Let’s Pretend We’re Normal (review)

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Let's Pretend We're Normal: Adventures in Rediscovering How to Be a FamilyLet’s Pretend We’re Normal: Adventures in Rediscovering How to Be a Family by Tricia Lott Williford

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Mr Responsible died, suddenly and tragically. He was sick for only twelve hours. … A thief named sepsis stole his breath and his heartbeat, and his spirit slipped right through Curly Girl’s fingers, even as she tried to save him on the floor of their bedroom only two days before Christmas.”

This grim scene from the Prologue is the background of Tricia Lott Williford’s memoir Let’s Pretend We’re Normal—Adventures in Rediscovering How to Be a Family. You’d expect the story of how Williford and her two young sons, Tucker and Tyler, get back on their feet after their husband’s/father’s death to be a bummer. But it isn’t.

That’s because Williford is a great storyteller and fabulous writer. Though there are lots of sad times, she never melodramatizes them or milks them for sympathy. The only way we know she cries a lot is because her boys mention it in their conversations—of which she has wonderful recall.

In Let’s Pretend we see a mother trying to explain to two little daddy-less boys where God is in all this. We observe the three of them working through stages of grief. And Williford lives parenting before us in ways that I, if by some miracle I found myself parenting young children again, would want to copy.

There’s lots of humor too and scenes that any modern, busy, technology-blessed North American family can relate to. Plus there are stories that tug at the heart.

One of my favorites is of Williford buying a homeless man, Dave, a Happy Meal—and him coming back at her with encouragement from the Bible. Her conclusion:

“… I wondered if perhaps I had just had lunch with an angel sent on a mission” – Kindle Location 1180.

Another is the conversation she has with her boys one night after reading the story of God testing Abraham by asking him to sacrifice Isaac. Discussing their family’s test of losing husband/father, her older son asks:

“’But Mom, do you think God has an important job for you to do? And that’s why he asked you to give up my dad? … Mommy, do you know God has picked you to write these books. He made you a writer to tell stories. And so maybe God had to know you would trust him no matter what” – Kindle Location 2275.‘”

Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends will gain insight, compassion, and wisdom from Tricia Lott Williford’s faith-saturated story of family, grief, and recovery.

I received Let’s Pretend We’re Normal as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.

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Eyes to See (review)

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Eyes to See by Becky Keep (with Tim Keep)It was an afterthought that prompted Becky Keep to ask the nurse practitioner to check five-week-old Jesse’s eyes. An observant grandma had commented that those baby eyes didn’t seem to be following normally. That last-minute request set the Keeps on a four-year journey that they never dreamed they’d be taking. Eyes to See: Glimpses of God in the Dark by Becky and Tim Keep is the story of that journey.

Through the book we experience the hills and valleys of their Jesse’s battle with retinoblastoma—cancer of the eyes. We ride the ups and downs of the many times the Keeps were told that the latest treatment seemed to be working only to discover that the cancer was back. We live with them through their on-again, off-again plans to return to the Philippines, where they were missionaries. But this book is much more than a riveting story. For in it we wrestle, along with Becky and Tim, with the mysteries of God’s dealings with people. Some of the things that I took from this story:

– The amazing way circumstances fell into place so that Jesse’s condition was discovered as early as it was. The chain of events was set in motion long before Jesse was even conceived.

– The goodness of God to the Keeps through family, friends and their church home, wherever it was.

– God’s way of providing an answer, e.g. a place to live, a job, often in the nick of time.

– The discussion of divine healing.

If there is one issue that people who believe that God’s healing power is available today grapple with it’s how do we explain when physical healing doesn’t happen. The Keeps went through the wringer here as people recommended a multitude of remedies, berated them for their lack of faith and scolded them for praying for healing “according to the will of God” insisting that this kind of prayer was “symptomatic of wavering faith, faith which should never expect to receive what it asks for” – p. 58.

This brought them to a realization of what seems to me the gem takeaway from the book, expressed in what Tim heard from God as he meditated on the story of Jesus who delayed coming to Bethany so that He was too late to heal His friend Lazarus (from John 11: 40):

“’My Son, I don’t want you to worry about my intentions toward Jesse or My will for your family. Nor do I want you to keep measuring your faith. What I want you to pray for right now, and the only thing I want you to pray for, is for My glory …. I want you to pray that through this difficult trial, men and women will see the embodiment of My life, My peace, My joy and My enabling grace” – P. 71.

Becky Keep tells the story with the skill of a seasoned storyteller, drawing us into their family’s life and experience through personal memories and anecdotes. There is also a section of black-and-white photos.

The story has a happy ending, or maybe I should say ‘continuation.’ Jesse appeared with his mom (along with the Collingsworth Family: Kim Collingsworth, mom of that musical clan, is Becky’s sister) at this year’s Gospel Music Celebration in Red Deer Alberta (July 13th). Jesse, now 15 years old, played to thousands, talked about his musical ambitions, and later signed copies of Eyes to See.

This is a book anyone, young or old, could read and enjoy. It would be especially meaningful for people struggling with health issues, particularly in their youngsters. It is a story of hope in God who gives the best healing of all—the healing of hearts.

Eyes to See: Glimpses of God in the Dark is available at Amazon.com

Collingsworth Family - 2013

The Collingsworth Family smile encouragement …

Jesse Keep - 2013

…as Jesse Keep plays piano. His mother, Becky Keep (author of Eyes to See) and weekend organizer Wayne Dyck look on.

Jesse Keep - 2013

Jesse Keep – up close (via the crowd monitor)

Eyes to See endorsement from Kim Collingsworth

Eyes to See endorsement from Kim Collingsworth