Family Archive

Still Believing

Posted January 26, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Last night, despite my truck having been in the shop for a week and my wariness about it’s drive-worthiness, Austin and I made it to Idaho. After snagging a parking spot with easy exit so I could make it to my morning delivery, I entered the mom and pop truck stop to have a look around. 

Even though I’d stocked up on food before leaving Salt Lake City, I was in the mood to be around people so I headed for the all night restaurant and grabbed a booth. The place was nothing special. Looked like it was built in the 1950’s. So did most of the people, both customers and workers. They even piped in country songs that were popular when I was born.

Halfway through my chicken fingers and tator tots, two young men sauntered in and took the booth directly in front of me. They were as conspicuous as the Gerber baby at a dentures convention. Apparently, I was not the only one who noticed. After a sudden crash of ceramic plates to the floor and a deafening shrill from behind the counter, my waitress came running over to them and hugged the big member of this Mutt and Jeff duo.

“I knew you’d come back,” she uttered between tears and gasps. “While everybody else didn’t think so, I was still believing. And here you are.” “Here I am, mama.” He finally managed.  The brute swiped a tear away from his eye as he stood and embraced his mother.

I allowed them their moments of bonding but after what seemed life forever to me, the curiosity in me escaped and I did what I’m so famous at doing. I began bombarding them with questions. I just had to get the scoop in this joyful mother and son reunion. When Chipper was a boy, his estranged father took him and fled. That’s kidnapping in the state of Idaho, but although a manhunt ensued, they never tracked them down. All of Evie’s friends and relatives eventually gave up hope that Chipper would ever return. After all, he was only eight and even if he could get away, he wouldn’t remember where to come back to.  But not Evie. “No matter what they said, I told them I was still believing that Chipper would come back. I just knew I’d see him again.”

I asked Chipper how he was able to pull it off. 

“Well, first of all, I turned eighteen last week and as of that day, he couldn’t stop me. For for ten years, I saved every penny I got. I worked mowing grass, washing cars and anything else that would pay me. I stashed the money away where he couldn’t find it so that whenever I could, I’d be able to fly back to here. I waited until I was legally an adult so I could be on my own and not be taken by DCF.

“Last week on my birthday, I called the police while he was passed out drunk and when they came to our house in Minnesota, I told them what had happened. They checked it out and he still had an outstanding warrant. So they arrested my dad. I took his truck since I knew he wouldn’t be needing it and drove back as fast as I could.” Chipper then turned to his mother and said, “I told you I’d come back.” Evie hugged him again and said,”That was the last thing you said and I never stopped believing that.” 

Before the moment Chipper and his still nameless friend entered the lazy diner as the Idaho sun dropped below the horizon, it had been a normal day. Nothing special. Nothing noteworthy. Or so I thought. It made me realize nothing is ordinary. Nothing routine or mundane. God is forever orchestrating reunions, working miracles, and manipulating the entire universe to bring about His will.  As I walked back to my truck, I felt secure and blessed that through all the difficult circumstances I’ve faced in my life, like Evie, I’m still believing. I understood what a gift that truly is. 

I believe.

I believe in miracles. I believe in the goodness of others. I believe in the resiliency of the human spirit. No matter how tragic life becomes, I still believe. My hope and prayer is that you do, too.

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That’ll Be Ten Dollars, Please

Posted January 9, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

While in Central Florida last Sunday, I reconnected with an old friend. Dr. Alytrice Brown and I had worked together at different campuses of the same college years ago. But she went off to a new adventure in Puerto Rico and I went off to, well, everywhere. She’s back in Florida now and I talked her into coming out to the truck stop where I was for the night. 

As we sat in a very interesting Barbecue restaurant (we always find the weirdest places to eat in every city we are together), I was captivated by the new culture she created in her home with her three teenage children. At ages twelve to seventeen, they are required to purchase everything. E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G!

Her kids have to pay rent and an electric bill. They pay their portion of the phone bill. They pay for food and for the rides their parents give them to and from school. If they want to play wii or other games, there’s a charge for that, too, as well as a two hour limit. If they take longer than is reasonable in the shower, they pay a surcharge on the water consumption. They also are fined for bad attitudes, inappropriate behavior and waste of the bounty they have been blessed with.

Before you call Child Protective Services on my genius friend, you should know it’s play money. She bought a bundle of it at Party City and each week her kids get paid $250. Out of that and right off the top they have to shell out a good portion of that to pay their living expenses. Once those obligations are met, if they have any left to spend, they can use it for recreation. But everything they do will cost something. If they want to go to the movies, they have to pay the Mom-taxi. If they don’t have enough money, they can’t go.

In this day and time when most American families are up to their eyeballs in debt, it is so refreshing to see an individual who is teaching their children fiscal responsibility. I applaud Dr. Brown and her efforts. Already her children are thinking like responsible holders of the greenbacks. Her children- and yours- are the future of our great nation. What they learn now will pave the way for generations to come. Dr. Brown’s investment into the lives of her kids is actually ensuring that the heartbeat of America will continue to beat strongly and with the solid bedrock upon which our nation was founded fully intact.

America, the land of the free… we are free to make the choices we make. Thanks to hard work training up children in the way they should go, those choices will be good ones for years to come. 

The Heartbeat of America… Alive and Well! 

 

 

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Six Days…

Posted November 6, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I bet you’ve been wondering where I’ve been this last week. Well, I slept for forty-eight straight hours. Why? Because I was up and traveling across the country for six days without any sleep.

Me on a Mission

Me on a Mission

I left Florida, crossed two states and did something I had not done since 1971. I boarded a bus heading west. I had to go to Salt Lake City on very important business and I decided to meet women on the way. So I went Greyhound and left the driving to them. I was not prepared for what I encountered.

During my six days (that’s 144 continuous hours of consciousness), I met 128 women who were on the run from their significant other. One by one I sat next to them, or they sat next to me on a bus. They told their stories of abuse. The were literally running for their lives in the cheapest way they could find.

Wyoming. That White Stuff is Snow

Wyoming. That White Stuff is Snow

One women, Sabrina, had just been discharged from the hospital after a three month stay. Her husband had run her down with the family car, breaking both legs, several vertebrae and leaving her in a coma for weeks. The surgical wounds still had staples in them. She was in tremendous pain and riding a bus was the worst thing she could have done… except staying with her spouse.

She was such a trooper. My heart went out to her, particularly at 3am when the agony was so great, she called out for anyone to help her. I went back and prayed for God to ease her pain. Thankfully, He did.

I Discovered in Wyoming Why People Wear Coats!

I Discovered in Wyoming Why People Wear Coats!

I met Henrietta in St. Louis. She boarded the bus with two children in tow. I couldn’t help but hear them asking mommy why daddy couldn’t come. She had no answer. Not wanting to say anything negative about their father, she opted for a vague answer and quickly changed the subject. 

Two hours later, the bus made a meal stop at a local McDonald’s. Who knew they did that?! Fortunately, a convenience store was right next door. I ran over there and found a coloring book. I grabbed it and ran back to the bus and took out a pack of  colored highlighters from my backpack.

Mountains in Utah

Mountains in Utah

 

When Henrietta and kids returned to the bus, I gave them to her. She and I talked while the children colored in their book. 

During my six days aboard public transportation, I saw country I’d never seen before as we made our way through Wyoming and finally Utah. I also saw a part of society that is hurting in a way I’d never witnessed.

Sure, I’ve seen people running in airports, at rest stops along the interstate, at hotels and in restaurants. But never before had I been so close to hurting women who did not have the means to flee in style. They didn’t have money for meals, even the value menu under the golden arches. Their eyes mirrored hearts that were empty and without belonging. I ached for them.

Me After Five Days and 120 Women's Stories

Me After Five Days and 120 Women’s Stories

 

I prayed for them and thanked God that I saw this underworld of women who are more courageous than the brave souls who pushed west to settle the once wild land we rode though on a smelly bus.

If I ever am tempted to complain about sitting in a plush airport waiting for a late airplane that will take me from one end of the country to the other in a matter of hours, I’ll remember my six days on a Greyhound. I’ll remember Atlanta’s bus station that was locked down while all passengers were searched and guns, knives, blades and brass nuckles confiscated.

I’ll remember cries in the night as wounds tried to heal, and children who didn’t understand abuse. They only missed their daddy.

Six days…

 

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Farewell Henderson… But Never Goodbye

Posted September 12, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.
Helga Gish and me... new budds

Helga Gish and me… new budds

As you read this, I’m in Indianapolis for the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) annual conference. While I’m so excited to see all my author friends, I must bid farewell to all my new friends in Henderson, Kentucky. It has been a joy to be with you.

From the moment I rode in on Dakota until today, I have never felt out of place for even a single moment. The people of this town embraced me like one of their own. I was immersed in the activities, culture and amazing friendships that make this town what it is. 

I could not bid farewell to this wonderful place without expressing a special debt of thanks to so many people who ministered to me in such a tangible way:

Clydean Gish and Me

Clydean Gish and me

Danny and Clydean Gish, for welcoming a total stranger into your home. Thanks for not being scared off by the weird lady in spandex and helmet hair.

Brad, Amy, Bailey and Alex Ayer, for introducing me to Danny and Clydean. And to Brad who insisted he drive to McDonald’s to give me directions to their home. I would not have stayed in Henderson had it not been for you. Look at all the blessings I would have missed out on.

To Helga Gish, for your never ending stories of the old country Germany. I visited my father’s homeland in my imagination thanks to you. May God heal you and bring you home from the hospital very soon.

Lisa, Melody, Me Debi and Clydean at lunch on the Ohio River

Lisa, Melody, Me Debi and Clydean at lunch on the Ohio River

To Rick and Melody Thompson who allowed me to recover from my injured knee on your farm. Your hospitality is humbling.

To Sue, Debi, Judy, Sally and the ladies of wounded hearts who made me feel so at home. I learned so much from you.


To Pastor Mark Galloway and the congregation of Zion Baptist Church who never treated me like a visitor. From the moment I entered, you made me your own.

To Beth in the Henderson County Library who felt sorry enough for me that she gave me a library card. You

Zion Baptist Church Inner City Campus

Zion Baptist Church Inner City Campus

made my day.

I know I’m forgetting people. It is not intentional. There were just so many blessings, I can’t keep up with them all. Please forgive me.

I pray that God will lead me back to Henderson very soon. Until then, may He multiply blessings back to you for the blessing you have been to me…. my new family… 

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There’s Just Something About the South

Posted August 5, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

DowntownWhen I first started my Road to Freedom Bicycle Tour Across America on July 13th, I predicted I’d be in North Dakota by now and pushing west. But there’s just something about the south that I can’t seem to get out of. Not that I’m complaining…

Saturday I hitched a ride with writer friend, Pat Trainum (writing as Patricia Bradley) to Byhalia, MS. There I connected with good friend and former colleague, Mary Fry. I spent two glorious days with her and her family in Collierville, TN.

In the south, you never have to worry about where you’ll eat, what you’ll do for fun, or whether or not you’ll be entertained. There is ALWAYS something incredible happening that soothes my heart and makes me feel like I’ve come home. 

I always want to see the town when I pedal into a place so Mary took me to historic downtown. I wasn’t disappointed. The railroad Train at Depot
played a critical role in Collierville’s Civil War history as well. As I soaked it up, we made our way to the Square Bean Coffee Shop to take in music from a live blue grass band.

I was instantly drawn back to my childhood and to learning to play the guitar. Amazing how music offers a ride on a time machine. Far too soon, the band took a break. I was disappointed until a young, wiry little boy took the stage. He seemed shy and, if it were not for my natural curiosity for people, I’d have passed him off as performance I should avoid.

As he began to play, I began to repent. Thirteen year old Adam Miles controlled his Taylor acoustic guitar in a way I’ve never personally witnessed. When I closed my eyes, I imagined being on Blues Row in downtown Memphis. His fingers danced on the strings and produced incredible blues. His voice was the heart and soul of blues.

BlueGrass GroupAfter two songs and an encore, he humbly returned to his seat and sat transfixed as he continued to watch the band play. 

As Mary and I continued to walk around town, my thoughts continued to return to Adam. So unassuming, this young boy was the grassroots package of a southern born and bred musician. The coffee shop audience welcomed him, knowing they were in the presence of one who would one day tell the story of Southern rural America to the world.

As we headed for home, I knew I’d just experienced the essence of southern culture and I was at peace. There’s just something about the South that plants seeds and in due season sprouts a new crop of great performers. Adam Miles is one such performer. 

I never intended to spend this much time pedaling around the south. After all, I’ve lived in the south all my life. I wanted to see newStagecoach Outpost places and experience new places and cultures. Yet God brought me to my roots. Whether in Johns Creek, Georgia or Huntsville, Alabama or Collierville, Tennessee, I strangely feel at home here. There’s just something about the south that keeps me rooted and grounded.

Though my departure from Corinth has been delayed by a couple of days, I will be heading north this week. I will pedal on with a full heart and a place to call home: the South, where sweet tea, fried chicken and hospitality are in no short supply.

 

 

 

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You Know You’re In the Country…

Posted August 3, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Tennessee State LineYesterday, I had the privilege of meeting writer, Jeff York. I traveled from Corinth, Mississippi over the windy roads to Chewalla, TN.

Jeff is an amazing man and journalist for several area newspapers, including the Daily Corinthian, the paper that picked up my story.

 Jeff writes feature stories of amazing people without even leaving his home. In fact, he can’t. He suffers from a rare disease called Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP). He is one in 2 million who suffer from this crippling disease.

 Because Jeff’s body produces bone within muscles and connective tissue, his joints have fused together. He spends most of his day bent at a 90 degree angle over his desk where he surfs then internet, interviews the people he writes about and encourages those he meets on the internet.

He was completely unassuming and feels that, while he may not be able to do some things like attend church these days, he can certainly do some things. And for that, he is grateful and gladly does what he can.

The first question he asked me after introductions was, “Where do you attend church?” Ever the evangelist, Jeff jokes about never having been able to touch the top of his head.

"It's the Blue House on the Left after the fork"

“It’s the Blue House on the Left after the fork”

Amazingly, until ten years ago, Jeff coached his church softball team that was widely feared because of the vast numbers of championships they won. Touting the orange accessories throughout his room, Jeff is quick to tell you he is a die hard Tennessee Vols fan.

Just ask quickly, he makes it clear that is not what he wants to be remembered for. He wants people to remember him as perhaps Andrew, a less popular disciple who just went about bringing Jesus and encouragement to all those he came in contact with.

Just being in his presence for a few minutes, I have no doubt he’ll be known to all just as he wishes. He stands less than four feet high but his spirit is that of a mighty oak tree.

As we left Jeff and headed down the back roads of Tennessee, a friend called from a different part of the state. We were hoping to eat lunch at someplace in that area to have a unique and original experience. Trust me when I tell you there are no fast food chains in Chewalla, TN.

My friend, Mary, stayed on the phone with me and guided us road by road to the best place to eat she knew of: her daddy’s house.

“It’s the blue house on the left after you bare left at the fork. It’s right before you get to the big barn.”

Mr Sheltons Barn2You know you’re in the country…

Mr. Shelton, a World War II veteran who had been wounded in battle three times, opened his home to two strangers. We gorged ourselves on fresh vegetables he grew in his own garden while he regaled us with stories of The War.

His daughter took us out to the barn afterwards and my mind saw my friend, Mary, as a little girl running and playing in those rolling hills that sat only a few miles from where the battles of Shiloh and Corinth had been fought.

It was so quiet, I could hear the beat of my own heart. But I also heard the heartbeat of rural Tennessee, a man who bravely served our country in the Army, and the cries of men who marched those fields in search of peace in a nation divided over a hundred years before.

As we finally drove away, I turned to my friend and said, “You know you’re in the country when someone on the phone directs you to Me on Mr Sheltons Tractortheir family’s house for a home cooked meal.”

I marveled at how they had no fear at all of letting strangers into their home and shared their food with them. Nor did they try to entertain or put on airs. They were just precious country folk who were willing to share of their bounty with travelers.

You know you’re in the country when you hear the heartbeat of America beating alive and well. What a day!

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There are Good Samaritans, and There are Angels

Posted July 16, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Tuguloo RiverYesterday I finally made it into Taccoa, GA after two days of very hard riding. Then I saw the gold. No, not the streets in Heaven. The golden arches of McDonald’s. It was there I thought I met a good samaritan, dressed in a McDonald’s uniform. 

Elijah and I spoke for quite a while. Turns out he just returned from a cross country trip from Jacksonville, Florida to the west coast to earn money for a non-profit organization.

He came back to my booth during his break and invited me to spend the night at his home. I knew he had to be a Christian. Wonderful young man. The type of young man I’d want to have as a son.

I left the golden arches and went into downtown to the library. Knowing he got off work at 3pm, I decided to start toward his house. There was just one problem. Uhh… I’d gotten so many directions to different places, I went in the opposite direction from his house.

About 3:15 I got a call from Elijah. I told him I was at the entrance to Toccoa Falls College. That was only in the opposite direction of his house. Not a big Toccoa Falls, GA -15-13deal by car but straight up a monstrous hill in any direction. He offered to come get me and drive me to his house. 

When my knight in shining auto arrived, we didn’t go straight home. He took me to Toccoa Falls, then all over downtown. He provided me the history of the college, the town, and of course, the famous Paul Anderson, a local who still holds the world’s record for lifting the most weight at one time. A statue stands in downtown.

We traveled several miles out of town-in the other direction- and finally turned down a non-paved driveway. After a few twists and turns and rabbits and other animals, the most beautiful multi-level log cabin came into view. To a country gal, I knew I must be in Heaven.

I met Mary Jo (mom), Jamie and Jess (sisters) and Noah (brother) who are the most amazing family. Mary Jo cooks everything from scratch with fresh fruit and vegetables. Surely, it was a meal directly from the throne room of Heaven.

Statue of Paul Anderson in Downtown Toccoa, GA 7-15-13Mary Jo washed my wet clothes from all the rain I’d ridden through between making home made chicken pot pies, playing card games with the kids and helping me plot out another course to take.

Don’t think this was a miracle? Well, I didn’t tell you Elijah wasn’t scheduled to work today (yesterday by the time this posts). He got up early and drove into town to the gym and stopped by to check his work schedule. They were desperate for someone to work, so he said yes. 

After two really bad days on the road, I went to Heaven… a log cabin in the middle of the woods with an incredible Christian family. They are such angels, it would not surprise me to wake up in the morning and see these angels have returned to beyond the Pearly Gates.

God provides at the most amazing times everything we need if we but trust Him.

Miracle in Toccoa, Georgia. Thank you God.

 

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Thanksgiving Day is for the Birds!

Posted November 20, 2012 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Ok, not really. I didn’t mean it so please don’t throw mashed potatoes at me. That would be a waste of good spuds! I just needed a way to get your attention.

You see, I needed to tell you all how thankful I am that you’ve been following me since my blog first started on April 1st… no foolin’! J

Through these last several months, I’ve grown so much. I’ve also made a lot of friends who are gracious enough to read my blog.

I’m excited about what lies ahead in 2013 with my blog and with Magellan and I want to thank you all for your encouragement, your friendship and your willingness to read my words each day. You are my heroes.

May God grant you all the joy, peace, love and treasure of this Thanksgiving Holiday. As I pause to give thanks before diving headlong into the turkey, your names will come up. For, indeed, I am thankful for you.

Have a wonderful holiday week.

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