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How Times of Trouble Remind Us to Be Grateful

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” -M. Eckhart [Tweet this.] | [Share on Facebook.]

It happened less than 30 minutes into the flight.

Our plane hit an invisible bump and we quickly plummeted downward. A loud crash, then the decline violently gave way to a climb back up. More bumps rocked the plane side-to-side, each more violent than the one preceding it. As luggage compartments popped open and items fell out, the captain’s voice frantically urged the flight attendants to take their seats immediately.

The gentleman to my right said loud enough for everyone around us to hear, “I wish they’d told us this would be our last flight. I probably wouldn’t have boarded it!” It was spoken in humor. But there was a bit of truth in it, too.

Moments later the ordeal ended. It was less than 30 seconds of violent shaking. No one was injured, things calmed, the turbulence ended, overhead containers were shut, the flight continued.

I looked at my watch. It was 6:57am.

Having flown more than 1,000 times, in the midst of the shaking, as bags were falling and fellow passengers were anxiously gasping, I tried to look steely-tough, unfazed, unafraid.

In reality, I was terrified.

Yes, I was scared of the plane crashing. Scared of leaving my wife and kids too soon. Scared of leaving this earth with things undone, mission not yet accomplished.

But oddly, the most intense fear I had was the painful reality of how much I’d taken for granted.

As we returned to smoother air, I thought through all the things I’d already experienced that morning that were worthy of being counted as gifts. I quickly typed them down:

  • My alarm sounded at 4:40, just as I had set it the night before, beckoning me from bed.
  • My legs (although tired) and body (although achy) guided me to the bathroom.
  • While brushing my teeth, a second alarm sounded. It was my wife’s phone. Without me even asking, she’d set it to ensure I was up and would make my flight.
  • With a simple twist of a knob, clean, hot water jetted out of my shower faucet.
  • After showering, I slipped into soft, clean clothes and a freshly pressed suit.
  • Tiptoeing toward Beth, I bent down and gently kissed her forehead.
  • Running a bit behind, I moved quickly through each bedroom checking on my sleeping kids; kissing each of their foreheads.
  • After racing down the steps, I stepped over our typically playful golden retriever. She was excited enough to wag her tail as I approached, but not quite motivated enough to actually stand to say hello. (I didn’t blame her … it was early!)
  • Grabbing my keys and briefcase, I walked outside, and got a peek at the star-filled sky.
  • At the push of a button my car engine revved to life, the garage door lifted, and the car throttled forward.
  • With no issues getting to the airport, I was greeted by a TSA officer (using my first name!); then moments later greeted by a Starbucks barista the same way. (Yes, you might travel too much when you’re on first-name-basis with the airport staff!)
  • The plane boarded on time; pushed back on time; and took off on time.
  • A 150,000 pound, metallic cylinder, packed with 136 people crept down a taxiway, accelerated down a runway, gained speed, and launched into the air at hundreds of miles per hour (while most of us were either slept or were too consumed in something trivial to be stirred by it.)
  • That one requires repeating: A 150,000 pound, metallic cylinder, packed with 136 people crept down a taxiway, accelerated down a runway, gained speed, and launched into the air at hundreds of miles per hour!
  • Once airborne, the darkened sky gave way to a slight glimmer of light; black faded to gray, then to deep blues, purples and reds; then into a magnificent sunrise.
  • I opened my laptop, took a big sip of coffee, and started working.

This all happened before the first bit of turbulence hit at 6:57am. And I had snoozed through most of it until the turbulence finally woke me up.

I hadn’t paused – not even momentarily – to say a prayer of thanksgiving for any of it.

I didn’t contemplate that throughout the night my heart beat more than 1,000 times by itself, in spite of my lack of effort or gratitude for it.

I hadn’t pondered the gift of a warm bed, my wife’s presence, or my children’s health.

I hadn’t paused to be in awe of the marvel of technology – or the grandeur of nature.

And I hadn’t slowed down to be roused by the promise of the morning, the hope within a new day, the chance to do better, the opportunity to make a difference, to savor, to reflect, to celebrate, to create, to experience.

To live.

(Each week I interview guests ranging from business owners to thought leaders, from humble servants to amazing overcomers. They inspire us through their stories to wake up and truly live. This week we welcome our friend Joel Boggess onto our Live Inspired podcast. He’s got a terrific story, attitude and heart. You’ll love him, and he’ll remind you to be grateful again for everything within your story. Check it out here.)

How To Recognize the “Little” Gifts in Your Life

It seems we most commonly recognize what we have when it’s been taken away. We finally realize how fortunate we once actually were when business enters a downturn, we lose our job, the relationship falls apart, the car won’t start, we get sick, our child becomes ill, or things fundamentally change.

Today, rather than recognizing how blessed and lucky you were when something is taken away, strive instead to slow down, take a deep breath, and open your eyes, your ears, and your heart to the magnificence that is your life.

Allow the momentary turbulence of this essay to awaken within you a profound sense of gratitude for all you have, all you’ve experienced, and all that remains possible going forward.

Then utter a simple, powerful prayer: Thank you.

This is your day. Live Inspired.

What are three things this morning you’re already grateful for? Share them in the comments below. I look forward to reading your lists!

21 replies on “The Gift of Turbulence”

I am grateful for another day on this great big planet, another chance to serve my Father.

I am grateful for a healthy family.

I am grateful that I have a job to go to this morning.

Thank you for the reminder to adjust my focus. Life is precious as are so many small moments each day.

I am grateful for waking up this morning after being off for a whole week of spring break. I am grateful for the job that I have and I am grateful for my beautiful family that brings me joy everyday.

I am grateful for waking up this morning even though I am so tired and not ready to go back to work. I am grateful for the great job that I have and I am grateful for the family that brings me great joy.

I’m grateful for my family – 11 of us children grew up to be friends as well as siblings and I LOVE this about us
I’m grateful that I am healthy enough to work to earn the money I require for needs as well as wants
I’m grateful for people like you who inspire me to be better than I was yesterday – I know we need people like because I feel the difference in my soul after being inspired and I like me better for it.

I’m most thankful for my salvation made only possible by Jesus Christ when he died on the cross for me!
Also for health that I can work every day and a job to go to!
A fabulous family that I love!
Many things that would take forever to list!

I’m thankful for Jesus my Lord and Savior.
I’m so thankful for my family. Husband, two daughters, two son in laws., and Three grandsons!

I’m also thankful for you John OLeary and your Monday blogs that help remind me of what is really important and the attitude of gratitude!!

I am thankful for a loving God of my understanding, I’m thankful for the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, and I am thankful for all of my family and friends. On Earth and in heaven.

I am thankful for Jesus as my savior! I’m thankful that he died for my sins.
I am thankful to live in a nice house ? w/nice furnishings. I am thankful that if I don’t get a good nights sleep ? I have the luxury of sleeping later! I’m thankful my husband can provide this nice house for us. I’m thankful for a beautiful day. It’s only 45 but the sun ? is out! And I’m thankful for your email today John, reminding us of being thankful for all those things we take for granted!

For Jesus Christ, who died on the cross so that I may live eternally with Him in heaven.
For my loving husband, that I thought I would never have, that appreciates every little thing I do.
That God allowed me to live to see my children grown and raising families of their own.

Leigh – beautiful. Be sure to share this with your husband so he hears that beautiful gratitude, too. Have an awesome day and stay on fire — J

The blessing of waking up in a warm home in a warm bed, my wife laying next to me who loves me unconditionally, the stories of those I care for today at work in this busy ER.

Today I am grateful for the beauty of a fresh spring snow (that didn’t cover the roads.) Volunteer work that gives me purpose. Prospects of a new home and the changes that brings.

“Fresh spring snow!” THAT is a great way to look at it. Thanks for sharing your gratitude. Best of luck in your search for a new home and the joy (and gratitude!) it will bring. J

Today, I’m so very thankful for:

1) The day my mom and dad quit doing my laundry and taught me how take care of it on my own. Specifically, how to iron my dress shirts. I’m thankful that each morning I can spend 3 minutes at home to smooth out the wrinkles before I put my suit on.

2) I’m thankful that Mondays are trash pick up day. I’m thankful that I don’t have to haul my own trash across town.

3) I’m thankful that my wife can stay at home with our 9mos old son and in doing so, she doesn’t have to worry about him being in someone else’s care until she’s ready to go back to her career.

4) Breaking protocol- im thankful for your email this morning, John.

Ryan – awesome. Thanks for helping us to find gratitude in our days and for sharing the gratitude within yours. Stay ON FIRE, brother! J

I am grateful to my Father in Heaven who accepts me as is because of the love He has for us all.

I am grateful to my husband who works very hard each and everyday to provide for us without compliant because of his love for his family.

I am grateful for the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life.

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