We began our adventure on Thursday after school and drove late, late into the night to Omaha. We got up and drove to the Winter Quarters visitor's center. We spent the couple of hours exploring the cool exhibits pulling handcarts, and being told some of the hardships that the pioneers endured. I especially loved the collection of Liz Lemmon Swindle's beautiful artwork depicting moments in the Savior's life.
From there we walked across the street to the Winter Quarters temple and the pioneer graveyard. It was a beautiful and sacred site. My heart ached thinking of so many that gave up their homes, possessions, and even their lives as they tried to escape persecution and to find Zion. Made me evaluate my own testimony and ask myself if I would do the same. It was a question I asked myself many times over that next week.
From Winter Quarters we headed across the river to where the Kanesville Tabernacle site was. There we spent just a few minutes learning about when Brigham Young was sustained President of the church at the tabernacle and how the Mormon Battalion went to fight the Spanish American War.
We got on our way heading east so we could meet Cyle and Athena in Nauvoo, but had to do a little detour in Adair, Iowa. :)
When we were first coming up with the idea of our trip one of the bonuses was that my brother Cyle and his family were fairly close to the main site of Nauvoo where we would be spending a few days. We asked if they would like to join us for the weekend in Nauvoo and then we would continue on to visit them. Lucky for us, they agreed, and we were all so excited to spend several days with them!
We got into Keokuk and found where we were staying. We had arranged to stay in the same hotel in Keokuk near Nauvoo. We couldn't wait to hug Uncle Cyle and Aunt Athena and I especially wanted to love on my nephew Kingston! It had been far too long since we had seen them and it felt so great to be all together! We watched some basketball and organized our plan of attack for the next day.
Cyle and Athena got up early on Saturday and brought Kingston to our room so we could get all the kiddos ready and eat breakfast while they went up to serve in the Nauvoo Temple. We went up to meet them at the temple after their session so we could swap the kids and Ken and I could be in the temple. We were waiting out front, on a rather dreary day, but could still feel the importance of that beautiful building. (As a child, I had been to Nauvoo many times when we lived in the Chicago area. Back in those days we could only see where the cornerstones and a few other stones marked where the original temple was. It still blows my mind that now the temple has been rebuilt! Makes my heart rejoice!)
I went inside to inquire if the session Cyle and Athena had been in was finished. As I was waiting by the front desk, I saw a girl come out from doing baptisms. She looked so much like my cousin Shannon, but I kept telling myself that she was in Arizona. When she finally turned around and started walking towards the front doors I noticed that she started eying me too. It WAS Shannon! She was in Illinois doing an internship and had decided to attend the temple on that Saturday morning. What a small world!!! We had a wonderful time hugging and catching up for a few minutes. I love when little miracles like that happen. It thought it was so fitting have that to have that experience at the temple because I imagine that is what it will be like when we get to the other side and we get to greet members of our family that we have been sealed to. Such a neat feeling!
When Cyle came out we realized that we wouldn't be able to do everything we wanted, so we decided to head to the visitor's center and get our tickets for the carriage ride. It was a rather rainy, cool day and it was fun to bundle up in the blankets and ride all over Nauvoo hearing cool stories about what it would have been like to live there. After spending the afternoon getting a feel for all that was there to see. Cyle and Athena took the kids to a movie about Joseph Smith while Ken and I were able to attend the temple. After our session, we met everyone playing at a park near the temple and then headed to the cultural hall to see "Rendezvous at Old Nauvoo" a short musical put on by the couple missionaries. It was cute and the kids really liked it. After the show, we headed back to Keokuk for a late dinner and swimming in the pool before falling into bed.
On Easter Sunday we found a branch that met in Keokuk and attended Sacrament meeting. We went back to the hotel where Aunt Athena had arranged an awesome Easter egg hunt in the field behind the hotel. The kids ran all over finding eggs and then had to put the numbered eggs in order. Once all the eggs were found, the kids would open the eggs in order and find a little reminder and a scripture that would talk about a part of the Easter story. It was the perfect little devotional that really put all the Easter focus on Jesus Christ and His Atonement and sacrifice for us. I was so grateful that Athena had done that for our family!
After our Easter egg hunt, we grabbed a quick lunch, and headed back up to Nauvoo. The rain the day before was gone and it was an absolutely gorgeous day! It was perfect for walking around and seeing the sites. We went to the family living center where we learned about how families lived back then and saw demonstrations on how to make ropes, barrels, bread, and rugs. We went and saw the restored homes of families that had lived there. The kids especially loved the bakery, the brickyard (where we got to take home a brick), the tinsmith, the printing office, and most of all, the blacksmith (where we got a horseshoe and a prairie diamond ring). The weather was perfect and it wasn't busy at all so we got lots of attention from the missionaries working there.
|This little guy was totally tuckered out and fell asleep on the benches at the blacksmith shop.|
Seriously! It was just about the PERFECT day!