Stephen & Nikki
Stephen: My name is Stephen.
Nikki: And I’m Nikki.
Stephen: We have two boys. Hudson, who is four, he’ll be five next month, and then Haddox is two. So a little bit about myself. I grew up in the Dallas area. I grew up in a divorced home. My parents divorced when I was about three. My dad was a police officer. My mom worked for the Sheriff’s Department. I lived with my mom up until about sixth grade. My mom started drinking a little bit, so my dad took custody of me and my sister. We moved from what was a small town in the Dallas area to a big city, bigger city, which was quite a culture shock for me just to see so many different kids at school. So I began to try to fit in, try to just be liked. That’s the story of my life, really, people pleasing. I wanted to be liked. I go into high school, started smoking marijuana in ninth grade and eventually started taking pills eventually started to do a lot of cocaine around my junior year. Going into my senior year, I got arrested for burglary of a motor vehicle. I went to jail for violating probation and spent two months in jail my senior year.
While I was in jail, I remember from my jail cell, like it was yesterday, I had kind of like a corner cell where I could see the TV from my jail cell. It was the evening time around nine o’clock at night and there was a Billy Graham crusade on the TV. At the end of the message, there was an altar call and I responded to that altar call and that’s when I believe I truly was saved. In that moment there was something different, something, God had met me there! Fast forward, I get out with only a couple months left till I graduated high school. When I was about 19, I started to use heroin from about 2005 to 2014. I was in and out of rehab around nine times.
Nikki: Yeah, my upbringing is a little different. My background’s a lot different than Stephens. My mom and dad divorced when I was about a year old. My dad owned a bar and didn’t have a whole lot to do with us growing up. My mom started to drink a little bit, so my grandparents decided they wanted us to move in with them, give us a fresh start, a new beginning. When we moved in with them we went to church all the time. Going to church was not an option. And so I remember one Sunday, my sister walked down the aisle of this church to get saved and I was like, “I want to do that.” I was 10 years old, so I followed her and I had no idea what I was doing. I just knew this is what you do. So I did that when I was 10 years old.
A couple years later, my older brother, his house caught on fire in the middle of the night. His girlfriend, and two friends that were in the house with him, they made it out and he didn’t. I was frustrated with God. I learned later that that impacted my view of God and just believing that He can do things, but will He do things?
I was just sorting out the nature of God and was still involved with our youth ministry. We went to summer camp every summer. I rededicated my life to Jesus when I was 15 and that’s when I really believed and understood what Jesus did. Like, what His death on the cross meant for me. So throughout high school, I just tried to pursue holiness and love Jesus.
I went to college at a Christian university, and spent most of my life just doing the right thing. Trying to know more about Jesus, love God and love people. And I remember there were nights where I was, I would pray for my husband. I remember praying that God would protect him, God that God would set him free, that God would draw near to him, and that He would exalt him. And I remember, it’s crazy, I literally in my Bible – In Acts where it talks about Stephen being full of the Holy Spirit. – I remember circling that passage and saying, “Stephen is my Bible boy crush,” even in college, and I remember thinking, what if my husband’s name is Stephen? I remember telling God, I wanted a Saul to Paul husband. What that meant to me was, in this day, that it’s someone who had tried everything that the world had to offer and had decided Jesus was better. I also didn’t tell God that I wanted him as Paul, because when I met Stephen, I think he was like on his road to Damascus instead of “the Paul.” But also, I didn’t realize the ramifications that will come with, you know, like, if a guy had really tried all the world has to offer, that’s gonna come with some baggage and that’s not gonna be very easy on me as a wife. I didn’t realize that, so I prayed and God was so faithful to deliver exactly what I prayed for.
Stephen: I had never had a meaningful relationship with another female my entire life. So I just wanted a helper. You know, I knew that wasn’t going to be the “fix all,” that this girl is going to just swoop me up, but I just wanted a godly girl. So I prayed and I just asked God if He would send me a woman into my life to just help me. I had seen evidence of God answering specific prayer, so I prayed for a girl with long dark hair, a girl that was saving herself for marriage, a girl that had been to college, that had a good job, and that really most of all, just loved Jesus with all of our heart.
In April of 2014 of that same year, God, through some divine circumstances, allowed me to start interning at a church. I got out of the recovery program, I was in a recovery house and the pastor of that church sent me and the youth pastor to a young adult volleyball event. We went up, and because I just like talking to people, I saw this girl that was standing off to the side – kind of away from everybody. I struck up a conversation with her by telling her that I liked her sunglasses. From that conversation, we began to play volleyball all night long. It was later on in the evening, about halfway through the night, God told me that this was going to be my wife, that this is the exact girl that I pray for. And she checked every single box of the characteristics that I had prayed for a couple of months earlier.
Nikki: I actually the next morning, was getting on a plane to go to England to see a friend that was a missionary there. And I woke up and had a friend request from Stephen Lane and I was like, wow, I think that’s the guy from last night. Then he Facebook messaged me and wanted to hang out again. So when I got back from England, we went on our first date. About six weeks later, he asked me to be his girlfriend and it was just like a fun little thing. I remember thinking when I first met him, like, I was so excited to be with a guy who didn’t need me. You know, that he had gotten sober, and didn’t need me. He was sober all on his own and was doing well, interning at a church. And then in September of that year, his uncle unexpectedly passed away.
Stephen: Yeah, so my mom’s twin brother, my uncle who I was super close with, passed away unexpectedly over the weekend. I had been working with him, living with him for the last couple years before I had gone to rehab. Again, the story of Stephen’s life is always “just one more.” I thought I could just take a couple pills one night. No one would know about it. I’d take them that night and wake up the next day, we’d forget all about it. But there’s something that shifts in my brain when it comes to drugs and alcohol and I become obsessed with wanting to get high again. So it turned into a full blown heroin addiction.
Nikki: I confronted Stephen at one point and the Holy Spirit had just begun to show me red flags of things that seemed off. Looking back, I see how naive I was at just what could be going on right before my eyes and I had no idea. I got involved in a recovery ministry, met with a couple people to just kind of help Stephen get sober and stay sober. And even though I thought he had weeks or a couple months of sobriety, I would find out that he had used again and again and again.
Stephen: And so fast forward to February of that next year, about 10 months after we had originally met, Nikki met me at one of these recovery ministries one night and basically told me that she didn’t want to be my girlfriend anymore. I was not the person that she had originally thought I was. And I tell people all the time, I don’t know what happened that night, what shifted. But something within my spirit, in my inner man, broke. March 1st of 2015 is when I got clean and sober. I’ve been clean and sober from drugs and alcohol since March 1st, 2015. Praise the Lord! After that, we a couple months later, I asked her to marry me, and a couple months later we got married.
Nikki: Well it was actually like a year later. So fast forward, 2019 was a rough year. In March, our son who was almost two, started having seizures where he would stop breathing. It happened three different times. And then we lost a baby. I broke my wrist. I mean just crazy things that were taking place. Then later that year, we got pregnant again. And in March of 2020, we had a rainbow baby, Haddox is his name.
And if March 2020 doesn’t ring a bell, that’s when the world shut down. Whoo. Thankfully, we got to have a baby five days before the world shut down. I was so grateful. Stephen, because of where he works, he’s an essential worker and so he had to go to work every day no matter what. And I was at home with an almost three year old and a newborn. 2020 was hard for everybody, right? Like it wasn’t just us. It was everybody. So we were ready for 2021 just like the rest of the world. 2021! I remember towards the end of 2020 feeling so ready for 2021. Fresh start, just a new year. What else could go wrong? Can it get any worse than the world shutting down? I don’t I don’t think it can, you know, so let’s get to a new year at the end of 2020. When I’m praying for the new year, God said to me, “What if it’s not better? What if it’s not?” I’m like, What do you mean God? What does that mean? What’s about to happen, you know? He was reminding me that He has to be the source of my hope and my joy and my peace. It can’t be in anything else.
I didn’t really know that anything else was going to happen. I just thought it was just a reminder for Nikki, you know, like, I just need this reminder. So we get into January of 2021, and my grandma, who raised me, she passed away in January. Then in February, everybody in Texas was preparing for one of the worst snowstorms ever. Little did I know, we were about to walk through the biggest storm of our entire marriage.
Stephen: Yes. So life had been going well up to this point. Yes, 2019 was rough, was hard, but throughout being sober, really, for me speaking, for me personally, since I got sober, I felt like the blessings of God were just, you know, good wife, good job, beautiful kids, nice house. I mean, all by worldly standards, man, God was blessing me. It just felt like God’s supernatural grace was on my life. And I know that I had done things over those years that I wasn’t proud of, but because God was continuing to bless me, that has to mean that everything’s okay. Right? Like that has to mean that those little things that I kept secret were forgiven, or I could just keep hidden. But little did I know that I was wrong on that. I quickly learned that God’s faithfulness is not dependent upon me, that He’s faithful, even when I’m not, the Bible says.
Really, I believe you can tell how healthy a person is by the amount of secrets that they keep. So based on that, I was an extremely sick person. What Nikki didn’t know is that I was a happily married man at home, at church, around our friends, around our family. But when I was by myself, for the last four years, five years of our marriage, I acted as if I was single. On one of the first nights of the winter storm, I began to confess what would be a week’s long confession of how I had been unfaithful to Nikki. Throughout our marriage, and even before we got married, I had physically cheated on her before we got married, and then had conversations with the opposite sex on way more times than I would like to think about.
During that week, I was just broken. I was defeated. I was hurting, really just confused. To be honest, I was confused on how I had even gotten to this point. Throughout the entire time I was being unfaithful, there was always an immediate conviction. But it was always followed up by asking for forgiveness from the Lord and also what I thought was repentance. But for whatever reason, the next day would always just keep recurring. I felt stuck. I felt somewhat in a rut in a pit. I just couldn’t get out.
Nikki: What I had prayed for initially, when all this came out, was that God would help me see Stephen the way He saw Stephen. Because when you hear this about someone, it’s so easy to put a label on them. It’s easy to be disgusted and angry and frustrated. And I really just wanted to see Stephen, how God saw him. And so I had a mentor that challenged me to fast and pray once a week. So we did that and during one of those sessions…Sessions? One of those days, God showed me that this was not a Stephen issue. It’s a sin issue. And that was, like, Wow! to me, because then that showed me that I could do this. You know, any, any of us are capable of doing this. It’s not just Stephen. It’s not just Stephen and all of his mess and his struggle. No, no, no, I’m capable of this too. And that was so helpful. I think God knew I needed that early on.
That was probably two weeks after all this came out and God knew I needed that early on to press in and to keep going.
Last thing. This is a process, right? I didn’t know that. It’s way easier if it’s not. Like, you know, just be done, overnight. Miracles happen instantly. Healing is a process. And God showed me that. There’s something really interesting, so stick with me. Okay? When Hudson, our son, he was six months old at the time, we were at the Arboretum. And what’s important to know is…I don’t like bugs. I don’t know that I’m afraid of them, but I just don’t like them. Like, I prefer not to be around them. Like if I had to choose, like, if one comes flying, I’m gonna probably run. That’s what I’ve done my whole life. 20 years worth running. So we’re at the Arboretum, I’m pushing him (Hudson) in the stroller, having a happy day, and a bug comes. – I think it was a bee or a wasp in my defense. Like, it’s something that could hurt you. – So the bug comes, so I run because that’s what you’re supposed to do, and I let the stroller go because I forgot that I have a son in the stroller. And the stroller…
Stephen: Rolls down a really steep hill.
Nikki: That’s not true. It wasn’t steep. But it was a hill and I ran and I fell and I got a hole in my pants. It was so embarrassing.
Stephen: Really embarrassing.
Nikki: [Laughs] And so Stephen’s like, “What are you doing? You have a kid.” I’m like, “Oh, yeah, I have a kid, right.” But for 20 years, I’ve just run when a bug comes. That’s what I do. Right? I didn’t, I forgot. Or I didn’t know. I didn’t, I just didn’t know, I didn’t know. And it’s like, I had to retrain my brain. When the bug comes, I have to stay because I’m the one that’s supposed to protect him.
And here’s what that means: This is what God showed me. It’s just like, I couldn’t change overnight, my brain, when a bug comes, I literally have to think, “Oh, I gotta stay.” Like, I can’t run. I didn’t, I couldn’t change that overnight. And it’s the same with Stephen and myself. But the way I viewed Stephen, and my expectations of him was, he’s lived a certain way for 20 plus years. He’s done certain things for 20 plus years. And so he, in his healing process, it is a process and so he’s not gonna wake up one day, and just stop doing X, Y, and Z. Because he’s done this for 20 years and it is a retraining of his brain, a rewiring of his brain that takes time. And so it was really cool, because I think God showed me that way because He knows how I feel about bugs, like for real, like an extreme, “Oh, don’t want to be around them,” and how much I really did have to retrain my brain. So now I could have a little more grace for Stephen, and my expectations of him and his healing process.
Stephen: So one thing I didn’t touch on before. During that first night, the first night [when I told Nikki everything,] Nikki decided to cuddle to me that night. And so God in that moment, just…Because I can’t imagine. Yeah, I just can’t imagine having all of that sin against her and then she’s the one initiating the love and the companionship. So that showed me kind of how God sees me. Even in my mess, even in my sin, He still is pursuing even still, wanting to be right up on me.
So anyways, to sum all of this up. I don’t think there’s ever been a time in my life where there wasn’t a secret. Some form of darkness inside of me. From seventh grade, first looking at pornography trying to sneak that around, to high school stealing money out of my dad’s wallet for cigarettes, or stealing his cigarettes, or trying to come home high, trying to get away with stealing after I had graduated high school. Again, drugs, even going into rehab, trying to sneak drugs in there, trying to sneak tobacco even when I got out of rehab, to the last time I met Nikki, trying to hide dipping tobacco. Literally, there has not been a moment in my life for the past 20 years, really 25 years, where there wasn’t some form of darkness in me, some form of something I was trying to hide until last February.
Last February, is when I finally found this supernatural piece, the supernatural something within me that was no longer hiding, no longer trying to get away with something. And I can’t explain the freedom that comes from that. If we, I were to leave someone with anything, it’s that freedom is possible. There is hope. Like Nikki said, healing is a process and that it is hard. It’s messy, it’s dirty, but it’s worth the fight to ultimately become the free man that God has for me.
I don’t know if you want to speak to the wife of anybody that could be struggling?
Nikki: I think one of my most favorite characteristics of God is that He legit, like for real, can make all things work together for your good. Like that verse that gets quoted so much. I think we forget the realness of that, and how, this is the sucky thing. The confession, all the sin, like this is not how God intended for it to be. This is not how He wanted it to be. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. But it is. And God doesn’t just promise to make this work for Stephen’s good, but for mine too. And I really believe that had I not had a walk through this, that I would not be as free as I am today.
Another thing that God showed me that was so encouraging is that there has to be a mess before there can be a message. There has to be a test before there can be a testimony. And there has to be a trial before there can be a triumph. So yeah, I think the important part is to embrace the mess that you’re in, or the testing that you feel. It’s not for nothing. This story is proof of that, that it’s not for nothing. And it’s necessary to produce the message, testimony and triumph that God is writing in you.