Julie Lavender, a Statesboro native whom readers may also recognize as a regular columnist and contributor to local publications now can add best selling author to her resume. She has recently written two very popular books – one for children and one for their parents.
Children’s Bible Stories for Bedtime and 365 Ways to Love Your Child: Turning Little Moments into Lasting Memories are both performing well on Amazon and at other retailers. On Amazon alone, the two books have nearly 200 five-star reviews between them. Children’s Bible Stories for Bedtime remains on the Amazon Best Seller list.
Lavender and her husband are both from Statesboro and attended Georgia Southern University before moving away for his career in the United States Navy. Together, they had four children, now adults.
During those early years of family life, the Lavenders moved frequently, and Julie felt a calling from God to homeschool her children. With a masters in early childhood education and experience as a teacher, it was a natural fit.
“We moved a lot in the military, so homeschooling was the one consistent thing in their lives,” she said.
She didn’t initially set out to be a writer, but when she was homeschooling her children, she was immersed in children’s books and wondered if writing one might be something she could do.
“I had no dreams of being a writer back then,” she said. “I just wanted to be a teacher, but then I fell in love with children’s literature. And the writing bug hit.”
So during that time, she began writing family and curriculum-centered articles as a creative outlet and had her first ambitions of publishing a book. She began working on a homeschool devotional, which was set to be her first book in the early 2000s.
Ironically, she says, the busyness of homeschooling high schoolers at that time prevented her from spending as much time on the book as she wanted to, and those plans went on the back burner for a little while.
365 Ways to Love Your Child
But the inspiration for 365 Ways to Love Your Child, which was published in 2020, came from that time together.
“Every time we moved, it took us awhile to get to know friends and find things to do,” she remembered. “They would have to leave all their friends behind, and they would leave grandparents behind because we would get further away every time we moved. So I just always wanted to make sure they knew they were loved.”
She found small ways throughout their daily lives to make her children feel special and create memories together, and in turn, she realized she wanted to share that idea with other parents and help them to do the same.
“After the time passed, I realized, ‘I have all these great ideas, and I’d love to put them all in a book and share with others,’” she said. “Part of the inspiration was that it wasn’t the big things the kids remembered most. Those were fun and great, but those weren’t the things they remembered the most.”
Each time the family moved, Lavender aimed to keep memories of their latest home alive in her kids’ hearts and minds. She would ask about their favorite things and memories of their time in each place.
“The more I would talk to them and the more they would grow, I saw that it was the little moments that meant the most to them,” she said.
“If we’re not intentional, we let those things slip away from us,” she said of those daily opportunities to make memories as a family. “We can turn anything in a day into a momentous occasion if we make a big deal about it.”
365 Ways is divided into chapters specific to different areas of family life, such as being outside, in the kitchen, on vacation, or even just playing games together. According to Lavender, all of these seemingly mundane situations offer the chance to really connect with your children.
Lavender says the book is for all types of families and is something that parents can work into their lives bit by bit, even taking a few years to work through all 365 ideas.
“Parents are busy enough,” she said. “I don’t want them to feel like this is one more thing to do each day. I hope they’ll pick and choose one or two a week and that it will encourage them to fit something into their own lifestyle.”
She hopes the book helps to inspire parents to be more intentional and create lasting memories.
“We have such a special bond no matter how our families form, whether it’s adoption, single parents, foster care,” she said. “We have a common language of shared experiences, and those memories are what we take with us for the rest of our lives.”
365 Ways was first an e-book that later went to print, and it was a Penguin Random House imprint, which Lavender says was a huge accomplishment for her.
“That was a big deal for me,” she said. “It was a dream company, and I never thought it would be possible to be published with one of my dream companies.”
Children’s Bible Stories for Bedtime
Following the release of 365 Ways, another publishing company was in search of someone to write their concept of a children’s bedtime Bible story book. Lavender applied for the writing job along with lots of others, and she was chosen to write the bestselling Children’s Bible Stories for Bedtime.
“I was so grateful and so blessed,” she said of the opportunity.
She was able to choose the stories to include in the book, and her goal was to select stories that would help children end their day in a calm way and feel the love of God before they went to sleep.
“The common theme is that God loves you and God loves you big,” she said.
The book is written primarily for ages 4 to 8, and Lavender chose some lesser known Bible stories as well as more creative angles from which to tell the more commonly known stories. For example, one story is told not from the perspective of the typical main character but from that of the young servant girl, in an attempt to better connect with young readers.
Each story contains one full-color illustration, and there are 52 stories total in the book. There are also reflection questions and prayers to go along with the stories.
Living in Statesboro
Lavender has enjoyed living and writing back in her hometown, and her local connections add an extra layer of meaning to her work. She often sees her own former English teachers or fellow members of the high school newspaper staff around town.
Lavender was also recently asked to sign a copy of her bedtime stories book for a family friend’s grandson.
“She just made a point of saying that it was going to be special to her for me to have signed it,” Lavender said. “It’s just those local connections – it really is.”
Julie Lavender and her husband David, a biologist, attend First Baptist Church, love nature, and enjoy going on walks and hikes. She enjoys traveling to spend time with her four adult children and her 3-year-old grandson.
How to purchase
Both of Lavender’s books are available on Amazon or by special order at the Statesboro Books-A-Million. She hopes to be on local shelves soon.
To learn more, visit her website at http://www.julielavenderwrites.com.