When I picked up All That Makes Life Bright, by Josi S. Kilpack, I was looking to be swept away in a good clean romance novel. I got that and so much more! I didn’t expect to cry through parts of it like I did, and poignantly explore issues that hit at the very heart of our society’s struggles with family, marriage, men, women, and what it takes to create a loving, successful home.
This book tackles topics that were just as relevant mid 1800’s as they are in our own homes and hearts today.
We have come so far in the fight for women’s rights and justice. But there is still angst. Some think it’s not enough and that women are still treated as second-class citizens. And in some ways and some places they are.
But I believe in western society the pendulum has swung too far. With the promise and push to have it all , women run ragged and disillusioned. They chase immediate self-actualization, expecting to realize the fullness of their creative, intellectual, and social potential all at once right now.
In the wake of society’s raising women rightly out of oppression, roles of motherhood and wife have been relegated to drudgery. They are leastly valued to career, leisure, or personal ambitions of the woman.
Motherhood and homemaking are considered by some to be what stands in a woman’s way of accomplishing self-actualization – not the path to it.
In the aftermath, men have been pushed down and manliness squandered into bafoonism. Men have lost permission and vision for who they are as a protector, provider, and presider of the family.
Our husbands, fathers, and brothers may be labeled the enemy even in our own homes and communities, instead of the brilliant, compassionate, and sometimes flawed fellow travelers that they are.
The raising of women has come at the expense of the diminishing of men.
The result is we live in a society where the family has been abandoned. Women are torn in half. Men are laughed at, ridiculed, and unsure. We are a society at odds with the very thing that will perpetuate it: the family.
All That Makes Life Bright addresses these issues head-on in this seemingly quaint fictionalized novel about the “life and love of Harriet Beecher Stowe”, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Harriet Beecher Stowe had a God-given gift and a call to use the gift of writing to change the world. She was also a wife and a mother.
In this fictionalized depiction we see how she and her husband Calvin wrestle with how to make marriage, motherhood and fatherhood, family, ambition, and achieving life mission work.
Their journey is a study of the rawest and highest in human experience: hope, failure, redemption, grace, grit, love, courage, forgiveness, and triumph.
I plan to give this book to my children, who are young adults and some newly married to help them navigate the turbulent messages of society in a beautifully literary way. We’ll have a good old-fashioned book discussion at home complete with treats. I’ll come prepared with questions we can talk about together (you can grab my list of questions below).
It’s important to talk about these ideas in our homes with our families and as couples. As we are intentional about defining our roles and fulfilling them we won’t default to the world’s ever changing and misguided definitions.
I want to teach my children how to actively create a happy home where both men and women are valued. Where both can fulfill their God-given roles and live life mission in a way that builds the family. This book discussion is one way I will continue this conversation with the people I love best in the world.
My disclaimer: I’ve used pictures of my family in this post – not because I think we are the model family. Far from it! We are absolutely imperfect but it’s my life with these people that has brought me to me knees, lifted me with inexpressible joy, and carves away my selfishness and pride. Being the mother of these four people and the wife of this man has been my path to fulfillment and life mission. In all our flawed glory we try and fail and try again to live the following truths highlighted so well in Josi Kilpack’s book, All That Makes Life Bright.
27 treasures of truth about marriage and family :
Home and family lead to self-actualization and a greater fulfillment of our human experience.
Motherhood and fatherhood are hard. They require sacrifice. But it’s oh-so worth it.
We can do the hard things of motherhood and fatherhood through the grace of God.
In marriage both partners sacrifice. Each refines their natures to rid of selfish habits, opinions and views. Each becomes a new creature in Christ to make marriage work with love and joy.
Meeting the demands of motherhood, being a wife, creating and managing a home, and still being true to self can seem impossible at times, but it can be done through the grace of Jesus Christ.
A mother and wife’s first responsibility is to her family. When she is faithful there, the grace of God magnifies her. Line-upon-line her capacity grows and she is able to add life mission and personal ambition here a little and there a little. This is true for men and their roles of father and husband too.
The very sacrifice and act of motherhood and fatherhood and being a wife and husband prepares us best for our life missions. Both husbands and wives sacrifice “self” for family. And it’s ok. Because through the sacrifice a better self is created and empowered to serve the world through life mission. Because of Hattie’s sacrifices and successes as a mother and wife she was prepared to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Her roles of mother and wife actually qualified her to do the work God would call her to do later in her life. This has been my experience too. Family life seasons us. Makes us deeper, richer human beings. It builds our capacity and abilities.
When the choice for becoming a wife and mother has been made, a woman has the sacred responsibility to learn all she can to master those roles to the best of her ability – to gain the skills and abilities to successfully fill them.
This is the same responsibility a man has when he chooses marriage and fatherhood. He has the sacred responsibility to learn how to fulfill that role to the best of his ability. His capacity as a husband and father grows in the same way as a woman’s: learning, hard work, line upon line through the grace of God.
Neither a man or a woman is excused from bad behavior because it’s “just the way they are”. They fulfill their roles with effort and reliance on the Lord Jesus Christ to change, grow, and repent. They learn how to communicate, give, serve, sacrifice, be a companion, build a home, and teach their children. They give their best effort to master skills and abilities. They work to gain the confidence, respect, and love of their husband or wife and their children.
Often a husband and father’s sacrifice of providing financially for the family is long term because he still has to work at his profession until he retires to still maintain a living. When the kids are older and more self-sufficient a wife and mother is able to find more time to work on life mission and personal ambition. A husband and father isn’t able to so easily leave his profession in pursuit of his personal dreams and ambitions. In popular culture the woman is depicted as the one sacrificing more, but I don’t see it that way. In reality I believe her opportunities are more varied and multiplied than her husband who remains steady providing for the family. This merits honor and gratitude towards our husbands and fathers.
In managing a home and family, there is no “one right way”. The best way for each couple and family is determined by them working it out together – what works for them while applying true laws and principles. Principles are not application. Applications can look different for each couple/ family.
There is a compromise, solution, work-around for every problem a couple and family faces and can be found when charity reigns and selfishness is set aside. When one person in the marriage or family is suffering and needs help, we get creative to help solve the problem. We think outside the box, look at things in new ways, and brainstorm solutions. There are always options just have to find them. This is what Calvin did to find the money for the hired help Hattie needed.
A husband and father sacrifices for his wife and children. He often has to put off his personal interests and ambitions to be able to provide for his family and fulfill his husband/ father roles. There is room for trial and error, growth, and try-again through the atonement in the role of a father /husband just as there is for a wife/ mother.
Learn all you can as soon as you can the skills and abilities needed for being a successful mother and wife and husband and father. Practice them and be confident in them. This education will bring abundance in family life sooner.
At the same time, be at peace and have faith and hope in roles of mother/ wife and husband/father because it is a process. No one is perfect in this life. It is an abundant cycle of learning truth, applying truth, experiencing the grace of God, and then learning more truth and the cycle continues. We can repent. We can change. We can grow.
In the mid 1800’s when this book was depicted it was expedient for a wife/ mother to have hired help when they could afford it; the work of a home was huge without the modern conveniences we have today. Our workload has been lightened with dishwashers, washing machines and dryers, modern ovens and stovetops, furnaces, vacuums etc., but there still might be need for hired help according to the needs of the individual family. These modern conveniences of running a home have given us modern families more time. What are we doing with this gifted time? Hopefully we are working towards life mission, learning, developing our gifts and talents. Maybe we are frittering it away on too much media scrolling, entertainment, and indulging in negative emotional habits. What have we been given this time for and are we using it well?
Life mission and personal ambitions do not have to be put on hold during motherhood/wife or fatherhood/ husband. You can prepare and carve out time amidst these roles. Creativity, consistency, and sacrifice can give you a little time until you are able to spend more time on your pursuits.
Family life is full of struggle, heartache, grace, forgiveness, understanding, reconciliation, and joy. I cried tears throughout the book as I could relate to these poignant experiences in marriage and family depicted in this book.
Seek out mentors. When one mentor doesn’t help us in the way we need, seek out someone else. There isn’t always just one right way to do something. Search for new perspectives and ways of doing things as inspiration to help you find your way. Mother Stowe was an able mentor, but not the right fit for Hattie. Katherine in contrast had the answers that best helped Hattie overcome her struggles.
Because both Hattie and Calvin were willing to stop being selfish, they were able to be teachable. Hattie chose to learn from Mother Stowe and Katherine. Calvin learned through the Spirit of God. Both acted on what they learned.
A wife appreciates a husband’s hard work providing for their family and does all she can to make home a place of joy, peace, comfort, and love – a haven from the stress of the world.
To have a happy, thriving, peace-filled home there are skills both men and women master, such as: cooking, cleaning, nutrition, organization, time management, discipline, caring for children, and money management. This work is shared by all in the home.
A husband is an equal partner in the work when he is there with specific home jobs that are his. Husbands and wives work those details out together. Both husband and wife have worked all day and the work of a home and family is an equal partnership.
When things don’t work in the home – either partner feels underappreciated or neglected – it’s usually more a matter of two imperfect people making oversights than an indication of societal oppression of one sex or another.
The Atonement is a powerful tool when building home and family. I LOVED the part where Calvin is at Eliza’s grave. The spiritual lessons on the Atonement, repentance, and change are powerful. Favorite quotes: “What are you to do for her” and “love her as Christ loved the Church”.
Mariage and family are successful when both the wife and husband continually renew their HOPE and LOVE, and rely on the power of their covenants with one another and with God. Hattie and Calvin’s love story is a inspiring example of this.
Hey, Friend! What do you think? Do you agree with the truths I’ve gleaned from All That Makes Life Bright? Are there other truths you learned from this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let’s start a conversation in the comments.