Originally from Belize, Keisha Polonio is the Associate Director and Coaching Director for the Tampa Underground Network. As a certified leadership coach, she invests in the lives of leaders who have kingdom dreams. She provides them with the tools necessary to accomplish their goals within their businesses and their personal lives. But when the doctors said she might have cancer, she forgot about all of her tools and the one thing that was truly necessary, prayer. In this post, she shares how prayer was breath to her soul during one of the most trying times of her life. It’s a grace to welcome Keisha to the farm’s front porch today…
“Breathe, Keisha, breathe!” the nurse yelled. I gasped for air and opened my eyes as wide as I could as if they could inhale a breath for me too.
I was alive.
My surgery was over and every breath I took was now filled with hope, with relief, and with questions.
Were the doctors, right? Was the tumor cancerous? Did I make the right choice to remove my entire left kidney?
But before I could think of another question, I started to blackout.
“Breathe, Keisha, breathe!” she yelled. I could hear her voice so clearly but didn’t know where it was coming from.
Startled, I gasped for air and exhaled. I was alive … but somehow forgot how to breathe.
I started having to concentrate on something that was supposed to come naturally. I read somewhere that people take 35,000 or so breaths per day, and now I was struggling to just take one.
I felt the fear rise up and wondered if something was wrong.
I tried to breathe, but before I could take another gasp of air, I was fading to black again.
“Keisha, I need you to breathe.” Her voice was tender yet filled with a perceptible concern. I could tell she was close this time and soon I felt her hand resting on my shoulder. I opened my eyes and her face hovered over mine.
“You have to breathe,” she said. “Breathe, Keisha, breathe.”
I wanted to breathe because I wanted to live.
I wanted to see my boys grow up and to celebrate another anniversary with my husband.
I wanted to continue fighting for vulnerable women in my city and to see my neighborhood restored.
So, I inhaled the air that was around me but this time, I exhaled a prayer.
“Jesus,” slipped from my lips and something stirred within me.
I continued praying, and with each prayer, I could sense the presence of God filling my soul with peace. I prayed even though I felt weary and didn’t have many words to say. I continued to cry out to Jesus for help as I struggled to breathe for the next 6 hours in the recovery room.
I began to realize that in the same way I needed oxygen to fill my lungs to live, I needed the breath of God to fill my entire being.I had to remember to breathe, but I also had to remember that it’s only through prayer that our souls are filled with the breath of life.
To pray continually is to live fully dependent on the breath of God in your life.
One where you realize your deep need for Jesus in every moment, during every task, for everything. It does not matter if you are praying out loud or just take a moment to stop.
Praying continually is about living with an abiding dependence on the one who created the heavens and the earth.
We need to pray continually like Paul encouraged his friends to do in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Paul knew the Thessalonians faced great affliction and persecution because of their decision to follow Jesus. They had to destroy all ties to their pasts as they stood against the social and political injustices of the world around them.
The world was against them in every way, but the Thessalonians persevered. As a community, they clung to Jesus with every breath and fought the darkness of their day. But they grew weary and impatient as they wondered if what they were doing was actually making a difference.
The enemy increased his attack on this community of believers. He attacked their hearts with fear, flooded their minds with anxious thoughts, and killed their bodies. Their hope dwindled, and they were losing heart.
But Paul, knowing their heartache, reminded them to pray continually because there was a God who had not forsaken them.
You may be tired as you labor to see the Kingdom come to your city, your neighborhood, workplace, or school.
You wonder if what you’re doing is making a difference.
You have seen the effects of anxiety, loneliness, and depression around you, and may be wrestling against them too.
Maybe you’re battling an illness seeking to snatch your life away or grieving the loss of someone close.
Life’s hard seasons can make you feel like you’re suffocating.
In that hospital room, I thought I fully understood my need to pray. I remembered thinking that I needed to share this imagery of prayer as breath to our souls with everyone.
But then my doctor told me I was bleeding internally and I needed a second surgery, and forgot it all.
I was immediately flustered.
I had questions and concerns.
I needed to call my loved ones to let them know what was happening.
But within minutes I was rolled into another operating room that was filled with an anxiety matching my own. I laid there, with pain that would not subside, and watched the nurses and anesthesiologist rush around me.
When it was time to be moved onto the operating table, I broke down. I sobbed until I had no more tears.
But a nurse leaned over and started praying in my ear.
I don’t remember all she said, but just heard her say the name of Jesus.
And again, something stirred in my soul. I needed to pray. I needed to cry out to Jesus to help me once again. And He heard my cries.
Don’t let this world keep you from clinging to Jesus. He is present and has not forsaken you.
Deepen your abiding dependence on the God of hope and remember Paul’s words, so when the world seeks to suffocate you under all of its weight and worries —
remember to take a deep breath and pray continually.
Let me remind you to cry out because He hears you.
He hears you when the only words that can slip out of your lips are simply, “Jesus, help.”
Listen to the voice calling you to pray continually and let Him breathe life into your soul.
Keisha Polonio serves as a storyteller and champion for Created Women, a ministry committed to serving vulnerable women caught in the sex industry. Through this ministry, Keisha is able to showcase God’s compassion and love towards women who are often times left in the dark and forgotten about. Her husband Ryan and Keisha disciple young leaders how to emulate Jesus everywhere they go, in their weekly home church, Kindred.
She and Ryan currently reside in Tampa, FL, and are the parents of two wonderful boys: Jarron and Evan. As a cancer survivor, Keisha remembers to always be present and fully celebrate and conquer the trials and joys of life.