A few months ago I had the opportunity speak our church's women's event. The below is the message that I gave to the ladies. I pray that it will encourage you as you journey on in life.
In our ladies Bible study we have recently gone through the study, Jonah, “A life Interrupted”. It really dove into the story of Jonah, and how he was a good, little follower of God, until God decided to interrupt his perfectly planned life. The study hit home and showed me how God has done such an amazing, incredible, gracious, interrupted, hard, tear-filled, restoring work in my life, and I would like to share a little bit of that story with you tonight.
Just to give you a little back ground, I grew up in a simi-small town, with incredible parents who have just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary and one very over protective big brother. I was taken to church on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights and Wednesday nights from the time I was still in my mommy’s tummy! Through that exposure to the things of Christ at an early age, I asked Jesus into my heart and became a Christian at the age of 8. I was a very good, little Christian, Southern Baptist girl, who pretty much followed all the rules, didn’t get into too much trouble, read my Bible, tithed, went to church camp. The worst thing I did was kiss boys at youth camp! My view of God and the Christian life was, if you did all the right things, and followed all “the rules”, then good stuff would be given to you and your life would be relatively smooth. On the other hand, if you did bad things, or broke any of “the rules”, then bad things would happen to you and your life with not go smoothly! To be honest that logic had pretty much be true in my life. That logic was about to be changed and challenged as I entered into college, and the reality of WHO God is, was taught to me through a string of “life interruptions”!!
When I was a freshman in college several of my friends and I sat around one afternoon, and instead of studying we talked about what we thought our future would look like! As we went around and talked, I said my future looked something like this. My first two years of college I would have fun then in about my junior year I would meet the man I would marry, we would date, get married after graduation, move back to my hometown of Greenville, Sc and then have 2 to 4 children. I really think at that moment God probably about feel off His throne laughing!! I can picture Him now looking over at Gabriel and saying, “Oh that sweet girl, doesn’t know the journey she is about to take!”
My plan seemed to be going just the way I wanted it to go. The summer after my sophomore year I met and started dating this great Christian guy, and we continued to date through my Senior and after graduation. After over two years of dating I was sure an engagement was right around the corner. Yet, that was not God’s plan. Instead, after two and half years of dating, “Mr. Wonderful” dumped me by an email! No face to face, no phone call…just an email! What’s sort of funny or ironic is that one of my favorite verses and a verse I hold onto as one of my life verses is Ephesians 2:10 which states, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which HE prepared in advance for us to do!” Me getting dumped by “Mr Perfect” ,was just the first of the interruptions that God used in my life to grow me, shape me and show me the path that HE HAD created for me!
As I was mending my broken heart, I felt led to continue my education and started my studies at Seminary. Not only did I know, that a seminary degree would be a great addition to my resume, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt my chances of getting married, if I went to a school the was 70 percent guys and 30 percent girls!! During my time in Seminary, I was given the opportunity to complete an internship at First Baptist Woodstock. From the moment, I started the internship, I felt at home. It was such my desire to have a career at FBCW. Even though the internship was great, there was not a position open for me, at the time, so back to seminary I went! A few months before I was set to graduate, FBCW offered me a job! Even though it was not moving back to Greenville, SC that I thought I wanted, God used a “divine interruption” again, to open an even better door for me.
Now that I was working at the mega church, and giving myself and my life to the Lord in full time ministry, I knew that a husband was not far behind! But God had a little bit more work to do in my life. During the next 4 years I worked and ministered at FBCW, During those 4 years I was a bridesmaid 10 times, as I watched my friends marry their prince charmings. I was getting to the point that I was starting to think that maybe God wanted me to a Lottie Moon of my generation and destined to be single forever. Yet, God was about to “interrupt” my life, with a life changing, and name changing interruption. One Tuesday night during our singles Bible study, a friend of mine decided to play match maker! She walked into Bible Study and introduced me to one of her life long friends. That was the first time that I looked into the eyes of my precious, amazing, incredible husband Adam. Just when I was done with guys and had given up on my dream of being a wife and mother, God interrupted my life in the most wonderful way. On our first date, Adam picked me up in his white explorer and proceeded to turn off the engine. I started getting a little nervous, and just when I thought was going to be on episode of American’s most wanted, he asked me if we could pray before we went on the date. I have no recollection of the prayer he prayed but the prayer I was praying was…PRAISE THE LORD, my prince has arrived. Of course I did not tell him that is what I was thinking. After just three short months of dating he told me he loved me and then ten months later on a hike up Kennesaw Mountain, he asked me to be his wife. On March 25, 2006, I finally became a Mrs. I became, Mrs. Adam Cooler!! So finally after many interruptions in the form of ridiculous guys, I was finally married at the ripe old age at 29!! I was finally a wife!
Soon after Adam and I were married, we decided that we wanted to start to “try” to have children. Since I had taken sixth grade science, I didn’t think it was going to take us too long to become pregnant! I had knew that A plus B equals C…tada, we would be pregnant! Plus, I figured since I had kept my “true love waits” promise I had made in 6th grade, and I had to waited so long to get married, God somehow, “owed” me! Well getting pregnant did not happen as quickly as I had hoped. After trying for about six months on our own, I went to my OB and he gave me a little bit of medicine and said, that we would check and see how it was going, but he was sure that it would just take a few months of being on the medicine and we would be pregnant. Yet, after 6 months, there was still no pregnancy. So for the next 6-8 months, I was then sent to various of doctors, and was poked, prodded, had blood taken and x—rays done of my most private parts. Still there was no pregnancy and really no reason why I was not getting pregnant. By this point, I was getting frustrated, mad, sad, upset and questioning God’s plan and timing!! Finally, my doctor sent me to a specialist. When we first met with them, I again got my hopes up. We met with the doctor and he said he would need to rerun some of the test that I had already done, awesome, but that he should have a plan in motion in just a few weeks. Soon it was decided that we would try the less invasive route of doing an IUI or Inuterine insemination with me and he felt 75% confident that it would work. If you do not know what an IUI is, just think turkey basester. The date was set for the procedure. It happened that the date that was chosen was Mother’s day. Well, of course I thought that was a sign from the Lord, that the procedure would work. We went in for the procedure, it was quick and painless. A few weeks later I went in to have my blood drawn to see if the procedure had worked and if I was finally pregnant. On that day, after my blood was taken, I headed to one of my closest friends baby shower. I figured I would not get the results so soon and if I did, how fun would it be to share the news with all of my friends. While, at the shower, my phone rang and it was the doctor’s office. I quickly ran and answered it, just knowing the answer would be yes. Well, the minute I heard the nurses voice I knew it was not good news. She gently told me that the results were negative…I was not pregnant. At that point I was devastated and just started crying hysterically. Remind you, still at my friend’s baby shower. At that point, I was shown just what amazing friends God has placed in my life. They all jumped into action, getting me something to drink, hugging me, drying my eyes and helping me get to my car and home. Once I got home, I just fell to the ground and sobbed. I felt so broken hearted and honestly so very let down by the Lord. With little strength I did have, I got my Bible, turned to the book of Psalms and just started reading them out loud. One of the Psalms that I kept reading out loud was, Psalms 18:1-19 (READ PASSGE). As I read that passage I just felt the Lord, over and over say two thing, “It’s going to be okay and soon and very soon!”
As I was getting back up off my face from praying to the Lord, a great friend of mine, Sarah called me and said, we were heading out to the lake to watch some wakeboard competition. This might sound random and not “spiritual”, because I was facing a crisis, but sometimes when you are facing a heartbreaking, faith shaking time, you don’t need to hear one more Bible verse or one more quote from Beth Moore. You just need a friend to support you and get your mind off of the experience!
A few weeks later, which just happened to be Father’s day this time….Awesome we went and tried the IUI again, hoping for a good outcome but really just following the doctor’s advice. After waiting the three week waiting period Adam and I went and I had my blood drawn to see if the procedure worked this time. As we were driving back from the doctor’s office, in fact we were right at the intersection of 41 and 92, my phone rang. The nurse barely got out the words, CONGRATULATIONS…before I was screaming and crying at the same time, and Adam had to pull off into a bank parking lot, because of all the tears in the car. PRAISE THE LORD. After 2 ½ years of pokes, prodding, prayers, tears and tantrums, God had answered our prayers. He answered our prayers for a child and her name is Ava Elizabeth Cooler. She is 3 ½ now, almost 4 and if you attend Cedarcrest you may see my little miracle in Elevate Jr every Sunday!!
Now Ava is not only a miracle because of how hard we had to “work” to conceive her, but she is a miracle all by herself because she decided to make her debut into the world, 10 weeks early at just 2 lbs and 14 ounces. After spending 57 days in the NICU, and almost 4 years of weeks filled with OT, PT and Speech therapy, it is only by the amazing grace of God, that she has no vision, hearing or breathing issues and has caught up with her peers in her development.!!
Because of the dramatic experiences we had in both concieveing and having Ava, we had pretty much decided that we were going to be an only child family. We thought about going through all the infertility treatments again and even looked into adopting, but I knew that I just was not emotionally recovered enough to endure the heartache that I may face with either option. So we went on with our life. We enjoyed family trips, lazy Saturdays and just each moment with the little family that God had given us. At this point, Ava had turned 3 and I had turned 35, and we got into a groove with life and were moving on. Again, I started putting my plan in motion, and started preparing to go back to work, thinking Ava would be in Kindergarten in about 2 years. Then God again, decided to divinely interrupt my perfectly planned out life. Soon after easter of this year, I started feeling like I was gaining weight and just did not feel like myself. I just figured that is what happened when you turned 35. We jointed the YMCA, I took kick boxing classes and swam almost every day, and also began trying to eat really healthy. Still, I was feeling very tired and the weight was adding in up on me, not coming off!! Finally, I went to Kroger and decided to buy a pregnancy test, just to “rule out” being pregnant, so I could start figuring out why I felt the way I felt. Even as I was taking the test, I knew it was going to be negative. Hadn’t I had 150 negative pregnancy tests when trying to conceive Ava. Hadn’t I been told by my doctor, that there was NO WAY I could become pregnant on my own with our medical intervention. Well, ladies my God is greater, higher, and then any doubt of mine and any doctor’s diagnosis. Because even before the 3 minute waiting period was up, I look at the test and there, in bright pink was a positive sign!! That positive sign will be born on December 5th and her name is Anna Mincey Cooler!!
God is great, amazing, powerful and full of grace and mercy. As I close tonight, I just want you to remember one thing from my story and that is that God’s plan and is timing are perfect, even if sometimes they can be very painful!! God has taught me through this amazing, incredible, interrupted life, that sometime the greatest blessings and his greatest gifts come from and through our darkest , and hardest times!!