“We have visions of how things should go, and they don’t always work out that way. But then, God shows up and He shows up big and He says, ‘Oh, no, this is how it’s going to be.’ And it’s way better than what you ever envisioned.”
There were a few standout moments in Lorena Hoffman’s life that she never would have envisioned for herself.
Paralysis in her leg for nearly a year.
Resigning from her dream job.
A global pandemic.
He redeemed each and every one of these situations, for Lorena’s good and for His glory.
Lorena was born in Lewisville, Texas. She is one of six siblings, and falls in the middle of the lineup. “I remember spending a lot of my childhood outdoors — climbing trees, riding bikes, playing with my neighborhood friends, and at the public pool jumping off the high dive,” Lorena recalled.
The memories she cherished most were from when she and her family would travel to her grandparents’ ranch in central Mexico during the summer. “They grow lots of vegetation and chili peppers there, and raise all kinds of farm animals. …We would help milk the cows in the morning for fresh milk, gather all the chicken eggs, collect water from the well to distribute to all the animals, and ride horses through the corn fields to collect corn to sell and eat that day. My mom and aunts would be in the kitchen all afternoon making homemade tortillas and something hearty to eat. It was always a feast when we were there. After dinner, my siblings, cousins, and I would climb a ladder up to the roof — which, ranch houses were built flat there — and we would all lay down and stare at the stars until it was time for bed. We loved getting to do that, because it felt like the stars were so close that you could reach up and touch them. Life there is simple and humbling, and it’s my fondest memories growing up.”
There was one childhood memory, though, that would change her life forever. Lorena had been having a really rough day and felt compelled to go to her neighbors; looking back, she says she believes that was the Lord leading her there. They were Christians, and the wife prayed over Lorena. “And that was the first day… where I was introduced to knowing who Jesus is and knowing who God is and knowing just the power of prayer and the power of peace.” They had a daughter Lorena’s age, and the two became best friends.
Throughout middle and high school, she always kept up with that family, but after graduation, she lost touch with them for a while. Years later, Lorena would go on to find the wife on Facebook and reconnect. “When I think of her, I think of her as just a strong Christian woman who was doing God’s work in that moment,” she said fondly. “You want to be that for someone else, ‘cause it can change everything.” They still check in with one another every now and again.
A seed of faith had been planted, which produced a desire in Lorena to go to church. There was a bus that would take the youth in the neighborhood to church, and so she began eagerly attending.
A few years later, she accepted Christ into her heart and became a Christian. “…it changed my life for the better. I honestly don’t know where my life would have been… it just changed the trajectory of where my life could have gone.” As Lorena puts it, the Lord has been so faithful to her, and is “the quiet to my noise.”
After high school, Lorena attended community college for about two years, then decided to move out to California, where one of her sisters lived. There, she worked at various jobs over the course of a few years, such as a talent agency, until she decided to go back to school. Of her time working in California, she noted, “I loved working with people, and I loved being able to connect with people in certain ways. That was always meaningful for me, and I love that.”
On her way driving home one night, a “random” commercial for Vanguard University’s psychology program played on the Christian radio station The Fish. After looking up more about the program, she decided to apply. “I was accepted, and I couldn’t believe it, because it had been years since I had been in school.”
Reflecting on her time at Vanguard, she says, “it was an amazing two and a half years… But also the professors, their encouragement. And not only that, but just the inclusion of faith-based counseling and theology and just aligning all of that with God’s Word. …it was just exactly where I needed to be and what I needed to be doing.” She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Human Development. “It was the first time in my life where I felt and believed God made that path for me to be there, to give me the tools and mindset to succeed in that capacity.”
Lorena went on to study at Pepperdine Graduate School of Education and Psychology. She graduated with a Masters in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy. She was the first — but not the last! — member of her family to graduate college and with a master’s degree. She was driven to study psychology by the desire to know the “why’s” behind intricate and complex family dynamics. “I just had this strong feeling of needing to know more and wanting to learn more,” she said. She got hired as a women’s behavioral counselor, a fulfilling role in which she thrived.
In the midst of her studies and career, Lorena dated, got engaged to, and married her husband Eric, with whom she had been friends for years. “Eric is my better half, my rock, and safe haven. He just gets me like no other person and supports all my ideas and dreams.” The newlyweds knew they wanted to start a family, and soon, Lorena gave birth to their daughter, Lilliana.
But then, the unimaginable happened. After the birth, Lorena experienced neuropathy in her right leg. She visited the doctor constantly over the course of four months, getting multiple tests and doing physical therapy. She had no feeling in her leg and had to maneuver using a brace and a walker. Since she couldn’t drive, she ultimately had to give up the job she loved. The combination of being a new mom, losing feeling in her leg, and letting go of a career she had worked so diligently to achieve, was an awful lot to bear.
A grueling ten and a half months later, she finally regained feeling in her leg. “It just needed time to regenerate, the nerves needed time to regenerate,” she explained. Looking back on that period, Lorena said she sees that God’s hand was in it all. “As hard as it was, I think it was a way of me, I guess maybe slowing down literally… And also not only that, but getting to savor the moments, that time with Lilliana. Growing up in a Mexican family, our culture values hard work, so having a job and working was top priority.” Lorena explains that while becoming a stay-at-home mom initially was not ideal for her, “it turned out to be the best thing to happen to me.”
When it rains, it pours, though, because six months after she regained feeling in her leg — the pandemic hit. “Eric continued to work during that time, despite the lockdown. So it was just me and Lilliana all day isolated. And I say that word because that’s what it was. It was lonely and it was isolating.” None of their close friends lived nearby, nor did any family.
Providentially, the Hoffmans had a conversation with some dear friends — who actually, years earlier, introduced Eric and Lorena to one another — who had decided to move to Little Rock. That sparked a desire to move closer to family. In May of 2021, the Hoffman three moved to Texas to spend quality time with family, but with their sights ultimately set on Little Rock. Lorena said she enjoyed the small-town feel of Little Rock, and it was still reasonably close to all their Texas relatives. “I’ve always loved it. I’ve always loved the people. I love the beauty of Arkansas.” During their time in Texas, she prayed specific and intentional prayers for their upcoming move to Arkansas. Two of the most important were to find a Bible-based church and to find community.
In July of 2022, the Hoffmans finally arrived in Little Rock.
They “happened” to drive by Fellowship Bible Church one day, and Lorena knew they needed to check it out. The very first smiling face they saw that Sunday morning was that of Fellowship’s I.T. Director Andy Baker. He warmly greeted them and introduced them to Teaching Pastor Mark Henry, who showed them around for a bit, and then they went into service.
Lorena saw in the bulletin announcements for things like Discipleship Groups, as well as Preschool Storytime, which is a gathering for mothers and their Pre-K kiddos. “So everything that I had been praying for a year prior, was just starting to align,” she said.
The Hoffmans wasted no time getting plugged in, and joined a Discipleship Group (D-Group) in the fall of 2022. Lorena emphasized how much that has impacted her and Eric, not only by getting them connected to community, but also by how it has helped them grow spiritually. “We have made lifelong friends in our group and have expanded our knowledge of the Bible because of our D-Group. I’m so thankful to Fellowship and our D-Group leaders for that.”
Preschool Storytime, too, was a game changer. “Not only did it make me happy for the opportunity to have a place to take Lilliana to engage with other kids, but every week it made Lilliana just light up,” she said. Lilliana, who recently turned five, has a great deal of spunk and pep, according to her mother. “She tells me that when she grows up, she wants to be a worship pastor and a babysitter.” Contrasting against those Covid years, it has been a joy for her to watch Lilliana flourish. She said she can’t over emphasize “how much Fellowship Kids means to our family and the team that leads that each week of Trish White, Juliana Reynolds, Ross Rice, Jeff Wood, Emily Manus, and Anna Talley. They bring so much joy to the kids with the events and activities they plan each week with love and intentionality.” Lorena also noted that there’s nothing more satisfying than listening to her daughter recite Biblical truth that she learns at church.
“So after maybe two or three weeks of coming to storytime every week, I felt like God was tugging on my heart to find moms that were in the same season as me that probably went through the same thing I did.”
If you know Lorena, you know she’s never met a stranger, but even she had to get over the hurdle of nervousness to approach new people. “I prayed for, to be very intentional, to be courageous, because I felt there’s times where I’m really shy and I can’t talk, I’m like, ‘am I going to say the wrong thing, or is it just going to come out wrong?’ …And so I started talking to moms like, ‘Where are you from?’ Just wanting to know their story.” Those little moments of courage led to friendships that have blossomed in the past year. “I remember not too long ago, I think it was just like a couple of months ago, one of them telling me — who’s now one of my really good friends — ‘thank you for saying hi to me last year. Because I didn’t really have any friends.’”
From there, it snowballed in the best possible way. As her relationships deepened and grew with more and more of the Preschool moms, Lorena and her friends knew they wanted to continue this once the designated storytime meetings ended for the semester. So, they created a group that met regularly throughout the summer to do fun activities with their kiddos. They also initiated monthly mom’s-night-out gatherings.
This fellowship, Lorena says, is vital. “It gives a new and even a seasoned mom looking for this type of community for moms a sense of support, belonging, peace, and an empathy, knowing that they’re not alone and they don’t have to be alone, and that’s important.” Their roster now is about two dozen moms, and Lorena says the more, the merrier. “I still want it to continue to grow, because I know there’s moms out there who need that. …and it’s true. It does take a village. And everyone who’s in the group, they count on each other for help. And that’s what we’re here for, because we understand, we know.”
Lorena also empathizes with how difficult — but also how worth it — it can be to vocalize when you’re struggling. “And it’s really hard for people to ask for help. It really, really is. But I think that once you find other moms… just say hi. And from there, allow things to just organically flourish, let the Lord do His work. …because you just never know that that person you’re saying hi to or introducing yourself to may need that, may need you. And you never know where that’s going to lead.”