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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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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.

 

 
 

Dear Mothers, I Feel Your Pain

Dear Mothers, I Feel Your Pain

Dear Ones,

I feel your pain. . .

your dread,

the heaviness in your heart as Sunday approaches.

I weep with you,

for your brokenness,

your longing, for the call that will not come.

I weep for your emptiness.

We are good mothers,

Yes. We. Are.

Though our children are gone. We are still good mothers.

We gave . . .  too much at times.

We loved . . .  too deeply at times, and society doesn’t allow us to express our pain on Mother’s Day.

Our pain is real.

Tell me, Dear One. Tell me of your brokenness.

Fall upon me.

I promise you, you will not shock me with your words. Let me catch you as you crumble.

Let us fall upon each other in a pile of pain, because somehow, someway we must heal each other.

I see you weeping, alone in the closet, in the shower, in the garden.

I see it because I cry with you.

We are broken.

We are irreparably broken.

The children we love are gone.

Some taken suddenly by death.

Some taken slowly by disease.

Some gone from us because of drugs.

Some separated from us because we couldn’t give any more, because we said, “No.

Some are silent because they are “so busy.”

We have given everything . . . everything we had.

We taught them right from wrong.

We sang Jesus Loves Me to our Littles.

We did without . . . without food, so we could afford new shoes, a new prom dress.

We drove rattletrap cars, while our children drove better.

Some of us stayed in unfulfilling or abusive relationships for the sake of our children.

Some worked horrible jobs so our children could go to college.

We are empty from this giving.

Our bones are dry from weeping and giving.

I feel your pain my Dear Ones.

We feel alone now with our own Mothers are gone.

We are orphaned.

Broken.

Silently crying as we drive to the grocery store and walk by the box of Fruit Loops we once fussed about when our children scattered them on the floor.

We long for messy floors with Fruit Loops that crunch loudly when we walk upon them.

We want to talk to our own Mother’s again . . . just once.

We doubt.

Our past decisions,

our current choices,

our role in society now that our children are gone.

We only know pain, and a longing for our children. We endure a deep searing pain that we have pushed into the deepest chamber of our heart.

We have run from this pain, afraid it would consume us, because pain will if we allow it.

We have suppressed our feelings, refusing to talk, silently whispering everything will be ok, saying this to ourselves just as we whispered it to our children years ago.

But everything isn’t ok.

Sunday will come and go without a hug, without a call, without the very thing we need, our children’s love.

Dear Ones, it is love I give to you today.

You are worthy of love.

I have wanted to comfort you all week, because my heart has been so heavy. Heavy with this brokenness, this dread. On Sunday, we will separate ourselves from social media for we dare not glance at the images of other mother’s with their children, smiling happily.

We deserve the same happiness.

We had it for a moment, a dewy bliss when we first brought our children to our breast and held them tight.

We promised them the moon.

We told them the moon was within their reach.

Some launched from the nest, pointed toward the moon and haven’t looked back. They have forgotten their mother, the same woman who urged them to be free-thinkers and independent human beings.

Our children have forgotten us.

And we as women have forgotten each other.

We have failed each other.

And so today, as we near Mother’s Day, my heart reaches out to you in love and friendship.

Happy Mother’s Day, with love.

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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. 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 May 12, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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An open letter to The Bullies

I am not afraid.bully2

I am not afraid of you.

I am not afraid of your words.

I am not afraid of your threats.

I am not cowering. Instead, I laugh at the bully card you are playing.

Hear me well.

I LAUGH at your attempts to force me to do your bidding.

You, who took something that was not yours.

You, who have pushed, and pushed, believing me to be a weak – ignorant southerner.

This southerner has drawn the line.

Your words have no power over me.

You have not considered the consequence of the threat you have made.

I stand to lose nothing.

Here me well.

You have chosen the wrong victim.

The word “Victim” is not in my vocabulary; but Jesus is.

His word reads, “I have given you authority to overcome ALL the power of the enemy. Nothing can harm you. (Luke 10:18)

Mr. Bully, read those words.

Read them again.

Nothing can harm me.

Nothing.

You have no power over me.

None.

I can walk away.

Hear me well. Listen to this little Southerner gal, because she is not stuttering.

I  WILL walk away.

Your power will disintegrate in the dust my footsteps leave behind.

bullyThen what have your threats accomplished?

Not the desired result, of that I promise.

In closing, let me end with two words you understand.

Bring it.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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

 

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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Valentine’s Day Love

Valentine’s Day Love

I’ve fielded several emails lately from people asking about “Jack,” the gentleman I wrote about who lost everything during the Gatlinburg fires. I write today to share that he has been admitted into a facility. I ask for your prayers as he receives help to recover from this devastating life event. Please do not email me asking for details; his parents reached out to me when I became distraught after being unable to contact him. He’s getting help, and at least he isn’t worrying about where to sleep at night. Praise God because we have been deeply worried about his safety.

Moving forward, I have secured the names of two new people who are still sleeping hither and yon. Like Jack, they were also sub-leasing and not eligible for the Dolly Foundation money. Like Jack, they (still) have no where to go and move their children from place to place praying someone hurries up and re-builds housing. I have added them to other people I shared in December. This week, I’m mailing Valentine’s Day Love. If you have kids, please consider having them mail cards of hope to the people on this short list. We all know the feeling of hopelessness these days, but most of us at least have a place to call our own. The best thing we can do is encourage each other.

One of the people on this list confided that “every day I think about giving up, but I must press on because my kid depends on me.”

Here are the names of those who could use a little love. I alternated colors to separate the names and addresses.

Becky Maney

466 Overlook Way

 Newport TN 37821

2 adults, 2  children lost everything; subleasing not eligible for Dolly$. Landowner received Federal money, she received nothing.

Crystal Zimmerman

9341 Number 4 Drive

Mascot TN 37806  

(single mom-college educated-employed- has an 11 year old son and is living with a friend. She has a long commute, subleased not eligible for Dolly$).

Tim Hall

Ober Gatlinburg Employee living with parents right now

4047 Camp Hollow Rd

Sevierville TN 37876

BobbyJo Jarrett

PO Box 1273

Gatlinburg TN 37738

(currently in wheelchair, lost job)

Jeromy York

176 Earl Flatt Lane

Gainesboro TN 38652

He fed 15,000 sandwiches for free. Did not loose his home but was one of the first in to help. Three weeks of volunteering and feeding people for free, his young child was in an accident after Christmas. Needs prayers.

Renea will donate the proceeds of her Christmas Story: A HardscrabbleChristmas  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 February 9, 2017 in Uncategorized