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Character Interview: Embracing Hope by Janell Butler Wojtowicz

Posted by Julie on September 28, 2017 in encouragement, God's Word, Guest blogger, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons, Writing |

Character Interview – Drew McKinley

 

I’m visiting with Drew McKinley about how God transforms people to serve and glorify Him. Drew has a heart-wrenching yet inspirational story that people who are hurting need to hear. Drew, please share how God transformed you into the man He could use for His purposes?

 

Drew: I’m going to start with a verse that sums up what I and two others have experienced. Roman 12:2, ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.’” I know some have heard that verse so often that it has become passé, but believe me, eventually they’ll find personal application and comfort in it.

 

How has your life exemplified this verse?

 

Drew: At one time I focused on what the world wanted me to be, not on what God wanted me to be. He had to knock me upside the head to renew my mind. And how He did that was painful—excruciating actually.

 

Yes, I understand you lost your wife.

 

Drew (sad smile): Tragically, suddenly, seemingly without reason. The anger I felt toward God … I’m surprised He didn’t strike be down with lightning based on my thoughts, words, and behavior. I had never faced tragedy in my 30 years. Life was almost perfect. (Chuckle) Except for a slightly over-bearing father. I attended a prestigious college; married a beautiful, talented, Christian woman; and had a lucrative career at a renown Christian university. But in one moment all that meant nothing.

 

How did God transform your mind? It sounds like before her death there was some, well, based on what I’ve heard about you, I’ll be blunt: conceit.

 

Drew: Your bluntness is accurate. And after her death came hopelessness, and even hatred.

 

Wow, I understand hopelessness, but hatred?

 

Drew (pulling his hand through his hair): Raw hatred. I hated God. I hated people who had hurt me and those I loved. I hated myself.

 

How did you overcome that hatred and hopelessness?

Drew: Through three people. First and most importantly, God. Despite my feelings, thoughts and actions, He never abandoned me, and He had every reason to wash His hands of me. But in His grace and mercy, He opened my eyes to others who were hurting; who needed guidance; who needed forgiveness. Second, God placed a wonderful woman in my life who had been through her own loss and hopelessness. She was strong, compassionate and insightful, and she showed me how to go after hope, not just sit around waiting for life to get better. Then God plopped an arrogant young man in my path who tried my patience, disappointed me, and even broke my heart. God was adamant that I forgive him. That was the hardest thing I ever had to do, even harder than grieving my wife. But in the end, God used them to renew my mind—my heart. I acknowledge that everything the three of us went through—everything—is what transformed us for God’s purposes and His glory.

 

What you’ve learned is something all of us can apply to the times when we lose hope or fall into the trap of what the world wants us to be. What do you say to encourage them?

 

Drew: Even though it may seem impossible at the time and against everything you feel, God will take you safely through the storms. Yes, it’ll hurt and you’ll have questions and doubts, but the healing will come from the Lord if you seek Him. The answers can be found in the Bible and through the power of the Holy Spirit. And don’t be afraid to seek out help, whether it’s a pastor, close friend, mentor, or a counselor, which is what I did. I’ll close with one of my favorite verses, also found in Romans, 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

 

About Embracing Hope

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 newspaper journalism, Christian higher education and nonprofit public relations, and local government public information. Much of her writing has been the “people stories” of trial, tragedy and triumph, which are reflected in her debut novel, “Embracing Hope.” Janell is a freelance writer/editor, and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. She and her husband, Frank, live in New Brighton, Minnesota. She has two step-sons, a step-daughter-in-law and three step-granddaughters.

 

Links

 

Twitter – @janellwoj

Blog – http://janellwoj.wordpress.com

Author Facebook – www.Facebook.com/janellbwoj

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16046310.Janell_Butler_Wojtowicz

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Embracing-Hope-Janell-Butler-Wojtowicz/dp/1988422043/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479298376&sr=1-1&keywords=janell+butlerSmashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/682248

Barnes Noble Nook – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/embracing-hope-janell-butler-wojtowicz/1125151446?ean=2940153857114

kobo – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/embracing-hope-1

Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/682248

 

 

 

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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?

Purchase EMBRACING HOPE HERE

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.

 

Links
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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