Monthly Archives: May 2013

In Defense of Prayer

On Monday night I posted the following request on my Facebook account: Tomorrow, please pray for my daughter. It is her last day of testing, and two of her most important tests: Math and Japanese. Truly, she needs your prayers. I really don’t know what to pray for, just know that we need them. Thanks, R

Never would I have thought that I needed to defend my request. If you are reading this post hoping that I will defend the post, you might want to stop reading right about now. I will never defend a prayer request. Period.

I don’t expect my Facebook friends to know me, they couldn’t possibly know that yesterday I functioned on three hours of sleep, worked in my garden, helped my husband construct a frame where we will lay tile (yes, my toe really is broken), cut down two trees and stacked the limbs at the street, fixed dinner, took my daughter to a job interview, and wrote over a thousand words for a short story collection. (my point: busy day). My Facebook friends don’t know that I do NOT have cable television, that I don’t care who is on American Idol, or Survivor (is that show even on?) I live in Atlanta where I desperately try to be as unplugged from television and its bad news as much as possible. I try to plug into my family. My friends know that if something bad happens in Atlanta, please call me on the phone, otherwise I’ll be working, doing, and living the life I so love. We, like many of you, have serious life-and-death issues in our personal life that are far more “important” (to some) than passing tests. I don’t share my family’s struggles, they deserve their privacy and I respect that. But know that a prayer request for tests are heard by the same God and listened with the same ear as when I fall before him praying for healing and one more day with my loved ones.

My face-to-face friends also know that I am not a bible scholar. I am a believer, a sinner, a reacher-out to God on a daily basis. I pray for strangers, random people, friends I know, my family and sometimes (rarely) I even pray for myself.

So imagine my shock when I found the following comments to my prayer request:

I believe deeply in the power of prayer, but I have to say now that my prayers are those who are victims of the devastation in Oklahoma. That is deep and horrific suffering there, and those folks need great prayers for healing. I’m a mom, and yes, I know the need to pray for a daughter. Mine has been through some life threatening times. What we need here is perspective . I do hope you send up some prayers for the many tornado victims. I mean this. I do not take prayer lightly. It is a deep focus of my spiritual energy merging, I hope, with God. So please do send some focus and prayers to those in the deepest need. I’m sorry but Math and Japanese tests don’t compare to the loss in those tornado torn states. (name withheld, and she removed her comment later today)

There are many reasons why a person might post something of this nature. Which is why I visited her Facebook page to see if perhaps she lived in Oklahoma, had posted a plea for those she knew. There were none. No prayer requests, no mention of the victims in Oklahoma at all. What troubles me further is that this person is an author, a colleague, someone who while I do not personally know, made a conscious decision to take the time to write this comment on my wall. Authors are basically forced to be “out there” under scrutiny. If you’ve written anything longer than a grocery list then someone has voiced their displeasure. I don’t really understand why she felt the need to post what she did other than her comment allows me to talk to y’all about prayer.

As an author there is an unwritten rule that unless you are a Christian author, published by a “Christian Press” it is in your best interest to keep God in a box, beside your bed, taking Him out only when you need Him, never during a book signing, conference, conversation where someone else might overhear, become offended and decide not to purchase a copy of your work. Now if you have written about a controversial subject one that uncovers the evils of the church, then by all means talk all you want. Otherwise, answer questions in an indirect manner, politically correct of course. Don’t offend someone who might be there to purchase copies of your book.

While I was in Texas speaking at the Pulpwood Queens I met a group of Queens who had a photo of their friend, Susan. Susan sat at the table with them, wore a different tiara each night. Drawn to these ladies for personal reasons, I asked about Susan’s illness, cried with them, understood their concern, admired their love and devotion to a friend. When it was my turn to speak on the panel, I am sure that some people were offended when I began my talk by asking for prayer for Susan, whom I did not know other than having just learned that she had cancer and was in the fight of her life, a fight she lost a few months ago.

Here me clearly, selling books is not a priority. At that moment, praying for Susan was.

As an aside: perhaps this is why I don’t have a book contract, because I won’t put God in a box, because I try my sinful best to carry Him with me. When asked, and sometimes when not, I try to give God the glory and credit for my life. He gave me the writing gift, I did nothing but provide the fingers and even those are not my own.

I don’t mean to ramble, but this morning as I prayed I was just overwhelmed with the suggestion that my prayer was less important than those in Oklahoma. Or worse, that I didn’t care about those who suffer and instead thought my prayers were more important than the victims in Oklahoma. Then I remember God himself says, “come all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.All. Everyone. God doesn’t prioritize, saying: “Today is BIG PRAYER day. Don’t bother me with little prayers. No! Don’t bother me with those small-tiny prayers. Keep them to yourself. I don’t have time. God does not prioritize sin (no big or little sins) man does; and He does not prioritize our prayers. He is always waiting for us to reach out to him with every concern, be it those in Oklahoma or little ole me in Atlanta.

God didn’t say, “today is Renea’s day. I’m only listening to her prayers. Today, she gets everything she wants.”

Because honey, if God proclaimed a Renea day my mouth would ramble things that I really, really want

Could there be food for those hungry, the starving, those who won’t eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner, not those who have run out of ice cream and feel a slight twinge

Could the abused children be removed from their circumstances, could they know love

Could there be peace, just today since it’s Renea-day could we have a day, where no one is murdered, where no one dies from violence, where all of our loved ones stay with us, please, (it is my day after all)

Could there be jobs for the mom’s and dad’s who have been searching for years

Could there be healing from terminal diseases, all of them not just cancer

Can those struggling with addiction be cured

Could there be love, a hunger to love one another instead of saying something to harm another

Could rain be sent to drought ridden areas, and sun sent to those areas underwater

Could the homeless be comforted, the dying not be alone, could we learn to love each other

Could we reach out to you and be hungry for more of YOU, Lord


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Leave the Letters in the Mailbox

Leave the Letters in the Mailbox

She needs two points. This is a simple math problem, one point, plus one point equals two points. As the school year rushes to a close, my prayer life has increased dramatically. Test anxiety, homework, finals and the school’s computer system crash has wreaked havoc on my family (and I’m not a teacher!) Not only did the local system crash, the entire County computer system crashed and stayed down for seven days. This meant End of Year testing, school projects and final exams simultaneously.

As an aside, if you are critical of teachers and faculty imagine for a moment the pressure staff is already under at the end of the year. Then add a system-wide computer crash so bad that emails aren’t even working.

letters2I am thankful . . . for many things. My husband has a job. I remain cancer free. We’ve seen our share of job loss, fear, uncertainty. Still, knowing that college looms near, and, absent a book contract, I worry about money, am still searching for part-time employment. I pray about this, scholarship money, a book contract, a job; I pray about these things often.

But it is my daughter’s struggles that consume me. I pray, worry. Worry, then pray. Multiple times each day I pray, Lord, she only needs two points. Please help her make those two points.

This year, her struggles have been many. She’s dealt with anemia and vertigo. I’ve seen her stagger into the house, eat something then sleep so hard I have to wake her to do her homework. In addition to the health issues, during the first semester she had a teacher (whose contract will not be renewed next year) who shouldn’t have been teaching. I’ve met with faculty, pulled her out of that teacher’s classes  and emailed the new teacher so often that she probably hates me (I promise, I am not a pushy person, or a helicopter parent.) For those who don’t know, helicopter parents do their child’s work, they hover, don’t allow their children to make their own mistakes, or decisions. I haven’t helped my daughter with schoolwork since Elementary School. For that I am proud. Yes, her grades would be higher if she came to me or her father for help, but she earned the grades she has; scratched and sweated out every single point. For that I am proud. I am not one of “those” mothers who will send my daughter to college then do her assignments. Instead, I posted a note on her computer which reads:

I am smart

I can do this

It will be difficult, but worth it

I will own the grades I make

Perhaps that is why I feel so helpless, because during this second semester, with the new teacher, she has pulled her grades up dramatically. Perhaps that is why I continually ask God please, just two points so she doesn’t fail.You know she has worked so hard.


Then today I read a devotional which began: Genuine faith puts a letter in the mailbox and lets go. Distrust, however, holds on to a corner of the envelope and then wonders why the answer never arrives (Streams in the Desert)

Y’all know I am a word gal. I love hand-written letters, anxiously await the arrival of mail every single day.  I’m a letter writin’ card mailin’ fool. I send notes to complete strangers. Cards, letters, vegetable and flower seeds to people I will never meet. During that time I have never stood at the mailbox holding onto the corner of the envelope. No. I slap a forever stamp in the top right-hand-corner and hoist the red flag knowing that the US Post Office will deliver my letter. I am confident the Post Office will deliver the letter. They have never failed me.


But when I read that genuine faith puts a letter in the mailbox and lets go I realized that I (literally) have been placing more faith in the postal service than God. Sure, I’ve been doing my part, praying and believing that God will answer the prayer. But my belief only lasted for a few hours, until worry snuck in and whispered what if she doesn’t pass? At that moment I snatch the envelope from God and tuck it in my pocket.

So today, as another school day begins, it is my desire to replace the prayer of she needs two points with the affirmation of Thank you God for the two points. I may not yet see them, but I believe they are coming.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of  In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. In 2012 she released Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. 2014 will see the release of In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She is currently working on her first novel. She would love to hear from you. Visit her at


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Care and Maintenance of Newspaper Seed Starters

Care and Maintenance of Newspaper Seed Starters

Welcome new followers to my blog. Recently, Billy Albertson and I had the privilege of speaking to students at Crabapple Middle School.

Here’s a BIG Shout Out to all of the students we met !!!


Crabapple students waiting patiently to make seed starters

One never knows what type of students they will encounter on these trips. Sometimes, we encounter a class filled with unruly folk, those who aren’t interested in learning; but not at Crabapple. It seemed like the more Billy and I shared about gardening, the more they wanted to know.

Here’s a BIG THANK YOU to all the students. You were great !!!

Now, for those who missed class, or want to learn how to make your own newspaper seed starter, here is a link to my blog post. Truly, this little project takes only a few minutes. Of course, I had my trusty seeds from Botanical Interests (available locally at Pike’s). Botanical Interests does an excellent job of including clear instructions on how to grow the seeds you purchase. However, the seeds at Crabapple are still in the teacher’s rooms. You can either take them home or plant them in the school garden.

Also, remember that I took a group photo with each class. I can only post those if the school has a signed permission slip on file. Once I’m certain your parent has signed a release, I’ll post more pictures.


Farmer Sophie

So, what’s the next step with your seeds?

CMS Go Green Day1

A new farmer in the making

When will my seed sprout?

Pick one weekday to water your plants. Let’s use Wednesday for example. Each week on Wednesday measure one tablespoon of water and pour it directly onto the dirt (or plant if it has sprouted). Using more water will make your seed rot. For those who planted corn, watermelon or pumpkin seeds remember those seeds take a little bit longer to sprout. (like fourteen days). Please do not give up on the seeds. The weather has been unseasonably cold, AND, we have seen very little sun.

CMS Go Green Day5

Crabapple student eager to lend a hand.

Seeds need three things: sun, warm temperatures, and water. Give the seeds a bit of extra time before giving up on them. If possible, place the newspaper starter in a window where the sun can reach the plant.

CMS Go Green Day 6

Soon these will be ready to plant.

After the seedling breaks through the soil and displays a couple leaves, start thinking about where you want to plant. For those living in an apartment or subdivision, you can still grow beans and peas inside a plastic planter. If you do not have a planter, please let me know. I will bring some to your school. There is no need to buy an expensive pot. You can pick one up at the Dollar Tree. The important part is to get a large container that is 8 to 10 inches. Vegetables have deep roots.

Where do I plant my seedling?

Some plants, like beans, will grow in partial shade. Others require full sun. Here is list of where to plant.

Vegetable:                                          Where it likes to grow:

Beans                                                I will grow in partial shade, and/or sun.

Peas                                                  I will grown in partial shade and/or sun

Corn                                                   I must have full sun

Pumpkins                                            I prefer full sun and room to grow

Watermelon                                         I prefer full sun and room to grow

Pepper plants                                       I will grow in partial shade and/or full sun

How do I plant my seedling?CMS Go Green Day 2

Those planting directly into the dirt need only to dig a hole in the ground, (approximately 6 inches across and 3 inches deep. Break up the soil, place the newspaper seedling in the dirt. Cover and your’re done.

Plastic container instructions:

Fill a plastic container half-full of dirt. Wet the newspaper seed-starter until all of the paper is very wet.

Dig out a hole in the dirt.

Place the entire newspaper planter in the dirt.

Cover the newspaper with dirt (leave the tiny plant sticking out).

CMS Go Green Day3

Another seed planted :)

Water well. Then watch the plant grow.

Little known fact about the corn:

For those who planted corn let me tell you about it. My great-grandfather Lum Winchester, who died when I was eighteen years old, grew that corn. He once lived in Rabun County Georgia with his wife’s family, who were the Ridley’s. Back then, you didn’t go to the store for garden supplies. People saved their seed. The seed you planted has been in my family for many generations. It is not genetically modified.

Some people call it “field corn,” others call it “dent corn” because on the end of each kernel there is a small indentation or “dent.” This particular variety grows very tall, almost fifteen feet tall. While you can eat it fresh, with butter, the corn is best dried and ground into cornmeal or grits. Fresh corn will not be sweet like you are used to. This variety is highly prized in the Low Country for grits. Of course the Low Country is famous for shrimp and grits.

So how can I make cornmeal? Allow the corn to dry on the stalks. Eventually the outside will yellow and get very hard. After that happens send me an email at reneawrites(at) and I’ll make sure we convert your corn into meal.

This corn also makes excellent animal food. Since it has not been genetically modified, it is safe for everyone to eat. I think my great grandfather is happy you are willing to grow it.

Renea reading from her book about Billy titled: In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes. Copies available locally at BOOKMISER.

Renea reading from her book about Billy titled: In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes. Copies available locally at BOOKMISER.

For those who don’t have a lot of land, corn can also be grown in big buckets.(Think one of those Home Depot Orange Buckets.

Corn requires FULL SUN and a lot of water during the summer. But, y’all are Crabapple students; you can do anything!

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of  In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. In 2012 she released Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. 2014 will see the release of In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She is currently working on her first novel. She would love to hear from you. Visit her at

Copies of her book are available locally at Bookmiser.


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