I first heard of Lilias Trotter when I read A Path Through Suffering by Elisabeth Elliot. Each chapter in that book began with a quote from one of Trotter's books along with description of her nature paintings.
Trotter's words, combined with Elliot's, were memorable enough to make, even twenty years later, A Path Through Suffering of my all-time favorite books. But I was curious to learn more about Lilias Trotter and read her writings. Elliot described her paintings, but even the best author can't describe a painting. I wanted to see her watercolors for myself.
But Trotter's books have been out of print for many years. When I discovered ebay, I looked for old copies and found a few from England, but for far more than I ever spent on a book.
I wasn't the only one who wished to know more about Lilias Trotter. Miriam Huffman Rockness wrote a biography about Lilias Trotter called A Passion for the Impossible.
Lilias Trotter grew up in England in a privileged Victorian home. In her early twenties, Trotter's artistic skill was discovered by the famous art critic, Ruskin. Impressed by Trotter's skill, Ruskin offered to give her lessons and use his influence to promote her art career, expecting her to become England's greatest living artist.
But Trotter, knowing that she would have to stop her mission work in order to focus on her art, chose to reject an art career. She went instead to Northern Africa. She spent the rest of her life working among the Muslims of Algiers, founding what would become the North Africa Mission.
A Passion for the Impossible tells the story of Trotter's life, including many quotes from her own writings. Her life wasn't easy. She lived with physical weakness, in a harsh climate, on a difficult, if not impossible, mission field. She continued to paint, illustrating tracts, newsletters, and devotional books. But her name would never be heralded as a famous painter and she died, mostly unknown, after a lifetime of service to her beloved Algiers.
After enjoying A Passion for the Impossible, I wished even more to see for myself, Trotter's artwork. Again, Miriam Rockness again came to the rescue. She compiled some of Trotter's writings and artwork into a beautiful book called A Blossom in the Desert. For months this book has been beside my bed. The gentle watercolors, quotes, and Scripture have been the perfect way to end a day, especially these last months when I have usually been too tired to do much reading.
I highly recommend both of these books. If you read A Blossom in the Desert, you'll want to know more about the woman behind the lovely watercolors. If you read A Passion for the Impossible, you'll want to see the artwork that flowed from Trotter's brush.
And both books will inspire you to, like Lilias Trotter, give all your time and talents to the Lord's service.
What books have inspired you?
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