Death into Life

In my mind lately, I have been thinking a lot about this life and this world. I don’t have all the answers. Who does? I don’t know how we go each day and continue through sorrow, great times, and mediocre days. The latest book club read was a deep one. It made you analyze everything. I have already had my eyes open to so much of the grief caused by the human will and wheel. This world keeps turning and turning. It is older than time or the time that we are cognizant of at least. The book is set in the heart of the African continent: the Congo or Zaire. The thing is the oldest forest is where I took the journey with this book. Students, when I read a book I actually take a vacation. I begin research on the areas of the book: topographical and political. The more that I find out or see of this amazing planet we call home I know there is something so mystical about it. This area is considered the cradle of civilization. To have trees that are thousands of years old and to be able to walk under those are to me treasured. The richness of this area was so baffling. The ruthlessness of this area was breathtaking. In the 17 months of the stay there, 31 children died in the little village. Do the math. Back row you can do division and you can also round and figure out the percentage. I know that the front row wants more data like the total number of births, but the point is that the mortality rate in this area is astounding to someone like us living here in the United States. The amazing thing is that the people there, the indigenous people, work with life just as well as they do with death. This is how this book connected with my mind as I live this little bitty life in West Tennessee.

Do you ever think about the older you get the smaller you feel? I don’t know if it is our brains that pick up the speed and start collecting data and figure out that we are quite insignificant. There are so many things going on on this earth at this very second from forest fires, to hurricanes, to droughts, to famine, to deadly viruses, and the list could fill an entire blog. This is the point. No matter how big or small you feel in this life, this is it. This is our journey. This is my journey. What is this we call ourselves today? The information age? The disinformation age? Who do you trust? Who do you believe? What do you believe? How do you believe it? Who’s right? Who is wrong? All of this stuff gets in my head and I try to make sense of it. I am not always successful but I had a reckoning the other day at church of course that has urged me to write and teach.

Sunday before last was the day chosen to Christen or baptize our youngest granddaughter. I have been so blessed in this little life. Things are so crazy everywhere but in this moment I received clarity. I watched my beautiful daughter-in-law hold my beautiful granddaughter during the service. A sadness washed over me. I quickly realized this was a blessing; I was getting to watch my four grandchildren grow and become so beautiful and wonderful. I thought about my youngest daughter. As I prayed and swayed with the rhythm of the mass and heaven coming down to this little altar in Tennessee, I envisioned my youngest daughter holding an infant at the baptismal fount beside a handsome man. She was glowing. The homily or the message is what took my breath. The message this Sunday was about whether in life or death we are all connected. Even after my death I will be able to visit this altar each time the hallelujahs and the Holy Holy Holy are sung in unison. I realized this is where my spirit dwells with God. My days will be filled in heaven as they are on earth. I will be able to visit and be a part of that everlasting love until we are all back together. Death really does not have the sting we humans are so fearful of in our fragile, mortal vessels. The fabric of our lives, our very own DNA will continue the journey. Everyone wants specifics. In the Congo, the people understood so well the ebb and flow of life and death. Does this mean that they had a hard heart? No. It means the exact opposite of that. The children lost were wailed over and cried over as their bodies began to return to the very dark soil of the heart of Africa. So many of the women have up to nine children but only one survives and that is if they are lucky. Each one is cherished and celebrated whether they stay in the living or are in death. Their little time here is part of what God calls creation. Everything works together. Everything is of God to these indigenous people. They continually depend on daily sustenance from God. Does it magically poof out of the air? No. Is it a treacherous and hard life? Yes, most definitely. Front row students, what have I tried to get across to you? That is right. We have to embrace our journey no matter how small and try to do the good work with God for all. Can I change governments and all of the wheels of consumerism and neglect of this precious earth? No but I can do the best I can with what God has given me and where he has placed me in his picture of our world. Do what you can where you are. Do not forget the gift of our planet. We have the chance to use our knowledge for good. To live gentler lives on the land and to not rape and pillage other areas for the consumeristic will and wheel. To be a good steward of the land is what God wants for us. To live in communion with the land and to treat it with respect. I am going to die one day. Who knows what day? The next church service that I attended the priest announced that one of our faithful parishioners had entered into heaven that same very day. Was I sad? Yes very for us but not for him. He did his work well. I smiled. I knew he had no limits anymore of his earthly body. He had come down to the altar and celebrated with us. I felt so full of God and the Holy Spirit. Yes we say goodbye but then we are born into that everlasting life. At the funeral mass, there were so many reminders of his goodness. The biggest ones were his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I was able to sit right behind a beautiful 9-month-old child. She was so beautiful and I could see the light in her eyes. I could see her Papi’s spirit shining through her. She smiled so beautifully and communicated with me. I am so astounded at the children that are drawn to me. This body ravaged with ALS is a spectacle indeed. I just think the light of Christ beams out of me in some way or form so children want to touch me and to smile and giggle. I know the back row thinks that they are laughing and giggling because I look so goofy but I think there’s just something more. I don’t think it; I know it. For all of those who have faced death of a loved one or are facing death I am to tell you be not afraid. Don’t be scared to live for fear of dying. It is in your death that you are one of those praying for others. Your journey matters. Let me say that again for the back row: your earthly journey matters no matter how long or short, big or small. Live it fully with the grace of God.

Sarah Anderson Alley

Sal the Living Eternally Gal

Quotes of the Day:

Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.

 Saint Augustine

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.

 Saint Augustine

Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.

 Saint Augustine

Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you.

Saint Augustine

Martha, Jubliees, and Prophets

It shall be a jubilee for you. (Leviticus 25:10)

In my mind today students, I am thinking about Marthas and Marys as well as years of jubilees. I definitely do not want to forget about prophets. As of late I have been quite the Martha. Students, do you know who I’m talking about? You know the sisters of Lazarus. Martha was that sister that was always busy, busy, busy! She was busy preparing the way to have a great feast or festival to gather as many people together as she possibly could to hear the words of her friend Jesus. Her sister Mary on the other hand was the one that sat at his feet and listened to all of his stories and parables. She listened to Jesus’ philosophy of life. She is also the one that much to Judas’ chagrin used an entire container of perfumed oils on Jesus’s feet. The longer I live with ALS the more I become a Mary. I have been given time to study, read, pray, and reflect on what God really wants for us. During this season I have met the most amazing Martha.

This Martha that I have become a sister with is so like the Martha of Jesus’s time. They’re not enough adjectives to assign to this amazing woman. She has and will continue to try to work and bless others in the little city and county in which we live. Her influence and inspiration doesn’t just reach within the little county borders. Everyone she meets realizes what an amazing woman she is. For years she has been a one-man show or should I say a one-woman show holding up Matthew 25:40 INC by her sheer will. I came up on board with her during one of the most tumultuous seasons of our little nonprofit. She never wavered. She never lost faith. She continually leans on God. She is a friend of those on the fringe of life. I am so glad to be a part of this with her. The little group of women that all fight so desperately for this little non-profit remind me so much of those women that were at the cross. (There’s also good men that are in our boat!) We are building something so beautiful, so big, and we know God is going to bless it. Our goal is to be a non-profit that can stand alone and help all of those in need. You see, we are so very blessed to be tied with wonderful organizations like the United Way. We want to be able to help all people regardless of their station. This is hard to do whenever you have so many guidelines. During the pandemic there were so many new clients that were just like my precious Martha and me. People that just work to survive and to provide for their children. People that want to give their children a hand up not a handout. These people in turn would turn around and give much of their stimulus contributions to us to help keep going forward for all. Jesus told us the poor would always be with us and we do provide very well for them at Matthew 25:40 INC. We want to be able to provide for all of God’s children. That means the ones who fall on hard times, the addicted, the struggling women with children with an absent father or visa-versa, the struggling sons and fathers, and the homeless. All of the Marthas on the ship have so many wonderful ideas and plans to help our little city and county be the healing source God intended for those that are the least. You never know when a storm will come to you. We want to be able to use our faith and God’s Providence to help you. Thanks be to God for all of the Marthas and the Marys.

Yesterday was a great day! It was a day of jubilee. I began reading my scriptures this morning and that was the first thing I read. Jubilees are years of great forgiveness and love. They spread hope. They are new seasons. We had the Back to School Biking for Bart parade yesterday. We had 250 backpacks full of supplies, treats, and chronologically separated for grades ready to go. Several people came with bikes. Several people came just to walk. Several came to just show how wonderful Mr Bart was to us. We had an antique bike rack donated and blessed that will be at the Farmers market to commemorate Mr Bart. We had several new bicycles donated as well as old to be given to children. We had children chanting Mr Bart, Mr Bart, Mr Bart,! This was all going on while his precious grandchildren watched. They know how special their “Cookie” was. His children were so happy. His wife was so gracious as always. We had our own jubilee yesterday! 

Students, what is the definition of a prophet? Come on first row! Don’t think about money all the time. Yes, learned teacher. If you live in this little corner of Tennessee you will probably say you were blessed to know a prophet. That would be my friend, Mr Bart. He was so many things rolled up into one. Everything honorable he possessed. Humility beyond compare. He was very gallant. He was a school counselor and teacher for 40 plus years. Had cancer not come to his door, I know he would still be there today. I don’t really think he was that well known in the little city in which he was born, Miami, Ohio. But boy oh boy, we all know him by name and he knows us. My friend taught me so much and now that he is gone on to bigger acquisitions in heaven. All of us are going to pick up the baton that he has left for us. He really prepared us well. His legacy will continue on. Students, do you think that there are prophets still around today? Oh I really do. They may not wear sandals or dashikis in our little town or county but they are all pulling for you to be the best person you could possibly be. What is that? Well students, the best you could possibly be is to be a living saint. Those are some tough standards to live up to but it is doable. Just look at the long list of saints throughout history. People didn’t just stop trying to live lives as saints; we have just become blind to the possibility of living up to these standards. It is so much easier to not worry about others and their strife. To stay complacent in your comfort and to just live your life for you and not for others. It is a big deal and a big challenge. I really think you could do it, students. I am trying my very best but I also fail. I just won’t give up! Our big friendly giant, Mr Bart, was definitely on to something. He was a quiet man. His life on the other hand screamed volumes of how to be a better person. Students, I want you to look around and search out people that live lives that are honorable. Yes it is homework. I want you to thank them. Just like I am writing this to thank all of you for our little jubilee yesterday! God is good all the time. All the time God is good!

Sarah Anderson Alley

Sal the Prophet Seeking Gal

Quotes of the day:

It shall be a jubilee for you. (Leviticus 25:10)

What you do to the least of these you do to me. (Matthew 25:40)

The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenements halls and whispered in the sounds of silence.

Paul Simon

https://www.matthew2540.org/

Indiana Alley

In my mind, I have been very busy. So has my sweet little family because of me. It is so hard to be a caregiver. I think it is the hardest thing ever. It becomes very tenuous at times whenever those closest to me become exhausted and even hurt because of my ALS adventure.

This past week has been a whirlwind. Lots of jobs to do and lots of places to go to advocate for the good. I absolutely wear my family out. My son who is my main caregiver had his back go out. My daughter who has been my main caregiver as well during the pandemic and the summer has gone to a summer adventure archaeological dig for school. My poor husband has to be on continuous oxygen all the time. His health is just as fragile as mine. I really cannot write this crazy stuff that happens to us. My other son has two little ones and his life is very wild trying to build a family and work. This is why I have some days that are just crying days.

I cry because my children should not have to do this for me. Don’t get me wrong I am so very grateful for them. I do not want to hurt them and that’s what it feels like on these crying days. My sweet sister has had to come and try to fill in the empty spaces but this is not fair for her. She just began her season of retirement. ALS just plainly sucks, that’s all it is in a nutshell. The days that I watch my family suffer because of me hurts me more than anything. I have to cry through the tears just to write this stuff. It hurts so, so much in my heart and in my soul. Mother’s are supposed to take care of their children, not the other way around. I truly hate that my family has drawn the short straw.

As we hurriedly tried to get everything together for my last little bird to head out for her archaeological adventure, I found myself having little spells of grief and crying. She and I have this secret club; it is the Bug Club. We had so many days together this summer working at the library with children that we didn’t have extra special bug-to-bug time a lot. We shared ourselves with the community and at the end of the summer I found myself craving for just a little more bug to bug time. Our last little bug adventure was to Charlene’s Tea Room. The next day I had Bunco with the Bunco girls. We rushed out after Bunco so I could go to church with her that evening. She was not going to be able to go to Sunday services because of leaving on the archaeological adventure AKA Indiana Alley. Everything was just going by at light speed. That’s how life is. If you do not enjoy the journey, you end up a very sad person. I had enjoyed this journey and I was wanting more but I knew this season was over. That’s why I was flooded with so many tears. When she left I became almost inconsolable. Unbeknownst to me she had to come back in for something and she heard me crying. She came around the corner and said, “What’s going on with you?” I just kept blubbering and crying. She washed my face, cleaned out my snoot, and let me blow my nose. She was very adult-like and told me, “You’ve got to cut this out. I’m not going to be here to wipe your nose again for a while. Big bug you need to strengthen up.” I was able to suck it up buttercup after that. God gave me a little bit of fortitude to reassure her and my little bird was off again.

I didn’t want her to stay with me, that was not why I was such a mess emotionally. I just knew nothing gold could really stay. Remember that quote students? It was the book I did at the first of the year almost every year: The Outsiders. It’s so true. Life is an ebb and flow of good times and bad and a whole lot in between. The important thing is to embrace those golden times. If you didn’t embrace them then you would never cry when they were over. Students, be in the moment of your life. It was our essential rule number 55, carpe diem. This is life. This is my life. This is your life. If you do not treasure your moments, then you are missing out on so much during your earthly journey. No day is ever promised so please get out and enjoy your day. It may be the last one that you get. Yes back row, it’s homework!

Sal the Carpe Diem Gal

Sarah Anderson Alley

Quotes of the Day:

“Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back and reasons to stay.”

—The Dalai Lama

“It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.”

—Ann Landers

A wise parent humors the desire for independent action, so as to become the friend and advisor when his absolute rule shall cease.”

—Elizabeth Gaskell

Bus stop miracle

In my mind today, I have been thinking of all of the miracles around us. Every day I begin my morning with the readings from the Bible: verses from the Old testament, verses from the New testament, and Psalms. They always speak so loudly to my heart. Ironically and mysteriously they always line up with my life. Is this because I am cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs? Am I a raving lunatic? Something inside me tells me that I am very lucky. Something inside of me woke up when I was diagnosed with ALS. It sent me on a journey to find the way, the truth and the life. I began to read so many things to try to figure out what this earthly life is really all about, and not if, but when I die, what happens? The verses today speak of a man who left heaven to be among us in the suffering world we call home. Crazy, right? There is historical basis and evidence that the man lived and performed lots of miracles. He only got 33 earthly years before death came for him, but for the first time in history, death was not victorious. You see, death is of Hell, not Heaven. Death can no longer be proud. Face it. Everything, from the universe, the solar system, the planet, the beings on the planet, the oceans, the sky, the water cycle, the complicated life forms within forests that are so much older than us, down to the last blade of grass is all inexplicable. Inexplicable. Do you hear me? Not one single human has the ability to understand or to create what we already have in motion. Yes, we are learning tidbits, just like the genetic fixer shot. But we do not have the ability to infuse a soul into a being. Even if I did not have ALS, I would die one day. It is just part of the cycle of life. We desperately try to get as much as we can out of this earthly life, but there’s more. The people that have the abilities to do these wonderful things hopefully have the good of all in their thoughts and hearts. I know that when I take my last breath, it will be just a breath away from eternal life. I will leave this earth headed to heaven. You see it, death was conquered. If you are of heaven, then you will be there in a nanosecond after your last breath. Every electrical pulse within you that helps us to live this earthly life will be jettisoned back to our maker. Remember students, energy can never be created nor destroyed but changed. Today, so many can see only the trees, not the forest.

This morning, I listened to my Flash Briefing and they have a genetic fixer injection. It is so promising. It can possibly correct muscular dystrophies, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. This is so great. Then, I think about how something that has potential for so much good could be used for evil. It made me think about Brave New World. This summer I have sold my soul to the local public library. Much to the chagrin of my family, I have volunteered to do two classes a week with the local children this summer. Hey, I’m not dead yet! This has been such a fruitful season, even though it’s been hectic. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I get to be with children and adults and talk about art and writing. It’s been so successful that many adults are like, “Can you do this when the kids go back? That way we can enjoy it!” I’m telling you, it has been such a wonderful, wonderful experience. The other upside is that I am getting to use the posh conference room with my book club for adults at the public library. We have first dibs on the conference room with the big cushy chairs with wheels and the huge executive table. Stuff like in the oval office! The name of the book club is called Turn the Page. And yes, students, I love Bob Seger. Selling your soul to the public library gives you some perks. We meet on the third Wednesday of the month. This is also one of the wonderful parts of my life in this season. This group of octogenarians and septuagenarians sprinkled with several other age groups is just absolutely amazing. They are so valuable. I learn so much from them every time we have a book club meeting. This will be our fifth year! These people have lived a life. They see how the world is and how it has changed so rapidly, ignoring the traditions and virtues that were passed down culturally from grandparent to parent to child. Generational love that extends across time. All of these wonderful book club members have this and they share so much. Our culture today is toxic to those who are the most vulnerable. If you look at it, in a way, we are institutionalizing our children from the cradle to the grave. I am so grateful that these people I meet with are able to still live independently. They are just treasure troves of knowledge. Several are veterans of different wars, discussing things within the same group. It’s great! One of my star pupils is Vernita. As we were discussing our book this month, Brave New World, she told the group that she didn’t understand why Ms Sarah had wanted all of us to read this book until she got about three chapters into it. She said, “Bingo! This stuff is happening today.” Sadly, it is. Separate and destroy the nuclear family and you can take down any culture. You will destroy their children. Look around you. We are so tied up with trying to make heaven on Earth that we are losing something much more precious, and that is living in the moment, absorbing the beauty of nature, relishing the love of family, and sharing such wonderful lives that grow so much fruit for those that will come after us. I am asking you, students, to care first and foremost for your family, your community, your friends, the gift of your station here on this Earth, and the ability to know that love conquers all. The station of your life has a lot to do with the choices you make. We are all such fragile human beings created with a light or an electric pulse, however you look at it. It is part of something so much bigger. Something so much stronger than where you were born or who your parents are. God did not create you to be destroyed but to be redeemed. The devil is the destroyer. God wants you to be with Him one day.

After having the classes with the children on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we usually go down to a little mom and pop coffee shop called The Bus Stop. A little history lesson is that The Bus Stop was the original bus stop in our little town, and it has now been refurbished and repurposed. This is our little dive. We were there last Thursday. I was rolling around the downtown area and going to another little mom and pop shop to purchase something. Another good reason to do the library activities is that I get to be with my grandchildren and lots of other children. As my oldest grandchild and I were going back across the street to meet the others at the coffee shop, I had a man come up to me, and he wanted to pray for me. Now, we were getting ready to load up the mystery machine AKA my big blue handicap van. He asked me if I had a moment, and I always do if someone wants to pray for me. He said, “I recently have been given a miracle. I have been woken up to the spirit and power of God. I almost lost my son. God brought him back to me.” He explained that he had been raised Christian but had never really felt or understood the power until he almost lost his child. He said his life was a wreck. His marriage was a wreck. He said his children had suffered from their broken marriage. After his son was given a miracle, he has been urged to share and to pray for others. He said, “When I saw you cross the street, I thought to myself, that woman could barely breathe. She rolls in a wheelchair, and God said, ‘Go pray for her.'” The first thing he asked me as he approached was, “Do you believe in miracles?” Now remember, we are trying to load the mystery machine. I have two grandchildren with me, me and my ALS awkwardness, and my 82-year-old mother-in-law. He wanted to speak to me, and I answered him. I said, “Yes, absolutely. You can pray for me.” He had told me he was inside of the coffee shop trying to write about the miracle of his family. We talked for at least 30 minutes and probably even more because we began to pray for each other. My family had loaded into the mystery machine while he and I had our moments of prayers and thoughts. Miracles.

The last two days of my readings have been about miracles. Today was the one about the little girl that everyone thought was dead and Jesus told the man, “She will live.” Recently, I heard about a little girl who was in a similar situation. She was about 12 years old. Her wonderful young mother has to do everything from being the father and the mother and everything in between. She survived a broken marriage, and she fought her way through school. She became a teacher. All of this while being a single mom. Family and friends have helped her through this season. Tragically, the same Thursday I was talking with this man about miracles, she was in a car accident. She survived. Her son survived but has lots of injuries to his legs and many surgeries ahead of him. Her young daughter, around 12 years old, did not. Also, one of the students this summer at the library has a terminally ill brother, and as he talked with me, he let me know that his brother is enroute to heaven. He is now at the doorstep. How can these families survive this gut-wrenching grief? Here is where belief in God gets really hard. So many precious mothers lose children. It always makes me think of the man that performed so many miracles. His earthly life ended with his mother at the foot of a brutal crucifixion. Precious blood pooled around his feet. The precious blood was poured out for all. And then you think about the agony of Mary having to watch a child being tortured to death and then you really get how Mary’s heart felt. How this father felt. How this mother felt.  But thanks to the sacrifice of that man of 33 years, because of that the little girl who’s just entered heaven was only away for a nanosecond. Death is no more for her. She is of heaven. What does it take to get through the travesties of human life? Faith. Is it explainable? Not always. Will you know for sure or can you understand totally? Maybe. I hope it doesn’t take cancer, ALS, losing a child, or any type of terminal diagnosis for you to understand. Don’t ever forget that there are angels above us and among us that help us through these times. Don’t ever forget that there is an advocate in the Holy Spirit to help us with our journey each day. Don’t ever forget that there is a son of God and He did come to Earth. Don’t ever forget to love God with all your heart, soul and mind and especially above all things. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. If you do these things students, you will be part of the body of Christ. If you do this, before you know it you will be back with the Father who has all the answers you ever thought to ask and even ones you didn’t. Miracles.

Sarah Anderson Alley

Sal the Miracle Gal

Dedicated to Jason, Amber, Kim, and to all those out there who have cried out for their children. 

Nothing but heaven itself is better than a friend who is really a friend.

Plautus

Basketball and Brokenness

In my mind today I am thinking about brokenness and basketball. There are so many ways to break your body playing sports. The relentless practices while everyone else is sleeping is the real deal. My mother to this day tells me that I have run my body in to the wheelchair. You see she has a hard time remembering the recent years. Each time I get to see her it breaks her heart over and over again. We soon move forward after the initial shock, she sees that my body may be broken but my spirit is brighter than ever. All Thanks be to God. We then talk about her childhood and my childhood and the beautiful memories we have. We begin to see the way God has never forsaketh this poor, humble and beautiful family warts and all. The first visit we were blessed to have after the pandemic we sat on my back porch and talked the sun down. I was able to spend my favourite time of the day with her. The blue hour right after sunset is when I feel and hear God the best. Students look up the blue hour on the internet. Find a day to sit and watch God’s glory in your heart and soul. I guarantee that your heart will stir within your chest. This, my wonderful students, is the Holy Spirit. Yes back row it’s homework! Yes you can even have a beer as you watch, but remember everything in moderation.

Let’s get back to the Glory Days of my youth. This is what God has urged me to share :blessings from brokenness. I remember all of those wonderful years of my youth playing sports in my small town. My love for sports came at such a young age. I was blessed that my parents were able to purchase a small, beautiful house in a new upcoming neighbourhood. We would leave the government projects and my mother would be able to fulfil a lifelong dream of owning her own home. It would be a sanctuary of sorts for her five children. She paid eighty one dollars a month for thirty years. She did. She is still living there by God’s love and the love of the children she bore. The move from the city to this rural neighbourhood blessed me immensely. I had lots of kids to play kickball, baseball, and basketball. One of the kids whose parents had a double lot let us have our own “sandlot.” Yes back row, kids really did play ball in their neighbourhoods like the movie. Where do you think they got the idea for the movie? Fact is better than fiction! Yes back row, add that to the homework.. Watch The Sandlot and laugh your arses off.

This new neighbourhood also blessed me with a small county school to attend. I can fill books with all of our Holice Powell Elementary School antics. Sadly as I began my school adventure my father’s five years of sobriety ended. He would be estranged from us for until my eighth grade year at HPS. God provided me with a beautiful friend and her family loved me as their own daughter. You see, my mother never learned to drive. She also worked third shift at the nursing home. She entrusted her youngest daughter to this amazing family. It started with PTO basketball in the third grade on Friday nights at the school. My best friend’s mom was our coach. They were so vital to me in this broken season. They picked me up and took me home for almost the entirety of my childhood. It Began with PTO basketball but this family encouraged me to play basketball and softball at the Neighbourhood Activity Center until their daughter and I could be on the little basketball team at Holice Powell. Our little school was K-8. We continued softball at the NAC throughout our lives playing on various church teams as young adults. I thank God for that place that was started and staffed by the Johnson family. The impact it has on our little city is still reverberating to this day. This amazing family started the parks and recreation for our town with lots of blood, sweat, tears and the love of Christ. Today there are three pools, beautiful parks with walking trails, tennis courts, softball fields, weight room, community rooms for family gatherings, and last but not least, gymnasiums. They gave us children places to have good clean fun. I spent many summers splashing in the pools they advocated for and yes back row it was so similar to The Sandlot. Watch it!

My father had gone to the VA Hospital in his early fifties, around 52. He rejoined our family. He was on his road to redemption. He became involved in my life with sports and even coached my softball teams at the Neighbourhood Activity Center. I owed so much to the family that nurtured me until my family became whole again. My childhood friend became involved in AAU travel basketball in the summers of our high school years. We drifted apart and had different friend groups but continued to play basketball for our high school :DHS. We had one of the first great girls basketball teams at our school. The other successful team had been decades earlier and led by Lillian Yarbro. Our four years of high school we made it to the state tournament three of the four. The whole city loved us. I thank God every day for my small town. My senior year, we won the district but lost in the second round of the regional tournament. It was one of those games that the mojo was not in our favour. It was a gut wrenching loss and the season of high school was over.

The next season would be college. I had no idea how to navigate the scholarship and college selection. I had a decent ACT score but my choices were dwindling because I waited until the last minute to choose. The University of Memphis, then Memphis State, had an available full scholarship. I had always loved the Tigers and would mimic the center, Keith Lee, in my backyard on the dirt court. There was absolutely no grass in the basketball area. It had been worn off by years of backyard ball. I wanted to make my little city proud so I chose Memphis State. The first year was so hard. In the country growing up, your chickens have pecking orders. I was the lowest in our pecking order. I had not sat on the bench since 7th grade. I was now in the big pond. The coach and I never clicked. I was a free spirit. I was not the best player and I lacked confidence. I went to a coach that thrived on fast breaks and pressure defense from half court sets and slow down defense. College had the shot clock. I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. I swallowed my pride and sat on the bench. I told myself next year I would come in ready. I promised myself I would be better. In the summer I worked for a daycare keeping school age children. That next fall I came back to college with a mission. I was going to get some playing time. I worked so hard however I was still a ghost to my coach. The last straw was the Tennessee game against the legendary coach Pat Head Summit. We had two outstanding post players and at the half we were tied. Our outside game was nonexistent. We needed shooters. I was a baller shot-caller. I was big, skinny, slow, but I could shoot from anywhere on the court. She played every single person but me. After the game the first words out of her mouth in the locker room were, “Girls, you fought hard but I tried every combination possible. We needed outside shooting. “I felt so small. She looked directly at me but never put me in the game. I felt like the Isralites of the Old Testament. I was girding my loins and fleeing. I went to the dorm, packed up, and headed home. The coaches came by to talk me down. Even she who could not be named. I went back home and back to the day care where I would meet the love of my life. I turned down two more scholarships and got married.

For years I lived a quiet life. Ashamed that I had let my city down. I was determined to rectify the failure. I went to the local community college and began my own road to redemption. I had to go before the board and tell them I would fulfil the scholarship. I was granted one year of eligibility. I would go back, play, and get my GPA back up. A fire had been lit inside me. My life was different now. My husband and I had children and I had a much bigger reason to succeed. I received my associate degree in science. I began my junior year at The University of Memphis. I graduated in 1997. This was exactly ten years from my high school graduation. My husband and I had four children and I began my teaching career. I was blessed to serve the children of my city for twenty years before ALS. I was able to give back and love them the way they loved me. No more shame. Just love. Love covers so many sins and hurts. Students, today the lesson is never give up and always get up. Every life road will have pot holes and forks. Not one life is perfectly happy. The happiness is in the journey. Allow God to shoulder your failures and try again. Choose good. Choose God. Students, those are the key.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the ALS Gal

Quote for the Day
Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord, “ plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Seeds

In my mind I have been thinking about all of the beautiful blessings that have come to me. There have been so many ideas and blogs floating around in my head lately and I have just not been able to get them onto paper and into your minds. Tonight I finally have a little bit of time and I need to get all of this out because students I need to have room to keep learning and growing and writing. Yes it is a lifetime process so buckle up and do your best. Here is some hope work not homework! Because hope is what I need you to put out into our community and world. I want you to read something from the Bible everyday, say a short prayer for those around you, and look for opportunities around you to plant a seed of hope. That means students find someone that needs a blessing and you plant that seed of love and help them. Even if it’s taking someone’s buggy back for them at the grocery store. Before I send you on your way to spread hope I wanted to talk more about seeds. Stop grumbling back row!
I have always loved gardening. For fun I used to read horticulture magazines. Recently I realized I think I was a bit of a weird kid. I did not fit in well even with my cousins. The antics of my youth with my cousins has inspired a story even: the cousin conundrum! This was completely off topic but I’m trying to paint the picture here so be patient. Back to gardening. I have a wonderful friend that during the pandemic began to research how to sustain your family by growing vegetables in cubes. She and I have a lot of history together. We attended college together, raised children together, and taught for 20 years in similar systems but ended our careers together. I remember after I got the news that my body would be totally deteriorated in 10 to 11 years and I told her. She looked me in the eyes, grabbed me and hugged me. Then looked in my eyes again and said, “Oh my sweet friend no.” She began to weep and hold me. This was a day of tears. Her heart literally hurt for me. Unbeknownst to us my sweet friend would have a horrible stroke and have to retire 2 years before I did.
This amazing friend of mine can do more with her broken body than three people. She called me and asked me if I wanted to try the gardening techniques that she had learned. I of course said yes immediately! If it’s about dirt excuse me Master gardeners I mean soil  and plants you can count me in. You see this part of my life is the part of my life that no one in my house enjoys. Having a friend call and ask if she can plant flowers and vegetables for me is like a dream come true. So she and I picked two days and she would come over and show me all that she had learned.
The next sunny day that we had she came over with all of her magical materials! She had pea gravel, compost, topsoil, and peat moss. She carried all the materials and we took them to a shady spot. She began her assembly line method of creating the veggie boxes. I was utterly amazed! My friend who had suffered and lost so much from her stroke was giving me a lesson. You see I had been having some bad days let’s be real I believe I had a few months of sadness during all of this pandemic. My sweet strong friend used this time to learn and grow and to plant seeds to feed her family just in case we have to start doing things a lot different in our country. Even if we can still get things in stores, knowing how to do it is so much more satisfying. My friend has become a Master Gardener. I watched her beauty and strength as she packed all of the veggie boxes made. It me so so proud of her. Proud that she never gave up. Proud that she enjoys her life. Proud that she always wants to help others. Proud that she has turned her sadness into joy. Proud that she is grateful for her brokenness and Jesus shines through it. But does she ever have pity parties? Absolutely! We all do. But the seeds of happiness that are sown by our friends will choke out so much sadness, grief and depression if we just let it. If we just plant seeds for each other, just think how much beauty could be in our world.
The pandemic has changed so many people. I know that it has changed so many people for the good. I think the powers that be wanted to scare us and split us apart is feeling a backlash of faith and light and strength. What is all this? It is the power of good. It is the power of love. It is the power of truth. Students we all know good and evil. It seems like a continuous fight and it is. We have to continue to fight to plant good seeds and even more importantly be sure those seeds we plant are from the way, the truth, and the light of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Sarah Anderson Alley Sal the Seed Planting Gal
Quote of the Day Grow where you are planted.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

In my mind lately, I have been wanting to write for so long. There have been so many mornings that I had read something that made me think of all of you. Things that touched my heart and I want to share. Seeing all of the little miracles around me unfold. Today is Saint Patrick’s Day. It’s more than just green beer and wearing green to keep from getting pinched! I know the back row did not want to hear that.
During these long days of the pandemic I have been so blessed to be enveloped with love from my family. Now, I did not say that we did not fight or get into squabbles. In the Alley house, we call our squabbles incidents. We have certainly had several ” incidents.” We have recently begun to inch out of our little dens like Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog. Depending your mindset, how much did you grow during the pandemic? Did you grow spiritually? Did you grow emotionally? Think of what you gained from the pandemic time. I certainly gained a lot. Yes, back row, you have homework. Think of things that you were blessed with during the pandemic.
This leads me back to St. Patrick. Saint Patrick did not struggle through a pandemic but the parallels of his indentured servitude are something we can look at to help us understand the power of God. Let me paint the picture a little bit for my students. St. Patrick was born to two very devout Christian parents in Roman Brittania. They were wealthy. He had a great life until one day he was captured by Irish pagans and sold into slavery as a shepherd in Ireland. He was about 16 years old. 16! Can you even imagine? It makes our pandemic time look very wimpy. He was not a very studious child but as he spent his days on the mountains and hills in Ireland tending the sheep, he got closer and closer to God. He felt God within him. He spoke with God. After several years of enslavement, God told him to go to the coast. He would find a boat there. This boat would take him back to his home country. He traveled 200 miles of course on foot. I don’t think they had many types of transportation in the 4th century. He did see a boat and whenever he went up to the boat and begged for a passage back to his home country the sailors said no. As he was walking away, they had a change of heart. They allowed him to ride with them. The journey was perilous. There were many times of despair. One of those occasions the sailors told him to pray to his God because they were all going to starve to death. Patrick did just that. He prayed and there were pigs freshly slaughtered that they came upon. They ate their fill. Patrick made it back to his family. Before the celibacy rule, his father and grandfather were priests. He followed suit. Something kept telling him to go back to Ireland. He had a dream that the people of the Ireland were begging him to come back. After his studies, he returned to Ireland. He became a bishop there. He performed many miracles and some of those were on the high holidays of the Druids. This always caused a stir. Saint Patrick lit a fire on the high holy day of darkness. They were not able to put the fire out. Miracles like these help to convert the Irish people to Christianity. The miracle that is most talked about is how St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland. When we think of Saint Patrick’s Day we think of clovers. They are associated with Saint Patrick’s Day because he used the clover to describe God as three people in one. St Patrick was very close to nature and saw God everywhere in nature. He walked fearlessly having been granted a long life in Ireland. His only fear was of his God. Anything of this earth did not bother Saint Patrick. Today he is the patron saint of Ireland. You see back row, It’s more than green beer and wearing the color green!
Don’t forget your homework! There are blessings everyday in our lives. There are tiny miracles all around us. During this time I have been given a group of women to read and share the Bible with and try to figure out how we can be closer to God. I have been given little notes of love in the mail from people of all types of faith that are praying for me. I am so thankful. I really do feel the prayers. How did you grow like Saint Patrick?
Sarah Anderson Alley Sal the loving Saint Patrick Gal
Quotes of the day: Saint Patrick
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.
Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know that I am. Be still and know. Be still. Be.

What is a Man?

In my mind today I have been thinking about what it means to be a man? Actually I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. Yes are they different from a woman? Physically? Emotionally? Think about it. We all have our idea of what it is to be a man.
I can remember back to my sandlot days. I was such a tom-boy. Anything the guys did I was going to do better or break my neck trying to do it. I loved, loved being outside and physical with the world. I resented when the captain (a boy) demanded to take my last strike in the middle of a game as if we would automatically lose if I took my own last strike. It made me so mad. 
As I sit back in my chair and watch the world go by especially during the pandemic I see that we are lacking so much as an American culture. We have lost our idenity. Our boys have lost their motivation. They have lost their leadership abilities. It is just getting more prevalent each generation. We need to redefine what it means to be a man in this country. If you could right now, write down or brainstorm what it means to be a man to you. If you are a boy write down what you think it means. If you’re a girl write down what you think it means and what kind of man would you want to marry? Think about the shows you watch on television. Which ones are the real men or the definition of it? What about movies? How are men portrayed in the shows or the things that you watch? Remember garbage in and garbage out students. Does what you see align with the definition you wrote or thought of when I asked you? Who are your heroes? Do they have to have fantastical powers? Can an ordinary man just be a hero? Just like the song, where have all the good guys gone?
Many American children today have excess. They don’t have to struggle for food or shelter. This is a good thing, but I think we lost our way though. Haven’t you always heard if you don’t work for it you will not appreciate it? We have a lot of underappreciative generations that are just now becoming adults. I don’t know if I could say appreciative, because they did not have the example that was needed. They did not know how to be men because no one ever showed them. There was no rite of passage for most of them. When do they become men in our American culture? Students do you see why it is important for us to define a man? I don’t want to get into the big gender debate but men are very important whether I want them to take my last strike or not. I am not saying that women cannot lead. I am not saying that women are any less. I am saying there are differences. I don’t understand why we have to demonize men in order to feel good about being a woman. Being a woman is a whole other thing entirely. As a woman I do want my rights, but I do not want to take away from or add to because of my gender. If I work the same job, yes I deserve the same pay. If I want to stay home with my children, I should be looked upon with honor not distain. If my husband is the head of my household, it does not render me powerless it shows that we are united together for the good of our family. I look around and see so many other cultures embracing what we used to have. A family centered around God working together for the greater good. How did we lose this? Are we listening to the right propaganda? Think about it. What is a man? The answer is really simple. It’s like finding the forrest among the trees.
Sal the Concerned Gal

Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes:
“A return to first principles in a republic is sometimes caused by the simple virtues of one man. His good example has such an influence that the good men strive to imitat

e him, and the wicked are ashamed to lead a life so contrary to his example.” Niccolo Macheveli
“The strength and power of a country depends absolutely on the quantity of good men and women in it.” John Ruskin


“Good men by nature, wish to know. I know that many will call this useless work… men who desire nothing but material riches and are absolutely devoid of that of wisdom, which is the food and only true riches of the mind.” Leonardo da Vinci

Cookie

In my mind today, I have been working through losing one of my favorite friends to heaven and trying to focus on making this year’s race a success. My friend was the reason I took over this race. He has some very big shoes to fill on our committee. In order to honor my friend, I wanted to explain how it all came to be.
After being forced into retirement because of my weakened physical abilities, I noticed there were advocates that did a yearly walk for ALS. I thought this was so cool and the way I could try to find a way to be useful. Every year in our little West Tennessee town we have always had race on the 3rd Saturday of October. It was coming up on the 26th annual Mission March. I called my friend who had always run in it as I had in the past and asked how could I do a walk in conjunction with the Mission March to help support ALS research and help our little community in some way. To give back to the community that had always loved me through this horrible disease that was my goal. When I called Bart, I asked him if we could do a simple walk along with the Mission March event. He sadly told me that the event had been canceled. He then told me that he had run the race every single year and was very sad it was going to be let go. I said, “I’ll be on the committee if you want to try to do something with it.” He replied, ” Be on the committee? You are the committee!” And so out of that conversation, became the Autumn March for ALS. 
We had big dreams for the race. Each year we wanted to build on the next. As the race began to gain steam, we had the idea of all kids running free. Especially the youngest of our community. We understood the benefits for children to run. Children need exercise, healthy competition, and camaraderie. The shirts would be free for these students. The shirts are also a gift from us to our kids in this area and wherever else they may land. The shirts can be used as a spirit shirt for school and it could also be used underneath polo shirts that are mandated by our systems. We understood that many kids have needs that can’t always be met. This was just another little way we could help out the least of ours. Do we lose money when we do this? It depends on what you are talking about. Yes we lose part of our bottom dollar but we also gain so much by way of spreading that light and love to others which is priceless. We wanted the race to inspire students to be healthy, to become teammates, and to feel good about themselves. We had a vision that schools all around the area and eventually around the country could join in our fight for a cure and a brighter future. We always hoped that the children would outnumber the adults. We both thought of Spain and how the running of the bulls would be so cool if the bulls were children running down our streets. I am not going to give up. I know Bart would not want me to ever give up. 
Another wonderful thing that blossomed out of the race was support for local scholarships to local seniors. This money that we raise helps those students start a chapter in college. Each year we hope to give more and more scholarships. This year we were able to give four $1,000 scholarships. We call these scholarships The Autumn March “Whatever it Takes Scholarship” was added to our efforts in order to honor long time teacher and admistrator Robert Cupples and Sarah Alley. All of our legacies should be for the future and that is our kids. These scholarships help leave a legacy to share the light in our little corners of the world. The only thing required is to write an essay about how you will be a light in the world after college or trade school and give it to your guidance counselor. 
The people in your neighborhood who do the jobs needed and do those while shedding light to all the dark places are needed now more than ever. Another way that we try to help others is through local donations to non-profit organizations. We were able to give Matthew 25:40 a gift of money during a very trying financial year to ensure the least got Christmas presents and other needs covered. We are all on the same team.
Mr. Bart worked tirelessly up to the very end. He continued to encourage me and now I encourage you. If you can donate to help sponsor students to run and to receive a shirt free, please donate. It doesn’t matter if it’s $5 or $100. Just help us be the good that’s what Bart would want. As many know, Mr Bart was one of the best cookie bakers and sweet treat makers of all time! Everyone coveted those was wonderful cookies and caramels. It was a tradition that he started with his kids and they would deliver those to people around them especially the elderly and during the holidays. He was a grandfather and his grandchildren called him Cookie. You and I both know why. He’d never visited without sharing those wonderful cookies. Please help support us during this crazy year of virtual everything! If you are at school, please have groups of kids sign up and walk or run to show their support for Mr Bart, a cure, or a brighter tomorrow. Make posters and celebrate! You could do all of the above by signing up and posting your accomplishments! As usual we will have a trophy for the school with the largest number of students to run. We then deliver the trophy and cookies to the winners! Last years winner was Fifth Consolidated Elementary. The beauty is it could all be done at your leisure. I’m hoping that all runs will be completed by October 31st and posted to our websites to share the love! 
Sarah Anderson AlleySal the Autumn March Gal
Quotes of the day: Have courage…….Be kind…….Eat cookies!!The secret ingredient is always…….kindness. All you need is love and cookies!!Bake the world a better place. Peace, Love, & Cookies Tracy Cupples https://runsignup.com/Race/TN/Dyersburg/AutumnMarchforALSVirtual

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