Who are You?

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In my mind today I’m bufuzzled. I ran across this verse last week, “Who are you?” My brain wants to add o’s and sing it like the band The Who does. Just when you think you have it all figured out, you do or say something and think did that come from my mouth? It’s so tough to be the person that you are called to be.

This whole wonderment has had me shaken. Am I being the best person I can be? I’m at a crossroads. My mission is about to change. It’s been tough letting go of the work and person I have been in the past few years. With ALS, we have plateaus and valleys. I’m in the middle of a valley and figuring out the next season. The work will be new and rejuvenating. This work has been calling me for more than a year. I have no clue if I will be successful or not. I just have to try. Why? It is a calling from God. I have been blessed with a good mind, three degrees, and a broken body. It doesn’t matter folks. God will carry me and qualify me as I go.

It’s a New Year! Lots of resolutions. I remember every January grumbling at the YMCA because of the huge flux of people who were going to get in shape. I chuckle remembering that season of my life with my Y buds. I was a different person then with different jobs. Every season needs to be lived and cherished. There is truly knowledge to be learned and jobs to be done until our last breath.

I’ve been on a sabbatical of sorts. I’m powering up for the next Sal the I Know Who I Am Gal. Who am I? I’m first and foremost a Child of God. Read, listen, and pray today. Figure it out. Who are you?

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Child of God Gal

Quotes of the Day:

They asked John the Baptist, “Who are you?”
He replied, ”I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’
as Isaiah the prophet said.”

First week of Advent


Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side. Psalm 23:4

In my mind today I am thinking about evil. Evil exists. Psalm 23 reminds us never to fear even in death. This is the darkest time of year here in my little burg. We get less sunshine than any other season. It just so happens that it is our first week of Advent. Happy New Liturgical Year!

In the darkest hours, we search for light. We have been promised a second coming. If Jesus Christ appeared in our little burg today, what we would he find? Parents stressing over the latest toys? Left behind elderly people at home and in facilities? Parents refunding charitable gifts so they can get another hit? People locked away in jails and prisons without a single Christmas greeting? Like John Lennon, I imagine all of the lonely people in my burg.

This little town is my playing field or basketball ball court now. Instead of touchdowns and jump shots, where can I bring the light of Advent? Where can the most light be spread to aleveate some despair and loneliness? If you attend church, look around. If you are working, look around. At the grocery store, look around. I’m sure you can find someone to give a gift card to or take a meal. What about volunteering to help out a single, working mom with providing food and coats for her kids? I know people who give all year long. Why? They get it. They have been enlightened by the Christ that lives within them. We should live our Advent all year long. I hope you find ways to bless others this season.
Happy Advent!
Sal the Christmas Loving Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley

Quotes of the Day:

“Be the Grinch that stole Christmas!”
Sal the Grinch Loving Gal

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!”
Ebenezer Scrooge

“For it is in giving that we receive.”
St. Francis of Assisi

Take Nothing for the Journey


Take nothing for the journey. Luke 9:3
I read these words over in my mind this morning. Each day I wake I lose something to ALS. It’s not until I try to use a muscle that I realize the disease has creeped further into my neurological system taking something else. My life sounds like a sci-fi movie. Ironically, it looks like it, too. I’m not complaining; I’m rejoicing. The more of ourselves and possessions we leave behind, the closer we are to our next adventure. Humans can’t comprehend needing nothing. When you realize what is valuable usually it’s time to go be with your creator. The light bulb comes on and your gone. If you are part of the ones that get what life is all about, you are a special person. It’s a gift.
Take nothing and give all. The things you give are not burdensome or hard to carry: time and attention. They are sacrificial. They are precious. When they are well spent, the memories, feelings, smells, and warmth will stay with you your entire life. They bridge you to the next world. They feed you soul for the journey. I know so many wonderful people who are blessed to do this through their vocations. In my first season, I was blessed to be able to serve others as a teacher. Whether you are a nurse, waitress, Wal-Mart greeter, lawyer, or politician, it’s all about serving and giving to those in your life path. Give time and attention to each person you encounter. If you do, it’s a game changer not just for them.

Today’s message is a message to me. As I shed the baggage of this earthly life, I am lighter and stronger. In my physically healthy life, I don’t think I could have left behind everything. I couldn’t leave my job, my car, my house, etcetera. A vow of poverty? Delete that. I had been born into hard working, low income family. I earned my degrees and wanted to give my children the opportunities I didn’t have. I wanted them to be proud of me. I wanted them to love me like I loved them with all of my heart. Fast forward 20 years. ALS has taken so much. It took all of the things that I would have had to leave behind: nice, trendy clothes, new cars, shoes, makeup, but we have been blessed to still have our home. It is renovated for this rolling gal. Things are not done to my expectations, but things get done. I’m good with that. My family and friends are doing so much. They envelope me with true love. I have let so much go. Now I’m baggless, stripped down, and free. Free? Yes. Free from social anxiety, competition, and comparing. I go where I’m needed. I use my time, talent, and treasure to serve others. My journey has been and is a beautiful one.

The other part of this message to me is my daughter is considering the religious life. She’s a special one. She gets it. She wants embrace poverty out of the gate. This may change after four years of college. Only God knows. I’m amazed at the selflessness of her and others for considering giving their lives literally for others. These special people take a vow of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. They go where the need is. Their lives are never about what they want. It’s always about what God needs. This perspective was a gift from God through ALS. Just like nuns and monks, I take nothing for the journey except the light He puts in me.

Today think about what makes your heart so heavy. There are so many ways to be bogged down: selfish individuality, competition with co-workers and neighbors, gambling and shopping addictions, alcohol and drug addictions, self hate, and feeling sorry for yourself. It’s time to de-clutter. It’s time to be kind. It’s time to pray for yourself and your neighbors. Bob Dylan sings, “You gotta serve somebody. It might be the devil or it may be the Lord. But you gotta serve somebody.” Remember your actions speak louder than words.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Let it Behind Gal

Quotes of the Day:

In the third grade, a nun stuffed me in a garbage can under her desk because she said that’s where I belonged. I also had the distinction of being the only altar boy knocked down by a priest during mass.
Bruce Springsteen

Your daily life is your temple and your religion. When you enter into it take with you your all.
Kahalil Gibran

However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them?
Buddha

Punitive versus Restorative


Recently, my life has been filled with recovery time. August is a busy time for parents and teachers. School starting and renewing routines take a lot out of us. August also happens to be the month that I begin searching for sponsors for the annual Autumn March for ALS. I have to take several days to recover from the bursts of activity. This affords me lots of reading time. I am currently reading four books as well as daily scriptures and reflections. At the Alley Casa last night we had a debate on whether to move a smart TV into my bedroom. Sal the ALS Gal, me, was all for it. I told him I could lie in bed and just watch whatever. Like most other Americans I am into binging shows, you know like overindulging. My husband reminded me by saying, “Sarah, why did you not allow the kids to have TVs in their rooms while they were growing up?” Needless to say, I don’t have a smart TV in my bedroom. It would keep me from a lot of productivity like reading four books at a time. So I am missing out on some great TV shows but I am also writing which is even better.

One of the books that I am currently reading has brought up the topic of punitive versus restorative justice within Christianity. God in the old testament is very punitive but always loving. The idea of doing something to receive salvation has been ingrained into us. Oftentimes we are too focused on the individualistic aspect of Christianity instead of the communal aspect. The Western culture we live in is so competitive. We want to say you are in and you are out. It is this way not that way. Our popular culture is feeding into the selfish individuality as well. You know it’s all about me. Just like Eddie Murphy has said before in his stand up routine, “What have you done for me lately?” Look at our broken justice system with overflowing prisons and jails. There needs to be a paradigm shift. There needs to be rehabilitation. Many of us have loved ones who have been a part of this broken system. Often times people come out of the system so broken they are not repairable. They sink deeper into debauchery. I fear it is just a way to separate people from main stream society and just throwing them away. I don’t think that Jesus ever threw anyone away. He was drawn towards the broken. My heart hurts for all of the broken that are living in cages. What is worse is they are trapped within a consciousness of defeat. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying let all the rapscallions loose. I’m saying that there could be rehabilitation and education and most of all love to help these hurting individuals. Kudos to my community for people and non-profits like Tiffany Boyd, Sue Ann Cloar, Judy Boehmler, Transitions, and Matthew 25:40. We are reaching out and try to rehabilitate with love.

Restorative justice is not a new concept. It is involving those that are betrayed with the betrayer. Working out a way to educate each other on the cause of the betrayal. Both sides work on a solution to help avoid further trespasses. It helps people figure out why they are doing things that are against moral precepts. It helps to build skills that many children are not getting these days because of our broken family structures. It helps to build relationships with adults who in turn learn forgiveness. These adults see how people become broken and immoral. I remember a principal who told me I wish I had more teachers like you who tried to understand where children are coming from each day. It would definitely be an eye-opener. He said that most teachers want these children just paddled but that’s only part of trying to correct bad behavior. After all other attempts are exhausted, then the paddling was a part of our restorative justice. I genuinely cared about each of those children. Rarely, was a paddling given. I wanted them to grow and to choose to be the good not forced into silence or submission. I rarely had a child that could not read my heart and try to be the best they could be. It’s about relationships. It’s about community. It’s not about groups or individuals who carry the right way to salvation. This is where we are broken in our Christianity. We are too busy trying to get on the right bus to ensure our salvation and we are leaving behind God’s chosen people: the poor, the addicted, the prostitutes, and the mentally ill. This is the short list of those left behind. We are not to gather on buses cheering and chanting our way to heaven because we made it. We are to be among all of those who are hurting and needy. There is no joy if there is still so much pain in our communities. To the least of these always enters my mind when I am rolling out around in my community. My mind is constantly whirling on the jobs that need to be done. I am constantly asking myself how can I help? How could I be the Christ within me to my little community? I want restoration. I know that I cannot eliminate all of the hurt, but I could help those that are on my path. Some may say “Bah humbug! Ms. Alley you are wasting your time and resources on all these losers.” (Front row I hope this isn’t you. The back row kids are a handful but we love them.) You know why I don’t listen to the naysayers? I have proof in my Catholic Christianity: The prodigal Son, the book of Habbkuk, Ezekiel chapter 16, and Jeremiah chapter 31:31. God wants us to love and restore each other. His love cannot be put in a set of rules and regulations. We have it within us. We just need to give it to others in our community. I truly believe this is what we are called to do before we are to enter into our next adventure with God.

Today’s reflection was quite an academic one. As I have said before, I am always learning. I am constantly seeking a deeper connection with God. I am trying to live in joy not fear. Last but not least, I am taking each moment as a gift. It is so exciting to be a light bearer. Today’s saints I read about were infamous. They both were huge sinners. One had a concubine, was a lawyer, and a slave to his flesh until he was in his thirties. He then had an Awakening. The other was an escaped Ethiopian slave who had a dangerous gang that pillaged communities. He fled into the desert and encountered Christian Monks. He was educated on the way, the truth, and the light. He had a change of heart. He still had a lot of anger. In one of his angry fits the Abbot took him to the roof top at dawn. He said, “Look! It takes time for the light to overcome the darkness.” Don’t lose heart. Where there is light there is always hope. Sinners do become saints. Can I get a amen back row?
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Light-bearing Gal

Quotes of the day:
“Go away and sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.”
St. Moses the Black
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
St Augustine of Hippo

From Martha to Mary


Reflecting today on my readings, I realize that I have become a Mary. I watch the flurry of social media posting about back to school and I visit the season before ALS. I was such a Martha. I enjoyed every busy moment of every busy teaching day from inservices preparing our minds for another year of teaching to the bone-tired days of May. I admit I offen scoffed at teachers who were like “Woah, slow down! You are going to burn out before September.” They had had their seasons being Marthas and understood the value of reflecting and pacing. Teaching is a very competitive profession. Don’t let anyone ever tell you it’s not. We want to do our very best every single moment of every single day. We looked at the new teachers each year and tried to glean new methods they have learned that maybe we had never heard of before. We looked at the experienced teachers and their ease of scheduling and confidence eager to learn from the them. We tried to figure out just how were they so cool and confident hoping they would share some of their “tricks of the trade.” By default, I think most teachers are Marthas. Busyness is the nature of the teaching profession. There truly is never a dull moment. There truly is never a moment of peace until you gather your things and make it to the parking lot to your car. And if you’re raising your own children, then another form of chaos ensues until bedtime. Whew! Prayers for all of the teachers all of the time.

I am now a Mary. I sit still everyday from 7 a.m. until lunch. My body is still except for my eyes and the little bit of arm function I have left. I read, think, reflect, pray, and on good day write. It truly is the better part that Jesus spoke of to Martha. I just had to realize that and let go of the bitterness and sadness when my Martha days were over. I trusted that God had a plan for me that was good even though ALS was part of that plan. My days at His feet are so fruitful. I listen and He guides me to new adventures.

To all of my Marthas that are beginning a new school year know that I’m praying for your success. I have not prayed for you all to be a 5 on the Teacher Evaluation but I am praying that God blesses you with patience, knowledge, and last but not least a big old heart to open up and embrace those precious souls that God has given you this year. I pray that each one will be filled with confidence, respect, and love for you. Now that I am a Mary I understand what is the most important thing about teaching. It is something eternal. It is something that will come up and hug you in the middle of a grocery store. It is something that will wait on you at a restaurant and tell you what a difference you made in their lives. It will stop you it public and show you pictures of its children. It may become a teacher and say you are the reason I became a teacher because I wanted to help others like you helped me. It may invite you to its wedding and let you be a guest of honor. It is something that will make a random post on your Facebook page or social media to say thank you so much for believing in me and most of all loving me. Rarely will it say thank you so much for helping me learn the Bill of Rights, but sometimes it will say that too. Although Martha was busy, Martha recognized God in her presence, in her heart, and in her vocation. So to all of my teaching Marthas, have a great school year. On your most trying days remember that every season will pass, do your best in every moment, love the unlovable(these are the ones who need the most love,) and when you begin your Mary season you will have so much love to sustain you to complete God’s plan for you. Remember it’s a good plan.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Embracing Mary Gal

Quotes of the day:
Research shows that there is only half as much variation in student achievement between schools as there is among classrooms in the same school. If you want your child to get the best education possible, it is actually more important to get him assigned to a great teacher than to a great school.
Bill Gates

Storms

40 days with Sal
It is day 30 students! Where do I begin? Since I last wrote I have had a liver biopsy, a baptismal reception for my littlest grandson, severe pain, a stay in the hospital, visiting with a dear friend contemplating what this life is all about, and a hibernation at home to try to recuperate. The horizon is also full of events that involved our last bird graduating from high school. I am so glad that God will let me see this. This is one thing I prayed for when I became so sick. I wanted to just be able to see her graduate had to get her next season in college. Everything else is just a bonus.
We Catholics are still celebrating Easter. Isn’t that great! I think it is. Today was the tragic reading of the first martyr, Stephen. How he rebuked the crowd and tried to get them to see but yet they rushed him and stoned him to death. It is so hard to take criticism. It is so hard to tell those you love that there is a better way. There is a proper code to treat each other in ways that you want to be treated. There is something bigger at work in our lives. We need to open our ears and eyes. Today the reflection started with “all of our days” and this is what we work for students. We want “all of our days” to be useful and to be something that will live eternally. Something that will continue to spring forth beauty into the world long after we are gone from the Earth. If I were to die tomorrow, I feel satisfied. I feel like Stephen did. I feel that I have run this race very well. Do you understand how good this feels? How peaceful? I want you to feel this, too. I am still here hallelujah to give what little is left of me. It is an honor to be able to do so. Students you are still here, too. There is still so much work to be done. I know we all have spring fever and school is about to be out for the summer but we need to use “all of our days” to love and serve each other especially our families. This is where the greatest love begins.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Using Every Breath Gal
Thank you everyone for the prayers that brought me through this storm.
Quote of the day:
Carpe diem

Are we burning down the House?

Students, I really don’t know where to begin. I have had such turmoil the past week that it was hard to focus on anything. Do you have weeks like that? I’m sure you do. Sometimes we call it getting on the pity pot. Life has just been happening at such a breakneck speed lately that I am totally exhausted. I just like the poem by Robert Frost still have miles to go before I sleep. I remember weeks and days like this when I was healthier. I remember how bone tired I was. With a body ravaged with atrophy still going a hundred and fifty miles an hour makes for a great disaster. So today I am licking my wounds and getting on with it. Remember how I have been urging you to find a church home? This week could have never been possible without my church family. From painting with the youth group and the baptism and reception of my grandchild, it just would not have happened. Now let’s throw in my daughter’s senior prom along with a liver biopsy and voila we have an amazing train wreck.
This morning I read an article about church attendance falling from 70% to 50% since 1999. I witness it with many of my friends. I grew up without a church family. I know what it’s like not to have people to be there and want the very best for you and your future. I ask myself what is happening? When I read articles and listen to NPR news lots of horrible things are happening. Within the last few weeks there have been several churches burned and bombed. The areas have been geographically spread all over the world. Just in California yesterday there was a synagogue in which I shooter tried to kill the rabbi. Why? Three of the major world religions have suffered in the last few weeks with tragedies. Is this a way to blame God for what is wrong with the world? Or is this away to attack God hoping to rid the world of God? In the face of adversity we need more than ever Church families. We need God.
This past Sunday was a Divine Mercy Sunday. It is our continuation celebrating Easter in the Catholic Church. My grandson was baptized yesterday. It was so beautiful. I was so peaceful and full of praise and thanksgiving. To watch your child follow in faith with their own children is a miracle to behold. As I watched our George be baptized, I drifted back remembering the baptisms of my children. My promises to God to raise them it a godly way with rules and gifts of the sacraments. It really does take a village. It is so nice to have a village in which your child can grow and be loved. Students, I think this is one reason the world has gone so terribly wrong. We need to get back to our churches to revamp our villages. The center of our village needs to be God. The rules God gives are truly not to harm us. Can we turn back to God? Sal the Optimistic Gal knows we can.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Weary Gal
Quotes of the day:
About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing.
Joan of Arc
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11