Finding True North Archive

I Am Who I Am

Posted October 22, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

He doesn’t walk with teenage swagger, wear the latest must-have fashions or drive the fanciest car. He’s not the high school quarterback or the class president. Sixteen year old Zach does not spend a moment of his day keeping up with the Jones’ or bowing down to peer pressure. He just walks through his young life confidently being who he was created to be.

I met Zach a couple of years ago and knew there was something very special about him. He does not put on airs and is more comfortable in his own skin than just about anyone I know. He doesn’t concern himself with what others think of him when he drives his jeep… or when he performs in plays.

Zach has a deep understanding about many things in life from people to their customs and how those things work together to make our world work. He is not argumentative and yet he compassionately displays his position on all things human. He has drawn clearly defined lines regarding his life, boundaries, spirituality and humanity.

I’m old enough to be his great grandmother and yet I feel such a connection with this amazing young man. I’ve watched intently as he interacts with adults and children, the elderly and animals. He’s kind and compassionate, yet bold as a lion, in a quiet sort of way.

In today’s world, we see girls with pink hair and boys with their noses pierced. I ask myself how our nation ever survive with this next generation of leaders. After all, I just can’t seem to get behind and vote for a presidential candidate who has tongue piercings and tattoos the entire length of his arm that chronicle all his… umm… conquests.

And then I see Zach. He walks in the room and suddenly it is a better place just for his having entered. He is thoughtful in the words he speaks and they have a powerful impact on the breadth of reach. He is a leader. Though he doesn’t stand in the masses shouting his promises or trying to gain attention, he quietly directs our world to move in a better, more positive direction.

I am honored to know Zach and every time I see him, I have hope that the heartbeat of America will be alive and well long after my heart has stopped and I cross over into eternity. He accepts individuals for who they are and does not judge. Yet, he immediately sees right through façade and will not entertain the self-absorbed or arrogant.

Zach brings equilibrium to my world when I’m around him. His balanced temperament helps me find true north and keeps today’s world on its axis. Thank you, Zach, for having the courage to remain true to who you are despite the greatest peer pressure known to man. Thank you for seeing through falsehood, for looking beyond faults in others to see their needs, and for being just who God created you to be.

If I were a kid, I’d want to be just like you when I great up. Kudos to you, wise young man. You are one amazing individual.

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Tennessee Homecoming

Posted September 2, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I sat in the back seat having an easy conversation with my great friend, Mary as her husband navigated the narrow curved roads in the backwoods of Western Tennessee. Her son road shotgun. I stopped midsentence when I gazed out the window to find my new home come into view.

Decades of searching for where I belong suddenly paled into insignificance. I was home. As I walked around the home, I didn’t care about the architecture, though it was excellent and well planned. Instead, my attention went to the people who surrounded me.

After decades of coming home to a quiet and empty place, the house I would soon be hanging my hat was filled with people. Real, genuine, good, fun-loving people who were not only gracious, they welcomed me with open arms. Friends. New neighbors. They treated me like one of their own.

After taking care of business, we traveled a short distance to reunite with war hero Willie Shelton. He was as humble and gracious as he’d been when I met him two years ago. We talked like old friends in the house that Mary grew up in. When I met her twin sister, she acted as though we’d known each other for years.  

The next day, I needed to run some errands. Mary’s son willingly offered his jeep so I would not have to take my truck. I’d developed a slight infection in my hand and made a quick trip to urgent care for antibiotics. They treated me like I’d been a patient of theirs for eons. When I went to get the prescription filled, the cashier at Walmart asked to step down to the other end of the counter so the pharmacist could put my medication in a bag for me. Though puzzled,  I did as I was told and the pharmacist approached me eagerly and told me much more than I needed to know about the simple antibiotic.

I mentioned my encounter to Mary and she looked at me as if I’d just grown a second nose. She told me that was pretty much common place around Tennessee. I’d never experienced that in the decades I spent in the Sunshine State. She recommended I get used to it.

Over the past two years, I’ve traveled in all 48 continuous states and Canada. Most were beautiful. All were unique but they just were not home. Truth be told, I’ve been on a journey my entire life trying to find home. I visited places, would like what I saw and would pray, “God, is this home?” Nothing ever fit. Because of how I grew up, I vowed that when I turned eighteen, I would call wherever I lived home. Unfortunately, I was in Florida. Florida is a wonderful place but it’s just not for me. I spent decades being true to my childhood vow. I resided in that state for a long time… an eternity to spend in a place that never felt like I belong.

Today I have a place to call home. Really, truly home. It’s not in the Great Lone Star State of Texas where I used to ride horses and play with cows. Nor is it in the Sunshine State, where I grudgingly walked through hot sand for over forty years. It’s in the Tennessee hills, a land rich in history. My home is where men fought and died for what they believed in, and forged the backbone of this great nation we call America. Strangely, my heart has been here for quite some time. I just did not know it.

For the first time in my life, when I started Dusty and pulled out onto the open road again, I did so with a twinge in my heart. I could have stayed longer. One more walk through the countryside. Another dinner and sharing life with amazing people.

I’ll look forward to coming home again. Until then, I’ll learn to wear orange without thinking it’s a Florida Gator, make plans and dream about my next Tennessee Homecoming.

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Road to Freedom 2.0 Begins!

Posted October 21, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

They said it wouldn’t happen. They told me my tour was over. And yet, 54 days after I was sidelined from injury, Road to Freedom 2.0 begins!

When I sat on the side of Highway 62 in Indiana dizzy and nauseous from a torn ligament in my knee, I have to admit, I wasn’t sure this day would come either, at least not on the bike. After all, I’m 56 years old with a serious injury to my knee. And yet, I knew the Tour was to continue. I just didn’t know how.

Oh me of little faith. God had different plans. He wants his women set free from the bondage of fear after assault or abuse. He wants them to life the abundant life He came to give them. 

Wabash River Bridge, where I tore the ligament in my knee

Wabash River Bridge, where I tore the ligament in my knee

So, today I ride. It’s not about the bike. It never has been. God is moving in a miraculous way to reach women who have given up hope. Who live in emotional prison. 

I should cross over the border into Georgia sometime today but who knows. God may have different plans. 

Preparing to leave on the Road to Freedom Tour 1.0

Preparing to leave on the Road to Freedom Tour 1.0

I am so grateful that God would use me to reach these women. I’m in this for as long as God directs. I so appreciate your prayers, your encouragement and your support. It means so much to me. Your text messages, emails, Facebook comments come at just the right time. 

Dakota and Bob. Road to Freedom 2.0

Dakota and Bob. Road to Freedom 2.0

I try to envision the women I’ll meet in the towns I travel through, or in the wilderness. I don’t know who they are or where our paths will cross but one thing’s for certain. When we meet, God will be in our midst and great things will happen.

I am so thankful that I take you with me on Dakota as I travel. I couldn’t do it without you.

 

 

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Nostalgia Ride

Posted September 30, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Yesterday after church, I rode Dakota to the Mayport Ferry. The strong headwind fought against me as I cranked along. It also brought in a smell that I’d so quickly forgotten: the salt marsh. There’s nothing like the scent of brackish water when the St. Johns River mixes with the tides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Salt marsh in north Florida

Salt marsh in north Florida

I climbed the Wonderwood Bridge, a monster that had been constructed after my relocation from Jacksonville, Florida. It towered over the Intracoastal Waterway, granting me the best seat in the city over the marsh.

On the beach side of the waterway, I rode through Florida hammock, trees that grow on each side of the roadway, creating a tunnel. Spanish moss hung from the branches. I marveled at how something so beautiful could be deadly to the trees.

I wound through the jetties, fishermen on one side of the road, and the naval base on the other. To the left I could see the shrimp boats. On the right, frigates and aircraft carriers, a fitting portrait of freedom, and the price that’s paid to insure it.

Shrimp boats docked at Mayport

Shrimp boats docked at Mayport

A mile later I wheeled into Mayport, a coastal town turned port in Jacksonville. Remnants of Old Florida lined both sides of the streets. I tried to imaging what Mayport was like when the Timacuan Indians paddled across the river in canoes to Ft. George Island, or as they called it in their native tongue, “Alimacani”.  Today, the Mayport ferry transports cars, trucks and pedestrians from side to side.

Rustic seafood restaurants were full of Sunday afternoon sightseers and seagulls hovered hoping for a morsel of fish from the patrons.

Singleton's Seafood Shack

Singleton’s Seafood Shack

This is old Florida, the place I remember when I first came. Palm trees, hammock lined roads that lead to brackish fishing holes. Wooden buildings that had long since grayed from year after year of salty winds from the sea.

I miss old Florida. I’m glad I got to see it today. I’m thankful I smelled the marsh and grateful for the odor of freshly caught shrimp lingering in the nets of the boats that docked for the day along the shore.

The St. Johns River from Mayport

The St. Johns River from Mayport

As I rode home, I felt blessed by having experienced the blistering feel of salt water, wind and sun on my face, and the sound of sea oats rustling in the ocean breeze. Though Florida is no longer my home, I am grateful for the Nostalgic Ride through the Florida I remember and can start back out on the Road to Freedom this week knowing I made memories today that will keep Old Florida alive in my heart.

What Nostalgia Ride have you taken recently? Share it here!

 

 

 

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Your Life in an Hour

Posted August 30, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.
Helga and me... new budds

Helga and me… new budds

Remember Helga, the German lady I wrote about in my Bride # 497  blog post? I had privilege of seeing her again yesterday. I could tell she was a bit down, and lonely.

I settled into a chair across the table from her as she reached into her memory and began to pull out stories. She recounted nights in Germany when she danced the night away with soldiers who were lucky enough to punch her dance card. 

She also told of walking out of the bomb shelter to find a German and Russian tank about the square off. She ran back into the shelter while a man waved a white flag to let them know there were innocent people inside who meant not harm to either army.

We laughed when she remembered how Russian soldiers who came to her home accidentally flushed potatoes down the toilet, not knowing what it was. They’d blasted it with their machine guns while screaming, “SABOTAGE!!!!”

I’ve never heard these stories on the news. Nor have I read them in a book but they are so vital and full of the realness of what

individuals suffered in World War II.

Helga’s face lit up as she regaled us with story after story of dancers, soldiers and coming to America. She left the big city of Berlin andSoldiers Executing Improvised Explosive Device Sweep in Iraq landed on a farm in the back country outside Nebo, Kentucky. Chickens and horses harassed her on her trips to the outhouse. She was completely out of her element, and yet, love made a way.

Love taught Helga how to live in America. She followed her husband to the hills where he’d been bread, across a wide ocean in a terrible war. She worked hard in a strange, new world and found a way to be happy, content and successful.

Today, Helga lives alone and doesn’t get many visitors. Her daughter-in-law, Clydean, takes food to her every day and sits with her while she eats. Her life and history are so rich with amazing experiences and yet, there is no one there to listen.

So Helga barely took a breath during our hour stay. She forgot about her loneliness. She forgot about her pain. For a brief hour, she was waltzing with a handsome man around the dance floor in her homeland, knowing she’d been lucky enough to grab the greatest catch.

As I hugged her goodbye and rode off, I wondered if I’d be able to tell my life story in an hour. I wondered if anyone would be there to listen when I’m 89. Helga is one of the most wealthy women I’ve ever met. No, her wealth does not reflect in her bank account and she lives in a modest home. Her wealth is in the rich life she’s lived.

WaltzingHelga’s story should be told. The history of the war from the eyes of a child is priceless. The struggles she faced as a young bride in a strange culture are revealing and her zest for life is infectious. I was filled to the brim when I walked out of Helga’s home. In my mind’s eye, I was right there in that bomb shelter with her. I danced the polka with her. I suffered through the outhouse.

I thank God that Helga and my lives have crossed. I’m richly blessed by her life, both the history of her life past, and the fullness of her
presence today. I hope I can have that rich, full life to talk about when I have an hour with someone willing to listen.

God bless you, Helga, dear friend.

If you had an hour to tell your life story, what would you say? 

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Super Glue, Duct Tape and Dollar Bills… Oh, and a Miracle or Two

Posted August 24, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Dakota in the Cornfield of Western KYI spend most of yesterday going over my bike to assess damage from my ten mile ride through soft gravel. The bike itself was amazing. My tires, on the other hand, didn’t particularly care for the road at all.

I had two flat tires. As I took one  off to patch it, I noticed the tread is separating from the rest of the tire. That didn’t look good at all. Especially since there are very few bicycle shops withing a 50 mile radius of where I am at present.

But, my new friend took me 25 miles to a bike shop. I knew I was in trouble when I asked if they had any tires in my size. They replied that tires weren’t made in my size. Hmmm… I must be having a bicycle tire hallucination.

But, it is an uncommon tire size for this part of the country I’m finding out. So, I did what any other woman would do in my 2013 Bicycle Tour 010situation. I went online to see if I could find a tire. I also called friends to help me with my search. And, I super glued the tread back on.

I also pulled out the duct tape to have it ready… just in case. A total stranger called me this morning to ask me if I knew the dollar bill in the tire trick. Turns out, they work great to help cover a hole in a tire that debris could get through and puncture the tube. That tip was priceless!

 Nothing was working out. I couldn’t have a tire delivered until after Labor Day. The super glue might hold, but I could get sixty miles in the middle of nowhere and have it separate. So, I just prayed. 

Man's hand pointing on street mapThen I got a call from the same total stranger saying he looked and has two tires my size hanging in his garage and wanted to donate them to me. I was floored. I couldn’t get a tire today for anything. Every avenue I took became a dead end. Now I know why. What’s more, a couple of phone calls found a person going that way running errands and is going to pick them up for me. I don’t have to go anywhere!

There are some very important lessons from my experience that I’d like to share with you:

If you get creative with what you have, you can fix your problems. No one super glues a bicycle tire… well, unless you’re the Bicycle Lady in rural Illinois. But I have no doubt it would hold as long as it needed to!

Roadblocks aren’t a bad thing. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get a tire. God orchestrated the whole thing so He could bless me and a man I’ve never met named Hank.

God is trustworthy. In my time of need, He was already working to meet my need. I didn’t see it but I did trust that if I had to ride on a wing and a prayer, that would work.

God’s timing is perfect. He may not allow us to stockpile our blessings, but He will always show up with provision at just

Dakota, my custom-built Waterford touring Bicycle

Dakota, my custom-built Waterford touring Bicycle

the moment we need Him to. 

Miracles do happen today. Those two bike tires in Hank’s garage are the only two tires that size in southern or central Illinois. And I never would have known about them if God hadn’t had a stranger named Hank call me. 

Out of the kindness of his heart, Hank gave tires. Out of the desire to bless, Brian drove to the nearby town to pick them up. Out of God’s abundant heart, all things worked together for good. 

Does life really ever get better than this?

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When You Can’t See His Hand, Trust His Heart

Posted August 17, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Cornfields in KyWhen I made it to Owensboro, KY, I felt out of sorts. Something just didn’t seem right. I was certainly moving into unfamiliar territory. I’m a southern gal and just across the river was a whole new world.

Honestly, I began to wonder if I’d missed God. I desperately wanted something  I was used to. I missed home, which I’m discovering is somewhere in the south.

I almost slipped into a funk. I emailed my prayer/support team telling them something just didn’t seem right. They immediately began to pray for God’s guidance. I spent the day yesterday riding around Owensboro and trying to figure out what my next steps would be.

Last night I conducted a live webinar with great authors Rachel Hauck and Beth Vogt. As we navigated the pre-show sound checks, their voices soothed Kentucky Countrysideme. Calmed my spirit and tethered me to things I know and love.

As I soaked in their love and encouragement and shared my experiences with them, I realized I just couldn’t see God’s hand. Other than that, nothing had changed. As I pondered that truth, an old contemporary Christian song came to mind. They tell how God is to wise to be mistaken. He won’t be unkind. Sometimes I won’t see His plan but when I can’t see His hand, I can trust His heart.

Dr. Martin Luther King said we don’t have to see the whole staircase to take the next step. So really, when I felt something wasn’t right and when I felt like I was in a place I don’t belong, the bottom line is it’s a matter of trust. So I asked myself the question, “Do I trust God?”
The answer is YES! So I took another step and rode onward. When He shows me another step, I’ll take that one. Then another.

Gift from Girls in McDonalds in Henderson KYWhile sitting in McDonald’s using their wifi to post this, two young ladies walked in the door and said, “Are you the the Bicycle Lady?” Ahhh, that familiar question. Thank you, Lord!

They said they saw me riding down the road then saw my bike at McDonald’s and knew they needed to bless me. They handed me a $10 McDonald’s gift card, a bottle of water and piece of paper saying:

“You have been blessed on Purpose. May God use you to bless someone, too.”

Yeah, I can trust His heart! Do you? I sure hope so.

 

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On the Road Again…

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

Tennessee State LineWhile you’re reading this, I’m back on the road, leaving Mississippi for the last time on this trip. I’m pushing north, through Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana to arrive in Indianapolis on September 11th, just 35 days from now.

I will never forget my trip through Corinth. To me personally, it is as history-making as it was to America during the Civil War. While I will miss the genteel nature of the people here, the culture and the beautiful countryside, I am also glad to climb on Dakota and head out for places unknown.

 

Amazingly, there are things I have missed about being on the road:

1) The feel of the road beneath me. Well, except for the bumps. 🙂

2) The astonished look on people’s faces as I pull up fully loaded. It immediately opens doors to talk to people. 

3) The simplicity of riding a bike. You pedal and gaze at the world around you. 

4) Figuring out where I’ll sleep. Sounds crazy, I know.

Things in Life I’ve missed:Downtown

1) My books… especially my Brandilyn Collins collection. Love my Kindle but it ain’t a real book.

2) Netflix. I really got attached to the Australian TV Series McLeod’s Daughters before I left.

3) Dairy Queen around the corner. Right now, I would kill for a chocolate dipped twist cone. Haven’t had one on my trip.

4) Sharing chips and salsa at a TexMex place with friends. I just have to make new ones on the spot! 🙂

2013 Bike Tour 021

 

Things I don’t miss:

1) Having my own roof over my head. I found it’s severely overrated. 

2) Paying big bucks for 200+ TV channels I don’t want to watch.

3) Traffic. 

4) Being busy. This, too, is seriously overrated. 

5) My car. Dakota gets much better gas mileage! 🙂

6) Florida. After living there over 40 years, I haven’t missed the sand and palm trees a single moment. 

My blog posts for the next 35 days may be a bit sporatic since I don’t know when or where I’ll have internet service. But I will post withFacing Fear Cover FINAL 6-9-13 every opportunity. If you don’t want to miss any of my adventures, I do suggest you join my mailing list at www.RebaJHoffman.com.  

Don’t worry, I don’t sell or give away any of your information. Nor will I ever send you any unwanted email. I just have a mailing list so you can get my blog posts delivered to your email inbox every time I post.

Thank you all for the encouragement, kudos, support, prayers and friendship as we take this journey together… the Road to Freedom Bicycle Tour Across America. May my legs not wear out until women across the country with PTSD find the courage to face their fear and find the freedom to take their life back!

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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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First Day Under My Belt

Posted July 14, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Preparing for Departure in Greenville, SC 7-13-3I’m really thrilled (and tired) for getting my first destination. I’m staying the night with Beth and John, total strangers I met online through and organization called warmshowers.org. They are the most gracious hosts! 

The trip was hard. I used Google maps bicycle feature and took several wrong turns. I wound up riding 12 miles longer than I should have up very steep hills. I walked my bike up a couple. For Lance Armstrong, that would end his career. For a cyclotourist there is no shame in that.

The biggest blunder of the day occurred before we even left. No, it was not dropping my bike fully loaded on the sidewalk. You have to do that at least once!  Glad I got that out of the way! I was loading my bike when I saw Edie hug someone she recognized. She introduced me to a lovely woman. I shook her hand wearing bicycle gloves. Ewwww!!

Then I refocused my attention back on Dakota. About ten minutes later, Edie must have realized I didn’t catch the name. She’d introduced me to one of my favorite authors: Lynette Eason. Wait for it… Duhhhh!!!

I did break down today, just not on Dakota. Beth and John live on a beautiful lake and took me out for a spin around it in their boat.

That's me with my feet propped up, enjoying the ride.

That’s me with my feet propped up, enjoying the ride.

We’d traveled over three nautical miles when the boat just died. It had been rainy today so fellow boaters were rare. We were able to flag another boat down and they towed us back into our dock. What a GREAT adventure.

We had hamburgers on the grill with french fries and Beth’s incredible secret recipe coleslaw for dinner, along with Beth’s mandatory recovery drink: chocolate milk.

John is a major bike mechanic. I wasn’t able to get my bike into the lowest gears which meant crawling up hills threatened to blow out my ACL. He offered to adjust it for me. Tomorrow I’ll have the added blessing of my granny gears. 

Life is good.

Please comment. It keeps me pedaling with purpose to who knows where! Share it here!

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