The flowers are in bloom. My yard looks refreshed, thanks to God's beauties. This time of the year means many things to people. I find it ushers in anticipation of what can be. A hope that we all share. That's why I'm grateful to have the opportunity to highlight a wonderful novel Embracing Hope, by Janell Butler Wojtowicz.
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. Janell is a freelance writer/editor, and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She and her husband, Frank, live in New Brighton, Minnesota. She has two step-sons, a step-daughter-in-law and three step-granddaughters.
Before I share Janell's interview she has a message that I believe everyone will enjoy.
For the readers of Monthly Smiles.
While hope is one of what I call the Big Three in First Corinthians 13, it gets overlooked by the higher profile challenges of faith and love. Hope is often seen as wishful thinking or daydreaming. But it’s action—it’s tangible. Drew had to take painful and humbling steps to find hope—to willingly emerge from self-pity, not just sit around waiting, wishing and wallowing. I challenge readers to consider if their hopes are passive—wishing and waiting—and what steps they could take to put hope into action.
University dean Drew McKinley mourns his dead wife and still wears his wedding ring. Falling in love again is the last thing on his mind. Even as grad student Allison Bennett deals with financial hardships and academic challenges, she recognizes Drew’s unresolved grief from her own loss. Student senate president Chris Whitney carries around the secret burden of a dysfunctional family and a just-below-the surface temper.
Janell, share with us one of your favorite scenes.
I choose this because whenever I picture Drew’s demeanor I shiver at his vulnerability.
Drew’s fingers brushed through his hair. “Um, I need a debriefing.”
“I thought you might.” Mitch led him to the couch. “What happened in chapel?”
“I have no idea.” Drew sat on the very edge, his coat still buttoned. “I totally veered from my outline. It made no sense at the end, and I never intended to talk about Kendra. I have no idea why I used that verse from Jeremiah. It’s an empty cliché that people use when bad things happen. I lost track of how many times I’ve heard it since Kendra died. That and throwing Job in my face. Grieving people do not want to hear about Job. Sure, there’s a happy ending, but look at the hell he went through. I don’t want to be reminded of his suffering while I’m going through my own.”
Mitch sat back and crossed his arms. “Okay, how about Ruth. She lost her husband leaving her alone and childless. She left her homeland to follow her mother-in-law to a foreign land because Ruth had heard the Lord was there. What’s remarkable about Ruth is she didn’t know much about God. Yet not only did she have hope in her future, she had hope in the Lord.
“I hate to say this, Drew, but you’re not the only one who has suffered a devastating loss. I know a family whose young son was killed in a plane crash. They sought hope by proclaiming the Word of God at his funeral. I counseled a pregnant woman last year whose husband died within two weeks from an aggressive form of leukemia. She found hope in the baby boy she had five months later. Like Job and Ruth, they had to dig deep to find hope. And believe it or not, God blessed them. That family has heard testimonies from their son’s friends who have come to know the Lord. And that baby boy is the delight of her life and family.”
Drew rolled his eyes and wrung his hands. Something else was wrong. He had never seen Drew visibly upset. Even during those first days after Kendra’s death and throughout counseling, he had never displayed much emotion beyond sadness, loneliness, and the inevitable questions. But tonight, the young man’s discomfort was painfully evident as his eyes darted about the room and he pulled the coat tighter around him.
“This isn’t just about chapel, is it?” Mitch asked.
Long seconds of silence passed. Then, finally, “I crossed the line,” he mumbled.
Mitch froze. “What line?”
Drew’s hand scraped through his hair again. “With a student. I … I hugged her.”
Mitch barely heard Drew’s whispered words.
“She was upset … and about to cry—” He jumped up and retreated to a dark corner of the room. “I—I could be in trouble with my job. They fire men for this. It’s…it’s sexual harassment! She could press charges!”
Mitch followed Drew, his heart accelerating. “Take it easy. Don’t panic. Explain slowly what happened.”
Drew backed against the wall, his arms stiff at his sides, hands fisted. “I don’t remember most of it…just hugging her. I’m not even sure what we were talking about before.”
“Where did this happen? Who was it?”
Drew stared at the floor. “My office. I didn’t do it on purpose and the door was wide open.” He shook his head. “I can’t tell you who… I don’t want to get her in trouble.”
Mitch released the question, but he already knew the answer. “Was it Allison Bennett?”
This is a great scene. I really feel for Drew and can't wait to read the book. Janell, thanks for being on my blog.
Readers here's the links to purchase Embracing Hope.
Visit Janell Wojtowicz at:
Click to set custom HTML