Category Archives: A Glimpse into My Life

Finding Tomato Treasures at JW Mitchell Farms

Readers of my blog know that I am a strong supporter of local farmers, which is why I introduce you to JW Mitchell Farms located at 405 Bradley Creek Road in Franklin NC. For my Atlanta friends, this farm is three minutes off the beaten path. Trust me when I tell you the trip is worth three minutes of your time, because currently Mr. Mitchell (whom you will personally meet upon your arrival) is have a big ole tomato sale.

Yes my friends, “tow-maders? are on sale at JW Mitchell Farms.

Now for those who love salsa let me share a little secret. You can get an entire BOX of tomatoes for eight dollars! Toss in a few onions and bell peppers (also available at the farm) and you’ll have enough veggies to can an entire run of homemade salsa.

How much is in a “run?”20170725_201135

As my granny would say, Depends on how much you eat-up during the making. As for me, this recipe usually makes 7 pints. However, if you purchase an $ 8.00 box of tomatoes at JW Mitchells you’ll be able to can – at least 14 pints for $ 8.00.


10 Cups cored, chopped and peeled tomatoes.

TIP: Place tomatoes in hot water for 45 seconds to loosen skin and make tomatoes easy to peel.

4 Large Bell Peppers (discard seeds)

6 to 8 medium—sized onions

1 ½ cup Apple Cider Vinegar

3 Cloves garlic finely chopped

2 Tablespoon chopped cilantro

1 Tablespoon salt (more if necessary. . . to taste)

1 tsp hot pepper sauce (optional).

Ball Jars (I use pint jars)

Note: You will need to water bath jars to seal. Instructions follow.


Place chopped onions and garlic in a pot. Add vinegar. Bring to a boil.

Add chopped green peppers and cook them for one minute. *Vinegar is added to incorporate acidity. Because peppers are a low-acid vegetable, the additional acidity is required for safe processing. This will not affect salsa flavor.

Add tomatoes, cilantro and hot pepper sauce.

Bring Mixture to a boil.

Packing and Processing Jars

In separate pot, heat water that will be used for a water bath.

Taste the salsa first to make sure you don’t need extra salt. If so add in small quantities.

Ladle salsa into jars. Add lids and rings.

Place jars into hot water and cover with ¼ inch of water. Process them at a boil for 15 minutes.

Remove from heat.

Refrigerate any jars that don’t seal and enjoy.


Renea is an award-winning author, blogger, and Georgia Writers Group Board Member and the author of three books. She has belonged to a phenomenal critique group for over a decade and both of her books, Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches and In the Garden with Billy received a SIBA nomination. She is a passionate friend of SIBA and local independent booksellers throughout the South. Renea is vested in the writing community of North Carolina and Georgia and has judged multiple writing competitions. Every client she has accepted has enjoyed the pleasure of publication either traditionally, or via self-publication. Contact her here.





What Did Jesus Do ? (to deserve your denial)

This week a person dearest to me publicly denied Jesus. To say that I’m heartbroken is an understatement, but this post isn’t about me.

After two hours in the closet crying, the only words I could pray were: Lord, help.

These two words were not uttered in a flippant manner; these two words – Lord, help –were the utterance of a broken hearted woman. I’m broken because I know that without Jesus my life would be in shambles.

Without Jesus my life isn’t worth living. denyingjesus

I know that without the Grace and Mercy of Jesus, my mother would have died months after her initial cancer diagnoses, as would her sister-Della- who was given 6 weeks to live, but triumphed for eleven.

I know Jesus works in the lives of those who trust Him. He answers the prayers I pray for you. He answers the prayers you pray for me. He stopped the fire in Gatlinburg that lapped against the door of my father-in-law’s house. Jesus knows our name and He wants the best for us, always.

Jesus answers our prayers even when the answer isn’t exactly what we wished (or demanded).

There were moments in the crying closet where my face touched the carpet fibers, my lungs gasped for breath, and my heart hurt so badly I thought I’d vomit. In my despair, I reached out to Neisha, one of the strongest prayer warriors I know, whose wisdom provided comfort, but still pain stole my breath. Three days later, I weep while typing this because the word of God is clear . . . whoever shall deny me before men, I will deny him before my father which is in heaven. Matthew 10: 33-35.

Jesus, with all of his grace and mercy, will deny those who deny Him.

We don’t teach that particular truth these days, that Jesus will deny every person who denies Him.  We have led people to believe that denying Jesus is a trivial matter.

Still in the crying closet, the question came to me, Why?

Why do people hate Jesus so much?

What did Jesus ever do to generate such hate?

Why do we trust complete strangers with our lives, yet deny Jesus and his love for us?

When did Jesus ever do something so bad to you that you decided to deny His existence?

Remember if you can, the moment you denied Jesus. Was it because Jesus did something to you . . . or were you hurt and offended by an imperfect human who represented Jesus so badly that you swore you didn’t want to be like Him, nor did you want to follow his teachings or be one of “those” Christians. So you were done . . . finished.

Because if you hate Jesus based on what an imperfect human did to you, then I need to tell you a secret.

This world is full of people who will lie to you and hurt you; Jesus isn’t one of them. The Jesus I know, loves me.

The Jesus I know, loves you.

The Jesus I know has a broken heart when you deny his existence.

The Jesus I know is lonely for you.

The Jesus I know stands at the door of your heart and knocks.

Jesus is waiting for you to allow Him to love you. You are in charge. Jesus won’t barge into your life unexpected or uninvited. He only lives inside the heart of someone who wants Him there.

Jesus won’t break your heart, I promise.

You can open the door of your heart. You can trust Jesus . . . I promise.



Tough Questions for Emerging Authors

Authors usually fall into two categories: those who love editing, and those who prefer root canals. For me, editing is one of the most creative aspects of the writing process. Editing allows the author a moment of separation where they place their work in the hands of a professional; someone who – ideally – does not work for them, but instead, works for the characters and the love of a well-written story.

Your job, as the author, is to trust your editor. Your job is to deliver the manuscript and walk away. Your job during this separation time is to develop a marketing plan. While your editor works, build a platform and a PR machine.

Here are two harsh truths: if you do not edit your book, it will contain embarrassing errors. If you do not edit your book, do NOT release your book.

Releasing a book without adequate editing is a recipe for financial and professional disaster. As my grandpa said, “All you’ve got is your good name.”

Last week a colleague asked, “How do you know when to postpone a book release?”

My response: “You knew the answer in your heart before you asked.”

We live in a time where big name self-publishing companies charge for edits as part of a “shopping cart service.” An author must ask these questions, will I form a relationship with my editor, or am I just a number? Is my shopping cart editor investing time in my manuscript, or merely reading words on a page?

I have relationships with my clients because I believe in their work. I do not accept every submission; to do so devalues your work, and mine. Unlike major self-publishing giants like Create Space, I care about the success of your book.  Create Space charges $ 210 for an edit of 10,000 words which is roughly 45 double-spaced pages, or $4.78 cents a page. Does anyone think the staff at Create Space reads, edits, and then re-reads any manuscript?  No. Mega self-publishing companies such as the now-defunct Tate Publishing require(d) their editors to review a certain number of pages every day. No re-read. Just a quick read and on to the next client.

By comparison, I charge $ 2.00 a page, I invest time in your manuscript. I know your name.

Self-publishing companies don’t give a Tinker’s Toenail if you sell a single copy. They make their profit, from you,  upfront. If you sell a thousand copies . . . well, they call that gravy.

Yet every single day authors intent on self-publishing fight an inner voice urging them to hire an editor. They know they should invest in their manuscript which is why they ask relatives to read their work (who all pronounce it the next bestseller, or simply smile, nod politely and say it’s good). As I have stated in numerous workshops, there is a difference between a reader and an editor.

Ultimately, most self-published authors possess a strong independent spirit which benefits them when selling their book. This same spirit harms an author who releases an unpolished book. Independent spirits feel they must do things “their way.” Sadly, I have watched many authors deeply regret this attitude. They didn’t listen to my advice and when they email me with their regrets it is too late.

Many self-published authors overlook an important part of the publication puzzle. Answer these questions: Does my reputation matter? Is seeing my name in print more important than accurate, error-free content? Will I regret rushing this title?

Dear One, the book you release has nothing to do with you . . .  nothing. You write for the story, and for the person who reads your story. If you are writing for personal gratification mosey down to Kinkos and print ten copies. Keep one and give the rest to family. Trust me, today’s readers are weary of error-laden books!

Your readers deserve the best book possible, anything less dilutes the beauty of writing and damages your name, especially if you plan on releasing other titles. Here’s another question you must answer: Have I done everything possible to polish and perfect my manuscript, or have I taken the easy path and overlooked mistakes so I can hold my self-published book?

Only you know the answer.

About Renea:headshot

Renea is an award-winning author, blogger, and Georgia Writers Group Board Member. She has belonged to a phenomenal critique group for over a decade. She is a passionate friend of SIBA and local independent booksellers throughout the South. Renea is vested in the writing community of North Carolina and Georgia and has judged multiple writing competitions. Every client she has accepted has enjoyed the pleasure of publication either traditionally, or via self-publication. Contact her here.

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Posted by on February 22, 2017 in A Glimpse into My Life, Book Reviews, Uncategorized


Out of Balance Already? 



It took me exactly 19 days to get out of balance in 2017.

Nineteen stinking days.

Seeking balance wasn’t a “resolution;” for me, it’s a necessity. I need balance. If you’re a horoscope-following person I’m a Libra, balance is important. If you’re not a horoscope-following person, balance is important.

I knew I was out in trouble when each day I awoke to a punched-in-the-gut feeling. Truth be told I felt helpless. Disconnected. Out of touch with just about everyone. I don’t know about you, but I like to deceive myself into believing that I am in control of my life. I like to believe that if I work hard (and I do), and follow the rules (check “yes”), then I will live out the rest of my days harmoniously with the world.

I know . . . that’s kray-kray talk isn’t it?

Perhaps the saddest part about last week wasn’t being out of balance, but the methods I use to shift my Libra-scales back in balance didn’t work.

I prayed.

I read my favorite scriptures.

I cried out to God, “Lord, I’m out of balance, help!”

Nothing. Even the crickets were silent. The sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach pressed harder.

By Thursday I was ready to walk away from the constant noise, my cellphone, and social media, (Remember, I don’t have cable-Thank God).

But, I kept praying.

I dusted off old scripture.

I re-read my prayer journal. (which truly helps)

But still felt disconnected and out of balance.

“Lord, where are you?” I cried and then it occurred to me that perhaps the Lord has cried out the same phrase. “Renea, where are you? Hello? I can’t hear you. Renea, can you hear me calling?”

God gets lonely for us, doesn’t he? He created us so we could have a relationship with Him and there I go fluttering around being all human wearing a “watch me” robe instead of the attitude of, “come with me, Lord.”

The answer, when it came, hurt. “You don’t trust me.”

“But . . . I began, while knowing that God was right. Let’s rip off the Band-Aid and expose it all. I didn’t trust God. I had been too busy, too tired, too distracted, to “whatever” to offer anything other than a quick prayer which went something like, “God, you know . . . I’m worried about this.”

If I truly trusted God about this very serious situation I would have turned it over to him and left the situation at the cross. Except I couldn’t. I prayed, left it in God’s hands for thirty-two seconds and then snatched the prayer right back and tucked it into my mind where I could roll it around in that little brain of mine until I smoothed away the jagged edges. Only the jagged edges wouldn’t smooth.

As is my nature, the only way I can connect with God, the only way I can Have a Little Talk With Jesus, is when I unplug. I’ve gotta leave it all behind: the cell phone and the noise. I hit the woods with just me and the Lord. He rarely speaks to me in the woods, but I feel he is there. That part in the Bible where it mentions, He Restoreth My Soul. . . well, that’s the only way I can sit here writing this post. God restores my soul. (Praise you Lord!)

Will I make it twenty days before falling out of balance again? Only God knows; but I know for certain that every time I seek Him I find Him. Some days the seeking is a bit of a challenge, but if I’m willing to keep pressing I find Him and he restores my soul.

Renea is donating 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



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Posted by on January 24, 2017 in A Glimpse into My Life


Women’s March Did Little to Benefit Women

Women’s March Did Little to Benefit Women

Many of my friends participated in the Women’s March in DC this weekend. I am so proud of them, so stinking proud of their passion and willingness to voice their concerns. I hear you ladies loud and clear. Readers of my blog know that I’m pro empowerment; however, I am even more pro ACTION.

Dear Ones, talk without action means that nothing changes. So, post-march, here is my opinion.  The Women’s march did little to benefit the average woman. While the women who marched certainly feel empowered, but did they help someone today? Will they help a woman tomorrow, and the next day, and the next? Will they volunteer to babysit while a young mother takes night classes? Will they run to the grocery store and the pharmacy for an elderly woman? Will they load a WalMart Gift card with a hundred dollars and hand it to the woman with three screaming kids standing in line behind them, or will they judge the woman?


Photo credit: Washington Blade

If we are truly “with HER & Her & Her & Her,” then Dear Ones we’ve got work to do.

Was the Women’s March about changing the lives of average women, or was the march about pitching a hissy fit in the shadow of the White House?

Typically, a flight from Atlanta to DC costs around $ 269.00. Add the price of a hotel room, food and other expenses and even a cheap trip to DC cost, I would estimate, around $ 700.00.

Now imagine if everyone who attended the rally this weekend gave that amount to a woman in need.

By way of example, let’s look at the lives my readers have changed.

Since November, readers of this blog have poured their volunteer time, and precious money, into the residents of Gatlinburg Tennessee who were displaced by the fire.  These readers gave to women who lost their jobs, families who lost their homes, women who now live in camper trailers, and others who are so desperately poor they showed up at The Distribution Center claiming to be displaced just so they could get a free can of Baked Beans. Want to help a woman? Look no further than Gatlinburg TN.

My readers change women’s lives.

Another example: Author Echo Garrett has invested years of her life pouring love and money into foster children who at age eighteen are – literally – released from foster care onto the streets with nowhere to stay. She raises money. She mentors youth. She changes lives.

Laurie Paisley collects pocket change during the Christmas Season as part of Operation Christmas Jar. There are now Christmas Jars in all 50 states. Laurie Paisley helps women.

Famed Cracker Queen, Lauretta Hannon, purposes to form relationships with waitresses at The Waffle House. Want to meet her for coffee to discuss your manuscript? She’ll meet you at The Waffle House. The staff of Starbucks has health insurance, but most likely your Waffle House waitress doesn’t. If you don’t like JFG Coffee you should probably order tea. If Lipton Tea doesn’t satisfy, bring your own teabag. Lauretta is meeting you at the Waffle House because Maureen and dozens like her needs the money. Tip well. Make a difference, Lauretta Hannon does.

And while I’m on this soapbox that will fill my inbox with hate mail, if you frequent a restaurant and don’t know the name of your waitress, now might be the time to do a little soul searching.

Last week I treated my daughter to lunch. We asked Kira, our friend who happens to also be our waitress, how her semester was going. She took last semester off because she’s caught in this credit-hour-academia-hell. Three more labs and she’s finished, but she doesn’t have the money to pay for 12 credit hours on her own.

“I refuse to take out a loan for my classes,” Miss Kira says and in that moment everyone in our admired and wanted to suppoert her. She’s one smart gal. By golly she knew the odds were stacked against her if she graduated with a mountain of debt. “I’ll just work all the hours I can and save my money.”

That Kira’s smart. She’s 12 hours away from being a Forensic Biologist. But it’s hard to live and save enough money for 12 credit hours (a little over $7,000). So there she was, sliding a salad across the table. My daughter, Jamie, who has worked her fanny off to meet her sales goal at Jewel Scent, opened her purse and poured every dime she had onto the table.

My daughter took her commission for a month and helped a woman.

Eleven Marchers. If  eleven women had donated $ 700 to Kira she could finish her degree. Want to feel empowered, help a young woman, help a middle aged woman, help an elderly woman. Did you march and now you’re ticked because you don’t like what I have to say? Make a difference. Send some money to Kira. Want her address? I’ll get it for you. Send money to the people of #Gatlinburg, I have a list of addresses. Purpose to find someone to help. Another round of tornadoes just hit the south, that’s a great place to start, because a whole lot of women have been marching- boots on the ground- for years. We say, HELP!

By comparison, a friend of mine in Tennessee was fed up, mad as hail and demanded her voice be heard. She booked a flight from Knoxville to DC. She marched. She lost her voice. She feels better. My daughter felt lower than a whale’s belly because she couldn’t afford to go. My daughter wanted to help women, but then I explained that she does help women. Jamie financially has helped more women that this friend who gave Delta Airlines, Starbucks, Public Transportation, and the Hilton a whole bunch of money. Did all of that money trickle directly into the hands of women? Umm, no. But Corporate America sure made a chunk-a-change.

Who wants to join the difference makers?

My Readers.

Echo Garrett.

Lauretta Hannon.

My Daughter.

All of these women, and so many more, who make a difference without marching should feel peacock proud. They should be just strutting just as much because they make a difference all the time! I am not trying to belittle those who marched, but I am challenging every one who marched to invest- dollar per dollar- the same amount they spent while in DC into their local community.

You see, what the marchers felt on January 21, 2017, well . . . doers, helpers, givers and difference makers feel that same elation every time we help another human being. When you support women in your community you invoke change. When you help small  business women such as those I’ve mentioned, you indirectly help other women. Today I ask, are you willing to financially help another woman? Are you willing to be there for her physically if you haven’t the funds?

Real change for women begins when we first meet their basic need, when we ACT, when we ask, how can I help? and then do everything in our power to rally around a woman in need. Until then, the Women’s March is nothing but a bunch of noise.

Renea is donating the proceeds of her Christmas Story: A Hardscrabble untitled1Christmas  and In the Garden with Billy to the victims she met at The Distribution Center. 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


Posted by on January 22, 2017 in A Glimpse into My Life


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Wordless Wednesday #Gatlinburg 12/26/2016. Taken as I walked to downtown











Renea is donating the proceeds of her Christmas Story: A Hardscrabbleuntitled1Christmas  and In the Garden with Billy to the victims she met at The Distribution Center. 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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Posted by on January 4, 2017 in A Glimpse into My Life, Uncategorized


The Displaced of #Gatlinburg Give Thanks

The Displaced of #Gatlinburg Give Thanks

First a note to the newcomers: If it’s your first time to this blog, let me catch those up who might believe that “Dolly has taken care of everyone,” and therefore everything is rosy for Gatlinburg folk; please let me assure you we have a long way to go. I personally applied for benefits on behalf of a number of people displaced (because when you are displaced your computer is also turned into ashes). While Dolly’s efforts have been very generous, the program was not designed to help anyone who sub-leased. Meaning, if your name was on a lease you receive a thousand dollars a month, but if I lived with you in the basement and sub-leased from you. . . if I even paid half the rent, I’d receive zero from Dolly’s Foundation. We’d both be homeless, only you would have cash in your pocket, I wouldn’t. Does that help clarify how people fall in the cracks? Hopefully, this explanation will eliminate confusion. Complicating the matter: because a large number of apartments (which I call “worker housing) were destroyed in the fire, compounded with the high cost of living in a tourist town, there were a number of people who were in a sub-lease situations. Additionally, re-building of apartments hasn’t yet begun. Long-term housing is still a problem.

Now for an update:

If you have followed my blog the past month you know that before Christmas, I launched a “Christmas Card” campaign for those displaced by the #ChimneyTops2 Fire in #Gatlinburg. I refuse to call these folk “victims.” These people are displaced. Homeless. Jobless. Scared folk. They are hard-working folk.  Americans, scratching, clawing, hoping to make it through another day.

They are just like us, only everything they own is now a pile of ashes.


#Gatlinburg Taken Christmas Day Photo Credit: Renea Winchester

I never really know what will happen after The Good Lord places ideas such as the Christmas Card mailing on my heart. I just pray and hope for the best. Several of my friends, blog readers, and Facebook acquaintances were eager to send cards. Once provided with contact information, they went to work and I trusted The Good Lord to do the rest. By way of example, several people who worked at one particular restaurant lost everything. No job. No home. They needed a little cheer.

They needed hugs too, but the best I can do is a little encouragement via the postal service.

But you. Yes you. If you sent a card, a message, a little money tucked inside, you were the blessing.

Today I’d like to share that your cards were received. Your cards have heaped a whole lot of blessing on folk . . .  people who are hurting. People who had given up.

People who needed hugs.

Trust me when I say, hugs can arrive in a tiny envelope.

I’ve received text messages and emails, all saying how touched and humbled they are that YOU would reach out; that YOU would take time to write.

Some had given up. One woman had surgery and lost her home while in the hospital. Your card let her know there are good people in the world.

And here’s the deal, most of y’all did this anonymously. No return address. Just a little bit of money. A little bit of love. A little bit of hope. Y’all are sneaky like that and I love a sneaky love-giver. Yes sir. I sure do. God bless the love-giving sneaks. God bless the love-givers who couldn’t send money. God bless-the love-givers who included a return address. Many people told me they have sent thank you cards.

The recipients cried. I’m crying now typing this. I just can’t process all of this love. I don’t what to do when God answers prayers like this, when God uses me . . . the LEAST of these. I am so humbled that anyone reads my words and then helps someone else. All I can say is every bit of honor and glory goes to The Father. He created this compassionate heart of mine. He knows how much I cry over this type of loss. And he sent you, to me.

Let’s give Him some praise!

During my mother’s agonizing cancer battle, she clung to the promise of “beauty from ashes.” I never really understood her dedication to these versus. I share portions here:

Isaiah 61:1-3King James Version (KJV)

61 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings . . . To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.


#GatlinburgAshes 12/25/2016 Credit: Renea Winchester

I don’t know about you, but these versus are too deep for my delicate heart. Joy in mourning? Beauty from ashes? How is this possible Lord? I’ve been thinking about beauty from ashes. I have stood in the ashes of Gatlinburg. I have looked at them carefully. Touched them. Ashes disintegrate you know. Ashes are flakes of powder. The wind carries them, scatters them beyond our reach.

Using plain mountain talk, I must say, “You can’t make nothing from ashes.”

Even when I spread ashes on my garden the wind takes charge and deposits them wherever it wants.

But when you added compassion, when you (dear reader) placed a stamp on a sealed envelope you helped the Spirit of The Good Lord turn the Gatlinburg ashes into a thing of beauty. You are how God creates beauty from ashes.

Whew. Let me cry some more. If you have ever felt insignificant, let me say you are not. You. Yes you, are a blessing to someone and here is the cool part, you blessed someone you didn’t even know! You have created something beautiful from the most horrible experience.

You are love in action and I am honored to know you.

For those who perhaps didn’t have the opportunity to send cards but would like to do at your convenience please leave a comment and I will provide you with addresses.

Renea is donating the proceeds of her Christmas Story: A Hardscrabble untitled1Christmas  and In the Garden with Billy to the victims she met at The Distribution Center. 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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Posted by on January 4, 2017 in A Glimpse into My Life


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