Dad says I must have been only five or six at the time. Stubborn as an mule, though. I would not be dissuaded. Hammer in one hand, tiny little girl fingers gripping a nail in the other, my face set in characteristic determination. I wanted to be just like Daddy, strong and brave, able to build masterpieces from all sorts of scraps. And NO ONE was gonna stop me.

Brow furrowed, I held the nail placing it square on the board. My right hand grabbed the heavy old hammer and took a mighty swing. Only I missed the nail by an inch, denting the board instead. Not one to quit, I pulled back and gave it another go. This time I came closer to the nail, but grazed my finger. Even a six-year-old-swing with a hammer can hurt. After nursing my bruised finger a minute, I got back up, grabbed the hammer and tried again.

And again.

And again.

I lost track of how many swings and how many misses. But each time my determination grew. Until the last time. I really thought I was going to do it that time. With all my heart I believed I would finally hit the mark. Which is why, when I didn’t, I fell apart.

“I can’t do it!” I cried. “It’s too hard!”

Daddy kept working, even though I knew he saw my pity fest. After a minute of listening to me cry, he turned and looked me square, matching my mulish determination only too well. Without a flinch, he said, “You’re not a quitter, Michele. You get back up here and try it one more time.”

I was so mad at him for that. How hard is it to get a little comfort? Truth is, I wanted him to feel sorry for me, to be mad at that stupid hammer and nail for not cooperating. Instead, he pushed back, and in the process reignited my fire to try again.

Wouldn’t you know it, that was the moment I finally hit the nail on the head.

My turn to push back. We stand on edge of 2009. If you’re like me, 2008 has been tough, and you’re tired. And it’s more than a little tempting to stop swinging and warm a bleacher seat instead. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been swinging this hammer for so long, and I’m still working on that same nail and board. I’d like to either quit or see a little progress, wouldn’t you?

I don’t care how many times you’ve given life your best swing only to miss the mark, I’m looking you square and have something to say:

You’re not a quitter. You get back up there and try again.

Whether it’s a dream, a child, a marriage, a career, a project, a canvas, a friendship, a calling…doesn’t matter. Quitting’s easy. I dare you to live. Be one of those people who looks failure in the face and keeps swinging, keeps trying, keeps living.

I think 2009 might end up your nail-on-the-head year.

(I’m cheering for you.)

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