The Life and Legacy of Lilias Trotter

Artist and Missionary to Algeria


It is easy to find out whether our lives are focused, and if so, where the focus lies. Where do our thoughts settle when consciousness comes back in the morning? Where do they swing back when the pressure is off during the day? Dare to have it out with God and ask Him to show you whether or not all is focused on Christ and His glory.” ~ Lilas Trotter

Lilias Trotter was an artist and missionary to Algeria who lived from 1853-1928. Her Wikipedia page summarizes her story well:

Trotter was a nearly self-taught artist, her mother believed her talent exceptional, and in 1876, she sent some of Lilias’ drawings to art critic and social philosopher John Ruskin while all three were staying in Venice… Ruskin praised Trotter’s artistic skill, and she became an informal student and a good friend despite the disparity in their ages. Ruskin told Trotter that if she would devote herself to art, she would “be the greatest living painter and do things that would be Immortal.

Lilias earnestly sought God’s will through prayer and placed her gifts in the hands of the God who had given them to her:

I have no more to do with these gifts than with the color of my hair.

Seeking First the Kingdom


Lilias came to the decision that she could not give herself to painting and continue to seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness. Ruskin was deeply disappointed and hoped that she would change her mind.

Lilias began to work at the YWCA, teaching regularly and “did a considerable amount of teaching and (unusually for respectable young women of the period) fearlessly canvassed the streets alone at night near Victoria Station for prostitutes who might be persuaded to train for an employable skill or to simply spend a night in a hostel (Wikipedia).”

She soon felt the Lord calling her to be a missionary in North Africa and persevered even after she had been rejected by the North African Mission Board on account of her poor health. The Board agreed to work in harmony with her although not as a member. Nine months later, Trotter and two other women set sail for Algeria.

Mission life was hard and her health unstable, but as she and her small group persisted, they saw God at work even in the midst of much resistance. By 1920 there were 30 missionaries working alongside her. She never solicited funds because she said God’s wealth was boundless.

Lilias continued to faithfully serve the people of Algeria until the day of her death.

A Life Well Lived


Many may look at Lilias’ life and think that perhaps she wasted her artistic talent and the opportunity to become a famous painter. But I have to agree with filmmaker Laura Waters Hinson who writes , “Trotter’s stunning decision bids us to question the true meaning of success. Could you and I follow an unglamorous conviction at the risk of sacrificing personal wealth and fame? With her artistic legacy on the line, Trotter chose to relentlessly follow her calling, which meant choosing obscurity over celebrity.”

Hinson continues, “Trotter did not judge her worth by the number of people she reached in her lifetime or the number of her paintings that hung in galleries. She teaches me to trust more in what I believe I am called to do, regardless of the outcomes. I do not believe the takeaway from Trotter’s life is that our work should be obscure—I believe what matters is the posture towards our work.”

Recently, Hinson directed a movie which tells Lilas’ life story called Many Beautiful Things . Before the movie came out, I had never heard of Lilas Trotter. Afterwards, I knew I would never forget her. I hope that you will either watch the movie or read the biography that has been written about her life. Hers is truly a life well lived!

Official Movie Trailer:

Purchase the Biography here:

Rent the Movie:

Buy the Movie:

DC Area Folks: There will be a screening of this film on May 5 in DC! The screening will be followed by a discussion with filmmaker, Laura Waters Hinson, and author, Dr. Steven Garber. Tommy Hinson of Church of the Advent will moderate. Click Here to purchase your tickets!

3 Things To Do When Strangers Comment on Your Parenting

I stood in the line at the Post Office, waiting to mail a package with my three little girls. The girls were on good behavior at the moment, standing patiently in the line with me and not even saying much.

A woman next to me in line asked, “Are all those girls yours?” To which I replied “Yes.” She then said, “Wow! Three girls! That’s a mother’s curse! Just imagine when they are teenagers!”

I was stumped. Mortified. Dumbfounded. But thank God Almighty, I did not hesitate to tell her what I thought about her comments: “I see my girls as blessings and gifts from God and I think that they will be wonderful teenagers to be around.”

I pulled myself together, mailed my package, and exited the office, trembling a bit. Thankfully, the girls seemed oblivious to the exchange that I had just had.

As I was loading my kids into the car, another stranger who had been in line with us ran over to my car and touched me on the shoulder. She looked me in the eyes and said, “I’m so glad you said what you did to that woman about your girls. You are right – they are gifts from God and don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise!” I thanked her with a smile and got back into my car.

Unsolicited Parenting Advice: It Happens To Us All


If you are a parent, you have no doubt borne the brunt of some rather thoughtless and frustrating comments from strangers about your kids, your parenting style, or (most likely) some judgement they make in a split-second moment of watching you and your child.

In fact, I’ve often joked about compiling a book called something like, “Utterly Outrageous and Unsolicited Parenting Advice Given By Complete Strangers.” Parents all over could sit down and read the stories and realize something: THIS HAPPENS TO ALL OF US.

Yup, I’ve yet to meet a parent who doesn’t have an “unsolicited advice from strangers about parenting” moment. It’s just another passage of parenting in our country, I guess.

Two Strangers, Two Totally Different Experiences

My experience at the Post Office shows that we can have two totally different experiences with strangers – one can be demeaning and discouraging while the other can be encouraging and validating.

The first woman decided to rain down word curses on my poor, unsuspecting kids about their adolescence. The second chose to affirm me that my kids are a blessing.

What To Do When A Stranger Comments On Your Parenting

Due to the fact that most of our encounters with strangers are spontaneous and unplanned (and therefore, we don’t have time to prepare what we want to say in response) here’s a fun little strategy I came up with to deal with those comments when they come:

1) Face It – If you need to speak up so your children hear you say that, “Yes, they are all mine and yes, I love them” DO IT. It matters a lot more to me that my kids know they are wanted and loved than that someone I don’t even know approves of me.

2) Filter It – One of my favorite ways to filter my own thoughts or the criticisms of others comes from Amy Carmichael called The Three Seives. Ask yourself these three questions regarding the comments of others: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

If a child is outside in the middle of a snowstorm without a coat on, a stranger better speak up. If a child doesn’t have a hat on in a 70 degree Target store, um….no comments are needed.

3) Flush It – if the comments that come your way are negative, discouraging, and even cruel – FLUSH THEM. Don’t give a second thought to what was said. If, however, a stranger offered you a word of encouragement or gave a suggestion in kindness that you think is accurate, don’t just toss it.

It’s our choice what words and people we allow to influence us for better or worse in our parenting journey.

Parenting is hard enough as it is, so:

When you sit next to a mom with a baby on a plane or see a Dad flying solo with his kids in a restaurant – let’s offer to hold the baby or give the Dad a high five.

Let’s encourage the moms and dads around us that no one can parent their kids like they can and that their kids (whether they have one or ten) are a blessing from Heaven.

And if people continue to say things like “Can’t you get your kid under control?!” We can calmly reply: “Wow, I probably shouldn’t have given him that espresso this morning – my bad! :)”


The Power of Persistent Prayer


Spring has sprung and with it has come birds of every kind building cozy little nests in which to lay their eggs. It is a beautiful scene to observe a mother bird looking everywhere for bits of hay, grass, paper, and other materials she can use to build her babies a home.

It is not so beautiful, however, when she decides to build her nest on the lamp beside your front door, which is exactly what has happened to us!

It all began a few weeks ago when we noticed a lovely lady robin had begun a nest right on top of our outdoor light. My husband immediately pulled off all her hard work and said to my kids, “this just isn’t the place for this. Hopefully she won’t try to build it again.”

Alas, mother robin could not be defeated. She built this nest time after time until finally I begged my husband, “Can’t we just let her build it there? She seems so adamant about it and we can just keep the light off for awhile.” He sighed in defeat and hopefully we will have a (very) front row seat to seeing some new little robins hatch in the next few weeks!

The Power of Perseverance


Watching mommy robin’s persistence got me thinking about a parable Jesus shared with his disciples in Luke 18 to illustrate the power of persistent prayer:

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Verses 1-8).

The God Who Longs to Answer Us

It is easy to try something once and give up on it if we have a bad experience. A new workout, a new food, a new hobby, a new book. We may give up because we are too impatient to wait for the results or take the time to learn to appreciate what it may offer us.

It’s also easy to apply that same impatience to our prayer lives. I’m not here to tell you that God will always answer your prayers the way that you want if you are just persistent enough. Keep asking God for wisdom as you seek Him, and He will surely give it to you (James 1:5). Let God’s Word and Spirit guide you as you pray and fill you with power to persevere.

You can be sure to count on this- when His children cry out to Him, He is sitting up and taking notice. 2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “…the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.

Keep Asking, Seeking, and Knocking

Is there something or someone God has placed on your heart to pray for? Keep asking, seeking, and knocking. Don’t lose hope! Don’t give up! Keep praying!

Like the robin in our front yard, you may have built something dozens of times only to have it torn down; However, if you persist, one day you may find it standing strong and complete right before your eyes.

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