I’d like to pay tribute today to one of my modern-day faith heroes, a beautiful woman who had a great impact on me during a pivotal period of my life when I was disillusioned with God.
Two decades ago, in the midst of Spouse and I suffering six heart-wrenching miscarriages, Cookie Gray was a beacon of light for me, tenderly praying for me and loving me back into fellowship with my heavenly Father.
Cookie Gray graduated to heaven this week, leaving her multiple disabilities behind; I’m sure she’s running and leaping through the streets of gold this very minute, enjoying the freedom of a whole body she never had here on earth.
My fondest memory of Cookie will always be the Bible she always kept beneath her feet as she sat in her electric wheelchair, which she proudly explained meant she was constantly “standing on the promises.”
Today’s post is an excerpt from my book, More Beauty, Least Beast, from the chapter about faithfulness. Cookie Gray is one of the best examples of a faithful woman of God that this world can possibly offer. I loved and respected her dearly, as did the thousands of other lives she saved through her work at the Crisis Pregnancy Center she founded in 1987 and championed for decades.
“We have many modern-day role models of faithfulness, women who put their feet where their faith is. Among them are Ruth Graham, Corrie ten Boom, Joni Eareckson Tada, and Cookie Gray.
Cookie is a Faithfulness Hall of Famer from my little world. With humor and grace she’s endured a lifetime of illness, surgeries, isolation, unmerited prejudice, and uphill climbing. From her wheelchair.
She’s a beautiful woman whose poise and radiant smile would never reveal the seventy-plus years she’s spent battling disability since contracting polio as a toddler. It was a personal milestone that Cookie, using crutches and leg braces walked to the church altar as an eight-year-old to accept Christ as her personal Savior.
Since the day she turned her life over to Jesus, Cookie has depended on Him to carry her through life’s hardships. Like when she got all the way through college with top grades only to be refused a teaching certificate solely because of her disabilities.
And when she became a widowed mother at age forty.
‘God sustained me through it all,’ Cookie says in her soft, confident voice. ‘I know exactly what pray without ceasing means; my constant prayer has been, ‘Lord, help me through this day.’
As founder and Director of the LifeCare Center in Brandon, Florida, for many years, Cookie took seriously her mission to strengthen households based on God’s principles for building families. I’ve been blessed with the gifts of discernment and a true love for people,’ she said.
That helps explain the phenomenal growth of the center from its meager beginning to the four hundred-plus client contacts per month it has today.
‘How,’ I asked Cookie, ‘do you do it? How do you remain faithful in the down times? The parched desert times when your faith shrivels and you feel all alone?’
Cookie’s answer I believe, is insightful and applicable to all of us:
- Seek God as your source. Seek Him first; that will give you the courage to be bold and do whatever you need to do. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these thing will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33 NIV).
- Use your gifts in His name. We’re responsible to use our gifts, our abilities, and yes, our disabilities to draw focus to Him. Even a wheelchair can be His platform.
- Feed yourself daily. Listen to great teachers, read devotionals and Christian books, soak in faith-based music. Make yourself available to grow spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.
- Reach out through your smile. A warm smile draws people to you and gives them permission to be kind.
- Stay as beautiful as you can be, inside and outside. Keep yourself pleasant in appearance and attitude. People will respect you as much as you respect yourself. Never forget whom you represent.
- Talk yourself through difficulties. Everybody has daily aches and pains, and not just physically. Literally tell yourself you can overcome this obstacle, step by step – or wheel by wheel – and believe that with God at your side, you absolutely can.”
You will be greatly missed, Cookie Gray.
P.S. Coming soon! A brand new giveaway featuring my hot-off-the-press Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms Gift Set. Look for the details in my next e-newsletter (which you can sign up for at DeboraCoty.com.
P.S.S. Wishing all my BBFFs (Blessed Blog Friends Forever) a very blessed Resurrection Day!
Bonnie Van Hoose says
Cheryl Johnston says
Thanks for sharing this encouragement, Deb. It’s obvious that her rich and full life, despite or perhaps even enhanced by her physical limitations, is now even richer and fuller in the presence of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. She offered great suggestions we can all use.
Cookie was a hero and inspiration to so many! Thanks so much for sharing her story with all of us! She leaves a powerful legacy!
Cookie Gray left an amazing legacy. She will be missed, but her impact will live on forever.