by Dina Lingard.
Before I came to Belgium, I read in a pamphlet from the Belgian Embassy in Ottawa that, on average, Belgium has four minutes of sunshine a day.
But now that I’m here, I’ve discovered that the marvellous result of this potentially depressing fact is the imaginative and picturesque weather reports.
You have, perhaps, never thought about the many and diverse ways one can describe gray skies. Here are a few examples: un soleil timide (a timid sun), des nuages inoffensifs (inoffensive clouds); un ciel serein (a serene sky).
At breakfast each morning Cristina gives us the news and weather report, and we are amazed by the ingenuity of these weathermen. Les éclaircies timides—I can just picture those shy clearings hiding behind the clouds, hesitating to expose themselves.
Slowly my vision is changing, and I am beginning to see the silver linings behind those serene, inoffensive clouds. "Heaven and earth are filled with your glory, O Lord."
For the past eight months or so, our energies have been focussed towards "The Move" from the abbey in the village of March-les-Dames to a former convent in Resteigne, a 45 minute drive away. As you can well imagine, there have been at times des vents désagréables (disagreeable winds), sometimes even un vent décoiffant (a wind to undo your hairdo).
The atmosphere today, for example, could best be described as un vent à décorner les boeufs (a wind to take the horns off a bull or several bulls).
Today we had a traffic jam of trailers in our narrow entry (us trying to leave and someone else trying to rectify a failed attempt to enter) and a car with two flat tires. Plus we were asked to take in someone for the next five days when there is no longer a single extra bed in the abbey. In fact, some of us are sleeping on mattresses on the floor.
But it has become very evident that our sunshine is found in the many faces of our friends here in the valley of the Meuse, and of the many other people God has sent to us to share our life for a day, a weekend, or several months.
We had no idea how we would be able to accomplish the necessary packing, moving of large furniture, and sorting and culling of the abbey and outbuildings, but God in His great providence, has sent us so many generous, willing and helpful people.
We have had guests from Poland, Canada, Slovakia, India, the United States, Ireland, and China, plus a few staff. Each has brought a great blessing upon our lives by their presence and their willing hands and hearts.
As for our friends and neighbours in the area, they have, all of them, been saddened by the news of our departure. Their reaction has been to offer both their help and their vehicles.
They have collected boxes for us and offered meals. One of our friends came here and cooked for us for several days in order to free Noëlla from the kitchen so that she could do some packing.
A friend from Canada arrived and promptly sat down to sew curtains for all the windows of our new home. This was no little thing as there are lots of windows there, which will enable us receive every second of the sun God gives to Belgium.
Next week there will be a little convoy of trailers with friends and neighbours accompanying us to Resteigne. And an association that helps missionaries will be coming with two large trucks to help move the furniture and the many, many boxes it takes to move our family of nine.
The parish hosted a gathering to thank us for our presence in the parish these last seven years, and the church was full. Even people from neighbouring parishes and villages came to wish us au revoir.
Michelle Hubert, the president of the Fabrique de l’Eglise (parish council) gave a speech thanking everyone who is serving or has ever served in MH Belgium. Rays of sunshine do beat down on us at times!
Another great blessing and token of love has been the preparatory work done for us at Resteigne. People there have put in fire doors and a fire alarm system, and repainted the walls and done repair work. Plumbing and electrical updating is in process.
There have been a few delays, and our original date of departure, November 1st, was changed a couple of times. We’re still not certain when we’ll be settled in the new house, but one thing we are certain of: God has things well in hand, and he knows what he is about.
There have been, as is normal under the circumstances, lots of moments of stress during this drawn out process of moving, but so far laughter and good humour are predominating. It is quite surprising how attached one can become to the "perfect" box or a roll of packing tape or a marker that marks.
And, of course, each day is punctuated with our rhythm of Mass and prayer that return us to the one thing needful.
As I write this il pleut des cordes (it’s raining ropes), but the weatherman has promised that la couverture grise va être déchirée par des éclaircies—nothing timid about these clearings that are going to tear that gray blanket asunder!
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