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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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Sue A. Fairchild: Losing More Than the Weight with God’s Plan

Posted by Julie on February 15, 2017 in encouragement, God's Word, Guest blogger, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons, surrender |

Losing More Than the Weight with God’s Plan

By Sue A. Fairchild

 

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17 NIV)

I’ve always struggled with my weight. It’s been a plague on my life since I can remember. I was always “huskier” than other kids and often felt the sting of my peers’ disapproval in the process. Once, in high school, I was asked when my baby was due. I wasn’t pregnant.

One prior boyfriend loved to work out and encouraged me to do so with him, so I did. He pushed me daily, taking inventory of what I’d eaten and condemning me if I hadn’t attended the gym that day. He convinced me it was because he was concerned for my health, but eventually he ended our relationship because I wasn’t thin enough for him.

These things, along with others, caused me to spurn working out. Going to a gym sparked anxiety in my soul and reminded me of my boyfriend’s harsh words that I wasn’t trying hard enough or eating healthy enough.

When I met my husband, neither of us loved working out, but we both needed it. We were unhealthy, overweight and I was often sick. I longed to be thin, but, more so, I longed to have the stamina and strength to simply do. I knew God had placed it in my heart to work with Christian authors, to write His words for others to read and to be His light in the world. But it’s hard to be that light when you’re exhausted, sick or don’t have the strength to do so.

I’d tried various exercise programs and even tried to do exercise by myself, but it never stuck. The old fears and the old doubts always came rushing back in and I’d quit before I’d begun.

So, in April of last year, I chose to step out of my comfort zone and started working out with a personal trainer. Yes, I wanted to be thinner. I wanted to fit into smaller jeans and to look good in all my clothes, but I also simply wanted to be stronger so I could do God’s work in my life. I didn’t want to fail myself, or Him, any longer.

The trainer I chose was a Christian and, within one of our first sessions, she expressed to me how important it was to her to show others how they could take care of the temple God had given them. Her personal training work was more than helping people be thin—she wanted people to wisely manage what God had given them.

I’d never considered this thought before. My body is God’s—not mine. By overeating and not exercising, I had been, essentially, destroying His temple. Plus, I’d let others, not God, determine my journey. I was weak and sick from within because I hadn’t been managing what He’d given me.

The truth was a harsh blow. I have been working hard the last few years to follow God’s purpose for my life, but the entire time I’d been neglecting the vessel He’d given me to do it!

I’m convinced He brought my personal trainer, my new friend, into my life because no other gym, no other trainer, and no other exercise program would have expressed His word for me. The only way for me to accomplish God’s plans were to take care of me, my health, wellness and body, first.

Now, I’ve started classes that my trainer conducts and have met new friends with similar stories. My trainer pushes me in more ways than with my body. She pushes my mind and my walk for God. Even when I don’t want to go exercise, I do. And I’ve been blessed every single time. My body is stronger, but, more importantly, my faith is stronger, too. I’ll never turn back now. My plan was to lose weight, but God’s plan—His plan to bring me closer, expand my mind and my strength—is what I’ve achieved.

 

 

Sue A. Fairchild is a blogger, writer, and editor. She has been a contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series twice and has recently published a young adult novel, What You Think You Know. Sue also edits professionally for Christian Editor Connection and is a member of ACFW. For more information on her professional services and to read more of her simple snippets, please visit her website Sue’s Simple Snippets: Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness. You can also connect with her on Facebook, or Twitter.

 

Sue A. Fairchild’s Post: Losing More than the Weight with God’s Plan

What You Think You Know

Fifteen-year-old Emily Forester is sure of one thing: Beth Myers will be her friend forever. Friends almost since birth, they even share the same nervous habit—biting their cuticles. They’re like sisters and nothing can ever change that, or so Emily thought. Now, Emily discovers Beth displaying disturbing new habits, and begins to doubt how well she knows her best friend after all. When Beth betrays their sister-like bond, Emily is crushed and considers what life would be like without Beth. She’s already lost her mom; will she lose Beth, too? The one concrete thing in her life, her friendship with Beth, starts to crumble. Longing to talk with her mother, Emily confides in her dad instead and he reveals more shocking secrets. Will these new revelations bolster her relationship with Beth, or tear them apart forever?

Purchase What You Think You KNow HERE

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Kimberly Rose Johnson: My Recent Transformation

Posted by Julie on February 8, 2017 in encouragement, God's Word, Guest blogger, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons |

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

 

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MEFIBOSET: The Crippled Prince by Katheryn Maddox Haddad

Posted by Julie on January 27, 2017 in encouragement, God's Word, Guest blogger, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons |

MEFIBOSET: THE CRIPPLED PRINCE

 

Some of the most inspirational people I have known have had handicaps of some kind. You know the kind I mean: You go to see them to encourage them, and come away feeling on top of the world because they had encouraged you.

Poor Mefiboset (spelled Mephiboshet in most Bible translations ~ too hard to pronounce, and too long to fit on a book title) has suffered degredation in every article I have read about him, not counting references to him in sermons and books.  All I can think when encountering them is, “Oh, brother!”

First, Mefiboset was grandson of King Saul who was probably seven feet tall.  Have you ever seen a six-foot man standing next to a basketball player? The player is head and shoulder taller than the six-footer.  Plus the Bible says Saul was the most handsome man in all of Israel. Wouldn’t you think Saul’s sons and grandson were close to his height and good looks?

Another method Bible “scholars” use to degrade this crown prince is to describe the place where he grew up as desolate and worthless.  Yet, Lodebar was ten miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee on a healthy river out of the mountains and near the crossroads of international trade routes.

There are other ways people degrade Mefiboset. They overlook the fact that he married, had a son, and had four grandchildren.  He spent his entire adult life either living in his grandfather’s palace or David’s palace.

THEREFORE, my book about Mefiboset: The Crippled Prince portrays a man with father Jonathan’s positive attitude, and his grandfather’s height and good looks. He loves an adventure. He laughs easily and sees the best in every bad situation and person.

You will come away from reading this book feeling good about yourself and everyone else around you. Rather than depressing, this is a fun book to read, one that will stick with you from then on.

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 Mefiboset: The Crippled Prince HERE

 

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Transforming for a Life Worth Living by Sue A. Fairchild

Posted by Julie on January 20, 2017 in encouragement, God's Word, Guest blogger, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons, surrender |

Transforming for a Life Worth Living

By Sue A. Fairchild

When I chose to quit my office job back in 2014, I thought it was simply because God wanted me to be a writer and an editor, not an insurance agent. I longed to read words all day long, not ponder over legal documents and settle claims. What I didn’t expect was how God would use the next several years of my life to transform me into a completely new being.

At first, I plugged along, seeking work and trying to find my comfort zone in my new career. Editing work came and I found myself suddenly busy, but something still didn’t seem right to me. Something was missing. Days and weeks passed and soon it was Christmas time. I felt excited because I finally had time to do up Christmas right – I decorated, made a plethora of cookies and other treats, and readied my home for guests. It was freeing to not face the 9-5 grind during the holidays, and I felt like I had all the time in the world to accomplish things. My in-laws were visiting as they do each Christmas and I had planned an overabundance of food and activities for their stay.

But, suddenly, plans changed. The day before Christmas my husband became ill with the flu. He spent the next two days in bed sweating and hallucinating while my guests tried to enjoy themselves. I ministered to my husband and tried to play hostess to my guests at the same time. Christmas Day came and I visited with my folks without my husband in tow. I was so exhausted I fell asleep on my parents’ floor and they soon sent me home saying we would celebrate at a later date. The next day, my in-laws decided to head home—two days early. I felt like a hostess failure.

My husband recovered a few days later, but my mother and father had taken on the flu as well. My mom, who suffers from COPD, was admitted to the hospital and spent the next ten days in the ICU. I visited every day. I checked on my father almost every day as well, cooked him food, and made sure he was getting fluids and medications. I asked for prayer from my church.

My husband and I celebrated New Year’s at my mother’s hospital bedside after being called by a nurse because Mom couldn’t breathe. We feared the worst and it was the most awful four hours of my life, but she made it through and eventually came home. I spent the bulk of the time between Christmas and New Year’s tending to houseguests and sick loved ones. When it was over, I suffered a week of migraines and spent some time in the local ER myself. It seemed like the holidays would never end.

But they did and life went back to normal. Once again I immersed myself in my new career and took on new clients. I was beginning to hit my stride, and I felt like my choice to leave my office job had been the right one. This was my calling.

Then, in January of 2016, my father had a heart attack and had to have double bypass surgery. Once again, I found myself tending to a sick loved one. For almost two months, I visited him every day and helped him to recover. Depression hit my father after weeks of being in bed. I prayed for him and almost never left his side. Slowly, he recovered and, once again, I returned to the normalcy of my job.

During those two years, I often commented that if God had not led me away from my 9-5 office job, I wouldn’t have had the time to dedicate to my parents or my husband during their times of illness. If I hadn’t left the security of a weekly paycheck, my parents would have had to face many challenges alone. Although the transition has been a financially difficult one, I can’t help but think that God used that time to transform me not into an editor, but into a caregiver.

Now, when I wake every day, I wonder what God might have in store and how I might be used in the life of another. I see my newfound career for what it is—merely a means to an end. I am placed here without the restraints of a desk job in order that God may use me fully for His purposes. Each and every day I am being transformed into someone whom He can utilize for His greater good. In the end, it was not about the job after all, but about the life.

******************

Sue A. Fairchild is a blogger, writer, and editor. She has been a contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series twice and has recently published a young adult novel, What You Think You Know. Sue also edits professionally for Christian Editor Connection and is a member of ACFW. For more information on her professional services and to read more of her simple snippets, please visit her website Sue’s Simple Snippets: Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness. You can also connect with her on Facebook, or Twitter.

Sue A. Fairchild’s Post: Transforming for a Life Worth Living

Fifteen-year-old Emily Forester is sure of one thing: Beth Myers will be her friend forever. Friends almost since birth, they even share the same nervous habit—biting their cuticles. They’re like sisters and nothing can ever change that, or so Emily thought. Now, Emily discovers Beth displaying disturbing new habits, and begins to doubt how well she knows her best friend after all. When Beth betrays their sister-like bond, Emily is crushed and considers what life would be like without Beth. She’s already lost her mom; will she lose Beth, too? The one concrete thing in her life, her friendship with Beth, starts to crumble. Longing to talk with her mother, Emily confides in her dad instead and he reveals more shocking secrets. Will these new revelations bolster her relationship with Beth, or tear them apart forever?

Purchase WHAT YOU THINK YOU KNOW HERE

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Joseph: The Other Father by Katheryn Maddox Haddad

Posted by Julie on January 19, 2017 in Julie Arduini |

JOSEPH: THE OTHER FATHER

Jesus grew up in a violent world. Just how violent was it? The Romans and Zealots were constantly having skirmishes along the highways and in towns. Sometimes their own king or government attacked the people by the thousands, often at the annual Jewish feasts held in Jerusalem three times a year, such as when Jesus was eleven years old.

Sometimes the violence came from outside. Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, was in charge of the Province of Galilee where Jesus lived most of his life, and he had a habit of making people made. When Jesus was ten, Herod made the King of Arabia mad. So he joined forces with the legate of Syria and they invaded Galilee with 100,000 soldiers.

Nazareth was just three miles from Sepphoris where Herod’s palace was. Where were 100,000 soldiers supposed to camp while bulwarks and trenches and other such things used in war were made? Surely Joseph and the other fathers of Nazareth knew they had to defend their families against soldiers molesting and even killing Nazarenes so they could take over their houses. Joseph surely barricaded his family in and nailed the front gate closed, and put barriers up on the roof so the soldiers couldn’t climb ladders to get to them.

In addition to all this, there were the hazards of the job of carpentry. Joseph surely took Jesus with him up into the hills to chop down trees. There were bears in those hills.

Nazareth was just a small unwalled village of five hundred people then. Joseph could not support a family in such a small village. He surely did a lot of work in Sepphoris three miles away. It was rebuilt after it was burned down and a lot of carpentry was required then. Later, Tiberius over on Lake Galilee was built. Also, Bethsaida was turned into a walled city at that time and many government buildings added.  Travel was always dangerous. Working in close areas where there was a lot of construction work going on was dangerous.

Joseph

Through it all, Joseph had his assignment: Protect the Son of God. What went through his mind day after day through those twenty-nine years before Jesus began his public ministry?

How many times did Joseph jump in front of little-boy Jesus because something falling would kill him, but only injure Joseph?  And the teasing in town. People could count. They knew Mary was pregnant when Joseph married her. What names did they call Mary? What names did they call Jesus? And when Jesus was twelve and they couldn’t find him for three days: As they frantically searched street after street, knocking on doors and asking, “Have you seen our little boy? He goes by the name of Jesus and he’s such-and-such tall.”  And going through the markets and down alleys and calling out, “Jesus! Jesus! Where are you?”

What responsibility. I cannot imagine taking it on. Can you?

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 JOSEPH: The Other Father HERE



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