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12 magical hours in London

Travel, Motherhood, BloggingSteph DukeComment

This week Phoebe, my mum and I took a whirlwind trip to London. A few weeks beforehand, we had been invited to take part in a campaign for VTech’s latest toy release: Myla the Magical Make-up Unicorn. The campaign included an exciting workshop in the Unicorn Theatre in London for Phoebe to enjoy and she would also receive her very own Myla. I remember instantly checking flights to see if I could get any cheap enough (and within the budget of our payment for doing the advertisement.) When I did, the decision was easy! I checked if mum fancied coming along and we booked the flights soon after. It would be an early flight and a long day for Phoebe but I was hopeful that she could manage. The excitement of the travel and the theatre would hopefully distract her from feeling too tired.

As the day approached, I made sure that we had a plan of action! Phoebe’s slot at the theatre was at 10am-12noon so we needed to be off the plane and onto the train from Stansted fairly sharpish! Our morning flight was from Belfast International at 6.05am and we landed in Stansted ahead of schedule. The buggy arrived off the plane quickly too and we were able to hot-foot it down to catch the 7.41am Stansted Express train into London. Phoebe coped brilliantly with the early start. I’d prepped her in advance that Mummy would come in and wake her in the middle of the night and we would travel to the airport in the dark! As soon as I woke her (with bated breath at 3.30am in case she started roaring), she peeped out of the window to check if it was dark, and the excitement on her face was confirmation that I’d made the right decision to go!

 Sleepy eyes but smiling and ready for take-off!

Sleepy eyes but smiling and ready for take-off!

There were a few hairy moments at the airport as we waited to find out our gate for boarding … Phoebe just doesn’t have any patience! But thankfully with some persuasion and a new sticker magazine, she avoided meltdown! The Easyjet flight was less than an hour and all on time. I’d pre-booked our Stansted Express tickets and kept them in my handy wallet on my iPhone - we only needed tickets for mum and I, Phoebe was free. Hooray! I remember sitting on the train as we travelled into London and feeling so thankful for this experience. Phoebe munched on a croissant while cuddled in next to me as I read a story out of her magazine. So far, she had coped better than I anticipated and her excitement was growing by the minute to go and get her unicorn!

 A snapshot from a sweet little video my mum took (see full vid and more on my  insta-stories/highlights )

A snapshot from a sweet little video my mum took (see full vid and more on my insta-stories/highlights)

The train journey took just over an hour and then we were at Liverpool- Street Station. Armed with Google Maps in one hand and a Krispy Kreme donut in the other, we exited the station and onto the streets of London. It was busy, very busy - lots of people making their way into work. But we managed fine with the buggy and nipped into a Pret-A-Manger (they are everywhere!) next to the theatre to freshen up and change. So far, so good.

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We arrived early to the Unicorn Theatre and were greeted by a lovely girl who directed us to where we needed to be. It was an absolute joy to watch Phoebe for the two hours that followed. Moments like those are moments that I will remember. She was captivated from start to finish. 

 Unicorn Theatre, Tooley St. London.

Unicorn Theatre, Tooley St. London.

Phoebe was treated to unicorn-styled hair, complete with pink spray and lots of glitter! She had no idea what on earth was going on at the start, but she soon settled in, began to relax and get her confidence. The girls did an amazing job on all the kiddo's hair ... I was quite envious until Phoebe suggested I get mine done too! I obliged but suggested to the girl that I'd have to walk around London AND get a flight with whatever style she created ... needless to say there was no colour, but two lovely little braids to match Phoebe. She was so chuffed!! 

 Phoebe's awesome hair!

Phoebe's awesome hair!

Next up was creating some magical unicorn glitter spray, having fun with gooey slime and making a cute little unicorn pot to bring home. Phoebe loves crafts and really enjoyed getting creative with decorating her spray. She wasn't so keen to get her hands in the slime - all talk though! 

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After crafting, all the kids gathered in the middle of the room for a brilliant imaginative role-play session. They were expertly guided into a land of make-believe and I watched on proudly as Phoebe got caught up in the magical journey to the land of the unicorn ...

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Then came the bit that Phoebe had been most excited for ... getting her very own Myla! She was bigger than I'd imagined she'd be, so we had to get the girls to cut her out of the box! There was no way we were bringing that box on the plane home! Phoebe immediately wanted to get trying Myla out anyway. A huge thank you to the girls who made sure Phoebe had a ball. 

 Wee red face after all the role-play!

Wee red face after all the role-play!

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 Thanks girls!

Thanks girls!

Our original plan was to leave the theatre around 12 noon and get a bus/taxi to Covent Garden for lunch. However, the bus route that we had hoped to take was closed for the month of August and I could't work out if Uber would take a child in a buggy or had car seats available? I didn't want to order an Uber and then have to pay for their time if they arrived and weren't able to take Phoebe. So after 30 minutes of trying to get a taxi sorted we decided that we might just try walking instead. The route would take around 50 minutes and it was either walk or hang around the theatre and grab lunch somewhere. I had my heart set on visiting Neal's Yard Remedies in Covent Garden and mum had never been to CG before so we set off following Google Maps once again.   

It's amazing how children sense when you are stressed isn't it? As we passed a nearby bus stop, I hopped on to ask the driver if he knew of another bus that might take us the direction we wanted to go. One driver was useless and another just told us to have a nice walk! And unfortunately, because I had went onto the bus, of course Phoebe thought that meant we were all going on the bus. Cue total meltdown. She'd done so brilliantly up until now and this was make or break time. We still had about 3.5 hours before needing to head back to the station so we motored on, trying to avoid the sympathetic/horrified stares of passers by! The streets were busy, we were trying to navigate our way towards Covent Garden and Phoebe was getting worse. It got to a point where we pulled the buggy over and I took Myla off Phoebe, threatening to throw the toy in the bin if she didn't stop yelling and screaming. I explained (through gritted teeth) that she had had a great day with lots of fun and now it was Nanny and Mummy's turn, while also suggesting she might like to lie back with Myla and close her eyes for a little while. Thankfully she obliged and as I handed Myla back to her she lay down and we started to walk. Not 5 minutes later her eyes were closed and she was out. Cue sighs of relief and silent prayers of "thank you Lord!"

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The rest of the journey to Covent Garden was actually quite pleasant! I also must thank the kind man who helped me lift the buggy (and sleeping Phoebe) up a flight of steps behind the Savoy - that would definitely have been a struggle for mum and I! As we neared CG I spied a coffee spot I'd seen on Instagram and made a beeline for it while missy moo was still snoozing. So glad I did - the place had a class vibe and the coffee was up there with some of the best I've had. Cheers Grind, you were just what this mama needed after that walk!

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 That sign though.

That sign though.

Mum and I managed a very quick dander round a busy Covent Garden before Phoebe wakened. We were all starving so I decided a Shake Shack was the way to go ... turns out Phoebe doesn't like their burgers or their milkshake! There is little I hate more than spending money on food that Phoebe doesn't eat.

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 My wee Mummy

My wee Mummy

Nevertheless, mum and I fuelled up before hitting my most favourite spot of the day ... NEAL'S YARD! It wasn't long after I booked the flights that it dawned on me I'd be able to visit the original Neal's Yard beside Covent Garden. It did NOT disappoint. Wow. The sun was shining and the courtyard was buzzing! I could have stayed here all day. Some day I'll come back and just sit and drink in the atmosphere. Maybe even steal a few hours in the Neal's Yard treatment rooms or attend some NY training - who knows?! But as a new consultant for Neal's Yard I'm not ashamed to say it kinda' feltlike Christmas came early!!

 Some spot!

Some spot!

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 Phoebe getting in on some sampling action

Phoebe getting in on some sampling action

 Chillin' like a villain!

Chillin' like a villain!

 A sweaty mess here but SO HAPPY!

A sweaty mess here but SO HAPPY!

Our time in London was coming to an end and as we made our way back to the station I savoured the moment. This trip would not have been possible without Instagram. And I need to take a moment to publicly apologise for my winging and whining about Instagram this last wee while. It's been a personal problem. Not Instagram's. I've been really blessed to have gained such a thoughtful, kind and supportive following - one I do not take for granted. If you are reading this and you are new round these parts, or if you're reading and you've been here a while ... hear this ... I VALUE YOU. I APPRECIATE YOU. I AM THANKFUL FOR YOU. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my blog, to like my content or have conversation with me. 

Back to our trip ... we made it back to Liverpool Street Station in good time and through security with more time to spare. Once again our travel was easy, everything was on time and we had no hiccups. God was so good to us. Phoebe was as excited about going home to show her Daddy and Granda her new toy as she was on the way there. 

 Still loving Myla on the train home

Still loving Myla on the train home

 Still smiling at 8pm despite being up from 3.30am! 

Still smiling at 8pm despite being up from 3.30am! 

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 We made it home!

We made it home!

Finally, would I recommend flying to and from London in one day with a small child? Yes I would! As a parent, you know your own child and if you think they could handle it (or you have the opportunity for them to sleep during the day) then go for it! Yes, there were a few *moments* but that's normal. I actually came away from the experience a prouder mama and more inclined to be adventurous again. Witnessing Phoebe's joy in the moment was priceless, something I'll remember for a long time. So thank you Instagram, thank you Takumi and thank you VTech for making magic in London for our little Northern Irish babe.

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* Disclaimer: This blog post is not sponsored, neither am I being paid to write it. I was paid solely for the promotional post of Myla on my Instagram grid. This post is merely a documentation of our day - something I can fondly look back on! All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. *

Notes from the Battlefield - Part 1: Hearts & Minds

Faith, BloggingSteph DukeComment

Feeling stirred in my spirit to share a few thoughts that I’m having at the moment and shed a little light on where I’m at. As always, my aim through this blog is to share some of my own personal journey with you in the hope that it might be a virtual “me too”, an encouragement, or just words that help you feel like you aren’t alone. More and more through my little space online, I’m also trying to point to Christ and the hope I’ve found in knowing and trusting Him. But also trying to reassure you that I don’t have it all figured out and every single day I’m having to CHOOSE to work hard on that relationship. It’s a battle that on some days … I lose.

It’s ironic that I used the song “It is Well” on some of my Instagram stories this morning, specifically the lyrics, “It is well with my soul”. My soul did not feel well this morning. Another classic example of why social media projects images and lives that just aren’t reality. Posting that story this morning was an attempt by me to try and make things well. (I’m an expert at ‘trying’ and ‘doing’ but not finding the real solution to the problem.) A Neal’s Yard diffuser and worship music is certainly a good attempt at making things well - don’t get me wrong – but what I needed was to open my bible and start a conversation with God. (He is ALWAYS the solution to my problem.) I needed to come and sit next to Jesus and just ‘be’. I needed to stop striving, doing and trying, and to just talk to Him. To tell Him that I’m overwhelmed by the tasks, and feel weary from overthinking the battlefield tactics. My soul wasn’t well because I knew I wasn’t right with God.

When I finally did choose to sit a’while with Jesus (after a mama meltdown and some tears) I read several timely reminders that I want to share with you. The first was this:

 

‘The world tells us fulfilling every desire in every moment is a sign of happiness and freedom, but I can say from experience that ignoring spiritual disciplines leads to chains, not freedom.’

She Reads Truth Bible notes p.1920

 

I’m just home from a busy but lovely week of holidaying with family and hosting my very first spiritual retreat. I feel a bit like I’d ‘escaped’ my battlefield for a week – let me explain.

Most of you know that since quitting my teaching job I’ve been navigating this new road. It’s a road I never expected to be on and one I feel unprepared for! I’d trained to be a teacher - I did the lesson plans and prepped the schemes of work. But marriage, motherhood, writing/curating/maintaining blogs, creating social media content, leading retreats … NONE of these do I feel prepared for. And that’s ok. It’s just the control-freak in me that drives me to try and achieve levels of perfectionism that aren’t healthy, and to try and tick all the boxes before I feel like I can perform a task.

But out on the battlefield there’s no time for that. There’s no time to look around at how everyone else is winning or losing. No time to make sure my ‘I’s  are dotted and ‘T’s crossed. There’s no time to focus on the futile or fickle things of this world – things like striving for personal-approval online or vanity. Time is running out. Life is too short to get all caught up in my head and forget to see the bigger picture … and God’s perspective.

Lately I’ve felt all bogged down in all kinds of stuff. As I push further into where I feel God calling me, I’ve noticed the battleground changing and the enemy attacking. As I step up a level, the level of attack increases and I’ve never felt quite so exposed. No more exposed than I do in my own mind. And at the moment it’s the place I feel I’m having to battle the most. I’ve said before that the enemy’s greatest tactic is to keep us distracted by ourselves. In our preoccupation, we aren’t advancing for the Kingdom.

We stall.

And the enemy loves that.

Once we are preoccupied, his work is done.

We do the rest.

In my mind I am my worst critic. I say things to myself that I’d never say to someone else. I’ll be your best supporter and encourager, but never as kind to myself. I analyse and criticise myself to such an extent that it starts to get ridiculous. I need to cut myself some slack. I’ve been on the most incredible journey over this past year discovering who I am in Christ. I’ve received some beautiful promises and prophetic words over my life. And what do I do? Instead of resting in God’s faithfulness, I focus on my own failings. Instead of walking in his love, I still try to walk my own way, listen to my own voice. This is why I keep letting the enemy win. Why is it so much easier for us to give in to doubt and fear, instead of resting in His love and hope? Why is it easier to be distracted instead of devoted?!

As I arrived home I felt really challenged about my own level of devotion. I spent last weekend speaking to some amazing women when I was really speaking to and challenging myself. Another timely reminder on devotion popped into my inbox this week from desiringgod.org:

 

“As soon as [we] wake, there is a war to keep [us] from the word of God. Fight! This is a daily, constant war for me (author). When I got married, and when I had children, the war got harder.”

 

As I read through this article I began to realise that the battle isn’t rooted in my mind, but it’s a battle that begins with my heart. Where do my true affections lie? What is my joy? The author continues:

 

“What are my affections in? If my affections are in my sleep, then I’m going to treasure sleep over the world. If they are in my time, then my time is going to be preeminent over the preeminent one. It’s helpful to identify things that are legitimately good things and opportunities for leisure that [we’ve] made an idol in many ways. What’s at stake is [us] and Jesus being good. If [we’re] not delighting in the word of God, then most likely [we’re] not delighting in God himself.”

 

The challenge is love: to love the Lord with ALL my heart, with ALL my soul, with ALL my strength. The battle isn’t lost when we wake up more interested in Instagram* than God’s word – it has just begun. My prayer for this week is that I will be too devoted to be distracted. I will fight hard. I will fight long. The victory is already mine, won at the cross, paid for in blood. When all seems lost and when I fail time and time again, I will NOT FORGET.  

* Link to an honest post about Instagram I wrote back in February.

Mummy Cooks Review

Bakes, Motherhood, Food, BloggingSteph DukeComment

I first met the lovely Siobhan Berry of Mummy Cooks at a Pregnancy & Baby Fair not long after having my first and only daughter Phoebe. We chatted about her weaning pots and recipes and I purchased a set of starter weaning pots. The set included a range of sizes of pots, perfect for sizing different portions during different stages of Phoebe's weaning journey. 

 Order yours  here

Order yours here

On my return to work, my husband and I started trialling a two-weekly grocery shop to try and ease the pressure of cooking and meal planning. We had a fixed menu of recipes to work from and two of our favourites were Mummy Cooks recipes: Coconut Chicken Curry & Spaghetti Bolognese. Both recipes are baby friendly, easy to batch cook and freeze. We regularly still eat both dishes!

 Baby friendly Coconut Chicken Curry - Phoebe enjoyed eating this from 6 months!

Baby friendly Coconut Chicken Curry - Phoebe enjoyed eating this from 6 months!

Just a few weeks ago I kindly received Siobhan's new Baby & Family Recipe Book. This is her first ever book and it's just bursting with advice and recipes for families. I love her simple philosophy: Cook for family, adapt for baby. Her belief that introducing family meals from the start encourages children to eat more adventurously is one I have found to be true. I just wish I'd had this book sooner! 

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My daughter Phoebe loves to bake, so last Saturday we tried out Siobhan's Banana & Berry Muffins from the recipe book. Again, the recipe is freezer friendly and super easy to follow and make. We really enjoyed the results too!

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I'd highly recommend Siobhan's book, especially for parents with small children. I've learned so much from the book already: proper food storage, following the seasonal calendar when choosing food and reading labels. I'd particularly recommend this book for those who are on, or who about to start the weaning process - Siobhan provides invaluable information to help you if you are on that journey. Please do check out her website too, there's a wealth of information, loads more recipes and really helpful advice for parents. 

* This recipe book was gifted to me as part of a collaboration with Mummy Cooks. All thoughts and opinions are my own. You can buy a copy of Siobhan's book here

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