Where is your joy?

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In my mind today I am thinking of all of the people who fight chronic illnesses: ALS, cancer, addictions, MS, Duchenne MD, or Alzheimer’s. The list could fill the entire page. What makes one jolly and another bitter and sullen? I read this just this morning:
The testing of your faith produces perseverance so that you may be perfect and complete.
I hear this often, “How can you believe in a God that tortures and tests you?”

This life is so much bigger than my illness. There are so many people suffering in this world. An average lifespan of a human is 79 years. There have been only five generations since the Mayflower landing. Time for all of us is limited and it flies by so quickly we waste so much time being depressed or upset about trivial matters when we could be spending time together with family and friends sharing meals, conversation, and love whether we are sick or not. Times a’wasting my friends.

Do you realize we are all tested every day of our lives? We are the sons and daughters of God. We are made in His image to love and to be loved. So many people are not loved in our society today. It is just a shame. Our path to goodness has been clouded by social media, the internet, drug addictions, and children who are neglected. I get really sad when I think of the people who are addicted and cannot love themselves. I have people very close to me who do not love themselves; therefore, they could not love others. They are hurt from their childhood and are taught by the hard knocks of life. They are suffering, too. Please stop and say a prayer for all of those who are living with or affected by addiction. Never stop praying for them.

As a teacher, I administered many tests. The kids hated them. As a teacher, I looked forward to the tests to see how much the students have learned. It’s an indicator. It helped me to see where their weakness lie. Back row, not because I could just put red ink all over their paper and say “Ah-hah, you didn’t study did you?” The scores showed me where my students needed help. Then I could go back and fill in the gaps so they understood the content of the lesson. Of course, I would allow them to retake it. Here’s an analogy, you learn more when you are unsuccessful. Your brain will say, “I’m not falling for that again!”

Our trials and test in this life show how much we have learned. I have learned living with ALS that there is purpose in my suffering. My mornings are spent with prayer and quiet time. I find messages that come through scriptures and prayers. Just like today. In the book of James, he tells us to offer it up to God. How do you survive living with cancer, ALS, MS, addictions, Alzheimer, or any other condition that steals your joy? We will all die one day and that is just a fact. How we die is just a minor detail. The main objective students is not how we die but how do we live? The precious time that is given to us whether it be 79 years or less is indeed precious.

Teaching my high school students in PRE(Parish Religious Education) yesterday I shared one of my dark times with them. Yes, I have dark times. We all do healthy or not. I told them about my daughter at college getting free tickets to a front row opera from someone. She went Valentine’s Day by herself to see this opera. She reported that it was one of the best Valentine’s Days ever. It made me sad because in my mind I envisioned the gal without ALS. In my mind I could see me rushing from work and going to Memphis to the opera with her. I cry every time I visit that vision. I get angry. Then, I offer it up. I thank God for my songbird, her life, and her happiness. My students already know that I am cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs so the tears don’t scare them much anymore. But in my closing prayer, I thanked God for all of them and for my ability to be there. You see we all have work to do. Regardless of our station whether we are in jail or living at home waiting on hospice there is work to be done. There is joy to be had in the journey. That joy does not come from success in this world. It comes from something much bigger. Do you have something to offer up? Right now just say these words, “Dear God, I cannot do this alone. Please help me to find my joy in you. Use me dear God for your good. All of my struggles I give them up for the good of your kingdom. Help me dear God to be a light for others. Help me to love the child of God you created in me so I can find my joy in you.”

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Offer it up Gal

Quotes of the day:
Psalm 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear
1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Exodus 15:2 The Lord is my strength and my song

Who are You?

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In my mind today I’m bufuzzled. I ran across this verse last week, “Who are you?” My brain wants to add o’s and sing it like the band The Who does. Just when you think you have it all figured out, you do or say something and think did that come from my mouth? It’s so tough to be the person that you are called to be.

This whole wonderment has had me shaken. Am I being the best person I can be? I’m at a crossroads. My mission is about to change. It’s been tough letting go of the work and person I have been in the past few years. With ALS, we have plateaus and valleys. I’m in the middle of a valley and figuring out the next season. The work will be new and rejuvenating. This work has been calling me for more than a year. I have no clue if I will be successful or not. I just have to try. Why? It is a calling from God. I have been blessed with a good mind, three degrees, and a broken body. It doesn’t matter folks. God will carry me and qualify me as I go.

It’s a New Year! Lots of resolutions. I remember every January grumbling at the YMCA because of the huge flux of people who were going to get in shape. I chuckle remembering that season of my life with my Y buds. I was a different person then with different jobs. Every season needs to be lived and cherished. There is truly knowledge to be learned and jobs to be done until our last breath.

I’ve been on a sabbatical of sorts. I’m powering up for the next Sal the I Know Who I Am Gal. Who am I? I’m first and foremost a Child of God. Read, listen, and pray today. Figure it out. Who are you?

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Child of God Gal

Quotes of the Day:

They asked John the Baptist, “Who are you?”
He replied, ”I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’
as Isaiah the prophet said.”

First week of Advent


Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side. Psalm 23:4

In my mind today I am thinking about evil. Evil exists. Psalm 23 reminds us never to fear even in death. This is the darkest time of year here in my little burg. We get less sunshine than any other season. It just so happens that it is our first week of Advent. Happy New Liturgical Year!

In the darkest hours, we search for light. We have been promised a second coming. If Jesus Christ appeared in our little burg today, what we would he find? Parents stressing over the latest toys? Left behind elderly people at home and in facilities? Parents refunding charitable gifts so they can get another hit? People locked away in jails and prisons without a single Christmas greeting? Like John Lennon, I imagine all of the lonely people in my burg.

This little town is my playing field or basketball ball court now. Instead of touchdowns and jump shots, where can I bring the light of Advent? Where can the most light be spread to aleveate some despair and loneliness? If you attend church, look around. If you are working, look around. At the grocery store, look around. I’m sure you can find someone to give a gift card to or take a meal. What about volunteering to help out a single, working mom with providing food and coats for her kids? I know people who give all year long. Why? They get it. They have been enlightened by the Christ that lives within them. We should live our Advent all year long. I hope you find ways to bless others this season.
Happy Advent!
Sal the Christmas Loving Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley

Quotes of the Day:

“Be the Grinch that stole Christmas!”
Sal the Grinch Loving Gal

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!”
Ebenezer Scrooge

“For it is in giving that we receive.”
St. Francis of Assisi

Take Nothing for the Journey


Take nothing for the journey. Luke 9:3
I read these words over in my mind this morning. Each day I wake I lose something to ALS. It’s not until I try to use a muscle that I realize the disease has creeped further into my neurological system taking something else. My life sounds like a sci-fi movie. Ironically, it looks like it, too. I’m not complaining; I’m rejoicing. The more of ourselves and possessions we leave behind, the closer we are to our next adventure. Humans can’t comprehend needing nothing. When you realize what is valuable usually it’s time to go be with your creator. The light bulb comes on and your gone. If you are part of the ones that get what life is all about, you are a special person. It’s a gift.
Take nothing and give all. The things you give are not burdensome or hard to carry: time and attention. They are sacrificial. They are precious. When they are well spent, the memories, feelings, smells, and warmth will stay with you your entire life. They bridge you to the next world. They feed you soul for the journey. I know so many wonderful people who are blessed to do this through their vocations. In my first season, I was blessed to be able to serve others as a teacher. Whether you are a nurse, waitress, Wal-Mart greeter, lawyer, or politician, it’s all about serving and giving to those in your life path. Give time and attention to each person you encounter. If you do, it’s a game changer not just for them.

Today’s message is a message to me. As I shed the baggage of this earthly life, I am lighter and stronger. In my physically healthy life, I don’t think I could have left behind everything. I couldn’t leave my job, my car, my house, etcetera. A vow of poverty? Delete that. I had been born into hard working, low income family. I earned my degrees and wanted to give my children the opportunities I didn’t have. I wanted them to be proud of me. I wanted them to love me like I loved them with all of my heart. Fast forward 20 years. ALS has taken so much. It took all of the things that I would have had to leave behind: nice, trendy clothes, new cars, shoes, makeup, but we have been blessed to still have our home. It is renovated for this rolling gal. Things are not done to my expectations, but things get done. I’m good with that. My family and friends are doing so much. They envelope me with true love. I have let so much go. Now I’m baggless, stripped down, and free. Free? Yes. Free from social anxiety, competition, and comparing. I go where I’m needed. I use my time, talent, and treasure to serve others. My journey has been and is a beautiful one.

The other part of this message to me is my daughter is considering the religious life. She’s a special one. She gets it. She wants embrace poverty out of the gate. This may change after four years of college. Only God knows. I’m amazed at the selflessness of her and others for considering giving their lives literally for others. These special people take a vow of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. They go where the need is. Their lives are never about what they want. It’s always about what God needs. This perspective was a gift from God through ALS. Just like nuns and monks, I take nothing for the journey except the light He puts in me.

Today think about what makes your heart so heavy. There are so many ways to be bogged down: selfish individuality, competition with co-workers and neighbors, gambling and shopping addictions, alcohol and drug addictions, self hate, and feeling sorry for yourself. It’s time to de-clutter. It’s time to be kind. It’s time to pray for yourself and your neighbors. Bob Dylan sings, “You gotta serve somebody. It might be the devil or it may be the Lord. But you gotta serve somebody.” Remember your actions speak louder than words.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Let it Behind Gal

Quotes of the Day:

In the third grade, a nun stuffed me in a garbage can under her desk because she said that’s where I belonged. I also had the distinction of being the only altar boy knocked down by a priest during mass.
Bruce Springsteen

Your daily life is your temple and your religion. When you enter into it take with you your all.
Kahalil Gibran

However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them?
Buddha

From Martha to Mary


Reflecting today on my readings, I realize that I have become a Mary. I watch the flurry of social media posting about back to school and I visit the season before ALS. I was such a Martha. I enjoyed every busy moment of every busy teaching day from inservices preparing our minds for another year of teaching to the bone-tired days of May. I admit I offen scoffed at teachers who were like “Woah, slow down! You are going to burn out before September.” They had had their seasons being Marthas and understood the value of reflecting and pacing. Teaching is a very competitive profession. Don’t let anyone ever tell you it’s not. We want to do our very best every single moment of every single day. We looked at the new teachers each year and tried to glean new methods they have learned that maybe we had never heard of before. We looked at the experienced teachers and their ease of scheduling and confidence eager to learn from the them. We tried to figure out just how were they so cool and confident hoping they would share some of their “tricks of the trade.” By default, I think most teachers are Marthas. Busyness is the nature of the teaching profession. There truly is never a dull moment. There truly is never a moment of peace until you gather your things and make it to the parking lot to your car. And if you’re raising your own children, then another form of chaos ensues until bedtime. Whew! Prayers for all of the teachers all of the time.

I am now a Mary. I sit still everyday from 7 a.m. until lunch. My body is still except for my eyes and the little bit of arm function I have left. I read, think, reflect, pray, and on good day write. It truly is the better part that Jesus spoke of to Martha. I just had to realize that and let go of the bitterness and sadness when my Martha days were over. I trusted that God had a plan for me that was good even though ALS was part of that plan. My days at His feet are so fruitful. I listen and He guides me to new adventures.

To all of my Marthas that are beginning a new school year know that I’m praying for your success. I have not prayed for you all to be a 5 on the Teacher Evaluation but I am praying that God blesses you with patience, knowledge, and last but not least a big old heart to open up and embrace those precious souls that God has given you this year. I pray that each one will be filled with confidence, respect, and love for you. Now that I am a Mary I understand what is the most important thing about teaching. It is something eternal. It is something that will come up and hug you in the middle of a grocery store. It is something that will wait on you at a restaurant and tell you what a difference you made in their lives. It will stop you it public and show you pictures of its children. It may become a teacher and say you are the reason I became a teacher because I wanted to help others like you helped me. It may invite you to its wedding and let you be a guest of honor. It is something that will make a random post on your Facebook page or social media to say thank you so much for believing in me and most of all loving me. Rarely will it say thank you so much for helping me learn the Bill of Rights, but sometimes it will say that too. Although Martha was busy, Martha recognized God in her presence, in her heart, and in her vocation. So to all of my teaching Marthas, have a great school year. On your most trying days remember that every season will pass, do your best in every moment, love the unlovable(these are the ones who need the most love,) and when you begin your Mary season you will have so much love to sustain you to complete God’s plan for you. Remember it’s a good plan.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Embracing Mary Gal

Quotes of the day:
Research shows that there is only half as much variation in student achievement between schools as there is among classrooms in the same school. If you want your child to get the best education possible, it is actually more important to get him assigned to a great teacher than to a great school.
Bill Gates

Storms

40 days with Sal
It is day 30 students! Where do I begin? Since I last wrote I have had a liver biopsy, a baptismal reception for my littlest grandson, severe pain, a stay in the hospital, visiting with a dear friend contemplating what this life is all about, and a hibernation at home to try to recuperate. The horizon is also full of events that involved our last bird graduating from high school. I am so glad that God will let me see this. This is one thing I prayed for when I became so sick. I wanted to just be able to see her graduate had to get her next season in college. Everything else is just a bonus.
We Catholics are still celebrating Easter. Isn’t that great! I think it is. Today was the tragic reading of the first martyr, Stephen. How he rebuked the crowd and tried to get them to see but yet they rushed him and stoned him to death. It is so hard to take criticism. It is so hard to tell those you love that there is a better way. There is a proper code to treat each other in ways that you want to be treated. There is something bigger at work in our lives. We need to open our ears and eyes. Today the reflection started with “all of our days” and this is what we work for students. We want “all of our days” to be useful and to be something that will live eternally. Something that will continue to spring forth beauty into the world long after we are gone from the Earth. If I were to die tomorrow, I feel satisfied. I feel like Stephen did. I feel that I have run this race very well. Do you understand how good this feels? How peaceful? I want you to feel this, too. I am still here hallelujah to give what little is left of me. It is an honor to be able to do so. Students you are still here, too. There is still so much work to be done. I know we all have spring fever and school is about to be out for the summer but we need to use “all of our days” to love and serve each other especially our families. This is where the greatest love begins.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Using Every Breath Gal
Thank you everyone for the prayers that brought me through this storm.
Quote of the day:
Carpe diem

Are we burning down the House?

Students, I really don’t know where to begin. I have had such turmoil the past week that it was hard to focus on anything. Do you have weeks like that? I’m sure you do. Sometimes we call it getting on the pity pot. Life has just been happening at such a breakneck speed lately that I am totally exhausted. I just like the poem by Robert Frost still have miles to go before I sleep. I remember weeks and days like this when I was healthier. I remember how bone tired I was. With a body ravaged with atrophy still going a hundred and fifty miles an hour makes for a great disaster. So today I am licking my wounds and getting on with it. Remember how I have been urging you to find a church home? This week could have never been possible without my church family. From painting with the youth group and the baptism and reception of my grandchild, it just would not have happened. Now let’s throw in my daughter’s senior prom along with a liver biopsy and voila we have an amazing train wreck.
This morning I read an article about church attendance falling from 70% to 50% since 1999. I witness it with many of my friends. I grew up without a church family. I know what it’s like not to have people to be there and want the very best for you and your future. I ask myself what is happening? When I read articles and listen to NPR news lots of horrible things are happening. Within the last few weeks there have been several churches burned and bombed. The areas have been geographically spread all over the world. Just in California yesterday there was a synagogue in which I shooter tried to kill the rabbi. Why? Three of the major world religions have suffered in the last few weeks with tragedies. Is this a way to blame God for what is wrong with the world? Or is this away to attack God hoping to rid the world of God? In the face of adversity we need more than ever Church families. We need God.
This past Sunday was a Divine Mercy Sunday. It is our continuation celebrating Easter in the Catholic Church. My grandson was baptized yesterday. It was so beautiful. I was so peaceful and full of praise and thanksgiving. To watch your child follow in faith with their own children is a miracle to behold. As I watched our George be baptized, I drifted back remembering the baptisms of my children. My promises to God to raise them it a godly way with rules and gifts of the sacraments. It really does take a village. It is so nice to have a village in which your child can grow and be loved. Students, I think this is one reason the world has gone so terribly wrong. We need to get back to our churches to revamp our villages. The center of our village needs to be God. The rules God gives are truly not to harm us. Can we turn back to God? Sal the Optimistic Gal knows we can.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Weary Gal
Quotes of the day:
About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing.
Joan of Arc
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11