No matter how hard last year knocked you down, get back up and try again!

When I took vocal classes, my first time singing a song was the toughest. I would spend the week working on it, but then the nerves would kick in. At the end of my struggling rendition, the professor would smile and say:

“Okay. Once more, with feeling…”

Sometimes, you have to get past the first try before you can succeed. Though you want your initial attempt to be perfect, the pressure to produce often works against you. It’s best to get the first try out of the way, and then move on without the nerves.

For many people, this past year was tough. I’ve noticed the usual grousing about how, like my voice lessons, folks are glad to get it over with.

For me, the end of a relatively good 2017 makes me thankful. I’m especially grateful since the prior year had been so tragic for our family.

In 2016, we lost my mom in the spring. But the loss of a little foster child later in the fall made that pain almost negligible.

The little 3 year-old girl, taken from her parents after she ate cocaine off her family’s table, had been with us for more than a year. We tried to help the parents at first, but when they were later arrested in a two million dollar drug ring, we realized that we needed to protect the child.

Eventually, the parents were successful in moving custody for the girl from us to a friend who had helped bail them out of jail. We knew then the girl would probably never escape the life of drugs and abuse to which her parents had subjected her.

To say we were devastated is an understatement. Actually, we were better off in a sense, now focused on raising in peace our other two little adopted girls, without daily contact with drug dealers and calloused foster careworkers. But a little girl was thrust back into harm’s way, and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it. Our family and church grieved together, asking God, “Why?”

Okay, now tell me about your bad year.

No doubt you’ve faced some tough things as well. So I’m writing to tell you, after a gut-wrenching experience, what we did next.

We tried again. We gathered up all our self-pity and woundedness and poured that passion into the next year. And 2017 turned out to be one of the best years ever!

The easy thing to do is to bandage our wounds from the year, crawl into a hole and never come out. Once you’ve been bitten, you’re indeed twice shy. So we retreat, ignoring the needs around us and live a safe, sequestered existence of self-indulgence.

Sure, I get it. At times, you simply get overwhelmed by all the darkness.

We fight evil, but then evil pushes back. We show love to the hurting, and the hurt sticks to us. Eventually, you start to realize happy endings aren’t guaranteed, and the misery you battle has a funny way of following you home.

Why did we ever think life should be easy—that evil would just give up without a fight?

Darkness counts on us giving up. It depends on our love of comfort and safety. And in the process, it robs us of our destiny as heroes to the hurting around us.

But even with all that hovering over us, we started over last year. We found new ways to help people, God led us to a new place of ministry, and we are stronger and wiser for the whole experience.

The one thing I guess I’m proudest of is this: we didn’t give up. We kept doing what God had called us to do.

And we’re not just going through the motions, either. We’re not tippy-toeing around, playing defense, being cautious. We’re doing it with all the passion we’ve got, holding nothing back. Like they say, “Go big, or go home.”

What about you? What knocked you to the ground this past year?

Whatever it was, do this: Get up, bandage your wounds, and try it once again. Fight the numbness the hurt left. And don’t hold anything back—give it everything you’ve got left.

Try it, “Once more, with feeling.”

Because the second time might just be when the real music happens.

Photo credit: James Boyes via Flickr