The Ryan Table

Five Simple Words

Write what you know.

We will all forever love Professor Bhaer for pushing Jo to write what she knew. Write what you know. It’s the first rule of writing. But what should you do if “what you know” feels a lot like failure? What if “what you know” is laundry that will not put itself away? What if “what you know” is pressure pounding down on you from some imaginary source that cannot be identified or named? What if “what you know” feels boring, and long, and impossibly difficult? Then what do you write? You write what you know.

This is what I know.

You and I are loved. You and I are wanted. You, and I, and our failures, have a place in this world. I know that when pressure covers me like a thick blanket, making it impossible to move or breath or feel joy in my work, then it is time to say five words that have the power to change everything. They change sorrow into peaceful sorrow. They change failure into victory. They change mess into a gift. They change tiredness into perseverance.

I’m Doing This For You.

I was speaking with an extraordinarily dear friend of mine. She challenged me to study my intention behind my work. You see, if I am folding the laundry for me, so that I can have my work done or so that I feel good about my work, then when it gets knocked over and trampled on by excited, muddy feet bringing me a dry, dead, bootiful leaf, I can feel defeated.

If, however, I am folding the laundry as a gift to the One who loves me and desires my authentic happiness, then the trampled on laundry and the smile accompanying it is part of that gift, perhaps the most beautiful part of that gift.

I’m Doing This For You.

If I feel sad over the state of the world, or about the loss of a friend’s baby, or about my own simple disappointments, if I allow that sadness to hang around my neck, darkening the world around me, then my sadness is lost in the great abyss of sadness in the World.

If, however, I offer it the One who loves this world, my friend, and my own simple needs more than I can fathom; if I unite my sadness to His, then my sadness takes on a life-giving quality. If I unite my tears to those tears at the tomb of Lazarus, then peace can be mingled with those tears.

I’m Doing This For You.

If I have been distracted, or legitimately unavailable, and the house is in such a state that the very thought of an unexpected visitor produces panic, then it can feel like failure. And in that state of failure, when one more simple thing is asked of me, it can feel as though Dorothy’s house just plastered me to the ground while little munchkins dance around chanting, “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead!”

If, however, I take a look at the piled dishes, the knocked over laundry, the finger printed windows, and the floor that will just not stay swept for more than five minutes, and if in the midst of the proof of my “failed day” I can stop and lift my heart and lift a simple “I’m doing this for you” toward Heaven, then my failure turns into victory. My tiredness turns into perseverance.

If I stop and remember “I’m doing this for you,” then when a grubby little boy looks up at me, begging me to come see the really, really cool thing he just made out of dirt and leaves, I can smile in the face of my defeat as I get pulled outside to delight over another dirt castle. I can smile in the midst of my failed goals because my gift is complete in the eyes of the one I give it to. I can smile because my work that did not turn out the way I intended, my dried up, dead, bootiful leaf I offer to the One who loves me is, indeed, beautiful.

“I’m Doing This For You.”

Remember these words. Repeat them until you live them. I believe that once I remember them for good, then nothing can tear me down.

No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:37-39

Peace and love,



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