My Little Duke


Empathy and Love

Faith, MotherhoodSteph Duke1 Comment

My heart is bursting after my last blog post. Your response totally blew me away ... I'm completely overwhelmed by your love, encouragement and bravery in reaching out and sharing your stories. And, I'm calling for MORE. More connections, more vulnerability, more community. You have no idea how your moment of bravery or word of testimony could impact someone else. Someone who might just need to hear what you have to say, or how you battled through a dark period in your life. Something you might feel is insignificant or even 'silly' could be the one thing that changes the course of someone else's thought patterns or path. Don't play yourself down, don't compare what you have to say to someone else. Just say it. Say it in the way only you can say it.  Even if it's just for one reader - surely that's reason good enough? 


So much of what you have shared with me over the last week has resonated deep within my soul and spirit. That sense of belonging that we all crave. A mutual feeling of the importance of connecting with like-minded people. And, the hope that there is so, so much more to come. More light shining in darkness. More love to give.

This morning I read a post that made my heart ache and my spirit grieve. Erin of @motherbeastie has a way with words that just gets me ... every ... single ... time. The reason that I feel every word is because it's honest truth. Words written from a life lived and experiences that have shaped her whole being. There's no frills, no fluff, just a raw and naked vulnerability that is penetrating through darkness. It's shining a big, bright light onto emotions that we so often try to bury deep down inside us, and certainly never want to open up about to others. Yet, an important part of any emotional healing process is to communicate. I'm learning more and more about the importance of communicating. I truly believe that there is a community here who want to engage in a dialogue that's open, honest and vulnerable. Conversations that are tough, that stir up emotions that need to be brought to the surface, so that a process of healing can begin. 

Gorgeous, brave Erin @motherbeastie 

Gorgeous, brave Erin @motherbeastie 

Amidst the talk, I often find myself questioning how I can help. It's one thing to read a post, leave a comment or send a message. But, more and more, I'm fighting the urge to go a step further ... to grab a cuppa and have a face on conversation, to give a hug or get on my knees to pray. I know there are some of you who feel the same. That stirring of your spirit of compassion and empathy, to reach out in love and kindness. I feel it too. So why fight it? How can we find ways to be love and light across these social media platforms? Is it a cuppa and chat, a handwritten letter in the post, a surprise package delivered to a door? I'm feeling incredibly challenged in this season to not just talk, but to act. To try and demonstrate the empathy that I feel for others, through practical love, in any way that I can. There are so many of you doing it too. A community spirit is rising! 

And, it is ok, not to be ok. Behind the instagram squares, no-one knows what real life looks like for some. The social media world can make our own darkness feel more isolating and suffocating. Please, please, please reach out if it's becoming unbearable, there is always someone who can empathise with you. Someone with a similar experience, who has felt similar pain/grief/anxiety. Don't let your darkness become so heavy that it engulfs you completely. There is someone to help or even just to listen. 

If you are ok, if you're in a good place right now ... can I challenge you to stop and think about someone you might know who could use a little love or light in their life? Society encourages us to become self-obsessed, out for what we can get for ourselves ... I can't bear it anymore! There is so much hurt, fear and pain out there, that could be eased a little by one, small and simple act of love. 

Print by sweet Megan  @growingracelettering

Print by sweet Megan @growingracelettering

Aside from reaching out through social media or meeting someone for a chat (which is completely out of my comfort zone btw!) here are 2 little ways I'm trying to show a little love and light over the coming weeks:

1. The beautiful Catherine @mycopperfox is running a Christmas Cup Exchange through IG and it's not too late to join (registration closes on 29th November!) It involves the simple act of connecting with someone new through IG and blessing them by buying them a cup. Such a brilliantly easy and inexpensive way to show a little love this Christmastime. 

2.  If you are local to Portadown, why not pop down to @the_yard_portadown? Not solely because it's like my second home these days, or for Heather's delicious treats, or even to buy some of the girls' gorgeous gifts ... but, to pick a luggage tag off their Community Christmas Tree. The tags on the tree represent some local people who Helping Hands have been working with over the last few months. You pick a tag, buy a small gift, tie the tag back on the present and pop it back under the tree. There are lots of different ages to choose from (boys, girls, men and women.) A friend had a wonderful idea to take her daughter in and pick a tag for a little girl of the same age. Part of their Christmas activities is then to learn about the importance of giving, and then to go and pick a gift, wrap it and put it back under the tree. Amazing. 

If you choose to bless others, you too will be blessed. It doesn't have to cost you anything, a simple text or phone-call is all it takes to show you care. 

"The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped." - Proverbs 11

Bless you this week,

Steph xox

So tell me about ... The Yard Portadown

Travel, FaithSteph DukeComment

Hello my lovelies. If you are one of my Instagram buds you will know that since The Yard opened in Portadown, I've been a pretty regular customer! Suffice to say, I simply cannot visit without coming home with something! For me, I knew that The Yard would be a special place right from the get go. Being a Portadown gal myself, having attended Portadown Elim Church many years ago and knowing the lovely Laura (@havenonahilltop) from her creative days in local business, I was sure to be intrigued from the beginning.

So, what exactly is The Yard, Portadown? Here's Laura (a creative mastermind at The Yard)  to tell you a little bit more in our Q+A*:

1. Can you tell readers what The Yard is all about? What's the vision?

The Yard is a new endeavour - a social enterprise element of Helping Hands Community Outreach Project. 'The Yard' incorporates a practical workshop space, offering new interests and skills for people recovering from life controlling circumstances, but also, providing opportunities for skilled trades people to serve alongside them. Their products are then showcased in the Gift Shop, where you will find a group of very creative ladies who are dreaming up and presenting quality gift ideas at brilliant prices! (Honestly, you have to visit just to see the amazing items these girls are creating. Such talent and creative heart!) Our kitchen and coffee house provide tasty treats in a tranquil environment, while you can browse for gifts. (Or a treat for yourself! Or 2, or 3 ... !!)



2. How / Why did the idea of The Yard happen?

The Yard happened as part of the development and expansion of Helping Hands Community Outreach Project - a family support ministry/charity of Portadown Elim Church. Due to the complex issues faced by our local community on a daily basis, we became aware of the need to spend quality time with those people, in order to make a real positive and practical impact on their lives. We developed a training room with a counselling room beside it called 'The War Room.' This name is one that really resonates with us as we feel like we too, are battling through the challenges and issues with the people we work with. The name is also influenced by the film of the same name! 

In addition, we set up a workshop for upscaling furniture, but also to assist in bringing structure and improving employability for those who have been out of work for some time. We hope and pray that this space might ignite new interests, develop skills and confidence in those who are involved, but also enhancing self worth where needed.

Another space was created for a mini laundrette/shower room to assist those who are homeless or those who are housed yet find themselves without electric, unable to wash clothes or shower at home. During these encounters, conversations around life choices can happen and budgeting advice is offered. For those who have limited skills to manage a household budget, or have difficulty with cookery skills, we can offer relevant training around basic, healthy, nutritional and affordable meals. This transferable skill can then be used back at home. 

This work incurs costs, and the social enterprise side of our work helps to meet those costs (the kitchen, workshop, coffee house and gift shop.) 

The name 'The Yard' was simply chosen because we always say, 'I'm away to the yard' or 'I'm down at the yard.'

Our hope and vision is that many would come to The Yard and find warmth, welcome, friendship, purpose, freedom, forgiveness and love - as that is the life experience of our staff. Our motto is from Philippians 2:4 which says:

'Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.'

This is what we do daily. That 'helping hand' is extended to anyone in genuine need, regardless of their class, creed, gender, culture, nationality, race, religion (or none.)



That verse gets me every single time. What a challenge! To live a life of service to others; for as you do to the least of them, you do for Him!


3. What's your own personal involvement with The Yard? What do you love most?

I started working at The Yard in March this year, with the primary focus on upcycling and designing furniture and other gift items (like our own unique candle range and fresh flowers/plants). I wanted to bring a fresh and youthful appeal to The Yard, yet also use the skills I've developed over the last few years of running my own creative business. 

Another major direction I'd love for us to grow in is ... fresh posies and plants! (HURRAH!) We have a huge poly tunnel at Helping Hands that normally only gets used in the summer for hanging baskets and pots, but it's my aim to get using it in the winter months for indoor plants and floral arrangements. 


I most definitely have nothing to do with all the yummy food treats ... that's all down to Heather! (I can confirm that Heather's baking skills are on point! UN-REAL.)


I feel so blessed that I have been given this position, as it is the perfect outlet for my creativity, plus it also feeds my passion for people! I love seeing people transform before my eyes ... and, I think they also get excited when they start to get involved in anything creative. Creativity can bring so much healing into people's lives. I think most of all, I love that I'm using my talents to bless the people of our community, while bringing glory to God in doing so.

4. How best can readers get involved in supporting or helping at The Yard?

People can support us in a lot of ways:

  • If you can't support financially, by purchasing from our shop or having the odd cuppa, you can most certainly uplift us in prayer. 
  • If you do purchase from our shop please tag us or give us a mention on social media!
  • If you have a unique skill or craft that you would like to come and teach or show our creative team, please come down and say hello ... we are always on the lookout for new ideas! 

* There may be slight alterations to the speaker's original wording.

Thanks so much to Laura for agreeing to have a bit of a chat about this new venture.


I hope you now have a little flavour of what The Yard is offering. I've been in and out numerous times now and trust me, if you make a visit, you will leave feeling blessed. The Gift Shop itself is visually beautiful. What a stunning array of posies and planters, homemade candles, vintage bits n bobs, local artists' prints, unique crafts, seasonal items and MORE for you to hunt through. Such a little treasure trove with such an anointed atmosphere. The girls serving there are real gems. No false friendliness or fakery! Just genuine servant hearts and a passion for seeing God's Kingdom come - a little Heaven touching Earth. Such a joy!


Then, nestled neatly at one end of the Gift Shop you'll find the cosiest coffee corner. You have to go just to sample Heather's baking brilliance! Every time I've been in, I've been tempted by the aroma of freshly made scones ... and not just your plain old, same old type. No. No! How about banana and salted caramel?! Yes PLEASE! Scones not your thing? Never fear! There's a whole host of other goodies for you to choose from ... and again, all freshly baked and always looking delicious. Homemade soup for lunch? Sorted. Good coffee. Tick again. Like, do I need to say much more here ... just go! Already, in just the few short weeks since opening, I've had some wonderfully blessed times at The Yard. I've had inspired, creative conversations and precious mummy daughter time and treats.  I've met some amazing ladies who are also looking forward to meeting and serving you.  You can visit The Yard every Thurs + Fri from 10am-2pm, 15 Woodview Avenue, Portadown, BT62 3BR. Don't be surprised if you see me there! 

Bless you,


Ps. Give them a wee follow on IG - @the_yard_portadown.

Called to be Creative. Nic  @thebrightsidediary , Ydele  @ourlifeatthewhitehouse  + me  @mylittleduke

Called to be Creative. Nic @thebrightsidediary, Ydele @ourlifeatthewhitehouse + me @mylittleduke


John 13:35

"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."