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

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

Bird In Hand

The sound was unmistakable, a “plunk” against the glass as the bird flew headlong into the kitchen window. Rushing out the door, I hurriedly grabbed a hand towel and slipped my feet into the muck boots by the door.anuthatch

A nuthatch laid stunned on the ground, its tiny wings splayed out in the grass. Its beak open, gasping for breath.

Carefully, I gathered it in the towel and held it close. Casting aside every superstition about having a bird in the house (we southerners believe it is a sign of death), I brought the injured little one inside and sat on the sofa, while speaking to it like a newborn infant.

A bird is a delicate thing. With tiny feet, light-as-air-feathers, and thin beaks, looking as this winged-creature filled me with amazement. I told the little love “God knows you have fallen. Let’s just rest here for a minute and let Him take care of you.”

The nuthatch closed its tiny eyes and panted harder.

“God sees you my little bird. If his eye is on the sparrow, it is also on the nuthatch.”

Suddenly it occurred to me that I have been living my life much like this little bird. I’m flying (hard as I can), as fast as I can, every day that I can. I have a full-time job, an aging dad, a marriage, two goats, a novel coming out in 15 months, another novel in progress, and in the middle of that, I garden like there’s no tomorrow.  (I see you shaking your head. You’re with me too, I can tell). There is so much I want to do, so much I want to learn, so much I want to tell y’all and suddenly, “plunk.” I hit a glass wall.

That’s the thing about glass walls, they’re invisible and oh-so-deadly.

Lately, I’ve been having my share of pain. Neck pain the result of an accident in Atlanta after someone passed a city bus and sideswiped me. Stress triggers this pain, but if one were to ask, “Are you stressed?” I would be hard pressed to list a single thing keeping me up at night. And so I continue to fly headlong all day, every day.

But God knows I have fallen. He knows all of us have fallen. And as I sat holding the tiny black and white nuthatch, I saw – clearly – the parallel. God is also holding me. He’s holding me as I hold the bird He created. He knows the number of hairs on my head and the number of feathers of every tiny bird. God himself is saying, “Rena, let’s just rest here for a minute. Let me take care of you. Rest. Breathe.”

Ten minutes passed then suddenly the bird bristled awake and chirped. Before I could take it outside it flew to the ceiling. Nuthatches aren’t perching birds. I think of them as “hanging” birds, because they have a big toe (called a hallux toe) that allows them to hang beneath limbs, and walk down trees head first using this hallux toe to hold it in place. This “walking” gives them an advantage as they pluck insects from tree bark.

Glancing toward the ceiling, I looked at the bird’s tiny feet. Clearly, one foot was injured and curled-closed. It literally held on with a single toe reminding me yet again that even when we are hanging on by a thin thread, God has us.

Renea Winchester is the author of In the Garden with Billy, Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches, and A Hardscrabble Christmas.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

 

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Dear Horse Lovers . . .

Dear Horse Lovers . . .

Dear Horse Lovers

Stop feeding other people’s horses.

You do not have permission to pass a single slice of apple through the fence.

Not a carrot, or a sugar cube.

You do not know the dietary requirements, or RESTRICTIONS, the horse is under.

You do not know anything about the animal other than its beauty.

Your apple

Your carrot

Your slice of bread, or cracker, or whatever the hades you slide through the fence can make the horse very ill; it can ruin their hooves; it can cause bones to push through their hooves, is can kill the horse (only after much suffering)

You, yes YOU, are responsible for making the horse ill.

You are responsible for crippling the animal.

You are responsible for its excruciating pain.

Your IGNORANCE comes with consequence to something beautiful and magestic.

Your ignorance inflicts long-lasting pain and months of healing.

Yes, ONE apple can do it.

Stop.

Just stop thinking it is your responsibility to give a horse a “treat.”

Do not give my goats, sheep, cattle, camels, or basically any animal that is not yours, a treat. Animals that are not yours are OFF- limits. Goats don’t eat “everything you feed them.” Many animals can die from dehydration within hours of eating something that disagrees with them.

Yesterday someone fed our horse something that made him very ill. Dad found him “down” a term that strikes fear in the hearts of VETERAN horse owners.

If you think it’s hard to carry a 50 pound dog to the vet. Imagine the difficulty of getting a 1200 pound animal back on his feet.

Now imagine rubbing this horse’s belly while he kicks and lays his head on your Dad’s shoulder because he is in horrible pain.

Imagine forcing fluids down him with a hose.

But you don’t imagine it, because you saw something beautiful and you wanted to feed it.

Because you’re a good person and you love horses.

Because you think it is your privilege to feed my animal.

You can’t imagine the consequences of your actions because you saw a kind and gentle animal and you just had to give it a treat. He let you pet him and then you rode home feeling great about yourself.

Food equals love, right.

Wrong.

We purchased Prince from an owner who had far too many horses on the pasture. They were down to eating creeping Charlie because there was no grass.

We brought Prince home and put him on the pasture.

For an hour every day he could eat grass. Because we knew if he ate too much too fast he would be sick.

Then we increased the pasture time, slowly, very slowly.

Because we KNEW you can colic, founder, and cripple an animal when you take them from nothing, to belly-high-grass.

One year later, Prince is perfect. He is slick and glorious.

Until yesterday, when he was in agony. Thanks to the ignorance of a family with children.

Parents who taught their children it’s ok to feed someone else’s animal.

If you’ve ever allowed your children to feed someone’s animal, here are the results of your actions.

This morning Prince is better, but if you care anything about horses, please do your part to prevent the senseless agony inflicted upon them when ignorant horse lovers feel it is their duty to give your animal a treat.

Please share so that no other horse suffers.20180519_184722[1].jpg

 

The Boy

He sits alone, always alone, with his head down.

Drawing.

If the other students weren’t so loud you could hear pencil lead scratching the paper.

Lined paper.

Not blank paper, or a sketchbook. Regular, loose leaf notebook paper.

He hides away and bides his time between classes- two hours from what I can gather- sketching away, recreating characters using the Japanese style anime (a hand-drawn style partnered with computer animation).

He’s invisible. To most everyone, but me.

TheBoy.jpg

Upperclassmen surround him, swiping their parent’s credit cards into the machine and waiting for their soft drink to dispense. Their backpacks brush against him. Still, he is invisible. He shifts the paper away and works on something else.

Images of them.

I believe youth like The Boy test us. They see us, every day. They know our names. They look at us while we look through them. They dare us to speak, administering a test that many fail. Every. Single. Day. We fail because society groups us into categories based on skin color, education, social status, eye color, age. And those categories have little room for the recruitment of anyone outside the approved social standing. Those categories offer even less hope for a boy who doesn’t play football in a football town, or a girl who doesn’t cheer for the football team.

The boy is skinny with a cleft chin that will complete his chiseled look five years from now. Five years from now girls will fight over him, but he wouldn’t believe that if I told him, so I kept those thoughts to myself, along with the hope that ten years from now he will be confident, and not feel alone.

I approach boldly, “anime?” I ask.

He nods, his hand moving furiously transferring whatever is built up inside onto the page.

“That’s very good,” I said. “Are you taking art classes?”

“Can’t,” he said with more vertical scratches across the page. “I’m only fifteen. Can’t take college level when you’re fifteen.”

“Who made that stupid rule?” I asked. “Anyone can take one look at your work and see how good you are. You should take college-level classes.”

He quickly hid the smile. Not once meeting my eyes.

After telling him my name I said, “Look. You don’t know me, but I recognize talent when I see it. I’m not an artist like you. But I would give anything to be able to draw like you do, or paint, or play music. Words are my art, but your work . .  .well, I just want you to know that your work is awesome, and if someone isn’t encouraging you, I want you to know that no one encourages me either, but you must keep drawing.”

The words spilled from my lips and I’m sure he thought, I wish this woman would shut up so I can focus on my work. But I’d had a bad week, the kind of week where everything punched me in the gut and despite my positive thoughts, prayer, and power walks I still felt punched square in the muffin-top. Usually when I feel lower than a whale’s belly God places someone in my path.

Someone just like The Boy.

“So if you feel like no one encourages you, if you feel hopeless I just want to say, you’re not alone. I feel the same way, but I keep pressing on.”

The boy tucked his cleft chin. More pencil scrapes, then he reached into a stack of paper and fished out a drawing. I was a dark rendering of the character Eren Jaeger, known as Titan to those thirty years younger than me.

It was the kind of rendering that would cause students to panic, Titan holding a gun. But they didn’t know The Boy. How could they? They don’t see him! They don’t know about anime, or how it transforms an ordinary Eren Jaeger into someone who faces his fears and becomes someone with superpower. Older students had spent an entire semester ignoring him, talking through him and around him day after day with their backpacks bumping against him. As a group they happily ignored him while The Boy sat silent, three buildings away from students his own age.

Picking up the rendering of Titan I said, “Flawless. Absolutely Flawless.”

The Boy, who had spoken a total of eleven words, smiled.

Returning to my desk and the rest of the workday, I quickly forgot about The Boy, until he appeared at my door and presented me with an image he’d drawn for me. In the image Titan was jumping, hand extended punching through a large wall. At the corner of the page, the inscription: “To my inspirer. I will remember this day.”

I pressed the drawing to my heart and wept.

I shall remember, always.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches.

 

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White Girl

If you asked me to assign a shade to the color of my skin I’d say – with emphasis – “chalk.” In a room of white women, I will be the whitest. And on Friday, April 20, 2018, I’m sure my chalky self caused a few eyebrows to raise. But God doesn’t see my color, or theirs, or yours for that matter. God sees the heart.

When I first read La’Kesha Calhoun’s on-line newsletter in 2000 I knew God had anointed this woman.white

She’d “gone through” more than a few things in her life, the kind of things that break the heart of a woman, but also plants the seed of compassion so deep in a woman’s soul the devil himself can’t uproot it, though he tries.

One particular newsletter stayed with me for years. She encouraged her readers “don’t give up on your children. God is about to show up in the situation.” And friends, I printed that newsletter and have it (still) tucked in my Bible because every now and then I need reminding that “the devil has plans for your children, but God . . . “

God has other plans.

This paper is dappled with tearstains. It’s crumpled. It’s what I held onto when my son was going through a rough patch and it’s what I cling to now with the other adult-child.

So when I learned Miss La’Kesha would be at the Titus 2 retreat in Pigeon Forge I messaged Lady Chiquita Turner and all but BEGGED the woman to let me come.

Now before I try to describe the indescribable things that happened to me, y’all need to know my church history. I’ve spent the last seventeen years in a church I adore. I adore it because we welcome everyone. I sit beside Miss Mary because when the spirit fills her she can’t contain it, nor did she try to contain it.

Miss Mary don’t put on a show, she puts on JESUS !

When Lady Turner said I could come I told everyone I knew, “I’m going to Pigeon Forge to get my Jesus.”

Because Jesus loves white girls with chalky legs and God himself knew way back in 2000 that I’d meet La’Kesha on April 20, 2018. I like to think of Him smiling up in heaven with the saints saying, “y’all gather around and watch this. I’ve just plunked Renea into a big ole room of strangers. It’s about to get real!”

La’Kesha and I both wiped away tears as we hugged at our first meeting. Settling into her conference (and I can’t tell you everything that happened because it is HER story to tell), I began to realize how much I’d been holding inside: pain, regret, anger, fear. I’d pushed that down, deep down to the basement level of my heart.

But God . . .

That sly Father-God had other plans. He wanted everyone in attendance to release all of that junk. Release it and be free. Whew, I wish y’all had been with me. I’m telling you right now we have no idea how much junk we’re carrying. During one part of the workshop we were asked to write down the things we were going to release and those who finished writing earlier than others, were instructed to walk around the room and “pray for our sisters.”

Now God had already blessed me just by allowing me to get into the conference, but He was about to bring me to my knees. If you don’t know Jesus this sounds crazy, so bear with me for the rest of this post.

Shontell approached and said, “God has given me a word and I need to pray it over you.”

Let me pause right there because someone just said, here we go.

Someone just closed their mind because they don’t believe that God can use other people.

Someone just stopped reading because they don’t believe that God can speak through Shontell, or me, or you for that matter.

Someone just missed the blessing God designed specifically for them.

But, if God can’t speak to me through a stranger, who in the world is He going to use? C’mon now, open your heart. How is it that you accept everything else the world spoon feeds you, but right now you’re building a wall around your heart?

We beg God for a sign; we pray to hear from Him. But we . . . .

We put God in a box and duct tape the entire box shut ! We expect God to show up when we want. We expect God to deliver us in the way we want. We get tired of waiting and give up!

But these ladies do not put God in a box. Not Shontell, not Lady Turner, not La’Kesha, not Big Mama, not even the young ladies in attendance. My friends, God was out in the open determined to bless every single woman in that room. As a matter of fact, I think people up on the 5th floor got blessed too, but I digress.

And why was God blessing people? Because these ladies came expecting to meet God where they were!

For those who have given up on church, or walked away from God (or both), let me explain that I actively ask God Are my actions in-line with your will? Today, many people have walked away because they aren’t being “entertained,” or they don’t like the view of the church, or the politics of the church, or the music, or the robes, or the preacher, or the message. Hear me clear, if you’ve walked away from God you have fallen victim to satan’s plan! He wanted you away from believers and you played right into his hands.

Now back to Shontell. . .

Remember, I don’t know any of these women. I am not Facebook friends with them, I’m not messaging them. I didn’t get introduced to them prior to the conference, or before La’Kesha started the workshop. None of these women have read my books. They live in another state, but Shontell came to me and said, “God has given me a word and I need to pray it over you.”

Then she pulled me to her. She pressed her heart flat against mine. She placed her hands on my shoulders and she said, “That pain you’ve had in your shoulders. God’s gonna take that pain . . . today.”

Shontell had no way of knowing that every morning pain woke me at three am and I began icing my shoulders. The place she touched, that’s where the pain originated. Then I’d put the heating pad on it, then the ice repeating this process until 6 am where I’d run a bath, drop a couple handfuls of Epson salt in the water and soak until the muscles relaxed enough so I could turn my head.

Shontell didn’t know. . . BUT GOD KNEW!

Shontell only knew to be OBEDIENT to what God had laid on her heart.

I’m tearing up right now. Praise you Jesus for showing up. Praise God for Shontell’s obedience, for actively seeking God’s will in her life.

Then Shontell ran her hands down my back and said, “your back that’s been all out of alignment. God’s going to heal that. God says it’s healed. God knows you’ve been tired. You’ve been so tired you don’t think you can go on; you don’t think you’ll make it through the day. You think you can’t do it anymore. But do you want to know what God says? God says you’re going to run. Renea, you’re going to RUN and not even be tired.”

Hang on readers, I’m crying again.

Had I been a close-minded Christian I would have straightened my spine, I would be exactly what The Bible calls “a stiff-necked people.” I would have backed away . . . slowly and headed for the door.

Instead, I fell into Shontell. I said, “I receive this healing!” I said, “Thank You Jesus! Praise You! Thank you for this precious child of yours who is acting in obedience.”

I clung to this stranger. I pressed myself into her, because God was using her! I received God’s goodness because I have PRAYED FOR IT. So if I prayed for healing. If I prayed for Jesus to meet me at this conference, how dare I try to manipulate the way God delivered Him to me?

Are you with me? Do you understand what I’m saying?

This is where we miss our blessing. This is why our prayers remain unanswered. Because we want God to appear (today if possible), and we want God to deliver (us exactly in the way we want, please). We hurl God in a box then we close our minds. We are afraid to let the spirit work. We don’t want to be the only white girl in a room full of strangers. We want to be safe in our small group, in our Sunday school class, in our prayer closets.

But The Bible says in Mark 8:23 Jesus took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of town. Jesus took the man out of his comfort zone, away from friends, away from family. Jesus took him out of town to heal him! The scripture does not say, Jesus carried the man, or Jesus, drug the man out of town. The blind man was willing to be healed !

Where is Jesus trying to take you today in order to be healed? My friends, let the spirit lead you out of your comfort zone to a place of healing.

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If you want La’Kesha to add you to her newsletter, email her at  lakesha@awordindueseason.org.  I highly recommend her 

book, Breakfast with the Lord which you can order directly through her via the same email address.Renea Winchester is the author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She writes a weekly garden article, Notes from Butterfly Cove, available at The Sylva Herald.

 

 

 

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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
Christmas 
 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

 

 

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