by Beth Ann Morgan

Trying to find something fun to do on a cold January day? A box of sugar cubes, a little powdered sugar icing, and whatever candy you have on hand just might do the trick.

As a little girl, my family occasionally made sugar cube castles over the Christmas holidays, but I didn’t fully appreciate the experience until about three years ago when I attempted to construct a gingerbread house with my children. I should have waited until Daddy could have assisted with the assembly. We didn’t know when we would all be together next, so I’d decided to go ahead and get it done before Christmas.

Bad move.

I slathered the icing along the top of one wall. Four walls already stood ready to receive the roof pieces, but as I put them in place, it became painfully clear that something was wrong. The pieces kept sliding down, collapsing the roof and causing the icing to smear down the walls.

So, I’m not an engineer.

The next year, we found ourselves in the midst of another raging storm as the holidays approached.  I’d had roughly ten hours of sleep over the previous four nights, and my sweet children whipped open the front door with giggles, hopping up and down upon my arrival from the hospital.

“Christmas is almost here, Mommy! Can we please bake some cookies tonight?”

Bake? Tonight? There was no way.

I frantically opened my baking cupboards praying for something fun, easy, and exciting to fall out of the cupboard into my arms when my eyes honed in on a bright yellow box of sugar cubes. Sugar cubes! Memories flooded my mind as relief spread its warm snuggly blanket over my exhausted soul, allowing me to rest a minute in the eye of a raging storm.


No need for an engineering degree. A little powdered sugar with milk/water . . . a box of sugar cubes, candy. I covered my big wooden cutting board with foil, gave the kids a little direction, and watched them create a marvelous castle.

I had to turn away for a few minutes to take a critical phone call. When I returned, their creation took my breath away like the first glance at the world covered in white after the first snowfall of the season.

The castle was beautiful. Radiant, glistening and glimmering, as were their little faces, innocent, icing-covered, and full of joy.

We needed that.

We needed to accomplish something and see it through to the end. We needed to do something fun together, something lasting that we could see and be reminded of throughout the season. We needed something beautiful while an ugly reality threatened to undo all we held dear.

God knew what we needed, and He provided. Again. With sugar cubes.

Thank You, Lord!


photo courtesy of



Plastic Utensils in Cup

by Beth Ann Morgan

Sometimes crisis situations cause a rethinking through every process involved in daily living. When you’re down to your last fork and dinner plate, it’s time to consider making a temporary switch to an immediate time and clutter saver: disposables.

I initially recoiled at the idea of using all paper plates and plastic utensils. Eating like this reminded me of the hospital cafeteria, and during the few nights a month when I actually got to sit at my kitchen table, I wanted to use real plates and silverware. But the pileup in the sink waiting for me in the morning prodded me to reconsider.

The following weekend, I arrived home to find packages of paper bowls, plates, and cups with an enormous box of plastic ware on the counter along with a note from my husband.

Please don’t use anything that needs to be washed!

It made sense, and he was right. While I hated pouring money down the drain, the time disposables saved us was invaluable. We had no room for dirty dishes as our counter space was already filled with multiple lists and instruction sheets, pumping supplies, NG tube placement supply and diaper baskets, medication bins, etc. Clutter threatened to consume us. We fought upstream to manage it all to the best of our ability with lots and lots of help.

Abby has only been stable for one year . . . December to be exact. We were all teary-eyed as we prepared to celebrate the holidays, remembering what it had been like in years past, both the good and the bad, and then we shared our joy about being home and healthy together this year. We’re so grateful. Intent on enjoying today, taking time to heal together.

The whole experience changed me forever. While I still appreciate a pretty place setting, the moment is fleeting in the face of what matters most.

On Christmas Eve this year, I didn’t flinch when I picked up our Boston Market rotisserie chicken meal (I can’t handle cooking big holiday meals yet – ordering out helps me relax while feeling like everyone can enjoy a special meal together – I highly recommend it).

“Ma’am, would you like disposable plates, utensils, and cups?”

“Yes, please!”




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

It’s all too easy to turn into a machine when things get tough. Days can go by without a decent shower, nutritious food, and solid sleep. No time to process the raw emotional journey, no strength to complete more than the most basic of chores. Go, go, go until sheer exhaustion forces you to collapse, only to find yourself waking the next morning with reality thrusting you into the same mode of survival.

I would encourage you to take 20 minutes.

I remember the first time I realized the value of doing this shortly after heading in to see John one day at the hospital. After driving for an hour and 15 minutes, I felt keen disappointment when the unit clerk informed me that an emergency surgery was underway in the pod, and I would not be allowed to see John for at least another 20 minutes.

“You’re free to go wherever and get a little time to yourself. I’ll announce it over the loudspeaker when the procedure is finished.”

I thanked her and then shuffled back down the hallway. All of the rushing around earlier that day and fighting the traffic, then hurrying upstairs . . . and now to sit? I didn’t know what to do with myself. I admit, I was shocked.

I remember heading to the waiting area and sitting for a full ten minutes. Just sitting. I watched the siblings of patients play, parents and grandparents exchange nervous conversation with tissues in hand, anxious bystanders mumbling into cell phones and running their fingers through their hair.

Compassion washed over me as my eyes filled with tears.

I got out my journal and began to write for another ten minutes. I poured out my heart like water by writing my prayer to the Lord, praying for every broken heart in the room, for every sick and hurting child, and for God to help us all.

Your days and nights might seem to run together, but give it a try whenever you can. Set your timer for 20 minutes. Let yourself sit and do nothing. Allow your thoughts to happen. Pray. Journal. Mediate on a Bible verse. Whatever it is that helps you process what’s going on around you.

And when the timer rings, you’re done. I personally find myself refreshed. My circumstances probably didn’t change, but my load has lightened a little.

I pray yours will, too.



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


Crippled Lamb

by Beth Ann Morgan

Are you looking for the perfect gift for a child between the ages of four to ten? I have a recommendation for you, one that has the potential to move every reader to tears with its message of hope and beautiful pictures.

The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado tells the story of an orphaned, crippled lamb named Joshua. His one and only friend is a cow named Abigail, and the two share one night together that they will never forget, a night Joshua would never have known had he not been disabled.

I found myself inspired not only by the book itself but also by the reactions of the children to whom I’ve read it. Their eyes first show great empathy, then move to sadness at the lamb’s lonely plight, and finally, to awestruck wonder as the lamb’s greatest weakness ushers him into the presence of a King.

The other reason I personally like the story is that it shows how everyone has something to give, something of purpose and value, even when it may appear untrue. For years I struggled with a severe case of a heart condition called Neurocardiogenic Syncope. My case baffled cardiologists across the country, and I spent eight years traversing the ups-and-downs of trying to carry out my tasks of daily living without fainting.

During the darkest periods, I was confined to bed, unable to even sit because my severely low blood pressure would drop further still. My brain was foggy at best, and I remember feeling my thoughts swirl around in my head like a load of laundry in a washing machine. It was boring. Time passed by, and I couldn’t remember what I had done much less thought about the previous day . . . week . . . month.

It was lonely.

Until I realized that I could pray. What I had seen previously as an immense trial in my life I now saw as an incredible opportunity. How many people in their twenties are blessed with 24 hours/day, seven days/week to pray for people? Most of them are working, raising a family, studying, praying as time allows, but constantly? That is nothing short of an extreme challenge.

When I understood the magnitude of the gift I’d been given, I gratefully poured out my heart like water before the Lord every day, talking to Him about anything and everything, lifting up concerns for friends and strangers alike. God used those precious years to draw me close, comfort my heart, and teach me many things. As hard as it was, I look back over that period of my life with joy.

It was beautiful to me.

As is The Crippled Lamb and its message of love and hope. May God continue to use this book to reach into the hearts of children and their families to make them tender toward those who feel lonely and left out, renewing their purpose and giving them hope.


Photo Courtesy of Max Lucado and Illustrator Andrea Lucado



by Beth Ann Morgan

Christmas cards. Cookie baking. Wrapping gifts. Trimming the tree . . . the list seems to go on and on. When one feels already overwhelmed by the everyday tasks dictated by survival mode, preparing for a holiday you may or may not feel like celebrating can leave a person befuddled to the point of doing absolutely nothing.

My recommendation? Pick one.

Keeping things as simple as possible is sometimes the best thing you can do to love your family during a difficult time. Perhaps in years past, you’ve spent your holidays like mine, steeped in tradition and wonderful memories, all things you’d love to pass on to your children.

Maybe this year things are different. Your husband is gone. Funds are dwindling. A little one’s in the hospital clinging to life. Close friends or family recently moved out of the area and won’t be able to make it back to be with you this year, a time when you need them most.

Whatever your circumstances, I recommend picking one tradition you want to keep and starting there. We chose the Christmas tree. Grandma baked our cookies for us and cards didn’t go out, but we decorated our tree. We used to go to a beautiful Christmas tree farm and spend an afternoon with axe in hand, riding the wagon, drinking hot chocolate in the cozy craft shop.

My heart broke the first year I realized it wouldn’t happen.

We had dreaded Christmas and knew it would soon come upon us. John had spent about six weeks in the hospital and faced another surgery, which meant at least three more weeks of recovery. We all secretly hoped he could come home for Christmas but didn’t dare voice it.

He didn’t make it home until February 21st.

Hannah had wanted to wait for John to get our tree, but the day came when we had to tell her that we would have to get the tree without him. We all cried. It was hard to let go of a memory we so wanted to make, one that would never be

And this year, there was no fancy tree farm outing – we had to stop at Home Depot because it was right off our hospital commute exit. I was afraid Hannah would completely meltdown, but to our great surprise, she allowed herself a smile, walked up to a Douglas Fir, and called out, “This one!”

We took it home, decorated it, and even though the entire process was far from ideal, she was happy. There would be years ahead to decorate with frills and fuss over details, but that particular year, “picking one” met Hannah’s need to keep an important tradition and our parental need to make our daughter feel special. Best of all, it gave us the energy and freedom to focus on the most important things, the love of our family and the birth of our Savior.



by Beth Ann Morgan

The holidays can prove stressful without the added dimension of crisis. When it comes to shopping for gifts, making sure your family has all the bases covered can overwhelm you to the point of creating an incredibly difficult situation.

I remember staying in the hospital with Hannah as an infant over Valentine’s Day, and my husband and I totally forgetting about the holiday. We weren’t in the mood to celebrate while our child lay in bed with an antibiotic-resistant strain of E-coli and a 105 degree fever.

But when more children entered the holiday picture, things changed. They had to.

Our culture starts priming no later than December first. Schools have assigned their book reports on the history of Saint Nicholas. Colorful light displays have popped up all around town, even in the neighbors’ yard, and Sunday schools have sent home all kinds of sticky candy cane decorations and manger scene ornaments. It’s everywhere. To say that kids are excited is an understatement, especially kids whose family is going through a tough time.

Even though presents do not erase the pain children feel, a small gift gives them something beautiful in the midst of tragedy, something to look forward to and give them hope. I saw evidence of this firsthand whenever a loving soul would hand my kids a toy or a coloring book, something to pass the time and distract their hearts from hurting.

The Christmas John had to stay in the hospital, I confided in one of the nurses (I believe her name was Eloise) that I hadn’t started shopping yet, only three days before Christmas. Even though I knew extended family adults expected nothing from us and were extremely supportive, I didn’t want to let the children down, especially Hannah.

She had been through enough. I couldn’t stand the thought of her suffering another disappointment.

Nurse Eloise lit up like a Christmas tree. “I’ll do your shopping for you!”

We continued talking, and by the end, she had encouraged me so much that on my commute home, I stayed out until midnight finishing my shopping. Even though I never took her up on it, Nurse Eloise’s kind offer could have come in handy if I couldn’t have mustered the emotional, mental, and physical strength to complete the task myself.

Planning, shopping, and wrapping gifts are typically not jobs parents want to handoff to someone else, but from one parent to another, give yourself permission to let it go. It can be really hard. Over the years, I’ve gotten really good at delegating, but I’ve finally realized that some things didn’t get done because I wanted to be the one to do them.

Sometimes getting it done is more important than doing it yourself. Christmas shopping for little ones is one of those important tasks, and typically, if you ask in advance, it won’t be too hard to find someone willing to help you shop and/or wrap.

Be careful if you end up doing the shopping yourself. I overspent like crazy the first time I holiday shopped during crisis. Emotion drove me like Mario Andretti his racecar because our degree of suffering was great – my heart leapt on the opportunity to ease the blow.

I highly recommend coming up with a simple budget-friendly list and sticking to it in the store.

May God surround you with much love and richly bless you and yours as you make preparations to navigate the season.


divine playdate

by Beth Ann Morgan

One of the beautiful things about being around children at any stage of life, including times of crisis, is benefiting from their incredible ability to simplify the complex.

While my older children spent the afternoon at a recent playdate, my youngest and I took part in a wonderful conversation in the car. Abby’s smile wasn’t as bright as usual, her happy banter nonexistent as she stared out the window.

I couldn’t figure it out. After all, she was my shopper. My Abby Mae has been known to raise her hands and shout, “Yea! Aldi’s! Shopping!” while passing her favorite store, but today, I wasn’t sure she even noticed the colorful sign.

Then it dawned on me.

“Abby, would you like to have a playdate?” Big nod. “With who?”

“God.” Pause. “At His house.”

We proceeded to have a delightful conversation about how God probably has a big playground complete with slides and swings right inside His house. Her faced shone, and she clapped her hands together in delight, pouring out her beautiful two-year-old fantasies. I asked her what she would do first.

“I want to hold Him.”

I nearly ran the car off the road as tears filled my eyes. In an instant, my mind left behind its clutter of cares like the mother who leaves a stack of unwashed dishes on the counter so that she can run barefoot through the field with her little ones to receive a fistful of hand-picked dandelions and glimpse a rainbow spreading across the sky.

I put the car in park and then turned to look my daughter full in the face.

“Me, too, Abby,” I said. “Me, too.”



by Beth Ann Morgan

One thing I did not expect to have after our dark season of trauma was post-traumatic stress. It came out of nowhere, manifesting in different ways at the most unexpected of times. Sleeplessness, depression, nightmares . . . it was terrible.

As we attempted to assimilate back into routine, all of the children had bouts of nightmares. Little Abby had an especially difficult week during a rather trying season, and for the life of us, we couldn’t figure it out.

For years, she had been in love with our next-door neighbors’ dog, Biscuit (she dubbed him Bo-Bo before she could pronounce his name). She would run to our back door with every bark and beg to see the handsome white terrier. We obliged her crush as much as we could, even consenting to piping Biscuit’s picture on her birthday cake.

But then early one morning, she woke, screaming. The blood-curdling kind. I raced to her room and did my best to console her but failed to find the source of her outburst. The scene repeated itself the following night and then every naptime and nighttime for an entire week, her screams often waking us several times each night.

We were beyond desperate for a solution, and finally, we got a hint as to what had happened. One afternoon while the kids played in the backyard, Biscuit bounded into his fenced-in area, barking playfully at my little Morgans through the fence. Abby screamed and raced toward the house. I hurried to her with outstretched arms. She bypassed the arms and lunged at my neck, wrapping around me like a boa constrictor, sobbing.

“Sweetheart, it’s Bo-Bo, your friend.”

“No, he’s not my friend!” Big pools welled in her eyes, confirming her devastation.

“Really? What happened?”

“Bo-Bo,” she said between sobs, “eat me . . . and my bed!”

“What?” The pieces fell into place. “Did you have a bad dream about Bo-Bo?” She nodded, tears streaming down her face. “And that’s what’s making it hard to sleep, when you hear him outside?” More nodding.

“That’s a very scary dream! I’m so sorry, Abby. But you know what? We can fix it.” I told her my plan to move her bed into another room on a different side of the house so that she could no longer hear him barking. “Let’s try it!”

We tried it, and even though the incidents improved slightly, fear followed her into her dreams and continued to torment her the following night. I was spent. I knew she was desperate to conquer this fear, but how was I supposed to help her, to reassure her, to give her something tangible to turn to?

I stared at her bookshelf, and my eyes landed on her favorite book, Jesus Is with Me by Debby Anderson. It’s a simple story that can be sung to the tune of Jingle Bells. I picked it up, and she snuggled into me as I began to sing it to her.

My eyes widened as hope filled my heart.

It was perfect.

“Abby, whenever you have a bad dream or start to feel scary thoughts, you know what you can do? Start singing this song and remind yourself that Jesus is with you . . . ‘here and there and everywhere, Jesus is with me!’ He will help you, Abby, if you ask Him.”

The thought soothed her greatly. She tried it and found great relief, so much so that the book didn’t leave her side for several weeks. We had a few bumps, but within days, Abby was back in the saddle, napping and sleeping like a rock star.

We’ve used the book on several occasions, when we are “here and there and everywhere” as the song goes, so that no matter what’s going on in Abby’s life, she knows she doesn’t have to face her fear alone. I even overheard her start singing the song to her brother, John, when he started talking about Biscuit shortly after the whole ordeal.

John smiled at her. “That’s right, Abby. Jesus is with you.”

She chuckled. “I know!”