Monday, November 28, 2016

Les Choses qui Parlent. . .

I was walking along the presque-isle* area of Lyon and came across a wonderful street full of art galleries and antique shops.  Something hanging from the rafters of a little shop full of antique toys really caught my eye.  It was a late 19th or early 20th century wooden bicycle ridden by a stereotypical Frenchman complete with moustache and beret.  It had a long wooden handle that would allow a child to roll him along the street causing the chain on the turning wheels to move the man's feet around the pedals and ring the bicycle bell.  I was smitten!  The next day, I brought Chris back and so was she.  So now the little bicyclist hangs on our Lyon apartment wall.

As we were talking with the old gentleman who owned the shop, he told us about why he had been collecting and selling childrens toys for over 40 years now.  Like all children, when he was little he wanted toys, especially a toy train.  But he explained that his father was an "ouvrier", a common laborer, and that a train would have cost half of his father's annual salary.  Consequently, as a little boy he didn't have toys.  But for the past 40-plus years this his been his livelyhood and his passion.  He talked to us about how the things in his shop are "les choses qui parlent"; things that talk.  Some of the toys, in fact, actually did speak.  But all of the toys, he explained, have their stories and all of them spoke to him. 

I guess that is what it means when we say that something "catches our eye".  It means that we heard at least part of it's story.  I can only imagine the "Belle Epoch" era child who first pushed this little bicyclist along a French cobblestone street well before World War I.  It no doubt belonged to others before it came into the shop of our toy-collector friend who grew up in a much darker, war and occupation era of France's history.  And now for a little while, we will add a chapter.  I hope that when our little Frenchman rides off to his next home, probably with some of our grandkids, they will be able to hear what he has to say too.

Our Lyon toy-shop owner taking his little bicycle rider down from the rafters.

For now he is now flying almost E.T. style over two posters from his own "Belle Epoch" era on the wall of our Lyon apartment.

*Lyon's "Presque-Isle" (almost-island) or peninsula, just upstream from the confluence of the Rhône and the Saône rivers.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving in France

Our little ward in Écully has a few American expats and missionaries including us, so the ward council decided to have a Thanksgiving dinner and party.  Of course it was up to us to show them what the traditional menu is like, so we went to work.

Finding the right ingredients for a dinner like this proved to be quite a challenge to say the least.  First of all, the only whole turkeys we could find came complete with the gobble!  No problem with freshness, but we didn't want to go down that road.  So after a little searching we were able to find some turkey breasts.   We could also find whole pumpkins, but pumpkin-pie filling just doesn't exist here.  And the thought of boiling down pumpkins sounded about as fun as plucking feathers!  And stuffing mix or cranberry sauce?  Forget about it! 

We finally did hear about "My American Market", an online store out of England.  About a week later our package with boxes of Kraft stove-top stuffing mix, cans of Libby's Pumpkin and Ocean Spray cranberry sauce arrived.  We put on a pretty authentic American Thanksgiving and the ward really loved it!  Some of the primary children even dressed up and performed as American Indians; not very politically correct at home but really cute and funny!  At first everyone was a bit skeptical of pumpkin pie and especially of the stuffing.  But Chris had doctored the stove-top with lots of fresh marché mushrooms, celery and onions and at the end of the evening the hugh bowl of stuffing and all the pumpkin pies were gone.  And Chris' traditional American rolls disappeared in a flash which is quite a compliment in a place that has the caliber of bread that France has.  We even got a few requests for recipes!

It was a little strange to be away from home and family at this time of year when families gather together.  So this year we were especially thankful for things like "FaceTime" and "Skype"that gave us the opportunity to see and talk to all our kids and grandkids.  And in spite of being far from them, we are also very thankful to be in this place at this special time, and to be with wonderful people here who are becoming like family to us.

Goods shipped in from "My American Market"

Thanksgiving in Écully Ward

Lots of food.

A young married couple who will be attending BYU-Idaho when we get home.

We are learning that you never turn your back on our bishop's wife!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Back to Clermont-Ferrand

This weekend we had the assignment to present a self-reliance fireside in the Clermont-Ferrand ward.  We went early enough so that we could attend their block of meetings and get to know the members a little prior to the fireside.  There are so many stalwart members here; they have to be!  In many cases it is quite a sacrifice just to travel to chapel each Sunday.  The ward and stake boundries are often very large and spread out and many people rely entirely on walking and/or public transportation. Some travel almost two hours each way.  To avoid having to make an additional trip, the ward had their block of meetings in the morning, had a meal together after the meetings and then went right into the fireside. 

That evening after the fireside we went into the old city center for dinner.  A few weeks ago we stopped briefly in Clermont-Ferrand during the day on our way to an assignment in Bordeaux.   But this time it was after dark when we made our visit the gothic cathedral made of black, volcanic stone.  Notre Dame de l'Assomption has an otherworldly, almost surreal feeling at night.

Having lunch before the fireside in Clermont-Ferrand

Members working in their "Mon Parcours" booklets during the fireside.

Notre Dame de l'Assomption in Clermont-Ferrand at night.

Cathedral façade

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Families are the best!

This last weekend was the baptism of our grandson, Clay and the baby blessing of his new baby brother, our newest grand baby, Jace.  This puts us up to 14 grand children; four girls and ten boys. .  All of our children and grand children were able to attend.  We were the only ones not there.  But we are very proud of the great parents our children and their spouses are to these precious grand children.  We love these kids so much and were sad  to miss the sweet occasion, but we are so grateful for our family!  The gospel of Jesus Christ and our family are the two most important, precious things to us in this world!

Getting to Know the Saints

Throughout our careers as teachers, Chris and I had many opportunities to bring students on European tours.  These were always marvelous experiences for us as well as for the students.  But the only problem with a tour is that we were never in any one location long enough to really get to know the place or the people.  We have been in Lyon now for almost three months and are really loving the opportunity of having an in-depth experience. 

The members of our Écully ward are amazing.  We feel like they have really embraced us.  Chris and I presented a self-reliance fireside for our ward last week.  It was really fun to interact spiritually and socially with the saints both during and after the event. You really get to know people when you sit down and eat together.   And I spoke in Sacrament meeting yesterday.  I could see the faces of the congregation with their nods of encouragement as I struggled through 15 minutes of second-language French in front of a group of native speakers.  What a sweet if not terrifying experience!

The other saints that we are getting to know are those whose images are in the paintings, sculptures and stained-glass windows of the many churches here in Lyon.  Wherever you travel, the Christian churches are adorned with biblical stories as well as images of lesser known local saints or martyrs.  It's fairly easy to get to know the more universal ones; Saint Peter who holds the keys or Moses with his "horns" and tablets.  But there are always other local saints that you can't know without a little more time studying that place.  Some are connected to an entire region or country, like Joan of Arc or Clovis and Clothilde here in France.  But some are specific to a region or even to a city, like Saint Blandine or Saint Pothin here in Lyon.  We have never before been in a single place long enough to get to know these local saints.  And we find their lives and sacrifices to be inspiring as well.

Some of our friends in Écully ward.  Chris is talking with our Primary 
president. (I play the piano for primary!)   The elder's quorum president 
and his daughter and our Stake self-reliance specialist are in the background.

Some of our young adult friends that we do family home evening with every Monday night at the Institute building.

Saint Martin d'Ainay Romanesque church.  One of the oldest in Lyon (begun in the 10th century.) At
one point this monastery had over 200 monks in residence.

Painting in St. Martin d'Ainay.  Outside figures: St. Clothilde and St Martin (early converts in France). Clothilde became the queen of France who converted her husband, Clovis (Louis I), the first king of what is modern France.  Next two figures: St. Blandine and St. Pothin (both Christians who were martyred in Lyon during the reign of Marcus Aurelius).  Figures on each side of Christ:  Mary His mother and St. Michael (protectors of Lyon).  Christ in the center, holding the orb or world in his hand.  The 4 rivers are running out to all the world from under his feet.  

St. Pothin was an elderly bishop in the city of Lyon during Roman rule and
persecutions.  Even though he was 80 years old, he was beaten for his beliefs
and thrown into prison where he died.

St. Blandine was a young slave girl who refused to deny her Christian beliefs.
Consequently, she was put to death in the Arena of the 3 Gauls here in Lyon.
Legend has it that the lions refused to harm her.

Blandine in the tympanum of another church here in Lyon.

The Arena of the 3 Gauls in Lyon where Blandine and many other Christians were killed.  

Saturday, November 5, 2016

A Fireside and an Aqueduct

Last night we had our first solo experience putting on a ward fireside.  This is one that we scheduled with the ward, organized and presented.  We were a bit nervous about the prospects of going in on our own.  But when you're a missionary you're not really on your own.  The fireside turned out great.  The bishop added a special spirit with his introduction and the ward members brought some wonderful things to eat at the end.  So we know that at least it started and ended well.  Actually, the middle part, the self-reliance fireside, went very well too.  It was a great evening for us.

We are still exploring and getting to know Lyon.  This is a very beautiful and historic region.  The Romans made Lugdunum (Lyon) their capital city in Gaul.  Just on the outskirts of Lyon we found an impressive Roman aqueduct that provided water to Lugdunum.  It had an ingenious system of ramps and siphons that would pull water up over the hills.  Plus it was very beautiful with its surface treatment of brick and stone.  Aesthetics and function; a great combination.

A cute missionary getting ready to present a ward fireside

Singing the opening hymn

A little food at the end

The aqueduct on the Gier river just outside Lyon

A siphon ramp on the aqueduct

Beautiful surface treatment of red brick and white stone

A neoclassic theatre in Lyon

Lyon is a very beautiful city