Good morning, lovely people! Welcome to another post with Women of Faith and Fiction! I don’t know about you, but I’ve enjoyed learning more about the women behind the books. And this morning we have another great story! Author Janell Butler Wojtowicz is with us. Let’s show Janell some love, shall we?
Good morning, Janell. Thank you for visiting with us. Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up on an Iowa farm surrounded by corn, soybean and hay in the fields, and cattle and pigs in the farmyard. And lots and lots of cats in the barn. Pigs literally put me through college at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minnesota. Many times when I called Dad for a tuition payment, he’d tell me he’d send it when the next load of pigs went to market.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in written communication, I returned to Iowa where I was a reporter/editor at three small town newspapers for 10 years. I met my husband, Frank, a friend of my family living in Minneapolis, and became a city girl. (By the way, my Polish last name is pronounced “Why-tow-vitch.) Over the next 18 years, I’ve worked in public relations at my alma mater; Leadership Foundations, a nonprofit organization supporting inner-city Christian ministries; and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. My freelance business, A Portrait in Words, offers writing and editing services.
Frank and I live in New Brighton, Minnesota, a pleasant suburb of the Twin Cities. I have two step-sons, a step-daughter-in-law, and three step-granddaughters.
Sounds like a wonderful life, Janell. Thank you for sharing the story about your dad. He sounds like a hard working man who loves his family. Now that I know how to pronounce your name, it isn’t that hard at all! J
This month’s theme is goodness, Janell. Would you please share your thoughts with our readers.
I don’t know about y’all, but I get dismayed, frustrated and even fearful by the news that saturates every second of our lives. I try to tune it out with reading anything but the news, and listen to uplifting Christian music, my favorites being “Even So Come” and “Who Am I?” This month’s blog forced me to look for goodness. And the goodness was easy to find.
My husband and I live in a condo with many seniors. Our neighbors look after each other, whether it’s a welfare check during a power outage or jump-starting a dead car battery. This summer, in prep for the annual underground garage cleaning, one owner took it upon himself to clean the parking spaces of several seniors, for free. He endured heat, humidity and almost no air movement with a smile on his face the entire time.
My mother’s small Iowa community came together to support her pastor’s family whose nine-year-old son endured a year-long series of chemotherapy. It didn’t matter what church people attended or where they lived; all that mattered was the family needed help and encouragement, which was plentiful.
The most outstanding example of goodness I’ve seen recently has been bestowed on my cousin, Denise, who has Multiple Sclerosis. She’s always been an optimistic person whose heart exemplifies goodness. Even as the MS has progressed and Denise endures treatments and physical therapy, she sees the good in life and gives God the praise. Now, she’s experiencing goodness from others who have come by her side through transportation to appointments, storming the gates of heaven with prayer, and now a fund-raising event to help finance leg aids to keep her mobile. All this reassures me that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is goodness.
“I (Paul) myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness …” Romans 15:14
Wow, Janell. Thank you for sharing all that goodness with us this morning. I’m sure there are some who really needs to hear a little good news. Now, for the next part of this interview. We all know, this life is a continual journey of learning, applying, and transforming. Have you ever experienced a season when you found it difficult to do good for others? How did you overcome?
In 2010, I lost my job and threw myself into finding another full-time. The job search became an all-encompassing, all-consuming, energy-depleting, and ultimately, unsuccessful battle that crushed my spirit. But now, almost seven years later, I see how God has scripted what I admit was the worst time in my life.
My job search shifted to freelance work as God shifted my priorities. Freelance gave me the time and practical means to help others, especially my family. Armed with my laptop, smart phone, and a Wi-Fi connection, I can work practically anywhere. When my widowed mother, who lives three hours away, fell and broke her ankle, I was available to help with her in-home care. My husband’s chronic back problems required doctor appointments and procedures. I also nursed him back to health after hip replacement surgery. My step-son and family moved 10 hours away and we were able to help. I remember well the weekend during their relocation when I sat in a St. Louis, MO, hotel lobby with my laptop connected to Wi-Fi working on a project for a client in Minneapolis. All that would not have been possible had I been working full-time. Sure, my income isn’t nearly what it used to be, but I’ve trusted God to provide and, so far He’s come through—God is good!
Woohoo! God is good! So tell us more about your writing. In what genre do you write and how does your faith influence your writing?
I write contemporary Christian romance. When it comes to fiction, I could never write anything other than the Christian story of redemption and grace. It’s in my spiritual DNA.
Most of my 35-year-career has been in journalism and public relations. The first 10 years were in community journalism. While I was able to interject my faith in columns, for the most part it was secular writing. I then spent 12 years at a Christian college where my job was all about writing faith-based articles and features about students, faculty and alumni. One of my monthly tasks was to write the formal thank you note to donors. Instead of finding it tedious, I relished searching the Bible for nuggets of thankfulness and encouragement for those letters—and there was a gold mine of nuggets!
I dearly missed that faith aspect of writing when I worked in local government. I believe that void is what fed development of “Embracing Hope.” When I started out, it was a Christian love story. When it was finished it was a story of hope—not just the sitting-around-waiting, wishful thinking hope, but the tangible hope found through forgiveness, faith in what seems impossible, and courage in tragedy.
I love stories of hope! Janell, thank you so much for being here with us today. And thank you for sharing your life with us. I hope you write many more stories of hope and forgiveness!
Embracing Hope 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?
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