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While you can see sneak peeks by scrolling through the #MTHConference hashtag on Instagram, it won’t give you an in-depth look into what actually happens at the Making Things Happen Conference each year.

Sit down for a coffee date with MTH Founder Lara Casey, Chief Encourager Kristin Winchester, and speakers Rhiannon Bosse and Amber Housley as they share their favorite parts of MTH, and help answer your questions as you decide if this is the conference for you (spoiler alert: it is!)

We still have a few seats available for our October conference, and we’d love to have you join us in Chapel Hill so we can give you a big hug! Take the leap! Payment plans are available; email Kristin@SouthernWeddings.com for more information.

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5 Favorite Things About the Making Things Happen Conference in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

This post originally appeared on Megan Kelsey Photography.

In this creative industry, there are dozens and dozens of workshops and conferences one can choose from to further their business and invest in education. I’ve attended the CLIC Conference, Creative at Heart, and a few online seminars and one-day events and they’ve all been wonderful! Investing in education has been a huge goal of mine these first few years in business and I’m glad I took that approach and made it a priority early on because for me it really has translated directly into business growth. I’ve walked away with some concrete, practical knowledge of how to take my business to the next level, how to gain a larger blog/social media following, how to spoil my clients, how to perfect my craft, and, if it was a GREAT conference, how to increase profits!

The Making Things Happen Conference was none of these things. And I mean that in the BEST way!! MTH was is an experience of a different breed. It’s hard to put into words everything I felt, and I’m sure many attendees would share that opinion. It’s truly indescribable!! I’m so glad I signed up for this mysterious conference that no one could really explain to me… that almost made it even more amazing because I had no idea what to expect. Because I can’t really give an accurate recap of what the MTH was about… I’m just going to share my 5 favorite things about this conference!!

MTH March 2016 Group
Photo by Robyn Van Dyke

1. The Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. This place couldn’t be any more charming or peaceful for this 3-day conference. I pulled up and thought… “Is that the HOTEL?!” It looked like a mansion from the early 1900s, and felt like one on the inside, too! The ballrooms! The common areas! The teal bathrooms!! I had a little too much fun browsing the historical timelines on the walls and the glass cases with artifacts from the hotel’s early days in the 1930s. Did you know Martin Luther King Jr. was the first African American to be served here as a guest and not a servant or employee? Crazy!!! The Carolina Inn provided a place to feel away from the world but also calm and comforted at the same time. It’s hard to explain but I just loved it and felt right at home and that’s rare for being in a hotel for 3 days!! :)

2. The rainbow-colored goodies. This is going to sound weird but the design of the conference materials just made me happy! I don’t want to give away any surprises for future attendees, but just know that it’s highly likely you’ll be taking home a bag full of fun things to remember your time by and to help you apply everything you learned once you get back to the real world! I’m still trying to organize all the stuff I got and it’s been a week! Haha! Shout out to whoever’s in charge of making conference materials look awesome because it’s working!

3. The PEOPLE behind MTH!! The team of speakers, organizers, and volunteers are just so genuinely warm and genuine. They are always up for a hug and are more than willing to give a listening ear or shoulder to cry on. It’s rare to feel so close to conference speakers but at the end of the 3 days I really felt like I could send any one of them an email and get a heartfelt response… and some I could even pick up the phone and call! These people do a REALLY good job at making you feel like they care about you and your well-being… and I think that’s because they honestly do. I’m really thankful for that.

4. The focus on you. Most conferences give the majority of meeting time to the speakers… and I get that. People come go to conferences to learn from and connect with these established and successful business owners and they LOVE it! Nothing was more awesome to me at the first conference I ever attended than hearing Katelyn James talk about how she poses!! But the MTH Conference isn’t really about that. It’s about YOU. I don’t want to say much else because that’s truly a part of the experience but I will say that I’ve never felt more confident in who I am and what I want out of life than I did after attending this conference. Gosh it was just so good to be honest with myself and face my fears head on… it was truly life changing and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.

5. This last one is kinda silly but… I loved the FOOD!!! If you know anything about me you know how much of a “foodie” I am and how I am generally not the “order a salad” kinda girl… though I have been eating salads more regularly lately thanks to some unfortunate health issues. But I let myself enjoy a Southern meal or two while down in North Carolina including a Creole jambalaya risotto that was delicious!! There were also a few conference surprises food-wise that just MADE MY DAY. I ate pimento cheese and hot pepper jelly on biscuits to my heart’s content and I have no regrets. And I didn’t even get a stomach ache!! I think that means pimento cheese can totally be a part of my regular diet now… right?! 😉 Yay for discovering new favorite Southern foods!!

In conclusion, the MTH Conference was unlike anything I have ever attended before. The best way I can describe it without doing it an injustice (because it’s truly indescribable!) is that it was like an intimate retreat on a larger scale. I’ve never felt so connected to and welcomed by a room full of strangers and that is TRULY rare to experience in this day and age of online interactions and less face-to-face heartfelt conversations. I mean I barely used my iPhone the entire time I was there and I was actually dreading going back to the LCD screen life. I want less of that and more real world experiences and moments!! If there’s one BIG thing I took away from MTH it’s that life’s sweetest joys can be those that aren’t “social-media worthy.” Something as simple as taking 8 seconds to stretch during a busy work day, going for a walk around the block on a sunny afternoon, or planting peonies along the side of your house can light up your life so much more than getting 500 likes on an Instagram post, 2,000 viewers on your blog, or 20 weddings booked in one year.

I want to make other number matters more to me and I can honestly say that as of right now, they do. The 3 hours I spent painting our apartment with Justin on Easter are something I will never forget… and I’m so glad I didn’t spend that time blogging for the week or answering emails! Life is about finding BALANCE between your work and the life you are seeking to build that is able to happen because of that work! That will be my next Mantra Monday post! But for now… just know that when the next MTH Conference opens up for registration, you should REALLY consider signing up :) Thank you Lara, Emily, Gina, Nancy, Amber, Katelyn, Maghon, Carrie, Kristin, Rhiannon, and the Southern Weddings team for making this conference a unique and unforgettable one! I’ll never forget it.

Here are a few photos from my time at The Carolina Inn! I didn’t take any pictures during the actual conference but had fun going on a little iPhone safari around the hotel!! :)

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This was the obviously the nicest place I’ve ever stayed… shout out to my roommate Julie for being so wonderful!

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Annnd the bathroom was mint!! So pretty!

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They told us to wear comfy shoes… I took that advice pretty literally. Love my mocassins!

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So much history!

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Probably the dorkiest photo I’ve ever uploaded of myself on the blog… haha oh well!

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Photo evidence that the conference DID happen and I didn’t just wander around the hotel taking iPhone pictures! Haha!

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The last night I ordered room service for the first time. I think because I was inspired by this room service sign from decades ago!! So awesome! And the sweet potato fries were delicious :) Loved my time at the Carolina Inn!!

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Making Things Happen

This post was originally published by Jolie Joie Designs.

Making Things Happen MArch 2016
(Image of MTH March 2016 group courtesy of Robyn Van Dyke Photography)

For the first 21 years of my life, I thought setting goals was for people who weren’t doing life right. I had it all together, so why on earth would I need to constrain my amazing accomplishments with goals?

2015 was a year of a lot of humbling realizations. I came to terms with so many truths about myself that I had shoved aside for all of my increasingly prideful undergraduate career. As I dove headfirst into the creative industry, I became even more aware of just how many things I DON’T know. I was in way over my head, desperate to push forward in this business despite my cluelessness, when I came across a book that creatives were raving about, “Make It Happen.”

Rewind to ca. 2010, when Riley Brandon loaned me her Southern Weddings collection, insistent that I pore over each page and fall as much in love with the content as she had. Riley is just a lover of joyful things, simple things, and, in this case, Southern things (Cali-born girl that she is). And she was right! Those pages were magical.

As I did some research, 5 years after flipping through those magazines, on the other side of college and at the cusp of a brand new business, I realized that Lara Casey was both the author of “Make It Happen” and the editor-in-chief of Southern Weddings. I ordered the book just before Christmas, and about 10 pages in realized that maybe goal setting isn’t just for losers. I spent NYE working through Lara’s goal-setting series with one of my oldest and dearest friends and walked into 2016 feeling purposeful and at peace with the fact that perfection is simply not attainable.

Somewhere in the midst of my developing LC fan girl status, my calligraphy crush, Maghon Taylor from (All She Wrote Notes), posted about the Making Things Happen conference coming in March. Let me just say that I was scarred at age 12 by my horrible parents FORCING me to attend Revolve, a Christian conference for girls, with absolutely none of my friends, and I had not willingly attended a conference since. But something about this one struck me–the opportunity to learn from women whose words I already so deeply admired, the idea of coming together with women who thought like at least half of my weird brain. So I pushed “register” and I booked a ticket from DAL to RDU.

I’m independent, but I’m also a woman, and that means that by nature I cringe at the mere thought of walking into a room filled with a bunch of other women where I don’t know a single one of them. All of those silly insecurities hit on Monday morning as I walked into the first day of Making Things Happen at the beautiful Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, NC. But by the time sweet Lara Casey arrived to start the day I had already struck up a conversation with two total strangers–something pretty far out of my comfort zone.

Friends, if you have reached this point in this post and you have not yet Googled Lara Casey, let me help you out. Here is a direct link to her goal-setting blog posts: Lara Casey || 2016 Goal Setting

Along with Lara, Emily Ley, creator of the Simplified PlannerGina ZeidlerKatelyn James, and Nancy Ray, photographers extraordinaire; event planner Rhiannon Bosse from Hey Gorg events; and Amber Housley, a member of the Southern Weddings team made up the team of women responsible for leading this event. They began the morning by telling their stories–“Stories change stories,” they told us.

Throughout the course of the next two days, we spent time breaking through the dirt (read 2 paragraphs of Lara’s blog and you’ll see how much she LOVES garden analogies!). The work I had put into planning my 2016 goals was maximized and broken down even further to bring to light questions and decisions I didn’t even know I was facing. We spent time writing out our fears–y’all, it is HARD to physically write down what you’re afraid of when you really love giving people the impression that you have it all together! We talked about the people in our lives who help us cultivate the good stuff, the stuff that matters. We talked about purpose and distractions, what we’re saying “no” to so that we can say “yes” to purpose. We looked at where we want to be when we’re 80–you don’t wake up on the last day of your 79th year and suddenly embody all those things. We defined our core, what fires us up as creatives and as women. We talked about finances (and the one other CPA in the room and I were fired up about that, let me tell ya) and we set goals with real action steps.

If I have not yet convinced you that Making Things Happen is life-changing, here’s exactly what I took away from these 2 days:

1. Conviction. Not wanting to do hard things for the sole reason that they’re hard is not a thing. Good things are rarely easy things. That’s code for: I’m going to FINISH my CPA testing and I am going to obediently stay in Waco indefinitely. I don’t know how the Lord is going to use those 3 silly little letters or this tiny little town that’s generally known for either a scary cult or a major TV hit, but He has used far stranger circumstances to further His Kingdom, so bring it on.

2. Mission. I’ve gone through 5 years of business classes, and yet I started this business without a mission statement. At the end of these 2 days I can gratefully say that Jolie Joie has a clear and concrete mission. What purpose is at my core? Spreading the JOY found from life in Christ, and sharing that joy with people all over the place, whether across international borders or gathered around my dining room table. The mission of Jolie Joie is to send unfathomable joy into lives and homes through joy-inspired words. From a business perspective, this purpose will flow into every post and every product. But beyond that it’s a life purpose. The mission of spreading joy will govern my actions from the time and way that I wake up to the moment I get back in bed at night. Less important than my “how” is my “why,” and that’s what I walked away with from MTH.

3. Dreams. For 22 years I’ve been a realist, and this week I learned that dreams aren’t silly. I believe, whole-heartedly, that the Lord plants deep and true passions in us and develops them for His glory. I have this dream of owning a joyful paperie someday, and for the first time since I dreamed that almost a year ago, I don’t feel like that’s a silly daydream. I have a dream of being part of a creative community close to home, having women who think like me who can encourage me and give me a good ol’ kick in the pants when I lose sight of the vision and passion the Lord has placed on my heart.

It’s incredible what 2 days without your phone surrounded by big dreamers can do to your perspective. I’m writing this back at my study spot in Waco and today has been a good day. I have messed up at least 100 times today, but as my sweet friend Claire Allen says, “There’s grace for that.” Grace, friends. That’s what it’s all about.

Time in North Carolina meant that beyond the walls of the (darling) Carolina Inn, I got to spend 6 days with my best friend. It was like a fun game of pretending we were roommates again and I will not hesitate to tell you I absolutely loved that. Watching movies and drinking wine are just more fun with your best friend, but deeper than that she’s a voice of truth even when truth is really ugly. Part of making things happen is surrounding yourself with people who cultivate what matters, and I’m so thankful for a friend who can call me on my crap and speak the Gospel to me when I am so tall on my high horse that I have completely lost sight of that truth I’ve claimed to believe. I’m not livin’ it, folks, and I am so grateful that the Lord placed a friend in my life to humbly and graciously snap me to that reality. These visions and dreams of spreading joy are going to require some serious heart work first. I am not equipped to bring about that change, and I am done pretending that I can, but I can commit to learning the Gospel, falling in love with it, and striving to live it out in every moment, allowing plenty of room for grace.

Jolie Joie
I loved getting to hear Maghon Taylor share her story–she is the whole reason I ended up at MTH and I am so thankful! Click the picture to follow her on Instagram @allshewrotenotes and be blessed by her sweet spirit of celebration!

The Carolina Inn
Lots of hard work and good digging took place at The Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill! I cannot tell you how darling it was–you walked in and the whole place just smells like cala lilies, and we sat in the most precious Carolina blue ball room all week. Cannot wait to come back here!

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Making Things Happen 2016

This post originally appeared on NancyRayPhotography.com

MTH Group 2015

Hey friends! Making Things Happen is happening again, and I’m so grateful to be a part of it. Before I give my recap of my last MTH, you can grab your early bird seat here before January 29th and save $1000. Just saying’ – JUMP ON IT.

This past MTH was such a unique experience for me. It was the gut-check I needed since becoming a mama, because the last time I went through MTH I was quite pregnant.

MTH March 2016

To be honest, I was expecting some huge, momentous, life-changing emotion to hit me now that I have a daughter. I was thinking to myself, “I did it! I made it happen. I’m a mama now, so let’s see what I get out of this MTH that will be different from all the others.” Honestly, I shouldn’t have had any expectations. That’s what I tell everyone who goes through MTH : LEAVE your expectations BEHIND and let God say what He wants to say. Period.

MTH Speakers

So after writing and digging and searching and processing, I came away with this: yes, I’m a mama now. I love my daughter so much, and it’s so fun to dream bigger since she’s part of our lives. But more than that, I’m still me. I’m still a daughter of God first, a wife, a mama, a friend, a business owner. My identity has grown to encompass “mama,” but it hasn’t changed. I’m still who I am.

MTH Workbooks

Can I be real for a second? MTH was challenging this time around because I’m a mama. It is much more difficult to wake up early and have my morning routine, my workout schedule, to check things off my list like I always have. It’s hard to do that stuff now because of this tiny person that I love who grows every day and demands so much of my attention. But MTH made me ask myself again: WHAT do I want to make happen?

MTH Nancy Ray

Do I want to make a checklist or a business or a half marathon or ______ happen MORE than I want to make family happen? Heck no. Here are some new things I want to make happen after my last MTH experience:

1. I want to make family memories happen. Camping, visiting Milly’s great grandparents, July 4th in Beaufort, weekly family dinners, days of rest. I want Milly to remember those things – not just “mommy working” all the time.
2. I want to make a healthy lifestyle happen. This takes planning and self discipline. I promise – a healthy lifestyle does not just “happen” for me.
3. I want to make a strong business happen. Nancy Ray Photography is a calling on my life, and I want see growth in my team, growth in my work, growth in the finances of NRP, growth in our mission.
4. I want to make real ministry happen. Since MTH I have joined a women’s small group at my church, and we minister to one another weekly.
5. I want to make time with the Lord happen. Real, get on my knees prayer life. Time reading scripture. Time worshiping him at church and in my home. I want to truly abide with Him daily.

And with that, I felt a huge release at this MTH to simply prioritize. To do what I can with my best effort. Then, to be free. My identity isn’t in what I accomplish – my identity is in the Lord. Everything falls under that umbrella! Yes, Nancy Ray is a speaker, photographer, wife, runner, blogger, mama, etc. But Nancy Ray is first the Lord’s. Period.

MTH 2015 Nancy Ray

I know some of you may be reading and wondering why I’m so Jesus-y, especially since this is a photography blog for crying out loud. All I can say to that is, this is me. My heart has always aimed to give you transparency and truth in the middle of this business, and I hope you see that. And for me, being transparent means sharing Jesus with you, because He is my everything.

Back to MTH… it’s actually not a Christian conference! Ha! It’s a conference created to help you dig deep and create action steps towards what matters most to YOU. Click here and read about it to find out more. It’s changed my life in so many ways, I can’t wait to hear what the spring has in store!

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