My Little Duke

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"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

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Learning from yesterday.

Motherhood, FaithSteph Duke1 Comment

Yesterday, Phoebe and I headed off for a late Sunday afternoon stroll. The sun was shining, the air was cold and crisp, the sky was blue and the mood was good! We packed the wellies, the woolies and the scooter, then we headed off to Peatlands Park.

The park was busier than I’d expected, but nonetheless, off we strolled together, a hand on each handle of the scooter. (Phoebe still hasn’t quite mastered the “scooting” technique yet!) We mostly just walk alongside it! Hanging from one handle of the scooter was a bag of bread for the ducks - poor dears - most of the lake was frozen solid! We did manage to find a little bit of water and threw some bread in. Phoebe mustn’t have had enough lunch, as most of the bread ended up in her own stomach! 

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Once the bread was devoured (by Phoebe) she noticed the little play area behind where we had been feeding the ducks. Well - as parents of three year olds can understand - nothing would do, only to go straight in and play pretend trains for the foreseeable future. It was baltic, and I counted down the minutes until Phoebe could be tempted onto the next “exciting thing.” A walk just wasn’t going to do the trick so I “now regrettably” used the word “playground” to describe our next destination.

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Well, I can take full responsibility for what happened next, as, understandably, a coloured hop-skotch on the ground just doesn’t cut it as a “playground” to a 3 year old!

The face on her!

I tried, I really did, to encourage her to give it a go. You know, just while my fingers were freezing off! But, no. Absolutely not. Phoebe was having none of it. She wouldn’t put a single foot near it. She was totally disgusted.

I could see that some people were headed our direction, so I attempted to find another solution. I offered up some other suggestions but I knew that she was “having a moment!” I began to make my way toward her - wrong move. She screamed, then started running in the opposite direction. I was acutely aware of the oncoming traffic: a poor, unsuspecting family and their dog! I couldn’t let Phoebe run too far off, especially with so many dogs around, so I bolted after her, scooter in tow! I grabbed her and hunkered down beside her. She was hollering “no, stop Mummy!!!” at the top of her voice like I was inflicting some sort of torture on her!

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In those moments, when you are so conscious of onlookers and critical stares, you make split second choices - mine tend to be on the dramatic side - no wonder a certain someone can be a bit of a drama queen! She didn’t want any of my suggestions and continued to shout her head off. I warned her that we would go straight back to the car if she didn’t stop being silly - so inevitably ... off we went ... back to the car. Needless to say, this didn’t go down well! There I was, trailing both a scooter and a screaming 3 year old over the grass, towards the car. I’m sure the whole of Peatlands could hear “NOOOO Mummy!” and her big, wet sobs. A couple of times I tried to carry her but she was too slippery against my coat and too heavy to carry one handed, remember ... I had the scooter trailing along from the other hand!

The shouting persisted the whole way across the car park and into the car. I could see she was completely exhausted though. By late afternoon these days, it’s not really worth fighting with Phoebe for she’s just too tired. Now that we’re back in routine of school, there’s no napping during the day so we can get an early bedtime! And, when Phoebe’s getting tired, you daren’t look at her the wrong way!

Once strapped in, I gave her her bunny and teddy and just to add insult to injury, I demanded an apology before she got her dummy. Now, even still, Phoebe’s all time favourite comforts are these 3 things: bunny, teddy and dummy. These 3 items are inseparable and rarely come without the other. With no “sorry” offered and in my own stubbornness, I set the dummy in the passenger seat and we began the 20 minute drive home. I suspected a roaring match the whole way, but she sat, without a peep, for the entire journey - mulling it all over and sussing me out, no doubt! I swear, she was giving me the evil eye in the mirror for most of the drive!

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On arrival home, I was even more determined to get my apology, and so the saga continued. Matt thought the whole thing was hilarious, but did try to explain to Phoebe the importance of saying “sorry” and “being nice to Mummy” and “not shouting.” Well, Phoebe is most certainly my daughter ... stubborn as a mule! She was adamant that “sorry” was not crossing her lips. Instead, she would try and sneak the dummy from my pocket!

Eventually ... Matt somehow persuaded Phoebe to say sorry. Probably after around 15 minutes of an awful lot of huffing and puffing - from both Phoebe and I! But you know what, the moment she said sorry and wrapped those wee arms round my neck, I could have bawled my eyes out. I just hate it when we aren’t right with each other. It happens so rarely these days. So when we aren’t good ... I don’t like it. Not one bit.

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As Matt often says ... “she’s only 3!” And, now that I’m not teaching in a classroom, I need to try and remember to step back from that role a little. Yes, I’m teaching Phoebe, but not in the same way. My role to her is different. It’s as Mother. It’s a nurturing role. More often than not, I’m stopping and reflecting on all that it means to be a Mother. The mighty weight of responsibility that comes rushing on you, the moment you hear the first little cry. But also the mighty honour and privilege it is to tend to and care for a little life. To watch it begin to grow and flourish! In 2018 my prayer is that in my role as Mother - especially in this new season of career-change - I gain deeper roots and firmer foundations in and through Christ. There is no stronger love. No better example. No greater sacrifice. May God grant me the patience and wisdom needed in these days and continue to mould and shape me into the kind of Mother Phoebe needs me to be.

Blessings for a wonderful week my lovelies,

Steph xox

Brave

Motherhood, FaithSteph Duke2 Comments

If I were to sum up 2017, I would have to use the word 'brave' - especially in this latter part of the year. 2017 saw me stepping right out of my comfort zone and into the wilderness. I'm braving a new land, new territory and new freedom ... and I cannot flipping wait!

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The beginning of the year started in the usual way - the dread of diving headfirst into another crazy term at school, the inevitable 'diet' and 'I'm going to be a better person' resolutions. The hamster wheel began it's usual turning, getting faster and faster during that first quarter of the year.

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Then in April, my world, as I knew it, came crashing down around me and I was forced into a period of rest. I was off work for a number of months while I 'coped' with what had happened - you can read a little about it here. I returned to work before the summer under extremely strenuous circumstances and found myself facing big changes in my job. I pushed my anxiety as deep down as I possibly could and made it my priority to enjoy a glorious summer off with family. Which I did. It was probably one of our best summers yet. Little did I know what was ahead of me ...

Bon Iver

Bon Iver

My sister won tickets to see Jess Glynn!

My sister won tickets to see Jess Glynn!

C O L D P L A Y

C O L D P L A Y

BBQ, s'mores and G&T's on bonfire night at Cavehill

BBQ, s'mores and G&T's on bonfire night at Cavehill

The hottest day of the summer at The Port

The hottest day of the summer at The Port

Villa life in Mallorca

Villa life in Mallorca

Mallorca coffee hangs

Mallorca coffee hangs

After a wonderful summer I genuinely felt good about getting back to work properly, even in a new campus, classroom and with new pupils. The perfectionist in me made sure I'd ticked all the boxes, dotted all my i's and crossed all my t's. I had spent 2 days in the summer clearing out my old classroom and re-doing up the new one. It was an emotional process, but I was confident that if all was 'aesthetically pleasing' to the eye, those niggling feelings gurgling in the pit of my stomach would go away. How wrong I was. 

A happy yellow planner wasn't enough to stop what was about to come!

A happy yellow planner wasn't enough to stop what was about to come!

Just a few short weeks into September, something quite small and simple was enough to stop and catapult me right off the tracks. (I promise I'll give you more details soon, this is just a taster of the full story.) But, believe me when I say, I was face down. Worse than before. I couldn't comprehend the WHY. I began to wrestle. I wrestled and wrestled and wrestled furiously with God over a number of days/weeks, shouting at him, questioning why and crying out in my utter desperation. 

"God, why would you do this to me?!"

"Why can I not stop feeling this way?!"

I endured a period of time where all I felt was failure, shame and guilt. Yet, as I poured my whole self out to the Lord, he began to whisper right into my innermost being. I slowly began to realise where I'd been going wrong. Where I've always been going wrong. 

You see, I try to be in control ... always. My weight. My job. My emotions. Everything

This kind of lifestyle is exhausting. Completely, devastatingly exhausting. Especially as a full time working mum. I was running on empty, trying to look calm, cool and collected on the outside. Even before what happened in April, I was fraying at the edges, refusing to accept that the pace of life I was living, simply wasn't and isn't sustainable. 

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As I listened closely to the Lord, in my complete brokenness, I began to hear, very clearly, what he was saying to me. When I fully grasped a hold of what I was hearing - I could not believe it! (I intend on sharing the details very soon!) What I can say now, as I stand in the doorway of a new year, closing the door on 2017, I am closing it with complete assurance of who I am and what I am called to do as the door of 2018 begins to open. I quite literally closed one door career-wise (!) and am now stepping into an unknown territory of wide open space, creative freedom and ministry! 

This print by lovely Lisa at @whitechalkstudio was kindly gifted to me, prophetically! 

This print by lovely Lisa at @whitechalkstudio was kindly gifted to me, prophetically! 

As I step into this unknown space, I step alongside so many wonderful women who have poured into my life over this last quarter of 2017. Honestly, you wouldn't believe the ways in which connections have been made, friendships forged and pathways have crossed. Truly, it is only with God, all these things and more are possible! I actually cannot wait to share all the details with you over the coming weeks! To show you how God's hand has protected me, guided me and pushed me forward into new and exciting things. How creative and inspiring women have spoke wisdom, encouragement and hope into my life. And how God's faithfulness is unwavering, never changing, solid as a rock through ALL things, ALL circumstances and ALL seasons. 

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So in the spirit of Disney's Frozen (which Phoebe absolutely adores) I welcome 2018, declaring boldly, with Christ who gives me strength:

Let it go

Let it go

No holding back any more.

Let it go

Let it go

Turn away and shut the door.

Here I stand

In the light of day

in front of an open door ...

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"For there is NOTHING I cannot master with the help of Christ who gives me strength."

- Phillipians 4 v 13