Julie Lavender is a journalist, author and former homeschooling mom. She holds a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education. In 2014, Julie was one of twelve winners for Guideposts Magazine’s writer’s contest and attended a weeklong session in New York with Guideposts editors to learn more about writing for their publications. 

She is the author of the homeschooling and family devotional: 365 Days of Celebration and Praise; the party planning book, Creative Sleepovers for Kids, and three teacher resource books, Wonder Women of the Bible, Super Men of the Bible and Scripture Adventures.

Julie is married to her high-school and college sweetheart, and Julie and David are the parents of four, in-law of one, and grandparents of one. 

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What started you on your writing journey?

I’ve loved children’s books for as long as I can remember. Even though my family didn’t have a lot of money to spare — we were a small-time farming family — I was always the student who ordered the most books from Scholastic every month. 

Then, as an elementary public school teacher, I fell in love with children’s books even more. I read to my students all the time! 

But as much as I enjoyed reading to my students, I also found a few picture books that I thought were poorly written. 

I remember thinking, “If this book can get published, anybody can write a children’s book.” And, I went home and told my husband that I wanted to write a kids’ book.

Well, I was sorely mistaken to think it was “easy” to get a children’s book published. I made every mistake imaginable, with query letters, my manuscript and everything! 

But the rejections made me just want to try harder! 

By the time I’d received lots of rejections, I was a stay-at-home mom with my first child, and I began to study the craft of writing, do my research and attend a few conferences. Which is what I should’ve done in the first place! And by then, the writing bug had hit me, and I was passionate about learning everything I could about getting published. 

Interestingly, I’ve yet to write a children’s book, but the dream is still there! 

My first acceptances were for teacher publications, a non-paying stay-at-home mom magazine and then homeschooling magazines. I definitely followed the directions at conferences to “write what you know.” 

The Author and Creator of our lives often writes in a twist that ultimately blesses us more than our original plan. Have you ever experienced such a “Divine Detour”?

YESSSS! Something about being part of that financially-strapped farming family brought us close, and I thought I never wanted to leave my hometown. Which is funny, because, I loved the idea of traveling and seeing other parts of the world, but we could never afford to when I was little. 

I met this cute high-school boy in my chemistry class and we dated some in high school, and then dated seriously all through college while we attended the University in our hometown. 

Well, David started his college career as a biology major, which, I thought possibly he could find a job in our small town in that field. We finished our undergrad degrees, married, started working and began our master’s degrees, too. I pursued Early Childhood Education, like my undergrad, and he specialized in bugs, of all things! I was terrified of most creepy-crawly insects. 

I kept reminding him that Statesboro was too small to have jobs for entomologist, and I didn’t want to leave Bulloch County.  Now, you have to understand, I wasn’t praying about this decision at all! I thought I knew best and was behaving very selfishly! 

Well … after a few temper tantrums on my part and the completion of our degrees, my husband signed the dotted line to join the Navy as a Medical Entomologist and Preventive Medicine Officer. 

Despite my few tantrums prior to him signing the dotted line, I left our hometown with a good attitude about the new journey. And that military career of twenty years was the best thing that ever happened to us! 

God allowed us to grow closer as a couple because we had to lean on each other, without the support of both families in the same town. Our time of service to this great country was challenging, yet so rewarding, even though my husband’s deployment during the Gulf War were some of the scariest days for me. We met some of the greatest people! I had the opportunity to attend writers conferences in six different states! God allowed me to see places in this country and world that I’d only dreamed of visiting. Because of our frequent moves, God led me to homeschool my children, which is an idea I’d never entertained before our first was born, and that in itself was life-changing for us as a couple and family.

It was just the best and most wonderful detour in my life, one that I never ever dreamed of, and I’m so very thankful that God sent us on that path. 

As a sidenote, when my husband retired from the Navy and began his second career, as a wildlife biologist, we moved back to our hometown, so we’ve had the blessing of spending this time with our families, right back in our “small” town that’s not as small as it used to be!!

Let’s talk about your new book, 365 Ways to Love Your Child: Turning Little Moments into Lasting Memories (Revell, October 2020). Please tell us about it.

In my book, 365 Ways to Love Your Child: Turning Little Moments Into Lasting Memories, you’ll find 365 suggestions for memory-making moments that will warm your child’s heart and remind them you love them. 365 Ways to Love Your Child offers creative suggestions for activities, gestures and expressions of love to show your child how much you treasure them. With some simple ideas and heartwarming tokens of affection, 365 Ways encourages you to spend quality time with your child every day to create a treasury of warm memories to savor throughout childhood and beyond. 

With each expression of your love, your child gets a glimpse of the unfathomable love of our Heavenly Father. My book encourages you to help your child recognize God’s love through your own devotion, attentiveness and verbal affirmations. I encourage you to find time each day to transform a little moment into a precious memory. 

And, you know — you asked about detours earlier. The whole premise of my book is making memories with kids, and it’s actually not just for parents — hopefully parents, grandparents, child caregivers, teachers and others can enjoy the ideas. But, just as I’m working hard to launch my book to implore parents to spend precious time with their kids, we suddenly lost my 47-year-old “baby” brother. That detour from my book launch to funeral mode really made an impression on me with just how precious our memories of loved ones are! Now, I’m even more committed to encouraging families to “turn little moments into lasting memories”! 

What led you to write this particular book?

My love for our four precious kids led me to write the book. I used many of the suggestions included in the book with my children when they were young, and then I collected others along the way. I have a passion for encouraging families to make memories to treasure, and I hope that’s what this book will do. 

A few fun questions…

When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?

Ice cream! I LOVE chocolate chip ice cream from Baskin Robbins, and whenever I want to celebrate, I get a double-scoop in a cake cone. When I won one of the twelve spots in the 2014 Guideposts writers contest, I told my husband we were going to Baskin Robbins after church one Wednesday night. He immediately asked, “Are we celebrating?” I told him yes, but didn’t tell him what I was celebrating until we’d ordered our ice cream cones. And, that’s usually my preferred celebration food, but, I’ve never met a cookies and cream milkshake that I didn’t like, either!! 

What Bible passage or story best describes your journey of faith?

This may sound a little humorous after the ice cream answer from the previous question, but one of my very favorite verses has always been, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” from Psalm 34:8. The juxtaposition of “taste” and “see” in that verse makes me want to experience God with all five senses! God is good — He’s always good, even when I can’t understand and even when He’s so good to me that I can’t comprehend how He could be so amazing! 

I grew up in church — I didn’t have one of those heart-pounding, fascinating testimony-from-the-pulpit kind of conversions, and I was even sad sometimes that I DIDN’T have one of those stories. But along the way of experiencing God with all five senses, He showed me that my story is just as important, and it’s the faith journey He gave me. Once I could savor and recognize that thought, it enabled me to encourage others to take refuge in Him, because He is good. All the time!!! 

In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?

Well, I think I’m the girl next door. I’m not the one in the lead or the heroine — I’m more the supporting character, because I’m not super-brave without my husband or a close girlfriend or one of my adult children along with me. And, I’m way too clumsy to travel very far in high heels, no matter how young or old I am! But, I’m the one who likes to listen to others’ stories. I think that’s why I’ve enjoyed my freelance stringer job with my local newspaper so much! I just love listening to others! People are fascinating to me, and I never tire of striking up a conversation with strangers or chatting with people I’ve known for a long time. And, I never have the heart to cut their stories off short. Once, I interviewed a 90-year-old man, and he talked for more than three hours for a five-hundred word newspaper article! That I only made forty dollars to write, and it took well over two hours to get his words just right on paper, words that would honor his life story! Yep, I think I’m the unassuming girl-next-door.  

I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child. 

Well, we always had dogs as I was growing up, but when we were in the military, I used the excuse that I had too many kids and we moved too often to have pets when they kids were little. But once they got older, three of the four began to beg for doggies! So, I’ve had granddogs the last decade or so. We currently have the sweetest golden retriever in the world, Caramel, and the most arrogant Pomeranian on the planet, Coda. 

Thanks, Julie! It’s great to have you as a guest at Divine Detour.

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For more information about Julie, visit her website and/or follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

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