Monday, December 28, 2009

10 Tips to Create Peace in the New Year

We have the power to create peace in our lives. Although life is difficult, we can live peacefully in the moment when we choose thoughts, words, and actions that promote peace. One of the best goals we can set for the new year is to seek after peace.

Peace is a choice. Each of us has the ability to foster habits than enhance and engender peace. Consider how the following tips can increase serenity and joy in your life.

1. Take time daily to meditate on God’s perfect love for you. Media voices and images, contention, and stress can destroy our feelings of oneness with God. We need to turn away from those things that weaken our relationship with God and turn to that which strengthens our love for God. As we love Him and focus on that love, we feel His love in return.

2. Pray continually. We can pray when we’re driving, walking, working, and cleaning. We can pray when we’re resting, waiting, pondering, and sitting. Prayer creates peace. It allows us to cast our cares on the Lord, to express gratitude, and to better understand our relationship with the Divine.

3. Seek after goodness. Paul said it best. He wrote, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Time is precious. Choose that which is good.

4. Turn away from sin. As we eliminate self-defeating behaviors from our lives,
we create a space in our hearts for peace and joy. Greed, malice, pride, lust, selfishness, and other manifestations of evil destroy our peace of mind. God will help us remove anything from our lives that keeps us from experiencing true joy and happiness when we seek His help. He will transform our lives as we give our hearts to Him.

5. Simplify. Find peace as you enjoy the beauties of nature. Eliminate clutter, waste, and confusion from your life. Breathe deeply, live simply, and love purely.

6. Show mercy to others. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Forgive an enemy. Forgive yourself. Give others permission to make mistakes just as you want others to allow you to be imperfect.

7. Choose kindness. If you must choose between being right and being kind, choose to be kind. Speak the soft word. Do the compassionate deed. Think the gentle thought. Kindness heals broken hearts and fosters peace.

8. Nuture yourself. Eat healthily. Take a walk. Get needed rest. Foster healthy relationship. Become your own best friend. Too often we neglect our own physical and spiritual needs because of work or family responsibilities. Put yourself and your own well-being at the top of your “to-do” list.

9. Slow down. We live in a fast-paced, violent world. It’s easy to get caught up in the “busy-ness” of life. We take on too many assignments, volunteer for too many committees, or try to complete too many projects without considering the toll they may take on our health, spirituality, or relationships.

You may consider eliminating one stressor in your life, whether it is watching the evening news, reading about violent events in the newspaper, or viewing fear-inducing movies. Instead, sip a cup of herbal tea, read a good book, or visit with a friend. Notice the difference it makes in your over-all demeanor.

10. Love life. Discover your purpose in life and seek to fulfill it. Ask God to reveal to you the things He would have you do, and then listen patiently for His answer. As we discover who we are and what we are meant to do, we find peace amid sorrow.

You are divinely and wonderfully made. Surrender yourself to God’s will and discover the amazing works He will accomplish through you during the coming year.

© Carol Brown

Monday, November 30, 2009

Creating Peace during the Holidays

For many, Christmas is the most stress-filled time of the year. We try to find the perfect gifts for our loved ones and friends, work hard to decorate our homes, and attend and host Christmas parties. It’s easy to lose the sweet spirit of Christmas, which celebrates the life of a baby whom was born in a humble manager and of a Man who had no earthly possessions and lived with power, simplicity, and pure love.

Consider the following ideas to make your Christmas more peaceful this year.

1. Focus on the simple beauties of the season.

Take time to savor the beauties of nature, the glorious Christmas music, and the feelings of compassion that accompany the season. Our favorite family tradition is going to a sing-along of “The Messiah” the day after Thanksgiving. The melodies and words of the music remind us of the true meaning of Christmas: celebrating the birth of a Child who we remember as “Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

2. Simplify your expectations.

After my father was permanently disabled after a car accident, he was no longer able to work full-time. I discovered as a child, that Christmas can be peaceful and happy even when gift-giving is greatly reduced. Although I love to give presents to those I love, I do not need to receive gifts to make me happy at Christmas. Perhaps my childhood taught me that.

What can you simplify this year to make your Christmas more peaceful? Can you decorate or bake less? Can you spend less money and spend more time enjoying your family and friends? Can you meditate daily on the Miracle, who offers peace and goodwill to all who follow Him?

3. Create peace-filled traditions.

Last year on Christmas Eve, our entire family wrote a love note to each family member, and then we placed the notes in a simple box. It is my favorite Christmas gift ever! Some families carol at nursing homes. Others volunteer at food bank or buy gifts for needy families. Any tradition that enhances our love for others makes Christmas memorable and meaningful.

4. Celebrate the reason for the season.

Jesus, who lived a pure and sinless life, offers peace to those who love Him more than they love the world. As we remember that He loves us infinitely and that we are His children, we can find peace during the holiday season—and throughout the year.

Handel reminds us, “[Christ] shall feed his flock like a shepherd; and he shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. Come unto [Him], all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and [He shall] give you rest. Take [his] yoke upon you, and learn of [Him]; for [he is] meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For his yoke is easy and his burden is light.”

May you find peace and comfort during the coming weeks.

© Carol Brown

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gratitude for Things We Don't Have

As we consider our blessings, we can be thankful for things we don’t have. My friend, Beth, a paraplegic, taught me this concept. She often told me we was grateful we wasn't any sicker than she was, and her trials were difficult. Every time I remember someone who is starving, abused, or suffering, I thank God that I have plenty of food to eat, live in a peaceful home, and can usually manage my pain with a couple of ibuprofen tablets.

I'm grateful I don't have to trek out to an outhouse in my backyard, that I don't have to walk a couple of hundred miles to see a doctor, and that I don't have to heat my water on the stove every time I want to bathe.

I'm grateful I don't have bipolar schizo-affective disorder--that I don’t see monsters invading my home, believe I no longer need to pay my bills because Donny Osmond has married me, and think that my car engine is trying to attack me every time I drive as my niece does.

I’m grateful that if I speak at a city council meeting, vote, or place a political sign in my yard during the election, I don't have to suffer reprisals. I’m thankful that government officials don’t decide when to turn on the heat in my home and that I’m dont' have to live amid genocide or guerilla warfare.

I’m glad I don’t have to stand in line for four hours to enter a library (as our foreign exchange student, Gor, did, who lived in Hong Kong) and that I can check out thirty books at a time. I’m happy that I don’t have to drink contaminated water or eat disease-ridden food. I’m grateful that elementary and secondary students don't have to pay high fees for their education.

I’m thankful that I don’t have cystic fibrosis, bone cancer, or progressive multiple sclerosis. I praise God that I’m not blind from macular degeneration or paralyzed from a spinal cord injury. I’m glad I don’t have to use a walker, guide dog, or oxygen tank to make it through the day even though I am grateful they are available for those who need them.

As we celebrate not only our blessings but our lack of particular burdens, we recognize that our glass isn’t only full, but it is overflowing. We can praise God who gave us the greatest gift of all, His Beloved Son, so that that we don't have to live forever with sin and death. As we celebrate the blessings we have and the adversities we don't have, I rejoice with Paul,“Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.”

© Carol Brown

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Counting our Blessings

The season of thanksgiving invites us to reflect on our many blessings—large and small. As we remember the many gifts that God has given us, we experience greater peace and joy in life. Let’s consider a few blessings that are easy to take for granted:

• Each breath that we take

• Clean water to drink (1.1 billion people lack access to safe water)

• Nutritious food to eat (2/3 of the world’s population are either starving or underfed; do we truly appreciate the farmers, truckers, clerks, and all others who make food available to us?)

• Libraries to visit and books to read (many in the world can’t read or lack access to books)

• A warm home (over 1 billion people in the world lack suitable shelter)

• Opportunities to learn and serve

• Being able to walk, talk, see, smell, and touch (My friend, Beth, taught me to be so much how precious these blessings are; cancer had destroyed a portion of her spinal column, and she endured indescribable suffering with grace and courage for 27 years.)

Melodie Beattie wrote, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

As a mother, nothing makes me happier than when my children express gratitude to me for things I’ve done for them. May we thank our Father for the bounties of life, for truly every good thing we enjoy is a gift from Him.

© Carol Brown

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Simple Joys of Gratitude

I enjoy the spirit of Thanksgiving which invites us to celebrate the blessings we enjoy. My friend Rosemary tapes a large poster to the wall of her foyer and then invites all who enter her home to write down one of their blessings. By Thanksgiving the poster is covered with blessings—large and small—that her friends and family appreciate.

A Facebook trend this year is so post one blessing you appreciate for each day of November. As I read the posts, I feel more gratitude for the gifts that can be easily taken for granted.

Besides reflecting on our blessings or keeping a gratitude journal, think of all the fun ways you can express thanks:

• Write down 10—or 100—things you love about a friend or family member and include the list in a cheerful card.

• Write a thank-you note to your neighbor, spouse, child, loved one, or parent.

• Post a positive phrase or two on your friends’ Facebook pages.

• Mail a letter to a political or religious leader, telling them what they are doing well.

• Thank your waiter, maid, barber, or beautician for exception service with a generous tip and a kind word.

Research shows that feeling and expressing gratitude improves our mental and physical health. My experience shows that a spirit of thankfulness increases our peace of mind and enhances the simple joys of living. It is a gift we give to ourselves along with others.

Thanks so much for reading this blog and a special thanks for your kind and gracious comments. I appreciate each one of you. You allow me to pursue my passion, which is learning and writing.

© Carol Brown

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Give Yourself Permission to Live Peacefully

Sometimes we place too many burdens on ourselves and do not give ourselves permission to live peacefully. IDEO, a design and innovation firm in Palo Alto, California, created orange tickets that give the recipient ten minutes of free play. They passed these tickets out on their Caltrain ride to San Francisco and received mixed results. Many people seemed delighted with the free gift while others appeared more skeptical.

We don’t need to receive a ticket to give ourselves permission to seek after peace. Ask yourself, What can I do that would allow me to experience more serenity, simplicity, and harmony is my life?

In her Abundance Blog, Marelisa writes that she will:

1. I give myself permission to rest.
2. I give myself permission to laugh.
3. I give myself permission to play.
4. I give myself permission to make mistakes.
5. I give myself permission to say “no” to demands on my time that are simply draining.
6. I give myself permission to say “yes” to what I want.
7. I give myself permission to fulfill my lifelong dreams.
8. I give myself permission to ask for what I want.
9. I give myself permission to be who I am.
10. I give myself permission to try again.
11. I give myself permission to have fun.
12. I give myself permission to design my own life.
13. I give myself permission to ignore naysayers.
14. I give myself permission to stay focused on what’s important to me.
15. I give myself permission to be whatever body shape I like.
16. I give myself permission to be imperfect.
17. I give myself permission to ask for help.
18. I give myself permission to stop caring what others think of me.
19. I give myself permission to write a lousy first draft.
20. I give myself permission to create.

I would add:

• I give myself permission to forgive.
• I give myself permission to love myself.
• I give myself permission to say “I’m sorry.”
• I give myself permission to accept others as they are.
• I give myself permission to enjoy my blessings.
• I give myself permission to be spontaneous.
• I give myself permission to love others.
• I give myself permission to meditate.
• I give myself permission to celebrate God’s infinite love for me—and for others

What will you give yourself permission to do that promotes peace?

© Carol Brown

Friday, November 6, 2009

Erasing Thinking Errors

There are many negative thinking errors that we can choose to correct. First we need to indentify them and then discover a way to erase them. Here are some commonly held self-defeating thinking patterns that can be reversed.

I’m as happy as my most troubled/sad/anxious child/friend/relative. If your family or friends suffer (and whose doesn’t at times), then you will be continually and unnecessarily miserable if you hang on to this thinking pattern. Instead, say to yourself, “I choose to live in peace even though those I care about may not experience peace right now.”

I’m a failure. I can’t seem to do anything right. The truth is that all of make mistakes. Anyone who pretends to be perfect is a fraud. The next time you consider beating yourself up for being less than perfect, say to yourself, “Life gives me many opportunities to learn, and I am learning from my failures and my successes.”

My mistakes I’ve made in the past can’t be forgiven (or, I can’t forgive myself for the mistakes I’ve made.) More families fracture, relationships end, and hearts break because we refuse to accept forgiveness or forgive ourselves. We worship a merciful God, who waits to transform us from saints to sinners. We need to continually remind ourselves, “God loves me perfectly and forgives me every time I repent. As I come unto Him, He will help me love myself so that I can love others more fully.”

I’m not as good/smart/beautiful/talented as others. Comparing ourselves when we’re at our worst with others when they’re at their best is self-defeating. Instead say, “I am an amazing, talented, precious person and so is everyone I meet. God can use me as an instrument to do His work on earth.”

It's my fault that someone did/said/behaved inappropriately. We gladly praise others for their successes but may sometimes feel responsible for the bad behavior of others. Whenever we attempt to control that which is outside our power to influence, we lose our peace of mind. Discovering what we can and cannot control in our lives is a huge step in living peacefully. We need to remember that we can control our own behavior but not the behavior of others. We can be a positive influence for good as we love ourselves and others, but we cannot change others.

We cannot depend on others to make us feel happy nor can we allow others’ choices to determine whether or not we are happy. We will experience serenity if we remember that God has given us unique and precious gifts which we can use to serve Him and others. Each one of us is unique and precious, and God must grieve when He sees His children live in blame, shame, and self-loathing.

Avoid black and white thinking, which reveals itself it words like “should have,” “could have” and “must.” Any time we think that we or others should not make mistakes, could improve even though we (or they) are giving our (or their) best effort, and must do things perfectly or according to our expectations, we will feel unhappy. Although life is not fair, we can find peace amid suffering as we allow ourselves to heal and allow others to do the same.

God wants us to remember that "though the mountains may crumble and the hills fall, [His]love for [us] shall never end." Through the power of His love, we can stop comparing ourselves to others and let go any thinking errors that may destroy of peace. Benjamin Franklin said, The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to yourself, respect; to all men, charity.”

Today, allow God to give you peace of mind as you choose thoughts of love and mercy for yourself and others and erase thoughts of despair, doubt, and disappointment.

© Carol Brown

Thursday, November 5, 2009

About giving and receiving

When life is difficult, it’s easy to focus on our trials and not on our blessings. This week I’ve learned that four people I love are dying with cancer, and I’ve needed time to grieve and pray. My husband’s brother, two of my dearest friends, and my half-brother are all suffering terribly right now. I’ve felt too sad to write until now.

Now, I’ve lost a number of loved ones to cancer (and other things) before—but not this many at one time. I am devastated. My girlfriend Diane (not Ford’s wife, but another Diane) has had ovarian cancer return with a vengeance, and she has two teen-age sons. Diane has been like a sister to me, and Ford is like a brother to me. It's SO hard to see them suffer, and also it’s also painful to see family members losing their battle with such a formidable foe.

The words of Peyton Conway March have comforted me, “There is a wonderful mythical law of nature that the three things we crave most in life -- happiness, freedom, and peace of mind -- are always attained by giving them to someone else.”

This week I’ve had to reach deep down inside to find the strength to help others. It’s feels easier to grieve my own losses and forget the needs of others, but serving—even in small ways—has brought me peace. Writing emails has been a fun thing to do. Diane is on a respirator, but she loves to read emails. Visiting with Ford and his wife and been such a joy and a precious blessing. Praying for my friends and family members has been a privilege.

Amid all the sorrow and grief, my son David is starting to feel better after being very ill for five months. Thanks, Kaylana, for praying for my son. What a sweet gift you gave to me, a total stranger.

I love the Old Testament descriptions of God. In Genesis, He is referred to as Yahweh Jireh, meaning the Lord provides. In Exodus, He is called Yahweh Rophe or the Lord who heals. We may never experience physical healing in this life, but the Lord can comfort us and heal our broken hearts. Today, allow Him to comfort you. Allow yourself to receive the compassion that He feels for you personally. Mediate on His pure and perfect love and let Him encircle you in His arms.

© Carol Brown

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Promote Peace

I just returned from a trip to South Carolina, and the people I met there impressed me. Whether I was in an elevator, restaurant, meeting, or tourist site, the locals were friendly, polite, and kind. They smiled often, spoke warmly, and lived hospitably. One stranger sitting next to me in church even hugged me when I stood up after the meeting. I felt loved and cherished there.

I don’t know how or when South Carolinians started a tradition of graciousness, but it’s worth emulating. Perhaps we could smile more, express appreciation more readily, or say a kind word to someone. Repeated small acts of kindness create a culture of humanity.

In South Carolina courtesy was contagious. I observed that the more friendly people were, the more friendly others became. Tourists and locals alike waved and nodded at one another. Total strangers greeted one another with warmth and respect.

My cousins, Hal and Bev, volunteered for four years in two countries, Samoa and the Ukraine. They delivered humanitarian supplies to hospitals and medical clinics, worked in the schools (my cousin, Hal, is a former superintendent of schools), and organized church activities. They loved the people in both countries, but commented that the Polynesian hospitality felt like pure love. The Samoans willingly shared all they had with family and strangers alike. They gave and received freely and laughed often. They lived happily.

The Ukraine people were generally kind and gracious as well. However, years of living in a Communist dictatorship left some feeling disenfranchised and fearful of others. Some lived in fear and isolation. Hal said, “I loved both cultures but wished I could bottle the Polynesian love and give it to the people of the Ukraine. It would be so healing for them.”

We create the culture in our homes. We can be isolating and critical or warm and welcoming. We can also influence the culture in our neighborhoods, churches, and communities. After becoming an unexpected community activist, I discovered that one person can make a big difference even in a large city. We can set a tone of decency, courtesy, and humanity in our communities by the laws we pass, the ordinances we sustain, and the people we elect. We can make a difference.

I like the song, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” Today, let peace begin with you. Do something that promotes peace. Take a plate of cookies or some fresh fruit to a shut-in. Call a neighbor. Make a pot of soup for someone who is ill.

I just finished cooking some homemade chicken noodle soup for a neighbor who’s had double knee replacements. I don’t know how much the family will enjoy the meal, but I hope they feel the love.

© Carol Brown

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Focusing on the Positive

Christian Larson believed that each of us has tremendous power to create a peaceful life. Almost one hundred years ago, he wrote some thoughts that have been entitledthe “Optimist’s Creed.” Caregivers have used these words to comfort people in hospitals and medical settings. Coaches have inspired their team members with Larson's words. This creed was adopted as the Creed of the Optimists International in 1922, and it inspires us to look on the bright side of life and to see the beauty in everyday life. Perhaps a thought or two from his creed will inspire you to find more joy in the journey.

Promise yourself
To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet.
To make all your friends feel that there is something worthwhile in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
To think only of the best, to work only for the best and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful expression at all times and give a smile to every living creature you meet.
To give so much time to improving yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud word, but in great deeds.
To live in the faith that the whole world is on your side, so long as you are true to the best that is in you
--Christian D. Larson quoted from Science of Mind 71 (June ,1998): 50.

Today, as we seek to live in the moment and love life, we can choose happiness and peace.

© Carol Brown

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Take a Vacation

There are many ways to take a vacation, and some of them to do not involve travel. My mother was too ill to travel, but she would visualize her perfect vacation, staying in a seaside home (she’d never seen the ocean), touring the Holy Land, or walking along a tropical isle. She returned from her visualized vacations refreshed and renewed.

Even in our everyday lives, we can vacation. We can notice new sights, take a new route to work or on errands, and celebrate the beauties of nature around us. If we pay close attention, we will see amazing sights in the sky, the trees, and the clouds. And it’s all free!

A ride on a bus through your town or city can be a real treat. Spend an hour or two on a week-end seeing the sites with tourist-inspired eyes. Visit a museum. Take a nature walk. Visit a historic area. See the beauty around you.

If you are on a trip, whether it is for work or pleasure, try to enjoy the moment. Take the time to observe varied foliage, the sights and sounds that may be unique to the area, and the people you meet. Ask someone for a recommendation of their favorite local sight. We’re in North Carolina on business right now, and our waitress suggested we visit the old historic main street in Concord. It wasn’t in any tourist guide, but that trip has been the highlight of our visit so far.

You may consider trying to occasionally schedule an afternoon for yourself. Take a long bath, read a good book, or get a massage. Many of us need to slow down and do something kind for ourselves occasionally. It is easy to burn out when we frantically serve others without taking time to nurture ourselves.

Meditating is an excellent way to take a refreshing break. Close your eyes. Break deeply and slowly for a few minutes. Picture a beautiful scene and then imagine yourself hearing the sounds, savoring the fragrances, and walking amid that soothing retreat. Focus your attention on your breathing and then return slowly to reality.

We all need to take an occasional break. For young mothers, that can be challenging, but when your children nap, give yourself permission to rest, relax, and rejuvenate as well. If your children don’t nap, insist on a quiet time each day when they read or play quietly in them rooms and you have a moment for yourself. In this fast-paced world, we all need to take time to enjoy everyday living. Sometimes we have to write ourselves into our busy schedules—even if it is just for a moment or two.

© Carol Brown

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

If I had to live my life over again

Sometimes we procrastinate achieving our dreams until it is too late. Even though it didn’t seem logical at the time (some of my children were still at home and we didn’t have a lot of money), I’m so glad my husband and I went to Israel while both my knees were working well. We hiked Masada, walked miles through Old Jerusalem, and trekked around the Sea of Galilee with abandon. Today, although I’d love to visit Israel again, I wouldn’t be able to walk the miles and climb the hills I previously did with such ease.

Because my dad and mom both became critically ill when I was growing up (my dad died of cancer when I was a teen), I learned early that life is fragile and uncertain. I also realized that some things—especially material stuff—doesn’t matter nearly as much as relationships and memories.

Although I’m not that old, I realize more than ever that all we can really take with us after we die are our love for God and others (including ourselves), our memories, and our attitudes. Our youth disappears, and when we pass away, we leave every single one of our possessions behind, King Tut and Emperor Qin included.

So today, make a good memory. Call a friend. Do something new. Pick a flower (if you can find one that hasn’t frozen.) Celebrate life. Like Erma Bombeck wrote, “If I had to live my life over again….I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted.”

If I Had to Live My Life Over Again

I'd dare to make more mistakes next time.
I'd relax, I would limber up.
I would be sillier than I have been this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances.

I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would perhaps have more actual troubles,
but I'd have fewer imaginary ones.

You see, I'm one of those people who live
sensibly and sanely hour after hour,
day after day.

Oh, I've had my moments,
And if I had it to do over again,
I'd have more of them.
In fact, I'd try to have nothing else.
Just moments, one after another,
Instead of living so many years ahead of each day.

I've been one of those people who never goes anywhere
without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat
and a parachute.
If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.

If I had my life to live over,
I would start barefoot earlier in the spring
and stay that way later in the fall.
I would go to more dances.
I would ride more merry-go-rounds.
I would pick more daisies.
---attributed to Nadine Stairs, an 85-year-old Kentucky woman

Without hanging onto guilt or second-guessing everything you’ve ever done, what things would you change if you could live your life over again?

I would have spent a lot more time playing with my children and less time cleaning house. I would have said “no” to more stressful stuff and “yes” a lot more to fulfilling activities and family fun. I would have tried to impress people less (most aren’t noticing how amazing your clothes/clean house/accomplishments are anyway) and love others more unconditionally. I would have been kinder to myself and others.

© Carol Brown

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Looking for the Silver Lining

My friend Suzanne is a born optimist. She can find blessings when many see only obstacles. I stayed with her the day she had a hip replacement and amid her pain, she joked with aides, thanked every nurse and doctor profusely, smiled and laughed, and made everyone’s day happier. Her favorite symbol is a yellow smiley face.

Today I spoke with Suzanne on the phone. She’s had two hips replaced now, has broken both of her femur bones and now has plates and screws in them, and she’s still smiling. Some of us may not be naturally optimistic like Suzanne, but we can still train ourselves to find peace amid sorrow. Job did that. Everything was taken from him. His children died, his friends mocked him, his wife ridiculed him, he suffered terribly and lost all of his possessions, yet He proclaimed, “I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And, after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.”

Consider a few situations that some face. Notice how they can either focus on the blessing or the burden.

I feel so lonely. No one calls or visits me. I’m so grateful I have the time to visit those who are lonely, sick, or shut-in. It’s such a blessing to have the time to reach out to those needing my love. I’m thankful God has given me the time to develop my talents and serve others.

People have hurt and disappointed me. I can’t trust anyone. All of us make mistakes, but most people are trying their best to live good lives. Since I want people to love me with all my flaws, I can choose to love others with all of their failings as well. When others disappoint me, I can always trust God because He knows and loves me perfectly. He is my Rock, my true Friend, and my Redeemer.

My life lacks purpose and meaning. I feel my life is insignificant. God is no respecter of persons. He loves each of us perfectly and powerfully. My life has great purpose because I am a child of God. As I trust in Him, He will use me as His instrument to accomplishment His great work. Nothing that I do is insignificant, for God accomplishes his great work by small and simple means.

Satan has attacked my in every one of these areas this week. I’ve felt tired and sad because of my son’s illness, and I’ve found myself slipping into some negative thinking patterns. Many of us struggle to maintain a close walk with God and to constantly feel His love for us. Even cheerful Suzanne needs to be reminded at times of her great worth. Since we’re close friends, we call each other often, and we cheer each other up when we’re feeling down. This week she’s my cheerleader. Sometimes, I have been hers.

Today may you feel God’s perfect love for you. May you be enfolded in the arms of His love during your darkest hours, and may you remember that our Redeemer does live.

© Carol Brown

Sunday, October 18, 2009

This too will pass

My youngest son was born with a weak immune system and was very ill for the first eight years of his life. Suddenly, he became stronger and was able to attend school, graduate, and attend the university. Now he is an adult, and he has been very ill for over 4 ½ months now. After CT scans, myriads of doctor and specialist visits, tests, and medications, he is still sick. We feel very frustrated because doctors do not know yet know what is causing his illness. Since he is a young man and has been married for only a year, I feel concerned that we will lose his job, that he will not get well, that his marriage will weaken, and that he will become progressively sicker.

Since I find it easy to worry and lose sleep when my children suffer, I find it difficult at times to keep my faith strong and to not dissolve into a frazzled mess when I see my loved ones in pain. Sometimes I’m stronger than others, but here are a few things that keep me from falling apart right now.

I know God loves my son and that He cares deeply for Him. Although not every sick person is healed, I know that God will heal my son if it is His will, and if it is not, I know He is watching over Him. If a sparrow does not fall without God knowing and if God counts every hair of our heads, I know he is aware that my son is very sick and needs help. I continue to pray for a miracle, trusting that God knows what is best for my son.

I remind myself that this, too, shall pass. I try to remind myself often that in the eternal scheme of things, life is a brief snippet in time. Although suffering to us seems to drag on endlessly, it will eventually end. God promises that He will wipe away all of our tears when we return to Him. I like to cling onto that promise at times like this.

I try to cast my cares upon the Lord through prayer. That doesn’t mean I don’t spent lots of time researching my son’s condition online nor does it mean that I don’t still have times of worry and sorrow, but prayer keeps me sane. Since my husband travels extensively and since all of my extended family have passed away, I lean heavily on the Lord for support during trying times. I know He loves me even when I do not understand all things.

Thanks for reading my blog, and please understand if I don’t write as much right now. Family matters take precedence. And, please, if you have a spare moment, please sent up a prayer or two for my son, David. I believe strongly in the power of prayer and would appreciate yours right now in behalf of my son.

If you want me to pray for you or your family member, please let me know in your comments.

© Carol Brown

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Tapesty

My friend, Ford, was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer ten years ago. He was given a few months to live, but has survived for ten years. Today he and his wife learned that recent chemotherapy treatments have failed to stop the tumors that are growing in his pelvis and lungs. After enduring multiple surgeries, rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, and years of suffering, Ford and Dianne now face the hard reality that Ford’s options for being physically healed are running out.

So what do Ford and Dianne do after hearing this terrible news? They walk over to my home, knock on my door, and sing “happy birthday” to me. They bring me a card, homemade raspberry jam, and their priceless gift of love. Amid their unspeakable sorrow, they bring me joy and love.

Dianne recently wrote a book about the experiences of the past ten years. It’s entitled “Each Day Is a Blessing,” and I can’t wait to read it when it is published. Dianne keeps a journal, and she referred to it as she recounted the grief, despair, miracles, joys, and learning experiences that have filled the past ten years of her life. She talks about how prayer, laughter, faith, a positive attitude, and patience have helped her through the tough times. She writes, “Find joy in the simple and beautiful pleasures of life: a glorious sunrise, a breathtaking sunset, a rainbow, God’s creatures in all their varieties, the different seasons of the year, the list goes on and on! These are the things that just make my heart want to burst with happiness. When I experience one of these moments, I say, ‘Now this is living!’”

Imagine your life as a tapestry. From the back side of the tapestry, you see God weaving in a brown thread here, a beige thread there, then a grey thread, and suddenly a blue one. Because you are looking underneath the weaving, you can’t understand why God is choosing to change the colors and the yarns. Then you see a knot, a tangle, a frayed edge, and you think, “God doesn’t know what He’s doing. He is making a mess of life."

Eventually, you see the tapestry of your life from the top. You view a magnificent work of art with every thread woven perfectly in placed. You realize that during those times that you thought your life was a mess, God was making a masterpiece. You see that with each stitch and with each piece of yarn, God was weaving a beautiful work of art.

After their valiant and courageous battle with cancer, Ford and Dianne are learning a final lesson: acceptance. They realize the life does not always work out as we would choose. They know that although God sees the big picture, we do not.

Dianne says, “I have learned that God is the One in charge of Ford’s life. I don’t have a say in the Lord’s decision, so to accept whatever He feels is best for Ford, I need to be on the same page and not fight against His will. After all, I want what is best for my sweetheart too! This is the toughest lesson for me to learn, and I’m still working on it."

When we place our lives in God’s hands, none of our threads of experience are useless. God weaves our suffering, sorrows, and joy and love into a glorious creation. As we surrender to His will, He will make masterpieces of our lives. As we give our hearts to God, we allow Him to transform us from sinners to saints. We allow Him to make us whole.

© Carol Brown

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Stop Blaming Others

Khadijah Williams grew up homeless in Los Angeles. She and her mother moved from shelter to shelter, sometimes sleeping on the streets at night if the shelter was full. She was surrounded by prostitutes, drug users, and criminals. Moving from school to school, some years she missed weeks—and even months—of schooling while her mother searched for housing.

In third grade, Khadijah made a decision that changed her life. She decided to study hard, learn everything she could, and excel in school. She decided that her circumstances would not determine her destiny.

When she started her junior year of high school, Khadijah realized that she could no longer continue moving constantly and succeed in school. She got up at 4 a.m., caught a city bus in Las Angeles, and attended high school, returning to the shelter late at night after she finished her homework. She graduated from high school with high honors and received full scholarships to many prestigious universities. She is now enrolled as a freshman at Harvard, where she plans to study law.

Khadijah Williams does not blame her mother for her challenging childhood. She is grateful that her mom never used drugs, did not smoke or drink, and that her mom encouraged her pursuit of academic excellence. She does not feel anger towards her mother because she was unwilling or unable to provide her children with a stable, comfortable home.

It’s easy to blame others for our self-defeating choices. We may think, “Since that guy cut me off in traffic, he made me lose my temper.” “Since my mom (or dad) was an imperfect parent, they caused me to make bad choices.” “Since my boss/neighbor/friend/family member said or did something that I don't like, they forced me speak/act/live in anger/bitterness/fear.”

The truth is this: no one can force you to become something that you do not want to be. We are free to choose love, peace and compassion or we can choose hate, fear, and apathy. The choice is ours and ours alone.

In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, a concentration camp survivor, states, “ Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms, to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.”He also states, “When we are no longer able to change a situation--we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Taking responsibility for our lives, emotions, and actions can be both freeing and terrifying. When we can no longer blame anyone for our thoughts, words, and actions, we become powerful masters of our own lives. Regardless of our circumstances, childhood, and challenges, we are free to create lives of beauty, goodness, and happiness. For some, this may feel frightening, since they can no longer use others as their scapegoat for their self-defeating choices or bad behavior.

Some of the most miserable people I know blame others for their choices. “If I hadn’t been so poor growing up, I wouldn’t be addicted to shopping,” one woman says. “If my dad hadn’t been so abusive, I wouldn’t be filled with so much anger and bitterness,” a man states. “If my mom hadn’t been so strict, I wouldn’t be drinking and rebelling right now,” a woman explains.

One of the most critical choices we can make is to decide to live responsibly. Since each of us has amazing talents, gifts, and abilities, we have the innate potential to become powerful forces for good in the world. We cannot fulfill our unique mission in life if we are consumed with bitterness, blame, and anger. As we free ourselves from these negative emotions, we can live peacefully in the moment and find joy in the journey.

© Carol Brown

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Blessings of Change

Life constantly transforms itself. Seasons come and go. Animals are born, mature, and die. Amid the constancy of God’s infinite love, we are always changing.

God allows His children the opportunity to change from sin-based to spiritually-based living. He gives us the gift of choice—to choose to become more or less like Him by the thoughts we select, the words we speak, and the actions we repeat. He gives us the tools for our journey: prayer, the Spirit, his words, and our own divine nature.

Consider the many miracles the Savior performed. He turned rebels into righteous followers, transformed prostitutes into pure disciples, and changed weak, sinful men and women into courageous, faithful leaders. Peter, who rejected the Savior, eventually led the Church. Paul, who ordered the stoning of Christ’s followers, became one of Jesus' most ardent apostles. Mary Magdalene and the Samaritan women who met Jesus at the well both knew the transformative power of the Savior’s powerful love. When we surrender our lives to God, He makes sinners into saints.

How do we change from sinner to saint? We give our hearts to God and allow Him to work His mighty miracles in our lives. When we do so, He promises, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove your stubborn hearts and give you obedient hearts.” Paul taught, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

I have seen God take troubled teens and turn them into powerful Church leaders. I have watched Him transform fearful, timid women and men into bold teachers of truth. I have felt Him working in my own life—helping me to become more patient, kind, and gentle. The lessons have often been painful and difficult, but God allows me to learn, even when I am not always the most able or willing student.

When my husband led our Church congregation of 800 souls, a woman rebelled from everything that she knew to be true. She engaged in adulterous relationships, breaking the hearts of her husband, children, and family. Eventually, she divorced her husband and invited into her home a man who was already married. My husband counseled with this woman and her lover, and after several years, the couple decided to give their hearts to God. They experienced godly sorrow for their actions and eventually turned from sin to virtue.

Today they are among the most selfless, compassionate people I know. They devote their energy and their means to blessings the lives of others. They have new hearts and have become new creatures in Christ. Once despised by them, my husband is now loved and honored by this couple, who have even asked him to speak at their funerals.

Because we are created in the image of God, He longs to help us become more like Him. He will guide us day by day, step by step in paths of peace. He will teach us how to find joy amid sorrow as we seek to walk in His footsteps.

God has given us the power to choose—to choose Him or to choose something else. He promises He will eventually bless us with everything that He has if we give our hearts to Him. He gives us so much and asks for so little.

© Carol Brown

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Healing the Brokenhearted

I learned at an early age that life is very difficult. Losing my father to cancer when I was a teen, I discovered that no one is immune from suffering. Throughout my life, I’ve been inspired by those who endure great trials with grace and faith.

When I was a young mother, my close friend and neighbor, Sheri, delivered a baby girl who had severe congenital problems. The baby had a cleft palate, club feet, malformed eyes, and a brain with only the brain stem that functioned. Doctors told Sheri that her baby, whom she named Hope, had days to live, but tiny Hope lived for several months.

As I saw Sheri holding her tiny baby, I felt overwhelmed with grief, knowing that she would soon part with her fragile angel. Sheri had a strong faith in Jesus Christ and knew that her baby, whose time on earth was short, would be resurrected and that she would see her again. Sheri inspired me as she endured the heartbreaking loss of her infant with grace and faith.

Life can be very difficult. Many suffer terribly. Children are sometimes abused in horrific and unspeakable ways. Some homes, communities, and countries are oppressed by some who choose brutality and cruelty. Although some escape major suffering, most of us will know some tragedy during our lives. Some of us will experience times of great sorrow.

Sometimes we feel brokenhearted. Reasons that we experience intense sorrow vary. Sometimes we experience loss, broken dreams, or betrayal. We may have lost a home, a job, a friend, or a loved one. We may find that mental or physical illness threatens to destroy our independence, self-esteem, or peace of mind. Sin in its multitude of disguises may ensnare us with guilt, self-loathing, or addiction.

One of my favorite descriptions of the Savior’s mission is when he tells us he came to “to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” I believe the Savior binds up our broken hearts and free is from the captivity of sin and sorrow in three ways.

First, He understands our pain. “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Isn’t it comforting to know that God empathizes with our pain because He has already experienced it? That is so comforting! When we talk to Him, He listens perfectly and understands completely.

Next, we know that suffering is temporary but permanent peace is possible because of Christ’s infinite sacrifice. Because Christ conquered death, we will all rise again. We can trust that this, too, will pass. We read, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead…even so in Christ shall all be made alive."

Finally, Christ heals us. He waits to forgive our sins. He longs to bind up our broken hearts. He lives to free us from the bondage of fear, anger, bitterness, or addiction. Isaiah teaches:

Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted....
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

I have learned that Christ does heal our wounded hearts. Sometimes we have to still our hearts enough to allow the healing to begin. Often, healing takes time, faith, and patience. Some healing may not occur in this life but in the next—but it will come, according to God’s will and His timetable.

This has been a difficult year for me. One of my adult children has made choices that have broken my heart, but I know God loves that child and that He will bind up my broken heart—and my child’s—if we will trust in Him. This blog, which I wrote to help others, is now helping me. That is part of Christ’s mission, for as we seek to bless others, He blesses us. As we give, so we receive. Thanks for reading the blog and commenting. What I started as a means of serving others has become my solace as well.

© Carol Brown

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Positive Living

Researchers have found that two simple things can increase our sense of well-being and our peace of mind. First, they found that writing about your thoughts and feelings 20 minutes each day enhances our happiness. They also discovered that either writing in a gratitude journal, where we record five things you appreciate each day, or expressing gratitude to others on a daily basis increases our joy. Such simple acts with such big results!

Dr. Martin Seligman began the empirical study of happiness in 1998 and has written a best-selling book, Learned Optimism, that discusses the qualities and behaviors that create or enhance happiness in our lives. He also provides free tests, newsletters, and information on his website that provides simple ways to find peace of mind.

Professor Ed Diener’s research on positive psychology shows that three things increase one’s happiness. The first component is having a network of family and friends in your life. Second, a happy person has meaning in life, whether it derives from one’s religion, spirituality, or philosophy of life. The third element is having meaningful goals that you enjoy and that you are working toward.

With the negative tone of much media, politics and society, these tools help us find happiness amid the stress of daily living. Such as simple thing as daily journaling and expressing gratitude can help us enjoy the journey. It's good to know that scientists are turning their attention to not only treating disease but treating misery as well. Although these tools may not transform a cranky person into a compassionate one, they can help us find peace amid sorrow.

© Carol Brown

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Facing Unexpected Challenges

Our first vacation for the year turned out to be more challenging than we had imagined. I discovered that I could either ruin our trip with worry, anxiety, and despair or enjoy the peace and beauty of our new surroundings and keep my thinking positive and peaceful. This wasn’t always easy to do. After nearly missing our plane, we learned that a friend is dying when we arrived at our destination and also discovered that our son is very ill. Because fear could easily have consumed my thinking, I had to work hard to change my thoughts.

I recognized that using the techniques I’ve learned and taught during the past year really helped me move from misery to peace. I felt helpless being so far away from my loved ones during difficult times, but felt comforted in know that Lord loves them and understands their pain.

I’m including a list of potential peace-busters and some thoughts that can restore one to serenity. Either my close friends or I have faced these challenges recently. Note how simple changes in thinking can make a big difference is helping your experience peace amid sorrow.

1. You’re stuck in traffic (there’s been a wreck) and it looks like you’ll miss your plane.

“There’s nothing I can do about this but accept the situation as it is.”
“I’ll hope that I can make the plane, and if I miss it, I’ll make other arrangements.”

2. Your adult child is seriously misbehaving.

“I’ll continue to love my child, but I won’t enable self-defeating, addictive behavior.”

3. Your best friend has betrayed you.
“Although I feel sad that my friend has broken my trust, I have others friends who care about me. I can still be happy.”

4. A family member has offended you.

“I will not allow our relationship to be ruined by something my loved one said/did.”
“I’m going to focus on my loved ones strengths and ignore his/her weaknesses.”

5. The weather report forecasts lousy weather for each day of your vacation.

“I’m going to have a fun time on my trip regardless of the weather.”
“My happiness on my vacation does not depend on the weather. Perhaps the forecast is wrong.”

6. Someone you dearly love has just been diagnosed with a serious health condition.

“I’m going to enjoy spending time with my friend/family member. We’ll have many good times ahead and will count our blessings often.”I choose to think positively about my friend’s medical condition and send loving thoughts his/her way.”

7. Your friend is dying from cancer.

“Although I grieve for the loss of my dear friend, I celebrate his life and am praying that his family will feel peace as they see him pass from this life to a better one.”"I am grateful that I am privileged to know this wonderful family and learn from their examples."

Each of us faces trials and sorrows at times. Moving from fear-based thinking to acceptance and peace can be difficult. Controlling our thoughts requires great self-control at times. The rewards of peace and inspiration are definitely worth the effort.

© Carol Brown

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

8 Attitudes that Create Peace of Mind

Someone once said that our attitude determines our altitude. It also determines whether or not we experience peace amid suffering. The following are eight ways we can find peace even when life presents us with challenges.

1. Ask yourself, “Is this something I can control, or do I need to release myself, this person or situation to a Higher Power?” If you are trying to change someone, you may be creating stress for yourself. You can change yourself, but you cannot force another to change.

2. Ask yourself, “Will this matter in a hundred years?” Some things won’t matter next month, let alone next year. We sweat a lot of small stuff that doesn’t really matter. Use your energy to make a positive difference in the world and to strengthen your relationships.

3. Decide to focus on more on your blessings and less on your troubles. Everyone faces challenges, and we can learn from them or feel overwhelmed by them. Attitude is everything.

4. Do one kind thing for yourself each day that doesn’t involve food, money, or anything that is addictive in nature. Watch a sunset; take a long bath; read an article; call a friend; visit a neighbor. Do something that brings you comfort and joy.

5. Do one kind thing for someone else. It may be nothing more than smiling at a neighbor, complementing a coworker, or hugging your child. When we share our love with others, it releases endorphins that calm us and help us feel happier.

6. If you feel you must worry, schedule a time for it and keep it to fifteen minutes or less. Don’t allow yourself to worry continuously. It drains your energy and increases your stress.

7. Instead of asking, “Why me?” ask, “What can I learn from this experience, trial, suffering?” When I was caring for my dying mother, I felt deep sorrow as I watched her body fail her, but I also realized that there was something I was learning from our suffering. Now, I realize that I have greater compassion for those who suffer and greater appreciation for life.

8. If you err, err on the side of mercy. Accept yourself and others for who they are, realizing that each person, including yourself--is a child of the Divine.

Trials and troubles can either make us bitter or better. Our attitudes--which begin with the thoughts that we choose to hold onto--determine whether we will be happy or hopeless, joyful or jealous, calm or contentious. As we choose thoughts of love, peace, compassion, and forgiveness, we can find peace amid the sorrows and stresses of life

© Carol Brown

Saturday, September 19, 2009

4 Stress-reduction Tips

Some people keep 72-hour emergency kits filled with easy-to-prepare food, water purifiers, and first-aid kits. Perhaps we also need to keep a stress-reduction kit on hand for times when life becomes stressful and difficult. Here are a few suggestions for the kit:

1. Meditation CD’s. Meditation CD's help the listeners calm their thinking and their bodies. My favorite meditation CD is by Dr. Brian Weiss, M.D. the CD is included at the end of his book, Meditation: Achieving Inner Peace and Tranquility in Your Life. The book isn't impressive, but the CD at the end is priceless. You can purchase the book on for $10.08 (used is much less.)

2. Meditation or peaceful music also reduces stress. Some free music downloads are available on the Internet and other inexpensive meditation music is widely available. Research indicates that meditation music can even calm our brain waves and ease tension.

3. A collection of a few meditations helps us to move our thoughts to a peaceful peace. These verses from the 27th Psalm are calming:

The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.

The 23rd Psalm is another soothing meditation:

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters;
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for His name's sake.

Even though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil;
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the
Lord forever.

Here is a website that contains some healing meditations: This meditation site helps you experience greater peace: And,this one helps you relax: You could copy one of these meditations and put it in your purse or planner to review when you're feeling stressed.

4. The last critical component for stress reduction is to breathe slowly and deeply, focusing your thoughts on a beautiful thought, scene or object. Relax your body, starting with your head and moving down to your neck, arms, and legs. Note where you are holding in tension and release the stress from that area of your body. Feel a healing power move from the top of your head throughout your body down to your toes. Picture this power as a bright light that lifts sorrow, pain, and fear from your heart and body.

These components make up a great (72-minute) emergency kit for stress-reduction. Then, whenever you feel tense, troubled or tired, you can center your mind in a healing place and find comfort and peace.

© Carol Brown

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Protecting Ourselves from Viruses of the Mind

Just as viruses can causes physical suffering, mental viruses, or toxic thinking patterns, can cause mental and emotional suffering. Mental viruses are any negative thinking patterns that keep us from experiencing the happiness and peace which God intends us to have. We can eliminate and protect ourselves from viruses of the mind by using the following tools:

1 Avoid victim mentality. No one has had a perfect life. Parents, friends, and family are imperfect, just as we are imperfect. When we focus our thoughts on the deficiencies and mistakes of others, we do not allow ourselves to experience present peace.

We cannot change others, and we cannot change the past, but we can change the way we view others. We can forgive those who may have offended us, and we can refuse to blame others for our own choices. As we become survivors—rather than victims—we destroy the viruses of self-pity, bitterness, and judgment which can destroy our peace of mind.

2. Avoid fear-based thinking. Our thoughts are either fear-based or centered on love. We can choose to replace fearful thoughts with loving ones. Love is a choice that begins with our thinking. We can free ourselves to loves ourselves and others more fully by remembering that each person on earth is a divine child of God with infinite potential.

We avoid fear-based thinking when we live joyfully in the moment, not fearing the future or regretting the past. We can learn from past mistakes and move forward without becoming frozen with fear. We can learn from the strengths of others as we celebrate the talents, gifts, and individual beauty of each person we meet. Fear destroys our peace of mind. Love enhances it. Choose love.

3. Choose forgiveness. The most miserable people I know choose to live with feelings of vengeance and bitterness. They believe others’ wrongs determine whether or not they can live with peace and happiness. Forgiveness destroys these toxic—and sometimes lethal--viruses. As Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind."

Forgiveness is a loving gift we give ourselves. Forgiveness is a choice to release the bad
—and sometimes evil—acts of another to a Higher Power. It frees us from being the judge, jury, and executioner of another, realizing that only God has the power to know the heart of another person. Forgiveness heals our hearts and empowers us to live authentically and peacefully.

4. Seek kindness. If we have to choose between being right and being kind, choose kindness. Kindness is a powerful and healing way of thinking and living. It fosters civility, patience, gentleness, and courage. Those who choose kindness transform the world with love. Kind people are strong, for they live with power and authenticity. They refuse to allow emotions of hatred, anger, or revenge to destroy their peace of mind.

Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, and countless of the greatest humanitarians and leaders in the world sought to live with a spirit of kindness and mercy. Lincoln said, “Kindness is the only service that will stand the storm of life and not wash out. It will wear well and will be remembered long after the prism of politeness or the complexion of courtesy has faded away.”

Mother Teresa posted this quote by Kent Keith on the wall of her orphanage in Calcutta. It summarizes how we can protect ourselves from viruses of the mind. Enjoy!

People are often unreasonable,
illogical, and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, People may accuse you of
selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some
false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank,
people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness,
they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis,
it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

© Carol Brown

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ten Ways to Increase Your Peace of Mind

1. Take time to enjoy the beauties of nature. Listen to the leaves rustling in the wind. Observe the clouds floating across the sky. Notice the varied hues of flowers, plants, and trees. Focus your attention on one beautiful object in your surroundings.

2. Spend daily time in prayer and meditation. If you feel troubled, cast your cares upon the Lord. Ask for help with those issues that concern you, trusting that He will help you.

3. Express gratitude to God and others. Pay particular attention to those blessings you may not have noticed recently: warm water for showers and baths, sheets and bedding, windows, the kindness of friends and strangers, food, electricity, the list is endless. So many do not have the essentials of life that we sometimes take for granted.

4. Do something you love to do. I love to blog, so that’s easy for me. (I’ll be on vacation for a week, so I may not be able to blog for a few days.)

5. Say something positive to yourself and others. One mother of a rebellious teen told him, “I really like the way you’re breathing today!”

6. Remember the many ways that God has blessed and protected you in your life. Record some of them in your journal, if possible.

7. Listen to inspiring music, or sing or hum a favorite song.

8. Forgive anyone who has offended you. Nothing can destroy our peace of mind faster that feelings of bitterness or contention. Turn judgment over to God, and accept and love others the way you wish to be loved and accepted.

9. Take time to relax. When I was a busy mother, sometimes I had to close the bathroom door for a few moments and take a few deep breaths. Hopefully, you can find some time to breathe deeply, reflect on a beautiful thought or two, and just enjoy being alive.

10. Repeat one positive affirmation, such as, “Every day in every way I am getting better and better,” or “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me,” or “My life has meaning, and as I am a child of God, I have infinite worth.”

© Carol Brown

Friday, September 11, 2009


I believe in angels, some who are heaven sent and other who are living. I have never seen an angel, but a number of them are described in the Bible. Jesus taught that children’s angels are active and alert. He said, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.” Paul taught, “Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

One of my angels on earth is Patti, a friend who gives great advice, listens with compassion, comforts me when times are tough, and loves me unconditionally. The woman is a saint, and I don’t’ know how I’ve been so blessed to be her best friend. Since I’m an only child, I consider her not only my best friend but my sister. She was at my side during my mother’s funeral, helped me during our move when I tore a ligament in my leg, and seems to understand everything I feel and think .She never ends a phone call without saying, “I love you.”

I felt the room fill with angels when my mother died. I know my dad was there—and my mother's mom—but I don’t know who the other spirits were. I just know there were a lot of friends and family waiting to welcome here when she left mortal life. Since she had six brothers and sisters who had passed on, I’m sure there were excited to seeing their loving and kind sister.

My mom had the blessing of seeing her deceased mom a couple of times. Both times she was very ill and in trying circumstances. Her mother comforted her, gave her some sage advice, and then disappeared.

Recently, I visited an elderly woman, Lucy, who is alert and wise. Lucy told me that ten years ago her husband collapsed after suffering a heart attack. Lucy called the paramedics, who tried futilely to revive her husband for half an hour. Then they placed his body in an ambulance and forgot to secure the door. His body fell out of the vehicle on the way to the hospital, and Lucy was devastated. Not only had her beloved husband died, but his body had been desecrated. A lawyer contacted Lucy after reading a new article about the tragedy, and Lucy decided to sue.

Lucy told me she was afraid to be alone after her husband died and turned on every light in the house before she went to bed. She also was depressed and anxious, worrying about the upcoming lawsuit. One night her husband came into her bedroom and sat beside her on the foot of the bed while she was trying to relax enough so that she could sleep. He said nothing, but looked at her lovingly.

Lucy felt instantly at peace, and she knew that she should drop the lawsuit. She followed her husband as he walked out of her bedroom, down the hall, through her kitchen and then faded through the wall. She said she slept peacefully without leaving any lights since that night.

I believe God sends angels to comfort, protect, and bless us. When our car was rear-ended on the freeway, and we swerved in heavy traffic--our car rotating 360 degrees, crossing several lanes of traffic, and screeching to a stop without hitting another vehicle to being hit again--I suspect angels may have been protecting us. When a friend or family members says or does something that is SO comforting, I believe they are angels on earth.

Sometimes the smaller acts of kindness can make such a difference in another’s life. Just knowing that someone cares about us and understands us is a priceless gift that our earth-angels give us and something that we can give others. What priceless blessings!

Who are the angels in your life? What experiences have shown you that God sometimes uses angels to watch over, protect, and comfort you?

© Carol Brown

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Balanced Living

Life is a juggling act as we attempt to balance self-care, work, family, friends, housework, recreation, and hundreds of other responsibilities. Sometimes it seems overwhelming. Other times it may seem impossible.

Here are a few tips that help us to live a more balanced life. Since my knee surgery brought my workaholic tendencies to a screeching halt last summer, I’ve been forced to learn how to balance my life a little better. Hopefully, these tips will help you achieve balance in your life in a less painful way.

Slow down. I used to hurry to every appointment, race through my work and errands, and multi-task. Then my knee gave out, and I can no longer run anywhere. Many tasks that were once easy are now challenging. I’ve learned that slowing down can be calming and peaceful when we allow ourselves to savor the journey. I’m much more observant of the beauty around me now, and I’m better at not sweating the small stuff—and most of it is small stuff.

Prioritize. If you put God at the top of your list, He will help you balance your life. Ask Him to help you know how to manage your day, your life, your career, your home. He is the supreme Counselor, and He is only a prayer away.

Seek after peace. As we learn to love God more fully, we will radiate His love and peace to others. We can consciously seek after peace and ask God to show us how to live so that we can attain it.

In Psalms we read:

Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from deceitful speech.
He must turn from evil and do good;
he must seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil
” (Psalm 34:12-17).

Live quietly. One way to enhance our peace of mind is to monitor the many voices that we hear each day through the media. Some are constantly bombarded with noise. Cell phones, I-Pods, radio, television, Internet, and many other technologies can distract or distance us from the Spirit. As we are more selective about the voices and sounds we allow into our hearts and homes, we experience greater peace and our lives become more balanced.

God has a plan for each of our lives. As we accept His will and seek to serve as His instruments, we will not always be able to do everything we want to do and all that others ask us to do. As we quiet the voices around us, we also need to quiet our lives—to live more deliberately and mindfully,

Over-commitment and unbalanced living can destroy peace of mind, marriages, and families. Satan wants to keep us out of balance, for he knows that if we are out of control, we are more vulnerable to his attacks. God warns us of this in 1 Peter 5:8, saying, “Be well balanced…for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring…seeking someone to… devour.”

Scripture describes Jesus as a child who “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” Clearly, the Savior showed us how to live a balanced life. After he healed the sick and fed the multitude, He told His disciples to send the multitude away. Then, He retreated to a mountain to pray.

If at times Jehovah himself needed to slow down and allow time for spiritual rejuvenation, we can follow His example and do the same. As we balance our lives, we gain the strength to fulfill our work on the earth with joy and courage.

© Carol Brown

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Peace of Simplicity

One of my favorite writers, Henry David Thoreau, said, “Our life is frittered away by detail... Simplify, simplify.” He also said, “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say let your affairs be as one, two, three and to a hundred or a thousand… We are happy in proportion to the things we can do without.”

I would suggest that there are several ways that we can simplify our lives. Feel free to suggest more.

Simple living. Sometimes we make our lives more complicated that we need to. We may take on too many projects or incorporate too many activities into our hectic schedules. Perhaps you can eliminate one or two activities from your week, or say “no” to an unnecessary request. It’s hard to enjoy everyday living when we are exhausted, stressed, and overwhelmed with too many demands and expectations. Slow down a bit and enjoy the journey.

Simple work. When we work too much, we may lose opportunities to build relationships with our loved ones and find the time to relax and enjoy life. Bartering, hiring out, or trading work can simplify our lives. This summer my husband and I hired our granddaughter to do our yard work. Our sweet Katie likes to work outdoors, appreciates the money, and we are so busy with our business we need the help. It’s been a win/win for all of us.

Simple pleasures. Some of the most enjoyable activities are free. When my grandchildren visit, we play board games, read library books, attend free performances, and take nature walks. One game we've invented is playing “What’s Your Favorite?" We ask one other what his or her favorite things are. The list is endless: colors, fruits, songs, stories, books, animals, school subjects, vacations, toys, desserts, memories, things about your dad or mom, things you like to do with grandma, etc. The children really enjoy telling me about all their favorite things, and I learn so much about them when we play this simple game.

It doesn’t take a lot of money to have a lot of fun. Most areas have some excellent bloggers who share lots of tips for free and inexpensive entertainment, food and shopping deals, and other great money-saving tips. Visiting a friend or neighbor, enjoying the beauties of nature, and watching a free movie from the library are fun to do and cost nothing.

Simple thinking. Each day tens of thousands of thoughts move through our minds. When we meditate and focus our thinking on simple, healing thoughts, we experience peace and serenity. “Be still and know that I am God,” we read in the Psalms. Sometimes we need to still our minds and focus on the blessings and wonders of life. Paul said, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Simple spending. Life is much happier when we live within our means and enjoy the simple beauties of life. After her mother died, Jean went through her mother’s possessions and discovered that among the treasures was a lot of stuff. Jean decided that she would accumulate less, enjoy what she has more, and put aside a little for a rainy day. Now she’s a lot happier and less stressed because of her decision to simplify her spending.

Simple eating. Nutritious foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads, homemade soups, and salads are easy to prepare, healthful, and delicious. We don’t need to spend a lot of money to eat well, and simple changes in our diet can reap huge benefits to our physical and psychological well-being.

Another of my favorite authors, Ann Morrow Lindberg, wrote, “I have learned by some experience, by many examples, and by the writings of countless others before me, also occupied in the search, that certain environments, certain modes of life, certain rules of conduct are more conducive to inner and outer harmony than others. There are, in fact, certain roads that one may follow. Simplification life is one of them.

© Carol Brown

Friday, September 4, 2009

Some Sayings that Can Destroy Your Peace of Mind and Some that Don’t

Many of us grew up hearing sayings that can destroy our peace of mind. Here are a few of them:

If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Only a few things are worth doing well: loving God, ourselves, and others brings us peace of mind; becoming addicted to achieving a perfect body, house, image, or career does not. I’m not saying work or good health habits aren’t important. What I am saying is that God only asks us to love Him (and our spouses) with all our hearts. When we place Him first, everything else in our lives falls into place.

Work first, play later. Perhaps a few college students could be helped by this saying, but those who wait to play before all of their work can find they are depressed or anxious. There is always a lot of work to do, and if we wait to play before all of our work is done, we may never take the time to play. Building time for work, relaxation, and fun into each day enhances our peace of mind.

Nice guys finish last. Uh, uh! Nice people, who are genuinely kind and compassionate, are the most powerful force in the world. They radiate the love of God and help to heal the world. They finish first! (And women are attracted to nice men, who turn out to be great husbands and fathers. I’m so glad my husband is nice!)

So here are a few sayings that will enhance your peace of mind:

You can’t judge a book by its cover. So true! Often, some of the dearest people may initially appear unattractive to us, while some of the vilest people may appear very charming and gracious. Some sociopaths and psychopaths lured many into their murderous snares by their alluring personalities, while some of the greatest people who ever lived were despised and rejected by men, including our Savior Jesus Christ.

• You can’t take it with you. This saying doesn’t give us license to eat, drink, and be merry or to squander our lives, but it reminds me that life is fleeting. The most precious thing we can take with us when we die is the love we have shared and received. This saying also motivates us to put first things first. My friend stopping buying so much stuff after her mother died. While sorting through her mother’s possessions, my friend realized that all the things she was working so hard to acquire was unessential and was not contributing to her peace of mind. She down-sized, gave away things she no longer used, and is much happier now.

That’s just the way I am. I can’t change. Sometimes I hear my granddaughter say that to justify some of her less-than-pleasant behavior. I remind her that our actions are a result of our thoughts, and that any of us can change. I was once very shy, but now I can speak before hundreds of people with relative ease. I have learned that God can turn our weaknesses into strengths if we surrender to His will. He will give us strength beyond our own to fulfill our unique missions on earth, and He will help us make needed changes in our life as we seek to love Him and become more like Him.

© Carol Brown

Thursday, September 3, 2009

15 Ways to Increase Your Feelings of Self-worth

God asks us to love others as we love ourselves. We need to fill our own cups with kindness and compassion so that we can share that love with others, yet sometimes we put ourselves last on our to-do lists. So here are some ways that will help you love yourself more so that you can love others better.

1. Discover God's perfect love for you by reading the Scriptures. Psalms is a good place to start. Consider this verse: "I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well (Psalm 139:14).

2. Write down a list of all your talents, gifts, and abilities. Ask your friends and family to add to your list. Then, if you're feeling unworthy or less than whole, read your list. (In our family, we celebrate Christmas Eve by creating a love box for each family member. We write down those things we love about each family member and then place it in a box. It's one of our most cherished possessions!)

3. Each morning, ask God to help you feel His infinite love for you and then find at least one way to share that love with someone else.

4. Stop the negative self-talk that says you are worthless or less than wonderful.

5. Choose friends that build you up.

6. Forgive yourself for being human and imperfect.

7. Do not allow the words or actions of others to determine your self-worth.

8. Memorize some positive affirmations that remind you of your worth. Here's one: I am loveable, and I am loved. As I child of God, I have divine qualities and gifts. When I ask for His help, God gives me the power to use these gifts to bless myself and others.

9. At the end of each day, thank God for creating you and for using you as His instrument to make the world a better place.

10. Do one loving thing for yourself each day. Spend a few minutes meditating. Read something that inspires you. Take a walk. Call a friend.

11. Find someone who needs your love and do one loving thing each day. That will radically increase your feelings of self-worth.

12. Set healthy boundaries. You cannot be all things for all people and maintain healthy balance in your lifetime. Sometimes the most loving thing you can say is "no."

13. Trust that the Lord is working in your life, even during the difficult times. Commit to memory these words from Proverbs: "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."

14. Do not compare yourself with others. (If you haven't already, read the previous post.)

15. Allow God to show you how much He loves you. Consider these words: "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:1-3).

Allow God to hold you in the arms of His love today. He loves you infinitely and will teach you how to love yourself more completely. As we ask for His help, He will reveal His love to you.

© Carol Brown

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Stop Comparing Yourself with Others

When I was a young mother, I noticed that I did not have many of the talents that many of my neighbors did. They liked to cook, can, quilt, sew, garden, craft, and decorate. Although I could do many of those things (with the exception of sewing), I did not enjoy doing them. When I saw the amazing things they were sewing/cooking/making, sometimes I felt less than whole.

Eventually, I stopped comparing myself with others and celebrated my own gifts. I like to teach, read, learn, and write. I also like to perform music, speak, sing, and write music. Now I can celebrate the gifts others have without neglecting my own.

God created each of us with unique, amazing talents. Each of us has extraordinary gifts and skills that can make the world a better place. If we are fearful to develop or share our talents because we're afraid someone may be better than us, we stay stuck. When we are ego-focused, we can’t enjoy the wonders of everyday living.

It's easy to compare ourselves when we're at our worst with others who are at their best. When we learn to accept and love ourselves just as we are, we do not feel threatened by the accomplishments of others. Instead, we celebrate one another’s talents, achievements, and intrinsic worth. As we realize that all of us are children of the Divine, we feel more compassion for others—and less competition with others.

We achieve peace of mind when we allow the Lord to create His mighty work with us—and with others—according to His timing and His will. As we realize that God values each of His children equally, we no longer compare ourselves with others but rejoice in the wonder of each of God’s creations, including ourselves. You are a miracle! God cherishes each of His children just as they are—even when they are ill, afraid, or discouraged. He is no respecter of persons.

As we live with gratitude, we enjoy the journey without worrying if others have more, accomplish more, or earn more than we do. We savor each moment, knowing that every good gift comes from God. As we remember that each of us is a divine child of God, we can celebrate our differences and cherish our unique gifts and the gifts of others.

© Carol Brown

Monday, August 31, 2009

Eliminating Toxic Thoughts

Some thoughts can be just as toxic to the spirit as poison is to the body. Although we would never drink poison, some of us ingest poisonous thoughts that can injure the spirit and the soul. Negative thoughts can also damage us physically. Toxic thoughts send destructive hormones and chemicals into our bodies that increase our blood pressure, damage our hearts, and lower our immune systems.

Here are some toxic thoughts that we need to eliminate:

I hate/despise/abhor someone because ______________________.
I hate/despise/abhor myself because _______________________.
I’m not smart/strong/old/young/experienced/capable/pretty/handsome enough.
I can never forgive myself for ____________.
I can never forgive someone for ________________.
I will never be good enough to ___________________.
I can never be forgiven for ______________________.
I hate /reject/distrust God because _______________________.
I will always be miserable/forgotten/hopeless because ____________________.
I can never be loved/ valued /respected because ______________________.
No one cares about/loves/respects me.
If ____________________ doesn’t _______________, I can’t be happy.
If _______________ does ______________________, I can’t be happy.

These thoughts can be deadly. If we rehearse them constantly in our minds throughout each day, they can be an toxic as if we drank a cup of drain cleaner or acid. They can eat away our feelings of self-worth, love for life, and love for others. They can destroy our relationships, our health, and our spirits.

So how do we eliminate these toxic thoughts from our lives?

First, we need to listen to what we are thinking. What kind of chatter are we allowing to reoccur in our minds? Are we rehearsing any of these thoughts—or any ones like them—over and over again in our minds?

Next, when you catch yourself thinking a toxic thought, replace it with a healing one. For example, instead of thinking “I will never be good enough,” you can think “I am beautiful and perfect just the way I am.” Instead of thinking “I can never be loved,” you can remember that you are infinitely loved, valued, and cherished by God, who loves you more than you can begin to imagine.

Here are some powerful thoughts that destroy toxic thoughts:

I love others unconditionally because God loves me unconditionally.
I love myself perfectly because God loves me perfectly.
I am smart, strong and well-qualified to perform my mission on earth.
I can forgive myself for being human because God has forgiven me.
I can forgive others, even my enemies, because God will give me the power to forgive.
I am exceptional, amazing, and capable of meeting any challenge that is God’s will for me.
I love God with all of my heart, might, mind and strength and know He is the source of all that is good.
I am filled with hope, peace, and joy because I know that I am a child of God.
My life has meaning, purpose, and beauty.
I attract people who love and respect me.
I choose happiness by the thoughts I think and the choices I make.
I will not allow my happiness to be destroyed by the choices of others.

Meditation is helpful in quieting our minds and giving us the power to control toxic thoughts. It is helpful to take a moment or two in the morning and throughout the day to breathe deeply and to reflect on something beautiful, even if it is a memory of a place you have seen or visited.
Sometimes we need the help of a Higher Power to eliminate toxic thoughts from our minds. If we find ourselves stuck in negativity, we can ask God to help us, and He will. We can also commit to memory some powerful scriptures or thoughts to use when we find ourselves attacked by toxic thoughts. Here are a few: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” “I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me.” “I am beautifully and wonderfully made. I am a child of the Most High God.”

Here are some meditations that help us eliminate toxic thoughts: “Every day in every way I am getting better and better.” “God is using me as a force for good in the world.” “I accept others as they I. I am in control of my mind, and I choose to think positively.” “I love myself, and others love me. God has a great work for me to do. He will guide and direct my thoughts this day.”

Just as we go to gyms to train our muscles to build physical strength, we need to train our thoughts to build psychological and spiritual strength. When we harness our thoughts by replacing positive thoughts with toxic ones, we tap into the incomprehensible power of our spirit. We become whole.
How do you eliminate toxic thoughts?
Are there any positive meditations that have helped you?

© Carol Brown