I am so blessed to live in the greatest state in the Union, the Lone Star State, Texas. I was born in California which has been okay, but now that’s just embarrassing. I moved to Dallas at the tender age of six months.
Over fifty years, I lived in and around Big D then in 2008, we moved to Lydia in Red River County in the far northeast corner close to Oklahoma and Arkansas. It was here that I started writing historical Christian romance family sagas after a writers’ conference in Mount Pleasant, Texas!
By 2012 we started building The Peaceable, our home on thirty-four acres in the woods about five miles south of Clarksville, the county seat, and discovered what a rich history this area had as the ‘Gateway to Texas’. Sam Houston, Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett, they all came into Texas right here off the Red River.
My brother-in-law owned nine hundred-plus acres around our thirty-four, so our first “Texas Romance Family Saga” characters lived right here from 1832 through 1950. The second, Cross Timbers Romance Family Saga is set in the Irving area, a suburb between Dallas and Fort Worth.
So in other books, we may have visited Fort Worth, but in my new January release COERCION at The Cow Palace, book three in my Cross Timbers Mystery series, Morgan and Charity Lowell—from book four LEAVING TEXAS—go to Cowtown.
The murder that needs solving happens in Tarrant County’s infamous Hell’s Half Acre, a red-light district in the mid-1870s, offering a true Wild West mystery!
DUPLICITY at The Lowell House, book one is set in Dallas and SKULLDUGGERY in the Sulphur River Bottoms, book two in Clarksville!
I’ve learned so many fun facts in my research of my favorite state’s history! Like the infamous Doc Holliday, graduated at age twenty with as dentist, setting up shop and winning first prize for the best set of gold teeth at the Dallas County Fair in 1873.
I’ve walked down the street where he set up shop—not far from my fictitious Lowell House, the swankiest hotel in downtown Dallas in the mid-1800s! Soon after, Doctor Holliday lost all his patients due to his contagious tuberculosis, and his friend Wyatt Earp talked him into going west to Tombstone!
Another piece of history I used in HEARTS STOLEN, book two in the Texas Romances Family Saga was a gathering initiated by then President Sam Houston. Chiefs from many area tribes (Comanche, the Keechi, the Waco, Caddo, Anadarko, Ioni, Delaware, Shawnee, Cherokee, Lipan Apache, and Tawakoni) agreed to end hostilities and return their white captives.
The famous Buffalo Hump and my fictitious Comanche chief Bold Eagle attended the Treaty of Tehuacana Creek in the southern Hill Country of Texas in 1844. From there, President Houston dispatched Texas Rangers to go into all parts of Texas and pick the captives up. One of those was Levi Baylor, the hero of HEARTS STOLEN, with his sidekick Wallace Rusk.
For COERCION at The Cow Palace, it was with great pleasure I researched the town that claimed it was where the West began—Dallas’ rowdy, rather uncultured cousin-city about thirty miles west. I hope you’ll enjoy reading the story, trying to figure out the mystery as you do!
Linda Brooks Davis
As I wrote my novella, A Sojourner Christmas, the folk song “I Am a Poor Wayfaring Stranger” as performed by Jos Slovick in the film 1917 played in my mind on Loop. The movie is stunning in several ways and so is the music video at https://youtu.be/fp7mdSMNQB0.
Dictionary.com defines sojourn as a temporary stay, but often over time it has taken on a melancholy aura. Perhaps that’s due to the melancholy and/or dangerous nature of the sojourns recorded in the Bible. First, there’s Abram in Genesis 12:
The Lord had said to Abram,
“Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
Abraham’s grandson Jacob’s sojourn began in Genesis 29 and ended in Genesis 33 with frantic flights for his life. First, to his Uncle Laban in “the land of the eastern peoples” and then to meet his brother Esau with murder in his eyes. And we can’t forget Jacob’s son Joseph, the famous, forced-against-his-will sojourner in Genesis 37 and Genesis 39:1. The Apostle Paul’s life was one continuous sojourn in the Book of Acts, Romans, and his epistles, but the most famous, of course, is Jesus’ family in Matthew 2:13-15:
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.
“Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
So, he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt,
where he stayed until the death of Herod.
And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
The sojourners who inspired A Sojourner Christmas were characters our family claims as our “Pyle clan.” In 1923-1924, my maternal great-grandparents, Gove and Louisa Pyle, migrated to the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas in a train of covered wagons with their teenage son Oluf and their six married children. By the 1920s, covered wagons were a rarity in the United States, so the Pyles drew many a curious eye over those nine hundred miles from central Oklahoma to the southernmost tip of Texas.
Anecdotes about the trip have been thrown around the family over the six generations that
have followed. But the one about Christmas Eve in Winters, Texas, where they were seen as “gypsies,” has always captured my imagination. Hence, A Sojourner Christmas.
As I wrote this little Christmas story, I stepped back in time to put myself in their shoes. I carried “I Am a Poor Wayfaring Stranger” with me along with the Bible passages, all of which communicated that sense of melancholy or danger. Not only is this story a sequel to another novella, Soon the Dawn, but it also follows Blossom, a character in the seven-year-prior story, The Mending of Lillian Cathleen, as she stretches her wings as a newspaper reporter/photographer in Texas.
What our family would give for snapshots of our family’s sojourn along that trail. What would all of us give for snapshots of Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, and Jesus on their sojourns of biblical proportions? Priceless.
One sojourn yet to be noted is the one each of us is traveling even as we read these words. Remember the definition of sojourn? A temporary stay. The New Testament writer James refers to it as a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes in James 4:14.
What’s more fleeting than a mist? At my age, that question threatens to spark chills up and down my spine, but when I remember Jesus’ promise about my destination in John 14, peace returns. How buoying the realization that the brokenness of life on planet Earth is only a temporary stay.
When the Pyles arrived in the Valley in February 1924, they were forced to bed down at Red Fish Bay and live off the land and sea. I can only imagine their delight if they had found a mansion with tables loaded with a constant supply of the finest fare. They had sold everything they owned to make the trip and set up a new life down south, but their sacrifice can’t compare to the one Jesus made to purchase us and our mansions not made with human hands (Revelation 5:9).
Generations of Pyle descendants remember the clan’s journey, but no one else has heard it. In contrast, Jesus’ story is available to everyone in the best-selling book in history—the Holy Bible. Jesus sojourned among us, but His sojourn ended in an ignominious death that is the hinge upon which history swings. He claimed no home or bed, but he promised us an eternal home not in a land that demands a lifetime of labor but one devoid of toil, melancholy, or danger. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for providing us, your brothers and sisters, a free-and-clear inheritance at the end of our sojourns.
Our temporary stays here on Earth vary as certainly as each of us differs from one another. And they terminate in a common location that’s called the grave. Thankfully, that’s not the end of The Story. A sojourn with Jesus ends in a beautiful Promised Land called Heaven.
Anybody want to come along?
Linda Shenton Matchett
A Day in the Life of a Lighthouse Keeper
The United States has over one thousand lighthouses, with the state of Michigan holding the record for the most with 150. Until they were automated in the early to mid-1900s, each lighthouse required a keeper to ensure the surrounding waters were safe for sailors. The oldest lighthouse resides on Little Brewster Island in Boston, Massachusetts, having been established in 1716, and remains the only U.S. station maintained by a keeper.
Most of the keepers were men, with their wives often being appointed as assistant, but over the years more than 175 women served as lighthouse keepers. The majority of them took over for fathers or husbands who passed away, but a few secured the position on their own.
A physically demanding job, the duties required the keeper to be party mechanic, part construction worker, part housekeeper, and part sailor. Additionally, the life was a lonely one with few people other than family or the assistant keeper on the premises. Supply ships would deliver goods and foodstuff for the keeper, at some stations once a month, others only once per quarter or twice a year.
Some of the tasks had to be completed every day, while others were handled on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis. Here are just a few of the responsibilities:
- Light the lamp at sunset and extinguish it at sunrise.
- Fill the lamp with kerosene before every evening.
- Trim the wicks of the lamp so they don’t smoke when lit.
- Clean and polish the Fresnel lens every morning.
- Clean the windows of the lantern room every day.
- Shine all the brass in the lighthouse.
- Clean tower windows and sills as needed.
- Repair and paint building interior and exterior as needed.
- Maintain lighthouse log book.
- Take weather reading every day and record date.
- Take soundings of river and inlet channels. Move channel markers as needed.
Most importantly, the keeper was to provide assistance (rescue) to ships and sailors in distress, which often meant getting into the station’s launch boat and fishing men, women, and children out of the sea during horrific storm conditions.
Keepers were paid a lower middle class wage. George Worthylake, the first keeper, received £50 ($16,000 in today’s money). By the 19th century, the annual salary ranged from $250 to $600, depending on location. However, during the gold rush keepers could expect to earn $1,000 per year (just over $27,000 in today’s money). Would that be enough for you to apply for the job?
Where Does Hope Come From?
This is part three of my series of articles on hope. We’ve looked at what hope is not and what it is. All of that is great, but where does hope come from? How do we get some of that for ourselves?
First, the simple answer. God. Pretty obvious, right, but maybe not as simple as it first appears. Of course hope comes from God, but how do we tap into it? That’s the hard part.
Romans 15:14 is one of my favorite verses about hope. It’s probably familiar to you too. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
Hope comes from God through the Holy Spirit, and He allows us to abound in hope. When we believe in Christ and what He’s done for us and the eternal hope that He has secured for us, through the Holy Spirit we have more hope than we know what to do with. We have a sure hope, a promise we can cling to even in the darkest times in our lives.
When my mother-in-law was dying, my husband and I spoke about the hope that we were holding to, that she would soon be with the Lord and that God’s ways were perfect. He said to me, “How does anyone who doesn’t have this hope get through something like this?” It was only that hope that got us through, that we clung to in the darkest of days. Sometimes, hope is all we have. But hope is something we can always count on having.
What does this hope, this certainty that God is in control and has all things under His control, produce in us? Joy and peace. All joy and peace. Even in the bleakest circumstances of our lives, hope produces joy and peace in us. Did my husband and I jump up and down and throw a party when we learned of my mother-in-law’s diagnosis? Absolutely not. We cried many tears. Through it all, however, there was a stillness in our hearts, a peace that the hope we held to produced, a joy that she would soon be in the Lord’s presence. When she passed away, we were able to rejoice that she was free from pain, and we had peace knowing that she was safe forever in the Lord’s arms.
God is a God of hope. He was during WWII when my book, A Picture of Hope, was set. Despite all the darkness surrounding them, the characters discovered hope in Christ that led to joy and peace. Today is no different. There is still much suffering in this world. It was here before the pandemic and during it and will continue until Christ returns. The evil of this world doesn’t snuff out the light of hope, however. Through the Holy Spirit, the certainty that God loves us and is taking care of us, that He has saved us and will bring us home to live with Him forever, we have a hope that produces joy and peace.
Dear friend, may you cling to that hope that Christ purchased on the cross. May the Holy Spirit fill you with all joy and peace.
And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. ~1 Corinthians 2:4-5 NKJV
This has been a busy season. Home, Church responsibilities, family, being diligent with my time and not getting sucked into mindless scrolling on social media (just me?) Holiday plans. Oh and writing.
I am a chronic over-scheduler. A recuperating have-to-do-everything-because-others-expect-it-of-me-or-I-expect-it-of-myselfer. I constantly battle with myself. Have I said “no” to the things too much? Not enough?
My wheels are spinning and I get nowhere.
Reading through 1st Corinthians, the Lord spoke to me through this verse.
And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. ~1 Corinthians 2:4-5 NKJV.
My goal has never been to be promote myself, but I surely have gotten clogged in my approach. I’m still not promoting Naomi (certainly not an attractive version of me in all the hustle) but I am not actively promoting the Lord either.
May my words I type not be about my persuasive words, but a demonstration of God’s spirit and power. This same power that raised Christ from the dead still changes lives. This same power lives in me. I love that Jesus tells us He came so we can live an abundant, free life.
How did I get from abundant and free to never having enough time and organization? How do I get back again?
The Lyrics for Look What You’ve Done, by Tasha Layton that comes to mind: “I thought I was too broken, now I see You were breaking new ground inside of me.”
Even as I finish this another busy thing has popped up and I’m tempted to despair again—there goes my plans and …Again with the my.
Will you join me in intentionally taking the approach of peace and joy? To take a breath when the anxious thoughts come, and turn it into a prayer?
Lord, You are my King of Glory. I know You already have this sorted. I know that You have begun this good work inside of me. Please be my Prince of Peace, and help me to trust You and Your plan.
What message is the Lord teaching you in this season?