Interview with Biographer Miriam Huffman Rockness

We are delighted to share with you the following interview with Miriam Huffman Rockness about her newest publication, Images of Faith: Reflections Inspired by Lilias Trotter.

Tell us about the background of this book – how did Images of Fatih come about?

In a real sense, this book was being “written” in my heart from the beginning of my Lilias pilgrimage.  I was first introduced to her through two women, Betty and Jane Barbour, who were looking to cull their library as they downsized their life style. Their main concern was that their “Lilias Library” not be lost in the cut.  And so, my husband and I became the blessed recipients of these works, one or two at a time, over a period of several years.  Her books – her life – were like a drought of cold water to a thirsty soul.  I devoured each book as it came, feasted on it, and eagerly awaited the next installment.  It was, at start, purely pilgrimage. And very personal.  As is this book.  It is essentially the account of the lessons I learned through the years – through her writings, her watercolors and her life – and integrating them into my own faith journey.

The actual writing down of these faith lessons began much later – after the completion of writing her biography and the compilation of her art and writings.  There were many events – inward and outward – that could not be included in the biography, given the constraints of size.  Likewise, the compilation of her words and watercolors, were limited by lack of context.  While the message could stand on its own, the story behind the message was incomplete.

So. . .  I began to write a blog as a means of reflecting on her insights – and discovered that others were interested in the “between the lines” previously unexplored.  When Brian Oxley came to me and said, “I think a devotional book, based on Lilias’s faith legacy, needs to be written,” I realized that this was, in fact, the “seed” of such a book – Images of Faith.

You have written/compiled two other Lilias Trotter books (A Passion for the Impossible and A Blossom in the Desert.)  Can you tell us a little about each of them? 

A Passion for the Impossible:  The Life of Lilias Trotter, is a biography of Lilias Trotter.  It is based on several out-of-print biographical works written by contemporaries of Lilias as well as invaluable primary sources – diaries, journals, documents – supplemented by other related resources and interviews.  It was my attempt to provide as accurate as possible a portrait of a woman I have never met!

The compilation of her words and watercolors, A Blossom in the Desert:  Reflections of Faith in the Art and Writings of Lilias Trotter followed naturally.  There were so many exquisite paintings and profound insights from her diaries, journals and printed books that it was an almost seamless outgrowth of the biography.  Just as I was compelled to tell others about this amazing woman, Lilias Trotter, I felt compelled to share the watercolors and writings that came from her mind and soul.  Quite simply, it was a work of love.  The daunting challenge of that undertaking was to cull through all of her writings and organize them under individual topics – after which I organized those topics within her three great overriding themes:  LIGHT LIFE LOVE.  The frosting on the cake, so to speak, was to pair the paintings with her words.  Many were already linked; others were selected to compliment the words.

How is Images of Faith distinct from your other books? 

Images is a very personal book.  It is drawn from the faith lessons learned from the pilgrimage of one woman over a century ago and integrated with the immediacy of another woman’s pilgrimage today.  Each offering begins with a painting and a quote which states the theme to be pondered.  It has the distinct advantage of being able to look into Lilias’s life, through her diaries, at the events or circumstances she was facing when she penned or painted those insights and to see how she interpreted her daily walk through the light given her from God’s Word and His world.  Her wisdom is as relevant today as it was 100 years ago!  Appropriating these lessons, for me, is an ongoing process.  Writing my reflections on her insights was pure luxury!  To simply soak in her world, her art, her words –  her “beholdings” – was a joyful privilege which continues, for me, beyond the last sentence of the book!

Can you tell us what makes each book special and to what audience each might appeal?  

Good question.  And one I am frequently asked.  If a person has only a nodding acquaintance of Lilias, the compilation, A Blossom in the Desert, provides a brief biographical introduction, then presents the essence of her mind and soul through her writings and paintings.  Often this leads to a desire to learn more about the woman behind the work – and the appetite is whetted for A Passion for the Impossible – the more comprehensive presentation of her life and legacy.  Images of Faith, I believe, completes the trilogy – taking the reader from her life and her works to explore the very formation of her soul as her spiritual insights are tested and refined in the fiery furnace of everyday living.

 This book is lavishly illuminated with Lilias’s paintings and quotes.  Have any of them been published before?  Can you tell us a little bit about where the paintings and quotes came from and how you chose them?

There are some previously unpublished paintings and, for that matter, quotes.  Most of the material is culled from her unpublished diaries and travel journals as well as from several of her out-of-print books:  Between the Desert & the Sea, The Sevenfold Secret and her two Parable books:  Parables of the Cross and Parables of the Christ-life.  As far as “choosing,” well, I think it can be safely said that they chose me!  I simply paired the paintings with the quotes that had impacted my life and indulged in the pure joy of taking the time and making the effort to savor, ponder, reflect on them:  what they meant to me; what they meant to Lilias when she wrote or painted them; what they might mean to others.  One might say they are “the rest of the story” – a story that continues to be written by others whose lives are moved and inspired by her legacy:  written, painted – lived.

What have you learned about Lilias – and/or yourself – in the writing of this book?

I suppose, in many respects, it is the continuation of a journey that began almost three decades ago.  It is a kind of coming full circle beginning with her ministering to me through her works and example, continuing with my efforts to present the same to others, then coming to completion by putting into concrete words these parallel journeys:  hers and mine.  It has been a journey of discovery as Lilias led me into unexplored territories of my own heart though the ponderings of hers. While our worlds are different in countless ways, the eternal verities she explored are universal.  I couldn’t begin to model her amazing life.  But she does inspire me!

One final question:  Why should someone buy this book?

I guess that is the fundamental question for any book, isn’t it?  How does one justify “yet another book” amongst the countless books already available?!   While it is both a visual and spiritual feast, if I had to give a single “justification” for “yet another Lilias book” it would be for the world view provided by the synthesis of her earthly experience with a Divine point-of-view.  In a culture – even Christian culture – driven by size, power, and measurable results, she offers an eternal perspective that is a breath of fresh air to the soul.  Her emphasis is on being faithful:  faithful to God’s Word and what He is guiding each individual to do and to be.  The results are over to Him.  We can rest in His love.

 

Thank you, Miriam, for sharing the story behind the writing of Images of Faith.  We encourage everyone to invest in this treasured volume and to gift it to someone you know who might be touched by this unique perspective of  Lilias’s life and legacy. (click here to purchase)

 

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