Thursday, September 12, 2019

Write Where God Leads You

by Julie Lavender @JLavenderWrites

Why did I say yes to this assignment, I thought as I drove to the high school in my hometown. Armed with notebook, several pens, and my camera, I trudged into the auditorium. Already on stage sat a dozen or more fourth through eighth grade youngsters. 

Can these kids please not be as smart as the last ones? Two years ago, I’d covered the same event and those darn smart children spelled for hours and hours. 

Don’t get me wrong—I love kids. I have a Masters in Early Childhood Education, and I homeschooled all four of my own children. I adore kids and academia, but I had a bad attitude about the story. 

You see, most of my newspaper bylines result from faith-based stories that I locate on my own. I enjoy sharing God-stories in the newspaper, and I never quibble about the mediocre wages per byline because I think of my work as a ministry.

As a newspaper stringer, however, I often have the opportunity to cover news-related stories, and I can honestly say that I enjoy ninety-nine percent of those stories, too. Occasionally, I’m tasked with a bit of a yawner, and the year before, three-and-a-half hours of spelling words fell in that category. Towards the end, two young brilliant boys went back and forth for thirty-five rounds before Elikem Gato stumbled on the word “mukhtar,” and Eric Lim was declared the winner.

Oh, dear—Elikem’s back, I mumbled quietly and prepared to camp out for the long-haul. I probably also added to my thoughts, “God, please don’t let this go on forever again—I won’t make squat if I’m here all night long.”

A reimbursement of mere pittance seemed fine if I got to talk about God, but a spelling bee that lasted an eternity just didn’t’ seem worth my efforts. 

I was lulled into amazement at the kids’ performance, just like last time, with the first pronunciation. 


When “folksiness” tripped up seventh-grader Nicholas Cortes, Elikem Gato correctly spelled “beneath” and “flail” to become the spelling bee champion. 

Gathering my journalist’s paraphernalia, I made my way to the winner. I snapped the obligatory trophy shot with his school principal and grabbed cute shots with his family, too. Both parents and two brothers congratulated Elikem and beamed with pride. 

All I need is a couple of quotes from the champion, and I’m outta here.

“Elikem, how does it feel to be the county-wide spelling bee champion?”


Well, that was a bust—let me try another one.

“How did you prepare for the spelling bee, Elikem?

“I study a lot with my brothers—in the car, after school, at home. We call out words to each other. We grew up memorizing Bible verses at home, so memorizing words comes a lot easier for us.”

I paused from my writing and made eye contact with the youngster. His dad, a college professor, added in his beautiful Ghana-cadence, “We try to train our kids to live out their faith, to let them know the importance of knowing Jesus and trying to live for him as best as God can help us.”

With a mere pittance of quotes, my article had suddenly become a God-story. I was right where God needed me to be that night after all.

My grin widened almost as much as the trophy-holding champion’s, and I chatted with the family until the maintenance guy turned off the lights in the auditorium as a not-so-subtle hint. 

Recognizing that the story had additional potential beyond a newspaper story, I exchanged numbers with Elikem’s mom and told her I’d be in touch.

Ordinary kids doing extraordinary things. Jesse Florea’s words during a one-on-one with the Clubhouse Magazine editor at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference the previous year kept coming to me on the drive home. 

I met my newspaper deadline, and then shot off a query to Jesse about my new-found champion of words and the Word. In a short time, I had a new assignment—interview the Gatos for a Clubhouse article.  

I learned an important lesson that evening—and it wasn’t just the fact that many sixth graders can spell words that I can barely pronounce.  

Thank you, God, that you’re the author of every story—even the ones that might not say your name specifically—but I’m especially appreciative of the ones where I get to talk about you. Lead me right where you need me to be so that I can continue to write for you.

Write Where God Leads You - @JLavenderWrites on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Often our writing takes us right where God wants us - insight from @JLavenderWrites on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Julie Lavender read newspapers all over the country while her husband served as a Navy entomologist for twenty years. She wrote for the children’s section of the Denver Post for four years. Currently, she reads and writes for her local newspaper, the Statesboro Herald, back in their Georgia hometown and loves the interesting people she meets as a journalist. Julie also writes for GuidepostsPublications, other magazines, a couple of homeschooling blogs,, and many compilations. Combining her education degree, love of homeschooling, and joy of celebrating, Julie wrote a devotional entitled, 365 Days of Celebration and Praise, a party planning book called, Creative Sleepovers for Kids, and three teacher resource books for the religious division of Carson-Dellosa. Julie and David are enamored with their four adult children, one son-in-love, and one gorgeous grandson. Keep up with Julie on social media and at her blog at


  1. A wonderful story showing - rather than telling - how you changed the slant of an article and used it in multiple markets.

  2. Thank you, Candyce, for your kind and encouraging words. Yes, I often share with those that I'm encouraging to consider newspaper writing that stories can be repurposed and used in other outlets besides the local newspaper! This family was so fun to get to know and the boys' mom and I stay in touch via social media now!

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    1. Thank you, my sweet friend! You are so kind! I miss seeing you ... these conferences are too far apart, right?

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    1. Thank you! I loved getting to know this family through our interviews! They are really special!!

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  6. Julie, What a great story! Glad Clubhouse ran it!

    1. Thank you, Marilyn! Yes, I enjoyed sharing it with Clubhouse, but I think the reason I loved it the most is that it gave me an excuse to do a longer interview with the family and get to know them better. They are an awesome, godly family that lives out their faith every day!

  7. You post is a beautiful combination of God’s work, writing advice, and humor. Such enjoyable reading and instruction! Thanks, Julie.

    1. Thank you, Jeannie! Your words are very kind! I loved getting to know this family better! They are such a great example of walking out your faith daily!

  8. What a lovely story! Isn't our Heavenly Father AMAZING the way He moves us where He needs us to be -- whether or not we want to be there! If we are obedient to His callings, He will use us beyond what we expect. He asks His children to be His hands and feet. When we agree, miracles occur!
    Thank you for sharing! You are such a wonderful representative of what it means to be God's daughter!

    1. Thank you so much, Jann! You're such an encourager to me, and I love reading your comments! And, I love when God surprises me this way - when I'm not expecting to "meet Him" at a spelling bee, which reminds me that He is ALREADY there, long before I got there, and I need to do a better job of looking for Him EVERYWHERE I go - not just when I'm "expecting' to see Him.

  9. Great story. I love how God uses everything, even those thing we think can't possibly be used. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I love how God does that, too, Stephanie! Especially when we're not expecting it, then it's an even-better surprise and treat!!

  10. Thanks so much for reminding me that God knows best how to use the gifts He has given me. My job is not to dictate what I want, but to be obedient where He sends me and on the lookout for His work.

    1. That is exactly right, Joanna, and I find myself so often "dictating" - at least in my mind - how I want an event or writing opportunity to turn out, and yet He has exceedingly and abundantly better things planned for me than I could hope or imagine! My job is the obedience part!! Thanks for commenting.

  11. Julie, As a "stinger" for my local newspaper, I can relate to how you wrestled with your thoughts on writing about the spelling bee. Like you, I enjoy writing faith-based stories that make the measly monetary compensation worth it. However, sometimes the editor has pitched a story idea that seems far less interesting.
    I love how God turned this into so much good! How wonderful to see the article in Club House.
    Thanks for sharing.

  12. What a beautiful story. I love how God surprises us with His story among us.

  13. Isn't it always amazing that God provides us with more than we ever expected? And He does it even when we go into the task with a grumpy attitude! Beautiful story of God's blessing, my friend.