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The story behind The Gift of Christmas Past by Cindy and Erin Woodsmall

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It is my very great pleasure to host Cindy and Erin Woodsmall to the blog this week. They have a new release just perfect for the season. Here is a little bit more about their book The Gift of Christmas Past.

Arson wasn’t the only fire that ignited between them.

Young love…
Promises made.
Lies spoken.
She was arrested.
He returned to the safety of his wealthy parents.

Almost ten years later, Hadley and Monroe are both specialists in the field of speech therapy. They meet again . . . thrown together to help a four-year-old-girl rendered mute after being rescued from a fire.

Years of secrets and anger beg to be set free as Hadley and Monroe try to push aside past hurts and find common ground in order to help the traumatized child and her family.

Can the love of Christmas past drift into the present, bringing healing and hope for all?

Sounds like a great read! What brought you to write it?

Cindy here. 🙂 My daughter-in-law Erin and I just released our co-written Christmas novella, The Gift of Christmas Past. This is such a special story to us. It’s my first non-Amish book and our first that we released together. (We wrote one before this for Random House, but that one won’t release until fall of 2018.) What a joy The Gift of Christmas Past was to write!

The beauty of love takes my breath away, and the opportunity for second chances is one of its most powerful aspects. Nothing can stop the power of love—not time, disability, sickness, or even death. Seeds of love sown by a person who died will grow and produce fruit, and the people they loved will pass love on too. And on it goes.

I see family life as a metaphor for Christ’s love. His great love came into a fallen world, and nothing could stop it from spreading and growing in people’s lives. In the same way, love in a family spreads out and grows—to the family members and to everyone they touch.

Part of the storyline in The Gift of Christmas Past is about a little girl with apraxia of speech. Children with speech apraxia have problems saying sounds, syllables, and words because their brains have issues planning to move the mouthparts. My 3 ½-year-old grandson Kaden has apraxia, and seeing him try to talk, witnessing his sweet eyes reflect the desire to communicate and yet being unable to do so, was heartbreaking. Some think that sign language is the answer, and it can be a great tool. But sign language can’t fix the issue when children can hear the words they want to say, need to say, but can’t make their mouths form the words. After navigating Kaden’s first year of speech therapy with his loving parents, and with me attended a few of those sessions, I longed to share my heartbreaks and insights through a fiction story.

This poem is printed in the forward to the book. I’d like to share it with you here.

To sweet, precious Kaden

Right from your first day’s start,

You stole your Mimi’s entire heart.

Days of kisses, joy, and laughter,

Toddling carefree, with Mimi chasing after.

Eyes full of joy, your happiness light,

Your love of life was so very right.

You babbled and cooed as little ones do,

But at the right time, your words couldn’t come through.

You wanted to speak, and oh how you tried.

We wanted to hear you and many times cried.

But love does not fail to give its best.

Mommy and Daddy searched for answers without rest.

Therapies frustrated you after they had begun,

But now the hard work you do is often fun.

We couldn’t leave our buddy with a mouth that couldn’t speak.

The battle continues, but you win victories every week.

One day you’ll be able to voice what you think.

Your mouth and your brain will work in sync.

You’ll shout and sing and chatter till you’re done,

And you, precious Kaden, will have won.

Erin here. As Cindy stated above, this was a very special book to us. We got to really work together and get in sync both on and off the page. I learned so much from Cindy through this journey. If you have met her in real life, you know what I’m talking about when I say that she’s just a joy. So warm, bursting with creative life, and inspiring on a number of levels. God has truly blessed me to have her as my mother-in-law and as a friend.

In The Gift of Christmas Past, we wanted a strong connection between the two main characters, Hadley and Monroe. But the story, being a Christmas novella, needed to take place over only a few months. We knew them having a history was a must. One of love, but also one of hurt. They had to be pulled apart by multiple forces in their lives, but in the deepest, secret recesses of themselves they needed to still hold each other in their hearts. We came up with the idea of them being high school sweethearts. Fun fact: both Cindy and her husband, Tommy, as well as my husband, Adam, and I, met in high school, dated, and married as adults. At a young age, I realized that I could search my whole life and never find another person I love the way I do Adam. He’s my world and I am his. But what if circumstances beyond our control had separated us when we were teens? It was easy to put myself in Hadley’s shoes in this regard.

Another inspiration for this book was the beautiful setting. When we talked about Cindy writing a non-Amish book, we knew having an amazing location was a must, just like her Amish settings in handpicked spots in Pennsylvania. I suggested Asheville, North Carolina. The surrounding mountains are gorgeous and peaceful. So much of the city has a lovely “Christmassy” feel, especially Biltmore Estate and village. We traveled to Asheville twice for research. We did all the activities that the characters in the book do. In my opinion, this book is like a little trip to Asheville. I hope you’ll take that journey with us!

Cindy Woodsmall is the New York Times and CBA best-selling author of twenty works of fiction. She’s been featured in national media outlets such as ABC’s Nightline and the Wall Street Journal. Cindy has won numerous awards and has been finalist for the prestigious Christy, Rita, and Carol Awards. Cindy and her husband reside near the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains. She can be found online at cindywoodsmall.com.

Erin Woodsmall is a writer, musician, wife, and mom of three. She has edited, brainstormed, and researched books with Cindy for almost a decade. She is very excited about their first coauthored book.

How fun that you got to work together! Cindy and Erin are giving a way a copy of the book. If you would like to be entered, please follow the directions below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for joining us, Cindy and Erin!

18 Comments

  1. Recently my life was touched by a lady with special needs. My husband and I were serving lunch at a homeless shelter. A lady walked into the room with her grandmother. This lady started singing glorious hymns during the whole lunch. No one asked her to stop. She sang for the glory of God and everyone was touched by her songs while they enjoyed their meal. What a blessing to hear this special woman sing God’s praises!

  2. I had several friends in high school that had health issues such as recovery from polio. They enriched my life through friendships. It was a long time ago, in the 60’s. We had a favorite teacher who was wheelchair bound. My mother taught EMH and TMH. That taught me to look past the physical and make allowances but treat people fairly.

  3. My sweet husband suffered a massive stroke just 3 years into our marriage. It’s impossible to describe how it felt seeing the love of your life suddenly not being able to walk or talk or even swallow food. His stroke caused him to have Aphasia, similar to Apraxia, he could see the word in his brain, but it wouldn’t come out his mouth. I don’t know if it would help your Kaden or not, but singing has helped him tremendously! We are so thankful every day & we know God’s not done with him yet!

  4. We have a sweet little girl at church who is special needs.

  5. My best friend has a son with special needs but we don’t see him as a person with special needs only as a great person to be with.

  6. I would love to win this…thank you

  7. I really , really enjoyed the blog post about the new book related to the boy with special needs. I am a nurse and I have worked with lots of kids with special needs. My kids also have ADD and ADHD. I have volunteered at their schools and helped kids with learning disabilities. The book sounds so special and amazing. It is so nice that the author and her daughter in law are so close. A book like this can encourage others with special needs and help them see they are not alone.

  8. Friend has a special needs child. But anytime I go over he greets me with a smile & ready fora hug. Sure a caring little guy.

  9. I worked in special education for over 30 years; w/ people w/ Down Syndrome, people who were visually impaired, hearing impaired, autistic, w/ Aspergers, w/ Cerebral Palsy…I met a lot of wonderful individuals, who enriched my life!

  10. I have a son with Special needs. Some days are so tough. But then there are the days that he just brightens up the day with his hugs. He has a very sensitive heart. When he hears a siren he stops what he is doing and prays. Also the last few Christmases he has insisted we take a name off the tree in the mall to buy Christmas for another child who just might not have Christmas.

  11. I have a cousin who has a down syndrome child. What a sweetheart she is. They also adopted another girl with special needs, so they would be together. They are both so loving and kind. We always get a big hug and hello’s whenever we see them.

  12. My cousin has Downs syndrome and he is now 51. The doctors weren’t very encouraging about his prognosis but he has given his family joy unspeakable and his love knows no bounds!
    Thanks for sharing about your story.
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

  13. Thank you for sharing your enlightening and touching story. I have not been directly impacted with a special needs child but have been impacted by issues such as cancer, stroke, etc. in my family.

  14. I spent a year working at a development achievement center, teaching skills of daily living, and job skills. Our church held a Bible study group for those interested. The love they show to everyone is so sweet, and I developed a close working relationship with several of them. I’ll never forget my time with them.

  15. I messed up on the comment part. I love your books and would love to win. Thank you

  16. My life has definitely be touched by someone with special needs. My Mom had a very bad cancer surgery. After which, she came to live with my husband and I. She also had Alzheimer and the last four years was bedridden. We had a hospital bed in our living room. Either hubby or I had to be with her 24/7 to keep her from being upset and she required care for all her needs of which we both fulfilled. It was very hard and at times demanding but we had promised my parents that if at all possible neither who have to be put in a nursing home. My husband had to take early retirement when the physical demands became more than I could do what with my own health issues. Regardless of how hard it was, I would do it all over again. There is nothing but love and fond memories of our time with Mom and I can put my head on my pillow at night with no regrets knowing I fulfilled that promise.

    Merry Christmas Mom! I know hearing the angels sing in heaven has to be awesome. <3

  17. I was a special education teacher for 25 years. I loved my high school students. There were so many that touched my heart. It was a wonderful opportunity and I’m thankful that it was a part of god’s plan for my life.

  18. My son (now grown) has dealt with Asperger’s (mild autism) since he was little. So in one way or another, our lives have been touched by his special need. As he’s grown and matured, he has been able to overcome a lot of things in his life. Now that he’s an adult, I’m happy to say that he’s put his trust in the Lord to help him even more. We’ve been very blessed with a special young man we call son 🙂

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