I’ll like to bear witness to 2021. To remain rooted in some way. To all the life we endured. And remind you all to note that we are still here. This year brought me to my knees. Made me wail in ways that I never knew existed. It wasn’t just the death it brought, though that was intense and difficult. It was mostly the pain, and the uncertainty that accompanied periods of pain mixed with despair. But I’m still here. We were battered. We were bruised. We cried out from the depths of our hearts for things completely out of our control. We prayed. I remember screaming out the top of my lungs that what God cannot do does not exist. Yet, there were things or prayers that went unanswered. Times that made me question whether he existed. Surely when his children cry out to him from the depths of their sorrow, he would come to their aid. His own words makes it’s known that whoever and I mean whoever goes to him for safety would say he is our God. We did. We all took turns and went and yes he did his part to keep us and protect us. And though a thousand fell dead around us, one of them was more than enough to make us question whether he remembered us. But, we are still here. And so as I look back on the year that brought so much pain mixed with so much uncertainty coupled with a never ending desire to do more with my time on earth, I am reminded by the words of Langston Hughes paraphrased for me and my family today that, “We are still here.” Langston Hughes and his poetry have been a great source of comfort to me as we close out this year. Of course the word of God is forever at my side, but reading something as eloquent as still being here, made me realize that all of the pain, all of the uncertainty, even all of the struggle with this past year was worth it, because we are still here. So in closing out this chapter, this year, let me also remind you that you are still here and to me that’s more than enough.

You are still here. Still here. You may have struggled. Your lives may have trembled. Beneath waves that crushed. But, you are still here. Still here. You may have been exhausted. The pandemic keeps soaring. Numbers keep rising. Heaviness and burnout on your shoulders. But you are still here. Still here. You may have dreamed dreams. Flung your arms wide as you dreamed dreams that disappeared in the morning. But you are still here. Still here. You may have failed. Your toils may have been excruciating. With a failure that endlessly echo. But you are still here. Still here. You may have sown a seed. On grounds that did not sprout. All you labor may seem useless but you are still here. Still here. You may have been heartbroken. Love may have given up on you. All it’s patience, faith and hope may have failed you. But you are still here. Still here. You may have stopped laughing. You may have passed through life like shadows across the earth with no joy. But you are still here. Still here. You may have grieved. The death of a child, a partner, a loved one. Life in disarray for an end that came too soon, too painful to put to words. But despite this, you are still here. Still here. You may have fallen into despair. Fallen into the darkest and deepest pit. That you were close to death. Yet, you are still here. Still here. You may have even died. All your strength may have been gone. That you felt abandoned like the dead lying in their graves. I want you to know that you are still here. You are and it matters to me. That you keep knowing that you are still here. And for so many others, for you, the light that came to you. This light may have furiously knocked. Furiously insisted to remain. Furiously lighting up everything. Even in the midst of all the darkness around. Thank you for opening the door. Thank you for carrying your light as you showed us all how to still be here despite all the life you endured. Thank you for still being here. And I pray that 2022 will be more than you hoped for. May blessings be with you and may you find success in all you do.

Everything changes, the moment you hear the word. Life flashes through in a second. None of us can cheat life. None can escape the battle of death. I have tried to understand 2021. Fast runners never win their race. A fish still gets caught in a net. No matter how hard I tried, I still can’t understand. Why cancer? Why us? Our fists are clenched.

I never planned to keep writing. I only wanted to chronicle my silence plus survival as a wife to a frontline worker and a mother to three homeschooled children in the middle of a global pandemic. 2020 was a tough year and making sense of it my way, was paramount to me. A necessity even, to write my version of the moment as best as I could. So my first post was a reminder to myself to keep rolling. My son loves egg crayons I stated. Not to color with them, but to roll them on the ground. After watching him roll yet another round of egg crayons on the ground, I finally understood why he loved to roll them around. The egg crayons never stop rolling. It was mesmerizing to him and confusing to me at first, considering that crayons are meant for coloring.

My son’s egg crayons.

Yet, despite all they encounter while rolling on the ground, these particular egg crayons somehow manage to keep rolling. It was the perfect metaphor I desperately needed at the time and little did I know that my observation of my son rolling egg crayons on the ground would lead to the birth of my keep list. A reminder to myself to keep rolling. But still when I started writing this keep back in September, I had no idea what I would write about. I approach each day still not knowing but eager to put something, anything down. I am finally like those egg crayons, ready and willing to keep rolling, no matter what comes my way. It’s my prayer for you as the New Year begins. Keep rolling again and again. Life will be full of hopes, full of impediments in the New Year. But no matter what, be like my son’s egg crayons and keep rolling.

I recently asked my kids what they would like to do in the New Year that they have never done before. My 8 year old daughter would love to plant a garden in our new home. My six year old son wishes to stop crying. While my three year old son, simply wants to keep playing. Their hopes and impediments, depict how 2020 went down in my home. It was indeed a beautiful struggle. As we approach the start of 2021, my prayer for them and myself is that we stay focused on what really matters to us. That and the power and gift of struggling eloquently.

A small plant gift my daughter got to start her garden.

I share this because there is a video circulating via WhatsApp that depicts famous Nigerian pastors praying at the start of 2020 that their congregations may know blessings, abundance, plentiful grace, with unstoppable victory. I am paraphrasing but their prayers were the typical great prayers you hear at the start of a new year. You will read so many of them in the next 24-48 hours. As I watched the video, I was perplexed as to how none of the pastors saw a pandemic coming, a recession, closing of business, even homeschooling. None of them saw or prayed for the grace to bear whatever 2020 had in store, all it’s impediments and all it’s hope. No one prayed for folks to struggle eloquently in 2020. Yet we did. This was a tough year. An unexpectedly difficult year. But even it’s difficulties, every single struggle I encountered this year, was a test of my ability to struggle eloquently.

So as we kick off another New Year, while I would love to pray for abundance and blessings, plus plentiful grace and happiness, I would like to add to all that, may you also struggle beautifully. Keep normalizing struggle for the word also noted that when you are weak, when you are at your lowest point, he is strong. And if you know who your maker is, even if you pass through the deepest shadows of hell, he will be there. The truth is, you will pass through it. That’s why struggles are necessary. That and so you never forget that he will protect you as you pass through your struggle. The key is to pray for the grace to pass through all of it especially in the New Year. As you do, may your struggles, all of it, be as eloquent as you are.

Imagine getting a daily reminder or even a command to be determined and confident. Yesterday during my daily devotional, these words from the book of Joshua, Chapter 1v9 stirred something in me: ‘remember I have commanded you to be determined and confident.’ For background, Moses was dead and God asked Joshua to lead the people of Israel across the River Jordan to the land he had promised them. So in that verse, God was reminding Joshua to be determined and confident. That’s all.

Your goals in life may not make sense at times, even the year 2020 may go down as chaotic and unpredictable. Everything you have planned for yourself may seem very futile, but still we are told to be determined and confident. By determined, we are asked to be purposeful, persistent, preserving, relentless, brave, unwavering, and even bold. By confident, we are asked to be assertive, unfazed, calm, composed, positive, hopeful, and even at ease at all times. It’s an evolution. To become determined and confident despite many obstacles, including a pandemic. We have the freedom to live as we want, to boldly do something different, with ease, unfazed and unwavering. And if our approach is well-received, great. If not, we try again, still determined and confident to do it our way. Because that’s the command. As the New Year approaches, keep being determined and confident. For when you do, even fear is no longer an obstacle for God himself declares, he will be with you where you go, whatever you do, on your journey towards being determined and confident. It’s a journey after all with many ups and downs, but one worth doing. This keep, really stirred something for me and I hope it does for you.