Monday, February 22, 2010

Leap of Faith

Leaping into the unknown
Into the space between reason and unknowing
Letting faith take over
Eyes open, planning as far as you can
And trusting
That the Lord loves you
And will catch you
Sending you to the place
That He created for you.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Happy Birthday Lanie!

To one of my bestest friends ever, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

Lanie and I met as online friends, and have become even better friends over the last four years. He lives in Canada, I live in Oregon. He is a bachelor with a crazy work schedule, I am a mom of four kids who is always on the go too. Sometimes I am jealous that Lanie gets more "chat time" with my husband Michael, but since Michael is not a big scrabble buff, I get all the online scrabble games.

A few years ago we were chatting online in the middle of the night when I felt prompted to share the gospel with Lanie. It came in a huge rush of typing, and I know that the Holy Ghost did more of the teaching than me. At one point in the conversation, I asked him if he was crying too, and if he could feel the Holy Ghost telling him that this was true. He said yes, and then accepted the challenge to go to church, and meet the missionaries. I then spent the next two hours trying to track down which ward he lived in and when their services were. I will never forget that night. I have rarely felt the Spirit speaking that strongly to me, and I am sure I have never been able to explain the gospel so clearly and concisely.

Lanie was baptized several months later. I wish I had been able to be there, but almost as soon as he got home, Lanie called and told me, and Michael, all about the service, and how he felt when he was baptized. Michael was taking the discussions at the same time Lanie was, and they both were a support to each other in understanding the gospel. When Lanie's mother died a little while ago, we kept in contact through text messages and phone calls. I prayed for him and his family all through the service, even though I couldn't be there.

There are lots of events in my family that Lanie is part of, even though he lives far away. The kids love to chat using the web-cam, and Lanie was one of the first people I call when something great happens. I am honored that Lanie considers me his friend and confidant. I am proud of how much stronger and happier a person he is, and I am grateful to have a friend who always believes in me.

I don't know when we will finally get to meet in person, but I know that if we both were to die today, that we would recognize each others spirits when we got to the other side. He truly is one of my kindred spirits.

Middle of the night kisses

Sometimes I find it very frustrating to have Maddy wake me up in the middle of the night. Most of the time she has just "lost" her bottle and needs help finding it. Other times she just wants her diaper changed. Usually she goes back to sleep fairly easily after those needs are met. Sometimes though, she is just lonely, and wants a snuggle or two before she will go back to sleep.

This morning, around 5 am, she woke up, and while she wanted a bottle, she also wanted a snuggle, and to give me LOTS of kisses. (I lost track of how many somewhere around fifteen.) She finally decided that my face was slobbery enough, took her bottle back, pulled her blanket over her head, and went back to sleep.

I am now going to join her.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Yeah for the Olympics!

I love the Olympics! There are lots of great moments, and many of them have little to do with winning. I especially enjoy figure skating, and so last night was an especially great night. If you didn't get to see Evan Lysacek win last night, you can check it out here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I-Spy Bags

I have always loved these. Our doctor's office had them when the twins were kids. Anyway, there is a cool giveaway, for anyone interested. Just go to

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A sweet dilemma - Wanna win some chocolate?

So, I have this dilemma. I made truffle centers tonight so that the kids and I can dip and decorate the truffles tomorrow. I was kind of rushed and tired trying to get them done. I could tell the consistency was a little off, but I just wanted to get them done. It wasn't until I was finished that I realized that I left the vanilla out of one batch. Now, they will still taste chocolaty and yummy, but they won't be as smooth as they normally would. I am not selling these truffles, and I hate to throw out yummy stuff in general. I know people will eat them, the question is, should I warn them that they won't be as smooth as usual, or just leave it and hope that they don't notice? Hmmmm....guess I will taste them in the morning and see whether they need to come with a warning or not.....

As a side note, I am also trying a new center made with peanut butter and white chocolate. I have made dark chocolate peanut butter centers a few years ago, but never with white chocolate, so we will see how they turn out.

So, do you want to try some truffles? Leave a comment, and I will randomly choose two people to mail or deliver the truffles to. If you have a preference for only receiving one kind, put that in your comment, otherwise I will send you a couple of each kind.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Lifting up my eyes on Valentine's Day

In the midst of trials, it is easy to get caught up in the things going on in our lives. It is easy to see the stress, fears, pain, or even to get caught up in the joy of a moment, without really looking beyond our own bodies and minds. Sometimes I think that comes from being overwhelmed, or underwhelmed, by the circumstances we find ourselves in. I know that too often I focus only on surviving in the moment, and not on the bigger picture of life.

The gospel teaches us that all experiences we have here on earth are for our benefit. This is a time of learning, and testing. We know that there are things we could not learn as spirit children, that for full growth and development that we needed to gain bodies, and to gain experiences with those bodies.

Some of those experiences are pretty straightforward. For example, we need to be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, receive the knowledge and covenants of the Temple, and take the sacrament every Sunday. Our bodies need to learn the physical acts that go with these spiritual blessings. For many of us, we will learn the joys and sorrows of having children.

We will learn free agency, and understand that while we are free to make choices, we are not free to choose the consequences of those choices. We learn this first as children, making wrong choices, being corrected by our parents, learning to apologize and make restitution where we can, and having our parents teach us how to make better choices the next time we have a similar situation. As adults we continue to learn from our mistakes, hopefully, and to take responsibility for those actions of ours who hurt others. We learn that we are hurting ourselves by those actions, as well as our Savior.

As children we often start out by simply learning what is right and wrong. We learn how wrong choices affect us first, and then how they affect others. As adults we are expected to move beyond that simplistic view, and begin to make right choices because that is what we need to do to be more like the Savior. We learn to love the Savior more, as we realize that He not only atoned for our sins, but that through the atonement He is able to heal the hurts and pain that we cause, or have been caused to us, that we could never heal or make right ourselves.

It is only in experiencing the pain that is caused by our own sins, and the sins of others that we can understand the joy that the atonement brings. We are taught that there must needs be opposition in all things. It is fairly easy to understand that we must taste bitter to appreciate sweet, and physical pain so that we can appreciate good health. Maybe harder to understand, but just as vital for our spiritual well-being, is that we must experience sin to understand the joy of the gospel and the atonement.

This is part of the reason why the Fall was a necessary part of our experiences here on earth. If it were possible for us to live a perfect life, never making a mistake, and never truly being tempted to commit sin, then we could not appreciate the gospel and the joy that comes through repentance and being cleansed of sin. It isn't that we should sin on purpose, just so we can repent, that is willful rebellion, but that we should recognize that part of the physical experiences on earth are that we sin, and that we have the blessing of repentance.

Which brings me back to this week. Between sick me, sick kids, my husband feeling bad because his feet were blistered up after starting a new exercise program, a crib that broke again (and we then realized that it had been recalled), Maddy growing out of her car seat (how did she get so long all of the sudden?), lice going around the 1st grade and nits showing up in Sarah's hair, and cramping from an especially bad period, it might be tempting to simply focus on surviving the week. It might be tempting to not read my scriptures, because I am tired, and to forget about my visiting teaching sisters, just for this week. It is tempting to grumble about waking up five times tonight, between Maddy needing comfort and my body cramping, and to ignore the promptings each time.

However, I am a spiritual daughter of God, who is on the earth having a earthly experience. I need to remember to look up after I say my prayers, and be grateful for the inspiration that rains down on me. If I am going to pray for my visiting teaching sisters, it would be ungrateful of me to not follow promptings about them, even if I am cramping at 4:00 am, and really just want to take more ibuprofen and go to bed. So, instead of falling back to sleep as soon as I could, I made truffle centers, so that I can deliver them to my visiting teaching sisters after stake conference today. I am not sure why it is that important, but after the third time having the prompting in as many hours, I know that it is. Maybe the cramps were just the Lord's way of getting my attention, and reminding me to look up to Him, and to hear the answers to my prayers. (Now that I made them and they are cooling in the fridge, can I go back to sleep Heavenly Father?)

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! I hope you take a minute to reflect on your loved ones today, and that your reflections include Heavenly Father and Christ, who love you, pray for you, watch over you, and so often are just waiting for you to look up, and see the blessings they are pouring down on you. After all, what is Valentine's Day if we don't send and receive messages of love? I testify that no matter how physically or emotionally challenging life is, that our Heavenly Father is sending you messages of love. If you aren't hearing or seeing those messages, maybe you need to join me in taking a moment to be still, and look up. I love you, and I know that He does too!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Maddy's shoes

It is official, Maddy is a shoe wearing girl. She is not super thrilled about them, but she has started to accept them. A huge thanks to Anna for going shopping with us, and helping me think through the best way to help Maddy manage this new adventure!! You are my angel, Anna!

We went to Stride Right this morning, and looked at their shoes. In some ways we had to be pretty picky. They needed to fit tight enough that Maddy couldn't pull them off easily. On the other hand they needed to be big enough that we could put them on not with socks, but with a one piece outfit, since Maddy is still only wearing sleeper suits, for all intensive purposes. She also needed to have hard soles, since part of the goal is to get her actually walking in them, and hopefully ready to walk outside this summer. Since there is no way we are going to get her to talk on grass, or anything that makes her feet cold or wet, she is going to need shoes that she has accepted if we are going to have her walking outdoors.

So, with that already difficult list of requirements, we had Maddy's feet measured and realized that since she is so petite everywhere, she really fits into a size 3 1/2, and for that size they only make soft soled crib shoes. That makes sense when you think of how old the average 16ish pound baby is. Most babies are not walking on their own at 10 months, and even fewer of them are Maddy's size at that age. Also, most of the shoes that size are not very tight on the feet. Since the babies aren't expected to walk in them, they tend to be loose, and have pretty large holes on the top, especially for the girls shoes.

We started trying on shoes, and found a pair of size 4 shoes that fit tight around her feet, and that she could put on with her pajamas on. (See the pic below to see what they look like.) She wasn't thrilled with them, but she could physically walk with them. They were normally $75 shoes, but since they were the last pair in the store, we got them for only $25. (Thank you Heavenly Father for saving them for Maddy.) We found a second pair of shoes that were on sale as well, and got them in a size 4 1/2. They both have good hard soles. The second set isn't quite as tight on Maddy's feet, and we are hoping by the time she is ready to wear them that she will not be trying to pull them off all the time. The larger pair can also be worn with Maddy's thicker jammies now, so there is no excuse for Maddy to not have shoes on during the day.

Maddy wore her shoes for the rest of the day. She got to have them off when we were doing her brushing protocol, since she has to be naked, and she only fought us a little bit about putting them back on when we dressed her afterward. At first she wasn't very interested in trying to walk in the shoes, and was sticking to crawling, but by the end of the evening she was cruising at almost her normal pace. This afternoon we took her outside, so that she could see the advantages to shoes, mainly that she could walk on the ground without her feet getting wet and cold, and she had lots of fun walking around and watching the big kids play.

I am hoping that all of the transition to shoes will go this smoothly, but even if there are bumps in the road, it is exciting to see Maddy making progress in so many areas. She isn't in any danger of losing her feeding tube, and we start intensive OT next Monday, but she is gaining new words everyday, and she is a delight to spend time with. I am a lucky momma!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What a beautiful glass

In reading the Ensign this month, a particular quote jumped out at me. It is in an article about the Saints in the Phillipeans, who had three natural disasters in less than a month. It talks of the love and service given by members, many of whom were affected by at least one of the natural disaster themselves, for the people affected by other natural disaster.

Elder Benson Misalucha, and Area Seventy in the Philippines Area said that rather than looking at the glass as being half empty or half full, most Phillipenos "look at the glass and say: "Well, it is a great glass, even if there is no water."

So, that is my goal, to make sure no matter how difficult life may be, to look at my life and say, "Well, it is a great life, no matter what may be added or missing that I might really like. I will enjoy this life, learn from this life, and become a better person, because I was blessed with such a beautiful life."

Joshua's birthday wishlist

I am NOT sharing this because I want anyone to feel like they need to get Joshua a present. I just think that his birthday wish list is so very much like the funny, intelligent and eclectic person that he is, and I thought that those who know and love him might find that it puts a smile on their face.

Joshua told me several things he is hoping to get for his birthday. His list is:
** Spending the night at a friend's house (I think this is pretty focused on a particular friend...he even told me it would be coolest if he got a hand made gift certificate for that. lol)
** Hiking boots
** A gift certificate to play his Pokemon game (He has a VERY complicated Pokemon game that takes so long, no one ever really wants to play it. He pointed out several times that this would not cost anything for someone to do.)
** A Webelos book and handkerchief and neck slide
** Powell's gift certificate or trip to go book shopping (He told me specifically that getting to go to Powell's without any other siblings would be super-cool!)
** A soccer ball (He specified a black and white one, and then said he didn't want to be too picky if a colored one was on sale. lol)

It is always interesting to see what will come up on his wish list this year. I think my favorite thing about making the list with him was hearing his reasoning and side comments about why he wanted something, or how he thought it would be affordable for someone. It is nice to know he isn't just thinking about what he wants, but that he is also aware of our budget limitations, and those of other people.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Brushing protocol

We have a new adventure at our house. The OT (occupational therapist)that she sees thought it was time to start doing a "brushing protocol," also called the Wilbarger Protocol with Maddy. Basically we use a surgical scrub brush (seen below) to brush along her arms, legs, hands, feet and back in long strokes. Then we do compressions on the joints in her arms and legs. We do this every 90 minutes to 2 hours all the time that she is awake, for two weeks.

So far, Maddy is not thrilled with it. She has stopped screaming for half an hour after the protocol, but she is pretty fussy through it, and for a while afterward. We are told that it may get better, or it may just be a rough two weeks. For about 60% of the kids there is some improvement, for the other 40% of the kids there isn't. But, it is worth doing either way, since it is the first step in helping her better handle sensations that are uncomfortable for her, and eventually it may even help her accept foods that she won't try now.

This is some information about the protocol, for those interested.
The first step of the Wilbarger Protocol involves providing deep pressure to the skin on the arms, back, and legs through the use of a special surgical brush. Many people mistakenly call this technique "brushing" because a surgical brush is used. The term "brushing" does not adequately reflect the amount of pressure that is exerted against the skin with the movement of the brush. A more appropriate analogy would be that it is like giving someone a deep massage using a surgical brush. The use of the brush in a slow and methodical manner provides consistent deep-pressure input to a wide area of the skin surface on the body. Ms. Wilbarger has found and has recommended a specific surgical brush to be most effective. The face and stomach are never brushed.

Following the "massage" stage, the child receives gentle compressions to the shoulders, elbows, wrists/fingers, hips, knees/ankles, and sternum. These compressions provide substantial proprioceptive input. Ms. Wilbarger feels that it is critical that joint compressions follow the use of the surgical brush, and if there is no time to complete both steps, then compressions should not be administered.

The complete routine should only take about three minutes. This technique can be incorporated into a sensory diet schedule. The procedure is initially repeated every ninety minutes. After a period of time, the frequency is reduced. Eventually the procedure can be stopped, but gains can be maintained. Some children immediately enjoy this input, and others resist the first few sessions. You may distract the child by singing or offering a mouth or fidget toy.

Some children really like the administration of this protocol and will seek out the brush and bring it to their parents, teachers, or caregivers. Other children tolerate it with little reaction, and occasionally a child is resistive. If the child continues to resist, and you see negative changes, you must reconsider the use of the technique and contact the supervising therapist. This has rarely occurred in our practice.

We have been warned that it will probably have its ups and downs. One of the things they suggest is getting a new toy that Maddy only gets to play with while we are doing the brushing protocol. If anyone has any great ideas for a cool toy, please leave it in the comments. We are hoping to get her something cool and new this week so that there is a toy advantage to having the protocol done.

They also think that it is time for Maddy to start wearing shoes. It is fine for her to still wear her requisite one piece outfit, we will just get shoes big enough to fit over them. Also, because of her texture and nerve sensitivity, they want us to go to a shoe store that can fit the shoes to her feet, so that they will fit right, and not have the indentations from another child wearing them. With my older kids we always used hand-me-downs, but since Maddy is already so picky about feet things, we are told that new shoes can make a big difference in whether she will accept shoes in general. So, anyone who knows of good sales, or where to get coupons for Stride Rite or similar shoe stores, we would love the tip off. If anyone is a Nike employee, or knows one, Nike and Stride Rite were the two that her OT mentioned.

While it is going to take a lot of energy to help Maddy with the brushing protocol and the next 14 weeks of OT, I am so grateful that there are things we can do to help Maddy with moving forward. Another interesting thing to me, and probably to anyone who knew me as a child, is that the OT told us that Maddy walking on her tip-toes is probably because her feet are so sensitive and her nerves misfire more in her feet than on her toes. I guess that is oftentimes an inherited issue. I certainly walked on my toes for most of my childhood. I always thought that it was because I had tight tendons, but the OT says that tight tendons are a side-effect of walking on my toes, but probably the cause of walking on my toes was a similar sensitivity issue to Maddy's. Guess she really is my daughter. :-)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

News, news, news

Maddy is walking!! She has gone up to five steps at a time, and she even managed to have the first time be in front of Michael, me, Josh, Sarah and Kat. We all clapped for her, which of course then scared and overwhelmed her, so she took a little while to decide to do it again. She still prefers having something to hold onto, and will crawl to go faster, but is pretty pleased with herself when she gets where she wants to go without falling.

I have really enjoyed have Netflix. Getting movies in the mail is nice, but even better is that they have a lot of movies you can watch whenever you want on the computer. (No, this is not a paid advertisement. lol) I love being able to watch Masterpiece Theatre when I want, and recently found a new series, called The Dutchess of Duke Street. I have always loved British comedies.

Joshua is almost ten. It is hard to believe that just ten years ago I was waddling around wondering when the baby was going to be born, and whether it would be a boy or a girl. (We didn't find out ahead of time with Josh.) The labor had a few complications at the end, so I actually didn't know he was a boy until he was almost four (4) minutes old. He has become such a wonderful boy, and I am grateful that I get to be his momma. He is looking forward to becoming a Webelos scout. He is very excited that this year's Blue and Gold dinner will be on his birthday. Anyone in the area who doesn't have plans is welcome to join us for the Blue and Gold. It will be on the 25th at 6:30 pm at the Henrici building. If any of that doesn't make sense, email me and I will give you more exact directions.

I got a rejection email today. I had submitted several poems to an online site that published poetry. They said that one of the poems was too long, and the other two didn't fit within this year's theme. I didn't know there was a theme. I went back and checked the site, and didn't see a theme in the submission guidelines. Not nearly as promising as some of the rejection letters my mom got earlier this year, but at least they bothered to write back.

I ran into a classmate from grade school at Fred Meyer's this week. I didn't recognize him at all, and even when he told me his name was Chris (I can't remember the last name now) I didn't remember. He said he remembered me as the girl who always ran after the boys at recess, and usually caught them. I said that I did a lot of running at recess, and then he said he always wished he had the guts to come play with my group of friends. I apologized for not remembering him, and told him I was sorry if we had excluded him. He said that we hadn't, and that I had given him a Valentine in third grade that had his name spelled right, and I told him that he had a nice singing voice. He had been very impressed with that. Even now, I don't remember him but I am glad that I took the time, even as a third grader to spell his name right and say something, since it obviously meant enough to him to remember it 25 years later.

Before he went off to finish his shopping for his mother, he was up visiting her, he showed me the pictures of his four kids. His youngest daughter has the middle name Julie. He said his wife's aunt was named Julie, and she was named after her, but he had always liked the name since he had known me when we were in grade school. Given the horrendous week I have had, in many ways, it was a blessing to know that I had done some good in the world, enough that my name was associated as a good thing. I may or may not see Chris again, although I think I will at least remember his adult face if I run into him again, but he gave me the gift of seeing my childhood self as a memorably good person. I thank Chris, and Heavenly Father for that.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Finding Joy, Peace and Understanding

In a talk President Monson gave in October Conference, he spoke on finding joy in the journey of life. One of my favorite parts of it is:

In the 1960s, during the Vietnam War, Church member Jay Hess, an airman, was shot down over North Vietnam. For two years his family had no idea whether he was dead or alive. His captors in Hanoi eventually allowed him to write home but limited his message to less than 25 words. What would you and I say to our families if we were in the same situation—not having seen them for over two years and not knowing if we would ever see them again? Wanting to provide something his family could recognize as having come from him and also wanting to give them valuable counsel, Brother Hess wrote—and I quote: “These things are important: temple marriage, mission, college. Press on, set goals, write history, take pictures twice a year."

As I think about how important each one of those pieces of advice are, I have some regrets, but even more I have joy that the Lord provides ways for us to grab onto joy in our lives. I especially want to make sure that I am "pressing on" as I try to become closer to my Heavenly Father, a better mother to my children, a better wife to my husband, and a more profitable servant to the Lord.

During the process of divorcing my first husband, and struggling with the realities of the childhood abuse which had become overwhelming for me, I made some choices that were not in accordance with the teachings of the church. I am not proud of them, but I also don't try to pretend that they did not happen. I made the choices, and I cannot change those choices now. In talking with my bishop, and then having the opportunity to have a church disciplinary counsel, I was excommunicated for my sins. That disciplinary counsel was necessary for me to start the process of repentance and healing, and I am grateful to the church leaders who righteously executed the judgment of the Lord that evening.

The year that followed was one of struggles, and of joys. As I humbly approached the Lord, I was able to let go of a lot of the rebellion that had taken hold of my soul, really since I was a teenager. When my paperwork got to Salt Lake, the people who reviewed it started the process to hold the person who had abused me as a child, responsible for that abuse. It was a painful process to relive the abuse, as I prepared to testify at the disciplinary counsel and then as I gave my verbal testimony as well. In many ways, it was the most humbling experience of my life. All of the things that I thought made me dirty and unworthy of being a daughter of my Heavenly Father were laid out for the entire high counsel of the stake in which my abuser lived. I had only met the stake president before that meeting, and I was shaking through most of my testimony. It was hard, and I was grateful to have Michael, my new husband, holding my hand during the process.

I walked out of the room where I had given my testimony, and for the first time I felt a huge weight lift off my chest. I saw the person who had abused me, and while I had no desire to see him, I knew that he no longer had any power over me. I don't know that I will ever willingly see him, I can't predict what the future will bring for him or for me, but the flashbacks and nightmares have decreased significantly since then, and the beginning of truly becoming a survivor, and not a victim, started that night. I told the truth, with no regard to what others thought of me, and I could feel the influence of the Spirit in the room. It both helped to calm me, and to help those who listened to me know that I told the truth.

After many months of praying, studying my scriptures, attending church meetings, simply soaking up the spirit of the meetings, and learning the lessons being taught, I was baptized, one year after I had been excommunicated. My husband Michael had been baptized a few weeks before that, and I had the privilege of having him baptize me. When I came out of the water, I felt more clean than I had in my entire life. I felt the beauty of not just having my sins forgiven, but also of knowing that the Lord loved me, and that He did not hold me responsible for the abuse I had suffered as a child.

I know that the Lord had always been ready to help heal me, but it wasn't until my baptism that I was ready to let Him heal me. I am looking forward to having my temple blessings restored. I don't know exactly when that will happen, but the paperwork is in the hands of the First Presidency, and when they and the Lord decide I am ready, I will be able to return to the temple, with my husband who just received his first temple recommend. Someday we will be sealed, to each other and to our daughter Maddy, and that will bring even more joy. We hope to someday serve a mission as couple missionaries, and we continue to feast upon the scriptures, learning all that we can of the gospel.

There are still challenges, as there are for anyone who is living in a mortal body. As a family we have been hit hard by a maelstrom of financial problems, and have learned humility as we have had to rely on the Lord, and our family, to help us through this difficult piece of our lives. My daughter still has medical difficulties. She also brings so much joy to the lives of all who know her, that helping her get the treatment she needs, is a responsibility in which we have no sorrow.

We make goals, press on, and continue to look forward with faith. Our goals are not always those of the world, but we feel blessed to have the Lord's inspiration as we move forward. It is a privilege to serve in the church, and to learn more about ourselves and how to be better people, each day.

Sometimes I am amazed, as I look back on the woman I was five years ago, and see how far I have come. For many members of my family, they simply don't believe that I have come very far. Whether they believe that I am lying about the progress in my life, or whether it is simply too hard to have me change since that might mean that they need to change, I don't know. I am often shocked at what people think they have the right to say or do to me. It saddens me that five years ago I would have become depressed, assuming that they were right, and that I couldn't trust the inspiration of the Spirit. I would have allowed them to send me into a tailspin, and it would have been my fault for letting them have that power over me. The more I learn about families which have issues similar to mine, the more I am grateful for good counselors, a mother who has supported me in changing who I am, and a husband who has always seen more in me than I could see in myself at the time.

I have learned that there is always hope. The Savior and the atonement make it so that there is never a point in which there is not hope for change. If the Lamanites, who had committed murders and many other terrible sins, could become the strongest and most stalwart followers of Christ, then certainly any of us can become Christlike. I don't think that the process of change is ever easy. Alma the younger talks about being harrowed up by his sins, almost unto death. Certainly there has been a lot of pain for me, both in repenting of my sins, and in struggling to break out of long-term habits that led me to allow others to convince me that I was not worthy of the atonement.

Even the man who abused me for years could become a stalwart member of the church again, if he chooses to allow the atonement to work in his life. It is not my job to make that happen, but it is my job to learn to forgive him, and to get on with my life in as healthy a manner as I can. I find that as I learn to set healthy boundaries with everyone in my life, and to stand up for what I know is right, that it is easier to imagine the day when I will forgive my abuser, and truly move on. I know that would not be possible without the healing power of the atonement. Until it happens, that is my goal. Until I am able to do it, I will press on, with a perfect faith that it is possible, for me, and for all of my family!

Judge Not’ and Judging

This is my thought for the day. I can't think of much to add, but I think we all need the reminders contained in this talk.

Dallin H. Oaks, “‘Judge Not’ and Judging,” Ensign, Aug 1999, 7

From a talk given on 1 March 1998 at Brigham Young University.

There are two kinds of judging: final judgments, which we are forbidden to make, and intermediate judgments, which we are directed to make, but upon righteous principles.

As a student of the scriptures and as a former judge, I have had a special interest in the many scriptures that refer to judging. The best known of these is “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (3 Ne. 14:1; Matt. 7:1).

I have been puzzled that some scriptures command us not to judge and others instruct us that we should judge and even tell us how to do it. But as I have studied these passages I have become convinced that these seemingly contradictory directions are consistent when we view them with the perspective of eternity. The key is to understand that there are two kinds of judging: final judgments, which we are forbidden to make, and intermediate judgments, which we are directed to make, but upon righteous principles. I will speak about gospel judging.

Final Judgments

First, I speak of the final judgment. This is that future occasion in which all of us will stand before the judgment seat of Christ to be judged according to our works (see 1 Ne. 15:33; 3 Ne. 27:15; Morm. 3:20; D&C 19:3). Some Christians look on this as the time when individuals are assigned to heaven or hell. With the increased understanding we have received from the Restoration, Latter-day Saints understand the final judgment as the time when all mankind will receive their personal dominions in the mansions prepared for them in the various kingdoms of glory (see D&C 76:111; John 14:2; 1 Cor. 15:40–44). I believe that the scriptural command to “judge not” refers most clearly to this final judgment, as in the Book of Mormon declaration that “man shall not … judge; for judgment is mine, saith the Lord” (Morm. 8:20).

Since mortals cannot suppose that they will be acting as final judges at that future, sacred time, why did the Savior command that we not judge final judgments? I believe this commandment was given because we presume to make final judgments whenever we proclaim that any particular person is going to hell (or to heaven) for a particular act or as of a particular time. When we do this—and there is great temptation to do so—we hurt ourselves and the person we pretend to judge.

The effect of one mortal’s attempting to pass final judgment on another mortal is analogous to the effect on an athlete and observers if we could proclaim the outcome of an athletic contest with certainty while it was still under way. A similar reason forbids our presuming to make final judgments on the outcome of any person’s lifelong mortal contest.

The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “While one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard; … He holds the reins of judgment in His hands; He is a wise Lawgiver, and will judge all men, … ‘not according to what they have not, but according to what they have,’ those who have lived without law, will be judged without law, and those who have a law, will be judged by that law” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 218).

Thus, we must refrain from making final judgments on people because we lack the knowledge and the wisdom to do so. We would even apply the wrong standards. The world’s way is to judge competitively between winners and losers. The Lord’s way of final judgment will be to apply His perfect knowledge of the law a person has received and to judge on the basis of that person’s circumstances, motives, and actions throughout his or her entire life (see Luke 12:47–48; John 15:22; 2 Ne. 9:25).

Even the Savior, during His mortal ministry, refrained from making final judgments. We see this in the account of the woman taken in adultery. After the crowd who intended to stone her had departed, Jesus asked her about her accusers. “Hath no man condemned thee?” (John 8:10). When she answered no, Jesus declared, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:11). In this context the word condemn apparently refers to the final judgment (see John 3:17).

The Lord obviously did not justify the woman’s sin. He simply told her that He did not condemn her—that is, He would not pass final judgment on her at that time. This interpretation is confirmed by what He then said to the Pharisees: “Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man” (John 8:15). The woman taken in adultery was granted time to repent, time that would have been denied by those who wanted to stone her.

The Savior gave this same teaching on another occasion: “And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world” (John 12:47).

From all of this we see that the final judgment is the Lord’s and that mortals must refrain from judging any human being in the final sense of concluding or proclaiming that he or she is irretrievably bound for hell or has lost all hope of exaltation.

Intermediate Judgments

In contrast to forbidding mortals to make final judgments, the scriptures require mortals to make what I will call “intermediate judgments.” These judgments are essential to the exercise of personal moral agency. Our scriptural accounts of the Savior’s mortal life provide the pattern. He declared, “I have many things to say and to judge of you” (John 8:26) and “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see” (John 9:39).

During His mortal ministry the Savior made and acted upon many intermediate judgments, such as when He told the Samaritan woman of her sinful life (see John 4:17–19), when He rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy (see Matt. 15:1–9; Matt. 23:1–33), and when He commented on the comparative merit of the offerings of the rich men and of the widow’s mites (see Mark 12:41–44).

Church leaders are specifically commanded to judge. Thus, the Lord said to Alma: “Whosoever transgresseth against me, him shall ye judge according to the sins which he has committed; and if he confess his sins before thee and me, and repenteth in the sincerity of his heart, him shall ye forgive, and I will forgive him also. …

“… And whosoever will not repent of his sins the same shall not be numbered among my people” (Mosiah 26:29, 32).

Similarly, in modern revelation the Lord appointed the bishop to be a “judge in Israel” to judge over property and transgressions (D&C 58:17; D&C 107:72).

The Savior also commanded individuals to be judges, both of circumstances and of other people. Through the prophet Moses, the Lord commanded Israel, “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour” (Lev. 19:15).

On one occasion the Savior chided the people, “Why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?” (Luke 12:57). On another occasion he said, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24).

We must, of course, make judgments every day in the exercise of our moral agency, but we must be careful that our judgments of people are intermediate and not final. Thus, our Savior’s teachings contain many commandments we cannot keep without making intermediate judgments of people: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine” (Matt. 7:6); “Beware of false prophets. … Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:15–16); and “Go ye out from among the wicked” (D&C 38:42).

We all make judgments in choosing our friends, in choosing how we will spend our time and our money, and, of course, in choosing an eternal companion. Some of these intermediate judgments are surely among those the Savior referenced when He taught that “the weightier matters of the law” include judgment (Matt. 23:23).

The scriptures not only command or contemplate that we will make intermediate judgments but also give us some guidance—some governing principles—on how to do so.

Righteous Intermediate Judgment

The most fundamental principle is contained in the Savior’s commandment that we “judge not unrighteously, … but judge righteous judgment” (JST, Matt. 7:1–2, footnote a; see also John 7:24; Alma 41:14). Let us consider some principles or ingredients that lead to a “righteous judgment.”

First, a righteous judgment must, by definition, be intermediate. It will refrain from declaring that a person has been assured of exaltation or from dismissing a person as being irrevocably bound for hellfire. It will refrain from declaring that a person has forfeited all opportunity for exaltation or even all opportunity for a useful role in the work of the Lord. The gospel is a gospel of hope, and none of us is authorized to deny the power of the Atonement to bring about a cleansing of individual sins, forgiveness, and a reformation of life on appropriate conditions.

Second, a righteous judgment will be guided by the Spirit of the Lord, not by anger, revenge, jealousy, or self-interest. The Book of Mormon teaches: “For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain … as the daylight is from the dark night.

“For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil” (Moro. 7:15–16).

The Savior taught that one of the missions of the Comforter He would send would be to assist in the judgment of the world by guiding the faithful “into all truth” (John 16:13; see also John 16:8, 11).

Third, to be righteous, an intermediate judgment must be within our stewardship. We should not presume to exercise and act upon judgments that are outside our personal responsibilities. Some time ago I attended an adult Sunday School class in a small town in Utah. The subject was the sacrament, and the class was being taught by the bishop. During class discussion a member asked, “What if you see an unworthy person partaking of the sacrament? What do you do?” The bishop answered, “You do nothing. I may need to do something.” That wise answer illustrates my point about stewardship in judging.

Fourth, we should, if possible, refrain from judging until we have adequate knowledge of the facts. In an essay titled “Sitting in the Seat of Judgment,” the great essayist William George Jordan reminded us that character cannot be judged as dress goods—by viewing a sample yard to represent a whole bolt of cloth (see The Crown of Individuality [1909], 101–5).

In another essay he wrote: “There is but one quality necessary for the perfect understanding of character, one quality that, if man have it, he may dare to judge—that is, omniscience. Most people study character as a proofreader pores over a great poem: his ears are dulled to the majesty and music of the lines, his eyes are darkened to the magic imagination of the genius of the author; that proofreader is busy watching for an inverted comma, a misspacing, or a wrong font letter. He has an eye trained for the imperfections, the weaknesses. …

“We do not need to judge nearly so much as we think we do. This is the age of snap judgments. … [We need] the courage to say, ‘I don’t know. I am waiting further evidence. I must hear both sides of the question.’ It is this suspended judgment that is the supreme form of charity” (“The Supreme Charity of the World,” The Kingship of Self-Control [n.d.], 27–30; emphasis in original).

Someone has said that you cannot slice cheese so fine that it doesn’t have two sides.

Two experiences illustrate the importance of caution in judging. A Relief Society worker visiting a sister in her ward asked whether the woman’s married children ever visited her. Because of a short-term memory loss, this elderly sister innocently answered no. So informed, her visitor and others spoke criticisms of her children for neglecting their mother. In fact, one of her children visited her at least daily, and all of them helped her in many ways. They were innocent of neglect and should not have been judged on the basis of an inadequate knowledge of the facts.

Another such circumstance was described in an Ensign article by BYU professor Arthur R. Bassett. He stated that while teaching an institute class, “I was troubled when one person whispered to another all through the opening prayer. The guilty parties were not hard to spot because they continued whispering all through the class. I kept glaring at them, hoping that they would take the hint, but they didn’t seem to notice. Several times during the hour, I was tempted to ask them to take their conversation outside if they felt it was so urgent—but fortunately something kept me from giving vent to my feelings.

“After the class, one of them came to me and apologized that she hadn’t explained to me before class that her friend was deaf. The friend could read lips, but since I was discussing—as I often do—with my back to the class, writing at the chalkboard and talking over my shoulder, my student had been ‘translating’ for her friend, telling her what I was saying. To this day I am thankful that both of us were spared the embarrassment that might have occurred had I given vent to a judgment made without knowing the facts” (“Floods, Winds, and the Gates of Hell,” Ensign, June 1991, 8).

The scriptures give a specific caution against judging where we cannot know all the facts. King Benjamin taught:

“Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—

“But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God. …

“And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance” (Mosiah 4:17–18, 22).

There is one qualification to this principle that we should not judge people without an adequate knowledge of the facts. Sometimes urgent circumstances require us to make preliminary judgments before we can get all of the facts we desire for our decision making.

From time to time some diligent defenders deny this reality, such as the writer of a letter to the editor who insisted that certain publicly reported conduct should be ignored because “in this country you are innocent until you are proven guilty.” The presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a court of law is a vital rule to guide the conduct of a criminal trial, but it is not a valid restraint on personal decisions. There are important restraints upon our intermediate judgments, but the presumption of innocence is not one of them.

Some personal decisions must be made before we have access to all of the facts. Two hypotheticals illustrate this principle: (1) If a particular person has been arrested for child sexual abuse and is free on bail awaiting trial on his guilt or innocence, would you trust him to tend your children while you take a weekend trip? (2) If a person you have trusted with your property has been indicted for embezzlement, would you continue to leave him in charge of your life savings? In such circumstances we do the best we can, relying ultimately on the teaching in modern scripture that we should put our “trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously” (D&C 11:12).

A fifth principle of a righteous intermediate judgment is that whenever possible we will refrain from judging people and only judge situations. This is essential whenever we attempt to act upon different standards than others with whom we must associate—at home, at work, or in the community. We can set and act upon high standards for ourselves or our homes without condemning those who do otherwise.

For example, I know of an LDS family with an older teenage son who has become addicted to smoking. The parents have insisted that he not smoke in their home or in front of his younger siblings. That is a wise judgment of a situation, not a person. Then, even as the parents take protective measures pertaining to a regrettable situation, they need to maintain loving relations and encourage improved conduct by the precious person.

In an Ensign article, an anonymous victim of childhood sexual abuse illustrates the contrast between judging situations and judging persons. The article begins with heart-wrenching words and with true statements of eternal principles:

“I am a survivor of childhood physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. I no longer view myself as a victim. The change has come from inside me—my attitude. I do not need to destroy myself with anger and hate. I don’t need to entertain thoughts of revenge. My Savior knows what happened. He knows the truth. He can make the judgments and the punishments. He will be just. I will leave it in his hands. I will not be judged for what happened to me, but I will be judged by how I let it affect my life. I am responsible for my actions and what I do with my knowledge. I am not to blame for what happened to me as a child. I cannot change the past. But I can change the future. I have chosen to heal myself and pass on to my children what I have learned. The ripples in my pond will spread through future generations” (“The Journey to Healing,” Ensign, Sept. 1997, 19).

Sixth, forgiveness is a companion principle to the commandment that in final judgments we judge not and in intermediate judgments we judge righteously. The Savior taught, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). In modern revelation the Lord has declared, “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men” (D&C 64:10).

Pursuing that principle, the author of the Ensign article writes: “Somewhere along the journey of healing comes the essential task of forgiving. Often the command to forgive (see D&C 64:10) seems almost more than one can bear, but this eternal principle can bring lasting peace.”

The Ensign article quotes another survivor of abuse: “I love that truth that although I need to evaluate situations, … I do not need to condemn or judge my abusers nor be part of the punishment. I leave all that to the Lord. I used the principle of forgiveness to strengthen me” (Ensign, Sept. 1997, 22).

Seventh, a final ingredient or principle of a righteous judgment is that it will apply righteous standards. If we apply unrighteous standards, our judgment will be unrighteous. By falling short of righteous standards, we place ourselves in jeopardy of being judged by incorrect or unrighteous standards ourselves. The fundamental scripture on the whole subject of not judging contains this warning: “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matt. 7:2; see also 3 Ne. 14:2).

The prophet Mormon taught, “Seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged” (Moro. 7:18).

A standard can be unrighteous because it is too harsh—the consequences are too severe for the gravity of the wrong and the needs of the wrongdoer. I remember a conversation with an LDS newspaperwoman who described what happened when she reported that the Prophet Joseph Smith received the golden plates in 1826, a mistake of one year from the actual date of 1827. She said she received about 10 phone calls from outraged Latter-day Saints who would not accept her admission of error and sincere apology and even berated her with abusive language. I wonder if persons who cannot handle an honest mistake without abusing the individual can stand up to having their own mistakes judged by so severe a standard.

In a BYU devotional address, Professor Catherine Corman Parry gave a memorable scriptural illustration of the consequences of judging by the wrong standards. The scripture is familiar. Martha received Jesus into her house and worked to provide for Him while her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His words.

“But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

“And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:

“But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:40–42).

Professor Parry said: “The Lord acknowledges Martha’s care: ‘Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things’ (Luke 10:41). Then he delivers the gentle but clear rebuke. But the rebuke would not have come had Martha not prompted it. The Lord did not go into the kitchen and tell Martha to stop cooking and come listen. Apparently he was content to let her serve him however she cared to, until she judged another person’s service: ‘Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me’ (Luke 10:40). Martha’s self-importance, expressed through her judgment of her sister, occasioned the Lord’s rebuke, not her busyness with the meal” (“ ‘Simon, I Have Somewhat to Say unto Thee’: Judgment and Condemnation in the Parables of Jesus,” in Brigham Young University 1990–91 Devotional and Fireside Speeches [1991], 116).

In subsequent portions of her talk, Professor Parry observed that in this instance—and also in the example of Simon the Pharisee, who criticized the woman who anointed the feet of the Savior (see Luke 7:36–50)—the Savior took one individual’s judgment of another individual as a standard and applied that judgment back upon the individual who was judging. “Quite literally,” she observes, “they were measured by their own standards and found wanting.

“… While there are many things we must make judgments about, the sins of another or the state of our own souls in comparison to others seems not to be among them. … Our own sins, no matter how few or seemingly insignificant, disqualify us as judges of other people’s sins” (“Simon, I Have Somewhat to Say unto Thee,” 116, 118–19).

I love the words in Susan Evans McCloud’s familiar hymn:

Who am I to judge another
When I walk imperfectly?
In the quiet heart is hidden
Sorrow that the eye can’t see.
Who am I to judge another?
Lord, I would follow thee.
(“Lord, I Would Follow Thee,” Hymns, no. 220)

In one of the monthly General Authority fast and testimony meetings, I heard President James E. Faust say, “The older I get, the less judgmental I become.” That wise observation gives us a standard to live by in the matter of judgments. We should refrain from anything that seems to be a final judgment of any person, manifesting our determination to leave final judgments to the Lord, who alone has the capacity to judge.

In the intermediate judgments we must make, we should take care to judge righteously. We should seek the guidance of the Spirit in our decisions. We should limit our judgments to our own stewardships. Whenever possible we should refrain from judging people until we have an adequate knowledge of the facts. So far as possible, we should judge circumstances rather than people. In all our judgments we should apply righteous standards. And, in all of this we must remember the command to forgive.

There is a doctrine underlying the subject of gospel judging. It was taught when a lawyer asked the Savior, “Which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matt. 22:36). Jesus answered:

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

“This is the first and great commandment.

“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:37–40).

Later, in the sublime teachings the Savior gave His Apostles on the eve of His suffering and Atonement, He said: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34–35).

May God bless us that we may have that love and that we may show it in refraining from making final judgments of our fellowman. In those intermediate judgments we are responsible to make, may we judge righteously and with love. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of love. Our Master whom we seek to serve is, as the scriptures say, a “God of love” (2 Cor. 13:11). May we be examples of His love and His gospel.

[illustration] Christ and the Sinner, by Carl Heinrich Bloch, courtesy of Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, photographed by Hans Petersen

[illustration] The Widow’s Mite, by Frank Adams, courtesy of Museum of Church History and Art

[illustration] Christ in the Home of Mary and Martha, by David Lindsley

[illustration] In Remembrance of Me, by Walter Rane, courtesy of Museum of Church History and Art

Monday, February 1, 2010

Pound for Pound Challenge

If you are losing weight already, or need an extra excuse to get started, here is an idea that I love.

The Pound for Pound Challenge donates food to organization that fight hunger, when you pledge to lose weight. It is very simple, and easy to sign up. You go to and in less than 5 minutes you are all signed up and ready to go. I think it is especially cool that you are pledging for your own state, so here in Oregon it goes to the Oregon Food Bank! You can pledge in any state, so there are no excuses!!

You don't have to go nuts on the weight loss, in fact you can't pledge over 50 pounds no matter what. It is all about getting hungry people food, and keeping those of us who could lose a few pounds, on track!

I would love to know if you sign up, so leave a comment and let me know. Also, I changed it so you don't have to type in the weird letters/words to comment, so there are no excuses folks! If you are from my facebook friends, you can use you FB ID in the Open ID section. So, lets get going guys!!

The "Depth of Our Conversion"

In my study this morning, this quote hit me in a way no other about keeping the Sabbath day holy, has. (It is on page 158 of the Book of Mormon student manual, if you want to read the rest of the information about the people of Alma.)The quote comes from April General conference in 1975, and was in a talk given by Mark E. Jensen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

"We can readily see that the observance of the Sabbath is an indication of the depth of our conversion.

Our observance of the Sabbath is an unerring measure of our attitude toward the Lord personally and toward his suffering in Gethsemane, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead. It is a sign whether our conversion is so shallow that commemoration of his atoning sacrifice means little or nothing to us."

What a wonderfully clear way to help us understand why it is important to keep the Sabbath holy. It is how we show respect for our Savior. It is how we take His image in our countenance, and how we mark our conversion, every week. It is not something that we should try to do, but that is no big deal if we break. It is the outward show of our inward dedication.

I know this to be true in my life. At times when I have been farther away from my Savior, and not as committed to the gospel as I should have been, I found myself impatient in church, anxious to get back home and "on with my day." I also found many reasons to do things that were not keeping the Sabbath day holy, basically because I had not planned the rest of my week well. I left things to be done on the Sabbath, whether it was studying or running to the store, and then justified it because I needed to have things done before I started my week.

Now, I am trying much harder to see the Sabbath as the beginning of my week, and making sure that my house is in order before Sunday morning. I am not perfect. I still run loads of laundry more Sundays than not, and I rush around with getting meals ready. However, I find myself savoring the lessons at church, instead of waiting impatiently for them to finish. I find time to not just read a chapter of my scriptures, but to study them. I am often surprised to realize that I have finished a number of chapters, and that I need to go back and catch up in my study guide. I find joy in the hymns at church, and take notes on the talks and lessons given.

I am not trying to put myself as any great example. I spent a lot of years as a lackluster Sabbath adherent. However, as my testimony of the Savior has strengthened, I have found joy in the Sabbath, and I am grateful for that. I testify that as my conversion has deepened, my desire to keep the Sabbath day holy has grown, and that I am a better person for that. I am a more grateful daughter of Heavenly Father, and I evidence that through my Sabbath day activities.

So, what Sabbath day activities, beyond church, do you enjoy? Are there things you do to help you mentally prepare for the Sabbath?