[keep in mind, 80% of this was written last saturday. and just a heads up, it's a long one...]
laying down but can't sleep. eyelids heavy but heart racing. me and katie have been trying to find the words to describe what we got to be apart of today. the overwhelming beauty of the swiss alps and the lakes below, the feeling of falling to the earth, the total and complete trust we had in our instructors are all a lot to take in and we are speechless. so while i'm exhausted but having a hard time napping, i'll try to write it.
we got to switzerland on wednesday, ready to soak in the outdoors. there is something about the fresh air and beautiful mountains that just lights up my soul. i see the Lord's beauty in it…in feeling so small, seeing a landscape so pure, there is nothing like it to me and i've been looking forward to it all semester. since katie and i don't have class on thursdays, we decided to take the train wednesday afternoon. we rode through rain, glorious rain, the entire way here passing through northern italy and lake como to southern switzerland. the first night couple nights we stayed at a hostel that didn't have a reception…you just check in at the bar. classy establishment. no but really, this has got to be one of the greatest hostels we have stayed in so far this semester. we found this one before we got word about the two famous ones but i am super happy we found it, especially considering it's called "happy inn" and had smiley faces everywhere-even on the keys. we threw our stuff in the room and came back down to have a beer and talk to the bartenders/receptionists about the activities we could do. what i found out i should've done before i got here was check traveler's blogs about the weather in april. april is probably the most awkward time we could've come because the weather is so inconsistent and unpredictable. it's in between their ski season and their outdoor activity season and everything we wanted to do either wasn't open yet or we didn't have warm, water resistant clothes and shoes to don so we could brave the cold mountain weather.
we talked to andy and helen for a couple hours about hikes around town we could do, and their take on skydiving. i told katie, if canyoning isn't open and it's still too cold and snowy to go mountain biking, i might have to skydive. from then on, it was over for us- we had to do it. one small problem: the weather forecast. they were optimistic that we could do it the next day even though it showed clouds and rain through the weekend. we woke up the next day to soft, beautiful, drizzly rain. we had the lady at the bar call for us and sure enough, it was a no-go for that day but we were scheduled for the following day at 8:45…they told us it was our best bet. we said alrighty then, where can we go today? lucerne. never heard of it but okay…
we had the most amazing ham and cheese sandwich for breakfast and were en route to lucerne 45 minutes later. through more rain, we passed brienzersee, the lake next to interlaken and the lush green fields until we arrived at lucerne. it was like a picture. lucky for us, it was small so even though we got lost a couple times, we managed to see the whole town. we have discovered a theme with just about every european town we've been to: rivers and bridges everywhere. so while we didn't do a whole lot of digging about the historical significance, we saw rivers, bridges, and lots and lots of expensive things. switzerland is COSTLY, beware. we saw the famous lion carved into rock that symbolizes lucerne, tasted some swiss chocolate, witnessed a bunch of old men dressed in traditional swiss german attire singing together, and wandered through a panoramic museum that had walls of paintings from mountains and views from all over switzerland. after we got lost the first time and were trying to get to these museums, we found a castle wall and saw some people walking down so we thought why not, and walked towards them. although there was no castle, we walked through it (the archway, that is…) and came to this beautiful view of the city. we saw a lot more people coming down from a higher hill and our curiosity got the best of us so knowing no german and being the ignorant american tourists, we walked up to the clock tower and slowly, floor by floor, traversed to the top. we passed a german lady who kinda laughed and asked if we were american and told us that technically, this clock tower wasn't having its inauguration until the next day so we were very lucky to be in there :) we wandered the rest of the floors, looking at all the different clocks that were centuries old and seeing how they worked through the huge glasses cases. after a very full afternoon, we headed back to the happy inn.
when we got there, it was 8:15, only 45 minutes from when the band was supposed to be there. since interlaken is such a small town and there's really not much of a nightlife, the entertainment on a thursday night was the jazz band playing at our hostel. so, we finally got to sample some swiss cheese fondue and enjoyed the music until we had to register for classes. the bar filled up quickly and here we were, the two american girls listening to a bunch of old guys cover some oldie blues songs that i had never heard and looking up our classes for the summer and fall on our iPhones. we got into our classes, enjoyed the rest of the music from the other room so that everyone who was 30 years older than us could have our seats and skyped with a couple of our friends. besides, we had a date with the sky the next day…
8:45 rolls around. another no-go for the sky-dive. while it wasn't raining, the clouds were too thick so they couldn't fly out and they said they would check back at 10. so we went back to bed and awoke to another no 3 minutes before they were suppose to get us. 1:00 they said. by 1:00 the weather should be cleared up and we should be able to get out. we understood but were starting to think we wouldn't be able to go at all. we decided to ask for a trail we could go hike since it wasn't suppose to rain and we had a couple hours to kill. we walked out of interlaken toward brienzersee, and somehow got lost. it's a GIANT lake and we could not find the right trail that led us right along it so after an hour and a half of incredible landscape, we decided to turn around and come back to interlaken in case we were going to get to skydive. lucky for us, we had just enough time to eat a ham and cheese toasty before stefan, the skydive guy rolled on up to the happy inn ready to take us up the valley. then came the nerves- this was actually going to get to happen.
stefan and his sweet 10 year old daughter skyler were ready to rock and roll as they led us toward lauterbrunnen, the town in the valley outside interlaken that we were going to take off from. stefan has been on over 10,000 skydiving jumps and has been jumping for nearly 30 years. he is a seasoned veteran to say the least so i was confident that if he has survived 10,000+ jumps, surely i can survive one…
famous last words…
……i'm sorry you want me to do what??????
open the door, of course.
i unlatch the door and he helps me slide it open. i'm told to step out of the helicopter, onto the ledge below. hovering in the sky, standing outside the heli, i look straight out and all i see are white, snow-capped mountains and my brain doesn't process that i'm standing 12,000 feet in the air about to voluntarily jump towards the earth. the only way to describe it is that it was a spiritual moment. I love God's artistic abilities, His imaginative mind, to think that THIS is exactly how He wanted this place to look and THIS is what He thinks is beautiful too…He is speakin my love language and man it makes me love Him more. He gives us beauty each day to enjoy, to see Him in, to praise Him for. i pray for eyes to see it in the everyday things as much as i see it in the towering, swiss alps.
about 10 seconds later, i hear him counting down. head leaned back looking straight into the blue sky, knees slightly bent, i brace for it. 3…….2…….1…….. towards the earth i tumble. he warned us that we probably wouldn't remember the first couple seconds if it was our first time and i will admit, it's a tiny bit spotty. i do remember feeling the weight leaning against me as we left the helicopter, and i remember the mountains briefly, then after that…the city. i saw green trees, brown roofed houses…i'm staring straight at the ground with eyes wide and mouth gaping open. i actually remember thinking wow my mouth is really dry all of a sudden. looking back through the pictures, i realize that it's because it is open the entire time. i'm in shock, then smiling, then laughing. wow what a feeling to free fall….i can't even describe it.
we were downloading the events of the day and what i was shocked about, was that even though i'm afraid of heights, i never felt that feeling in my stomach that i get when i'm up high. i remember when i'm at camp working high ropes, and i'm getting my harness on, i double, actually triple, check my harness to make sure everything is double-backed and the carabineers are on correctly and locked. when i look down for the first few minutes, i get butterflies. in the helicopter- there was none of that. the entire time stefan was getting me ready in my super snazzy jumpsuit, i trusted him 100%. he tied me in, latched us together, and we were ready. i didn't doubt for one second that he had done everything he knew to do to keep me safe. i trusted him up until we were on the ground again.
and then it hit me like a ton of bricks.
how can i trust stefan, a flawed human being, with my life and yet i doubt the God of the universe who loves me WAY more than anyone else has the capacity for. not once did i look behind me to see what all stefan had to do to strap me in nor did i ask him to show me that i was secure, i just trusted. even in the air, stepping out of the helicopter, my mind did not ask once if i was going to be okay…in complete and utter faith, i let him push me off the ledge and experienced the ride of my life. why don't i trust the Lord like this? why do i always have to ask why and why do i always doubt He knows what He's doing?! He deserves my trust and my faith more than anyone else i know- He gives me hope and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore. i pray for faith like that skydive: unrelenting, unhindered, joyful, willing faith in the One who has conquered all so i can live this life fearlessly, knowing my Sovereign Father knows EXACTLY what He's doing. If that means tumbling through the air, not knowing for sure the outcome of what i'm going through, i pray His peace would flood my soul, that confidence in His power would replace any fear, that joy would uproot anxiousness. He has already proven time and time again that HIs plans for my life are better than anything I could dream up. this life is not my own anyway so surrendering should be a no-brainer :)
so, strap me in God, clip me to Yourself, lead me to the edge of that helicopter. You have given your Word to guide me, You have promised You'll never leave me…to stick with the skydiving analogy- we are riding tandem through this life. You are for me, i have nothing to fear.
He deserves nothing less than all of me…surrendered, fearless, confident, assured.
i want faith each day like that first sky dive.