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Meltdown in Target

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. – Psalm 23:4

Last year when it was time to go back to school shopping, I went to Target… like the rest of my town. The aisles were packed with parents and kids, filling their carts with crayons, markers, glue, pens, folders and loose leaf paper. You know, the hundred or so things all students must have before the first day of school.


My daughter, Abby, had a completely different list. It was much shorter because everything she needed for her “gap year” had to fit in a backpack that would get shoved into the overhead bin of a plane. She was heading to South Africa for ten months, so we filled our cart with tiny travel-sized containers of shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, and bug spray.

As we left the aisle of “travel-sized” items, I couldn’t help but compare our shopping cart to those of the college kids. Our cart was practically empty, while theirs were overflowing.

“Stop comparing…. keep moving,” I said to myself. We were now on a mission for wick away t-shirts. Just as we reached the athletic wear, a young girl Abby’s age held up a bright blue shower caddy and shouted, “Hey Mom, I found the one I like!”

That’s all it took. I’d reached my tipping point.

I looked at Abby and burst into tears, “I want to buy you a shower caddy! I want to buy all this plastic crap like these other moms. I want to help you move into a dorm! I want to go with you. I don’t even get to meet your roommate or host family. I don’t get to see you for this whole year!”

Abby, quite embarrassed, pulled me close and hugged me, “It’s ok, mom. We can do that next year.”

Well guess what? It is next year. But I’m still not able to buy her that cute shower caddy. In South Africa, Abby met two wonderful young women who are a little older and much wiser when it comes to the whole college scene. They’ve offered to take Abby under their wings and guide her through her first college classes. They’ll rent a three bedroom apartment and Abby will skip dorm life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly thankful for Abby’s roommates but at the same time, I still feel like I missed out on being the mom of a college freshman.

I loved living in the dorms when I was her age. I met some of my best friends on the 5th floor of the Jean Mance building at the University of Vermont. I wanted Abby to experience that too. But that’s not going to happen.

Isn’t that so common in life?! We set our expectations and visualize how things will go, but then whole seasons of our lives unfold differently.

I’ve learned that disappointment is the valley between our expectations and our reality.

I think of my friend who planned to grow old with her husband before they discovered he has ALS.

I’m reminded of my next door neighbor who never imagined the young woman she hired to help run her family business would steal her husband.

And just recently, I was hopeful my dad would call me on my birthday. But he didn’t.

Don’t you wish we could avoid disappointment all together? Though there’s no chance of that, God promises to walk with us through our darkest valleys. In Psalm 23:4 David wrote, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me.”

God wants to be invited into our disappointments. He promises to meet us and walk with us. It is comforting to know we don’t have to face disappointments alone.

When God walks with us, His rod and His staff are with Him. The rod is a symbol of protection. Like a shepherd defends his sheep from a wolf, God wants to be the defender of our hearts. His staff represents His authority and power. It’s a reminder of our true identity. We are God’s beloved children, heir to His throne. We are sons and daughters of the King.

Wow, that’s a great mind shift when disappointment is trying to take us under. Even though we walk through the valley of disappointment, God’s presence and power go with us.

And lastly, haven’t you learned some of your greatest faith lessons in the valleys? I believe when we rely on God fully in the valleys, that He strengthens so when we do stand on the mountain tops, He gets all the glory.


Here are 3 questions you can discuss with someone or in a circle with several others.

  1. When have you recently walked through a valley of disappointment?

  2. How does knowing God goes with you through the valleys strengthen you?

  3. What are some valuable faith lessons you’ve learned in the valleys and on mountain tops in your life?

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