Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Book Reviews: Lilias Trotter

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?

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Sunday, January 31, 2016


Counting blessings...

Are two-year-olds or newborns sweeter?

I can't decide.

For many, last week's snow storm wasn't considered a blessing. I remember life on the farm well enough to know that it causes a lot of work.

But when it is a weekend and all my family is snuggled indoors, I love seeing huge drifts swirl around the house.

Ed said that he had a perfect birthday on the Saturday of the storm - and with this as his view - who could blame him?

After it finally quit snowing, a friend from church helped to dig us out with his skidloader, saving Ed hours of shoveling time.

And made huge snow piles for the children.

I haven't been doing much more than holding down the couch these last weeks. With friends and family blessing us with meals, I've been spending my time enjoying the baby, reading to the children, and, of course, watching the snow. At this rate, I'll become lazy.

At three weeks old, our little one has gained two pounds already. Could she be
 growing on kisses?

Yesterday Ed and the children spent a couple hours of sledding with their cousins.

While I enjoyed the sunset from the warmth of the indoors.

And counted blessings.

What are you grateful for today?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Known By God

I wrote most of these words two years ago after the birth of our fifth child. When I found it this week while cuddling a new daughter, I was encouraged and I thought I'd share it with you.

A few days ago, I knew little about our baby. I knew well the shape of her poking elbows and knees, but didn’t know if she had a button nose like her brother. I knew she had the hiccups nearly daily, but I didn't know if she had dark hair like her sister. I didn’t know her weight or even if this new baby was a daughter or son.

There is so much more I still don't know about this child's future. What will her personality be like? Will she be strong-willed or laid back? Will she be calm or full of energy? Will she be bold or shy? What will she like to do in her spare time? Will she enjoy reading like her sister? Or climbing like her brother? What will she see and experience? Where will she travel? Who will she meet? How will her life impact others? How will her life affect mine?

And then there are the other questions, the ones asked when a baby does not live to be cuddled by his mother. The heartbreak of a miscarriage or still-birth, the empty arms and shattered dreams, are multiplied by the sorrow of never knowing the dear child. Never seeing him smile like Mommy or watching his eyes sparkle like Daddy's. Never hearing his lisping words or watching her personality emerge.

But there is One who does know.

Jeremiah 1:5 says “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” God knew Jeremiah before he was born, and He already had a plan for Jeremiah's life.

I searched the Scripture and found this isn't the only time God knew a person's future before their birth. Isaiah includes at least four verses that describe how God formed Isaiah in the womb for a purpose. “Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee...He that formed thee from the womb, I am the Lord that maketh all things....The Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name....the Lord that formed me from the womb to be his servant.” Isaiah 44:2,24, 49:1,5

Psalm 139:13-15 also describes God’s knowledge of us before our birth. “Thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made:...My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret,...Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written.”

Other examples in Scripture are the birth of Rebekah's twin sons, the calling of Samson before his conception, and the announcement of John the Baptist's birth. In each one, God knew the child's destiny before their birth. Before their first breath they had an identity to God. These children were real people, not just a blob of tissue. God recognized these unborn children as human before their birth.

If God sees us when we are “unperfect,” or unformed, and already has us recorded in His book, obviously He sees even the unborn as a living soul with an eternal destiny. This gives me assurance that He cares about those tiny babies whose lives are snuffed out before birth. I might not know the details of a miscarried baby, but He does, and He had a purpose in their few days on earth.

Today, with all the uncertainties of life, I can become fearful when I look at my tiny baby and imagine all the frightening events her eyes could see. But the God, who knows the end from the beginning, knows my daughter too. My goal is to train her to know the God who created her for His glory.

Someday, may each of us—my daughter, the children who were never born, and me, bring praise to our Creator who knew us from the beginning. “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” Revelation 4:11 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

As Mary Elizabeth

Continued from yesterday...

My grandfather, David, with his father, Joe with their mules.

            Travel across the country wasn't as easy in 1915 as it is today. The stamina of my great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth moving from Iowa to Pennsylvania with two small children amazes me.        
            Two weeks after their move, another son was born to the family.
            A few generations further back, women held seasick children in treacherous journeys across the wide ocean to find a home where they could worship in freedom.
            Travel was even more difficult when Abraham told Sarah they were packing their tents and moving to a strange land that God would show them.
            Noah's wife did not have the support of friends when her husband informed her of God's command to build an ark and his intention to abandon everything familiar in order to obey God.
            We can only guess at the reaction of Sarah or Noah's wife. Did they question their husband's sanity? Did they resent the need to pull up stakes? Did they worry about their children's future if their parents were radical in their obedience to God? We don't know.

            Neither do I know my great-grandmother's reaction to her husband's decision to move east. Mary Elizabeth had family in Pennsylvania, which perhaps made the move easier. But they were exchanging deep, rich farmland for rocky soil. Joe would never be a wealthy man. At the end of his life, he was training mules and milking sixteen cows on the same few acres in southern Pennsylvania.
            But Mary Elizabeth had more in common with Sarah and Noah's wife than a change in location. Like Abraham and Noah, her husband was concerned about the evil influences around him. He was aware that spiritual victory may mean sacrifice, possibly even a change of occupation and a new home. Today, one hundred years later, I can trace the faithfulness of my great-grandparents and rejoice n a Godly heritage they gave to me.

            Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham calling him “lord,” even as Noah's wife followed her husband into an ark that was the saving of her household, even as my great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth endured the discomforts of a mid-winter train trip heavy with child - so I desire to support my husband in his decision to follow God regardless of the sacrifice of personal comfort.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

As Mary Elizabeth

Pulling an article from my files in which I imagine some details of a true event in the life of my great-grandparents over a hundred years ago.

Joe and his mules at the auction in Iowa
            “Who will start the bid on this fine team of mules?”
            The voice of the auctioneer droned as Mary Elizabeth pulled her shawl tight against the raw February wind. Her husband, Joe, walked the team around the barnyard while the neighbors sat watching from the rail fence.
            “Sold - to the man in the blue hat,” called the auctioneer.
            Snow crunched underfoot as Mary Elizabeth plodded to the house. Maybe I can finish packing and clean up the kitchen before the auction ends. Already she had packed the bedding and dishes in the large trunk.

            The door banged open to admit two small boys. Mary Elizabeth turned from sweeping out the ashes in the cook stove and poured two mugs of milk. “Come, David and Harold. Eat quickly while your father loads the bobsled.”
            Moments later, Joe poked his head into the kitchen, letting in another blast of cold air. “Is the trunk ready?”
            Mary Elizabeth looked up from folding her apron. “Almost. I couldn't get the clasp fastened.”
            Joe and Mr. Cadwell, a neighbor, heaved the trunk out the door into the waiting bobsled.
            “Ready to go?” Joe asked. “The train won't wait.” He reached for Mary Elizabeth's hand to help her into the wagon. She tucked the blanket around the boys, then glanced back at the little house she had called home.

            During the three-mile trip to the train station Mary Elizabeth gazed at the frozen Iowa landscape. She remembered when she had come to this area to work. Here she had met and married Joe. Her husband had toiled in these flat fields, since he had been a small boy. After Joe's father died when he was eight, Joe had worked like a man, encouraging the rich, black earth to yield tall corn.
            But now they were leaving these fields behind and were moving to Pennsylvania. Mary Elizabeth dreaded the long train ride, the jolting of the rails, the two sleepless nights, and the frigid mid-winter cold. She glanced over at her husband and remembered their long conversations that brought them to this decision. In the past months, Joe had been thinking hard about the future. In the past, he had dabbled in a life of sin and knew that his old friends' drinking parties would hinder his newfound walk with God. 
           Would a move to a new area give him a chance to start fresh? Mary Elizabeth hoped it would. 

To Be Continued....

My great-grandparents, Joe and Mary Elizabeth Hawbaker, as newlyweds.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

It's a Girl

Haven Faith was born at 11:24 just before midnight on Thursday evening.

She surprised me by weighing 8 lb 8oz, - my largest baby - but still tiny in her daddy's hands.

Our two-year-old adores babies and has no idea she has just been dethroned from her status as the baby of the family.

We have an eager crew of babysitters.

The boys were wishing for a brother - but a new sister won't be refused.

Thanks so much for all your prayers and encouragement to me and our family the past weeks. We feel so blessed for healthy children, a safe delivery, supportive friends and family, and God's amazing goodness.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Book Review: The Other Side of the Wall


This month I plan to share some books that impacted me last year. 

It is rare that I finish a book and think "Everyone ought to read this book." But when I turned the last page of The Other Side of the Wall by Gary Miller, I wished I could hand the book to every Christian in America and beg them to read it.

The book begins with a call to North American believers to realize that our money is a gift from God and our responsibility to share it. After examining our motives for giving, Gary sounds a call for wise giving. He defines the difference between critical and chronic needs and bluntly shares how many times our giving can hurt those we aim to help.

Gary manages the SALT Microfinance program for Christian Aid Ministries so he has years of experience in working with the needy in developing countries. His book is well researched and gleans information from many others who are working with the poor.

It would be hard to pick a favorite but one of my favorite chapters in the book was "The Power of the Local Church." The vision Gary gives in this chapter is one that I wish for my church - and for myself.

The Other Side of the Wall is part of Gary Miller's Kingdom Focused Living Series - a series of books written to guide believers in a wise use of their resources. I haven't read them all (yet) but from what I have read, I highly recommend the entire series.

January is often a time of new resolutions - and often some of our goals are centered on the area of finances. If you want to be challenged in your finances, specifically in the area of giving, please read The Other Side of the Wall. 

The Other Side of the Wall is available from TGS International. 


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