Where I See God

I see God in nature. As a child, I would refuse to go inside on a pretty day. My mother told me that at two years of age my best friend Clayton and I would head out with our pails to rescue bugs. When we moved to a neighborhood and had a nice sized yard, I would find holes filled with toads. I would take them in to our bathroom, place them in the sink, and shut the door. I then would head out to find more. Whoever opened the bathroom door would be in for a big surprise. It was usually my mom. I can hear her saying, “Sarah Anne, what in the world are you doing?”

I cried when people killed bugs. Sometimes my older brother did it just to torment me. He would pull the legs off of a grasshopper and ask, “You want me to put it out of it’s misery?” In my mind I envisioned a little hospital crew reattaching the maimed part and quickly said, “Yes! Please help it.” He would proceed to stomp the poor insect while I wailed and sobbed. Another evil tactic was talking my grass-hopper collections and tossing them into spider webs as I screeched. Traumatic times indeed. Boys really are made of “snakes and snails.”

I remember walks with my dogs discovering snakes, gullies, riverlets, and ponds. The adventures were always satisfying eating wild berries and snatching fruit from neighbors trees to serve as a makeshift lunch. I would explore for hours and heading home in the gloaming which is still a favorite time of day for me. Everything glows and seems lucid to the eye. These walks continued until being ambulatory was stolen away by by ALS. My dogs and I explored the woods around my home. We’ve flushed squirrels and deer. Watching the hounds bay and chase is a beautiful sight. Of course, no one was harmed. The joy is in the pursuit which is a good thing because my girls never caught anything. Watching them rush to ponds to swim and flounce their sodden coats as they came back to me on our adventure always made me smile.

Today, I roll and still commune with nature. It’s limited to my yard but it’s a sanctuary to me. I trek in my scoot watching birds enjoy my feeders, birdhouses, and trees. The butterflies and bees scurrying and harvesting from my flowers. My dogs follow me and rest at my feet as I look up dreamily into the trees I planted as mere saplings. Their girth a treasure I thought I would never see. I spend hours watching and listening to nature. From toddler to death, I will enjoy my sacred time with God in his roofless sanctuary.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Nature Gal

 

 

Opportunity

 

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

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

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

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

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Opportunity Gal

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

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

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

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

 

Dharma

Dharma

In my mind today I’m thinking like Brittany Spears, “Oops I did it again.” I haven’t been able to write as of late because I’ve done it again. I’m going to ballgames, teaching at church, and being a youth minister. Some call it “burning the candle at both ends” but Sal the Dharma Gal calls it living with ALS not dying. It feels so good to live with purpose. I’ve given you a break back row so let’s get started and no bathroom breaks during instruction time.

First, what in the world is dharma? Back row not the tv show, Dharma and Greg! It’s what I’ve been harping on for my high school students in religion class each Sunday. We are trying to form good habits and shake old ones. We want to grow. Here’s the definition of dharma: virtue, righteousness, and duty, especially social and caste duty in accord with the cosmic order.

In Sal the ALS Gal’s world, I’ve been fulfilling my cosmic duties to the best of my abilities. God has allowed me to immerse myself in serving once again and I’m so giddy. My modus operandi is to teach. When I sleep, I almost always have vivid dreams. 90% of my dreams involve me teaching and the other 10% I’m playing a sport. Really. So recently I’ve been gifted a new teaching assignment. I’m teaching my great nephew, who suffered a tragic brain injury, two days a week. He’s on homebound instruction. Searching ideas, planning a curriculum, and creating lesson plans gives me so much new life. In my brokenness, I’ve been given purpose. Smile with me.

Not only am I being a teacher once again, but I’m also going to share art and use it once a month at my beloved local library with local middle school students. I’m calling it Art Therapy with Sal the ALS Gal. Giggle with me. I’m so happy.

Now students, why am I so giddy? No, back row I’m not hitting the old peace pipe! I’ve been given the gift of service. I get to serve! We are all called to a purpose and that purpose always has an element of service. I encourage you to find yours.

I know your lives are so full of work, family, church, little-league, boy/girl scouts, and obligations. Somewhere in the web of your life, find a way to help and serve others. It can be through your job or life activities. Just find someway to help those around you. You don’t have to visit a third world country. Seek and you will find a way to live a life fulfilled. Sal the Philosophical Gal knows a life well lived doesn’t involve a big bank account, fancy cars, and designer stuff. It’s about using your gifts to help others. Find your dharm aka path of righteous living.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Servant Gal

Quotes of the Day:
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Gandhi

“The highest form of worship is the worship of unselfish Christian service. The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless.”
Billy Graham

“Everyone has a purpose in life and a unique talent to give to others. And when we blend this unique talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy and exultation of own spirit, which is the ultimate goal of all goals.”
Kallam Anji Reddy

 

Impulses

Impulses

In my mind today, I’m thinking about impulses. We all have them. We have bad and good impulses. That’s human frailty, but I’m focusing on good impulses. The questions are: where do they come from, should we act on them, and why do we get them?

I’ve always had impulses even as a small child. I remember seeing an older man desperately struggling to find something in a grocery store. I watched as he asked several people passing by, “Is this real orange juice?” Each of the women he asked shirked him off with a “humph.” I did notice he was unkempt and scruffy looking. I had an impulse to help him so I did. I was small and around 6 or 7 years old. I walked up to the man and pointed to the orange juice. I said, “Mister, this is orange juice.” He was so grateful and that’s the first time I remember giving mercy. Guess what? It felt good. On the way home I asked my mom, “Why would no one help him?” She said, “Sweetheart, he was poor, illiterate, and probably homeless.” My heart literally hurt for him.

I still get very strong impulses today. Do I act on them? Yes, I try to always act on them whether it’s a mother trying to decide what to put back at the checkout counter or a person sitting alone in a restaurant. I get impulses to act. Do you get impulses? More importantly can you act on them?

Not only have I acted on impulses but I’ve often been on the other side of mercy. Once on one of our many trips to Vanderbilt to my neurologist, I was given a beautiful act of mercy. If you know my Ken, he is a creature of habit. He has to be because I’m so willy-nilly. Bless him for dealing with me and my impulsive self. Anyway we always stop at the same Pilot service station to and from Nashville each time we travel. Often the same homeless man with his sign and dog are there. This particular day was a bad one for me. I was swollen, not breathing well, and literally dying. I usually stay in the van in my chair and wait with the ramp down so I can stretch my legs until they get back. The homeless man saw me. I smiled. As Abbey and Ken were loading up, he ran up the ramp and put a pumpkin in the van seat by me that he had carved the word LOVE onto with his pocket knife. He never utter a word. He quickly exited the van. Ken was freaking out. He said, “He stole that pumpkin! We could get in trouble!” I said, “He just wanted to spread love.” I left my stolen, impulse, mercy-love pumpkin proudly displayed in my classroom that fall and winter. Later that winter, I was hospitalized with a failing diaphragm from my disease and almost died. That homeless man saw my exhausted, weary body and acted on his impulse. I felt love and mercy.

So where do these gut-wrenching impulses come from? Sal the Spiritual Gal thinks they are urged of the divine within us: the Holy Spirit. I roll through this chapter of my life hoping to find more impulses or small ways to serve while I’m still here. That, my students, is why we get those impulses. They are calls to give mercy. Your assignment is to answer those calls of mercy or impulses as you go through each day of your lives. Listen with your heart.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Impulse Gal

Quotes of the Day:

“Most people think that shadows follow, precede or surround beings or objects. The truth is that they also surround words, ideas, desires, deeds, impulses and memories.”
Elie Wiesel

“Mistrust first impulses; they are nearly always good.”
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand

All these primary impulses, not easily described in words, are the springs of man’s actions.”
Albert Einstein

“One of the reasons why so few of us ever act, instead of react, is because we are continually stifling our deepest impulses.”
Henry Miller

Have Mercy!

Have Mercy!


In my mind today, I’m trying to center myself and plot out how I want to serve others in the new year. Believe it or not, I’m still here with ALS/PMA dipe and all. I’ve found the cure to melancholy and depression. I’ve shared it before and I’ll continue until the “back row” students understand. It truly is in giving that we receive. Focus outward, not inward. It makes life bearable especially for Sal the ALS Gal. I hear some of you complaining that you have no money to help others. Hey, neither do I, but I do have mercy that can be given in abundance. Mercy: compassionate treatment of those in distress: blessings. I’m searching for ways to serve and deliver mercy.

Last Friday night I attended a local basketball game. It takes a lot to get Sal the Basketball Loving Gal out of the house especially in the winter and at night. It’s a sacrifice indeed. I never know how my body will betray me from fatigue and atrophy. Let’s just say it was really rebelling Friday night. My right hand wouldn’t push the joystick to drive my scoot, my neck was wobbly and terribly tired, and my breathing was labored affecting my speech. I had a big dose of humility as I was escorted to my area. Being so frail in a place where I was once so strong is truly humbling.

I looked around the crowd and saw familiar faces: former colleagues, students, and peers. The student section was full of life and youth. As the girls ran out for warm-ups, I remembered my years on the basketball court. I was so very grateful to be able to watch, enjoy, and remember other seasons of my life. Ironically, it was “Throwback” night and the theme was the 1980’s. The students were all decked out in 80’s garb. It made me chuckle. Big bangs, concert shirts, and mini skirts, were all the rage. Whew! Have mercy on our style!

Many people came by and gave me hugs, talked basketball, told me how my former classroom is going, and updated me on their current undertakings. Guess what students? They gave me mercy. Compassion. What costs nothing but can reverberate and last an eternity? Mercy. Forgiveness. Loving the unloveable. Especially when love and forgiveness is not deserved, this is the ultimate form of mercy. Will I ever get there? I’m trying desperately to do so. And of course I urge you to find mercy that may be locked up inside of your own hearts. We have all been hurt by others. We have all had times of gossiping. We have all been “twits.” Unpack mercy this year. Yes, this is an assignment back row. Remember to have mercy on yourselves first.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Merciful Gal

Quotes of the Day:

“God’s mercy is fresh and new every morning.”
Joyce Meyer

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
Jesus Christ

“All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.”
Winston Churchill

“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”
Abraham Lincoln

“A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just.”
Pope Francis

 

Snow Days

Snow Days

In my mind, I’m thinking about snow days. In my healthy, ambulatory life as a teacher, I lived for snow days! Last night as our little burg buzzed about the cancellation of school, a part of Sal the Snow Day Gal was giddy. When the alert dinged my phone informing us about the cancelling of school, I was ecstatic! This morning after my husband was ready for work he came to my side of the bed, jerked off the covers, and raised my head with the remote. I fuzzily opened my eyes and said, “Why are you waking me up? There’s no school. It’s a snow day.” For a brief moment I had forgotten I was Sal the ALS Gal. I was going to relish an icy, cold day sleeping in and the romping in the snow with my kids, friends, and dogs. Then, I remembered. I have to get up every day at 6 AM because that’s the routine for Sal the ALS Gal: up, meds, coffee and toast, potty, suction my lungs, back in my chair, read, pray, and write. This happens every day but Saturday. On Saturday I get to sleep until around 10 AM.

Don’t you love snow days? I hear the back row mumbling for me to zip it because I’m ruining their snow day! Since you’re already awake, let’s talk a bit. This morning the story I read was about the paralytic that was lowered through the ceiling so Jesus could heal him. It doesn’t mention this paralytic man having great faith. Who was full of faith? That’s right front row students, his friends knew if they could just get their crippled friend to Jesus, he would be healed. I hear you asking, “Was he healed?” Yes, students, he was. Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven. Rise, take your mat, and walk.” The point is we all need “faith-full” friends. Friends that know your struggles and have faith God is fighting with you. Sal the ALS Gal has so, so many faith-full friends and for that I’m so blessed.

I joke with my children that I need tire chains for my scoot (wheelchair) on days like this. Man, I could really cut up on this snow and ice if I did. Sal the Fast & the Furious Gal I would definitely be! Vin Diesel who? Of course you have a lesson on this snow day! What kind of teacher do you think I am? Today, get out there! Get out of the digital world! No video games or tv until you do at least three of these assignments. Here they are! Take your fur babies on a hike in the woods. Go sledding with your children and friends. Drink lots of hot chocolate with extra marshmallows. Make a snow angel. Make and eat snow cream. Hey, snow days are for FUN! These are some of Sal the Snow Day Gal’s favorites. What are you waiting for? Bundle up and get out there!
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the I LOVE Snow Days Gal

Dedicated to all those who love snow! Especially, the Snow Queen of West Tennessee, Ann Carson.

Quotes of the Day:

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”
John Ruskin

“Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood.”
Andy Goldsworthy

“A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky, unbidden, and seems like a thing of wonder.”
Susan Orlean

 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

In my mind today I’m thinking of all of the blessings of 2017 and how things have changed from my childhood. Remember as a child how the 2000’s seemed otherworldly? They seemed so distant as we envisioned a world like The Jetsons. We’ve yet to have flying cars, but we have rumbas, drones, and FaceTime which are amazing when I think of my techno-free childhood.

My family certainly wasn’t the jet-set. We had an antenna for tv and seven tv channels. One of those was PBS. I think I’m the only one that couldn’t live without it, and it’s still one of my favorite channels. Go ahead back row and call me a geek. Mr. Rogers taught me how to deal with kids like you. Now, kids watch tv on their phones. Remember favorite tv shows that we all gathered to watch? The only time we could watch cartoons was Saturday mornings. If you slept late, you missed out.

What about having one phone jack and one phone in the entire house? I was envious of friends that had phones in their bedrooms. Seems unbelievable doesn’t it? Phones were for function and not so much for entertainment. I remember waiting anxiously by the phone for that person I was crushing on to call so my parents wouldn’t embarrass me or interrogate them if someone of the opposite sex called. Just like Archie and Edith sang, “Those were the days.”

It makes me wonder what will kids today look back on and feel nostalgic about when they reminisce? Are things today worse or not as fun or are we not as connected as days gone by? Are we all freaking out? Yes, there is a lot of disparity, but I also see so much good. There are many organizations and individuals working for people struggling in the middle of the healthcare gap crisis, poverty, homelessness, drug addiction, neglected children, better environmental choices, and natural disaster relief. And we aren’t giving up or stopping. Why? The good anyone does reverberates and multiplies no matter how minuscule the deed. 2018 here I come. Sal the New Year Gal is brimming with ideas to promote goodwill toward all. Join me.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the 2018 Gal

Dedicated to Matthew 25:40, Salvation Army, Union Mission, McIvers Grant Public Library, Dyersburg City Schools, and Dyer County Schools

Quotes of the Day:

“I just believe in the goodwill of people, the power of people to do something positive.”
Eddie Izzard

“In a time of domestic crisis, men of goodwill and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics.”
JFK

“Justice and goodwill will outlast passion.”
James A. Garfield