The Empty Bowl

by Mrs. Smith on May 30, 2010

That’s the shelf.  The first of my “empty bowl” shelves.  It’s discovery wasn’t all that glamorous, really.

Short story: I was just trying to find a place to put that bowl and my kitchen cupboards weren’t big enough.

Longer story: I finally found homes for the last of our wedding presents.  You know, the ones that were duplicates and were waiting around to be regifted?  Yeah, those.  Among them was this gigantic wooden serving bowl.  I pulled it out, noticed once again how beautiful it was, thought about giving it away, and then thought twice about it.

I love wood.  I love big bowls.  Just because this was too big to hide in a cupboard didn’t mean I should toss it, right?

And then I looked at that shelf.  It just happened to be right by me, and it was full of junk.  Well, not full full.  I had just recently conquered its clutter.  But still.  It was too-full of (you guessed it) pictures attempting to be anti-clutter.

Out came the pictures, the scriptures, the family journal.

In went the bowl.

I fell in love.

I fell in love with the empty space.  The space around the bowl drawing attention to it, and the space inside the bowl.  It resonated with my soul, all the way down to the bottom.

Isn’t that so silly?

But it’s true, and I’ll show you why.

I love LDS temples – all the way down to the bottom of my soul, but for much longer than my new found love for empty space.  My entire young life was spent longing for the day when I’d be able to go inside temples.  The highlight of my childhood was putting my name in the cornerstone of the San Diego Temple (along with the names of all the other primary children in the area), and then being able to attend its dedication.

San Diego, CA

It was 7 years ago today -awww- that I went through the temple for the first time, the day before John and I were married.  The beauty and majesty took my breath away and fulfilled every hope and longing in my temple-loving heart.  I will always remember it.

One of the seemingly insignificant questions that crossed my mind that day was,

“What’s with the empty bowls?”

Empty vases, too.  There were some in the Celestial Room and some elsewhere, I seem to recall.  They were beautiful and they didn’t draw all that much attention to themselves, but I noticed them.

Were they just there to be pretty?  Art?  Fancy receptacles for tear-drying tissues?  I wondered, and then promptly moved on to more important things.  (Yes, I really did think that bit about the tissues… There was much to learn, young grasshopper.)

Later I went to another temple.

Los Angeles, CA Los Angeles, CA

Empty vases there, too.



Provo, UT

More empty bowls.

Then here…

Seattle, WA


?!  Now I make a point to look for them whenever I go through another temple.  I have yet to be disappointed.

South Jordan, Draper, Salt Lake City…

I’ve pondered them, enjoyed them, been inspired by them, but didn’t really “get it” until I saw one in my own home.  The barrier between my old way of thinking and my new came crashing down.


That empty space.  All the blessings that truly come from God.






Can you put a price tag on them?  Can you even see them? Grab them and shelve them away?  No.  They are present only as we abide by God’s rules and make space for Him in our lives.

And then…

Last week a good friend gave a talk in church about consecration, and she read this quote from Brigham Young. … … … Okay, she found it in a talk by Bishop Keith B. McMullin, and I’ll leave it in context for you.  It’s “long” for a blog, I know, but seriously:  Do you expect me to just jump to the punchline?  I don’t think so.  You can do that yourself, though, if you scroll down a bit. 

“As we meet with Church members around the world, one challenge seems universal: having enough time to do everything that needs doing. Among those who have few resources, the need is for more time to secure the necessities of life. Among those who have sufficient, the need is for more time to attend to the niceties of life. The challenge is daunting because time is fixed; man can neither lengthen out the day nor extend the year.
“The world is the culprit. As the world grapples with more efficient ways of managing time, it lures us into more and more earthly pursuits. But life is not a struggle with time—it is a struggle between good and evil.

“What to do about all this can be one of the more vexing decisions in life. In 1872, the prophet Brigham Young counseled the Saints on this very subject. Said he: “Stop! Wait! When you get up in the morning, before you suffer yourselves to eat one mouthful of food, … bow down before the Lord, ask him to forgive your sins, and protect you through the day, to preserve you from temptation and all evil, to guide your steps aright, that you may do something that day that shall be beneficial to the kingdom of God on the earth. Have you time to do this? … This is the counsel I have for the Latter-day Saints to day. Stop, do not be in a hurry. … You are in too much of a hurry; you do not go to meeting enough, you do not pray enough, you do not read the Scriptures enough, you do not meditate enough, you are all the time on the wing, and in such a hurry that you do not know what to do first. … Let me reduce this to a simple saying—one of the most simple and homely that can be used—‘Keep your dish right side up,’ so that when the shower of porridge does come you can catch your dish full.

Keep your dish right side up, eh?

It’s great counsel, even and especially for us now, when so many forces are fighting for a piece of us, trying to get us to fill our bowls with slop we don’t need so that there isn’t room for what God wants to give us.

Don’t be afraid of quiet moments.  Or simplicity.  Or empty space.


Keep your dish right side up.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Debbie Hawkins May 30, 2010 at 5:42 pm

Thanks, MissM, I enjoyed that. Luv u.


Stephanie May 30, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Thanks so much for those thoughts. I do enjoy a beautiful empty dish and will have to look for one next time I’m in the DC temple. One of my all time favorite talks is Sis. Becks “Women Who Know.” When she was delivering it and came around to the topic that “Women who know do less” I did not quite understand what she was getting at. Then, she continued and it all made sense. I say/write this as I’m considering whether to keep Wesley in dance and gymnastics or to cut it down to one activity…you want so much for your kids, but when it really comes down to it, you’re the best thing for them.


Francesca May 30, 2010 at 7:32 pm

I’m loving these gospel-related, ah-ha posts! They help me to apply important principles to my life. Thanks for writing!


Kimberly May 30, 2010 at 8:25 pm

I’m glad you were able to write this out….you’re awesome!


Alana May 30, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Thank you for those wonderful, insightful words!


Alicia May 30, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Yes! I need to face my fear of empty space as well. The closet is still empty but I still feel the need to fill it on occasion. I had never noticed those in the temples I will have to keep my eye out. Your posts are always so inspiring! I am so glad we are friends. Thank you for everything!


Linn May 30, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Absolutely beautiful!


The Lazy Organizer May 31, 2010 at 7:11 am

We finally get to hear the empty bowl story! I love it! You’re so insightful.


Mr. Smith June 1, 2010 at 7:20 am

I think, Mrs. Smith, that photo with the cracked-glass bowl and a family portrait in the background may be one of my newest favorite photos. Love it.


Mrs. Smith June 1, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Me too, Love. I’m thinking I might have found my “logo”… Hm… Time to give ye old blog a little facelift in the banner dept?


Mr. Smith June 2, 2010 at 10:58 am

Hah! Do I look like I’m made of spare time? My bowl is already upside down!

I mean… uh, yes, dearest, I’d love to do that for you – what a fabulous idea. 🙂


Red-tie Josh June 1, 2010 at 9:30 am

Of course, now I’ll never be able to wander through a temple without looking for empty stuff. Not that that’s a bad thing…


Mrs. Smith June 1, 2010 at 10:30 am

You’re welcome! 😉


Marne June 7, 2010 at 10:44 pm

just found your blog. love this! Thanks!


Wendy June 24, 2010 at 10:14 am

Excellent observations. I felt something similar when I was in Las Vegas, but it’s still in the embryo stage. Hope I can hone it enough to be as lovely as yours.


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