Nuggets

In my mind today, I have been feeding my brain with literature. I am studying again! Don’t moan back row, students. Be joyful that I am looking for God. It has been a while since I have had the strength to read and focus. What threw me out of my stagnating reverie was YouTube. Yes, even dinosaurs like me look at it. I usually look for gardening videos and Christian talks about the Faith. I’m a “ real gone cat.” That’s an idiom, students. I digress but I was scrolling the YT and saw 26 books every Christian should read by Peter Kreeft. I watched it about three weeks ago and just finished the first book : an autobiography called A Severe Mercy. Of the 26 books, only two were autobiographies. I decided to start with the autobiographies. It was this one or Confessions by St. Augustine. The latter seemed too heavy for my fragile mind. 

After I got the title downloaded to my kindle, I discovered it was written by a man from 100 years ago about losing the love of his life. When I watched the YT video I just got the book titles and hurried to my list to read before my flesh became weak again. Finding out it was about grief and losing the love of his life, I was all in. I knew in my heart that the book was no accident. I do believe that God wanted me to read it ; it was divinely inspired. 

My mind as well as my heart have been muddled wading through my husband’s death into eternal life. The nuggets of gold I mined from this autobiography reinforced my mind, soul, and spirit giving peace to my battered, grief stricken heart. Good News indeed! The first nugget of truth about true love: it is more than physical attraction. In the beginning of my relationship with Ken, we wanted to be together all of the time. We couldn’t get enough of one another. In the book the author describes this time as their Pagan love. I believe that many relationships begin in this whirlwind of romance and freedom. It’s often referred to as the honeymoon stage. Often weeks into the relationship this fades and the rose colored glasses are too smeared and dirty to see through. What then fosters a good, healthy relationship or marriage? Commonality. Do you share common interests, goals, and morals? If not, I bet the relationship failed. Remember the song lyrics : don’t go changing to try to please me, I want you just the way you are?  Did you really want your person just the way they are? Was it reciprocated, did they feel the same way? If you honestly answered yes, congrats! To move forward to a deeper love it is imperative. The reality of real love is possible. I live in a little southern town and I look out at the world and hope desperately that people, men and women, have not given up on the sanctity of marriage. The plan for us to be one and that love being a treasure trove that grows stronger throughout eternity. Ken and I have it ( present tense.) I feel it. 

Nugget number two was: there is no other joy in the world better than Christian Joy. I hear the back row grumble. What other joy is there that has no baggage, consequences, or price? Love, real love, is free. It is not self serving. It does not constantly think about “me.” We all as humans yearn for eternity. We have been trying to figure out a way to live forever since the dawn of mankind. Christian Joy is walking your earthy life to God’s beat. There’s nothing you can do to buy or win it. It is staying in the Light of Christ. The plan for us is to be happy. How in this upside down society that you and I live in could this be possible? Is there any chance of getting true love and Christian Joy? I pray that there is. I have children and grandchildren ( my posterity) that I want to have these treasures.  Walking a righteous path is so hard, but so rewarding ; remember eternity students? Students, when you have true love do you want to be with them forever? Absolutely! This brings me to my last nugget of truth, my Epiphany for all of us grieving people whom I know. Just like the author in A Severe Mercy, I still “ feel” my beloved ‘s presence. Some days are so heavy with the weight of him I have crying days. These were so many before my Epiphany nugget. I felt that I was crazy and losing my mind and my love forever. Not so! Listen up my widow and widower friends. The last nugget will bring you hope. I pray that it does. 

The big epiphany nugget from the book gave me something to ensure that Ken is somewhere waiting for me out there in eternity. Remember the marriage covenant? Remember Saint Paul and stating that when a man and woman become one then their souls are united as one. This, to me, gives hope and evidence to being together again. When our souls depart from earth they leave intimeness ( no clocks or time keeping in eternity) and have all the time in eternity. Ken and your love are free from earthly chains. If your heart shattered when they departed, good. Hold on front row students, I am making a point. If your heart shattered, it was a true love. It was real. It had and still has life. True love is eternal. Just like Saint Paul stated two souls become one so the other half fledged before the other, so our loves are still there waiting for our day to soar. The hardest part is our waiting. Not for our beloved who are out of time. Remember when sharing your lives there was never enough time. I yearned for our Saturdays of time shared with each other. There could have never been enough Saturdays to satisfy our love. I believe a part of my soul left when his took flight. A death of a part of me that resurrected with him lives on in eternity where every day is a Saturday. 

Does everyone get this “true” love? Sadly, I don’t think so. It’s hard to live a covenant. Do more people want “ true” love.? I think that our society and culture in America need it more than ever. I remember a woman who was considering divorce told me that the infidelity of her husband was too much. She said that she wanted a man who only saw her in the room even if Halle Berry was in the same room. Ladies and gentlemen, do you feel the same? I know I did, but I was blessed to have it for 33 years. He always told me that he had the most beautiful woman in the church every Sunday,  ALS and all of the trappings included. I know back row, you think he was blowing smoke but he would say he still saw the girl he married. The sacrament of marriage is real. The covenant is sealed with love. I thank God for it. I think that those who achieve it have lots to look forward to even in death. This covenant has been flipped in our culture. Students, take heart. Surely there are many other people seeking it too. Remember all of the feelings that I have of Ken being so close in songs, places, and the space surrounding us? The signs the kids and I have? They are real. They have meaning. How can I be so confident? Everything is created by God. Everything God creates has meaning. I will soldier on until my eternity journey begins. Then I will be with him in a time free zone ready to share eternal Saturdays again.  

Sarah Anderson Alley 

Sal the True Love Gal

Quote of the Day :

“But love is the final reality ; and anyone who doesn’t understand this, be he a writer or a sage,, is a man flawed in wisdom. “

Sheldon Vanauken

Gethsemane Gardens

In my mind, I have been desperately trying to stay the course, the narrow way. Students when you are looking at memento mori, All things will die, it puts your life in a positive perspective.

Last year at Easter I was in the hospital fighting for my life. Two weeks ago my husband was at Vanderbilt fighting for his life. Four days into his stay at the hospital our youngest granddaughter was rushed to Le bonheur. Both are now home. God’s mercy has rained down once again on the Alley family.

My husband is one of the most honorable men I have ever met. I think in some ways he is a saint for putting up with me. He is also very stubborn. His pulmonologist wanted him to go to the emergency room because his oxygen levels dipped into the 40s as he slept. Remember I said he is very stubborn so he bargained for one more night before going to the emergency room in Nashville. That night was like a night in the garden of Gethsemane for my son and me. He watched till 3 AM and I watched you until 6 AM. Each time he would go into the low numbers we would stir him. Then the next day my son drove him to Nashville to Vanderbilt. My son told me that we almost lost him on the way and he had to continually keep him awake. When he reached the ER his CO2 levels were 100%. The normal level is in the twenties. In the year 2009 they told my husband he had 2 years left on these lungs. With much love and sacrifice from family and friends, the hands and feet of God, have pulled us back out and given us more time together. We know we will die one day. We totally accept that. But students also understand that we are created of flesh and spirit. The spiritual world is a mystery but we are part of it. As our earthly life ends, our spiritual birth will begin. My husband and I know that there is more. Thanks be to God. Our bodies will return to the Earth but our spirits will soar.

Life is more limited for him but he is still here for a time as we all are. Students, our work is not over until all know the truth. The closer I get to heaven the more I feel. Last night I was able to go to Holy Thursday service. I was tired but I stayed the course and I am so glad. I was able to witness 13 young young boys and girls take their 1st communion. As the priest washed their feet just like the disciples that fateful night I wept with happiness. Watching all of the parents and the children built up hope within me that others want to take care of the treasures on this Earth, especially the children. Although this world is upside down there is still a light of Christ that will shine until the very end of time on Earth.

Yesterday I was also blessed to go around my little town square. Every shop I visited and every car that passed was filled with good greetings and love as my Goddaughter and I were getting silent auction gifts to raise money for the local YMCA. God was filling my heart with love that I had thought was leaving our little community. Every word, every conversation, spoke of a greater Love. It gave me hope.

Last Thursday night was the night in the garden of Gethsemane. As we left the church in silence following the Eucharist, I was challenged with my own dark night. Thinking about all of the hurts in all of our families and all of the tragedy of the world. Friends with cancer and friends with strokes received many prayers. I did not sleep much last night. As I awoke Friday morning, I gave thanks to God for one more day. It was indeed a Good Friday. Students find somewhere to celebrate Christ this Sunday; it’s homework!

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Triduum loving Gal

Quotes of the Day:
“Unless there is a Good Friday in your life, there can be no Easter Sunday.“ — Fulton J. Sheen

“What Our Lord did say on the cross was to forgive. Forgive your Pilates, who are too weak to defend your justice; forgive your Herods, who are too sensual to perceive your spirituality; forgive your Judases, who think worth is to be measured in terms of silver.”
Venerable Fulton J. Sheen

“The virtue of hope lies not in the future of time, but beyond the tomb in eternity; its object is not the abundant life of earth, but the eternal love of God.” -Venerable Fulton J. Sheen

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.