The power of a story
Yesterday we took a look at some of the new Christmas novels that are new for the season at LifeWay. If you enjoy a diving into a good Christmas tale this time of the year, then you’ll have plenty to choose from. We hope to see you soon!
Today we’ll visit one of the new releases a bit more. Restoring Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti promises to be a Christmas novel that you might just want to read year after year. Here’s a look at this story…
Alexis Blake has one chance to land her own show on the Home Project Network and nothing—not an uncooperative client, a job site without indoor plumbing, or a challenging videographer—is going to stand in her way.
Elsie, at seventy-plus, is far from the ideal client, but she knows exactly what she wants her fieldstone house to look like, and no designer can tell her otherwise. Gabe Langley, the man with the camera, is caught in the middle and it is his wisdom and warmth that just may be the bridge that will bring these two women together.
Can they restore more than just a house and bring about special, almost lost forever Christmas memories?
I’m so happy to have Cynthia with us today to share how the realization of people’s untold stories help to shape so many of her own stories, including Restoring Christmas.
We pulled our car into line behind the others parked at the edge of the road near one of the many staging areas in the large Midwest national military cemetery. Lush green stretched over miles of sacred lawn quilted with humble white marble headstones in militarily precise alignment. Row after perfect row of silent headstones stood at attention.
We family members were directed to gather under the open-sided shelter. Huddling close, the funeral coordinators instructed us to huddle closer still, closer to the casket that held Uncle Clayton’s remains.
Aunt Mert sat on a bench closest to the front, her frail, aged body curled forward with the emotional weight of what the moment represented. She sat straighter when a uniformed member of the Armed Forces approached her with a triangle-folded flag. “On behalf of a grateful nation…” he began. Most of the rest of his words faded, crowded out by his deep sincerity, by how often he must have had to recite those lines to how many widows and widowers, and by the gratitude’s additional meaning for someone like Uncle Clayton whose term of service had included a stint as a prisoner of war during WWII.
An eager storyteller, Uncle Clayton was never wordless at family gatherings, reunions, Thanksgiving meals, Christmas dinners before the children and nieces and nephews had jobs and responsibilities that made getting the extended family together a rarity. Except on one subject. About one time frame. His life as a prisoner of war.
I was only a little younger than Uncle Clayton’s oldest son, but I was a grandmother before I heard more than faint mention of what he’d gone through.
During meal conversation following the military funeral, I heard that he’d lost all of his front teeth to jabs from the heel of an enemy’s rifle when he and another medic were captured while trying to tend to injured Marines on an island near the Philippines. He’d escaped imprisonment but struggled with what we now know as survivor’s guilt. The other medic was too badly wounded to accompany him into the jungle in the escape. His buddy insisted my uncle take his chance while he could.
Uncle Clayton wandered in the jungle—alone, broken, and heartbroken—until he was rescued.
How could that experience not have left a lasting impact? But as it has been for many veterans of war, those stories often remain buried under a façade of normalcy, humor, pursuit of career, imagination’s stories to cover the too-raw-and-unspeakable.
Every time I’m privileged to tell a story—to write a novel—I’m conscious that what I think I know about the book is likely to be upended before I’m done writing. That happened with Restoring Christmas, too. A charming young man whose face registered a buried story behind his comedic approach to life. A determined young woman who fought for control with the desperation of a fawn trying to get her footing on an iced-over lake. An older woman unexplainably resistant to the makeover her fieldstone farmhouse had been offered. The homeowner’s father—Sebastian—whose most recent memories had been stripped by dementia, allowing him to live in the powerful memories of the war years. except for the handful that remained clear but disjointed.
We’re all walking around with untold stories. Neighbors. Friends. Aunts. Uncles. Coworkers. Sisters. And the characters in the books we read, the books we write.
As Sebastian’s story unfolded on the computer screen in front of me, everything—every piece of weathered wood, every decision he’d ever made, the tender way he traced the scar in his daughter’s wrinkled brow—everything was connected by an unseen thread whose needle was guided by an Unseen Hand. And that thread intersected with his daughter’s. Hers intersected with the young woman. The young woman’s with the young man’s. And all of them ultimately with Christ’s story.
Restoring Christmas is a love story. Life is a love story. Restoring Christmas is comedy. Life has undeniable comedic moments, even when least expected or seemingly misplaced. Restoring Christmas is a story of the important things in life. And it’s a story of restoration.
As the words collected on the pages, they aligned much like matching marble headstones in precise order, forming an undeniable pattern like quilting stitches on a wide, undulating lawn of green. Row after row of connected stories. Connected by pain and joy, loss and love, disappointment and beginning again, demolition and restoration. It’s not a Christmas novel because the action happens in November and December, or because snow covers the ground, or because a darkened Christmas tree plays a key role. It’s a Christmas novel because it’s a story of restoration, and that’s the true heart of Christmas, bringing restoration to every story—told and untold.
Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed in hope. She’s the award-winning author of more than eighteen books and a frequent speaker for women’s ministry events. She serves as the Professional Relations Liaison fo mericn Christian Fiction Writers, helping retailers, libraries, and book clubs discover good books and connect with authors. She lives with her husband in Central Wisconsin. Find her online at CynthiaRuchti.com.