Three Gifts Guaranteed to Give You Christmas Cheer…Even During the Coronavirus Crisis!!!

Hello World,

Hello World,

I’ve said this before, but I will say it again: Christmas is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year!” So if your eyes aren’t twinkling like they are Christmas lights, if jingle bells aren’t attached to your ankles or if you are not burping up eggnog, you obviously don’t possess that sometimes elusive Christmas cheer…

I know that “Jesus is the reason for the season,” but can I be honest? Sometimes even knowing that isn’t enough to dredge up that Christmas cheer that everyone is supposed to be cloaked in like an expensive heavy coat that you only wear on special occasions…especially during the coronavirus crisis when you also have to wear a mask “everywhere you go.” (To the tune of “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.”)

Still despite the manufactured Christmas cheer that retailers will lead you to believe can only be bought, I have discovered there are three gifts, not 12, not enough for your whole family or all your network, simply three that will stoke the furnace of genuine Christmas cheer within you…

I don’t know if it is the example of the three Wise Men or because God is the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit or at the suggestion of my favorite author Catherine Marshall, but in my 20s, I decided that in addition to the gifts I would give to my friends and family, I would also give three gifts to Jesus…

Now, how does one go about giving gifts to Jesus? Although I feel His presence with me, I have never seen nor touched Him physically…So how was I supposed to do that? I was led to these three verses below as I came up with a way to give three gifts to Jesus…

 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Acts 20:35

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:30

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:3-4

So what do these three verses mean?

1. I was give without expectation of receiving anything back.

2. I was to give to people and or organizations that served “the least of these.”

3. I was to give in secret and not tell a soul.

I have never revealed what I have done before, but since I am writing a post about this, let me share some of the gifts I have given over the years as a testimony to how God has blessed me with authentic Christmas cheer as a result….

There was once a homeless man that I saw every day as I walked from one location to another in downtown Atlanta…All of the store owners on the street were kind to him, and I could see why…He was kind and mannerly and even funny sometimes…I don’t why he was homeless, but he seemed content to live on the street…I thought that since he seemed like he wanted to be on the street, I could at least help keep him warm…I tried to figure out what what size pants the man wore and bought him a pair of jeans (he always had on jeans) and a blanket…When I handed him the wrapped up gift, he seemed not to know what I was handing to him until I explained it was a Christmas gift…Then he smiled…That simple smile made me glow on the inside…

Another year, I decided to volunteer one Saturday at My Sister’s House at the Atlanta Mission…I helped hand out supplies to the women and children who were staying at the shelter…At that particular time in my life, I pretty much hated my job and the fact that I was too poor to move out of my parents’ house…But spending just one Saturday at the shelter showed how much I had to be grateful for…My mom has always told me if you want to feel better, forget about yourself…

And finally another one of my secret three gifts was the doll I gave to a Christmas toy drive one year…although I am not a girly girl, I have always LOVED dolls…I wanted a new doll every  Christmas for years and years…in fact, I used to worry that as a fifth grader, someone at school would find out I still played with dolls and I would be teased…So one year I decided to give the prettiest, most girly, luxurious hair-having doll I could find and afford to a toy drive…I don’t know what girl was the recipient of that doll, but if I have learned anything about God, I know that “every good and perfect gift” comes from Him…I’m sure that the girl who received that doll was the very girl that wished for and deserved that gift…

Although the Christmas countdown has begun,  there is more than enough time to give (and get) Christmas cheer…

Any thoughts?

Resilience & the Bible: How to Use Scriptures to Bounce Back From – Stiff Person Syndrome

Hello World,

Y’all, I know. It’s been a minute since I last blogged. Things are happening in my life that have made it challenging to blog on my regular schedule, but I’m attempting to get back in the groove as of right now.

Anywho, on today’s post…so in 2015, I started a  seven-month interview series entitled “Resilience & the Bible” which is about how Scriptures can be used to bounce back from the trials we all have to go through from time to time. The last post in the series was published in 2016, but I only posted five interviews. So I owe you two!!! Since I’m getting back in my blog groove, I’m trying to make sure I follow through with important blog content for you my dear readers. In 2020, the concept of resilience is more important than ever as I am guessing that we’re all bouncing back from trial during this trying year.

So without further ado, let me introduce you to the courageous Tisha Foster , author of a book titled My Journey With God Through Stiff Person Syndrome. Tisha, who is also a mother, hopes to inspire others through her journey and create more awareness around the rare syndrome which affects one in one million people. Please see my interview with Tisha below…

1. What is Stiff Person Syndrome, and how were you diagnosed with this condition? It was thought that you had multiple sclerosis. How is Stiff Person Syndrome different from MS? 

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Stiff Person Syndrome (SPS) is a “rare neurological disorder with features of an autoimmune disease.  SPS is characterized by fluctuating muscle rigidity in the trunk and limbs and a heightened sensitivity to stimuli such as noise, touch, and emotional distress, which can set off muscle spasms.  Abnormal postures, often hunched over and stiffened, are characteristic of the disorder.  People with SPS can be too disabled to walk or move, or they are afraid to leave the house because street noises, such as the sound of a horn, can trigger spasms and falls.”

I was diagnosed through extensive blood work and MRI in 2011.

Both MS and SPS involve the immune system, and both attack the nervous system. But MS doesn’t attack the nerve cells – instead, it attacks the supportive cells. Stiff Person Syndrome doesn’t. Symptoms of MS include dizziness, vision loss, and numbness. Stiff person symptoms include spasms and back pain, and it always comes with something like hypertension, Graves’ disease, or cancer.

2. Describe your lowest point with Stiff Person Syndrome

My lowest point was when I was just lying on my bed, feeling worthless. I felt as if I had lost my faith and, therefore, my battle and was contemplating suicide. I knew that it wouldn’t be fair to my parents being an only child, and it would have been very selfish of me to my kids who didn’t ask to be here and for their mother not to love them enough to want to be here for them. Life is way too precious just to cut it short on my own.

3. What Scriptures did you use to lift yourself from your lowest point? And how have they helped you? (Why did you choose them?)

Psalms 40:1-3 

I waited patiently for the Lord;  He turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.

2 Corinthians 12:9

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Hebrews 4:15

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin.

I chose those because they were very uplifting in what I was dealing with, and I would just go with what the Holy Spirit was laying on my heart. There were lots, but I just named a few. Every scripture that I used helped me in one way or another.

4. Are you a member of a support group and or do you know anyone else with Stiff Person Syndrome, and how has a support group or knowing someone else with Stiff Person Syndrome helped you? Do you have a church family? Where do you attend church?

I have a church home called Community Church in Mount Poconos, PA. Also, I’m affiliated with the support group called Ashley’s Fight With Stiff Person Syndrome

A woman who was newly diagnosed woman purchased my book. After reading it, she reached out to me. She and I stay in touch. She gets to those low points as well and she’ll call me for comfort.

5. You prayed for two things at the start of your journey with Stiff Person Syndrome: that you would be able to take care of your youngest son and that you could wear heels again. How did you explain Stiff Person Syndrome to your children? Why these two prayer requests? How has God answered these two prayer requests? 

I have two children. At the time the disease attacked my body, I had a four-year-old and a young adult. I felt like my youngest son needed his mom, and my oldest son was already with my mother (his grandmother). I was asking to wear heels again because I was once a model and never wore sneakers. When wearing heels, I felt empowered and elegant – everything that is the essence of a woman. At that time, I didn’t feel pretty anymore and struggled with self-worth. So, that’s why those two prayers stood out for me.

When explaining the Stiff Person Syndrome to my children, my youngest son didn’t understand at first, so I had to walk him through the fact that my antibodies were attacking my muscles. My oldest son would attend doctor appointments with me, and the doctor would also explain it to him. My first main concern was that the disease was fatal, and once I found out it wasn’t, I knew I found myself in a battle I couldn’t fight on my own and needed God’s help.

So while resting,  bed-bound, God answered me. I got out of bed, and He said: ‘Live your life, go be a mother to your child.’ I slowly got back into heels that I would never throw away – and I will continue buying them. Always the day before church, I would ask God: ‘Can I wear these to church on Sunday?’  I would get a granted yes. God has definitely answered my prayers. 

6. Why did you decide to write your book My Journey With God Through Stiff Person Syndrome and was it difficult to share your story with the public?

Yes, because in a mix of the prayers I said to God, there was this: ‘If you can allow me to walk again and be a mom to my son, I will tell the world how good you are,’ and I wanted to keep my promise. The only way I would be able to tell the world is to write a book. Yes, it was very difficult to write this book and expose the trauma my body has gone through, but it actually humbled me.

7. What is your life like now? 

My life today is almost the same – in the sense that I am still the same person. I’m still very bubbly and outspoken. I am loving and giving. I just learned how to live with God. Being first and foremost, I seek Him at all times for everything. I travel, I get family time, I’m very much loved. I  just know today always to make sure God is first. I didn’t allow this condition to control my life. God is in control, and eventually, I’ll have my completion of healing.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

After being diagnosed with Stiff Person Syndrome, I truly believed life was over for me, but with God’s help, I continued to not only live but also enjoy life. Travel was one of the adventures I’ve undertaken despite being told I would be bed-bound for life. My book is a testimony on a hidden disability that affects millions. Check out more here:  godsangelinstilettos.org.

Also, I would like for people who are in a dark place and looking for God to guide them to know that He’s there and He would never leave them or forsake them. That He is who He says He is, and He does what He says He can do. God is so real, and I wish that I can just tell everyone. 

Below are the previous entries in the “Resilience & the Bible” series:

Resilience & the Bible: How to Use Scriptures to Bounce Back From – Rebellious Teenagers

Resilience & the Bible: How to Use Scriptures to Bounce Back From – Losing Your Home

Resilience & the Bible: How to Use Scriptures to Bounce Back From – Losing Your Voice

Resilience & the Bible: How to Use Scriptures to Bounce Back From – Racism & Prejudice

Resilience & the Bible: How to Use Scriptures to Bounce Back From – Domestic Violence & Divorce

For more Bible scriptures online, go to BibleGateway.com.

Any thoughts?

Mother & Daughter Survivors Treated for Breast Cancer One Year Apart, Inspired By Deceased Relative’s Fight…FIVE-YEAR UPDATE!!!

Keisha Pooler, her mother Mary Marshall and Keisha’s daughter

Hello World,

As this is the last week of October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I wanted to  tell you that five years later after I originally wrote this post Keisha Pooler and her mother Mary Marshall are still surviving and thriving!!! What follows is my original post in 2015…

I lost two of my Delta line sisters to this hideous disease so this is a cause that is very dear to me. When another one of my sorors Keisha Pooler shared on Facebook that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and began posting pictures of herself at her chemotherapy treatments, I was inspired by her openness and bravery so I thought I would tell her story here. I hope her openness and bravery inspires you as they did me.

Jacquelyn Pullins aka Aunt Jackie

Jacquelyn Pullins aka Aunt Jackie

As an invincible and healthy college freshman at Morris Brown College in 1992 with nothing but time ahead of her, the last thing on then Keisha Pullins’ mind was breast cancer. But an arbitrary search for a pen in the lingerie drawer of her Aunt Jackie Pullins, who the Dublin, Georgia native lived with while enrolled in the Atlanta school, put her in the path of the deadly disease in a way that forever changed her trajectory. “I was digging in her drawer, trying to find a pen, and I ran across her prosthetic. It was shaped in foam and had a nipple on it.  I asked her, ‘Jackie, What is this?’ She said, ‘It’s a fake titty. What do you think it is?'” Her aunt’s clear-eyed, straightforward answer was representative of the sister relationship that Keisha had with her mother’s baby sister, who was in early 40s, who Keisha saw as mostly a sister but a sometime surrogate mother. Her Aunt Jackie also told her niece to not tell anyone as she did not want anyone to worry about her. However, Keisha was worried. “Her diagnosis changed my life. It was representative of something that could transfer into death in my home, in my family.” From then on, at the recommendation of her Aunt Jackie, who found the lump in her breast, Keisha began doing self-exams and has ever since. While Keisha kept her Aunt Jackie’s secret, her secret revealed itself when her aunt came home to Dublin several months later by the end of Keisha’s freshman year to go the the funeral of Keisha’s stepfather. “At the funeral, she became very ill so she started chemotherapy in Dublin. She never made it back to Atlanta.”

While Keisha continued at Morris Brown College, she returned to Dublin periodically to check on her Aunt Jackie and go with her to her chemotherapy treatments when she could. “She was not married, and she had no children so my sister and I were her kids.” After her treatment, her aunt went into remission for roughly four to five years but the cancer came back in 1997 or 1998. She was told she had months to live, but she didn’t want to go through chemotherapy again. Despite her prognosis, she didn’t pass away until 2001. During that time, however, she continued to live and deliver her deadpan humor. When Keisha asked her Aunt Jackie why she was adamant on getting a loan at one point, her Aunt Jackie replied, “Keisha, I’ll be dead before they get the money back.” “I remember thinking that in that moment, she was laughing and dying simultaneously.” However, there were serious moments too. Her aunt made her the beneficiary of her life insurance policies and showed her where to find all of her important documents. Although Keisha’s mother was her Aunt Jackie’s official caretaker, she felt like the then 25-year-old Keisha would be more responsible. “My Aunt Jackie was adamant about my mom getting a mammogram, but she never did. She always said she was scared to find out.”

Keisha and her husband at the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk on Saturday, October 24.

Keisha and her husband at the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk on Saturday, October 24. Their daughter is in the background.

In fact, Keisha’s mother, Mary Marshall, would not have a mammogram until she was 68 years old, in May 2013. It was recommended that she get a mammogram as part of a full-body exam after she got sick with shingles. Keisha was concerned when her mother called her after her mammogram and told her that a biopsy was the next step. She called the medical center and asked about her mother’s results. “I said, ‘I know you’re limited in what information you can give, but do I need to make a trip to Dublin to see my mother?”’ She was told that she should come to Dublin so Keisha and her sister made the trip. The same doctor, Dr. Samson, who took care of her Aunt Jackie during her breast cancer treatment was the same doctor that told Keisha’s mother Mary Marshall in front of her daughters that she, too, had breast cancer. “My sister had to leave the room. I took out my pen and started taking notes and asking questions. My mom took a deep breath and said, ‘Okay, what do we do next?’ There were no tears. She was stoic.” She was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer in June 2013, and six months of chemotherapy followed by four to six months of radiation was recommended for treatment. Mary Marshall says she cannot pinpoint exactly why she waited so long to have her first mammogram except to say that she saw what her sister went through and did not want that for herself. “I just put it out of my mind.” However, her sister’s example came back to her when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “In my mind, I said, ‘I’m going to be strong like Jackie. ‘”

In fact, her sister’s strength inspired Mary Marshall so much that she urged her daughter to have a follow up exam after Keisha’s first mammogram at 40 years old revealed that she had some cysts that needed to be further evaluated. Keisha delayed making and keeping the appointment for roughly eight to nine months. While she spent spring break with her daughter in Atlanta earlier this year, she told her that she would not leave until Keisha made the appointment. “I had that feeling that she might follow in my footsteps so I said, ‘Keisha, have you gone?'” So Keisha made and kept her follow up

"The beautiful thing about breast cancer is that puts you in a sorority you never asked to be in."

“The beautiful thing about breast cancer is that it puts you in a sorority you never asked to be in.”

appointment. An ultrasound was done, and a more in-depth evaluation was recommended. She was told she get the results in a week. “I went about my life, but I felt like I was in a cloud like when you see a character in a Spike Lee film and their feet aren’t moving. It felt like I was floating,” says Keisha, who is an instructional coach at Maynard Jackson High School in Atlanta. When she got the call, she was at the school. The news wasn’t what she hoped for. “I stopped breathing for a second. I went outside and sat on one of the benches and took my legs up under me. I asked the doctor, ‘Am I going to die?’ He said, ‘I’m not telling you that is going to happen. Let’s take one thing at a time.” Keisha was reassured when her doctor told her he would be meeting with a team of medical professionals to immediately work on a treatment plan for her stage 1 breast cancer. She was also encouraged when he told her that not all breast cancers are the same as Keisha has borderline triple-negative breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy in June and started chemotherapy in July. Now, she is undergoing radiation. She did not hesitate to share her story on Facebook with her community of friends and has shared photographs throughout her treatment. “I’ve been given the gift of speaking and writing. I think I got it from my mother’s father who was a preacher. He was so influential in the community, and he was always being vocal. It something sits inside of me, it sickens me. And I feel like I am soldier on the front lines, and if I kept it to myself, I’m not only doing an injustice to myself but to Jehovah Jireh.”

After she was told about her diagnosis, she told the news to Marcus, her husband of 16 years. “He said, ‘We’re gonna kick cancer’s @$$! You’ve seen your mama. You’ve seen your aunt.'” The couple then told their 10-year-old daughter. Although her eyes were filled with tears, she said, “‘Okay, mama we got this!'” She gave me a high five, and she gave her daddy a high five.” Providentially it seems, after Keisha’s diagnosis, her husband broke his hand in a car accident and as result, he has had to recover at home with Keisha.  “I feel like I am a seed that was planted, but I was not meant to be buried, I am planted to bloom.”

If you haven’t supported breast cancer awareness through organizations such as The Lola Brown Foundation (the organization named after my deceased Delta line sister) and breast cancer cure research through organizations such as the American Cancer Society, please consider doing so…

Any thoughts?