Starting a New Chapter

Marissa Raymond

At some point in life, it's important to take a step back from current situations and decide what needs to happen. You may need guidance in some areas, and others you may know exactly how you want them to fold out. I’ve personally learned situations turn out best when you leave them in God’s hands. With His help, you don’t have to worry about them at all, and they turn out exactly how they're supposed to. Then you start believing everything happens for a reason, and that it was His plan all along. 

Proudly born and raised in Wisconsin, I was emotionally healthy and enjoying the life I was living. The majority of my family was with me there, and we are all extremely close to one another. My family is large in numbers, as well as huge in showing love. Most of the time tough love, but none the less, still love!

As a child I was awkward and quirky, but I did some maturing by the time I reached high school. I always did extremely well in school because I had to; that was a standard my parents held for me. Even as my parents held me to high standards in school, I was raised secular, so my family did not guide me in any direction of any religion. It was actually an unspoken topic, and ironically my most unexpected “bad influence” friend happened to be the one to open my first door to God. We, along with some friends, would go to Wednesday night church services, and I didn’t think much of it at the time. God bless his soul, as this past year he passed due to cancer, but he was a huge influence on my life, more than I realized. If I could tell him one thing today - it would simply be thank you, and he would understand why. 

If you don’t go through all of the bad times, what would you grow from? There are times we need to take a step back and reevaluate our priorities and situations. In my case, after high school I decided to keep my life really busy on a tight schedule. I had two part time jobs that scheduled me as much as possible while I attended my local university as a full-time student. I simply didn’t have time for bad things to happen, but that didn’t mean bad things wouldn’t find me.

When I was younger I had a minor surgery performed on my bladder that if left uncorrected would eventually affect my kidneys. After the procedure, I thought nothing of it as it seemed logical to forget since I could move on after recovery. Later I learned that bit of information regarding my kidneys was actually quite significant...

The Dream

Growing up on Lake Michigan greatly influenced my childhood dreams. I wanted to be a mermaid! My parents always told me I’m a fish who needs to swim - fitting for a young Pisces. When I started attending college, I majored in biology and decided I would focus my major in Marine Biology. In order to study that, I would need to live by an ocean. Eventually, dreams of attending school in Florida crossed my mind. I started visiting various cities to get a feel for my potential future home. I have an uncle in Seattle who happens to be a Marine Biologist, and meeting with him and learning about his experiences made me want to follow my dream even more. I decided to take on my own life adventure in Florida. 

The Journey

I thought moving to another state would take a lot of strategic planning, but it is truly just a step by step process. Step one: know where you’re going and why. That part to me was simple, go to follow your dream and study what you’ve always wanted to study. Choosing the exact destination was tricky, but I knew some friends in Jacksonville, so I naturally picked their city.

Next, find a place to live and a place to work while in school. By this point I had already chosen my top two schools and planned to apply to them when I got there. Seeing specific places and areas in person really help you get a feel for them, and that’s important especially when you plan for them to be a big part of your life.

The biggest step I overlooked was the emotional preparation of leaving everything and everyone I’ve ever lived with. Imagine, starting somewhere new, and not knowing anyone. No familiar places, no clue where anything is located without a map on how to get there. 

I remember the morning I left; I woke up to my niece, my two nephews, and my sister, all in the bed I fell asleep in. Their tiny hugs goodbye were the hardest. I lived with my sister right before I left, and her babies felt like my babies. I am only 20 and don’t have kids of my own, but practicing with them was messy and fun. They made me want to have my own kids someday, and leaving them was probably one of the hardest parts.

Prior to the move, my boyfriend and I broke up as neither of us would be accepting of a long distance relationship. However, we did try to plan for him to come with me; we had been dating for about 3 years and loved each other. I understand I am very young, but the maturity level of my views is quite high for my age.  I believe God had other plans for the time being, however. I really believe God wanted me to build my faith with Him and love Him first before any other man, hence why I'm happy with my singleness. When the time is right, God will bring me the man he has chosen for me. And during this break up, and this big move, I worked on building my faith.

Right before moving, I was told by two different doctors I had a cancerous tumor. Without any further exams they went with their instinct and seemed to immediately know it was kidney cancer based on where the tumor was located. I immediately thought it was some kind of result from my surgery maybe not staying successful from my earlier years. They insisted I see a specialist before performing more tests to diagnose me. At this point I had decided to give up on my dreams and stay in Wisconsin with my loved ones until my health condition was clearer. My options were surgery or chemotherapy, which I basically took as a death sentence. I was making other plans with the money I saved, such as paying off my small debts and creating a bucket list. I was also talking to God a lot, praying for this to all be some kind of mistake. I really wasn’t ready to be done with my life here on Earth. Over the span of three weeks, I contacted a few different hospitals and found the specialist and made an appointment.

When I got dressed in my hospital gown and sat in that cold room waiting for the doctor to come in and see me, I felt absolutely sick to my stomach. I had no idea what we were planning to cover that day. I was assuming endless possibilities in my head. A nurse came into the room, took my vitals and talked to me about what I was there for. I remember her distinctly, and she brought such calmness to the room. We talked for a bit and I remember her telling me she would pray for me. It took everything in my being to not cry, and to not throw up. The doctor visit went by quick, and the end results were surprising. I was told I should have no worries, and that they were positive it was a benign tumor, which in my case was noncancerous fatty tissues built up called Lipoma. My heart dropped when I learned this information because I was so relieved. The specialist was surprised anyone had otherwise to say about it. All I heard was that I didn’t have cancer. Because of My God I didn’t have cancer. I knew at that moment He heard me and answered my prayers with a blessing.

I was able to stick to my plan, and when I got to Florida I got a job the second day I was there! I stayed with my friends and their parents for a couple weeks, growing extremely close with them. They are a family with strong faith, which naturally helped me build my faith even more. After that, I got my own place. Living here brought me closer to the Lord than I ever have been before. Being here is also a constant reminder that I didn’t do it alone. Don’t get me wrong, I love to say I am a strong independent young woman that chases her dreams and does what she says no matter what - but I also love to say that everything I have accomplished is all thanks to God. 

Sometimes you simply know when you've heard God. You just have to find the faith to keep listening. Believe me when I say it wasn’t easy doing what I did. I left everyone I knew to follow what I love and to grow in my relationship with God. I was only able to do that, though, because He had bigger plans for me.

Our individual testimonies and moments with God are the most important to share, because spreading His miracles and His accomplishments are what bring people closer to God for themselves.

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