Category Archives: A Glimpse into My Life, Wrinkles and all

My life, wrinkles and all. No photoshop, no rose colored lenses.

My Deal with God

My Deal with God

Journal Entry February 2015: Lord, I surrender to your will. If it is your will that I never write again, let me accept it and move forward, never looking back.

Those who follow me on Facebook know that I write down my prayers. I do so as a way of reminding myself when I am low (like now) that God is always at work in my life. Y’all also know that I’m honest. So today I must share that I kinda want this prayer back.

In 2015, my husband and I were planning to put the house on the market. We had an atypical Atlanta house, not a “white columns” type of abode. No pool. No HOA. No lawn boy. I knew selling the house would require divine intervention. I also knew my husband needed a change, but most of all, I knew that I had put writing in front of many things in my life.

On this particular date, I poured out my worries as we should. But now, over two years later, with the house sold I want my prayer back. I want to write again. (and no, blogging isn’t writing).

I have- for years- been working on an incredible novel set in my hometown of Bryson City, but now that I am almost finished with it, the words will not come. And if you read my previous blog about the conference I attended, I’m pretty sure that God doesn’t’ want me writing anytime soon.

So now I must ask, what DOES God want me to do?

That questions also comes with its own problems, for God really hasn’t commanded us to “do” a whole lot of hard things: Love One Another, Feed My Sheep, Give Thanks to the Lord for He is good.

Goodness gracious, those are easy things, aren’t they?

They why do we (meaning me) struggle so?

Why do I struggle with feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, fear, anger, despair?

Why did I pray that prayer with all sincerity, but now want it back because I think I know what’s best for me? Which begs another questions, do I really want God’s will in my life, or do I just want my way? Did I really surrender to His will . . . or only if His will aligns with my wants.

These are the hard questions I ponder as God deals with me.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy, and, Farming Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches by Mercer University Press. She is currently working on her novel, Outbound Train, set in her hometown of Bryson City.


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Lost Things

Lost Things

I lost something. Something I dearly needed. . . my keys. Specifically, my room keys with my car keys attached.

I was key-less and 90 miles from home.

On an ordinary day I would classify these items as misplaced, something found later after a diligent search; but on Saturday they were lost.

The instructor gave an out-door classroom assignment. Since the workshop was held on a college campus, and because I wanted to collect as many experiences as possible, I wedged my car keys (key fob inside pocket) with the metal room key sticking out.

Then I was off.

Outside with pen and notebook in hand, tasked with collecting, observing —and then analyzing said observations into a story.

My novel in progress features a train and since I want to write accurately about my character’s experiences, I lit out, walking at a rapid clip.

Walking while writing.

Writing while walking.

Thinking. Listening. Observing. Writing.

I wove through the campus, through the woods, off the designated concrete path. 20170715_110450

Off the designated concrete path, I found a tree house that no one else knew about. Later, I found the tracks. I touched the tracks, laid down on the tracks, collected nails and bolts from alongside the tracks.

Then I returned, carrying said bolts and nails back to class, (mercy, they are heavy). I placed them on the table with a need to wash the rust from my hands. I reached into my pocket.

No keys.

The keys were lost.

Not missing. . . lost.

Creative minds will understand me when I say that I literally felt every drop of creativity leave my body. It slipped down my arms, cascaded from my fingertips.

Dashing to the restroom, I washed my dirty hands then whispered to the coordinator, “I lost my room key. No, not the swipe card.” I double checked my name badge where the exterior door swipe card safely remained tucked inside.  “Just the door keys.”

She called facilities and ordered a spare key.

Returning to the classroom, I wrote my observations, penned them into a story I would not share with the class. Creativity tends to take Confidence with it when it leaves. From that moment forward I focused on lost keys, especially after a pop-up storm dropped an inch of rain.

Sunday morning came, bringing with it the realization the keys were gone. I arose early, lit out again retracing my steps through the grass and gravel for the umpteenth time. With my aging car, I’d need a new key fob which would required an (expensive) call to a dealer.

Whatever, I thought, feeling lower than a whale’s belly. What-ever.

Then I began to pray.

Lord, I’m not going to pray for my keys because I know they’re gone.

I’m not going to ask you to return them, because I’ve already done my due diligence, retracing my steps, walking, looking, laying sideways in the gravel looking for something shiny. The keys are gone and I know that. So I’m moving on.

The catering van drove by, almost breakfast time. The driver smiled. I waived and continued praying, aloud.

Lord, thank you for everyone I’ve met here this weekend.

Thank you for the talented women at my table. I praise you that the agent is interested in Erika’s work and that Whitney might consider finding a place for her short story. Bless them both Lord. Bless our presenters, Jim, Bryn, Gary, Megan for their vulnerability and displays of raw emotion. Bless Christopher. Thank you for his honesty and that all the instructors were approachable and kind.

My walk, and prayers continued: Lord, bless Meg, Kate and Betsy who have labored in the sweltering heat to bring us a fantastic conference. May they be restored after the conference.

I made the loop, from beginning to end, praying out loud, walking, talking, and looking down at the grass, and the gravel, should the soggy keys magically appear.

They did not. I returned to the common area to the breakfast buffet. I placed items on the plate and settled in for another round of workshops.

Taking a seat, I began eating when Meg raised her hand and said, Renea, are these your keys?

From Meg’s beautiful hand dangled my room and car keys.

Of course they are my keys, I responded. I was just praying. I took the keys. “I’m curious, how did you get them?

“Someone found them lying in the concrete walkway,” she replied.


Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy, and, Farming Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches by Mercer University Press. She is currently working on her novel, Outbound Train,  set in her hometown of Bryson City


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One Person

One Person

There’s this person . . . this one person who irritates the dickens out of you.

You know that God commands you to love them.

You want to love them as commanded.

Really, you do.

You want to love the devil clean out of them.

You pray, “Lord, help me love this person even though I do not like this person.”

You pray, “Lord, put a watch over my mouth.”

You pray, “Lord, please . . . please, keep this person from provoking me to anger.”

You pray, “Lord, when provoked, let me take the high road.”

You pray, and pray all while watching the person approach . . . all while knowing you might again fail the test.

Still you pray, “Lord help me.”

I’m not the only person who has someone in their life like this . . . right?

You feel that this one person was the very reason the Bible says, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

This person has your number, at least the principalities and darkens has your number. Yes sir, they do.

We can see the goodness in this person, this one person God placed in our path to test us; but we also see a bad attitude, a short temper, a harsh tone and genuine dislike for things (sometimes for every-thing). This person pushes our buttons.

Still we pray, “Lord help me show this person your love.”

Then we fail.

We react.

We see their hateful attitude and match it with one of our own.

We lose our Jesus just long enough for the darkness to win.

And we feel lower than a snail’s belly (or maybe it’s just me).

And we pray, “Lord, what just happened?”

“Lord, what is wrong with me?”

“Lord, why can’t I be more like you?”

And we find comfort in the scripture that was written especially for us which reads, “His mercy is knew every morning.”

Renea will donate the proceeds of her Christmas Story: A Hardscrabble
 and In the Garden with Billy to the victims she met at The Distribution Center in Gatlinburg Tennessee. Download it here.

Renea Winchester is a traditionally-published author of three books. She is a Jesus lover, a gardener, and a giver of hugs. She may be reached at P.O. Box 404, Webster NC 28788




Turning my back on the world

Turning my back on the world

I have recently taken two steps back from Social Media. I distance myself not because of politics, or offense. I haven’t wavered from my philosophy of love. I distance myself because God is nudging me, whispering in my ear. I took one step back, and then another, for a bit of solitude and spiritual healing.

Funny how I long for solitude these days. Each day, I speak to a hundred people, or more. This constant flow of energy leaves me spent. My social media distance is paired with zero television. If you’ve read my first book, In the Garden with Billy, you know that I punted cable television a long time ago. Frankly, I haven’t the time to sit in front of the television. There are only so many hours in our short time on this earth. I have people to love, lives to help, and goats to feed. Still, the world pulls at me. Last week, I was reminded of something my friend says, the world is trying to take away my Jesus; meaning the more time spent in the world, the more time it demands. The more time spent in the world, the more I act like the world, and the less I act like Him.

This, my friends, is a command from long ago. . . come out from among the world and be set apart.

For me, the media silence serves a higher purpose, to keep my mind in the present, and my eyes on Him. I have found that if I take my eyes off Him for a single day then one day quickly becomes two days and so on. After doing things “my way” I find myself lost calling, “Lord, where are you!”

The Lord is always where I left Him. It is I who must return.

Earlier this year, a friend posted her resolution which went something like this. She was going To Be.

Those two simple words carry an enormous challenge. Dear Ones, it is very difficult To Be.

I’ve thought about those words, and the challenge they carry. Then I added a single word behind them. I want . . .

To Be Still

To Be Fervent

To Be Authentic

To Be His

I understand now that the world has a goal. The world wants to keep me (and you) busy, beat down, frustrated, angry, exasperated, depleted. The word accomplishes this, daily.

The world is like a pitching machine, hurling one fastball after the other. Just when we make contact and smile as the ball sails over the fence, the world fires a curve-ball, knocking us into the dirt leaving us exhausted, dazed and disoriented. Here lately, the world has convinced us this type of life is normal. Today, I disagree. Today, I turn a blind eye on the ways of the world and turn a watchful and trusting eye toward Him.

Today, I give myself permission to be set apart from the world.

Today, I give myself permission to be happy.

Today, I give myself permission to be authentic.

Today, I give myself permission to be His.

Today, I step away from the pitching machine. I drop my bat in the dirt. I look at the world and say, No more.

The Good Lord has reminded me that I don’t need a political cause. I don’t need to scream like a banshee to help those in need. Show me where Jesus screamed. Show me where he unfriended people. Show me where Jesus was nasty. My Jesus― the one the world is trying to take from us all―loved the least of these. Our Jesus hung out with those whom the world shunned. The Light of This World, physically healed them. He raised the dead. He performed miracles. He LOVED.

As Southern grandmas are wont to say, we accomplish more with honey (meaning love), than with vinegar (meaning anger).

Anger exhausts. Love empowers.

Today, I give you permission to be. Go on now, unplug from the world and go. . . Go be love.

Southern grandmas know that this world will devour every ounce of energy you offer; yet, energy deposited into the Lord and His children (meaning everyone) is never wasted. Spiritual renewal benefits me, and everyone around me.

Today, I will pray. I will listen. I will act, and I will continue to show others His love.

I will try—very much so― To Be.

To Be Renewed.

To Be Love.

To Be His hands and Feet.

For me, the only way I can do this is to turn a blind eye and walk away from the ways of the world and purpose to love the people Jesus places in my path.

Renea will donate the proceeds of her Christmas Story: A Hardscrabbleuntitled1Christmas  and In the Garden with Billy to the victims she met at The Distribution Center in Gatlinburg Tennessee. Download it here.

Renea Winchester is a traditionally-published author of three books. She is a Jesus lover, a gardener, and a giver of hugs. She may be reached at P.O. Box 404, Webster NC 28788




Chocolate Covered Cherries and the High Cost of Gatlinburg Living: Stories from The Distribution Center

Chocolate Covered Cherries and the High Cost of Gatlinburg Living: Stories from The Distribution Center

I knew he would eventually come to the Distribution Center. I’d already had a little talk with The Good Lord because here lately The Good Lord has put a lot of people in my path who need help; fortunately he’s put y’all in my path as well, because I  need your help.

Monty (name changed) wore a coat. He said he had a few clothes too. I eyeballed him skeptically, figured that if I dug down to the truth of the matter he probably needed  pack of socks and underwear; but I’m a woman and he’s seventy-years-old. Shopping for unmentionables is tad embarrassing (which is why they magically appeared in the buggy later while he wasn’t watching).

“Just need a few things . . . not much,” he said as we head down aisle one, personal hygiene.

As with other shoppers I explain the drill. I open a large green bag and say, “This is yours. You want something, it’s yours.”

“You look on this side, “ I point to the left. “I’ll get you a toothbrush and some toothpaste.” I say this knowing that Depends are opposite the toothpaste, as are feminine hygiene products. Everyone deserves privacy, and to be treated with dignity and respect.

Rounding aisle two we find the priceless handheld can opener and cleaning supplies. “I’m staying with a friend,” he said, “don’t really need cleaning supplies, but I could use some toilet paper.”

Raisins and nuts sit alongside paper products. Having spent the last few months shopping for my dad, I have a pretty good idea that non-cooking seventy-year-old-men like (and need) healthy snacks.

“Raisins?” I ask.

Monty nods.

Digging through the shelf I present him with a two-pound bag of walnuts.

“Look what I found. . . bet I can talk you into these.”

Monty smiles, “I do like a walnut.”


Widow’s Knob Apartments after the fire

“Where were you living when the fire hit?” I ask the question for confirmation. I’d seen Monty throughout the years. Seen him as I walked the sidewalk from Mynatt Park toward Gatlinburg. Seen him through the pinched-back sheet that doubled as a curtain. I’m pretty sure he had seen me as well.

He lived in Widow’s Knob Apartments, a place many tourists never saw; a place most locals deemed an eyesore. In fact, most locals reading this may have secretly wished the City would condemn the place. I don’t know the history, but the building has been there a long time. So long that pieces of the fascia were gone and the paint faded. I’m sure the place was home to all types of critters, but Monty lived there and that’s all that mattered.

Monty lived there and now he doesn’t.

When natural disasters happen the need for housing is immediate and urgent. In Gatlinburg, the need for affordable housing (for workers and the common folk) has been urgent for a while. We just ignore the housing problem because (and here’s where the hate mail will start coming in), property owners can make a pile more money renting to tourists at $150-350 a night than they can renting to workers at $ 1,400 a month.

I’ve been told $1,400 a month is the going rental rate these days. Our buddy “Jack” paid $800 a month for a tiny cabin with no kitchen!

See why young people, and workers earning minimum wage, have no choice but to sublease?

Since my first blog post about “Jack,” (whose real name I will NOT release, please stop asking), people have been blowing up my phone telling me about the rental crisis in Gatlinburg. When the only available housing costs $ 1,400 a month, the leaseholder (who first needs a good credit rating in order to secure a lease), must sublease a room in order to keep a roof overhead.

Oh and for that $ 1,400 a month said leaseholder might get a two bedroom apartment.

Does Monty have $ 1400 a month by which to afford housing?

Do you?

Fortunately Monty is staying with a friend, but right now, hundreds of workers are homeless. These are single folk, college kids, entire families with young children and pets. This homeless status may become permanent if local officials don’t act quickly. I have heard about a few business owners who plan to build low income housing on their now-singed and vacant lots. (Yeah!!! Good News). The City needs to expedite permits for those landowners; especially since the tourist season is winding down. Affordable housing should be built first, in advance of replacement rental cabins. (I know, more hate mail is on the way).

I have also heard about property owners opening rental cabins to people. Thank you. We need MORE people doing that. And yes, we will remember who turns away folk with the statement “we don’t rent to locals.”

I understand that business owners don’t want small kids cramped into a room for the long-haul, but what about a week? Any hotel with an empty room should be thrilled to fill it right now.

And to those who tell me that the Red Cross shelter IS open in Gatlinburg at the City Community Center, could someone relay that information to the person(s) answering the phone at the Community Center? And could someone also relay that information to the local Red Cross staff who directed me to Pigeon Forge and gave me the number 865-429-7373. I realize we are in the middle of a disaster, but staff need to relay factual information when someone calls! Who can work on making sure callers receive correct information?

Back to Monty . . . this little precious homeless man with a bag full of dried fruit and nuts. He shuffled alongside me and found a jar of honey roasted nuts which he carefully removed from the shelf and said, “I shore do like me some honey roasted p-nuts. Think I could have these too or do I need to put the walnuts back?”

Bless him.

I opened the bag and said, “Throw ‘em in here. Now, what about coffee? Looks like they have coffee today. I’d get some if I were you, before it’s all gone.”

He settled uqueenannecandypon the instant kind, and then plucked a couple packets of instant creamer to go with it.

Monty smiles. “Lawz-a-mercy, I didn’t expect to see those here,” he said as I exchanged his full bag for an empty one. “My people sure know how to help, don’t they?”

“Need peanut butter? Jelly? Crackers?”

Three nods. Three smiles.

“What about chocolate covered cherries?”

“Ooh yes, everyone loves a chocolate covered cherry.”

I feel good, hopeful for Monty’s future. He should qualify for help, please Father let him qualify for help because Lord knows how much he’ll pay in rent.

We progress to the cereal where Monty wants to discuss the nutritional benefit of oatmeal versus Cheerios™.

“Why not get both,” I suggest.

“By golly, I think I will,” Monty says as if having two types of breakfast foods in the pantry is an uncommon luxury.

Monty looks across the aisle, “There’s my buddy,” he says and steps away from our cart to greet his friend.

“Cowboy!” You’re here too, Monty exclaims.

Cowboy turns, his face is lined with worry.

“Lookie here, I got me a redhead,” he said while pulling me toward him in a tight hug. “And I got me a box of Chocolate Covered Cherries. Things is looking up!”


If you are offering housing IN GATLINBURG, send me a comment. Please know that displaced folk who do not have transportation need housing, in Gatlinburg.

Thank you to whoever has donated packs of underwear and cases of chocolate covered cherries and every other lovely item imaginable. Remember NO MORE INKIND DONATIONS ARE BEING ACCEPTED AT THIS TIME. We need volunteers to unload previously donated items. We need you, now. The BEST way to help is take a vacation to Sevierville, TN and come to the distribution center. Hundreds of people are needed. If you can afford it, come with a some money in your pocket to give to someone God places in your path.

Why this matters to me? Read here.

Who was first to help feed the displaced? Jeromy York. Read here and support him.

Additionally: President Obama Declares Sevier-County Disaster Area. 

untitled1Like this story? Renea is donating the proceeds of her Christmas Story: A Hardscrabble Christmas  and In the Garden with Billy to the victims she meets at The Distribution Center. Download it here.  And please follow my blog by typing your email into the “Follow” link.follow

Note: I can NOT add a Paypal Code to this free blog site. I will contact you via email with instructions on how to donate if you desire. Please be patient as this little blog post is getting quite a bit of attention.

Renea Winchester is a traditionally-published author of three books. She is a Jesus lover, a gardener, and a giver of hugs..


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My wish for you . . . Peace

Dear Readers,

We enter this Holiday Season living in a world full of turmoil. Many are stressed, worried, and at wit’s end. Some may long to run away, far, far away where no one could ever find them. To a place where cellphone coverage can’t reach, a place where first-world-troubles melt away.

Do you ever feel like running away?

I know I do.

And I have.

I have a special place that I visit from time to time, my people’s place. A place that once sustained vibrant communities, where laughter danced among the tree limbs as children played in the forest. A place where folk felt safe and loved.20151004_100320

This was before the terror, before the anger, before the fear . . . before everything.

Come with me, walk with me on a rainy day to a special place.

Leave your burdens.

Today, I invite you to read my latest release: Walking in the Rain: A Short Story about a Secret Place which is available exclusively through Amazon. No Kindle is required to read the story; and, you can email Walking in the Rain as a Holiday gift. For those who are too busy to mail cards, all you need is the email address of friends and family, and you can purchase my story as a gift for $2.99.

If you’re ready for a little old-fashioned Christmas story, read Farmer Billy Albertson’s Hardscrabble Christmas, an e-story about Christmas back when he was a boy.

As always, I send you my best wishes for peace and happiness. Today, and always.

Renea Winchester


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Seed Giveaway Reality

During the months of January and February, while snow and ice blanketed many gardens, spring fever crept into my bones. I approached Botanical Interests and asked them to donate seeds which I would in turn (at my expense) mail as part of a Free Seed Giveaway.

I did this for three reasons:

I believe in Botanical Interests, their mission, their product, their family business, and supporting fine folk.

I wanted to share free seeds with you, my readers, hoping to drive away a bit of the wintertime blues.

I also wanted to share my passion about growing food, while partnering the giveaway with telling people about my latest release: Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. 

Each Friday, I drew a name and contacted the winner. The giveaway came with one catch: that the winner post a picture, or send me an email with a photo so Botanical Interests knows that I am, in fact, giving the seeds away and not hoarding them up in my own house like a mother hen with a clutch of eggs.

This is the second year I’ve given away seeds, so I wasn’t exactly naive when I began the seed giveaway which requires a tremendous investment of time.

In writing blog posts.

In taking, then editing, uploading, inserting photos.

Then sending all of this to social media, twitter, etc.

Or perhaps I was, naive.

As expected, many people commented. They wanted the seeds. I was so happy. I know how I feel when catalogs come in the mail, and then later seeds. My heart leaps! This year I decided to shake up the contest. Some days the giveaway was via Facebook only. Other days, a random name was drawn from those who commented on this blog. While the giveaway was originally slated for Friday, I began awarding more seeds as clouds dipped and the weather turned even gloomier.

We were all depressed with the weather.

The Seed Giveaway became a twice, sometimes thrice, weekly event. All with the same condition . . . that the winner post an image of the seeds, or at minimum acknowledge their winnings by email. (which the blog instructed, and I reminded them to do with a note inserted into the envelope prior to mailing). All winners were contacted via email so they had my email and I had theirs. . . meaning they could communicate with me.

By now you know where I am going. One person. Yes, one person posted a photo of their winning. Another person sent a thank you.

The rest: crickets. Even the school that begged for seeds because they wanted to start a community garden. Nothing.

Two winners actually sent me a LIST of what they wanted to receive. And while I did my best to accommodate their request, neither had the courtesy to send a thank you.

I actually took the time to email them confirming that they did in fact receive their winnings and reminded them to email me images.


An it isn’t because those particular winners weren’t savvy. If you’re posting pics to Facebook, you can email one, or post one to my page.

I hope they sent Botanical Interests a thank you but I sincerely doubt it. So let me say this in all sincerity. Shame. Shame on you. You received ten to fifteen dollars worth of product and didn’t have the common decency to acknowledge the gift!

What is wrong with people?

I would like to understand why someone’s day is so full, so busy, that they can’t say Thank You. Remember now, these are the same people who have plenty of time to leave a comment, yet they are too busy to post a picture. This is what I need to know, moving forward before I determine whether to offer free seeds again next year (which would be my third year of giving away seeds).

Was it too much to ask that winners actually acknowledge their winnings? Personally, I don’t think so. Because here is the reality of giveaways. If the winner does not acknowledge receipt, if the winner doesn’t say thank you, then the contests will disappear faster than a spring snow. Companies will not continue to give away items without results. Companies partner with bloggers like me to benefit everyone. You. Me. Them. We all win, unless you refuse to acknowledge your winnings; and when that happens, we all loose.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches; Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Order signed copies or, email her through her website at She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here. Amazon readers: Please remember that I receive no compensation from used books purchased on Amazon. Please follow the links highlighted and underlined on this page to order, or contact a local Bookseller for copies.