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As I write this blog, the tone I adopt is largely of the assumption that FAMILY LIFE IS CRAZY.
Busy, loud, messy, dishevelled, chaotic – you choose the word.
If this doesn’t resonate with you, then can I politely suggest you’re on the wrong website? Perhaps try Pinterest for some ideas of how to make family life more picture-perfect than it clearly already is for you.
Because in my 11+ years experience as a mum, I can tell you that I very rarely feel ‘on top’ of things around here. There are *always* dirty dishes in the sink, piles of laundry by the machine, unanswered emails, never-ending forms to complete – and an overcrowded schedule.
And when it comes to my faith, sometimes it just seems too much work. I mean, I know I’m saved through grace and not my actions, but still there are habits which are helpful in discipleship, and I’m just not sure I’m very good or consistent at these when I have wardrobes to sort out, extra-curricular activities coming out of my ears and 50 bajillion packed-lunches to make.
Today, I’m honoured to be taking part in the blog tour for The Marriage of Innis Wilkinson by Lauren H Brandenburg, so I thought it’d be great to look at why it’s important for us busy parents to take time out to read, and how Christian fiction in particular can help us when we feel overwhelmed by life, focusing on this highly enjoyable novel.
Margarette Toft is preparing to marry the man of her dreams, Roy Blackwell. At nearly 40, Margarette has fought off the potential suitors suggested by her mother, and is convinced that 50-something Roy is ‘the one’.
There’s just one problem: in Coraloo, the town where Roy and Margarette live, the Tofts and the Blackwells are sworn enemies, with a rivalry going back many years. As the faithful couple attempt to plan their wedding amidst the craziness of an annual town festival, not to mention a whole host of critics and ‘told-you-so’ characters, they discover another unlikely wedding of decades ago: Innis Toft and Wilken Wilkinson.
Can the mistakes of the past inform the future? Will Roy and Margarette make it to the altar?
I thoroughly enjoyed this magical novel, full of quirky characters and eccentric traditions. It felt easy to get into, because I was already familiar with the town of Coraloo, having read Lauren’s first book in the series: The Death of Mungo Blackwell – but you could easily enjoy this book without having read any others by her.
Lauren’s imagination soars to incredible heights – how does she think of every strange habit, mannerism, quirk or eccentricity? Each character comes to life with a well-defined personality of their own – even minor characters receive good treatment here.
And the unfolding story of Innis Wilkinson’s marriage, running parallels with Margarette’s, had me engrossed right up until the very end.
If you’re looking for a fun and feel-good read for the long winter nights, this is it! And here are three reasons why I believe Christian fiction is so good for us:
Christian fiction fills our mind with good things
Paul wrote to the Philippians: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Phil 4:8)
I find this verse incredibly encouraging as a busy mum, because I just don’t always have the time, headspace or concentration span for long Bible studies.
But Paul is saying that even when we don’t have our head in the Scriptures, it is still good to fill our minds with things which are true, noble, right, pure and so on!
And Christian fiction is full of all these things – whether or not Christ is mentioned! When the writer is a Christian, ‘whatever is true…noble…right’ just flows out of their writing.
The Marriage of Innis Wilkinson doesn’t shy away from the difficulties of life (notably family feuds and the stresses of planning a wedding), but is full of heart-warming moments of incredible steadfastness, kindness and love. It gave me the warm fuzzies every time I picked it up! (And there’s a happy ending – you guys know I’m a sucker for those!)
I read a fair bit of secular fiction as well, and am not against it. But some secular novels are dark, with little hope and a bucketload of despair. They may involve heavy use of bad language and explicit scenes which are not altogether healthy to fix my mind upon.
Making sure Christian fiction is part of our reading diet, therefore, ensures that we don’t get too bogged down in worldviews which have no time for faith.
Christian fiction is self-care for the soul
We hear about ‘self-care’ all the time, but it still doesn’t get any easier to fit it in to busy family life. However, when we read novels by Christian authors, it gives us a double-whammy of self care AND spiritual nourishment. I think that makes it a bit easier to justify!
The Marriage of Innis Wilkinson is not a churchy, preachy novel, but the values expressed within it – love, commitment, loyalty, doing the right thing despite external pressure – reflect our Christian faith and give life to all who read it.
It nourished my mind and my heart to read about the power of love against all odds, the grace with which Margarette deals with both her family and Roy’s, and the ultimate kindness from unlikely town residents.
Christian fiction lifts our eyes up to our Creator
God is a creative God – and He’s made us creative! When we use our creative gifts for His glory, it reflects something of His character, and in the craziness of parenting, I need my focus shifted onto Him as much as it can be.
Of course we can celebrate our Creator God when we enjoy any work of art, whatever the religious beliefs of its creator, as we still believe it was God who gave that person his/her creative gifts, even if they may have rejected Him.
But there is something about the intention of a book, photo, piece of art or music expressly written in the knowledge of God’s gifts to us which makes us just that little bit more aware of His presence.
The Marriage of Innis Wilkinson is a hugely imaginative novel. Lauren H Brandenburg is a literary magician, conjuring up the crazy-but-believable small town of Coraloo, its crazy-but-believable residents and their crazy-but-believable traditions.
It is a world of colour, of fun, of joy and laughter. This is not to say that everything goes right all the time – the major family feud ensures that life is never entirely peaceful. But herein lies the wonder of the ‘now and the not yet’ aspect of Christian fiction: a realistic portrayal of the limits of our world, within the context of a better one to come.
The Marriage of Innis Wilkinson was released on Friday, and you should all buy a copy now.