“Did you know your dream has come true? There's a book of Lilias Trotter's art now—A Blossom in the Desert,” I emailed a friend last week. Miriam Rockness, who edited this book, earlier wrote the book that introduced me to Lilias Trotter, A Passion for the Impossible. I was so inspired by her story that I included it in Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God.
We who admire Lilias Trotter have waited a long time actually to see her artwork. Until now, it was hidden away in the Ashmolean Museum of Oxford University and in the archives of the Arab World Ministries.
Lilias Trotter was an upper-class English woman of the Victorian era whose drawings and water colors were admired by John Ruskin, the art authority of the day. He foresaw for her a life of glory and fame if she devoted herself to her art.
Instead, she turned her back on that dream and followed the calling of God to Algeria, arriving in 1888 and dying there 40 years later. As so often happens, she discovered that God wasn’t asking her to give up her talent, but to use it in a different place for different purposes.
Among other things, she often illustrated her journal entries and the letters she sent home with her artwork, a visual treasure of North Africa as it was then. She also wrote several small books of meditations, often springing from her observations of nature and always illustrated with her drawings.
A Blossom in the Desert is filled with Lilias Trotter’s love of God and of the place and people he gave her in Algeria. With the eye of a true artist, she sees God’s fingerprint everywhere she looks.
Oh, the desert is lovely in its restfulness. The great brooding stillness over and through everything is so full of God. One does not wonder that He used to take His people out into the wilderness to teach them.
I find here a passage that remains with me years after first reading it:
“I am come into deep waters” took on new meaning this morning. It started with perplexing matters concerning the future. Then it dawned that shallow waters were a place where you can neither sink nor swim, but in deep waters it is one or the other: “Waters to swim in”—not to float in. Swimming is the intense, most strenuous form of motion—all of you is involved in it—and every inch of you is in abandonment of rest upon the water that bears you up.