My Little Duke

Neal's Yard Remedies - November edit

Beauty, BloggingSteph DukeComment

It’s been a whirlwind few months with Neal’s Yard Remedies so I thought I’d give you a little update on my journey so far.

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I joined Neal’s Yard in June with a view to enjoy the 25% consultant discount and perhaps do a small amount of sales. I planned to do a ‘launch event’ as early as possible to make back the money I’d invested in the kit, that way I wasn’t out of pocket and had a lovely range of products to enjoy. I hadn’t even heard of NYRO until recently and was immediately intrigued by their brilliant incentives, career opportunities and flexible working hours … not to mention their company values, ethics and commitment to source and produce organic products.  You can read more about how/why I joined here.

Many of you know that I resigned from my teaching post this time last year and have been enjoying this season of spending time at home with Phoebe, alongside other social media-related business. So when the opportunity to join NYRO presented itself and it seemed to fit in nicely with what I was already doing, it felt like a no brainer. The low start up cost was obviously appealing - I joined for less than £50! Immediately I received my own replicated website that I could start selling from right away and gained access to the most incredible bank of NYRO resources.

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Neal’s Yard provide their consultants with everything they could ever need to help them run a successful business: social media graphics, business tools and stationery, a supportive online community, training (both free and paid, online and in-person) and more. The earning potential is more than I think I even realised when I joined, but is obviously hugely dependent on how much or how little we choose to do as an independent consultant. But the choice is ultimately ours … there is no Neal’s Yard police officer going to come and knock down your door, no menacing manager pushing for sales, no constant competing against colleagues - just total flexibility, a wonderfully supportive community and zero pressure.

Sometimes I still cringe when I post something Neal’s Yard-related on my Instagram. I never want to be that person who bombards followers with ads or pushes product down people’s throats! You know that just isn’t me. But I do have to remind myself every so often that My Little Duke began as an online shop. My entire journey with MLD started with sales! It has been quite a journey for MLD over the last few years and I’m still a bit overwhelmed by the encouragement, support and opportunities that have come my way. I’m grateful for it all - even if I do moan about IG sometimes!!

I still pinch myself some days when I’m picking Phoebe up from school or when we’re sitting at the table in the afternoon doing scissor work or writing skills. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … I never thought this would be me, I never imagined my life take this turn, I never thought I ever even wanted to be in this position. Yet here I am. It hasn’t been easy, I’ve mentioned this before … so any extra income I can create … be it through an ‘ad’ on Instagram, or the odd paid collaboration or through NYRO … it all helps. I’m currently testing out a few other avenues too - there’s a lot of trial and error going on these days!

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But I’m four months into my blue bottle journey now and starting to realise that I could make a good go at earning with Neal’s Yard Remedies. Last month saw me recruit over 10 new consultants to my team and receive a promotion to Senior Consultant! Crazy! I was even on the Top 10 Recruits list for October - this covers the whole of the UK!! What?! I’m absolutely not telling you this to boast … once again, you know that’s not my jam! I’m telling you this because there might be some of you reading along thinking, “I’d like this” or “I could give NYRO a go too”. It really is a wonderful opportunity and you know I’d never promote something that isn’t genuine. My wee team is growing and you would be warmly welcomed if you fancied joining us. Northern Ireland is making herself known in the world of NYRO these days and it’s an exciting time to be part of such a successful and growing company!

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The current joining offer (and the last chance to join before Christmas) finishes tomorrow (Nov 5th), so if you are thinking about grabbing it or giving NYRO a wee go, don’t delay! The mini-kit is an absolute steal at £45 – a full size pot of Wild Rose Beauty Balm is £40 alone! Some of my newest recruits have joined to earn a little extra money during the Christmas season, some are using products from the kit as Christmas gifts and some are just keen to enjoy 25% discount for themselves! However, one common thread is the craving to be a part of a community, to step out of comfort zones and be a little bit brave. I never ever thought four months ago that I’d be heading towards becoming a Team Leader with a team of almost 20! I never thought I’d get to enjoy so many vouchers, discounts and freebies! And I never thought I’d sit in a training session bubbling with passion and enthusiasm to be part of a company I hasn’t even heard of less than a year ago. You can read about becoming a consultant and/or join here.

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I’m always here to answer any questions you have, don’t ever feel like you are bothering me! I’ll never ever pressure you into joining, hosting or buying! But if you do want to know more about NYRO then you’ve three ways to do that:

1.     Join – like I’ve already mentioned … become a consultant!

2.     Share – be a host and get some friends & family over. This next season is the perfect time to be a host! Why not host a ‘shop & sip’ party – friends/family can get some Christmas shopping done and you get to enjoy some free shopping of your own!? As a host you’ll get a free full-size product, free and half price shopping and the opportunity to enjoy a free treatment. Get in touch to nab a slot before Christmas!

3.     Shop – if you haven’t already, become a customer. I want to say a heartfelt thank you to anyone reading who has ordered from me during these last four months. I earn 25% commission on my sales and like I said previously … every little bit extra helps me to be able to work from home. I really appreciate your custom. And if you haven’t yet shopped with NYRO, why not start today? You can view my online shop here or contact me and I’ll pop a brochure in the post to you! You can order directly from my website or I can add your order in with my own weekly deliveries – that way, you just might get a wee freebie or two!!

So there you have it! Four months in and I’m a little overwhelmed but very much enjoying my NYRO journey. I’m hopeful for a busy Christmas season and excited to see what next year has in store. As always, thank you for reading my blog, I just love having you around.

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NYC

Steph DukeComment
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It’s a late and a long one. And I can’t even apologise. Because this trip was … incredible. Simply incredible. I’m still on the come down 10 months later!

Matt and I both turned 30 this year and wanted to do something a little bit special. We’ve been together for over half of our entire lives, and turing 30 within a month of each other just felt like an important milestone to celebrate.

For once, we decided to make travel plans early. My request was that if we were to travel without Phoebe, it would be for 3 nights max - especially if we went international. On the same day that we decided we’d take a trip for our 30th, we came across Norwegian Air. New York wasn’t particularly high on our ‘places we’d most like to visit’ list but the flights were an absolute steal. We looked again at the price we’d found and looked at each other … we were going to NYC!

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Our return flight with Norwegian Air was direct from Dublin and came in at sub £200 - I know … we couldn’t NOT go! And it was during half-term holidays which makes it even more surprising. Because it was just the two of us going, we didn’t mind that we’d have to bring or buy a meal for the flight or that we’d have to travel in from Stewart International Airport to New York. Everything is easier when you’ve already experienced travelling with a toddler!!

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We checked, checked again and triple checked the weather forecast before our trip because we had heard that NYC can be pretty chilly in mid-Feb. Thankfully, it actually ended up being colder at home! So we waved a snowy goodbye to Co. Armagh and our wee Phoebs and set off excitedly for a trip we knew was going to be pretty special.

What a wonderful novelty it was to navigate the airport child-free! We found new appreciation for the whole experience and made sure to enjoy the hassle-free security checks, while smugly sipping our coffees. We travelled light too. I brought a small backpack and we each had a small wheelie suitcase. It’s amazing how little you actually need when you’re without a little one.

We had pre-ordered one hot meal for the flight which we planned to share (we also brought on some sandwiches etc that we’d bought in the airport.) This trip had to be carefully budgeted as we had booked it before I quit my job … and Norwegian Air is definitely a budget travel option. The plane was small and narrow - but not something that bothered us - was just a little tight to queue for the loo! I didn’t mind though as I ended up with 2 free glasses of wine! My flight to NYC proved extremely enjoyable! Much like the whole trip, I planned to fully utilise my uninterrupted, child-free time. This looked like me reading an entire book on the flight over! Brene Brown’s ‘Braving the Wilderness’ was absolutely devoured. I highlighted, make notes and marked pages while sipping my wine. I was in my element! The man on the other side of me thought I was a bit nuts!

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The journey from Stewart airpot into New York was made simple by a pre-paid bus transfer into the city (not far from Times Square) and I distinctly remember gazing wide-eyed at the brightest of lights, the tallest of buildings and starting to soak up some of that unique NYC buzz. We were arriving into the city in the dark (it would have been 1.30am our time) and we were pretty knackered. We stood on the edge of the sidewalk a little overwhelmed by it all for a moment before calling an Uber to take us to our hotel in Long Island City.

We stayed in Boro Hotel for the duration of our trip. As soon as I found Boro during our planning, I was hooked. Give me a Manhattan skyline over convenience any day - Boro Hotel boasts the most stunning views of the city. This was what greeted us from our hotel room when we arrived …

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Manhattan city lights

It literally took my breath away.

And I’m pretty sure I cried.

I just couldn’t stop staring. I couldn’t believe we were literally taking in this view of NYC from the side of our bed! Absolutely stunning. Even 10 months later I can’t quite articulate just how mesmerising this view was. Matt just laughed at me because I couldn’t stop saying ‘Wow.’ Over and over again I was blown away. I’m definitely not a city girl … but you could have convinced me otherwise that night.

I was that full of adrenalin and excitement, I don’t quite know how I managed to get any sleep at all! I’ve never been so keen to pull back a curtain in the morning in my whole life! But you can totally see why …

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Morning views

Boro kindly offered us a media rate for our stay - something I was both excited about as a blogger, but also completely delighted about because every extra penny saved meant we could put it towards something else on the trip. Discount or not, I would be showcasing this beautiful hotel! It wasn’t just all about the view …

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And here’s that view again … this was us heading out on the first morning!

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We had roughly planned our itinerary but left some wiggle room for a bit of spontaneity. We hit NYC hard on Day One! Looking back, I’m kinda glad we did. We saw an incredible amount of the city on this day. Fresh legs and all that!

Thankfully the hotel is within walking distance of the subway and we were able to easily hop on and get into NYC quickly and easily. We bombed it straight to Stumptown for a quick coffee and croissant as we hadn’t eaten breakfast at the hotel … just far too keen to get into New York and get experiencing all she had to offer us! After having breakfast on our second morning, I totally wished we’d taken half an hour to enjoy some seriously good grub. I’m a breakfast girl, so by the time we got to Stumptown I was ready to eat my hand off!

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Fuelled up and raring to go, we hit The High Line. Well … it was wild windy! But worth it. Such a unique way to experience the city and you get class views too.

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We went as far as Chelsea Market on The High Line before scuttling in out of the cold! Chelsea Market is a place I’d definitely go back to. A hive of activity and an absolute feast for the senses - something to see, smell and enjoy at every corner! This was the place to re-fuel for sure. A big sharing bowl of Ramen for two - yes please!

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We spent quite a bit of time browsing, shopping and sampling in Chelsea Market before changing our plans and heading to the Flat Iron Building, then hopping over to Soho. The sun had come out and NYC was looking beautiful.

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We stopped at a quirky little art gallery (one of hundreds in NYC) and enjoyed getting cultured by the owner. Fascinating to hear the stories of such incredibly talented artists. If only we could have got something shipped home!

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We took a stroll around Lower East Side in search of the original Morgenstern’s ice-cream parlour. There were so many instagrammable foodie options in this area, but this spot suited us well.

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With ice-cream in our bellies we headed to Electric Lady Studios that Matt wanted to see. Hopping on and off the subway made travel round the city so quick and accessible. I can’t tell you how many times we were on and off on day one! Every time we climbed the steps up onto the sidewalk, it felt like being in a different city! There is such diversity in each area surrounding the centre. I’m so glad we made a big push to get around before we began to fade!

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As the sun began to set on our first day it felt only right to visit Times Square and grab dinner at Burger Joint. We weren’t terribly far away and still felt relatively good (although by the time we actually found BJ I thought I might die of starvation! It had been a very long time since the Ramen!!)

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We wandered around the Rockefeller Centre and debated what we might be best to spend our money on. Our choices were Top of the Rock, Empire State or One World Observatory - each with a unique, yet brilliant view of the city. Yet each with a nice price tag! We opted for a day-time view and voted for One World because it’s located on top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere!

With Valentine’s day just a day away, we took the opportunity of a quick kiss at the Rockefeller Valentine’s pop-up before talking that iconic Times Square selfie!

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Look at those tired, but happy faces! NYC day one was more than I could have dreamed. It was back to Boro for a well earned kip after walking over 20k!

We didn’t bother closing our curtain that evening and just lay watching the Manhattan lights lighting the sky as we drifted off to sleep.

 Goodnight New York City

Goodnight New York City

DAY TWO

In case you didn’t know already … New York is noisy. We were awake before sun rise and with excitement I just couldn’t get back to sleep. So we admitted defeat and watched the sun rise over the city instead.

Wow.

What a powerful and moving sight - something I don’t think either of us will ever forget.

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We enjoyed a delicious Boro breakfast before travelling straight to the World Trade memorial and observatory. First up was The Oculus and then the One World Observatory.

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The Observatory was absolutely brilliant. Well worth the money and stunning, stunning views. Once we’d spent a little time there it was time for something I wasn’t quite sure how I’d feel about seeing. I’m not sure I’ll be able to articulate our experience at the World Trade Memorial. Standing in that spot felt really strange and I felt extremely emotional. The whole experience was incredibly moving and we made the decision to take some time and visit the museum while we were there. You could have spent half a day exploring the museum, but we had loads to still fit in that afternoon. Was well worth the visit though. Definitely, definitely recommend taking the time to visit.

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Next up was the Staten Island Ferry to go and see Lady Liberty, with a quick stop at a Nathan’s hot dog stand for a bite before the boat.

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We’d walked our way here and poor Matt had to stop every five seconds for me to take another picture! NYC is such a visual treat!

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To save both time and money, we opted to see Lady Liberty via the free Staten Island Ferry. This was such a good call for us. We had very little time to wait to board the ferry, got a good view of the lady herself and had just a 30 minute turnaround time on Staten Island to board the ferry back again. The views of the New York skyline were pretty spectacular too.

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Another trip on the subway meant we could get ourselves over towards Brooklyn Bridge (another icon we wanted to see!) I was starting to feel a bit weary by this point and we began to slow the pace from here on in for the rest of day two. We did walk this beautifully scenic route towards Brooklyn Bridge though before stopping beneath the bridge for a strawberry shake at Shake Shack.

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Defeat was well and truly admitted when we spotted a Juliana’s a few doors down. We knew if we ate an early tea then we’d most likely get a table before the rush. Our feet were done for the day and so was I. I was pooped! So after our milkshakes we dandered across to Juliana’s to scoff our faces with some of the best pizza in NYC. Tummies full and eyes tired, we took it slowly towards to subway home. Brooklyn Bridge was sparkling and our wee hearts were full.

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 Clean wrecked with still a day to go, plus a flight home!

Clean wrecked with still a day to go, plus a flight home!

DAY THREE

Our third and final day was Valentines Day! So special to be spending our 14th Valentines in New York City!

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We started slow and savoured another superb breakfast at Boro, then said a tearful goodbye to our beautiful view before heading out, suitcases in tow towards a luggage hold in the city centre. Our bags were dropped off for the day and we hotfooted it to Central Park. One of my only regrets of the trip was not buying a big cheesy heart balloon before we got into Central Park. Major photo opportunity missed!

We really only saw a tiny portion of what Central Park has to offer but savoured every second strollin’ hand in hand.

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No wintery NYC trip would be complete without a bit of outdoor ice-skating. We spent a blissful hour skating round the Wollman rink - we felt like such a Valentine’s cliche!

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After our skate we walked a little way through the park towards the National American History Museum - our final stop of the trip. We grabbed a bite of lunch before heading in to explore this iconic museum.

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The museum was brilliant but in hindsight we reckoned it wasn’t the smartest idea to leave it until the end of our trip. Sore feet and legs aren’t the best combination for trekking round a museum as big as this one! I was absolutely wrecked and definitely would have enjoyed this experience better if I’d been feeling a little more fresh!

We exited the museum a little worse for wear and headed for our bus depot. However, as we approached our pick-up point we noticed a bit of commotion. A broad and rather panicked Irish accent greeted us and questioned what bus we were due to board. It became clear very quickly that most of the people gathered had made the same mistake as us and not realised that on Wednesdays the bus timetable changed. An easy mistake to make it would seem as there was quite a gathering! The grim reality of our situation began to dawn as we realised that there would be no bus coming to collect us. We had missed the last bus and now faced the prospect of trying to travel 1 and a half hours to the airport to catch our flight home. A taxi was going to cost an extortionate amount of money. Money that we did not have to spare!

What I can only describe as ‘complete pandemonium’ ensued. As more people arrived, the panic escalated. How on earth where we going to get home?! It’s one thing calling a taxi to take you a few blocks away … a completely different situation calling a taxi to take you ____ miles! The couple standing next to us priced an Uber and $300+ is what it would take to get us to our flight!!! I’ve never been in a situation quite like it. The aforementioned Irish Mam was ‘fit to be tied’ because she’d actually checked the time for the bus earlier in the day and was told that this particular service was running. No wonder she was losing her marbles. No wonder we all were.

As couples began to make plans to share Ubers and taxis, another company bus pulled up. Said Irish Mam jumped on board and hastily pleaded with the driver to help us out. Thank the Lord that he was a decent man, for the two of them headed into the depot while we waited with bated breath for them to return. All the while the clock was ticking and we were no closer to catching our flight home!

What felt like half an hour later the two of them returned and Irish Mam was flailing her arms around while explaining that we could risk it for a biscuit and try and catch another bus service to the airport. Another kind and decent bus driver agreed to take us on board (for free bless his heart) and drop us the extra 10 minutes to the airport after he’d completed his own route. Thank you Jesus! The only problem was that we had a dash through the depot to find the gate and less than 5 minutes to do it. There was a funny moment when couples looked at one another, trying to make the decision. Stay and spend a small fortune on a taxi and be guaranteed to make it to our flight on time, or run like a maniac to find a gate we had no idea how to get to and pray we’d make it on time to catch a free bus service! It was a no brainer for Matt and I and we made a run for it. The couple beside us waved us on as they hopped into their VERY EXPENSIVE TAXI and I prayed we’d made the right decision!!

By the time we made it to the gate we were exhausted. But we made it! Unfortunately, the very kind bus driver hadn’t realised that there were quite so many of us and didn’t think he’d have enough room. DISASTER. More panic. Why’d we not jump in that VERY EXPENSIVE TAXI?!

However, about 10 minutes later the bus driver was able to assure us that we could catch the next bus and we’d still make it in time. Just. And until I was actually sitting on the bus and on route to the airport I didn’t breathe a sigh of relief. Boy where we cutting it fine!! But boy did we manage to save a lot of money!! When we finally made it to the airport we spotted the VERY EXPENSIVE TAXI couple and I’ll admit, it felt kinda good knowing we were only a few people behind them in the queue after they’d forked out $300! Their faces said it all when us lot bundled in off our free bus!!

What a handling though. Jeepers! Getting home to my Phoebe was made all the sweeter knowing how close it had been to make our flight in time.

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NYC completely and utterly stole my heart. It was a whirlwind trip and took me a while to recover from. I’ve never felt ‘holiday blues’ quite like I did after NYC. So, watch out New York - we’ll be back!


The Road Less Travelled

Steph Duke2 Comments

I’ve another blog post to finish and an entirely different one to start. I’ve a to-do list the length of my arm that’s growing longer, not getting shorter! I’ve emails to write, messages to reply to and a million and one other things to do right now …

 

But I’m writing this blog post instead.

 

One thing I’ve been learning recently is to be ready when I get a little nudge in my spirit. There have been a few moments like this over the last few weeks and I haven’t stopped to listen or to write. Instead I’ve chosen to stay busy and the moment passes. Whatever ‘it’ was, goes unsaid.

 

The call on my life is most definitely not to leave words unspoken. I’m called to write. Despite the fear or feeling like I’m unqualified, I am called to be a voice - even when that voice is a little bit shaky. I have the incredible gift of time now that I’m not teaching, but isn’t it amazing just how quickly we can fill our time up?! I’ve managed a pretty good job of that and sometimes forget that I need to intentionally make time to write.

 

It sometimes just takes a post on instagram to spark me off, an article I read online or a conversation with a friend. In this instance it was an eloquently written caption by an insta-turned-real friend, Emma Martin. Emma writes with a sincerity and depth that I have rarely seen elsewhere across social media. In this particular post she talks about ‘imposter syndrome’ – that ‘little voice that tells us we are out of our depth, whispering that we aren’t good enough.’

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I could have written the exact words used in this post as they resonate with so much of how I’m feeling in this season. Emma writes:

 

“I’ve never been a particularly ambitious sort of person - in the traditional sense at least. I guess my ambitions are just to raise my family well, to be content in my creative life, to be well thought of. Popularity and pay grades, status and scaling the ladder have never been my cup of tea. I admire those who are driven and focused, who are born achievers, but I’ve always been OK with admitting that my path is a quieter one. 


Ten years ago I was in a career that was demanding in every respect. And at home I had three tiny demands of a different sort. My only ambition was to get down off the ladder, rather than head up it. 


It’s scary to admit that as a woman sometimes, because I think the pressure can be to uphold feminist values, to do anything the men can do, to be doing it all. For me, feminism is about having the choice. To make the decisions that change things for the better. To choose happy.


It has been a long time since I’ve felt out of my depth in what I do. Lately though, the tiny voice of self doubt has been creeping in. I’m never sure whether social media is a help or a hindrance. 


Farah Storr, the author of that article I read, talks about coming to the realisation that everyone is winging it though. In careers, in motherhood. In relationships and homework and making sure the tea has vegetables in. In being on time for things and responding to emails in a timely manner. In remembering to put petrol in the car and send off that invoice. In being a good friend, a good employee, a good person. We are all imposters really - in a life that is rarely picture perfect. 


I thought I’d share that tonight (and share how I’ve been feeling lately too!) because I think it can be really easy to assume that others have it totally sussed. I know I often do. 


Here’s to being ambitious, brazen imposters this week. Squashing the doubt. 
And realising that we’re not so different after all.”

 

It feels like I’m consciously having to squash the doubt every single day! I never thought I’d be where I am now after handing in a resignation letter to my school almost one whole year ago. Who even does that?! Me, apparently.

 

I remember a moment when I was at my absolute lowest - I took a mad notion and hastily sent Emma a 3 lined (probably incoherent) email asking for some help and advice. Something told me she’d been an English Teacher once upon a time and I needed someone – anyone - to tell me that they understood. I’ll never forget hearing the ping of my inbox shortly after and an email reply from Emma sat waiting to be read.

 

I wept as I read her story, knowing that her journey wasn’t dissimilar to mine and one I’d soon be following.  Emma assured me of so many truths that others just couldn’t understand. She confirmed to me that stepping away from school wasn’t failure and that choosing family and faith over fear and financial stability was never going to a bad decision. Hear me clearly – Emma did not force me to quit my job – but she was instrumental in helping me begin to see clearly when my vision was clouded and murky.

 

So why am I sharing this?

 

I had a conversation with someone recently. In fact I’ve had similar versions of this conversation with quite a few people and the outcome has always been the same. I’m asked how I’m doing? How are things going? What am I up to these days now Phoebe is at school? My response is the same each time. I feel my heart beat a little faster, my blood begin to rise and before I even know what I’m saying I hear my voice speaking these words, “I’m doing really well thanks, actually … I’ve been back subbing again.”  

 

Immediately I cringe inside because I know exactly why I’m saying those words. Why do I believe the lie that telling people I’m back subbing in schools means I’m “doing ok”? Why do I feel the need to justify the way I live my life or how I choose to mother my child to anyone? Oh I know why - because the response I get is always the same. The concerned and sympathetic looks disappear as soon as I say I’m back working in school, when I confirm that I’m back earning substantial money and using my qualifications again.

 

EVERYONE BREATHE A SIGH OF RELIEF.

She isn’t crazy.

She’s doing ok.

She didn’t just make the BIGGEST MISTAKE OF HER LIFE.

 

The biggest mistake of my life at this present moment in time is still believing the lie that I need to be doing it all. I’m qualified to sub and subbing is a great way to earn much needed money.  Is it what I feel God calling me to invest time in right now? I’m not so sure. The choice to sub is a financial decision right now. And I’m acutely aware that by choosing to sub, I’m actually trying to take back a bit of control. God is faithful and will provide. If I believe that then I need to demonstrate that and speak that out proudly in conversations. Because more and more I’m realising that choosing the road less travelled is what will make the biggest difference, have the greatest impact and leave a legacy that lasts long after I’m gone. Working myself to the bone, keeping up appearances and chasing after a bigger paycheck just isn’t me any more. There was I time when I thought that’s who I was. Not now.

 

Now my heart is to counsel and serve, to practise hospitality and encouragement. It’s not about shouting the loudest or hustling the hardest. It is about learning to be someone with the kind of grace, beauty and gentleness of spirit that can speak with power. The kind of power that brings change, hope and healing to a broken world fuelled by ambition and greed, a world that’s perpetuated by self-doubt. And when the great big measuring stick of success comes to bite me on the bum I’m going to tell it to go and do one! I’ve found a new barometer of success to measure my life against and he has a name. His name is Jesus.

 

The life that Jesus offers us is certainly one that is less travelled on. It’s the narrower way. It’s not an easy path to take – pretty darn counter-cultural if you ask me! It’s definitely a ‘climbing down the ladder’ kind of life. One of service and not self. But it’s a life that offers radical abundance, immeasurable joy and ZERO LIMITS. God could tell me to move to Japan and I’d go tomorrow. For our lives are but a vapour and our time is borrowed. So in this season I’ll keep on keeping on quietly walking my daughter to and from school every day. I’ll keep listening when God speaks creative dreams and ideas and I’ll keep squashing that doubt!

 

‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.’



 Exerpt from my favourite poem, ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost

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Act Two.

Blogging, Motherhood, FaithSteph DukeComment
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God has been taking me on quite a journey over the last 18 months or so. The life I’m living right now looks completely different to the one that I imagined I’d be living. My life looks so different in fact, that I would have laughed out loud if someone had told me that at just 29 years of age, I would quit my full-time, permanent teaching job because God told me to! I would never have believed that I’d be working from home: blogging, creating paid content online and curating a motherhood journal. I couldn’t have ever even dreamed that I’d get to be the mum who walks her daughter to school every morning and picks her up again when school ends. Me hosting a women’s weekend retreat?! Not a chance! I would never have ever thought I could do something like that … yet God did. Praise God that He got my attention during a season of my life that was headed for disaster. My rollercoaster cart was running at high-speed round a well-worn track. It never stopped. All day, every day it was whizzing round and round, twisting and turning. And the wheels were starting to wear thin. Just as my cart was ready to come right off the tracks … God stepped in. 


For an awfully long time I lived my life trying to be everything to everyone. This was especially prevalent in my job as a teacher. I was on a constant mission of seeking approval. Deep down my heart was in the right place, but my actions flowed out of a wrong personal desire. If I’m totally honest, even though I called myself a Christian, I wasn’t seeking to glorify God. I was seeking to glorify myself. I played many roles as I performed Act One of my life. I was the Playwright in charge of penning the script. I was Director too, with the mindset that as long as I continually tried to control the unfolding of my pages, things would work out ok. How wrong I was. Finally I was also the Actor who was sometimes so worn out from all the writing and directing jobs I’d given myself, that I had no energy left to actually be present and act out the life I’d been striving so damn hard to create!  But thankfully God has rewritten the scenes in Act Two. I’ve come through a really tough process of learning how to hand over the reigns, how to submit control and let God be the master craftsman – exactly what He ought to always be. And I must clarify here that I am still learning. I’m not yet at the place of total daily submission. It’s not yet a learned behaviour. I am really trying though. My default mode is always to revert back to ‘control’. It’s my coping mechanism and my well-worn pathway. Yet now I know how dangerous it is to allow myself to live and operate out of that place. It doesn’t make it any easier for me to stop and hand stuff to God mind you, but I’m becoming more and more inclined to do so in this new season. 


So how did I get to this new season? If I can summarise it for you, it would look something like this. I ended up off work for a number of months because of a horrible incident involving a pupil at school. I’m grateful to God that I wasn’t hurt and that it wasn’t my fault. However, it jolted me out of my high-speed rollercoaster cart and forced me to sit a’while with God. In this quiet place - away from the hustle and away from the noise - suddenly it was just God and I. I tried to ignore His gentle whisper but I knew we really needed to talk. There was a lot of stuff that wasn’t (and still isn’t) right. When I finally (after several months) chose to listen … He changed my world. He gave me such a clear word about quitting my job that I felt I didn’t have a choice not to. I received this word when I was at my absolute lowest; down on my knees, crying out to God in desperation one afternoon. It was a day when I felt like I had no-one to talk to and no-where to turn. I felt trapped, isolated and frightened about my situation in school and could not cope being so out of control. I feared the past, the present and the future in those moments before God spoke. I shouted at Him “WHY!” and furiously questioned “What are you doing God?!” Yet as soon as I heard His voice, everything changed. There would be no going back. 


I allowed myself to crumble and fall to pieces on that floor, that day. And in His goodness and grace, God picked up each and every broken piece of me and began to put my puzzle back together again. He is in the business of doing that you know? Fixing broken things, broken people. He is still fixing me. Still moulding me into the person He sees me becoming. It’s all about perspective you see. God sees the big picture. We see but a mere fraction of our puzzle. We get so hung up on that tiny portion of our life when God is trying to lift our eyes off ourselves and our circumstances, and onto Him. When we focus on who He is … not on who we are or what we are doing, perspective changes.


I still lose perspective, even in this season. Despite knowing and trusting God’s plans and purposes for my life – I still lose perspective sometimes. I still try and get that old rollercoaster cart moving again. It’s habit you see. Those pathways are well travelled. The territory is too familiar.  But there is a big difference in me this season. Instead of seeking to glorify myself, my goal is to always bring glory to Him. If I mess up, I come right back to the foot of the cross every time and I start all over again. Before, I would never have stopped for a moment to even allow God near.  I would have convinced myself that I didn’t need Him around, that I was fine on my own, that I was totally ‘in control’. Now, if I catch myself attempting to take control I run straight to God and surrender myself to Him all over again. It frightens me how quickly old patterns can creep back in and how the enemy waits ready to pounce like a lion when we have a weak moment. So my challenge this season is to continue to allow God to work in me, no matter what the cost, no matter how hard it feels sometimes. There is so much ‘unknown’ about my life right now but I face it with certainty for I know and trust the hand that puts the pen to my paper and writes the pages of my play. Act Two … I’m ready for you! 


“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29 v 11

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