Tag Archives: Encouragement

Hannah: The Hopeful Girl- Part 5 in a Fourteen-Week Bible Study for Women

Welcome! I’m so glad you’re joining us for this fourteen-week Bible study based on Girls’ Love Letters from God. If you have time, you may wish to keep a journal to record your responses to the questions. Please DO leave comments, responses or questions on this post so that we can learn from and encourage one another.

Hannah: The Hopeful Girl

Read: 1 Samuel 1:9-2:1

I have two adorable grandchildren who live 2000 long miles away. I see them about twice a year. Last time we visited, I distinctly remember what the weather was like the day we said goodbye. It was really cloudy and gloomy and rainy. I felt like the dark skies matched my mood.

But as we flew high above the clouds, the sun was waiting to greet us, shining bright and strong and cheerful on Mount Hood’s spectacular snow-covered peaks. It was a gorgeous sight. And it reminded me that in every sad or hard situation, there’s always hope, even if you can’t see it.

Sometimes you have to climb up to find hope, and sometimes you have to go down. And that’s where we find our Hannah… down on her knees, in the temple, literally crying out to her God of hope.

 

Hannah was desperate. She was desperate for the one thing in life that had eluded her… Continue reading

Rahab: The Brave Girl – Part 3 in a Fourteen-Week Bible Study for Women

Welcome! I’m so glad you’re joining us for this fourteen-week Bible study based on Girls’ Love Letters from God. If you have time, you may wish to keep a journal to record your responses to the questions. Please DO leave comments, responses or questions on this post so that we can learn from and encourage one another.

Rahab: The Brave Girl

Read: Joshua 2: 1-21

So, I have a confession to make.

I sometimes run on the treadmill in my dressing gown. Wait a minute… make that jog on the treadmill in my dressing gown, or maybe it’s more like a trot… a slow trot.

I love my dressing gown. It’s warm, and comfy, and cozy. But, and here’s the thing, when my body warms up, and I finally manage to throw it off, I do SO much better. I even look like I’m running sometimes.

And when I wrestle that thing off my shoulders and throw it on the ground, I always think about the writer of Hebrews who said:

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1

That’s just what our brave girl, Rahab, did. She threw off everything that was holding her back and ran, straight towards God.

And what does she find? Continue reading

Miriam: The Trusting Girl – Part 2 in a Fourteen-Week Bible Study for Women

Welcome! I’m so glad you’re joining us for this fourteen-week Bible study based on Girls’ Love Letters from God. If you have time, you may wish to keep a journal to record your responses to the questions. Please DO leave comments, responses or questions on this post so that we can learn from and encourage one another.

Miriam: The Trusting Girl

Read: Exodus 1:22-2:10

I’ve been on the Nile River. It’s huge. It’s very long. It’s very wide, and it’s very deep. And you’d have to be completely, utterly, hopelessly at the end of your own resources to ever, ever consider putting your baby in there, even if you did coat the basket with tar. But that’s what Moses’ mom did. It’s unbelievable.

This mom, after hiding her precious baby boy for three months, realizes that she cannot save him from the murderous Pharaoh, and chooses to put him in the river. Hear that again. She chooses to put him in the river.

It’s the ultimate lesson in letting go.

And it’s my story.

It’s not just my story because I wrote it. It’s my story because I lived it. There I was, one day, standing in an utterly desperate, utterly hopeless, utterly terrifying situation with my son.

For those awful, several years I lived in the land of what if? where all my moments and all my days were consumed with worry about all the dreadful things that might happen to him. I don’t know about you, but I’m an expert in imagining what might happen. I’m so good I could lead a class in it.

And one day, when I had come to the absolute end of my own resources, I simply had to let him go, and trust God instead. I had to place him in that basket, my precious son, with his long legs hanging over the edge, and let him go…

I wonder what Miriam thought might happen to her tiny, defenseless baby brother when her mom chose to let him go in that little basket, down in the huge River Nile?

I’m sure that any one of these awful scenarios ran through Miriam’s mind. She must surely have thought, what if…. Continue reading

Eve: The First Girl – Part 1 in a Fourteen-Week Bible Study for Women.

Welcome! I’m so glad you’re joining us for this fourteen-week Bible study based on Girls’ Love Letters from God. If you have time, you may wish to keep a journal to record your responses to the questions. Please DO leave comments, responses or questions on this post so that we can learn from and encourage one another.

Eve: The First Girl

Read: Genesis 2:15 – 3:13

God clapped his hands in delight as Eve opened her eyes for the very first time. She was wonderful! After six days of creating the world- painting the skies, stirring the seas, and filling the earth with life- here was God’s masterpiece, his glorious finishing touch to the world. Here was Eve, made by God’s own hand. And she was good.

These are the opening words in Love letters from God: Bible Stories for a Girl’s Heart. I chose them for a reason. These words set the stage for one of the most important truths that we, as women, could ever know.

You are good. 

Hear those words again.

You are good. 

God made you. And everything God made is good.

So how are you feeling today? If you’re anything like me, you don’t truly believe those words. Because we Christians are supposed to be humble, and on top of that, life has a way of wrestling us to the ground, and whispering lies, like:

Continue reading

A Special Announcement and Invitation For The New Year

When one year closes and a new one begins, hope is ushered in.

While we’re busy making our New Year’s resolutions, the master of new beginnings is waiting quietly in the wings, whispering hope into our hearts, just like this:

“Forget about what’s happened;
    don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
    rivers in the badlands.”

This is our great God of hope doing what God does best… assuring us that the past is the past; filling us with hope; cheering us on into this new year; encouraging us to keep moving forward; holding our shaky hands every step of the way.

I’m excited to announce that here on the blog, I’ll be starting something brand-new, and I want you to be part of it. Continue reading

The Phone Call I Never Wanted

Oh Glenys… this is the phone call you never wanted.

I hear the tremor in my brother’s voice. He’s 4000 long miles away, and I say a prayer in my head.

God, whatever this is, give me strength.

dad-3

Dad is dying. 

I can hear those three words like it was yesterday. My heart is beating fast and I kneel by my front window like I always do when I don’t know what else to do.

That was one year ago today.

My little grandsons are running around the house. There’s Christmas music playing. I’m setting the table with a cheery red cloth, preparing for a party. And then the next day, I’m on a plane, England bound, where I get to kiss my dad for the last time as he lies with his eyes closed and his hands folded in that quiet, quiet room, with a stuffed dog at his feet and an acorn tucked in his pocket.

Please, God, let me know you are real.

Let my dad be living in heaven.

Let my faith not be in vain.

Let my words, let my words that I write for children, be true.

Because sometimes, just sometimes, there’s this little nagging doubt that creeps up inside me and I wonder what life is all about, and if I really will get to see my dad again, like I told him with absolute certainty on my knees that day in front of my window.

I love you Dad, and I WILL see you again.

I could hear his breathing.

My voice was strong, and in that moment, I was convinced, just like Paul, that NOTHING, not even death itself, can ever separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

But today, I’m not strong. I’m not convinced. And I’m trying hard to hold on to my faith, my God, like I’m drowning in the ocean and it’s my only life-line, my only hope and it’s slipping fast through my fingers.

But what is faith? What is hope, the writer of Romans said, if it can be seen?

The day after I kissed my dad goodbye, as he lay in that simple wooden box, I stood in the street just a few doors down the road, while my sister and nieces played Christmas carols in the brass band. The icy wind blew my sister’s hair, and the rain in Wigan was cold. I wondered if my dad could hear them play his favorite carol, as he lay there, all alone.

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

I know my dad has been raised. I know my dad has gained that second birth. I just miss him terribly, and there’s this big, empty hole in my heart that no one can fill.

And so as my family gather in England today to celebrate and remember the life of the most Christ-like man I have ever known, the one I was utterly, utterly privileged to call Dad, I will take a walk in these Michigan wintry woods, and I’ll admire the splendid trees, all covered in soft snow, and I’ll listen for the birds he loved so much, and I’ll thank God that my dad, my wonderful dad, is in heaven.

That Utterly, Amazing Thing We Call Grace

So he was there again this morning, that gorgeous kingfisher with the long beak and the beady eye, perched quietly atop our pontoon boat.

2016-10-15-11-42-29

We’ve watched him as he dives deep into the lake and emerges a few moments later dangling a poor, flapping fish from his beak. We really should stop watching at that point….but we’re unable to put the binoculars down. It’s too fascinating, seeing this grisly glimpse into nature, this devouring… it really is.

Our kingfisher is in that same spot every. single. morning. Because he knows it’s simply the best place to be. It’s where he gets fed.

Then there’s me.

My family and all my friends think I’m a wonderful Christian. And I try, I really do. But somehow, I don’t quite measure up. I KNOW where I should be every single morning. I know the best place to get fed. But I fail so miserably.

In my defense, my Bible does have a prominent spot right at the side of my bed… but my phone sits on top of it. And therefore takes precedence.

But I NEED God… I really do, especially on gray, cloudy days like this one, when the sun won’t shine. And my heart is troubled.

On days like this I so need to know and remember that God is the one who can heal all hurts and right all wrongs, who can mend broken hearts and hold us when we cry.

God is the one who catches every tear, who fixes our failures and whispers hope into our hearts; the one who makes a way when there seems no way.

God is the one who tells me I am loved no matter what I do, or don’t do, no matter how many miserable times I fail or how many times I fall. God will lift me up.

It’s that utterly amazing grace that John Newton knew so well.

I stepped out onto the sodden grass this morning, trying to get a better picture of that kingfisher as he sat atop our pontoon boat. I wanted a close-up. The grass was long and wet with rain. My socks were soaked. But I’d only taken a few steps when he flew away.

God is not like that.

Because I know that the minute I start running to God, God will run to me.

I know God is the one waiting for me to turn and take those steps, and before I’ve even put my foot down, God is running, running right towards me, holding out those great big arms that will scoop me up and hold me tight and never let me go.

Healing all the hurt. Righting all the wrongs.

I’m running, God. I’m running.

The Best Piece of Advice I Could Give to Aspiring Authors..

I’m often asked, by aspiring authors:

What’s the best piece of advice you could offer as we try to break into the publishing world?

I’m usually tempted to say, learn to speak in a British accent, (since it’s done wonders for me). But instead, my singular piece of advice for those who don’t have an agent is:

Attend a Writers’ Conference.

I personally never wanted to.

I’d heard about writers’ conferences before, but I didn’t need to go to one. I decided I could do this myself. The thought of attending a writers’ conference intimidated and overwhelmed me. I’d seen the photographs of packed stadiums, brimming with people and bustling with activity. I was shy. I didn’t need, or want, to network with lots of agents, publishers, or other writers.

But it didn’t take long for me to figure out that there were only two ways to get my manuscript into the hands of Zondervan ( which was my goal). I either needed an agent, or I had to attend a conference.

That’s when I felt God nudging me to look at the Maranatha Christian Writers’ Conference, taking place in Muskegon, on the picturesque shore of Lake Michigan.

Not only was this conference in a beautiful setting, but it appealed to me because of its size. Although described as the largest writers’ conference in West Michigan, it was ‘small enough to be personable,’ promised excellent faculty in attendance, and was able to offer individual attention to writers through consultations with agents and editors. I plucked up courage, prayed, and registered. It was a decision I would never, ever regret.

Maranatha really did have an impressive faculty list. As I prepared for the conference, I scanned through the names, and saw that a well-known children’s author would be attending, to offer workshops, and meet one on one with writers.

I checked out her website and noticed she also offered editing and critique services. So I contacted her and before we’d even met at Maranatha, she had critiqued and edited both my proposal and the entire manuscript. I signed up to attend her workshops, registered for individual consultations with several faculty, and printed off my newly edited proposal. God had been with me every step of the way.

I was ready to attend my first writers’ conference.

My experience at Maranatha was everything it promised to be. Not once did I feel intimidated or overwhelmed. I was welcomed with genuine warmth; found fellowship with new friends; attended life-changing, informative workshops; heard inspirational testimonies; walked barefoot on the beach; and prayed with a small group of writers on a wooden balcony overlooking Lake Michigan, as God’s voice whispered through the wind and the waves.

The children’s author who had edited my work agreed to endorse my book, and most importantly, I was able to meet one on one with an editor from Zonderkidz- a ten minute consultation that would forever change my life.

She went back to Zondervan carrying my proposal. I went back home carrying my dream—a dream that was about to become reality.

glenys-montavilla

Little did I know that on a beautiful fall day, in that quiet, friendly, charming atmosphere of the Maranatha Christian Writers’ Conference, a new chapter of my life would begin. Little did I know….but God knows it all.

God – the giver of the writing gift; the creator of dreams; the planter of seeds; God knows it all. Writers… pick up your pens, open yourselves to the creative power of the Holy Spirit, and register.

Next week on the blog: 5 Not-to-Miss Tips To Make Your Writers’ Conference Worthwhile.

What Happened When the Angels Came for Iris

You just never know when or how this one beautiful life may end.

It was summer… a warm, lazy, ordinary day, when my husband called with the news. Would I like to go with him? One of our wonderful church members, a lady we all loved, was lying unexpectedly in a hospital bed. They would soon turn off life support.

Would I like to go with him? I wasn’t sure. I was afraid. But I said yes.

No one met Iris without falling in love with her. Unique, bubbly, funny, compassionate, thoughtful. A lady with a great sense of style, humor, and a heart full of love. She was special.

iris

Iris lay quietly in the bed. We gathered around her and held hands as David prayed. I didn’t know what would happen next. So I sat next to her husband and held his hand…because what else could I do?

It was then that they drew the curtain back and came in. Two ladies – quiet, unassuming, carrying fold-up chairs and harps.

Would you like some comfort in here? They said.

Who doesn’t need comfort at a time like this?

And as the nurses quietly began their work, those ladies began to sing and play.

Peace around you; Peace upon you; Peace above you; Peace beneath you.

It’s hard to describe what happened next.

The whole room filled with the sweet sound of their music, and a peace that I have truly never felt before. And although we all watched as the monitor screen went blank, and although we all saw the soft rise and fall of her last breath, it was as if the song of the harpists summoned in the very angels of heaven, who flew down, lifted our sweet Iris gently in their arms, and winged her safely home. I could almost hear the beat of their silvery wings as they soared upwards with her soul.

And if I didn’t believe in heaven before that day, I would have to believe in it now.

Iris left this earth. Iris left us. But she lives, she laughs, she loves, somewhere else, somewhere where angels gather, waiting on hovering wings, waiting to take us home.

The Story of Half a Book

It’s summer 2010. My first children’s book manuscript sits on a shelf. Half finished. Gathering dust. It’s been there a long time.

And it would have stayed there, had it not been for my husband.

Where’s your book? he asks one day.

Oh, that. It’s on the shelf.

Why?

Because it’s a waste of time, that’s why. Who gets to write a children’s book? Who gets to write a children’s book and have it published by Zondervan?

I had started Love Letters from God several months before, inspired by the beautiful words of Sally Lloyd Jones, as I read her Jesus Storybook Bible.

Every morning I would eagerly grab my pen, pour out my soul on the page, and be swept away by the beauty and mystery of the creative process. What began as an empty, blank sheet of white was somehow filled with life.

On those mornings, I think I knew how God must have felt when, from a desolate void of nothing, came a wonderful world of everything. It was good.

Then I stopped.

I stopped because I had a visitor one day. I never saw him, but I heard his voice whisper in my ear as he tapped me gently, but persistently, on the shoulder.

What are you doing? You can’t write a children’s book. You’ll never get it published. You’re wasting your time.

I listened to that voice. It was hard not to. Obediently, I put my half-finished manuscript on the shelf, where it sat. For a long time.

Enter David, my husband, whose middle name is Encourager.

me & David on cliff

Glenys, do you believe that God called you to write that book?

The answer to that was easy. I had known the truth of that since the very beginning.

Do you believe God wants you to finish it?

The answer to that was easy too, even though I didn’t want to say the word.

And then David says something I will never forget. It’s simple, and silly, and utterly life-changing.

Well why would you not finish it…

What would have happened if Noah had only built half a boat?

One of the reasons I married David is because he could always make me laugh. I laughed at the thought of all the animals falling off a half-constructed boat, and the impossibility of such a vessel floating. But even though I laughed, that silly statement was exactly what I needed.

I pulled out that half-written manuscript, blew the dust away, picked up the pen, and began to write. The rest, as they say, is history.

Love Letters from God would be published, four years later, by Zondervan. That one book would turn into a series of its own, and point the way to twelve other titles.

And I think about all those abandoned manuscripts, half-written, lying on dusty shelves, in hope-robbed rooms, and how God cannot possibly publish half a book.

I think about Jesus, and what might have happened if, half way through his ministry, he had given up. But he didn’t. He completed fully the work to which he was called, until finally, one day, he was able to say:

It is finished.

And wasn’t it only when Jesus had finally finished, that God could really start?