“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

Each year during the month of March, the staff and our middle schoolers have a little friendly competition with our March Madness brackets. Last year, COVID temporarily interrupted this fun and exciting St. Matthew tradition, so it was very enjoyable to have this be one of the numerous slices of normalcy that returned during this school year!

Under the skillful management of Mr. Topel, who is the originator of this tradition, each staff member and student submits their ideal bracket in hopes of selecting the teams that make it to the last competition known as the “Final Dance”.  The stakes are high as the winner receives a 12 pack of his/her favorite soda, as well as bragging rights for the entire year. Also staying consistent to my own personal tradition, I consulted my middle son’s assistance in my selections. As I sent my bracket to him, I begged, “Please help me save face with my middle schoolers!” A true competitor, he revised my selections and sent them back to me with the message, “This year, we’re going for the upsets!” As I saw that he selected Baylor over the number one seeded team, Gonzaga, I understood how serious he was.

Throughout the initial weeks, the results of my bracket allowed me to remain in third place for a period of time, but my loyalty to the U of M Wolverines eventually lowered me to fifth place. It wasn’t until the final rounds that my placement elevated dramatically, especially when Baylor was victorious during the final championship game, and now I am the joyful recipient of 12 cans of Diet Coke!

In retrospect, let’s not forget about the undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs! This team was a powerhouse and experienced the most amazing season with a record of 31-0 before the final championship game! Yet, despite their phenomenal season, they came up short at the final buzzer when scoreboard read 86-70 with Baylor as the victors.

In comparison to the Gonzaga Bulldogs, have you ever experienced a similar period of life that is filled with high emotional mountain top experiences of joy, only to be followed by a deep, dark valley of disappointment? There are times when things are going so well and your heart is just exuberant. Yet, just as fast as the joy appeared, a painful and/or frustrating situation occurs and plummets you into a deep, dark, emotional valley.

In Psalm 23, David wrote about this period of “hills and valleys” when he stated, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me. Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me.”

God blesses each of us with abundant mountain top experiences of joy but He also warns us that because we live in a sin-filled world, all of us will experience times in the valley. This is not Heaven, and things will not be perfect during this lifetime. However, the good news is that He is ALWAYS with us and will help us get THROUGH the valleys! He doesn’t want us to set up camp in the valley and stay there for an extended period of time. Instead, He wants us to cling tightly to His hand as He guides us out of the challenge, learning important life lessons, while depending on Him throughout the upward journey.

As we just concluded the celebration of Easter, we are reminded that we ALWAYS have the victory over death! Jesus’ team is always victorious, and your faith in Him gives you a permanent spot on His team roster!

Have a wonderful week knowing that Jesus’ death on the cross provides us with an eternal championship celebration!

In His Love,
Mrs. Palka

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