Susan Smith is singing her own little Hallelujah chorus this year.
A year ago, the Glen Burnie woman had just been released from a jail term for fatally shooting her live-in boyfriend in 1986.
This Christmas, she's a happy newlywed, curling up on the sofa with her new husband in their new home.
An abused daughter and abused spouse, Smith, 37, had plenty of painful memories racked up before she pulled a gun from a kitchen drawer and shot the man with whom she lived, resulting in a 25-year sentence.
Three years and a month after entering prison, she was offered a guilty plea for manslaughter and sentenced to time already served.
The good times have been rolling ever since.
Last December, she was simply glad to be free and enjoying the company of her sister and brother-in-law, Beverly and Leo Smith.
But after a few months of dating Leo's brother Carl, she married him in August.
"I kind of knew him all my life, but not well," she says. "We just started going to the movies and simple stuff."
And then she just "kind of fell in love."
"I enjoyed being with her so much, but we didn't get to spend much time together," says Carl, 48.
They decided to marry. The simple ceremony took place at Carl's church, Hope Presbyterian in Arbutus, Baltimore County. Sue wore a summery dress.
Close family members came.
"My two kids stood up for us. I thought that was kinda neat," she says.
The couple went to South Carolina for their honeymoon and to visit one of Carl's adult children from a previous marriage.
They returned to a newly purchased mobile home in Severn, where Sue's daughter Michele, 16, soon came to live with them.
The couple feared Michele wouldn't welcome a new father, and at first, she didn't.
"But now she thinks he's great. She calls him Pops. They're tight with each other," Sue says.
The new bride works part time at a local grocery store. Her husband works for his brother's home improvement business, as he has most of his life.
"I thought I never would marry again, 'cause I thought I would never allow myself to care about anybody. I had no interest in men," Sue says.
"But him, because of the way he is, showed me there are men who can be trusted with your feelings."
When she works evening hours, as she often does, Carl brings her dinner.
He insisted they shop for their first tree, buying ornaments and also stockings to hang by the fireplace.
"I'm just enjoying having a normal life. Nothing spectacular. I haven't forgotten about prison. I never will. I still have flashes of how good it is to be free," says Sue.
Perhaps she'll never quite forget her unhappy childhood, her alcoholic father beating her for showing any expression on her face. Or the night her lover offered her as a sexual prize if he lost a pool game, or smashed her face against the walls.
But she says she also won't forget how God helped her, first sending her peace and then staying with her until her case was reopened and she walked out of prison early.
In those dark years, she always had too much time. "I crocheted for three years!" she says.
Now the days are always too short. She can't find time to hang more pictures in the rose and blue living room. She wishes she had more spare time to go to movies or to dinner.
But in spite of a busy part-time work schedule, the couple save every Tuesday for bowling on their "special night out," Carl says.
"The most fun thing is just us, being a complete family," he says.
She's able to joke about her past now, Sue says, but she never wants to see the inside of a prison again.
"I don't even speed," she says.
Of all her blessings, perhaps the greatest is realizing she's gotten a second chance at life, Sue says.
"I heard people say it's terrible, that people won't accept you after prison. But that hasn't been true for me. It hasn't closed doors. I think people can use it as an excuse, they say, 'I can't do this because I'm branded.' " Sue looks around her living room, squeezes her husband's hand.
"THIS is what I wanted to do," she says. "Live happily ever after."