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

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

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.


It’s about Community

Regular readers of my blog, and books, know that despite living near a giant, mega, monster metropolis I am passionate about sustaining a small-town feel; which is why I agreed to an event held at Cheeses & Mary on Valentine’s Day. Nothing says love like a meet and greet with your neighbor.

Cheeses & Mary is situated on a sweet spot where Milton meets Crabapple, Crabapple joins Roswell, and where history runs deep. This area wasn’t always 3-side brick homes and mega-retail. This particular patch of Georgia clay was once farmed, sharecropped, cotton picked, and cultivated into a vibrant community. Back then folk lived just fine and dandy without retail, but without community they starved.

The event began, as one might expect, with loads of luscious nibbles. Mary recreated “Escape Pods” using the recipe found on page 97 of my book, Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches.


Escape Pods


Luscious nibbles











Mary solicited donations from fellow small business, Vino 100, who provided the wine. Then we waited.


Libations via Vino100



Melissa, Hello Lovely owner; Wayne; Mary, owner of Cheeses & Mary

Event planning is risky, but then again so is owning a small business. Cheeses & Mary is partnered with another local business, Hello Lovely. They share the same retail space. On Valentine’s Day, guests opened the door and felt like they were walking into their own surprise party. A couple of times we actually said, “Surprise! We’ve been waiting for you.”

That doesn’t happen in Big-box Corporate America.

Hello Lovely is, in a word, lovely. I can’t exactly describe this store without overusing the word “lovely.” So I think the best way to describe the store is to say that when you leave, you feel beautiful. Comparatively, entering Cheeses & Mary is like stepping into the home of your best friend. Mary is the Queen of Cheese. Local cheese, jams, and butter so delicious it will “make you want to smack your grandma” (Farmer Billy’s words).

I don’t exactly feel loved or lovely when I leave Kroger, but I digress.



Also attending the gathering, Abbe Laboda who worked the room snapping the beautiful images I’m sharing here. Abbe Laboda and her husband Steve of Capstone Building Group serve as cornerstones for a community that has become very transient due to corporations relocating employees. Steve builds exquisite homes, and Abbe is the type of gal who runs to the grocery store for a gallon milk and ends up baking a meal for a sick member of the community.Being around this woman makes my heart leap with joy. Truly. God smiled when he put us together. My papaw had a label for folk like her: “Good people.”

These days, not many people have earned that title.


Darling Kendall. I want to put her in my pocket and take her with me to every event!

Perhaps the biggest surprise was when Kendall and her mom popped in. Miss Kendall played a crucial role in my book launch. I needed a volunteer to tweet, snap pictures, and post real-time Facebook posts. Kendall jumped in and invested about 6 hours on a day hot enough to make Lucifer sweat. And you know what, Miss Kendall didn’t know me from Adam’s house cat.

Nope. She just wanted to help. Who does that? Kendall, that’s who. Kendall and people who understand why community matters.

Sometimes I reflect on that day and tears prick my eyes. Every time I looked up Kendall was snapping a photo. I am in her debt for many, many years to come.

As the day progressed visitors dropped by including Wayne Boston, whose finger is on the pulse of small businesses in the area. As I introduced him to owners Mary and Melissa, Billy Albertson entered. If you’re new to my blog, Billy is the subject of my latest book, Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches, (traditionally published and available everywhere including Indie Bookstores). This was our reason for gathering, a celebration of heritage food, and hard-working folk.

“You know these are my old stomping grounds.” Billy said to the guests while gesturing with his hands. “Right up the road was Crabapple College.”

I was pleased that Billy’s daughter, Janet, had the opportunity to witness the love heaped upon her Daddy. For years she and her sister had said, “I wish someone would write a book about Daddy.”

They had no idea that I would end up writing two !

Wayne was listening to Billy speak about education. “Yeah, I grew up with reading, writing, and writh-ma-tick, but when I got up here they called it math! Oh, I had a dickens of a time with math.”

Wayne chuckled as others eased over to listen. Billy and Wayne continued speaking, when I overheard someone say, “No way!” Then another said, “Wow.”

Wayne Boston, who had dropped in on Valentine’s Day to support his community, met Janet Albertson, who chauffeured her Daddy to join us for a little nibble of cheese. Guess what? Wayne and Janet worked together many years ago! After Janet graduated from UGA she secured a job at The Southern Company. She worked there for ten years, married, and relocated. The event at Cheeses & Mary reconnected them.

This happens all the time, which is why I encourage folk to reach out and touch the hand of their neighbors. You are connected. Somehow, you are. We aren’t separated by six degrees. Abbe tells me that in Milton, folk are separated by three degrees, but when I attend these events the separation feels more like one.

We are a circle. Connected. Bound together. This is why we must support each other. We must build each other up.cheeses2

Facebook friend, Diane also dropped in. I adore meeting Facebook friends in person and Diane is a darling. She’s one of those folk who drop things off at Billy’s whenever he needs something. She gives out of the kindness of her heart. She gets it . . . that community matters. So does Debbie, a member our our just-formed Milton Writers Critique Group who also popped in for support.


“You really are wearing two pair,” Mary said.

Mary approached Billy, who commented that it was “so cold outside I’ve got on two layers of over-hauls.”

“Would you like a glass of wine?” She asked.

“You know, I think I just might,”he answered.

Janet and I looked at each other. Janet said, “oh, no, he’s hitting the bottle!”

Laughter. Lots of laughter. This is what you miss when you can’t make it to one of my events. You miss stories. Hugs. Laughter. Love. But those who couldn’t make it were supporting me in other ways. My phone chimed, and wouldn’t you know, several folk with schedule conflicts had ordered copies of my book through my website.

Billy leaned in close to Mary and whispered, “You know I make a bit of wine myself.” As Mary poured he continued, “Yeah, the doctor told me that a bit of wine every now and again would do me good.”

I’m sure the fine folk at Vino 100 agree.


Community. Cheese. Happy Cow in the background. #bestdayever

A little bit of food and fellowship does the body good too my friends. In a blink the event was over. Time for one last pose, one final squeeze, one last moment to love each other and remember that we were made to connect to others.

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.

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.



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One Daughter’s Devotion

One Daughter’s Devotion

It takes a right smart bit of wood to keep Farmer Billy warm all winter long. I noticed that Billy’s supply had dipped dangerously low, and with another cold front coming I worried he might run out. Since I’ve been banned from the fireplace after a dreadful critter incident, I have plenty of wood at my house, which was why I loaded my truck and headed to Hardscrabble Road.

Pulling into the drive I noticed a man walking across the driveway. There is always someone there but this time I thought, that looks like Kelle’s dad.

Low and behold it was.

I adore her dad. He reminds me of my own: weathered skin, calloused hands, blue collar, and the ability to fix anything. I see goodness in him. Something I can’t really explain, but there’s something about him that makes me wanna squeeze him.

So I did.

When he wrapped his arms around me, Poppa Jones couldn’t have known how badly I needed a hug, or that I had spent the previous day weeping, my heart breaking with grief that was so heavy I could barely breathe. It was the three month anniversary of Mom’s death. One minute you’re working, the next you’re wailing and wondering what in the world is the matter . . . then you look at the calendar and you know.

Those who have experienced loss understand.

Those who haven’t, will. One day you will.

This is why hugs are important, why people matter. Everyone. Every. Single. One of us is going through something. More hugs my friends. More hugs.

But I digress, back to Billy’s.

Billy wrapped his hands around a wheelbarrow just as another visitor pulled in. She approached and said, “I asked the lady on Facebook if I could stop by and she said yes.”

Peeking around Billy, I said, “Here I am. Welcome.”

More hugs.

More smiles and love to bind my heart.

The lady (I’ll call her Daughter) guided her mother behind the house and to the gate that keeps the goats where they belong. Her mother has dementia, she explained.

I nodded. While I didn’t understand the journey she was on, the transition from Daughter to caregiver is difficult.

Billy nodded too. He understands more about “that awful sickness” than most.

Visitors are common at Billy’s. Kids. Grandkids. Scout Troops. Preschoolers, even infants visit Billy’s place, but I have never witnessed an outing like this.

The rooster, Johnny Cash, stood on tiptoes and crowed loud. He annoyed me. He isn’t usually vocal but baby making season is just around the corner and he’s got to show the girls who is boss. I grabbed a bucket and pinched mustard green tops so that our guests could feed the chickens and goats.

“Mom and I have an outing every Wednesday,” Daughter said while placing her hand inside the bucket and retrieving a clump of greens. “Here Momma, want to feed the chickens?”

A nod.

A smile.

You had to be there. I promise, at that moment the sun literally shone brighter. I stepped back and watched. The love between them pricked my fragile heart. Both smiled, eyes sparkling. I even took a picture for them. I’m big on pictures. When it is all said and done, a photograph can be your most prized possession. Your memory may fail, but the image remains. Remember that when someone wants to take your picture.

There was something in the beauty of a Mother’s wrinkled delicate hand reaching for her daughter that I cannot forget. When Mother reached for Daughter, I fought tears, willed them to return deep into the well from which they began.

I can’t recall a single time when my own mother reached for me. Not as a child, teenager, or an adult. Surely she held my hand, perhaps to walk me safely across the street. My mother battled cancer for over a decade and even though she may have been so brave that she didn’t need a hand to hold, I did.

When I replay the image of these two hands, of the tender caresses, the light touch on a mother’s shoulder, a caress on her back, I pray that God will please – when the sorrow of this world has passed- please, let my mother reach for me the way I witnessed today.

Standing in the goat pasture, with Johnny Cash crowing beside me, I wanted that kind of mother, one of gentle caresses and bright shiny smiles. I also want to be the mother who reaches for her daughter, always reaches, never stops.

I needed that kind of mother, have craved that kind of mother my entire life.

That is the mother I mourn when I grieve.

“This is a lot better than our trips to TJ Maxx isn’t it Mom?” Daughter said.

“Mmm. Yes.”

Placing another bucket of greens between them I said, “I think you should do this every Wednesday for as long as you want.”

More smiles.

Even a nod.

Wouldn’t weekly trips to Billy’s be lovely? That is the magic one finds at Farmer Billy’s place, where you enter as a stranger and leave as family. This, my friends, is why I encourage you to reach out to your own Billy Albertson. They are everywhere. My purpose was to deliver firewood so that Billy would be warm during the cold snap. Instead, it was I who received the comfort.

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.




Posted by on February 12, 2015 in A Glimpse into My Life, Wrinkles and all


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