Sunday, December 28, 2008


Five years ago today, Andy Cook asked me to consider semi-seriously dating him.  I agreed in a heartbeat.  Two days later, we realized that we were being fools, and that semi-seriously dating was made-up and that we were most assuredly seriously dating.  But on that special date, December 28, 2003, God began a beautiful thing in each of our lives.  This is going to be long, so please, bear with me.

At the time, I was 18 years old and a sweet freshman at Purdue.  I had gone to college hoping to avoid God, to move on with the Christian part of my life.  I was frustrated and I felt like all I saw of Christians around me was artificial and I was worn out.  I wanted to do my own thing.  But God.  He had a different plan.  Through a series of not so random events, I ended up attending a Bible study in my dorm affiliated with a ministry on campus.  There were studies just like it all around Purdue, and several hundred people were involved.  Soon after I started to get involved, my heart began to change.  I began to see people who were truly sold out for Christ, living their lives for the Lord, and I wanted that.

One of those people was Andy Cook.  Andy was incredibly kind and gracious to me from the very beginning.  He was one of the singers in the worship band, and he had this incredible voice.  People were drawn to him--he was this incredibly big-hearted, open, and loving man.  There were very few of those hundreds involved in the ministry who didn't know him or know of him.  I was totally in awe of him.

We became friends, and eventually reached that day where we became more than friends.  Here we are then.

  Early Summer 03 176


I was so completely overwhelmed.  I had just started this relationship with God business, and I was dating this incredible fellow who was so far beyond me.  I felt so unworthy.  In fact, during that period of my life, I may as well have worn a large red U around, because  I felt like it was my symbol.  I felt unworthy of Andy, unworthy of God.  I was so afraid of people finding me out.  I remembered being absolutely numb with fear when I first met his mentor.  I thought for sure he'd see right through me and tell Andy he could do better.

I spent the better part of a year living in this fear.  It consumed me.  My sophomore year of college is a period of time marked with illness and anxiety.  But God.  He had given me Andy, and he had brought me into a Bible study where there were women that I was able to open up to.  I had a mentor that year who encouraged me like no one has ever encouraged me before.  That year, we did Beth Moore's "Breaking Free" Bible study, and that study changed my life in incredible ways.  God began to pull down the walls in my life, to tear off the Unworthy sign that I posted all over myself.  I began to grow and to realize that I was loved.  Through all of that, Andy held my hand.  Every step of the way, he was there encouraging me and praying for me.  That summer we were in Freiburg, Germany and the growth and the refining continued.  This was a deeply painful time in my life.  Through it all, God was building me up.  He was tearing down the walls in my heart and in my life.

Freiburg 252

The next few years saw the refining continue, but not nearly in the same extent.  I finished up my college years.  I married Andy, and became Mrs. Ashley Cook.  On that day, I did not feel unworthy.  I felt ready.  I felt blessed.  I was excited and thrilled to begin my life with my new husband.  I was beyond emotional as I thought back at the things God had worked out in my life.  I had hope.



These past several months have been a very trying time.  I have felt moments where the old feelings of unworthiness have crept back in.  I have felt like a lousy wife, a horrible teacher, and a failure at life.  My husband and I have had moments where I thought our whole worlds were crashing down around us and we weren't going to be able to do anything to stop it.  But God.  He has given us a new hope.  He has refreshed us.  He has brought us close to Him.   He has brought us close to each other.   In the days when I thought things were the bleakest, He has shined the brightest.  Today, I have great hope.  I know that our futures are in His hands.  I know that He is in control.  And I have hope.

Two days ago, I was at Hobby Lobby with my mom.  I was glancing over a display of clearanced Christmas items, when something caught my eye.  It was a decoration, the only one of its kind.  There was an angel overlooking a miniature nativity, and to the side of it was the word HOPE.  This small piece brought tears to my eyes and caught the breath in my throat.  I bought it (I'll post a picture when I get my camera back).  It so resonated with me--because that's what God has given me.  Hope.  Through that tiny babe in the manger so many thousands of years ago, I have hope.  Hope of eternal life.  Hope of restoration.  Hope of His love.  Hope of His unfailing promises.  Hope.  Jesus is our eternal, everlasting, unfailing hope.  That's what I have learned these last five years.

And so today, I thank Him for the life He has given me.  I thank Him for the love He has lavished on me.  I thank Him that though I was unworthy, He led Andy to love me.  But most of all, I thank Him that though I am unworthy, He loved me.

1 comment:

Jenna said...

Ashley this was beautiful! What a wonderful story ya'll have and what an amazing God who wrote (and is writing) the whole thing! Thanks so much for sharing this. LOVED it!