I bumbled through the Target aisles with two kids under two. The toddler screamed from the cart like a curly-headed fire alarm. The baby cried as I held him close, trying to shush him as I propelled us toward the diapers. I was on the brink of tears myself as a new stay-at-home mom. I wondered how my entire day could be dismantled by something as simple as a Target run.

Is this what motherhood is? A lifetime of stress and embarrassment? Feeling powerless to control anything?

I could see other customers’ heads turning toward us as we loudly rolled along. I didn’t really blame them. My screaming kids were collectively breaking the sound barrier. The customers would turn out of curiosity: Is there a roving torture mechanism in here? A new mom having coffee withdrawals? Zombie apocalypse?

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As soon as fellow shoppers spotted our crew of misfits barreling toward the diapers, they’d look away quickly. I know they were trying to be polite, but mom-shame interpreted the turning heads as an audience to my failure train.

And then it happened, a little beacon of light shined in the toy section. Our cart crossed paths with a stranger.

She took in the sight of my loud, messy tribe. Her eyes told me she’d been in my shoes. And she didn’t look away. She looked in my eyes and with a smile, she said, “You’re almost there. You’re doing a great job. You can do this!”

I promptly bawled my face off. I rolled away from that sweet stranger lady, and now all three of us were crying for different reasons. We selected our diapers through tears and rolled through the checkout line like a weepy pile of bachelor rejects, but way less cute.

This happened almost a decade ago, and I remember it like yesterday.

Because I watched as God used a person to encourage me exactly when and where I needed it, deep in the trenches of early motherhood.

It cost Target Lady nothing to encourage me. It took her five seconds. Yet her words seeped deeply into my fragile spirit. My memory of her kindness remains vivid, a decade later.

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Now I look back and laugh at the thought of my crusty crew: red cart rolling around all weepy like a three-headed, sleep-deprived monster. I can laugh now because I know that tiny people do not remain screaming wildlings forever. The season of embarrassing shopping trips does come to an end, slowly but surely. I can testify to that firsthand. And I’m preaching to myself here, as I am currently parenting my fourth and fifth children through another round of crazy Target trips.

We know that God is sovereign, controlling all the giant cosmic forces. But our loving Father also cares deeply about the minutiae of our days. He is weaving a greater, ornate work in our lives when we put our faith in Jesus. So we can “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” Even in the tantrums. Even in the middle-of-the-night fevers. Even in the surprise pregnancies. Even in the Target trips from Hades. 

When we look for it, we see His sovereign hand at work: providing, encouraging, and sustaining us.

And when we don’t see it? We can pray for eyes that do. How cool is that? 

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After God carries us through our own trials, He calls us to encourage those now in the midst of them. So if you’re a mama deep in the hard days of parenting tiny babes? If you are at the end of your rope today, please hear this: You’re doing a great job. You can do this. God has you! 

And if you are a mama in the next season like me, let’s be that lady at Target. Not the three-headed-monster lady. The cool encourager lady. Together, let’s consider how we can spur each other on toward love and good deeds.

Molly DeFrank

Molly DeFrank is a mom and foster mom to five. She writes to encourage mamas in the trenches of minivan mayhem. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram or on her website: www.mollydefrank.com