As you might remember, Fanny Bernitez, and I hosted the last silence/writing retreat in Hungary two months ago. We got to know each other last year at the conference in Germany, and we do have a few things in common, like a love for our homes as well as being a mom and having a desire to write about it. She asked me a few questions and blogged about our discussion. I gladly share it:
And yes, she is blogging in Spanish, just skip this paragraph and move on, if your Spanish is at the same level as mine;-)
¡Muy buenas! Es un día soleado aquí en Galicia, pero en Croacia llueve. Tengo el honor de invitar a tomar el té a mi amiga Janneke, a quien conocí el verano pasado en Alemania y con quien compartí el retiro de escritoras y silencio en Hungría. Esta vez, la entrevista es en inglés, así que sin más preámbulos aquí va:
* Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I am Janneke Huisman, wife to Jelle, mom of four. We where both born in the Netherlands. Our journey started in 2007. First three years in England, then two years in Canada (where our youngest son, Laurens, was born), and in 2012 back to the Netherlands to catch up with language and Dutch education. Since 2015, we have lived in Croatia, close to the Hungarian and Serbian border. We work with Roma, I encourage reading and writing and I mentor young Roma girls. (Love it!)
* Why did you start blogging? And, why did you choose that title for your blog?
During our time in Canada, Jelle created a blog for me and said, “I am pretty sure that you are going to like it.” He chose the name: Janneke onderweg, which means “Janneke on the way.” It was just a bit random as I was on the way, and we were moving around as a family. I was way too scared to start writing publicly, so it took me two years before I wrote my first post, although I had at least fifteen ideas to write about. First, I wrote just a few posts a year; now, I write more or less weekly and in two languages: Dutch and English. That is sometimes a bit of a challenge.
* Tell us about your retreats:
Ah! That is a story in itself. In the retreats, a lot of things are coming together for me personally. I have often wondered why I am made with this enormous amount of energy, love for organizing things, and working it out in detail and apparently conflicting desires for solitude, silence, and writing. It is a bit of an odd, bipolar combination. In organizing the silence retreats, it is all coming together. Never before have I felt something of a better fit for me. I love to give, to serve, to be hospitable. I am a team player, and I am the most happy when I am able to make people at home,see their needs, and try to fulfill them. (Yes, I am an enormous pleaser, and in this situation, it is a gift). I love creativity, the simple life, local food, and beauty. All of that finds a place within the retreats. It is very satisfying to see people go home so thankful. It makes me feel as if the Creator were giving His stamp and blessing over it all as we do His will. The retreats give me so much encouragement and energy.
The combination of writing and silence that we used on the retreat when Fanny was our guest was for me the best one. The women who signed up were already kindred spirits, and that made it easy. In a way, it was already fine-tuned beforehand. And yet, for those just wanting to experiment with something new, there was room for that as well. It was lovely to hear the responses and affirming to hear from the participants about how they benefited from it. It showed that the concept is a good one. And, each time, I try to make it better. I just started this spring and have done only three retreats so far.
It is also the fulfillment of a dream from long ago. During the retreats, I always tell this story at the beginning because it shows how God has been leading me until this very moment through it all.
* How do you combine motherhood and work?
Our youngest son is turning 7 this month, and all our children are in school. We currently have a teacher, so I have all five mornings for myself, which is amazing. I had many years with toddlers around, so I enjoy these mornings very much. The mornings are my prime time. But, you can find me writing whenever and wherever—in the most awkward places and random moments. The best ideas are born at night and between 5 and 7 in the morning. So, you can always find a pen and paper next to my bed. I do not have difficulty writing just a few notes in the dark. I can work it out later, but I don’t mind writing at night and catching up on sleep later. Inspiration is a great gift. My free mornings are over this summer as our teacher is leaving and we start homeschooling our kids again. We all will have to find new ways of routine that can meet our needs. We will make it work somehow.
* Where do you find inspiration? What inspires you?
People around me—usually, the most common moments fill me with an idea. Just this morning on a bike ride through town to bring our son Laurens to school, I saw a man in his seventies holding the hand of a man in his eighties, the elderly man protecting the very elderly man from rain and wind. There was so much goodness and care in this image. I can write about that easily! Who are these men? What is their connection? What is their story? (They faced at least two wars in this area). This led me to think about one of Fanny’s writing workshops: write about a day in your current life. This image alone would be a good starter.
History inspires me also. I love to put things in context (although I realize I am doing so from my own perspective) and combine history with a personal story.
* Do you have a favorite quote or verse?
Where we e live in Croatia, a lot of people are struggling with unresolved trauma and depression. A whole nation has been divided. A civil war is incomparable with a war with a clear, foreign enemy. This horrible war went straight through families. Neighbors who borrowed eggs and sugar from each other for decades were able to cut each other’s throats—and they did. The guilt came later. This makes me very sad. The Roma in this area are another story altogether. Rejected for centuries, many live their lives in fear. Aggression is used often on a daily basis.
My prayer for this area is as follows:
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.
I love these verses so very much because it is also a prayer for us and our children. Moving around with them sometimes creates fear or doubt. (Am I doing the right thing for them?)
* Complete the sentence, “For me, being at home means…”
A basic trust of stability can be expressed in different ways, but home in our case means a loving dad, a lively mom, and four children.
Home has so many forms. I remember very well that when we started moving around with our toddlers, we told the kids: Daddy and mommy’s bed is home. Where we are, there is home. We stick together in good and sad times, and you can count on that. We could feel the relief of that stability in the kids. And, they jumped in our bed every single morning to feel that safety. That was the foundation.
Now that they are in their teenage years, things are changing. This verse has become very important to me: The Lord is my Dwelling place. It means I can be at home wherever He is—even in the dark places.
Another thing that makes me feel home is just plain humanity: the normal folks on the street and at the market, where people meet and have encounters, where they share their hearts and their needs. That is home for me too.
But, home is also where our parents are as they are the connection with our roots.
Home is also where the Church is and where I find other people who share the same love for our Lord and Savior. It was great to get to know Fanny last summer and feel a deeper connection so quickly. We come from totally different backgrounds, countries, and lifestyles, and yet there is so much common ground where we meet and find ourselves at home. That is very precious.
* How to contact you…
What a pleasure to interview you, dear Janneke! Thank you for your time and words!
P.S.: All pictures are Janneke’s property. Fanny