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Out of Balance Already? 

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Credit: Heatherplett.com

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?

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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

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

 

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Reader Wishes to Donate Knitting Items: Seeking Knitting Sister

Readers,

First, a message to those who have reached out to me. If I have not answered your comment with an email, please leave another. I do receive them via inbox. Thank you for your patience I’m just one little gal who works full time and is trying to help. So, if I haven’t responded, please reach out again. I have a feeling I’m missing a few return emails, my apologies.

Moving forward, a reader from Illinois has offered some of her knitting tools to Gatlinburg victim. I LOVE this idea, absolutely adore it as I enjoy my craft-time. The reader wrote, “ I admit to owning more than I need when it comes to knitting needles and yarns.”

Law now isn’t that the truth. We crafters hoard… c’mon now admit it. Y’all are among friends.

We hoard yarn, and thread, needles and stuff.

We hoard lots of stuff.knittingsisterneeded

Her email continued, “I would like to be able to help another knitter get started back on building up her toolbox and yarns.” Let me tell y’all, this is a kind offer. Because when funds are tight, there’s no extra for “luxury” purchases such as knitting supplies.

As an aside, I can’t knit a lick . . . can’t sew a stitch either, but I sure do make a pretty ornament when time permits. I just purchased 200 satin ornaments for decorating next year. They are under the bed.

Craft hoarder that I am.

If their are any ornament makers in Gatlinburg, I’ll share my loot as well.

Keeping the hands busy helps in the healing process and so I come to you, my readers, asking you to share my blog. Help me find a knitting sister for my friend.  To protect my reader from any undesirables who wish to take advantage of her generosity. I will ask for verification of old address.

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 16, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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

 

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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.

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#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.

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#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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2016 Wasn’t All Bad: A Recap of The Good Stuff

Don’t get me wrong, 2016 was tear-filled. It was another year of loss: friends, my mother-in-law, my horse. There for a while it seemed that darkness was going to overcome me. At night I’d lie in bed. My Prayer: “Lord, you feel so distant. I know it’s me, not you. I am unfulfilled. I am empty. Something’s wrong.”

That was during the summer, when the sun beat down, the wind blew constant and the rain didn’t come.

For days.

Then weeks.

No rain.

My prayers took on an urgent tone, “Lord, please . . . if it’s your will, please send rain.”

Weeks turned into months. Grass died. Pastures lost their greenery and, as my prayers for rain continued, my discontent grew.

Then I noticed the cows. Hungry, as were so many animals during the summer of 2016. Then one day I stopped. All my adventures begin when I stop the car. God has blessed me with the curse of seeing things: people, flowers at risk, hungry cows.

At the feed store, I placed one bale of hay in my tiny leased vehicle and prayed, “Lord, please don’t let The Beloved find out.”

The Lord is used to those kinds of prayers, “Lord, don’t let The Beloved find out.”

That I’ve rescued three hundred daffodils from development. That a stray cat with seven babies is living under my daughter’s bed. That I am feeding a stranger’s cows.

He loves me: both The Lord, and The Beloved.

It wasn’t long before I realized that I couldn’t afford to feed six cows every day. With farmers feeding livestock months ahead of schedule, the price of hay skyrocketed. Those with bovine experience know that feeding during a drought takes more than hay. One needs: supplements, corn, molasses, salt blocks. One needs money. So, like a woman possessed, I took to Facebook and begged complete strangers to help.

My prayer: “Lord, what are you doing? What’s the deal with me and the cows?”

The Lord was silent. He watched. I fed, and eventually petted the cows. Sometimes I’d toss out the hay and cry. Sorrowful tears because there was no rain; because there was no hope of rain; because the Lord whom I love was not answering.

My prayer: “Lord, I know you created these cows. Help me.”

The field became dust.

Strangers sent checks. I transported hay and vacuumed each weekend before the beloved visited. The cows waited for me. They called to me. For those who helped me feed the cows, I am eternally grateful. I still can’t explain how that experience touched me. Basically:  I cried. They healed me.

Then November came with still-parched land. The cows were moved to a better pasture.

Fire rained down on Gatlinburg. You will never hear me say that we were lucky. We were blessed. If you’ve read my blogs or followed me on Facebook, you know the exact moment when the fire was outside my father-in-law’s doorstep, literally inches from the house. God spared him. God spared the house. Regardless of what you believe, I know that the prayers . . . my face on the carpet, crying, praying the scripture, summonsing up my tiny mustard seed faith were heard.

Fast forward to The Distribution Center, post fire. That’s where I met “Jack.” jack

Here is what Jack wrote on FB the afternoon of the fire: This is so sad. The wind is so bad… a transformer explode across the street but God bless them they were there in two minutes and put the fire out. God please show us mercy and save our beautiful town. There’s way more good people than bad and they don’t deserve to have their livelihoods taken from them. In Jesus name I pray Amen

But the fires came to his place. He lived in a tiny cabin that didn’t even have a functioning kitchen.

The fires took everything he owned. Everything but his faith. “Jack” and I have talked about faith a lot since we met.

Again, my Facebook strangers-turned friends- sent checks. They donated to Paypal. They helped him and others I met in the distribution center. Other hard-working people who lost it all, because in a blink this type of tragedy could happen to any of us.

“Jack” isn’t quite where he wants to be just yet. But he is getting there. He still has a job when so many have already been laid off. His goal for 2017, find a second job so he can afford an apartment. He confided that he hasn’t had his own bedroom since he was sixteen. And when he finds this apartment I know that together my blog readers and Facebook family will rain  some blessings down on him.

My prayer: “Lord, Look at you blessing all of us with this young man.”

“Jack” has asked me “why?”

Not, why did God allow the fire to happen. “Jack” asked me, why are y’all are being so nice?

My response, “Because we love you.”

The fires brought us together. And for that I will be forever grateful to 2016.

Renea is donating the proceeds of her Christmas Story: A Hardscrabble untitled1Christmas  and In the Garden with Billy to the victims she meets 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 1, 2017 in A Glimpse into My Life

 

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Visiting Jack: A Christmas Surprise

He was happy to be working, even on Christmas. He told me he’d earn time and a half, which is better than his roommate who lost her job last week due to lack of tourist traffic.

Joblessness, that’s the unspoken catastrophe brought on by the #GatlinburgFires. Many have already lost their jobs due to lack of tourist dollars. I am worried about them.

The roads were busy on Christmas day. Lookie-Loos driving with their windows down, cellphone out the window making a video of the carnage. Lookie-Loos from neighboring counties who didn’t stop, didn’t get out of the vehicle, didn’t spend a single dime in the stores.

But in the store where Jack works, the line of people snaked out the door. Fundamentally, I have a problem with a business being open on Christmas, but without it, Jack’s job is in jeopardy.  January and February are slow months in Gatlinburg. I am worried about Jack’s job.

He is as well.

He didn’t know I was coming, didn’t see me standing in line like all the other customers. I spoke to the cashier, “tell Jack Renea is here to see him.”

Jack came out from behind the counter, scooped me up and carried me into the main lobby.

People stared.

My heart filled. I love this boy. He gives me hope. I don’t know what God is up to, but I know it is something good.

He quickly returned to work. I stood across the counter and chatted, asked him about a permanent place.

“Still working on that ma’am,” he said. “Need a thousand saved for a deposit. My roommate got some of the Dolly money, but lost her job the same week.”

Jack is staying with his mom some, his brother some, his friends some. On Christmas I learned that Jack hasn’t had his own bedroom since he was sixteen years old. He sleeps on the couch which I can’t imagine because the boy is tall.

“Things are going to be ok,” he says with such confidence that even I believe it.

“Think we could get a picture together?” I ask.

The door opens and a gaggle of twenty tourists fill the tiny business. Jack beams “it’s been like this all morning. I love it.”

I slide an envelope across the counter. An envelope filled with your donations. The photo can wait. Jack has work to do.

“For your deposit stash,” I say.

He leans across the counter and kisses my cheek. His eyes full of tears.

“Tell everyone . . . “he pauses. “I just don’t know what to say. Tell everyone thanks.”

untitled1 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.

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 December 27, 2016 in A Glimpse into My Life, Uncategorized

 

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