Christian biographies · Rooted in Christ · Testimony

Our Redeemer is Writing A Story

It was February 6, 1917 in Orenburg, Ukraine, when a young single woman went into labor and gave birth to a baby girl. She named her Eleanor. Her name meant “sun ray, shining light” and that is what she was. Eleanor brought sunshine and light to a very dark world and a bleak existence. Her birth mother raised her the best she knew how to on the streets of Orenburg. She was what they called a “waif”.

During this time, laws were almost non-existent and adoption was a much easier process. At some point during the next few years, a Christian couple adopted her as their own. They also adopted a son. I’m sure Eleanor’s birth mom was relieved and thankful that her daughter would be provided for, with food, a safe and warm home, a chance at education, and a better life. As her daughter left with her new family, this young woman knew she would probably never see her again. And Eleanor would never know her father or see her mother again. But she would know what it was to be adopted, what it was to be loved, and what it was to have the narrative of her life story take a very miraculous turn.

Who is the author and finisher of my faith, my redemption, my adoption as a beloved child of God? It is Christ, full of self-sacrifical love poured out for me, for you. His Word is His message, given in love for you. The Holy Spirit is your comforter sent to seal you, walk with you, and bring truth to your mind and heart.

Your story began before the foundation of the world when you were chosen to become adopted as sons and daughters of God. Your story is intertwined with God’s narrative through the Old Testament, through the 400 silent years between the prophets of God and the coming of Christ, the Prophet, Priest and King. Laced through all these generations is the promise that your Redeemer is coming. He was coming for a people. He was coming for you. If you are in Christ, you are a part of that people.

Our life stories are filled with brokenness and sin, of our own doing and the doings of others. Wounded by words, actions, and inaction, or struggling with sickness and disease, we at times feel like our lives are a narrative we’re simply trying to survive. We fight for joy and we fight the lies of the enemy. A million types of pain, suffering, and brokenness around the world threaten to undo us.

What will it look like when we get to the other side, where the lion will lay down with the lamb, and where we can rest under the shade of the tree of life whose leaves are for the healing of the nations? You will hear the ending of your story, your final opus. And guess who will be speaking.

The Way, the Truth and the Life will be speaking. Jesus, Himself, the One with nail scars in His hands will speak restoration into the broken pieces of your story. Your past is not who you are and your wounds are not your identity. If you are in Christ, your identity has been bestowed upon you from the Giver of Grace.

“We will feast in the house of Zion, we will sing with our hearts restored.” -Sandra McCracken

Your finished story will include a redemption so complete, so whole, every wound healed, every false and hurtful word erased, every disease vanished… our hearts restored. Every false assumption or accusation will fall powerless to the ground. Every mocking voice of judgement will be silenced, every misunderstanding brought to the light… our hearts restored.

This hope of future glory should shape the way we live in community today. Hope helps us to dwell in the land of the living because it points us to a future reality where we will love perfectly and be loved perfectly by others. It helps us to have grace and forgiveness for others, because we know they too will be made whole, if they are in Christ, and their stories will have redeeming love written across them, as well.

I long for that day, when I see Jesus face to face. I’ve daydreamed about it over and over these past forty years. For now, I pray and I long. My grandmother, Eleanor, is with Christ, in His presence. Her beginning was filled with brokenness and without hope in this world, but the Redeemer came and rewrote her story. As she lay on her bed in her final hours, her grown children, Christ-followers, surrounded her bed and sang hymns of worship to our Redeemer as she breathed her last and went home to be with the Lord. Her heart restored. Our confident hope as Christians is that one day, He will hold each of our faces in his wounded hands. He will look into our eyes. Our Redeemer will write the end of the story… and it will be only the beginning.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. Revelation 22:1-5

Books · Christian biographies · Discipleship · Rooted in Christ

Lilias Trotter: Soul Into Blossom {Deeply Rooted Magazine}

Over a year ago, I wrote a piece describing my journey of delight in learning about and researching the life and work of missionary and artist, Lilias Trotter.

When I first met missionary and artist, Lilias Trotter, it was in the pages of a book given to me by a dear friend who is now, herself, a missionary to Ireland. This book, Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God, is written by Noel Piper and is a collection of short stories about the lives of five women and how God used them in their unique circumstances, giftings, and callings. With a love for Christian biographies, I dove into this book ten years ago to learn the life stories of these five women. One of them was Lilias.” Read the rest of the post here.

When I write, I pray that God will use my writing to bless the people He wants to bless with my words. Like dandelion seeds blown from the palm of my hand, those seeds go out into the world and I pray the Lord will cause those seeds to land on the soil He desires. He also determines how He will cause the growth. We have only to be faithful with the gifts He has given us to steward.

A year later, during our summer trip to the Pacific Northwest, I was invited to write an article for Deeply Rooted Magazine on the life and work of Lilias Trotter. At the time, I was researching even more about her through Miriam Huffman Rockness’ biography, A Passion for the Impossible. At the beginning of the summer, I asked the Lord to guide me to the books He wanted me to read this summer. As we packed for our summer in the Northwest, I picked up this biography and stuffed it into my backpack along with several children’s books, journals, and my Bible.



When asked to write this piece, I was overjoyed to see how the Lord orchestrated all these threads into one woven tapestry, and to have the opportunity to reach so many women around the world in an effort to continue to share Lilias’ legacy of art and ministry in Northern Africa. Below is an excerpt from this biographical piece.


When the Lord calls a soul to Himself, there is an unmistakable dying that occurs at the same time as there is a supernatural giving of life into union with Christ. At this point of receiving that resurrection life and power, the new child of God begins a life-long journey of hearing the continuous call in God’s Word, through the Holy Spirit, to die daily to sin and live to righteousness (1 Peter 2:24). That call of God demands a response. The question then becomes, how will you respond to this Christ-life dwelling within you? This is an account of a young woman who responded to that call with great sacrifice and with a passion for the impossible.

The young Lily became a woman with a way of seeing in regards to spiritual matters, the natural world, and human relationships. Much of this can be attributed to her mother and father, Isabella and Alexander Trotter. The Trotters were an influential and economically prosperous family in mid 19th century England. A dynamic couple, they each possessed a love of nature, adventure, travel and most importantly a love for Christ. In their travels, Lilias’ mother was known for her prayers and evangelism both in England and across the ocean in the New World of America. Their fascination with various subjects, peoples and cultures, prepared Lilias for her future ministry working with people who lived in very different circumstances and contexts than she was accustomed to.

Lilias grew up during an era of celebrated writers, theologians, poets, and artists including the likes of George MacDonald, Bishop Wilberforce, Christina Rossetti and famed art critic, John Ruskin. Perhaps the most spiritually influential of these voices were those of Dwight L. Moody and Hannah Whitall Smith whose writings, devotional material, and evangelistic meetings became for Lilias a source of discipleship that would develop the inward journey of her soul to a deep and abiding surrender to God, and propel her outward as she prepared for a life of serving others.

-Jennifer Harris, Soul Into Blossom: The Life and Work of Lilias Trotter, Deeply Rooted Magazine – Issue 12 The Calling, pg 37

To read the rest of this biographical sketch and savor the artistic talent on display in Lilias’ watercolor paintings, you can purchase Issue 12 – The Calling at Deeply Rooted Magazine.

With joy and delight,


Books · Christian biographies


FullSizeRender{A Basket of Letters from many people, but mostly from my mother.}

When I was a little girl, about the age of 8 or 9 years old, I began reading through a series called The Mandie Books. I have fond memories of pouring over page after page of these exciting stories of Mandie and her friends. Now, thirty years later, I am reading them to my daughter and she, too, is enthralled with them! As a young girl, I was amazed to find that the author, Lois Gladys Leppard, based many of the incidents in the stories on real life accounts of her mother’s life growing up in North Carolina in the 1900s. My favorite genre of books are undoubtedly Christian and missionary biographies, so its no surprise that even at a young age I was drawn to read about stories based on true accounts.

I remember there was a small Christian bookstore down the hill from our home and I would ask my mother often, if she could take me to the store to check if the next book in the series had been published. I walked the aisle, my heart pounding, the bookstore smell so sweet as it was, and the excitement of seeing the newest book on display. I would hold it in my hands, absorbing every detail of the cover illustration, the chapter titles and return to the counter to pay for my book. The store owners wrapped it in a small brown paper bag and stuffed a cardboard bookmark inside. I could not wait to get back home and read it. And then I’d have to wait months until the next one was published. I even remember one day that I was sick and home from school. My mom had bought the two newest books for me and I am sure I read them both that day! Oh the joy of reading!

I remember the day I told my mom I wanted to write a letter to the author. She checked over the letter, helped me address the envelope and then off it went. Although I never heard back from the author, it was exciting to write to her. I’m sure she received a lot of fan mail especially from the east coast of the United States where the books were probably more popular. But there, in the southwest corner of British Columbia, Canada, her books were making an impact on at least one little girl.

Fast forward thirty years later.

This past year, I’ve had an unexpected journey with books and authors. I have written  about the book, God in the Sink, by Margie Haack. After reading on her blog that I could purchase a signed copy of her book by emailing her, I did just that. She wrote back to me an encouraging and heartfelt letter. She wrote about her joy in receiving my letter, the common ground we have in our husbands having both attended this seminary, her own memories of growing up on the border of Canada, and words of blessing to continue to follow God’s plan for my husband and I, and our future. For an author to take the time and write back was a real privilege and an honor.

{email letter and a postcard that came with the book, photo of Margie’s childhood home}

In a previous blog post, I mentioned that I had recently learned more about the life of missionary, Lilias Trotter, from biographer, Miriam Rockness. After commenting on one of the articles, I had the privilege of hearing back from her, not once but twice. She even took the time to share her words of encouragement about my own writing and blog, noting even about our common love of specific books, authors, and musicians. She even gave delightful descriptions of their hallway of books! It is those little personal touches that mean so much.

She wrote: “I wish you God’s continued joy and blessing as you write (and sing) out your life and faith.” – Miriam Rockness


Whatever is your field of ministry in the Kingdom of God, it is of incredible importance to search out older women who can pray for and encourage you in your work and calling. Sometimes the encouragement is from peers who are doing a similar work as you. Building a network of like-minded friends can go a long way to building one another up and creating a safe place to spur one another on.

“If you want to write good books, good songs, good poems, you need some talent, yes. But you also need good friends. You need fellowship. You need community.”
Andrew Peterson, The Rabbit Room

For the past several years, ever since I heard a cassette tape recording of Tim Keller speaking on the topic of marriage whilst staying at Swiss L’Abri in 2007, I’ve been following the ministry of Tim and Kathy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church.  Every once in a while, I read a book, an article, listen to a podcast or like last month, get to see them in person at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference!

This afternoon, as I was resting from a busy day, I picked up my iPhone and thought of Kathy Keller. I randomly found an interview with her on Christianity Today recounting her correspondence with author, C.S. Lewis! I was engrossed in this interview as I had not known that she and him had written letters to each other for two years before his death. Here was a woman whom I greatly admire who had corresponded with an author/theologian whom I greatly adore. It was another example of writers writing to writers and the impact it can have on a single life.

“He did send me letters. I gave copies to the center at Wheaton College. At one point, I saw a book called “C.S. Lewis’s Letters to Children” and sure enough, mine were there. What was humiliating was seeing some of the letters other people had sent. They were so thoughtful and interesting and deep. I just wrote him of the small doings of my world, “I’m keeping house; my mother is sick.” He was so gracious.” – Kathy Keller, Christianity Today

Years ago, Sandra McCracken shared an essay about her experience writing a letter to Wendell Berry and the visit to his farm in Kentucky that followed. The entire experience being a dream come true for her.

“The exercise of writing my letter to Wendell Berry was, after my procrastination, a very gratifying experience. Just knowing that my official “thank you” was sealed, stamped, and on its way to Port William — I mean, Port Royal — gave me a feeling of deep satisfaction and joy. This would have been enough, but then a few months later, he wrote me a reply. I read his words of appreciation on a simple note, typed on simple stationery. I was thrilled.” – Sandra McCracken, Arthouse America

As I sit and think back to the correspondence I’ve been encouraged by this past year from several different authors, including having one of my articles being featured at Story Warren,  the new friendship I’ve made with a missionary mom in Taiwan, and the correspondence with a good friend from the Northwest who has now left to become a missionary on the other side of the world, I’m reminded of the simple joys of life, friendship, and correspondence. I’m reminded of how important correspondence is. Like Sandra, I was thrilled! It was the fulfillment of that wonderful quote by Sandra written many years ago to which I often come back to at the dawn of a New Year:

“I want to make house calls. I want to waste time on things that matter. On things that leave a mark in this world and the next. I want to carve out time to stop and boil the water. To bring out the china and the silver. To ask good questions of myself and my neighbors. And to listen patiently for the subtle answers…” – Sandra McCracken, Arthouse America

Each of those letters written to me this year has left a mark and has unexpectedly impacted my heart. They were a gift from my Lord. My blog has been silent for a few weeks. Summer has been full, full of many good things. I’m allowing myself this quietness here, mostly because I have no energy at the moment for piecing together words and sentences. So I find my creative energies are put to use searching out little woodland creatures behind our home, taking pictures of them, creating vignettes in my head about their comings and goings. As I pick up the pace just slightly again with my writing and working on my craft, I am reminded of the words of these authors who have been pivotal this year in the Lord’s work of shaping my craft. And I am thrilled!

Books · Christian biographies · Rooted in Christ

Lilias Trotter – An Invitation to Many Beautiful Things


When I first met missionary and artist, Lilias Trotter, it was in the pages of a book given to me by a dear friend who is now, herself, a missionary to Ireland. This book, Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God, is written by Noel Piper and is a collection of short stories about the lives of five women and how God used them in their unique circumstances, giftings, and callings. With a love for Christian biographies, I dove into this book ten years ago to learn the life stories of these five women. One of them was Lilias.

It was a delight to read the story of this seemingly forgotten woman. I hadn’t realized at the time that Noel Piper’s book was just the beginning of Lilias’ reintroduction to the world. There was little written about her from various sources, but there was a small group of women who in this day and age had been continuing to keep her story alive. They affectionately have named themselves the Trotter Trust. I had not heard much else about Lilias in the years between first reading Noel Piper’s book and now. And then it came, an invitation.

An announcement came to our seminary inviting students and families to attend a special viewing of a documentary film about the life of Lilias Trotter called Many Beautiful Things. Although I was not able to attend, I was curious about this film and I already knew I wanted to watch it at some point and learn more about this daughter of God, her art, writing and mission work.

As I began reading two of her books, I was incredibly moved by the way she compared the process of new birth in Christ and sanctification to the processes of plant life. So detailed in her descriptions and so delicate with her words, she draws the reader into the intricate world of plant life to paint illustrations of spiritual truths. I was intrigued. What else was there to know about her and how beautiful it would be to discover it.


It is when the death of winter has done its work that the sun can draw out in each plant its own individuality, and make its existence full and fragrant.  Spiritual growth means something more than the sweeping away of the old leaves of sin – it means the life of the Lord Jesus developed in us.
Parables of the Cross

The documentary film, Many Beautiful Things, is a glimpse inside the research process of Miriam Rockness and her journey over many years in discovering more about Lilias’ life, her writing, art, and ministry in both England and Algeria in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. As I learned more about her, I was struck with a sense of beauty that seemed to effortlessly flow through her thoughts and images. Her mother had introduced her to England’s most famous art critic of the Victorian age, John Ruskin ,who helped to hone her skills and technique. At the same time, she was attempting counter-cultural and even dangerous work serving and feeding homeless street women. Eventually, Lilias was faced with an enormous decision as her mentor encouraged her to focus solely on her art. Would she pursue the greatness that Ruskin believed she could accomplish and give up her work with the poor, or continue her ministry to the homeless?

Take the very hardest thing in your life – the place of difficulty, outward or inward, and expect God to triumph gloriously in that very spot.
Just there He can bring your soul into blossom.
-Parables of the Cross

This was a monumental crossroads that she had come to. Desperate to know God’s will for her, she sought the Lord in prayer and submitted herself to His purpose for her, no matter the cost. Could she entrust her art to God? Could she give up one of the greatest gifts she had been given? What was she being called to?

Surrender – stillness – a ready welcoming of all stripping, all loss, all that brings us low, low into the Lord’s path of humility  – a cherishing of every whisper of the Spirit’s voice, every touch of the prompting that comes to quicken the hidden life within: that is the way God’s human seed-vessels ripen and Christ becomes “magnified” even through the things that seem against us.
Parables of the Christ Life

As Lilias discovered, God was changing the course of her life and setting it in an all new direction. It would still include art, but art would no longer be the goal; it would be a tool for ministry to a different people group, in a far away land.

“Before us all dawned, I think a new horizon – of the glory of the task to which God has called us – a glory in its every hardness & in the sense that we are working for the future & its coming day.  ‘We were dreamers dreaming greatly.’”
23 October 1911 – Lilias Trotter


As my daughter celebrated her birthday recently, I was overjoyed to give her the gift of a children’s story about this woman called, Lily the Girl Who Could See. There are many similarities I see in my daughter and Lilias, and its a joy to see her discover her own gifts, given by the great Giver and to offer her a true story that points her to Him. The story itself, written by Sally Oxley and Tim Ludwig with Miriam Huffman Rockness is like a biography for children and the artwork in watercolors on every page are reminiscent of Lilias’ paintings further creating a holistic portrayal of this artist, writer, and missionary.

I often come across the stories of Christians in bygone eras and am drawn into their stories, the sights and sounds they experienced, the emotions they felt, the honest reflections of life detailed explicitly in journals, poems, essays and like Lilias, in her art. I am only beginning the journey of discovering her work, absorbing the images she painted, and opening my heart to what God desires to show me through what He has shown her. And He has shown her…

“many, many beautiful things”
-Lilias Trotter, her last words.

*This reflection is my small part in continuing to tell the world the story of Lilias Trotter. For more information, please visit the website of biographer Miriam Rockness: Reflections on the Art and Writings of Lilias Trotter. To purchase the film, Many Beautiful Things, click here. To purchase the children’s book, click here. A full list of books, booklets and art by Lilias Trotter can be found here.

A Blossom in the Desert: Reflections of Faith in the Art and Writings of Lilias Trotter