May 6, 2014

The Shiny Circle Workshop

I am so excited to announce that this is finally happening!

My love of photography and passion for leading and inspiring people have collided and I'm teaching a workshop this summer! I know this is only the beginning. I have so many ideas and things I want to share. It's all very exciting to me (and hopefully to you)!

So, if you are in the Niagara area and would like to sit in on my workshop, you can register by clicking on the image below. There are only 2 dates set so far and I'm tossing around dates for August...possibly in MONTREAL. :) Also, there are only 12 spots available for each date, so if this is something you know you want to do, I would make it happen fast if I were you. The last two workshops I held (the 10 week ones) filled up extremely fast.
Plus, this is possibly the cheapest you will ever see this workshop - 50% off as a debut price. Just because. :)

February 28, 2014

Thirty Years

Today, there is one person on my mind: my sister.

She is my only sibling and has been my sidekick through life. Even though we have lived at least 7 hours away from eachother for the last 13 years, she is on my mind daily.

I think of her in those funny little moments that only she would understand.

I think of her momentarily in the daily routine, and wonder what she's doing in that same moment.

When I'm considering buying an article of clothing, I wonder what she would say. She would tell me if it looks right or not.

Everytime I think of where she is in life, I smile, knowing that she is walking her path with confidence. Even though, right now, that means she is in California.

My heart only feels happy in her accomplishments and I want even more for her.

 Michelle, I am so thankful for you. I feel honored to call you my sister these last 30 years, and can't wait to see what the next 30 hold. We get to go through it together, no matter what. Geographical distance can't separate us.

You are a treasured jewel in my life.

I hope your birthday is beautiful.  Happy 30th, Mic.  I love you.

♥ Estelle

Oh, and...vingt-neuf, peut-ĂȘtre. Mais treeeeeente? Jesaispas.

February 26, 2014

An Ordinary Day

My sister posted a video not too long ago that really inspired me. It's called An Ordinary Day, and was incredibly artistic and beautiful. I hope to compile a video along those lines someday, but for now, I am posting a few bits and pieces of my day the other day, in still shots. I want to do a better version of this - a more thorough look at a day, but that will require a bit more planning.  ;)

I want, so much, to remember this time of my life. I feel as though it is whipping past me at lightning speed. Elias will be starting school THIS FALL (in case you don't know, Elias is baby #3). How did that happen?

So, these ordinary moments, the routine, the repetitious stuff - that's what I want to remember. I want to remember how cute my child's feet look in sleepers. Or how Mark reads to the kids pretty-much every night while I make lunches. I want to remember the boring, the mundane and the ordinary parts of my days. Because that will all change one day, and I will miss it. ♥

September 12, 2013

Alot Can Change in a Year

Warning: This is a LONG blog post. Go get a snack before you continue reading.  
Or, if you're in a hurry and want to get to the most important point of the post, skip ahead until you see the font color change.  You're welcome.  ;)

Alot really can change in a year. Actually, this post may be more appropriately named, "Alot Can Change in a Moment". Because that's what happened. Literally. Exactly one year ago today, we got an unexpected phone call from someone, that changed our direction.

In August 2012, we made a really tough decision to step out from the church we had been a part of for over 10 years. We had been through alot with that community, so it was very difficult to leave, but we knew it was the right thing and the right timing. We made that decision without knowing exactly what we were going to do or where we were going to go. We really had no idea. 

In an effort to stay a part of the church community as a whole, the following Sunday after we left, we went to another local church where we didn't know too many people. One of our good friends had lovingly advised us not to stop meeting with other believers, not just for us, but for our kids. 

I could write a LONG blog post on the different things I learned during the week following September 4th, and the mixture of feelings I had. But that's a little too personal for this blog. I will say, I had an encounter with God like I've never had before. He really came through for me, personally, during this challenging time in my life.

But it was September 12th that things started to make more sense. I came home to a message on my answering machine from Josh Waters. I didn't even actually speak with him. Josh had just moved to Toronto two weeks earlier with his fiancee, Erika Crosier, and John and Heather Bishop (and their two children). 

But before I get into that, let me back up a couple of years...

In early 2011, Mark and I watched a documentary (This is How we Change the World) that gave us a renewed sense of passion to reach our world. We watched it several times, cried lots, and prepared ourselves to be a part of a global movement in our part of the world: Canada. We didn't know exactly how this would happen, but that documentary spurred us on, and we dug in deep at our local church. We were ready to take action. Because this documentary was so inspiring, we decided to go and visit the church where it originated: Elevation Church, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Mark took a few friends and leaders from our church with him one weekend in April 2011 to check things out. He had been listening to the Elevation podcasts when he would go on truck runs (along with lots of other inspiring books and podcasts - so this wasn't unusual for Mark). There was something different about Elevation Church though. Something clicked, but still, we always kept it at a distance because of...well, the geographical distance, logically. Then Mark and I took a trip to Miami, FL in June 2011, for our 10th anniversary. Naturally, he wanted to stop in NC to show me this great church he had found. I loved the experience, but it was still just an amazing church that was far away. We gained excitement for our own church family after being inspired by Elevation. It made complete sense. Anyone in leadership knows how important it is to expose yourself to great leaders outside of your main circle. So, we stayed connected to Elevation over the course of the next year and a half. 

So back to September 12th, 2012...
We got this random call. Josh and the rest of the crew had just moved to Toronto, from North Carolina, to start the very first Canadian Elevation Campus. They were making calls to all the Canadian contacts who had ever visited Elevation in Charlotte, to let them know that there would be a GTA (Greater Toronto Area) Campus launched early 2013. They were meeting at Mississauga Secondary School every Saturday night, for the time being, building a core team and planning for the launch. They were meeting ONE HOUR away from us. I couldn't help but think, why Toronto? Why so close to us?

So that Saturday night, Mark drove to Mississauga to visit. I, honestly, didn't think too much of it. It was, after all, an hour's drive...and that couldn't become a regular thing for our family of six (at the time, we had a 7 yr old, 4 yr old, 2 yr old and 5 month old). Or could it become a regular drive for us? I wasn't sure. Mark arrived home at around 10:00 pm that saturday night (which also happened to be the day before my birthday). When he walked in the door, I knew something was happening. He was beaming. If you know Mark, you know he doesn't really get worked up about much. He's just not an impulsive kind of guy. He typically takes his time and doesn't over-react. So, when I saw how excited he was, I was convinced in my heart that we would be a part of this new launch in the GTA. It had to happen. (on a side note: Mark's first visit also happened to be the very first installment of the "Greater" series - one that completely challenged and encouraged us in the next leg of our journey)

I remember him telling me that it was a small group of people (like around 60), and that I was going to love them. He said they were so friendly and open and that we would take our family the following week so I could see what he was talking about. 

On my first visit, September 21st, I was blown away by the passion of these people. And I mean, the sermon was amazing, the set-up was great, it was all wonderful. But what really struck me, was how passionate the people were and how driven they were to see people meet Jesus in a powerful way. I loved that everyone was working together towards one goal, one vision. I loved that just as soon as you stepped in the doors, you were given opportunity to do something - make a difference in your own way and find your place.

Looking back, I am pretty sure that the children's volunteers were overwhelmed with the addition of our four kids that week too (lol). But this was the other thing...our kids LOVED being there, from the start. If you have kids, you know how big of a deal this is.

Now, flash forward one year...
We have been a part of Elevation GTA this entire time. We have had the honor of being a part of the core team, the launch team, and the volunteer team and have had the privilege of conducting an egroup (our close-knit group of friends/family) in our home. We have given and have received, we've been encouraged and have encouraged others. We've seen growth happen and lives turn around. I can truly say that my experience this past year has been unlike any other that I have known. I could probably write an entire book (maybe I will someday) on all that I have seen and what we've experienced as a church family at Elevation GTA, and we're not even a year old yet. We've only just begun. September has always felt like a month of new beginnings for me, not sure why, maybe because it's the month of my birth, maybe because of school starting, the freshness of Fall, I don't know. September 2012 really proved to be a new start for me. I can't wait to grow and change more and continue on this journey God has for me and my family. I'm so glad to be a part of a family that will support and challenge me to move in that direction.

I love you guys. I wish you all could have the joy I've experienced this past year.

Thanks so much for reading and celebrating with me. Here's to new beginnings!

May 16, 2013

My thoughts on complaining

I've been thinking about this for most of the day.  The topic of complaining, that is.

I feel as though I have a right to talk about this because I have complained many times in my own life and continue to have ample opportunity to complain - probably on a daily basis.  I recognize it in my life and understand how it has affected me, personally.

*And before I get into it, I should post a disclaimer. I am not judging anyone. I'm not trying to change you. I don't think you're stupid. I don't think I'm perfect - I KNOW I'm not. I don't think I know it all. I'm just a thinker. And sometimes I like to think "out loud". I hope that I can bring encouragement and help to someone who maybe needs to read this right now. There. I said it.

I hear people complain constantly.  I "hear" it on social networks. I hear it in the grocery store, in the bank lineup, and at moms' groups. Pretty-much anywhere there are people, you will hear some sort of mild or severe form of complaining. It's a sickness, really.  ;)

It fascinates me that we complain so much and that it's so easy to do. Why?

Even though we live these rich lives of abundance, we can still complain?  How?

I'm not scolding, by any means, just simply asking.  I'm asking myself and I'm asking you.

In my inner coaching session today (haha), this is what I came up with:

When you complain, and/or secretly wish for someone elses situation, you hinder yourself from fully embracing, experiencing and growing in your own situation.

Complaining stops you in your tracks.  It keeps you focused on a place you don't want to be, and therefore does not allow you to move away from it.  It's like a lose-lose situation - a ratwheel of sorts.  You don't like your current circumstance, so you complain about it, then you think about how you don't like it some more, then you wallow in self-pity and complain some more.  Finally, you are distracted (by the complaining) when the opportunity comes along to get you out of the circumstance, or to see the good in the current one. You begin the cycle again.

Complaining pushes people away from you.
Thing is, you kinda need people to help you move along through life.  We are always helping, encouraging, and pushing eachother to move forward - that's how a support circle works.  If complaining is your habit, you could be unknowingly repelling the very people you need in your life to help you succeed.  Plus, they are missing out on the great things you have to offer in helping them through life. All because you're too preoccupied with verbalizing your distaste.

Once you're in the habit of complaining, it doesn't matter how good your situation is, you will FIND something to be unhappy with.  We all have the opportunity and maybe even temptation to complain.  But if we choose this negative reaction, and choose it again time after time, it can quickly become our default reaction. And then we don't even know when we're complaining.  It becomes masked and we think we're just "opinionated".  We all know someone like this.  You know what I'm talking about (don't act like you don't) - no matter how hard you try to help them see the bright side, they dig until they find something negative. And aren't they just peachy to be around? No. No, they're not. They are exhausting.

Ridding yourself of complaining is not only about changing your perspective.
It goes much deeper than that.  This became so clear to me today as I mulled over these ideas.
Have you ever complained about something minor, and then corrected yourself by thinking about someone who is worse-off than you? This "puts things into perspective", right?
Ummmm, there are a few things wrong with this, I've discovered.  If seeing someone else's misfortune is the only thing that motivates us to be thankful, that's probably not a good sign.  This type of motivation can leave us in either a puddle of guilt, or a balloon of self-righteousness.
Have you ever thought this? (I know I have):  "I better just be thankful! Thankful I'm not THAT kind of person who would cause herself so much pain like that." (self-righteous), or...."I suck. Look at how I'm complaining about my tiny problem and my friend is going through the trial of her life. I'm a horrible person." (guilt)

Both of these attempts to eliminate a complaining attitude are not that effective in the end, because they are both focused on yourSELF.

So, in my opinion, it's not only about having the right perspective (as we often hear), it's about having a right heart.  A thankful heart.
Thankfulness is always at it's best when it flows from a heart of true gratitude, towards someone else, namely, God. Our hearts are always meant to be directed in thankfulness (worship) towards Him.

I've found that a thankful heart is not an absolute though. Matters and motives of the heart never are. And it's not something you're born with. But once you make the choice to be thankful instead of complaining, (one choice after another) it becomes a habit. A habit of thankfulness will easily turn into a default reaction, ready for whatever situation you're in. You'll feel better, and you'll be able to move on.

I understand I have only scratched the surface of this topic.  but I kind of just wanted to uncover it a bit and get you thinking about how often you complain, and to expose it in your own life.  It is so difficult to know if your heart is in the right place. But thankfully, there is one thing for sure...if your heart is chasing after the one true Living God, Jesus, then you are stuck on a SURE thing. He will help you with the issues of your heart as you get closer to Him.

I'd like to know your thoughts on this topic.  Consider it an open discussion and leave comments here or on facebook.