A seed planted
A little twin seed was planted in Hong Kong and uprooted to New Zealand with her family when she was three years old.
Many people think I’ve been named Stephanie because my dad’s name is Stephen. The relation to Stephen is correct but I’m actually named after Stephen the martyr in the Book of Acts. My parents wanted me to be bold in times of persecution, to stand firm and speak out for my faith.
God had planted me in a Christian home.
A growing seedling
From a young age, my two siblings and I were read stories from the Bible. We were also taught to sing hymns at church every week, at home, or even when sitting in the car travelling to and from different places.
I was ironically surrounded by a Chinese community even though I was living in New Zealand. I have been given many opportunities to experience different activities from creative arts to sports to academics. My favourite activities growing up include playing the piano, playing basketball and badminton, and learning Cantonese.
The seed was sprouting.
At the age of 7, was when I first decided to follow Jesus and commit my life to him. It was out of fear of death and insecurity after a natural disaster occurred. For me, knowing Jesus secured my future, it gave me peace and took the fear away. I didn’t have to worry about death because Jesus promised life for those who would trust in him.
The roots searching
Towards the end of intermediate and beginning of college was the beginning of the season of searching. I lost a friend group and was on the search for community. I started doubting the faith I was planted in and was on the search for hope and security.
The comparison game in college was real. I was told by many including myself that I wasn’t good enough – I wasn’t tall enough, I wasn’t fast enough, I wasn’t smart enough, and I wasn’t the best musician around.
I was searching for my identity.
Who was this Stephanie Yao? Who was God? What was my purpose in life?
It was through these seasons of hopelessness, in questioning and in searching that drew me close to God again.
This time I wasn’t looking for the God that could save me from death, I knew that already.
But I was searching for a companion. Someone who was always next to me, loving me, and speaking truth into my life. He didn’t tell me that I wasn’t good enough, he told me that I was enough in him. I realised that with God I had everything, and I no longer had to seek the praise and approval of those around me.
I realised afresh how much it meant to know God, what a blessing and privilege it was to be loved by the God who would never leave me or forsake me. He would be with me no matter if I walked forwards, backwards or ran into social and spiritual hibernation.
Did the seed grow into a plant?
I am still growing every day in my walk with Jesus, navigating relationships with friends, and learning how to be his representative in this world.
I don’t have it perfect, but I believe the seed is growing into a visible green plant.
God planted in me different gifts and passions which have begun to flower after years of growing and difficult seasons of pruning. The flowering stage I believe is God’s beautiful way for his believers to serve and to bless others.
I began writing my thoughts down during the years when my roots were searching. It was a way to understand what I was thinking and feeling, and something that I could read back on. Writing was a way to stop carrying heavy things in my mind, it was liberating. But initially I did not share those writings with anyone because I was still searching my identity and I did not want to be told once again “you are not good enough”. Gradually over the years I have shared more and more of my writing with those around me.
I yearn to continue to grow in God, be pruned by God, and flower for God’s glory.
Stephanie enjoys simple living, admiring nature’s beauty and intricacy, and playing the piano. She is particularly passionate about empowering the vulnerable. Writing is her way of processing thoughts and feelings to understand herself, God and the world in a deeper and more meaningful way.