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Tis the Season: For Unchristian Behavior

My friends, I must ask, what in the world is going on?

I ask this open-ended question because I am puzzled, worried and sometimes even disgusted at the behavior of people these days. Regular subscribers to my blog will notice that I have been absent from the blogosphere, silently pondering whether I want to continue to feed information about my life for strangers to read. I have grown weary of the emails, and negative words that weigh heavy.

This is the tradeoff authors endure. A public life equals public opinion. Thankfully 99.9 percent of my readers are kind. (Love to y’all). Still, I’ve had to callous my skin during my 10 year journey as an author. And during this journey one of my most important take away points is this:  Every-Single-Person is going through something.

Everyone.

You.

Me.

Them.

Everyone is going through something, which is why I have had to walk away from some people. Yes, I can understand, be compassionate, and try not to take negativity personally. I also have realized that I can’t love someone into being a better person. Usually, the more I love a negative and toxic person, the more they want to injure me. Why, Dear Ones, do people do that?

What does lashing out accomplish? Does uttering hurtful words at another person offer healing?

I try to be positive, to lend a kind word because-these days-hurtful words are a penny a dozen and kind words require a second mortgage.

Having cancer has taught me life is short. A blink. Why on earth my dear friends would I want to waste my limited breath on anything other than goodness?

Beyond my personal tragedies.

Beyond my concerns.

Beyond my weariness.

I try, to be positive. Because I’ve read the Bible a little bit and not once did I see Jesus being ugly to people. Jesus didn’t hashtag hatefulness. He bled grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love, then He commanded me to be like Him.

Me, a sinner has been ordered to be the best person I can be, to be kind and loving, to show grace when I really want to scream.

Today, I dashed into Target to fill my basket with cold remedies. Final exams are next week which can only mean one thing, a terrible cold for my daughter during the second most important week of school. Minutes later, I was walking to my car when I witnessed what some folk would call a Mexican Standoff. Six, yes six vehicles ranging from Prius to Hummer-size all backed away from their respective parking spaces simultaneously. Every single one. Since we’re in the holiday season one might expect, or hope, at least one of these drivers would extend a little holiday cheer.

One would be wrong.

No one budged. Because I feared being run over, I didn’t budge either. During this time I stood, wondering what God thinks about this behavior. This pushy, hurried, think-only-about-myself-behavior that we don with our winter coats.

Why, my friends, do we act this way? Why?

This parking lot display, which admittedly most people wouldn’t even notice, troubled me. This is supposed to be a happy season? Birthdays are BIG DEALS and December 25th is the biggest birthday of all time. Why my friends, have we taken our eyes off the reason for the season? Why is it so difficult to be the best person we can be every day?

Why are we being pushy? Why are we in twitter fights? Why have we blocked our own family on Facebook (because heaven knows we don’t talk to them face to face…mercy no!) Why are we so unhappy?

I returned home discouraged. Sometimes I think that Jesus gets very sad. That we hurt His feelings, and today I kinda hoped that someone in the parking lot would have extended a little kindness. So after I gave my daughter her medication I asked, Lord, what in the world is wrong with your children? Then a little post came across the Facebook screen. The post didn’t answer my question, but it did give me hope.

Enter Johnny Smith:

Now I don’t know Johnny from Adam’s housecat. I met him the way people find acquaintances these days, through a friend of a Facebook friend. But let me tell you something about Johnny. He gave me hope.

His Facebook post read My Testimony.

Take a moment and look at Johnny’s picture. Look at it closely. You don’t have to share your opinions with me, but I’d bet my non-existent farm you have drawn a conclusion about him based solely on his looks. You’ve already forgotten my words that everyone is going through something. Now read his testimony. johnnypic

I’m writing this testimony for Jesus Christ, not seeking sympathy, praying someone reaches out to Jesus .

A few years ago I had lived most of my life a heathen. Never went to church much. My son had went missing, they found him dead in the woods. Brought back 65lbs in a body bag, he was 190lbs alive .I came home from his funeral, thinking, what kind of God allows this kind of thing to happen? Blaming God. My phone rang, it was a close friend (pee wee) his first words were. “Don’t let this make you turn your back on God.”

I said, “Gotta go, don’t wanna talk about this.”

Went to computer, a friend popped up and said, God loves you Johnny.

“I said, ‘God don’t love nobody’.’”

My friend asked, “Did you love your son?”

“Yes,” I said, “more than anything.”

“Would you have given his life?” my friend asked.

“No I said.”

My friend said, “Well God loved you so much he gave his son’s life for you.”

My response: “Gotta go dont wanna hear it.”

But when I stood up I could only think of God’s word and how much love for me it took to give His son. I raised my hands and asked for forgiveness. Had a strong urge to get to a church when Sunday came around. As we parked the car my heart was pounding. I went on in. Pounding got greater. I got up to leave the building but knew if I went out the door Satan would rule me. I turned went to the altar. Here I am Lord. I’m yours whatever it is you want for me. I felt someone breathing on my neck and shoulder. Turned to look, nobody was there, that I could see. Then the wind hit me in the face, blowing. Kinda scared me, I thought Lord this is you?”

Here’s what the spirit of God said, ‘YOUR TIME HAS COME. ALL YOUR LIFE YOU SAT BACK WHEN I DEALT WITH YOUR HEART. YOU SAW WRONG BEING DONE AND WALKED ON BY. BUT YOU CAME TO ME TODAY, YOU BELONG TO ME NOW AND YOU WILL SERVE ME THE REST OF YOUR DAYS ON EARTH.’ I had a peace go thru my body like I never known…and the man that walked out wasn’t the man that walked in. Amen. That’s when I became his servant.”

Johnny’s friends didn’t have to reach out. I have also learned that sometimes when you are hurting is when you are most alone. But they did. They reached out to him during Johnny’s lowest time and showed him God’s love. They responded to Johnny’s anger with the love of God. So today my friends, if you are stressed, angry, worried, and/or afraid let me say that most of us are too. All of us have felt betrayed, been angry (sometimes at God), felt alone, confused. We’ve said things we are ashamed of. (please ask that person for forgiveness) We’ve hurt people either accidentally, or on purpose. (please ask the person you have hurt for forgiveness). But every single day we all need the little baby in the manger.

God knew this. That is why one day a long, long time ago a tiny baby came into this world on Christmas morning to make you, me, and Johnny Smith, His.

He wants to call us His child.

Thank you for reading and thank you Johnny for letting me share your words with my readers. 

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories; True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Please download her e-book short story collection today. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination.  In 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2013 in A Glimpse into My Life, Wrinkles and all

 

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It’s NaNoWriMo Time…Again

It’s NaNoWriMo Time, Again

For many folk, November means time to dust off the holiday decorations, plan elaborate meals with family, and search their closet for the pants with elastic waistbands. But for authors, November means National Write a Novel in a Month, which in the beginning was called NaNo. During the month of November a lot of Twitter users will see a lot of entries about #NaNoWrimo

Yes. I am serious. Write a novel … in thirty days.

Image by Frankie Rose

Image by Frankie Rose

It is world-wide knowledge that those who assemble words are different than workers with regular working hours. Authors are cut from cloth most people wouldn’t wear on a double-dare. We write thoughts on napkins, on our hands, on our jeans. We interrupt people to send ourselves messages. We have sticky notes and notebooks filled with thoughts that –at the time they were written- were pure genus. Some of us drink, a lot. Some smoke, a lot. Some cuss, a lot. Some write at night, or at three am. We are non-conformists; 9 to 5 doesn’t work for us, although we would love for readers to buy our books so we could, at least, enjoy a nice dinner every once and a while. We tell ourselves that we write for our readers, but we authors are also known for fibbing. It is called fiction.

That is why when November rolls around NaNoWriMo writers loose their ever-lovin’ minds and commit to writing not only a novel in thirty days, but a novel that consists of 50,000 words. Or as my critique group leader optimistically wrote, “Renea, that’s only 1,667 words a day.”

Pass the Tylenol; my head already hurts.

So yesterday on NaNo eve, I thought I would do a bit of office purging. The ability to see wood grain on my desk does inspire me to at least think about writing. The rest of the day I flipped back and forty from Facebook, to email, to Twitter, reading all the NaNoWriMo chatter.

This year I thought I would give the buddy system a go. In the past I’ve had a canine assistant, but she isn’t much on encouragement other than the occasional tail thump. For participants needing human interaction, create an account on the NaNoWriMo website then pick buddies that will help you during this crazy- time. For newbies please know that the purpose of NaNoWriMo isn’t to talk about your novel, November is time to put fingers to keys. Come December first you will NOT have a finished manuscript. And, for the love of humanity, please do not think your finished product is ready for publication on December first. What you will have, should you place 50,000 words in your computer’s memory, is the satisfaction that you accomplished your goal. Publication comes later; much, much later.

Some hard-core veterans began outlining their work early. Those authors will go off the grid in November. You won’t find them wasting time on Facebook, or Tweeting anything other than their incredible word count. The procrastinator in me hates those writers. They’ve been tweeting for days about their outline all why my heart beats fast in my chest.

I can’t outline; it cramps my style. I’d much rather spend NaNo eve thinking about all Halloween candy I’m going to steal from my daughter. And November is the worst possible time to embark on 50,000 words. Why not January? In January, we’re avoiding the holiday bills and would rather do anything than exercise those holiday meals off our frame. And, in January we have thirty one days.

Oh sugar, may you bring energy, and words !

Oh sugar, may you bring energy, and words !

Trust me. Authors need every day they can get.

Still, as my critique partner cheerfully asked me to join her on this journey I remember the thought, the whisper, the idea of my first novel. As I unwrap a piece of Halloween candy I ponder that perhaps November is the best time to write. I’ve got enough candy to keep me hopped up on sugar for at least fourteen days. Now all I need is the muse and I’m good to go.

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author whose recent release, Mountain Memories, is available webversionfinalcoverinthegardenwithbillyhere. Please buy her book before she runs out of Halloween candy and falls short of her writing goal.

In 2014, Mercer University will release Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches, the second book about Farmer Billy Albertson.

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2013 in Advice for Authors

 

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May Challenge: Words and more words

image: apkmedia.com

image: apkmedia.com

During the month of May I challenged myself as an author. As I sat down with my work in progress, a voice whispered that I should churn out a few short stories.

Someone of my regular subscribers just said, “aren’t you working on a novel?”

Yes. Yes, I am.

While my first book received two prestigious nominations: Georgia Author of the Year and a SIBA nomination, all of my awards are for short stories. I cut my teeth on them. Pressed pen to paper, wept, laughed, and bled pieces of myself into those stories. So when the voice whispered I sat up and paid attention.

After all, the voice had whispered before.

For those of you who are authors and parents, let me pause a moment for some plain talk. You should expect the following EVERY time you are under deadline.

*             You or your child will be come ill (it was me, terrible allergies/cold)

*             Everyone in your home will make demands on your time (Honey, I know we’ve had the slate in the basement for 6 years, but I’ve decided to start the project now)

*             You will learn to prioritize, or you will not meet your deadline (I’m sorry, I’m available after June 1st)

*             You will want to give up (Lord, what am I doing? Why do I bother?)

To stay on task, here is what worked for me:

*             I did not obsess about subject matter.

*             I prayed for words, then waited.

*             I wrote something every day. Sometimes, it was a notation in my prayer journal, other times it was a burst of 1800 words.

*             I dusted off the Trash File; you know the one, these are the stories you’d be embarrassed to let out of the house.

*             I wrote stories in 3rd person, this was a real challenge.

*             I unplugged from Facebook. I wrote by hand, edited by hand.

*             I did not give up.

I’m not certain why I lost my mind and agreed to write 40K words in May. It wasn’t even NaNoWriMo (National Write a Novel in a Month). May is an impossible month:end of school, family reunion, Memorial Day activities, all tug at me leaving very little time, but still, I do what I’m told. The beauty of my self-imposed deadline is accountability. I am my biggest critic. No one needed to nudge me. If I want success, I must work. I must work hard. I must sacrifice.

You do know that . . . right?

I didn’t obsess about word count. I wrote. Obsessing about content will kill your creativity.

Every. Single. Time.

You can not sit down and force words. They will not come. Ever. Actually, when words failed to arrive according to my schedule I walked away from the computer and arranged pieces of slate for my husband’s front porch project. This physical labor allowed me to sweat and allowed the words to stew.

Arranging tile allowed my words to rest, and me to sweat. Both are good things.
Arranging tile allowed my words to rest, and me to sweat. Both are good things.

 

Words need to stew. Stew is very good.

The final week was a disaster. Multiple issues pulled me away from my work, leaving me emotionally exhausted (my cold didn’t help either). At one point I sat outside, weeping. Crying, I had a big ole pity party. Then the voice spoke. You have allowed this drama to come between you and your work.

Notice that the voice said: “allowed.” Yes, issues required my attention, my time, my energy, but I would only fail if I allowed the issues to wear me down.

This is why writing pen to paper works for me. When I must be away from the computer, work travels with me. Notebook pages have no internet access. No access is a good, almost as good as stewed words.

So I wiped my face and I pressed on. The end result is a pretty awesome short story collection. Now I will determine whether to shop them for a publisher, or release them myself. Regardless of my choice, with my deadline met I will let the words marinate for a couple months. Pick them back up in August and make my decision; unless the voice whispers. By now I know to listen and obey.

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 www.reneawinchester.com

 

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