It’s past halfway through January, and I am only now slowly finding my way back into a regular routine. It has taken me a while after the Christmas break. What a good time we had! Our three girls brought friends, and we often laid the table for nine people. Young adults eat quite a bit, so there was endless baking, cooking and making tea. The bread was sometimes nearly already half eaten before it was cooled down! Laurens had a blast; suddenly he is no longer a small boy but has joined the older crew with his 12 years.
The week after those filled tables was laundry week. My heart was overflowing. Changing all the sheets can be a challenge in the winter here, as we do without a dryer. But the wind blows and the house is dry inside, and doors are perfect sheet holders. The next day, they are dried by air. I only made too much tea day after day as our numbers declined back to three!
Anyways, for the new year I’d like you to show you the foreword of the Dutch translation of my workbook, “How Do I Find Rest?” It is written by Wil Derkse. He is a well known author here in the Netherlands. He is an oblate with the Benedictine St. Willibrord’s abbey in Doetinchem, the Netherlands. He has degrees in chemistry and philosophy and has taught at several institutions and universities.
Most of all, he accepted the invitation to come to my bookpresentation last september. Sometimes it is just very nice to savor the good memories. Here you see Jelle leading the interview between Wil Derkse and me.
And why would I do share that foreword? To reassure you that it is absolutely fine if it takes a while after the holidays to get back into your daily routine.
Because A blessed life is always a work in progress. Keep practicing to find your ideal daily rhythm.
So without further ado, the foreword by Wil Derkse:
A real workbook – Work in progress
Benedict of Nursia wrote a rule for monks in the 6th century. He calls it ‘a small rule of life for beginners‘. In more than 1300 monasteries worldwide, where nuns and monks live in a living community, a portion of that rule is still read every day. In one year, the entire rule is read, including those chapters that no longer seem to fit our times at all but sometimes still contain deep experiences and insights.
Such chapters also help you stay focused. The word ‘lesson’ fits a sentence from Benedict’s foreword, the Prologue. In it, he calls the monastery ‘a training school for the service to the Lord’.
But even in the monastery, the Lord usually does not appear directly. Rather, He is in the guest who knocks at unexpected hours; in that rather off-key fellow sister singing next to you in the choir stall; in your, although partly chosen by yourself, sometimes too-demanding abbess; in the work ahead of you, and in the question in an email that you haven’t answered for too long. But we are all, in one way or another, in training for service, which includes service to yourself. Every task, even the most mundane task, deserves attention and love.
What you are now reading aims to contribute to that. I am often a guest at the Sint-Willibrord Abbey in Doetinchem and have been connected as an oblate there for more than thirty years. I once asked an older monk there when he would finally finish his work as a monk. We walked around the abbey grounds and were passing by its beautifully maintained cemetery. He pointed to it and simply said, ‘When I get there and have been carried away.’
That’s why it’s called ‘work in progress’ or ‘practice time’.
Janneke’s workbook is an invitation to practice.
In September 2000, I published A Rule of Life for Beginners – Benedictine Spirituality for the Daily Life. In it, I try to translate elements from the Rule of Benedict into non-monastic contexts. The kind but cautious publisher only printed a small edition. He turned out to be too careful – but remained kind and warm in our further contacts. The book was in its 33rd edition last year translated into English, French and Polish.
I continue to receive many sympathetic responses – sometimes in very domestic situations: ‘Since reading your book, I have been trying to fold the laundry in a more Benedictine manner’ (‘Well, you should practice that yourself,’ my sister would say). But it is also possible to work with a Rule of Life at the level of a large company. Someone said: ‘I have the attitudes of stabilitas, conversio morum and obedientia secretly implemented in the meetings of our management team.’
There was also avid and copious plagiarism! In other books, I came across entire pages of copied texts from ‘my’ rule of life, without indicating that they were quotations or mentioning the author and source. Strangely, it didn’t even bother me – the word could be better circulated, hopefully with practical consequences. While my book was indebted to many others (which I have mentioned), Benedict’s Rule is also the product of a lot of cutting and pasting (particularly from the Bible and previous monastic rules).
The workbook that Janneke Huisman wrote is of a different nature. I am hardly quoted by her, and it has clearly inspired her, but above all, it shows her own ‘handwriting‘.
Janneke found inspiration in a monastery where Carmelites live (They do not follow the Rule of Benedict) in Austria. She wrote a rule of life for her own use, playful, light-hearted and practical. And she noticed that others could be encouraged by writing and discovering their own rules of life.
Funny, this workbook is also being continuously worked on: through updates from Janneke and by every reader who longs for a ‘light-hearted rule of life with peace and rhythm’.
It’s literally a work in progress. So keep practicing.”
Den Bosch/Nijmegen, 24.8.2023While I was writing this blog, I dived into some photo’s of the bookpresentation and happy to give you a peek into that memorable day. Enjoy:
Bookpresentation in the small church of Heteren: (Jelle and I seriously lookek into buying this church (since it is on sale and I host my day retreats here) We hoped to start a retreat centre and bed & breakfast here, it is along the riverside. And the vicarage next door is also on sale. (see link in the first line) But so far, it seems that the Lord has different plans, although we do keep praying that this place will get the best purpose, since it is not longer in use for the local catholic community.) We also do need crowdfunding if we would pursue this plan. But for now, they want to build appartments in the backyard, and that does not leave any room for my carrots and the rest of my garden;-)
Jelle says a few friendly words, if I remember well;-)
With my mom, who got one of the first copies, because she (1) encouraged my writing at a very young age (being an author herself) and (2) challenged me to channel my energy at the time when I was a somewhat energetic young girl;-) no joke. Being a mom of ten: deep respect!
Fellowship, always. Aunts, sisters, friends well – and unknown.
Our three girls, Judith (left), Femke (middle) and Marijke (right).
Here you see a few key guests: Friend, (left) Bart van den Brink, psychiater and supporter for many years, who held a speech about healthy balanced lifestyle and boundaries. Next to him: Petra de Bruyn, friend and supporter for many years and behind her: Wil Derkse who came for an interview).
The bookpresentation was even more beautiful with the Singing Sisters. That is: our girls and their cousins.
The bookpresentation on that hot septemberday of 2022 where we dived into the river to wrap up the day, was definitely one of my highlights of the past year. It is time to look forward, but savor those moments is a good foundation for energy for what lies ahead. (and I do have a few challenges, what about you?)
Would you like to order the workbook? That is possible here.
Would you like to have an online session of working together for a personal retreat? We can also do a few sessions. It is more and more also part of our income to feed the family. Do not hesitate to contact me and we’ll look together for the most suitable option. Theworldaroundmytable.com/contact
I do have a spot left in February and in March. January is full.
P.s. I also had already the first retreat and considering hosting an English one here in the Netherlands this year. Let me know if you like to have more information. Click on this link to see more: (Google Translate will be your friend).