30 December 2013

O Holy Night

Christmas in New York this year is one I will never forget.  I've wanted to just hold onto every last drop of it.  The days and moments have felt so meaningful to me that countless times I've wished the whole thing could have been recorded on film.  It has been that good.  Our lives here have been truly incredible...more than I ever could have dreamed up.

But, I am also keenly aware of how fragile life is - and goodness - and hope - and joy.  No matter what life you or I have, things quite often do not go as planned and the pull to get sucked into anger, disappointment, pity, or self-doubt is always there.  The moment we let our guard down, those things can just take over so quickly.

A few days before Christmas, I experienced this.  Something terrible happened to us.  We had been dealing with an ongoing situation with some people that was just awful and all consuming for weeks and weeks.  It was wearing on me at a time when I wasn't on my A-game.  It took us (and especially me) to our limits and at one point, I actually felt despair, something I haven't felt in years and years.

But, quite a miracle happened.  The love and care of my husband saved me.  He prayed for me, loved me, believed in me.  He even cheerfully turned on Elf and set up our Christmas tree.

But the thing that helped me the most to turn things around was his prayer and blessing. Somehow the light that he was willing to share with me healed me when I wasn't capable of healing myself.  The awful stuff I was feeling literally evaporated and I was able to get back to my normal self.  I'm still in awe that this happened and felt I should share it here.  It was a holy night for me, one that I will never forget.  To me, miracles like these are why I want to celebrate Christmas.  It's why I absolutely love the words of the beautiful hymn, "O Holy Night."  I love that Christ taught us to "love one another" and that his "law is love and his gospel is peace" and that his message brought a "thrill of hope" to the world.  I think no matter what our beliefs, we all need that hope.  Without it, despair is too ever present.

I'm so grateful to say that we went on from that night to have the most lovely Christmas celebration ever.  For us, it truly was a celebration of peace and love and joy. 

We got to go to our friends' annual Tapas Party, which really is the best event of the year. It was as spectacular as ever and it was such a blessing to be surrounded by our dearest friends.  I shudder to think that I could have missed it. 

For our tapas contribution, Danny made miniature Navajo tacos with carnitas pork, black bean puree, and homemade tomatillo salsa.  Soooo, soo good.

We also went to Dyker Heights to see all the houses covered in lights.  :)  It's a tradition not to be missed.

Afterward we went to Sunset Park (Brooklyn's Chinatown) for a Chinese banquet at Pacificana. SO fun to sit around a huge table with all our friends and have a Chinese feast.

We also spent one day in the city and went to see the Hobbit in Times Square, walked along 5th & 6th Avenues, saw the famous store windows, the Saks light display, and the Rockefeller Tree.  New York is so, so magical.

We got sushi at Hatsuhana, one of the highest rated sushi places in New York.  It's on 48th St., right near all the festivities.  We really, really loved our meal and I would say this should be a new Christmas tradition.  Nothing like some miso soup to warm you up on a winter night after strolling along 5th Avenue.

And, on Christmas Eve, we headed to the beautiful upper east side for the live nativity pageant at the gorgeous Heavenly Rest Episcopal Church.  This is such a beloved tradition among our Brooklyn and Westchester friends.

It was so meaningful to be there and sing Christmas hymns and celebrate Christmas with so many New Yorkers.

And, on Christmas morning, after a wonderful early breakfast with dear friends, we went to ice skate in Prospect Park at the brand new skating rink next to the lake.  The scenery was spectacular.  And the children we were with were the cutest things ever as they learned to skate.  :)  

We are truly so thankful for Christmas and all it represents.  We're thankful for the joy it brings to families and lives.  We're thankful that it's possible to heal and feel peace.   


  1. Thank you for this beautiful and important post, Mara! I'm so sorry to hear about this terrible situation. I've been dealing with some very difficult things as well, as I'm sure many of your readers have, and it's always good to be reminded of the importance of hope, which is such a big part of Christmas. As even Christ felt grief and despair, He knows how to comfort us when we are experiencing those feelings, too. Unfortunately, we can't always count on others to behave well toward us, but we can always rely on God's healing and promise of peace. Thank you again, and Merry Christmas to you both! Your apartment looks so cozy and full of joy!


  2. Mara, you are so right. If we are not on our guard and purposeful about cultivating happiness and contentment in our lives, despair and other negative things can sneak in stealthily and steal our joy. I'm oh, so glad that your Christmas wasn't ruined by these things. It looks like you had a wonderful holiday! :) Wishing you and Danny a very Happy New Year!

  3. Thank you for sharing your vulnerabilites and overcomings! We resonate with you!

    I had a beautiful Christmas moment yesterday (though it was past Christmas), and I think the description of it will give you joy.

    I was visiting my in-laws' sacrament service, and the speaker was this beautiful woman in her sixties (I would say). She spoke of being raised in a broken home with parents who had debilitating and abusive addictions. She spoke of her early adult years as an empty time of trying to belong, find love, distract from past injury, etc. She wound up being an alcoholic and in abusive relationships, trying to raise two children as well as she could. She finally was treated and in her newfound sobriety found a moment where she had a dream of the Adversary laughing at her and telling her she had no hope, that she'd never amount to anything. The message of the dream haunted her, and everytime she wanted another drink, she knew she couldn't relent. She pressed on. She found religion via an aunt and was baptized in the Mormon church. She found peace through years of spiritual sweat that resulted in forgiving her parents and others who had wronged her through the years. She repented of all her past transgressions and truly set out to live a life where God could "work a great work" in her through the remainder of her life. Anyway, the talk was humble, Spirit-filled, and gentle. She told of the Savior's grace that turned her bitter times into sweet lessons and hopes for eternal gains and restitutions. And even 2 years ago when she suffered a terrible vehicle accident and the subsequent loss of her son (who was dying of liver failure already but was on the drive to see family before passing), she humbly accepted the Lord's will and pushed all bitterness far from her spirit. Wow.

    After she concluded, a beautiful opera-type singer stood up and angelically sang all three verses of O Holy Night. From my place in the chapel, I could see the singer straight ahead and this lovely woman (speaker) just to the left. During the whole song, the lady who had spoken had her head bowed, as if in prayer, mouthing every word of this prayer/song/plea/praise of O Holy Night. Her brow was creased, she was focusing on the words and her love of the Savior, and the combination of it all lifted me and touched me deeply. A woman, so wounded but trusting, allowed to sing this song vicariously through a trained, angelic performer (who also had the most humble, powerful, spirit as she sung/testified of the Lord.)

    I'll never forget that image. May we all be that woman, head bowed, knowing that all hurts will be healed, all wrongs made right, through hope in a power greater than our sorrows are deep. My greetings to you with hopes of a blessed new year for you and all. My we find more of that transforming love to treasure and to share!

    1. Oh I love this comment so much, and Mara, love your post as well.

  4. Mara, thank you so much for these words, this message. It's exactly what I needed to read this evening. Can't thank you enough.

  5. Hi Mara & Danny,

    Happy New Year and god bless you with happiness. Let the new chapter in your life begin :)

    You made me fall in love & I need a life partner now, just as caring,loving,cute as Danny :)

    Love you loads,

  6. Hoe you too have a lovely Christmas and a lovely holiday season, Happy new year Mara and Danny.

  7. O Holy night is my favorite Christmas Hymn! Beautiful words filled with hope...I always seem to cry during that song! My husband and I had a chance to spend a weekend in NYC over the holidays...there is nothing like it! So magical.


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