Miracles of Light, Past and Present

The Jewish festival of Chanukah begins tonight.


If you’re interested, here’s a brief history of the story of Chanukah (if not, you can skip this part):


Chanukah celebrates two miracles. The first was the victory of the Jewish army, known as the Maccabees, over the Greek army that occupied the Holy Land in the 2nd century BCE. The Greeks tried to force the Jews to adopt a Hellenistic lifestyle and abandon their faith. The Greek King, Antiochus, entered the Holy Temple and took out the holy objects and set up Greek idols for worship. He then decreed that the punishment for observing Jewish rituals would be death. The Maccabee army of 6,000 untrained soldiers fought and defeated the Greek army of 50,000 trained men in order to reclaim the Holy Temple.


Although much of the Temple had been destroyed, the Maccabees found a small jug of pure olive oil suitable for lighting the Menorah (candelabra), which was part of the daily ceremony. But the amount of oil was only enough to light the Menorah for one day. Astonishingly, the oil burned for eight days and nights – precisely how long it took for new oil to be made. That was considered the second miracle.


While I’m celebrating these miracles tonight and observing Chanukah by lighting candles with my family, I’ll also be celebrating a miracle of my own: Marissa.


Nine years ago today, I was hugely pregnant. My sister and I were holiday shopping at a nearby mall when I began to feel some dull, irregular cramps. She suggested that I go home to rest. I agreed, but insisted we stop at Crate and Barrel first. I didn’t know how long it would be til I’d be back in a mall and there were holiday sales to explore!


By evening, the cramps were stronger and more consistent. Gavin arrived home, we ate dinner, and went to the hospital.


The nurse informed me I was having “false” labor pains and tried to send me home, but I refused. Marissa was already a week overdue, and I was in pain, so they agreed to induce me. Eighteen hours later, our 8-pound, 7-ounce bundle of joy was born.


Marissa Girl Birth


Finally, I was a mother. Now I could start imparting my wisdom and love to this tiny being, who would eventually grow up to be another (better) version of me. Or so I thought.


How could I have known that I had it all backwards? No one prepared me for the truth: that when Marissa came into the world, she would impart her wisdom to me; that she would be my greatest spiritual teacher and guide; and that because of her, I would become another, better version of me.


Over the past nine years, Marissa has taught me about affection, tolerance, compassion, integrity, humility, dignity, and pure, unconditional love. She races to hug me after we’ve been apart. She loves to stop and pet animals wherever we go. She can be incredibly sensitive to others’ emotions and enjoys being helpful. Her love for learning seems insatiable, and her creativity is boundless. She can be a total goofball one minute, and display a maturity beyond her years the next. I can’t fathom what the next nine years will bring, but I look forward to discovering more of ourselves together.


I am so grateful to God (and Gavin) for bringing this miracle of light into my life.


2014-12-15 2


Happy Chanukah and Happy 9th birthday, Marissa!




In the comments below, tell us: how have your kids taught or inspired you?


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Showing 5 comments
  • Sharon

    Such a beautiful post.
    …and I’m still learning from all four!
    Thank you for sharing, and Chag Chanuka Same’ach!

  • Kristy

    Such a lovely post to read Pam. Aren;t children the best teachers? I’ve learnt so much from my children and I continue to do so every day. The biggest gift has definitely been looking for the joy in each moment and enjoying life’s simple pleasures. Merry Christmas!

    • Pam Howard

      Yes, Kristy, they are the best teachers — especially when it comes to being filled with excitement and enjoying the little things we often take for granted. Merry Christmas to you:)

  • Beth

    Beautiful! And so on point; the children teach us not only how to be parents, but also how to be! I printed this out and will share it with my three this evening when we light the menorah. They are my miracles! Thank you.

    • Pam Howard

      So glad this resonated with you, Beth. They are all miracles. Happy Chanukah! xoxo

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