I honestly wasn't sure if I'd make it back to my cozy dorm room to write this today. It turns out that -8º celsius is a bad idea for more than 15 minutes at a time... who knew?! Our tour of picturesque little Valkenburg, however, was an all-afternoon event.
Not to say that I didn't enjoy it! Our wonderful guide Vivian walked us through the town. It's history, dating from 1041 AD, is preserved with a Germanic castle, Roman catacombs, and remnants of the WWII Valkenburg resistance. We even got to experience some present-day action, with the Red Bull Crushed Ice World Championship making a stop on the same day as our visit! Loved mingling with the locals.
We had lunch in a cave and stopped at a cafe to thaw out mid-tour. Have you ever tried advocaat? I had the pleasure of chasing my coffee with the bright yellow stuff. Had I known it was egg yolk, I would've thought twice about that one.
One big take-away I had from this trip was hearing Vivian tell her father's experience of 4 years in a German concentration camp. I've heard the stories before - all horrific - but this one hit home. Hearing it from someone affected so directly by the event, seeing her cry retelling his experience, made it tangible. Even more, realizing that brutality like that is happening in other countries TODAY (Darfur, the worldwide human trafficking crisis, etc) placed a burden on my heart.
It also called me to gratitude. I've been given more than I can ask for. Not just physical needs as basic food, clothing, and shelter. But also a supportive family, loving friends, an education, opportunities to travel, financial provision, and most importantly a relationship with the Lord! Everything I have doesn't compare to knowing Christ... I have nothing without Him, and I believe that wholeheartedly.
This leads me to one of my life verses:
How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people.
Being so miserably cold, but realizing that I have been given everything I need to get through the day helped me enjoy the experience of Valkenburg. Gratitude and living moment-by-moment got me a lot farther than dwelling on the weather! And that, I believe, is how I survived the coldest day of my life.
Click here to see my photo album from Valkenburg!