Faith wasn't really a part of Judy Douglass’s life growing up except that her father's family had helped start a little Episcopal church, so they went there. Douglass says, “The thing I remember most is that I liked God and I had no idea I didn't know Him, because I knew about Him. Not lots, but enough.”
Then in high school, a friend whose family were strong Christians would take her to their church, and she began to get more understanding of what Christianity was and what faith was.
Douglass’s friend took her to a Young Life camp one Christmas, and there she heard a clear message of what Jesus came for and what a relationship with him would look like.
Douglass says, “It was an interesting decision that I made. All my life, my whole goal in life was to get my own way. I was stubborn and self-focused. I wanted my own way, and my sisters and my mother would agree with that.
The camp speaker caught my attention: “Christ wants to come into your life not only to forgive your sins and to have a relationship with you, but to show you his better way for your life.’
“Seriously?” she thought. “God has a better way than I do for my life?’ It was almost, to me, like I signed a contract with God and I said, ‘I choose your way, not mine.’
“That decision has been significant in the rest of my life. The opportunities to make decisions or to choose what I felt God was saying made turning points in my life. It was a major determiner. ‘I choose your way, Lord.’”
Douglass learned quickly that it really was day by day, even moment by moment, this choosing God's way instead of her own. Sometimes it was a big decision, and other times there were just little things of wanting it her way or not being so demanding, but it was a big turning point for her in that she wanted God's way for her life.
Douglass can't even remember when she wasn't interested in writing. She loved reading as a child. To her, a Thanksgiving holiday meant picking out a 1400-page book, taking it home, and reading in her room except for the Thanksgiving meal.
She remembers going to her grandparents' home and writing stories on their typewriter. She said, “I didn't want my parents to know I was doing it, so I decided to have a pseudonym. I would go home and send the stories in to a children's publication. Don't ask me how I knew to do that that. I know I wasn't more than eight or nine.
“At eight years old, I actually started my only novel. I wrote one chapter and then I quit. So, I was always interested in writing and wrote a lot. I journaled before people journaled very much.” She still has those journals that she started in high school.
Douglass studied journalism in college and later began writing for a magazine that Cru published for college campuses. She edited and wrote for various Cru publications for 14 years. After she had her first child, she stepped down from editing the magazines and asked God what her next step should be.
She said, “The Lord actually had me do two things, one of which was writing helpful books. I'm like, ‘Oh, okay,’ because I can just do it in pieces when I could get time, and there were no deadlines and nobody asking for it. It was just, ‘Do it.’
“I also began to speak, which had never been an interest of mine. Christian's Women Club, which was correctly named, was intended to be evangelistic, but most clubs were mostly Christian. Christian Women's Club basically asked you to tell your story of coming to Christ and how they could also. I knew that a larger percentage of the people there were Christians, or at least thought they were. I put together the story of God working in my life so that it was a message that would encourage all those Christians, but at the same time, at the end, I could pull it in a little with, ‘And if you haven't experienced this kind of relationship with God ...’ So, that was wonderful because I did it 30 or 40 times over the next few years until my kids got a little older.”
Douglass realized through this experience that she enjoyed speaking. She thought it was a lot easier than writing because it's so much less exact. Douglass said, “With writing, you have to make it right, and speaking is a lot more causal to me. I’m more of a storyteller.”
Douglass said she doesn’t have a specific writing schedule because writing is not her primary vocation. “It is a major way that I do the things I think God sends me to do, which is communicating and encouraging people in their walks with God. If you were to ask me to pick the word that describes me, it's ‘encourage,’ and writing and speaking are the two most visible ways I do that, but I also do a lot of one-on-one conversations.
I use social media often, but writing has always just been a natural, comfortable thing, and I did do it professionally for 14 years. I've been blogging for about 10 years now, and that's the most consistent writing I do. I started out doing three posts each week, and that seemed a little crazy, so I switched to two a week, and now I have a goal of one a week, but I don't always make it. Sometimes I'm fortunate enough to get a good guest post to put on my website.”
Some of the authors who have influenced Douglass include Bill Bright, Edith Schaeffer, Brennan Manning, Carolyn Custis James, Scot McKnight. She said she could name 20 more, but those are the ones who came to mind first.
Douglass’s latest book is When You Love a Prodigal: 90 Days of Grace for the Wilderness and it comes out September 17. She said, “My prayer is this book will give hope to a lot of people who are desperately concerned about someone they love.”
The book is for people who have a prodigal in their life who they desperately want to return to God or turn from a destructive lifestyle. In the book she explores Luke 15 and the prodigal son and the father who runs to rejoice and celebrate when his son returns.
She said, “The word that I emphasized throughout the book is love--unconditional love which has no conditions, no matter how bad the prodigals are. God forgives. He just keeps forgiving. He's amazing, but he paid the price, and offers grace.”
Judy Douglass is a writer, speaker, encourager. She partners with her husband, Steve, to lead Campus Crusade for Christ globally and directs Women’s Resources for Cru. A new book--When You Love a Prodigal: 90 Days of Grace for the Wilderness--releases September 17. She writes at www.judydouglass.com. You can find her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/JeedooDouglass) and follow her on Twitter at @judydouglass417.