“You can never tell to what untold glories a little humble path may lead if you follow far enough.” ~Lilias Trotter
I have fallen madly in love with a biographical film about the life of Lilias Trotter, Many Beautiful Things. Trotter’s story has captivated me like not many stories have. Without the persistence of Miriam Rockness and a handful of other generous souls, this story could have been lost forever. I feel honored and humbled that somehow, I have become but a tiny thread woven into this beautiful tapestry of tales.
Lilias Trotter lived in late 1800’s England. She was a gentle, bold, creative, forward-thinking, courageous and faith-filled woman. Lilias was skilled in her art and dedicated to serving mankind. She was most persistent in her faithful walk with Christ, being willing to go wherever He led. This would include the dark streets of England and later, the desolate mission field of North Africa. Lilias, by her own right, was a woman who persisted in following her humble path faithfully to the very end.
Each time I watched the film, a different story begged to be told; the story of the woman behind the story. Miriam Rockness seemed to be a woman who remained faithful and persistent along her own humble path to the telling of Lilias’ story.
Putting pen to my thoughts, I was grateful to have the opportunity to talk with Miriam by phone. As we visited, I noticed similar qualities in her to those I had noticed in Lilias from the film. Miriam’s gentleness and persevering passion forged its way effortlessly through the airwaves to my soul.
Miriam explained that the layers of Lilias Trotter’s story were peeled back over the span of 3 decades. Careful not to draw accolades, she wanted to point out that, throughout her research, she had all the typical tasks that fill the days of most wives and moms. She explained how she stole moments as she could to read, journal and correspond. It’s also important to note that much of her research was done prior to the internet age. Imagine international phone calls and transatlantic snail mail and you can gather how this project was harried but certainly not hurried. Her passion has clearly stood the test of time as she recounted to me a treasure trove of stories.
“It’s so hard for me to separate the Lilias story from my own walk of faith.” ~Miriam Rockness
Miriam first heard of Lilias Trotter from three sisters who visited the church her husband pastored. A connection was made and a few months later Miriam received a package from them containing a cameo biography of Lilias Trotter. It was a beautifully designed leaflet tied up with a satin ribbon. This little devotional inspired Helen H. Lemmel to write the hymn, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. “I was just smitten,” said Miriam.
With her interest piqued, Miriam wrote back. The sisters would send more over the next several months and would eventually entrust the entirety of their collection to her.