My Little Duke

Defining a Decade

Motherhood, FaithSteph Duke1 Comment

It’s the last few days of my twenties and I’m spending time looking back over a defining decade and forwards to a future that feels free and full of wide, open space.

If you’d asked me 10 years ago what my life would look like by the time I’d reached 30, I wouldn’t have had a clue. At 20 years of age I was just a baby, still winging my way through university, not really knowing who I was or what I wanted to do with my life. Now, 10 whole years later, I can say with confidence that I know exactly who I am and what I want to do. This assurance has everything to do with faith and my relationship with Christ.

At 20 I was engaged to Matt, dieting the heck out of life and ‘going through the motions’ of university. I majored in English and minored in Drama and was always asked the same question:

“So, you’re going to be a teacher then?”

“Eh, no. There are other things I can do with my degree.”

Out of stubbornness I didn’t apply for a PGCE the year I graduated. Instead, I took a year out and explored a few other options. Nevertheless, I still ended up in teaching and I loved it. From the moment I was accepted onto the PGCE, I thrived.

Being a teacher gave me great purpose, real thrill and huge satisfaction. I was exactly where I was supposed to be. But gradually, what began as ‘just a job’ turned into my life. I lived for teaching. My role as ‘teacher’ totally defined me - in very positive ways, but in the worst of ways too. As workload increased, I shrank further and further under the weight. As students became increasingly more difficult, I battled and fought till I was weary and war-torn. As unrealistic demands were made of staff, I panicked myself sick. As I strived to look after the students’ spiritual, physical and mental wellbeing, I neglected my own … burning myself out.

April 2017 saw me off work for a number of months - the result of a serious incident, through no fault of my own. It got to a stage where I was on my knees, crying out to God in desperation and frustration. I felt lost, hopeless and completely and utterly broken. All I’d ever known had been cruelly stripped away and I was left facedown on the floor, desperately trying to pick up the battered and bruised pieces of me. But, but, BUT … the life that I’d made for myself … the life I’d so carefully curated … was slowly poisoning me. Little did I know, on that cold, hard floor … in that deep valley of brokenness and hopelessness … God was waiting.  In fact, he’d always been waiting. God met me in my place of darkest despair. When I had no-one and no-where else to turn … I finally turned to Him. 

Over the course of a few days I experienced personal revelation like I had never experienced before. I received clear direction, complete clarity and perfect peace about leaving my teaching job and stepping out in faith. In total surrender to the Father, He began to reveal His heart and His purposes for me as I began to listen to His soft and gentle whispers of love. Making the decision to quit my teaching job was easy. After hearing clearly from the Lord, my only fear was of being disobedient to Him. Yes, actually implementing and following through on that decision was tough, but having God’s peace in my heart and lots of confirmation (over and over) about going in the right direction made the process so much easier. 

The months that have followed see me day and daily stepping forwards in faith. The connections, opportunities and conversations I’ve had over the last 6 months have and continue to blow me away. As I take a moment to pause and reflect on a truly defining decade (in so many other ways too like marriage and motherhood) one thing remains ... God’s faithfulness. As I stand in the doorway of my thirties I am overwhelmed with gratitude for a God who sees who I am to become in Him. I feel honoured and privileged to get a sneak peak at my tapestry ... my beautiful and intricately woven tapestry. The bigger picture reveals so much of God’s goodness and provision over these last 10 years. It shows His hand firmly over my life, even when I didn’t even realise it was there. 

My days in teaching were important days in my journey. They were days of learning, maturing and growing in my love for people and my desire to show empathy in the connections I make with others. Teaching was a crucial season in my life. I was perfectly positioned for those key moments in time; for pupils, for colleagues and for me. I am astounded by the ways in which God used me in that school. It was absolutely nothing to do with me, I take not one ounce of credit. Yet, God saw my heart. He knew the person I was becoming and placed me exactly where I needed to be in order to get there. Even still, I am able to mentor and encourage past pupils. Never in a million years did I think I’d get to make that kind of impact on my students. Only because of Christ. 

There are so many aspects of both circumstances and experiences in my twenties that have moulded me into who I am today - good and bad. But above all, it is God’s relentless pursuit of me that has me standing where I am now, feeling more free and alive than I ever have. I’m risking daily. I’m sacrificing financially. I’m desperately listening for His voice, leaning into all He has for me in the next 10 years. I begin my thirties as a writer and blogger. I still can’t believe I’m even typing those words! I’m just a month into the launch of Mighty Mothering - an online journal of stories of Motherhood. I’m curating a safe online space for mums to simply share their story. This was not my idea! God knows what makes me tick and he dropped a thought into my spirit, watered and nourished it till it bloomed and flourished. God has been at the centre of every detail of the project: branding, journals, podcast and name! He is a creative God! I am just so thankful and honoured to be trusted with this venture. Every journal is prayerfully considered and anointed with the Holy Spirit to speak truth, love and life through the words. 

So what have I learned about myself?  

I have learned that I need God more than I ever thought I did. I’ve discovered that He makes me more brave than I ever thought I was. I know that I can hear God’s voice and that I also have a voice that needs to be used. I have learned that I have a unique sphere of influence and that I am uniquely and creatively gifted by God to bless others in a way that only I can. I’ve finally realised that teaching did not and does not define me. That my identity is rooted in Him and Him alone. I am called for such a time as this. 

8A1DCC57-F040-4961-9F16-6E85413A827C.jpeg

My weight, and me - Part 3

Dieting, Food, MotherhoodSteph DukeComment

Anyone who has been around these parts long enough will know that I wrote two blog posts (a very long time ago!) about my dieting journey from when I was 19, through to being pregnant at 27. You can read part one here and part two here.

I can’t apologise enough for leaving you hanging! I wrote those posts during a very different season of life – one where I had little or no time to blog. I’m going to attempt to do two things in this post; try and bring you up to speed with where I’m currently at, and give you an insight into those last few months of pregnancy along with my post-partum weight loss. I hope that’s ok?!

I left part 2 on a rather sombre note … and things just didn’t get any easier for me as the months progressed. I was extremely unhappy. I felt alienated from my own body and didn’t know who I was anymore. Matt was coming to terms (in his own way) with his soon-to-be fatherhood and we just didn’t talk about our issues. We had a rough few months that ultimately scarred my overview of my pregnancy with Phoebe. Unfortunately, I don’t look back fondly on that time … and it makes me really sad. I won’t give you the details, but I would be more than happy to chat through my experience 1-1 if it’s something you’d like to know more about.

 6 months pregnant at my brother and sister-in-law's wedding

6 months pregnant at my brother and sister-in-law's wedding

As my due date approached, I was more than ready for the pregnancy to just be over. Writing these words absolutely breaks my heart. Pregnancy should be a time full of joy and hope, yet I battled continuously with feelings of insecurity and hopelessness in my mind, and feeling completely out of control of my body – I couldn’t cope with it. I was actually (believe it or not) physically unrecognisable by the end. A close family member didn’t even recognise me out shopping about a week before I gave birth - I had to affirm to them that it really was me! Plus, the endless stream of comments on how big my bump was and those sympathetic stares was enough to nearly put me over the edge. I hibernated at home for the last few months, only venturing out if I absolutely had to.

When labour finally came, it was like the sour cherry on top of a bad cake. (Except getting to meet my Phoebe - that was the most incredible moment of my whole life!) But, keeping with the context of this post -labour ... was horrendous. When I tried to document it, it turned into a 5 part series (!) – you can start to read it all here. I came out of labour stapled together and in more pain than I thought was ever possible. Post-c-section pain was crippling and my recovery was incredibly slow. Having had such a big belly, the weight of that over my scar was heavy, and always present. It took a few weeks for me to get anywhere near back on my feet.

 Phoebe's first outing on Christmas Eve 2014 - still very swollen and sore.

Phoebe's first outing on Christmas Eve 2014 - still very swollen and sore.

Phoebe was born on December 16th and I was back at Weight Watchers the first week of January. (In hindsight, I know I should have given myself more time.) I didn’t weigh myself during pregnancy as I had allowed myself some time off the scales while trying to conceive: to alleviate some pressure I was putting on myself and give myself a break. Even before I found out I was pregnant I knew I had a little extra weight on. So as I stepped on those scales, I felt physically sick. I had 4 stone on. From that moment, sheer determination kicked in. Now, it was time to take back control. Pregnancy forced all control clean out of my hands and now … I would be taking it back, by force. This all reads very melodramatic, but it’s an accurate portrayal of my feelings in those moments. Fourth trimester hormones probably didn’t help matters either!

 February 2015

February 2015

 Our first Mother's Day together March 2015

Our first Mother's Day together March 2015

 May 2015

May 2015

 April 2016

April 2016

 Summer 2016

Summer 2016

 Summer 2017

Summer 2017

I breastfed Phoebe until she was almost 9 months old - looking back … I don’t know how my body produced enough milk for her. It was a hard few months as I was as stubborn about losing weight as I was about nourishing Phoebe, and there was a definite conflict of interest there! I followed the Filling and Healthy plan the whole time I breastfed as it encouraged wholesome food options that suited breastfeeding. I honestly don’t know how I stuck so rigidly to it. Phoebe was a good baby - that definitely helped. But, I was adamant. Any of you who have dieted successfully will know that you’ve got to just be ‘in the zone’ – wholly committed to the cause and implementing action daily. I was enjoying the control I had regained, both over my body and with food, and once I saw the fruits of my labour I was (once again) hooked.

In my previous posts I alluded to the dedication required to lose weight. It’s no easy feat – no matter what stage of life you are at. Yes, some times are easier than other times (age/weight dependent etc) but ultimately … it takes great self-control and sacrifice. It’s a well-worn path for me. Almost 10 years of calorie controlling can’t be good for a person! I know that my brain has now been wired to think a certain way when it comes to food. I also know that I have to re-wire some new pathways to renew and transform my thinking.

Thankfully (for me) I lost the 4 stone. I’m currently at a healthy weight, once again, for my height. I only had a wee shaky period when I went back to work full-time. I was stressed and under-eating as a result. If I couldn’t control the situation or workload – I was sure as hell going to control something! No hard guess that it was food. But now, from the outside, I probably look to be a healthy weight. Yet, on the inside, I have such a long way to go. I guess I’m writing this as both acknowledgement of how far I’ve come and a declaration that there’s still plenty of work to do in this area of my life. But also, as a virtual ‘me too’ to you reading - if any of this resonates with you.

I step on the scales almost every single morning.

Yes. I do.

It is absolutely not something I advocate.

It is habit.

Thankfully I don’t let the numbers on those scales dictate my mood like they used to. It just keeps me in ‘check’ if you like. I’ve still a long way to go! I’m a work in progress and I have a suspicion that I’m not alone in these thoughts/issues.

My faith and identity in God are huge factors in any progress I’ve made to date in my dieting journey. It is only with His strength and power that I can overcome and walk into complete freedom. I know it’s coming … and SOON. I’d love for you to be part of that overcoming (if you’d care to share your journey with me.) Can I also possibly recommend another blog for you to read? … my friend Zoe (@nest_and_gather) recently documented her own journey – you can read it here.

Just know this today ... you are never alone. Social media can make lives look all shiny and wonderful ... no-one knows what goes on behind closed doors. 

 I live too close to Lidl!

I live too close to Lidl!

Let me finish by clarifying that all these yummy pastries you see me scoffing on my insta-stories – they usually mean I don’t eat lunch! Lots of you have asked me how I can consume such nice treats and stay ‘thin’ – truth be told, I’d almost always rather eat something sweet than have a proper meal. I’ve always been like that! NOT HEALTHY – I know! I’m working on that too! I also have a really poor diet and that needs to change. 

I’d really love to hear your thoughts and experiences in this area. It’s something I’ve struggled with for such a long time now and can empathise entirely with you. As a mum too, I am so conscious of what I do and say around Phoebe. If I ever thought that she would feel some of the feelings I have felt about my body – I’d never forgive myself. I want to role model a healthy and happy attitude to food, not a constrained or cautious one. Our society and social media will do enough damage to our young girls and women  - I never want to add fuel to that fire. My prayer is that I can learn to swim upstream, go against the grain and find my value and worth in Him, not in a number. 

 NYC February 2018

NYC February 2018

Bless you my lovelies,

Steph xo

My Instagram Truth

Blogging, Faith, MotherhoodSteph Duke1 Comment

We all know never to go to bed angry. Well … never go to bed hungry either. You’ll not sleep and find yourself over-analysing Instagram until the wee hours of the morning!

 

Oh boy, did I toss and turn for hours last night. Every time I tried to still my mind, I thought of something else. I can’t tell you how many times I had to turn over and reach for the notes app on my phone! I felt a real stirring in my soul and had no peace until I’d bullet pointed everything that I’m writing here.

 

It’s now Sunday morning and I feel less stressed about it all, despite not knowing quite how I’m going to articulate what I’m about to say. What I do know is that God gave me a prompt (or two, or three, or four!!) and all I can do is share my voice with you today. So thank you in advance for reading and I’d really value your thoughts on it all, please do get in touch!

 

Instagram is a huge part of my on-going and future ministry. In fact, it has been a major player on social media for me since I launched My Little Duke (MLD) shortly after Phoebe was born. I had a personal account that I’d enjoyed using since 2011 and while I was off sick during pregnancy I started to realise the power and influence of this little app. I’d scroll and click through endless accounts (new mums, mums-to-be, online shops for babies) and find stories that resonated and products I loved. To be fair, I found myself mostly navigating around American accounts – hence the idea for MLD (selling American products here in NI.)

 

Fast-forward almost 3 years and I can’t believe the journey I’ve been on with MLD.  I’m the daughter of a salesman and worked in retail myself for almost 7 years – so selling products I loved felt quite natural to me - particularly the face-to-face sales at local events! Alongside sales, I also started a little blogging, however, once I was back at work full-time, it was nearly impossible to blog at all (isn’t it surprisingly time consuming?!) I remember those days well … the frustrations of wanting to engage more in the Instagram and Blogging worlds (knowing so little compared to what I know now.) I just didn’t have the time. I absolutely love to write, but not under those time constraints and pressures. In those days, there were much higher priorities and writing a blog was always bottom of the list, even posting semi-regularly on Instagram was a struggle.

 

How times have changed, eh?! During the last 6 months I’ve posted consistently (at least once a day) and my Instagram content has also changed. In essence it’s about the same things:

 

Faith, Family and Motherhood

Travel and Lifestyle

Fashion and Beauty

 

But the look and feel of my account has shifted. It’s more intentional. This is both good and bad. As I’ve learned more about the app (Algorithms, Engagement, Aesthetics and Organic Growth) I’ve found myself having to be more intentional about what I post and how I post it. This is where my tossing and turning last night in bed began…

 

I want to be transparent.

 

I need to be.

 

Otherwise, my voice can’t be trusted and any small influence I have becomes powerless and ineffective.

 

So here are my Instagram truths.

 

Sometimes I feel completely and utterly overwhelmed by it all.

 

As Instagram continues to grow rapidly, there have been many times when I just feel like I can’t keep up. There is huge pressure to continually post engaging, inspiring, beautifully curated content. How sustainable or attainable this is – I’m not quite sure? Maybe it’s just hard in these winter months?

 

In order to get the kind of light needed for a shot, things have to be timed wisely these days! More truth here – I am not a photographer! I only ever use my phone (iPhone 7) but have so enjoyed pursuing and developing my passion for photography (both capturing and editing) over the last number of years. But what I do understand is that in order to keep posting those consistent and carefully curated squares – I have to keep snapping carefully curated shots. This means planning and preparation. Long gone are the days of snapping and posting spontaneously.  It’s a sort of “planned spontaneity” if that can even be a thing?! I’m not saying that all my posts have been carefully planned – they aren’t. But what I am saying is that more and more often, I’m finding myself being more mindful of what I post … because it matters.

 

I am at the stage now where I have a specific look and feel on my grid. There are some spontaneous snaps that just wouldn’t look right! Another truth - I’m a bit of a perfectionist and take great pride in the aesthetics of my feed. I use the app ‘Snug’ to curate the squares before I post. As someone who (for a long time) tried to be in complete control of her own life, I loved Instagram for that very reason. If I couldn’t control what was happening in my real life, I could certainly control my “virtual’ one. The problem for me at the minute is the scary thought of how we might be curating our real lives, in order that they fit in to those virtual squares of “life.” Sheesh. Could we really be?! There are real dangers here! It’s just something I’ve been thinking about. Do we spend more time, energy and effort carefully curating our “virtual’ existence than we do in our real one?

 

I’ve also serious concerns about the language associated with Instagram. 

 

How often do we hear, or even say ourselves, things like:

 

“it’s not insta-worthy”

 

or

 

“doing it for the ‘gram’”

 

or

 

“if it’s not on Instagram, it didn’t happen!”

 

Often these are said in jest, yet, subconsciously, I fear that our perceptions are changing. We are subtly being fed a bunch of outright lies - lies of false ideals, behaviours and expectations of what is “socially acceptable.” What is completely normal and acceptable has suddenly become boring and unacceptable by insta-standards. I fear for the legacy we are leaving for the next generation. Are we role-modelling a distorted version of reality?  We constantly scroll and see what we don’t have. If not careful, we begin to live with a scarcity mind-set, one where we start to convince ourselves that we are living in lack. This is actually quite a natural reaction, when so much of what our eyes consume is what we don’t have and what we wish we could – materially, spiritually and physically. Too often “I too, have fallen into the comparison trap.” And this idea of something not being “worthy” enough for Instagram?! WHAT? Where are we placing our value and worth? Surely not in Instagram?! Please God, let it not become where I place even an ounce of my real value! (This could be a whole other blog post!)

 

Too often, we know and see too much. It’s visual perfection overload and nearly impossible to swim against the current of these new “norms’. I’m regularly and intentionally having to force my eyes upwards and outwards, looking to see the blessings that I DO have, rather than all that I don’t.

 

Sometimes I think it’s all just one big game, and we’re all trying to win. And in the race to achieve Instagram “success” we are actually becoming conformed and moulded into some version of ourselves with some version of our lives that isn’t sustainable, isn’t attainable; one that could actually suck us dry of life itself – if we let it. I know we aren’t all in it for fame, for success, for followers and likes. Yet, because so much of the app is tailored in that way, it can be hard to go against that flow. It’s the constant striving for more that causes feelings of failure, disappointment, frustration and ultimately … depletion, if the likes, followers or engagement don’t reach the targets we’re encouraged to set for ourselves. It’s good to set targets, but they have to be realistic – and someone else’s growth on Instagram might not be a realistic growth for you. I’ve had to learn that, accept it and focus on investing in the accounts and people who I really love and value.

 

Additionally, if I’m being totally honest, (the whole point of this blog I suppose!) there have been many occasions where “I have let Instagram become an obsessive addiction.”  Becoming obsessive seems to be ingrained in me somehow. I blame Weight Watchers! For over 10 years now I have obsessively dieted. There have been times where this obsession varied in degrees, and thankfully it’s becoming less of a fixation now than it has ever been. Yet, there is something about Instagram that appeals to this nature. Just like the scales – it’s also a game of numbers. There are so many parallels for me. In the same way I step on the scales every morning, (I’m working on this - I promise!) I also open up the app. In the same way I look for that number on those scales, I look at my follower count. Often, in the same way that number on the scales determined my mood, there have been times when the same could be said of Instagram (especially as the follower count fluctuates so much!)

 

There’s also the addictiveness and adrenalin boost of achieving success, both on the scales and on Instagram. It’s too tempting to strive to achieve more of that and to obsess over the little things. For me, there’s a very fine line – both in dieting and on Instagram – and I am calling it out for what it is. It is dangerous. When the scales were tipping too far into obsession, I have had to catch myself on and catch a grip! Otherwise, it becomes an endless battle that consumes both my time and energy - a dangerous and divisive distraction. This is something I’ve had to call out recently and really work with the Lord on. It’s a work in progress, and it’s not easy. Instagram’s algorithm is making organic growth harder, making some posts almost invisible and forcing us to be more creative with how and what we post. I’ve found it really disheartening sometimes and I don’t think I’m the only one. I’m not offering any solution here, just my own experience and a voice of “me too” or maybe I’m the only one!! What is the answer? To cut and run? To stick the course?  I’m as frustrated as you, as overwhelmed as you, as maxed out of ideas as you … I’m just not up for cinemagraphs or photoshop magic!

 

What’s important – for me anyway – is keeping accountable. Whether you are strong enough to do that yourself or have someone else you can trust to do it for you. Honestly self-evaluate your activity on social media – a lot depends on whether it is hobby or source of income. Now that I’m making a small amount of money through the app, I feel a little more justified in spending more time on it, but I cannot justify my needless scrolling!!

 

In some ways I feel like we are all just trying to navigate these unknown waters of Instagram. Some days the waters are beautifully blue and crystal clear, other days they can be grey, dark and murky. There are days where I feel like I’m confidently riding the waves and some others where I’m simply treading water – watching and waiting for my turn. There are also days when I genuinely feel like I’m sinking - days when I’m engulfed and overwhelmed by the waters, not able to catch a break.

 

Despite all I’ve written though, this funny little world has made me braver, (surprisingly) less self-conscious, and has unearthed some hidden creativity! I look at the world differently and appreciate the changing of the seasons. I’m intentionally looking for beauty around me – finding it and capturing it. I’ve blogged before about the connections and friendships formed through these squares, but I know who the true author behind these connections is, and it’s not Instagram. Insta is just the platform, another tool that God can use to weave our stories together for greater good. And I just love stories. Don’t you ever underestimate the power of your story, especially your story of the gospel. We are part of a much bigger story, one than spans right back to the beginning of time. My prayer is that from my story across these squares … you see Jesus. That I point you to Him - to His grace and goodness … not my carefully created existence!

 

My prayer is that while I continue to invest time in Instagram, while I connect, create and use my voice – that God is glorified and the Holy Spirit has room to move. But most importantly I pray that I don’t conform, but am continually transformed by the Lord (Romans 12 v 2) by the renewing of my mind. The ugly Instagram truth needs exposed more often! The subtle infiltration of certain ideals and expectations of how life should be lived needs called out. I need protection from the vanity and self-indulgence of it all, and from feeding off it like its good nourishment for me. I can think of lots of better kinds of nourishment than Instagram!

 

So seriously, seriously well done if you’ve made it this far …

 

And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your love and support on this journey. I value every comment, message, like and follow. I love it when you give me that virtual high-five and “me too.” Nothing is overlooked here. Know that today.

 

Bless you guys,

Steph xo

 

 

"Motherhood looks good on you."

Motherhood, FaithSteph DukeComment

“Motherhood looks good on you.”

Said a sweet friend today.

And I wept.

Tears of joy and gratitude cascaded down my face as I Iet those beautiful words sink deep into my sprit.

MOTHERHOOD LOOKS GOOD ON ME.

Yesterday I posted on Instagram about feeling like a bad mum. And I genuinely did feel that way. I could have made better choices and mistakes were made. I ended up feeling all kinds of “eugh” as I reflected on the day. Some lovely friends threw their hands up with a “me too” and with their encouragement I woke grateful for new graces and mercies this morning!

With a thankful heart and a fresh perspective, I walked into today. Now, as I sit, toes warming by the stove, with a cuppa and freshly baked banana bread by my side, I’m completely overwhelmed with thankfulness. If I was still in my job, today could never have happened.

What makes today so special?

From the outside, today wasn’t anything spectacular! But for me, everything about this day - this average Wednesday - felt ... wonderful. Ever since I made the decision to quit my job I’ve felt a peace that I can’t quite describe. Today though, the peace has felt more real, almost tangible to touch, like I’ve been in the flow and riding the wave with ease!

I never thought I’d be a “stay-at-home-mum” - my goodness - not in a million years! I just didn’t think it was for me. In my early 20s and totally naive - I 100% thought I’d climb the career ladder. That was until the moment Phoebe was placed into my arms and my world as I knew it was tipped upside down! The moment I became a mother, everything changed. A new mantle was placed upon my shoulders and I became instantly aware of my newfound calling and responsibilities. I was a mum. And so my motherhood ministry began.

As the big 30 approaches, and as I begin a new season of mothering as a SAHM, I’m recognising and savouring the special season of life I’m in. These days are fleeting. The bad days and the good ones, like today. Every single second counts. Today I felt truly in the flow of mothering. While Phoebe was at playgroup I did some admin and planned for dinner. I nipped out for a few ingredients and picked up a Kinder Egg for a little surprise for Phoebe coming out of school. (Those little eggs were one of my absolute favourite treats as a child!)

Once home, the stove was lit and we enjoyed some croissants and pastries for lunch. This was closely followed by hot chocolates and keeping warm by the fire while the snow fell outside. (It is National Hot Chocolate Day after all!) We dawned our aprons (mini and mama) and prepped the ingredients for @strandandstipes Mayflower Chicken Curry. This was the first time I’d ever used a slow-cooker and I have to admit, the ease with which dinner was made and the aroma wafting through the house all afternoon was convincing enough! I felt a strange sort of satisfaction while the curry slowly bubbled away. A contentedness and a peace that, without any more effort, dinner would be ready when Matt got home. With the freedom knowing dinner was sorted, Phoebe and I turned our hands to bake our favourite loaf - banana bread.

We were relaxed and happy, no rush, no stress, no angst. Dinner was slowly cooking. We were slowly baking. It was bliss. The simplest of afternoons, the simplest of activities, yet I felt such joy. This is where I’m meant to be. Right now. These days. This nurturing and home-making role is suiting me. And I just can’t believe it. Like I said earlier, this is not how I pictured myself as I turn 30. Yet here I am and this motherhood “looks good on me.”

It’s timely that today marks the close of January’s door. A month that held great anticipation for me as I took the leap of faith to leave my job and step into new ventures. The new venture has yet to be unveiled and there’s a timing in that too. It’s being carefully and thoughtfully curated, making sure it is exactly what it’s meant to be. I’ve just jumped out of the boat and it’s ok to be treading water a little while - taking in the scenery and enjoying the sun - before jumping into a new boat! The biggest part of my new ministry is mothering - I need to be mothering well at home, before I can help other mums. So as February approaches and I now feel settled in my new routine, one that keeps me more at home, more present and more intentional, my heart begins to beat a little faster at the exciting things I know are coming. New waves of opportunity are rolling in, I can see them in the distance and I’m going to be ready!

What are the simple joys in your current season? I do hope you can find some?! I’m being intentional and starting each day with a grateful heart. I have so much to be thankful for. Please don’t get me wrong though, although things might seem a certain way (through the eyes of IG for example) things aren’t all rosy. Since quitting my job, we have and are continually making sacrifices financially. I have lost a significant, full-time, teacher wage - nearly half of our monthly earnings! It’s not an easy road ahead for us. But having the peace I feel every single day about the decision I made makes a huge difference.

Personally, my own quality of life and my family’s quality of life has reaped the benefits of me being more present at home. Also, me being more present as a mother has made some significant and visible changes. My own lovely mum noticed a change in how I deal with Phoebe’s tantrums. I’m not parenting from a place of stress or angst and I’m not continually out of patience or at the end of my tether any more. I’m parenting from a place of rest and calm, a place of gratitude and honour, a place where I’m savouring the seconds of being fortunate enough to be “present.” But, this was not an easy choice to make. Choosing to be “present” came at great cost. I can’t emphasise that enough. Yet, God whispered to the person He knew I would become and I listened. And today, that soft voice whispered again, affirming that, “Yes – Motherhood does indeed look good on you.” I know that there will be some who think I’m crazy, giving up a full-time, permanent teaching post; but if the Lord speaks, I’d be denying everything that I believe in, to go and disobey Him. Today was a little head nod, a thumbs up, a “you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing” – I’ll take that affirmation and enjoy knowing that I’m right where I’m needed. I’ve a heart to serve and I’ll do it in whatever way and wherever I’m needed! 

Bless you for reading!

Steph xx

4FBFE51F-93AF-4C60-B656-2A16F2CF9773.jpg