Melanie Stroud

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Joseph

This morning, as I walked out of the temple, I saw this nativity with new eyes.  

I think of Mary so often.  I think of the responsibility that must’ve weighed so heavy on her shoulders.  How in the world was she supposed to raise the son of God? I can’t imagine how inadequate she probably felt.  

When I saw this statue today, I saw how tenderly Joseph had his arms around her.  I saw Joseph a little differently.  He was sent to be a blessing and support for Mary and her hard, hard role.  Yes, he would help raise Jesus and devote his life to Him. But that tender arm wrapped around Mary reminded me that Joseph would never be Christ’s paternal dad but would always be Mary’s husband.

I’m so grateful to my Father in Heaven for leading Shane into my life.  He is those arms around me.  He is that support.  He will never be my kids’ paternal father, but he’ll always be there, loving and supporting me.  What a gift. I am beyond grateful for his tenderness, righteousness, and desire to do what is right.  He is a great example to me, and I’m learning to be a softer person because of him.  

At this time of year it is easy to get caught up in minutia, in keeping score of who does what and who’s doing the most.  It’s easy to take our spouses for granted and forget what a blessing they are to us. Don’t forget.  Remember the reasons you married that guy.  And if a guy is reading this (haha) remember to be that arm around her.  She needs it.  She needs all the support and love she can get.  It’s rough being a mom.  It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had. 

For all the single moms out there, it’s a crazy hard job you have.  You’re shouldering the burden of raising kids, providing for your family, and all that entails.  It’s a hard place to be.  Before I re-married, when my kids were back at Dad’s, that silence was deafening.   At other times, I felt the very tangible absence of their dad and the daunting task of moving forward on my own.  

But I never felt alone.  This was because I turned to my Savior again and again.  I sought his love through prayer and turning to the Book of Mormon and the scriptures.  I went to the temple often and felt all the love and promises the Lord pours on our families when we sacrifice to be there.  

Instead of being bitter that I didn’t have an adult priesthood holder in my home, I asked worthy men in my ward and family when blessings were needed or when spiritual guidance was necessary.  

I found that it really did matter what I watched on TV, read in books or other media and how I thought and spoke about my ex-husband and others.  I prayed for eyes to see my part in things and prayed to improve.  I prayed for the ability to forgive and see the good where it could be found.  Because without the spirit of the Lord permeating my life, I was a crumpled person prone to self-pity and anger.  But when I sought the spirit and really tried to live worthy of it, everything was better.  There was so much peace.   You single women, I want you to look at this statue and imagine the Savior there, with his arm around you, cheering you on and helping you carry your heavy burden. I know He can be there anytime we sincerely want Him to be. He’s always there waiting to offer his peace. We just have to reach for it.

Last, this statue also reminds me of my mom.  We lost our dad almost thirty years ago.  She has been an unwavering example to me of holding your head up and moving forward with faith in Christ.  I see my dad’s arm around her even though we can’t physically see him anymore. I know he’s near to her and to all of us.  The power of being a family forever because of sacred temple ordinances is real and powerful. I’m grateful I know the ones I love who have passed on are near and not gone forever.

I’m so glad I took the time to head to the temple this morning. I wasn’t going to go. There was just too much to do. But what a sweet perspective I was given as I left the temple today to head back out into this busy season.

Merry Christmas, people. I love you.

Hi friends!

I’m just letting you know that my book will be on sale Friday only on Amazon for $9.99!! What a great gift idea for Christmas because next year, we are studying the Book of Mormon!! This book is a specific five-step method for studying the Book of Mormon to receive revelation and answers to your prayers.

Here is the link. Shop FRIDAY only for this deal. https://amzn.to/3Gay3jz

Act FAST!

Also, if you would like a personalized, signed copy for that superfan in your life, they are available for $23, including shipping. What a great gift! Please leave the personalized inscription in checkout.

Ok. Here is a hack that will change your holiday parties. My grandma used to do this when we were kids, and it was great. We all thought it was fun to pitch in and help out. We loved it when we got the “loafer” job because it meant we didn’t have to do anything.

You can send me a fruit basket of gratitude in January.

Surveys

Hey Friends! Occasionally, I will send out a link to take a quick survey. I want to know what makes people tick. I wish I was a researcher who could just collect data about why people do what they do and then analyze it all day. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Here is one about Sunday lessons at church. If you could spare a minute to help me, that would be amazing.

Thanks in advance!

TAKE SURVEY HERE

(I wrote this a few years ago and put it on my old website. I think it needs to be repeated. I’ve changed it up just a little. But I feel it’s so important.)

One day I got a message from a mother after I had talked about my sadness over some of my children leaving the church. It was one of the sweetest and most comforting things I have ever read. I wish I could find the woman who wrote it. I’ve searched back through hundreds of messages and can’t find the author but her words were a gift to me. A gift I am now going to share with you.

(And for clarification, I don’t think everyone who leaves the church is “eating with the pigs.” Not at all. Our children can live beautiful, productive lives outside of the church and we need to treat them with respect and honor all the wonderful things they do. But in the episode this mother is referencing, we were talking about the prodigal son and so that is why she talked about eating with the pigs.)

If you’ve got a broken heart today, let her words sink into your heart. They are true. Italics added by me, to stress the points I love the most.

 “I was just listening to the podcast today about Alma and Helaman … the one about the kids – and as you were pouring out your heart I could tell that you really wish you could do more for the situation your kids are in and I just wished I was there to tell you, you ARE  doing enough! And nothing you could have done differently or better would have changed what is. Everyone is going to have their own journey. And you were fortunate that your journey was with wonderful amazing God-loving parents and you grew up the same way. But not everyone does. Not everyone has it that together from the start. As you kept asking about what things could you do or ideas, I just keep thinking about the verse that says, train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.

It’s funny it says when he is OLD. Maybe the Lord knew we’d do a lot of dumb things when we’re young. 

But seriously though… don’t despair if your kids are not where you want them to be right now. They have to get there on their own and thru their own experiences. I have 7 kids, and some are older now and some are still babies. And now that the older ones are (starting to make) bad choices I had to come to terms with the fact that it doesn’t matter what I want. These kids are going to do what THEY want. So I have to decide what is the best way to stay relevant in their lives so that they always feel they have that door to come thru when they get back from eating with the pigs. Do I still teach them Jesus? Yes! I’m just like you. It’s in every other conversation.

Because when they are at their cross road when they are racked by the torment of their many sins, it will be impossible for them not to remember the words of their (mother). I know it hurts. I know it’s hard. I may be calling you in a couple more years when the rest of mine grow up to remind me of these words- no mother wants to see her kids stray because we know what that leads to. And we don’t want that for our kids. I grew up in a Christian home and we all were very involved in church, the scriptures, praying, evangelizing, etc… ( I have 6 sisters 2 brothers) but we all had to come to our own day of reckoning and that came at different times in all our lives

But we always came back to the Lord. In different ways. Maybe still not perfect but it’s in us. And we can’t run from it! Just like the Lord promised.

Lastly, one thing my husband always tells me is not to give up on people. You never know what they will become and when. He knows because he was raised in a “Mormon” family and he was the wildest kid you ever met.

He did every drug, every party, moved to the city, and ran with the worst gangs and now he is a completely different man.

I’ve seen the power of God work in a lot of the worst people. I’m from the inner city of Chicago- we faced a lot of tough challenges. But the bottom line is it was never in your power to “save” your kids or keep them in the church. Your job is to teach them the way so they can always know how to get back.”

She said so many beautiful things in that. Every time I read it, I bawl like a baby. But my favorite phrase is – it’s in us.

Mom’s and Dad’s, do your best and it will be enough.

I have this next quote on my mirror in my bathroom. It’s another comfort. It’s by Jeffrey R Holland from his book, Broken Things to Mend.

“If you and your husband will strive to love God and live the gospel yourselves; if you will plead for their guidance and the comfort of the Holy Spirit promised to the faithful; if you will go to the temple to both make and claim the promises of the most sacred covenants a woman or man can make in this world; if you can show others, including your children, the same caring, compassionate, forgiving heart you want heaven to show to you; if you try your best to be the best parent you can be, you will have done all that a human being can do and all that God expects you to do.”

Jen Hatmaker, a prior Christian author, said in her book For the Love,

“Remember this: Not matter what, our children belong to God and He is very much paying attention. He is always at work; we are but one piece of their story. Our kids may detour. So many will crash and burn. They could walk away and they could come back. They will ultimately make their own spiritual decisions, and no formula ensures any outcome. We cannot guarantee their safety or loyalty, their path or decisions. The best parents can have children who self-destruct, and the worst parents can have kids who thrive.

The best we can do is give them Jesus…

So let’s give our kids Jesus and trust Him to lead, even if we don’t see the results for five years, ten years, or until the other side of this life. Because no matter what their spiritual futures contain … Jesus will remain. He is the only constant, the only Savior that has held through the ages.”

If I had it to do all over again, and I could start over with my young family and babies, I would teach them every day how much the Savior of the world loves them. I would be less concerned with teaching them “the church is true,” and more concerned with teaching them that “Jesus is real.”

When they received an answer to their prayers I would stress how awesome it was that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ loved them so much and I would emphasize how much Jesus is aware of them. When my children were sad or hurting, I would tell them that the one person who truly understands how they feel more than anyone in the world is Jesus. I would teach them while they were very young to ask for His assistance and be grateful for it when they received it.

And I would most definitely teach my children that the Savior loves them no matter what! I would read the story of the Prodigal Son so often that it would sink deep down into their brains. We would act it out continuously for family home evenings and it would be the one story they knew more than any other.

Why? Because it is the story that Jesus told about His dad. Jesus knows his father better than any of us and he described him as the man who killed the cow and threw the party for the son that returned. The dad in the story, our Heavenly Father, never stopped watching down the road for his son to come home and when he saw him, “afar off,” he ran to him and threw his arms around him, and welcomed him home. I would let my babies know, that there was nothing that they could do that would ever change that love.

But now that I’m old and my kids are older, I will stand like that dad and constantly watch down the road for their return. Like Alma and Mosiah I will pray night and day for their safety and for God to work in them and bring them back to Him. But I won’t be praying for God to bring them back to me, for I will never leave them. I will always be there for them – loving them, cheering for them, and seeing all the amazing beauty of their lives no matter where they are on the gospel path.

I loved what Todd Christopherson wrote about his parents in his book, “That We May Be One: A Gay Mormon’s Perspective on Faith and Family.” He said when he came out to his family that he was gay – so long ago, his parents said, “We have two bedrocks of our life, our faith, and our family and we will never be complete without both.” (or something to that effect – I’m writing it from memory.) But it is such an important lesson we need to learn! They never made him feel they had to make a choice.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO MAKE A CHOICE. LOVE YOUR FAITH AND YOUR FAMILY.

I am not perfect at this. I know I flounder around and say the wrong thing a lot. But I’m trying. I hope my kids see that I’m trying. And the Lord is helping me understand, everyday, how much he loves them and how they are never out of His sight.

Don’t give up on your kids. Don’t drive them away just because they may make choices that you don’t like. Just love them. Love them more when they stumble. Love them more when they make choices you may not like. Always give them a door to come through at the end of the day.

It will be enough.

*I LOVED the Christian author, Jen Hatmaker. This book was the first book I ever read of hers and I proudly admit that her straightforward views about Christ in this book and in a few of her other books really deepened my love for the Savior. She brought Him closer to me. He wasn’t some guy out there who did this one thing for me in the garden and then on the cross, but He is the man who is with me every day – the man that cares deeply for me and lifts my burdens and strengthens my life.

AND – she’s really funny. That’s my magic combo. Funny and spiritual. I think you’ll love this book too. Additional information: Since this was originally posted, Jen Hatmaker has moved away from speaking and preaching about Jesus. She has moved away from religion. It breaks my heart. But this book is STILL FABULOUS, and I love it.

*I really liked Tom Christofferson’s book, “That We May Be One: A Gay Mormon’s Perspective on Faith and Family.” I originally picked it up because a family in our ward had a daughter inform them that she was gay and I wanted a book to give me some insights. It was so much more than a book about a gay son. To me, it was a book about loving, understanding, caring parents that handled that situation with such grace and wisdom. I learned so much from them. I highly recommend it!

Sunday in church and this week on the podcast, we were talking about the resurrected Christ and His appearances to the apostles and other people shortly after His death.  It was crazy to me that they just didn’t get it.  Why were they so surprised that the tomb was empty three days after His death?  Hadn’t He said repeatedly that this precise thing would happen?  He had explained it all to them.  And yet – when Mary said she saw Him, they didn’t believe her.  When He walked along with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, they didn’t even recognize Him.  They didn’t know quite what to do, so they wandered out to their boats and started fishing again.  They were afraid, confused, and it seemed they had forgotten so much.  What was going on?  Why were the apostles so out of sorts?  Surely, they were the ones that should be leading the people forward, calming other people’s fears, and believing that He really had overcome death.  Right? 

And then there was Thomas in John’s account.  It said he wasn’t there when Jesus came and showed Himself to the other apostles.  He said he wouldn’t believe until he could see the Savior for himself – until he could feel the prints of the nails himself.  

It said that eight days later, the Savior came back to where Thomas was, and Thomas got his wish. He was able to do just what he wanted; he saw the Savior, touched the nail prints, and knew for himself.  It’s interesting to me that the first thing the Savior said to Thomas was, “Peace be unto you.” 

I bet that was a long eight days.  As the other apostles spoke of their experiences, Thomas didn’t believe them.  He, in essence, asked the question repeatedly, “Did Jesus really return? Maybe they are lying.  Why haven’t I witnessed Him for myself?”  On and on.  No rest.  No peace.  For eight straight days.

What can we learn from Thomas. If we are wandering around saying, “Prove it. Prove it.” We may be missing the peace that comes from trusting others until we receive our own witness.

I was listening to a BYU speech this week by Gus L Hart called, Six Things I Believe and he said this, “The opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is certainty.” Think about that for a minute. It’s a powerful statement. Faith is “not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith, ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” (Alma 32:21). What if Thomas said, “I hope you’re right. I have missed Him. I am so excited to think He has been resurrected.” What would that have done for Thomas? He would have found peace much earlier. We can learn a lot from Thomas.

In this week’s Come Follow Me lesson, we get to Acts and the Day of Pentecost. In the first chapter of Acts, Christ points out that the apostles had been baptized by water but not yet of the Holy Ghost.  He promised them that in a few days, after He left them, they would receive the Holy Ghost.  Then in the very next chapter, the miracle happens.  There was a sound from Heaven and a rushing wind, and the Holy Ghost fell upon them.  From this point on, so many cool things start happening! Suddenly they weren’t just a group of confused fishermen, but they were the very apostles whom Christ had given authority to preach in His name.  Thousands of people were baptized, and Christ’s ministry continued.  Peter became a mighty apostle, teaching and sharing Christ’s gospel with authority and undeniable power.  

Do you get it?  Without the gift of the Holy Ghost they were confused.  They didn’t believe each other, and they didn’t, as far as I can tell, even remember that Christ said it would all go down like this.  And here is why.  They needed the Holy Ghost!  We, too, need the Holy Ghost.  We learn in the book of John that some of the roles of the Holy Ghost are to bring things to our remembrance, to bring Christ’s peace, and to comfort us when we are sad.  Once the apostles had that gift given to them, there was no stopping them.  But before that day, it was kind of a mess.  

It’s the same with us, my friends.  We need the Holy Ghost.  We need to do all that we can to act like Jesus Christ and serve and be kind to others.  We need to try to increase our purity every day.  This happens when we study our scriptures and repent when we mess up.  This happens every week as we look forward to the sacrament and our opportunity to renew our covenants with the Savior.  When we go to the temple or turn off that filthy show or song, we increase our ability to have the spirit and Christ’s influence with us continually.  

My old pal (I wish), Elder Lawrence Corbridge, said it best in his life-changing address, Stand Forever.

 “Pay whatever price you must pay, bear whatever burden you must bear, and make whatever sacrifice you must make to get and keep in your life the spirit and power of the Holy Ghost. Every good thing depends on getting and keeping the power of the Holy Ghost in your life. Everything depends on that.”

We are so fortunate!  We who have been baptized by the proper authority and who were given the gift of the Holy Ghost on that occasion have the ability always to have His spirit to be with us.  It’s such an amazing gift.  Let’s not take it for granted.  Please read this week’s account of the Day of Pentecost.  See what a difference the Holy Ghost made to the early members of the church, and strive for those same results in your own life.   Everything really does depend on it. 

Last week I was able to be on a webinar with my new friend Oak Norton. He is the developer of a scripture study app that is really quite amazing. He offered it to me free of charge to use and see how I liked it. I really like it! There is a learning curve, but fortunately there are many how-to videos that will help set you on your way to using his powerful tool.

In this webinar, I briefly discuss my background and then talk a bit more about the book. Then I show how I study the scriptures using my computer and a Word document. Then Oak shows us around his app a little bit. For those who know me oh so well from years of podcasts and the book, you may not hear anything too new or riveting from me. Haha. But it is worth a listen for Oak to show you around his app. I actually think it’s really handy.

Here’s a link to the webinar. WEBINAR

Sorry for the confusion. I thought they were going to take it down to add the description. Apparently, they didn’t. So now feel free to buy it and listen.

My recommendation: Speed it up to 1.25 speed, and it will sound more like me. Also, for a fun time, slow it down to .5 speed. I sound like a drunk person reading a book about scriptures.

But any speed you listen, hopefully, you will enjoy it. I was so nervous when the book came out I almost perished. I’m feeling the same way now. I know it’s because I just sound different than I do on the podcast because I’m reading instead of just talking. I hope you enjoy it, even though I may sound a little different.

I may go barf now.

LOVE YOU PEOPLE!

Follow the link below to listen

https://www.audible.com/pd/B0C545YCQQ/?source_code=AUDFPWS0223189MWT-BK-ACX0-351441&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_351441_rh_us

Yay!! The Audible version of the book is now available. Thanks so much for your patience. I’m not quite sure why the description isn’t available on it yet. I’m troubleshooting that. But you all know what it’s about and I’m not going to make you wait any longer!

Word to the wise! If you’re used to me talking a mile a minute, you may want to listen at faster than 1.0 speed. I had to read nice and slow for Audible. I was also afraid they were going to take out a part where I started laughing at myself and couldn’t stop. They didn’t. You’re welcome.

Love you guys!!

Use link below

https://www.audible.com/pd/B0C545YCQQ/?source_code=AUDFPWS0223189MWT-BK-ACX0-351441&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_351441_rh_us

I was reading the Book of Mormon yesterday and came across this scripture in Alma 23:14  “And the Amalekites were not converted, save only one;” And I got to thinking about this one random Amalekite. How did they know there was one? Was this person outspoken about his/her faith? They must have been! Right? How else would the tally even know to mention them? We never hear anymore about this person.

I thought about it and wondered, are we like the one Amalekite? If someone in the future wrote a history of our book club, job, neighborhood, etc., would they mention us? Would we stand out enough among those we associate with that we could a mention in the history because of our faith?

All of a sudden, I am so curious about this one Amalekite. I want to be like this person. I want people to know I was there and that I loved the Lord and represented enough to be remembered and recognized.

I made a little thought about it on Instagram. You can check it out HERE.

I have also been somewhat obsessed over the new ChatGBT and AI Art generators. It’s fascinating! Elder Gong gave a talk about it at BYU a few weeks ago. You can watch it HERE.

I asked ChatGBT to “Write me a fictional story about the one converted Amalekite in the Book of Mormon that we know nothing about.  Why did he convert? What made him stay? Did he convert others?” (I’m sorry I didn’t write “she”. Don’t be mad. I’m adding now that it could have been a girl or a boy. Man or a woman.) The result BLEW MY MIND. Within seconds ChatGBT wrote this story. If you want to imagine it was a girl, name her Annie.

I also got into StarryAI and asked it to paint me some pictures of these two characters. It originally made them both old, so I’m sticking with those pictures. Pretend they were taken near the end of their lives.

Here is the fictional story that ChatGBT wrote about the “One Amalekite.”

Once upon a time in ancient America, during the time period described in the Book of Mormon, there lived an Amalekite named Amos. He was a young man who grew up in a devout Amalekite family, deeply rooted in their traditional beliefs and practices.
Amos was known for his adventurous spirit and curious nature. He was fascinated by the different cultures and religions he encountered in his travels. One day, while on a journey to trade goods with neighboring cities, Amos came across a group of Nephite missionaries preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Intrigued, he listened attentively to their message and found himself drawn to the teachings of love, faith, and repentance.
As Amos learned more about the gospel, he began to question the beliefs and practices of his own people. He found that the Amalekite ways were often steeped in violence, materialism, and selfishness. This troubled him deeply, and he started to feel a yearning for something more meaningful and fulfilling.
Over time, Amos developed a deep testimony of the gospel and a strong desire to change his life for the better. He chose to be baptized and formally converted to the Nephite faith. His decision was met with mixed reactions from his family and fellow Amalekites. Some were intrigued by his newfound faith and respected his choice, while others were skeptical and ridiculed him.
Despite facing challenges and opposition, Amos remained steadfast in his faith. He devoted himself to studying the scriptures, praying, and serving others. He found great joy and fulfillment in living the principles of the gospel, and his life began to transform for the better. He let go of his old ways of selfishness and violence, and he started to cultivate virtues like kindness, compassion, and forgiveness.
Amos’ exemplary conduct and sincere testimony became a powerful witness to those around him. He often shared the gospel with others and invited them to come unto Christ. His kindness and Christ-like love won over many hearts, and he was able to help several Amalekites embrace the gospel and make positive changes in their lives.
As time went on, Amos became known as a respected leader in his community. He served as an example of a true disciple of Christ, and his unwavering faith and righteous deeds touched the lives of many. He continued to live a life of devotion and service, and he remained a faithful member of the Nephite faith until the end of his days.
Amos’ conversion not only brought him personal joy and fulfillment, but it also had a ripple effect on the lives of those around him. His unwavering faith, genuine love for others, and Christ-like example inspired many others to follow his path and find truth and happiness in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He left a legacy of faith, love, and service that endured long after he was gone, and he was remembered as the one converted Amalekite who touched the hearts of many and helped bring others to Christ.

The End

Mind blown.

3 thoughts on “What’s New”

    1. It will be on Amazon soon! I’m sorry it’s taking longer than I thought. Hopefully it will be out in the next few weeks. We really thought it would be out by Valentines Day. I guess I have to learn patience or something hard like that.

  1. I’m listening to your book. I love it!
    I also look forward to the next Come Follow me for Us every week! I’ve learned so much.

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