Tina Cook is well known in our community as the hard working Director of the Family Resource Center located on Jefferson Street, and I first met her at the monthly Chamber of Commerce coffees that are held at various businesses in our area. I immediately liked her, and one of the things that impressed me is that she is both uncommonly transparent and intensely joyful. I became aware that she has a personal “death, burial and resurrection story,” and seeing as we are coming upon the season of Resurrection and Passover, now seemed the appropriate time to tell it.
We met for the interview in the FRC board room, which is lined with inspirational sayings as well as scriptures. One that stuck out was written by Mark Twain, and it says:
“Challenges make life interesting, however, overcoming them makes life meaningful.”
Tina has had no shortage of challenges, some of which were beyond her control, and many with which she saddled herself. Her folks divorced when she was small in a time when “nobody’s parents got divorced.” She said that she knew her dad loved her, even though living apart made it harder for her to realize it, yet like so many girls, Tina became “daddy hungry,” and started looking for love in all the wrong places and all the wrong ways. By the time she was 15, she had an abortion, and began to get into serious trouble with first substances, and then crime. The abortion also made it so she would never have children. By the time she graduated from West Limestone High School, she was running stretched out down the wrong road.
She would disappear for months and sometimes years at a time, and her family had no idea if she was dead in a ditch somewhere or just not communicating. She was no stranger to wanting to commit suicide. Once she sat in the Limestone County jail for 11 months because she wouldn’t roll over on her fellow partners in crime. The last time she was arrested, which occurred in Florida, her mug shot portrayed someone who was frightened, defiant, and her eye was still swollen from where she had been beaten by a man.
“I was in jail on and off for a total of seven years, and I lived a sordid lifestyle,” she said. It was in jail that she got her wake-up call in the form of learning that her dad had died, and she couldn’t go to his funeral. That’s when she began to give up and give in to the love of God and discover His purpose for her life. Her “Life Scripture” became “the joy of the Lord is your strength,” and it shows.
Tina was able to reconcile with her mother, and after she got out of jail Tina went to care for her mom as cancer did its worst. However, that time is one of the treasures of her new life, and Tina was with her mom when she passed. They got everything between them straightened out, and the years were restored. In addition, one of the blessings that came out of that rough time is that Tina was given her mom’s dog, Chloe to care for, and Chloe is one loyal little pooch.
Tina has extensive knowledge of what it takes to overcome addictions, both from her personal life as well as her studies. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from City Vision University in Christian Addiction Studies and Urban Missions, and all of it was a perfect training ground for her new life. It takes guts to come back and rebuild in the same spot where it all went bad, but that’s what she felt she was being called to do, and rebuild she most definitely has. One of her favorite scriptures is Philemon 1:10-11, talking about Onesimus. “Formerly he was useless, but now he has become useful to you and to me.”
This woman inspires me, and I hope you are blessed by her story. If you are struggling, please know there is hope. Tina lives it, and you can, too.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner