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April 2014 Archive

Making Things Happen Recap & Major Changes For This Girl!

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A few weeks ago I had the absolute honor and privilege of speaking at the Making Things Happen Conference in Chapel Hill NC. This conference, and the women behind it are so much a part of where I am today and why I am doing what I am doing. I first went to their MTH retreat in the fall of 2010 and shortly after had the strength to launch my first ever Pursuit 31 workshop. Since then, Pursuit has morphed into an international community and conference for Christian Women Creatives, and my life has been completely changed. This week, with 100+ amazing souls in North Carolina, it was changed again. In the best ways possible.

Making Things Happen Speakers

If you’ve never been to Making Things Happen before, first off, GO SIGN UP! They just released their dates for the fall and I know it’s going to be INCREDIBLE. Second, it’s WAY different than any other conference or workshop that’s out there. MTH is 2 days of digging deep, finding what makes you tick, and getting an action plan to get more of that in your life. Every time it’s been life-changing and I think it’s a must for anyone out there. I was actually sitting there wishing even Isaac was there. So if you’re a dude… you should sign up too. If you’re married. Sign up together. It will blow. your. mind!

Making Things Happen Conference

There is no way that I could recap everything that happened. It’s so personal and experiential that it’s not really something I can put into words. So if you’re looking for that… I apologize. You’re just gonna have to get your buns to Chapel Hill in October to find out for yourself, and then you’ll know why I can’t come up with proper verbiage for that 48 hours. What I can do though is share with you MY action steps. My Aha moments and what I will be changing from here on out. So here I go…

1. I have to make my family the priority.

Karen Stott

Here is little Logan sleeping soundly at the Carolina Inn during MTH. My Mom was thrilled to travel to NC with us so that she could take care of him while I was speaking at the conference. Thanks MOM! You’re amazing!

For the past 3 years I have made Pursuit 31 a HUGE priority. I absolutely LOVE Pursuit and the girls in it. They are more like family than random people on the internet. BUT managing the conference, the 70+ small groups and the online forums has taken over my life. Sometimes it’s easy to say.. well… it’s for the Kingdom.. it’s ministry.. so it’s a worthy cause. I’ve said it so many times. And it IS. It IS a worthy cause. It’s usually not the bad things that creep in and take over our life. It’s usually the good things. Because they are the hardest to say no to. Loving people and hopefully drawing them closer to Jesus is always worth it. But my family is worth it too. My family needs me too. And dare I say they need me more than the 5,000 women on the inter webs do? I think so. And honestly, I need me. I’ve lost a lot of “Me” in the past 3 years and I’m now in a season that I am going to take Me back. And take back my family. This will take a lot of little intentional decisions, but I am excited for the hard work and difficult choices because I know freedom, purpose and balance are on the other side!

Making Things Happen Breakout Groups

2. We HAVE to get out of debt!

One of my favorite parts of the two days was when Nancy Ray’s husband Will shared on finances. I know, I know… crazy boring right?!?! Usually YES! But Will was so funny and broke it down into such simple and easy terms for us “creatives” to understand. I had several light bulb moments. But the biggest one was when he shared a quote from Mark Cuban ” The greatest obstacle to destiny is debt, both personal and financial. Financial debt is the ultimate dream killer.” It’s SOOO true. I have this big dream of moving to a new place or going on a cross country road trip with my family. And what has been standing in our way? DEBT!!!! A few years ago we were debt free. It was always, always our plan to be debt free. But then, 2007 happened, and the house we built for an investment lost 200,000 in a year. Right when we were needing to sell it. Our savings only allowed us to stay in the house for a little over 2 years… but when the market crashed, we could no longer sell it. And our huge plan of building and selling to have a paid off house in 7 years went crumbling. To keep our credit up we put our money into our mortgage but slowly had to start living off of credit cards for the rest until we finally sold it 2 years later. This was NOT part of the plan. In fact, it was quite opposite. BUT, it IS our situation. And it’s finally time to face it. For the past few years since we moved we’ve continued to live like we weren’t in debt. Spending where we wanted. Doing what we wanted. But that isn’t the case. We ARE in debt. And we need to make war with these credit cards. Ignoring it means postponing our dreams, and I am not willing to do that. Getting my fight on, and getting serious about paying off debt.. THAT is freeing! And THAT will help us be free to do what God is calling us to do.

SO… here’s what I am doing. And I would LOVE accountability in this! Will’s wife and my new sweet friend Nancy Ray shared the quote “Contentment is the key to financial freedom.” She has an amazing thing going on on her blog called the #contentmentchallenge where you stop purchasing things for 3 months. I am scared, but I am joining her in this adventure because I believe so much lies on the other side of this debt! I have more to share but I think I will have to write another post for it altogether. There is just SO much!

3. I have to take some things off my plate.

A few weeks ago I participated in Emily Ley’s webinar and one thing stuck with me SO much! “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” From that class, Moira Ink penned this quote and I just had to share it with you.

Moira Ink

This quote resonated so deeply with me because I am a dreamer through and through. I love to build things. I LOVE to create. And I wholeheartedly believe that is what God created me to do. But I’m not super awesome at follow through. That’s a whole other post altogether, but I’m an Innovator, not a Cultivator. So I need to be very, VERY careful what I actually start, and think it all the way through to make sure I can actually carry it out. I currently have like 5 half started businesses because I love building so much. This quote reminds me… just because I CAN… doesn’t mean that I SHOULD. I need to ask myself.. can I really manage this new project? Can I give it my best? If so, is it worth it? Because giving my best doesn’t come cheap. It comes at the cost of giving my best to something else. Possibly something else way more important.

4.What I have REALLY been called to do… write, inspire, encourage… not respond to everything.

This is extreme… but hang in there… hopefully it will make sense in the end. Here are a few things I’m saying no to…

FB messages… I am no longer checking them and am feeling AWESOME about that. I changed my header on my profile to say that I am no longer checking them and you know what??? It’s WORKING! I haven’t had a message in days which is INSANE. I usually get

Email. This sounds incredibly unrealistic I know. But ya’ll. It. Was. Swallowing my soul. I would sit down on a given morning fresh with God downloads from my shower and I would get ready to write, and I would end up spending the ENTIRE DAY sorting, filing and responding to my inbox. Suddenly it was time to get the kids from school and I hadn’t done the one thing God put on my heart to do that day. Write what He shared with my heart. It makes me sick. Literally. I am sick to my stomach about all of the things He has told me to share over the years and I haven’t. I’ve been disobedient. I’ve been a mismanager of time. And that’s on me. Not Him. It makes me wonder if Paul would’ve finished the books of the Bible God told him to write if he had been flooded with emails and the pressure to respond to everyone. I kinda don’t think he would’ve. But that’s just my opinion. I remember having dinner with Jeremy Cowart and some friends a few years ago and he was talking about email, and how sometimes it takes him 6 months to respond, and sometimes he doesn’t at all. And he is okay with that. I sat there mind blown how this super successful photographer had basically said he was done with email (<<5. New Schedule.

Yep. You heart that right. Remember when I said that I felt like I had lost a little of “Me” over the past few years? I’m changing that now. For the last 9 years I have worked SO so much. For the first 6 it was insane and caused me to nearly have a nervous breakdown. For the last 3 it has been a ton better. I have found the art of balancing this crazy life I call work at home mommying, and it’s been great. But what I have forgotten in all of this mix, was me. The me that loved painting, baking, decorating, and refabing things I found in thrift shops. That girl. The one who had time to have coffee with friends and go window shopping just for the heck of it. What happened to her? I really miss her. And I think it’s WAY past time to find her again. So.. here’s to new days. New schedules and NEW BOUNDARIES!

So here you have it folks…

Monday Work hours from 9-2 PST

Tuesday Cultivate friendships day… on these days I will NOT turn on my computer and instead I will have coffee with a friend, go antiquing, go to Mom’s group at our church, have a date day with Isaac if he’s home or anything else that involves hanging out with people.

Wednesday … Work hours 9-2 PST

Thursday… ME days… these are the days I will work on a personal project that I love. This usually involves painting or refurbishing something, but could involve anything that fills up my cup.

Friday …Work from 9-2 PST

Doesn’t that just sound AMAZING!?!?! It does to me! And I am SO excited about it!

Karen Stott

These pretties get my heart and I am thrilled to do life with them… love you girls! Tiffany Farley, Hannah Brencher & Carrie McQuaid

6. Stay true to my Core Values

Making Things Happen Purpose

It’s true. Defining our Core Values gives us Purpose. But it also helps you attract your ideal client, make important decisions and bring confidence to your every day choices. 3 years ago, in the midst of my breakdown, Isaac and I stepped back, re-evaluated and came up with a system. But not just a system that would come and go, a system built on our CORE. These value sets have become such a part of our unspoken language that I nearly forgot about the actual words. They are just a part of us now.

But during the MTH Conference I was reminded of the time that we sat down, wrote things out, and figured out our Core Values AND our Belief Statement. Looking back those statements have served as a compass and a road map for the last several years. I seriously CAN’T even imagine NOT having them now. All successful companies have Core Values and Belief Statements. So why shouldn’t we have them for our lives? Makes sense right?

Anyway, all of the sudden I remembered that a few years ago I taught a class at a Conference on this very thing and that I still had all of my notes. So I decided that I wanted to share that process with you, in hopes that it will help you create your own set of Core Values and your own Belief Statement, to help you pave the life of your dreams. So in a VERY random and scary turn of events, I am now hosting my first EVER Online Class. I am a little nervous but also extremely excited. I don’t know why I never thought about this before.

Karen Stott Core Culture

Whew… That was a huge brain dump and only took me a week to finish this one post. LOL! But hey… it’s all done now and I hope it has given you a glimpse into my thoughts on the MTH Conference as well as inspired you to create some new boundaries for your own life!

Blessings & Grace!

Non-Instagram photos by Robyn Van Dyke Photography.

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Making Things Happen 2014

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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!!!!).


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.


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. 


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.


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. 


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


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.


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.


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.


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!

MTH Group Photo 2014

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