FamilyLife Today®

God’s Very Good Idea: Trillia Newbell

with Trillia Newbell | January 15, 2024
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Feeling a bit lost on where to begin teaching your kids about unity and diversity? Trillia Newbell, author of several christian children's books, is here to share some fantastic insights. She'll guide you on helping your little ones see the beauty in people from all walks of life, according to God's perspective. Let's dive into the world of diversity, unity, and the incredible message of the gospel. Get ready to discover how Jesus came to rescue all kinds of amazing people!

  • Show Notes

  • About the Guest

Teach kids about unity and diversity! Trillia Newbell, author of christian children’s books, shares insights on helping children see God’s love for all people.

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God’s Very Good Idea: Trillia Newbell

With Trillia Newbell
January 15, 2024
| Download Transcript PDF

Trillia: We should be kind to people. From an early age, I was bent to think, “Well, this isn't right. We can be better.” I would not have known to think: “People are made in the image of God,” which I think is remarkable of God; that when He transformed my heart, He gave me a new mind, but then confirmed all of these things that I had been confused about. “Wait! Oh, this is why this was hard and confusing, because it wasn't God's design. It wasn't His desire for us to be unkind and hurtful.”

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!

Dave: Okay, a little Bible trivia.

Ann: Okay.

Dave: I'm going to read you a prayer that's in the Bible.

Trillia: Oh, no!

Dave: Trulia Newbell is in the studio.

It is a prayer in the Bible, and I know both of you immediately—it isn't a race, like a competition: “Who's going to get it first?” But as soon as you hear the first couple of words, you're going to know who prayed this and where it is.

Ann: Oh!

Dave: So, you’ve got to tell me who prayed it and where in the Bible is it?

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message—

Ann: —Jesus—

Dave: —that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me, and I am in You.”

Trillia: John 15?

Dave: Close. But I’ve got to read this last part.

Trillia: Oh, sorry.

Dave: “May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.” 

Trillia and Ann: Yes.

Dave: John—

Ann: —it’s 17—

Trillia: 17! I was going to get there!

Ann: You were so close.

Trillia: I was so close. I should have known it wasn't 15.

Ann: Awe, good job!

Dave: That’s good. I always refer to—

Ann: —Wait! Say that last part again. Say it, because that prayer is so powerful.

Trillia: It is!

Ann: This is right before—

Dave: —yes. We’re going to talk about—

Ann: —His crucifixion.

Dave: —this very prayer. This is Jesus. I call it the “Real Lord's Prayer.”

Ann: Yes.

Dave: It's a whole chapter of the Bible.

Ann: Oh, it's so powerful!

Dave: And there's a focus to it that we're going to talk about today. Again, I just read it: “May they”—meaning “disciples,” and that would be us—

Ann: —yes.

Dave: —all disciples: “May they also be in us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me,” which is such an interesting prayer, because Jesus is—obviously, we're hearing Him talk to His Father; but He's making this really bold statement that the way the world's going to believe in Me (Jesus) and that God is My Father, is through the Body of Christ being unified.

Ann: And the way we love one another.

Dave and Trillia: Yes!

Ann:  Isn't that so convicting in our world today?

Dave: Yes. You think it's a bumper sticker [Laughter], or a great worship song, or an incredible worship service—

Trillia: —yes. 

Dave: —which are all great things. But He says, “You want the world to believe in Me? Love one another. Be unified.” And if you look at the Church, I'm not sure we're known for that.

Ann: I'm not sure it's gone as we thought.

Dave: Trillia is here, and she wrote a book—

Ann: —Trillia Newbell.

Dave: —called United.

Trillia: Yes.

Dave: Trulia Newbell is here. United: Captured by God's Vision for Diversity. I love your cover of the book. It's got little colors of different seats.

Trillia: Yes.

Dave: You've got black, yellow, red, gray, white.

Ann: Trillia, you've been on FamilyLife Today before, but this was your first book that you wrote—United?

Trillia: My very first book! think it was published in 2014—

Ann: —okay.

Trillia: —but I'd have to look. I believe I wrote it in 2012—

Ann: —okay.

Trillia: —or something like that. It was early in 20-something or another. [Laughter]

Ann: If this is your first book, and it's called United, you must have been passionate about this.

Trillia: 100 percent! I was passionate because I had seen it; I'd experienced it. I grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, which is a lovely place, but I experienced a lot of hurt and racism as a kid—lots! And my dad—who I don't think that he was a Christian, or at least he never said it to me—always taught us, though, to love people. So, it was like a common grace. He was made in the image of God, and so he had, of course, the capacity to love well. He would teach that to us, even when it felt hard.

Ann: He would still say that?

Trillia: He would still say that. He taught us a lot about forgiveness and love. When I became a Christian, I realized, “That was not my dad’s idea. [Laughter] That was the Father’s idea—God's idea.”

Dave: Now, what did racism look like for you?

Trillia: For me?

Dave: For a little girl?

Ann: Yes, even a time that it was hard for you.

Trillia: Well, it looked like being excluded. It looked like, one time, I was walking down the street with another band—I was in band.

Ann: What did you play?

Trillia: I played the flute and piccolo. I actually marched at the University of Tennessee for one year—

Ann: Woah!

Trillia: —but I did all sorts of stuff. I did cheer. I did all the things. I was that girl. I was a student— [Laughter]

Ann: —okay, yes.

Trillia: Flute and piccolo. But I was walking with a French horn player, and someone said the “[N-word] Lover” to him, and then threw a rock at me out the window.

Dave: Wow.

Ann: How old were you?

Trillia: I was a teenager, but I experienced all sorts of things like that so—

Ann: —it wasn't surprising. It wasn't the first time, you're saying.

Trillia: —it wasn't the first time, but when you have something that blatant and kind of scary happen—

Dave: —yes, right!

Trillia: —that's a little bit more jarring.

We had a Country Club in Knoxville that was segregated up until the ‘80s.

Dave: Really.

Trillia: If my friends would have events there, I couldn't go.

Ann: Oh!

Trillia: And then, even if they still had events there, I wouldn't want to go. It was just a struggle to go.

Dave: Yes.

Trillia: I remember that. That was hard. So, there were different things like that that I just experienced.

Ann: And your dad is still—you come home, you share the story, “This is what happened.”

Trillia: Yes.

Ann: To have a rock thrown at you. To be called names?

Trillia: Yes.

Ann: And for your dad to say, “We need to love?”

Trillia: Dad also was a shoulder to cry on, so I—

Ann: —wow!

Trillia: —had a dad who would just—he died when I was 19. He was a really lovely man. We would cry together. It was sad. He also understood. He experienced all sorts of stuff—

Ann: —I bet.

Dave: —true.

Trillia: —yes. He lived in a smaller town than Knoxville. He grew up in Morristown. That's what it's called. So, he expressed some of the things that he experienced—

Ann: —the pain—

Trillia: —the pain and the—

Ann: —hurt—

Trillia: —sorrows.

Ann: Yes.

Trillia: But you read—a lot of the older generation learned how to lament well, but also how to endure, and not endure as in, “I must keep suffering and—"

Ann: —but to move on, maybe? —

Trillia: —No, to fight for justice.

Ann: Oh!

Trillia: And part of that fighting for justice was also learning to forgive. If you read stuff by John Perkins, for example, you see that. You see this “how to survive” was also—part of that survival was learning to forgive. It's a battle, and it's something that's hard. But that's what He was teaching me.

Then, as I became a Christian, I saw, “Oh, Jesus says to forgive 20 times, or 100 times. Seven times seven or something.” It's just like this never-ending call to learn to love people without expectation of receiving love in return. John—he has a theme of love. If you read his writings—

Dave: —oh, yes.

Ann: —yes.

Trillia: [In] First John, you see, “If you do not love, you do not know God, because God is love.” That’s His—

Ann: —that’s it?

Trillia: [Laughter] I know! Let's all just go and repent. [Laughter] Because, yes, it’s convicting! Jesus says that people—the world—would know that we are His disciples by our love for one another. So, yes. I've experienced a lot of painful situations, and then a lot of things where people just didn't know that they were saying painful things.

Dave: Now, how did you navigate that? Was it something that you dealt with anger? Bitterness? Or [did] it roll of your back?

Trillia: Confusion! No, I just thought, “Okay. I want to help people know and understand why this is wrong.” But I didn't have the foundation of this Word. I just thought, “Well, this is just wrong. [Laughter] We should be kind to people.”

Dave: Yes.

Trillia: From an early age, I was bent that way; bent to think, “Well, this isn't right. This is wrong. We can be better because people are people; are human.” I would not have known to think, “Oh, Imago Dei. People were made in the image of God.” I wasn't thinking all those things, which I think is remarkable of God; that when He transformed my heart, He gave me a new mind, but then confirmed all of these things that I had been confused about. “Wait. Oh, this is why this was hard and confusing because it wasn't God’s design. It wasn't His desire for us to be unkind and hurtful.”

My general personality and bent and temperament isn't to necessarily be angry.

Ann: No, you're just nice.

Trillia: Well, there were times when I would be angry, but I would actually more lament. I use that word a lot.

Ann: You’d be sad.

Trillia: I would be sad, so I would weep over the pain and the sorrow and the sadness and the suffering. I would just lament, and a lot of it was confusing.

Ann: Yes.

Trillia: I didn't get it.

Dave: Now, when you came to Christ, you were 22.

Trillia: Yes.

Dave: So, you're jumping into what the Word says about unity—

Trillia: —yes.

Dave: —and forgiveness, and also jumping into a church. Did you go to an all-black church, an all-white church, or a diverse church?

Trillia: Yes. No, so I went to the church where the girl shared the gospel with me.

Dave: Yes.

Trillia: I followed her to her church, and it was predominantly white. It wasn't all white. There were smatterings of diversity. I met all the black families. I was very close with them, but I could name them all and count them on my hands. And that goes beyond just black.

But the Lord and His kindness, when I became a Christian, I started an accountability group with a gal who is Chinese and a gal who is white, and we spent many years just reading the Word together and being accountable. I had a heart for diversity.

Ann: That’s so sweet.

Trillia: Yes, and as a matter of fact, I'm going to back up just a little bit. Before I became a Christian, I would host these things at the University of Tennessee called Coffee Talks. I was a part of our student government, and it was—we would talk about diversity and all of these various things. And again, not from a Christian perspective, but it was just what God put on my heart, and then it just continued. It's just really remarkable to think about: that God continued that, but refined it and helped me understand what it was rooted in.

Ann: What did it feel like at the church? Did it feel good there in terms of the atmosphere? Love?

Trillia: Oh, yes! I was so loved.

Ann: That’s so sweet.

Trillia: Yes, it was a family. It felt like a family. And that's what the Word says: that we are adopted into a family. I was adopted into the family of God.

Now, there were times when we would have events or someone would say something, and I would realize, “Oh, I’m uniquely different. God has created me this way, but I can feel it.” Or we would play certain worship songs that I just couldn't get into. [Laughter] I was trying, like—

Ann: Did you think, “Guys, you need to up your game?”

Trillia: Up your— [Laughter] Add a little something. [Laughter] So, they did, actually. They were thinking, “Okay, how can we serve a diverse body?” They added some gospel songs or a hymn. Hymns are one of the most unifying because they can cross all sorts of genres.

Ann: And universal.

Trillia: Yes. Everyone sings Amazing Grace. [Laughter] It doesn't matter what church you go to. So, adding some of those elements in also helped. They were listening. They wanted to know, “Okay, how are you feeling here and how can we make sure that you feel welcomed?” But it went beyond me at that point because I was just so part of—

Ann: —yes.

Trillia: —but how can we welcome others? The gospel, I believe, is transcending and has power.

Ann: Yes!

Trillia: It’s a race-transcending gospel that has power to change hearts, to change minds, and transform lives, and make people love each other who normally wouldn't. I believe the Lord was doing that work in that local church, but it didn't always feel good. I don't want to think that I was just always happy. There were times where I would have to have conversations.

As a matter of fact, United, my first book, was birthed out of an e-mail that I sent my pastors because they asked me to just give them some feedback and some thoughts on how I was experiencing church and—

Ann: —and you were honest—

Trillia: —I was—

Ann: —and loving, probably. —

Trillia: —and then I asked them if I could post it. I asked, “Hey, I just wonder if—

Ann: —Wait, wait! I want to know what you—what did you say?

Trillia: Well, I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I told them—I think the title of the post was something like A Black Girl’s Experience in a Reformed White Church or something like that. Of course, the title itself is a little like, “Oh! Well, maybe we should read this. What is that about?” [Laughter]

Dave: That'll get your attention.

Trillia: But then I think I just explained three or four different things that I was experiencing, and one would be the style of music. Sometimes, you're going to have to diversify and think through. One would be culture. We would have cowboy or hillbilly Olympics all the time for our college, and I was—“Okay! [Laughter] That can't be our big outreach.” [Laughter] We’ve got to be—

Ann: —or at least add something a little different.

Trillia: —add something, yes! It can’t be all the time.

Ann: Yes.

Trillia: Add that and something else.

Ann:  Yes.

Trillia: If you're a gospel-preaching church, the rest is just helping to love people.

Ann: But that's what spurred you on to write United.

Trillia: Yes, with their blessing. I didn't just go rogue and say, “Hey, I'm going to put this private e-mail—" I asked.

Ann: It sounds like you were very honoring.

Trillia: Oh, yes.

Ann: They asked you for the truth, and you shared it.

Trillia: Yes, yes. Well, because we were a family.

Ann: Right, I love that you keep saying that you’re a family.

Trillia: Yes, I just believe that is what the Scriptures say, but also, it transforms the way we interact it. It makes it different when we can come in as, “Oh, wait! We're brothers and sisters in Christ here. We love each other. Let's do better. Let's figure out how we can grow.”

Ann: Let's function as a healthy family.

Trillia: Yes.

Ann: Isn't that good?

Dave: Well, how about now as a healthy family, because you're in a mixed marriage?

Trillia: I am.

Dave: Do you experience it?

Trillia: With my third—

Dave: —are you united or—

Trillia: —yes.

Dave: —is there racism toward that, toward you,  toward your husband?

Ann: Marrying a white man?

Trillia: Oh, we were walking outside a restaurant, and a black couple called me a “sell-out.”

Dave: Really?

Trillia: They were very offended that I had this white man. I was so surprised. I've been called that before, but it was a shocking kind of experience, because I was [thinking], “Who protects who in this situation?” [Laughter]

Ann: Yes, yes.

Trillia: “What do we do?” We just kept walking, of course. But we haven't experienced a ton, at least not to our faces. [Laughter] Especially in the church, we definitely haven't. We've felt support and love and care. I know that, maybe, it's just because we've been in safe places.

Ann: You’ve been with family that love you.

Trillia: We've been with family that loved us; yes! That very well could be why. If we went somewhere else, our story could be very different. But the Lord has protected us, perhaps, and that's maybe why. So, we have not experienced—and our families—we didn't experience that with our families. Because I'm in an interracial marriage, I receive emails—lots of emails—asking about how to handle it when a parent disagrees or disowns.

Dave and Ann: Yes.

Trillia: Or there have been friends who their parents didn't go to their wedding. What do you do when these things happen, and how do you deal with that? That has been something that I have experienced trying to help encourage people and trying to figure out how to navigate those painful experiences. But it's not one that I experienced, and I'm grateful for that.

Ann: Yes. And what about your kids? Have they felt any of that?

Trillia: Yes. So, my children—it's interesting. People just don't know—and for lack of a better word—what they are. They're [asking], “Are you Samoan?” [Laughter] My daughter—someone asked, “Are you Hawaiian? Mexican?” They have such unique—my son could be mistaken as only white. When he was born, he had straight hair and fair skin. We were [thinking], “What?" [Laughter]

Dave: Wow.

Trillia: Very perplexed, but especially with the straight, straight hair. Even now, when his friends meet me, they're like, “Oh!” [Laughter]

Dave: Really?

Ann: That's so interesting.

Trillia: Yes!

Ann: They're surprised.

Trillia: Oh, yes, they're surprised. They're [saying], “Okay, this explains some of those—” But that was a sideways way of saying [Laughter] that they have not experienced racism, by the grace of God.

Ann: Yes.

Trillia: People are more perplexed about what ethnic background they are at all.

Ann: Yes.

Trillia: One of my children has had to get people to stop messing (it's my daughter) with her hair. People are always trying to touch her hair, and that can be a little jarring for her.

Ann: Yes.

Trillia: It's a curiosity with kids that is really interesting.

Ann: Yes.

Trillia: They navigate it really well, I think, though, and I think it's because we've taught them from a very young age [that] they're made in the Image of God to reflect Him; that God knit them together in my womb. He knows every hair on their head. We've talked about diversity, and people, and people groups, and all sorts of things from a really young age.

Dave: Yes. I read your children's books last night.

Trillia: Oh, thank you!

Ann: They're so good!

Dave: You talk about young age. You wrote them for little toddler kids, right?

Trillia: Yes.

Dave: And older.

Trillia: Yes.

Dave: Talk about these a little bit: God's Very Good Idea: A True Story About God's Delightfully Different Family

Trillia: —yes.

Dave: —and Jesus and the Gift of Friendship. I’ve got to be honest, Trillia. I'm [thinking], “Am I going to read a kids’ book?” [Laughter]

Ann: And I'm [thinking], “Oh, good! I get to read a kids’ book!” [Laughter]

Dave: Yes. I'm telling you, I thought I'd read a couple of pages just to get to know them. I read the whole thing!

Trillia: Oh!

Dave: Not that it took a long time, because they're kids' books.

Ann: They’re so good.

Dave: They’re really well written—

Trillia: —thank you!

Dave: —and they have truths in there that you want your kids to learn at a very young age.

Trillia: Absolutely.

Ann: Well, I love—one of your books is called Jesus and the Gift of Friendship.

Trillia: Yes.

Ann: I loved how you're pretty honest about, one, teaching your kids that Jesus is your friend.

Trillia: Yes.

Ann: He's always with you. And then to pray. I thought it was interesting because is it the little boy—

Trillia: —yes.

Ann: —who starts praying because moves away from his best friend?

Trillia: Yes.

Ann: But he starts praying for a best friend, thanking Jesus that He's his friend—

Trillia: —yes.

Ann: —but then praying for a best friend. And it took a while.

Trillia: It did.

Ann: I thought that was kind of great that the best friend didn't show up the next day.

Dave: And the best friend didn't look like him.

Trillia: Because God doesn't always answer our prayers, one, immediately; two, the way we think.

Dave: Yes.

Ann: That was really wise.

Trillia: I want kids to know that early, early on. But God's Very Good Idea was my very first one, and can I tell you—

Ann: —yes.

Trillia: —how that came about?

Dave: Oh, yes!

Trillia: Because it's really fun. I'm a local church girl. I love the local church. I want the local church to thrive. I was teaching a little study to a Sunday School class, and I was asked to teach about the image of God and diversity; kind of taking the United themes, but helping kids to understand it.

Ann: How old were the kids?

Trillia: They were probably four or five.

Ann: So, little.

Trillia: Little, little kids.

Ann: Yes, yes.

Trillia: I looked all over the Internet for something, because I didn't want to write it. [Laughter] I just wanted someone to—I was going to take someone's curriculum and teach it.

Dave: Yes.

Trillia: I couldn't find exactly what I— [Laughter]

Ann: —Oh!

Trillia: So, the writer in me had to write something. I put together my own little curriculum, and when I taught the kids, their little light bulbs were going off, and the little questions. That's when I thought, “Okay. Lord, do You have something here?” I wrote God's Very Good Idea, but it all started with a Sunday School lesson though, in a local church context.

Dave: Yes, that's great.

Trillia: Yes.

Ann: Let me read you a couple of pages.

Trillia: Oh, fun!

Ann: “God's idea was to make people—lots of people; lots of different people who would all enjoy loving Him and all enjoy loving each other. They would all be made in His image. They would all be like mirrors reflecting what God is like, because God is full of love, and they would be full of love, too.”

But then there are some dark pages.

Trillia: Those are because we sinned.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: The whole gospel is in this book.

Ann and Trillia: It’s the gospel. [Laughter]

Ann: It is the gospel.

Dave: I mean, I was amazed. I'm [thinking], “This would communicate to a little mind—

Trillia: —that's the goal.

Dave: —in a simple way,” yes!

Ann: To a big mind.

Dave: Exactly.

Ann: It's so beautiful.

Trillia: Thank you. The age range for most of my—I have a few other kids’ books that are for the middle grades—but these are for ages three to six. But it's been really amazing to hear the testimonies of children who’ve given their lives to the Lord. Parents will call me or message me and let me know that they've read this over and over and over again. Then, all of a sudden, their eight-year-old, after years of [reading], gave their life to the Lord. Because I intentionally—you really can't explain love or unity without understanding—you have got to understand the gospel.

Ann: It is the entire gospel, because you talk about Jesus being born,—

Trillia: —yes.

Ann: —dying for our sin, resurrecting; then how Jesus helps us to love each other.

Shelby: It's so important to be intentional about communicating the gospel to our little ones. Even though it may not seem like they're really absorbing it, we're called to be faithful in delivering the message in any and every way that we can, because the gospel is sticky, and it will adhere to their little hearts. And we need to be intentional about communicating the gospel to ourselves. The gospel is the only lasting solution for what we've been talking about today in fostering diversity and unity in our communities, where God has placed us.

I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Trillia Newbell on FamilyLife Today. Trillia Newbell has written two books: one, called United: Captured by God's Vision for Diversity and God's Very Good Plan. You could pick up both at and click on the “Today's Resources” link, or you could get the link in the show notes.  Or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329; again, that number is 800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

I want to ask you a quick question. How would you rate your marriage, on a scale of one to ten? Now that number that you thought of in your brain might make you excited, or it might make you a little bit scared. But regardless of where you are, I want to encourage you to check out FamilyLifes Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. We are really excited to dive into the new year with events in over 40 locations this coming spring.

So, now through Monday, January 22nd, all of our Weekend to Remember getaways are 50% off. That's right! They're half-off. You can head over to to find a date and location that works for you because your marriage is worth it. It really is.

Now, coming up tomorrow, do you ever feel like a complete failure spiritually, or when you're trying to pursue holiness, you're just falling flat on your face all the time? Well, you're probably not alone. Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be joined tomorrow by Kevin DeYoung to talk about what it really means to be successful as a Christian, and why maybe some of our ideas are kind of incorrect. That's tomorrow. We hope you'll join us!

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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