Marissa owns motherhood well. She works to live simply and well for her family’s sake and it shows. The night before we did this shoot she had just returned from sitting with a loved one suffering enormous loss together. The stillness of the morning showed me why I do these sessions. Life is full of joys, and they can be found in the sunburst and the shadow. We saw both.

Much love, Marissa.

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How are you feeling about yourself today?

Good. Everything is promising in the morning. My mom used to always quote Marilla from Anne of Green Gables, “Each day is fresh, with no mistakes in it.” 

Can you describe your daily routine for getting ready to leave the house?

This has varied over the years. For a few years in my early 20s, I wouldn’t leave the house without having used every imaginable makeup product: multiple primers, waxes, various shades of contour, etc. I think that was part of my evolution and growth in my identity as a woman. Then I swung the pendulum and began to do almost nothing. In the end, I found that I feel a lot more confident, and consequently, I make better (healthier) decisions throughout the day when I put some sort of effort into my appearance. This has resulted in me using a simple (5 minute highlighting and contouring) compact, some brow powder and a delightful tube of magical ointment that I use as chapstick, eye cream, spot treatment and anything else I can think to dab it on. As for my hair, I don’t really do it. Honestly.  I wash it about once every few days and curl it with a wand and then leave it alone until I wash it again. I’d like to claim it’s for some ecological reason about wasting water or something but it’s really because I hate doing my hair. 

Do you have one or two things that you do to make yourself feel more confident?

I realized during the cosmetic pendulum swing of my 20s that I needed to take good care of my skin. I didn’t have very much money but I figured that if I spent any money that it should be on my skin. Instead of investing in a lot of makeup, I only bought skincare. When push comes to shove, I’ll buy serums over primers or foundations every time.

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How did this session make you feel?

I’m not sure I’ve had pictures of me since my senior pictures. In fact, I’m sure I haven’t. In the beginning, I felt nervous and just wanted to grab one of my kids to be in the picture with me! Wisely, they were still at home, sleeping. So it was just me. Once I got over the awkward butterflies, I realized that each woman should be so lucky as to have someone that simply wants to capture the essence of the individual. So many photos can be taken but to have such a talented artist capture actual feelings is like this mysterious and elusive third dimension. Yet it is that dimension that I think is what other women need to see- that everyone has emotions and beauty. To see that in photos of yourself is surreal. 

How did the photos make you feel?

They are a gift to me for now and the future. This week I dealt with significant loss in my family. I have been on a plane, crossing the country, staying up night after night to be with them during this difficult time. I’ve cried more this week than I think I have in my entire life. I’ve slept less than 10 hours in the last 3 days. When this morning came, it was like I could breathe deeply for the first time in a little while. I stared out at the water and just thought about the pain and joy of the last week. The pictures tell both of those realities. 

Do you have a hard time seeing yourself as beautiful?

For a lot of years, my answer would have been yes. Thankfully, my husband is more than I could ever ask for. For the last 15 years, he has shown me that I am beautiful. I no longer feel insecure or inadequate. His faithful words and love have transformed me. 

If you’re comfortable talking about it, what’s something that has been a hard insecurity to fight in your life?

I have struggled with my weight my entire life. I feel like my social media accounts give photo evidence of the various times in my life: the weightlifting high school girl who stopped at the Hungarian bakery too often on the way home, the college student that decided to cope with the stress of freshman year by eating only lettuce wraps, the obsessive gym goer that pushed herself to get the baby 80 off. Each photo tells a stage of my life and is usually mirrored by a thinner or rounder face. For so many years, I felt defeated. Lost. Angry. I wondered why I couldn’t stay at a consistent weight and exercise level. It has only been in my 30s that I’ve put those things to rest and truly started the process of seeing myself as healthy, mentally and physically. Being angry with myself for my jeans getting too tight was completely unhelpful. I had to tell the perfectionist in me that because of my relationship with God, He has made me enough. I will continue to eat mostly vegetables and try to exercise frequently because I want to honor God with my body and mind, but truthfully, the anger and frustration that I put myself through was hurtful. Now, I just get to teach my daughters that confident, strong girls that love Jesus are beautiful. I want them to know that their beauty will never come from a size or weight. 

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What are your favorite physical features about yourself?

I think that the world has too many angry people. A smile can do wonders for the world around us. I hope my smile is something that makes other people also want to smile! 

What are your favorite NON-physical features about yourself?

I would say my passion. I can be intense and determined and passionate about a variety of things. I think that passion can be translated to encouragement and inspiration to others. I’m not good at that translation part yet. But I’m working on it. 

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What is one thing that makes you feel loved?

I love when someone takes time to show me they care. A text, a random coffee date, a neighborhood walk; all of them show me that someone thought of me and followed through on that. 

Do you have anything you’d like to share with others about beauty, worth, or these sessions?

I wish I could sit down with women and talk about femininity and womanhood. I feel like the world around us tells us that there are opposing forces in a woman’s life. Those voices (audible and typed) pit beautiful parts of womanhood against each other, creating unnecessary wars, unhelpful competition, endless guilt and frustration no matter the choice she makes. One must choose sides for every single issue and relentlessly defend her choice with aggressiveness that rivals that of a rabid animal. I wish that I could sit down for coffee with every woman and tell her that her identity can not, does not and will not come from her occupation, diet preferences, clothing style or lack there of. Her worth is not dependent on all of the choices that society pushes her to make. Our culture tells us to either ignore the topics all together or to tirelessly belittle and criticize others who don’t make the same choices. I reject both. I think thoughtful and loving discussion is needed in our lives. I need women who will tell me their stories and push me to tell them mine. It is the very essence of our journeys in life that make us the beautiful tapestry of womanhood. Our worth and identity will only be found in the reality that we are made in the beautiful image of a great God. So if I could do anything, I would meet you at a coffee shop in my neighborhood, buy you a drink and tell you that. Besides, we all know that a great cup of coffee and good conversation can change the world. 

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Savannah Lauren | Photography
SAVANNAH LAUREN
Bold intimate photography that tells your story