Why I Wrote Different Like Me and Blog Tour Mega Giveaway

What are you?

That question used to trigger anger, frustration, and sadness, especially when people responded in disbelief because my answer didn’t fit the stereotypes they’d accepted as truth. My insecurities deepened, causing me to hate my own light-but-not-white reflection.

Years later, when I became a mom of two black sons, I didn’t want them to suffer similar insecurities. I didn’t want them to think their worth as people could be determined by the opinions, expectations, or biases of others.

I wanted my sons to love God, to love the way God created them, and to love all the people God created.

But my desires and best-intentions couldn’t protect them the ignorance and hate so prevalent in our fallen world.

One day, during a trip to an ice cream shop, an adult male glared at my five-year-old son and said, “What are you?”

The sting of his words ripped the scar off the wound on my heart that I thought had healed.

Asking God to help me forgive, I sought ways to help my sons rejoice in their uniqueness and God’s creativity in designing all of His people. While studying my Bible, I began learning how to embrace my identity in Christ.

The more I learned about God’s love for me, the more I began to accept I worth loving and the more I began to love others.

I wrote Different Like Me in 2001, shortly after receiving Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

Originally, I had planned to use the poem to teach my sons how to celebrate our differences and our sameness as God’s beautifully diverse and purposefully connected people. But the Lord kept nudging me to share the story with others.

God didn’t roll out His plans at the pace I’d expected.

In 2016, my agent and an editor read Different Like Me, loved it, but couldn’t move forward with publication.

The following year, I signed a contract for my first full-length devotional, Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace.

I set Different Like Me aside as I worked on the other projects the Lord had entrusted to me.

In 2018, shortly after submitting Waiting for God to my editor at Our Daily Bread Publishing, my agent and the editor who had loved Different Like Me in 2016 requested a complete proposal for the manuscript.

I scrambled to prepare my first children’s picture book proposal with the help of my friend and prolific children’s book author, Crystal Bowman. I submitted the proposal to several editors before prayerfully deciding to accept a contract from Our Daily Bread Publishing.

Then, I began praying for an illustrator who would avoid stereotypes and include children with special needs as heroes, not sideline characters.

Bonnie Lui (pronounced Louie) did a fabulous job. She weaved her own beautiful story into the gorgeous illustrations that breathe life into the whimsical rhyming text I’d written almost two decades earlier.

Bonnie even created a character inspired by my service dog, Callie, a Border Collie/Hound mix we rescued in 2018 from a kill-shelter and trained through Tails for Life after God moved us from California to Wisconsin.

Earlier this year, as I prepared for the August 2020 release of Different Like Me, tragedy divided our world.

I truly believe God delayed my path to publication so that He could prepare hearts to receive the message of love, unity, peace, and hope that He has brought to life through each page of Different Like Me.

This week, Celebrate Lit is going to be hosting an exciting blog tour with a mega giveaway!

The Different Like Me Celebrate Lit Blog Tour Mega Giveaway includes: a signed copy of Different Like Me with a bookmark and sticker, an exclusive coloring page signed by the illustrator, Bonnie Lui, a Different Like Me full-color 8 ½ x 11 poster, one box of Crayola’s Colors of the Word crayons (24-pack), a 4-pack of crayons, a Different Like Me fish shaped key chain, a fish-out-of-water finger puppet and lollipop, Swedish Fish, a colorful fish book bag, a custom made Different Like Me cup, and a $25.00 Amazon gift card to encourage readers to build up their collection children’s picture books that celebrate diversity.

Be sure to comment on the blog stops (posted below) for nine extra entries into the giveaway!

Inklings and notions, September 14

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, September 15

Texas Book-aholic, September 16

Library Lady’s Kid Lit, September 17

Splashes of Joy, September 18

deb’s Book Review, September 18

For Him and My Family, September 19

A Reader’s Brain, September 20

Simple Harvest Reads, September 21 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Mary Hake, September 21

Book Love, September 22 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

Ashley’s Bookshelf, September 23

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, September 24

Artistic Nobody, September 25

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, September 25

Locks, Hooks and Books, September 26

Sara Jane Jacobs, September 27

 

I’m looking forward to interacting with you in the comment sections of each blog post!

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Join Me On the Award-Winning Timothy Hodge Show on Blog Talk Radio! (Book Giveaway)

(Book Giveaway: Details in this post.)

God blessed me with a wonderful opportunity to chat with Mr. Timothy Hodge from The Timothy Hodge Show on Blog Talk Radio.

The Timothy Hodge Show started in August 2008 and was announced as the winner of the prestigious Hal Jackson Radio Award from the National Radio Alliance in Las Vegas on June 20, 2020.

This American talk radio show hosted by DJ Timothy Hodge shares live music, celebrity interviews, current events, entertainment news, live media events and much more. You can listen to the show on Power 93.4 FM and on the Blogtalk Radio Network, a subscription based internet radio service.

The Timothy Hodge Show is one of the highest rated syndicated radio shows on the B.T.R Network and has featured a variety of guests, including but not limited to: Montell Jordon, Keith Murray, Yolanda Adams, Jesse McCartney, Gloria Gaynor, Brandy, Regina Belle, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Winans, Mario Winans, Jasmine Guy, Nia Long, Oleta Adams, Evelyn “Champange” King , Stephanie Mills, Cissy Houston, and Regina King.

I enjoyed a great conversation with Mr. Hodge, who happens to be a fellow dog lover!

We discussed my children’s picture book, Different Like Me, our shared love for dogs, working to change the perception of people with special needs, and advocating for mental health awareness.

We also talked about how to stay encouraged and make a positive impact as we navigate through the pandemic and continue standing against racism, discrimination, and injustice.

Join me on The Timothy Hodge Show by clicking here.

Please leave comments on the show’s page and under this post.

I’ll be giving away one free signed copy of Different Like Me on Sunday, September 13, 2020, at 8 pm Central.

To be entered for your chance to receive that signed copy of Different Like Me, please listen to my interview on The Timothy Hodge Show then return to my website and let me know what you thought about our discussion (in the comment section below).

I look forward to hearing from you!


PRAISE: As of today, Different Like Me is still the #1 New Release on Amazon’s Christian Children’s Social Issues Category and the #1 New Release on Amazon’s Children’s Special Needs Category. Different Like Me has held that spot numerous times since its August 4, 2020 release date.

You can order your copy of Different Like Me or love your neighbors by ordering extra copies to share as gifts on Amazon today.

If you enjoy Different Like Me, please write a short review on Amazon and any other review platforms you enjoy. Every review makes a difference and can to help place God’s message of love and unity into the hands of more readers around the world.

I thank God for your prayers, your encouragement, and your help spreading the word about Different Like Me so that more children will learn to celebrate our differences and our sameness as God’s beautifully diverse and purposefully connected people!
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Valuing the Beauty of God’s Masterful and Diverse Workmanship

Years ago, my son raced out of his kindergarten classroom and into my arms and shared a story that I’d long expected but wished we could have avoided. An older student had hurled racial slurs at him during recess.

A white woman interrupted our conversation. “Oh, honey,” she said. “We’re all equal. God doesn’t see color.”

Before I could respond, she smiled and walked away.

My son frowned. “God doesn’t see me because I’m brown, Mama?”

“God sees you and loves you,” I said, trying to conceal my anger. Why didn’t I tell the woman that her words hurt me and could have hurt my son if not addressed? Cupping his face in my light-but-not-white hands, I met his gaze.

To read more, click here to join me as I serve as a guest writer on the (in)courage blog today.

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Today is the release date for Different Like Me!

You can love your neighbors by ordering extra copies to share as gifts on Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, ChristianBook, Our Daily Bread Publishing, or wherever books are sold.

You can encourage me and partner with me in ministry by writing a review on Amazon or any other review platforms you enjoy.

Thanks for your prayers and encouragement as we celebrate our differences and our sameness as God’s beautifully diverse and purposefully connected people.

We’re So Close to Bringing Solomon and His Service Dog Together!

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When 4-year-old Solomon was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy in April 2020, we started a fundraiser to help him raise the money he needed for a professionally trained service dog.

We started fundraising on June 10th. By June 14th, God’s amazing people had donated the $10,000.00 necessary to secure Solomon’s puppy from the next litter.

Hallelujah!

We still had to raise another $12,000.00 before we could secure the pup’s training spot.

Are you ready to celebrate?

God has used His generous people to help us raise a total of $14,038.9 between June 10-27, 2020!

Solomon has secured his puppy from the next litter and only needs $7,969.31 to secure his training spot!

I look forward to sharing photos and more about Solomon’s story as we continue supporting him on his journey. BUT TODAY, I’m asking for your help.

Will you join us by doing one or more of the following:

  1. Praying for Solomon, his family,the Tails for Life trainers, and the puppy God has already chosen to serve Solomon.
  2. Prayerfully consider making a tax-deductible donation in any amount directly to Tails for Life to help us reach our final goal.
  3. Share this post on social media and encourage others to donate and/or share the post, so we can reach more people.

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You can make your tax-deductible donation online or send a check, made payable to Tails for Life with a note in the memo: “Solomon Henry’s Service Dog.

Please send checks to:

Tails for Life

Attention: Jacob Guell

W7074 Penny Lane

Fond du Lac, WI 54937

If you have any problems making a donation online and adding “Solomon Henry’s Service Dog” in the notes section, please make your donation online then email Jacob Guell at tailsforlife@gmail.com to let him know your donation is for Solomon.

I am praising God now for the wonderful way He is going to provide for Solomon and his family, just like He provided for me and my sweet Callie Mae.

Please feel free to leave a comment below to encourage Solomon and his family, as well as the Tails for Life team members who have dedicated their lives to serving God by providing well-trained service dogs and ongoing training support to those in need.

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Working Together Can Change Solomon’s Life – June 22, 2020 Update

On June 10, 2020, I shared Solomon’s story with you. This four-year-old boy with a contagious love for God has inspired all of us. As his family processes their emotions while praying for guidance regarding his medical treatment, sponsors have been blessing them with tax-deductible donations paid directly to Tails for Life for Solomon’s service dog.

Over the last twelve days, Tails for Life has received $7,773.69 in donations to help bring Solomon and his service dog together.

We’re only $2,226.31 away from our 1st goal of $10,000, which will secure a puppy for Solomon from the next litter.

To God be the glory, the honor, and the praise, praise, praise!

Your generosity, words of encouragement, and prayers have overwhelmed the family.

They are facing some difficult decisions as they consider treatment options. The sooner we can get Solomon’s dog in training, the sooner he and his whole family will benefit from our gift.

I’m in tears as I type this message, thanking God for each of you who have donated, prayed, or shared this post.

It is a pleasure and privilege to see people coming alongside this family to help.

When the litter is born, the owner of Tails for Life will help the family choose a puppy.

The basic training begins before the breeder even releases the puppy to the trainers. Then, the Tails for Life family dedicates time around the clock to caring for this special dog they have committed to love and train so that he can serve the handler God has chosen for him ̶ Solomon.

As Solomon grows, he’ll need this service dog to help him with balance and mobility. The dog will be able to help him stand up when he falls. He will pick up and retrieve items for Solomon. And when Solomon transitions into a wheelchair, his service dog will remain by his side and ready to work.

A service dog will also alert family members when Solomon needs their attention. He will bring comfort and peace of mind to all of the family members as they lovingly serve as Solomon’s caregivers.

If I would have had my service dog when I served as my mom’s live-in caregiver, Callie could have helped me physically and emotionally.

I wouldn’t have had to use a cane to walk. I wouldn’t have hurt myself when picking up dropped items, which would have prevented me from caring for my mom while on crutches for six weeks.

With Callie, I wouldn’t have felt so alone when I was trying to be strong for my mom.

God strengthened me each day, but physically caring for my mom while trying to care for myself during my daily battle with chronic pain was hard and emotionally draining.

As Callie reaches the end of her first year in training with Tails for Life on July 9th, I sure would love to celebrate that special day by announcing that Solomon’s service dog is paid in full and ready to begin training!

With a service dog, the Henry family will be able to serve Solomon without depleting all of their mental, physical, or emotional strength.

We can’t change Solomon’s diagnosis. But, as we continue donating to help bring Solomon and his service dog together, we can be a part of what God is doing to change their lives.

Any donation amount will help and be appreciated.

Every dollar counts and helps us get closer to the goal of $22,000.00 so Solomon can begin his adventure with the service dog God has already chosen for him and his family.

Will you please join me in praying for the Henry family and prayerfully consider making a donation directly to Tails for Life today?

Please make checks payable to Tails for Life, write “Solomon Henry’s Service Dog” in the meme, and send to:

Tails for Life

Attention: Jacob Guell

W7074 Penny Lane

Fond du Lac, WI 54937

If you have any problems making a donation online or adding “Solomon Henry’s Service Dog” in the notes section, please make your donation online then email Jacob Guell at tailsforlife@gmail.com to let him know your donation is for Solomon.

Please also consider inviting a friend or two to help so we can secure Solomon’s dog and training spot as soon as possible.

I thank God for all of you who sponsored Callie’s service dog training and who continually pray for us as we share God’s truth and love to the ends of the earth.

I am praising God now for the wonderful way He is going to provide for Solomon and his family, just like He provided for me and my sweet Callie Mae.

Please feel free to leave a comment below to encourage Solomon and his family, as well as the Tails for Life family members who have dedicated their lives to serving God by providing well-trained service dogs and ongoing training support to those in need.

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As of July 22, 2020, Tails for Life has received $7,773.69 for Solomon’s service dog!

 

Callie’s Birthday Wish: We Have a Hurting Friend Who Needs Our Prayers and Our Help

Callie turned two today!

I shed grateful tears when I think about how the Lord has used Callie, a mixed breed rescued from a kill-shelter, and the trainers at Tails for Life to improve my quality of life physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually.

When we followed God from California to Wisconsin in August 2018, I couldn’t even walk to the end of the block with my cane. I couldn’t endure more than an hour out of the house without hunching over with stabbing pain in my upper thoracic back.

Though I still struggle with daily nerve pain, fatigue, muscle spasms, and headaches, my doctor’s helping me improve my pain management and Callie’s helping me improve my independence and mobility.

I can now walk Callie, without a cane, 2-3 times a day. Hallelujah!

When I’m having high level pain or spasms, Callie stays by my side and offers pressure therapy upon my request. She helps me get out of my chair and picks up things that I drop. She helps me balance when I’m walking and slows down when I have a flare-up during an outing.

Callie has flown across the country with me and served the Lord by my side during multiple book signings and speaking events. She lays next to me when I’m writing and rests under the table when I’m working at my desk.

I feel more confident and courageous when I’m serving the Lord with Callie by my side.

None of this would be possible without God, the New Pawsibilities rescue shelter, our first Wisconsin-friends, Gary and Carmen, and the group of generous readers who sponsored Callie’s service dog training with Tails for Life.

As I thank God for allowing us to serve Him together, I enjoy sharing our adventures at Callie the Service Dog with Xochitl Dixon (Facebook).

Callie is also building friendships and serving the Lord online at @callie.the.service.dog with Xochitl Dixon on Instagram.

But nothing is more rewarding than helping others who would benefit from a service dog. 

Four-year-old Solomon needs our help today!

On April 16, 2020, one of the families in our church discovered that their son, Solomon, was diagnosed with Duchenne (pronounced “do-shen”) Muscular Dystrophy.

My friend, Lara, explained how Solomon’s diagnosis will impact his future.

“This is a disease that doesn’t have a cure. My son’s body cannot make the protein properly to sustain his muscles. As he ages, his body will slowly become weaker.

The mutation on the X-Chromosome means nearly all who are affected by DMD are males.

Boys will typically need a motorized wheelchair by middle school. Eventually they will need help with the most basic needs of life.

Life expectancy varies between DMD boys, some pass as early as their teenage years – some live longer – but most pass in their 20’s.

I’ve grown closer to Solomon and his family as I pray for them.

Solomon is a bright and happy boy. He’s curious, funny, and kind. He likes playing with tools and Legos.

And he loves Callie!

Lara shared how this disease is already impacting her son’s physical abilities.

“Solomon is unable to run or jump. Stairs are hard work. He struggles to pick his feet up high enough off the ground, so they don’t drag. He literally trips over his own feet.”

But Solomon’s disease is also effecting his whole family.

While her husband works to support their family, Lara tries to stay right by Solomon’s side, constantly fearing he will fall and injure himself.

“His sister, Addy, loves him very much,” she said. “Although she doesn’t fully understand what “Duchenne” means, she knows enough to run and get his favorite blanket or stuffed animal when he falls and hurts himself.”

But Lara proclaims that Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy has not left Solomon’s family without hope.

“The God who stopped the sun in the sky for the Israelites, the God who parted the Red Sea for Moses, the God who raised Lazarus from the dead . . . that is the God I believe in. And that is the God who could have reached into my womb and healed my son before he was born. He is the God that could heal my son right now.

But He doesn’t.

And I HAVE to be okay with that. It is now more important than ever for me to have hope in Him and in His promises.

Is it easy?  Definitely not. Do I do it consistently? Nope. But, after the hardest of days when the tears won’t stop flowing, do I come back before His throne on my knees? Sure do. I have to believe in God’s goodness, in His power, in His might. I have to believe that He loves my son. I have to believe that it will all be okay, regardless of the pain now.

Because if I don’t believe all of that, what am I left with? Belief that God that doesn’t love Solomon? Belief that God isn’t all-powerful or all-mighty? Oof. That puts me in a very dark place. I don’t want to be there. So today, in spite of the pain and the grief, I choose to believe. I choose to have hope in the future.”

Jacob Guell from Tails for Life explains how a service dog can help brighten Solomon’s future.

A professionally trained service dog will help Solomon balance and can provide a sense of independence for Solomon, even as his muscles weaken.

The dog will help Solomon stand up from his chair or the floor, if he’s sitting on the floor or after a fall.

When Solomon drops something, the dog will pick up the item he drops. He can even retrieve and carry items.

The dog will be able to work with Solomon when he is in a wheelchair, too.

A service dog would also offer support to Solomon’s family.

The dog will alert a family member if Solomon needs help. He will stick close to Solomon and offer physical and emotional support, so family members don’t have to be so worried about leaving his side to keep him from falling.

The dog would also know how to get assistance from someone if Solomon is in need of help, at home or in public.

I know from my experience with Callie that a service dog brings so much more to the handler and the family.

The sense of comfort and confidence that comes through working with a service dog is a priceless gift.

A professionally trained service dog will allow Solomon and his family to have a better quality of life physically, emotionally, and mentally as his disease progresses.

How can we help bring Solomon and his service dog together so they can begin their life-changing journey together?

Tails for Life works with reliable breeders to ensure their service dogs have a specific temperament that will make them successful as they work with their handlers and families.

Securing a puppy and the two-year training spot with ongoing support from Tails for Life costs $22,000.00.

I know from experience that the Tails for Life team works with integrity and goes above and beyond to serve the families God has entrusted to them.

The sooner Solomon can secure a dog and a training spot, the sooner he will be able to begin working with the service dog.

Tails for Life needs $10,000.00 as soon as possible to reserve a dog and a training spot for Solomon.

The remaining balance of $12,000.00 is due when the training begins.

Tails for Life is already booking training spots for next Spring. They work on a first come first serve basis, so they cannot reserve spots without the funding.

Sponsors can make tax-deductible donations directly to Tails for Life via their website (click here).

Donations must include a message in the notes section to inform Tails for Life that their donation is for Solomon.

Tails for Life also accepts tax-deductible donations via check (instructions below) with a note informing them that the money should go directly to Solomon’s dog and training.

Donations over $250.00 will receive a special form in addition to the receipt everyone receives with their life-changing donation.

Tails for Life has trained Callie and me since July 2019, but they have been making a difference in the lives of children since 2013.

This team has provided well over a dozen service dogs to families across Wisconsin and Illinois, along with a few other states.

They have helped many children with rare disorders or diseases, children who were turned away from other organizations because they didn’t fit the organization’s criteria.

For Callie’s birthday, I wanted to spread God’s love and hope to this family in need. But I know Callie and I can’t do this alone.

Any donation amount will help and be appreciated.

Every dollar counts and helps us get closer to the goal of $22,000.00 so Solomon can begin his adventure with the service dog God has already chosen for him and his family.

Will you please join me in praying for the Henry family and prayerfully consider making a donation directly to Tails for Life today?

Please make checks payable to Tails for Life, write “Solomon Henry’s Service Dog” in the meme, and send to:

 

Tails for Life

Attention: Jacob Guell

W7074 Penny Lane

Fond du Lac, WI 54937

 

If you have any problems making a donation online and adding “Solomon Henry’s Service Dog” in the notes section, please make your donation then email Jacob Guell at tailsforlife@gmail.com to let him know your donation is for Solomon.

Please also consider inviting a friend or two to help so we can secure Solomon’s dog and training spot as soon as possible.

I thank God for all of you who sponsored Callie’s service dog training and who continually pray for us as we share God’s truth and love to the ends of the earth.

In the photo above, Callie is “praising the Lord.” (Yes. I taught her how to do that, so we could praise Him together!)

And today, I am praising God for the wonderful way He is going to provide for Solomon and his family, just like He provided for me and my sweet Callie Mae.

Please feel free to leave a comment below to encourage Solomon and his family, as well as the Tails for Life team members who have dedicated their lives to serving God by providing well-trained service dogs and ongoing training support to those in need.

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June 15, 2020 UPDATE:

PRAISE the LORD! Every single donation is making a difference!

As of 8 am Monday, June 15, 2020, only five days into our fundraising efforts, God has blessed us with a total of $5,144.69. Hallelujah!

We may not be able to change Solomon’s diagnosis, but we are helping change his life by donating today!

Please SHARE this post, so we can reach more people!

Thank you for your prayers and support! To God be the glory, the honor, and the praise, praise, praise!

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