Facing Hard Topics Head-On With Renee Leonard Kennedy

TCAS 35 | Hard Topics


Facing head-on those avoided, shunned, and hard topics, Renee Leonard Kennedy grasps the nuances in profound and compassionate, right-hearted ways, with a warmth that reaches to the core of your soul. 

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Facing Hard Topics Head-On With Renee Leonard Kennedy

Good beautiful day, you beautiful souls. This is Charla Anderson, host of The Charla Anderson Show, Collector & Connector of Fascinating People (and EVERYONE is Fascinating, especially YOU!) I’m so grateful to have you here with us. We’re on Win Win Women Network along with Podetize. These are folks that I love to associate with.

In this episode, my guest is Renee Leonard Kennedy and we’re going to introduce her in a second but before that, we’re going to do my little breathing exercise. We’re going to take a little 22-second mini vacation and learn to get centered. There’s so much going on out in our world and so much tech. Maybe we can take 22 seconds every so often and relax and get centered. We’re going to breathe in calm for 7 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and breathe out gratitude for 11 seconds. I truly hope that you’ll join me with this. Here we go, breathe in our calm. Hold. Release. Thank you. Only say one prayer. Thank you is enough. Breathing gratitude. Thank you for joining us.

We’re going to have one of the best conversations. I met Renee at a podcasting conference. We ended up sitting at the same table and became joined at that. We have so much fun. She wrote a book that everyone needs to read. I got it for my sister’s gathering of the girls. Everyone needs to read this book. It’s called After the Flowers Die. We’ll talk a lot more about that. I wanted to tell you a little bit about where we connected and why I’ve got her on here.

She was so gracious to come on as a last-minute substitution because I’m pretty much-booked way to the end of 2023. I’m excited about that and had the opportunity to get her in. I’m so grateful. Renee, instead of me reading all the stuff about you, I’m going to ask you to tell us who you are in this world and then a little bit about what you do. This is a fun conversation. I feel like I’m connecting with my new best friend. Welcome, Renee. Thank you for joining me.

Thank you so much, Charla. I fondly call you Teal because you’re always wearing teal. Whenever I think of you, I say, “That was Teal.” I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. I have a great love for this country. Before that comes my family, my friends, and everybody I met along the way. Charla and I like to meet people and it is a fascinating world out there. I love doing that. I love being outdoors.


TCAS 35 | Hard Topics


That’s why I’m riding a horse. We had a late summer burst in North Carolina. It was 82 degrees. That doesn’t mean anything to the Texans but to me, it was like, “Yes.” I’ve been sitting outside for two days straight virtually. It was worth it. I write and podcast. I love being with people. I adore being outdoors and these are the things I like to do. I also love ballroom dancing.

You live on a farm. You have an orchard and things like that. You are announced outdoor girl. We’ll go back to the Teal thing. The reason we met was I was staying in a different hotel at this conference. You were with your podcast co-host Anna Gray Smith. We’re sitting outside having breakfast and I would be walking by. I had my teal cowboy boots on so you started calling me Teal. We started chatting and having a strong connection. I love that and it’s funny. My joke is, “Teal is my favorite color because I can’t spell turquoise.”

You look smoking hot in it too. I still need to buy these boots you recommended. They were beautiful boots. I did develop a bit of, I won’t say it is an addiction but after I had Texas, I have been going after ribs in North Carolina. I don’t know what it was but that’s what I ordered. I don’t regret it. I’m having a great time eating the ribs.

Good for you. It’s not much better than Texas ribs. I hope you find something to help you there.

You all do amazing things in Texas.

Ask us and we’ll let you know. We love our stake. Thank you for joining me. The main thing I want to get out of you is this incredibly, amazingly beautiful book. It’s called After the Flowers Die. Pretty much it’s a 100% chance that we’ll have to deal with a loss of some sort. I read several little pieces of it. I read the back of the book and the acknowledgments. I read all the stuff, maybe the first chapter and a random chapter in the middle. I’m so truly amazed at your gift of putting the words together, prose and making it so incredibly well done with humor. This is a tough subject.

You also have a podcast. You and Anna talk about tough things, the things that nobody else is going to talk about. Death is one of them, preparing, the aftermath, and what we do after loss. I gave my three sisters and my brother-in-law this book when we were at our 32nd annual gathering of the girls. My brother-in-law picked it up and was reading it. It’s easily readable. It’s got so many profound thoughts and nuggets. It’s done differently than anything I’ve ever read. I’m so amazed.

Thank you for that. It was spurred on by the loss of my parents. People would hand me books on grief and they were very thick. I would open them up. After you lose somebody, it’s the idea of tackling a 3-inch tomb. It is hard to even read a scripture or a devotional. I realized I needed something simpler. I thought, “Maybe I’m not the only one.”

That’s the outcome of this book. These are the things that I wish somebody had told me along the way. They’re obvious and other people write about them. I purposely did it in a small format. After a loss, your attention span is out the door. You just can’t focus. I intentionally made them short with points at the end. I used story because that’s what we all know. That’s the root of where this came from.

Life is a juxtaposition. There is evil and good. We’re so grateful that good wins. There’s death but also laughter. Our lives are filled with memories of two generations. God willing, we have a third generation to remember. We have all these different stories. You remember the humorous and also the hard times. I also wrote it too. In our world, death tends to be very anesthetized. We have it down to a let’s-do-it kind of thing and get this done. What used to take 3 days when I was young takes 1 hour and 40 minutes. If you can skip the viewing or the meet and greet at church, go straight in.


TCAS 35 | Hard Topics


I think about my great-grandmothers. I would go into their homes knowing that my great-grandmother had been laid out on a table or something like that, or put in the parlor. We forgot along the way. I was joking with somebody. I was wondering whether they were going to have drive-through funerals, which they probably already have. We want everything in stuff or a microwave. “Let’s grieve and get it over with. This person, I loved him. I have great memories but I’m over that.” I don’t think life works that way. We need to carry these stories of the generations that were before us so that we can pass them on to those afterward. They’re important.



The way that the stories are written is not evident that there’s a lesson in them until there’s a lesson in them. They’re compelling stories. I sat there. I didn’t have time. It’s 2:00 in the morning. I kept reading more of the little chapters. I also went to your website and blog. There’s This Downside Up Life. I’d love to understand a little bit more about This Downside Up Life. I read your blogs. I kept looking for a different one and another one. I ended up delving in. They’re not heavy but deep. Why did you decide to write all this? You went through it. You’ve already said all that but your mom passed.

With the blogs along with this book, we can’t help people unless we’re honest. That’s why you and I connected. You and I were honest. We knew it from the minute we met each other. I was like, “Anybody who wears teal cowboy boots is my woman. We’re going to get along fine.” A lot of times, we want everybody to see us as an Instagram post, that we have it all together. I don’t know about you. I am blessed. I praise God for so many things. The gratitude is so important. There’s a lot in my life that is a mess.

We can't help people unless we're honest. Click To Tweet

My brother-in-law has a serious cancer. My children’s father has Parkinson’s in his late stage. I have a relative, a loved one with a mental illness. It’s an Alice hole that we’re diving into. I’m hoping we see the bottom and I have no idea. There are no guarantees. We need to be honest with one another. Why I write is to be honest. I know other people need to read it. They’re living it. Also, to share or understand it. You are the same way. You write the same things like encouragement. You write that from a spirit of having lived a lot of many stories.

Our lives are a mess. You came from a dark place. You were an alcoholic. I read the blog about your last binge or whatever it was.

My Last Great Drunk.

That blog is amazing because you were real. You’re like, “This is my life.” We make the decisions but we forget that we make those decisions and that we have the choice and capacity to make those decisions. I don’t like using the word should but we are making them from a place, from the heart, and where we are connected. I know the end of the story, God wins. He’s already won. All this good and evil fight we’re going through in our world, I’m outrageously optimistic that that’s not going to be the way it ends. However, we are dealing with all these unsteady times. When you made a decision, wasn’t it Y2K?

That was My Last Great Drunk. I didn’t stop but that was the last time I was hungover. It was Y2K and I had prepped. For some reason, we had some neighbors over. I knew I was going to get snugger because it was Y2K. I was like, “Is the world going to end tomorrow?” I had kids. I always have been one of those functioning alcoholics. I was always very careful around my children. I would wait until they were asleep. I would decide if I’m not getting drunk or not. I was very controlled. I would buy two beers if I wanted a little buzz. If I wanted something, I made sure I had plenty. That was after they went to sleep.

One night, I’m ashamed to say my children saw me at my worst. I sobered up around 3:00 AM and wondered why my neighbors hadn’t left yet. I was even sober before that but I forgot to look at the clock. After a while, you can drink yourself sober or say, “This is enough.” I looked in and went, “Why are the kids still up? This is not me.” The heart of me is my kids. I love my kids dearly.

I go home. I’m waiting for my neighbors to leave, end up taking their children home, which were right next door, putting them to bed, put my children to bed, and tell them, “We need to go to sleep.” It was one of these obnoxiously head, mind, body, spirit wake up that says, “You need to start praying because this is not good and right. Is this how you want to live your life in front of your kids? Is this what you want to do to your heart, soul, and mind?” It was a very good wake-up.

It took me two years after that but I kept praying, “Lord, I don’t want this.” One day I woke up and that still small voice was like, “You’re done. You don’t have to do this anymore.” I was free and done. I write After the Flowers Die. I wrote about the temptation after some bad news with a loved one. I was staying in a hotel and there was that bottle. That bottle was right there for me to purchase for $10. I set that bottle outside. Temptation comes along but we learned the tools to fight it. We become warrior princesses along the way.

TCAS 35 | Hard Topics
After The Flowers Die

You said, “I am a recovering alcoholic in Alcoholics Anonymous.” I want to put this out there with someone who has been there and done that. I know a couple of people who have not missed an AA meeting in sometimes three years. I have known somebody for 40 years. Every word you say after the words I am is who you are. I would love that one piece. They’ve done amazing stuff. Maybe some people change one addiction to another but it’s a better addiction. I’m eating rather than a bottle. What is your take on that? If you say, “I am an alcoholic,” I believe you can be free of that.

I said I was. I’m sorry if I said I am a recovering alcoholic.

I noticed the difference but I wanted to discuss that with you.

I feel like the Lord took that away from me and that’s what he does. He’s not here to fool around. He’s not going to say, “Here’s your little pet soon. Let’s hang on to it.” That would be who I am. We know He is the great I Am. I was an alcoholic. Can I pick up that bottle anytime? Yes, I can. That’s why I lean on the Lord God Almighty. That’s their vernacular. AA was very good for me but I needed something different. I went to celebrate recovery.

We all could use a little celebrating of recovery. The struggle of worry is real in me like the struggle of anxiety. I can pick these up and put them into place. The struggle to elevate my children into the God spot of my life is so easy. I have to say no to that. Sometimes I live in that idolatry for a little bit until I decide to unpack my anxiety and worry, and say, “Lord, they’re your kids.” That’s a wise thing but there are some things that we continue to battle.

I feel like they have done so much. I love that we can say, “I am a child of the most high God.” We’re talking about love and God. We’re not talking about religion here, which is a different thing. God in a box. We love God. We want relationships, not rules and regulations. That’s the difference. Were you also an atheist?

I was. I lived with that for a very long time. I loved the Lord as a child. I got my little white confirmation Bible from Reynolds Memorial United Methodist Church. I was so excited. I still have it with my little script handwriting, which I don’t write with anymore. I was sixteen. I was tired of rules and regulations but maybe not. I thought rebellion. It was going to be life-bringing. Being different was going to do something for me, even though I was popular. I was in plays. I was on the tennis team. I did well in school. I had what I needed to whatever.

My ego said, “I’m not. I don’t have everything I want because I still have a God that I follow.” I went, “Nope.” I shut my Bible. I remember specifically saying, “Lord, I am not going to follow you and believe in you anymore.” I shut it at sixteen. I didn’t think about him again until my son was born but I still was an atheist. I didn’t come back to Him until I was 39. Those were lots of years of rebellion and going my way. As they say in Kent, it was a lot more adding to my story. It was ugly. I was very productive. When I wanted to go out and do what I wanted to do, I did.

Romans talks about how you do it and you become numb to sin. I don’t know if I was necessarily numb to sin but it’s easy to tamp it down. The biggest and deepest thing that I realized was at 2:00 AM, I was alone. I would wake up in a cold sweat and go, “I’m so alone.” I couldn’t see past the idea that one day I was going to be in a grave and that would be the end of me. Nothing would save it. To me, if you’re an atheist, you almost need something. That’s where alcohol filled in that hole. You eventually wake up at 2:00 AM.

Looking for love in all the wrong places. That old song has some good credibility to it. It’s a deep truth because there’s a god-shaped hole in every heart. When we are looking out there for something else, it’s challenging to remember who we are. Who we are is perfect. Nobody’s perfect here but we are loved exactly. If God is loved, why we can’t be loved? When we can release the drama and all the voices in our heads, and listen to the still quiet voice, we’ll learn and know that we’re okay. If you’re in the gutter or a palace, God loves you the same. There’s no not love. Another thing religion has done is teach us that there’s this big mean God but he loves.


TCAS 35 | Hard Topics


It’s astounding to me, Teal, to listen and think about the Lord God Almighty loves us. The only replication we have in that is telling people, “I love you.” Sometimes they’re not getting it. I think about that often. “Lord, I don’t think I’m letting you love me the way that I know that you could. I’m blocking it. Maybe you haven’t answered to that.”

The harder people are to love, the more they need it. This is the truth from us. Even bullies are victims. I tell my kids, “People sometimes don’t love themselves enough to let them receive love.” I believe it’s a self-love thing that they don’t love themselves enough and they’re trying to fight the demons within without bringing in the light and love that is there.

It’s the birthright. I never thought about that. There are times that I get overwhelmed by the world and I have to stop. Ultimately, think in the end, “God loves me.” That’s astounding. I have a loved one who was in a psychiatric center. I was shouting on the phone because it was so noisy where she was. I was like, “God loves you.” I was trying to embed it into her DNA somehow. It is great that I love her but I wanted her to know that because there’s so much peace in it.

TCAS 35 | Hard Topics
Hard Topics: When times you get overwhelmed by the world, take a pause and remember that God loves you.


Many people don’t hear it. If there’s noise everywhere, and I would think in their situation, it would be a very hard way to heal if you can’t be still, know, be quiet, and have some time. You were talking about 2:00 in the morning. A lot of times, you’re lying there alone. I believe that’s often a time that people come to hear the still small voice. There’s the love. God’s love is trying to let them feel that. There’s nothing you can do that is unforgivable. If you reach out and receive, you’re called. This sounds like a sermon but I feel like for some reason, this is our message.

I need to hear it every day. It’s so important. You did say something interesting, which is, “Receive it.” We have so many boundaries. There’s something about receiving that is so hard.

“A giver can’t give if a receiver won’t receive,” that’s another little quote I like. You don’t love yourself enough to be able to receive the gifts of love, a candy bar, or whatever it is. Some people don’t love themselves enough to think that they can receive. We’ve got to understand that the receiving piece is our responsibility. Find that little speck in there that can start receiving the grace, mercy, forgiveness, and peace that passes understanding. That is beautiful.

It’s either hard or easy. For some people, the idea of Jesus is a gift. We all get gifts and we’re thinking, “They’re little two things. Let’s throw them away.” They’re not realizing the idea that this is not work or something that you can do enough of to ever balance the scales. You received the gift from God. It was the most delightful and wonderful thing to happen to me in my Christian walk when I finally understood it. It changed everything. There’s nothing He wants from me other than to receive His love. I want to glorify and magnify Him and follow His ways because of that. There’s no forcing or manufacturing. I’m on my part of feelings, emotions, and emojis. It’s unfathomable and so beautiful. I don’t have words for it.

It’s so needed for the conversation. Your book, After the Flowers Die, is not preachy. It is true, good, down-to-earth, loving, logical, and practical in many ways. That’s a huge thing as well.

That’s what I learned along the way. It talks about everything from taking a friend with you. This is the one thing most people don’t think about, particularly our age. That little rectangle that we all love, our computers are filled with things on them. We may think of cleaning out an attic box of things that we don’t want our children to find but we don’t think about our files, photographs, messenger, and all these other things, even our social media.

It’s the things that our children are discovering about us now that we’ll discover about us later. We need to be careful because that is our legacy. They see us. We want to be honest, true, and real. We don’t want them to go on into our media and digital world too. “Mom or Dad weren’t cracked up to what they say they are.” We need to be careful of what we leave our children. That’s an inheritance right there. A moral code is the biggest inheritance I believe we leave our children. I don’t know what you think.



Values too. I feel like our community, our society has gotten our values a little upside down. There was a time when we were growing up, I believe, that you did first things first. You didn’t do frivolous things until your bills were paid. I also think witnessing the value that is most important to you is what you spend your money and time on. It used to be checkbooks and calendars. I mentioned this quite a bit but they don’t even know or have checkbooks anymore. What you spend your money and time on becomes your highest value if you watch it. You might say something else is your highest value but that’s a good test to figure it out.

They’re watching. They know when you pick up the phone. We’ve all gone to restaurants as a family or seen people. They’re all sitting around communicating with their best friends.

They think they do that but sometimes you’re in a conversation and they’re scrolling or playing a game. They’re being busy. It’s hard to find the time to be still and know if you’re going to be engaged with, “I’ve got to have something going on all the time.” I’m different but I will spend driving for 4 or 8 hours in pure silence. I don’t have anything going on in my car, typically when I’m driving, unless I make a call or something. I don’t even have music on that often.

I learned a long time ago that if that box, that thing on the wall, that propaganda machine, or the programming, is on, then I can’t rest or close my eyes. It’s called programming for a reason. You and I would suggest that we minimize that because it’s programming. It is what somebody else wants you to know, not guiding you to your creator and source.

We have to fight it. Sometimes the younger generation is surprising. There are times that I am doing business. I’m like, “I’ve got to take this call.” They’ll go, “Mom.” I love that they’re calling me out on it. I agree with you because all of a sudden, you become opinionated or talk point. We don’t need to be that way. We’ve lost the art at times of conversation. In that, we’re robbed of joy and we don’t want that.

That is a beautiful reflection of our Lord and being joyful. I love the idea that you’re on the road for eight hours. I could not do that. I would have to have some music. There are times when I go through long periods of cutting off like when I’ve had enough. That is nice. We know. Be still and know that he is God. He can’t cut through all the noise.

Be still and know that He is God. He can cut through all the noise. Click To Tweet

That voice never shuts up. Breathe in, get centered, and grounded. We’re all connected so every bit of the knowledge is in our souls, spirits, and hearts. Why don’t we take time to be still? Every answer you need is right inside the stillness.

That’s profound.

I’ve never said that before like that. I hope I don’t even need to write that down.

You need to write that down because we’ve all gotten the habit. You and I used to have to go to the encyclopedia or Webster’s dictionary. Now, what do we say? “Hey, Siri.” I love it that we do. We have the Holy Spirit. He was greater than he is in the world. We keep doing that. We counted as all joy.

Everything is always working out for me. Thank you is my main mantra. I always wake up at 3:00 in the morning and say, “Thank you.” Everything is always working out for me because wherever I am is all I have. I don’t have that last second or next second. I have this one. It gives me the grounding and centeredness to go, “It’s working out because this is where I am. I get to take care of things.” It’s so miraculous when things work. It’s not just talking about it.

Your favorite quote is by Winston Churchill, “Never give up.” I have that on a plaque but I also have this one by Ronald Reagan, I believe, “It can be done.” There are so many aspects that are hard to include in one conversation but you are a coach. We haven’t even talked about your podcast. I met your beautiful cohort, Anna. She’s young.

She’s a multi-gen.

It’s called the Moral Tea Podcast. I was calling it Morality.

That’s where it came from.

This is a podcast where you do all this discussion and these deep conversations. How to have hard conversations was one of them. You guys are amazing out there. I’ve had so much fun with both of you and grateful that you were able to take the time, knowing how busy you are. You have shared your message and words. You have been so incredibly generous with your time. How do people find you? What is it that you want people to know? What’s your last word here that you would like people to take action on?

The book, After the Flowers Die, which is available on Amazon and GamePress, lets them know that they are not alone. That’s important. I wrote it for a general market because I remember being that general market who felt she was alone. Whether you believe in the Lord God Almighty or you can get a community of people, you’re not alone.

TCAS 35 | Hard Topics
Hard Topics: Whether you believe in the Lord God Almighty or you can get a community of people, you’re not alone.


It isn’t preachy. It’s got real language and the whole real thing. There are a lot of people who would not accept a Christian book on anything in this world.

We need to get out of that. That’s why Moral Tea came about. We just feel like the church needs to talk about the hard topics. It’s happening in the church. The Lord Jesus Christ never shied from a hard topic. We feel like it needs to be spoken about. That’s what we do. The one thing I would say is to start talking about the hard topics. Be real with people. Be honest. It opens a door.

You and I started talking and we were both open. I know about your life and you know about my life. I feel very comfortable. It does something. We’re connected that way. It creates the you’re not aloneness. We’re hoping the Moral Tea Podcast does that for other people in other ways. A lot of times, you don’t want to talk about sex trafficking or hear about that. The fact is it’s going on all around us in America. If you look at any of your major highways, this is happening.

Also, in our churches and schools.

It is all there. We do have exciting tidbits here but November 6th, 2023 is our first day on the Pray app so we’re very excited about that. You can also reach me through my website.



It’s beautifully done and your blogs were on there that I got engrossed with. It’s not something I do a lot. I don’t read a lot of blogs but I’m trying to write and get them out. I’ve been working on that. I’m getting things pulled together. It’s been an incredibly beautiful time with you, Renee. I love you so much.

I love you.

Nobody is an island here. We’ve got so much stuff going around us in our world and lives. Life is chaotic out there. Take some time just to center and love yourself enough to listen, be still, and know. That’s it.

I love that. Thank you. I received that. I love the breathing exercises. I do them before I go to bed so thank you.

Sometimes holding a rock is grounding, holding a stone or a crystal, or walking barefoot because we’re so electronic and electrified. Touching the trees and leaves, walking, breathing deeply, breathing the fresh air, and being in the sunshine is critical. You were outside the last couple of days. I’m going to come see you in North Carolina.

You come anytime. We’ll have a good weekend. It’ll be wonderful. I don’t think I have any teal food to feed you but we will find something, probably a Texas barbecue.

I don’t typically have much teal food. Thank you so much for being here with me. I love you so much. I always end up saying, you’re perfect exactly who and where you are. Love yourself enough to receive the love. As we close, I typically say, choose joy.

Received. Thank you.


Important Links


About Renee Leonard Kennedy

TCAS 35 | Hard TopicsRenee Leonard Kennedy loves God, family, friends, and people met along the way. Her multi-award winning book, After the Flowers Die, focuses on the nuts and bolts of losing a loved one while also offering hope and help from someone who’s been there. Her short stories can be found in the anthology Sweet Romance for Every Season.

I’m Charla Anderson, host of The Charla Anderson Show, Collector & Connector of Fascinating People (and EVERYONE is Fascinating!) on live TV, streaming and podcasts. As a Ziglar Legacy Certified Trainer, a retired award-winning flight attendant, Olympic Torchbearer, personal development junkie, Inspired Speaker, Published Author and Your Courageous Coach, I want to share my passion of living life full-out, saying YES to intriguing opportunities, and encouraging YOU to do the same. Let’s jump on a discovery call and get to know each other. Find all things Charla at CharlaAnderson.com/links.

On The Charla Anderson Show, We discuss Mindset, How much Your WORDS matter, Princess to Queen energy, mantras, HOPE, Faith, Miracles, Overcoming, and much, much more, including learning from amazing guests.

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