Treasures

In my mind today, I am thinking about treasures. It’s been a crazy, hectic, and amazing October. I have been frantically zipping all over my little burg advocating the Autumn March for ALS. Meetings, designing shirts, collecting donations, and praying for a beautiful event day have had Sal the Autumn March Gal busy as a bee, literally! Am I exhausted and on the brink of mutiny? Of course, but I love it! As long as I can roll in my scooter and breathe, I will advocate for a cure for ALS, establish scholarships for my local school systems, and give to local non-profits. There are so many treasures when look outside of yourself and work for unity.

The Autumn March has so many treasures. First and foremost are the people on our small committee. Each one gives 110% of their time, talent, and treasure to make this race successful. All have been personally touched by ALS either through my battle or with a family member’s fight. They are true treasures. Their love and support is priceless.

My little burg where I’ve grown up is also a treasure. I love knowing so many people. All small towns have their drawbacks, but knowing and loving the people with whom you share a pinpoint on the map is a priceless treasure. Community is so important. My vocation as a teacher continues to bless me as familiar adults approach me and ask, “Ms. Alley, is that you?” And then a family reunion begins as my former students tell me about their lives and families. They will always be my kids, too. This is such a treasure. At the Autumn March each year, I see so many students that I have taught. Each year it’s a different mix. It fills my heart to see them being such productive adults and wonderful parents.

Some of the biggest treasures in my life are packaged as family and friends. Without my family and friends none of this could ever happen. They feed me. They dress me. They clean me, they chaffeur me to my activities, and they love me. They do this even when they don’t want to or are exhausted themselves. When I join another committee or create another club, they patiently indulge me without rolling their eyes. That was for my back row students. They want me to live. Family and friends are definitely a treasure.

What I treasure most in this life is my faith in God through my Catholic faith. Yes, I’ve had my moments of anger and sadness living with ALS, but as my body has grown weaker my faith has grown exponentially. I see the big picture of my purpose, even though I have such limited physically ability. It’s not about me or ALS or money. It’s about “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done.” Not my will but God’s. We have made such a mess of our gifts from the Creator. When we start using those gifts for the greater good, we spread love, give people respect and dignity no matter their station in life, and emptying ourselves for service to others during our earthly time mimics heaven. ALS has helped me weed through the narcissistic frivolities of humanity. It has given me a supernatural ability to know where the true treasures of this life lie. Back row students, it’s like the Spidey senses that Spiderman has. Your homework today is to investigate where your treasures are. I remember a quote from a writer who said, “I have never seen a U-Haul hitched to the back of a hearse.” We are simply left with our souls and our works for a better world when we are called to leave this beautiful Earth. Look for your treasures and you will find your heart.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Autumn March Gal

Quotes of the Day:

“Where a man’s heart is, there is his treasure also.”
Saint Ambrose

“Just as treasures are uncovered from the earth, so virtue appears from good deeds, and wisdom appears from a pure and peaceful mind. To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue.”
Buddha

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
Buddha

“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”
Jesus Christ

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

Eucharist

We are in the middle of our octave of Easter. This is the eight days following Easter Sunday. It is celebrated in the Catholic Church. Today’s readings were about the crippled man by the beautiful gate. He had been crippled from birth. He sat there every day of his life begging for help. Peter and John were still shaking from the events of Passover. Jesus had just been crucified. They felt all was lost. The man by the gate begged them for an offering. They said the only thing we will give you is what we have and that is Faith in Jesus Christ our Risen Lord. They told him to rise and walk into the temple. He did. These stories intrigue me. There are many times that I want to just rise and walk but that is not part of my life plan and I have accepted it. Instead I zip around in my scoot. I trust that there is more.
Today made me think about my journey of faith. My whole life I went to several different churches with family and friends. I never quite felt as if I fit in anywhere. After my first child, I told my husband that we needed to find a church home. I had taken my child to several churches and Bible schools and after school Christian programs on Wednesdays but never quite felt at home. My husband told me he would go if I would just go to the Catholic church. He had fallen away from the Catholic Church and was attending a nondenominational Church before we met. When I went to the Catholic church for the first time I had a feeling of reverence and peace. It was different. There were  rituals and of course the kneeling and standing but there was just something about it that felt real. I remember communion and everyone streaming to the front to receive it. My husband and I could not receive communion yet because I was not Catholic and our marriage was not blessed by the church yet. It took a while for me to come into the Catholic faith. I went through the RCIA program and waited patiently for our marriage to be blessed and his other marriages to be absolved. It was a long journey. There were times when I didn’t think I would ever be able to join my Parish in the Lord’s Supper. After two years, I was able to come into the church. At one point I almost gave up. But I am so glad that I didn’t. You know they tell you that good things are worth waiting for and that’s exactly how I feel about my faith.
Have you ever been to a Catholic Church? It is very different in that we are focused on worship at the altar. We are focused on connecting with God not so much our neighbors. What you wear is not important. It is all about the Eucharist, communion. Many people who visit don’t understand how powerful the Eucharist is. If you are visiting a Catholic Church and not able to take communion you may feel slighted, but don’t. Observe and follow along in the back of the hymnal. It doesn’t matter which Catholic Church you attend each one follows the same readings and patterns. I also find comfort in this. No matter where I go in the world I can meet Jesus on Sunday at Mass.To Catholics it is a very sacred, serious ordeal. I read the Bible verses from Corinthians today that explains exactly why we do not take communion lightly. You have to be informed in our faith before you take the bread and wine. We Believe at every Mass we are sitting at the Last Supper and our offerings are turned into the body and blood of Christ. If you don’t believe this and take the communion the Bible verse says it is very dangerous. You are placing judgment on yourself. That is why only those who learn about the faith and become Catholic are to take communion. Something in my Heart told me to explain this to you students. Being a Catholic it’s not a Secret Club but more like a Sacred Club. This is the one big difference between Catholicism and Protestantism. Other than that Christians regardless of their membership are very similar. We really have so much in common and arguing the bits just makes the devil happy. Students, I hope you find a church home. It is such a good place to be and it should be a place of acceptance and love. If it isn’t, then keep searching.
Sal the Catholic Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
“When another church can offer me the body and blood of Christ each Sunday, I may consider attending. No other Church can do that so that is why I choose to be a Catholic.”
Rachel Abigail Alley aka Chuck
“the very last thing I want to do is to unsettle in the mind of any Christian, whatever his denomination, the concepts — for him traditional — by which he finds it profitable to represent to himself what is happening when he receives the bread and wine. I could wish that no definitions had ever been felt to be necessary; and, still more, that none had been allowed to make divisions between churches.”
C.S. Lewis
1 Corinthians 11:26-29
A]s often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.

The Last shall be First

Happy Holy Thursday students! Today as I finished my readings, I imagined Jesus washing my feet. Why did he do this? Why did he, the son of God, wash the feet of his disciples? Peter resisted. Jesus told him unless he was allowed to wash his feet then he could not truly follow Jesus. I love the way we learn lessons from Jesus. He was the champion of Socratic thought and questioning. He continually flips the script. Think of God. God is at the top of all. He is the CEO of life. What are we? Well, we all have different stations and life. We are teachers, sanitation workers, doctors, nurses, grocery store clerks, stay-at-home moms, drug addicts, alcoholics, railroad conductors, relatives caring for other relatives who are sick, managers of small businesses, homeless people, mentally ill people, young people, elderly people, disabled people, and the list could go on forever. We all have a station. Which of the station’s do you think should be the feet washers? Aha! That’s right back row, you could never imagine a doctor or lawyer washing a homeless person’s feet. That’s exactly what we are supposed to do. Front row when you get your PhD you should not be haughty. You should still wash your brothers and sisters feet who are less fortunate than you. Not literally unless the chance arises, but you are called to put others first regardless of their station. This is exactly today’s lesson. We are called to love each other and serving each other to the end of our earthly lives.
Jesus understood that for something bigger to be born something had to die. Look at biblical history. Isaac was going to die at Abraham’s hand. Abraham understood his covenant with God had to be stronger than that with his own son. At Passover, remember all of the unblemished, male lambs and goats that were sacrificed for The Exodus out of Egypt? Something had to die to protect the Israelites. Have you ever had a chance to hold a baby lamb? It makes my stomach hurt to think of them being sacrificed. Today’s Gospel ask for us to die. Back-row do not get upset; I am not asking you to die literally. We are to die to ourselves. That means our egos are to die. We are to love each other as we love ourselves. This is so hard in a world that is so egocentric, so selfish. It takes constant practice. If we practice those virtues every single day eventually we will defeat our ego. We will begin to see Christ in others regardless of the station they have been given in this life. We can get there. I know we can. Your homework today is to think of your station in life. Make a plan to wash someone’s feet. If you see a homeless person, offer them your respect by looking them in the eyes and simply greet them with kindness. Let them know they are part of the one body. If you are of a more humble station like wheelchair Sal, hold your head up and smile. Greet all those you meet with the joy of Christ in your heart. You are very important, too. Remember students one bread, one body, and one Lord of all.
Sal the Sacrifice it All Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
“The washing of the feet and the sacrament of the Eucharist: two expressions of one and the same mystery of love entrusted to the disciples, so that, Jesus says, “as I have done… so also must you do.” (Jn 13: 15). Pope John Paul II
“When you look at the Crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now.’”
Blessed Mother Teresa
This bread I break was once the oat,
This wine upon a foreign tree
Plunged in its fruit;
Man in the day or wine at night Laid the crops low, broke the grape’s joy.
Once in this time wine the summer blood
Knocked in the flesh that decked the vine,
Once in this bread
The oat was merry in the wind; Man broke the sun, pulled the wind down.
This flesh you break, this blood you let
 Make desolation in the vein,
Were oat and grape Born of the sensual root and sap; My wine you drink, my bread you snap.
Dylan Thomas