How do I introduce the lady who’s unselfish choices changed my life in a monumental way? My many years of bitterness towards God evaporated through learning of Laura and her son Victor’s incredible story, and her family’s journey of NEVER given up, even though everyday-life is incredibly hard most days.
*Please buy a copy of my book, Beauty from Ashes, if you know someone who needs a heart filled with joy. Laura’s story and her son Victor’s are in my book and I would not have this site today, without Laura’s family being a part of my life. Thank you, Laura!
Life With Laura
You want me to write? Me? About myself? My family? >Insert a big gulp here< When will I feel inspired to actually do something that makes sense?
But in the end, I know that I have something that I can share. So many days I feel like my brain functions like a simple roll of the dice. How is today going to be? What number will I roll? Will I get another lousy “one,” or will I actually roll a “six” this time?
Throughout all the survival techniques I have learned, I have somehow found a deeper purpose in that God has more than what I see in front of me. I may not know what it is yet, and it may be unfolding in slow motion, but there is more.
A Little About Me
I lived in the beautiful mountains of Virginia my entire childhood, and then married a man in the Army, had a son, and ended up in a large military town in North Carolina. After our divorce, I stayed in North Carolina, although I wasn’t exactly thrilled about my location, and went back to teaching full time.
But what a good choice that ended up being for me to stay put! I met my wonderful husband, Jay.
We have been married for 13 years now, and almost 6 years ago, adopted identical twin 16-year-old boys who had been abused and neglected their entire lives. We were their third set of parents, weren’t looking to have any more children, nor were we even foster parents. But the opportunity presented itself for us to get these boys out of their environment, and without hesitation, we screamed “yes,” from the rooftops. They needed more, and we were willing to roll up our sleeves and try to do just that.
Exactly one year into our new family adventures, which were going rather well, for the most part, I might add, one of the twins, Victor became sick right before Christmas of 2013. His health was failing more and more, each day.
After a few days, I knew that something was horribly wrong.
Mothers, you know what I’m talking about…that feeling you get when you just know that something is wrong – it’s like a sixth sense. And it screams at you all day long…
After quickly being admitted into the hospital, we had the experience that no one wants to ever even dream of. Three doctors, dressed in their long, white lab coats, slowly and solemnly entered Victor’s room. I stood at the foot of his bed while the words, “brain tumor,” “brain stem,” “three centimetres,” and “attached,” filtered from the doctors’ mouths. I felt like everything was in slow motion. I remember slightly turning my head back towards this 16-year-old boy who had already had so much in life taken away from him in the form of abuse.
I caught a glimpse of him, honestly trying so hard not to look directly at him for fear of losing control. He was propped up in bed, silently listening to the doctors’ gripping verdict, and he had one single tear rolling down his cheek.
I couldn’t even breathe at that point.
Sixteen months in the hospital, about 42 surgeries and procedures, loss of sight, loss of speaking, loss of motion, loss of swallowing, loss of eating, and loss of breathing without equipment, we have Victor home now.
Our home is a makeshift hospital that runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
My husband, who was terminated from his job at the six-month mark while we were in the hospital, (our hospital was over three hours away from our home), has become Victor’s eyes, hands, and feet. He cares for him every day with limited nursing support during the week.
A Typical Day
Honestly, there is nothing glamorous about my day. I’m a teacher, mom, wife, and business owner! On school days, I get up, begrudgingly, around 5AM and spend a couple of hours by myself, which is best for everyone I might add.
Interruption to my alone time in the morning can be hazardous to others’ health!
During the work week, I teach 6th grade, and in the evenings I run my Rodan and Fields’ skincare business, which has been a financial life-saver to our family. Over the weekends, I try to basically catch up on everything that I cannot do during the week. Victor is limited in what he can do and where we can take him, so most of our family time is structured to revolve around him and his needs.
My Daily Struggles
Can I get real here? I struggle every day with the thought that I’m not doing enough and that the walls around me are getting taller. I constantly worry about my ability to keep up with all the demands of two children in college, a child on a ventilator, supporting a husband who has become a make-shift nurse, teaching full time, and fighting to find time to effectively run my business.
*If you’d like Laura to help you achieve beautiful skin you can email her at email@example.com or call Laura: 1-910-220-9300. You can also check out her Rodan and Fields websites. For the Canadian site click: HERE and the American website click: HERE
I wrestle with myself every single day with the idea of not being “enough.” So often, the void that I carry inside of me leaves me in a place where I just have nothing to give others. When you have spent so many years in a hospital, literally watching someone deteriorate in front of you, no doubt it can leave you with a feeling like you have nothing to give anyone else. Honestly, that is how I describe myself, and I struggle with that. I’m tired. Just tired.
And then there is the other part where I fail…I realize that my strength and all that will undergird me comes from what God has given me.
He has given us all the same measure of faith to nurture, grow, and exercise our walk with Him. I watch others nurture their faith much more obediently, and with that, have the benefit of walking in greater strength, stronger belief, and with much more authority. So many days I feel like I slump my shoulders over while I try to be the person that everyone sees me as or believes I should be.
Joys in My Day
Does morning coffee by myself count? Well, I guess my joys are pretty simple. Even though in my State, teaching has become a punishable career, I still love working with my students and watching them succeed. I absolutely adore my Rodan and Fields’ skincare business, and I still love coming home each day to my sweet husband, three dogs, and two cats. Yes, I’m on the verge of being an animal hoarder! But animals and their loving nature bring me great happiness! They just want to be with us and to be our companions! What’s not to love about that?
Ha! This is a never-ending section! Don’t we all have so many things that we just wish we could achieve? Well, my first dream is to lose the 15 pounds that I gained while gorging on mashed potatoes and sucking down endless Coca-Cola while in the hospital.
Of course, I have carried those habits home with me, and now it’s chocolate, coffee with LOTS of whipped cream and sugary syrups.
Oh, and I can’t forget the bags (I do mean bags) of potato chips. But if I could narrow my focus down a bit, I kind of wish I could be the woman that carried such a force of strength that nothing would be too hard for me to handle.
People don’t truly know what others deal with, and it’s not my job to try to educate others on how hard my life is and to try to make them feel sorry for me. It’s my job to live successfully with what I have, to work towards a relationship with God that would allow me to continue to be fulfilled and to share that gift with others.
I think it’s a “no brainer” to say that I want Victor healed and for my family to be able to return to a “normal” life. One with outings whenever we want, weekend trips to the beach, and to be able to walk out of the house without worrying about my husband or the nurses who are left behind with Victor.
I dream of having family game night, dinner around the kitchen table, and that Victor’s trach be a thing of the past. That essential piece right there would simply allow for everything else that I could ever dream to fall right into place. Or so it would in my mind…
Moments with God
Honestly, I have probably had more moments with God than I can recall, or even recognize as such. Sometimes I am frustrated by them because they have been so real, but our lives are such a battleground each day. It’s hard to remember them all, but there is that one moment that left me with chills…almost weak from a realization that others were seeing me, watching me, and could see a bigger picture when I could not.
I will always remember the moment that she looked dead at me, and from across the room, pointed to me, and said, “God is going to take care of you.” I choked on my own breath, trying not to cry. Her eyes penetrated me and left me feeling exposed, raw, and with a feeling of having nowhere to hide. I felt like a spotlight had been directed at all of my flaws, fears, and sadness, and that she was reading my every thought.
She had walked into Victor’s neuro ICU room and had stopped in the doorway.
I was standing over Victor’s lifeless body, tubes everywhere, and the humming of machines drowning out the other tiresome hospital noises.
My eyes were closed, and I was trying to muster up something to pray while I held Victor’s limp hand. I was just tired, and was absolutely sick of people coming in and out of his room at all hours of the day and night, never-ending. No privacy, no normalcy, no peace. I don’t remember her name, but she was part of the IV team who was responsible for checking Victor’s PICC line and central lines. I had seen her a handful of times, but today, she stopped before actually entering the room to do her duties, and spoke those words of life over me.
I don’t exactly remember what else she spoke. I know it was short, direct, and penetrating.
“God is going to take care of you.”
This is a difficult subject for me to share. Over the years, there have been countless moments where I knew God was picking up my angry and undeserving soul and pushing it forward. I can’t even put a decent prayer together half of the time. But still, He shows up for me.
I often think about how it would be just so much easier or better if Victor would just get well. Then I would have the energy and strength to do more and be more! I could be the better wife, the better mother, the better friend, the better teacher, the better Rodan and Fields’ Consultant.
I could just be better.
Don’t we always think that if we just had more, or just had less struggles, life would be easier? But for some reason, God continues to meet me where I am, through someone encouraging me, or by someone who seemingly can look into the depths of me, through all the layers, and still find me, Laura Swope Hottel. Somewhere, I’m still in there. And He knows that.
Laura is one of our inspirational speakers at our Inspired conference. If you’d like to hear her incredible journey with her son and family, please buy your ticket now.
Click here: Inspired
I’ve started a humorous, short and sweet series, called Marriage Tips. If you’d like to have a little chuckle with your spouse read, Marriage Tips # 2: Never Insult The Beard