Lilias Trotter Symposium

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Dreamers Dreaming Greatly

 

sunset

“Before us all dawned, I think a new horizon – of the glory of the task to which God has called us – a glory in its every hardness & in the sense that we are working for the future & its coming day.  ‘We were dreamers dreaming greatly.'”  23 October 1911

May, 2013, five women met in Mt. Dora, Florida, under the name Trotter Trust (chosen more for its alliteration than any legal standing!) charged with the mission to 1) select a filmmaker for a documentary about Lilias Trotter; 2) to determine the site for the “care & keeping” of the Egerton Collection, the Trotter family collection of Journals and Sketchbooks containing over 200 original watercolors; 3) explore broader venues to present the unique legacy of Lilias Trotter.

With open hearts and minds, we prayerfully sought God’s direction for this task, focusing each day on one question:  Day 1) “How did you ‘meet’ Lilias and how has she impacted your life?”  Day 2) “What, if any, is Lilias’s value for today’s world?” Day 3) “How do we connect Lilias and her work to our world?”  Day 4) concluded with the challenge “Dare to Dream” – and the final question “What would you dream for her legacy if there were no known restrictions?”  We departed with a prayer of dedication for her life and legacy and a heightened sense that Lilias Trotter did, indeed, have relevancy to culture today.

Now, three years later, we look back with nothing short of awe and wonder upon the events that followed.  The most immediate task was finding the filmmaker, Laura Waters Hinson, who early established her giftedness winning an Oscar for her student documentary, “As We Forgive.” For the next two years, top priority was given to the development of the documentary which Laura carried out with vision, skill, and artistry beyond our greatest expectations.  The end result was, “Many Beautiful Things,” a 70-minute documentary augmented with a lavish presentation of her art (some of which was highlighted with deft animation), poetic re-enactments of her life, and readings from her Journals and her letters from Ruskin – read respectively by Michelle Dockery and John Rhys-Davies.

The process of film making – gathering resources, connecting with people and places of significance to Lilias’s life and legacy, developing an evolving story-line – likewise became catalyst for many wonderful Trotter-related experiences and relationships.  One highlight, for me, was returning to Brantwood, Ruskin’s home in the Lake District, where Lilias, pressed by her mentor/friend, made the great decision: the role of art in her life.  There, on that sacred site where she made this life-affecting decision, I was privileged to tell “The Rest of the Story,” to “The Friends of Ruskin” fortified by slides of Lilias’s art from Ruskin’s collection, deposited at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.  Another highlight was meeting with Eva Longley (at the tea room at Selfridges in London) –  on the day of an underground strike! – and hearing her stories of organizing and sending the Lilias Trotter memorablia (Diaries, Journals, and papers along with North Africa Missions archives) out of Algeria eventually to the UK – an endeavor that took almost one-and-a-half years and without which most of her visual  legacy would have been lost.

The official release of the film was, internationally, at the Manchester Film Festival (Summer, 2015) and, nationally, at the Heartland Film Festival (Fall, 2015).  Our “February Launch 2016” of the film was initiated at the Smithsonian National Gallery in Washington D.C. with 750 people packing a 500 seat auditorium!  The following week(s) saw  one-night-only screenings in 30-plus theaters across the country with as many more screenings in churches, universities, and community centers.  We have been amazed at the creative ways in which the film has been presented:  an Art Show with Local Artists “Inspired by the Art of Lilias Trotter;”  church banquets with a “North African” theme, university screenings followed by round table discussions about the role of “Faith & Art” and/or “Vocation;”: Mission Festivals with the theme of “Surrender, Sacrifice and Service.”  I’m still waiting for the Trotter Tea – themed with all things Victorian!

We have, likewise, been gratified by wonderful media coverage of the film or, more to the point, the life and legacy of Lilias Trotter – which is, after all, what this is all about.  We recognized, from the beginning, the unique opportunities to share widely her legacy through her art.  Wonderful articles by the Chicago Conservation Center, Ruskin scholars and, most recently, The New York Times have carried her story to an ever broadening audience and, in a sense, validated Ruskin’s high opinion of her art! (See below) And, of course, we likewise value positive articles and reviews that have been published by various Christian media sources, many of which can be accessed on Facebook:  Many Beautiful Things.

What about the future?  What lies ahead for the film and for the legacy of Lilias Trotter? A number of additional screenings at universities, seminaries, and churches are scheduled for the future – most immediately a Fall Conference at Wheaton College (details to follow).  “Many Beautiful Things” DVD (and streaming) is now available on Amazon along with Discovery House publications of her biography, A Passion for the Impossible, and compilation of her writings and watercolors, A Blossom in the Desert.  Additionally, Oxvision has published a picture book, Lily:  The Girl Who Could See, as well as facsimile editions of three of her out-of-print works – Parables of the Cross; 1876 Sketchbook:  Scenes from Lucerne to Venice;  1889 Sketchbook: Scenes From North Africa, Italy & Switzerland (also available on Amazon) – with more in the line-up along with several new books which draw upon her watercolors and writings:  A Way of Seeing; Images of Faith.   And we have good news for those who desire to have prints or notecards of Lilias’s watercolors!  Check out the Fine Art American site for prints and quote cards of various size and surfaces.  http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/oxvision-media.html?tab=artworkgalleries&artworkgalleryid=629437

So, what is the future for “Many Beautiful Things”?  For Lilias?!  While these many venues have provided wonderful exposure we, nonetheless, go back to the start of our common venture:  “dreamers dreaming greatly.”  The answer?  Only God knows.  Everything that has happened from the beginning (which was long before my discovery of Lilias) has been initiated and implemented by God.  From Lilias’s “call” to North Africa (“strange soundings in my heart”), to the Band of men and women who joined her in Algeria (and those who continue the work to this day), to the saint who secured the archives gathered, eventually, at the Arab World Ministry Headquarters in the UK, to the two women who gifted their treasured books by and about ILT to the then young minister’s wife in Lake Wales, to the individuals who commissioned and underwrote her to write a current biography, to those who came alongside to implement and advance the research, to the visionaries who have taken it from there to a broader world: each and every person and transaction was initiated by God. Each and every person felt privileged to be, in some way, collaborators with God for His Purposes.  No one had any idea how their role – great or small – would contribute to the whole.

And that is where we are today.  We have no advertising campaign for the film – only Facebook and website presence.  But we are confident that God will use the legacy of Lilias in ways unknown to us today or, probably. . . ever.  We are “dreamers dreaming greatly!

RESOURCE LINKS                                                                                                                                               Chicago C0nservation Center:http://www.theconservationcenter.com/article/2084427-lilias-trotter-missionary-artist

New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/20/arts/design/a-renewed-spotlight-on-two-women-artists.html?_r=0

Facebook:  Many Beautiful Things

Website:  liliastrotter.com

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Resources: By and About Lilias Trotter

67 diary journal collage

The film, “Many Beautiful Things,” has introduced Lilias Trotter to many people for the first time, raising questions and queries about her life and legacy.  What did her work in North Africa really involve?  What specific approaches did she use to connect with the Arab Muslims?  How was she received?  Or, more importantly, how was her message received?  What was the nature of her dialogue with the Sufi Mystic Brotherhood?  How did she survive the desert years – physically and spiritually?  What, if any, was her legacy in Algeria?  What is her legacy today?

With these, and many other questions in mind, I want to take this opportunity to introduce you to resources by and about Lilias Trotter, with a brief description of each work, then connect you to places that they can be purchased.

Product DetailsA Passion for the Impossible:  The Life of Lilias Trotter by Miriam Rockness,  Discovery House Publishers, 1999.  This is the most current biography, drawn from original sources as well as past biographies.

Discovery House Publishers:  https://dhponline.ca/authors-and-artists/miriam-huffman-rockness/cl004.html

http://www.amazon.com/Passion-Impossible-Life-Lilias-Trotter/dp/1572931086/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1454019622&sr=1-1&keywords=lilias+trotter

Product Details A Blossom in the Desert:  Reflections of Faith in the Art and Writings of Lilias Trotter by Miriam Rockness. Discovery House Publishers, 2007.  This is a wonderful compilation of some of Lilias most memorable insights paired with her watercolors, most of which have been hidden in obscurity for a century.

Discovery House Publishers: https://dhponline.ca/catalogsearch/advanced/result/?sku=&name=a+blossom+in+the+desert+&subtitle=&isbn=&upc=&description=&preorder=&haspdfsample=

http://www.amazon.com/Blossom-Desert-Lilias-Trotter/dp/1572932562/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1454019622&sr=1-2&keywords=lilias+trotter

Product DetailsLily: The Girl Who Could See by Sally Oxley with Tim Ladwig and Miriam Rockness.  Oxvision 2015.  Lilias’s developing talent and calling is presented in a recently published picture book for “children of all ages.”  Here the simple narrative of her life is compellingly related by Sally Oxley and beautifully illustrated by Tim Ladwig.

http://www.amazon.com/Lily-Girl-Who-Could-See/dp/1938068084/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1454019622&sr=1-6&keywords=lilias+trotter

Product DetailsParables of the Cross by Lilias Trotter, Oxvision 2015.  This devotional classic, written in 1893, remains, rare and true, composed of timeless verities tested by personal experience. This volume is distinct from other reprintings being the only facsimile edition.  This edition includes high quality color plates copied from the original publication.

http://www.amazon.com/Facsimile-Parables-Cross-Lilias-Trotter/dp/1938068076/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1454019622&sr=1-4&keywords=lilias+trotter

Product DetailsLilias Trotter’s 1876 Sketchbook:  Scenes from Lucerne to Venice  This is a facsimile edition of the sketchbook that a young Lilias (23 years old) carried to Venice – where she met the famed John Ruskin, England’s foremost arbiter of art.  It contains sketches most likely instructed by the master himself.

http://www.amazon.com/Facsimile-Lilias-Trotters-Sketchbook-Lucerne/dp/1938068106/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1454019076&sr=1-3&keywords=lilias+trotter

 

Lilias Trotter’s  1889 Sketchbook:  Scenes from North Africa, Italy & Switzerland, Oxvision.  This facsimile edition of her pocket sketchbook reveals her ability to quickly capture views with accuracy and beauty – a skill that John Ruskin extolled in his 1883 “Art of England” lecture.

http://www.amazon.com/Facsimile-Lilias-Trotters-Sketchbook-Switzerland/dp/1938068114/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1454088125&sr=8-1&keywords=lilias+trotter+sketch+book+1889

 

TROTTER_F004_021The Sevenfold Secret , Lilias’ masterful treatise for her beloved Sufi Mystics, while not available in hard copy, can be accessed through the following link:  http://muhammadanism.com/Gospel/seven_fold_secret.pdf  This remarkable and relevant work is based on Jesus’  7 “I AM’s” recorded in the Gospel of John and, through their unfolding “secrets,” speaks to the longings of a seeker’s soul – then and now.

Many Beautiful Things: The Life and Vision of Lilias Trotterhttp://www.amazon.com/Many-Beautiful-Things-Vision-Trotter/dp/B01BCNJ856/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1464716523&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=many+beautiful+things+dvd

Even as these books are introduced, several other works are in process.  A Way of Seeing with 40 Trotter reflections paired with watercolors from the Egerton Collection (Lilias’ family archives) will be published Summer/2016.  These writings/watercolors are introduced with a Foreword by Professor Stephen Wildman, leading Ruskin scholar (University of Lancaster), giving context to the Ruskin/Trotter relationship and with Darcy Weir’s essay on the integration of “faith and art” as observed in the life of Lilias.

Finally, (at least for now!) is the anticipated publication of Images of Faith by Miriam Rockness  (Autumn, 2016) a devotional book of reflections inspired by the art and writings of Lilias Trotter.  Miriam dips deeply into the journals and diaries of Lilias Trotter to reveal the context of Trotter’s insights and to explore their application to our lives today.

 

 

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Parables of the Cross

It is in the stages of a plant’s growth, its budding and blossoming and seed-bearing that this lesson has come to me:  the lesson of death in its delivering power.  It has come as no mere far-fetched imagery, but as one of the many voices in which God speaks, bringing strength and gladness from His Holy Place.         Parables of the Cross

I hold in my hands a facsimile copy of Parables of the Cross by Lilias Trotter.  A dream come true.  Leafing through the pages, I savor the exquisite paintings from nature perfectly positioned to augment the text:  chestnut leaf and bud, flowering rush, golden blaze of gorse-bush, sunny buttercups, wild-rose pedals, dandelion seed-globe – among others.  And I feel anew, the first thrill of opening this book in the original edition.  Even more:  the moment the seed was planted in my heart to see this book re-published in a facsimile edition.

Flashback in time to October, 1992.  Place: Loughborough, England.  My husband and I had scheduled our return trip from Israel, a  20th anniversary gift from our church, through London to accommodate a side trip to the Arab World Ministries Headquarters where the Trotter archives were housed.

Words fail to express my emotions as I opened a leather-bound page-a-day diary and saw, for the first time, her exquisite watercolors – a museum in miniature – flowers, landscapes, people, houses, sunsets and mountain ranges.  I could only briefly browse diaries, journals, pocket sketchbooks that recorded her 40 years in North Africa.  And there was much more:  reports evolving in style and format, scrapbooks circulated amongst the mission stations, seed ideas for writing, booklets in French, English and Arabic for women and children as well as devotionals for the English speaking.  I jotted down my observations in a notebook even as I vowed: I will return!

The day sped by all too fast, punctuated by a brief coffee/devotional time with the staff and a light lunch put together with gracious hospitality.  At the conclusion of the visit our host and guide – “keeper of the archives” – Alasdair McLaren asked a simple question:  “What is your purpose in coming here?”

How to answer?  How to explain the powerful impact this woman had already had on my life and spiritual formation?   How to put into words the driving desire to see with my own eyes the art mentioned only in footnote on a printed page of an out-of-print book?  All I could say in answer was simply:  “Pilgrimage.  I’m here on pilgrimage.”

Upon return to the USA, I continued to ponder that question – and my answer.  I realized that trip had put in my heart a desire to see her work re-issued in publications that contemporary readers could likewise study and ponder.  So I wrote a letter (before the day of emails!) saying that upon further reflection, I did have yet another purpose:  to see some of her out-of-print works republished – beginning with the devotional classic, Parables of the Cross.

With their blessing I began yet another pilgrimage to editors and publishers and other Trotter fans toward that end.  Elisabeth Elliot wrote, in response to my query:  “I have tried various publishers to see if I might persuade them to reprint the PARABLES. They say no – impossible to reproduce the paintings except at prohibitive coast.  Alas.  But I quote her and tell people about her whenever I can.”  (She went on to write a book, A Path Through Suffering, meditations based on Trotter’s two books, Parables of the Cross and Parables of the Christ-life illustrated with sketches by her brother, James Howard.)  And such was my experience as well.

Until a fortuitous meeting with Marj Mead and Lyle Dorsett at The Wade Center at Wheaton College.  Dr. Dorsett, upon seeing the parable book, proclaimed this book  publication-worthy but that it needed a readership acquainted with Lilias Trotter before such an undertaking – and went on to commission me to write her  biography.

Fast forward 23 years from that first meeting in Loughborough:  two books and a film later – A Passion for the Impossible:  The Life & Legacy of Lilias Trotter; A Blossom in the Desert: Reflections of Faith in the Art and Writings of Lilias Trotter; “Many Beautiful Things:  The Life and Vision of Lilias Trotter” – my original dream finally has been fulfilled:  the publication of a facsimile edition of Parables of the Cross. (http://www.amazon.com/Facsimile-Parables-Cross-Lilias-Trotter/dp/1938068076/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1444521970&sr=8-5&keywords=parables+of+the+cross)

This has not been a solo venture.  Countless people have come alongside me during the past 2 decades supporting the vision of reviving Lilias’ legacy with encouragement, ideas, research, materials, funding.  Others have caught the vision for republishing her parables, a wonderful contribution resulting from new digital printing options, resulting in at least 10 separate editions at last count.

Which raises the question:  why one more?  This is the only facsimile edition, copied directly by the Conservation Center of Chicago from the first edition published by Marshall Brothers and printed by E. Nister of Nuremberg (Bavaria).  Faithful not only to text but the alignment of text to illustrations, it likewise reflects the advance in quality of color printing.

One might also ask, why another devotional book?  And one written over 100 years ago?  Bookshelves and catalogues are filled with all manner of devotional writing in up-to-date English with contemporary tone and examples.  It must be acknowledged that the text  reflects a distinct voice of the Victorian era and that the contents are not for the faint-hearted as deep and sometimes hard spiritual realities are stated and explored.

But the fact remains, this is a devotional classic, rare and true, composed of timeless verities tested by personal experience.  It was written within the window of summer/fall 1895 at a time Lilias was taking an extended break in England.  Her health, never robust, had been seriously compromised after seven years of unremitting labor in the testing climate of Algiers.  The result was this book, born of her own spiritual struggles and tempered with her depth of life experience.  It reflects her deep grounding in Scripture and is animated by her growing sensibility to God speaking through His natural world.

Parables of the Cross.  Read for yourself.  Read slowly.  Read prayerfully.  Read for insight into God’s Ways:  the unchanging and inexhaustible truths of a loving Heavenly Father.

Posted in Cross, death, Faith, freedom, growth, life, nature, renunciation, suffering | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Desert Rose

TROTTER_F005_029

The wonder lies in the (desert) floor itself.  It is a layer of crystallized gypsum, several feet thick, that underlies the sand of this district, and serves the land for all building purposes.  You will see scattered along every roadside and built into every wall these beautiful crystals, several inches across, imitating flames of fire, or crysanthemums, stars or roses, as the case may be, and calcined and powdered they form the cement into which they are embedded.   Between the Desert & the Sea

The long anticipated week in England is history now, captured in photographs, journal jottings, scraps of menus, programs and other memorabilia – and in memory. The purpose of this trip was the world premier of the Lilias Trotter documentary, “Many Beautiful Things,” at the Manchester International Film Festival.  It was a thrill to see the film come to life on wide screen. . . to receive affirmations from a wide range of viewers. . . to share this culminating moment with the film maker and her husband, our patrons and their adult daughters. . .  A never to be forgotten moment, launching the next phase:  the presenting of the film to the public.  More than two years effort coming to fruition – at last!

Yet there was another event, personal and private, that ranked high in my heart at the time and now upon reflection:  the meeting of Eva Longley, the only former member of the Algiers Mission Band still living.  While not a contemporary of Lilias, she lived in Dar Naama, Lilias’s home (and AMB Headquarters in Algiers) and, during those years, worked alongside the then older women who had joined Lilias decades previous.  That alone would have made her a person-of-interest – but there was much more to the story and her unproclaimed role in preserving the Trotter archives.  A  story I learned considerably after my appropriating those very archives for the writing of the biography,  A Passion for the Impossible. and compiling paintings and writings for A Blossom in the Desert.

 A chance meeting with a friend’s son and a retired Arab World Ministries missionary connected me to a woman who, likewise, had based at the HQ in Dar Naama for many years.  It was through a telephone conversation with this contact that I was told the history of the archives and given Eva’s UK phone number.  Thus began a friendship via phone linked by our common regard for the life and legacy of Lilias Trotter.  Over the past several years I would contact her with my endless list of questions:  “Do you have any stories that her colleagues shared with you?  Any mannerisms or qualities that might better illuminate her personality?  Any foibles or weaknesses that would humanize her?  After each “visit” I felt I knew Lilias better – as well as my new friend, Eva.

But the most illuminating story was, in fact, her crucial role in the preservation of the Trotter Archives along with related North African Mission/AWM archival material.  During political unrest in the 1980s, missionaries left the country.  Eva stayed on, working her day job at an embassy in Algiers.  Every evening, for one and one-half years, Eva would attend to her greater mission: organizing the storage space filled with all manner of paper, books, pamphlets, journals, diaries and documents, keeping record until she was satisfied that she had secured a copy of everything of importance.  As individuals visited her over those months, she would entrust into their care (and suitcases) these items to be deposited at their respective destinations.  Ultimately they were gathered together in three large cardboard boxes and  stored at the Arab World Ministries UK HQ in Loughborough.  At peace that “her work was completed,” she felt liberated to leave her beloved Algeria and return to England to join her husband and eventually serve, together, in a new location in North Africa.

The six hours we spent together in London will be etched forever in my heart.  This tiny but resilient soul in her early-8o’s, battled her way to the city whose transportation system was crippled by a 24 hour tube strike – with subsequent overload of buses and taxis.  We sat in the tearoom at Selfridges for 4 hours and listened to her stories – and told her ours.  Finally, we waited with her for two hours as one bus after another passed by, filled with passengers!   (It would be another 2 1/2 hours before she made it back to her apartment the opposite  end of London!)

Before leaving, she reached into a shopping bag and presented me with a smaller bag.  I unwrapped the tissue and lifted from it an exquisite rock formation.  “It’s called a ‘desert rose.’  They are found  in certain arid desert regions of Algeria, made of sand and minerals (often gypsum) and shaped by sand and wind and water into lovely formations.  I see it as a parable of our lives:  to use the dry and hard things of life to create something beautiful.”

I looked at this beautiful woman, weathered with age and shaped by life experience:  a desert rose.  I felt the honor and privilege to be in her company, to be considered a friend, and to have collaborated with her (unbeknownst to either of us at the time) in the effort to preserve and present Lilias’s legacy of faith and beauty.  And I thought of Lilias who had fallen in love with the people of this particular region – the Souf villages of hidden palms and beehive dwellings, the desert roses lining the roadsides, walls and underlying the sand of this district, and lovely “maidens” (wrapped in their indigo cotton drapery) “full of grace” and “frank sweetness.”  “It wins our heartstrings in our rare visits, and it keeps them.”  Little wonder that Lilias dreamed of ending her days amongst the Souf people.  As one last gift to herself, before leaving the district in 1895, she took desert roses, fresh and sweet out of the ground, “. . . a pledge of the blossoming that is coming to the desert when the Lord is king.”

So I have my bit of Algeria on a shelf, above my computer, at our home in Florida.  It reminds me of Eva, of course, and Lilias.  And it speaks to me of all the Evas and Liliases of this world who, like them, have spilled out their lives in service for God – in far away lands and at home  – simply being faithful to God and obedient to His bidding.  Missionaries and ministers, yes, but teachers and plumbers and nurses and business owners and workers, mothers and fathers.  In short, all people who radiate the love of God and convey it to those whose lives they touch – intentionally or inadvertently.  People for whom there will be no “honorable mention” (at least in this world), no books nor films to highlight their good works.  But for whom God can say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

We all can be “desert roses” – shaped by the hard and difficult things of life into something beautiful for God!

Posted in beauty, faithfulness, nature, service | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

A Night of Many Beautiful Things

At last I have specific information about the screening of “Many Beautiful Things” that many readers have requested.  After more than 2 years of planning and praying and the coming together of talented individuals to bring to screen the life and art of Lilias Trotter, we announce a “premier event” – An Evening of Many Beautiful Things – which will launch the public availability of the film.  Perhaps you would like to host a screening in your church or local theater.  Information on the where and how of such an event – and the future of other possible screenings is explained in the following link.  And, there will be more information to follow about facsimile editions of Trotter sketchbooks and her devotional classic:  Parables of the Cross.

Check out the following link:

https://www.facebook.com/manybeautifulthingsmovie?fref=nf

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Endless Possibilities

Product Details

God only knows the endless possibilities that lie enfolded in each one of us!                                                                                                           Parables of the Cross

It was the fall of 1858.  Lilias’s father, Alexander Trotter, was preparing to embark upon an extended visit to the United States, to visit overseas clients and investigate the railway companies on behalf of Coutts Bank, broker to a number of foreign railway companies.  Isabella Trotter, Lilias’s mother, gave her consent on one condition:  that she would accompany him – little imagining that he would make good on her offer!

Isabella, anticipating the impact of this separation on five-year-old Lily, purchased a sketchbook for her daughter and presented it with this simple inscription:  “Lily – Sept. to Dec. 1858.”  Upon their departure, Lily faithfully recorded pictures depicting their departure, waving to a ship from a wooden dock, and concluded her sketchbook with evidences of the advent of Christmas and the anticipated return of her parents.  Within the pages, were images and imaginations of a Victorian childhood:  tree house and castles, beach coasts and bathing machine, pipe smoking gnome.  Kittens and cats scamper through the pages decorated with alphabet books, toys and other vestiges of childhood.

Her mother, in turn, faithfully wrote to “My dear little girl” recording experiences and views of the “new world” with vivid descriptions of places and landscapes comparing them to Lily’s known world in England.  At one point, she left a blank space for her “to fill up with her imagination, for no words can convey any idea of the scene.” Without the slightest trace of condescension, she likewise shared viewpoints she observed, urging her to take her comments about the racial conflict (just before the Civil War!) – “I shall give you the testimony of everyone as I gather it for you to put together that you may be able to form your deductions.”  (These letters were later published as First Impressions of the New World on Two Travelers from the Old.)

Clearly, this mother recognized a budding artistic talent in her young daughter and provided the tools and incentive to encourage and develop the same.  But could she have even imagined the other abilities that were latent in the unformed child?  How could she possibly have surmised the leadership abilities, the vision, the faith that would mark the adult life and legacy?

Possibilities.  Who knows what possibilities lie within a human being.  Never is one so aware of the mysterious potential than when in the presence of a child.  What gifts lie hidden within that unformed being?  What circumstances and events will shape and cultivate their innate gifts and guide the very direction of their lives?

Lilias’s developing talent is presented in a recently published picture book for “children of all ages,” Lily: The Girl Who Could See.  Here the simple narrative of her life is compellingly related by Sally Oxley and beautifully illustrated by Tim Ladwig.  (See Amazon Books)

What distinguishes Lily’s artistic journey is her understanding, from an early age, of her creative gift in relationship to The Creator.  This belief that she could only be all God intended her to be in relation to Him – as a person and as an artist – informed the most important decisions of her life.  And, her joyous conclusion, that only way to true joy and satisfaction is in full surrender to God, is an inspiration for persons of any age.

She concludes her Parables of the Cross with a painting and reflection on the new-born wood-sorrel writing:  God only knows the endless possibilities that lie folded in each one of us!  Shall we not let Him have His way?  Shall we not go all lengths with Him in His plans for us – not, as these ‘green things upon the earth’ in their unconsciousness, but with the glory of free choice?    

The creative “possibilities” are not just for the young with years ahead to plan and develop their innate gifts.  With God, each day offers possibilities to grow and serve Him – regardless of the circumstances – at each and every age and stage of life.  True creativity is not the result of a  free, unbridled spirit but it is a way of being:  the creature in right relationship with the Creator.  “Shall we not go all lengths with Him in His plans for us?”  

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