Chapel Quest!

Blog – 6-13-18

Last week my husband and I went on a chapel quest! I have spent a lot of time at the Holy Family Shrine, which is a chapel located just outside of Omaha. I had seen it on the hill many times over the years as I drove by and always wondered what it was. One day when I was going through my divorce back in 2003, I finally visited the beautiful structure that had always piqued my interest. My kids were at their dad’s, and my empty house felt very lonely and sad. A road trip seemed like a good distraction at the time, so off I headed for some solitude and silence.

From the moment I walked on the premises, I was totally taken in with the surroundings. In fact, I ended up spending the entire day at the chapel praying and reading my bible, trying to find answers to all the questions that were running around in my head at this incredibly stressful time. I left there feeling more peace than I had felt in a very long time.

This sojourn to the chapel became somewhat of a ritual for me. I’ve even drug John into it, and we have made numerous trips to my favorite little spot. Each trip brings new insight and a renewed sense of the presence of God.

John found another beautiful chapel online called Thorncrown. It’s located in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and we’ve talked for a long time about going there one day. We finally made that happen last week as we scheduled our vacation around this obscure destination. Thorncrown has been the screensaver on my computer for over a year now, and we were finally going to see it in person. We left our plans totally open, intentionally deciding to make it up as we went, and we set off excited for what lay ahead.

As we got closer and closer to Eureka Springs, I could hardly contain myself. I was giddy with excitement. As we drove through the winding mountain roads, I thought we would NEVER get there. When we finally pulled in the driveway, the holy experience started the minute we got out of the truck. We were totally and completely overwhelmed by the natural beauty of the setting as we walked up the lane to the chapel. It was gorgeous in pictures, but it was positively breathtaking in person. The chapel is nestled in the Ozark mountains in a very wooded area that is a pure masterpiece of God’s creation. Here’s a picture of the chapel and the setting:


Critics have called Thorncrown “one of the finest religious settings of modern times,” and I wholeheartedly agree.

My sweet husband also discovered another chapel that was located a little over 40 miles away from Thorncrown called the Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel. So on our way home a few days later, we stopped to check it out as well. I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as Thorncrown, to be honest, but boy, was I wrong! It was amazing! This structure was nestled beside a small lake, and the setting was exquisitely beautiful. My jaw literally dropped as we walked up the walkway to the chapel.

When I stepped inside, I immediately felt the presence of God. It’s hard to describe, but I know what I felt. Peace. Love. Tranquility. Serenity. Majesty.

Here’s some pictures:


I also discovered something very interesting on our journey. It turns out all three chapels were designed by the same architect, a man by the name of E. Fay Jones. Crazy!  I had no idea he had designed all three until we visited them. Mr. Jones passed away in 2004, but I will be forever grateful for his creativity and brilliance. Thorncrown has won numerous architectural awards such as the American Institute of Architects’ Design of the Year Award for 1981 and AIA’s prestigious 25 Year Award. Recently, members of the American Institute of Architects placed Thorncrown Chapel fourth on its list of the top buildings of the twentieth century. Way to go, Mr. Jones!

What’s this obsession with chapels all about you might be asking right now, and all I will say is God has put something pretty major on our hearts, a project that he wants John and me to head up. More details will come later as we get more clarity.

But for now, let me say I know that God is omnipresent, He is everywhere, but I am so thankful and grateful for the people of faith who have put their heart and soul into making these beautiful places available for solitude and silence, prayer and meditation. In a world that feels pretty crazy and nuts at times, it was refreshing to stop for a moment and spend quality time with our Savior. Time absent of deadlines and schedules. Time to simply be quiet and listen for His still small voice. Time to simply be.

Trekking off without a schedule or plan is pretty out of the ordinary for us, but it was absolutely amazing. I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. Our days were cut short by a death in the family, which was very sad, but I feel amazingly blessed to have gone to these sacred spaces.

I encourage you, when you see something on the side of the road that piques your interest, if you keep feeling a nudge to stop and check it out, don’t ignore it. Do it! Stop! Take a minute to explore. You never know where that simple stop could lead you to.

My curiosity and willingness to stop lead me all the way to Arkansas and my little pieces of paradise!

Hugs and love,

Jill

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