Month: September 2016

What Our New Home Is Saying To Me

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We have a home again. This is no small matter. Since June 28th, when we moved out of our apartment in Al Ain, we have changed locations 15 times. From friend’s homes to hotels to airbnb apartments to basement suites, our move into our townhouse marks move number 16, and as you can imagine, we are all more than ready to unpack our suitcases.

But how did we get from planning on RV or tiny home living to buying a townhouse? Well, the bottom line is that purchasing one of these options was totally doable, but finding a place to put it was another matter. I thought this would be easier than it was, but with the BC housing market being so crazy, the out-of-the-box affordable living options have also been all snatched up. And setting up house on someone else’s property in Chilliwack turned out to be more complicated than we’d expected, and in the end, not really suitable for what our family needs in this season. So, it turns out we have returned to a much more mainstream living situation than I had been dreaming of recently. However, thanks to generous family and as always, the perfect provision of God, we now find ourselves with lower mortgage payments than what it would have cost to rent an RV pad every month.

Now, I have to tell you that we looked around at the options for housing in our price range, and they were sort of dismal. So when we walked into this lovely townhouse that is now our home, I actually sensed God saying, “I saved this one for you.”

You guys, it’s so perfect for us! All 4 of us. Remember I was telling you about all the things we worked through this summer about what we really needed and didn’t need in order to really thrive and serve? Well, this home far exceeds what anyone in the world really “needs” to live in, but in God’s wonderfully gracious way, it meets everything that each of us hoped for in a living space. Three small bedrooms, big living spaces for family and friend time, a tiny yard (we hate yard work), a covered spot for our car, and very little storage space to force us to keep our belongings pared down and simple. AND, it’s a 3 minute walk to Dairy Queen! Thank you Jesus!

20160925_9635Do you also remember when we built that beautiful dream home in 2010? It’s hard to compare the feelings we had on that move-in day, as that was a labour of love on so many levels. But here’s the thing: our new-to-us home is beautifully reflective of where we are in our lives now. The complex is almost 40 years old. In fact, it was built the same year that Dwayne was born. But inside it has been marvelously renovated, with all of the colours and finishing I would have chosen if I’d been doing the renos myself. (See – God was saving it for me.) I think this home is a good picture of the Hansen family. We might look the same as always on the outside, but we have returned from a very transformational experience. God has done quite a work in each of us. We are not the same. We have also been remodelled. And I believe God has sent us back to do a new thing. To carve out a different life with a new perspective.

So, when I pull up to my lovely dark brown townhouse and walk inside to the fresh new interior, I will remember that God’s greatest work is how he transforms hearts. That he is always willing to do something new in us, if we are open to his prompting. That he created us and knows our longings and our needs better than we know them ourselves. That he is a good, good Father, and I’m loved by him.

That’s a lot for a house to say, but I guess it’s a talker. Like me.

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Our Family Travel Groove

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We arrived back in Canada exactly 2 years after we left for Abu Dhabi.  Of the 104 weeks we were gone, we traveled for 18.  Not including the exploring we did around the UAE, we roamed the planet for the equivalent of 4 and a half months.  People often commented on how amazing this must have been for our kids, which is partly true.  Seeing so many countries and people and cultures has definitely impacted them, even if it takes them half a lifetime to recognize it.  And there were countless interesting new experiences and tons of fun activities for them.  But, I’m gonna let y’all in on a little secret, which pretty much every parent actually already knows deep down.

Traveling with kids is about as awesome as living at home with them.

You know what I’m sayin’?  Its full of ups and downs.  Of expectations, frustrations, and complications.  It’s laughs and fights and great stories.  It’s moments of amazing family bonding followed by reaching the end of your rope with family togetherness.

Our kids are truly amazing people.  Honestly, they are incredibly flexible, open-minded, and patient.  In all our travels they handled uncertainty, long waits/rides/flights, and glitches with poise.   They agreed to every tour, day-trip, and itinerary we asked of them.  Watching my little family breeze through airport security like a well-oiled machine made me smile every time.  But they have their limits.

We hit those limits this summer.

After two years of intense travel, they just really didn’t want to see any more cathedrals or pretty views or cool city squares.  Seeing street after street of beautiful European architecture just doesn’t make their soul sing like it does mine.  They’re happy to be out for a few hours every day, but by this summer, that was about all they could handle.  So we embraced that and all found our happy place.  Because you know who’s not tired of cathedrals or views or city squares?  Dwayne and I.  We’d happily spend all day and all night out exploring, but we knew none of us would enjoy ourselves if we asked that of the kids this time around.

So, we found a new family travel groove.  Day time plans, regroup at the apartment, night time plans.  Kids choose one or both outings.  Whenever they opt out, Jen & Dwayne enjoy date time.  WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN!!  Four happy campers.

The last stretch of our trip included 4 amazing European cities: Zagreb, Croatia; Budapest, Hungary; Vienna, Austria; and Prague, Czech Republic.  Every day we enjoyed some family time out and about, and almost every day, Dwayne and I got to explore these cities on our own. (This piece of family travel heaven is brought to you by comfortable airbnb apartments, wifi, an almost-teenager, and two family cell phones.)

I had moments of wondering if this meant that all this travel was wasted on our kids, but this is just one issue on a long list of things I’m working on releasing control of.  My kids’ experience of the countries we visited is just that- their own experience.  Me forcing them to participate or berating them for not fully soaking up some amazing venue just isn’t going to help them appreciate it more.  If Abby looks back one day and wishes she’d gone out more in Zagreb, she can choose to go back on her own.  If Josiah wishes he’d said yes to the segway tour in Budapest, he can choose to go back another day and do it.  Or not.  Maybe they’ll never get these opportunities again, but that’s their lesson to learn.  But, more likely than not, they won’t regret these things.  They’re children who will vaguely remember the fun things they did do, the way they felt in each city, and the stories we gathered as a family.

Dwayne and I, however, are grown ups who soaked up all we could of these amazing cities.   Zagreb far exceeded our expectations, Vienna was a bit of a disappointment although we managed to fill it with the Hansen version of family fun, and Budapest and Prague both blew us away.  I could have done a blog post about each stop, but I’m gonna save those endless photos and stories for my photo album, spare you all the details, and share our highlight shots from each city. (Click or hover over any photo for a description.)

Zagreb:

Budapest:

Vienna:

Prague:

20160815_9288This leg of our trip wrapped up 2 years of world traveling adventures.  Individually we all collected new insights and joyful moments, and as a family we made memories I know we’ll cherish and enjoy together for many years.

The Brainstorming Phase

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Sometimes there’s just so much to say about life, it feels impossible to start.  I’m just gonna pick up where I left off with my last post.  Eventually, maybe I’ll get all caught up again.

After 2 weeks on the Croatian coast (aka. God’s sweet gift to us), we spent 10 days in Ljubljana, Slovenia.  We traveled there last year and loved it, so when Dwayne was looking for a spot to take his first level paragliding course, we knew the kids and I could happily spend over a week in that beautiful city.  I call this second phase of our summer trip, the brainstorming phase.  While we spent Croatia grieving and processing and coming around to immense gratitude, we spent Ljubljana investigating and dreaming of life possibilities upon return to Canada.  We knew our goals and priorities for our life upon return, so how could we live those out?  How can we focus on building God’s kingdom instead of our own?  How can we pursue His joy in our life?  How can we live on less than what we earn so that we’re truly free to serve and love and enjoy God’s blessings?

So while Dwayne spent his days sweating and climbing and jumping and flying, I spent my days researching and presenting him with a different idea every day.

We considered a lot of options.  Could we live in an RV?  How about a tiny home?  Or maybe a mobile home?  I have to say, I’m super proud of my family for working through this process.  We were open to every one of these possibilities and we worked through a lot of ideas and clarified what is really important to each of us.

So.  What did we choose?  Now that we’re back in Chilliwack, how did it all unfold?  Which option did we go with?

I’ll keep you posted.

We didn’t know the answer when we left Ljubljana, so I don’t want to get ahead of myself.  We left Ljubljana with our heads swimming with possibilities.  But in the midst of all the processing, we enjoyed the delights of Slovenia in an even deeper way than last summer.  Slovenia is a lot like BC’s Fraser Valley- parks, lakes, rivers, and caves.  But Ljubljana is full of European flair- castles, markets, monuments, and beautiful architecture.  If you didn’t catch my recommendation fully enough last summer, let me reiterate: visit this country if you can.  You won’t be disappointed.

Dwayne’s paragliding bunny hill.  Climb hill loaded with equipment, set up, fly for 30 seconds, repeat.

Skocjan Caves, Slovenia.  We couldn’t take photos in the main caverns, so this is all I’ve got.  Some sights are too amazing for cameras anyway.

At Ljubljana’s annual beach volleyball tournament, under the shadow of the castle.  We happened to be in Ljubljana last year for this tournament too.  Maybe this should be our annual summer tradition.

My camera wasn’t out for most of this leg of our trip.  It was full of regular life family days and down time.  More of what we needed, when we needed it.