I always like to know a little something about an author before I sit down to open up his or her book. Today, I’m excited to interview my dear friend Laura Wifler about her new children’s book, Like Me: A Story about Disability and Discovering God’s Image in Every Person. I just received my copy in the mail and I’m so thankful Laura has written this helpful and beautiful book. Every child needs a copy, as well as her encouraging reminder, “God made you. God loves you. God is kind to you!”
Like Me releases on January 10, 2023, and you can pre-order a copy here!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m Laura and I live in central Iowa with my husband and three children. I’m the cofounder and executive director of Risen Motherhood, a ministry that helps moms connect their faith to their motherhood. I spend most of my days writing and running the ministry, then hanging with my kids and husband when they’re home.
When did you first start writing? What do you enjoy about it?
Recently when I was looking for an old photograph, I stumbled across a first-place award from AT&T that I won for a story I wrote in first grade. “Makenzie’s Dog Goldie” wouldn’t be a bestseller today, but it was fun to read back through one of my first children’s stories and see that even in elementary, I was writing books for children. I’ve always loved stories—the way you can get caught up and live in another land, another life, for a few minutes or for hours and hours is fascinating to me. I love how writing can paint such vivid pictures in your mind, expose you to things you might never encounter in your day-to-day, and preset ideas and concepts in a way someone might not be able to articulate, but when they read it, they know it’s exactly what they would say.
Is writing ever difficult for you? How so?
Absolutely. I often think of writing like exercise, if I haven’t been writing for a while, I’ll need to spend time getting back in shape in order for good work to come out. For example, if I’ve just been doing one form of writing for a while, like poems or microblogs, I know that longer-form writing will be tough if I haven’t been practicing it. It’s like only doing strength training, then heading out to run a 5k. Can you do it? Probably. But you might be struggling by mile 2 because you haven’t been doing any cardio. Remembering that it’s okay to “get in shape” for certain types of writing has been helpful for me to not set my expectations so high as I transition between projects, or get bummed when I have an off day and I can’t find the words.
My mom goes into my brother’s room. She whispers, “God made you, God loves you, God is kind to you.
What led you to write Like Me: A Story About Disability and Discovering God’s Image In Every Person?
Five years ago my daughter was diagnosed with Rare Chromo, a genetic disease that is incredibly rare. So rare, in fact, that as far as we know, there is no one in the world with what she specifically has. That sent us on a journey of discovery to understand how exactly it would affect her life (because the doctors didn’t know) and for our family to learn what it’s like to have a family member with disabilities. As she’s grown, I’ve seen what a joy and delight she is, and how God has a beautiful plan for disabilities. I’ve also seen how many questions able-bodied children have about disabilities and I wanted to write a picture book that took away the mystery, showing children how they can be friends with someone with disabilities. Like Me follows a sibling of a child with disabilities as he goes through his day, and helps kids recognize that while someone might act, move, or speak differently from them, there is still a sameness between them, which is the foundation for friendship. There are still shared feelings, interests, hobbies, and more—and when we look closely, we can learn a little bit about God in every person we meet.
What’s the central message you hope readers will take away from your book?
My prayer for Like Me is that children will discover what a privilege it is to know another person—no matter what they look like or how they act—discovering the deep, transcendent connection they share because we were all made in the image of God. I hope it will foster conversations in families about how they can not only be kind and compassionate towards those with disabilities, but they can also learn what inclusion and true friendship looks like.
How has writing this book affected your own life?
This book is 100 percent a day-in-the-life of the Wifler family. I wrote it quickly, in a 2 hour nap-time window in the middle of a cold January day. It just poured out of me because it was simply putting my life and my heart on the page. There’s a scene in the book where they all go outside sledding, and from the older brother getting a new sled for Christmas to coming in for hot cocoa, it is almost word-for-word what happened the day before. If anything, writing this book simply made me more resolved to advocate for children with disabilities, and help able-bodied children see how they can not just tolerate children with disabilities, but include and be friends with them.
I don’t always understand what the kids are saying or why they act the way they do. Mom says it’s because God made everyone unique. We all give him glory in different ways, and if we look closely, we can learn a little bit about God through each of them.
For a sneak peek, here are some quotes:
“My brother is so excited for candy and sweets, he shouts and celebrates. We’re not sure what he’s saying, but my mom always tells me we don’t have to understand his words to understand what he means. We all know my brother is happy, so we cheer along with him.”
“I know my brother’s mind thinks differently than mine does and it’s not his fault. Mom always says he just wants to be like me, to be included and have fun.”
Here’s what others are saying:
“Laura has given us something delightful, a wonderful story about a day in the life of two brothers and a tool to help our children understand how we are all different and we are also the same. Like Me will serve all families, churches, and kids as they learn to view children and each other the way God does.”
—Trillia Newbell, author of God’s Very Good Idea and The Big Wide Welcome
“Beautifully illustrated and charmingly written, Like Me offers an honest glimpse into a day in the life of a child with disabilities. Through this tender and grace-filled story, Laura Wifler reminds us to celebrate the uniqueness of all of God’s children—a perfect read for any family wanting to instill empathy and compassion into their children.”
—Ashlee Gadd, founder of the Coffee + Crumbs blog and author of The Magic of Motherhood: The Good Stuff, the Hard Stuff, and Everything In Between
“This lovely book reminds readers young and old that we all share the story of struggle, and because of that, even more deeply, we share the breathtaking reality of hope.”
—Katherine and Jay Wolf, authors of Hope Heals and Suffer Strong
If you had an afternoon to do whatever you’d like, where would we find you?
I’d probably go on a run or a hike in the woods. Then, after a shower, curl back up on the couch to write.
Laura Wifler is the cofounder and executive director of Risen Motherhood, cohost of the podcast, and the coauthor of Risen Motherhood: Gospel Hope for Everyday Moments. She also wrote To the Cross I Cling, an e-book reflecting on mothering a child with a disability, and the award-winning children’s book, Any Time, Any Place, Any Prayer. Laura, her husband, and her three children live in central Iowa. You can find her on Instagram @laurawifler, or at laurawifler.com.