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March 2022

Counseling practice aims to help families

Early in Michael Cox’s career in mental health, he stumbled upon a pattern. Years later, that discovery would become the center of a private counseling practice aimed at transforming families for life.

“I have worked with teenagers forever, and that’s how I started doing couples work. I was doing great things with the teenagers, then sending them home to jacked-up parents,” he laughs. “We knew we had to do something to support parents and their marriage so this teenager has some stability to go home to and not wreck all the work we did in the office.”

The journey from there to Whole Life Priorities, which Michael and wife Coloma launched officially in

Coloma shares with group
Coloma shares with the group.

January 2019, is a circular path in hindsight. A native of Hobbs, N.M., Michael earned his bachelor’s degree in religion in 1998 from Wayland’s Plainview campus, leaning toward a career in ministry at the time. He followed school with a two-year stint as the Baptist Student Ministries intern at Texas A&M University.

While sponsoring a group to South Padre Island for Beach Reach in 2000, he met Coloma, then a teacher in Amarillo. They kept in touch, started dating in July when Michael moved back to his hometown to be a youth minister, then married in July 2001. Another year later, the couple headed to Mission Arlington to do ministry. After three years, he felt called to counseling and started graduate work in the area while teaching school.

A clearer call

When Michael was called to pastor the new Stonebridge Church in Plainview, the family returned to his college town. But after a brief time, he realized full-time vocational ministry wasn’t his true calling and he went to work at Central Plains Center, the local mental health authority in Plainview, and finished his counseling degree at Wayland. He served as the counselor at his alma mater for two years, then found himself heading to Austin in 2013.

“When I was working with Central Plains in youth engagement, I worked with teenagers, trying to help them find their voice within the system. I really got introduced to public mental health, crisis intervention and all the depths of mental health challenges. I felt like I started finding my flow,”

Michael and Coloma teaching
Michael leads the workshop.

Michael recalled. “The local work led to doing some national work with children’s initiatives, so I was traveling and speaking on panels, etc. The State of Texas got a grant and they offered me a job at the University of Texas based in the School of Social Work to do this program on the statewide level.”

In his new role, Michael said he felt at home. The tug in his spirit for something different he’d felt during his youth ministry years and even beyond, felt appeased. All his previous experiences had played a role.

“My time in Hobbs as a youth pastor also helped move me in that direction. The number of young people we were dealing with that had problems that I was just not equipped to deal with really started not settling well with me,” he said.

While working as a youth engagement specialist for Systems of Care, the grant funded position at UT, Michael also began counseling on the side with The Timothy Center to fulfill his required hours as a licensed professional counselor-intern. He found great fulfillment there and grew his client base. At the same time, a colleague from his state work recommended him to become a national trainer for mental health first aid, for which he had been trained while in Plainview. In that role, he began training others who would provide the same first aid training for non-clinicians to spot warning signs of mental health crisis, traveling nationwide as a “side gig” for the National Council for Mental Wellbeing that continues today.

A new direction

Around 2018, the Coxes began envisioning what the next level might look like for their family. Michael was loving direct counseling with individuals and couples, and Coloma was working on a degree as a health coach through the Institute of Integrated Nutrition while teaching at a charter school. In that work, her goal was to help people develop a holistic approach to their wellness, focusing on physical as well as spiritual aspects of life.

In January 2019, the couple launched their own practice, called Whole Life Priorities, an effort to move toward their vision of how they could support families, born out of that youth work all those years earlier.

“The name came out of just talking about how we are whole beings, and if a person is going to get to a place of complete and whole healing, we have to address the whole person,” Michael explained. “Making that a priority is seeking to look at all those areas and then together asking how you do that in the context of a marriage or a family. Wellness is more sustainable in the family context, like how we both work out together, eat healthy and share those spiritual practices.

“So our goal is to look at treating the entire family from a holistic perspective.”

For the first three years, that has looked primarily like continued counseling for Michael, involving individuals, couples and families. Just recently, the Coxes began to expand their offerings to include workshops for couples and parenting workshops, integrating Coloma’s knowledge on wellness. The plan is for those to be ongoing so new couples and families can participate throughout the year. Eventually, he’d love to work solely with families.

Restoration efforts

Michael noted that what makes their workshops and therapy sessions different is the use of a specific curriculum he learned while attending Harvest Christian Fellowship in Plainview years ago. The Coxes were chosen to be trained to deliver a program called Five Days to a New Marriage, based on the RelateStrong resources by Terry and Sharon Hargrave. As part of that process, the church sent them to participate in The Hideaway Experience, a retreat for couples in crisis located outside Amarillo.

“That revolutionized our marriage even after 10 years together. I knew there was something to this

leading workshops
Leading couples in therapy

and I wanted to be trained in restoration therapy (the basis for RelateStrong). I have now used that in my practice as well. It has come full circle and we’re using that now to be the bedrock of work and ministry moving forward,” says Michael.

Coloma agrees that the curriculum is special.

“For me, the one thing that caught my attention right away is the question they ask from the get-go: ‘Do you want to be healed?’ That’s something you have to ask yourself, and it doesn’t have to do with anyone around you. It has to do with you,” she said. “You have to kind of wrestle with that. Being honest with yourself allows for things you might not realize are happening so you can be a whole, healed being.”

Michael is now part of the Hideaway therapeutic staff and comes four times a year to help facilitate those sessions. He believes strongly that those tools are great for all ages, and he was the first to pilot the use of restoration therapy on adolescents in his work. He’s bought in for his own life as well.

Making an impact

“What makes restoration therapy different is that in most therapeutic models you can show up and dig up all your junk, talk about it and air all the laundry. Very few of them show you how to get out of it and not stay in it,” he notes. “This uses a mindfulness tool to go from pain to peace, and the transition between the two is the truth, who you are and who God says you are. That helps you not only identify your stuff but help you get out of it. This gives you a tool to consistently use when you’re struggling.”

The Coxes know they are in the right place, and for Michael the affirmation comes from seeing his wife’s reaction to his work.

“When I get to talking about what I enjoy doing and about restoration therapy or families and young people, I can go on for days,” he laughs. “Being able to shape what that looks like and how we deliver it is fun. I can lay my head down and feel like I’m in my sweet spot; God has got us where he wants us.”

The Cox family also includes three sons: Josiah, 15; Joseph, 13; and James, 10. They attend Victory City Church in Pflugerville and The Refuge.


Alums featured at music educator's conference

A pair of Wayland alumni got a share of the spotlight at the recent Texas Music Educators Association conference held in San Antonio when their choirs were chosen to perform for the group of statewide choral directors and college music students gathered for the world’s largest music conference.

Amy Moss, in her fifth year as choral director at Frenship High School in Lubbock, and Christi Jones, choir director at Young Junior High in Arlington, were part of the conference performance schedule for 2022. Both directed a 25-minute concert of one of their school ensembles after submitting several years of recording from their choirs.

Amy, a 2006 graduate of the Plainview campus, and Christi, a 2000 graduate, have both been music

Frenship High choir
Moss leads a Varsity Chorale rehearsal at TMEA

educators since graduation, working in a variety of schools. Both were music education majors at Wayland under one of the campus’ premier academic programs.

For Amy, the experience was brand new but interested her as a challenge for both her as the director and her 66-member Varsity Chorale, composed of sophomores, juniors and seniors and a nearly equal mix of men and women.

“This year they did something different that is reflective of the process that the American Choral Directors Association requires, which is to ask us to submit a proposed program in advance,” she explained. “The selection process is three rounds of blind auditions before they look at the program and select in the final round. I really wasn’t expecting anything, honestly, but I wanted to get into the practice of doing it every year so I can continue to advance the program and challenge my kids.”

Christi said she also enjoys the challenge of such a performance, but since she had gotten to do this in 2015 with another ensemble, she was well aware of the level of intensity and scrutiny. Her 46-member male ensemble, called the Young Men, rose to the challenge nicely, she said.

“The concert itself I enjoyed more, but there’s still a lot of pressure because it’s a bunch of choir directors watching your concert,” she said. “It’s not like an audience of parents and grandparents who think everything you do is great; these are directors who know what the details should be. To be well received by them is a big honor.”

Overcoming challenges

The chosen choirs were announced in July at the Texas Choral Directors Association conference, giving the directors a chance to plan their work before students came back to campus. Since they’ve

Young Junior High men's choir
Jones and the Young Men during TMEA performance

both been chosen, they must wait three years to submit a proposal to perform to TMEA.

Both directors say there are plenty of challenges involved in being chosen to perform at the statewide music gathering which draws thousands into San Antonio for the week. For Amy, it meant starting work on the music early and stepping up rehearsals starting as soon as the school year began, knowing there was an extra level of practice needed. She also has to work around block scheduling at Frenship, which means she only sees her students every other day for a 90-minute period. Add in the fact that her chorale members are by and large busy students involved in theatre, musicals, athletics and other activities on campus and it meant maneuvering around lots of obstacles both expected and not.

“The season was rough for all of us with some personal challenges, like my Dad passing in July just before I found out. Then in October, one of our very beloved vocal coaches passed away from COVID, and I had two kids lose parents back-to-back. Then my mother-in-law passed away three weeks before TMEA,” Amy recalls. “It was a challenge to rise above all that and not get discouraged. I think I tried to be mindful of the music I was picking. I always pick music for a reason but it became more meaningful as the season went on. I tried to focus on the fact that we got to be together and got to overcome these challenges together, and they always have a place to come back to. We got to pour into each other.”

For Christi, the challenges mostly lie in being director of a two-year school with only seventh and 

Christi Jones and friends
Christi, right, and her staff

eighth-grade students in her care. That means the recordings she submitted are for students who are not even at the school, so she banked on having another good group to perform.

Christi said she chose her program around the theme “Not all who wander are lost” and picked anthems about travel and self-discovery. One piece was a mashup of two musical hits, “Tonight” from Hamilton, and “You Will Be Found” from Dear Evan Hansen. She commissioned a piece by Laura Farnell, the mother of one of her students, for one selection. And for another, she penned her own arrangement of the classic hymn Amazing Grace called “How Sweet the Sound.”

Impacting young lives

The composition represents an ongoing hobby of Christi’s, who says she specifically writes for the junior high voice since there are not many composers who focus on these groups. She has nearly 30 pieces published through Carl Fischer Music/BriLee Music and at least 10 have gotten picked up by the UIL on its preferred music list. The piece she wrote for TMEA will come out in April.

“I sometimes will be judging a UIL contest and some of the groups end up doing one of my pieces or a few. That’s kind of fun, and it’s starting to happen more and more. A lot of my pieces are on the UIL list now so it’s not uncommon to hear them when I’m judging,” she noted. “My publisher submits new pieces yearly for UIL consideration and they stay on there forever. Most new pieces get good attention.”

Both Amy and Christi have been involved in TMEA and other music organizations as volunteers too.

Amy Moss
Amy Moss

Christi has previously been region chair and has hosted region auditions

at her school regularly. While teaching at the middle school level years ago, Amy served as regional co-coordinator and is the region 16 secretary for TMEA currently. She has also been a regional presenter for TCDA and volunteers at music clinics.

Both women say the choral profession is highly rewarding.

“I definitely love building relationships with kids. I enjoy getting to watch them develop who they are going to be as an adult. For me, it’s a calling to be here and love on them and try to guide them and give them as much of a foundation as possible,” says Amy. “I love being able to provide some stability and a place they can come home. I love to model the love of Christ to them and hope they will remember that as they go out into their adult lives.”

Christi loves pushing students to excel and seeing their pride when they accomplish more than they imagined they could.

“I like overshooting what people think that junior high kids can do. I like deep diving into music too,” she says. “People don’t always think that junior high kids are capable of this, or they roll their eyes and laugh it off when I tell them what I do. But (my students) are brilliant and able to achieve great things. I like proving that to everyone.”


Devotional: The path to God is narrow

Perhaps you have heard it said that "all religions lead to God." My Bible doesn't say that. Quite the opposite. Jesus states, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No man comes to the father except through me." (John 14:6)

Yes, the one and only way to rest with the Lord in eternity is through the acceptance of Jesus as our personal savior. This includes full repentance for our sinful life and a prayer requesting Jesus live within us. This view makes Jesus the only way to be saved. No other path works. So what should be the impact of accepting Jesus' plan for us and our society?

In the spirit of loving our neighbors, we should aggressively attempt to bring everyone weNarrow bridge encounter into a right relationship with Jesus. Why? Because it a matter of eternal life and death! So what do we do to help our neighbors to a right relationship with Jesus?

  • Spend time daily with the Lord to stay focused on his will for our lives.
  • Support a strong missionary program for the world to bring God's word to every human being.
  • Embrace fellow Christians in an effort to ease their worldly trials and tribulations and worship the Lord in unison.
  • Pray ceaselessly for this nation to turn to God and abandon our sinful ways.

Jesus says that the path to eternal life is through him. No mention is made of earthly church denominations. None of the peculiar manmade rules and regulations associated w ith churches and denominations provide the path to eternal life. Only the intimate acceptance of Jesus as our personal savior will gain us eternal life.

Mike Sherer is a 1988 graduate of the Hawaii campus and a veteran of the U.S. Navy. He and wife Mary are building a Christian retreat center in Stehekin, Wash., and live in nearby Manson. He previously ran a farm and had real estate investments. He is the author of "Speaking of Jesus..." from which this devotional was excerpted.


From the History Files

This month's history recap wraps up a series about some of the historic buildings on the main campus in Plainview, where Wayland was founded in 1908.

Wood Building
Joe P. Wood Building on the Plainview campus

Many people may drive right past the Wood, Wheeler and Muncy buildings on the western edge of the Plainview campus and never even realize they are indeed Wayland property. And while they may not get a lot of outside visitors, there is plenty happening on those blocks.

The Wood building is situated on Xenia Street between 7th and 8th Streets, just across from Wilder Field. Named for a former WBU vice president Joe P. Wood, the building is home to many of the facilities operations, including property management (including oversight of Wayland's vehicle fleet), the weight and workout room for athletic teams and the maintenance, lawn care and housekeeping departments, managed by BINC and housed in the faciilty on the edge of campus.

Wheeler Building
Wheeler Building

Just around the corner on 8th Street, the Wheeler building is home to Wayland's football team offices, locker rooms and training room. It is named for a longtime civic leader, the late J.B. Wheeler. In the past, this building has housed a day care center, a workout faciilty -- before the Pete and Nelda Laney Center was added in 2007 -- and other offices. It was converted to football facilities in 2012 when the program was reinstated after a 70-year hiatus.

Muncy Building
Muncy Building

Then on Yonkers near 7th, the Muncy Building sits as the home to

Wayland's Academy of Fine Arts classes -- an offering to the community for lessons in music and other arts areas for non-collegiate credit. The two-story facility is also home to Wayland's online campus offices and local personnel who manage those online programs.