Author Xochitl Dixon talked with Really blog manager Carla Foote about her journey of growing in understanding her identity in Christ as a person who struggles with chronic pain. Their conversation also included how Xochitl helped her own kids have a foundation of knowing they are created in God’s image. Her work includes devotionals and children’s books. She helps us all learn and celebrate our differences and our value.
A Conversation about Identity, Differences and Community
With Xochitl Dixon
Tell us the background of your first children’s book, Different Like Me. Quite a few years elapsed between when you wrote the book and when it was published.
I became a Christian in 2001, when my son Xavier was in Kindergarten. My husband is Black. I’m Mexican-American. One day, my biracial son came home from school and told me someone had called him a racial slur. It was the first time something like that had happened when I wasn’t with him. As a new Christian, I wanted to respond in a way that honored Jesus. I wanted to teach my son to respond in love. But I was still healing from my own racial trauma. I was still learning about my own identity in Christ. I was still trying to figure out how I could honor God by celebrating the things that made me different, as well as the things that made me similar to other people God made.
As I prayed for wisdom, God gave me a poem that became the book Different Like Me. The message was a celebration of our differences and our sameness as God’s beautifully diverse and purposefully connected image-bearers. I wrote Different Like Me for my son, but God used the message to begin healing my heart and helping me become secure in my identity as His beloved child.
Fifteen years later, as I trusted God’s plan and pace with my writing and my chronic pain and fatigue, God blessed me with the opportunity to serve as an Our Daily Bread writer. I wrote my first devotional book for Our Daily Bread, Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace, in 2018. A few months after I submitted that manuscript, several publishers were interested in the children’s book about differences. In August 2020, two decades after I wrote the first draft, Different Like Me released with Our Daily Bread Publishing. That same month, our country was dividing over issues of racism, inequity, and injustice after the murder of George Floyd. God saved Different Like Me for its perfectly timed release. And God has been using this picture book to create a safe space for adults and children to begin healing while learning about God’s intentional plan for diversity, inclusion, and valuing all of God’s image-bearers.
You mentioned that the impetus for the children’s book was your son’s identity, and that at the same time, you were also working through your identity in Christ and how God created you. Your unique story includes living with chronic pain, fatigue, and limited mobility that impacts your life on a daily basis. What is your vision for children and adults who read your books?
I invite readers to celebrate diversity, embrace our sameness as God’s image-bearers, and normalize inclusion. My hope is that we can get beyond using people with differences as tokens, sideline images, or sidekicks, as more than just poster children or photo opportunities. I want to affirm the biblical truth that God intentionally created all people to be diverse so we can work together. Every child and adult God made is different and special, and has value to God and to our communities.
I have two more picture books and a devotional coming out in 2024. I pray God will use all my writing to equip and encourage readers to fulfill the Great Commission (sharing the Gospel and making disciples of all nations) and live out the Greatest Commandment (loving God and others). I’m excited about empowering readers with biblical truth and presenting beautifully diverse characters in multigenerational settings worshipping God and loving their neighbors.
As adults, sometimes we don’t know what to say or do in our interactions with someone who has disabilities. What do you suggest to help us go deeper in friendships with people of different abilities?
A person is not defined by a disability, or any difference, so it’s important to treat every person as a whole person. We can start being a good friend by showing respect, kindness, and compassion while being motivated by love in all our interactions.
I have what’s called an invisible disability. My back and neck injuries cause debilitating pain and fatigue, as well as mobility issues. I have a service dog, Callie, but most of the time you can’t tell I’m disabled or hurting just by looking at me. People have asked me if I’m training Callie for someone else. I’ve even been treated poorly because people don’t think I need a service dog or a handicap placard. The negative interactions don’t bother me, but these uncomfortable situations can hurt some people deeply. I’m confident and talk openly about my disability, but not everyone wants to share details about their health. That’s a choice that should be respected.
Being a good friend begins with looking beyond our personal space, setting aside our expectations, and caring enough to learn about others while respecting their space. It’s important to place the needs of others above our needs and, more often, above our wants and perceived rights.
For example, I used to be a big hugger! But now, if I’m having muscle spasms and nerve pain, a hug hurts me and isn’t a friendly greeting. One time, while I enjoyed a conversation with a group of women at church, another woman approached me with her arms wide open for a hug. I smiled and raised my hand to stop her. I thanked her and said I couldn’t hug because I was in pain.
She frowned. “You’re smiling,” she said. “If you didn’t smile, maybe I would believe you’re in pain.”
I wanted to give a sharp retort about Jesus being the source of my joy even when I’m in pain, but I chose to let it pass. That is the power of the Holy Spirit, who has been transforming me through my healing journey. He’s helping me become more compassionate toward others. I’m still learning how to be a better friend, too.
What is your prayer as you start each day?
Lord Jesus, please make me more like You. Help me live for You and love like You, as I share Your truth and love wherever You lead me. Please give me more opportunities to encourage Your beautifully diverse and purposefully connected image-bearers, as we grow closer to You and each other while serving others, celebrating what makes us different and the same, and honoring You by working together for Your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Xochitl (So-Cheel) Dixon serves through the ministries of Our Daily Bread and God Hears Her, crossing cultural and generational lines with hope-filled biblical encouragement and Scripture-based prayers. She is the author of the 2021 ECPA Christian Book Award Children’s Book finalist, Different Like Me, now available in Spanish, and the devotional, Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace. Xochitl celebrates diversity and serves as an advocate for inclusion, alongside her beautifully diverse family and her service dog, Callie, who you’ll find in Different Like Me. Xochitl enjoys loving Jesus, loving people, and connecting with readers at www.xedixon.com.