Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Spirit-Led Parenting - A Guest Post

One of the great joys of blogging the last two years has been the discovery of a rich community life out here in cyberspace. Megan Tietz and Laura Oyer are two of the many women it has been my privilege to come to 'know,' courtesy of the internet. I read a review of their parenting book early this year and was really impressed. So, I ordered four copies! There were four expectant couples in our church community at that time and I could  think of no better gift than an 'instruction' book that basically said - listen to your baby and to your own heart and toss out all the 'shoulds.'  They're entering round two of the required (and important) PR work for their fine book and I am delighted and honored to host this essay from Laura as they make the rounds of about a dozen blogs in the next few days. I encourage you to interact with Laura here, to think about the questions she asks, and to reflect on your own parenting experiences (if you have children) or about parenting you've observed (if you don't have kids). Just opening the door and saying,  "Hey, I'm not sure about this...what have YOU tried?" can be a tremendously freeing experience. So, go for it!

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  2 Corinthians 3:17

I’ll begin with an honest admission:  I like rules.  I share in the opening chapter of our book that my nightmare assignments in school days were those with an open structure.  Options?  No, thank you.  I prefer guidelines and no-fail directions toward certain success. 

I expected the rules I’d heard for parenting a new baby to lead to that neat-and-tidy success found by so many.  Instead, they didn’t work for me or my baby, and I lived for a time in terror over the implications of what that failure would mean.

As Megan shared yesterday at O My Family, one of the bonds that deepened our friendship and led us to write this book was that we both entered parenthood bound as slaves to fear.  Our purpose in sharing our tear-stained stories is to encourage others navigating life with an infant, inviting them to the pursuit of another way. 

There is an approach to parenting that looks fear in the face and boldly speaks an answer:  Freedom.  Freedom from required formulas, unrealistic expectations of our children and ourselves, and the belief that we must force our babies to fit into a mold that may not have been designed for them.  
– Spirit-Led Parenting, page 42

When we live in fear, we resist the freedom that serves as a banner proclaiming the presence of the Spirit.  Yet Megan and I each found that in spite of our resistance, God beckoned us through the heartache of frustration and failure and offered us an approach to caring for our babies that we desperately wish we had known from the very beginning.  He was calling us into freedom.

  • Freedom to follow His lead first and foremost in our parenting.
  • Freedom to trust in the example of God’s Father heart, Christ’s call to servanthood, and the Spirit’s constant presence as we care for our babies.
  • Freedom to extend grace to those who parent differently, knowing that our Lord leads us individually, according to His flawless will and timing, to answers perfectly suited to our families.
  • Freedom to fail - understanding that perfect parenthood is unattainable, believing that God’s redemptive grace covers our missteps, and seeing our insufficiency as opportunity for our surrender and His refinement.

It was a rocky road, learning to live out what He offered.  But as we began to let go, we gained something unexpected:  a deepening perspective on the glorious, mysterious paradox of dying to self and gaining abundant life.  As two control-loving, perfection-seeking new mothers each woke from a fear-driven haze, we discovered that the cost of our new freedom in parenthood was not at all what we’d expected. 

Where once we believed we would find spoiled children and splintered marriages in the wake of our decisions to turn from the loud-and-popular advice, we found instead our own expectations and desires bowed low.  Where we once held fast to the notion that the “right” methods of baby-care would bring success, we learned that releasing our expectations gave us the freedom to truly follow the Spirit’s lead in every area of our lives.

It’s an approach that welcomes an often messy journey.  One that comes with sacrifice, as is always the case when we pursue a life of serving God and others.  It may mean less predictability and more time.  It may bring the uncomfortable realization that you are parenting off the beaten path, if that path where He has led some is not where He is leading you.  It may mean laying down that precious sense of control. 

But what if as that first year of babyhood winds down and a toddler stands where your baby once lay, what if you looked in the mirror and realized that the one who has grown by leaps and bounds in the past year is you?  What if you could see that in most every situation you encounter, your first response is no longer selfish retreat, but rather selfless embrace?
Would it make you smile with humble gratitude to recognize that in each moment you chose to approach your baby with a heart filled by the Spirit, you were able to more closely relate to and identify with your Lord Jesus Christ than you ever had before?  If you found, for perhaps the first time, that you were truly free in Him? 

– Spirit-Led Parenting, page 54

Living and parenting in freedom is a daily – and often difficult – choice.  We have heard from countless new parents through the years at different points in the journey, and believe that safe and honest discussions can encourage one another along the way.  Will you share your thoughts here today? 

What aspects of parenting in freedom appeal most to you, and which do/did you find most uncomfortable or hardest to embrace?  How has God used your role as a parent for your own spiritual growth, or how do you suspect He may want to do so?

We are deeply honored to share in this space today, and look forward to hearing from you! Find us tomorrow with a post at Narrow Paths to Higher Places

Spirit-Led Parenting is the first release from authors Megan Tietz and Laura Oyer. Megan writes about faith, family and natural living at SortaCrunchy and lives in Oklahoma City with her husband and two daughters. Laura blogs her reflections on the real and ridiculous things of life at In The Backyard, and makes her home in Indiana with her husband, daughter, and son.