In December, Marissa Freyling is graduating with a Master of Arts in Counseling—completing another milestone in her life. Another piece of Marissa’s story begins in ninth grade when she was diagnosed with cancer—a long battle that has produced more hope and faith in Christ as she seeks to find her strength in him.

Marissa’s journey has reaffirmed her calling to share this hope with the people she is currently counseling and will counsel in the future, and Our Daily Bread Ministries created a documentary to tell her story. You can watch it here:

I caught up with her recently and was able to ask her about her journey in seminary, the documentary and her current counseling practice.

SE: Why did you decide to pursue a Master of Arts in Counseling?

MF: After high school, I originally began my college years focused on a degree in communications. After two years at Grand Rapids Community College, I decided to continue my degree at Kuyper College. At Kuyper, I found myself being molded and shaped by the numerous theology classes and discussions I had with professors. I began praying about my next step and for an open heart to go where God would lead me. So I stepped out in a different direction and changed my major to Bible Theology with a minor in Greek and communications. My hope was to pursue seminary after graduation, and having researched the seminaries in the West Michigan area, I decided on the M.A. Counseling program at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.

SE: What has been a significant experience during your time at GRTS?

MF: One of the most significant experiences during the counseling program has been my internship with Joe Martino Counseling/Creative Solutions Counseling. During my time there, I was able to combine my life experience with the counseling techniques and skills I’ve learned at GRTS. It was a year and a half of stepping out of my comfort zone and being challenged. Yet, it also provided numerous learning opportunities that helped me focus in on my heart for people, especially working with kids. During my internship, something ‘clicked.’ It is an honor to journey alongside someone through a chapter in their life.

My goal is to help clients gain new perspectives—to guide them in taking a fresh look at life through a new lens, to see the beauty in the broken, to choose joy in the midst of sadness, to find courage in the face of fear, and to have patience in times of longing.

SE: Share a brief snapshot of the theme and story of your documentary.

MF: The film documents my long battle against cancer and the numerous other health-related issues that surfaced during a seven-year time period. It is not merely a story of survival, but of hope, character formation and God’s plan. The title of the film, “A Life Rewritten,” truly captures the essence of the film—the journey of letting go, working through loss, choosing joy and celebrating grace.

SE: Share a little bit about the experience of making the documentary and what it has meant for you to share your story.

MF: Sharing my story at a speaking engagement or even with someone over a cup of coffee is one thing, but it is something totally different to have my life made into a film. It was honoring, humbling and incredibly emotional going through the film process. Many of the questions I was asked surfaced difficulties and struggles I still battle today. But even through the hours spent answering questions and resurfacing the most difficult times, I was consistently reminded that God is good, He loves me, He has me and He is using this for his glory and not mine.

SE: Share about your work at Equest Center and Creative Solutions, and how it informs your counseling experience.

MF: I began volunteering at the Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding back in 2008. I wanted to give back in some way in light of all the people who invested in my life and journey. Little did I realize how that experience would begin to take root and grow in my life. For the last three years, I have been in the position of volunteer coordinator. I coordinate all of our volunteers who care for riders on a weekly basis. I also work with area businesses and schools who send volunteer groups to give their time, energy, and talents as they pour their hearts into our center. I have found that my position is more than just recruiting individuals to partner in the mission of Equest. There is also an amazing opportunity to invest in the volunteers as well—to hear why they sought out this center, to listen to their life stories, and to capture their heart and reasons why they stay.

SE: What do you hope to do after graduation?

MF: My hope after graduation is to continue my work at Joe Martino/Creative Solutions Counseling, to continue to invest in the Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding in some capacity and to have an open heart and mind to where God will lead.