Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Experiencing Turbulence

My tray of food jumped up off of the table connected to the seat back in front of me, and my wine sloshed dangerously close to the edge of my clear plastic cup.

Ah, turbulence. I had forgotten it existed, really.
Photo taken by Ella
as the sun set while flying.

We were headed out of the country for the first time ever, on the trip of a lifetime. Lauren's Make-A-Wish trip would start in Rome when we boarded our cruise ship in a few hours, and take us through several cities between Italy, France, and Spain... ending again in Rome, seven days later.

We extended our trip by one day so that Mike and I could get married while we were there. It was going to be amazing, more fantastic experiences than I could have ever imagined that I would get to do with my family in my entire lifetime, much less over the course of 9 days!

My food jumped again and this time some wine did spill.

Deep breath in. Deep breath out. It would be fine.

Then came what felt like a 100 foot loss in altitude... although it was probably only 5. It was enough. Passengers screamed and everyone scrambled. Just about everyone was trying to figure out the best way to keep their drinks from pouring all over their food, clothes, and each other. Others tried to comfort those around them.

One elderly gentleman took off his seat belt and stood up. I'm sure because he or his wife had spilled on themselves. A flight attendant yelled from her seat in the back in an “angry mom voice,”  “Sir! Sit down right now!”

He complied immediately.

One young woman held her cup out over the aisle, trying to anticipate the drops and keep as much wine in her glass as possible. I set mine inside my tray for a brief moment and then decided before any more of it was spilled on my pants, I should drink it. So I did. All of it.

I'd like to say it helped, but it didn't. My children were 11 rows ahead of me, separated from my line of sight by a wall. Fear began creeping into my mind and taking over.

I started to cry.

Mike & I before take-off.
Mike grabbed my hand and told me it was going to be okay. I nodded, but the tears didn't stop. I've experience major turbulence once before, on a trip to LA to visit my brother. There were no tears then. I tried to recall what was different, but in that moment, all I could think about was that my children were on the plane with me, and that I couldn't get to them to comfort them.

I looked out the window, straining to see anything that might give me some clue as to what was going on. The last bit of land underneath us had disappeared not long before and the only things I could see were the wings of the plane, lit up by the plane's lights, and total darkness beyond.

Mike kept trying to comfort me but wasn't sure how. So he just held my hand and waited for the turbulence to end.

After what seemed like an eternity, the pilot's voice came across the speaker.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,”

I held my breath

“We were warned that this was coming, but we climbed to a level that we thought was above it. It turns out that's not high enough. Unfortunately, we aren't able to fly above 39,000 feet and that is right where we are now. We should be through this in about 20 minutes.”


20 minutes? I could do this for 20 minutes. The bumps were still the same, but I was calmer after that... and I'm fairly certain it wasn't just the wine I had recently chugged.  I worked on eating what was left of my food and went back to my in-flight movie.
At O'Hare, waiting for our flight out.

(My kids were fine, by the way, when I checked on them later. They were laughing about the turbulence for the most part... although my oldest lamented some about the amount of wine she lost in the aisle of the plane.)

In retrospect I realized what was different about the turbulence on this flight...

The pilot.

When the turbulence started on the flight to L.A., the pilot came on almost immediately. He informed us that we were going to experience some turbulence for awhile and the flight attendants had been informed they must sit down and buckle up as well.

It's amazing how much it helps to have the words of someone who knows what the outcome is going to be...

It's the same when life gets turbulent. The sooner we hear from the Pilot, the sooner we start to feel better. That's true even if the answer we get isn't the one that we want.

In the moment, I would have rather the pilot told us he's pulling up so we could fly above the turbulence, and we'd be out in a few minutes. But, I had no idea what would happen if we flew above the approved 39,000 feet. Could we hit another plane? Would it be too cold for ours? Would the pressure be too much for our engines? In reality, it doesn't matter.

Sometimes all we get is, “There are reasons this won't change that you don't understand, trust Me.”

Would you accept that answer if a pilot said that to you? Of course!

How about when God says it to you?

When I was getting upset on the plane, there was no way to talk to anyone in charge. I couldn't knock on the cockpit door and ask what was going on. I couldn't flag down a flight attendant to see if she had any insight. I just had to wait.

In life though, I don't have to wait to hear from God.

I often say out loud, “It's You and me today. We've got this.” and then I go about my day, trusting that God's got this and He'll let me know if I need to do something different. I always intend to start my morning with that thought, but often it takes something frustrating popping up to remind me.

When I say it, I don't always get the answer I want or expect. Sometimes it's just a calmness that settles, and I know it's going to be okay.

Try it, next time you need some direction.

It's You and me today, God. We've got this.

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