Episode #03 A Stroke at 29: What Choice Will You Make? Lori Vober

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From Today's Episode

Lori Vober endured a life-threatening hemorrhagic stroke at the age of 29 followed by complications of epilepsy. She and her husband leaned on God’s faithfulness through the uncertainties of adoptions, parenting, job losses, moves, and years of rehab.

Find out more about Lori and stroke resources here and check out her book: Choices: When You are Faced with a Challenge, What Choice Will You Make?

Today's Verses
  • Jeremiah 29:11-13
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Additional Resources
  • Read her family’s adoption story here

Kelly: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Unshakable Hope Podcast, where real life intersects with redeeming love. I’m Kelly Hall and this is where we wrestle through faith questions such as, how do I trust God’s heart when his ways and delays are breaking mine? How can I believe God is good when life doesn’t seem good? My prayers are that God would renew our hope in these conversations and that each of us would experience the very real power of his presence and love.

Today. I’m so excited to meet our guest, Lori Vober, and for you to meet her. We’ve had so much fun connecting before this podcast. She’s written a book called Choices. And she asks the question: when you’re faced with a challenge, what choice will you make?

Lori is well equipped to ask such a question because she suffered an intercerebral hemorrhagic stroke at the age of 29 and then developed epilepsy as a result. Even after numerous other major [00:01:00] life upheavals, Lori never gave up on God. And through it all, she and her family have experienced God’s love and his faithfulness.

So Lori, welcome

Lori: oh, thank you so much, Kelly. I’m so excited to be here.

Kelly: I wanna tell you that as I read your book, I kept wanting to call you up on the phone because we had so much in common. I too graduated from the University of Texas and I played the flute, and my first job as a physical therapist was actually in a rehab wing in a hospital, just like the one you described in the book.

Lori: Oh, that’s so incredible.

Kelly: So why don’t you tell us a little bit about your family, your husband, your kids?

Lori: Yes. Well, thank you so much for the kind introduction and, again, I’m excited to be here. So, my husband’s Dainis and we were married just shy of five years, when out of the blue. I suffered what was called an Intercerebral, hemorrhagic stroke perfectly healthy. And actually, we had been trying to start our family for about a year little over a year at the time of my stroke.

And I had just [00:02:00] made a major job transition from corporate sales and marketing at the airlines. To a job at our church. I had already been working at our church part-time as their special events coordinator and they asked me to
come on full-time as their office manager.

And because we had been struggling to start our family, I thought it would help with the stress level and the travel schedule. So that was my plan is to help with our family planning. God’s plan actually, though I believe, was to put me in a safer environment and to save my life because three weeks later, out of the blue came the devastating change and had that stroke.

Unfortunately, I did not know the signs of a stroke as I should have at age 29. Did not feel well that day. But Just came on suddenly and really was just rushed to the hospital and emergency brain surgery that night and woke up 17 days later completely paralyzed on the left side.

Really, I just, we [00:03:00] lost everything and really? Really learned that in the blink of an eye, you can lose everything and your whole life can change. But God always has a plan. He really does. We have just learned so much through this journey of Being flexible and having faith. And thankfully I did have faith prior and I’m so thankful for that.

But my husband and I lived in Minnesota and I was in the hospital for two months.

And came home. He and my parents were both my caregivers and he was also in the airline industry. It was right after September 11th.

Kelly: Wow. Yeah, I didn’t know the timing.

Lori: Yes. And so unfortunately, yeah, because of the airline industry and the slowdown, it was about six months after my stroke that he lost his job.

That was very difficult, another life challenge, but God has a plan, for everything. And even though sometimes we don’t see that plan right up front he provided a new opportunity for my husband, in Arizona and it was, [00:04:00] although it was very difficult emotionally to make that move it was so wonderful for me.

It jumpstarted my recovery and my physical therapy at a brand-new rehab. So I basically made that my full-time job for the next seven years and worked. Pretty much six to eight hours a day to get my recovery and my mobility back.

At a new rehab facility in Arizona, it was called Swan Rehab. It was just opening up. I was one of their first patient groups. I will always be extremely thankful for that opportunity.

In 2011, we adopted three children and decided to continue our family planning at that point.

Kelly: Okay. I’m wondering what it was like for you that morning when you woke up 17 days after you’d been put in a coma. I know you went through several surgeries too, but when you’re first coming out of that coma, you’re hearing the news about what happened. Were you able to process that?

Lori: I [00:05:00] don’t, I, I don’t believe I was really able to process it and, I think God protected me a lot emotionally along the way and in the journey because I liked to exercise a lot prior to the stroke.

And I think he protected me emotionally by giving me that love of exercise and that focus on getting better and regaining things on a physical level. So I just kept thinking if I just rehab hard enough, if I work hard enough if I just keep going and keep persevering.

I will get better. Unfortunately, that wasn’t completely correct because I still have a disability today for those that see me in person. I still have left-side deficits. My left hand is still an assistive device, I guess you could say to my right hand. I still walk with a limp.

But I am very independent. I can drive, and I can take care of our family. And so I can do a lot of things independently that I say by the [00:06:00] grace of God that I can do those things.

I’m thankful that we made the move to Arizona and that I found the therapy. I did.

Kelly: Yes. That is because you could have ended up staying in Minnesota and not had additional therapeutic resources.

Lori: Definitely. And really I had great therapy at the beginning and I am friends actually with my first therapist but they really didn’t know what to do with me in Minnesota.

You’ve reached your six months, we don’t know what to do with you. Go home and be happy. Yeah. And at that point, at age 30, I was not gonna go home and be happy in a wheelchair. And the new therapy team that I had here in Arizona really believed in the neuroplasticity of the brain, which is the ability of the brain to relearn through repetition.

And I kind of attributed kind of to piano lessons where the more you practice, the more you’re gonna learn and the better you’re gonna get at it. And that’s how I thought of it. And they really felt, if one activity doesn’t work, we’re gonna change it up and we’re gonna keep [00:07:00] working at this until you get better.

Kelly: One of the things you mentioned in your book was that you lost the whole left side. You mentioned that this morning and you said that the center of your body was the middle of your right side.

Yes. And I worked with many patients who had that same issue. So we’d place a mirror in front of them so they could start to be aware of the other half of their body and they could start to see it and feel it when you’re learning to sit up straight, you can’t feel it.

You’re not even aware of it. Your brain doesn’t know how to activate those muscles, and so it’s a huge learning curve. But I so agree with you. The neuroplasticity of the brain is huge. Our girls, three of our girls are profoundly deaf, and they could not hear anything at all. , they got cochlear implants and then later they got them on the other side.

But that part of their brain on that side had never processed sound… So they had to do a lot of therapy to train their brain, to process and to apply [00:08:00] meaning to that sound. And now they do. Great with it, but I love how God just filled you with this sense of purpose and perseverance.

I wondered how long you had been in rehab. I think, did you just say seven years?

Lori: Seven years straight for the first time. And then once we adopted, I kept going back intermittently and then just really did my own program. And so now that two of our children are out of the house and my son is a, now a senior in high school.

This is my year to get back to really Figuring out what I can do to concentrate on myself again.

Kelly: Yeah. It’s just such a miracle that you survived. Oh, I agree. I agree.

So I was just praising God with you as you were describing your recovery.

Lori: thank you. Thank you. And I forget that sometimes, you get to a point where you, want more.

But you can’t question why you do it. It’s more important to look for opportunities of what can I do with it. And I [00:09:00] think God is really giving me the ability to look at all the challenges we’ve gone through.

And say, okay, we have had some, definitely major challenges in our lives, but for what purpose and what can I do with him?

And I think anytime. We go through things in life, we have a choice of how we react. And that’s one of the big things that he did when he gave me the opportunity to write my story and he gave me the title choices, we’re all gonna face challenges in our lives, but what we have a choice in is how we react to those.

Kelly: Our disappointments can either drive us away from God or drive us deeper into the heart of God. And so yes, there is a choice we make, but the sweet part about the Lord is how he meets us in those losses and that if we’re willing to just engage with him and share our heartache and our devastation and our questions.

He will meet us there and He will fill us with His love and His sustaining power.

Lori: [00:10:00] He will, and he will bring the people alongside us that we need at just the right time in the connection, at just the right time.

Kelly: Yes. How did he do that for you?

Lori: He brought long-term friends that came alongside us, brought people at our church in Minnesota. , it wasn’t easy to make the transition and give up, everything, we had known at the time to move across the country.

I think that was emotionally looking back, that was really tough. So when we moved to Arizona I had to recreate not only who I was to myself and who this new me was and who this new normal was, but. to other people because all they saw was this young person with a disability. They didn’t know who I was. And then I also started having seizures and epilepsy from the stroke. So that also took away a lot of my independence. But as I improved really I jumped into women’s ministry at the new church that we found, and that really was the [00:11:00] first step of me becoming the new me and me finding myself again.

What I’ve learned along the way is being vulnerable learning to trust and learning just to be open to others and finding support along the way. And everybody goes through things… Yeah. And your parents, the way your parents came alongside you, and y’all shared a home.

You had a home that had a space for them and a space for your family, and they were just wonderful in the ways that they stepped up and cared for you and cared for your family throughout this whole adventure. Yes. I have wonderful parents and we’re still very close to them. They live about five minutes from us, so, we see them frequently.

Kelly: I wanted to, Ask you about a particular part of your story that I read in the book, and it really moved me because I saw so much courage displayed in this story. So this is when you were in college at the University of Texas and you [00:12:00] experienced an intense loss.

And disappointment, and I don’t know, even a humiliation, I don’t know if it was, but can you please describe what happened and then how you responded to that?

Lori: Sure. Yes. So I had the amazing privilege and opportunity to be part of the University of Texas Longhorn Band. And while I was at the university and I always said Many things that I was involved in were really based on my perseverance and my attitude and not on my talent.

And that included the band. It really did. But you know, I was involved in sports much of my life until we moved to Texas. My dad was in the telecommunications industry as I was growing up. And so we really moved every two to three years my whole life. And as an only child, I could get lonely at times.

And so I think when my husband and I decided to adopt, that’s why we adopted a sibling group because we were both only children. We wanted to have a bigger [00:13:00] family. But when I moved from the east coast to Texas, when I was in high school, I transitioned my sports career to the band. And so when I went to the university, I was in the band and in my first year I went to what was called the Birtha Crew.

And that was a huge big drum. You made the Bertha crew when you actually weren’t quite good enough to make the band, but you showed enough perseverance and enthusiasm that they wanted you to be part of the band, but you didn’t have quite enough talent to be part of your instrument group.

And I was a flute and piccolo player. Player. So my freshman year I was part of the Bertha Crew…

Kelly: As a Bertha crew, what were you doing during the halftime performances?

Lori: there were four people for the Bertha crew as a humongous drum, and you rolled the drum out onto the field during the halftime performance.

And then, you stay on the sidelines and you beat the big drum during different things on the sidelines. You travel with the band, you just [00:14:00] don’t play with the band. So, it was my first experience and I was just so grateful. And I became part of the band’s sorority at the end of my freshman year, I really just fell in love with the band sorority so going into my sophomore year, I actually made it into the piccolo section and I also became a part of the Band sorority as a treasurer and an officer. Then going into my junior year I was all set to be an officer again and thought I would be a piccolo player and everything would be set.

Lo and behold the tryout sheet came out and you have to try out every year cuz competition, new freshmen are coming in . Unfortunately, I was cut from the Longhorn Band. I was already set to be an officer in the next year in the sorority.
And my name wasn’t on the roster.

I wasn’t, talented enough for that piccolo section, but I had enough friends that said you know what, our tryouts aren’t yet happening for the big [00:15:00] flag section, and so we are going to do everything we can to get you in the big flag section and teach you everything we need you to know, so, how do you feel about that? And I thought If it means staying in the Longhorn Band. Absolutely. I learned everything there was to learn to be a big flag. I did go through those tryouts. A couple of days later I made it back into the Longhorn Band and continued in the sorority it was the best decision I ever made because not only was I still part of the Longhorn Band, but I found a new love.

I continued in the big flag section continued through my junior, my senior year and in the alumni band, and I absolutely loved it. I wish I had done big black big flags from the very beginning cuz I actually loved it more than the piccolo and it was just so much fun and it just, it was just eye-opening of, again, number one when you.

Open your eyes to new things, what the possibilities [00:16:00] are. And number two, perseverance. Just keep persevering because when God closes one door, he’ll open a window and a new door, cuz you never know. and that perseverance and positivity just carried me through I really think God used that one opportunity to set things up.

Because, with my stroke and then other challenges in my life, it just has carried through. It really has that same trait that has carried through my life so many times.

Kelly: What struck me about that story so much was the courage you exhibited to remain a part of that community.

You loved the community and so you persevered with courage. It just reminds me so much of the most courageous faith heroes that I know that they refuse to give up and they refuse to give in. , what you could have done so easily was to step away, to isolate, to remove yourself because of the loss or the disappointment, but you just kept engaging and it’s a beautiful picture of [00:17:00] how God invites us to engage with him in all of our losses, in all of our heartaches. He will prove himself faithful and worthy of our trust no matter what happens. And so what I see in that story is just the courage to remain even through really big losses.

Lori: Oh, thank you for your encouragement. I appreciate that so much. Thank you. Yeah.

Kelly: What I’d love to ask you, we completely left this part out of the interview. I always wanna start by asking people if there is a verse that anchors them more firmly to God’s heart of love.

So could you share that with us?

Lori: Sure. And I knew. Going to be something we were gonna talk about and we skipped over that. And actually, I have two, if that would be okay?

Kelly: Yes, of course. We love God’s word here so we can talk about it as much as possible.

Lori: So actually I talk about Jeremiah 29 11 a lot in my book so Jeremiah 29 11 through 13 says, for I know [00:18:00] the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future, then you will call in me and come and pray to me.

And I will listen to you. You’ll seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart… And last year I don’t usually pick a word of the year, but. Encouraged through my writer’s tribe to pick a word. And so I did, and I picked the word purpose and I didn’t really know what that all would entail.

But I was becoming a writer for the first time. My book was gonna be published, So I thought purpose would be a really good word for me. I picked it based on Proverbs 19:21 which says, many are the plans in a person’s heart. But it’s the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

And I love that verse, and I loved that word so much because God just showed me that even though I had plans and thought I knew what the purpose was, he just changed it up so much. [00:19:00] As we were talking earlier early. In January, I was pre-diagnosed with ovarian cancer. And although it turned out well, and it ended up being just a benign cyst God’s purpose and plans were so much greater last year than I ever thought they would be.

And not only did I have the opportunity to publish my first book and start speaking, but he used my writing and my speaking. and that new medical journey to support others at the Cancer Centers of America to learn and grow in ways that
I never would’ve had that opportunity.

So this year, as I’ve been pondering what I’m going to concentrate on he’s really placed in my heart the importance of thankfulness and gratitude. And I just love first Thessalonians 5;16- 18 says to rejoice always, pray continually, and give
thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

So many times we think of joy as happiness and an [00:20:00] emotion, but really it’s joy in the Lord is a choice we make, especially when we go through challenges and tough circumstances. and that’s really where I’m at, for people to hear my story and understand that you can go through tough times and still have hope and joy.

Kelly: Yes.

And the thing I love about that Jeremiah 29 11 verse that you quoted about God’s purposes and plans is good. They are good, is that he gave them to the Israelites when they were in captivity and in Babylon. And so when they looked around, things did not look very good, but they were able to just, they were told by the Lord, Keep marrying, keep having kids. Enjoy my presence. Worship me. Give thanks to me. I see you. I am there for you. Your difficulties and disappointments are not an indication of my disappearance, and they’re not God’s denial and they’re not his absence.

And that is so comforting for us as [00:21:00] believers to know that he is with us in all of our trials and in all of our heartache. , no matter what we see.

Lori: And sometimes it just takes time. It just takes time to heal.

Kelly: Yeah, I think that’s such an important point that we need to give ourselves the freedom to heal, to understand that we are wounded, we’re walking through losses, because his goal is always to heal our broken hearts. It may not be to fully heal our physical issues, but it’s always to bring wholeness and healing to our souls. Our hope in Jesus Christ never disappoints.
Lori: Yes, the one thing I do wish I had done early on that I didn’t do, and that’s why I do encourage it now with my cancer patient friends is journaling. I thought many times about blogging and journaling through stroke recovery. Adoption process through, all the challenges of adoption and parenting.

[00:22:00] And I never did, I never took that time and I never really found a love for writing. I was not an author that grew up thinking this is what my dream was gonna be and this is what I wanna do. I write because God has told me you have a story. That’s why I write. And so, I would encourage others though to really, if you are going through a challenging time buy a journal, and just start writing down what you’re going through and then as God answers those prayers.

Journal where he’s answering them and go back and look and see where your prayer requests were and where he’s answered those, I wish I had done that. , I think I would’ve gotten more healing early on had I just funnelled all my thoughts on paper.
Yeah. Yeah. And it’s so helpful. Writing out your feelings is a wonderful way to process your sorrow and your losses. I wanted to ask you, and I don’t know if we’ve already talked about this, but just one last question. Could you tell us what you know about God [00:23:00] now that you didn’t know when you were 28?

Lori: Oh wow…

I think one thing that I have done that I am so grateful for, and this is from my women’s director because I’m a Bible study leader a couple of years ago, she encouraged us to get a mentor in our life, and I did. And that was one of the best things I’ve ever done, am I asked the seasoned woman and my Bible study to start mentoring me.

And it. The most wonderful choice I’ve ever made because she holds me accountable. She’s walked me through some really difficult parenting challenges. And Sometimes she catches on me on some things that I don’t like what she has to say necessarily, but she’ll even say, have you prayed about the activity that you’re involved in?

And did God tell you to be a part of that? And then I’ll think, well, no, I didn’t probably pray about that and maybe I’m not supposed to be a part of that activity right now. And I wish at an earlier age, I had.

Leaned on older, seasoned women in the church to [00:24:00] mentor me. That would be the one thing I would do differently. And I would encourage younger women to go to older women who have gone through tough things that they
maybe going through and leaning on them because there’s a reason they’ve gone through those things and they’ve come out strong.

And stronger in their faith.

Kelly: That’s so helpful.

I’m just so curious. This was 20 years ago that you had this aneurysm. What was it that prompted the writing of the book at this time in your life? 20 years later?

Yes. Well, when I was prompted to write the book and actually started writing. I was at that time a Bible study leader on Zoom, so I really think God had finally put me in a place where I was quieter so I could hear his voice, number one.

And I think a lot of other leaders and authors that I was friends with were in the publishing journey and coming out with their own works [00:25:00] at the same time. And I think I felt like, okay, if they could do it, why am I not?

Why am I not telling my story? I had always said in the past, I think I will tell my story, but I thought it would be a very much stroke story. And my book was definitely not a stroke book at all. It was, came up totally our whole journey of, many different things

Kelly: I agree with you.

It’s not just a stroke story. It’s your complex, challenging joy-filled family story with tons of faith lessons woven in.

You dedicate multiple chapters to your adoption story. Your three beautiful children you and your husband adopted as a sibling group from Columbia. And they were six, eight, and 10.

And then when you returned home, you and your mom homeschooled these sweet kids and taught ’em English to help them catch up, there were so many challenges.

How would you summarize your book’s message for [00:26:00] us?

Oh, I appreciate that so much. Well, the summary really is that life rarely turns out as we pictured it would, and we all face challenges. Some big, some small mine happen to be really huge. But we all in our life face different challenges. And when we face these challenges and trials many times we don’t have any control over them, however, what we do often have control over is how we react to those.

And so my book really illustrates not only our journey as a family, my husband and I, and our journey, and how we handle our challenges from my medical challenge to his different job losses to our decision to go into adoption and parenting and the challenges we faced as adoptive parents.

But it also offered reflection questions at the end of each chapter because I really wanted the reader to be able to incorporate their story and their journey and think about it. What they’re going through. So I hope that [00:27:00] readers find it encouraging and helpful as they’re reading through my book to think about their own journey.

Yes. One of the things you highlight in the difficult times that you walked through, is that when you were faced with a roadblock or overwhelming challenges, what strengthened you was God’s constant presence and faithfulness.

That’s what steadied your heart in his journey. And sometimes you said it was just a moment-by-moment of falling on God’s grace. So, Lori, I know that your book has been nominated for several awards. Can you tell us about that?

So I had the very wonderful opportunity to be a part of a radio broadcast this past summer. It’s with an organization called Joy and Company, and they host a contest called the Christian Literary Award. My book thankfully was nominated in four different categories. But whether it wins an award or not, I am just absolutely thrilled that it was nominated, we have made the decision my dad will be escorting me to [00:28:00] go to the ceremony in Texas. I think a lot of times people see me as you see me right now on screen and you can’t see the disability you can’t see what I’ve been through just talking to me.

But when you see me in person you do get a little bit of a different picture. And so I hope that by my being there in person if that helps my ministry to speak to one more person and encourage one more person that would bless my heart.

Thanks for sharing that. And thanks so much for being here today. Oh, thank you.

I wanted to add an update to this story. I discovered that her book did win two awards in the categories of Christian living and testimonial. She was able to go to Texas with her dad and celebrate that. So, Lori, we love your courage and we’re sending a great big congratulations out to you.

Thanks for listening to the Unshakable Hope podcast. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please subscribe and leave a review. To continue the conversation and for free [00:29:00] resources, be sure to visit me at kellyhall.org. Thanks so much.

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