The Last Things

 

The Last Things
In my mind today, I’m thinking of the thing that happens to all life on earth. Obligations and time seem to keep me too busy to stop and contemplate these last things. I’m so busy like most of you checking off my list and busy living. The last things don’t scare me as they once did. I have accepted it.

Last Saturday, I had a dear friend and “cuz” visit that I hadn’t seen in person for two decades. After high school, life happened and our paths only crossed once in 31 years. She and her mother always had and still have such big hearts. Here’s an example. Most know in high school I played basketball and was pretty good. Each year there is a homecoming game. In high school every girl dreams of being homecoming queen. Not Sal. As reality hit me about the costs of such things, dresses in particular, I dreaded being nominated for the court. Why? My family couldn’t afford a dress. So my mother would reach out to people she worked with at the hospital and we would find a formal to borrow. We pulled it off but my senior year was harder financially than most years. You see, my mother had to take a leave of absence from her job at the hospital. Her mother, my grandmother, was dying of cancer. My mother moved her in with us to care for her until she started her chapter in heaven. My eyes are leaking again as I visit this time. Her connections at the hospital were not there as they had been. I knew this year would be the most humbling. My dear “cuz” and her mom loaned me a beautiful white dress. I never dreamed of being homecoming queen but at least I would have a beautiful dress to wear. I always remember this kindness in such a hard time in my life.

This past weekend my “cuz” and her mother paid me a visit. She and her mother love Christmas and decorating more than I do and that’s a lot! Since ALS, I’ve depended on my son and fiancé to help. They are now married, working, creating their own nest so this year was to be simple. I tried not to think of it and mourn my illness. Then, a message appeared from my sweet sister telling me Shan aka “cuz” and her mom wanted to bless me once again. They rummaged through all of my Christmas decorations and created breathtaking trees and adorned my rooms downstairs. The best ornaments, the ones made by my children, were given places of precedence just as I would have done. These two beautiful hearts were the hands of Christ and heavenly sent once again.

Memory lane gets me every time students. Quit yawning back row. So back to the last things. Last night I was called on to teach the R.C.I.A. Class (Rites of Christian Incitation) because our priest is in Rome on vacation. Lucky him! The lesson was The Last Things: Death, Judgement, Heaven/Hell, & Purgatory.

Catholics have a plan and I’m so glad. We are often looked at like a three-eyed monster because some of our beliefs are odd especially in a small southern town with only one Catholic Church amongst 100 Protestant churches. I don’t want to argue theology but I want to spread some light or knowledge about something we all have to face and how we Catholics view the last things. Neither you or I are the judge so quit squirming back row.

Purgatory is a place for those a part of God’s family who die with sin. It’s like Mr. Holmes explained in class last night. Think of a teenager who wrecks the family car. The parents are so relieved their child is okay. They do not disown them, but there is a price for the transgression. Probably no car privileges for a while, but eventually they get the right to drive the car. God loves us all. We are part of his family. We are His children. We are like children, too. We sin A LOT! I hear snickers from the back row. Sometimes death comes while we have wrecked the car. So, we go somewhere until our punishment is paid: purgatory. Once baptized you are one of the lucky ones. You are in the flock. The closer you live to Christ, the sooner you go to heaven. God wants us all there: EVERYONE. No exceptions. As one priest once used in a sermon “I’ll take purgatory any death day because I will see God.” It’s coming. I wanna be there and I hope you do, too.

After braving the weather and coming home from teaching class last night I was tired, cold, hungry, and happy. I had been a nervous wreck but I felt the Class went well. I waited for Ken to warm up my supper and feed me. I clicked on Facebook with frozen fingers. The first thing I saw was that another comrade with ALS met death, Sarah. This Sarah is special to me. We share not only a name but we are both writers, mothers, wives, and advocates for a cure for ALS. She’s one of my heroes. She is Wonder Woman and I’m just Super Girl. She’s raised awareness and hundreds of thousands of dollars for a cure. Forget Mike. I wanna be like Sarah C. She is on to the last things and faced them so bravely. I’m going to continue to fight for a cure until until Death greets me.

Please say a prayer today for Sarah, her family, and a cure. Death be not proud because Sarah won. I want you to win, too. It’s coming. Are you living with a heart of love? Are you on track for heaven? Do you bring joy and happiness to others like my “cuz” and her mom. I want to run a good race, but it takes practice. Stop groaning back row. Let’s all remember the last things and start making a plan and training to meet the Ultimate Coach. You’re going back row whether you like it or not. See you soon Sarah C. You’re free.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Purgatory Loving Gal

Dedicated to Sarah C, R.C.I.A. Class, Shan and Diane

Quotes of the Day:
Please read about Sarah C

http://www.speed4sarah.com/sarah-is-old/

Night Prayer by St. Alphonsus Liguori

Jesus Christ, my God, I adore Thee and thank Thee for all the graces bestowed on me this day. I offer Thee my sleep and all
the moments of this night, and I beg Thee to keep me from sin. Therefore, I place myself
at Thy most sacred side and under the protecting mantle of our Lady, my Mother.
May the holy angels help me and keep me in peace, and may Thy blessing be upon me.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, assist me in my last agony.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, may I breathe forth my soul in peace in your loving arms.
Letting not the sun set on my wrath,
may I now close my eyes in peace with my God and my fellow men.
Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Amen

The Still Within

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Go, Go, Go Gal

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

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

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

Crosses

Whew! Crosses!

“Do not worry about . . . what you are to say” (Luke 12:11).

In my mind lately, I’ve wanted to write and to share but I haven’t found the words, time, or energy. I’m still here fighting to empty myself for what really matters. Well, students I’m am definitely running on empty and yes I’m singing Jackson Browne as I peck this out. I’m hopping off of the pity party wagon today and feel like my tank is being restored. Whew! The Holy Spirit (We call it the HS at my house.) has been nudging me to share words so here I go.

Crosses. I love them. Unconsciously I have filled my home with them. The symbolism of them brings me joy. Studying and reflecting lately the meaning and connection of crosses in my life has taken on a whole new meaning.

Crosses are responsibilities and events in our lives. They are heavy and burdensome. They do not discriminate according to race, economic status, or social status. They come in all shapes and sizes. They have many names: death, cancer, strokes, ALS, Alzheimer’s, bankruptcy, homelessness, Autism, Parkinson’s, debt, mental illness, unemployment, estranged family members, addictions, and plain ole loneliness barely scrape the many types of crosses we bear on our earthly journey. Makes you want to wave the white flag doesn’t it? I hear the back row saying, “Amen! It’s too tough. Let’s stop this lesson and just have recess every day!” Calm down. Breathe. Adjust that cross on your back and carry it with all your strength. Embrace it. Settle down back row and quit making the Cuckoo gesture. I’m not crazy. Your cross-training (I love this pun!) is to strengthen you, embellish you, and transform you into the vessel needed to complete your purpose for the greater good. It is.

Those crosses teach you patience. They teach you humility. They connect you with the suffering of Christ. They are unexplainable mercies of God that when the cross is lifted, Grace engulfs you. You get 20/20 vision and the lightbulb becomes blinding showing you the abundance of fruits from your labor.

Still don’t believe me? Think of a horrible time in your life. If you’re honest with yourself, you found a rainbow after the storm. You learned to appreciate something you overlooked. You learned to control your tongue. You quit blaming others for your shortcomings. You had the courage to right a wrong and say, “Forgive me. I’m so sorry.” You learned to pray instead of lashing out on social media or try to numb yourself with alcohol or drugs. I saw your jaws drop open. You get it. 😀

Students, you have a pop quiz today. No, I don’t love to torture you; I just love you. I want to fill your tank. Today, identify a cross you are carrying. Whatever it is, big or small, whisper, “God, I accept this cross for you. Help me. Use it for YOUR plan, not mine. I’m weary and tired. Give me strength. Thank you for hearing me and helping me bring joy into my valleys. Amen.”
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Cross-bearing Gal

Quote of the Day:
“True teachers use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own.”
Nikos Kazantzakis

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.”

Eternal Home

“God . . . has planted eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3: 11 NLT).

When I was born, my family lived on Perry Circle in our small town. Although it was part of our government housing authority or the “Jets” or “The West Side,” it was home. My mother was so grateful for indoor plumbing and the amenities of “city living.” She took pride in that opportunity to have a home that was safe for her five children. She had many angels that helped her deal with life’s bumps: an unreliable alcoholic husband, five children, and acquiring a skill to provide for her family.

My amazing mother was able to complete a CNA license and find decent work to provide stability in our home. My father was able to pull himself together long enough for us to get a special assistance loan to buy a house in a small neighborhood. The mortgage note was $80 for 30 years. It guaranteed my mother’s children a home and set down roots for all of us. My mother had social workers that advised her to hang on to her house. They were proud of my hard working mother for fighting through poverty and becoming self-sufficient. Our new home was a blessing.

Today, I think of my mother’s story. The first chapter that was written as a sharecropper’s daughter and the struggles that shape you. The chapters about marrying young to a charismatic, charming alcoholic that left her with a broken heart and a lot of strife. The chapters of overcoming poverty and reconciling with a husband fighting to find redemption in his sobriety that spoke volumes of character to her children. My mother is now living her final chapters of this earthly life in the home that she paid for with blood, sweat, and tears. Thanks be to God she still lives there today even though Alzheimer’s disease is threatening her earthly finale.

My mother knew how important having a home is. She knew her earthly chapter urged her to make a home for her children. My wise mother also knew that her final earthly home wasn’t her last destination. Regardless of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, she stills tells us that there is more.

I love the home that my husband and I have built together. It’s been a refuge for our children, family, and grandchildren. It’s only 7 miles from where my story began on Perry Circle. Like my mother, I’ve enjoyed my earthly journey potholes included. My heart seeks for a more eternal home just as hers does.

My heart is sadden by those who have lost faith that there is more. Not realizing there is a God. The culture of our world implies that peace and happiness are attainable through satisfying our human desires through selfishness, freedom, and indulgence. Have you ever heard someone say, “I want to be miserable?” Me either but when I roll around in my chair I see an awful lot of miserable people. I’m so grateful for my mom who “walked the walk” and showed me true love and happiness. She did everything out of love. Why? God had whispered to her through many prayers and written on her heart that we are all on a journey through this life to eternity where we will find our home in the heart of God.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Eternal Home Loving Gal

Quote of the Day:
“When you hold your baby in your arms the first time, and you think of all the things you can say and do to influence him, it’s a tremendous responsibility. What you do with him can influence not only him, but everyone he meets and not for a day or a month or a year but for time and eternity.”
Rose Kennedy

Choices

We all have choices. These are what shape our lives. As a teenager: Do we avoid the happening parties of our youth because we want to keep ourselves from smoking pot or drinking underage? Do we risk our reputation of being cool? Do we risk awakening a demon of addiction to fit in with the popular clique? Do we trade sex in hopes of receiving love? Do we miss a social gathering to complete important assignments? Do we sleep in or go to church on Sunday? Do we text and drive? Do we study? Do we complete our assignments? Do we cheat on tests and homework? Do we skip school? Do we embrace others or snub them? Being a teenager is so hard. Making good choices are not at all popular if you want to be popular. I didn’t always make the best choices in my youth but thanks be to God I came it on the other side alive without an addiction problem and wiser. Some of my peers weren’t so lucky. Choices.

As an adult, choices are imminent. Do I go to college or a trade school? Do I go to work? Do I have children? Do I get married? Do I put God at the center of my life or what I desire: sex, partying, money, materialism, work, or myself? Do I pay my bills? Do I live off of welfare or cheat the system? Do I choose to be lazy and blame the government for my problems? Do I blame my choices on my parents because of being emotionally, physically, sexually abused, or being neglected as a child? Do I blame God? Do I blame choosing my vices over good on everything and everyone but myself? Choices.

We have choices. We can control them. It’s called free will. As a child we are exposed to choices of our guardians but one day those choices become our own. Do we choose drugs? Unprotected sex? A government check instead of working? Handouts? Being a deadbeat parent? Do we choose the opposite of what we endured or go with the flow and repeat history? It is so very hard. The cycles of poverty, abuse, and addiction are rampant. Wherever you are on your life-walk you have choices. Each one is crucial. At the center of your life should be your morals and beliefs. If those are focused on a God of Love, your choices will be clarified. We all crave to love and be loved. We want to choose happiness and to be happy. The first step towards this is to make good choices. The choice is yours.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Make Good Choices Gal

Dedicated to the Class of 2019

Quote of the Day:
“Choices are the hinges of destiny.”
Edwin Markham

Teacher, we wish to see a sign. (Matthew 12:38)

Ah, today is the beginning of a new school year in my little town of West Tennessee. It’s the week of inservice before the students begin. I had twenty years of inservice before my health forced me to retire. The excitement of it always made me giddy.

Inservice can be such a dirty word. Teachers listen to speakers, work on curriculum, and have several meetings. Often we are anxious to get on with it. We want to be in our classrooms preparing not being idle. Try to be patient and glean something. Try to treasure this respite. This week eases us into the routine slated for the next 180 school days to do our best. The education of so many souls depends on our attitude and gratitude to lead them.

Everyone knows I’m a nerd and really loved inservice. I was so grateful God had placed me in a vocation that never seemed like work. As a former colleague and I talked over lunch recently, we concluded that our classroom was our church. It really was. It was where we not only educated the mind but also hearts. It’s so true that students observe every aspect of your character. Your actions are deafening, so take heed. They also can sense if you genuinely care about them and their futures. What’s your message?

Now more than ever, our children need teachers that are invested in them. I know we as teachers have our own families and children and are stretched too thin. It’s hard to look at thirty faces and try to be all they need you to be. Take a deep breath. Take up your cross. Be grateful God called you to be a teacher. You are so priceless.

I hoped I would teach until I was 70, but God had other plans. This week when you’re attending inservice whisper a “Thank you” to the one above and remember “to the least of these.” Each child has a story and a name. It’s your job to know them and be a light. Each of them is looking for a sign. Will you be that positive influence? Unceasing prayers are coming from Sal the Retired Teaching Gal for your success.

Sarah Anderson Alley

Dedicated to teachers everywhere

Quotes of the Day:

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
William Arthur Ward

“One good teacher in a lifetime may sometimes change a delinquent into a solid citizen.”
Philip Wylie

“Of all the hard jobs around, one of the hardest is being a good teacher.”
Maggie Gallagher