My world was rocked for the first time when I was four years old.
We had recently moved to Southern California. Early morning sunlight had
just begun to peek through the window in the room my sister and I shared
upstairs when our beds began to shake. The matching white pom-pom trim on
our bedcovers bobbled and bounced against the floor.
Feeling nothing but terror, we fumbled downstairs and saw the light fixture
over our kitchen table about to swing off its hook! Cupboard doors banged
open and shut; coffee cups and dishes spilled out, spreading splintered
glass across the hardwood floor. Then, without warning, it stopped. We
stood in silence, too stunned and scared to speak.
The San Fernando earthquake was the first, and biggest, earthquake I
experienced while growing up. For months, aftershocks rattled our world. We
learned quickly that earthquakes were simply part of living in California,
but knowing the plates of the earth could shift at any moment didn't remove
our terror. I can't forget the wildfires either. Annually, flames devoured
manicured landscapes and beautiful homes. I remember the smell of burning
brush, sunsets colored by gray ash, early mornings when my dad and I would
wipe white dust off our cars.
California forced us to accept nature as it was. We treasured the mild
climate, nautical voyages, and adventurous mountains; we endured the
earthquakes, wildfires, and nature's unpredictable, uncontrollable fury.
Plagues, volcanos, earthquakes, floods, and tsunamis have altered lives as
far back as biblical times. Nature's fury destroyed the earth, freed
slaves, and birthed islands. Jesus used nature as a teaching illustration,
revealing how the natural world connects to our human world. He calmed the
raging seas, and the earth quaked at His death. Over and over, Scripture
uses nature to teach eternal truths:
Psalm 1:2–3: Meditating on God's Word establishes the Christian like a firm tree
planted by water.
Matthew 13:31–32: Faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains!
James 3:5–6: The tongue is like a tiny spark that sets the forest ablaze.
Interestingly, the girl whose memory was forever changed by earthquakes and
wildfires grew up to marry a natural disaster relief specialist. My husband
works with those who have endured the worst. His first contact with people
who have lost loved ones and lifetime possessions is always heartbreaking.
He listens to desperate, broken voices. He walks them through the process
of rebuilding. They begin angry, asking the questions we all ask when life
Why did this happen?
Wasn't someone supposed to tell us this was coming?
How do we move forward . . . we have nothing?
The first steps are always the most difficult because EVERYTHING is
different. Survivors start out feeling mad, lost, afraid, vulnerable,
unstable, and sad. As the process unfolds, sometimes the anger softens.
Grief surfaces. Fear subsides. Something incredible begins to happen:
people settle in, they find a "new normal," and they are never the same.
Other times, the people never recover.
My husband has observed one difference between those who move forward and
those who don't: perspective. Those who succeed "reframe" what's happened.
During the recovery process, they engage their minds (thoughts), hearts
(emotions), and daily habits (behavior) with the goal of changing their
"Reframing" isn't just for those who've survived natural disasters. At some
point, it becomes essential for us all. It's the key to thriving through
unexpected diagnoses like cancer or autism . . . undesired changes like
divorce or job loss . . . unpleasant challenges like defiant teenagers or
aging. Abuse, death, paralysis, chronic illness, special needs, financial
pitfalls, and disappointments and struggles of every kind—they all demand
we reframe or stagnate.
Reframing requires us to mentally examine our assumptions, beliefs, and
values; to emotionally adjust our attitudes and harness our feelings; and
to cultivate new daily habits and routines. It isn't an easy process. It IS
a life-changing process.
One couple who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina contacted my husband
not long ago. He asked how they were, and their response was amazing! They
said they now appreciated the small things in life. They valued their
relationships. They had slowed their pace and given time to people rather
than things. They had become involved in helping others. They were even
able to say they were thankful for the experience of losing
everything, because through it, they found meaning and purpose!
When disaster strikes or change stirs up our insecurities, most of us long
for relief. There's nothing wrong with that. But Christ calls us to reframe
our lives—to embrace the transforming process of dying to ourselves,
identifying with Him in our suffering, and becoming more like Him by
embracing His ways.
Reframing is the process of choosing to look at life through the lens of
Scripture. And let me tell you, there is nothing more freeing than when we
release our grip on this world's stuff and cling to what is of eternal
value. Writer Anne Lamott describes the freedom that can be found when we
finally give up on trying to fix everything in our strength:
There is freedom in hitting bottom, in seeing that you won't be able to
save or rescue your daughter, her spouse, his parents, or your career,
relief in admitting you've reached the place of great unknowing. This is
where restoration can begin, because when you're still in the state of
trying to fix the unfixable, everything bad is engaged: the chatter of your
mind, the tension of your physiology, all the trunks and wheel-ons
[baggage] you carry from the past. It's exhausting, crazy-making . . .
Where do we even start on the daily walk of restoration and awakening? We
start where we are.1
I haven't been through an earthquake in years, but I have hit rock bottom
repeatedly. I've felt pain so deep I couldn't speak, loss so grave I didn't
think I could go on, fear so huge there was no light in sight. Through
these end-of-the-road experiences, I've found Christ, who has been my hope.
I've gained scriptural insights I would have never noticed before. Through
chronic pain, abuse, divorce, and the heartbreak of a failed justice system
. . . as well as the struggles and joys of remarriage, a blended family,
and parenting a child with special needs, my character has been refined.
Each time Christ brings me to the end of myself, He transforms me further
into His image. Transform is another word for reframe.
Ten years ago, the Lord opened the doors for me to use my experiences to
walk alongside others through Insight's Special Needs Ministries. When we
realized our audience included many people besides those impacted by
special needs, we decided to change the name to Reframing Ministries. Our
goal is simple: to bring hope, help, and humor to you as you go through
life's daily struggles, grief, disability, unexpected changes, and other
experiences that present you with the opportunity to REFRAME.
Being transformed into the image of Christ isn't something that just
happens. God works the miracle, but we must participate by aligning our
lives with His Word . . . by allowing His grace to reframe our perspective.
It's hard, painful work! But if you want to live more fully, laugh more
deeply, and love more authentically, the only pathway is the process of
I close with advice from the wisest man who ever lived:
"Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for
this is everyone's duty"
If you're wondering where God is or feeling stuck, I invite you to come
along with me on this journey, on this one-step-at-a-time process I call
"reframing." It isn't a formula, an "if I do this, God will do that" kind
of thing. It's a mindset . . . an integration of our humanity and God's
sovereignty. It won't be easy, but you won't be alone. And I promise, you
will never be the same!