'Whom have I in heaven but you? And the earth has nothing I desire besides you. My heart and my flesh may fail but you are the strength of my heart and my portion forever.' - Psalm 73:25-26
These were the last words etched into Staci Stephen’s journal before she passed away. Staci was a sophomore in high school when she died of a heart inflammation in 2005. I encountered this story in 2010 during my sophomore year of high school. Years later, in 2015, I had the opportunity to keep Staci’s story alive again when I shared it with a friend as we walked the perimeter of Lake Hollingsworth – a lake we frequented in our college years.
Upon this walk around Lake Hollingsworth, we encountered a tree that bore vibrant yellow flowers, which reminded me of the time in high school when my interest and discovery of Staci’s story first began. So, let’s go back to high school, when I noticed the tree that bore vibrant yellow flowers in the school courtyard, neighboring my daily lunch spot. Being the only tree of its kind, it stood out.
One day, I decided to read the inscription on the sign below the tree. Little did I know, that it was a memorial for a girl who had passed away 5 years prior. Her name was Staci Stephens. Staci lived an extraordinarily passionate life for Christ and was very well known in my public high school.
In her sophomore year, she developed flu-like symptoms and when the symptoms got worse she was taken to the hospital where she passed away within 30 minutes of her arrival. Doctors later reported that she died from a heart inflammation.
What's remarkable is that the last verse Staci had written in her journal before passing away was Psalm 73:25-26, "...My heart and my flesh may fail but you are the strength of my heart and my portion forever." It was as if the words so perfectly aligned with her death. Her heart literally failed her, just like the verse declares, and God's timing was so perfect that He allowed this to be a sign. What’s amazing is that every prayer that she had in her life was fulfilled in her death.
Hundreds of students flocked to the school's Performing Arts Center for her memorial and got to hear & accept the love of Christ. Her parents opened up a fund in her name which ended up helping fund one of my retreats in high school and later when I preached her story at a National Fine Arts Festival, the powerful impact it has, helped me win a scholarship.
What's crazy amazing is that years after her death, her story spoke to me in the middle of my high school courtyard. It made me think: if a person living for Jesus can have such a lasting affect on others, how much more so does Jesus HIMSELF have a lasting effect on us?
After sharing this story with my friend around Lake Hollingsworth, goose bumps overcame us and we felt the sweet presence of God. Coincidentally enough, my friend had lost her father earlier that year from a heart inflammation and the verse of the day on his death date was the very SAME verse in Staci's story (Psalm 73:25-26).
There was such a sweet peace and confirmation that came from that day walking the lake with my dear friend. Never underestimate when and where God can move, and never be too afraid to speak up and share the testimony of what God’s done in your life and the lives of others.
Daughters, if there’s anything you gain from reading this, I hope that you know without a shadow of a doubt that you are never too young (or too feminine) to be used by God. Your voice and obedience could be holding the power to unlock and unleash someone else’s breakthrough. If Staci could impact me, even still a decade after her death, how much can you impact your peers through your life?