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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"What's Next?" (H. Norman Wright)

TITLE: What's Next?: Navigating Transitions to Make the Rest of Your Life Count
AUTHOR: H. Norman Wright
PUBLISHER: Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2012, (240 pages).

This book is about navigating transitions through each stage of our lives. From birth to young adults; from marriage to parenting; from retiring to dying, every stage comes with its different joys, despairs, hopes, and challenges. With skillful hands like a surgeon, the author sensitively identifies the ups and downs of each stage, helping readers to make some sense out of it before presenting suggestions toward making the rest of one's life count. The aim is to lead readers from broken-hearted to healing, from healing to whole-hearted living.

Wright is spot on in his categorization of the three broad stages of life.
  1. "I'm Needed by Others" stage which deals with phases of our lives in which we feel useful, independent, and able to give of our energies, resources, and ourselves
  2. "I'm no longer needed by others" stage where we experience loss of worth or purpose, as we let go of the previous state of independence.
  3. "I Need Others" stage where we increasingly become dependent beings as we grow physically more frail, and move past retirement phase.
The key question that Wright poses to readers of every phase is this: When is it time to "let go of, or start letting go of . .. ?" He begins with the Boomers, where children are showered lots of goodies, and then uses 9 tips from Kay Strom's Second Half Adventures to help readers plan their transitions at a post-Boomer phase. He covers the emotional intensities of parenting, brilliantly integrating Unell and Wyckokk's The Eight Seasons of Parenthood to enable readers to get a sense of their phase. On midlife, he identifies 8 traits of the mid-life crisis, and proposes 5 ways toward constructive perspectives. He asserts that it is very possible to progress positively as parents enter the 'empty-nest stage' of life. As a licensed marriage counselor himself, Wright shines in bringing out pertinent pointers with regards to the second half of marriage. He even have tips for parents encountering the 'Boomerang generation' when their adult kids return to stay with them. There are also chapters for learning to deal with losses, death, remarriage, retirement, aging, and the legacy we can leave. The final chapter is about dying and death, which is not a morbid thing, but taken in the light of hope in God through the Scriptures, it can be a beautiful phase of life.

Closing Thoughts

For a book that is less than 240 pages, this book is extremely dense in terms of practical tips and advice. More importantly, the book shines in its ability to identify key human feelings through each phase of life. It helps readers to make sense of where they are, and to point toward a future tomorrow that is hopeful and helpful. Wright has given us a wonderful resource unique enough for anyone to navigate through each phase of their lives, and common enough in terms of the familiar transitions we will all experience in a matter of time. If you are intending to use this book for many years, buy a printed copy, preferably a hardcover one that you can preserve. Mark it. Highlight it. Read it again and again. Not only will it prepare us to anticipate the various transitions of life, it keeps us looking forward with hope rather than to stumble back to always lament about the 'good old days.' After all, didn't Ecclesiastes warn us:

"Do not say, "Why were the old days better than these?" For it is not wise to ask such questions." (Eccl 7:10)

Instead, ask God to show us the timing and the excitement to ask: "What's Next?"

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Bethany House Publishers without any obligation for a positive review. Opinions furnished above are mine unless otherwise stated.

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