When Two Is More Than Three

Chris Sardegna
Chris Sardegna

It was another hard day of no leggings, yes pants. Homework first, FaceTime second. No eyeliner, yes blush. Talking, hugging, slamming doors…

Being a middle school girl -even a fun, beautiful, smart one- is rough.

And being her mom is exhausting.

It was the dark time of night when confidence turns into confusion and anger becomes fear. Even though I was in bed, I knew sleep probably wouldn’t come, but definitely not if I didn’t do one more thing…

I tiptoed into her room and kicked through clothes, shoes, and books to get to her bed. I had asked her to clean it earlier. She didn’t. It seems to be the name of our game lately, and I had just as many fouls as she.

She was curled up facing the wall – an illustration of the season.

I put my hand on her hip and whispered:

Hey, you asleep?”

“Yes.” I heard her breathe a quick laugh-breath out of her nose. It lifted my spirit and fanned a spark of courage.

Deep breath. 

“I love you.”

Usually, she replies with a short “Love you, too”, and I’ll take it. However, this time, after this warring day, she didn’t complete our standard exchange. My words hung in the air and amplified the silence. I wanted to cover my ears… and my heart.

You’ve lost her. Panic rolled in while I watched the rise and fall of her ribcage.

Finally, she turned to face me and offered a hand-squeeze, a slight smile, and two slow, sleepy words:

“I know.” 

She closed her eyes and pulled covers tight – signaling the end of the conversation. The end of today’s battle. The end of what she had to give.

Stunned and a bit rattled, I kissed her bangs and walked back to my room.

I sat on the edge of my bed, thinking about her response. Though it wasn’t what I expected, it shook something loose from deep in me.

She knows. Two words. Enough to start an avalanche.

My throat contracted, signaling a coming birth of emotions. I hunched over, laboring under the weighty fact that she’s received the message that I’ve been giving in many languages since her conception.

She knows. Even on this day, even in this season.

The realization left me undone and weeping, bearing down on something new. Her response was raw and laced with purity, and it was enough to wreck me with joy.

I should have figured that in God’s economy, two syllables would weigh more than three. 

Art Wave
Art Wave

My daughter is able to recognize love – even my imperfect version – in all the discipline and boundaries.

She knows my love isn’t doused by her failures or messes.

She knows my love, though limited, is bigger than her rebellious heart.

Her knowing is solid ground for both of us. It’s a place from where I can build and where she can find rest. 

I thought I needed my daughter to echo back my words, but only empty places echo back. Filled ones pour out; offering an honest and unique expression of what’s inside.

Why do I think I’m like God, able to create something from nothing? Why do I think I can conjure up a desirable offering from emptiness and hollow words?

Why do I think God’s like me: standing at my back, wringing His hands and pining for my words of affection?

He needs nothing. I need a heart, desires, love, words…all things new. All.

I love you, child. Be still and know. I’ll supply the rest.

My daughter’s response proves that she’s not empty. There is something there absorbing the sound. A full, expression of love will come eventually, and I’m inspired by how she has the integrity and patience to wait for it. It’s amazing that she learned that on her own.

Or did she? Thank you, Father, for taking my ruins and making beautiful things.

My girl fell asleep that night the way every child should at the end of a broken day: touched by grace and sure of a love that’s willing to kick through the mess to reach her. 

And I rested in bed like every mother should in the night of a rough season: blanketed with quiet joy and hopeful in God’s work alone.

I looked out the window and pondered how the same God who fills the moon at night fills my daughter and me. Thank you Lord. 

I knew sleep would come easy, but later.

I wanted to spend some time just knowing.

Because the knowing alone makes the night -and middle school- a little less dark.

Be still and know. Your response can wait ’til morning.

Christian González Verón
Christian González Verón

22 thoughts on “When Two Is More Than Three

  1. kristine January 13, 2015 / 6:05 am

    Karen, I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to have found your blog here on the link up:) I am a junior high teacher, and I write often for moms of junior high girls! Oh, what a roller coaster it can be! Your words here are beautiful, and so very true. I know all middle school moms can identify. Keep sharing these experiences with us – you are a blessing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Brown January 13, 2015 / 12:55 pm

      Oh thank you for your kind words. God bless you in your teaching – what an important calling we both have! I appreciate you stopping by.


  2. Christan Perona January 13, 2015 / 6:31 am

    Thank you for your honesty and transparency. You reached right into my deepest fears and whispered that God is sovereign. Deepest fears. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kelly Balarie January 13, 2015 / 1:30 pm

    Karen, I love how you openly convey your story. I also love the idea of being still. God has it. I know so many are encouraged by your vulnerability. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. lynndmorrissey January 13, 2015 / 2:04 pm

    Gripping and poignant and passionate, Karen. Rather than remind me of me as a mother, it reminds me of me when I was in my late teens, struggling with depression and questions, doubts and fear. And yes, I knew that my mother and father loved me — I didn’t know God did, but their love I was later to learn was a reflection of His, and it was enough. Be comforted dear one. You are doing such a wonderful job (hate that word, but I trust you know what I mean).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ruth January 14, 2015 / 6:49 am

    ‘Only empty places echo back’. What a wonderful way to think about it – your writing has blessed me today. Your daughter is blessed to have a mother who has the joy of the Lord and you are blessed to have a daughter that is growing in grace & the knowledge of Jesus 🙂 God bless 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. betsydecruz January 14, 2015 / 6:55 am

    Oh Karen, you’re telling my story today here, friend! I have a 15 year old, and sometimes after a rough day all we can do is hug each other. She knows I love her. God is in control. He is faithful.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. sarahgirl3 January 14, 2015 / 8:15 am

    You left me breathless with this one! My daughters are in elementary school and express their love for me now. But I know soon will come middle school and its challenges. I pray I remember reading this on those type of nights. They know!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Tammy Provins January 14, 2015 / 8:18 am

    Be still and know… Both of my children are young adults now, but I remember those days with each of them. Yes, God is in control and He always works things for good. Thank you for sharing your story and encouraging mothers in these times. Have a beautiful day! Tammy

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Donna January 14, 2015 / 8:26 am

    Beautiful words. Thank you for sharing truth in such a touching way.
    You almost made me forget to say

    visiting from #ThreeWordWednesday

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Rachel Quigley January 14, 2015 / 10:14 am

    With tears I write these words of encouragement. I’ve been there and it gets better… trust me. I have 3 teenagers now and we have rough days. I sometimes fail and speak words I wish I could take back and they spew as well. Yet I always finish the day off with the same three words, “I Love you.” it is a comfort to know they know and to know together that we will make it through to the other side as we grow and learn together. Thank you for these encouraging words! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Stephanie January 14, 2015 / 12:51 pm

    I cried the whole way through! My girls are 7 and 5 but those days will come. What transparency! What honesty! What faith! What perspective! What absolute joy and encouragement to read this! Please tell me you’re writing a book for mamas of middle school gals! I’d buy it first! (Visiting from Coffee For Your Heart)

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Kristin Hill Taylor January 14, 2015 / 2:38 pm

    What a beautiful peek into your heart and life, Karen. I especially love this: “I should have figured that in God’s economy, two syllables would weigh more than three.” I’m so glad you linked up at #ThreeWordWednesday.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Julie Lefebure January 14, 2015 / 8:14 pm

    Karen, your words are beautiful reminders of years past with my daughter. Beautiful. Fresh. Truthful. I appreciate your transparency and heart, like always. You’re a gift, friend. Thank you!!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Meredith Bernard January 15, 2015 / 8:34 am

    I can’t even tell you how much I love this piece of art and beauty spilled out for all of us mothers. I will come back to this…again and again. You are anointed, Karen, and I’m so glad God led me to you and your heart through your words. Love you and LOVE this. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Emily January 15, 2015 / 2:38 pm

    This was a helpful read. My daughters are 1 and 3. They give me SO much love!! Even when my 3 year old is mad, frustrating and crying all she wants is to be held by me. I am dreading the days that I know are coming. Struggles when they are older.

    “I love you, child. Be still and know. I’ll supply the rest.” What a beautiful line. I pray that I remember that down the road.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Abby January 15, 2015 / 3:44 pm

    Like Sarah, this post just left me breathless. Beautiful, Karen. Although I haven’t reached those teenage years yet, there are days when I question whether my kids really know how much I love them. There are days when I question God, too. How glorious it is to know that he needs nothing, but gives us everything. Thank you. Love this.


  17. Anita Ojeda January 15, 2015 / 4:34 pm

    I wasn’t going to cry today. But I did. I’m so happy for you and that you had this experience and that SHE KNOWS. Your words were beautiful, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Kathryn Shirey January 15, 2015 / 9:07 pm

    This is beautiful and full of hope. I can already see these moments coming and my daughter’s only 6 – yet we already have stormy days and tear-stained “I love you’s.”


  19. Jennifer M. Frisbie January 16, 2015 / 8:24 am

    Amazing! You seriously never disappoint. And I shouldn’t say it, but I’m SO GLAD you’re doing this middle school thing ahead of me so I can glean your marvelous wisdom, Karen. My oldest is in her last year of elementary. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this, but it just doesn’t seem to sink in so I must repeat it to myself often… I am grateful to have found you here on the web. You encourage me like no other!

    Liked by 1 person

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