When her four sons were young, they loved the book "The Jolly Postman, or Other People's Letters" by Janet & Allan Ahlberg. The story has a postman delivering letters to fairy tale characters, with children able to open the envelope on each page and pull out the letter addressed to their favorite characters.
Nellist brought the book with her to the United States when she and her husband David moved here several decades ago, and it became the inspiration for her own children's books. Her first book, "Love Letters from God: Bible Stories" came out with Zonderkidz in 2014, complete with lift-the-flap letters from God written for young readers.
"I love to write, so when I decided to write a storybook Bible I needed it to be unique because there are so many out there," said Nellist. "God whispered, 'Remember those little letters? Write letters after the Bible stories as if they're from me.'"
She started writing in 2008, but it would be six years before her book was published, in part because she gave up halfway through. But gentle prodding by her husband got her back on track.
Now her third in the Love Letters from God series is out, this one specifically for Christmas. "Christmas Love Letters from God: Bible Stories" features the same life-the-flap details, but this time focuses on the Christmas story.
Nellist tells seven stories: Isaiah's Good News, Mary's Song, Joseph's Dream, Bethlehem's Road, Jesus' Joy, Shepherd's Surprise and Wise Men's Wonder. At the end, children can lift a flap and write a little letter to Jesus on his birthday.
"I want children to know that Christmas is all about God loving them. That's the most important thing: Jesus is God's gift to you because he loves you so much," said Nellist.
She also wants children to take a little time to explore the Christmas story more deeply. "I'd love them to explore the thoughts and feelings of the characters. They don't get that in many Christmas books," she said.
Nellist serves as coordinator for children's ministry for the West Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church; her husband is pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church on Lake Drive in Grand Rapids.
"I love to find a different way to write Bible stories while staying true to God's Word," said Nellist. "It's a challenge. First I'll read a story and pray a lot, then I'll find a different way into the story. I love being part of God's creativity."
Nellist is also author of "Little Love Letters from God: Bible Stories," a board book version of the first book, and the Snuggle Time board book series, also with Zonderkidz. Her book "Love Letters from God: Bible Stories for a Girl's Heart" will come out in February 2017, and "Easter Love Letters from God: Bible Stories" in 2018.
Children's Storytime and Book Signing
Who: Glenys Nellist, author of "Christmas Love Letters from God: Bible Stories"
When: 10:30 am, Thursday, Dec. 15
Where: Baker Book House, 2768 E. Paris Ave. SE
Details: Storytime followed by a book signing with the author