Today’s Wednesday Writer’s guest is author Christy Distler. Christy is sharing some of her family history and how it led to her historical romance A Cord of Three Strands. She also has an excerpt at the bottom of the post, so keep reading to the end.
When I was a child, my mom introduced me to genealogy. This was thirty years ago, so she was doing it the old-fashioned way: visiting libraries, historical societies, vital records offices, and cemeteries. I loved going through all the information she gathered. And going through it again. And again.
Years later, my family signed up for internet service, and that was a game changer. Researching our ancestors was suddenly as easy as typing names and birthdates into a search engine. Of course, not all names returned information. Many didn’t. But my Lucken/Lukens ancestors did, and because some were instrumental in the settlement and building of Philadelphia and the surrounding area, both physically and intellectually, information abounded. Now I was really hooked.
Our Lukens family line was one I was able to trace back to the late Middle Ages. Originally from the Netherlands, they were Mennonites-turned-Quaker who, in 1683, following years of skirting martyrdom during the Reformation, finally took refuge in William Penn’s “religious experiment,” Pennsylvania. After settling Germantown (now a part of Philadelphia), they spread east and north, with my ninth-great-grandfather, Peter Lukens, settling in Horsham Township, at that time a wilderness. This piqued my interest even more, since I’d lived some of my childhood in Horsham and resided less than two miles from Horsham Friends Meeting, which Peter Lukens’s family attended.
My love for genealogy continued, and one evening I came across an ancestor who got my mind turning: Seneca Lukens. His intriguing first name made me wonder about the family’s connection to Indian tribes (at the time, the Seneca lived in northern Pennsylvania and southern New York). From the possible Native American connection, Isaac Lukens—a half-Lenape, half-white young man who had been reared by Horsham Friends—made his way into a dream I had that night.
As a fiction writer, I did what I had to: brought Isaac to life as a main character, along with co-MC Elisabeth Alden, in a story that takes place in Horsham in 1756.
My research for this novel brought to light men and women who followed Christ’s instruction and example no matter the cost. Mennonites and Friends were the first colonists to denounce slavery and the gross mistreatment of Indian tribes, and Friends were instrumental in forging peace between Pennsylvania and the province’s tribes, namely the Lenape, during the French and Indian War. Both of these social issues play major parts in the book, and it is my hope that Isaac and Elisabeth’s story embodies Friends’ devotion to truth, equality, and love for others, as well as the plight of the Lenape people during a turbulent time in American history.
This all said, in an interesting turn of events, I have recently learned through a local historian that Seneca Lukens was more likely named for the Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca than for the Seneca tribe. A bit disappointing, but all is not lost. The imagination, whether piqued by truth or speculation, is a wonderful thing.
A Cord of Three Strands
by Christy Distler
As 1756 dawns, Isaac Lukens leaves the Pennsylvania wilderness after two years with the Lenape people. He’s failed to find the families of his birth parents, a French trader and a Lenape woman. Worse, the tribe he’s lived with, having rejected his peacemaking efforts, now ravages frontier settlements in retaliation. When he arrives in the Quaker community where he was reared, questions taunt him: Who is he—white man or Lenape? And where does he belong?
Elisabeth Alden, Isaac’s dearest childhood friend, is left to tend her young siblings alone upon her father’s death. Despite Isaac’s promise to care for her and the children, she battles resentment toward him for having left, while an unspeakable tragedy and her discordant courtship with a prominent Philadelphian weigh on her as well.
Elisabeth must marry or lose guardianship of her siblings, and her options threaten the life with her and the children that Isaac has come to love. Faced with Elisabeth’s hesitancy to marry, the prospect of finding his family at last, and the opportunity to assist in the peace process between Pennsylvania and its Indian tribes, Isaac must determine where—and to whom—the Almighty has called him.
In my bedchamber, I stripped off all but my breeches and lay on the bed, staring at the ceiling. My eyes ached with exhaustion, but that hardly compared to the weariness that plagued my soul. This evening’s visit, though it provided more information than expected, left me overwhelmed by conflicting feelings—joy in the gained knowledge that I’d so long yearned for, yet heartache in the loss of those I’d once loved most.
Then there was Elisabeth.
Would I ever understand my actions when it came to her? I’d been so pleased to find her waiting for me, to know she sensed my frame of mind and cared that I was troubled. Yet I had pushed her away. As soon as she had shown concern, hoping I would confide in her, I used the simplest excuse not to.
’Twas no wonder she couldn’t trust me. Why would she share the difficulties she faced when I so often failed to share mine with her? I longed for the closeness we once had, when we shared our every feeling without a second thought, so why was it so difficult to confess my struggles?
I sighed heavily. Distancing myself from Elisabeth wasn’t my intention. She had always known me best, and no doubt she still did. Only with her had I shared the horrors of what I’d experienced while away, and ’twas her reassurances—and her arms around me—that had comforted me since I’d returned. Even tonight, embracing her had eased the emptiness that gnawed within.
But that posed a problem as well. Elisabeth’s beauty enchanted me, and her sweet affection stirred my heart in ways I dared not act upon. Her courtship with Hiram was now quite evident, whether or not I approved, so we could share nothing more than friendship.
In light of that, my earlier aloofness was a necessity. Her best interest required that we take care in our actions, and I’d never forgive myself if her reputation were to be called into question because of me. While that had not been the reason I’d held back from her downstairs, part of me was now glad that I had.
Still, I cared so much for her. There was no denying that her relationship with Hiram could have grave consequences, but I struggled to discern the extent of my responsibility. Should I respect Elisabeth’s maturity and capability to make her own decisions? Or should I honor my word to Jonathan and do everything I could to protect her and the children? Both choices could result in more sorrow.
“Father, give me wisdom,” I whispered. “Show me what to do.”
Be still and know that I am God. The familiar words of the psalmist came to me in the darkness.
Indeed. In my apprehension, I’d somehow lost sight of the Almighty. He loved Elisabeth, the children, and me, and I knew he had great plans for all of our lives. Throughout my years he had proven that his goodness could be trusted even in the bleakest of circumstances.
I needed to allow and esteem his sovereignty in this situation as well.
Want to read more?
You can find A Cord of Three Strands at Amazon
About the Author:
For as long as she can remember, Christy Distler has dreamed her most vivid dreams with her eyes wide open. Names became people—people who didn’t exist in this time and place but couldn’t have been more real in her heart and mind. So she did the only rational thing: gave them a voice by writing fiction.
Christy’s novels, whether historical or contemporary, delve into betrayal and reconciliation, faith and grace, and always involve the intertwining of cultures. When not writing, she works as an editor for publishing houses and independent authors.
Obsession with words (and history) aside, she lives with her husband, children, and dogs in Pennsylvania, less than two miles from where her Lukens ancestors settled more than three hundred years ago.