This Section Satisfied Me {Book Club}

A few book club details before we jump into chapters 6-10 in A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter by Miriam Huffman Rockness.

If you read HYS last weekend, you saw the article Craig Thompson wrote about Lilias. In his post he shared that Miriam has a blog about Lilias Trotter. This is where I wish we were in person, because I’d be gesturing more than normal. A blog!! About Lilias!! We haven’t seen that in Book Club. I just discovered it existed a little over an hour ago, so the truth is, I haven’t had time to poke around much. But I like this post: Resources: By and About Lilias TrotterI’ve also left a comment asking Miriam to contact me and hope she’ll be able to visit us later in the month.

Onto today’s section. This part of the book satisfied me because Lilias was a real person who, like us, had to consider:

Her gifting and where to live her life. She was able to incorporate her art in both worlds (England and Algeria). I loved the sketch of the three women from the back! Even in England, choice was involved when it came to how much to focus on her artistic talents and how much to serve. I have a feeling, no matter which choice she felt was the one God had for her, others would question it. Reminding me, not to poll too many. Seek wise counsel, yes. Pray, clearly. Listen, goes without saying. But don’t poll people on their opinions of the decision.

Her family, especially her sister Jacqueline. It touched me that yearly Lilias planned to spend six months in England helping care for her sister and six months in Algeria. Her willingness to be flexible and look for ways to have a bit of both, made me think of friends—particularly single friends—who have aging parents. They are exploring ways to be of service to their families and parents, while not having to leave the field completely. Sometimes it is impossible to navigate both worlds, but is it more possible than we think?

Her physical health and here I want to separate out her “weak” health (out of her control) and the unhealthy pattern of pushing to the point of collapsing. We talk about the pedestal too often we are put on as cross-cultural workers and it is stories like this, where Lilias pushed, and pushed, and pushed that perpetuation the myth of “giving your all.” I don’t think any of us are opposed to hoeing our row, the problem is when we compare “our row” to others and feel we come up short.

Her willingness to put in her time when it came to housing. Lilias and her teammates were willing to spend years showing up so that when a chance came for them to move into the Muslim area, they were able to walk through the open door. We read in a few pages what was slowly (at times boringly) lived out day after day, week after week, year after year. It truly would be a bit boring to read the tedious details of how long it took to do laundry, prepare food, what they talked about, when they were annoyed, what made them happy. The only down side of compressing the daily-ness of life into the constraints of a book, is that it can create the sense that Lilias’ (or any biography) life was more interesting than our own.

Her spiritual priorities of disciplined prayer and spending consistent time in the word. I loved that she wandered out of town to spend time with Jesus. Her drawing of the sand lily on the first part of Part Two made me think of the Velvet Ash. The sand lily “grows in arid sand, drawing life from stored energy in the bulb underground” and the Velvet Ash thrives in the desert.

A few ways she wasn’t like me (us?)—I laughed at what a novelty it was to have to dress herself and not be served tea in bed. And then I remember how unbelievably proud I was to learn you could . . . wait for it . . . make tortillas!! Who knew. Apparently millions of people  don’t buy them at the grocery store. Not that impressive really. Lilias and her friends were also able to go without an organization or more structured support system because they were “supported though independent means.” In other words, they were rich and could live off of the money they had.

As we near the time to move the conversation to the comments, I have three parting questions and request.

Reading about The Cambridge Seven I wondered how we can share what God is doing, so as to empower people that they, too, could do more than they might have realized. But, and here is the kicker, without elevating them?

How is Lilias Trotter’s story a mirror for you to see your own life from a different angle? What stood out to you in the section?

If I am able to connect with Miriam and invite her to Book Club, what would you like to ask her?

The request: as we will have a  longer time to read this next section, will you take a picture of yourself reading it (or get someone to take it for you?) and next time let’s share pictures of ourselves in the comments. Yesterday I was sitting outside reading when a grasshopper jumped on my page and I thought it would be fun to see each of us a bit in our element. Enjoy the extended reading time :).


P.S. Here is the reading plan for A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter by Miriam Huffman Rockness:

July 5: Forward – Chapter 5
July 12: Chapters  6- 10 (or chapters 6-8 in Part 1 and chapters 1-2 in Part 2)
July 19: Sabbath (reading a larger section)
July 26: Chapters 11-21
August 2: 22-26 (the end)

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  1. Katie July 11, 2016

    So happy to be settled States-side and to chime in on book-club reads (at long last)! I think I once heard Lilias Trotter’s name mentioned by a friend who served in Northern Africa, but never knew anything more about her, so this read has been illuminating and also emotionally striking. I almost feel as though I am at a point in my life where I am experiencing the opposite – a calling out of “official” ministry to embrace dreams I had thrown away, and yet at the same time called on a journey of discovering how personal dreams can (and will) bring more people to encounter Jesus. I’ve only started learning how to watercolor this year, intimidated by friends who are professional level, so it was interesting reading about such a talented painter (i.e. artist) who simultaneously felt called to the field. It really doesn’t have to be one or the other! – though I am still learning to believe that in my heart.

    I loved that you mentioned the health issue, (Amy), as that is something I truly struggled with both situationally, and with others commenting on what consistent sickness “reflected” about my walk with God. There are so many causes of illness (especially on the field), and no perfect right way to deal with it each time but for God’s wisdom. Pushing ourselves too hard to the detriment of our health happens so, so often. And I feel like we are often just as bad at pushing others to overwork as doing it to ourselves.

    Looking forward to the rest of the book!

  2. Sarah Hilkemann July 11, 2016

    My favorite part was in chapter 10 (page 127 in the real book), as Lilias begins to focus more on native Arabs but still had a heart for the Kabyle people. She wrote in her journal for April 25 (coincidently my birthday ;)), “Other workers may come later; meanwhile we can be loving them and praying for them”. Sometimes I think I will be the hero of the story. I will get to be the one that sees a movement started, or gets the credit for major transformation, or sees the family trust the Father. But I don’t know where I am on the journey for these people, and I need to just be faithful to do my part. It isn’t about me anyway, but the glory goes to the Father. I can rest in the “meanwhile” of loving and praying, preserving and expecting God to do great things, whether I am the one that gets to see it or not.

    I think as we share stories about the mighty ways God is working, we also need to let the humanity of His workers be visible. I love the stories where I get to read about weak people who made mistakes, and yet God’s power was even more evident as He worked. In my own life, I have had to be more vulnerable about my own brokenness to show that I am not on any kind of special pedestal, or doing anything more important than precious friends and family in the US or other parts of the world. Sharing stories of both here and there also helps me remember that one is not more important than the other.

  3. Jaime July 12, 2016

    I love where it describes what they prayed for when they first began to work in Algeria: “that doors might be opened; that hearts might be opened; and that the heavens might be opened.” Having just moved to a place where there is only one other western foreign family (other Asians are viewed differently than westerners), I have been trying to find ways to be involved in the community, rather than just being an oddity or something amusing to watch. Their prayers are an encouragement to me to pray the same; that doors, hearts, and heaven will be opened here. I can’t wait to see what these prayers will bring!!

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