Episode 134: Glenys Nellist Interview and Helping Children Know God Is Always with Them

This week we talk with our long-time friend, author Glenys Nellist. I believe this is her fourth interview with us. Glenys is a prolific writer and has books coming out regularly. She loves sharing God’s love with children.

Our Guest: Glenys Nellist

Glenys Nellist was born and raised in a little village in northern England. The author of multiple award-winning children’s books, including the bestselling ‘Twas the Evening of Christmas, The Wonder That is You, and five popular series: Love Letters from God, Snuggle Time, ‘Twas, Good News and Little Mole, her writing reflects a deep passion for helping children discover joy and hope in the world. Glenys lives in Michigan with her husband, David.

Books Discussed in this Episode:

Transcript with Links:

Terrie:

Welcome to “Books That Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that help us with everyday discipleship, every day, sparking important conversations with our children. Today we have a familiar guest with us. It’s Glenys Nellist, and we’re so glad to have her back on the podcast. She’s been on in the past and shared her wonderful books with us, and she has quite a few books out. She has a new one that is launching this month, and we’re going to talk about that today and share some other great news with you. Glenys, thank you for joining us today.

Glenys:

Oh, it’s always a pleasure, Terrie. Thanks so much for having me.

Terrie:

And big surprise, you have another book, that just came out. So let’s, of course, start there. Tell us about this new book.

Glenys:

Well, it is called Wherever You Are. It releases February 28th from Beaming Books, and it’s illustrated by Sian James. She’s a new illustrator to me, and I’m thrilled to be collaborating with her. So originally the title of the book was Where’s God? because that’s really the premise that wherever you are, God is there, but as sometimes can happen, things get changed, you know, in the editing process. So my editor suggested that we simply call it Wherever You Are, and I really like that because I think it has something of an enigma to it. But it also captures the essence of the book that wherever you are, God is there.

Terrie:

Yeah, I love that. And to remind children that no matter where they go, they’re never alone, that He’s always with them. I think that’s wonderful. And the illustrator, oh my goodness, I could tell it was a new illustrator, but what beautiful illustrations. The whole book is just beautiful.

Glenys:

I know it’s always a scary time when you give your baby to your editor and you know that they’re picking illustrators. As the author, I don’t really have a choice. I mean, sometimes they will send me a few options, a few examples, and then I might be able to say, “Yes, I like this style.” And I think that did happen early on. I think Sian was one of three illustrators that Beaming Books was considering, but I knew straight away, when I saw her work, that well, I love her use of color, you know? Every page is so bright, like the cover. The cover is such an important part of that book, and it’s lovely, isn’t it, with a little girl sitting on the mountain and she has her hand over her eyes, and she’s looking out over the river and the city, but she’s obviously in the countryside. So I think it does capture that feeling of wherever you are, God is there.

Terrie:

Well, one of the things I like to do with picture books, because I have a lot of homeschool families that follow my podcast, is talk about how we can use these books to not only talk to our little kids about God, but even our older kids. And what I thought was so unique about this book is you could use this book to talk some really deep theology. I love in Romans and Hebrews and different books in the Bible where it talks about God’s general revelation where He has revealed Himself to us through His creation and through the world. And so when we look at creation, we see there is a Creator, and this book kind of goes along that line. God is with us wherever we are, God is in the whisper of the gently falling snow, but we can also talk about the theologies of pantheism and panentheism where there’s the beliefs that God is in everything and that God is a part of everything. And there’s a lot of bad theology out there that we can dig into with our older kids just by talking about this book. And that was one thing that really hit me as I was reading it, is, wow, we could really create a homeschool lesson on apologetics or theology and really dig in with our older kids as we read through this book. So I know you probably didn’t intend that, but it’s something I thought of as I was reading it.

Glenys:

Well, I think that’s really wonderful, Terrie, that you picked up on that. And you’re right, it’s not something I gave a lot of thought to, but the wonderful thing about writing a picture book is that when you put it out into the world, you never quite know how it’s going to touch people’s hearts or the conversations that it’s going to spark. And so it’s really wonderful that people get different things from reading your book. But yes, the whole idea of God, well, God is omnipresent. You know, God is not just omnipotent and omniscient, but God is omnipresent. God is everywhere and all around, and indeed within each one of us. So this is not just a book that talks about God being in the flowers or the trees, but I certainly believe that because of God’s creating hand. But it also explores the fact that since we are all made in the image of God, God is in the eyes of every person that we meet.

Glenys:

And that’s a little line in the book that is actually based on a true story that happened to me several years ago. It was an autumn day, and I was out raking leaves in my street at the bottom of my driveway, and my neighbor came out from the next door, and we were just raking leaves together. And it was such a beautiful day. And I just distinctly remember I was leaning on my rake, and I was chatting to my neighbor, and I just had this overwhelming presence that God was in everything, that God was with us as we raked those leaves, God was in the leaves that were falling and the trees and the wind. But most of all, God was in my neighbor. And as I’m telling you that, I get goosebumps because we get so caught up, don’t we, in our busy lives, and there are so many distractions, but I think just sometimes God yearns for us just to stop and listen and pay attention and know that God is real.

Glenys:

And so I know that you have the book with you. That street was called Lennox Road. And because that was such a powerful experience for me that day that I’ve never forgotten. I mean, I never thought it would be in a picture book, but it was such a powerful experience that when I started to write this book, I knew that I had to include that. And so you will find Lennox Road, and it’s the real road where I lived several years ago in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And I am in that picture. This is the first book that I appear in, but I’m right there, raking leaves with my neighbor. And it was just wonderful because she asked me if she knew that that moment was a real experience, how I had written, “God is in the eyes of every person that we meet.” And she asked me, “Do you have pictures of the street?” And so I went to my old home and stood at the bottom of the driveway and took those photographs, and she depicted that so beautifully, even down to the fire hydrant that is at the bottom of our old driveway. And so that’s one of the reasons why this is such a special book to me because there are actually two true stories in there that just proved to me the existence of God and God’s omnipresence.

Terrie:

That’s beautiful. And I love that. That’s one of my favorite pages in the whole book. And you know, if we can help our children understand when we interact with other people and minister to other people, we are showing them God’s love and we’re showing them that God is real. I think that is so important for children to grasp and understand. And we always say that you may be the only Bible someone ever reads. And so our attitudes, our actions, and it reminded me of an experience we had too when I was a young mom and my husband worked at a parking lot in Tiburon, California. We were at the parking lot, the little booth, and this woman comes by and we start talking with her, and it was like we had one of those moments. We looked in each other’s eyes and we knew, I knew she was a believer; I knew she knew God. She turned to us and said, “Are you guys Christians?” And I said, yes. And we just recognized the presence of God in that moment as we met each other and began to talk about him. And so, yeah, I love that, that we can share Christ through our actions, our attitudes, and what we do, and we can recognize Christ in another person and recognize in every person, whether believer or not, that they are created in His image, of course. And that He loves them.

Glenys:

Exactly. Yeah. I was just going to say that too. I mean, there is a certain bonding among Christians and that feeling of mutuality, but also, I don’t know if it’s a famous saying or a meme or something, but something I read or saw that said, “You will never look into the eyes of a person who God does not love.”

Terrie:

Yeah, that’s right.

Glenys:

And that’s everyone. Christian or not, you know?

Terrie:

Yeah. That’s great. Another part that I loved was where the little boy is sad and his mom is crying with him, and then in the next one they’re recovering and laughing. And I love that because our kids need to learn to be resilient, that they’re not alone in their pain, and they’re not alone in their joy, and life has both

Glenys:

Yeah. I think the pages that you are referring to are the ones that on one spread, it says, “God is in the tears, in the sadness, in the pain.” And then when you turn over, it says, “God is in the laughter and the hope that comes again.” So yeah, I wanted to capture that God is with us no matter how we’re feeling. And you know, I think we probably cry out to God more when we’re in pain, when we have that sadness or those tears. But God is also with us when the dawn breaks, when we’re happy. And there’s always hope. I think that’s such an important thing that we all need. We all need hope. We all go through sad and lonely and hard times, but there is always hope. And God is with us in every emotion and every situation.

Terrie:

Amen. Yes. I love that. And I think that’s another thing that is so important for us to communicate with our children, that, you know, there are sad times, there are hard times, but they’re all temporary, just as the good times are temporary. But that we don’t lose hope in the sad times because God is still with us, and we know He’s going to walk with us through the valleys as well as the mountain tops. So there’s so much good that we can teach through this book with our children and to really build a good foundation of truth and really talk about some of those things. So I really love that.

Glenys:

Thank you.

Terrie:

So what else have you had going on, since we last spoke? You’ve had some other books come out. You had two books come out around Christmas, right?

Glenys:

Yes. It’s an enormous blessing, but sometimes I can’t quite remember which books have come out because I don’t know. I just feel like I’m on this rollercoaster, and I love writing, and I just feel that God is with me as I write. So yes, I think you might be referring to, I had three little board books published just before Christmas. Two of them were in the Good News series. Good News! It’s Creation! is a celebration of God creating our wonderful world. And Good News! God Loves You! which is really based on Romans 8, that nothing can separate us from God’s great love. And so those two little board books are published by Our Daily Bread and just super cute illustrations by Lizzie Walkley. And then the third little board book that came out in November, I think was, I think the seventh in the Snuggle Time series from ZonderKidz. And that is Snuggle Time Love. And that one takes 1 Corinthians 13, you know, the familiar passage. Love is patient, love is kind, and it takes all those attributes of God and tries to simplify them and make them accessible to little ones.

Terrie:

Ah, how wonderful.

Glenys:

So yeah, that was a busy, exciting time for me. And ZonderKidz made some absolutely adorable free printables that are on my website, which is just glenysnellist.com. And they are very simple, but they’re really cute, cuddly animals. And one says, “Love protects.” That’s an owl with her baby. And “Love never gives up.” That’s a penguin with a little one. So I hope those will be a good resource for moms and well parents, I should say and children’s ministers.

Terrie:

Oh, that’s nice. Boardbooks are just so wonderful because they’re sturdier and made for kids who are possibly going to chew on them.

Glenys:

I heard someone refer to them as the Edible Editions.

Terrie:

That’s great. I love that. And so do you have any books coming up on the horizon?

Glenys:

I do. I do. Yes. Another one with Beaming Books coming in late summer. Everyone’s favorite friend is back: Little Mole.

Terrie:

Yay! Oh, tell us about it.

Glenys:

Yes. Little Mole Gives Thanks will be the fourth in the Little Mole series. That one began with Little Mole Finds Hope. And then Little Mole’s Christmas Gift. My most recent book, which published last year was Little Mole Goes to School. And now he’s throwing a big Thanksgiving feast in the woods. And he has invited three very important guests. He’s waiting anxiously to welcome Principal Porcupine, Firefighter Fox, and Mayor Moose. But Terrie, they all have different excuses why they can’t come. Firefighter Fox has to clean his fire truck, and Principal Porcupine has a meeting at school and so on. And so he’s very disappointed until he realizes that naturally the most important people he could invite are his little friends and his family. And so if that sounds familiar, which I hope it does, it is based on the parable of the great banquet.

Terrie:

Yes. I love that.

Glenys:

And so that’s the first time I think that I have attempted something like that to take a Bible. Well, it’s a parable. To take a parable and just write it in kind of a secular way, because if you are not a Christian, you wouldn’t know that the book is based on that parable. But I think it will be a really sweet story for school teachers to share and parents. And so Little Mole, at the end, he says, “I want my table to be full.”

Terrie:

Oh, that’s wonderful. Oh, I love it. Check out her books, check out her website at glenysnellist.com, and your family will just have opportunities to really pour into your children and talk about God’s love and His care for us as you read through these books. So Glenys, thank you so much for joining us today.

Glenys:

Oh, it was a joy, Terrie. Thanks for spending time with me.

Terrie:

I loved it. Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark, where we encourage each other to live out every day discipleship, helping to equip our children to follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you enjoyed this episode, please like and share on social media so people know we’re here and leave a review on one of the podcast host sites if you can. We truly appreciate you. If you would like to connect with Glenys, you can reach her at glenysnellist.com. And if you would like to connect with me and join my mailing list, you can find me at terriehellardbrown.com. We love to hear from you. We respond to every comment and question. And I wanted to just take a moment. We talked about, at the beginning of this episode, about some big theological ideas. And with most books and with most things, we kind of sometimes have to explain a little bit with our children so that they don’t misunderstand.

Terrie:

And in this book, it talks about God being in the sound of the rain or the whisper of the wind or something like that, and different things like that. And we don’t want our children to think that that is literally God like pantheism, that God is in everything or panentheism, that all of creation contains God, even though He is also above creation. So you can look up those words online, but let me just kind of define them for those who might not quite understand or know how to put them into words. So it says, “Pantheism is usually defined as the identification of God with creation in such a way that the two are indistinguishable. They are one and the same.” So that tree out there is God, your dog is God, and the wind is God, and it’s all God. And of course, that is completely wrong.

Terrie:

Panentheism is getting very popular in our culture today and is the principle or belief that all things are contained in God. So the universe is part of God, but God is still, He still transcends creation. He still transcends all of that as well. It has a separate existence. So yes, there’s God essence in everything, and God is still separate from His creation. So it’s a subtle difference and a subtle distinguishing between the truth and this belief. This is where we get the idea of the universe telling you what you should do, which is a common idea out there. So they believe that God is present literally in all creation by virtue of His omnipresence and his omnipotence. So the difference there between what the Bible teaches and Panentheism is that the Bible teaches general revelation that when we look at nature, we see a flower. We know there was a Creator who made that flower. That flower is not God and that flower does not contain God, but it is if you will, like His fingerprint is on it because we know He was there.

Terrie:

And so when we look at us, yes, we can see that God’s Holy Spirit is in us if we are believers, and we have the Holy Spirit in us, who is evidence of our relationship with God, but we are not God. And that’s where we have the distinction. Because if you’re panentheist, then we are God, we become little gods in a sense, and we have the God essence in us. No, we are not little Christs. We are not little gods, but we have God in us simply because Jesus saved us and gave us His Holy Spirit when we became believers. And so his Holy Spirit is within us and guides us and leads us, but we do not become God. And so there are other faiths out there that believe that the panentheism kind of mixes together the whole ideas of the Hindu and Buddhist beliefs of Nirvana or of reaching enlightenment.

Terrie:

If you have the panentheist view of Christianity, it melds together that concept of Christ in the essence of, in the meaning of enlightenment. So Christ takes on a new meaning. Christ simply means anointed one, it is meant to distinguish him as the Messiah, and it’s the name given to Jesus. He is still the same person. Jesus Christ, Messiah is all the same person. He is man and God at the same time. And yet Panentheism would say, “No, Jesus was a man and he became the Christ.” In other words, he reached enlightenment and became the enlightened one or whatever. And therefore, we can too. We can become little Christ’s, we can become enlightened. So the reason it’s so important for us to distinguish that, especially with our older kids, is that it is permeating our culture and it is a wrong theology and takes the word of God and twists it because they’re using a lot of the same terms that we see in the Bible, but they’re misrepresenting them.

Terrie:

So just be aware of that. This book really kind of opened up the door to talk about that because it’s a very cute rhyming book that could easily have the wrong understanding if we don’t have these conversations with our children. So I just wanted to take a moment and talk about that a little bit, and hope that helps you. You can of course, do your own research and learn and understand it better than probably I explained it. But I do think it’s an important thing we need to be aware of and distinguish with our kids. So let me know in the comments if you have any questions or if you have a way that you like to share these things with your children, and we can help make it simple enough for us to be able to explain it well and for our kids to grasp it and be able to tackle some of those hard ideas. We pray you feel empowered as a parent or caregiver to walk by faith and to embrace everyday discipleship every day with the children in your life.

Your Host: Terrie Hellard-Brown

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts discuss living as a disciple of Christ while parenting our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ and to use the nooks and crannies of our lives to disciple our children.

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

2 thoughts on “Episode 134: Glenys Nellist Interview and Helping Children Know God Is Always with Them”

  1. This blog post was good. Terrie and Glenys do a good job of showing us how God’s presence around us can be so helpful. When children are feeling alone, it is good to know that God’s presence with them even when they don’t feel it. I encourage you to read this book and listen to this podcast.

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