“Down in my bones, my deepest need is to know Jesus better,“ thus Julie Davis opens her second book, Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life: Prayers and Reflections for Getting Closer. I’ve been a fan of Julie Davis since she autographed her first book, Happy Catholic, for me five years ago. I finally summoned the courage to request an interview, which became a long lunch of conversation among fellow writers.
During our time together, I discovered how this new book reflects her journey from atheism to Catholicism, why she wrote it and for whom, how it helps us become missionary disciples and the main takeaway for readers.
Nancy: Your faith journey has taken you from your childhood in an atheist home, into Christianity and then into Catholicism. How does your new book, with its variety of quotes, reflect that journey?
Julie: It reflects where I wound up. When I was telling a non-Catholic friend about the book, I realized how some parts of the book are so embedded in me. It didn’t occur to me that I was talking to a Protestant — about novenas, Mary, or the saints — in a way that some Protestants would not understand.
God started me off by making me love books and stories, and I would reread and rewatch them. After becoming Catholic, I would hear the Holy Spirit talking to me through the stories. Some of the characters in these stories reminded me of the saints, and their situations reminded me of the way God treated those saints so they could accomplish his work. Not an easy life, but look where they ended up! That experience reflects where I began with the variety of quotes. Now it’s all kind of amalgamated together with Jesus as the focus.
The book reflects the fact that my conversion began as a non-Christian. Then I knew I belonged to God the Father and then to the Holy Spirit. Now I feel that although I have had encounters with Jesus, they were not the intimate encounters I feel I should have with him. Maybe this is how most people start off as Christians.
Nancy: You write that your conversion was so powerful because it was just between you and God. You, the avid reader, weren’t influenced by anything outside, even any reading or talking to anyone. In this book, can the reader connect with God, just the two of them?
Julie: This is the book I put together for myself and now share with others. I’m using it every day. My spiritual director said, “You need to spend about 20 minutes praying. See if God answers and don’t direct your prayer.” I would get a line or two from Scripture, or a book about a saint, and reflect on those few lines. I began writing quotes in my notebook. I took my coffee and notebook into the back yard, and I would spend the time reflecting on the quotes. God would speak, or not speak, but that was how I spent the time. Eventually, I had three notebooks full. There was always a main quote. Then I would find other quotes that supplemented what I was thinking about or deepened or expanded the main quote for me. I ended up writing the book I needed, just between Jesus and me.
This book– the whole thing – each two-page spread is what I needed to guide me. These are pages from my notebooks, with prayers and comments added to direct the readers to incorporate them into their lives.
Nancy: Is Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life written to influence new Christians learning how to pray, those who have fallen away and are struggling to pray, or those ever faithful seeking a deeper prayer life?
Julie: When I began to turn my notes into book form, I started off thinking of either new Christians or those fallen away, struggling to pray — those who needed the basics. Then my friend said, “Julie, you don’t understand. I just don’t feel that close to Jesus! I don’t know how.” I expanded my focus to answer that need as well.
Since then, I had to have four conversations with one of the publishers I approached because he didn’t understand the point of the book.
It’s for Catholics who don’t understand there can be a simpler way to have a basic, loving friendship with Jesus. Best friends. Read the saints. How can you do anything if you are not best friends with Jesus? Jesus takes the initiative; he brings it up. Nudges us. Catholics lean too much on intellect, excited about the ideas. How about the people? Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
Nancy: How do you know you are friends with him?
Julie: I felt this inrushing of the Holy Spirit inside because I haven’t been leaning on him enough. I want that with Jesus. I wanted to relate to him as a person. I want a bit more of Jesus walking beside me and joking with me on our walks together. Like the song “Day by Day,” says. I want to “See you more clearly, love you more dearly, follow you more nearly, day by day.” Jesus is my Redeemer, Friend and Brother. I knew that, but I’ve forgotten it. It hit home. Now I have a reminder.
Nancy: The “everyday” aspect of the book is apparent in the unique structure. How does this structure reflect your purpose for the book to bring God into our everyday lives?
Julie: The point of the “everyday” part is that it’s so easy to blow God off — we are super busy. Be honest; we don’t want to pray. Or we do it distracted and half-hearted. I rewrote my notebooks several times and designed the book to offer something different every day. The facing pages work together, so the reader can begin on the right or left page, skip around or flip open to see what God is saying today.
You can read one page only — it only takes 5 minutes a day. This makes it easy, with one thing to think about on one page. Read the other page later. Look at it as you drink your coffee. Give Jesus time to get in there and intrude in your day. If you do it with daily meals or with a timer, you will associate these things with Jesus.
Nancy: Does journaling go along with this book?
Julie: I wasn’t journaling in my notebook of quotes. Every time I opened the book, it was new, like it is now for me. Because God meets us where we are, and that’s always somewhere different.
I did leave white space if you want to journal and come up with your own notebooks. You can leave yourself open to journaling. Ask Jesus. Ask him what he has in mind. See if he nudges you in that direction.
Nancy: How does Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life help us to be missionary disciples?
Julie: Jesus already knows where he wants you. If you are hearing him better and hearing him all the time, it’s just going to put you closer to where you need to be.
A missionary disciple is a new name for an evangelizer – what we should be doing all along. The bishops are trying to shake things up. Hopefully some good will come of it.
Nancy: What did you discover about yourself in writing this book?
Julie: The thought came, “Have you thought about the Our Father? Or about evil?” As I wrote these sections for the book, I didn’t want to give evil much space, or give it power, but focus on Jesus. I was learning about myself as I went deeper into these areas of prayer and relationships — stuff I wouldn’t have thought about.
Nancy: What’s the main takeaway you want the reader to remember?
Julie: Jesus is there. Right by you all the time. He’s just waiting for you like in the Scripture of the blind man at the side of the road. Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”
“I want to see!”
I didn’t think about the fact that Jesus gave the man the courtesy of asking what he wanted. He wants to do all this for us; he wants to be closer. All you have to do is ask — and give him a few minutes each day, more if you can.
Julie Davis, the daughter of atheists, but always seeking, converted to Catholicism in 2000. She is not always happy but always happy to be Catholic. She began blogging at Happy Catholic in 2004, food blogs at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen and podcasts novels at Forgotten Classics. Julie and her husband Tom live in Dallas, Texas, where they have worked together at their graphic design firm for 30 years. They have two grown daughters. Julie is a busy woman, but not so busy that she doesn’t have time to be a gifted and creative detective looking for signs of God’s presence in films, books, television, animals, nature, work, relationships and more. She is the author of Happy Catholic: Glimpses of God in Everyday Life, (Servant, 2011), Lord, Open my Heart – Daily Scriptural Reflections for Lent (Creative Communications for the Parish, 2011) and Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life (Niggle Publishing, 2017). Her conversion story, From Atheist to Happy Catholic is featured on JOYAlive.net.
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Copyright 2017 Nancy HC Ward