I’m still trying to work out what happened last week. I mean, I KNOW what happened- I attended a life-changing conference in Staunton, Virginia with 84 other creatives in the industry, and had my world totally rocked by the experience. But rocked HOW? It’s still a little unclear. But every day the mist disperses and little and I can see a bit more of what happened in my heart, and what was going on in the hearts of the attendees.
Back in November, Kat asked if I’d be willing to come be an official conference photographer- heck yeah! I’d told her. I hadn’t been planning to go, just because I’d already eaten up my education budget for the year. So I jumped on the request! While I was there, I also had the honor of being on a photography panel with Katelyn, Caroline & Annamarie- being able to sit down in a more intimate group to talk about any and everything that revolves around running a photography business was such a treat! I learned so much listening to the other three panel members, and it was so interesting to hear the different methods we all employ to make our businesses run smoothly and successfully.
The speaker line-up was killer. Over the two-day conference, we heard from nine different professionals about everything from blogging efficiently, to making Google work for you, to the nitty gritty details of how to divvy up your finances. Having been in the industry for 4-5 years now, I was expecting that I’d “heard it all;” that everything the speakers were going to say, I’d already read it on a blog or learned it in a workshop.
Boy, I was so wrong- Bonnie‘s talk on balance cut right to the heart of some of my biggest weaknesses. And Natalie‘s slot on social media taught me some really valuable techniques for making the most out of my online presence. I’d brought a notebook with me to jot down a few thoughts over the two days, but I ended up with pages and pages of hastily-scribbled notes. It was awesome.
But the biggest takeaway for me was that I’ve been spending WAY too much time focusing on the wrong things, and it’s only hurt me and others.
If you’re been following AGP for a while, you’ll know that my pride is my biggest enemy. I’ve lost days, WEEKS of productivity over the years from obsessing and stressing over what I see other people doing, because I’m jealous, or because I think it’s threatening to me. My biggest emotional breakdowns over my business haven’t been due to burnout- they’ve been due to being humbled in big ways, being humbled in ways big enough that I’ve spent entire mornings crying ugly tears because I didn’t get something I thought I deserved. Because I am, to be totally honest, stuck on myself. Sometimes I don’t even STRUGGLE with the pride- I just let it run rampant and bask in the ugliness of it all.
But despite my bitter, jealous heart, God is still working in me- refining me, redirecting me, using me to bring him glory. Creative At Heart isn’t a Christian conference, but God was still moving. He used my time at the conference to gently but pointedly remind me that my purpose here isn’t to build up a photography empire that worships Abby Grace, it’s to honor him. It’s to use any GOOD that comes from my business to glorify him.
And maybe glorifying him looks like pouring life into my couples’ marriages through their anniversary sessions, or maybe it’s to speak encouraging words to someone who needs to hear them. Or maybe it’s through being raw and vulnerable to let other people know, you’re not alone in this. Whatever it is, my time at Creative At Heart reminded me that I believe in a God, and am loved by a God, who is SO much bigger than my photography business. And that my purpose as a person is so much bigger than just taking photographs and hosting workshops. And, that despite my bitterness, pride and jealousy, God loves me so fiercely and chooses to bless me anyways, even though I am frightfully undeserving.
If you’re thinking of attending the next Creative at Heart conference, I cannot stress enough that you should DO IT. If you want your business rocked to its core in the best way possible, DO IT. If you’re looking to be encouraged by both inspirational and practical speakers, DO IT. If you feel alone or isolated in this industry and need people to come alongside you to cheer for you, DO IT.
You’ll be so happy you did.
(Me and two of my favorite boss ladies, Natalie & Katelyn!)
Registration for the next Creative At Heart was just announced this week! And I’m SO excited, because for C@H Round 2, I’ll have the privilege of speaking & presenting alongside some of the most talented women in the industry, as well as serving on a panel again! I’ll be speaking on the topic of finding vision for your business, and though I’m already getting nervous about making bad jokes in front of everyone, I can’t wait see how it helps other business owners bloom and grow!
For more details, visit the conference website :).