Last week I sent out a four message series on the Prodigal Son from Luke 15. Many of you will know that these messages had their origin years ago as our family struggled through our own prodigal story with our eldest daughter, Stacey. As stated in the messages, the story of the Prodigal Son has many applications for our role as parents in dealing with children who rebel and seek their way apart from God. However, the story has one significant shortcoming. In the Biblical version, the son rebels, leaves home, wastes his wealth in wild living, longs to eat pig food, repents, returns home, and dad kills the fatted calf. All of this seems to take place in a relatively short period of time. End of story.
The reality of prodigal stories is that this is usually not the end of the story. There may be many, many pig pens; many seasons of repentance…and many times when a parent is left looking a long way off, desperately wanting the child to return. Our prodigal story lasted over fifteen years. Stacey first ran away from home at thirteen in 1996. The details of the next many years are not important here, but they involved more than you can imagine – drugs, theft, jail, rehab, sickness, homelessness – many time of eating with the pigs. But God is faithful. Our journey was long and painful, but the journey is now bringing us all great joy.
I asked Stacey to write an update note for the ministry. She was very happy to share what God has been doing in her life.
Dear Family in Christ,
Wow. Has it really been almost 9 years since I’ve written an update? Time really does go by so fast. Well, needless to say, much has changed. I’ll start back in 2010. I met a guy who was a drug addict. Once again, I got hooked. Essentially, you don’t “start over” each time you get clean; you pick up where you left off and it gets progressively worse – FAST. I ended up overdosing. I was unconscious when the paramedics arrived, rushed to the ER and brought back to life. That was still not enough to make me turn away from that life. In fact, I went right back to using just a few days after being released from the hospital. At that point in my life, I had served a couple years in prison for drugs, been to numerous rehabs, tried AA/NA and basically died. None of it was enough to make me stop.
Now, for those that don’t know my history, this might sound a bit extreme. I’d been struggling with drugs since I was about 12 years old and I’m now 33. Some people might call addiction an incurable “disease”. I would agree to an extent. I do believe it’s a disease but do not believe it’s incurable. I believe God works miracles and can cure ANYTHING. A few months after my near death experience, I found myself homeless. I eventually broke up with that guy and moved in with my best friend who was clean and sober. I quit using drugs and she nursed me back to health. She was involved in an amazing church and told me she believed I was going to meet my soul mate there.
Once again, I made a serious decision to surrender to God. This time felt different though. I wasn’t doing it for anyone else but myself. In the past, I felt like each time I’d tried to get clean, I was doing it to please my parents, stay out of jail, was about to lose my job, or lose my place to live, etc. This time, I was truly sick and tired of that life – period. I wanted more and believed God had blessings behind a flood gate waiting for me. Well, it was true. I met my husband at the church my friend took me to and we married in July of 2012. We also had a beautiful, healthy baby girl in June of 2013. That didn’t just happen without me doing some MAJOR foot work though. It was hard to get clean and surrender, but it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Looking back, I see that my parents tried everything they could to help me. I believe they finally had to let go and just pray that I would turn away from my sinful ways. I don’t blame them. I think I would have given up on me a long time ago if I were them. But they never gave up, never lost hope and never stopped loving me. About a year ago, my parents offered to have my family move in with them to help us get a little more financially stable. We stayed for a few months and were able to get a house right down the street from them! It has been so wonderful having them so close and getting to see them so often.
So, here is my current status today. I am completely off probation (first time in all my adult life). I am a full-time college student scheduled to graduate this summer from Kaplan University with my Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Science My daughter is now two and a half and just the most precious gift from God. She is a constant reminder of God’s unconditional love and grace for me. We even named her Grace. My husband is a wonderful, hardworking man who always encourages, supports and believes in me. We are building a life together with Christ as the center and foundation.
I’ll be honest, there are still times when I am tempted to go back to my old ways. But the longer I stay away from it, and the more I turn to God each time the devil tries to creep back in, the easier it is to say no. For the first time in my life, I can honestly say that I love myself too much to destroy my life. I love my family, my husband and my daughter too much to hurt them. Most importantly though, I now see the love that Jesus Christ has had for me all along. He died on the cross for my sins so that I can have eternal life in paradise – why would I want to hurt someone who did that for me?
Life can be so incredibly beautiful when you let go of your selfish desires and let God in. I love my life today and I’m excited for my future! I have never been excited for my future because I never thought I had a future. I literally had no hope 5 years ago. I pray that if any of you are struggling in the ways I have, or have a loved one who is struggling, DON’T EVER LOSE HOPE! God is bigger than any of our problems. There are a couple verses I want to leave you with as they have encouraged me over the years.
2 Corinthians 4:17
“Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
“For I know 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.”
Thanks you to everyone who has prayed for me over the years. Your prayers were heard!
Stacey Johnson (Troxel)
Have a Christ Centered Day!
God’s Daily Word Ministries
**** Reading Plan ****
Feb 1 Exodus 13:17-15:19; Matthew 21:23-46; Psalm 26:1-12; Proverbs 6:16-19