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.

Reconcile

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Happy Friday! Students today we have shared 10 days together. Time really flies when you’re having fun, right back row? We have a list of things that we need to do. Those things will create a lot of goodness and light. Examine your heart. Does it feel a little lighter? I know that my heart does just by being able to teach.

Today the readings focus on forgiving others in particularly your brother. Try loving those who hurt you. It also mentions when you do good things, good things will happen to you. That’s right front row this sounds like karma. Many times in our faith as Christians we think karma is a pagan ideal. But hey, we came up with the same idea but with just a different label. Good works will beget good works. Love will beget love.

Today is such a beautiful warm Friday here in my little corner of the world. Spring is in the air and with that comes spring fever for students. Students are not only guilty of getting spring fever, I have always been guilty of yearning for the outdoors when the weather becomes beautiful. But back row we have to stay the course. On this beautiful Friday our homework assignment is to think about a brother or sister or a relative that needs to be forgiven. Someone that needs your prayer. Someone that you need to reconcile with and to show Mercy. It will not be easy. So this weekend when you encounter a relative or sibling, try to show love and forgiveness. If you don’t have a chance to see this person or they live far away from you, write and send them a letter or card or send them a text message. The message needs to be positive with no underlying anger or passive aggressiveness. It could simply be a remember when…. Share with them a memory of a good time. Or simply sign love and your name. Trust me and trust God. This is a thorn that needs removing. Be strong! Do it!

Sal the Reconcile Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley

Quote of the day:
Do you have to have a reason for loving?
Brigitte Bardot

Forgive

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Students, welcome to day 7 of our adventure. I hope you are figuring out who you are. I hope you are trying to be the best you you could possibly be. All of our assignments are designed to help us. Yesterday you had to think of five things that you like and five things that you don’t like. Back row I know you think that this is a silly assignment but in order to know who you are you have to know what you like and what you don’t like.
Let’s use me as a guinea pig. I like honesty, loyalty, humility, patience, and understanding. Now if you want to know what I don’t like did just think of the opposites of the five that I just listed. Help me out. What’s the opposite of honesty? What about loyalty? Now just do the same with patience, humility, and understanding. I know the back row is grumbling. Yes, it’s okay to like things like fast cars and fancy houses but I want to make the world a better place. I want to have a clean heart. If I clutter my heart with acquiring materialistic objects then I will not have room for the things that really matter. We’ve all done this. Thinking if I could just have the right clothes or the right car oh, I’ll be so happy.I would like myself because everybody else will like me too. This is where as humans we are tricked in today’s culture. Be careful. Think about it like this do you think more people will like you if you have fancy clothes or if you are just honest and true and dependable? You see where I’m going with this. Yes back row I will give you another chance to make a better list.
Today’s readings contained The Lord’s Prayer. This will teach us a lot about today’s lesson. What are the things that stick out in The Lord’s Prayer? Let’s look at Matthew 6:7-15. Get those highlighters out.
Jesus said to his disciples: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“This is how you are to pray: / Our Father who art in heaven, / hallowed be thy name, / thy Kingdom come, /thy will be done, / on earth as it is in heaven. / Give us this day our daily bread; / and forgive us our trespasses, / as we forgive those who trespass against us; / and lead us not into temptation, / but deliver us from evil.
“If you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”
The biggest or most important part of this I believe is that we have to forgive others. When we forgive others we are also forgiven. We are then giving peace and inturn we are receiving peace. What happens if we don’t forgive? Well, then God will not forgive us. Remember the list of things that I like? The opposite of honesty is someone who tells lies. How does it feel when someone lies to you? That’s right you get mad and you are filled with anger. Your feelings are hurt. You start plotting your revenge. After reading the Lord’s prayer, we know we have to forgive. The hurt and anger should lead us to prayer. A prayer for ourselves to be able to deal with the hurt and anger. A prayer for the person that hurt us. That means we cannot hold grudges. We have to learn to forgive despite all of the anger and hurt that we feel. This is so hard. Front row you are so smart. That’s right our homework today is to think of someone that we need to forgive. It could be a parent, a son or daughter, a sibling, or a friend. It may even be yourself. I find forgiving myself is one of the hardest things to do. Probably the hardest thing of all is admitting that you have done something wrong and need to reconcile with that person. Asking for forgiveness is one of the greatest lessons in humility. Your heart will be very glad you did. There’s no better time than now to forgive. So what are you waiting for?
Sal the Forgiving Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.
Bruce Lee
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
Ghandi

Be Bold

Judge Less Not….

In my mind, I try always to be understanding and open. Everyone has a story. The world all treats us in unique ways. Sometimes we draw the short straw and aren’t blessed with a secure, loving family. We are all born with our own life path. Bad situations encounter us as we walk through this valley on earth no matter what faith we choose to guide us to our eternal life.

As humans, we are born flawed. We have so much potential for good, but in turn we can also do just as much for evil. This is where my heart begins to ache. I’m Catholic. My family is Catholic. In the South, it’s tough to be Catholic. People are so suspicious and we have several myths that surround our faith: We worship Mary not Jesus, we worship statues or idols, and we are not Christians. These are the top three myths in my little town. I’m sure they vary region to region. Here’s my best explanation. We admire Mary and believe she is in heaven. She is special. We do have statues but those are to remind us of the holy ones who are now in heaven. We are Christians, the first after the death of Jesus to be exact. We celebrate communion, the Lord’s Supper, just as the first apostles did and believe this sacrifice tradition with prayers is God in the bread and wine through Transubstantiation. This is also the tradition that sets us apart. The Eucharist is not a symbol. It is Emmanuel, God with us.

In light of the recent trials, being Catholic has yet another battle to face. As I mentioned, humans are flawed. The recent events were committed by men who used my wonderful faith to harm others. This shattered my heart and inflamed my spirit. I’ve had to pray so hard. I pray for those victims. I pray for the souls of the ones who abused them. I pray for my faith and others whose faith that has been shaken. These horrible tragedies occur much to often in the name of God. What can we do?

Almost 30 years ago, I found Catholicism. I had been searching my entire life for a church home. Every church I had attended did not speak to my soul until I attended a Catholic mass. I immediately felt at home. The entire service was so intense and focused on one thing, the Eucharist. I noticed as they processed to the altar such a reverence. There was such a hodgepodge of ethnicities. I felt no judgement only light. Rich and poor all gathered to share in one thing, Jesus Christ. My heart yearned to be part of this body of Christ. It took a few years before I was able to take the walk with my brothers and sisters to receive His precious body in communion, but when I did my life was forever altered. My life has been so full and blessed. The hard times have been made bearable. I have an inner peace that can only come from God. My inner compass is always pointed toward its true North.

I ask myself once again, “What can we do?” Horrendous tragedies have befallen our faith, our churches, and our communities. The Catholic Church, my church, does so, so much good in the world. I don’t want to disregard those events, but I know they were not from God. Jesus is still at every mass waiting to meet us and to heal our wounds. I still believe in the Eucharist, Jesus. I will never stop believing in and receiving Christ at mass until I am called to my eternal home where all questions will be answered. Until then, I will pray for those victims and their trespassers . I will pray for the healing of Christ in our fallen world. I will continue to “Be Bold and Be Catholic.”

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Catholic Gal

Our Creed

I believe in God,
the Father Almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
He descended into hell;
on the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from there He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Holy Catholic Church,
the communion of Saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.
Amen.

Be Not Afraid

Be Not Afraid

In my mind today, I have lots of situations in Sal the ALS Gal’s world that need attention. There are loose ends which need tied everywhere! I need to make calls, make lists, organize my calendar, and run errands. Ack! I’m drowning! I had to literally force myself to open my meditation materials first before diving into the tangled web of loose ends that are looming over me. I hear the back row snickering because Sal the Cool as a Cucumber Gal is having a bit of a meltdown.

As I read and cleared my mind, I read about Jonah being tossed into the raging sea, a person being forgiven of a huge debt then messing it up by choking someone who owed him a small sum, and forgiving those who hurt you not just seven times but infinity times seven. Here’s the kicker. We need to forgive them even if they hurt us over and over in the same way. I hear you back row. Sometimes people make you want to choke them and toss them overboard. Here’s the big BUT; we have to act with humility, kindness, forgiveness, and mercy. I heard someone say, “This is whack! Why?” The more we open our hearts to humility and mercy, the better person we become. It’s not for the person hurting you but for your salvation. Yes front row it does sound like an oxymoron. Look it up back row!

While reading and thinking, my worries began to literally shrink in importance. I reminded myself that I just needed to focus on one loose end at a time. Then I read something that “shook” me. Do you know what words Jesus said more than any other? My guess was to love your neighbor as yourself. Wrong! It was “Be not afraid.” When I read this Sal the Show-tunes Gal immediately started sing the hymn “Be not afraid.” He does go before us always. If we come to Him, he will give us rest. He is with us tangled in the loose ends of our daily struggles. Call me crazy or Sal the Cuckoo Gal, but I not only believe this I feel it. So many times He comes to my rescue to help me tie my loose ends. One thing is for certain, I will not be afraid of loose ends, sickness, or death. Do you have problems looming over you? Is it at work? Is it a loved one fighting cancer? Has someone hurt you in any way? Have you had to let go of a loved one as they traversed to the other side of heaven? Is your schedule overbooked and you feel like giving up? Whatever the loose end or situation you are in I encourage you to “Be not afraid.”

Sarah Alley
Sal the Fearless Gal

Dedicated to Quintella “Nessie” Dyson Rest In Peace sweet friend. You lived an amazing, big-hearted existence. You always had my back on the basketball court.

Brenda, Teresa, Kelly Jo, Julie, Tracy, and the many other amazing, hard-working, loving people fighting to “Be not afraid” as they look cancer in the face. You are heroes for all of us.

Quotes of the Day:
“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”
Marcus Aurelius

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”
Steve Jobs

“When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.”
Tecumseh