The results need not end with our earthly days. Should Jesus tarry, our works will follow us. God may use, by reason of the wonderful solidarity of His Church, the things that He has wrought in us, for the blessing of souls unknown to us. . . God only know the endless possibilities that lie folded in each one of us! Parables of the Cross
I began writing this blog, summer of 2012. My mother had died a few months earlier leaving a vacuum in place of my almost daily phone conversations and increasing interactions with her doctors, nurses and caring friends. It also left a hole in my heart. This woman who bore and birthed me, who nurtured and shaped me, who was the fixed point against whom I tested and challenged my beliefs and to whom, increasingly through my adult years, I shared my struggles and joys – no longer existed in this world. My world.
And so a block of time emerged to implement something I had considered for years but for which I had neither the time nor the technical skills: writing my reflections on the paintings and writings of Lilias Trotter. But it took the combined skills of my adult children to thrust intent into reality. Daughter Kimberly set up a WordPress home page replete with heading and subtopics; son Jonathan hacked my Facebook account, “Algerian Camel,” (“If you want to see pictures of your grandchildren. . .”) and, without my permission, restored my rightful name and identity plus found me a short list of “friends.”
Thus began the two-year discipline and delight of writing weekly posts. I identified themes in Lilias’s life and explored their meaning in my life. (Objectivity is the duty of a biographer; subjectivity the luxury of a blogger.) It was, I suppose, my way of coming to terms with her impact in my life by processing it with others. And, perhaps, it was part of a subliminal end-of-the-journey catharsis. Putting Lilias to rest.
Not so. Little could I have guessed what God had intended for Lilias’s Legacy nor the ways and means by which He would do that. Enter Sally and Brian Oxley. They had been introduced to Lilias through Amazon books, the writings of Amy Carmichael referring them to books about Lilias: “Frequently bought together.” Their personal passion to channel the power of film for Kingdom Purposes led them to me, to explore together the possibility of a documentary on the life and legacy of Lilias Trotter.
This new collaboration would draw from my research but take it to places beyond my wildest imaginings much less resources. The first venture was to find, secure and preserve some priceless journals and sketchbooks that I feared might be lost in unnamed auction lots. Katherine Anderson, captured this adventure, in part, in an article for Wheaton Alumni magazine referring to “the treasure hunt for missing pieces – including a hasty flight to London in search of the journals and sketchbooks that Miriam had seen years earlier in Surrey. Miriam received word that Lilias’ grandnephew had died, and though she despaired of ever seeing the journals again, the Oxleys made a quick flight. They located the grandnephew’s son who invited them in. Brian himself found two journals high on a dusty shelf, and the son later found the rest, hidden away in the attic.” (Read the full article, “For the Blessing of Souls Unknown,” on wheaton.edu/magazine. Copyright © 2014 by Wheaton College, Illinois.)
Another venture was to locate the “forty-some” letters that the famed art critic and noted Victorian, John Ruskin, had written to Lilias. While I knew that they existed, documented by the sale to Sotheby’s by her niece and followed by their purchase by a New York City bookseller – the trail had gone cold. For almost two decades, I (and friends!) explored every known lead – to no avail. Then: Sally found them! These important letters are threaded throughout the film documentary, “Many Beautiful Things,” providing an extraordinary glimpse into this unique friendship.
Which brings me to the film. Yes, it has a name: “Many Beautiful Things: The Life and Vision of Lilias Trotter.” And it has a Facebook account: “Many Beautiful Things.” Herein will be the answers to the questions I have been asked as new developments unfold. If you are interested in when and where it will be available, or a glimpse of the film through its trailer (when completed) then check out this site and sign up for information as it becomes available.
Meanwhile, I gaze back in awe and amazement over the past three decades and see the countless ways in which God has been working out His Purposes. I join hands with other individuals – essential to each and every aspect of this saga – collaborators, I like to think, with God’s intentions.
Lilias loved to find “linkings” as she looked back and witnessed, in retrospect, how God had worked out His purposes in countless ways, great and small. Sometimes she wrote and published these linkings for the benefit of others. More often she simply recorded them in her diaries for the strengthening of her faith – and in gratitude to God.
There are countless “linkings” that I have recorded in my journals, the unmistakable evidence (to my eyes of faith) of God working out His Ways through people and places and events – and time. Many of these linkings will emerge on screen as our search and her story merge.
My prayer is that those who view this film will be challenged and strengthened in their faith – or, perhaps, come to belief in Jesus. That they will perceive faith-building events – inner and outer – in the life of Lilias Trotter and see beyond that one life to the Father of our souls, who directs and guides His children as we embrace Him and His time-tested truths.
“. . . for He already had in mind what He was going to do.”