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?
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?
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.
Tags: author, character interview, contemporary romance, Embracing Hope, fiction, guest blogger, Janell Butler Wojtowicz, Julie Arduini, s Drew McKinley, transformation, Transformation Interview: Embracing Hope
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!
REUNION AT CRANE LAKE—Robin Bayne
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.
Prequel to CHRISTMAS FOREVER
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.
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.
- Now—I have a FREE novella available right here on juliearduini.com.
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 email@example.com, or find me across social media @JulieArduini.
I have one more announcement coming this week, so stay tuned!
Author Spotlight: Liz Tolsma
1. How did you get your start as an author?
I always loved writing and wanted to be an author since my 5thgrade teacher encouraged me that way. But practicality won out, and I became an elementary school teacher instead. After 9/11, I realized that my life could end any moment. I didn’t want to get to the end of it and have regrets about not trying to write. It took nine years after that, but my dream came true!
2. What is the title of your book and what is it about?
My story is title A Match Made in Heaven in the novella collection Matchmaker Brides. Len Montgomery is a young Iowa pastor who receives a letter from a widowed farmer asking if there are any young women in the congregation who would be interested in marrying him. The town’s newspaperman gets a hold of the letter, publishes it, and it gets picked up by several big city papers. Letters requesting matches pour in. But the match he most wants to make, the one with the town’s sweet, charming, and Shakespeare-quoting postmistress, may be out of his reach.
3. What was your favorite part about writing this book? Hardest part?
I loved the break from my usual WWII stories to write something lighter. It was fun to give my characters permission to laugh. I loved looking up Shakespeare quotes for my heroine and baffling the hero as to what she was saying. The hardest part was keeping tension in the story. WWII is naturally filled with suspense. I learned a lot about using tension even in a light-hearted story.
4. What are you hoping readers will take away from your story?
I hope they have fun with the story while remembering that God is a God who forgives and heals.
5. Is there another vocation you have besides writing?
Yes, I’m also a freelance fiction editor and I run a writer’s retreat and an online writer’s academy. It keeps my fingers in writing and publishing, but supplements my income. I love helping new writers learn how to write better and get published.
6. What is something readers would be surprised to learn about you?
I talk to myself. All. The. Time. It helps to keep me focused, so especially if I have a hard or busy day, I find myself talking out loud with no one but the dog and cat to hear me.
7. If you were having a chocolate craving, what would you want to satisfy it?
Um, chocolate LOL! Seriously, good European-style chocolate. Lindt, Ghirardelli, something along those lines. Sometimes dark, sometimes milk, depending on my mood.
8. Tell us about your family.
I’ve been married to my high school sweetheart for 28 years. We have three children. Brian is about to turn 22. We adopted him from Vietnam when he was 5 months old. He’s currently serving as a U.S. Marine in North Carolina. Alyssa is 17 and came home from Korea at 3 months old. She’s a junior in high school, as well as a lifeguard and class president. We never see her! She hopes to major in International Studies with an emphasis in Arabic and counterterrorism. Our youngest, Jonalyn, is 14. We adopted her from the Philippines when she was 5. She has a host of cognitive and physical disabilities, as well as a sunny disposition and a fondness for Olaf from Frozen.
9. What has been your biggest achievement as an author?
My first full-length novel, Snow on the Tulips, was a Carol Award finalist and a Selah Award finalist in 2013.
10.How can readers find this book? How can they connect with you?
Barnes and Noble
Blurb: Pastor Len Montgomery receives an unusual letter from an Omaha farmer that turns him into the matchmaker he never wanted to be. But the match he most wants to make, the one with the town’s sweet, charming, and Shakespeare-quoting postmistress, may be out of his reach.
Liz Tolsma is the author of several WWII novels and prairie romance novellas. She is a popular speaker and an editor and resides next to a Wisconsin farm field with her husband and their two daughters. She enjoys reading, walking, working in her large perennial garden, kayaking, and camping. Please visit her blog, The Story behind the Story, at www.liztolsma.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter(@LizTolsma), and LinkedIn. She is also a regular contributor to the Pencildancer blog and the Midwest Almanac blog.
Have you ever connected with someone through e mail and it was just a click? You felt like you knew the person and wanted to have coffee with them? That has been my feeling towards author and blog talk radio host Patti Shene. Through ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers,) we somehow crossed paths online and touched base because of the Adirondack Mountains.
You probably know my Surrendering Time series, ENTRUSTED, ENTANGLED, and ENGAGED are all based in the Upstate NY region that features 1 million acres. Patti has history there as well, so I always enjoy when I hear from her.
Tomorrow Patti and I are going to have a chat, and YOU are invited! Patti hosts STEP INTO THE LIGHT, a program on Blog Talk Radio. My interview will be live at 10am Eastern. We plan to talk about surrender issues, chocolate, and Valentine’s Day. I’m sure we’ll talk about writing, too.
If you would like to learn more about any of these things, or, if you’re just curious to hear what an Upstate NY accent sounds like, come check it out!
Listeners can access show via telephone or over the internet
Internet URL: http://ow.ly/yk19308Yh9G
Guest call in: 646-564-9712
I’m thankful for people like Patti that have a passion to share her time to encourage others. She has a great roster of speakers who have given their personal stories to share in hopes of helping listeners. I hope you check it out!
Tags: author, author interview, Blog Talk Radio, chocolate, Chocolate and Interview on Blog Talk Radio, engaged, Entangled, Entrusted, Julie Arduini, overcoming, Patti Shene, Step Into the Light, Surrender Issues, testimonies, Valentine's Day, Valentine's Day 2017, Valentine's Day: Surrender
My Recent Transformation
By Kimberly Rose Johnson
Transformation sounds painful, and I suppose it often is. One thing is for certain—it’s a process. Change does not happen overnight. At least it didn’t for me, nor was it instant for Kayla in A Love Song for Kayla.
I’m kind of a control freak, and Kayla is as well. Two years ago, my then publisher, closed the line I wrote for. At that time I wasn’t sure what to do. I sought guidance from the Lord, but I didn’t like the answer He gave me. He was clear that I was to indie publish (publish my books on my own). I did not want to do that. I was petrified at the very idea. Yes, I know I said I’m a control freak and an indie writer is in complete control. However, part of being a control freak is knowing all the variables, and for me indie publishing was a mystery and very scary.
God was gracious and allowed me to publish eight more books with a small press, but this past year He was clear that it was time. So on February first I uploaded my first indie book that I did on my own. I couldn’t believe how easy the entire process was compared to my fear. Talk about a freeing experience! I experienced a complete transformation. I no longer fear indie publishing, and I’m super excited to publish my next book.
A Love Song for Kayla is the book that I published. I recently received my rights back from my original publisher and chose to use this story as my first indie book. I mentioned that Kayla is a control freak too. When she was a teenager some stuff happened that caused her to pick up this trait. Her way of handling it was to create a list of the qualities she desired in a husband—the perfect man. As you can imagine it was close to impossible to check every item off her list but she insisted on hanging onto it. She even framed it and hung it in her bedroom.
When the man for her came along, he wasn’t perfect, and she had to choose. Would she cling to the security of being in control, or would she allow the Lord to transform her heart? I won’t spoil the story and tell you what she did. J
Life is filled with opportunities for transformation. I’m glad I finally obeyed and allowed the Lord to transform me. I can’t begin to explain how different I feel now. I suppose that what transformation does—it changes us from the inside out.
Kimberly Rose Johnson married her college sweetheart and lives in the Pacific Northwest. From a young child Kimberly has been an avid reader. That love of reading fostered a creative mind and led to her passion for writing.
She especially loves romance and writes contemporary romance that warms the heart and feeds the soul.
Kimberly holds a degree in Behavioral Science from Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.
You can sign up for Kimberly’s newsletter via her website at: http://kimberlyrjohnson.com/index.html
A LOVE SONG FOR KAYLA
When two strangers cross paths their lives are forever altered.
Ever since she was sixteen Kayla Russell has dreamed of her perfect man. She even went so far as to make a list of desired qualities. The list has proven to be a bust since no man is that perfect, at least until she meets Derek. But will his secrets come between them and destroy what could have been something wonderful?
When music superstar Derek Parker comes to small town Oregon to escape the paparazzi he goes incognito as a deliveryman. He wants to leave his old life behind, but it proves to be harder than he realized when his past finds him. Now the woman he has come to care for feels deceived and no longer wants anything to do with him.
Formerly published under the title A Valentine for Kayla.
PURCHASE A LOVE SONG FOR KAYLA HERE
Tags: A Love Song for Kayla, author, control freak, fiction, guest blogger, Indie author, Julie Arduini, Kimberly Rose Johnson, My Recent Transformation by Kimberly Rose Johnson, re release, romance, surrender
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