Change Agent: Lisa Canning
FORGING HER OWN PATH
“Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone's task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.” - Viktor E. Frankl
We all have preconceived notions of what different moms “look” like. And let’s be honest, our view of the working mom and the stay-at-home mom are typically at odds with one another.
But what if we tossed out the stereotypes and considered a new possibility?
Enter Lisa Canning. Through her own journey, Lisa has experienced the interior conflict of trying to fit two opposing worlds together.
In the end, she forged her own path, contradicting what the world - and even some people within the Church community - told her how it should look.
Lisa Canning grew up in Toronto, where her Catholic faith was part of her family’s Filipino culture. While she describes her faith life as “colorful,” she didn’t necessarily understand what they were doing in mass or why they were doing it.
It wasn’t until a retreat in college that the Holy Spirit changed the trajectory of her faith life. It went from something she did with family as an obligation to a deeply rooted conviction in her beliefs and relationship with Christ.
However, as a Fashion Communications Major, Lisa was typically surrounded by secular ideas, people and images. While she was hustling at all the big fashion shows in Toronto, her friends were all going to work in ministry.
“When I had this reversion back to my faith I felt very conflicted,” says Lisa. “I was like, ‘Oh shoot, most of the people I know aren’t doing things like fashion.’ But I always had a flair for the arts. And I had always wanted to work in design, so I pursued my major in Fashion Communications. And that was the first time that I had to define for myself what success looks like. And that would become a constant theme in my life.”
As graduation rolled around, someone from a new interior design show from HGTV approached her. They were looking for people with no interior design background to help couples renovate their homes on a show called Marriage Under Construction.
Back then, it was one of the first reality design shows of its kind. Lisa thought it would be a fun summer job. She took the offer.
The show aired a few months before her December wedding. And when she got on the plane to Costa Rica for her honeymoon, the show was the last thing on her mind.
Little did she know HGTV was airing a marathon of shows over the Christmas break. And when she got back from her trip she discovered an overflowing inbox of requests from people asking her to design their home.
Lisa had no idea how to run her own business, nor did she really know that much about interior design. But the opportunity was right there for the taking. She dove in head first.
“I jumped in and took on everyone and everything,” says Lisa. “I kind of failed my way forward and learned how to be an interior design consultant.”
During this time, her career with HGTV also propelled forward. She worked in front of the camera and behind the scenes on shows like For Rent, The Expandables and The Property Brothers.
Meanwhile, she continued to feel like she was living in two different worlds - the world of her faith life and the world of her TV life.
One day, she went into the studio to record a voiceover for HGTV. As soon as she was done, the person working with her said, “Wow, you should really, like, not think about getting pregnant.”
Lisa sat there and nodded her head. But she was, in fact, actually pregnant with her first child at the time.
“I remember thinking, what am I going to do???” says Lisa.
So what did she do? She spent the next four years simultaneously growing her business and her family. She continued to work with HGTV, expanded her interior design business and had two more children.
Meanwhile, interiorly, Lisa wasn’t quite sure where she belonged. She writes in her book, The Possibility Mom:
For those first years of motherhood, I felt like I did not belong anywhere. Some of the faith-filled , stay-at-home moms I associated with did not understand my love for my business and my drive. In not so subtle ways, some even suggested that my place was at home and home was where I should stay.
But at the same time, I did not exactly fit in with the working moms who were climbing the corporate ladder, wearing fashionable clothes, and dining in glamorous places. Just as stay-at-home moms rejected the idea of career, these working moms expressed skepticism toward my openness to more kids and my acceptance of playgroups, spit-up, and working through nap time. (The Possibility Mom, pg 11)
Lisa’s response to the conflicting messages was to prove to everyone that she could do it all - and do it perfectly.
This all came to a head in what Lisa calls her “Minivan Meltdown” after her fourth child was born. Days after leaving the hospital with her epidural band-aid on her back, Lisa took her newborn daughter to a construction site to oversee a project she was designing.
“I felt so much pressure to prove to everybody that you could do everything and not disappoint anyone,” said Lisa. “I thought I didn’t have a choice.”
After leaving the dusty construction site with her newborn, Lisa broke down in tears in her minivan.
She prayed, “Lord, you have got to show me another way. I know you don’t want me to be miserable. And I know you clearly want me to have these babies and I want to have them. But show me how to use my gifts but also be able to be there for my kids and husband in an intentional way.”
In her minivan, Lisa finally let down her guard of perfectionism and let God into her conflicting worlds of faith, family and career.
And that was the beginning of God leading her to integrate those worlds into one, single, beautiful possibility.
She started making changes to how she ran her business. She also started to learn that saying no to certain things meant she was saying yes to the work God was actually calling her to do. She spent more intentional time with her husband and her children. And she experienced profound joy.
Before she knew it, there was a natural evolution into coaching other moms to find new possibilities, just like she had.
“I would find myself in my client’s homes talking about their kitchen design,” says Lisa. “And most were professionals, like doctors or lawyers, and they maybe had two kids. I had six kids at that point. They would stop me in the middle of the design consultation and say, ‘Wait… we need to talk about your life. How do you have six kids and you’re here and you actually look happy?!’”
It became apparent to Lisa that she was truly doing something different, and she felt called to share it with others. That’s when the idea of her book, The Possibility Mom, came about. And from there she started building her coaching business.
Since then, she has been featured on The Today Show, Hallmark Home & Family, The New York Times and more.
And if you’re wondering, she continued building her family as well. Today, Lisa has nine beautiful children. And she’s helping other women discover God’s plan for their lives, showing them how to integrate faith, family and career into one beautiful design.
“There was a time I felt absolutely trapped,” says Lisa. “I felt trapped in motherhood. And I felt trapped in my secular work. I thought if I go this route in my career, what am I maybe saying no to the Lord on? And if I had gone that route I wouldn’t have these beautiful children. And I wouldn’t have these experiences to help other people. I don’t want anyone to feel trapped - that’s what fuels me.”
Today Lisa helps countless women find new ways to integrate their families, faith and careers - something she once thought wasn’t even possible for herself.
And what does she believe today?
“I believe what is possible is intentional strategic design to show up in your best way possible to all the things you are called to.”
We invite you to learn more about Lisa's highly popular group coaching services, Wealth Without Guilt.
You can also learn more about Lisa on her website and buy her book, The Possibility Mom.