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.