Will the Real Jesus please stand up? #Weneedmorediversebiblebooks

December 2013, Megyn Kelly of Fox News infamously reassured children that Santa Claus and JESUS were white.

Wow…so wrong. Ok…its not just wrong in a we don’t talk about Jesus’ race kind of way. It is actually historically in accurate. Right? Jesus was a middle eastern Jew. Oppressed by the Roman government, not a person operating from a position of power and not a caucasian as in from Europe. And even the historical St.Nicholas was Greek from the region now known as Turkey.

But I can remember being a kid and going into a sweet African American grandmas home in the government projects of Atlanta and seeing a framed picture of White Jesus. Even as a twelve year-old than weirded me out. And years later in a one room slum in India I saw the same picture. What a disservice to those families that though they embrace the good news of Jesus, they received him as white man! What a white man represents to both of those cultures is comes with baggage of opression.

Let me also take this further. Perhaps when white people assume that Jesus was(is) white, we are missing out on knowing the real Jesus. I don’t know about you, but as a follower of Jesus I want to know the real guy. When we assume he is just like us, we miss the subtly of many of his words and the challenge the gospel presents to us to pick up our crosses and follow him.

There has been a huge push in the last few years, beginning with an international twitter campaign that became a nonprofit saying #Weneedmorediversebooks. And, I believe as followers of Jesus we ought to be leading the charge. What if every bible storybook and Christian bedtime story you could find portrayed Jesus and other bible characters as people of color (since they were) and children of diverse backgrounds?

What if we created books that could serve as a mirrors and windows for all God’s children?   See NewsweekLargely today, white children only see themselves in books and never see into the world and children of color only see a world that is not their own, rather than seeing a reflection of what they can be. This has got to change if we believe that Jesus loves all the children of the world. the gospel is not the good news unless it is the good news for all people.

As I said on my Facebook Live video last night, I am committed to collecting and creating diverse bible story-books. If this is a need that is felt in your family, church, community and you want to be a part of it. Let me know.




The Family Movie Night Tradition: Streaming Watchlist 2017

Tomorrow (Friday) I’ll be broadcasting live on Facebook to talk about the Family Movie Night tradition and highlighting Five Fun Family Movies.

There’s nothing new and novel about the idea…make or order pizza, run down the street to Blockbuster to choose a movie the whole family will enjoy. Pop some popcorn and enjoy cuddling up with your loved ones. But its a great tradition. It’s relaxing and enjoyable and a great conversation starter. Below is my watchlist I’ve complied from Netflix, Amazon Prime, and HBO Go for families with kids under 5 or so.. Anything good I’m missing? I find searching Amazon prime unclear, so I would not be surprised if I missed a few.

I’ve included G rated as well as some PG movies. In our house we have a rule that PG movies must be watched with parents at least the first time. And, if we deem the movie as inappropriate for our almost four-year-old, we turn it off as soon as we are uncomfortable. That happened with Kung Fu Panda. It was just celebrating fighting too much for our son who we are still trying to teach” we do not hit in our family.” In a perfect world my husband and I would preview the movie without the kids first (even if we saw it years ago), but watch it together is more practical for us.

Every family and every child is different, I think that is the point of the PG rating. For us though Prince of Egypt has violence, and some difficult topics such as slavery, because its the story abut God’s deliverance of the people of Israel out of slavery and does not glorify violence we think its a great choice for movie night.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, Common Sense Media is a great resource to read reviews before you watch the movie together. Enjoy the list below (with Common Sense Media links) and please comment and add movies I left out. I’m also curious to know if you have turned off movies with you kids and if so, why and which ones?


    1. The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) (PG)
    2. Beauty and the Beast (PG)
    3. Chicken Little (G)
    4. Fantasia (G)
    5. Free Willy (PG)
    6. *Finding Dory (PG)
    7. Happy Feet (PG)
    8. Hercules (G)
    9. *Homeward Bound (G)
    10. Joseph King of Dreams  (NR)
    11. *Pocahontas (G)
    12. *The Prince of Egypt (PG) 
    13. Pete’s Dragon (PG)
    14. The Secret Garden (G) 
    15. Minions (PG)
    16. *Moana (PG)
    17. *Mulan (G)
    18. *Sing (PG)
    19. *Trolls (PG) 
    20. *Zootopia (PG) 


  1. *The Peanuts Movie (G) 
  2. Ice Age 5.1 PG

Amazon Prime

  1. All Dogs go to Heaven (G)
  2. Black Beauty (PG) 
  3. Shawn the Sheep Movie (PG)
  4. Wizard of Oz (NR)

* Stared Movies are movies I have watched with my family and am available to discuss, the other movies I have not watched with my family yet.

5 Board Books About Being Loved by God 

This afternoon I posted my first Live Facebook Video. Check it out! Like me on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/amy.negussie/videos/10155758673448809/

In case you’re more of a reader than a watcher, I thought I’d post the list here for you as well with Amazon links.

While Amazon is by far the most convient way to find these books, I also wanted to let you know that I have found some of these books at Marshalls, the Dollar Store, and my new discovery (Amazon) Prime Used. Also don’t forget about your public library!

Below are my top five (Christian) books for babies…though my very favorite is not explicitly Christian. My criteria for judging the top five are 1) Diversity is represented 2)Simplicity 3) Basic Message of God’s Love.

Diversity is important to me not only as a person who has lived abroad, studied the horrors of seeing white men as the neutral perspective, but also as a mom of multiracial children. “We need more diverse books!”

Simplicity is important because if you’ve ever tried to read to a child under three, you know less is more. The fewer the words, the more likely your child will focus on the book. Some of these books are on the longer end for board books, so I often read just one phrase per page.

Finally, while silly books are great for bonding with babies and even for passing on a love of reading I was looking for books that instill the basic truth that each child is wonderfully made and loved. Babies aren’t going to get a complicated teaching, but “I am loved” is the gospel even the youngest child can receive.

Jesus Calling for Little Ones Beautiful pictures with diverse children and animals, wordy but can be shorted easily. Written by Sarah Young. Check out her original book for adults

God Made You Nose to Toes  Lesslie Perrot is better known for her co-authored books on marriage with her husband, but this is a great foundational book about how we were specially made. God loves us and made us just the way we are.

Found Psalm 23 retold by Sally Lloyd Wright and illustrated by Jago. Beautiful. Simple. Words of comfort and love.

God is Good All the Time This title puts me in a packed out Black Church in Georgia, with the familiar call and response God is Good, All the Time. It goes through the good things of a child’s life and names the goodness is found in God.

Global Babies This is a secular book, but is by the global children’s fund and all proceeds go to the fund. And, really this book lays out the baby gospel in a simple and clear one sentence about how babies everywhere are loved.

Bonus: Bishop Desmond Tutu’s God’s Dream. This is one of my favorites, but because it was originally a picture book rather than a board book, its a little too wordy for most kids under 2.


Birth Story on a Birthday

Last year we had a lovely 4th of July, BBQing with friends topped off by watching fireworks at Winnamac Park, which is by the way, one of the most amazing unofficial fireworks shows in Chicago. A friend offered me a camping chair to sit on, which was generous considering that sitting all the way on the ground when I was overdue by a few days with my second baby was quite uncomfortable. Thing #1, at two-and-a-half-years-old was in awe of each firework.

And then I stood up. Suddenly, I felt very strange and my belly was heavier than it was before. I waddled to my friends place to pee and was very quiet on the way home. Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome (TDH) put Thing #1 to bed and came downstairs to see me staring blankly at my phone while lying on the couch. “Why aren’t you in bed?” he asked?

“Just taking inventory of my body,” I said.

I had been having contractions the last few nights before bed, but kept going to sleep only to wake up hours later with nothing happening so I was hesitant to say this was any different. Except it was, they were coming fast. I sent my Doula a screenshot of the timing of my contractions. They were coming so fast, she assumed it was dehydration at first and so I drank a box of coconut water. They slowed slightly, but their length increased. She told me to call the midwife. The midwife said, since it was my second baby, I could come in. I called my Dad to come stay with Thing # 1. And then they got intense. I had the yoga ball in the shower with me…the shower felt good, but I knew I needed to get out of there. “Pressure!” I yelled. TDH pushed as hard as he could on my lower back.

Knowing what I know now, I should have called my neighbor over to stay with Thing #1, but my first labor was 60 hours, so the fact that it could happen fast didn’t seem real to me. My parents got there. TDH and my mom helped me in the car and we left. I told TDH to put “Oceans” by David Crowder on…not sure why except I like that song and I had read some natural birth quote that talked about contractions being waves washing over you. I cursed Ashland Avenue all the way up to Evanston just as I had with my first labor. I blew raspberries trying not to push.

And then the baby started coming. I knew it was happening. There was nothing I could do. I’m pretty sure I crapped my pants at that point, but I was too far gone to care I was just sure the baby was next.

We called to make sure the Doula was close by and could assist if we had to pullover, but Joe was speeding and saying, “We’re going to get there!”

We got to parking lot and I said, just go in and get someone to assist. “No” TDH said, and he dragged or carried me, I’m not sure in the hospital.

At that point I started yelling, “De-bbie! De-bbie!

As loud as I could. Random nurses and residents told me to get on a bed in trige room and I said, “no!”

There was no way I could get up on a bed at that point. Someone lowered the bed as low is it could go and I got on on my hands and knees facing the wall and away from the hoards of onlookers. Debbie, my midwife was there and gloving up. She said she was assisting a first timer and had heard me calling. Like breathing in and out, I would push out when there was a contraction and let the baby slightly come back in in between them. There was a simple rhythm to the whole thing, a rhythm I had trouble finding the first time.

Later I learned that Debbie had to quickly untangle the umbilical cord from the baby’s neck and along with the meconium that was why he had to be examined by a pedestrian right away. But I felt so empowered by the experience and having heard him cry I wasn’t worried. The placenta took longer to birth than the baby, and when I looked at the discharge papers his birth was listed as being 6 minutes.

We were so happy. We named him Simeon after the prophet who recognized who Jesus would be at the temple when he was presented as a baby, Justice in the hope that he would be a person who stands up for justice in an unjust world. And Negussie as his Ethiopian family name.

Though babies aren’t born with the capability to smile, his smile is so contagious that it is hard to remember a day without it. I love him so–even though he’s still not sleeping through the night!

If you love reading birth stories, check out the book Birthing from Within and my first birth story.









Review of Miracle Man: The Story of Jesus

Sometime last year I won a copy of John Hendrix’s Miracle Man from my friend Adam’s Illustrated Children’s ministry, which by the way you should check out and order some coloring posters/curriculum cause its great. Anyway, I love John Hendrix’s illustrations and his focus on Jesus as the Miracle Man. It makes the child and grown-up narrator fall in love with Jesus in a whole new way.

It was Lincoln’s obession for a while. My only criticism is theological. The last line of the book is “but the Miracle Man had one last miracle…” and the picture is of the resurrection. After such a compelling story, that line was so disappointing to me. What about Act 2? Also known as the Acts of the Apostles. The Miracle Man was not done with miracles but only getting started. As followers of Jesus today, we can still call on the Miracle Man to heal! What a disappointment to have to re-write that last page myself.

Still, mad props to John Hendrix for his creativity.

Enjoying Getting Caught in the Rain

My kids and I, like all good Chicagoans squeeze the most fun out of our summer that we possibly can. For us, part of that means trading in the 4 wheel drive, for a pedal-powered two-wheeler. We have this awesome dutch style cargo bike, CETMA.

So last week I loaded the kids up and we biked over to my parents new condo to have a picnic dinner on their terrace (By the way, I am so excited they moved here! They are great parents and amazing grandparents!). But as we were riding home, it started raining. Some children might have cried, but not my boys. We laughed and we talked about how we didn’t know it was going to rain and we didn’t have an umbrella. And I tell you what, Lincoln has told me the story of us getting caught in the rain about 100x since then. He says, “Remember when we were riding home from Amma and Uppa’s and we didn’t know it was going to rain, and we got all wet?!” “Yea,” I say, “I do remember, that was so funny.”

Why does he ask me that? He asks me, because it’s a great story. It’s bonding. And, it’s the kind of memory I want his childhood to be made up of…

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Write to Publish Conference in Wheaton. And as the final afternoon session ended, it started to pour. It was raining side-ways, there was lightning, there was thunder, and the parking lot where I parked was two feet deep in water in about  fifteen minutes.

We hundled in the entryway waiting for a break, until by twos and threes we realized needed dinner. Or, like me we needed to save our cars, and show up for our dinner appointments. The rest of the night we looked like-half drowned cats. But I couldn’t help thinking of how much fun it would be to tell Lincoln about it the next day.

Not only do I want my children to enjoy the surprises in life, like getting caught in the rain, but I want to hold on to that childlike joy too. Don’t you?

Coming in 2017: Writing Goals

zhu3These are my Author/Artist goals and plan for 2017. I’m a little unsure, where to start and what to prioritize but I am very excited to be working…and I plan to both submit my work to traditional publishers and self-publish. I am most excited about writing and illustrating my own stories, however I am interested in illustrating others stories as a means to support myself…or rather my writing and drawing habit.

– [ ] Set Up Studio
– [ ] Keep Regular Hours

– [ ] Blue Bee Dummy
– [ ] Perfect Portfolio
– [ ] Make Postcards
– [ ] Send Postcards to Publishers

– [ ] Finish Prodigal Son (Party with Zhu)
– [ ] Illustrations
– [ ] Family Guide
– [ ] Formatting
– [ ] Publish

– [ ] Release second Edition of Keep Watch Sam (Hopefully with Create Space)

– [ ] Easter Story
– [ ] Edit
– [ ] Create Dummy
– [ ] Submit to publishers
– [ ] Complete
– [ ] Publish

– [ ] Christmas Story
– [ ] Rough Draft
– [ ] Create Dummy
– [ ] Submit to Publishers
– [ ] Complete
– [ ] Publish

On Love…

So our February read for my book group was “Lilac Days.” With Lincoln so sick he could barely sit up for a whole week–I read it in a week. It’s not my usual favorite–a true story. But I loved it. It was a love story that spanned over fifty years and over both world wars the historical context made it very interesting.

And, being Valentines Day last week, it had me thinking a lot about love. This story was about a man and woman who loved each other for over fifty years, but were never able to be together. In the end it came down to class and station in life. She was a lower middle class American divorcee when they first met and he was a wealthy British-American bachelor Aristocrat. Then she got married again while she was mad at him, and then he got married to a proper-choice-wife. Then her husband died. They had a string of physical affairs with one another but mostly their affair was over pen and paper.

In some ways it was a beautiful story. In some ways, tragically sad. In some ways he regretted not giving up everything to be with her, but he always felt very bound by duty.

But my cynical self says, of course they were able to stay in love over fifty years–they never had to live together! I would be head over heels madly in love with T.D.H. if we were only able to be together for short romantic stretches. I mean he is Tall Dark and Handsome after all.

But it is in living together and really loving (and sometimes hating) one another that our love is real. Literally clean up our kids shit, laughing, crying, coughing, cooking, cleaning, eating together–exposes our love for what it is, real.

Do we always feel like it? No. Do we have real issues? Yes. May there be times we need breaks from one another, we need counseling, we feel like giving up? Yes. But we choose to stay together. We choose to love one another. We choose to continue to romance one another–to try to steal away for a date or a trip or at least time between the sheets after the kid is in bed and before I’m asleep. This is love, my love.


TEACHING TODDLERS TO PRAY: Interview with Mother and Expat in Sarajevo, Taylor Irby.

Taylor Irby and I became friends as teenagers. Today she is mother of four living abroad in Sarajevo raising her kids to follow Jesus. I look up to her–as she is a more experienced mother than me and living in a cross-cultural context which is beautiful and difficult all at the same time!

Amy: Where do you and your family go to church and what is your involvement there?  

Taylor: We attend a local Bosnian evangelical church in Sarajevo, Bosnia. We are regular members. I help lead worship occasionally and volunteer in the children’s nursery once a month. My husband preaches every complete of months and is an elder.

Amy: When did you start praying out loud for your child/children or in front of your child at home?

Taylor: As soon as they were in my tummy! (well, really before that! you can never start too early!)

Amy: What were/are some of your daily or weekly traditions regarding prayer as a family? When do you pray? What do you say?

Taylor: We pray always at mealtimes. I’m trying to teach my children that is important. Not as much that we are thanking God for providing for us, but that we make time for prayer at those set times. I usually ask the children “who wants to pray?” at dinner. Sometimes no one wants to pray, and that’s ok. Sometimes they all want to pray and we take turns. We don’t have a set prayer, although sometimes we add a verse “Teach me the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want, teach me that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (adapted from Phil. 4:13)

Sometimes I sit with my kids and ask them specifically how we all can pray for each other. We each share a prayer request and then pray for each other. The next time I ask how that prayer was or was not answered. We give thanks and pray again and share more requests.

Giving thanks is a wonderful way to introduce your kids to prayer! Walking down the road and pointing out God’s creation and giving thanks right then and there!
Also, listening to worship music and worshiping with your children, teaching them that the songs we sing are a kind of musical prayer to God.

Amy: Have you done anything intentional to teach your children to pray?

Taylor: I think simply modeling prayer when you can is a wonderful thing! Other things we have done: set scripture around the house and connecting that to an action (see praying for your child 7 times a day), praying for “boo-boos”, praying whenever we see an ambulance drive by, praying for our friends and family. I tell my kids that prayer is simply talking with God through faith knowing that He hears us and cares for us, even if we can’t hear Him or see Him.

Amy: Does your child/do your children pray out loud? What do they say? When do they pray?

They do when they want to. I never force my kids to pray. I have four children, and they all pray differently. My oldest, age 9, prays about things going on in her life. My boy who is 8 prays similar. My 4 year old usually prays the same thing “Dear God I thank you for this beautiful day in the morning, amen.” although I see her prayers evolving some lately…she’s adding some more details. My little girl, age 2 wants to imitate her siblings. She often gets upset when she is skipped over for prayer time. We give her a minute, she folds her hands and is silent. Then we all say “AMEN”.

A word about meal time prayer. I’m really trying to teach my kids that when we are praying together it’s important to focus on Jesus, not on our food, not on our homework that is due tomorrow, not on anything but Him. It’s easy to get distracted so I tell my kids that I struggle with that too. A simple rhythm I’ve taught my kids is “Irbys, how do we pray?” and they all, even the 2 year old, immediately fold their hands and close their eyes. We talk about the reasons why we do this: fold hands so we don’t mess with anything that could distract us, bow our head and close our eyes so we aren’t tempted to look around and get distracted.

A resource Ive used in the past with my toddlers is “Playtime Devotions”. It’s simple little devotions that the smallest baby will enjoy.

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