I don’t know of a more crucial time in my lifetime to engage in important, gospel-centered conversations with the next generation about race and the gospel than right now. My hope is that my new book, Creative God, Colorful Us, will be a resource to help teach the kids in your life how to really enjoy our differences!
And to further equip you, a few of my friends and I got together to have honest conversations about how to talk to the next generation about race, ethnicity, and the gospel. You’ll hear from those in every stage of parenting sharing key insights and ‘aha’ moments.
The best part is that when you pre-order the book you can also receive an event access pass completely FREE.
Order your book and then claim your free pass link in bio! (webevents.moodyconferences.com)
A children’s book comes alive when it’s coupled with an inspiring, creative, and imaginative illustrator. The Good Book Company partnered with Catalina Echeverri to illustrate God’s Very Good Idea and it was a very good idea! It was a joy to work alongside her and her brilliant artwork, which brought my words to life. What a joy it is for me to introduce you to her today. Not only is she creative, she also loves Jesus and loves people.
Q: Tell us a little bit about you. Where are you from?
Catalina: I am originally from Bogota, Colombia. But I left home when I was 18 to study abroad and have lived in many different cities and places since. I have loved getting to know each culture and each way of life. I think that is probably the reason why I’ve enjoyed this project so much. Because I feel like there’s a little bit of each country I’ve lived in and the people I’ve met throughout all these years.
Catalina with her church in Italy during the summer outreach events for kids
When did you decide you wanted to be an illustrator?
I’ve been drawing ever since I can remember. My parents say to me that as long as I had a pencil in my hand and a piece of paper, I was a contented little girl! But somehow I ended up venturing into graphic design in my university degree and so abandoned drawing for a bit. Then when I became a Christian while studying university in Italy I got involved with summer camps and Sunday School Activities. They needed someone to do big pictures for the songs that they where going to sing in the park and so I thought, hey why not? This is a great opportunity to get back to drawing, after all, I missed it so much! And that was it. That’s when I realised drawing for children was the thing I wanted to do! So I applied for a Masters in Children’s Book Illustration and the only two courses available at the time were in Barcelona and in Cambridge. I applied for both and got admitted to Cambridge School of Arts. And well…here I am drawing for little ones : )
Very first thumbnails of “God’s Very Good Idea”.
How did you decide what direction to go in God’s Very Good Idea?
When I think of diversity I think of an explosion of colours, and that is pretty much what drove the concept of this book, lots and lots of colours! Also, something that distinguishes this book from the rest of the series is the fact that it is set in the present but draws from the Biblical narrative. So representing this felt almost like a double narrative that needed to be unfolded visually. This is where the speech bubble idea came in.
Do you have a favorite character (besides Jesus) in God’s Very Good Idea? If so, who and why?
Mmm that is a tough one! I think more than a favourite character, I have a favourite page, and that is the one where the little girl is imagining what heaven will be like. Growing up I always thought heaven would be the most boring place possible, with people in white robes floating on fluffy clouds and just playing the harp. But when I became a Christian, I learned that is not the case AT ALL. Heaven will have all the best bits of this world except with no corruption or sadness. It will be a place of utter joy and delight. AND the best bit of all is that we will finally meet Jesus and enjoy His company forever. And that is why this picture means so much to me. I look forward to it so much!
What is your hope for the book?
I hope this picturebook helps children and their parents to realise that the fact that we are all different from each other both inside and out is not a bad thing but a great thing! God did not make one type of person, or one type of bird, or flower. But millions of different kinds and shapes! Unlike birds and flowers, people are the same–all made in the image of God–but we are unique.All of them are equally special and valuable to Him. He did this because He is amazingly creative, and we should celebrate our diversity and rejoice in what He has made!
More about Catalina:
Hello there! My name is Catalina Echeverri and I am originally from Bogota, Colombia. I have a background in graphic design from the Accademia di Comunicazione (Milan, Italy) and an MA in Children’s Book Illustration from Cambridge School of Arts (Anglia Ruskin University).
I love to draw and all of the time, and take my little sketchbook everywhere I go. Especially when I travel! Find her at http://cataecheverri.com
Today, I’d like to take you to a few of my friend’s writing homes. They invited me in recently and I’d love to share our time with you.
First up, a podcast.
A friend listened to a podcast I was featured on and emailed me as a result saying, “I don’t even know you!” I laughed to myself and then responded with something like, “I know, I know. This interview aside, I tend to forget to share more about me beyond my general conversion story and current life.”
That podcast was Daniel Darling’s The Way Home and it was his 100th episode! Dan is also my boss at the ERLC, which made our time together that much more special and unique. If you’d like to get to know me a bit more, I’d say Dan did a brilliant job of pulling a few things out that I hadn’t been thinking about for a while. In the interview, I share about how I was once pro-choice and how the Lord changed my mind and heart on that, about what my 18 year old self thought she was going to be doing for the rest of her life, about race and my interracial marriage, and also a little about the books I’ve written. Hope you’ll check it out: http://bit.ly/2ikehVl
This week, I also had the pleasure of figuratively sitting down with my dear friend Melissa Kruger. Melissa is a women’s ministry leader, Bible teacher, and genuinely one of the most humble women I have gotten to know. She has such a pure desire to serve women—I’m grateful for her! And she was gracious to have me on her site Wit’s End. You can check out our interview here: http://bit.ly/2inYcBw
Thanks for letting me take you around the web to a few places I’ve been recently. Hope you enjoy these interviews.
Did you know October is Spina Bifida awareness month? I imagine that most of you answered, No. I wouldn’t have been aware of this special month either had it not been for some dear friends. Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to get to know a sweet young couple and their daughter, Anne-Marie, who happens to have Spina Bifida, a birth defect that affects the spine.
Today, I am honored and excited to feature my friend, Bethany Sims, on my site as she gives us a glimpse of her, her husband, Hunter, and Anne-Marie’s story and how we might get involved and assist other families affected by Spina Bifida.
As we get started, I imagine there are some people who aren’t familiar with Spina Bifida. Could you fill in the gaps for us?
Sims: Spina Bifida is the most common permanently disabling birth defect in the United States. Spina Bifida happens when a baby is in the womb and the spinal column does not close all of the way. Every day, about 8 babies born in the United States have Spina Bifida or a similar birth defect of the brain and spine.
My daughter, Anne-Marie (AM), had the most severe form of Spina Bifida called a Myelomeningocele. It happens when parts of the spinal cord and nerves come through the open part of the spine. 70-90% of children with this condition also have too much fluid on their brains because fluid that protects the brain and spinal cord is unable to drain like it should. Without treatment, a person’s head grows too big and they may have brain damage as a result.
When did you find out your daughter had Spina Bifida?
On January 27, 2015, Hunter and I found out that AM’s brain was shaped differently (the doctor said it looked like a banana) and they referred us to a high-risk pregnancy doctor for better images. Three weeks later, I had the second ultrasound and first heard the term “Spina Bifida.”
When the doctors began to explain the details of Spina Bifida and all of the complications associated with it (ie. paralysis, bowel/bladder issues, multiple surgeries in her future, hydrocephalus, mental and cognitive delays, possible death) I was overwhelmed. I just cried. I didn’t know how to feel. I was heart broken and didn’t understand why this was happening.
You have shared with me previously about some of the amazing things the doctors were able to do with AM when she was in utero. Would you share a little here?
On March 3rd, at 24 weeks, we had fetal surgery to close the opening in AM’s spine. They would go in while I was heavily sedated (as much sedation as a heart transplant patient could take), open me up, take my uterus out and created an incision just large enough for her defect or her lower back to be exposed. Her butt was “delivered” and so now we call March 3rd her “Butt-Day.” They only had 19 minutes to close her spine, put everything back in place and sew up my foot-long scar
AM was born May 17th, at 35 weeks and two days. Unfortunately, the skin they had operated on during the fetal surgery had opened and she was born with a 2”x3” section of exposed muscle and spine. So when she was two days old, she went into surgery to have the space covered.
When she was 8 weeks old, AM was diagnosed with hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain) and had a fairly new surgery called ETV/CPC. In this procedure, they went into the place where cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) is made and burned part of it to decrease the amount of fluid produced and then they created a hole in the third ventricle to allowed the CSF to flow more naturally and keep it from collecting in her brain. Two days after this surgery, she began to have seizures and has been on medication for them since.
What are some of the Scriptures and truths about God’s character that sustained you during your pregnancy?
It is really hard to pinpoint a certain verse that sustained me during that time. Stories and verses that I had previously read a thousand times suddenly had more meaning. I had never hungered for scripture like I did during that time. And simple truths like, “He would never leave me or forsake me” (Heb 13:5), “all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28), or “In this life you will have trouble but take heart I have overcome the world” (John 16:33) would come to my mind as I was sitting alone on bed rest or even while I was being rolled back for surgery.
What does a typical day look like for you now? What are some of the ways that you will need to care for AM throughout her life?
The great thing is, our days are pretty typical. She loves to play and does everything a typical 16 month old would do, but she just has to do things her own way. AM does have to attend physical therapy once a week and an early interventionist visits our home twice a month. We have more doctor visits than typical children, but it is “normal” for AM. We have to catheterize every three hours due to some issues with her bladder and kidney reflux. She takes medications that protect her from infections and help with bladder function. All of these things quickly become routine and we roll with it.
How has the Lord encouraged your faith as you’ve cared for your daughter’s day-to-day needs?
I think the biggest thing I have learned by being AM’s mom is to be grateful for even little things. With every milestone she achieves, a good doctor visit or test result, I cannot help but have a greater appreciation for God’s little mercies.
When AM took her first steps with her walker, I remembered all of the times I had dreamed and prayed to see that moment. So when I saw it with my eyes… I couldn’t help but praise the Lord and be overwhelmed with gratitude for His faithfulness. When you are a parent to a special needs child, you cherish the little blessings so much more and get to see God’s hand on your child time and time again.
What are ways we might get involved or support families once a child has been diagnosed with spina bifida?
This could be different depending on if the family has fetal surgery or not.
If the family has fetal surgery, mothers are required to stay on strict bed rest afterwards. No cleaning. No cooking. No driving. No doing anything but sitting. This is a wonderful opportunity for Christian families to help provide meals, visit, help with household chores, or help care for the other children if needed.
If a family is unable or decides not to have fetal surgery, the mother will carry the child like normal up until the due date. I think it is important for Christian families to let these moms know that they are supporting them through prayer. Fetal surgery moms need the prayer too, but I think when you are carrying a child with special needs and don’t have any outward display of need (like fetal surgery moms) you can often feel like you are walking the scary road alone. By letting these moms and families know that you are praying for and encouraging them through the pregnancy, you are helping to reassure the mother that she can face the challenges that lie ahead.
What are ways we might support families once the child is born?
First, I think it is important to understand what these families will be going through so that you know how to more effectively pray for them. The day a child is born is the day the family begins a Spina Bifida roller coaster. No two Spina Bifida babies are the same and so most parents will be facing a lot of tough decisions – surgeries, how to care for their baby, etc.. Though the child’s birthday is a wonderful and exciting day, it is also coupled with a lot of stress for the parents.
Second, the family will be spending a lot of time in the hospital, meaning sleepless, uncomfortable nights and bad food. Tangible ways to help would be taking care of things outside of the hospital – their home, other kids, dogs, etc.
Finally, even though visiting in the hospital is sweet, in this case, it isn’t always the best. NICUs have very strict rules about visitors and if you go to visit, you might not get to see the baby or, if you do, you might be waking him/her up from much needed sleep.
How might you encourage the faith of a family who has just learned that their child will be born with spina bifida?
I know you are scared. I know this isn’t what you wanted for your child. I know you think that you aren’t strong enough or up for the tasks that are set before you. But I want you to know that you are. You are stronger than you think you are and you will be able to do things you never thought you could ever do. And when you hold your baby in your arms for the first time, you will realize that every moment of pain and fear was worth it. When you look at him or her you won’t see Spina Bifida, you will only see beauty and perfection.
What are a few final thoughts you’d like to share?
There are a lot of misconceptions about Spina Bifida and, unfortunately, even many doctors are giving poor information about it. I believe these misconceptions and poorly informed doctors attribute to the high abortion rate for children with Spina Bifida (64% diagnosed prenatally are aborted). Thanks to modern medicine, Spina Bifida does not look the same way it used to twenty or thirty years ago. With help, children with Spina Bifida can lead full lives. About 90% of babies born with Spina Bifida now live to be adults, about 80% have normal intelligence and about 75% play sports and do other fun activities.
A 2017 update from Bethany (mom): She is nearly 2 1/2 years old, growing and learning like any typical child. She is able to walk with her walker and SMO ankle braces and she has even started to take single steps without support.
Thank you for this information and for allowing us to get a glimpse of the faithfulness of God in your, Hunter’s and Anne-Marie’s life. May God be continually glorified as you testify of His goodness towards you.
(Note from Trillia: You’ve asked me to answer some of your most frequent questions regarding racial reconciliation and I’m happy to say that I’ve recruited a few friends to assist me. Over the next few days, I’ll have guest posts from Kristie Anyabwile and Jemar Tisby. Kristie is up first. Kristie has become a dear sister who I speak with often. She is humble, gentle, honest, and kind. She loves deeply and wants to see the same unity I desire. I pray you will be encouraged by her today.)
What can I do?
Among my white friends, this has been the most asked question. They want to be active and engaged in some way to respond to the pain they see playing out in America and to their own pain. Words like listen, learn, and love may sound simplistic, but I think they go a long way in empathizing with the burdened.
Listen. Ask your black friends how this past week, even the past couple of years, has been for them. Then be quick to listen (James 1:19). Hear their heart. You are likely to hear stories of mistreatment, racial slurs, microaggressions, fears for themselves and their children. Don’t offer explanations or solutions. Just listen. How can we bear one another’s burdens if we don’t listen to what those burdens are?
Learn. Spend some time learning about the history and plight of African Americans. We’ve had to do the same. I was introduced to black history and culture in college. Learning about the broad accomplishments of Africans and African Americans opened my eyes and world in ways that have only benefited me over the years. Prior to that, my exposure to my own history came from a few family stories about their experiences during the Jim Crow and Civil Rights era, watching ROOTS as a child, and a few minutes in a class or two where we heard about Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King, Jr.. Do a little research and learn the history that gives context for what we are dealing with today in regards to race relations in America.
Love. Love one another deeply from the heart (1 Peter 1:22). As you listen and as you learn, love your brother or sister as yourself. Grieve with them. Hope together. Pray for them. Speak and pray words of encouragement to them. Let your love move you to action. Participate in a local peace forum or demonstration with your friend. Lock arms with them against injustice. Actively, vocally oppose injustice whenever and wherever you see it. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) In love, encourage your white family members and friends to listen, learn and love along with you.
I’m afraid to speak. How can I speak about this topic well?
Some of you are fearful of speaking up on behalf of your black sisters and brothers who are hurting. You don’t want to be misunderstood. You don’t want to say something inadvertently insensitive. You don’t want backlash from family and friends and coworkers. You’re tired. You’re hurting as well. You don’t know what to say, so you say nothing.
I get it. You feel vulnerable. It too saddens me that often the white voices we hear most and loudest are those that are least empathetic and gracious. I believe there are more of you who have words of grace and encouragement and love and hope for your black brothers and sisters. I believe there are more of you who have gracious words of correction and perspective that you can offer to your harsher white brothers and sisters. We need to hear from you.
May I encourage you to trust the Lord with your words? This is something the Lord has been teaching me for a number of years. Too often when I’m prompted by the Lord to speak, I think He’s gonna leave me once I open my mouth, and that my words are mine alone. But the One who gave me my mouth is with me and will give me the words He wants me to speak. This is true for you as well. You can trust Him. “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe (Proverbs 29:25).” Fear of man can either torment us or tempt us. Torment comes in agonizing over all the “what ifs” and playing back the worst-case scenario in our minds, stifling our voices. Or, in our fear of man, we may be tempted to sin in the form of disobedience or refusing to identify with Christ’s suffering when He graciously grants that stewardship to us through the words He prompts us to speak. But remember that there is safety in trusting the Lord. You never have to be ashamed of trusting Him. He will keep you. He is your confidence and will bless those who have ears to hear by your words that are prompted by His Spirit.
Is there hope?
Of course there’s hope! We are exiles, living in temporary dwelling until our Deliverer comes to take us home to glory. We hope for this. We long for this. It seems far off, but we know neither the day nor the hour when our Savior will appear. So, we ask the Lord to come quickly. We work to make disciples by sharing the good news of the gospel.
But is there hope in this life? Yes! We can hope for a better society for ourselves and the next generation. But we do not have an effortless hope. We must work toward the good of our land, and we must pray. We work for the betterment of our society as we participate in our political process, serve in our neighborhoods, and take an active role in caring for the neglected. No, our world is not perfect. But we must acknowledge the progress that has been made and ask the Lord for more. Our hope fizzles when we forget God’s active grace in our lives. He has been and always will be faithful. He has been faithful to keep us and to bring us this far. We can trust Him to continue to pour out His grace to us. As the gospel hymn writer stated, “We’ve come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord, trusting in His holy Word. He’s never failed me yet.”
Our hope is fueled and enflamed by prayer. We must pray for those who are in authority over us. We must pray for their salvation. Pray for their leadership to be honorable and full of integrity. Pray for laws and leaders who work for the safety of all. Pray for justice. We do this so that we all might be able to live peaceful and quiet lives in a godly and dignified way (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7)
Kristie is a pastor’s wife, mom, speaker and writer. She joyfully supports her husband of 25 years, Thabiti, as he pastors Anacostia River Church in Washington, DC. They have 3 children. Kristie disciples women in her local church, and speaks and writes about marriage, motherhood, and ministry. She has degrees in History and in African American Studies from North Carolina State University. She has written contributions to the ESV Women’s Devotional Bible; Word-Filled Women’s Ministry: Loving and Serving the Church; Women on Life: A Call to Love the Unborn, Unloved and Neglected; and Hospitality Matters: Reviving an Ancient Practice for Modern Missions. You can find her at www.iamconvinced.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter at @kanyabwile.
Darling: This book started with two inspirations, one negative, one positive. Negatively, I heard myself and other Christians saying things like, “The Jesus I know . . .” as if we can fashion and shape Jesus to our own preferences and biases. Positively, I was in class with Dr. D.A. Carson and heard him say, “The Bible doesn’t begin with epistemology, but theology.” What he meant by this is that Scripture doesn’t begin with “How can I know God or what do I think of God, but with a declaration of who God is.” I thought about that as we think about Jesus Christ. Christ is who the Scriptures declare him to be, who he says he is, not who we think he is. This started me on the path of thinking through various ideas of Jesus in the evangelical culture that are partial truths, but not true to the real Jesus of Scripture. I wanted to be able to help people think through their incomplete formulations of Christ and get to the real, original, beautiful Christ.
Why do you think we are tempted to make Jesus in our image or in the image we hope him to be?
I think we do this because in our falleness, we want to bring Christ down to our level. We want a Jesus who justifies our behavior, who affirms our beliefs and preferences, a mascot for our favorite causes. In some ways, it is a form of self-worship, where the Jesus we worship starts to look like the man in the mirror. Jesus came to do the exact opposite, to rescue us from sin and to sanctify us and mold us into His image. He is the potter and we are the clay.
What is your solution to this problem?
The solution is simple: confronting, acknowledging, and bowing in worship before the real Jesus of Scripture. Rather than trying to focus on one attribute of Christ, the attribute we most identify with, we should come to Jesus with humility, letting him shape us instead of us shaping him. Ultimately the real Jesus of Scripture is infinitely better than the pedestrian Jesus’ of our imagination.
How do envision readers using your book?
I envision them really thinking deeply about the deity of Christ and not using the book as a cudgel against their neighbor, but as an opportunity to look deep within their own hearts to find the ways that they have missed the real Jesus in pursuit of one that conforms to their preferences. There are chapters in this book that will really resonate with the reader. And there are chapters that will challenge and convict. This is what happened to me as I was writing it. I didn’t realize all the ways I’d reduced Jesus to my own imagination.
Watch Dan share more in this video:
More about Dan
Daniel Darling is the vice president of communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. A former pastor, Darling is the author of several books, as well as a speaker and blogger. He contributes to a weekly column for Leadership Journal and his work can be found in the Washington Post, Focus on the Family, Christianity Today, Relevant, Beliefnet.com, Homelife, The Gospel Coalition, Crosswalk.com, and many more print and online publications. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.