Ironman Fran

“Hey Beth, Tony texted me.”  Drawing near the kitchen table, my husband paused as he placed a hand on my shoulder.  “Frannie passed out, so he called 9-1-1.  They’re at the hospital.”

I hate news like that.

We’ve borne far beyond our share of bad calls within our family over the years, but to receive one pertaining to my dear friend, Fran Lombardi, rattled my cage.  In an instant, my Cheerios® and banana breakfast became pebbles in my mouth, the rest left behind in the bowl, morphing into a soggy, pasty mess.

It’s amazing how one phone call can jolt us out of the present, thrusting us into the reality of our own mortality.

Please, Lord!  Not Frannie.

I’d met Frannie two years ago at a church retreat, and as we chatted over a cup of tea, I found her to be one of the most positive people I’d ever met.  Over time, we became dear friends, as I gleaned much from her quiet, gentle spirit and loving ways.

I didn’t want to lose her.

Thoughts raced like Thoroughbreds through my mind as I fumbled for my phone.

Dehydration?  Heart attack?  Stroke?  I gulped.  Cancer?  

I shook my head.  Stop diagnosing, Beth, and call Tony!

I punched in his number.

Her husband didn’t answer, but Christian and I offered our prayers and support on voicemail.  We rushed the kids through breakfast, and as I began getting them dressed to go to the hospital, we got word that Frannie was okay.  Earlier in the week, she’d caught a cold, and the ER doctor believed that the OTC the medication she’d taken had caused her blood pressure to bottom out.

Thank God!

Frannie is a Stage IV lymphoma survivor.  She’s enjoyed remission as long I’ve known her, but the what-if has reared its ugly head the few times something unusual has happened.

Like when she and I had planned to race the Demarest Triathlon together back in June of 2016.  It was my first race, her third, and we were excited.  We trained hard.  Our amazing husbands supported us like crazy, and somewhere between homeschooling and writing, I squeezed in my workouts in preparation for the sprint distance event.

Roughly one month before race day, I got the call.

“Frannie’s in the ER.”

She’d been over-training, gotten dehydrated, and simply tanked, but the whole experience shook us all and left sweet Frannie completely wiped out.  We all knew she shouldn’t race, but hats off to Tony for the way he handled it.

“It’s her decision.”

Frannie chose not to race, but selfless as usual, she encouraged me to compete.  I hesitated, but when I saw how much it meant to her that I continue, my mind was made up.

Press on, I did.

The remaining training proved nothing short of grueling for me as I dealt with the “knowing” Frannie wouldn’t compete, but her episode at the hospital stirred something inside me, a growling, burning passion that compelled me to move forward, faster, father.  Gratefulness that her cancer had not resurfaced surged within me, and when June 6th arrived, I stood ready at the start.

I raced alone.  For Frannie.

For all of her seemingly wasted hours in the pool, on the bike, and on the road.  For all the disappointment she’d surely felt for not being able to race the tri herself.  For all of the recent fear she’d had to face and the questions her heart had undoubtedly asked.

For the fact that she was alive and cancer-free!

And there she was, on the sidelines, cheering me on every step of the way along with Tony, Christian, and the kids.  She’d poured all of her disappointment into one big lump of encouragement, offering me strength in spite of her weakness, the epitome of a precious friend.

Thank you, sweet Frannie, for your millions of smiles and thoughtful words.  Thank you for loving on my kids and calling them precious.  Thank you for making the calls that count and being our family’s friend through every storm.

A friend [who] loves at all times. (Prov. 17:17)

Frannie went on to race the following year.  I had to sit out due to injury, but I look forward to racing with her (Lord-willing) this summer.

What an honor it was to watch her run, bike, and swim (with our families and our good friend, Mark), to cheer her on from the sidelines, to witness these special moments of victory in her life!  I don’t remember who had the best official time that day back in August, but I will forever remember the winner.

Iron Man Fran.

Please click the link below if you’d like to see Iron Man Fran in action:



by Beth Ann Morgan

My children and I are watching The Sound of Music. Again. We must have watched this movie at least a dozen timesover the holidays to the point where I’ve dreamt that I’m wearing a dress made from olive green curtains and singing in a canoe.

It dawned on me only today why my children like it so much. Beyond the obvious beauty of the music and heartwarming story, I believe it’s the remarkable transformation of the Von Trapp Family that has captivated my own.

A devastated widower and father of seven attempts to carry on with life as usual, a man whose powerful position allows no room for grief of his severe loss or compassion for his children’s. Their prolonged pain and obvious dysfunction moved John and Hannah as question after question poured out.

“Mommy, why did their mommy die?”

“Why doesn’t anyone smile at their house?”

“Why is the daddy a Captain grumpy sheep when he’s got so many children to love?”

Over the past several weeks, the sheer emotion of the story served has served as a powerful springboard for much conversation here on Cherry Lane. We talked through the family having to quickly leave their home without warning and how scary that must have been.

We could relate.

We talked about how the children’s hearts hurt terribly, but even though the daddy probably wanted to, he couldn’t help them with their hurts because his heart hurt, too.

We could relate.

We also shared about how confining the convent must have felt to Maria’s spirit, one that simply wanted to run free and sing at the top of her lungs all of the songs she was created to sing. My sweethearts hopped off the sofa and ran around the coffee table, letting loose in a way that restrictive hospital settings do not allow.

So many opportunities to delve into the deeper issues of the heart. Relatable, enjoyable, family-oriented. An all-around winner for any family that needs something fun to do together.

We highly recommend this wonderful classic.


Photo courtesy of Profiles in History



by Beth Ann Morgan

Ever have one of those days when everything seems to be falling apart, and then, you get “the call”, the one your heart has been waiting for, the one that helps you carry on in spite of the ordeal ahead of you?

As I held my little girl in my arms one terrible spring afternoon, I knew she would not survive until morning. The doctors had run all the tests, knew what was wrong, and needed time to figure out the best way to fix it.

Time was a luxury sweet Abby Mae could not afford.

Tears muddled my window view of the brilliant reds and yellows lining the pavement below. Abby’s breathing sputtered and spattered, her body fidgeting and wrenching on my lap. For the millionth time, I checked my phone.

To my surprise it rang, startling both Abby and I. It was my dear friend, Helen. I answered, relieved to hear her voice. I gave her the quick update and then waited to hear her response. She’s a doctor, so I guess I thought she would say something profound or have a question or suggestion. What she said comforted me more than anything I have ever known.

I don’t know what to say, my friend.” Pause. “I just had to call.

We cried together. Neither of us said anything for a long time. The “being together”, experiencing the painful shared burden, no matter how far the distance between us, was powerful. No fancy words, no needless sentiments.

I don’t know what to say.” She said it again. “I just had to call you – I love you and Miss Abigail so much! We are praying.

I thanked her as my husband entered the room.

After an emergency surgery at 11 pm, Abigail survived, thank God. The call of my friend was pivotal to my being able to get through the entire situation. Simple love extended when it mattered most.

May God help me be such a friend to others in their times of need.


photo courtesy of clarita



by Beth Ann Morgan

How does a goal-oriented person face the New Year with hope of accomplishing anything in the midst of an indefinite season of crisis? The answer I found for myself during our most trying seasons wasn’t necessarily the one I wanted, but it was the one I needed.

A doable list.

I started my New Year with my annual list-making ritual. I’d always loved to set goals and looked forward to it, the creation of my personal road map for the coming year full of exciting adventure and activity.   I would spend all morning propped up in bed, praying and writing, remembering and learning, hoping and dreaming. By the end of it all, I would have a neat, one-page vision to help set my course and motivate every step.

It was never a question of if but rather when all of the items would get done. With joy.

However, this year proved different, as had the last.   Nearly every goal had gone right out the window, and as I sat with my yellow legal pad and G-2 pen, I struggled to find something attainable to record.

What was the point of making goals if I couldn’t achieve them?

Many of my previous goals had revolved around writing, things to accomplish around the home and in my family/ministry/relational life. After living out of suitcases in the midst of complete upheaval for years, I had to accept that none of last year’s goals had been met and would not be met . . . for a long time.

We no longer participated in ministry outside of our immediate family. We couldn’t keep up with all of the relationships we had enjoyed prior to crisis. We weren’t often home, and I wasn’t writing anything except our hospital blog, struggling to get even a few hours with my children, let alone meet my fancy pre-planned relational goals.

I wept.

I realized I needed to make a choice before the voracious monster of frustration latched its ugly talons on my withering spirit. I could either keep writing lists of unattainable goals, or I could prayerfully jot down a couple of somewhat attainable goals pertinent to my current season of life.

I chose the latter. And it set me free.

Free to focus on the here—and-now. Free to live fully today instead of pushing toward the fantasy of tomorrow. Free to love without distraction.

I kept my list simple.

1) Love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

2) Love my neighbor as myself.

Both kept me plenty busy but deeply satisfied. I’ll never fully master either on this earth, but the very pursuit of them wrought new and beautiful meaning to my goal-keeping. Not that I wasn’t already trying in my own way to love God and others, but my overall focus shifted from accomplishing tasks to loving well.

I’m forever grateful for the change. Even though I’m at a place today where I can add more tasks to my list this year, I’ll always keep these two goals at the top.

Everything else is secondary.


Photo credit courtesy of Bosela



by Beth Ann Morgan

Have you ever found yourself stuck needing a doctor over the holidays? Me, too. The only option was the overcrowded ER. One of the best Christmas gifts I received three years ago was a visit from Dr. David Perry of East Penn House calls in Emmaus, PA.

My son, John, had had a high fever for two days, and on the third day, I felt he ought to be checked. He’d had a nasty bout with ear infections and was one appointment away from getting ear tubes. If he needed an antibiotic, I knew it was imperative for him to get one ASAP.

It was Christmas Eve.

I mentally prepared to pack up and head to the ER, one that I knew would be bursting to capacity, when I remembered an email I’d read about a physician house call service. A local ER doctor had started a business on the side, and his website listed simple infections as something he would be able to diagnose and treat. In my home!

I gave him a call.

Sure enough, he came by the house within a couple of hours. With a smile! I apologized for calling him away from his family, and he assured me he was happy to come and that the timing was perfect.

He examined John. No ear infection, thankfully, just a nasty virus that would need further attention if it didn’t let up within 24 hours. He left specific instructions with numbers to call if it got worse and only charged me an office co-pay. On Christmas Eve!

I will never forget the relief I felt. No ear infection. No ER. No crazy bill. I couldn’t have asked for a better gift that year, and it’s one of my favorite stories to tell when asked about favorite presents.

I hope that you never have to call on Christmas Eve, but if you find yourself needing a doctor at home, maybe a physician will be standing by, ready to answer your call.

Photo courtesy LIFE Magazine via Pinterest


office on the go

One of the things I wish I’d known a lot earlier in my hospital journey was the benefit of carrying basic office supplies with me. I can’t tell you how many times I wished I’d had a pen and paper. Even something simple like a small zippered pouch with pens, paperclips, sticky notes, and scissors would have saved me numerous trips to the unit clerk’s desk or down to the gift shop.

When my mother and sister were in a terrible car accident, I knew they’d stay in the hospital for quite some time. The impact had torn my sister’s right arm from the socket.   And when the surgeon went in to repair my mother’s broken ankle, he later told us the bones had been smashed into pebbles.

With such massive reconstructions and healing involved, many people from multiple disciplines assisted in my family’s care over a prolonged period of time. Physicians, nurses, therapists, social workers, pastors, neighbors, friends, insurance agents, homecare, outpatient treatment, medical supply companies, etc. Keeping everyone’s contact information and documentation straight could quickly have become a nightmare.

I scurried home and opened nearly every drawer, cupboard, and under-the-bed rubber bins. Finally, it stood ready, a large black accordion folder complete with hastily but lovingly assembled products for my family to use during their journey. Perhaps this simple collection of supply items will come in handy for yours as well.

Photo courtesy of decorating via Pinterest

Pictured above: A dish drainer outfitted with cute files and assorted office supplies makes a great portable office. 


Toiletry Bag

by Beth Ann Morgan

Have you ever REALLY needed to take a shower in a situation where the only resource you had to facilitate the process was running water? The experience can prove helpful but unsatisfying.

Back in 2005, I traveled to Kenya with a medical team to speak at a conference, conduct interviews for Benard’s Vision: The Quest of a Kenyan Pastor, and assist in treating over 1200 patients.

It was the trip of a lifetime.

My team got to see and do so much, but one place I visited unexpectedly was The Aga Khan Hospital in Kisumu. I’d eaten a peanut butter and tomato sandwich, and even though I’d removed the tomatoes, I still got sick from the juice that remained.

After my body violently rid itself of the sandwich, my blood pressure began to drop. I’m prone to fainting, so this didn’t surprise anyone. Our team leader, Dr. Scott Rice, asked our host, Pastor Benard Ondiek, for an ambulance to transport me to the hospital.

His entire community moved heaven and earth to get me all the help I needed, and it humbled me greatly. They’d moved out of their houses for two weeks so that our team could move in and be comfortable. They’d sacrificed greatly to feed and protect us. And then they’d loaded me into the only ambulance in the county.

Their selflessness was beautiful to me.

The trip to the hospital was long, fodder for future posts. On the way, I realized I had nothing with me and wondered how long I would stay. The staff admitted me to the VIP suite, which had a private bed and full bathroom.

But no toiletries.

Sometimes there is no time to grab a pre-packed toiletry bag, but if there is, I recommend standing ready.



Shoebox Image

by Beth Ann Morgan

Imagine placing an ordinary shoebox crammed full of toys, stickers, games, and toiletries into the arms of an impoverished child? Operation Christmas Child (OCC), a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, delivered over one million such shoeboxes last year and brightened the lives of children around the world with a simple gift.

We have the power to do the same.

I’ve seen the beautiful OCC videos. Children beaming from ear-to-ear, little girls twirling around holding a doll, and a ragged boy clutching a box to his chest with tears streaming down his face. For a few delightful minutes, they feel valuable, they feel loved, they feel free.

Free to be children and enjoy something special.

The challenges of life disappear for a few precious minutes as the walls of the heart tumble down and sheer joy rushes in. To know that someone far away cares enough to reach into their pain and do something fun, practical, and beautiful touches a place deep inside, a place where perhaps no one has ever come.

Today, children lie in hospitals and homeless shelters, orphanages and unhappy places all around us, children not necessarily hard up financially but physically and emotionally destitute, needing a lift of the spirit. Maybe they just got the test results. Or heard the court order. Or got more bad news.

Any day can be a shoebox day for a hurting child.

I wish I had been more sensitive to all of this earlier in life. After walking my path, I sometimes catch myself going back in my mind to the patients I’d cared for, all of the things I could have done but didn’t. I don’t stay there but focus instead on what my family and I can do today to help families going through a difficult time.

One little shoebox is all it takes.

I’ve posted a list of TEN SHOEBOX PACKING ITEMS I’ve started with in the past.   For more great ideas, please visit


sensory play beans

by Beth Ann Morgan

Crisis of any kind challenges even the bravest to handle it well, but without wisdom gleaned from several years of life experience, children dealing with crisis tend to resort either to retreating in or acting out.

Ours acted out. In an all-or-nothing kind of way, a way that was totally out of my league.

I remember the first time Lisa Hayslip, one of our Early Intervention (EI) therapists, came to our house with a boot-box size bin filled with hard, dry beans. After sitting on our family room floor, she popped off the top. Hannah gasped with delight as Lisa plunged her hand deep into the bin, wiggling her fingers all around.

Without hesitation, Hannah followed suit and played in the wonderful tub of beans, enjoying the silky smoothness and pleasant weight covering her hands. I hadn’t seen her smile like this for weeks, yet here she was, digging around for plastic teddy bears like a mole tunneling toward a big juicy worm. She scooped and dumped, slow and fast, swooshing and splashing into the tub of dark red bliss.

For a full thirty minutes.

As the session came to a close, Lisa closed up her box. Hannah’s pretty face fell. Her thirty minutes of peace and purpose dissolved like a mountain of snow on the Fourth of July.

My heart broke. That parental, “I love you so much and want to obliterate the big horrible beast that’s causing you so much pain, but if I can’t, I’m going to do everything in my power to help you through it” feeling rushed through me as we waved goodbye to Lisa.

My mind crumpled up today’s “To Do” list and tossed it into the trashcan. I picked up my keys with a smile.

“Want to hit the Dollar Tree, Sweetheart?”

THE NEXT 1-2-3


by Beth Ann Morgan

One of the most helpful things I’ve learned as an adult is how to switch to The Next 1-2-3 thinking when I catch myself starting to feel overwhelmed. The sheer emotion of crisis threatens to consume sanity like a lion devours its prey, so I’ve learned to lean heavily on a God-sent tool that helped structure my mind.

It was subconscious at first. An Early Intervention therapist named Lisa had taught me how to structure my daughter’s daily activity by using a simple 1-2-3 method. Our family had found it effective and incorporated it into our daily life.

Little did the therapist (and I) know how critical THE NEXT 1-2-3 would become to my own survival.

Here’s how it works:

  • I ask myself, “What are the next three things I’m going to do?”
  • I formulate my plan: 1) Unlock the door. 2) Turn on the light. 3) Turn on the oven.
  • I carry out the three tasks in order.

Done. Then I would plan my next three steps: 1) Put my keys on the hook. 2) Hang up my coat. 3) Set my purse in the closet.

Sometimes it was change a diaper, wash my hands, and head downstairs. When things were incredibly tough, I completed only one task at a time.

It was all I could handle.

Minute-by-minute, task-by-task, somehow it all got done, or at least what needed to get done did. Even though I stayed busy and productive, I had minimized the decision-making process and given myself a mental mini-break by using the NEXT 1-2-3.

Sound crazy? Try it next time you’re in the middle of a substantial mess struggling to keep breathing, dragging yourself around on less than two hours of sleep.

Every bit of energy counts.