It is a lovely rainy day, and my sisters left last Friday. We had a good time and I am ready to answer your questions.
1) Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am Janneke Huisman, wife to Jelle, mom of four, we live currently in Croatia. Starting in the Netherlands, where we both were born, In 2007 our journey started: First three years in England, then two years in Canada, (where our youngest son Laurens was born) back to the Netherlands, to catch up with language and Dutch education. And now since 2015 we live in Croatia, close to the Hungarian and Serbian border. We work with Roma and encourage reading and writing. I mentor young Roma girls and encourage them to write. (Love it!)
2) Why did you start blogging? And why did you choose that name for the blog?
During our time in Canada, Jelle gave me a blog 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. Just a bit random, as I was on the way and we were as a family moving around. I was way too scared to start and write publicly, so it took me two years before I wrote my first post, although I had at least fifteen ideas what 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.
3) 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 yet: this desire for solitude, silence, and writing. 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 happiest when I am able to make people at home and see their needs and try to fulfill it. (Yes an enormous pleaser, and in this situation, it is a gift;-) I love creativity, basic life, local food, and beauty. And it all can get a place within the retreats. It is very satisfying to see people go home, so thankful. As if the Creator gave His stamp and blessing over it all, as we do His will. The retreats are giving me so much encouragement and energy.
The combination of writing and silence what we used with the retreat where Fanny was our guest, was for me the best one. The women who signed up, are already kindred spirits, and that makes it easy. In a way, it is already fine-tuned beforehand. And yet, if you just want to experiment with something new, there was room for that as well. Lovely to hear the responses. It is confirming to hear from the participants how they benefit from it. It shows that the concept is a good one. And each time I try to make it better. I just started this spring and did only three retreats so far.
It is also a fulfillment from 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 to this very moment in this all.
4) How do you combine motherhood and work?
Our youngest son is turning 7 this month, and all our children are in school. We do have a teacher currently, so I do have all five mornings for myself, which is amazing. I had many years with toddlers around, so I can enjoy these mornings still very much. The mornings are my prime time. But you can find me writing whenever- where ever. In the most awkward places and random moments. The best ideas are born at night. Between 5 and 7 in the morning. So, you can find always find a pen and paper next to my bed and I do not have difficulty in writing in the dark, just a few notes. I will work it out later, but I don’ t mind writing at night and catching up 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, where we can meet our needs. We will make it work somehow.
5) 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. seeing a man in his seventies holding hands with a man in his eighties, the elderly man protecting the very elderly man from rain and wind. There were so much goodness and care in this image. I can write about that easily! Who are these man? What is their connection? What is their story? (they faced at least two wars in this area) It gave me to think about Fanny’s writing workshop: 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 that it is my perspective) and combine history with a personal story.
6) Do you have a favorite quote or verse?
Yes, we do live in Croatia. A lot of people here are living with unresolved trauma and depression. A whole nation has been divided. A civil war is incomparable with a war with a clear enemy. This horrible war went straight through families. People who borrowed neighbors eggs and sugar for decades were able to cut each other’s throat. And they did. The quilt came later. This makes me very sad. The Roma in this area is even a different story. Rejected for centuries, living lives in fear. Aggression is used often on a daily basis.
My prayer for this area is:
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 gives sometimes fear or doubt. ( am I doing the right thing, for them?)
7) Complete the sentence, «For me being at home means….»
A basic trust of stability what can be expressed in different ways, but home is in our case: a loving dad, a lively mom, and four children.
Home has so many forms. I remember very well that when we start moving around with our toddlers, we told the kids: Daddy and mammy’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 they are in their teenage years, things are changing: For me is this verse: The Lord is my Dwellingplace, very important. And I can be at home, where ever He is. Even in the dark places.
Another thing that makes me feel at home is just plain humanity: the normal folks in 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. And Home is also where the Church is, and where I find other people who share the same love for our Lord and Savior. It has been great to get to know Fanny last summer and feel so soon a deeper connection. We come from totally different backgrounds and countries and lifestyles and yet there is so much common ground where we meet and find ourselves at home. That is very precious.
8) How to contact you…
Jannekeonderweg.nl and if you would like to know more about the retreats, visit thirdplaceretreats.com.
What a pleasure to interview you, Janneke! Thank you for your time and words!
P.S.: All pictures are Janneke’s property.