Foot Rub

How often do you get a foot rub?

My sweet girls jump in every so often with their glittery lotion and keyed-up theatrics, but my dedicated husband is the one who at the very least weekly rolls up his sleeves, lathers up with green, gooey aloe vera gel, and does the dirty work.

Wonderful man, that Christian.

I once attended a funeral for a remarkable young woman named Laura Beth Wollenhaupt.  Her parents led our church’s youth group, and even though my husband and I served as youth sponsors, I only knew Laura from afar.  One tragic August day, she died in car accident on the way to Disney World to vacation with her family.

An incredible thing I learned about Laura while sitting in the pew that day came from her college roommate, Lexi.  She shared that she’d had a chronic skin condition on her feet that was alleviated by daily washing and that Laura took great delight in comforting her friend by washing her feet.

Faithfully and with joy.

That beautiful story of not only friendship but also servanthood has remained with me for years, and I think of Laura every time my feet are rubbed.  The fact that she possessed the ability to love so selflessly at only twenty-two years inspires and challenges meet do the same.

No wonder He wanted her with Him.

Thank you, Laura, for your beautiful example and selfless love.  Thank you, Christian, for your undying devotion and tender care.  Thank you, my girls, for your sweet giggles and sparkly lotion.

Thank You, Father, for the dear ones above and for stooping to wash all of us from head-to-toe.

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:

Strategic Planner

Do you enjoy personality/strength/weakness tests?  I do.

A few years ago, I took one located in the book titled Now, Discover Your Strengths by Buckingham and Clifton.  The questionnaire proved similar to most I’d previously taken, but the labels for the end results were uniquely termed.  And I liked it because I felt that it not only gave an overall great assessment but it also pegged my number one strength to a T.

Strategic planning.

When I think of great strategic planners, two amazing women come to mind.  My mother and my good friend, Wendi.

The kids and I had the pleasure of spending an entire six hours yesterday with my dear friend, Wendi Fulton Wetzel Pickel.  There’s much wisdom to be had in this little 50-something package, who kindly delivered herself to my doorstep that damp February morning.

I’d met her seven years ago during one of my darkest seasons.  She’d contacted me online regarding a book I’d written, and after chatting back-and-forth, we realized that we’d both planned to attend the same fundraiser for Kenyan orphans in Philadelphia and took the opportunity to ride together.

It was a Divine appointment.

John had been home from the hospital roughly six months when I popped into Wendi’s car.  Even though medically he was doing great, my husband and I found ourselves in the midst of a marital mess, mopping up after our son’s crisis had passed.

I have no idea to this day what made me do it, but I dumped my bucket to this sweet, compassionate, total stranger.

I’m so thankful I did.  She’d been through nearly the exact same thing.

God paired us up that night, as she became intimately acquainted not only with my family but also our troubles.  Because of her incredibly challenging life experiences, she was uniquely qualified to walk beside me through mine.

She has listened for hours upon hours.  She’s done my dishes and brought me ice packs, she’s met me in hospitals and made me oatmeal, she’s cared for my children and spent countless hours boldly loving, pouring herself unreservedly into my life.  A fabulous sounding board, yet discerning and wise, unafraid to be a truth-teller, a blessed one who holds me accountable to biblical principles.

I thank God for her.

Wendi couldn’t stop smiling as she watched the kids play yesterday.  “It’s amazing to watch them together,” she said as she shook her head.  “They look so normal – so healthy, so happy.”

She saw them at their worst.  The meltdowns, the feeding tubes and oxygen tanks, the downward spirals.  I’ll never forget a bittersweet moment when Abby turned a corner after a difficult bout in the hospital and was unexpectedly discharged early.  We were ecstatic . . . but I had no idea how we were getting home.  The timing seemed terrible.

Until I called Wendi.

All she said was, “Great!  What’s the exit?” as I heard keys jingling and feet walking . . . and then the car door closing.

She’s been through much – I have great respect for her and have found her amazingly gifted at helping others during crisis because she knows how best to survive them.  Through much adversity , God has made her shine like the sun into the lives of many in their darkest times.

He’s even taking her international.

This brilliant retiree has met her unexpectedly challenging life-stage head-on as she and her wonderful husband, Tim Pickel, have channeled their energies wisely and well.  They’ve partnered with a missions organization founded by Larry Roth and Marsha Roth called OneMillionChildren, which serves to bring clean water, medical care, and the Word of God to one million children in Africa.

 

Thank you, Wendi, for all you’ve done to lift me up and walk with me in this life.  Thank you for your steadfast example and countless selfless acts.  Thank you for your wise counsel and uncompromising quest to strategize what’s best for everyone.

Thank you for being an absolutely wonderful friend.

I praise the number one Strategic Planner for allowing our paths to cross in this life – I’ve already put in a request for a regular time-block with you in eternity.

May He continue to use you to bless many as He richly blesses you and Tim and the work of your hearts and hands both today – and beyond!