Broken

Sal with one of her fav students
In my mind today I am thinking about brokenness. Students, today is a hard lesson for me. I’m struggling to type with my eyes. My arms and hands are now broken. I have been so angry and sad because I can’t type with ease. I am broken. This reflection is not about me. It is about how so many things and people in my life path are broken and I feel so helpless because I want to fix them. That is what healthy Sal would do. I’m ashamed that my prayers lately have been for eternal peace. I know where I will be whole again but yet I’m still here. Writing is my only physical way left to teach. So yes back row, the script is flipped. I’m the one with all the homework and I hate it.
Today’s lesson : brokeness. How many like math? That is what I thought, only the front row. When you get the wrong answer you start over again. Why is this so hard for us? So many things in our human existence are broken : families, schools, health care, the government, our morality, and our churches. You know at the center of all of this chaos lies the simple solution of putting the missing love back in our family units. I don’t speak from a perspective of having come from a perfect family but from a broken one. As I lay here typing through teary eyes, I want my students to have a brighter and better future. I want you to heed this valuable lesson. The broken home that reared Sal had a strong God feariing woman, but that couldn’t save all of us from the evils of addiction. It hurts to watch your sibling kill themselves slowly. It hurts even more when nothing you do can repair their hearts. So many families have at least one broken child. As a teacher I witnessed so many broken children my heart literally ached daily. The horrible reality is the number of these children are growing more rapidly than children with a sound, stable family structure. Broken.

With all problems there are solutions. The biggest problem is that we are all human. In our world today we see no need for God. We are the master of our lives. We can Google anything. We have all become Einsteins. If it feels good do it. Forget about consequences. Hey it’s our life and leave us be. And see how well it is working? That’s sarcasm students. Can we start over? Can we put God in the center of everything we do? If every action, every thought, and every word is done with God in our minds and hearts then brokeness can be healed. Can we admit that we need help? We are not gods, but we desperately need the order, structure, and love of God. It’s not hocus-pocus or stuff and nonsense. From my make shift podium, I ask you to try. Yes back row, it’s probably the most crucial homework assignment I’ve ever given. I’ll continue to pray for all of you until my last breath.

Sarah Anderson Alley

Sal the Broken Gal

 

The Still Within

The Still Within
I am the good shepherd. . . . My sheep know my voice, and I know them. —John 10: 14, 27

In my mind today, I’m thinking of the hectic past month. I’m missing my silent morning moments. It makes me think of one of my favorite English teachers Ms. Marjorie Neal. Her motto was, “Go, Go, Go!” Her bubbly personality, short red, curly hair, and petite stature are still with me. After long bursts of activity when I feel like becoming a hermit, I hear her mantra, “Go, Go, Go!” I see her occasionally at restaurants in our little burg. I always speak, but I know she doesn’t recognize the present Sal. Then I was six feet tall, skinny as a rail, and a goofy gal. Now I’m in a scoot, growing a voluptuous buddha belly, and hidden by my disease. All that is trivial though because Mrs. Neal gave me something to use on my journey and God knows how to do this unbeknownst. So we roll with it.

Lately my mind has been screaming “No, No, No!” I’ve gotten use to my silent times with my maker and as of late my phone is constantly ringing or dinging. My calendar has been chocked full. The to do list has lengthened. As soon as I check off a task another two are added. I just pull up my dipe and put my scoot in rabbit mode and “Go, Go, Go!” Whew!

Every night my sweet “Chuck” aka Abbey jumps into my bed and we have our “Snuggle-time.” Last night I listened to her hectic life of Calculus, honors English, and standardized test oh my! She was trying to be positive and look passed her to do list. She’s summing up her high school chapter and it’s a whirlwind of college applications, ACT/SAT’s, and homework. As I listened, I realized she was exhausted and frustrated like me. She’s missing her times of solitude and silence. We discussed ways to order her day so all items would be neatly checked off. We talked about the busyness of this season and how to survive. What did we do? We added to our list! 😮 Our plan was to rise at 5:30 AM and walk through our neighborhood together then we would jump start our day. The coffee would call us home, and we would have an extra hour to begin our beginning.

It worked! The stars and moon greeted us as our coonhound bayed on our stroll. We shook the cobwebs and solved a few Alley “porbrums.” (Alley speak for problems) It was beautiful. It was a bit of solitude and communion with the Maker as we watched as the sun began to illum the day. We felt more prepared to face our calendars, homework, tests, and tasks. My “Chuck” and I are learning to carry our silence within us because there are plans and places God needs us go and to accomplish. All of this is part of it. The Still Within is bigger than any standardized test or bursting calendar. It sustains us. It keeps us rolling on and checking off our lists. All we need to do is take a brief pause, breathe, and let it fill our lives. Amazingly our “No, No, No’s” become “Go, Go, Go’s!”

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Go, Go, Go Gal

Quotes of the day from a dear friend fighting breast cancer and leukemia while being a caregiver of her husband who has championed a massive stroke AND is the best event planner and MUMA this side of heaven, Tracy Cupples. She sent me these encouraging words after me sending my “pity pot” to do list this morning.

“You know that’s how you roll. I have come to realize…….. that’s a big part of what’s keeping you alive. You don’t slow down long enough to realize what is going on with your body………AND …….the biggest reason…….God is keeping you rolling for HIM because no one is a brighter light.”

“Sarah, one day we’ll all stop rolling. So roll on and spread love and light. That’s who you are…..that’s who you’ve always been…… before ALS. Here’s the thing…… people listen with intent now. God knows who will roll on for HIM. Your house is waiting on you and that crown too………. We win either way, Sarah!!!!”
Ms. Tracy “Muma” Cupples

Crosses

Whew! Crosses!

“Do not worry about . . . what you are to say” (Luke 12:11).

In my mind lately, I’ve wanted to write and to share but I haven’t found the words, time, or energy. I’m still here fighting to empty myself for what really matters. Well, students I’m am definitely running on empty and yes I’m singing Jackson Browne as I peck this out. I’m hopping off of the pity party wagon today and feel like my tank is being restored. Whew! The Holy Spirit (We call it the HS at my house.) has been nudging me to share words so here I go.

Crosses. I love them. Unconsciously I have filled my home with them. The symbolism of them brings me joy. Studying and reflecting lately the meaning and connection of crosses in my life has taken on a whole new meaning.

Crosses are responsibilities and events in our lives. They are heavy and burdensome. They do not discriminate according to race, economic status, or social status. They come in all shapes and sizes. They have many names: death, cancer, strokes, ALS, Alzheimer’s, bankruptcy, homelessness, Autism, Parkinson’s, debt, mental illness, unemployment, estranged family members, addictions, and plain ole loneliness barely scrape the many types of crosses we bear on our earthly journey. Makes you want to wave the white flag doesn’t it? I hear the back row saying, “Amen! It’s too tough. Let’s stop this lesson and just have recess every day!” Calm down. Breathe. Adjust that cross on your back and carry it with all your strength. Embrace it. Settle down back row and quit making the Cuckoo gesture. I’m not crazy. Your cross-training (I love this pun!) is to strengthen you, embellish you, and transform you into the vessel needed to complete your purpose for the greater good. It is.

Those crosses teach you patience. They teach you humility. They connect you with the suffering of Christ. They are unexplainable mercies of God that when the cross is lifted, Grace engulfs you. You get 20/20 vision and the lightbulb becomes blinding showing you the abundance of fruits from your labor.

Still don’t believe me? Think of a horrible time in your life. If you’re honest with yourself, you found a rainbow after the storm. You learned to appreciate something you overlooked. You learned to control your tongue. You quit blaming others for your shortcomings. You had the courage to right a wrong and say, “Forgive me. I’m so sorry.” You learned to pray instead of lashing out on social media or try to numb yourself with alcohol or drugs. I saw your jaws drop open. You get it. 😀

Students, you have a pop quiz today. No, I don’t love to torture you; I just love you. I want to fill your tank. Today, identify a cross you are carrying. Whatever it is, big or small, whisper, “God, I accept this cross for you. Help me. Use it for YOUR plan, not mine. I’m weary and tired. Give me strength. Thank you for hearing me and helping me bring joy into my valleys. Amen.”
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Cross-bearing Gal

Quote of the Day:
“True teachers use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own.”
Nikos Kazantzakis

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

“Lord, help me overcome my biases. I want to be able to see you in every person I meet.”

As I read my devotional this morning, I smiled thinking of the message. I remembered as a child watching the PBS program Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and singing along. Decades later I would watch the show with my children. Of my children, Ian liked it the most. I chuckle when I visit that time in my mind. I still hear him saying as a toddler, “Momma, I want to play the piano (he pronounced it pee-an-do with all long vowels of course) like Mr. Rogers when I grow up.” I thank God for these precious memories of my children. I thank God for those messages that helped shape me as a child.

After reading the parable of the Good Samaritan, I realized the relevance of it in our modern lives. Today, I think we can substitute Samaritan and Jew for many disgruntled “neighbors.” Here’s the shortlist: Republican vs. Democrat, Muslim vs. Christianity, Jew vs. Muslim, Pro-life vs. ProChoice, Gay vs. Straight, Catholic vs. Protestant, & Black vs. White. Whew! I could add more but you get the idea. Would you care for your neighbor like the Samaritan did? Would you use your arms to hold this dying adversary? Could you open your mouth to give a kind word? How about untying your purse strings to give a meal to a starving foe? Use your body to shield them from hateful slurs and threats? Or do we continue to be consumed by hate believing that they deserve to be chastised and hurt? See. We are all called to be a “Good Samaritan.” I hear my back row students squirming in their seats. It is very hard to love those who hate and persecute you.

In this present time our lives are so influenced with confusing messages like “If it feels good, do it” or “It’s all about me #YOLO.” It’s true we only have one earthly life to live. Sadly, those who choose to act morally are often chided in our culture for their weaknesses. They don’t fit in to the popular social circles. After reading the scriptures about the parable of the Good Samaritan, I felt nudged to implore you to find a way to help that wounded person on your life path. We all have at least one person we can choose to help. Imagine if we all encouraged one person a day for a year. Wow! Today, seek out a neighbor to love and serve. Let’s make the most of this beautiful day!

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Neighbor Loving Gal

Quotes of the Day by Mr. Rogers:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like “struggle.” To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of.”

“There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.”

“Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

Turn, Turn, Turn

A time to love, and a time to hate. (Ecclesiastes 3:8)

 

In my mind today, I’m mulling over my readings. I was excited to read Ecclesiastes today. I hear the song “Turn, Turn, Turn” and smile. These verses are so poetic. I love anything linguistic: words, rhymes, puns, or sentence structure. It makes my brain hum. I drive my family crazy with my nonsensical outbursts as I turn everything into a show tunes sing-a-long.

Hate is such a strong word. As I’ve grown, I’ve mellowed. I don’t have the heart to hate anymore. People that is. I truly see and know we are all part of something big and are created for good. Each life has a purpose.

I admit it. There are things I hate. I hate when I find out former students have died too soon. I hate cancer, ALS/MND, Alzheimer’s, mental illnesses, strokes, and freak, fatal accidents. I hate addictions. I hate parental neglect. I hate prejudice. I hate that some people feel unloved. I hate that we value things over human life. I hate that we are so easy to judge and resent others. I hate that my hands are too weak to Blog like I used to Blog. I hate that my body is betraying me. I hate being sick. It’s true. There is a time to hate.

One of the last books we read at our local bookclub, “Turn the Page,” was The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. One of the characters in the novel was hated by the village because of his German heritage. The village had lost many sons at the hands of the Germans during WWI. He was a simple young man, a baker. Amid the slurs and taunting, he smiled. His wife asked him, “How can you forgive and be so happy?” He told her, “I can forgive and forget… it is so much less exhausting. You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering all the bad things.” When this quote was used to end our discussion all of us had an “aha” moment. So there are also times to forgive and forget. I think this is so hard for us as humans. We cling to our anger and resentment like it’s a gem. Don’t. Life is too short; it’s but a breath on the timeline of time. Make your breath a refreshing one. One that breathes life into everyone on your life path. Let it fill the air with sounds of love and affirmations. Let it sing praise. “Turn, Turn, Turn” your hate into love.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Things I Hate Gal

Quotes of the Day:

Right and wrong can be like bloody snakes: so tangled that you can’t tell which is which until you’ve shot them both, and then it’s too late.
M. L. Stedman – The Light Between Oceans

To have any kind of a future you’ve got to give up hope of ever changing your past
M. L. Stedman – The Light Between Oceans

We always have a choice. All of us
M. L. Stedman – The Light Between Oceans

Intercessors

Intercessors

They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come. (Luke 7:4)

Many times I ponder why I’m still here. My mother’s sister began falling at age 38. We said goodbye to her at the age of 43. Doctors had no clue why she wasting away so fast. At her death, the diagnosis was not clear. She died of pneumonia but ALS had ravished her body. She couldn’t stand, walk, use her arms, or cough on her own. So much like me. She never lost her ability to talk or swallow. Her fragile body wore out and pneumonia took her away from her only son and new grandson. This thought always makes me cry. Our lives eerily parallel. As I write today, I daydream of the grandson to come this February.

Today, I read about the Roman soldier who sought out Jesus. His slave was sick. He believed he would be healed. Faith of friends coupled with prayer is a dynamic force. “Go your faith has saved your friend.” This spoke to me and each time I venture out in my scoot I feel the faith of my family and friends save me. They bless me with more earthly time. I hear the whisper of jobs I still have to do. I see people who need loved. Children that need taught about faith, prayer, and friendship. Then I feel the strength to roll on and give more despite the limitations of my physical body. God hears my prayers, too. He puts people in my life to help accomplish my acts of love and sacrifice. They help me share love in the world.

So, I’m still here almost a half a century old. In a way, it’s a miracle. God working through doctors, my family, and my friends who rally around Sal the ALS Gal. I’m so humbled by every prayer, smile, and touch given to me as I embrace my cross and zip forward to the next job whispered to me each morning as I pray. Today students, pray for your family and friends. There really is an energy that resonates with those you pray for and He hears you. Your faithful petitions are needed. Be a faithful, prayerful friend. Yes, that’s your homework. Back row, WAKE UP! Be an Intercessor.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Feeling the Prayers Gal

Quotes of the Day:

“We are not called to be successful; we are called to be faithful.”
Mother Teresa
St. Teresa of Calcutta

“Prayer is the key of the morning and the bolt of the evening.”
Gandhi

“In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”
Gandhi

Flourish

Your faith flourishes ever more. (2 Thessalonians 1:3)

The past two weeks have been valleys. I trudged through them and at some points begged for an end to my time here. The struggles of my family to care for me and the expense medically to be here weighed on me. Where was my faith in these dark moments? It was in my tired heart and ready for the next chapter filled with an anticipation of rest and peace. Have you ever felt this way? In my fever and pain, someone whispered, “Your job is not finished. Take heart.”

So after a trip to the ER and heavy doses of antibiotics, I continue to roll on as the to do list lengthens as I type. I have been thrown a few curves, but God has straightened my path once again.

My to do list additions have me excited and eager to allow my faith to flourish. My religious class on Sundays for teens is overflowing. I have painting with friends to do for a display at the library for October: Art for ALS. I’ve accepted a Vice President position for the local Matthew 25:40 in hopes of growing the program to reach the children suffering from abuse and neglect in our community. The annual Autumn March fundraising and organization is in full swing and just around the corner. There’s so much reading, praying, and writing to do. Last but not least, I have a grandson coming in February. My cup overflows and my faith continues to flourish in the plans God has for my life, my children, my community, and our world. Please don’t lose heart. If you are still here like me, there is work to be done. The day will come when our earthly journey is complete. All questions will be answered and mysteries revealed. What a day of rejoicing indeed. Meanwhile, feed your Faith and watch it flourish.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Flourishing Gal

Quotes of the Day:

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you”
St. Augustine

This reminds me of the world that we live in today:
“Not in riots and drunken parties, not in eroticism and indecencies, not in strife and rivalry, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in its lusts” (Romans 13:13-14)

“Our culture is so corrupt, but I know we can overcome fleeting distractions by filling our heart with the eternal goodness of God.”
Sal

Please pray with me:
God help our morality to strengthen not wither. Help us to be lovers of good for the future of all children. Please help those with restless hearts searching for pleasure in addictions, money, material possessions, and social status. Reach out to them and give them the bread of life and cup of salvation.
Amen

Aches and Pains

Morning, noon, and night I cry out in my distress, and the Lord hears my voice. —Psalm 55: 17 (NLT)

Today is one of my pity party days. My body is crying out in distress. I think every inch of me has an ache. The super, quick road trip to Vanderbilt in Nashville and back is the worst. My body is breaking down and I have to face it. By the time I arrive home, I’m on the brink of a mental breakdown, sore, and dehydrated. No fun. So, I cry out in distress and He hears me.

Today is the Assumption of Mary on the Catholic calendar. The short version is that Catholics and some other denominations believe that Mary was welcomed in to heaven upon the end of her earthly life. If anyone should get a “fast pass” to heaven, it should definitely be Mary. We all have to die to our earthly life. Reading about this today made me long for heaven. It made me long for an end of my earthly distress. Then I remember I’m not quite finished regardless of my aches and pains. So I put it on God’s shoulders and put on my big girl dipe. I begin to pray for those who just lost their daughter in a tragic car accident and remember her grieving friends. I pray for a father who left for heaven too soon leaving behind his daughters and parents. I pray for a friend who lost her beloved father. I look around and realize my earthly chapter is far from over. I need to cry out and move forward with the gift of life I still have. There is so much left to do. Will you join me?

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Aches and Pains Gal

Dedicated to Cowboy, Alaina, and Clint who started their next chapter and for the hearts of those left here.

“The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.”
Charles Dickens

Eternal Home

“God . . . has planted eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3: 11 NLT).

When I was born, my family lived on Perry Circle in our small town. Although it was part of our government housing authority or the “Jets” or “The West Side,” it was home. My mother was so grateful for indoor plumbing and the amenities of “city living.” She took pride in that opportunity to have a home that was safe for her five children. She had many angels that helped her deal with life’s bumps: an unreliable alcoholic husband, five children, and acquiring a skill to provide for her family.

My amazing mother was able to complete a CNA license and find decent work to provide stability in our home. My father was able to pull himself together long enough for us to get a special assistance loan to buy a house in a small neighborhood. The mortgage note was $80 for 30 years. It guaranteed my mother’s children a home and set down roots for all of us. My mother had social workers that advised her to hang on to her house. They were proud of my hard working mother for fighting through poverty and becoming self-sufficient. Our new home was a blessing.

Today, I think of my mother’s story. The first chapter that was written as a sharecropper’s daughter and the struggles that shape you. The chapters about marrying young to a charismatic, charming alcoholic that left her with a broken heart and a lot of strife. The chapters of overcoming poverty and reconciling with a husband fighting to find redemption in his sobriety that spoke volumes of character to her children. My mother is now living her final chapters of this earthly life in the home that she paid for with blood, sweat, and tears. Thanks be to God she still lives there today even though Alzheimer’s disease is threatening her earthly finale.

My mother knew how important having a home is. She knew her earthly chapter urged her to make a home for her children. My wise mother also knew that her final earthly home wasn’t her last destination. Regardless of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, she stills tells us that there is more.

I love the home that my husband and I have built together. It’s been a refuge for our children, family, and grandchildren. It’s only 7 miles from where my story began on Perry Circle. Like my mother, I’ve enjoyed my earthly journey potholes included. My heart seeks for a more eternal home just as hers does.

My heart is sadden by those who have lost faith that there is more. Not realizing there is a God. The culture of our world implies that peace and happiness are attainable through satisfying our human desires through selfishness, freedom, and indulgence. Have you ever heard someone say, “I want to be miserable?” Me either but when I roll around in my chair I see an awful lot of miserable people. I’m so grateful for my mom who “walked the walk” and showed me true love and happiness. She did everything out of love. Why? God had whispered to her through many prayers and written on her heart that we are all on a journey through this life to eternity where we will find our home in the heart of God.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Eternal Home Loving Gal

Quote of the Day:
“When you hold your baby in your arms the first time, and you think of all the things you can say and do to influence him, it’s a tremendous responsibility. What you do with him can influence not only him, but everyone he meets and not for a day or a month or a year but for time and eternity.”
Rose Kennedy

Choices

We all have choices. These are what shape our lives. As a teenager: Do we avoid the happening parties of our youth because we want to keep ourselves from smoking pot or drinking underage? Do we risk our reputation of being cool? Do we risk awakening a demon of addiction to fit in with the popular clique? Do we trade sex in hopes of receiving love? Do we miss a social gathering to complete important assignments? Do we sleep in or go to church on Sunday? Do we text and drive? Do we study? Do we complete our assignments? Do we cheat on tests and homework? Do we skip school? Do we embrace others or snub them? Being a teenager is so hard. Making good choices are not at all popular if you want to be popular. I didn’t always make the best choices in my youth but thanks be to God I came it on the other side alive without an addiction problem and wiser. Some of my peers weren’t so lucky. Choices.

As an adult, choices are imminent. Do I go to college or a trade school? Do I go to work? Do I have children? Do I get married? Do I put God at the center of my life or what I desire: sex, partying, money, materialism, work, or myself? Do I pay my bills? Do I live off of welfare or cheat the system? Do I choose to be lazy and blame the government for my problems? Do I blame my choices on my parents because of being emotionally, physically, sexually abused, or being neglected as a child? Do I blame God? Do I blame choosing my vices over good on everything and everyone but myself? Choices.

We have choices. We can control them. It’s called free will. As a child we are exposed to choices of our guardians but one day those choices become our own. Do we choose drugs? Unprotected sex? A government check instead of working? Handouts? Being a deadbeat parent? Do we choose the opposite of what we endured or go with the flow and repeat history? It is so very hard. The cycles of poverty, abuse, and addiction are rampant. Wherever you are on your life-walk you have choices. Each one is crucial. At the center of your life should be your morals and beliefs. If those are focused on a God of Love, your choices will be clarified. We all crave to love and be loved. We want to choose happiness and to be happy. The first step towards this is to make good choices. The choice is yours.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Make Good Choices Gal

Dedicated to the Class of 2019

Quote of the Day:
“Choices are the hinges of destiny.”
Edwin Markham