Transformation Interview: Embracing Hope’s Drew McKinley

Romans 12:2 talks about being transformed by the renewing of our minds to discern God’s good, pleasing and perfect will. My guest today, Drew McKinley, has lived through that transformation, but it didn’t come easy, did it?


Interview with Drew McKinley from Embracing Hope.

Drew (shaking his head, eyes looking toward the ceiling): Oh, man, it was awful. God had to drag me through the muck, even blood, to get it done. But as I look back, it was the only way He could have transformed me.


What were you like before?


Drew: I had a perfect life. All the perks of a wealthy family with access to the best education. I married a wonderful woman who, to be honest, was a better person than me; she had a deep faith. My father intended me to inherit the family’s academic kingdom. He’s provost of graduate school education at UConn, and my grandfather taught economics there. Since my older brother is a psychologist, it was up to me to carry on the academic hood. I was okay with it. At first. I got my master’s in academic administration and set out to get my Ph.D. But my wife, Kendra, saw something in me that I didn’t. She encouraged me—strong-armed is more accurate—into taking a deanship at a Christian university in Omaha, Nebraska. I arrogantly assumed I would eventually be president there. But the Lord had other ideas. (Eyes mist, he clears his throat.) The transformation began when Kendra died—suddenly, needlessly. Losing her crushed my heart; crushed my ambition; crushed my faith.


I can’t imagine going through such a loss. How did you cope?


Drew (running a hand through his dark brown wavy hair): Barely. But God sent people to walk me through the grief and anger. My pastor challenged me to go after hope, not just wish for it or sit around waiting for something better. He insisted that hope was tangible and I had to pursue it. I rejected that concept many times. How can I pursue something that doesn’t exist? (sighs) I tried to focused on work, but failed. The Christmas after Kendra died was torture. My family tried to cocoon me from the hurt. I ended up insulting my dad, brushed aside my mother’s compassion, wanted to slug my brother, and kicked my Ph.D. work to the curb. I hated my job; hated the world.


(Slight smile) In the meantime, God placed a remarkable woman, Allison, in my life who could relate to what I was going through. Her father had died suddenly, which like me, crushed her heart and her future. But she was determined to get an education by working two, even three jobs at a time to pay her tuition and expenses. Allison had the hope I rejected; it was tangible, a decision, action. She began to challenge and inspire me.


Did you ever think of giving up?


Drew (snicker): Almost every day. I won’t lie to you; my anger was ugly. And I inflicted it on others. I actually told God that I hated Him. I’m surprised I wasn’t struck by lightning for that. I was so despondent at one point that … (voice lowers to a whisper) well, I won’t go into the details.


How did you turn the corner toward transformation?


I lived the verse in First Peter about being tested by fire to be refined like gold. God painfully opened my eyes to the harshness and unfairness of life, not just to me and the people I loved, but those outside my realm of experience. He showed me ways to alleviate the suffering of the “least, last and lost”; to give them hope, which in turn gave me a glimpse of hope. He also gave me the strength to dig deep in my heart and take steps to forgive people who hurt me, and forgive God for taking my wife. And my faith grew, my hope grew, my mind was renewed and finally, I experienced His good, pleasing and perfect will.


And what is His perfect will for you today?


Drew (a growing smile): I’m still in higher education, but not day-to-day administration. I’ve heard it called God’s Administration. I also jump-started my Ph.D. work. I don’t know all the details of what lies ahead, but I’m where God wants me to be for now—living the Big Three of First Corinthians Thirteen: Faith, Hope and Love.


Love? For a woman, as well?


Drew (eyes again misting): Yes.

“Embracing Hope” Book blurb
Christian college dean Drew McKinley mourns his dead wife and still wears his wedding ring. He stumbles on a desperate journey to understand God’s motives for her tragic death. Crossing his perilous path is Allison, a graduate student and new employee in the dean’s office. Even as she deals with financial hardships, she recognizes Drew’s unresolved grief from her own loss. Putting up a roadblock is Chris Whitney, the handsome but egotistical student senate president. He carries the secret burden of a dysfunctional family and a below-the-surface temper. The road Drew must navigate is fraught with career upheaval, a reawakening heart, substance and domestic abuse, a violent assault, and the struggle for forgiveness and restoration. Will Drew finish his journey to embrace the hope God offers, the love Allison shares, and the guidance Chris needs, or will he turn his back on all three with catastrophic consequences?


Author Bio
Janell Butler Wojtowicz, born and raised on an Iowa farm, was one of those kids who loved to write the dreaded “What I did on summer vacation” essay. It’s no surprise that she has spent her entire 30-year career in writing, including journalism, Christian higher education public relations, and local government public information. She is a freelance writer/editor, and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. Janell and her husband, Frank, live in New Brighton, Minnesota.


Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_13?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=janell+butler+wojtowicz&sprefix=janell+butler%2Caps%2C400&crid=2RKNVF7OLH34B

Website http://janellwoj.wordpress.com

Twitter @janellwoj

Facebook www.Facebook.com/janellbwoj



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COTT: Interview with Judith Rolfs

Posted by Julie on March 8, 2017 in COTT, Guest blogger, Julie Arduini, Writing |

This week we have a special treat! Author Judith Rolfs has been
published in every genre. As an author and professional marriage and
family counselor, Judith focuses on motivating people to live their best
lives – emotionally, physically and spiritually. In her thirties, she
researched the complexity of the natural world and moved from
agnosticism to faith in God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Today, she
talks about her latest novel, Never Tomorrow.

Tell our readers about your new mystery novel Never Tomorrow.

Thanks for asking. It’s like having a new baby – I welcome a chance to
talk about Never Tomorrow after literally years in the writing. This is
a powerful murder mystery, plus more – a psychological thriller that
probes the marriage relationship, infidelity and forgiveness. I use my
insights and experiences as a psychotherapist for three decades to
instill deep emotions in my characters– the grieving, the loves, and the
deep joys, that we all experience in real life. These are integrated
with a compelling murder mystery.

This is your seventeenth book but only your third mystery novel. Tell
us about your switch to fiction from non-fiction.

My previous books were how-to books about marriage and parenting and
family issues, also a devotional and a teen book. Mysteries are a huge
change. They are much more difficult to write, but seem to have a
greater impact on readers.

Which leads to my next question. I understand your slogan is
Mysteries With A Message. Explain please.

My mysteries center on real life family issues while keeping the
suspense steaming. Directive 99, my first self- suspense novel is about
conflict between a woman’s career vs. family priorities. She makes major
life changes when her husband is kidnapped. My next mystery novel
Bullet in the Night with Prism Books is about genuine
rehabilitation leading to life change and the value of nurturing
friendships. I want readers to have a takeaway to ponder that can help
them face situations in their own lives with more wisdom and

Tell us about where you like to write and a bit about your

My favorite writing places are my cottage in the woods in
Fontana-on-Geneva Lake and a winter beach condo we rent in Venice, FL. I
need solitude to create the story and develop my characters, but then I
love to edit in coffee shops where I’m immersed in the energy of people.
Relationships have always been fascinating to me, which is why I became
a psychotherapist. Of course it’s helpful as an author to develop
well-rounded characters. I also love to travel. In fact, Never Tomorrow
starts out in Ballybunion, Ireland which I researched during a
three-week trip there.

How and when did your writing career begin?

My writing career began at age ten creating stories for neighborhood
children. I wrote newspaper editorials in high school, and was part of
the Superior Student program at Marquette University, which published me
in their literary journal. I love everything about writing especially
contact with readers and other authors who are so gracious! I recently
met Pat Gussin, New York Times Best Selling Author of After the Fall and
she offered to read Never Tomorrow prior to publication. She blessed me
with an amazing review: “Layer upon layer of intrigue—laced with
murder–propels this novel to the pinnacle of suspense. An ingenious
plot, dynamic and complex characters, and an insight into the troubled
avenues of human behavior rarely exposed make NEVER TOMORROW a stand-out
for readers of mysteries, thrillers, and suspense.”

In closing, where can we find your new book baby?

Never Tomorrow is available through Prism Book Group, on Amazon
and Barnes
& Noble
and through local libraries. If it’s not at the local
library I hope readers will request it. Thank you for featuring me on
your blog. It’s been a pleasure.


Visit Judith at http://judithrolfs.com/Dr._Judith_Rolfs/Home.html


A compelling mystery with a powerful theme of forgiveness and

Whitney Barnes investigates the mysterious death of her mother and
three women from Cortland City seeking the thread that links them to an
enigmatic killer. Why are women being murdered with no apparent motives
for their death? Police are mystified at the lack of clues and a growing
sense of fear surrounds the community. Who will be the next victim?

to find the killer, Whitney discovers these women were dealing with
wounds from their troubling pasts, but what was their connection? She
teams up with Dr. Sarah Stevens, an expert on women’s issues, to ferret
out information while TV talk show host Rich and real estate broker
Jordan vie for Whitney’s affection.

Whitney discovers new
strength within her, but is it powerful enough to cope with this dark
force of evil? Suspense escalates as Whitney becomes the killer’s next

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Don’t Miss This: Reunion at Crane Lake by Robin Bayne

Posted by Julie on March 5, 2017 in ACFW, encouragement, Julie Arduini, Writing |

Julie’s Note: Every once in awhile I try to introduce you to a group of authors and their new books. This month Robin Bayne has a new release, REUNION AT CRANE LAKE. I hope you check it out!

Colt’s memory is returning after the accident that ended his career. Now he wants to take over his family’s inn, but he’ll have to partner with his former fiancée to be able to afford it. He’ll need forgiveness to make that happen. Tia’s goal is clear: to return the inn to its former grandeur. And she’ll even work with Colt to do so. But like the inn, their relationship needs a lot of work. He broke her heart…can she ever trust him again?

Goes on Sale March 10.



About Robin Bayne:

Robin is the author of Christian and “sweet” romance, including the Carol Award winning “The Artist’s Granddaughter.” She compiled a collection of devotionals for writers, “Words to Write By,” featuring work by many well-known Christian authors including Robin Lee Hatcher and Cecil Murphy. She lives in Maryland with her husband of 26 years, and works a day job in community bank lending.

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Lazarus: The Samaritan by Katheryn Maddox Haddad

Posted by Julie on March 3, 2017 in encouragement, God's Word, Guest blogger, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons |


Lazarus lives a complicated life. He is a Samaritan who married a Jewess.  He is estranged from his brothers because their father willed him his prize Arabian steed. He supports himself as a road worker in his youth when his Arabian meets his future wife’s delicate Egyptian horse. Her brother hates him and her snobbish mother constantly insults him.

Her brother enslaves him in a copper mine down at the top of the Red Sea near where southern Israel and Arabia meet.  Eventually through a mess of twists and turns, he becomes a copper mine owner and gets rich.

His sister is the “Woman at the Well” Jesus talked to. Having five husbands does not mean she was a wonton woman. In the story, all die of accidents (one of them on the road to Jericho) or diseases. By the time she meets Jesus, she decides to send her live-in on his way. Jesus stays three days in the city, she introduces him to her brother and their family, and they are baptized in the reflecting pool of the estate his wife inherited.

Zarus, as he is called in the book, lives through forty of Jesus’ parables. These parables come alive as his mine workers beat a servant to death to take over the mine, his youngest son grows up, gets his inheritance, and goes to China where he nearly starves to death. His daughter grows up and marries a sea captain, and he is so late to the wedding that five of her ten virgin maidens run out of oil waiting for him on the docks.

His father, original owner of the mine has great plans and builds bigger warehouses for the increased copper production, but dies that night. Lazarus’ widowed mother-in-law loses the family estate, and she appeals to an evil judge and pesters him to death until he finally relents and gets her estate back for her. His sister’s husband is robbed and beaten on the road to Jericho and left for dead until Lazarus, “The Good Samaritan” sees him and takes him into the city. There is a mine collapse, and ninety-nine workers survive, but Lazarus goes into the dangerous mine to see out the one.

My readers love trying to guess which parable he is living through as they read each chapter. (At the end of each chapter I quote the actual parable in italics.)

This is the story of rags to riches and back to rags again. It is the story of a strange courtship, a marriage with three children and ongoing romance of husband and wife, betrayals, treacheries, celebrations, overcoming—everything that Jesus put into his amazing parables.

Read this book to be amazed at the new insights you gain by going through life with Lazarus: The Samaritan.

This, by the way, is the first book in the historical novel series: INTREPID MEN OF GOD. This series has remained in the top ten in their category on Amazon since their beginning last year. One woman contacted me and said, “I want to order six more copies and send them to my family members.”


Katheryn Haddad was born in the cold north, but now lives in Arizona where she does not have to shovel sunshine. She enjoys hot weather, palm trees and cacti in her yard, and a computer with the letters worn off.
With a bachelor’s degree in English, Bible and social science from Harding University and part of a master’s degree in Bible, including Greek, from the Harding Graduate School of Theology, she also has a master’s degree in management and human relations from Abilene University.
Her newspaper column appeared for several years in newspapers in Texas and North Carolina ~ Little Known Facts About the Bible ~ and she has written for numerous Christian publications.
Currently she teaches English over the internet every morning, using the Bible as a text book. Most of her students are Muslims. She has taught some 6000 thus far, and has former students, now Christians, in hiding in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Jordan, Uzbekistan, and Palestine. “They are my heroes” she declares.
She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Christian Writers of the West, and is also an energetic public speaker who can touch the heart of audiences.

Website: http://inspirationsbykatheryn.com

Purchase Lazarus the Samaritan HERE

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FREE Novella Available

Posted by Julie on March 2, 2017 in About Me, encouragement, God's Word, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons, surrender, Writing |

Remember when I said things were pretty busy behind the scenes?

  • I told you about my interview with Blog Talk Radio host Patti Shene and her show, Step Into the Light.


  • I announced a new release, FINDING FREEDOM THROUGH SURRENDER-A 30 Day Devotional.


MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN was something I included as a thank you to newsletter subscribers who signed up. It’s a contemporary romance about surrendering relationships. What I love about it is it was the first romance I wrote after becoming a Christian. I re worked it a couple years ago and hopefully you will enjoy it. I also am excited because it features the Finger Lakes area, the beautiful region where I grew up in Upstate NY.

How do you access it? Visit the right sidebar of my site (if you are receiving this via email) and it should be right there to click and download. If you have trouble, send me an email at juliearduini@juliearduini.com, or find me across social media @JulieArduini.


I have one more announcement coming this week, so stay tuned!

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New Release: Finding Freedom Through Surrender

Posted by Julie on February 28, 2017 in About Me, encouragement, God's Word, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons, surrender, Writing |

It was one of those God taps that I wanted to ignore. Late last year I felt I was supposed to write a devotional using the surrender themes explored in my contemporary romance series, Surrendering Time. Not only that, but write it from the characters point of view. I’d never heard of such a thing, and by obeying, I knew I was delaying book 3, ENGAGED, even more.

But obey I did. It took longer than I thought with unexpected travel and child sickness, but it’s done.

Finding Freedom Through Surrender-A 30 Day Devotional available on Amazon.

FINDING FREEDOM THROUGH SURRENDER-A 30 Day Devotional, features short readings on surrendering fear, loss, change, regret, and the future. If you’ve read ENTRUSTED or ENTANGLED, you will visit with beloved characters like Ben, Jenna, Carla, Will, Sara, and more. If the series is new to you, no worries. The devotional will introduce you to the characters without spoilers. Then, once ENGAGED is released this spring, you will be ready to jump in.

It’s in eBook format, so download the free Kindle app and you can read on your phone, tablet, desktop, laptop, and of course, Kindle. It’s only available on Amazon.

I’d love for you to spread the word. Early feedback showed that many of the readings were exactly what readers were struggling with at that time. That’s God, and I’m grateful He allows me to write for Him.

Take a look!



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