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 laughter, loyalty, and love. Students, I have been having a dark night of the soul. It is just everywhere I go or turn I feel sadness and grief. I look at the world and I see all of the brokenness. My heart literally aches in my chest. The past few weeks have been so hard. Everywhere I look even within my own home I see the demon of the world trying to tear us apart. I guess students I have taken my eyes off of the cross. I have allowed my heart to be pierced by so much evil. I have allowed it to get into my mind. I hear you mumbling back row thinking she’s really lost it this time. For at least a month I have not been able to sleep well. I wake up and stare at the ceiling. I watch the shadows and I pray. I cannot tell you how many prayers were lifted from my body during this dark season of my soul. I finally realized that I was not putting things at the altar and letting God take them away. I have tried to fix a lot of things instead of allowing God to carry the heavy burdens of my heart. Shame on me. If I could have curled up in the fetal position these last 2 weeks that’s where I would have been. I know that we all have to go. I realized it is just part of the circle. All of the wonderful plans that I try to put in place for God are futile. My husband and my journey will end. Hopefully God will give us more precious time with our families and friends. But no matter how hard I try to help those that I leave behind is futile. During this time I have been surrounded by people but I have felt so lonely. I allowed hopelessness to enter into my heart. The only way I can figure it out or explain it is that I think I have been mourning. I am mourning what was. I am mourning what will come one day without me. My physical separation from my family and friends, especially my grandchildren. Take heart, students. Do not allow the devil to steal your present moments and make you so sad because you are wasting days. Days that could be spent loving and laughing with the ones you love. I have almost driven my family crazy this last month. They have been desperately trying to help me get out of this dark place. Here’s what you need to understand. Students just because I lay all of my burdens at the foot of the cross; they are still there. They are but I am definitely protected from them. God does not take these horrible things away from us, we have to give them to him. We have to let so much go and that is so hard because we want to be fixers of our hearts and souls. We want to fix our broken families. We want to fix our broken brothers and sisters. We want to fix things where our children have no struggles. This is the hardest lesson of all. In my midnight prayers God told me you have to let me have everything. You are a child of God. You do work for me, but let me work for you too. I am so guilty of this. Back row don’t get too comfortable because I am getting back up or back in my chair to finish my race. I know that you will be sad that we still have more lessons to learn. Even the teacher needs lessons sometimes. As I watch the birds from my window every morning it reminds me. Especially this morning as I watched the robins have a party in all the trees eating the berries. They exist because of something bigger. They do not struggle. God provides everything. He does that for us as well if we only let him. Today I do feel all of the pain and suffering of my friends and family but I am using that to guide my prayers. I will be loyal to God. I will immerse myself with His love. I am seeking joy and laughter. I am letting go and letting God. Yes it is homework!
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Troubled Heart Gal
In the moments of desperation God came to me so many times through the hands of my friends. Out of nowhere I received flowers right after I had to say goodbye to a wonderful pet. Our cat of 15 plus years. Thank you Sandy for being God’s handmaiden. I received cookies that are a secret family recipe from my friend. Thank you Carrie for loving me like Christ. I had so many meaningful conversations. They helped me to divide the light from the dark. Thank you Andrea, Father Patrick, Charlotte, Carol, and so many others. Your love and prayers have bolstered me in my weakness.
This post is for all of those out there that continue to love and pray and help others. You are the angels on Earth that God works through.
Quote of the Day:
In the dark night of the soul, bright flows the river of God. The dark night of the soul is a journey into light, a journey from your darkness into the strength and hidden resources of your soul. When everything is lost, and all seems darkness, then comes the new life and all that is needed.
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 so thankful. I am so grateful for knowing that this life is a bit part of my eternal life. November is always so hard for us Alleys. We had to say see you on the other side to our free-spirited, beloved son November 24, 2010. This brings me back to gratitude.
I was blessed to spend this November 24th with our son’s gift to our family, his daughters. I thank God for their strong mother who continues on gracefully and makes sure that we get to continue to love him through their precious daughters. Twice a year we celebrate Nick’s birthdays: his Earthly birthday and his heavenly birthday. We do this at our little church. I was gifted this year with explaining to his oldest that every time we celebrate mass he is there. The celebration of the Eucharist brings all of God’s children together Earthly and heavenly. I know he is there.
I am a vivid dreamer. I dream often of heaven. I am usually sitting on a bench and enjoying music. Often my Daddy will surprise me from behind with a big hug. After almost jumping out of my skin, I laugh and lean into that amazing hug. I see others: Nick laughing, Uncle Logan smiling, my two brother-in-laws rocking in chairs cutting up with each other, and lots of people dancing and playing Ole timey gospel music. This is probably because I remember so many Sunday drives with my Daddy and listening to old gospel songs by the great country artists. Sometimes I wake up sad but it always turns to joy. I am sad. I am sad for my family. We still have so much work to do here. The wonderful thing is we have those in heaven that are cheering us on to continue to do the good and keep the faith until our next birthday.
As I looked through all of my wonderful family and friends photos of their gatherings this year, it made my heart happy. It also prompted me to pray for those who have lost loved ones from this Earth. It prompted me also to give you this message: Luke 21:34. Be vigilant in your Earthly life. Stay alert to what really matters most. So many become anxious this time of year worrying about whether they will get the right gifts or enough gifts, get the right photo angles, or impress the “right” people. BALDERDASH! Remember that I am a teacher and I know children. The children you worry so much about getting exactly what they want is futile. Do you really realize what your children really want? They want you. They want your attention. Time spent together and being in the moments with them. I bet you a billion dollars that a child would rather you sit in the floor with them with a $1 toy and play than ANYthing else. If you are able to give them things they want, enjoy them with them. Best gift you could give anyone is your time, especially your children. It won’t be long until we will be on the other side. Give them things that will last and please quit being anxious for goodness sake. God is the ultimate gift of all. His love and peace will endure.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the ANTI-ANXIETY Gal
Quotes of the Day:
Luke 21:34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.”
Question: Ms. Alley why do students love you?
Me: I do have the best candy jar but seriously I just get to know them and give them my time and undivided attention. I listen. I care. They know the difference.
In my mind today I am thinking about up. Yes front row I know that that is just a preposition or a direction but that is exactly what I am thinking about the word up. I also remember the rule never to end a sentence with a preposition. I do not want to discuss the grammatical rules of English today. I want to talk about the word up and how it has really been in the middle of my thoughts lately.
God is good all of the time and I can’t remember God ever for building something downwards. We mere humans either. Why up and not down? Think about it.
Today our world is so busy building things up like technology and material wealth. We build-up science as the ultimate answer to save us from death or an untimely death. We build-up governments. Our governments are supposed to protect their constituents. It is supposed to build them up and not down. Front row you are going to love this lesson. Who gives these liberties? Do our governments give us liberties?
Look around you. In this little city where I live we are building things up everywhere. There are new churches being built. There are new banks being built. There are new shopping centers being built. Progress. Our little city is growing. After the pandemic, the people of my little town have awakened to so much building up of everything around us except our attendees back to church. I hear the back row starting to moan.
The pandemic tore us down. It isolated us. It changed our habits. It tricked us. It made us think that this life is so precious that we have to do whatever we can to save it. We all lost so many precious family members and friends. They left this Earthly life. Why are we so easily discouraged? We are so easily led down that road to perdition. It is a super highway.
We are just mere humans. We are easily confused and divided. My favorite subject to teach was always history. I always told my students we need to know our history. The history of civilization. The history of being a human. It is not always a beautiful picture. Our road to becoming an independent country was built with the precious blood of fathers and sons. They died so we could build-up something great in the eyes of the world under the name of God. Yes front row I do hear you. We are not a theocracy. I totally understand that but I also hear the words of Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The word creator changes everything.
This is the point I am trying to get across to you students. Who gives us all of these rights? All of these human rights that we enjoy right here and the good old USA are given to us in the Bill of Rights. Right? They are given to us by God, the creator. Why is this so important? There is no bill of sale. They cannot be taken from us. If we take our principles from God, we are able to create something good for all. What are we building up today? Are we building up avarice and ignorance? Are we learning from our history or are we trying to tear it down and rewrite it? Are we building our own narrative because we worship new gods? This is your homework for the holidays while you feast on turkey. Be honest with yourself and ask what you are building up in your life? What are you trying to tear down and why?
The world does have order. It has a natural order. I believe it was created by God. Our God is a God of order. There is a morality that is driven by goodness. There is an eternal city that is also orderly. The road to it is very narrow. There is another city that is very disorderly. The road to it is very wide. This city is governed by man and has only chaos. It is created by a god of destruction. This city will end and not last for an eternity. This city is something my son and I call the clown world. Everything is the opposite: Evil is good; good is evil. It is the place where a human can be god of his Earthly life. Students you have a lot of critical thinking to do during your break.
I know there are so many of us that believe in a supreme God-man-Holy Spirit. We want to work with God’s creation not to destroy it. We want our lives to be measured by the good we do not the gold we acquire. We need to build each other up. We may not meet in the pews but we can meet on our knees. Pray. Yes, it is the most important homework I have ever given.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Build-up Gal
Quotes of the Day by Venerable Fulton Sheen
If you don’t behave as you believe, you will end by believing as you behave.
When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.
There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.
You must remember to love people and use things, rather than to love things and use people.
America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance — it is not. It is suffering from tolerance. Tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos. Our country is not nearly so overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the broadminded.
The refusal to take sides on great moral issues is itself a decision. It is a silent acquiescence to evil. The Tragedy of our time is that those who still believe in honesty lack fire and conviction, while those who believe in dishonesty are full of passionate conviction.
Never forget that there are only two philosophies to rule your life: the one of the cross, which starts with the fast and ends with the feast. The other of Satan, which starts with the feast and ends with the headache.
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 lately, I have been thinking a lot about this life and this world. I don’t have all the answers. Who does? I don’t know how we go each day and continue through sorrow, great times, and mediocre days. The latest book club read was a deep one. It made you analyze everything. I have already had my eyes open to so much of the grief caused by the human will and wheel. This world keeps turning and turning. It is older than time or the time that we are cognizant of at least. The book is set in the heart of the African continent: the Congo or Zaire. The thing is the oldest forest is where I took the journey with this book. Students, when I read a book I actually take a vacation. I begin research on the areas of the book: topographical and political. The more that I find out or see of this amazing planet we call home I know there is something so mystical about it. This area is considered the cradle of civilization. To have trees that are thousands of years old and to be able to walk under those are to me treasured. The richness of this area was so baffling. The ruthlessness of this area was breathtaking. In the 17 months of the stay there, 31 children died in the little village. Do the math. Back row you can do division and you can also round and figure out the percentage. I know that the front row wants more data like the total number of births, but the point is that the mortality rate in this area is astounding to someone like us living here in the United States. The amazing thing is that the people there, the indigenous people, work with life just as well as they do with death. This is how this book connected with my mind as I live this little bitty life in West Tennessee.
Do you ever think about the older you get the smaller you feel? I don’t know if it is our brains that pick up the speed and start collecting data and figure out that we are quite insignificant. There are so many things going on on this earth at this very second from forest fires, to hurricanes, to droughts, to famine, to deadly viruses, and the list could fill an entire blog. This is the point. No matter how big or small you feel in this life, this is it. This is our journey. This is my journey. What is this we call ourselves today? The information age? The disinformation age? Who do you trust? Who do you believe? What do you believe? How do you believe it? Who’s right? Who is wrong? All of this stuff gets in my head and I try to make sense of it. I am not always successful but I had a reckoning the other day at church of course that has urged me to write and teach.
Sunday before last was the day chosen to Christen or baptize our youngest granddaughter. I have been so blessed in this little life. Things are so crazy everywhere but in this moment I received clarity. I watched my beautiful daughter-in-law hold my beautiful granddaughter during the service. A sadness washed over me. I quickly realized this was a blessing; I was getting to watch my four grandchildren grow and become so beautiful and wonderful. I thought about my youngest daughter. As I prayed and swayed with the rhythm of the mass and heaven coming down to this little altar in Tennessee, I envisioned my youngest daughter holding an infant at the baptismal fount beside a handsome man. She was glowing. The homily or the message is what took my breath. The message this Sunday was about whether in life or death we are all connected. Even after my death I will be able to visit this altar each time the hallelujahs and the Holy Holy Holy are sung in unison. I realized this is where my spirit dwells with God. My days will be filled in heaven as they are on earth. I will be able to visit and be a part of that everlasting love until we are all back together. Death really does not have the sting we humans are so fearful of in our fragile, mortal vessels. The fabric of our lives, our very own DNA will continue the journey. Everyone wants specifics. In the Congo, the people understood so well the ebb and flow of life and death. Does this mean that they had a hard heart? No. It means the exact opposite of that. The children lost were wailed over and cried over as their bodies began to return to the very dark soil of the heart of Africa. So many of the women have up to nine children but only one survives and that is if they are lucky. Each one is cherished and celebrated whether they stay in the living or are in death. Their little time here is part of what God calls creation. Everything works together. Everything is of God to these indigenous people. They continually depend on daily sustenance from God. Does it magically poof out of the air? No. Is it a treacherous and hard life? Yes, most definitely. Front row students, what have I tried to get across to you? That is right. We have to embrace our journey no matter how small and try to do the good work with God for all. Can I change governments and all of the wheels of consumerism and neglect of this precious earth? No but I can do the best I can with what God has given me and where he has placed me in his picture of our world. Do what you can where you are. Do not forget the gift of our planet. We have the chance to use our knowledge for good. To live gentler lives on the land and to not rape and pillage other areas for the consumeristic will and wheel. To be a good steward of the land is what God wants for us. To live in communion with the land and to treat it with respect. I am going to die one day. Who knows what day? The next church service that I attended the priest announced that one of our faithful parishioners had entered into heaven that same very day. Was I sad? Yes very for us but not for him. He did his work well. I smiled. I knew he had no limits anymore of his earthly body. He had come down to the altar and celebrated with us. I felt so full of God and the Holy Spirit. Yes we say goodbye but then we are born into that everlasting life. At the funeral mass, there were so many reminders of his goodness. The biggest ones were his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I was able to sit right behind a beautiful 9-month-old child. She was so beautiful and I could see the light in her eyes. I could see her Papi’s spirit shining through her. She smiled so beautifully and communicated with me. I am so astounded at the children that are drawn to me. This body ravaged with ALS is a spectacle indeed. I just think the light of Christ beams out of me in some way or form so children want to touch me and to smile and giggle. I know the back row thinks that they are laughing and giggling because I look so goofy but I think there’s just something more. I don’t think it; I know it. For all of those who have faced death of a loved one or are facing death I am to tell you be not afraid. Don’t be scared to live for fear of dying. It is in your death that you are one of those praying for others. Your journey matters. Let me say that again for the back row: your earthly journey matters no matter how long or short, big or small. Live it fully with the grace of God.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Living Eternally Gal
Quotes of the Day:
Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.
The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.
Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you.
In my mind, I have been very busy. So has my sweet little family because of me. It is so hard to be a caregiver. I think it is the hardest thing ever. It becomes very tenuous at times whenever those closest to me become exhausted and even hurt because of my ALS adventure.
This past week has been a whirlwind. Lots of jobs to do and lots of places to go to advocate for the good. I absolutely wear my family out. My son who is my main caregiver had his back go out. My daughter who has been my main caregiver as well during the pandemic and the summer has gone to a summer adventure archaeological dig for school. My poor husband has to be on continuous oxygen all the time. His health is just as fragile as mine. I really cannot write this crazy stuff that happens to us. My other son has two little ones and his life is very wild trying to build a family and work. This is why I have some days that are just crying days.
I cry because my children should not have to do this for me. Don’t get me wrong I am so very grateful for them. I do not want to hurt them and that’s what it feels like on these crying days. My sweet sister has had to come and try to fill in the empty spaces but this is not fair for her. She just began her season of retirement. ALS just plainly sucks, that’s all it is in a nutshell. The days that I watch my family suffer because of me hurts me more than anything. I have to cry through the tears just to write this stuff. It hurts so, so much in my heart and in my soul. Mother’s are supposed to take care of their children, not the other way around. I truly hate that my family has drawn the short straw.
As we hurriedly tried to get everything together for my last little bird to head out for her archaeological adventure, I found myself having little spells of grief and crying. She and I have this secret club; it is the Bug Club. We had so many days together this summer working at the library with children that we didn’t have extra special bug-to-bug time a lot. We shared ourselves with the community and at the end of the summer I found myself craving for just a little more bug to bug time. Our last little bug adventure was to Charlene’s Tea Room. The next day I had Bunco with the Bunco girls. We rushed out after Bunco so I could go to church with her that evening. She was not going to be able to go to Sunday services because of leaving on the archaeological adventure AKA Indiana Alley. Everything was just going by at light speed. That’s how life is. If you do not enjoy the journey, you end up a very sad person. I had enjoyed this journey and I was wanting more but I knew this season was over. That’s why I was flooded with so many tears. When she left I became almost inconsolable. Unbeknownst to me she had to come back in for something and she heard me crying. She came around the corner and said, “What’s going on with you?” I just kept blubbering and crying. She washed my face, cleaned out my snoot, and let me blow my nose. She was very adult-like and told me, “You’ve got to cut this out. I’m not going to be here to wipe your nose again for a while. Big bug you need to strengthen up.” I was able to suck it up buttercup after that. God gave me a little bit of fortitude to reassure her and my little bird was off again.
I didn’t want her to stay with me, that was not why I was such a mess emotionally. I just knew nothing gold could really stay. Remember that quote students? It was the book I did at the first of the year almost every year: The Outsiders. It’s so true. Life is an ebb and flow of good times and bad and a whole lot in between. The important thing is to embrace those golden times. If you didn’t embrace them then you would never cry when they were over. Students, be in the moment of your life. It was our essential rule number 55, carpe diem. This is life. This is my life. This is your life. If you do not treasure your moments, then you are missing out on so much during your earthly journey. No day is ever promised so please get out and enjoy your day. It may be the last one that you get. Yes back row, it’s homework!
Sal the Carpe Diem Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the Day:
“Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back and reasons to stay.”
—The Dalai Lama
“It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.”
A wise parent humors the desire for independent action, so as to become the friend and advisor when his absolute rule shall cease.”