeter on me to check me.

“Please stay with me, Sarah. Please stay with me.”

I made him go by his work to fax some important papers to my wonderful physical therapist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

He said, “Sarah, we don’t have time for this.”

I said, “You need to do this, because I need a chair so I’m still able to teach.”

He stopped and faxed the papers. And then we were on our way to Jackson County Hospital.

When we got there, I was rushed back. I was fading fast.

They put me on a ventilator, but my body was so tired. I was dying from carbon monoxide poisoning.

I was unconscious for two days. I remember a nurse coming in and saying, “If you will not wear this mask, you will die. Your body is full of poison.”

I let them place the mask on me.

After lots of prayers and petitions at my bedside, I went on a magical trip.

My body felt so light and I was tingly all over. It was like I was in some type of other world. I was riding in a red convertible Cadillac with my son. I think I dreamed of this car, or was given this car during this dream because of the movie Thelma and Louise. My leg was draped over the side. My son Ian was driving the Cadillac.

The thing that was odd or very strange, was that we were flying through the clouds. We were circling the Earth and then God talked to me. 

My son said, “Mother, if you need to go home, it’s okay. Jesus will take you. You can go home, but you know you have to fight if you want to stay.”

I was so tired and exhausted. My body was wanting to fly home to heaven.

We were driving through the clouds and God said to me, “If you want to come home, let me touch your toe as you come by me. You will know when I will be by you.  I will ask you 3 times.”

My son and I were having a great vacation in the clouds. We were floating along.

Then he looked at me and said, “Mama, we’re coming up to God.”

God asked, “Do you want to come home?”

At the last minute, I pulled my foot away so we still were in flight. We ventured in the car and we looked and saw so many odd people, so many odd creatures, so many other inexplicable  things. It was unreal and I could not quite figure out where these creatures came from; it was a world I have never seen before.

My son touched my arm and he said, “God is up ahead. What are you going to do?”

So I began to think about that wonderful rest and that wonderful glory. But, at the last minute, I looked at my son and I pulled my foot back.

We rolled on again and we landed in a city that was so broken. It was like a Sodom and Gomorrah. It was evil. Animals were dead everywhere; things were horrible. It was like an apocalyptic scene. There was pollution everywhere. The earth was charred and gas emissions and smoke belched from deep chasms. There was no life. The stench was overcoming. My heart squeezed in my chest.

We began to move forward again, leaving the broken world behind,.

My son said, “Mother, God is up ahead. Are you wanting to go home?”

I just sat there in silence.

We came upon the brightness of God. I waited to the exact last minute possible – even up to the nanosecond – then I pulled my foot back. I woke up and was so happy to see all of my children and family around my bed. They had been praying for me to come home to Earth and I did. 

Let’s fast forward about seven years to March 2021. It was a Tuesday.

My sweet mother-in-law had such a hard time during the pandemic. She almost lost her husband. She almost lost her own life. And she still had so many children she watched over. She came to have a break. She has so many burdens.

Tuesdays were our days to get together and to write cards of encouragement to parishioners. We write little notes of love to others in our little town to let them know we love them and we’re thankful for them. This day, we had decided to work our Bible Club questions in with our visit.

After she fed me lunch, we went into the living room and she got comfortable. She got her writing pad and we were going to begin our study on John chapter 1.

My nurse came by to access my port, so I could begin my infusions. The medicine helps to get the toxins out of my blood so my motor neurons can stay healthy longer. After my port was assessed and my nurse had left, I began to feel very strange.

I was tingly all over again like I had been before. I felt my body become lighter. There was a buzz feeling, like I was leaving it. I was so cold. My son wrapped me in three blankets and put a space heater under me. My teeth were chattering so hard it was hurting my teeth.

My son looked at me and he asked, “Mother are you dying?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t feel right. Will you call my nurse back?”

We called her and she came right away. She checked everything she could.

She said, “Ms. Sarah, Everything looks good. I don’t know what’s going on.”

I had a little reprieve during her stay to check me over and my chills abated. My jaws quit clacking. She had no sooner left my side and I began another vicious attack of tingling, my ears were hot, my jaw was chattering so hard.

My son looked at me and asked, again, “Mom are you dying?”

I said, “Get your grandmother’s oximeter please.”

He placed the oximeter on my hands and my heart rate was 40. Then, my heart rate was racing to 130. Then, down to 40. It was up and down. Up and down. I was so scared because I knew I was going to die in front of my family.

I told him, “Please call 911.”

A little comic relief here:

He said, “How do I call?”

I said, slowly, “Call 9-1-1. Just push 9-1-1.”

He did.

I was talking with the emergency team, and I said, “I just don’t feel right. I’m hurting. I’ve got all these symptoms. I don’t know what’s wrong with my body, but I don’t feel right. Something’s going on.”

They started asking a lot of questions.

I said, “Look, please send someone.”

She said, “Honey, we are sending them. But please stay on the phone with me, so you can stay conscious.”

So in walks the ambulance team.

I’m sitting there, and the EMT says, “Sarah Anderson, What are you doing?”

The EMT was a long-time friend whom I had gone to school with. I played basketball and he was a good baseball player. He was also a very handsome guy and I had heard through the grapevine, he was a player of ladies, too. (That’s a little more comic relief.)

As they’re putting me on the stretcher, and they’re getting me out the door, my sweet daughter is saying my last rights over me. She prayed over me and said, “Mother, repeat after me: Rebuke the Devil, confess your sins.”

I was trying to say all my last rights but I couldn’t focus.

My brain was fuzzy and I was leaving my body again.

As he was rolling up the driveway, I saw a man. This man looked just like my husband’s brother. We call him Daddy Mite. He was grabbing my arm and telling me, “I’m Praying for you.”

Each time he would tell me he was praying, I would tell him to not pray for me, but pray for his mother. We did this about three times. Then, the ambulance door was shut.

Keith got me into the ambulance and when we were in there, he said, “Sarah, I think you are in septic shock.”

I was bewildered.

I said, “I don’t know what that is, I’m just hurting.”

He said, “Honey, if your heart stops, do you want me to bring you back? “

I instantly began to cry.

I watched the sunset in the west as we headed east toward the hospital. I saw the glory of God in the clouds and in the glow of the setting sun. It was my favorite time of day, when God speaks so loudly.

I said to Keith, “I want to go home to God, but my family is not ready for me to leave them.”

He said, “Don’t say anything else, Sarah. I understand and I will take care of you.”

He began to wire his information to the hospital and when I got there, they rushed me back.

They confirmed I had septic shock.

My body was full of e coli. It was in my blood. They thought it could have been from my port activation since it had been 6 months since it had been activated. It could also have been my kidneys, which were having such a hard time dealing with the bacteria in my body.

Two weeks prior, I had been taken off of every antibiotic to allow my body to rest from them.

My doctor said, “Do not get on antibiotics anymore, unless you are urinating blood or you’re hurting so bad that you can’t stand it.”

So, while I’m going through all this in my mind, and, I’m thinking, “Did that have something to do with the sepsis?” I think when the Devil is after you, he throws everything at you to keep you from staying here to do God’s work. 

My priest was the first one in the emergency room, before my family. He gave me my last rights. He prayed over me. As I was lying there, I felt the vomit come up in my throat. I was trying to tell my emergency nurse I was going to aspirate.

Father Patrick said, “She’s got ALS. She needs to be tilted up.”

He tilted me just in time, but then I pulled a Linda Blair.

I threw up all over my sweet priest.

I said, “I’m so sorry for going Linda Blair on you, Father Patrick.”

He continued to pray over me, and I continued to lift others up that I knew are hurting. I knew I might not be here to help them get to Him.

So we prayed.

He prayed and I prayed for so many of our parishioners.

I prayed for the people in my life. I was just thankful that God had given me extra time.

Father Patrick said, “Who do you want to see first?”

Circles

Circles

In my mind today I am thinking about circles. This is the third week of Lent. This week examine your circles. In my readings today, Jesus expanded His Circles.

My Circles change all the time. I have my nuclear family circle. My church family and friends circle which continues to grow. My student circle helps me stay focused and motivated to God’s plan. Circles are so important in our lives. 

I was listening to my ten minutes of news and heard about the world’s strife: Ukraine, nuclear weapon races, earthquakes and forest fires, tsunamis, and cyclones. Orphans and widows abandoned while armies March to occupy physical space for its natural resources disregarding the humans in the path of destruction. Is this new? Sadly it has been going on since history became recorded. It so depressed me, but then I thought about Circles.

How could one person make any change for these horrific situations? These events popping up across the globe make me, you, and so many feel helpless and defeated. Most of these situations are not in our Circles. God tells us it’s the human condition and there will always be wars, diseases, catastrophic events, poor struggling people, and death on earth. Sounds like we drew the short straw, but your perspective is key. What can we do?

First and foremost Pray for those areas and ask for God’s protection. Pray for the world everyday and its woes. Now back to our immediate and real work, our circles. This is where we get in the middle of the battles God has put in front of us. Here are some examples: abandoned children in our families and little towns, addicted, broken brothers and sisters, donate to non-profit organizations that are on the front-lines of this war against systemic poverty, ask school systems how you can help children with tough home lives, give of your excess, lead others to the light with your life, and pray for strength to do God’s work where you live. Just think if we all took care of our circles and they took care of us. 

God’s kingdom is not on Earth. It is in heaven. We are the ones who are supposed to build-up and protect God’s work on Earth as it is in heaven. It’s a tough job. Start with your circles. Mend them with forgiveness. Grow them with acts of kindness. Show them LOVE: the unconditional kind. Before you know it, your circles will expand and grow. Your circles will change the world. It’s the third week of Lent, grow your circles this week!

Sarah Anderson Alley 

Sal the Circle Gal

Quotes of the Day:

Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.

Albert Einstein 

Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace.

Albert Schweizer 

The nature of God is a circle of which the center is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere.

Empedocles

Choose life!

In my mind today I am thinking about life. Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Lent. Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday: the day we remember that we will return to dust. Life on this Earth is so short. This is why it is vital to choose life. How do we get the most out of Lent, the forty days before Easter, much less life? Well students, it takes persistence, patience, time, and humility. Most of all, it takes LOVE. Not the easy love but the kind of love when you come last and everyone else comes first. Easy, right? Forty days is a walk in the park, not! Now try 365 days. Arduous indeed. 

We missed the first Sunday of Lent. I absolutely hate to miss church on Sundays. This day has always been reserved as a Family Day for us. Church is the best part.  It is the place that helps makes everything make sense.  It reminds us of who we are and what our job is in the world. It is where I feel peace. My soul gets refreshed. 

We had ventured to Rhodes College in Memphis Saturday night.  Our youngest had a choir concert. It was to begin at 7:30 and end at 9 o’clock PM. We arrived at 7:30 PM. It took us 30 minutes to get into the building. This is just the way life is for us now. Between ALS, dragging oxygen tanks, and anxiety attacks, it was miraculous that we made it.  I have to forget that I am a girl in a wheelchair with ALS. I know this does not make sense but it’s true. Whenever my husband gets in trouble I turn into Wonder Woman in a wheelchair! I know that my superpowers come from above. I had to go and get security from campus to drive him over but hey we made it!  It is funny but my family and my friends forget that I have ALS. Which is fantastic! Others look at us wondering what in the world are these two people thinking. I am sure they think that we have escaped the nursing home. When it comes to our family, friends and especially children we choose life. We choose to take risks to be there. We choose life. We trust in God.  What is that Bible verse front row?  That’s right, if God is for us, who can be against us?

Students it is the beginning of Lent and I want you to choose life. I want you to help others choose life.  Instead of giving up something frivolous, choose action. Try to give of yourself. Here is a precept for you: Matthew 25:37-40 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

 It is the 40 days of Lent.  What are you going to give to help others choose life? A life of sacrifice to help others is priceless. Live a life that will turn others back to God and the virtues he gave us. A life that will choose and have a just God rule over your inalienable rights not man or men. God gives and men will take. This Lent how will you choose to use your time, talent, and treasures to help others CHOOSE LIFE!

Sarah Anderson Alley 

Sal the CHOOSE LIFE Gal

Quotes of the Day:

You only love Jesus as much as the person you love the least. Dorothy Day

“In our Lenten journey towards Easter, let us remember the One who “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). During this season of conversion, let us renew our faith, draw from the “living water” of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God, who makes us brothers and sisters in Christ.” 

Pope Francis 

“Fasting makes sense if it questions our security, and if it also leads to some benefit for others, if it helps us to cultivate the style of the Good Samaritan, who bends down to his brother in need and takes care of him. Fasting involves choosing a sober lifestyle; a way of life that does not waste, a way of life that does not “throw away”. Fasting helps us to attune our hearts to the essential and to sharing.”

Pope Francis 

Strengths and Weaknesses

In my mind today,  I’m thinking of strengths and weaknesses.   We all have them. Right now is a very weak or difficult time for me.  Every time I move two steps forward in my home-family life, spiritual life, church life, community life, and author/writing life I am shoved three steps backwards. You notice I didn’t mention physical life. That is because God carries me and I have no worries. If physically I crumpled, I know God and what the endgame would be. Faith. 

Memento mori, students. The world is wanting us to forget this. My son who takes care of us brought this Marcus Aurelius quote to my attention. Yes, regardless of your status we all pass on from the earth.  How do you interpret this? Back row do you say YOLO?  Front row: do you say it’s best to get as much money as we can to live as long as possible in comfort? Invest well!  What about the rest of you? My husband and I are an everyday Joe and Jane. We have worked and we have invested and we have done what the world expected us to do. Guess what? No matter how you do it there is always going to be heart rendering times. 

Now that we are both retired we can begin the real work that God wants us to do. I had already started this journey up to retirement 6 years ago. ALS took my job but it didn’t take my spirit.  Students do you realize that not even the devil or God can take your will.  At first my spirit was broken, then I realized the gifts God gave me in retirement: spiritual growth, teaching high school religious class, Bible studies,  time to write and reflect, time to grow my intelligence, time to be still and know God, Turn the Page Book Club, bond with my middle child, see my Grands, and be on committees to help our little town. Now hopefully my husband can do the same and join me for our “real” Earthly work before our departure. 

Families are so complicated. At Shady Oaks Retirement Home, our house, we have “incidents.”  Some are over quickly but some of these linger and creep into our daily lives and squash our happiness for weeks.  It emotionally deflates me. It tries to deplete my spiritual life. Some days like today I hang on by a thread of hope. Hope that my children are not scarred from caring for two fragile parents. Prayers that they will see God’s work through me even though many times I am pushed to my physical limits. Trying desperately to lead by example.  Our last book club book was The Kite Runner.  I so related to the father. It made me think that we have always had prodigal sons from the beginning.  Look at the first, Lucifer.  There is a struggle in the dynamics of children with parents. There always will be on earth. This is one of the crosses of having children. As hard as we try, we can never make their lives “happy.”  That is the hardest thing for a parent. 

“Lord, be glorified in my weaknesses as well as in my strengths.”  This was my simple prayer reflection today. It inspired this blog. God knows how terribly weak we are. God also knows how terribly strong we are.  Pray today for God to help us persevere THROUGH our weaknesses and to provide strength to do “the real work” in our Earthly journey.  Happy snow day students!

Sarah Anderson Alley 

Sal the Do the Work Gal

Quotes of the Day:

“When you retire, that is when your real work begins.”

George Hirtz

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”

Marie Curie

“Perseverance, secret of all triumphs.”

Victor Hugo

“Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.”

Vince Lombardi 

“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.”

“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are unnatural.”

Marcus Aurelius

The Epiphany of our Lord

 In my mind today I am thinking of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We hear of this every year at Christmas time. Have we ever really taken the time students to look these things up and to define them and create connections within your own minds?  It is true what teachers tell you. If you see something unfamiliar or you have no clue, use a dictionary. These three gifts were given and recorded throughout history. King Herod knew the implications of such gifts. He held power over the tribe of Judah. He controlled their high priests. He murdered so many Jewish boys trying to stop the rise of a new King of the Jews. His plans were thwarted. This powerful birth had been foretold. The whole Earth rejoiced and nature sang. Here’s the secret sauce students. It still does. So many good and beautiful things happen at Christmas more than any other time of the year. Let’s talk about those three gifts.

Gold. Think about it, students: the golden rule, the gold standard, more precious than gold, etc. Gold is a precious metal. It has a symbol of AU on the periodic table of elements. They brought the baby Jesus something priceless. A gift to show the worth of this blessed son that would save the world by allowing Agape to be the guidance for all from this day forward. Students, Agape is a special kind of love: sacrificial. What an amazing gift He is. What could we give God this year that is more precious than gold? Could you show great charity? Think about that. 

Frankincense. This is a gum or sap that comes from trees in Somalia and coastal Arabia. It is used for its strong perfume when burnt. The smoke is aromatic and used for rituals. It is very expensive. They have discovered that it is good for medicinal reasons:  asthma, ibs, cancer, skin problems, and arthritis.  It is still harvested today. This gift shows devotion to the health and life of Christ.  Christ still lives today within each one of us if we only allow him to be in charge of our hearts.  How can you show great devotion, students?  Yes it is homework.

 Last but not least, myrrh.  It is also a resin or gum from a tree. These trees grow naturally in these countries: Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, Somalia, and eastern Ethiopia.  It also has medicinal properties just like frankincense.  It also has uses for perfume and incense. It has been used before Christ came as a man in religious ceremonies of the Hebrews.  Moses used it. Jacob used it. Esther used it. Jesus was given it on the cross mixed with wine. Joseph of Arimathea gave it for Jesus’s burial.  Ancient Egyptians as do those of Islamic faith used and use it.  It is used to anoint holy people.  It represents a sacrifice. What could you sacrifice for Christ?  Would you sacrifice? Some people can’t even do this. They have become so self centered which is the very opposite of why Christ came to this world. Agape. 

 Today is the last day of Christmas for us as Catholic christians. It is the Epiphany of our Lord.  The realization that God did enter the world and He came to save us by giving us a better way to love: Agape.  As I watch the children from my window play in the snow, I wish you a Happy Agape Day!  Now get outside and enjoy students! Build a Snowman for me and throw a few snowballs! The best of all is to sled.  Be sure to do plenty of that! 

Sarah Anderson Alley 

Sal the Agape Gal

 Quotes of the Day:

1. “When one has once fully entered the realm of love, the world — no matter how imperfect — becomes rich and beautiful, it consists solely of opportunities for love.”

― Søren Kierkegaard, ‘Works Of Love’, 1847.

2. “Shine your soul with the same egoless humility as the rainbow and no matter where you go in this world or the next, love will find you, attend you, and bless you.”

― Aberjhani, ‘Journey Through The Power Of The Rainbow: Quotations From A Life Made Out Of Poetry’, 2014.

3. “Divine love, agape, is self-sacrificing love, which sounds difficult, as it is, and not very attractive. If the best image we have of love is of a man who’s been tortured and hung upon a cross … But it is the highest Christian image of love.”

― Kevin Hart, ‘The Poetry And Prayers Of Kevin Hart’, 2011.

4. “Agape is total love… Whoever knows and experiences agape learns that nothing else in the world is important – just love.”

― Paolo Coelho, ‘The Pilgrimage’, 1987.

5. “The only way love can last a lifetime is if it’s unconditional. The truth is this: love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love.”

― Stephen Kendrick, ‘The Love Dare’, 2008.

https://kidadl.com/articles/best-agape-love-quotes-about-unconditional-love

Cause and Effect

In my mind today I am thinking about cause and effect. I remember the days of teaching Language Arts. Oh, how I loved to intertwine all of those academic subjects into one! I was even able to teach history through the language arts. The history teachers loved me. Language arts is the study of literature, writing, vocabulary, spelling, and grammar. 

Today I am talking about cause and effect. This used to be a standard in the curriculum that we had to be sure students understood. The thing is it can be applied to our lives today.  This is how you teach. You teach students to use what they learned in your class and apply it to the lives that they will live as adults. 

Cause and effect. Let’s look at our world today. What is causing all of the grief and turmoil in this world? In our country? In our little cities? In our homes?  Let’s work backwards. Yes students, I know I have taught you many ways to figure out problems especially in math. Look at the answer 21, and then figure out, how in the world did you get that answer? Well that is cause and effect. What caused you to get the number 21, for example? Did you multiply seven 3 times? Did you add up three rows of 7? What operation did you use to get the answer 21?

Cause and effect. What is happening right now in our world? What causes: School shootings, unwanted children, fatherless children, children orphaned from addictions of their parents, genocides, human trafficking, plagues, floods, famine, etc. These are all effects. What causes this to happen in a society of civilized people? We are definitely not focused on the family. I said this on purpose because this is something I used to listen to and read books about from the person that coined this phrase: Dr. James Dobson.

When I became a mother, I became scared. Scared of what the world would do to my children. I was so desperate to find a way to protect them. The first thing I did was to ask my husband to help us find a church to attend and raise our children. This is something that I never had but I saw others had. I had a very hard working mother, trying to survive with 5 children and an absent father for a while because of addictions. She didn’t have the luxury of time to take us to church. She would find church services on television to help us or to watch with her. She made me understand how important it was to have God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit to help you through all these terrible famines, floods, and storms of life. One of her favorites for us to watch together was Adrian Rogers of Bellevue Baptist church in Memphis, Tennessee. 

You see, my mother never learned to drive, but she tried to find a way to help us look towards something bigger that would help us have order at our houses and homes when we became mothers and fathers. My 5th grade teacher called the television the Idiot Box. I understand why because now we have miniature idiot boxes. We are letting things control us instead of using them to help us. My mother used the Idiot Box to help us the best way she could while working late shifts and overtimes so we could be okay. 

Students, let’s analyze this. The cause of me searching so desperately to be the best mother I could possibly be was my mother pointing the way to something better than this life. My mother did not have a lot of money, but she had so much love for her God and her children. She knew that that would be a greater gift. She prayed all of the time. We found several notebooks filled with prayers for us. We understood she feared for our souls as well as our Earthly lives. She knew that she was limited, but her God wasn’t. He would help us through the storms of life. She told us there was a right and wrong. The effects of my mother’s love and prayers are that some of her children are still believing and try to give their children that inheritance that can never be taken away. Back row students, listen. My mother had 5 children, and we are not perfect, but we do understand that this world is not the end of it all. She is the reason. She is the cause, and my life is the effect. 

Let’s take the lesson to a bigger picture than just one family. Look at the world. We have children murdered every day. I am sad to say in the good old USA we have abortions, school shootings, and human trafficking. What is the cause of this? We are losing our connection with the Divine. Mothers do not know how to be mothers. Fathers do not know how to be fathers. Children are brought into a world of turmoil. They have no structure. Destruction is what they have, or a structure of busyness. 

We are too busy to go to church. We are too busy to spend time with our children. We have been lulled to sleep with technology and the fear of missing out. YouTube is a babysitter. Being a parent is the hardest job if you do it right. It is a huge struggle. We don’t have the time to do it the way it should be done. We do have time, however, to shuffle thousands of activities that keep them from being children. We want them to be something bigger.

I was an athlete, and it is true that your competition practices while you are asleep. In reality, only a small percentage will be able to go forward as a professional athlete, but then what? In one of the blogs I have written recently, I talked about building things up instead of tearing things down. If you do not understand your past, and if you do not have traditions that are good and pure for your family, then your present moments are just discombobulated. 

We live in the present moment. Our present moments are guided by our traditions of family. If we tear those down, we have done a grave injustice to our children. If you spend all of your moments without goals, you have no future. You won’t have a future. We want everything right now. Impatience. 

Students, do you think that we are very impatient? We cannot tear down our family traditions, because if we do, we tear down our families. That is exactly what El Diablo wants. He wants us to forget how to be mothers and fathers. Is it working? My precious mother knew that when she had children, they would be her legacy. They would be how she put what she loved so dearly into the future. What are the mothers and fathers of today putting into their children for a legacy? Are they filling them with virtue and morals? Or are they teaching them how to be a better rat in the rat race? 

Here’s the rub: they are not teaching much of anything to the children anymore.  It is not the school’s job to raise your children. It is not the government’s job to provide for all of your children. It is your job. It would be fabulous to have a professional athlete for a son or daughter, but the BEST joy is to be a good mother or father. To see them choose the better part of this earthly life, which is to love each other and to take care of the most important thing that God gives us: our families. 

Wake up, America. Wake up, world. Just like James Dobson told us, we need to focus on the family if we want to make what we have left a better place to live. Understand that love is an action verb. It is not an emotion. It is not sex or lust. It is a sacrificial gift of one person to another. Sacrifice. It gives up everything to God.  

Sacrifice your desires to help your partner be the best mother or father they could possibly be. That goes both ways within a marriage. That’s why we call marriage a sacrament from God. It is not to be looked upon as all pleasure. It is not to be looked upon as trivial or easy. Marriage and love are very hard. It is not just a whimsical passion of unfettered love. We have definitely lost our focus on the family.  

This is the 1st week of advent, and this is what I hope for us in this country: focus on the family again. Yes back row, this is homework!

Sarah Anderson Alley 

Sal the Cause and Effect Gal

Quotes of the Day:

The best way to get children to do what you want is to spend time with them before disciplinary problems occur—having fun together and enjoying mutual laughter and joy. When those moments of love and closeness happen, kids are not as tempted to challenge and test the limits. Many confrontations can be avoided by building friendships with kids and thereby making them want to cooperate at home. It sure beats anger as a motivator of little ones!

Nations that are populated largely by immature, immoral, weak-willed, cowardly, and self-indulgent men cannot and will not long endure. These types of men include those who sire and abandon their children; who cheat on their wives; who lie, steal, and covet; who hate their countrymen; and who serve no god but money. That is the direction culture is taking today’s boys.

Don’t marry the person you think you can live with; marry only the individual you think you can’t live without.

No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child.

Great beginnings are not as important as the way one finishes.

Whenever two human beings spend time together, sooner or later they will probably irritate one another. This is true of best friends, married couples, parents and children, or teachers and students. The question is: How do they respond when friction occurs? There are four basic ways they can react: 

• They can internalize the anger and send it downward into a memory bank that never forgets. This creates great pressure within and can even result in disease and other problems.

• They can pout and be rude without discussing the issues. This further irritates the other person and leaves him or her to draw his or her own conclusions about what the problem may be.

• They can blow up and try to hurt the other person. This causes the death of friendships, marriages, homes, and businesses.

• Or they can talk to one another about their feelings, being very careful not to attack the dignity and worth of the other person. This approach often leads to permanent and healthy relationships.

Dr. James C. Dobson

UP

In my mind today I am thinking about up.  Yes front row I know that that is just a preposition  or a direction but that is exactly what I am thinking about the word up.  I also remember the rule never to end a sentence with a preposition.  I do not want to discuss the grammatical rules of English today. I want to talk about the word up and how it has really been in the middle of my thoughts lately.

God is good all of the time and I can’t remember God ever for building something downwards. We mere humans either. Why up and not down?  Think about it. 

Today our world is so busy building things up like technology and material wealth. We build-up science as the ultimate answer to save us from death or an untimely death. We build-up governments. Our governments are supposed to protect their constituents. It is supposed to build them up and not down.  Front row you are going to love this lesson. Who gives these liberties? Do our governments give us liberties? 

Look around you. In this little city where I live we are building things up everywhere. There are new churches being built. There are new banks being built. There are new shopping centers being built. Progress. Our little city is growing. After the pandemic, the people of my little town have awakened to so much  building up of everything around us except our attendees back to church.  I hear the back row starting to moan. 

The pandemic tore us down. It isolated us.  It changed our habits. It tricked us.  It made us think that this life is so precious that we have to do whatever we can to save it. We all lost so many precious family members and friends. They left this Earthly life. Why are we so easily discouraged?  We are so easily led down that road to perdition.  It is a super highway.  

We are just mere humans. We are easily confused and divided.  My favorite subject to teach was always history. I always told my students we need to know our history.  The history of civilization. The history of being a human. It is not always a beautiful picture. Our road to becoming an independent country was built with the precious blood of fathers and sons. They died so we could build-up something great in the eyes of the world under the name of God.  Yes front row I do hear you.  We are not a theocracy. I totally understand that but I also hear the words of Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  The word creator changes everything. 

This is the point I am trying to get across to you students. Who gives us all of these rights? All of these human rights that we enjoy right here and the good old USA are given to us in the Bill of Rights. Right? They are given to us by God, the creator. Why is this so important?  There is no bill of sale. They cannot be taken from us. If we take our principles from God, we are able to create something good for all.  What are we building up today? Are we building up avarice and ignorance?  Are we learning from our history or are we trying to tear it down and rewrite it? Are we building our own narrative because we worship new gods?  This is your homework for the holidays while you feast on turkey. Be honest with yourself and ask what you are building up in your life?  What are you trying to tear down and why? 

The world does have order. It has a natural order. I believe it was created by God. Our God is a God of order. There is a morality that is driven by goodness. There is an eternal city that is also orderly. The road to it is very narrow. There is another city that is very disorderly. The road to it is very wide. This city is governed by man and has only chaos. It is created by a god of destruction. This city will end and not last for an eternity. This city is something my son and I call the clown world.   Everything is the opposite: Evil is good; good is evil. It is the place where a human can be god of his Earthly life. Students you have a lot of critical thinking to do during your break. 

I know there are so many of us that believe in a supreme God-man-Holy Spirit.  We want to work with God’s creation not to destroy it.  We want our lives to be measured by the good we do not the gold we acquire. We need to build each other up. We may not meet in the pews but we can meet on our knees. Pray. Yes, it is the most important homework I have ever given.

Sarah Anderson Alley 

Sal the Build-up Gal

Quotes of the Day by Venerable Fulton Sheen 

If you don’t behave as you believe, you will end by believing as you behave.

When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.

There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.

You must remember to love people and use things, rather than to love things and use people.

America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance — it is not. It is suffering from tolerance. Tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos. Our country is not nearly so overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the broadminded.

The refusal to take sides on great moral issues is itself a decision. It is a silent acquiescence to evil. The Tragedy of our time is that those who still believe in honesty lack fire and conviction, while those who believe in dishonesty are full of passionate conviction.

Never forget that there are only two philosophies to rule your life: the one of the cross, which starts with the fast and ends with the feast. The other of Satan, which starts with the feast and ends with the headache.