In this episode we interview author Xochitl Dixon who wrote Different Like Me.
Xochitl (So-Cheel) E. Dixon, author of Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace (2019), has a heart for prayer, loving God, loving people, and nurturing spiritual growth through prayer and the study and application of Scripture. She shares God’s truth and love to the ends of the earth as a writer for Our Daily Bread (odb.org), a ministry devoted to making “the life-changing wisdom of the Bible understandable and accessible to all.”
Her devotions have been included in Guideposts’ All God’s Creatures (2019, 2020, 2021), And He Walks with Us (2019), Moments of Peace for Moms (2019), What Really Matters (2019), God Hears Her (Discovery House, 2017), Our Help (Discovery House, 2017), and This Far by Faith: Legacies of the Black Church (Discovery House, 2017). Her articles have been published in Second-Chance Dogs (Revell, 2018) and My Amazing Mom (Chicken Soup for the Soul, 2018). She’s celebrating the upcoming release of her first children’s picture book, Different Like Me, which will be published through Our Daily Bread Publishers in 2020.
In 2018, this native Californian followed God’s leading to Wisconsin with her best friend and husband, Dr. W. Alan Dixon, Sr. Still adjusting to the Midwest and battling chronic pain daily, Xochitl thanks God for the ongoing support from her husband, her sons, AJ and Xavier, and her service dog, Callie.
She enjoys serving as a speaker, connecting with readers on her blog at www.xedixon.com, on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and on Facebook at Xochitl E. Dixon (Author Page), Callie the Service Dog with Xochitl E. Dixon, and Write to Worship with Xochitl E. Dixon, singing and photography.
Books Discussed in This Episode:
Terrie: Welcome to “Books that Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids.
Today. we’re so happy to have Xochitl Dixon with us, the author of Different Like Me. Xochitl, thank you for joining us today.
Xochitl: Thank you so much for having me, Terrie. I am excited to talk to you today.
Terrie: Well, I am very excited to talk to you. I love your book Different Like Me. And so I want to start with that. Can you tell us what inspired you to write this book and what you hope people gain from reading this?
Xochitl: Well, what inspired me was when my son was in kindergarten, he had his first incident where he was called a bad racial slur. My son, I am a Mexican first generation, Mexican American, and my husband is black. So he is biracial. And when he came back and he told me about it, I was trying to explain to him that not all people know how to treat people. And we talked very early about racism and about how to respond in love. It was in 2001, I was a brand new Christian. So I wanted to teach him how God would want him to respond. And I was still learning myself. So I went to scripture and I tried to really teach him. Then as I was praying, one day, this poem just came and just poured out of my heart. I was in tears, and it just flowed almost exactly how it is to text right now, there were edits done when I submitted it to Our Daily Bread publishing and worked with my amazing editor, Don Anderson. And also my agent did a few tweaks and Crystal Bowman helped me, but it was almost the exact same text. They helped me fix a little, there were sections that needed some refinement and they just brought it to this different level. It’s so much better now. But when I first initially was praying, I was reading the Bible. I was asking God for direction. And it just poured out of me. And that’s so far how all of my children’s books have come out through prayer and Bible reading and they just pour out. And then I start editing and I really wanted something to tell him how to celebrate that. He’s different to rejoice in the fact that he’s different. And, and to know that everyone’s different on purpose that God created us. We’re made in the image of God, male and female created in the image of God, and we are wonderfully and marvelously made. And if you notice, when you read the book, those Bible verses are in the front and back of the book, because everything I write has to come from the scriptures. That’s my, my heart is to teach God’s word. So initially it was a lesson for my son, never even considered it would be published. And that’s a whole other story.
Terrie: Well, and I love that, that you say we were made different on purpose. And so many times, I don’t think we say that enough that we help our kids realize that. I remember this pastor told me that about my kids. I have, I have three who are on the autism spectrum and he said they were not a mistake. God created them that way for a purpose. And I just burst into tears.
Xochitl: I love your pastor.
Terrie: He was a great friend. We just need to help our kids understand that–that God has a purpose for them. And there are no mistakes. They were meant to be here and they have a purpose with whoever they are and however they were made.
Xochitl: I find adults also are needing that message. A lot of my reviews are like, I bought this for my child, but I was almost in tears or, Hey, I read this to my kid and I was ministered to, by this truth. It’s amazing how, even as adults, we either have not learned that or we forgot to celebrate our differences and our sameness, the ways that same as God’s created people. And when we get that point, God created us. Well, if he’s good, well, doesn’t he say, we are good? Yet, we don’t see ourselves that way, do we?
Terrie: Yeah. And I love that about the book too. It starts out with, I’m so different from everybody. And then it shifts into, Oh, we’re so much alike. And I love that. And whenever you get to, we’ve traveled the world and done missions and everywhere we go, people have the same feelings, the same struggles and the same questions. And so I really, this book just like, like you said, it speaks to the heart of the adult, as well as the child and many picture books do. I think we don’t give picture books enough credit sometimes.
Xochitl: Well, I have a library of picture books that proves that I believe that they were, they were for my son, but not.
Terrie: And I also want to mention Bonnie, the illustrator, the illustrations have like a subtle sub story going on, and it’s a lot of fun to follow the pictures and see the story there as well.
Xochitl: Yes, Bonnie Lui is an amazing illustrator. I prayed for her for years and I didn’t even know who she was going to be. We weren’t allowed to meet until after she was done and submitted all her work. They didn’t want us to influence each other. And well, she couldn’t influence me because the manuscript was done. But so when I met Bonnie Lui, I was in tears because I truly felt that God had chosen her, that she was had this beautiful backstory. She herself was an immigrant. So she felt like a fish out of water. So many times as a young child. And that’s what the fish is in the book that that was her heart. She put a heartbeat into the pictures, into the illustration. And what I love to do with, with children when I read, is we read the story. Then we go back and we explore this story. What are the picture showing us? Let, let’s see what the children are feeling. Look at their facial expressions. What are they doing? How are you like them? And if you’ve noticed that service dog in the book is my service dog, Callie. And she created a character and I wanted stereotypes to be abolished. I didn’t want any kids that looked like a stereotype. And I wanted children with special needs to be shown as heroes, not sidelined characters. And that was the only note that I was able to give to the illustrator that they are part of life, that they have something to contribute. Like everybody else. I’m very passionate about that. And now that I have a service dog, I know what it feels on this side to be looked at differently and treated differently because of that. And I wanted children to know that, Hey, we all have something to contribute. There’s a child that uses a cane because he’s blind. There’s a child in a wheelchair, and there’s a child with a service dog, which could be somebody with autism, with diabetes, whatever his service stars are used for so many things. And I love that every child is empowered through the pictures as well as at text.
Terrie: Yes. And I love where you talk about even the different sizes and shapes of body, because I think there’s so much body shaming out there today in the world that that’s even a special part of this book. So there’s just so many levels that this book can minister to people and really speak to the hearts of children, of people. And so I want to talk a little bit more about the other writing you’ve done. I know you have several devotional books that you’ve written, and I, I hear that you have another book coming out for children as well, is that correct?
Xochitl: I have three proposals that are being reviewed. So the way that it works with traditional publishing is you have the proposal. The publishing houses will look at it and consider if it’s a good fit for them. So I have three different proposals being considered right now, but nothing is for sure. I do have one devotional that’s completely written by me. It’s called Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace. And I interviewed multiple people about how to trust God in the wait, when the relief doesn’t come when you’re not sure if this pain is going to end, if you’re going to get an answer to that prayer. And I tell you, it was written when I was moving from California to Wisconsin, when I was slammed into a waiting season that I did not expect. So I learned how to really depend on God. And so there was a lot of tears, a lot of prayers, and you can kind of feel it when you read the book. It was my first devotional, full length devotional.
I contribute to Our Daily Bread. So I write devotions for Our Daily Bread ministries, and you can check out their website and actually sign up to get them with the little booklets, like back in the day. I mean, they’d been around for years and, and also now, even on your phone and it’s an amazing ministry. It’s actually the ministry God used to soften my heart to the gospel before I even wanted to look at a Bible, he was using our daily bread to minister to my heart, through my husband’s parents. And it’s a beautiful way that now I get to serve through this ministry. So I love serving through Our Daily Bread. My first devotional is through Our Daily Bread Publishing as well, and also Different Like Me was published through Our Daily Bread.
I really believe in the ministry and the other folks that you’re probably talking about our compilation. So our daily bread does amazing compilations and I’ve been blessed to be included in some of them, God hears her and God sees her. Actually God hears her. I’m really excited about because now there’s a whole community of God hears her readers. And I just received an invitation to write for their blog, which I am so excited about sharing God’s truth, how to live for God, how to apply the scriptures in a very real way, and to encourage women. It’s one of my passions, spiritual growth and encouragement and looking at, see, what does God have to say about this? How can we lean into the Holy spirit and actually surrender so that we could obey him and live the life that he’s planned for us? And it’s an, it’s an exciting opportunity. Our daily bread is the best ministry in my book. I truly do love what they do and what they stand.
Terrie: Do you have your own blog that we can look at and read on your own website? Or do you just work through Our Daily Bread?
Xochitl: I am actually just a contributor at Our Daily Bread. So I have a blog. It is www dot X E D I X O N.com. That’s xedixon.com. And I do share, I share on my blog. I also just started a YouTube channel where I share pause for prayer videos and different series that I went through a Waiting for God series. I’m currently in a Heart Lifter series where it’s a short video, sharing scripture, reading from scripture. I truly believe that you have to read through scripture. So I read through scripture, and I give biblical encouragement, and then we end in prayer and that’s just my heart. I believe in being rooted in God’s word and growing with God’s people, we need each other. It’s so funny with this children’s book. I thought I was doing something totally different. And I realized the message that God has me sharing is similar just in different ways. So now in a picture book and every manuscript that I have written as a picture book, I see that same heartbeat. And I’m grateful. I’m grateful because it’s about loving God and loving others.
Terrie: I love that. I’ve found the same thing with my picture because I write it’s the same theme runs through them all in the day. It dawned on me. I was just like, Whoa, I didn’t even notice that here. I thought I was doing all kinds of different things and creative.
Xochitl: And God’s in charge.
Terrie: Imagine that. You mentioned your dog Callie and that she’s a character in your book. Can you tell us a little bit about her?
Xochitl: Absolutely. I love her so much. He wouldn’t answer the prayer for when my husband received an unexpected call from Wisconsin university to teach there. We left and I had total peace, even though I’d never been in the snow. We had a older dog, a senior dog named Jazzy, and my husband said, no puppies, no puppies. Don’t even ask. And I’m like, okay, no puppies whenever we get to Wisconsin. And right before we get there, a friend of mine, another writer emailed me and said, you need to know this person. She lives just a few minutes from where you’re moving. And so we were introduced online and then we were talking one night and she said, I have to go write doggie bios. I’m like, what’s a doggy bio. And there you go. She was writing a biography for a dog to be adopted. So she sent me these pictures of three puppies. One of them looked almost as if my dog had birthed the puppy and I had to show this to my husband. Because I know I don’t want a puppy, I just wanted him to see the puppy. And then he surprised me with the puppy. They said he was going to be 25 pounds. She is 53 to 55 pounds at all times, a very muscular dog. They said she was a border Collie. And I believe that she does have border Collie McNabb in her because of her mannerisms and some of her looks, but she looks like a hound. So we think she’s a Walker Coonhound. When I received her, I was using a cane. I have a back injury and I was using a cane. I realized when I was walking her, after she learned to walk to what you learned to heel, I realized I wasn’t hurting less. I was standing up straighter. And so I talked to my vet and they actually referred me to tales for life, the fdl.org. They trained her for me. And here’s the amazing thing. I had saved up the money. Then I had to use it for a procedure and I told them I can’t do it. I can’t train her. And he said, put it on Facebook. See what happens in three days, readers people, I didn’t even know, sponsored her entire training program. So Callie is a gift from God and from the amazing prayerful readers that I have been blessed with, I love the way that they just encouraged me. And now they partner with me in ministry just because they did that. It’s a lifetime partnership. So Callie has learned how to be my mobility dog. And it’s very important to me to show her in the books because I want children to know what service dogs do, how they’re important, how to approach them. It gives it’s opens up conversations on how do you approach a service dog? You don’t, you don’t look at them. You don’t talk to them. You don’t. Oh, there so cute. And it’s very hard because many people think you can still talk to them. As long as you don’t touch them. And it does distract them. Now she’s not made to be a service dog. She’s not designed that way. She doesn’t have all the characteristics that these breeds that are for generations bred to be service dogs. So the amazing thing about her is 90% of all service dogs that are mixed fail the programs. So she is, you know, God is working and everything in a year as she started a year late, wow. She was ready to go he’s she was already taking me on an airplane. She was doing everything above and beyond. Our trainer. Jake is amazing. Jake Gill from Tails for Life said, she’s a rock star. First of all. And then he said, she’s, she’s doing things that some of our service dogs don’t even do yet. Wow. It me, it’s like, that’s God, that’s God working. And what I love about her, she reminds me that God can use us, even though we don’t feel like we have all the tools and children need to know that they don’t have to be a certain way to be used by God, just as they are everything flaws in everything. Her little nose is her downfall. She loves to snap even with that. And so I like to share that with kids, because then they realize that, Oh, I don’t have to be this perfect picture of what somebody else thinks I should be to be used by God. I can just be me. And that’s exciting to me because I struggled with that. As I came to the Lord at 30, I struggled with that to know that God really does love us and make us on purpose exactly how we are. And he has a purpose for us. And when we are in that purpose, he will make a way when it seems impossible. And so Callie is a representative of that. And I got to share one story. One of her first big events was that our daily bread and she was barely in training. She did so perfectly and she just wind a little bit and I played it off and I rolled with it. And people thought that she was trained to do that. At her event, she kind of didn’t really pay attention. She was kind of fussing with me and I almost gave up on her. I was going to have my husband come in and take release and take her off stage. And I said, you know what? No, because God never gives up on us. So I’m realizing, I learned from working with her about how loving and gracious our Master is to ask. I want kids to know that I want kids to see that.
Terrie: Have you written a picture book about her?
Xochitl: I actually have a devotional I’m writing right now. I just asked that she be a character within the books that I write. So for now, that’s all I have.
Terrie: I always ask everyone I interview what their favorite picture book is and why.
Xochitl: There are so many. I should have had for warming search research time for this. I have so many, I have so many, I’m a Dr. Seuss fan. And if you read my work, you can kind of tell, I love the, the rhythm and the movement of the words and anything I write for children is going to have that, that rhythm and flow. And so I love Dr. Seuss and I do love Oh, the Places You’ll Go. And it’s, it’s mostly because it’s inspiring me and reminding me that God is in charge. And if we just keep going, just keep stepping forward. He, there are no limits with him. He’ll show us where he wants us. And he doesn’t care about our limitations. He really does not feel burdened by our limitations. Amazing story that I love to watch. And I also, I love if I, you know, say there’s one that I currently love Whistle for Willie it’s the cutest thing. And it has a dog maybe because it has a dog. That’s one of my favorite ones. But if I really, really go back to my favorite one to read out loud, it’s Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom. And I do it with a whole different rhythm. I mean, I went down, we got, I mean, we did reggae style. Yeah. So I think those, but I’d have to say Dr. Seuss is my favorite for pitcher because he creates a world, but you know what? He has a lot of biblical principles in his stories. There’s always something to learn. And I believe in that substance, I want, when someone reads a picture book that I write for them to see Jesus and for them to come out growing, there’s some of substance that I’ve given them. And I love the cutesy electric it’s Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom. I mean, I learned how to sing through that, but, you know, I love seeing them. And so there’s a place for that. But when I write something, I’ve always asked God to just give me the message you want to tuck into their teeny little hearts. And they’ll remember when they’re older, that’s what I pray for. That they’ll be transformed by his truth.
Terrie: I think that’s, what’s so special about really good picture books is that it’s not preaching the message it’s, it’s tucked in. Like you said, it’s tucked into the story and captured by the heart. As we read the story, as the story unfolds, the message isn’t in your face. It’s just part of what creeps into your heart from the message that’s within the story. And to me, that’s what makes picture books that are the most profound and special have the story first and the messages in there, but not, not screamed at you, not, you know, punching you in the face.
Xochitl: Part of it’s, you just like, feel it. You, you know as you were talking, I remembered another book that I loved reading to Xavier, my youngest son is Giraffes Can’t Dance. I don’t know.
Terrie: I love that book.
Xochitl: The colors, the pictures. Oh my goodness. I could read that book forever. Have you read Far from Home by Sarah Rubio? Sarah Parker Rubio. Have you read that book?
Terrie: Yes, I have it right here actually. That’s a beautiful book.
Xochitl: Is so beautiful. And there are just so many. Currently one of my favorites is Glenys Nellist’s book The Wonder that Is You.
Terrie: I love that one. I bought that for my kids for Christmas, even though they’re all grown, and I wrote a note to them in the front of it.
Xochitl: I got it for my grown sons.
Terrie: How can we–my listeners and myself–how can we support you in your ministry that God has given you.
Xochitl: Prayer. Prayer. I love prayer. Connect me on my firstname.lastname@example.org, X, C D X O n.com. Connect with me on YouTube, but it’s under my name. So it’s you and it’s XO C H I T L. That’s a whole other story and share writing reviews is so huge. If you’ve read them like me, please write an Amazon review and on good reads wherever you’re at and share the book. I always write, love your neighbors by ordering extra copies, to share as gifts to remember that there are programs right now. Now book is a luxury for some families. You might think it is, but if you just buy the book for someone, share it with them, you’re loving your neighbor for a public library. For those free little libraries, you donate them for after-school programs, tutoring programs. There’s a great need for tutoring programs to have diverse books, things like that. You know, think outside the box, putting buying a book for the local hospital. You’re also planning God’s word. So you’re a part of the ministry. When you share a picture of your beautiful face, holding the book, your beautiful children, holding the book, your dogs next to the book just helping spread the word writing reviews, but prayer is huge.
Terrie: Well, thank you so much. This has been so much fun talking with you.
Xochitl: Thank you so much for having me. I can’t wait for us to be better friends.
Terrie: Me either!
Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark,” a podcast, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions. I hope these books that we’ve discussed today will bless you and your kids and will spark many great conversations. Be sure to check out Xochitl’s website where you can find out more about her books and ministry. And be sure to check out TerrieHellardBrown.com where you can sign up for my mailing list and have access to several freebies.
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 are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.
For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com
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 “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.