I know some pretty amazing women. These women are driven, filled with faith, and I feel there is so much we can learn from each one and her personal journey. These church ladies break all molds and reflect God beautifully in so many different ways.
Today, I am giddy with excitement. Marissa’s interview/profile left me “shook,” as my brothers would say. Marissa’s words are ones of power, healing and strength. She is raw with us, and her words and story are not ones you will forget.
Inspiring biblical passage of the moment: “God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him.” (1 John 1:5, CSB). “God is light, pure light, there’s not a trace of darkness in Him.” (The Message version). We cannot experience true healing outside of a relationship with God, and by drawing nearer to this light, we are becoming a new creation and being resurrected from the inside out.
“We cannot experience true healing outside of a relationship with God, and by drawing nearer to this light, we are becoming a new creation and being resurrected from the inside out.”
Spiritual growth focus at the moment: A word that has found its way into the forefront of my life during this season is “becoming.” About a year ago, I took some time during my lunch break at work to drive to our nearby arboretum and be still for awhile. In those moments, I genuinely felt like the Lord was speaking to me saying that “this season is about becoming” and “this season is an answer.” Becoming the woman He created me to be. Becoming more like Jesus. Becoming a woman comfortable in her own skin. Becoming stronger through the challenges. Becoming hungry for more. Becoming dependent on the Lord in my identity. It has been a year later, and I am still focused within this season of “becoming.”
Profession: I am a Residence Hall Director at the University of Illinois. Meaning, I manage a residence hall of 400 college women and supervise a team of student staff. This is my second year working full time after I finished my master’s degree in the spring of 2016.
A one sentence bio of yourself: He tells me that I am wild, wonderful, perfectly in process, and on a journey of becoming.
“He tells me that I am wild…”
When did you first encounter God: My sophomore year of college. As you’ll read more about, I grew up without a childhood – in ways that I hope and pray children do not experience. As I grew into my teenage years and began college, I was lost. I did not know how to begin working through the pain and hardship. I thought going away to college would be my fresh start, where I could leave it all behind, but that wasn’t the case for me. I instantly made a group of friends when I started my freshman year. The foundation of our friendship was built upon consuming alcohol and being social. We had surface level interactions that didn’t last into the second semester of my freshman year.
I was hired to work in the residence hall I lived in, as a Resident Assistant (RA), where I began my position living in a fish bowl, where I had to learn how to be a role model for my residents. This meant not engaging in college parties anymore, which is how the close group of friends I made right away, suddenly, were nowhere to be found. I stopped being invited to meals, hang outs, etc., and I wasn’t given a reason why.
I felt alone and let the darkness of it all begin to be all I saw. I strongly disliked my job because it seemed to be the reason I didn’t have friends anymore, and I wanted to quit and go back to the life I lived my first semester. Through the loneliness, came depression and through depression, came thoughts of not wanting to be alive anymore. I kept going through the motions and eventually told myself that I would return to my job again my sophomore year because I would be on a staff with people the same age as me, and I would have a fresh start.
Toward the end of my freshman year, I began going to the University’s counseling center. Even though I was scared, I knew I didn’t want to keep feeling like I was living my life in a cloud of darkness. Fast forward to RA training during the beginning of my sophomore year, I met a girl named Kelly. She was a new RA, and she and I began to build a friendship right after we moved in early, during training.
I had never gone to church before college, with the exception of going to see my stepmom, Tiffany, sing on the worship team at the church she was a part of. In the mornings before RA training began, Kelly and I began to get together for coffee, and she would talk to me about Jesus and her journey in relationship with Him. I was intrigued and wanted to learn more. Those mornings turned into devotionals, journaling, more coffee, and conversation. And then, one morning in the middle of August, I was in Kelly’s room, and she asked me a question that would forever change my life.
She asked if I wanted to accept Jesus into my heart. With tears in my eyes, I said yes, and we both cried and hugged each other tight. That was about seven years ago, and while my walk with Jesus has by no means been perfect, I have never stopped believing in Him and seeking Him within my life. In case you’re wondering, Kelly and I are still friends to this day – she is one of my best friends, actually. Kelly baptized me my junior year of college, and the Lord spoke to me through her, and my life has not been the same, since.
“[S]he asked me a question that would forever change my life.”
What has helped you grow spiritually in this season: Vulnerability. Being honest about my challenges, the status of my heart, and accepting my reality. Being able to recognize my faults, being open to letting the Lord and the close people in my life speak into me, and creating a plan for how I want and need to move forward in a healthy way.
Just read/currently reading: I’m currently reading the book of Matthew, in a Bible I purchased from She Reads Truth. I’m learning about Jesus’ early life, and that, like Jesus, we come into the world under an edict of death. While Jesus’ edict was physical, ours is spiritual.
“[W]e come into the world under an edict of death. While Jesus’ edict was physical, ours is spiritual.”
Top three essentials: Objects: Coffee, Bible, and bright raspberry-colored lipstick (my favorite is Mesmerizing Magenta from Maybelline). Non-objects: Positivity, grace, and a desire to listen, understand, and hear.
How did God speak to you recently: This morning in church. I have been experiencing challenges in following through in different aspects of my life, which has allowed me to live in a place of complacency that has been impacting my heart, my relationship, my friendships, my job, etc.
Here is what He said to me this morning:
“You were never designed to handle pain, pain is a facet of the fall. You see yourself through the lens of your pain, but I see you through the lens of my Son. Only in relationship with Me, can you deal with and heal from your pain, and allowing the disconnect will only keep you running in circles, in a downward spiral. I am light, and in Me there is no darkness. Your pain is not your identity – you are wild, wonderful, and perfectly in process. Come closer to me, and I will show you. You do not have to live running in circles, and you can be freed and healed of this. There is nothing too big or too much or too drastic for Me to heal and free you of. Come and see.”
“Your pain is not your identity – you are wild, wonderful, and perfectly in process.”
Hobby: I’m not truly sure that I have any concrete hobbies, but some of the things that I enjoy doing are: spending time with my close friends, thrift/antique shopping, cuddling with my dog, spending time in nature, sunset drives with the windows down, drinking coffee, grocery shopping and cooking, journaling, crafting, traveling to Memphis to see and go on adventures with my boyfriend, and eating Mexican and Thai food.
Top three practical tips for staying spiritually strong: Read your Bible every day, even if it’s just for 5-10 minutes; pray, even when you don’t want to; and surround yourself with friends who speak life, truth, and encouragement to you. These are very basic tips, but they will go such a long way, trust me, as I’ve struggled with all of them, and I’m stronger because of them.
Favorite person in scripture: Right now, I don’t have a favorite person, but I am looking forward to learning about them and their stories, as I continue reading.
What do you want people to learn about God when they look at you: He can heal the most broken parts of ourselves that, in our own minds, we believe are not able to be healed.
Favorite season: Fall! I love visibly seeing the leaves transform into fiery colors and the earth prepare for a new season. I love chilly mornings with a cup of fresh coffee in my hand. I love cuddling up with blankets and piling on cardigans and scarves. I love walking outside, taking it all in.
Favorite holiday: Christmas!
First: because Jesus’ birth drastically changing my life forever, and;
Second: because of the strong focus on family and relationships.
While I was born and raised near Chicago, my family recently moved to Georgia, when I began grad school. I see them about twice a year, and Christmas is one of those times, so I always look forward to going home and celebrating together.
A special tradition you and your family engage in or keep: This goes back to my favorite holiday! A little back story first! My parents went through a divorce when I was about five years old. Their divorce and battle for custody of my sister and I lasted three years. During this time, my sister and I both lived with our mom, and my dad moved out and moved in with his brother in a city, about an hour away. Because the holidays were always shared, my sister and I would be with our mom on Christmas Eve and with our dad on Christmas day. When my dad had my sister and me during Christmas, he wanted to do something fun with us to keep our spirits lifted while we were experiencing the difficulties of the divorce and having to travel back and forth during the holiday season.
So, what my dad did was he would buy about a dozen or so gifts that were between $5 to $10 dollars, wrap them, and number them. He bought an inexpensive bingo set, and we all would play bingo for gifts, and then for a grand prize at the end. This tradition is still alive to this day and has grown into something where family and friends gather at my dad and stepmom’s house, bring two to three wrapped inexpensive gifts, and play bingo all evening.
This is something that brings tears to my eyes, because I grew up through a truly difficult and challenging childhood that has forever changed my life, and my dad put his entire heart into making sure that my sister and I still had the opportunity to “be kids.” I plan to continue this tradition, even when my dad and stepmom can’t anymore. I plan to keep this alive, with my future family, and I hope they will continue it with theirs, as well.
“[M]y dad put his entire heart into making sure that my sister and I still had the opportunity to ‘be kids.'”
Question you will ask when you get to heaven: This is a tough one, but right now, I think I would ask about my biological mom. My mom and I do not have a relationship and have not since the beginning of my sophomore year of high school – I will be 26 in December. I never knew my mom aside from the mental illness she lived and is still living with. I do not have positive memories of her through the hardship and mental and emotional abuse I experienced as a child and teenager. My mom suffers with bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety. As a child, she attempted to commit suicide, close to ten times, and her reality was one that was far from the truth, and I believe, still continues to be today.
I would ask God about who He created her to be, and the plan He has for her life aside from the person I grew to know her as.
Thing you want to raise awareness about: Mental health. This, as you’ve read above, is something that has been a part of my life since I was a child and is something that is my reality every day, as I was diagnosed with inattentive adhd, when I was 23. I want people to be aware of their own mental health, how to experience and work through emotions in a healthy way, how to recognize signs of mental illness, and what resources are available for them or people they know.
What do you usually do before 9 a.m.? My typical morning routine, one that I’m currently working to create a rhythm of, is: to wake up anywhere between 6:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m., read my Bible, pray, take my dog for a walk while taking in the fresh morning air, and then, getting ready for work. I will also make coffee and a protein shake in between those things, as well!
What is on your nightstand? Right now, my journal, lotion, and alarm clock! I’ve decided to begin a rhythm of journaling my prayers, and something my boyfriend and I are also creating a rhythm of is to pray with each other over the phone before we go to bed each night (He recently moved to Memphis to work as a high school pastor, so we live about 6.5 hours apart. His name is Alex!) I was able to read one of my prayers over the phone to him the other night, which was a good thing for my heart.
For more Marissa B.:
Until next time, keep witnessing!
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