Reflections on the Art and Writings of Lilias Trotter
by Miriam Huffman Rockness
This blog is an inside view of Lilias Trotter’s personal pilgrimage, culled from her diaries, journals and published works, written and painted over the forty years of her life in Algeria. It is also my pilgrimage of faith as I reflect on those writings and water colors.
When I first became acquainted with Lilias Trotter, I was a busy mother of three children and the wife of a minister. One might rightly ask what could a single woman (no children) from a wealthy West End London family, who lived amongst the poor of Algeria over 100 years ago, possibly say to me? As it turned out: a great deal!
Her insights based on eternal verities of Scripture and tempered with hard-won life experience cut through current trends of thought to the very essence of my soul. It had the ring of truth and I simply couldn’t get enough of her practical perspective. She wrote of discouragement, struggle, perseverance, joy, love, prayer, the paradox of size and significance, power and weakness – from God’s point of view – and, well, just about every topic that mattered to me. She illuminated many of these eloquently worded truths with exquisite watercolors.
She became a mentor to me, fleshing out truth in the very arena of day to day living. I wanted to know more about her and find everything written or painted by her. I wanted to share my discovery with others. Thus began a quest that led eventually to the writing of her biography (Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter, 1999) and a compilation of her writings and watercolors (Blossom in the Desert: Reflections of Faith in the Art and Writings of Lilias Trotter, 2007) – a journey that is documented, in part, in the film of her life, Many Beautiful Things, released in 2015.
Fast forward a couple decades. Our children are grown and raising families of their own in three different states, my husband is retired, we have moved to a small town in Central Florida. Once again, I turn to Lilias, as I process challenges (and joys) of transition and adjustment in this new chapter of my life. And, once again, I find that Lily’s Lessons still hold.
The duty of a biographer is to present an objective account of the subject’s life – to paint a realistic portrait – faithful to the facts. I now have the luxury of approaching the themes and topics of her life from a purely subjective point of view: what they mean to me on my journey – present and past. My selection of these topics are purely personal: words and art that have spoken deeply to me and guided me on my pilgrimage of faith. .
This blog, “Reflections on the Art and Writings of Lilias Trotter,” in contrast, is an inside view of her spiritual formation, her process of integrating Scriptural precepts with life experience. It is a close-up and personal glimpse of Lilias Trotter’s pilgrimage of faith: an adult lifetime of daily learning until the very end of her time on earth. It is also my pilgrimage: how she has guided me through almost three decades of life.
I share my reflections because I believe they hold universal truths relevant to all pilgrims regardless of where they are on the journey. I invite the reader to examine with me reflections of faith culled from her legacy – written and visual.
Biographer’ Blog: Reflections on the Art and Writings of Lilias Trotter