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Another Delightful Rose Glen Literary Event.

Another Delightful Rose Glen Literary Event.

A deluge of rain and widespread flooding couldn’t deter me from attending the 10th annual Rose Glen Literary Festival this past Saturday. This makes my third event: One as a presenter with my second non-fiction book, the second as a reader supporting long-time friend Bren McClain, and yesterday, I was a volunteer.

During a time when book festivals are faltering, it is the community of readers that sets Rose Glen apart. Readers who are BUYING BOOKS. There is a sprinkling of magic at Rose Glen. This type of event happens only through generous corporate and private sponsorships. One need only look at the history of communities outside of the Great Smoky Mountains to understand the importance of art. Sevierville businesses and entrepreneurs “get it,” they embrace and support the heritage of hill-folk. But Rose Glen isn’t merely a celebration of stories, it is a community of artists who support each other.

Simply put, Rose Glen shines like a diamond; it is a much-coveted jewel in the literary community.

After lunch, I spoke with members of writing groups in Knoxville who bemoaned a lack of festivals in their area. They couldn’t understand why Rose Glen receives such an outpouring of community support, while critics shoot down literary festivals for Knoxville. I believe there is a chasm between the academia of larger universities and grass-roots movers and shakers who remain determined to make things work for the sake of literacy. Academia may chase the prestige of heavy hitters, not realizing that it is the reader who sustains the author, regardless of the author’s publisher. All while Rose Glen quietly grew larger and larger and this year had a heavy hitting NYT bestselling author who, in his words, was an “overnight success” (after 38 years of rejections).

Serious authors in Appalachia understand the importance of tearing down stereotypes and promoting literacy. We may add an extra “A” when pronouncing “Fancy Girls,” in a lighthearted manner, but we indeed know what a Fancy Girl is and the solemn history of the oppressed. Despite the backwoods stereotypes we endure, and our lighthearted way of making the best of a bad situation, it is the authors of Appalachia who persevere. We are people who embrace the written word and stories. We listen. We observe. We collect. We jot down stories. We tell others. For many who attended the festival preserving stories is a calling, a part of our DNA. Sevierville’s own, Dolly Parton, taught us the importance of literacy. Saying, “If you can’t read you are almost crippled.”

Her words empower us and we shall not remain oppressed by stereotypes.arg2

At Rose Glen I had the great privilege of introducing Stephen Lyn Bales who has attended every Rose Glen since the first festival in 2009. Mr. Bales was there to present “A Look Back at 10 Years of Rose Glen.”  He has penned three books. However, Lyn didn’t stand at the podium pontificating about his works. In fact, he didn’t mention his book not a single time. Instead, he held up someone else’s book time and time again telling the audience what he liked about each work.

Mr. Bales “gets it.” He understands how to build a community.arg

He understands that the most successful author promotes the work of his colleagues. He understands that “an author only needs a bit of hope.” I stood in the back of the room awestruck at his generosity. He wowed the room. He inspired me, enough to take a moment to tell you about him. His words matter to me and the world we live in. I’m proud he is part of the literary community, even prouder to call him friend.rg

During my first trip to Rose Glenn I took my daughter with me. Using her own money, she purchased a butterfly print he had available for display. Years later, it was my great privilege to introduce him, and sing Happy Birthday to this talented author, naturalist, and friend. arg1

Find his books here.

Renea Winchester is an author and volunteer at Rose Glen. Find her on Twitter @renewinchester or Instagram @ reneawinchesterauthor


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Posted by on February 25, 2019 in Book Reviews, Uncategorized


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Perfectly Healthy Pizza

Perfectly Healthy Pizza

Don’t ya hate those recipe-sharing blogs that make you scroll through dozens of pictures when all you want are the ingredients? Today I share a recipe for Pizza which I bake in a cast iron skillet. Photos at the end of the post.


1-3/4 to 2-1/4 cups all-purpose bread flour

1 envelope Fleischmann’s® Yeast

1/2 teaspoons sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup very warm water (120° to 130°F)

3 tablespoons Olive Oil

2 teaspoons crushed rosemary

½ teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon garlic powder

Yield: (2) 10-inch pan pizzas

Combine 1 cup flour, undissolved yeast, sugar, herbs, and salt in a large bowl.  (Sugar is required to “feed” the yeast. If you’d like, replace sugar with ½ teaspoon of honey). Add warm water and oil; mix until well blended, about 1 minute. I use the dough hook while mixing. Gradually add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Finished dough will be slightly sticky.

Form in a ball and let dough rest.

While dough is resting, heat oven to 400 degrees and place cast-iron skillet in oven. Preheating the skillet works to quickly form a crust once the dough is ready. Chop veggies and other toppings for pizza.

Cut dough in half. Sprinkle dough with flour to prevent sticking. Using a roller, press the dough flat and place in skillet (careful not to burn yourself on the hot skillet). Press dough and prick dough with a fork. Drizzle with olive oil (which promotes browning). Return the dough to the skillet and bake for 2-3 minutes. Baking the dough for a few minutes prevents it from being soggy.

Remove dough from oven. Increase the temperature to 450 degrees. Add the toppings. Bake for ten minutes or until cheese has melted and bubbly.

This dough can be made ahead and stored in a plastic bag in a container overnight. To do so, drizzle a bit of olive oil in the bag, add the dough ball and wrap a rubber band around the dough to prevent it from rising inside the bag. Refrigerate and use the next day.

Important News Herbs: I add crushed rosemary, onion, and garlic powder to the dough because they provide a healthy balance to the pizza. Most of us know the medicinal value of garlic and onions, but do you know that rosemary helps improve memory, is a liver detox, and increases gallbladder function? I highly recommend adding rosemary to your pizza dough.


Dough resting. Cut in half, roll, and bake in skillet


Add toppings after baking crust for a few minutes and increasing temperature to 450 degrees



Renea Winchester is the author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Firefly Southern Fiction will release her debut novel, Outbound Train, in 2020.






Posted by on January 30, 2019 in Recipes from the garden, Uncategorized


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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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The Delicious Tomato Pie

tomatopieEven though I adore tomato sandwiches, it is the tomato pie (also called a savory pie) that truly captures my heart. Filled with fresh tomatoes, onions, pepperoni, sausage, bacon, and anything else I take a notion to toss in, this concoction truly is a one dish wonder that satisfies the most famished farmer. Years ago my dear friend, Jim Bell, shared his recipe which I tweak depending on what is in my refrigerator and in season.

The recipe follows. Feel free to adjust adding or omitting ingredients to suit your tastes.

The Ingredients:

One Prepared Pie Crust (I use one from the refrigerator section that you unroll and bake, but often I create a gluten-free one using rice in the following manner:.

2 cups cooked rice. Press into pie crust and sprinkle with cheese ½ to 1 cup of shredded cheese Bake 5 minutes so the cheese melts.

Spray edges of rice with cooking spray such as Pam

The filling:

3-4 large tomatoes sliced (I place mine on a kitchen towel to absorb extra juice)

1 medium onion, chopped

1 small bell pepper, chopped

3 tablespoons of Dukes Mayo

6 to 8 oz of your choice of shredded cheese

6 to 8 slices of cooked and crumbled bacon

Pepperoni (enough to add one layer to pie) or; cooked sausage (or any meat of your choosing)

1 teaspoon oregano

½ teaspoon chopped garlic (sprinkle through pie when adding spices)

½ teaspoon salt and pepper


Heat oven to 350 Degrees

If using breaded crust: To prevent a soggy crust, bake pie crust for 3 to 4 minutes before adding filling. You do not want the crust to be dark brown, but lightly baked.

If using rice crust it will soak up most of the extra liquid produced during the baking process.

Add to crust:

Crumbled Bacon

One layer of sliced tomatoes, a layer of onions, a layer of peppers.

Dot entire pie with Duke’s Mayo.

Add more crumbled meat

Add seasoning

Add another layer of tomatoes

Sprinkle with cheese

Bake in over for 20 to 30 minutes until pie begins to bubble. Remove. Let pie rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Thank you for reading. Please consider subscribing to my blog post.

Renea Winchester is the awarding author of Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Find more recipes like this one in Renea’s book, Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. You can order an autographed copy from her. She accepts Paypal. Email her at reneawrites(at)gmail(dot)com

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Posted by on October 23, 2018 in Uncategorized


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


If you want La’Kesha to add you to her newsletter, email her at  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.