Matters of the Heart Archive

I’m Willie Shelton’s Daughter

Posted April 11, 2016 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

We rounded the corner of the old country road and the all familiar blue farm house came into view. Approaching the Shelton farm always draws me back to the Road to Freedom Bicycle Tour and meeting Willie Shelton for the first time.

Today though, I returned with one of his daughters, known to you only as Mary. We sat sharing a meal and like always, Mr. Shelton regaled us with his tales of serving in World War II. Recounting how he’d been wounded three times, his eyes grew distant, as though he was walking through the countryside in Europe.

A new part of the story suddenly emerged. Though wounded himself, he helped a fellow wounded soldier get to a place of safely out of the line of fire. Tears filled his eyes as he remembered the words the grateful young soldier said, “If you ever needed anything, I will gladly do it for you.”

I looked across the room through my own sea of tears only to see those same tears in his daughter’s eyes. But those revealing eyes also told so much more. They held admiration and gratitude. They proudly said, “I’m Willie Shelton’s Daughter.”

He never saw the man again. Eventually, Mr. Shelton came home to the rolling hills of southwestern Tennessee and raised a family on the farm. Mary and I walked through those rolling hills together that day. She pointed out the pond where they fished and the pasture where they rode horses. The rope they swung on from in the barn still hangs from the rafters decades later. But if you listen very closely, you’ll hear their laughter as it rides on the wings of the wind.

Mary is strong. Unshakable. Full of life and has a simple, yet cemented commitment to what she’s doing. She helps others even at her own peril and then just goes on to the next thing as if everyone does the exact same thing. I’ve watched it for years. Now, after meeting and getting to know Willie Shelton and the tower of strength and decency he is, I realize the acorn really doesn’t fall far from the tree.

The more I know Mr. Shelton, the more I see him in my friend. Though small in stature, she stands as tall as the pines on the Tennessee mountains and has a presence that changes the room by just walking in it. In heart, she’s the spitting image of her daddy. Mr. Shelton’s legacy will live on in her long after he goes home to be with the Lord.

I marvel at the fabric Mr. Shelton wove into his children. They are all strong, just like him. He brought them up to live a simple life where people matter and lending a helping hand is as natural as eating watermelon in summer.

I’m grateful to know all of them and honored to witness the countless acts of human kindness in my friend that gives her the right to proudly say, “I’m Willie Shelton’s Daughter.”

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Matters of the Heart

Posted January 24, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Those of you who follow me in social media (if you aren’t, why not?), you know that week before last I injured my knee. I slipped in ice while performing my pretrip inspection on my truck at 4am in Alabama. I endured several days of serious pain. It was my clutch knee.

Last Friday night, I took Austin (my brand new Freightliner Cascadia Lightweight truck) in for his very first oil change in Amarillo, Texas. On Sunday afternoon, Austin broke down in the middle of Wild West-and wild wind-Wyoming. God always provides. If you’ve ever driven on Interstate 80 across Wyoming, you know there is nothing there but it just so happened that when my truck broke down, it was at one of very few exits. Literally.  AND, there was one thing at that exit: a TA truck stop.

I coasted down the ramp, to the right into the truck stop (I didn’t stop for the stop sign. Nothing was coming), and into a parking space at the truck stop. I remained there for two days until the folks at my company had Austin towed 100+ miles into Salt Lake City to the Freightliner dealership.

Today is day seven of this adventure and I’m still in a hotel. The week has been a rollercoaster of events. My emotions have run the gammit from patient to furious, positive to hopeless, determined to wanting to chuck it all and pull Dakota (my bicycle) out of storage and take to the open road on him again.

Those who know me know I don’t have family. I can’t go cry on sis’s shoulder, get a hug from dad or have big bro punch someone’s lights out. But, I have you and so many of you have reached out in support. Emails, phone calls, texts, FB posts. The outpouring has been amazing! Thank you, by the way. I wouldn’t have been able to endure this week without you. But even with that, I have to admit there have been moments where I looked out to the surrounding snow capped mountains and felt all alone in a great big world.

Then it hit me. I feel and sense emotion on a very deep level. God gave me that gift so that I can understand what others go through on an experiential level. That way I can help them. He showed me decades ago that I cannot show others the way unless I’ve traveled that road. Remembering that took my attention off my troubles- and my broken down brand new truck- and to those I serve… and those whom I’ve never met who need to be encouraged.

I wanted to quit. I admit it. I wanted to tell the wonderful company I work for and the dealership who built Austin to take their broken down truck and shove it. But one thing stopped me. I’m not a quitter. I wonder how many people have been driven to the brink of their emotional cliff and jumped. I know some. I’m sure you do, too. I also know most of them regretted having made that decision.

I’m writing this in the lobby of the hotel in a nice comfy chair in front of the fireplace with a view of the rocky mountains. The ambiance is wonderful but the main reason I do it is when I’m all alone up in my room, my thoughts turn negative and my positive attitude that keeps me strong begins to crumble. I begin to suffer all alone in the silence of my room.

I know there are thousands of people out there who are doing just that. They don’t tell anyone they are suffering. Their tears are not seen. Their hearts cry at moments when others are not around. Their sad and painful matters of the heart are not shared with anyone. One day, they just disappear… or die a lonely death.

What I’ve been going through this last week has nothing to do with trucks, oil changes, my company or Freightliner. It has everything to do with my purpose to help others overcome… and to become. Someone has to know how they feel. They need to find the way through the emotional quagmire to freedom and then go back to show others the way.

I’m an encourager. I know that. It’s my God-given purpose. The Heartbeat of America blog will continue and I’ll continue to bring you stories from the amazing people I meet. In addition to that, I’m also going to share insights with you on matters of the heart. I’ve been working for a while on a new podcast that will be uplifting, encouraging and hopefully will help you see life’s events in a different light. I’m also considering BlogTalk radio.

I really need your help. You have all been so faithful and supportive both during my Road to Freedom Tour, and with my trucking adventure which I unwittingly termed Road to Freedom 2.0. Little did I know at the time that title would be so profound.

In the weeks and months to come, I will be sharing some deep things of the heart. Those things that pluck at your heart strings. I’ll share hope in the midst of what appears to be hopelessness. I’ll share stories of those who have overcome… stories of triumph, my own and those of others I meet along my journey.

If this resonates with you, I would like to ask you to help me in the following ways:

Please pray that God will lead those who need to hear this message to the blog, the podcast and any other media outlet that opens up.

Please share the blog with others in your social circles and ask them to pray about doing the same.

Please comment on the blog. I will do my best to respond to each comment as my life on the road allows. I utilize a service called LiveFyre to filter out spam from my comments so you’ll have to sign up once and be approved by me to leave comments. It’s not an email capture and sell scam. LifeFyre is my spam filter service. It’s completely safe for you to give your information to.

That would mean so much to me as I ratchet up my blog a notch or two and include matters of the heart. So many of you have asked for this. God is showing me it’s time to do it.

Thank you all for being such faithful supporters during the Road to Freedom Tours. Your encouragement has kept me going forward, helping to heal the wounded, encourage the discouraged and bring the truth of God’s joy to a hurting nation. You honor me.

This blog post is long today but for some reason, I cannot bring myself to apologize for its length. God bless you, my friends.

 

 

 

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