In my mind today I am winnowing my words and thoughts. I know back row; what in the world is winnowing? I am simply separating and selecting. Students, we each have a finite time to do good. It is very important to keep your soul and mind on what is important. There are only so many situations that you can make a difference. You do not need to waste the space in your head or your heart. This has been a new lesson for me. I am getting there slowly but surely. The one thing that is meeting me as I do this is peace. As I eliminate more things that I can do nothing about, these things that I can come to the forefront. I have told you before that the most precious commodity is this little time we spend together on Earth. Don’t waste it!
What if an angel came to you and told you tomorrow you will die? Examine your soul and mind. What occupies it or both of them? Are they full of things you can do nothing about? Are you thinking of someone who has hurt you? Are you dwelling on money, the lack of or acquisition of it? Is the psycho babble of the world rattling in your head and heart? Are addictions stealing your morals? Is every thought about yourself? It looks like we all need to winnow our thoughts and souls and words. I just got an amen from the front row!
I don’t write to make you feel hopeless; I write to hopefully inspire you to a greater calling: an Agape love. Every single thing in our lives works toward something. Renewal. It is so evident especially in the Spring. Down to the last atom there is a purpose for life.The time-line continues forward infinitely. Atoms of our forefathers greet us in the budding of trees. Nothing is wasted in nature as God intended. One day we will meet eternity. This is a thought worth saving. This thought can help you understand how precious this little life is and do your good works for God on this leg of your journey home.
Homework time! This week students winnow your hearts and minds. Be purposeful. Choose good life giving words. Fill your mind with thoughts of how you can bless others. Here’s an action plan: pray for those people in life that hurt you, pray for those that are elderly and need love, pray for those who are taking care of people who are in need, if you have a chance to help someone, Do it! Look up Agape and let that love guide you. I hope you understand that Ms. Alley “agape” loves you!
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the AGAPE GAL
Quotes of the Day by Marcus Aurelius:
The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.
Remember: Matter. How tiny your share of it. Time. How brief and fleeting your allotment of it. Fate. How small a role you play in it.
Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.
Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.
The best answer to anger is silence.
The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.
In my mind today I am thinking about my daily readings from yesterday. There was a man who had been crippled for 38 years. He is just lying there waiting for someone to help him get into the waters. 38 years. When Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be well he did not wait for the answer. He told him to pick up the mat and walk. He did.
I can totally relate to the man lying around for 38 years. I have been wheelchair bound since 2015. As I write this blog, I am waiting to get a shower. I can’t get up and do it myself. If it were feasible I would have a shower every single day. In order for me to do that I would have to have some type of time travel device. In order to bathe a quadriplegic it takes about 2 hours to do everything. Although I cannot walk and carry my mat, I improvise. Students the mat can be any type of limitation that you have.
I was asked to give a speech last Sunday at our little parish. It definitely was a “mat” situation. I did not want to do it but God kept pushing me to pick up my “mat.”
My heart has been very heavy lately. The last thing I wanted to do was to talk about my journey of faith. As I watched, sang and listened to our special guest artist, Sarah Hart, God nudged me. She was talking about her mother and the legacy of love that mother’s provide. I had already decided to do a 3 point speech about the elephant in the room[me in the scoot with ALS], my/our purpose, and seeking to see Jesus in our lives. Just before leaving to go to make this speech, I got a call from my daughter. She had just been through a traumatic experience. Most of you know my daughter and know that she is a music major as well as an education major. She has 20 hours this semester. She had 22 hours last semester. My girl has been very busy and exhausted. She is a junior in college. She had text me earlier in the week about a competition in voice that she was going to be auditioning at the University of Memphis. She was super pumped and super excited and super prepared! She thought she had made it to the next level. She kept asking them where her evaluation was. She and a choir friend went together. She did not make the cut. Her friend did. On top of that they could not find her scores. The scores would help her deal with her failure. She had called me Sunday right before I left to give the speech to tell me about this traumatic experience. I listened and let her cry. It hurts so much to hear your children cry. She started tearing herself down as I was listening to her. I simply asked her, Who do you need to worry about impressing in this life? Where do you get most of your joy from singing? I also asked her if she had someone there to hug her? She told me that she did. I told her I was so thankful that God put some arms there to hug her but to lean into the phone and feel my hug. She laughed and said I have some things to do and I am so glad that I talked to you. After we got off the phone I had about 15 minutes till time to be at the church.
The speech did explain the key points but God put something else on my heart. I can’t quite remember everything that I shared. I also shared part of the book that I began after being in the hospital last year on this same week in 2021. A lot of people told me I did a fabulous job but I felt like a fabulous flop. The other presenter told me about the wonderful job I did. I told her jokingly that next year whenever I get this book published we would do it again! She agreed, so watch out next March!
I’m going to end this blog with a little of what I shared. Prayers that I get my homework[my book Resurrection published]done students. Yes pray for me; it’s homework!
by Sarah Alley
I am going to tell you the story of how God used my broken body one Holy Week during March and April of 2021.
God has (and does!) speak to me as I have been going down this bumpy road with my health. I have a motor neuron disease that takes pieces of my muscle each day I am alive. It destroys my motor neurons so my brain cannot speak to them.
All this has led to so many wonderful miracles because of my weakness.
When I was first diagnosed and knew what the path I was on would be – a body so atrophied – I was very angry with God. I had a sweet friend that told me to stop being bitter and to stop being angry.
“Just because you are having to teach children while using a cane, that should not matter. You should tell God why you’re angry and talk with him.”
She told me to go to my closet and have it out with God.
One thing she told me before she left my classroom that day was, “You need to think about the things you can still do, Sarah. You have to let go of the things you cannot do. I know you’ve always been a runner and an athlete, but you are so much more. When you get home, you tell God how you feel.”
When she left my room, I’m not going to say that I wasn’t angry at her. Part of me grumbled, ‘What does she know? She can still walk. She can still get out there and play with her students and her children. She is really blessed because she can still wipe her own butt!”
That’s how I judge things these days. If you can wipe your own butt, you are so very blessed. (As a teacher, I often bird walk – so that was a little bird walk.)
That day, when I got home I did go to my closet.
I sat in the wheelchair that I was using part-time, because I was fighting so hard to keep myself from being abnormal.
I wanted to be normal for my students.
In those moments in the closet, I told God I was so angry.
“God, why me? I have such a fruitful job. I’m bringing so many children to You that are broken. I help them to learn to love You, God, but I cannot teach if I cannot walk and be there. God, You know these children. These children are the rowdy children that You have blessed me with, and I have to be physically strong. These are my favorite children, the children that people throw away. God, help me to still be there for them longer.”
I sat there. And cried.
And then, I heard God in my mind.
“My sweet girl, you are so much more than your physical body.”
I had peace.
So, the next day, I did what my friend told me to do.
I embraced all the things I could still do. And those things blessed my road as a teacher.
I am very good with technology. I was still able to teach through technology until my 21st year, and then my body began to give out. I was not able to breathe properly. My diaphragm was dying.
While teaching one day, I passed out.
When I woke up, one of my students, Jari, said, “Ms. Alley, we think you have narcolepsy.”
I knew something was terribly wrong.
That evening, I was rushed to the hospital in Jackson, Tennessee.
My husband got me up. He tried to help me get ready and I was so sick I had a bowel movement all over my body. He had to help me get in the shower, clean me off, put me in the truck, and rush me to the hospital.
The whole time he was driving, my blood pressure and my oxygen levels were fading away. My husband kept putting the oximeter on me to check me.
“Please stay with me, Sarah. Please stay with me.”
I made him go by his work to fax some important papers to my wonderful physical therapist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
He said, “Sarah, we don’t have time for this.”
I said, “You need to do this, because I need a chair so I’m still able to teach.”
He stopped and faxed the papers. And then we were on our way to Jackson County Hospital.
When we got there, I was rushed back. I was fading fast.
They put me on a ventilator, but my body was so tired. I was dying from carbon monoxide poisoning.
I was unconscious for two days. I remember a nurse coming in and saying, “If you will not wear this mask, you will die. Your body is full of poison.”
I let them place the mask on me.
After lots of prayers and petitions at my bedside, I went on a magical trip.
My body felt so light and I was tingly all over. It was like I was in some type of other world. I was riding in a red convertible Cadillac with my son. I think I dreamed of this car, or was given this car during this dream because of the movie Thelma and Louise. My leg was draped over the side. My son Ian was driving the Cadillac.
The thing that was odd or very strange, was that we were flying through the clouds. We were circling the Earth and then God talked to me.
My son said, “Mother, if you need to go home, it’s okay. Jesus will take you. You can go home, but you know you have to fight if you want to stay.”
I was so tired and exhausted. My body was wanting to fly home to heaven.
We were driving through the clouds and God said to me, “If you want to come home, let me touch your toe as you come by me. You will know when I will be by you. I will ask you 3 times.”
My son and I were having a great vacation in the clouds. We were floating along.
Then he looked at me and said, “Mama, we’re coming up to God.”
God asked, “Do you want to come home?”
At the last minute, I pulled my foot away so we still were in flight. We ventured in the car and we looked and saw so many odd people, so many odd creatures, so many other inexplicable things. It was unreal and I could not quite figure out where these creatures came from; it was a world I have never seen before.
My son touched my arm and he said, “God is up ahead. What are you going to do?”
So I began to think about that wonderful rest and that wonderful glory. But, at the last minute, I looked at my son and I pulled my foot back.
We rolled on again and we landed in a city that was so broken. It was like a Sodom and Gomorrah. It was evil. Animals were dead everywhere; things were horrible. It was like an apocalyptic scene. There was pollution everywhere. The earth was charred and gas emissions and smoke belched from deep chasms. There was no life. The stench was overcoming. My heart squeezed in my chest.
We began to move forward again, leaving the broken world behind,.
My son said, “Mother, God is up ahead. Are you wanting to go home?”
I just sat there in silence.
We came upon the brightness of God. I waited to the exact last minute possible – even up to the nanosecond – then I pulled my foot back. I woke up and was so happy to see all of my children and family around my bed. They had been praying for me to come home to Earth and I did.
Let’s fast forward about seven years to March 2021. It was a Tuesday.
My sweet mother-in-law had such a hard time during the pandemic. She almost lost her husband. She almost lost her own life. And she still had so many children she watched over. She came to have a break. She has so many burdens.
Tuesdays were our days to get together and to write cards of encouragement to parishioners. We write little notes of love to others in our little town to let them know we love them and we’re thankful for them. This day, we had decided to work our Bible Club questions in with our visit.
After she fed me lunch, we went into the living room and she got comfortable. She got her writing pad and we were going to begin our study on John chapter 1.
My nurse came by to access my port, so I could begin my infusions. The medicine helps to get the toxins out of my blood so my motor neurons can stay healthy longer. After my port was assessed and my nurse had left, I began to feel very strange.
I was tingly all over again like I had been before. I felt my body become lighter. There was a buzz feeling, like I was leaving it. I was so cold. My son wrapped me in three blankets and put a space heater under me. My teeth were chattering so hard it was hurting my teeth.
My son looked at me and he asked, “Mother are you dying?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t feel right. Will you call my nurse back?”
We called her and she came right away. She checked everything she could.
She said, “Ms. Sarah, Everything looks good. I don’t know what’s going on.”
I had a little reprieve during her stay to check me over and my chills abated. My jaws quit clacking. She had no sooner left my side and I began another vicious attack of tingling, my ears were hot, my jaw was chattering so hard.
My son looked at me and asked, again, “Mom are you dying?”
I said, “Get your grandmother’s oximeter please.”
He placed the oximeter on my hands and my heart rate was 40. Then, my heart rate was racing to 130. Then, down to 40. It was up and down. Up and down. I was so scared because I knew I was going to die in front of my family.
I told him, “Please call 911.”
A little comic relief here:
He said, “How do I call?”
I said, slowly, “Call 9-1-1. Just push 9-1-1.”
I was talking with the emergency team, and I said, “I just don’t feel right. I’m hurting. I’ve got all these symptoms. I don’t know what’s wrong with my body, but I don’t feel right. Something’s going on.”
They started asking a lot of questions.
I said, “Look, please send someone.”
She said, “Honey, we are sending them. But please stay on the phone with me, so you can stay conscious.”
So in walks the ambulance team.
I’m sitting there, and the EMT says, “Sarah Anderson, What are you doing?”
The EMT was a long-time friend whom I had gone to school with. I played basketball and he was a good baseball player. He was also a very handsome guy and I had heard through the grapevine, he was a player of ladies, too. (That’s a little more comic relief.)
As they’re putting me on the stretcher, and they’re getting me out the door, my sweet daughter is saying my last rights over me. She prayed over me and said, “Mother, repeat after me: Rebuke the Devil, confess your sins.”
I was trying to say all my last rights but I couldn’t focus.
My brain was fuzzy and I was leaving my body again.
As he was rolling up the driveway, I saw a man. This man looked just like my husband’s brother. We call him Daddy Mite. He was grabbing my arm and telling me, “I’m Praying for you.”
Each time he would tell me he was praying, I would tell him to not pray for me, but pray for his mother. We did this about three times. Then, the ambulance door was shut.
Keith got me into the ambulance and when we were in there, he said, “Sarah, I think you are in septic shock.”
I was bewildered.
I said, “I don’t know what that is, I’m just hurting.”
He said, “Honey, if your heart stops, do you want me to bring you back? “
I instantly began to cry.
I watched the sunset in the west as we headed east toward the hospital. I saw the glory of God in the clouds and in the glow of the setting sun. It was my favorite time of day, when God speaks so loudly.
I said to Keith, “I want to go home to God, but my family is not ready for me to leave them.”
He said, “Don’t say anything else, Sarah. I understand and I will take care of you.”
He began to wire his information to the hospital and when I got there, they rushed me back.
They confirmed I had septic shock.
My body was full of e coli. It was in my blood. They thought it could have been from my port activation since it had been 6 months since it had been activated. It could also have been my kidneys, which were having such a hard time dealing with the bacteria in my body.
Two weeks prior, I had been taken off of every antibiotic to allow my body to rest from them.
My doctor said, “Do not get on antibiotics anymore, unless you are urinating blood or you’re hurting so bad that you can’t stand it.”
So, while I’m going through all this in my mind, and, I’m thinking, “Did that have something to do with the sepsis?” I think when the Devil is after you, he throws everything at you to keep you from staying here to do God’s work.
My priest was the first one in the emergency room, before my family. He gave me my last rights. He prayed over me. As I was lying there, I felt the vomit come up in my throat. I was trying to tell my emergency nurse I was going to aspirate.
Father Patrick said, “She’s got ALS. She needs to be tilted up.”
He tilted me just in time, but then I pulled a Linda Blair.
I threw up all over my sweet priest.
I said, “I’m so sorry for going Linda Blair on you, Father Patrick.”
He continued to pray over me, and I continued to lift others up that I knew are hurting. I knew I might not be here to help them get to Him.
So we prayed.
He prayed and I prayed for so many of our parishioners.
I prayed for the people in my life. I was just thankful that God had given me extra time.
Father Patrick said, “Who do you want to see first?”
In my mind today I am thinking about circles. This is the third week of Lent. This week examine your circles. In my readings today, Jesus expanded His Circles.
My Circles change all the time. I have my nuclear family circle. My church family and friends circle which continues to grow. My student circle helps me stay focused and motivated to God’s plan. Circles are so important in our lives.
I was listening to my ten minutes of news and heard about the world’s strife: Ukraine, nuclear weapon races, earthquakes and forest fires, tsunamis, and cyclones. Orphans and widows abandoned while armies March to occupy physical space for its natural resources disregarding the humans in the path of destruction. Is this new? Sadly it has been going on since history became recorded. It so depressed me, but then I thought about Circles.
How could one person make any change for these horrific situations? These events popping up across the globe make me, you, and so many feel helpless and defeated. Most of these situations are not in our Circles. God tells us it’s the human condition and there will always be wars, diseases, catastrophic events, poor struggling people, and death on earth. Sounds like we drew the short straw, but your perspective is key. What can we do?
First and foremost Pray for those areas and ask for God’s protection. Pray for the world everyday and its woes. Now back to our immediate and real work, our circles. This is where we get in the middle of the battles God has put in front of us. Here are some examples: abandoned children in our families and little towns, addicted, broken brothers and sisters, donate to non-profit organizations that are on the front-lines of this war against systemic poverty, ask school systems how you can help children with tough home lives, give of your excess, lead others to the light with your life, and pray for strength to do God’s work where you live. Just think if we all took care of our circles and they took care of us.
God’s kingdom is not on Earth. It is in heaven. We are the ones who are supposed to build-up and protect God’s work on Earth as it is in heaven. It’s a tough job. Start with your circles. Mend them with forgiveness. Grow them with acts of kindness. Show them LOVE: the unconditional kind. Before you know it, your circles will expand and grow. Your circles will change the world. It’s the third week of Lent, grow your circles this week!
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Circle Gal
Quotes of the Day:
Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.
Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace.
The nature of God is a circle of which the center is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere.
In my mind today I am thinking about life. Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Lent. Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday: the day we remember that we will return to dust. Life on this Earth is so short. This is why it is vital to choose life. How do we get the most out of Lent, the forty days before Easter, much less life? Well students, it takes persistence, patience, time, and humility. Most of all, it takes LOVE. Not the easy love but the kind of love when you come last and everyone else comes first. Easy, right? Forty days is a walk in the park, not! Now try 365 days. Arduous indeed.
We missed the first Sunday of Lent. I absolutely hate to miss church on Sundays. This day has always been reserved as a Family Day for us. Church is the best part. It is the place that helps makes everything make sense. It reminds us of who we are and what our job is in the world. It is where I feel peace. My soul gets refreshed.
We had ventured to Rhodes College in Memphis Saturday night. Our youngest had a choir concert. It was to begin at 7:30 and end at 9 o’clock PM. We arrived at 7:30 PM. It took us 30 minutes to get into the building. This is just the way life is for us now. Between ALS, dragging oxygen tanks, and anxiety attacks, it was miraculous that we made it. I have to forget that I am a girl in a wheelchair with ALS. I know this does not make sense but it’s true. Whenever my husband gets in trouble I turn into Wonder Woman in a wheelchair! I know that my superpowers come from above. I had to go and get security from campus to drive him over but hey we made it! It is funny but my family and my friends forget that I have ALS. Which is fantastic! Others look at us wondering what in the world are these two people thinking. I am sure they think that we have escaped the nursing home. When it comes to our family, friends and especially children we choose life. We choose to take risks to be there. We choose life. We trust in God. What is that Bible verse front row? That’s right, if God is for us, who can be against us?
Students it is the beginning of Lent and I want you to choose life. I want you to help others choose life. Instead of giving up something frivolous, choose action. Try to give of yourself. Here is a precept for you: Matthew 25:37-40 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.
It is the 40 days of Lent. What are you going to give to help others choose life? A life of sacrifice to help others is priceless. Live a life that will turn others back to God and the virtues he gave us. A life that will choose and have a just God rule over your inalienable rights not man or men. God gives and men will take. This Lent how will you choose to use your time, talent, and treasures to help others CHOOSE LIFE!
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the CHOOSE LIFE Gal
Quotes of the Day:
You only love Jesus as much as the person you love the least. Dorothy Day
“In our Lenten journey towards Easter, let us remember the One who “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). During this season of conversion, let us renew our faith, draw from the “living water” of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God, who makes us brothers and sisters in Christ.”
“Fasting makes sense if it questions our security, and if it also leads to some benefit for others, if it helps us to cultivate the style of the Good Samaritan, who bends down to his brother in need and takes care of him. Fasting involves choosing a sober lifestyle; a way of life that does not waste, a way of life that does not “throw away”. Fasting helps us to attune our hearts to the essential and to sharing.”
In my mind today, I’m thinking of strengths and weaknesses. We all have them. Right now is a very weak or difficult time for me. Every time I move two steps forward in my home-family life, spiritual life, church life, community life, and author/writing life I am shoved three steps backwards. You notice I didn’t mention physical life. That is because God carries me and I have no worries. If physically I crumpled, I know God and what the endgame would be. Faith.
Memento mori, students. The world is wanting us to forget this. My son who takes care of us brought this Marcus Aurelius quote to my attention. Yes, regardless of your status we all pass on from the earth. How do you interpret this? Back row do you say YOLO? Front row: do you say it’s best to get as much money as we can to live as long as possible in comfort? Invest well! What about the rest of you? My husband and I are an everyday Joe and Jane. We have worked and we have invested and we have done what the world expected us to do. Guess what? No matter how you do it there is always going to be heart rendering times.
Now that we are both retired we can begin the real work that God wants us to do. I had already started this journey up to retirement 6 years ago. ALS took my job but it didn’t take my spirit. Students do you realize that not even the devil or God can take your will. At first my spirit was broken, then I realized the gifts God gave me in retirement: spiritual growth, teaching high school religious class, Bible studies, time to write and reflect, time to grow my intelligence, time to be still and know God, Turn the Page Book Club, bond with my middle child, see my Grands, and be on committees to help our little town. Now hopefully my husband can do the same and join me for our “real” Earthly work before our departure.
Families are so complicated. At Shady Oaks Retirement Home, our house, we have “incidents.” Some are over quickly but some of these linger and creep into our daily lives and squash our happiness for weeks. It emotionally deflates me. It tries to deplete my spiritual life. Some days like today I hang on by a thread of hope. Hope that my children are not scarred from caring for two fragile parents. Prayers that they will see God’s work through me even though many times I am pushed to my physical limits. Trying desperately to lead by example. Our last book club book was The Kite Runner. I so related to the father. It made me think that we have always had prodigal sons from the beginning. Look at the first, Lucifer. There is a struggle in the dynamics of children with parents. There always will be on earth. This is one of the crosses of having children. As hard as we try, we can never make their lives “happy.” That is the hardest thing for a parent.
“Lord, be glorified in my weaknesses as well as in my strengths.” This was my simple prayer reflection today. It inspired this blog. God knows how terribly weak we are. God also knows how terribly strong we are. Pray today for God to help us persevere THROUGH our weaknesses and to provide strength to do “the real work” in our Earthly journey. Happy snow day students!
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Do the Work Gal
Quotes of the Day:
“When you retire, that is when your real work begins.”
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”
“Perseverance, secret of all triumphs.”
“Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.”
“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.”
“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are unnatural.”
In my mind today I am thinking of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We hear of this every year at Christmas time. Have we ever really taken the time students to look these things up and to define them and create connections within your own minds? It is true what teachers tell you. If you see something unfamiliar or you have no clue, use a dictionary. These three gifts were given and recorded throughout history. King Herod knew the implications of such gifts. He held power over the tribe of Judah. He controlled their high priests. He murdered so many Jewish boys trying to stop the rise of a new King of the Jews. His plans were thwarted. This powerful birth had been foretold. The whole Earth rejoiced and nature sang. Here’s the secret sauce students. It still does. So many good and beautiful things happen at Christmas more than any other time of the year. Let’s talk about those three gifts.
Gold. Think about it, students: the golden rule, the gold standard, more precious than gold, etc. Gold is a precious metal. It has a symbol of AU on the periodic table of elements. They brought the baby Jesus something priceless. A gift to show the worth of this blessed son that would save the world by allowing Agape to be the guidance for all from this day forward. Students, Agape is a special kind of love: sacrificial. What an amazing gift He is. What could we give God this year that is more precious than gold? Could you show great charity? Think about that.
Frankincense. This is a gum or sap that comes from trees in Somalia and coastal Arabia. It is used for its strong perfume when burnt. The smoke is aromatic and used for rituals. It is very expensive. They have discovered that it is good for medicinal reasons: asthma, ibs, cancer, skin problems, and arthritis. It is still harvested today. This gift shows devotion to the health and life of Christ. Christ still lives today within each one of us if we only allow him to be in charge of our hearts. How can you show great devotion, students? Yes it is homework.
Last but not least, myrrh. It is also a resin or gum from a tree. These trees grow naturally in these countries: Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, Somalia, and eastern Ethiopia. It also has medicinal properties just like frankincense. It also has uses for perfume and incense. It has been used before Christ came as a man in religious ceremonies of the Hebrews. Moses used it. Jacob used it. Esther used it. Jesus was given it on the cross mixed with wine. Joseph of Arimathea gave it for Jesus’s burial. Ancient Egyptians as do those of Islamic faith used and use it. It is used to anoint holy people. It represents a sacrifice. What could you sacrifice for Christ? Would you sacrifice? Some people can’t even do this. They have become so self centered which is the very opposite of why Christ came to this world. Agape.
Today is the last day of Christmas for us as Catholic christians. It is the Epiphany of our Lord. The realization that God did enter the world and He came to save us by giving us a better way to love: Agape. As I watch the children from my window play in the snow, I wish you a Happy Agape Day! Now get outside and enjoy students! Build a Snowman for me and throw a few snowballs! The best of all is to sled. Be sure to do plenty of that!
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Agape Gal
Quotes of the Day:
1. “When one has once fully entered the realm of love, the world — no matter how imperfect — becomes rich and beautiful, it consists solely of opportunities for love.”
― Søren Kierkegaard, ‘Works Of Love’, 1847.
2. “Shine your soul with the same egoless humility as the rainbow and no matter where you go in this world or the next, love will find you, attend you, and bless you.”
― Aberjhani, ‘Journey Through The Power Of The Rainbow: Quotations From A Life Made Out Of Poetry’, 2014.
3. “Divine love, agape, is self-sacrificing love, which sounds difficult, as it is, and not very attractive. If the best image we have of love is of a man who’s been tortured and hung upon a cross … But it is the highest Christian image of love.”
― Kevin Hart, ‘The Poetry And Prayers Of Kevin Hart’, 2011.
4. “Agape is total love… Whoever knows and experiences agape learns that nothing else in the world is important – just love.”
― Paolo Coelho, ‘The Pilgrimage’, 1987.
5. “The only way love can last a lifetime is if it’s unconditional. The truth is this: love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love.”
In my mind today I am thinking about cause and effect. I remember the days of teaching Language Arts. Oh, how I loved to intertwine all of those academic subjects into one! I was even able to teach history through the language arts. The history teachers loved me. Language arts is the study of literature, writing, vocabulary, spelling, and grammar.
Today I am talking about cause and effect. This used to be a standard in the curriculum that we had to be sure students understood. The thing is it can be applied to our lives today. This is how you teach. You teach students to use what they learned in your class and apply it to the lives that they will live as adults.
Cause and effect. Let’s look at our world today. What is causing all of the grief and turmoil in this world? In our country? In our little cities? In our homes? Let’s work backwards. Yes students, I know I have taught you many ways to figure out problems especially in math. Look at the answer 21, and then figure out, how in the world did you get that answer? Well that is cause and effect. What caused you to get the number 21, for example? Did you multiply seven 3 times? Did you add up three rows of 7? What operation did you use to get the answer 21?
Cause and effect. What is happening right now in our world? What causes: School shootings, unwanted children, fatherless children, children orphaned from addictions of their parents, genocides, human trafficking, plagues, floods, famine, etc. These are all effects. What causes this to happen in a society of civilized people? We are definitely not focused on the family. I said this on purpose because this is something I used to listen to and read books about from the person that coined this phrase: Dr. James Dobson.
When I became a mother, I became scared. Scared of what the world would do to my children. I was so desperate to find a way to protect them. The first thing I did was to ask my husband to help us find a church to attend and raise our children. This is something that I never had but I saw others had. I had a very hard working mother, trying to survive with 5 children and an absent father for a while because of addictions. She didn’t have the luxury of time to take us to church. She would find church services on television to help us or to watch with her. She made me understand how important it was to have God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit to help you through all these terrible famines, floods, and storms of life. One of her favorites for us to watch together was Adrian Rogers of Bellevue Baptist church in Memphis, Tennessee.
You see, my mother never learned to drive, but she tried to find a way to help us look towards something bigger that would help us have order at our houses and homes when we became mothers and fathers. My 5th grade teacher called the television the Idiot Box. I understand why because now we have miniature idiot boxes. We are letting things control us instead of using them to help us. My mother used the Idiot Box to help us the best way she could while working late shifts and overtimes so we could be okay.
Students, let’s analyze this. The cause of me searching so desperately to be the best mother I could possibly be was my mother pointing the way to something better than this life. My mother did not have a lot of money, but she had so much love for her God and her children. She knew that that would be a greater gift. She prayed all of the time. We found several notebooks filled with prayers for us. We understood she feared for our souls as well as our Earthly lives. She knew that she was limited, but her God wasn’t. He would help us through the storms of life. She told us there was a right and wrong. The effects of my mother’s love and prayers are that some of her children are still believing and try to give their children that inheritance that can never be taken away. Back row students, listen. My mother had 5 children, and we are not perfect, but we do understand that this world is not the end of it all. She is the reason. She is the cause, and my life is the effect.
Let’s take the lesson to a bigger picture than just one family. Look at the world. We have children murdered every day. I am sad to say in the good old USA we have abortions, school shootings, and human trafficking. What is the cause of this? We are losing our connection with the Divine. Mothers do not know how to be mothers. Fathers do not know how to be fathers. Children are brought into a world of turmoil. They have no structure. Destruction is what they have, or a structure of busyness.
We are too busy to go to church. We are too busy to spend time with our children. We have been lulled to sleep with technology and the fear of missing out. YouTube is a babysitter. Being a parent is the hardest job if you do it right. It is a huge struggle. We don’t have the time to do it the way it should be done. We do have time, however, to shuffle thousands of activities that keep them from being children. We want them to be something bigger.
I was an athlete, and it is true that your competition practices while you are asleep. In reality, only a small percentage will be able to go forward as a professional athlete, but then what? In one of the blogs I have written recently, I talked about building things up instead of tearing things down. If you do not understand your past, and if you do not have traditions that are good and pure for your family, then your present moments are just discombobulated.
We live in the present moment. Our present moments are guided by our traditions of family. If we tear those down, we have done a grave injustice to our children. If you spend all of your moments without goals, you have no future. You won’t have a future. We want everything right now. Impatience.
Students, do you think that we are very impatient? We cannot tear down our family traditions, because if we do, we tear down our families. That is exactly what El Diablo wants. He wants us to forget how to be mothers and fathers. Is it working? My precious mother knew that when she had children, they would be her legacy. They would be how she put what she loved so dearly into the future. What are the mothers and fathers of today putting into their children for a legacy? Are they filling them with virtue and morals? Or are they teaching them how to be a better rat in the rat race?
Here’s the rub: they are not teaching much of anything to the children anymore. It is not the school’s job to raise your children. It is not the government’s job to provide for all of your children. It is your job. It would be fabulous to have a professional athlete for a son or daughter, but the BEST joy is to be a good mother or father. To see them choose the better part of this earthly life, which is to love each other and to take care of the most important thing that God gives us: our families.
Wake up, America. Wake up, world. Just like James Dobson told us, we need to focus on the family if we want to make what we have left a better place to live. Understand that love is an action verb. It is not an emotion. It is not sex or lust. It is a sacrificial gift of one person to another. Sacrifice. It gives up everything to God.
Sacrifice your desires to help your partner be the best mother or father they could possibly be. That goes both ways within a marriage. That’s why we call marriage a sacrament from God. It is not to be looked upon as all pleasure. It is not to be looked upon as trivial or easy. Marriage and love are very hard. It is not just a whimsical passion of unfettered love. We have definitely lost our focus on the family.
This is the 1st week of advent, and this is what I hope for us in this country: focus on the family again. Yes back row, this is homework!
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Cause and Effect Gal
Quotes of the Day:
The best way to get children to do what you want is to spend time with them before disciplinary problems occur—having fun together and enjoying mutual laughter and joy. When those moments of love and closeness happen, kids are not as tempted to challenge and test the limits. Many confrontations can be avoided by building friendships with kids and thereby making them want to cooperate at home. It sure beats anger as a motivator of little ones!
Nations that are populated largely by immature, immoral, weak-willed, cowardly, and self-indulgent men cannot and will not long endure. These types of men include those who sire and abandon their children; who cheat on their wives; who lie, steal, and covet; who hate their countrymen; and who serve no god but money. That is the direction culture is taking today’s boys.
Don’t marry the person you think you can live with; marry only the individual you think you can’t live without.
No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child.
Great beginnings are not as important as the way one finishes.
Whenever two human beings spend time together, sooner or later they will probably irritate one another. This is true of best friends, married couples, parents and children, or teachers and students. The question is: How do they respond when friction occurs? There are four basic ways they can react:
• They can internalize the anger and send it downward into a memory bank that never forgets. This creates great pressure within and can even result in disease and other problems.
• They can pout and be rude without discussing the issues. This further irritates the other person and leaves him or her to draw his or her own conclusions about what the problem may be.
• They can blow up and try to hurt the other person. This causes the death of friendships, marriages, homes, and businesses.
• Or they can talk to one another about their feelings, being very careful not to attack the dignity and worth of the other person. This approach often leads to permanent and healthy relationships.
In my mind today, I am excited about having time to write. October has grown from being a one event to a multi – event month. My family, God bless them, for putting up with me and my divinely inspired ways to pump good into our little corner of the world. This month I have really pushed all of my family to the precipice of sanity. I apologise, but look at how God blessed others through the efforts of my family and friends. That’s what it’s all about students. Pouring out yourself for others.
This year without key players to pull off the race, it became my beast of burden. I knew God would bring the people to pull it off. The Alley Alliance is a Motley crew of dedicated individuals. We have learned to persevere despite cancer, strokes, mental illness, ALS, death, etc. I could fill the entire blog with the obstacles we deal with and shoulder as a team. The most important member is God. He literally carries us each year. He carries me all the time. I feel it.
The race is every year on the 3rd Saturday of October. It has been this way now for 32 years. I definitely do not want to jinx the race but there has only been one day out of the 32 years that it has rained. This year the race fell a lot earlier because of the calendar. There was a huge chance of rain that morning. The clouds parted and it was so beautiful. There was not a one single cloud in the sky. Miracles. I cannot even tell you how many angels showed up that day to help this be such a beautiful day. There were old friends and new friends that came to do the work to make this happen. There were so many people praying for the race in heaven as well as on Earth. So many beautiful things have been born out of the Autumn March for ALS: What Ever It Takes Scholarships, Bart Williams Cookie Scholarships, Back to School Biking for Bart, Addi’s Haunted Trail, connections with Depot Days race and stronger ties with Newbern, Tennessee, and CHRISTgiving 2021. The race ties so many people together in our little community from the YMCA to the Parks and Recreation authorities. It includes people from all walks of life from mayors to farmers. We are able to do so much good for all of those around us just because of this little race. Next year will be year 7 for me as the race director, God willing. It will be October 15th 2022 downtown Dyersburg, TN at 9 AM. If you want to be a part of something wonderful then mark your calendar! I know next year will be even bigger and better for the greater good. Thank you to the entirety of our little county in Tennessee. It is so wonderful to be a part of such a lovely and loving community. Thanks be to God.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Autumn March Gal
Quote for the Day:
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.
The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.
Non nobis solum nati sumus. (Not for ourselves alone are we born.)
We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.
Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.
Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.
In a gentle way, you can shake the world.
Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.
They are the ones who . . . bear fruit through perseverance. (Luke 8:15)
In my mind today, it’s so full of words and emotions and blogs that are swimming in my head and making me dizzy! (Remember that song “Dizzy” students? If you haven’t, listen to it. Yes, it’s homework back row!) Let’s look at that word perseverance. The above is my verse for the day.
What is perseverance? Well, it’s when you suck it up buttercup and just do the work that needs to be done. Never give up. Never. Today’s readings talked about the parable of the seeds and the types of ground they will fall upon. So this is another assignment too, I want you to reflect on your heart. Not the blockages or your cholesterol but your heart. Is your heart workable? Is it ready to hear good things and to do good things? A teaching partner of mine always said if a child’s heart becomes hardened by the world then it is hard for us as teachers to break through all of the hurt. Thankfully in the 20 years that I was able to teach I could only recall about five children who would not allow us to help their hardened hearts. What is the cure for a child whose heart or even an adult whose heart has been so devastated? It doesn’t even allow his/her ears to hear good things. Something that stuck out to me one Sunday was this :it is not the outside world that can defile your heart but what you put in or let in it. This makes me feel so much better especially as a teacher. If you can get them to listen and put good things into their hearts, it will help their heart to be fruitful. It could crowd the bad and the good works will overflow.They will give good back because that’s what God wanted all along.
Some things that harden your heart for example are addictions. God had warned us of these; they are the seven deadly sins. That’s homework, too. You need to look up the seven deadly sins and be honest with yourself. Which one of these allows your heart to be defiled and corrupted? Addictions come in all shapes and sizes. These are the tools that help us to fall and fail. These are not tools of God. If you are reading this right now and you have trouble with any type of addiction God will help you. It’s a two way street. Just like the woman that Jesus said your sins are forgiven but go and sin no more. You simply have to say help me God. Help me not to overindulge in whatever vice you have. I do not want to be a slave to my addictions. You have overflow. You have to try your best to resist. Will you always be able to resist? Probably not. You will still have times that you fall. Here is the key. Remember what I told you I heard at church? Yes, that’s right nothing from the outside can defile you. Only what is in your heart can. If your heart has been hurt over and over then you have a lot of work to do. The work will be hard . Nothing that is worth anything is easy. God did not promise this life would be easy, on the contrary he told us it was going to be extremely hard. That is why we have Jesus. Our God is the God of redemption. Are you tired of this world and its snares? Place your burdens on Christ. He will carry you. Whisper that simple, “Help me God.”
What do you keep in your heart? Is it treasure? Is it trash? Is it weeds? Is it bouquets of beautiful flowers? You see students, it’s your choice what you put in your heart. Please begin to build treasure in your heart. How? By doing the good that needs to be done, Wherever You Are! We are all in this together. It doesn’t matter red, yellow, black, white or whatever you want to call yourself. Every single one of you, students, is first and foremost a child of God. That is your label. So many people today will argue that there is no God. So how can I be a child of God? Well until you are able to create another human without anything but basic elements then you will only be a child of God. How do you think we got here? A creator blessed is how we came to be. Science is not our God. I totally understand that a lot of hurt has been done in the name of God. We have to realize that hurt comes from our weaknesses as humans. We are given a free will. The free will to make good choices or to make bad choices. As a teacher so many times it hurt my heart to see precious children who were not loved or treasured. Their hearts were just a mess. The good news is until you take your last breath, your heart can be Redeemed by God. Does this mean you’re going to get that Escalade or the popularity you always wanted? No. It means that God will allow you to love again and you be sure to give love. Why, because that’s how love is. The more you give the more you get in return. That’s why I talk about building treasure in your heart. Do something good for your mother today. Do something good for your neighbor today. Stop and talk to someone who looks lonely. If you see someone hurting or in a bad situation you pray for them and help if you can. This is what building treasure in your heart in looks like. The treasure will continue to grow and it will flow out of you like gifts to everyone around you. You don’t believe me back row? Try it! I think you will be so amazed at what God will do for your heart. Do your homework!
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Perseverance Gal
Prayer for Today: “Jesus, help me persevere in prayer so that I can bear fruit for you.”
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.