Open letter to the girl who...

To the girl who forgot what it’s like to feel strong…
To the girl who believes her days of confidence are behind her…
To the girl who feels overwhelmed by unattainable beauty standards…
To the girl trying to feel settled in a culture that says “you’ll never be enough”…
To the girl who buries her emotions in food…
To the girl who feels like a fake when she walks into the gym...
To the girl who constantly tells her insecurities to “shut up” and quit taking up headspace…
To the girl who looks in the mirror and doesn’t recognize herself…

I see you. I get you. And I think if we’re being honest we’ve all been one of those girls at one time or another, right? Maybe you’re still one of those girls today. Maybe one of those phrases really stung as you read it. To be honest, there's not a whole lotta reason why I'm writing to you today other than in hopes that maybe you don't feel alone. Or maybe that some of what I'm saying here resonates with you and your "me too" helps you realize that there's more room for you to love the body you've been given. I preach freedom and always encourage people to open up and share their story so I have to do that too. I hope this challenges you, encourages you, gives you some hope, and gets you thinking about how you can love yourself better. Because I really believe you're worth it.

See, from age 5 to 21, I was an athlete. From soccer to gymnastics to basketball to track and eventually to track in college, sports were my thing. They were my home, one of my favorite parts of my life. Truly, they was all I knew. I loved having a competitive edge and genuinely enjoyed working out, especially because I had a group of people doing it with me. But fast forward to the spring of 2013...

I hung my track spikes up after a year of rehabbing from a terrible knee injury (I tore all the things-ACL, MCL, lateral & medial Meniscus, yikes) and without warning, my life looked really different. I went from having a coach telling me when to work out, how to work out, how to eat, what to eat, when to eat, day-in-and-day-out, to having to find my own new normal. Have y'all been there?

Until age 21, I had never struggled with self-image or food. I know that's a blessing because I know so many girls/women who have different stories. After I quit track I completely went against everything I learned when it came to taking care of my body. It was such a relief to be free from the rigidity of eating like an athlete and working out for hours on end everyday that I just stopped those things all together. Honestly my eating didn't really change but because I wasn't working out for 2-3 hours everyday, I started seeing that I was never necessarily fueling my body in the best way.

For the next two years, the daily dialogue I had with myself changed. It became less and less positive everyday and eventually got to the point where I was telling myself things like, "You'll never be as strong as you were in college.", "your best days are behind you, Marissa.", "It's all downhill from here. You'll never feel confident or strong in this body again." And you know what the saddest part of this was? I really began to believe these lies. Praise the Lord I woke up one day and realized how sad this was and how untrue these things were. So I finally did something about it...

My good friend introduced me to a nutritional re-balancing system and I told her a year and a half prior that I would never try it. I was always against "those things". But I got to a point where I was willing to try anything because I knew my body needed a change so I finally said yes. And you know what? I saw changes in my body within the first few weeks. My energy changed. My confidence rose and rose. It was the first time that I realized that true health isn’t depriving yourself of experiences or constantly sacrificing but learning how to fuel my body well. 

The physical changes were (and still are) great but what you couldn’t see was the hope rising inside that my best days were ahead, not behind. You couldn’t see the surge of confidence I felt when I realized that strong, competitive, healthy Marissa was here all along. You couldn’t see the gratitude that overwhelmed me when I realized that I found something that worked, that promoted true balance. Here we are about two years later and I'm still using that same system everyday and loving it more and more each day.

Life isn’t about scales or deprivation or beauty standards; it’s about finding what fits into the lifestyle you want, it’s about what promotes being healthy from the inside out, and it’s about what pushes you to be the best version of you.

So let me ask you this, when is the last time you did something for yourself? When is the last time you bet on yourself and took a risk to better your health (whether physically, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally). If it's been a while, get in touch with me! I'm cheering you on in that endeavor. And if what you read here today sparked a curiosity or it resonated and you want to get in on this newish lifestyle and you're serious about changing your physical health, you've got options and I'm happy to share what I've found works for me!

Until next time,
Maris

What to do when you're in a funk

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You know those days, the ones where you just don’t have that normal spring in your step, the ones where you roll your eyes more than normal, and the ones where your tolerance for life is low. When these days happen many times there isn’t a particular reason for feeling down or low. We all have them. For a long time I just chalked those days up to be “one of those days” and I would tell myself “everyone has them” but I’ve learned that “those days” don’t have to stay and I have the ability to make any moment great if I just change that attitude and perspective. How do we do that though? When I find myself in those places, I’m ALL there, you know what I’m saying? Like, I’m committed and my attitude will stay crappy for the day because I feel like it (insert visual of three-year-old having a tantrum here). And, let's be honest, no normal adult has time for self-induced tantrums so, I’m here to let you know that it is possible to turn a bad day into a great day and I want to share my inside secrets on how I do that.

1. Make a gratitude list.

This is the first thing I do when I feel that little “bad attitude for no reason” monster trying to crawl on my back. I Get out a pen and paper and make a list of ten things I'm grateful for. I don’t write a note in your phone but physically get a pen and paper out and write out ten things that I'm grateful for. It can be anything. No thing is too small to go on the list. When my attitude is really bad, I have to start obvious like, "I'm grateful for a place to live. I'm grateful to be alive. I'm grateful for this food I get to eat." What I find is that as soon as I begin to fix my mind on the what I DO have or the people that are in my life or the things that I've got going for me, I feel that heaviness lift and my gratitude list can grow and grow and grow with ease as I get my perspective straightened out. If that doesn’t quite lift that heaviness for you though, move on to number two.

2. Change your environment.

Sometimes I get in a funk simply because I’ve been sitting for too long, or working in the same space for too many days in a row, or because I haven’t gotten fresh air. Changing up your environment will help you shake stagnancy off and inspire you to move forward in whatever you need to accomplish. Sometimes for me that means putting down whatever I’m working on (or trying to muster up the willpower to work on) and take a walk around my neighborhood for 20 minutes. I get home and I’m ready to tackle what I need to simply because I got some fresh air and put myself in a new environment. 

3. Get active.

This one is pretty simple. Get moving! When I’m sitting for too long or go days in a row without being active in some form or fashion, you can bet a funk might be on the horizon. We all know there are bajillions of physical health benefits to being active but I think the most underrated one is how much it does for your psyche and emotional health. 

Next time you just wake up on the wrong side of the bed or just can’t shake those blues, try out these tricks-of-the-trade and let me know if they pull you right out of that slump! What practices are your go-tos for those tough days? Tell me below-I love to hear from you!

Till next time,
Ris

Two decisions we made that changed our marriage

Because Collier and I understand the gold mine we stumbled upon in marriage we’re always looking for ways to get closer and grow and get to know each other more (because newsflash, getting married doesn’t automatically mean you know every last detail about your spouse-shocking, right!?). That being said we decided to make a couple changes in our relationship this last year that in turn completely changed our marriage. That’s a big statement, I know, but I really mean it. Here’s what we did….

1. We made our bedroom a no-phone zone and an all-rest zone.

Let me tell you something. Pillow talk is my favorite kind of talk. The best, sweetest, most random conversations happen right before we fall asleep. For some reason it’s always the time when funny “remember when” memories come to mind and it’s always the time when the slap-happy sets in. At the end of a long day or a long week, this down time is exactly what our souls need. Everything is quiet, the world is asleep, and it’s just the two of us. It’s those moments that I’m always reminded that it’s him and I taking on the world together.

When our phones are bedside, we’re distracted. When our phones are the first and last thing on our minds in a day we’re focused on what’s going on in other people’s lives instead of focusing on our own. We realized we were laying next to each other in complete silence just staring at our phones like zombies until we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore rather than being together and resting together. We knew this wasn’t good for us individually and definitely not good for our relationship.

So we did something about it. We brought out the OG alarm clock from college. Gasp, I know, you forgot these even exist anymore. We put our chargers in a separate room and we leave our phones there before we shut down for the night. Once they’re on the chargers we forget about them until the next day. This has made our nights and mornings completely different because we’re choosing to set boundaries on flooding our brains with other people’s lives. Aside from creating space to be present together this has helped us create routines before bed as well as when we wake up and stick to them. Everything we have access to in terms of social media is too much to keep up with and keeping phones outside of our bedroom has strengthened us in more ways than we anticipated.

2. We made date nights priority.

You’ve heard the saying, “date your spouse”. I never understood that before I got married. How can you think about anything other than dating each other? How can you think about anything other than the adventures and dinner dates and brunch hangs and the fun things we’re going to do together? Well I quickly realized that one of the incredible things about marriage is having someone to do regular, mundane, day-to-day life with. You have a teammate not only for the exciting things but also for the not so exciting things like laundry and getting the car serviced and real-life adult things. As much as the adventures and quality time together is fun, if we aren’t intentional it can easily take a back seat to life.

Collier and I decided to carve time out every week to date each other. Yes, that means I leave my phone in the car and spend real quality time with Coll. Every date looks different and only follows one requirement- that we spend quality time together talking and getting to know each other. It sounds crazy but getting married doesn’t automatically make you know every single thing about your person. We’re constantly growing and changing and even learning things that have been true about the other forever but we just hadn’t discovered it yet. Some weeks we go all out and do that Tuesday night big but a lot of times we opt for coffee and a walk at our favorite spot near town on a quiet Saturday morning. Making room for dates in your bank account and on your calendar is one of the best, if not the best, investments for your relationship.

What I’m saying is that you don’t have to put pressure on this. Pursue your person and create time to let them know how much you still LIKE them. Loving is the easy part. I promised to love C forever, but to like him 100% of the time!? That’s the real challenge (that’s a blog for another day) and getting that fun time in together every week reminds you of all the things you like about your spouse and keeps the focus where it should be!

These two changes seem small and simple but it's the little things that make up the big things, right? 

I always love to hear from you! What practices have you put in place that have changed your relationship? Did anything you read resonate or surprise you?

Until next time,

Ris

Liz & Sam // Raleigh Wedding

Liz and Sam's classic wedding day was nothing short of breath-taking. From the elegant and timeless decor at the most beautiful venue in Raleigh, to the way their friends and family celebrated them and supported them, it was one for the books. One of my favorite things about weddings is watching how obvious it is that two people were made for each other, kind of like two puzzle pieces. Liz's bubbly and infectious personality perfectly compliments Sam's steady and intentional disposition and vice versa. To watch that play out through a wedding day is so special as a photographer. It's sacred in its own right. I'm so lucky! I've said it before and I'll probably say it a million times- these days just get more exciting and special the more I'm part of people's biggest day in promising forever to each other. Cheers to the newly Mr. and Mrs. Mordecai!

XO,

Marissa

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Cynthia & Michael // Chattanooga Wedding

Cynthia & Michael, where do I even begin?! These two are the most fun, down to earth, people's people that you'll meet. When you walk into an engagement session feeling like you are longtime friends, you know you've got a good couple. These two, the kind of couple who cares about the details but cares immensely more about loving each other forever, are the best kind of people. This wedding was such a sweet celebration and if you were there for .2 seconds you would see how much their friends and family adore them. Thank you for letting me spend the most special and memorable day with y’all. It truly was an honor. This is the time that I transition from your wedding photographer to y’all’s biggest cheerleader. You guys have incredible things ahead and I’m so glad I got to take a small part in the wonderful beginning of it all!

XO,

Marissa

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How to overcome the biggest stumbling block to an out-of-this-world marriage

Last week we talked about the biggest stumbling blocks to a good marriage. If you missed that and have no clue what I’m talking about, go back and read it here before reading further on this post. As I said last week (and anytime I talk about marriage), marriage is an amazing gift and adds so much joy to life. Collier and I have made it our mission to make the most of it and get absolutely everything out of marriage that we can and learn as much as possible through that process. I think we can boil almost any marriage issue down to this- an unwillingness to be vulnerable. And if we’re learning something I think it’s safe to guess that a lot of y’all are probably in the same boat. So let’s chat! As you read, keep in mind that your marriage will only be as intimate as you are vulnerable. I believe that to my core. Here are some things that have empowered me (and Coll) in our marriage (and life in general) that will help you have an even greater, more full, and more intimate marriage!

1. Identify any unspoken needs, desires, wants, struggles, hopes, dreams, disappointments, failures, past wounds or mistakes in your life.

2. Pinpoint the fears you have about sharing identified items from point 1 in your relationship and replace them with truth.
If you’re reading this 1. thinking, “I’m not fearful, how could I be fearful in the closest relationship I have?” and 2. also feel like your relationship is lacking intimacy, I would encourage you to take a deeper look at yourself! Below is a list of possible fears that may come up in you when thinking on truly showing up fully in your marriage:

-fear that your spouse will stop loving yourself
-fear that your spouse won’t be able to meet your need
-fear of being “exposed” or “found out”
-fear that your spouse will think you’re “too much” or on the otherhand “not enough”
-fear of being rejected
-fear that you’ll fail or disappoint your spouse (but let’s be real, that happens on the reg because we’re human)

Do any of these resonate with you? Some of these sound super intense but if we trace our thought process back from the things we aren’t sharing with our spouse (needs, desires, wants, struggles, hopes, dreams, disappointments, failures, past wounds or mistakes, etc.) all the way to the root of WHY we don’t share those things, I bet it comes back to one of the fears I listed. Once you identify the things you aren’t sharing with your spouse and the root reason why not, I encourage you to say those things out loud to yourself and then to your spouse because when we say things out loud that make us fearful it takes the power away from those fears and empowers you. Doing this also gives your spouse the chance to speak truth into those things.

2. Understand your emotions to cultivate intimacy.
How many times have you felt a slew of emotions only to become overwhelmed with what they mean and what to do with them? I think we’ve all been there! Something I started implementing into my life in college, thanks to an amazing counselor that I was seeing for a season, was using a feelings word chart to help me navigate my emotions. This has served me SO well in life in general and especially in marriage. It reminds me that I’M in control of my emotions, not the other way around because of this trick I’m about to share. When I’m feeling really overwhelmed, tender, processing a conflict I’m dealing with, or just feeling emotional in general, I pull out this feelings chart. I read down the list and I write down each emotion that resonates with me. As I do that, I write, “I’m feeling ________ because _________________.” As I do this it helps me understand myself better. The thing is that every emotion we feel has a place and it is an indicator. So we have to understand them and make sure we put them in a healthy place, instead of being controlled by them or ignoring them. When navigating intimacy in marriage and learning to be more comfortable being vulnerable, use the same method I listed above. “Babe, when you did ________, it made me feel _______ because ________.” Or, “I’m feeling ________ about sharing this piece of my heart or story with you because __________.” Does that make sense? When we can understand our emotions and communicate them clearly along with WHY we feel a certain way, it brings our spouse into the process WITH us instead of keeping you isolated, navigating it alone. And really, this is a way to love your spouse more fully, and actively fight selfishness...because it’s really easy to keep things to ourselves but guess what? You signed up for this when you got married and you gave up the right to keep things to yourself because marriage is about selflessness and putting someone else before you (lots of trying and failing and trying again here) for the rest of forever!

So now what? How do you implement those things consistently into your relationship? Below are a few practical tips on how to cultivate intimacy on a regular basis.

1. create a safe space to share with each other.
Consistently remind each other that no matter what is shared, you will figure it out together and embrace the process of helping each other show up in their truest form!

2. Identify areas that are hard for you to be vulnerable about (needs, desires, wants, struggles, hopes, dreams, disappointments, failures, past wounds or mistakes, etc.) and share them with your spouse.
If I can identify the things that are hard for me to share and make Collier aware of those things he can be more sensitive to asking questions around that topic and loving me extra hard in that area. A huge part about more intimacy and being vulnerable is gaining more and more understanding of how the other operates, who they are, and what is important to him/her.

3. Be present.
This one is simple but really difficult for our generation. Put your phone away. Have designated time where you are just face to face, no distractions. Collier and I implemented a designated date night once a week. We know that Mondays are OUR night (with exceptions, but in that case we reshedule to another night) and we focus on each other. I leave my phone in the car before dinner or whatever we’re doing and I have intentional conversation with Coll. This seems simple but strenghtening that connection and being present, giving Coll my full attention, is super powerful. This alone creates more safety in our relationship with each time that we choose present and give each other our time.

4. Ask questions.
Compile a set list of questions that you and your spouse ask each other each and every week. Set a marriage meeting if you will so that you can both anticipate and prepare for this time together week in and week out. I’ve listed some suggestions on questions to ask each other. Choose some that you think would best benefit your relationship. I highly suggest starting each meeting with prayer and affirmation/appreciation for each other specifically according to the week you just went through.

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-Is there anything I have done this week that may have unknowingly hurt you or disappointed you?
-What kinds of issues or obstacles have occupied your thoughts lately?
-Did you see any prayers answered this week?
-What is the best thing I can do to let you know that you are my priority and joy?
-How can I pray for you this week?
-What brought you joy this week?
-What was hard for you this week?
-How do you feel about our sex life lately?
-How did you feel pursued this week?
-Is there anything that’s gone unsaid (feelings, convictions, unresolved hurt, etc.) this week?
-How do you feel we’re stewarding our finances?

Disclaimer: I think it could be really easy to blow this info off if you’re in a season where everything is great in your marriage and you’re on cloud 9. This isn’t just for when things get hard or difficult though. These are really healthy and beneficial practices to put in place if you’re lovin’ life, lovin’ your spouse, and you guys are super content with your relationship. Because even if you’re content and happy, I believe that there are ALWAYS deeper levels. Give me all the deeper levels. I want to get all that I can out of marriage because it’s incredible and I’m learning so much about God, myself, and Collier through all of this. So tell me, what resonated with you? What practices have you put in place with your significant other to cultivate more intimacy? I’m all ears!

The biggest stumbling block to an out-of-this-world marriage

 
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Now I’m no marriage guru, but being a woman of the people, and a girl’s girl (we’re all in this together), I’m here to share the insight that I do have with you guys...because you guys have asked me to. So here we are!

If you’ve known me for two seconds you know that I’m obsessed with my husband (he’s a gift from God, my BFF, and I married UP) and that we love marriage. We’re on a mission to live a life that invites others into more freedom by being open and honest about our experiences, and what we’re learning along the way. That being said, one of the most asked questions lately has been about what has been challenging in marriage.

I think we’re in a time where people’s go to response about marriage when people ask is, “Oh my gosh it’s amazinggg!!” And that statement is 100% true. On the other hand, I wholeheartedly belive that we need to be cautious and use wisdom in who we let into our lives on a deep level (especially with who we let into the journey of marriage). That being said, I think there’s definitely space to talk more candidly about marriage and some of the challenges that arise. Because let’s be honest two completely different people trying to become one is not always rainbows and butterflies. Hear me on this-that statement doesn’t take away from the statement that marriage is amazing. Because although it is challenging (remember, I always say challenging doesn't equal bad!) it is possible to completely enjoy your marriage day-in-and-day-out and grow in love for your spouse with each passing day; marriage should be a fun adventure! I do think though that the challenge and fun adventure co-exist together simultaneously through life. The amazingness and the challenge are both good in their own way and they exist together through our entire lives (not even just in marriage but life in general too). So today I’m sharing what I believe to be the biggest stumbling block to an out-of-this-world marriage- an unwillingmess to be vulnerable.

A word of rejection from a stranger is a feather compared to the anvil that it would be from a loved one.

When I got married I definitely thought that communication and vulnerability would be easy peasy because there is no one in this world that I trust more, love more, or admire more than Collier. To my surprise, that wasn’t the case. I chose (and sometimes still do) silence instead of speaking up because it feels risky as all-get-out. It feels this way because the closer I am to someone, the more I have to lose-this is also what I like to call fear. Collier has the most ability to love me, receive me, and speak into my life but he also has the most power to hurt me, hinder me, and disappoint me. I promise you that it will always be easier to speak to a full arena of people (speaking in faith that that will happen one day, guys) than share an intimate moment or “deep dark secret” with Coll. There’s just way more on the line with my closest relationship compared to speaking of things close to my heart to total randos that I may never even meet. A word of rejection from a stranger is a feather compared to the anvil that it would be from a loved one. Am I making sense?

 ...way back when we started dating in 2011...tiny babies!

...way back when we started dating in 2011...tiny babies!

See when Collier and I were dating, things were a lot easier in ways because there was room for image management, which also means there’s room to back off or back out in situations where I heard vulnerability knocking at my door. Now don’t get me wrong, that space can still be present in marriage, but to operate as fully and as powerfully as intended to in marriage, all of that has to go. Now I know that not everyone reading this is married, but this still applies, regardless of relationship status. Let me translate: What would community look like if we gave ourselves grace, learned to embrace who we are, all the gray areas included? Without comparison? This would also compel us to be more gracious toward others. What would community look like if we all committed to stepping out consistently as well as showing up consistently? And I’m not talking about surfacey bs here. I mean really showing up, allowing the ugly, untamed, overgrown areas to play part just as much as the picturesque, pleasant, sweet parts?

Maybe this analogy will help you see what I’m saying. Since we’re keeping things real here, I’m 100% the messy one out of Collier and me. I just am. And Collier is beyond gracious as I learn that a clean kitchen is in fact one of Collier’s love languages. Well, 20 minutes before we have company over I do a quick sweep of the house and get it looking orderly and presentable. People come over, “your house is so cute! Blah blah blah.” But what only Collier (and me) knows is that there is a mountain of clothes, household items, etc. piled on our bed. And you know what? Most of the time Coll shakes his head and sighs, “Babe,” with a chuckle and loves me anyway. Other times, on rare occasion, he gets exacerbated and says, “Babe, you gotta get this cleaned up.” And you know what? Both responses are as equally loving, ok, and true. THIS paints the picture of true intimacy and vulnerability. It’s letting people see our hidden mess, our hidden crap, and in spite of it still loving us. Collier loves me and shakes his head because my mess is not my identity and he sees and knows that. But at times when my mess gets out of hand he calls me out- just like true community lovingly calls you out when you’re not living in the fullness of who you are or when you live in a counterfeit of your true identity-like a superhero wears a mask.

All of what I’m saying comes down to is this: We think that we need to feel totally safe and secure to risk ourselves in being vulnerable when in reality vulnerability actually requires us to step outside of security, act, and then the safety and security is built- a little more with each time we step out and put ourselves on the line-regardless of how we’ll be received.

Meet me here next week and I’ll be sharing some tools in avoiding or overcoming this stumbling block. What do you think?! Did any of this resonate with you? I want to hear from you!

 

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The Sign I Wear around my Neck That You Should Put on too.

 
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"You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously."

-Sophia Bush

 

 

I wish I could wear a sign around my neck that says "work in progress." Not so much for everyone else, but to constantly remind myself that grace and progress go hand in hand. I tend to try and make things black and white and when it comes to loving my body and working towards being my strongest self but you just can't have one without the other to have a healthy self-image and love for yourself. 

I told y'all about a month and a half ago that I was starting a 16-week challenged and the longer I go on the more I realize that it's something that I want to let you guys in on. Yes, I'm seeing changes in my body because of the amazing nutritional re-balancing system that I use (15+ inches off my body, better sleep, and relief from terrible stomach issues I was having, holla!), and yes I'm getting more confident with each passing day, but what I'm realizing is that this is about so much more than getting that beach body or being as fit as I was when I was pole vaulting collegiately. It's not that those things are bad things to work towards, but I'm learning a lot about that little voice in my head. And as I sit here writing to you, I bet sometimes that same voice talks to you. So why not shed a little light into a dark corner of so many women's lives and tell that stupid voice that it actually doesn't have power anymore.

See, from age 5 to 21, I was an athlete. From soccer to gymnastics to basketball to track and eventually to track in college, sports were my thing. They were my home, one of my favorite parts of my life. Not many seasons went by where I wasn't on a field, court, or track daily with a group of girls who eventually turned into family each season. Early workouts, hard, make me want to puke my guts out workouts, big wins, sad losses, a million team hang outs....you get the picture. Truly, it was all I knew. I loved having a competitive edge and honestly enjoyed working out, especially because I had a group of people doing it with me. And let's be honest, it feels good to feel strong. We're made to be strong and feel our best/be our best. 

Fast forward to the spring of 2013. I hung my track spikes up after a year of rehabbing from a terrible knee injury (I tore all the things-ACL, MCL, lateral & medial Meniscus, yikes) the previous spring. That season of my life was over and I felt ready. What I wasn't ready for was the complete 180 I would take following the decision to leave organized sports. Without warning, my life started to look really really different. I went from having a coach telling me when to work out, how to work out, how to eat, what to eat, when to eat, day-in-and-day-out, to having to find my own new normal. Have y'all been there?

Until I was 21, I had never struggled with self-image or food. I know that's a blessing because I know so many girls/women who have different stories. What happened after I quit track was that I completely went against everything I learned growing up when it came to taking care of my body. It was such a relief to be free from the rigidity of eating like an athlete and working out for hours on end everyday that I just stopped those things all together. I stopped working out. Honestly my eating didn't really change but because I wasn't working out for 2-3 hours everyday, I started seeing that I was never necessarily fueling my body in the best way. 

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For the next two years, the daily dialogue I had with myself changed. It became less and less positive everyday and eventually got to the point where I was telling myself things like, "You'll never be as strong as you were in college.", "your best days are behind you, Marissa.", "It's all downhill from here. You'll never feel confident or strong in this body again." And you know what the saddest part of this was? I really began to believe these lies. Praise the Lord I woke up one day and realized how sad this was and how untrue these things were. So I finally did something about it.

I had a friend who introduced me to a nutritional re-balancing system and I told her a year and a half prior that I would never try it. I was always against "those things". But I got to a point where I was willing to try anything because I knew my body needed a change (and let's be real, there was a 30-day money back guarantee, so no risk for me), but more importantly I needed to remember who I was, that I am still strong, and that my best days are ahead. So I finally said yes. And you know what? It wasn't a scam. It wasn't fake. It wasn't a scheme. I saw changes in my body within the first few weeks. My energy changed. My confidence rose and rose. I started feeling my competitive edge come back and I recognized the old Marissa coming back around. I really missed her. 

A year and a half later I'm still using that same system and loving it more and more each day. I decided to start a 16-week challenge because I'm still helping the old Marissa show her face more and more in my current life. And I felt like in this season this is the best way to love myself. I'm learning more about true balance, what healthy inner-dialogue looks like about my body, and remembering more and more that my strongest days are ahead if I want them to be; this is definitely one of those "mind over matter" deals. 

To be honest, there's not a whole lotta reason why I'm writing this other than in hopes that maybe you don't feel alone. Or maybe that some of what I'm saying here resonates with you and your "me too" helps you realize that there's more room for you to love the body you've been given. I preach freedom and always encourage people to open up and share their story so I have to do that too. I hope this challenged you, encouraged you, and gets you thinking about how you can love yourself better. Because I really believe you're worth it. 

XO,

Marissa

Michelle & Mark (aka Mom & Dad) // Chicago Anniversary Session

Y'all know I love love but what I love maybe even more than love itself is the commitment and years and years and years of choosing to say yes to the same person day in and day out. It's about losing the initial butterflies and rainbows but finding ways to cultivate them and keep falling in love and re-falling in love through the changing seasons.

Mark and Michelle (AKA Dad & Mom) are on the blog today, in celebration of their 26th anniversary. These photos hold such a special place in my heart and I can't wait to show my children's children pictures of two pillars in my life who exemplified true commitment to growth and love and always gave their "yes" to each other in a beautifully steadfast way through the ups and downs of life.

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Megan & Steve // Chicago Wedding

Where do I even start with this wedding?! Meg is an old friend from high school and getting to reconnect for such a special day was such an honor. From the reception in the backyard of the house Megan grew up in, to the seriously best and most fun bridal party, to getting to watch a friend enter into an incredible marriage that couldn't fit her better, the day was just beyond special. I only cried three times throughout the day...you'd think I would be used to the wedding feels by now but I don't think I'll ever get over them. The love and joy present between the couple, their families, and friends was overwhelming.  I hope this highlight blog gives you a glimpse into the magic that was the Rake/Schnell wedding. Cheers!

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Cynthia & Michael // Chattanooga Engagement

I just love my couples. I sound like a broken record I'm sure but I just can't express that enough. I had the opportunity to spend some time with Cynthia and Michael in Chattanooga for their engagement session and I absolutely cannot wait for their big day in October. They are the perfect balance of sass, playfulness, and love. They appreciate and respect each other deeply and to say that we had a blast together is an understatement. Not to mention, they have the cutest pup, Franklin. Let's be honest, he really stole the show.

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Maggie & AJ // Nashville Wedding

As a little girl Maggie rode horses on her parents' property and created memories upon memories at that house with her siblings. Fast forward to mid-twenty year old Maggie and she's getting married to the man of her dreams in that very same place. AJ and Maggie were surrounded by friends and family who support and so obviously adore (understatement) them. From the beautiful details to the contagious joy that filled the day, this wedding was one for the books. As I always say, it was beyond an honor to play a part in the start of their life together. Let's do it again! What do you say Mr. & Mrs. Gilmer!?

Creating a Photography-Minded Wedding Day: Part One

 

 

Today begins a three-part series on planning a photography-minded wedding day. The timeline can be an area of stress for some brides so in hopes to alleviate that I want to share helpful tips on how to make a wedding day go as smoothly as possible from a wedding photographer’s perspective. Before we dive in, I want to make the same disclaimer that I make to each of my brides as we discuss timeline: This day is yours. When it comes down to it, your photographer’s (or any other wedding vendor) job is to educate you based on their expertise and experience, help you see different options for how your day can play out and then leave it up to the bride and groom to make the final decisions. With that being said, let’s get to it! In part one we are going to chat through my most commonly asked timeline question—to do a first look or to not do a first look?!

For those who have never heard of a “first look”, it is simply a time for the bride and groom to see each other before the bride walks down the aisle during the ceremony.

I’ll just get right to it and say that I am a huge supporter of doing a first look. There are a number of reasons for this. Yes, of course it makes for some really sweet intimate pictures, but even more than that it can actually affect a number of aspects of a wedding day that you potentially haven’t considered…

1.     Pre-ceremony timeline

Doing a first look allows for more time during a wedding day to be spent getting portraits done from bride and groom portraits, to bridal party photos, to formal family photos before the ceremony. If photos are high on a couple’s priority list this is a great way to ensure that we are making the most of our time together and getting in as many photos as possible throughout the day.

2.     Natural light

First looks ensure a couple that natural light will not be an issue for pictures. Many couples choose to have evening ceremonies but if the ceremony ends around sunset and they decided not to do a first look, this limits the amount of time to spend on portraits of the entire bridal party, family photos, and most importantly bride and groom portraits. When a couple chooses to do a first look, most times (in my experience) means less time dedicated to pictures after the ceremony and more relaxing and enjoying time with all of your family in friends there to celebrate you. Because let’s be honest, after the ceremony, you are going to want to dedicate as much time as possible to celebrating with all of your favorite people.

3.     Time together

This one is simple: first look= more time together! This is the start of your forever together! The day truly flies by so I’m a huge supporter of any chance you get to intentionally slow down and really take the day in. Having a moment between the two of you alone before the ceremony is so special, intimate, and memorable. It’s also a great way to create space to be able to take in the fact that you’re about to get married! These first few minutes together allow for the couple to get any jitters out of the way before the ceremony-to see each other, cry over how amazing you both look, give each other a good hug, and start the day out together.

*The biggest pushback I hear about first looks is worrying that the groom won’t have as good of a reaction during the ceremony if he sees his bride beforehand. But to be honest that’s just not true in my experience! Seeing each other and celebrating the moment before the day starts is a different feeling than a groom seeing his bride walking into your forever together as she walks down the aisle. Even with a first look, the groom’s reaction has always been just as priceless during the ceremony*

The other first look to consider

Aside from the typical bride-groom first look, I always ask my brides if they want to carve out time to do a first look with whoever is giving them away (dad, mom, etc.). It’s such a special moment to have a time of reflection and to be able to hug and love on your parents (or other special person walking you down the aisle) before they give you away to your soon-to-be husband. On a personal note, I made sure I had 15 minutes to spare on my wedding day between getting my dress on and my first look with Collier to see my parents and it is one of the best decisions I made for the day. I got to hug them, laugh and cry with them in excitement and pure gratefulness for all they've been and done for me through life and for what we were about to celebrate as a family.

Again, these are JUST suggestions. Like I said at the beginning of this post, brides, this is YOUR day! Make it exactly what you want and have dreamed your day to be. Next week we'll be talking through details and getting ready pictures.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:

Leah & Spencer // Intimate Raleigh Wedding

The Five Things you Need to Know When Planning a Wedding

Miranda & Dave // Rustic and lighthearted Nashville Wedding

 

 

 

Liz & Sam // Raleigh Engagement

Happy Monday friends! I hope this engagement session brings a smile to your face because it was such a sweet afternoon with even sweeter people. I joined Liz and Sam in downtown Raleigh for their engagement session. We met at City Market and made our way to Raleigh's art museum to finish off their session. Engagement sessions are the best because it's like a little taste of how fun, meaningful, and amazing the wedding is going to be. It makes me that much more excited to spend a couple's wedding day with them because we got a practice round of sorts in before the big day. I love seeing how my couples interact, see how much they compliment each other, and having the privilege of bringing those dynamics to life in pictures. Sam and Liz, I'm SO excited about what is to come for y'all and honored to spend your wedding day with you two, your family, and friends come November. Cheers to the rest of your engagement!

XX,

Marissa

Leah & Spencer // Raleigh Wedding

Happy Friday friends!! What better way to end the week than with a blog post full of love, family, and pretty things!? Leah and Spencer are a one-of-a-kind couple. They opted out of a traditional wedding for an intimate backyard ceremony in Leah's parent's backyard with their closest friends and family who came to town from all over the U.S. as well as Canada to celebrate Leah and Spencer's love. (ALWAYS about couples making their day their own!) After their wonderfully personalized ceremony they went straight into dinner, drinks, and a time of open toasts where family and friends championed the newlyweds and shared words of celebration, memories, and encouragement. 

Saturday consisted of portraits with Spencer Leah and their bridal party at a serene park in Raleigh. I'm all about creating space for a new couple to take a breather and enjoy each other while soaking in the fact that they just promised forever to each other. Afterwards, Leah and Spencer's family and friends awaited their arrival at a local brewery. It was only right for their reception to be at Trophy because they love and appreciate beer more than anyone I know. There they danced and celebrated the night away with loved ones. Once again, I'm overwhelmed by the place a couple gives me in their wedding day; I'm always given a front row seat into the excitement, the promises, and support shown on a wedding day. And that front row seat will NEVER get old.

Ending this week feeling very very grateful for the opportunities this job brings.

XX,

Marissa