This post originally appeared on CarolynBentumPhotographyBlog.com

Carolyn Bentum Photography

Happy April y’all!  I’m sure you are surprised to see something popping up on the blog.  This winter has definitely been one of lots of good intentions and a little sparse in terms of content – but spring has arrived (well at least in North Carolina) and things are coming alive again here too!

You may remember from my 2014 VISION POST that I was going to be attending the MAKING THINGS HAPPEN CONFERENCE held in Chapel Hill, North Carolina at the end of March/beginning of April.  Well it’s officially been one week since we were winding down two absolutely amazing and life changing days in Chapel Hill and I’m finally ready to begin sharing a little about my experience mixed in with a good dash of sweet North Carolina spring to keep us Canadians feeling hopeful that this winter will eventually end (we seriously had snow here AGAIN this morning!!!!).

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To be honest, my MTH experience was definitely a lot different than I “thought” it was going to be.  I thought that I would come home having learned from the amazing speakers about how to live out a more balanced family/work life; how to grow my business in a way that was meaningful and really impactful; and how to do things better so that I could make more happen – as one attendee said, “I thought I was coming here to learn how to do more things in less time, but what I really discovered is how to do less things that matter more.”  For me this statement is completely true!  I though I would come home having learned, refined and refreshed my business practices – but what I really learned, rediscovered and was reminded about was what is my core.

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Day One, my friend Karina and I called “wrecking” day.  Nothing could have really prepared me for the hard work we would do that day (even though we were told we would be working hard).  I’m a fairly shy/private person (something I want to be working on for sharing more about me and my heart with y’all).  Day One made us acknowledge our fears and face them (literally call them out publicly – in front of the whole group).  I have never been so thankful for someone as I was for Gina Zeidler that day, who stood at the front and had us speak directly to her with palms open, so that we could acknowledge and break through our fears to someone who genuinely cares and wanted to help each of us grow.

Day One was hard.  There were lots of tears (and not just a teardrop or two); that night I felt so “wrecked” I couldn’t even really entertain the thought of networking….I just needed some time to really process what happened, what I discovered and to start to wrap my head around what it would mean for myself, family and business.  I’m so thankful for Karina who accepted me as I was and was just “there” to help me dig a little deeper and talk out the discoveries.

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So what did I discover?  You may be wondering what is at my core?  Honestly, it’s probably not too surprising to anyone that knows me or has been following me for awhile (I even wrote about it in my 2014 Vision Post).  But for me it was a rediscovery, something that I knew in my heart but needed to breakthrough with clarity and redefined focus in my spirit so that I could be living the life I was created to live.  The “thing” that I need to make happen is loving my family, for God has given this responsibility to me and only me to be a present, intentional and loving wife and mother.  It doesn’t really sound that “ground breaking”; I mean I signed up for marriage and motherhood voluntarily.  However, my time in Chapel Hill helped me to rediscover why this is the only thing that matters, that this is the best and greatest calling God has placed on my life.

Over the last few years I’ve been busy, distracted and living almost half heartedly.  In January I completed Lara’s POWERSHEETS to help me prepare for MTH (it was out of these sheets that I created my 2014 goals).  I discovered through these soul searching and goal setting exercises that I had lost myself a bit over the last few years.  In the busyness of building a business and having a very young and energetic family I had slowly started to forget who I was and what brought me simple joy.  I poured myself into my wonderful clients with all the passion and care I had to offer because I really wanted to connect and make a difference in their lives.  However, to do this well I gave up a lot of what I loved to do (parts of me) and sacrificed a lot of family time (more than I care to admit).

Making Things Happen brought this with laser focus to my attention.  I realized what my distracted, busy, overworked and over-scheduled self had actually cost my family, my spirit and how it had not helped me achieve what I desired for my art and my clients.   I realized I wasn’t happy with who I had become and I was ready to change, refocus and re-prioritize so that I could be fully living life, loving and giving to my family as they need and deserve and offering something of value to my clients.

We ended off Day One with a visualization exercise of where we wanted to be in 10 years.  We were encouraged to vividly view and describe this place/situation/scenario – the sights, smells, sounds, tastes – so that we could hold onto this as we prioritized and made decisions that would effectively help us work towards this picture.

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Day Two started with the most refreshing, rejuvenating and replenishing walk that Karina and I took through the beautiful UNC campus.  Spending time in the peaceful sunshine with my camera in hand I felt refocused and ready for whatever Day Two would throw my way.

Day Two started with our discoveries from Day One and then pushed us to make “it” happen.  Defining what is at our core, what this looks like in both family and business realms, setting specific big picture and short term goals and achievable action steps – we did it all!  For me, using that 10 year picture and then taking the steps backwards to see what would need to happen, change and be focused on was really helpful.

I declared that I dream of being a present, focused and loving wife and mom who has excess love to bless her clients with.  That I wanted to make family – real, loving, messy, loud, alive family happen because family is the greatest gift that God has given to me and I’ve been given the unique role as a wife and mother that no one else can do.  I declared that I want to live palms open and up – ready to embrace whatever God brings my way and trusting that He knows best (another post will be coming later on this).  Day Two ended and I felt fully alive – something that I hadn’t felt for awhile – I was ready to fully live the one and only life I’ve been given full of love, laughter and deep relationships.

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(On a side note…doesn’t Karina look like such a natural behind the camera:)).

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The learning and discovery didn’t stop at the end of Day Two.  Tuesday night, completely exhausted, Karina and I began chatting about something else.  Something that was directly connected to our personal learning, something that was stirring our creative sides, something that the amazing SOUTHERN WEDDINGS and their design team hold as their core purpose “that strong marriages can change the world; that there is nothing on this earth more important than FAMILY; and that true love always wins.”  Again none of these principles are that “earth shattering”, but they are simple, pure and completely true and I believe have the power to change legacies and the world.

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I’m hoping Karina doesn’t mind me sharing that she’s not the hugest fan of flying, especially since our first two landings were quite rough (I totally thought at one point I was going to pass out:)).  So on our first flight to help keep our minds busy we were browsing SOUTHERN WEDDINGS.  We began chatting about the quality and inspiration that was found in this magazine and all of the things that we loved inside of it’s pages and about “the South” – there was lots!

Before we knew it we were on our second leg of the journey home and were creating and crafting some really amazing ideas for our photography businesses.  We almost completely planned a styled shoot that would reflect Karina’s bright and colourful brand and personality and we both had new ideas for things we wanted to see happening for our clients.

Our list of things that reminded us of “the South” started to really take root in my mind.  My creative juices were flowing as I thought about the goals and action steps I had set to make family happen better than before I had left.  I was excited about this list and the ideas it was giving me to help achieve these goals for long term influence and change.  This list really connected what I had been wanting and trying to do for and give my clients since the start of my business.

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Fast forward a few days and I’m home and back in my “regular” routine that didn’t quite feel so “regular” anymore.  I can honestly say that as I seek each day to live on purpose, to incorporate and do some of the things that bring me the most joy and work towards focusing on my core purpose I feel more focused, present, patient, joyful, loving and alive.

As I was journalling (something that we did a lot of at MTH) to reflect upon and to keep working on making what matters happen I discovered something else.  Not only had I really defined my personal core purpose, but out of all of this growth, learning and inspiration I discovered the core purpose for Carolyn Bentum Photography as well.  God had used MTH to help me see that LOVE and FAMILY is at the heart of EVERYTHING – including my business and the reason why I do what I do.

Carolyn Bentum Photography’s core purpose is:  Inspiring and capturing strong marriages and connected families to leave legacies of extravagant love.

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I’m so excited to finally have the words to describe my heart and purpose behind my art.  I will definitely be working through this all more in the coming months and will be sharing more of what this means.

I want to wrap up with a couple of really big thank-yous!  First of all, to my dear friend KARINA!  Thank you for accepting my invitation to come along with me (even though we had to fly:)).  Your friendship, support and willingness to let me be real and to really accept the learning that was placed on my heart was and is so greatly appreciated!  That we get to continue our Making Things Happen journey together and challenge MEGAN as well, means the world to me and I’m so excited to see what is going to come out of this experience for all of us.

A HUGE thank you to each of the speakers – GINAKARENLARAEMILYNANCYAMBER, and RHI your gift of honesty, realness, experiences, learning, time and teaching was absolutely incredible to experience.  You have challenged and changed me in a way that was so needed and I will forever be grateful for this time and experience. I definitely will be coming back again and can’t wait to learn alongside you once more.

A big thank you goes out to each of the attendees at #mth2014!  Your openness, vulnerability, honesty, creativity, vision and hunger to grow, change and make what matters happen was so refreshing!  Thank you for sharing and for allowing me to be a part of your journey as well!

Lastly, an ENORMOUS thank you to Tim and my boys (and my sister:)) for allowing me this opportunity to attend and take this time for me.  I am so blessed to have a supportive and loving family who’s behind me 100%.  THANK-YOU is definitely not enough!

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(Group Photo Credit: ROBYN VANDYKE PHOTOGRAPHY)