If I had to describe surrender, I’d say it’s quiet. Not flashy or something the world sees and is impressed with. It’s hard for us humans who strive for approval to accept these moments of surrender but when I get quiet, I am able to see the reality: the bigness of God and the smallness of me. And I’m able to understand that that is exactly how it’s supposed to be. That when I am not surrendered is when my rose-colored glasses are on distorting everything in my world.
My story in itself is pretty quiet and not flashy. When Kacie asked me to share my story of surrender, my initial thought was that I really haven’t had anything super big happen. No tragic diagnosis, big move, family rifts or enormous life decisions to contemplate.
Truthfully, I feel in the very early stages of surrender and it’s still got me squirming. I’m a highly motivated person. I love setting goals and making things happen. Over the last 5 years, it’s been a series of starting companies, projects, marketing and constant climbing to the next level. Last year reached a peak when I wrote a book and was excited to see what God would do next. Surely that would be the beginning of something even bigger.
As I was wrapping up the book process just a few weeks before we planned to start shipping, stirrings I had had for months bubbled to the service for one moment of complete surrender, the first in a series of surrenders and the priming of the pump.
We had been trying to conceive for 8 months which wasn’t a super long time but after having conceived the first month for our first child, it was a reality check. I remember friends talking for years about wanting to adopt and I would always listen intently and supportively, but knowing I had no desire for that for our family. I didn’t have the stirring or passion they seemed to have when they talked about it. The wait for baby number two had us thinking about adoption though. I remember reading “7” by Jen Hatmaker, “Anything” by Jennie Allen and seeing photos from The Archibald Project. Each pierced my heart in a way that I had never felt before.
Throughout this time of trying, I had started writing the book and each month we got a no, I could accept it because I knew that I wouldn’t have been able to keep up the book making process while pregnant. I had vivid memories from my first pregnancy that reminded me constantly of the exhaustion and slower pace and gave me an odd piece with each no.
But as we came the end of the book process, I feared my reaction if we got another “no.” I couldn’t chalk it up so easily to “God’s timing,” although that would be true, whether I could see it or not. I had several friends praying for me to have peace no matter what.
My husband, Tyler, and I started entertaining this idea of adoption. It was no longer just my thing. We even talked about it before church one Sunday. At church, the song “Overwhelmed” played and I was literally overwhelmed with God’s presence and his voice speaking to me. I felt Him tell me to let go of getting pregnant. Though we had started talking adoption, the goal setter in me saw that as something that would happen AFTER we had a second baby. It had been a “goal” for 8 months and I couldn’t let that just go.
I sobbed hard, y’all. I felt God give me such a peace. I was able to let go of that dream to have a baby before adopting. My tears came from my own surprise that I was completely OK with surrendering this plan.
The following Thursday, we had a big photo shoot for the book and new collection. It was basically the end of this super busy season for me. The very next morning I woke up on my 31st birthday and took a pregnancy test (something my husband said was pretty risky, but after my moment of surrender, I knew it wouldn’t shake me like it would have before then).
We got a yes. A yes. I was both shocked, but also calmly confident like I knew God would do something like this. Right after I had let go of my dream, He switched things up. It felt weird at first. Like why all the fuss to have me surrender this dream only to give it to me days later.
We spent the next week blissfully soaking up the reality of this blessing at the beach on our family’s annual trip. Everything was perfect.
Soon, the first trimester exhaustion and sickness hit. It zapped every bit of motivation I had and all the hormones equated to depression instead of joy. In the months that followed, I felt gratefulness for this pregnancy that I knew so many friends have been longing for, but I also longed to feel myself again, motivated and making things happen.
I did the least amount of work for my business to survive. Mentally, I longed to be the girl who was chasing her dreams and business with every ounce of energy she had during the work day. But instead, I was spending most of the time laying on couch, watching TV and responding to only the most urgent emails.
He was calling me to surrender again, this time, He wanted my dreams for success and a fruitful career. My goals have of a way of driving me. And He wanted to be the one “driving me." I tried to fight this forced rest for nearly three months and really didn’t see it until it had passed for the most part that if I wasn’t going to surrender these dreams of success, that if I couldn’t hear His whispers to my heart, He’d step in and capture my attention more obviously.
During this time, the Lord has impressed on my heart that now is a season of smallness. I chose it as my word for the year and after releasing the book, I would have personally chosen a much bigger word for myself this year.
I thought it would look a certain way to be honest. That the business would grow without me striving so hard and I’d just quietly be behind the scenes. That if I was quiet and did things God’s way, God would bless it in all the predictable and measurable ways of success like sales and achievements. So far this year, I feel vulnerable even admitting this, but things have slowed after the peak of Christmas more than I expected. There have been no big moments of seeing God work, no big milestones that I will remember as catapulting my business forward, just quiet, steady work and watching competitor’s seemingly soar. It’s taken everything this go-getter girl has in her to not try to maneuver things and fabricate success somehow. It’s been my daily challenge to not run in front of God but to slow my pace down and let Him take the reigns.
I’ve been reading Paul David Tripp’s book Awe and its central message is that we spend more time in awe of the things God has given us, than of God himself. I want to be in awe of God and I’m realizing that takes surrendering every part of my life, especially those I tend to place the most importance on for my joy.
VALERIE WOERNER is owner of Val Marie Paper and author of The Finishing School. She lives in South Louisiana with her husband Tyler and daughter Vivi Mae and will be welcoming another little girl, Vana, in May. You can connect with her on Instagram or Twitter.