Tag Archives: questions

Messy Perfect Questions

“There are times when the only way to get from A to C is by way of B.” Jeffrey R Holland, Wrong Way

Sometime last year a 16-year-old student asked, “how do I make myself do what I don’t want to do, or how do I even know what the heck I want or should be doing!” I stood in front of the room and the class laughed because everyone knew this kid was the funny guy in class. At the time grades were falling, assignments were missing, and I think we were all breathing a general attitude of apathy. I had tried to hide what I knew may come across as the same old motivational pep-talk with tips and research.

The sarcastic question hung in the air for a bit because a question that is one of THE questions of life and cuts to the heart of the issue shoots motivational rhetoric off its high horse.

I knew underneath the laughter, these questions bounced back and forth between their minds and hearts. I knew at this time in their lives they wanted answers to these questions NOW.

This memory came to mind as I was listening to a podcast called “Big Strong Magic” addressing some of these very questions. See, I have had many a discussion about the gifts of failure and finding your path with students. But I viewed this conversation in pride. I thought it was okay for teenagers to fail and find their way and not have their perfect course laid out in front of them, but I didn’t want to have to traverse that course myself. I had already done so and wanted in some way to be exempt.

I recently stepped off a secure path, or my A, and expected more direct guidance than I’m currently receiving. I suppose I wanted to find the perfect way. I’ve had to rethink this word. I now feel like what Christ means by perfect (like “be ye therefore perfect”), is not to be flawless, but whole. And after reading Brene Brown and Catherine’s interpretation of her research, I would even change the word whole to whole-hearted.

I didn’t want to have to find my C by way of B. I wanted to leap out of A’s box and be directed to C. But guess what, I’m on a B path. And it may not be direct, but I have to believe that I’ll find the life and divinity in it. So I would say to that student, and to all of us, that the the space between your questions of what to do and finding the answer may be messy and trying.

In that same podcast, Brene Brown and Elizabeth Gilbert go on to say that the only thing that gets you back to work on day 2 is if you forgive yourself for how bad your work was on day 1. Day 2 doesn’t stop because of will power or weakness, it stops because of shame, and the antidote to shame is not discipline but empathy. I feel like Christ is the master of this concept. If we were kinder to ourselves and more patient I can’t help but wonder what could change in our lives.

So here’s what I’m living and believe Christ wants us to acknowledge: traversing mountains and going back and forth in messy paths creates a life of wholeness. The glory in C perhaps is only because of the messy middle of B. Side-lines and wrong ways can allow you to stop and see people from a new angle and view. So it’s the middle part, the B part, the doing part that produces something. While I have no magic answer to get me or anyone else to do what you don’t want to do, or know which way to go, I do believe that the exploration is in some way part of the plan.

Where and how do you find and notice God’s and guidance in messy middles? How do think gratitude can be a tool of peace in such times?

Pavlova Meditation


Some cakes I can bang out in under 3 minutes: measure, dump, stir, oil tin, whack in oven. But pavlovas tend to be a more meditative experience. Incredibly simple, only 2 ingredients for the actual pav (and really, you should call it a pav, it’s what we Aussies call it and it’s our unofficial dessert*), but with 2 double handfuls of opportunity to drift off into hushed dreams and gentle musings. Even when I’m in a rush to make one, I’m always side-tracked by the odd thought as I make the gorgeous meringue deliciousness.

Pavs are astoundingly easy to make, and hugely impressive as a dessert. The fact that they are a luscious confound of sweet, light, chewy and melting, let along the ability to dress up elegant or slouch for a casual event, makes it even more worth the simple (and wonderfully hands free) process. The meditation/daydreaming is an extra delight.

You can make pav with a handheld mixer, but a stand mixer is best, with a whisk attachment.  You will need 4 egg whites (make sure there’s no egg yolk lurking in there), 1 cup of fine sugar (not confectioners or icing sugar – caster or white sugar’s fine, brown sugar is a lovely choice too) and that’s it for the actual pav. Seriously, just those ingredients. The decoration on top comes later and is totally up to your own preferences.

So, toss the egg whites into the stand mixer or bowl, and start whipping on medium speed. When they start to thicken just enough to see the beater marks left behind, add in a quarter cup of sugar.  Meditation prompt: How on earth is this going to make a decent dessert? Think about other messes that turned out well.  Mmmm, good desserts… remember great desserts of stomachs past. Continue reading Pavlova Meditation

There is Room to Ask: How, What, and Why

“In the Church, we want everyone to feel welcome, safe, and valued, and of course, there is room to ask questions. But how we ask is just as important as what we ask.”
–Ally Isom

In this statement regarding communication in the Church, Ally Isom makes a distinction between the “how” of questioning and the “what.” To begin with, I’d like to address the interpretation that what we ask or say is less important than whether the message conforms to a contextually appropriate how. Most people, I think, can feel the untruth of this. As one friend put it, “Saying it sweetly don’t mean you’re sweet.” Some refer to this as the “bless your heart” phenomenon—the idea that linguistic venom can somehow be alleviated by adding a little semantic sugar. But even under sugar, bitterness can still be tasted. The what matters, and being sweetly or jokingly mean is still being mean.

The second aspect of Isom’s statement, the how, has frequently been reduced to one word: tone. Often, tone is understood to mean the emotional characteristic of voice, either written or spoken—whether we sound happy, upset, depressed, angry, contemplative. Some may also understand it as referring to register—formal, casual, direct, etc. (speaking differently with our friends than we do with our boss or colleagues or our children). Tone can also involve language features such as word stress, pitch, volume, and speech rate, all of which contribute to meaning.

In all of these instances, tone is an aspect of pragmatics, which is a branch of linguistic study dedicated to explaining “how language users are able to use context to interpret utterances, to ‘do’ things with words, and to ‘say’ things without actually uttering them” (Parker & Riley; emphasis added). Continue reading There is Room to Ask: How, What, and Why

Rhetorical Questions

Questions to ruminate over

Have you cut your hay where you had no right to or turned your animals into another person’s grain or field, without his knowledge or consent?

Have you branded an animal that you did not know to be your own?

Do you wash your body and have your family do so as often as health and cleanliness require and circumstances will permit?

During the Mormon Reformation era of 1856-57, church leaders devised a catechism of questions asked of apostles, bishops, missionaries and regular church members to discover areas of personal attitudes and behavior that could use improvement. These were among the questions asked. These soul-searching questions and others designed to measure spiritual and behavioral commitment to the church had an influence on our contemporary temple recommend interviews.

I renewed my temple recommend this past week, and the experience caused me some useful introspection. Continue reading Rhetorical Questions


Today’s UP CLOSE piece is by Emily Falke.  Emily lives near Austin, Texas with her fantastic little family consisting of her husband, her daughter, and their really big dog.  She relishes the sweet busyness of home life, and she quilts and tutors in her spare time.  She blogs at www.memoirsofmotherhood.wordpress.com.

Two little blue lines on a little white stick. Just two little lines, and one little stick, but with far-reaching consequences.

And questions.

There was the beginning. Is it the right time for us to try? Could we handle it if I got pregnant right away? The answer came: “Can you ever handle it?” Continue reading Questions