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About the Author
Jan Silvious is a successful author, speaker, and life coach, as well as a wife, mother, and grandmother. Of the eleven books Jan authored, two of her favorites have been reader favorites as well: Big Girls Don't Whine and Fool-Proofing Your Life.
Jan is a professional life coach, helping people to "get from where they are to where they want to be". Her life's work truly is encouraging people to embrace the truth that "a change of perspective changes everything".
Jan has been married to her husband, Charlie, for longer than you want to know. They make their home in Ooltewah, a suburb of Chattanooga, Tennessee. They have three grown sons, two daughters-in-love and five grandchildren.
Read an Excerpt
SEASONS COME AND SEASONS GO
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
I WAS RUMMAGING through an old hope chest when I came upon a stack of crispy and yellowed papers. I recognized the construction paper hearts and stick-pencil sketches immediately — the awkward drawings and rhyming poems of my children, all preserved with the full intent of keeping them safe forever. Storing these papers in this chest had been my "busy-mother filing system." It was as if I had the wispy dream that I could hold on to my children by holding on to their artwork and scribbled words. But wishful thinking doesn't hold back the days or years.
My children have been grown a long time now. In fact, they've been gone so long that their children are beginning the leaving process. So it goes. Season has followed season, and here we are — the littles, the middles, and the olders all living in seasons that won't stop changing. We all are living in a world we experience uniquely, becoming who we are and who we will be.
That is the nature of life. For the most part, these changing seasons seem right, but when we find ourselves moving from a season we've loved into a season we're not so sure we'll like, it can be a challenge to find the strength, will, and just plain courage to keep going. It's often been said, "Old age isn't for sissies," but I can tell you, there's no place for "sissy living" in many of the seasons of life.
Seasonal changes start early. Leaving the womb catapults us into a world of incredible challenges. Childhood is touted as carefree, but not every stage of childhood is welcomed! Some come with great awkwardness and emotional angst, but each stage is necessary to become the adults we long to be.
And, too, there are victories to be celebrated with each milestone we face. I laughed out loud when one of my granddaughters observed her pimple-free face in the mirror and declared, "Puberty has been kind to me!" She had traversed a worrisome, pimply season toward adulthood, and she had won!
But as we grow toward and through adulthood, sometimes the seasons bring concerns we haven't faced before. Relationships become more intense and more significant. Marriages, good or bad, start, continue, or sometimes break up. No matter what happens, life is never the same. We are constantly changing, and the confident choices made at twenty can become the heart pangs of forty. The "happily ever after" at the altar can become the "never any longer." I've learned over the years that it's impossible to make a perfect decision because we don't know the future. Marriages don't always work out, singleness isn't always as free as you thought it would be, and life is always full of surprises. So leaning into each season and learning its lesson is one of the gifts of living. And there are many gifts in this life!
If you welcome children into your family, no amount of preparation matters — no one can adequately describe the pangs of childbirth and the exhilaration of hearing that first cry. You will wear that child on your heart for the rest of your days and through unknown seasons, through incredible highs and terrifying lows, through overwhelming joy and wrenching concern. Each day goes back and forth between Isn't he amazing? and Whose kid is that?
One minute you've baked your last cupcake for a homeroom party, and then, before you turn around, your sixteen-year-old is leaving the driveway in a car that is way too big and powerful for her. Yet to deny her that privilege is to deny her the very essence of her life — growing up! It's a season of "one last time."
So while you are living in these times, remember there are only so many of them, and when they are gone, you will yearn for just one more day of them. For one last time.
Then you watch the twentysomethings fall in love, fall out of love, struggle with who they are, and wonder who they will become. Watching helplessly, without interference or subtle manipulation, is hard. Your children have to make life decisions on their own. It's tough to watch, but it's a season.
Children become adults, have their own children, and take jobs in what might as well be a foreign country, where they succeed royally or sometimes fail miserably. Time marches forward. The changing of seasons is relentless.
Meanwhile comes that season of caring for aging parents. Watching the people who have always been there begin to fade and become weaker or slower is a season we would all like to skip over. Seeing their decline sometimes takes you by surprise. "When did this begin?" you ask. "They were fine last summer." You didn't see it coming — or maybe you did and it was just easier to look away. Unexpected and often unwanted obligations fall on your shoulders for an unknown amount of time. Your parents are now the lightweights, and you have become the heavyweight. You bear the major responsibility for their care. This is a season of juggling careers, traveling back and forth, and managing. There's no way around this difficult and unknown season.
If you have children, you can find yourself being stretched between the ailing eighty-year-old in another state and the needy eighteen-year-old under your roof. You are sandwiched between them, pulled to give each of them more and yet incapable of giving either of them enough. Your own needs are sublimated for what seems like a long time, but soon enough the generational squeeze changes, and you're left with sorrow tangled with joy. The young one is flying from the nest, and he will be missed. The old one is flying from a body wracked with pain. With great heaviness, you've urged her to go, whispering, "It's okay. We'll all be fine." Unbelievably, she breathes her last, and then she, too, will be missed oh so very much.
Whether you've handled this difficult season while trying to maintain a corporate career or trying to maintain a home — or both — you are left drained and a little bewildered. The season of good-byes is hard, although death after suffering often brings relief and a sad joy that your parent is free from that frail, used-up body. Another season has come to a close, and you find yourself older, wiser, and wondering, Now what?
You may not feel old enough to be in this season. You may not be. Hard leavings and parents' dying can occur at any age. Whenever it happens, you're catapulted into a new season. It seems like spring was just yesterday, and yet you feel the chill of winter. How did you get here? Summer came and went, and so did fall. The unknown seasons can seem like long shadows across a cold, snowy landscape. What's next? Will the sun shine? Will it warm up, or are we in for a hard freeze? Winter can be such a changeable time, and the unknowable aspect of change can rattle our confidence and shake our hope.
No matter our age, we all face seasons of change, and change can be so hard to embrace. Even if the change takes you into a season you love, the unknown is always a little unsettling. Not every day is the same. Not every change will unfold the same way.
I love the springtime, but I live in tornado country, so I know that in the midst of warm air and budding trees, horrific storms can blow up without much warning. That's sort of the way our lives are. Even if you have no idea what the seasonal change will bring, however, you can face it with courage: You can prepare as much as possible and recognize that the change doesn't have to be the end. It could well be the beginning of some new discovery, a new relationship, or an adventure you never dreamed of having. In fact, many times we miss God's promise to those who love Him (who are in a relationship with Him) that He "causes all things" (even unknown seasons) "to work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).
Learning from Other Generations
Facing the unknown season feels terrifying, but it doesn't have to be. Sometimes all we need is a little perspective. We can forget that we are part of a generation — and that our generation can have a profound influence on how we view the changes of life. Learning from the other generations around us — older and younger — can have an amazing impact.
There are five generations of people living together on the earth right now, and you and I are connected to millions of other people through one of those generations. These different age groups are doing life together while melding their age perspectives, cultural influences, and personal worldviews into their life experiences.
No wonder we shake our heads at times when we consider the generation that came before us and the one that follows us. Each generation has its own unique brand, and we will naturally have an affinity for the one in which we were born. We all think our own generation is the smartest, is most "with it," and has the most to offer.
We also seem to allow a kindly tolerance for generations once removed from ourselves (think grandparents and grandchildren). We may give those generations a little more slack and kind acceptance for their deficits and peculiarities.
Our generational biases mean that we primarily like to connect with people with whom we have a shared history. We "get" our generation. Certain songs stir in our collective memory. Certain dates like December 7 or November 22 or September 11 trigger profound memories of where we were when we heard the news of that day.
As a baby boomer, I have a lot of generational memories lingering in my head. I'm sure that's also true of the other seventy-six million of us. We connect because we were born during those years between 1946 and 1964, and we came of age to the same music and the same cultural heroes and tragedies: We cut our musical teeth on rock and roll and the Beatles. We saw civil rights change dramatically. We experienced the shock of the assassinations of President John Kennedy, his brother Bobby Kennedy, and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. And we lived our young lives tormented by the war in Vietnam — albeit with a freer, more self-indulgent view of life than our parents' generation had.
They are called the silent generation. They hit the planet between 1927 and 1945 and were greatly impacted by their experiences of the Great Depression and World War II. They were highly moral and took commitment to marriage seriously. Divorce was initially uncommon. However, in later years their divorce rate began to rise, leading to high divorce rates among boomers as well. Boomers were known for doing things differently, and their approach to marriage, divorce, work, and retirement was not going to be like anyone else's before or after them.
The silent generation saw great virtue in staying with the same company throughout their entire careers, whereas the boomers, the gen Xers who followed, and the millennial after them have viewed "company loyalty" as a oxymoron. The silent generation worked their lifetimes at the same company, if they were lucky, for a retirement that meant a rocking chair, peace, and a decent pension. I still can hear my dad, who worked at the same job for thirty years, saying, "All I want is peace, quiet, and money." As a boomer, I used to giggle and think, That's the last thing on earth I want — except maybe the money!
The subsequent generations have modified the boomers' hefty divorce rate. Many of them were traumatized by their boomer parents' divorces and remarriages, so they have become more cautious and age delayed when it comes to their own marriages. In fact, they also have made cohabitation more acceptable, a thought that would have been scandalous to the silent generation and not that well accepted by most aging boomers.
The millennials are also known as the "echo boomers" because they are almost as many in number as the boomers. They have been highly nurtured by hovering parents and have never known a world without computers. They tend to discount the authority of older generations, believing authority is earned not by tenure but by competency. And they find that social hierarchies get in the way of creative collaboration, which they highly value. Their favorite forms of expression include tattoos and body art, and the thought of being with one company for a lifetime gives them the jitters.
In 2006, children were born in record numbers, setting off a "baby boomlet." This new generation far outnumbers the starting numbers for the boomers and the millennials. They have been raised on computers and are sometimes tagged with the identity KGOY — "Kids Getting Older Younger." They are affecting the economy as their interest in toys dwindles and their interest in computers and computer games grows. And the economy may not be all that is affected. As your children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, they will relate to you who came later to the computer age differently from how they will relate to their peers and their whole environment. This is the "remains to be seen" generation. Right now, it's anyone's guess as to how their interactions with electronics will fundamentally change who they are and how they relate.
Just being born in one of these generations does not pigeonhole you with the characteristics I've mentioned, but understanding our generation will help us see why we view the world as we do. Believe it or not, the generation you were born in will have a great deal of influence on what your seasons will look like, because each of the five generations living together on the earth right now has a different way of doing life. As you find yourself among the generations, think about your life experience in relationship to the current culture and ask yourself why the world might be feeling a little strange to you now. Changes come in culture as well as in our personal lives, and keeping our equilibrium as things change around us is part of learning to live in new seasons.
Even this quick look at the generations should give us insight into the seasonal changes we all face. Many more changes will come, and the differences among our mind-sets mean that the seasonal forecast for each generation will vary. For some, warm spring breezes are blowing; wintry blasts chill others. Not all changes are negative — they are just different. Knowing our generational and cultural differences can give us the wisdom and insight to approach life and connection with a strong spirit rather than with fear or dread.
The boomers hit a milestone in 2016, when the oldest turned seventy. I find myself among them, but I continue to think of myself as fifty. That was such a comfortable, solid age — postmenopausal and prearthritic. It seemed like a great place to hunker down, so that's what I've done in my mind. The thought that I'm in my seventies sets me back. I recoil — I can't be that age! "Seventy" sounds so old. I don't feel old, I don't think old, and I make every effort not to act old.
Now, seventy may or may not be old to you, depending on your age and place in a society that has mixed views on aging. A survey by the Pew Research Center revealed the following:
Perceptions of the onset of old age varied widely according to the respondent's age. People under 30 believe that old age strikes before the average person turns 60, whereas middle-aged respondents said that old age begins at 70 and adults aged 65 or older put the threshold closer to 74.
Gender made a difference in the findings too. On average, women said that a person becomes old at age 70, whereas men said that the magic number is closer to 66 years of age.
You will read this book with your own perspective on the seasons of life, depending on where you are. If you are in your twenties, thirties, or forties, I know you'll have no place to put the number seventy in your head. You've never been there, and most of the people you know who are seventy seem so far removed from your world. Those of us who are there understand. Seventy seemed like a faraway place to us, too, when we were young.
I asked my good friend Patsy Clairmont, who is seventy-one, "How did you see people in the sixty-to-eighty age group when you were in your twenties?" In typical Patsy fashion, she said, "I saw them like they were tottering their way home. They sometimes smelled funny, their clothes seemed untidy, and they were somewhat withdrawn. They also seemed out of touch with world changes." I laughed at Patsy's comment but remembered feeling the same way. I only vaguely knew one of my grandmothers. She died at seventy-three, but I do remember her black lace-up shoes, rimless glasses, white bun, and pastel housedress. She was of the generation Patsy was talking about.
Although there's a great generational and philosophical divide today, we can learn much from one another. No matter what season you're in, you will need courage for what's next. God keeps the curtain to the future closed. Rarely does He ever give us a peek into that which is to come. So no matter our age, we will walk into situations where we'll need courage to navigate what's coming. One source of courage comes from having the mind-set to learn from people who have already walked these roads. What can they teach us? And what can we learn from those who are coming behind? May I say, there is much to be learned from both ways.
Excerpted from "Courage for the Unknown Season"
Copyright © 2017 Jan Silvious.
Excerpted by permission of NavPress.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Seasons Come and Seasons Go 1
Chapter 2 Resilience 25
Chapter 3 Fight Fear 45
Chapter 4 Don't Forget to Laugh 65
Chapter 5 Why Not? 79
Chapter 6 Letting Go 103
Chapter 7 Head toward Ninety 117
Chapter 8 What about the Children? 139
Chapter 9 Clean Up after Yourself 159
Chapter 10 Grief and Hope 177
What People are Saying About This
Jan Silvious has a steady perspective on life! She is open and real and can relate. This new book gives us a big dose of practical wisdom for trusting God today and in the futureand even for laughing at the future. Jan encourages us to squeeze out life’s joys to make a difference for ourselves and others we love.
We live in a culture that seems to be in denial about getting older. As boomers inch toward retirement years, we tend to think of seniors as “them” and not “us.” In Courage for the Unknown Season, Jan Silvious, in her trusted voice, puts getting older into beautiful perspective. Whatever season you’re in, Jan’s words of wisdom will help you embrace every moment as a gift from God.
Jan’s refreshing tell-the-truth styleas a speaker, writer, and friendinstantly drew me to her. Jan goes straight where the pancake hits the griddle. She’s not afraid of the heat in life, whether it shows up as aging, grief, or a scorching heartbreak. Her well-researched material will feed your soul and help equip you for the season you’re in. It has for me. This is a knapsack book to accompany us on the journey. Thanks, Jan.