The love story continues, and we press on with hope
Once Jeff returned home from the Philippines from his 18-month tour of duty in the U.S. Air Force, we spent some time with his parents, then headed to my house to get the last little bit of my belongings that the moving company the military hired for us hadn’t picked up.
Afterwards, we spent some time with my parents and headed out for our new adventure and a life of finally living together for the first time after being married 9 months earlier.
I know, today a lot of people live together before they get married. But we jokingly say we waited till 9 months after we were married to start living together just to make sure it was going to work out.
I will never forget the day we were loading up the car we had just bought, with my suitcases and things we had saved out that we might need before the movers arrived.
We were preparing to head out to Valdosta, Georgia, for Jeff’s next assignment in the USAF. I had never lived away from home, and I was quite a daddy’s girl.
But I was all starry eyed and focused on what was yet to come instead of what I was leaving behind.
I guess moving as many times as I did as a child and seeing so much disappointment so often in my present, I conditioned myself to always be looking for what is to come and how the next step will be better.
As a kid, I attended nine different schools in 12 years, and I guess seeing all the ugliness that can happen in churches will do that for you.
I learned that only focusing on what was behind me only made me miserable, but looking ahead gave me hope.
Maybe that is why I never watch the same movie twice?
I will never forget as we were about to pull out of my parents’ driveway. Standing in the carport, my daddy did two things.
First, he pulled me close and gave me a hug and spoke. “Now this is it, you're not moving back home again. I don’t ever want to see you walk through my door again with the plan to move back home away from him, unless he hits you or has an affair on you. Don’t come running back to me and momma for any other reason.” I agreed with "Yes, daddy.”
At 17-years old I thought I knew it all, and of course I thought and believed there would never be a reason to so. In fact, I thought it was almost silly that he said that.
We said our goodbyes and was actually in the car pulling out of the driveway when daddy waved us down and said, “Hold on a minute you forgot something.” Daddy, hurriedly, went into the storage room of the carport and pulled out a box I recognized right away.
It was “Old Silver,” the silver aluminum Christmas tree that my parents had since I was a baby. It was actually the tree I used to pull over on myself as a toddler in a walker till my parents put a fence around it so I wouldn't hurt myself. They were very popular in the late 1950s- to mid 1960s.
My parents hadn’t used it for years, as they had long since bought a green one, since this was 1984 now. But I would never let daddy throw it away. I wanted to keep it. I think daddy secretly hated the tree and I know he hated moving (as we did many times) something that we were not using.
Daddy handed us Old Silver through the window, and off we went to our very first home. We laughed about it as we drove out of the driveway, as I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with it.
But I knew I didn't want to get rid of it. So, a few months later, when mom and dad were coming to our house for Christmas, I devised a plan to use: I set it up in their bedroom they were going to be staying in. The minute mom and daddy walked in the room we all roared with laughter, as the trick was on them now … Daddy wasn’t gonna get rid of it that easily.
We used that tree for years, as I ended up having multiple trees in my house when we decorated for the holidays, and for many years Amy used it in her room.
Later, as it began to fall apart (around the late 1990s, early 2000s), I turned what was left into a skirt of a dress form I decorated at Christmas time, next to a butler valet I would hang Santa's coat on in our bedroom when we would have open houses in our parsonages.
You know looking back isn't always bad, but it is important not to hold on to the past so tightly that we can’t see the future.
If we can’t let go of what is behind us, we can never attain what God has before us.
Yes, it is important to cherish the sweet memories we have of the past and learn from mistakes we have made. But if we get stuck there, either in the memories or the mistakes, God can’t use us to the full potential He wants to.
If we are so inward focused, we can’t reach out to those around us and be the blessing to them like God has called us to be.
Paul gave us great advice in Philippians 3, in which he shares the message of contentment. Here he was writing this in prison. He has been beaten, endured severe hardships of poverty, illnesses. But yet, he isn’t complaining or singing some woe-is-me chorus.
Nope! He tells us, “I am not perfect, but this one thing I have learned to forget what is behind and keep moving ahead.” That’s the Alesa version if you didn't know that already.
The New International version puts it this way: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
He didn’t quit, He didn’t give in when things got hard! When the memories of his past mistake crept in. He kept going without dwelling on the bad things he had done and been through in his life.
I believe the only time you need to look back on the bad that has happened in the past is when you are praising God for bringing you through it or sharing your testimony to others for what God has done for you.
We don’t dwell there; we don’t give into the selfish feelings of woe is me.
We praise God that it wasn’t worse; we thank Him for the promises that He has made and that are yet to come.
But we don’t sit still, we don’t give in to depression and sadness we capture our thoughts. Because our thoughts don't rule us, we rule over them! By the power of the word of God.
Alesa Lewis Miller is the former pastor’s wife of Lighthouse Worship Center in Greensburg. Now she and her husband are US Missionary Candidates with the Assemblies of God. To find out more about the Miller's new adventure and how you can help, go to www.millers4usmissions.com or read more stories at www.behindparsonagewalls.com