…but rejoice because your names are written in heaven. Luke 10:20

Kathy & George

In my mind today I am thinking about death. Just plain and simple death. Our God sweeps in and takes those we love. How we take it so personal when someone has to go. Then we think about fairness; is there any fairness? Is there ever a good time for us humans?
My family and I have been going to the same church for 30 years and my mother-in-law since the 1970’s. This is something very odd for me. Growing up I did not have a home church. I spent many days on church vans trying to find a home for my little young girl soul. You see my mother had to work third shift and there were no family going to church together days. This is something that I found to be very, very important. Will it guarantee your kids always act right? Never. But there is just something about the love of a church for you and for your family that is an extension of the greater love from God. I thank God for my little church.
Recently we have lost so many wonderful people. I shouldn’t say lost. They are home. They have crossed the Rubicon. They have crossed the great divide. I have seen so many of these people for 30 years and now they have started the new journey. Nothing stops it; it will happen. It will come. What’s more important is are you ready? Is anyone really ever ready? I really think so. Whenever you reach your spiritual maturity point, you realize. It is a reckoning within your own soul. There is a peace about you. A peace about the way you live, share your life, and help the least. It just shows in every fiber of your being. Congratulations! When you get to this point, you are well on your way to communion with the Saints. Here is the saddest part, some people never get there. They never cross the maturity into spirituality. Your dying is a birth into new life. Our bodies are the old wineskins. You cannot put good wine into old wineskins. Remember Mary’s request at the wedding and Cannan. Do as her son tells you.
Those who are closest to you will never be ready for you to go but thank God for His plan. Thank God for His Mercy. Thank God for His Grace that is everlasting. It is still a mystery but one that we are privy, too. We will all cross the Jordan, ride the peace train, or just catch that long black train for our next journey. This past year we have seen so many of our church make that journey. It wasn’t all Covid-19 but the natural and slow ebb of living a long fruitful life. Life, are you living it? Or just going through the motions? This is it folks. It is time for people to get ready. You really don’t need a ticket, you just thank the Lord and get on that train knowing you have run the race well. Were you faithful to your spouse? Were you sure your children attended church on Sundays? Were you a good grandparent? Did you love all of those even those who grind your gears? Did you try to do small acts of kindness with no one knowing about them? Did you pray and stay in contact with God throughout this journey? Did you do for the least? Don’t say there aren’t any because we serve 750 families a month at Matthew 25:40. This is the tip of the iceberg. You have a job that only you can do. Jesus calls us our entire lives. I really hope you stopped to listen like our beloved George.
Our last member that left for eternity and communion with the Saints, I remember oh so well. I think we need to buckle up. I think we are going to lose a lot of good people, but we are getting them to the light. We need others to step up. Two years ago I was privileged to go through the RCIA program with our church with my daughter in law. George was also a part of that class. I remember that very first evening. I leaned over as we were going in to ask George if he had decided to join the dark side? Just joking of course, it’s the light side! But he said yep I think I’m going to do it. I knew George from his fabulous older sister who had always been a champion of our local schools and tried to be the good in this little county. Many moons later after his sister had moved on, he began to come with one of our longtime members. Just as he loved us, he was drawn into the love of our little parish. I remember when he began to come to church. My boys were like he looks like a rockstar! We always thought he was the Elvis of Holy Angels. He had the best hair ever. He also dressed like Tony Saprano. Too cool! I just so, so loved to be able to watch him blossom into the fruitful life of being a Catholic Christian. It brings tears even now. I am so happy for George. The waiting is the hardest part. Living while knowing some day, somewhere, somehow, we will be called back to our heavenly creator. We know there is more. I think George was one of the most genuine people I have ever met. He was always so excited to work at the Salvation Army to serve the least. I can still see him and Kathy with their aprons. Smiling, singing, and whistling that was George while mopping or sweeping at The Salvation Army or with the Knights of Columbus fish fries. They with many others helped me and fought to keep our kids active in church. If Matthew 25:40 needed him, he was there. As a matter of fact, if anyone needed him he never hesitated to help out. They were so very supportive and I know that the family will continue to be because that is what Christians do. There’s a kingdom to be built. We were all given tasks. I can say without a doubt that George finished very well and I know no one will argue. When George retired from being a doctor, he could have done anything. He could have traveled extensively. He could have gone on all types of medical conventions and do the circuit learning even more. He could have moved to Knoxville and enjoyed every single ball game. Doesn’t matter the sport, he could have caught them all. He could have chosen to be single, foot-loose and fancy free. He did like Mary instead of Martha, For a while, he sat at God’s feet and soaked up all of God’s love then to he became a Martha for Holy Angels Catholic Church. Thanks be to God for Kathy for opening up her heart again to the sacrament of marriage. Along with God you loved him into eternity. It’s not forever and we will all be together with all of those saints one day, one day.

 Sarah Anderson Alley

Sal the Saint loving Gal

Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

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

52-12-95-17-26-80


In my mind lately, I’ve been on a respite. The Autumn March for ALS consumes me for about four months and then poof! We are finished and amazed at how everything fell together. The last words I spoke to my committee the night before the race was, “Whom shall we fear?” God is always for us. Really He is.

In my respite, my small world saw many start their next chapter. I was riddled with grief and disbelief. Why do some get 95 years while others only get 12 years? To suddenly leave your precious wife, children, and grandchildren at 52 short years is so unfair. God, I know you hear me. I understand that we all are born and we all have to die. That magic exit number is what baffles me. To see old friends and classmates leave us behind too soon never ceases to hurt. There will always be holes in our hearts when people we love die.

80 and 95 are those blessed with longevity. They are rewarded with many seasons of love and memories. They have also lived through so many heartbreaks and hearts riddled with holes. How? They are worn and weary from the journey. They anticipate their homecoming. They begin talking of another home. They are prepared. I thank God for those who lived and have shown us how to trudge through the losses in this life and to embrace our fellowmen and women with the amazing love that is completely sacrificial. Sharing in their grief being the loving hands of Christ is what you and I are called to do.

12, 26, and 17 are oh so hard. Parents never, never, NEVER, want to outlive a child. My sweet mother of 80 has always told us the only thing she has been really strict about in her prayers to God is for her to go before us. When a child no matter the age leaves this Earth, parents hearts are obliterated. It’s more than holes. Marriages fail, parents continuingly ask why, and parents cry and beg for this to all be a bad dream. We have to learn to trust that God has a plan. We have to fight to be closer to something bigger, stronger than we are. We have to fight through our days of “firsts.” First Thanksgiving without our child and then as time passes, we continue to ask what if our son or daughter had lived. Never forgotten. NEVER.

Death is a part of this life. Grief is a part of this life. But also true, sacrificial love is what carries us in these days of death: a kind note, a card, a hug, attending the service, unexpected meals brought by, yards being mowed, and a call. We see all of the beauty of that life through the people they touched. We hear stories by those that love us and our loved one. That gives us strength to keep going until the bell tolls for us. I read somewhere once that people who lose loved ones to death would rather you speak of their loved one instead of tip-toing around it. It spurs those memories and let’s people know their loved ones are not forgotten. Never Forgotten.

I always come back to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Losing a child in this world is an unfair tradegy for so many of us. The Son of Mary brought hope into this world. She didn’t understand either. She did what she could for her precious boy: took Him down from the cross, washed him, and prepared His body for His last journey. Like us, she continued to push on to live and find an explanation. The most wonderful example she gave us was she always trusted God’s plan. Let His will, not mine be done. She never took her eyes off of God and the promise her son would live. He was truly the boy who lived. After all is said and done in this life, let His will be done. Know there is more, much more. Your sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends will all face death. What kind of example will you be for them? Were you that light of hope on their dark day? Helping them keep their eyes toward heaven. If you didn’t, there is still time. Death is not the end. Never.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Help us God Gal

Quotes of the Day:

“The Son who lived paid the price for ALL to be in eternity.”

“Do the good in the world for those who are gone. Carry one of their torches. There is no better way to feel them walk in death beside you.”
Sal the People Loving Gal

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

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

“Lord, help me overcome my biases. I want to be able to see you in every person I meet.”

As I read my devotional this morning, I smiled thinking of the message. I remembered as a child watching the PBS program Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and singing along. Decades later I would watch the show with my children. Of my children, Ian liked it the most. I chuckle when I visit that time in my mind. I still hear him saying as a toddler, “Momma, I want to play the piano (he pronounced it pee-an-do with all long vowels of course) like Mr. Rogers when I grow up.” I thank God for these precious memories of my children. I thank God for those messages that helped shape me as a child.

After reading the parable of the Good Samaritan, I realized the relevance of it in our modern lives. Today, I think we can substitute Samaritan and Jew for many disgruntled “neighbors.” Here’s the shortlist: Republican vs. Democrat, Muslim vs. Christianity, Jew vs. Muslim, Pro-life vs. ProChoice, Gay vs. Straight, Catholic vs. Protestant, & Black vs. White. Whew! I could add more but you get the idea. Would you care for your neighbor like the Samaritan did? Would you use your arms to hold this dying adversary? Could you open your mouth to give a kind word? How about untying your purse strings to give a meal to a starving foe? Use your body to shield them from hateful slurs and threats? Or do we continue to be consumed by hate believing that they deserve to be chastised and hurt? See. We are all called to be a “Good Samaritan.” I hear my back row students squirming in their seats. It is very hard to love those who hate and persecute you.

In this present time our lives are so influenced with confusing messages like “If it feels good, do it” or “It’s all about me #YOLO.” It’s true we only have one earthly life to live. Sadly, those who choose to act morally are often chided in our culture for their weaknesses. They don’t fit in to the popular social circles. After reading the scriptures about the parable of the Good Samaritan, I felt nudged to implore you to find a way to help that wounded person on your life path. We all have at least one person we can choose to help. Imagine if we all encouraged one person a day for a year. Wow! Today, seek out a neighbor to love and serve. Let’s make the most of this beautiful day!

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Neighbor Loving Gal

Quotes of the Day by Mr. Rogers:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like “struggle.” To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of.”

“There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.”

“Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

Aches and Pains

Morning, noon, and night I cry out in my distress, and the Lord hears my voice. —Psalm 55: 17 (NLT)

Today is one of my pity party days. My body is crying out in distress. I think every inch of me has an ache. The super, quick road trip to Vanderbilt in Nashville and back is the worst. My body is breaking down and I have to face it. By the time I arrive home, I’m on the brink of a mental breakdown, sore, and dehydrated. No fun. So, I cry out in distress and He hears me.

Today is the Assumption of Mary on the Catholic calendar. The short version is that Catholics and some other denominations believe that Mary was welcomed in to heaven upon the end of her earthly life. If anyone should get a “fast pass” to heaven, it should definitely be Mary. We all have to die to our earthly life. Reading about this today made me long for heaven. It made me long for an end of my earthly distress. Then I remember I’m not quite finished regardless of my aches and pains. So I put it on God’s shoulders and put on my big girl dipe. I begin to pray for those who just lost their daughter in a tragic car accident and remember her grieving friends. I pray for a father who left for heaven too soon leaving behind his daughters and parents. I pray for a friend who lost her beloved father. I look around and realize my earthly chapter is far from over. I need to cry out and move forward with the gift of life I still have. There is so much left to do. Will you join me?

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Aches and Pains Gal

Dedicated to Cowboy, Alaina, and Clint who started their next chapter and for the hearts of those left here.

“The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.”
Charles Dickens

Moral Compass

Moral Compass

I’ve been on earth almost half of a century. My life has had many highs and several lows. To stay sane you have to just roll with the changes trusting that whatever storm we are facing will pass just as those fun, love-filled times did. Through it all we have to put our best foot forward and finish our race. Which foot should we use? What pace should we run? All these come from our moral compass.

When I read headlines or catch a glimpse of the news, it troubles me. Something has gone terribly wrong. There are children hurting so badly that they open fire on each other. There’s human trafficking to fill perverted sexual desires. The abundance of children living with a parent who love getting high more than their precious children. The need for people to escape the reality of this world through chemical means. Are we mentally softer or weaker than generations past or am I imagining things? When the going gets tough we go searching for something at the pharmacy to right it. Is being made of sterner stuff a thing of the past?

There is so much hate and confusion. I read scriptures and pray each day for God to use me. I want to be like Jesus. I want to empty myself and spread love. I want there to be love left everywhere I go. Remember in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis when Aslan comes back and everywhere he prances flowers and plants spring to life? That’s what I envision me doing in my wheelchair. Me embracing my moral compass and everywhere I go leaving a trail of beauty behind me as I roll! Then, I will come to my end and step into eternity and be at peace. It’s urgent for us to dig deep, clean out the garden our souls, and use those compasses that God gave us.

What the world needs now more than ever is to grow our moral compasses. We are currently at a huge crossroad. Everyone wants to be right. Everyone feels they have the knowledge and discernment to be the judge on so many moral issues. We have lost the intimacy of being humans. Sharing meals and taking time to listen to our children and spend time with our elders. Don’t get me wrong. I depend on technology for so much, but the access of so much too soon is a problem. It’s literally poisoning the minds of our children, promoting immoral behaviors, and making everything a world of me not we. We are in this together. Just one kind gesture at a time and we can begin to move toward decency. It costs nothing to be kind and considerate. Being cruel or mean is never an option. We have to find our moral compass or I fear the human race will be lost forever.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Moral Compass Gal

Quotes of the Day:
“I have learned that as long as I hold fast to my beliefs and values – and follow my own moral compass – then the only expectations I need to live up to are my own.”
Michelle Obama

“Conscience is a man’s compass.”
Vincent Van Gogh

“Families are the compass that guide us. They are the inspiration to reach great heights, and our comfort when we occasionally falter.”
Brad Henry

54 and So Much More

54 and So Much More

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the I HATE CANCER Gal

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

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

“Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”

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

Jim Valvano

 

Joy, Joy, Joy

Joy, Joy, Joy

In my mind I’m thinking of joy. I’ve been experiencing a lot of joy as of late. Joy in the warm spring days. Joy because my garden fairy niece is milling around in my yard. Joy of spending time with my precious niece and great-nephew. Joy with the chances I’m given to be useful. Joy in my abundant friendships. And especially, joy in my children.

About three months ago, my oldest child came into my bedroom while I was doing my daily reading, praying, and reflecting. He said, “Momma, will you pray for me to get this job I’ve applied for with Canadian National Railroad? I really want it. This is my dream job.” I told him I would get right on it. I then thanked God because this was a huge leap for him.

I knew this was a dream job indeed. He has always loved trains. When my sister kept him as a toddler while I worked and went back to school, she would take him daily to watch the train come by her house. Then of course we collected everything “Thomas the Train” from train tables to video tapes. In elementary school, he would draw trains with his friend Grant. Of course, now he collects model trains. My sisters still today call him their “Engine, Engine number 9.” I was so grateful he had discovered a vocation and opportunity. Watching your child struggle is so painful.

When it became evident that Ken and I were going to be fighting and struggling to stay on this side of heaven to see our children into adulthood because of our health situations coupled with losing a child, their older brother, at 26 years of age and an estranged older sister, they became bitter. All of the years we attended church and lived our faith dissolved for them. They were so angry with God. Many times they would ask me, “How can you love a God that took Nick and allowed you and Dad to be terminally sick?” I would tell them this is my cross to bear. Your father and I know that there is more than this life on earth. So Ken and I fight to be here despite end-stage emphysema and ALS. God and prayer has helped sustain us. This bitterness has been lingering for several years and my boys refused to enter our church because they wanted no part of a God who let their brother die and parents have emphysema and ALS. I can hear them asking, “Why won’t your God get you out of that chair? Where’s your miracle?”

My oldest has been desperately floundering for the last two years. He had given up his teaching career. He was searching and trying to find a vocation. Nothing was going his way. So for these last two years he has done odd jobs from climbing under trailers fixing broken sewer pipes to climbing on top of houses patching roofs. He’s come home bruised, cut, and covered in filth from head to toe never complaining. Always searching. At supper each night we hold hands while I pray aloud for each of their futures and give thanks for our blessings whether they want to hear it or not. We endure always.

I marvel at the gifts of my children. I know now I have been given miracles through them. Ken and I both have. You see, we are still here because of the deep love they have for us. That is a direct gift from the God that they don’t understand. He is always for this little Alley Clan even as I roll in my chair and Ken drags his oxygen tanks to work each day. Yes, we struggle but never in vain for he sends us little miracles through family and friends every day. So when Ian came and asked me for prayer a few months ago, I began to cry and pray thanksgiving.

Ian went to Illinois to an all day interview for the railroad on a wing and lots of prayers this past February. He started sliding in the pew beside us on Sunday mornings at church. That first appearance my youngest told me, “Mom I started crying when I saw Ian’s car in the parking lot at church.” He helped me and the youth group Palm Sunday with the Easter Egg Hunt and pancake breakfast. The past few Sundays he has been playing guitar again in the choir loft. Yesterday, I wept tears of joy as I heard his guitar improvising with the hymns. This Saturday, he leaves to go to school in Chicago, Illinois to start his seven week school training for his dream job. My God does give miracles. I will not cease to pray for my children’s futures, but I’ve given a big thank you to my “Sky Daddy” for answered prayers. I’ve got joy, joy, joy down in my heart.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Joyful Gal

Quotes of the Day:
“Peace is the beauty of life. It is sunshine. It is the smile of a child, the love of a mother, the joy of a father, the togetherness of a family. It is the advancement of man, the victory of a just cause, the triumph of truth.”
Menachem Begin

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.”
Richard Bach

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”
Buddha

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”
Tecumseh

“Where’s your Sky Daddy Sal?”
Ian & Ben Alley

Opportunity

 

In my mind, I’m thinking of how 50 years ago Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It makes me ponder if we are any better for it today? What would MLKJ think of our country? Watching a PBS presentation at home with my kids the other night, I shuddered. Watching the blatant displays of hate, it made my stomach hurt. When I taught as a white educator, this was a tough but fruitful unit for all of my students. We realize the fight for a better world was for all. We all bleed red. We are a family of humans. We all deserve love and respect. We all want to finish this life as best we can. Humans are not geared toward solidarity existence. We all have gifts to share. We all are capable of building up one another. We all have a purpose.

I always asked, “What did MLKJ fight for: blacks, the poor, or equality? This was a tough question. As we viewed historical footage, my students recognized that among the vast marches there were blacks and whites marching side by side. All colors were martyred for the cause. Doing what is right in any situation is always the tougher path. It’s not for the weak of heart. Dying for something honorable takes sterner stuff indeed.

I ask again, “What was the Civil Rights Movement all about?” I’m just a mere educator but this is my take on it. It was for opportunity not hand-outs. It was to be able to compete in the race of life not with a head start but with a chance to compete. The only problem is who are the score keepers? This is where opportunities become muddled. This is age old regardless of ethnicity. Your birth comes with limitations whether rich or poor, nurtured or neglected, educated parents or not and in your life race you have many hurdles to leap in order to compete well. Opportunity. It’s crucial to being able to compete. Will you seize your opportunities?

At some point every April 4th, I revisit the “I have a Dream” speech. I am always stirred within my soul to “Dream” of a world where love and service trump hate and selfishness. I will embrace all in my path. I will take the opportunity to be the best version of myself. Be a peace maker. You have only to accept the opportunities given to you each day.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Opportunity Gal

Quotes of the Day:
“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Authenticity is everything! You have to wake up every day and look in the mirror, and you want to be proud of the person who’s looking back at you. And you can only do that if you’re being honest with yourself and being a person of high character. You have an opportunity every single day to write that story of your life.”
Aaron Rodgers

“Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.”
Mike Singletary

“I hope everyone that is reading this is having a really good day. And if you are not, just know that in every new minute that passes you have an opportunity to change that.”
Gillian Anderson