My new role as a stay-at-home mom felt awkward at first. I was thankful for the opportunity to care for my girls, but I couldn’t shake the lingering feeling that I was supposed to be somewhere or doing something else. My remedy for this nagging unsettledness was to take up sewing. It was both enjoyable and practical. It kept me engaged and gave me a sense of accomplishment, while providing me with a creative outlet. I loved it!

My youngest was two years old, and I had sewn several sleeveless dresses for her that summer. But fall was approaching, and the weather was shifting. I decided to attempt a dress with sleeves. This more elaborate pattern required techniques I had not yet practiced, but I felt confident that if I took my time and approached each step methodically, I could produce a well-made garment.

I settled on a blueberry print for the skirt, sleeves, and collar. To make it more suitable for autumn, I chose a fine, blue corduroy for the bodice and cuffs on the sleeves. Even now as I describe it, I remember my love for that blueberry dress. Well, I remember the love I had for the dress I imagined I would sew.

Something went wrong around the time I attached the tiny sleeves to the armholes. It had seemed perfect while I was working, but once all the pieces were assembled, I discovered I’d made a rookie mistake. I’d attached one sleeve backward…or maybe I’d made two right sleeves? I’m not sure, but it looked backward to me. The discovery brought on a feeling of failure. I didn’t know what I had done wrong, which meant I had no idea how to fix it. I placed it on the table and walked away.

I came back to it several times over the next few days, pondering how I could rectify my error, but instead of ever fixing it, I eventually placed it in a bin of fabric scraps. It’s still there today. My daughter is now almost twenty. For eighteen years, that little blueberry dress has been tucked away, unfinished. I was so in love with what it could have been, I simply couldn’t throw it away. I stopped sewing clothes after that. I just couldn’t forget the failure of the unforgettable dress.

Over the years. I’ve often thought of that failed attempt. Too often maybe, but recently I felt God reminding me of Isaiah 43:18–19: “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (ESV).

As I prayed about how this promise God had made to the Israelites could have any relevance to me and that unfinished dress, I realized two things. One, what I thought was a failure was actually a completed attempt—which, of course, is different from a successful attempt. I had attempted something new and difficult, and it was worth celebrating. Not everything we attempt is going to be executed spectacularly, but the attempt is still valuable and can help us grow if we let it. Second, I’ve learned to see my mistakes for what they are. Mistakes. Now I can release them and move on to the new things God has for me.

That unforgettable blueberry dress has come to represent the areas of my life where I think I’ve failed. But instead of allowing me to continue packing up every failure, giving up, and berating myself for them, God, who is so merciful, asks me to forget those things that I feel are unforgettable. He knows that I can’t move on to new things if I’m stuck in the past.

It’s an important lesson to learn. We cannot allow the results of our first attempt at something to keep us anchored to the past. God calls us to more than that. His plan for my life—and for yours as well—is that we move forward, despite each failure. We can no longer allow the past to derail our future.

It’s time to forget the unforgettable and move forward into new things.

Written by Cherie Shaw

Photo by Volha Flaxeco