Compared To Her

19 Feb

This is a re-blog from another blog (Yep, no shame!) called Reflection Therapy and the article was written by blogger Kate Motaung, a fellow homeschooling mum. This is a book review, a book called Compared To Her, written by Sophie de Witt, a Brit who relocated to Cape Town a few many years ago. The reason why it caught my eye is that even though Sophie is a friend of mine and I really found her book helpful, I never thought of writing a review – let alone an interview. Why not take the opportunity of someone else’s hard work and share the article! So Kate Motaung, if you’re reading this, thank you very much! I enjoyed reading your blog post and I also think that Sophie is someone worth knowing and worth reading 🙂

Back to the book, if you are a woman, you are most likely suffering from CCS. If you want the remedy, you need to read this book. This is a GREAT read, not to be missed, not to be taken lightly.

Enjoy the article!

 

Compared to her – an interview with author Sophie de Witt [Book review]

In her new book, Compared to Her: How to Experience True Contentment, Sophie DeWitt describes what she has labeled CCS – Compulsive Comparison Syndrome.  Perhaps the title alone strikes a chord with you.  Within the pages of her book, Sophie helpfully points out how most of us as women struggle either with a ‘looking up comparison’ or a ‘looking down’ version of the same sin.  She explains the symptoms, effects, causes and treatment to overcome a life of compulsive comparison and move to experience true contentment in Christ.

In my opinion, this book hits the nail on the head.  It cuts straight to the heart of many of our inward thoughts as women – as we walk through the grocery store and compare ourselves to the clothes, hair, make-up and shoes of other shoppers; as we enter our friends’ houses and compare our own tidiness and décor to theirs; as we sit at dinner parties and compare careers, husbands, achievements, and parenting techniques to other guests.

The component that I most appreciate about Compared to Her is the way Sophie so clearly articulates the centrality of the gospel throughout each chapter.  I wholeheartedly recommend this as an excellent, easy, thought-provoking read – one that I have already bought as a gift for several of my own friends, both Christian and non-Christian.

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know Sophie and her lovely family in Cape Town over the past few years, and recently had an opportunity to ask her a few questions about her new book.

The last book you wrote was on one-to-one discipleship.  Of all the subjects you could have explored for this book, what made you decide to delve into the topic of comparison?

Primarily my own struggle with comparison over many years (being the middle of three feisty sisters didn’t help!), coupled with the apparent lack of biblical material specifically engaging with the issue of comparison and rivalry.  I got the chance to speak on the subject at a couple of women’s events in 2010 and it seemed to touch a nerve with so many women (both at the events and others I spoke to about it).  The more I continued to wrestle biblically with the subject, the clearer it became to me that the gospel has real practical help to offer sufferers like me of what I’ve called, ‘Compulsive Comparison Syndrome,’ and I was encouraged by friends to write about it to encourage others.

How did the compilation of this work help (or challenge) you personally in terms of your own spiritual life?

I think there’s nothing like ‘naming and shaming’ a sin to intensify your own battle against it!  It has been quite a hard process to analyze the depths and layers of my own sinful heart on this issue  …  and  to see how very ugly it is.  It’s all about wanting to be at the center, and I’ve seen more clearly than ever how incredibly proud I really am and how much I still trust in worldly things for my significance, satisfaction and security (like I know I’m going to have to fight the temptation not to let book sales figures or feedback affect my sense of significance in any way)!  Positively, I have found myself growing in contentment in Christ as a result of the thinking and praying I’ve been doing – it’s been so liberating to grasp that it is in Him alone that we find true and lasting blessing, for this life and eternity.  So, overall it’s been a great opportunity to grow in Christ-likeness – which is always both a wonderful and a jolly hard experience, isn’t it?!

On page 39 of your book, you write, “There is a way to know, to experience, to feel contentment.  And it doesn’t come from CCS.  It comes from finding a way to live without it.”  For those who haven’t yet read the book, what encouragement can you offer to those desiring to break free from a life of constant, compulsive comparisons?

Measuring ourselves against others based on our criteria of choice, in order to determine our ‘position’ in life , seems to offer us hope (“maybe, just maybe I’m not as much of a failure/as ugly/as sinful/as I think I am”).  But the result of these comparisons tends to be either a temporary and very vulnerable sense of satisfaction or a gnawing sense of dissatisfaction – actually often both senses together, but for different areas of our lives.  So there is great deception involved:  the higher position we crave won’t deliver the security, satisfaction or significance we think it will.

Breaking free of this destructive compulsion involves seeing through the deception and trusting that it is in Christ alone that we will find true and lasting blessing.  My prayer is that the book will help the reader apply the gospel to the problem and learn to live a life of contentment in Christ, able to truly celebrate difference and diversity rather than judge or envy it.

You’ve dedicated this book to your daughter, Molly.  What practical steps do you hope to take in your role as Molly’s mother to steer her away from the rampant scourge of CCS as she grows up?

A good, and very tricky, question!  She is now five and at pre-school and CCS is increasingly taking a hold of her.  She wants to do the extra-mural activities her friends are doing.  She wants this girl’s outfit, that girl’s puppy, the same scooter as her best friend, and so on.  We are just waiting for her to start saying ‘at least I’m better at this or that than her…’, or ‘I wish I was prettier/thinner, etc’ and then we have a full-on case on our hands!  Depressingly, this is actually inevitable because at the heart of the syndrome is a sinful, proud heart that wants self at the center and looks to idols or false gods to satisfy its desires.

When the first comments came, I told her that we all have our own lives to live and that we couldn’t afford to do the same extra-murals and that she shouldn’t be greedy wanting the same toys as her friends and she just had to be grateful for what she has.  But I realized that wasn’t actually a deep enough answer for her if I really want to introduce her to the only source of true contentment.  So I’ve started teaching her that Jesus is our Creator and our boss and He gives us all we need in life.  I’ve told her that it won’t make her a better or much happier person if she goes to sports or has a dog; God loves her and forgives her and she must live a life that makes Him smile.

But I ’m always listening out for and appreciate any help from more godly and experienced moms who have been helping their children deal with this issue for many years!

What role do you think accountability could play in combatting CCS?

It’s tricky – on one level, it’s a very personal struggle and requires lots of open-hearted wrestling before the Lord as we examine our own hearts and motives. It’s also quite a shameful one as the truth of our pride and idolatry comes to light.  But the Bible does say we need to encourage one another daily because of the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13).  We are to spur one another on to love and good works (Heb. 10:24).  We are to speak the truth in love to one another (Eph. 4:15).  So yes, accountability in the sense of sharing the struggle with another Christian friend or two is a great idea if it helps us to do this sort of honest, gospel encouragement better.

My husband helps me a lot, but it’s also great to have those friends who will call you up on your CCS when they notice you succumbing to the deception again.  “Wow!  Look at that birthday cake – she’s really raised the bar for us all.  How depressing!”  How might you help your friend at that point?  “No, friend, it’s not a competition.  She has a creative gift; she probably loves doing that sort of thing; maybe she has more time to spare.  Who knows?  But remember that this cake really is irrelevant for your child’s birthday celebrations.  Fear God not man!”

Having been raised in England, and now living in Cape Town, what do you enjoy most about South Africa, and what do you miss most about the UK?

I really love the vibe of South Africa – I love the way it forces you to engage with profound life questions and doesn’t let you get away with superficial answers.  The issues such as politics, poverty, vulnerable children, housing and sanitation, and racial reconciliation are so complex, messy, challenging and yet draw out amazing responses from individuals and communities.  It is so inspiring to see how people have stepped up to the plate here and been creative and sacrificial in addressing various needs.  It’s also inspiring to meet so many individuals who have been through so much hardship in their lives and yet still keep trusting and serving the Lord, and who are able to forgive those who have wronged them.  These encounters have enriched my life greatly.

Also, moving out of your own culture gives you an amazing opportunity to engage with the gospel and its application to our lives in a fresh way.  You realise that you have been holding on to some things and not engaging with other things, because of what is ‘normal’ around you, and this realisation gives you a great chance to grow in your faith and how you live it out.

It helps that Cape Town is probably THE most beautiful city in the world with so much to offer in terms of fun days out, arts and culture, food and wine (no, I’m not on commission from the Tourist Board – I just genuinely love the place).  Apart from missing beloved family and friends in the UK, I miss the supermarkets, free health care and central heating most I think (yes it gets very cold here in the winter, but the summer weather does compensate for this more than adequately!).

Sophie DeWitt is the author of One to One: A Discipleship Handbook andCompared to Her: How to Experience True Contentment.  She used to work with students in London, and now lives in Cape Town, South Africa.  Sophie is married to a South African pastor and they have three children.

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Valentine’s Day Poetry

14 Feb
It's today.

It’s today.

A good friend of mine wrote me a poem for Val’s Day. When I last saw her, I just shared with her how tough life can be with kids, work, homeschooling and bad hair days… And by shared with her, I mean poured out my own miserable heart selfishly without even asking how she was doing, but she was cool with that because she came, unashamedly, only to use my pool (her words, not mine).

Anyway, she has now upgraded to my new very best friend forever (don’t leave me honey bunny!!) and here is what she had to say, thinking about me, late at night on Wednesday the 13th of February.

Valentine’s Day Sonnet for a Wonderful Friend

My Nutella I will not share
With those who have perfect hair
But my swimming pool is always free
For those who come to visit me.

My name is Ingrid and I homeschool
For that, some think that I’m a fool
But they just don’t know the joy
of learning like it is a toy

Unlimited interest, joyful sharing
Oh homeschooling’s all about caring!
We bond like families should
And bake for all our neighbourhood

Thank you Lord, you know what’s real
And carry me, however I might feel …

On my side, I didn’t write her a poem, because I’m just not that good a friend but also because I hate (oops, I said I wouldn’t use that word so often this year…) loathe Val’s Day.

However, I bought something for my husband. It combines his 2 most passionate loves.

Chocolate and technology together. It almost beats a hot session of love making (blush blush)

Happy Vale… never mind, I don’t do Valentine’s Day…

Beauty is skin deep

6 Feb
My imaginary friend, Dee Dee McCall. Sometimes, she still visits.

My imaginary friend, Dee Dee McCall. Sometimes, she still visits.

Growing up, I was a total fan of a police series called Rick Hunter. In fact, I had a bizarre attachment to the female (!!) lead Dee Dee McCall. Then I grew up and CSI came on the scene, which switched my interest from doing the cop career into a forensic career.

Somehow, I ended up being a stay-at-home mum, homeschooling my children  (a mix of the two above-mentioned careers) but my love for the police force and crime scenes meant that I’m not a ‘sensitive viewer’.

Now you might be wondering where I am going with all these juicy details of my childhood.

Well I’m going to Bodyworlds! Or rather I have been to Bodyworlds. This expo is absolutely mind-boggling.

Life without skin. It's not pretty.

Life without skin. It’s not pretty.

What is it about? It’s really about dead bodies. Why go see dead bodies, you might ask, when you can just watch CSI? After these bodies are fixed into lifelike poses, they are hardened through a process too difficult for me to explain. Plastination (a process used to preserve those bodies) allows us to see exactly how our bodies respond to everyday movement (organs, muscles, ligaments…) And to see what happens inside our bodies, skin is removed. Now don’t be grossed out, it is a-ma-zing! Go check-it-out!! It’s in Cape Town at the moment until end of March but it’s been all around the world.

I took my children (6,8 and 9) to the expo (homeschooling and bla bla bla) And this is what we remember and learnt:

#1. One exhibit is a foetus. Several foetus, at different age, starting at 3 weeks. I can assure you that my children will never say that a foetus is not a baby. That exhibit for me was really sad, given that these babies were alive but then died.

#2. One exhibit shows the difference between a healthy lung and a smoker lung. Don’t smoke. Your lungs will get ugly.

#3. One exhibit is displaying two baller dancers. Let’s just say that the tutu helps you forget that often, her bum is right where his head is.

#4. One exhibit is the very-talked-about sex scene. If you’ve watched any movies rated 13, you probably saw something far more raunchy than this exhibit. There is very little sex appeal about the backbone of a girl split apart to reveal the male penis inserted into her vagina… ok, ok, I see you’re blushing. It’s all right. Breath in, breath out. It’s finished.

#5. One exhibit showed an overweight man and described where the layers of fat settle. Of course, me and my renowned sensitivity, I read the description and exclaimed “What? This guy weighed 150kgs!!” to which a voice from behind replied “Well, that’s about what I weigh”. So we learned to eat healthily on that exhibit. And to be more discreet.

#6. The most important thing we learnt from this expo is that God did a really good job when He put skin on us. Beauty is really skin deep.

So what will it be: CSI or Bodyworlds?

Attitude is a little thing.

1 Feb

If you’re new around here, you might not now that I am a homeschooling mum. Hey! I heard you say “aargh, one of those!”. Don’t judge so fast…

That's us. Happy happy happy homeschooling family.

That’s us. Happy happy happy homeschooling family.

 

… now you can judge.

This is my second year (which, by the way, means that I survived my first year. Hourray for me… and my kids) and in this year of survival, I’ve noticed some changes in attitude.

#1. People assume that I’m weird. Once, after mentioning that we homeschooled, a woman, and by woman I mean stranger, physically grabbed my arm and took my pulse to check that I was actually sane – or maybe just alive. Maybe she was a doctor or something but hello?! If she only knew the decisions I made in my life, she would see that homeschooling is not as weird as… I don’t know, having 3 kids in 3 years… planned?

#2. My son thinks I’m irrelevant. My 8 year old boy seems to think that he has a choice in the matter of whether he should or shouldn’t do his school work. Although it shouldn’t surprise me as he seems to have the ability to question everything that comes out of my mouth.  The word “questioning” doesn’t do justice to his relentless arguing. From whether he should eat, get dressed, brush his teeth, tidy his room, be polite, go play outside, stay inside, play with his brother, not play with his brother, leave his mum alone. Say something, anything, he’ll argue against it. Is there a job he can do where arguing would make him rich?

It's basically me. Without the bow. Although sometimes I wish I had one.

It’s basically me. Without the bow. Although sometimes I wish I had one.

#3. Non-homeschoolers think I’m brave. You darn right I am. Of course, they don’t see me shouting like a fishmonger’s wive and looking like la folle de Chaillot. I let them believe that I’m brave and I act normal in public. I’m cool like that.

#4. My friends think I am ruthless. I miss no opportunities to remind my children of how looooong the days are at school, how limiting it is to wear closed shoes in winter AND in summer and how boring it is to stand in line to go to the library. No mercy. Anything in my power to make sure they are very well aware of the sacrifice I’m willing to make for them.

#5. My neighbour thinks I’m a cold-blooded cutthroat neighbour. This is my chance  to pay my neighbours back for their high-pitch disturbances. Don’t get me wrong, we have pretty decent neighbours – from a distance at least. They  never complain (except the one across who’s grouchy smurf), they’re friendly, they keep their front lawn neat (so he likes to mow the lawn in his speedo, who am I to judge the portuguese? I dip my banana in my coffee). But between the early morning yelping dogs and the woman with the Nanny-Named-Fran voice, I don’t know which is worse! It helps me to know that they also have to put up with my boys overexcited shouts from 7 to 7ish.

So homeschooling has been helpful, not just from an academic perspective. I will share some more positive outcome of homeschooling in a future post. For now, I need to grab my bow and arrow and go back to the classroom.

 

Fela Kuti, the cat. Not the musician.

30 Jan

Warning: Cat lovers, defamation of cats ahead.

A close cousin of Fela

A close cousin of Fela

Growing up, we had a poodle dog that loved my mum very much but would growl at us if we came too close. Later on, I convinced my mum to let me have a cat. Caramel was his name. He was a fat cat living in a flat, he never went out, hissed at anyone not carrying our family name and lived solely for his next meal (unless he stole the defrosting steak on the table). And yet, I kept a strange endearing love for cats – maybe encouraged by the thousands of cat pics on Facebook.

When we got married, Phillip and I decided to go for for a dwarf rabbit. Cookie the rabbit. Our sweet rabbit peed on our couch, nearly removed my husband’s finger and sprayed some weird smelling substance onto our neighbour’s cat. Cookie the rabbit turned out to be quite dreadful. During the slow metamorphosis of Cookie the rabbit into Chucky the rabbit, we also adopted our neighbour’s cat that we renamed Cookie. I know, we’re not very original in the ‘name’ department. Sadly, it got bitten by a dog and died. Then we had hamsters which we didn’t bother to name at all and in the end, they were so neglected that they escaped and drowned in our pool. RIP unnamed hamsters.

Today, we don’t have pets at home. None. Not even a goldfish. Can you blame us!

My husband and I  haven’t been able to agree on which creature to live with. I would totally go for a cat (sweet memories of Caramel stealing my food and scaring my friends maybe…) but Phillip is supposedly allergic to them – clearly a made up excuse, I mean, who complains about sinus infections… As for dogs, I’m allergic to their poos in my garden, their incessant barking and also their there’s-a-dead-rat-hidden-in-my-fur smell. Obviously a legitimate excuse. So far, we’ve reached an acceptable compromise and remained pet-free.

However, the fleshes of our fleshes are asking for a pet. Every other family has a pet, they say. This comparison trap will kill me. Do they compare when they get chocolate for breakfast and stay up until 10? Sigh…

So this week end, when my BFF asked me if we could look after her cat while she’s away on business, I thought it would be a great way to verify my husband’s fake excuse and see how the kids would behave with Madame Fela around.

When I say ‘looking after’, I realise now that I meant ‘stalking’. Fela the cat arrived on Sunday and, since then, had 3 mini humans following her EVERY-WHERE. When she sleeps, they pick her up. When she eats, they stroke her. When she goes out, they freak out. When she isn’t doing anything, they stare.

Fela looks so happy connecting.

Fela looks so happy connecting.

Needless to say, Fela is confused. The kids have tried to form a bond with her in a way that is radically different than the way Fela tried to connect with us, in her own cat way, displaying some of her great qualities.

#1. She is merciful. She looks at us warning us not come any closer for fear of scratching our eyes out.

#2. She is caring. When we want to stroke her, she arches her back very low on the ground, just so that we wouldn’t touch her and dirty our hands.

#3. She is independent. When we call her, she doesn’t even look at us.

#4. She is helpful and likes to share. Every morning, I find the remain carcasses of the insects she hunted, clearly wanting to share her bunty.

#5. She is communicative. One day, I asked everyone in the house to be very quiet and we almost heard a faint purr. Such a loving pet…

What’s not to love?!

Fela not making eye contact

Fela not making eye contact

Consider the educational opportunities we were offered on a silver platter: They learnt to give without expecting anything in return. They learnt that love is a choice and it hurts (so do scratches). They  learnt that – unlike their mum – Fela is not there to serve them but instead, they are here to serve her.

And so I ask, with tremor in my voice, why can’t we have a cat? But Phillip is not buying it. He has, with tears in his eyes, (due to his “allergies” he claims) won this battle. We will not have a cat.

I wonder, what are the educational benefits for the kids of having a fun pet like a dog.

Really.

Sharing is caring

26 Jan

Because we all love to talk about ourselves, and you love reading about me, I thought I would share a little bit of me.

You’re welcome.

So this is me,

When I have to wake up early,

one-does-not-simply-wake-up-exactly-at-6am

When I don’t pay 50% off on sushi,

About Movember,

When my husband had garlic and I didn’t,

When people talk about french doors, french toast, french fries, french manicure and french kiss with fondness in their voice,

Just because it says french...

Just because it says french…

When my week end starts,

Happy week end!!

Djokovic vs the rest of the world

25 Jan

Getting married meant – apart from other things –  that I would have to take an interest in various sports. I mean, WATCHING various sports. Being french, soccer would be the obvious choice but living in South Africa, my boer husband is more into rugby. So I had to compromise; so I chose neither. I don’t like watching team sport. I can never remember their names and the colours all look the same so I’m never too sure whether I cheer for the right team or stupidly rooting for the Australians. Blergh.

I do enjoy supporting single players though. Take tennis. I love watching tennis.

Back in the day, I watched Roland Garros. Religiously. As if my life depended on it. It sort of did, considering that for froggies like me, Roland Garros is aka exam time. It is a great way to take a 4 hour break after 20 minutes of hard studying. Don’t judge.

Now, I can safely say that I watch tennis for the luuuve of the game. Over the years, I took great interest in some players. Some more than others.

Federer. Roger is nice. He’s a bit of a super human though. He hardly sweats. He doesn’t get angry. He barely gets thirsty. He dresses better than a Yves Saint Laurent’s fan (that’s no achievement – apologies to all my fashion victim friends) and looks better after a 5 hour match than I do after a 2 hour pamper time! I can’t relate.

Nadal. I’m treading on thin ice here so I’m going to watch my words to avoid any conjugal dispute: Rafaël is Spanish. Apart from paëlla and a lot of ¨, what good has ever come out of Spain? Plus his left arm freaks me out. Can’t his trainer help him with that? Shouldn’t someone give him some dumbbells.  I was ready to give him a chance considering his boyhish charm but his embarrassing video with Shakira ruined it for me. Cringe. I feel for him.

Murray. Oh puuuu- leaze. Don’t make me waste cyber space writing about Murray. Sorry England.

Djokovic. Ah, Djoko. Now that’s someone worth talking about. Let me educate you about Novak.

#1. He comes from Serbia. Serbian people have suffered enough. They deserve Djoko.

#2. Look at his blue eyes. Don’t these blue eyes say ‘Give me a racket?’. He was born to play.

#3. His great personality earned him the portmanteau of Djoker. He does impersonations of other players who, of course, are all his friends (they all want to be him obviously) and he dances – gangnam style. He’s got personality  and ‘personality’, in the words of Samuel L Jackson, ‘goes a long way’.

#4. These crazy australians (no offence australian friends, you aren’t as crazy as the french), somehow, think it’s a good idea to have these guys play at, like, 1am. No jokes. 1am. You know what I like to do at 1am? Let me tell you what I DON”T like to do at 1am: playing tennis. Djoko, he not only plays tennis but he also signs dozen of autographs at the end of the match. If one day, I become famous (for, I don’t know, writing stupid blog posts), I won’t be signing autographs at 1 am. Do not even ask.

#5. Finally,

I mean, isn’t this raw animal energy? How can you not be on his team?!

Sunday, the Australian Open final is on. Djoko, do not disappoint me. Otherwise I’ll have to delete this post that took precious time out of my busy homeschooling time.

(No Education Department, it didn’t…)

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