For most of our married life, the week before Christmas has been extremely busy and often rather hectic. We always had a fall semester to finish out, many presents to purchase, and huge meals to prepare. Our mission pre-Christmas week this year was a radical departure for our norm. And what a wonderful week this has been.
We began with an experience that is typical in Idaho, a drive in a snowstorm. But rather than our usual voyage from Rexburg to Idaho Falls, this trip was from our home in Lyon toward Paris. We checked into our hotel just a few hundred yards from the entrance to the Palace of Versailles and the next morning had the opportunity to go to the "Paris" temple. It was so exciting for us to come back to the temple where we worked as guides during the open house. But this time, we were able to participate in sacred ordinances. It was really amazing that we saw at least fifteen people there whom we already knew. We probably don't see that many friends when we go to the temple in Rexburg! It was really special to us to also be invited to attend a temple sealing of a couple from New Caledonia.
The next event of our week was a visit to a self-reliance group in the Antony Ward located in the southern suburbs of Paris. One sister in this "Finding a Better Job" group admitted that she had been reluctant to join, even though she was dissatisfied with her employment. But after just two of the twelve-week meetings, after learning how to prepare an effective C.V. and mastering some interview skills, she had found a job that required fewer hours, paid a significantly higher salary, and that she enjoyed so much more. But the most impressive thing was that the group was now on lesson seven of the twelve-week course, and this sister was still actively attending. She realizes that the self-reliance initiative is not just about what it can do for you. It is also about how you can help others. So there she was, acting as an action partner and encouraging the others in her group even though her own personal objectives had been met.
Before leaving for Paris, we had done a Google search on the best Christmas markets in France. It turns out that most of them are in the Alsace region between Strasbourg and Mulhouse. So even though it about doubled the driving time back to Lyon, we made a loop through Alsace. It is impossible to describe what some of these places look like at any time of the year, but at Christmas it is just magical. If you have ever seen one of those little medieval looking villages that people often set up under their Christmas tree, that is the portrait of Alsace in December.
On the Paris temple grounds.
The Antony Ward "Finding a Better Job" self-reliance group with our manager, Momo Djemai.
Momo and the Antony Ward sister who found a great job after just two weeks with the group.
One of the many Christmas markets in Strasbourg
Another market beside the Strasbourg cathedral.
Obernai, just south of Strasbourg.
An entry gate to Riquewihr.
The hotel (yellow, on left) where we stayed in Riquewihr was built in 1550.
The restaurant just a few steps from the hotel served wonderful Alsatian meals.
Kaysersberg, just a few kilometres from Riquewihr.
A medieval chateau overlooks the village of Kaysersberg. . .
. . . and a little stream runs through the middle of town.
Part of the Christmas market in Colmar.
The market at Mulhouse was the last stop before returning home to Lyon.