“It is Well” by Krystal Cooper

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In Matthew 7:7-8, Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Lately, I’ve been feeling humbled regarding the quality of my prayer life. I pray “help me” pretty much all day, but as far as what to pray past that, I have been feeling a little deflated. And tired. And, in truth, a little lazy. Recently, God put it on my heart that not only should I pray for specific things, but that I should humble myself to pray that He would open my eyes to what those things are. I’d like to think most of the time that I am in control and can ask for what I need, but I am so thankful I serve a God who daily shows me how wrong that thinking is and who opens my eyes to how sovereign, big, and amazing He is. A God who not only wants good things for me as His daughter, but who is willing to speak to me in prayer and show me what He wants for my life. Willing to take out the guessing about whether what I am praying for is what He might do and, instead, show me what He wants me to ask Him to do.

Lance and I (and our sweet baby, Naomi) recently visited southern Illinois for a conference for the network of churches our church in St Louis is a part of. It was a slow paced three days filled with worship, powerful teachings, and downtime to fellowship with friends and each other. In one of the first sessions, we worshiped to the song “It Is Well with My Soul.”  This wasn’t the first time I had heard the song; I grew up attending a small church with my grandma and granddad, and I still remember singing that song from the dark red, almost maroon colored hymnals we sang out of weekly. This time felt different, though. This time, God spoke softly to my heart, revealing clearly the longing that I had been struggling to name lately.

As a mom to two VERY independent three year olds and a barely four month old, my prayers have felt beyond scattered lately. Mostly, my prayers are filled with “help me” in times of exhausted, impatient desperation and an assortment of requests. Requests for wisdom on how to discipline rightly and with patience. Lots of patience. I spend most days training toddlers, nursing and changing diapers, making meals then cleaning them up off of faces and floors and walls, and attempting to keep a happy, cleanish house. By the end of the day (and if I’m honest, most days by 9am) I am tired and praying I would love my husband and my littles more. Praying that God would show me how to love them in a way that takes away my selfish desire to ignore the constant demands of motherhood: the “Mom, can I …,” the need for a bed time routine, and the request for just one more story. Show me how to love them past their tantrums and bad moods. Love them when our budget seems impossible and when the idea of the marriage the movies promise seems more like the fairy tales I spend my days reading out loud. Love and discipline them rightly when the hardness of family tragedy strikes again and again. When I want to curl up in a ball and mourn a baby lost way too soon, and when hard “days” turn into hard “months” that turn into hard “years.” Love my sweet littles with right training and discipline that requires the patience I know I can only muster up by putting my yoke on Jesus. Thankful in Matthew 11:28-30 He calls, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Remembering that while I am at work attempting to show love by giving healthy discipline, I am also in a constant season of receiving it from a Father who loves me too much to leave me where I am. Reminded in Hebrews 12:11, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

Most of all, I pray for the power and wisdom to love them with what the Bible describes as a “gentle and quiet spirit” in 1 Peter. Those words have really been on my heart since my big girls started demanding more discipline and training. I love 1 Peter. Especially just 4 months postpartum, Peter’s call for wives to, “not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious,” really resonates with me. I pray that my Father would see me as “very precious” and that my house of girls would grow to value hearts and their walk with Jesus above worldly beauty. Yes, please. Am I the only one who has to pray against fear daily that I am messing this up? I spend a lot of time seeing my sin and praying that my three little disciples have a mom who is a model with a gentle and quiet spirit, and not a mom with crazy hair yelling about things that, in the long run, have zero significance. And then I move on to thankfulness that I am NOT in control, for His abundant grace, and that as Lamentations 3:22-24 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’”

I feel like these are important things that the Lord has put on my heart to pray about at this time in my life. I wonder if I would have thought to pray for these things had I not been diligently asking God to show me what to pray. So, as much as I can, I follow Jesus’ call for me to ask, seek, and knock in my prayer life. Some days I feel like, despite all my prayers, I am a mess. A grumpy, tired, angry mess. Not praying enough and not glorifying God with my impatient actions. Other days, I go to bed thankful for the smiles and lack of abundant crazy that fills most days.

These scattered thoughts and prayers filled my head that night at the conference while we worshiped, singing:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

And in that moment, I was filled with that feeling you have when God reveals something to you. A mix of thankfulness and curiosity that you weren’t sooner able to see something that now seems so obvious. I still pray and have hope for specific areas of growth in my life. However, in that moment God opened my eyes to the great value in praying that whether I have a day that ends feeling like a success or one that was filled with the hardness of life, God would teach me to say and feel that either way it would be well with my soul. That I would feel peace, joy, and true contentment in the face of mothering littles, family struggles, miscarriage, and loss. That I wouldn’t just put on a happy face, but that it would truly be well with my soul in a way that is only possible with the love of God.

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Krystal Cooper, a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) in her pre-mom life, began her journey as a stay at home mom after being put on bed rest while pregnant with twins almost 4 years ago. She enjoys the adventure the Lord has called her on in building a happy home for her civil engineer husband, Lance, and 3 lovely ladies, Charlotte (3), Sophia (3), and Naomi (4 months).
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“Teach What is Good” by Melisa Gaines

IMG_3789 Iʼve been a Christian for over twenty years, a wife for ten years, and a mom for seven years. One thing Iʼve learned about all of these roles is that I have a lot to learn! As a newlywed someone told me marriage is a process in sanctification and motherhood is a sanctifying process times ten. I can now vouch for both of these truths.

I grew up in a Christian home where the Word of God was taught and church attendance was regular. I am so thankful for wise, godly parents laying a biblical foundation for my understanding of marriage and parenting. I came into adulthood with the ideas that divorce was not an option and parenting was a blessing and huge responsibility. Early on in my marriage I attended a class where we studied Titus 2:3-5.

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

In context, these verses are speaking about relationships between women in the church. Assuming you are all part of a Bible-believing, Jesus preaching church, I want to encourage you to work on the relationships you have with other women, older and younger, in your local church. Seek out older women who have done or are doing these things well, and who are currently living reverent before God, and learn from them. Also seek out women younger than you who need to be taught “what is good.”

There are so many things we can be teaching one another, but I find it helpful that Godʼs Word lays out some specifics to prioritize what we are teaching other women. In order to emphasize these “good” things I want to list them out here. Teach women to:

1. Love their husbands

2. Love their children

3. Be self-controlled

4. Be pure

5. Work at home

6. Be kind

7. Be submissive to their own husbands

Hereʼs the thing: Women will not learn these things by watching t.v., reading magazines or romance novels, or chatting with their lost friends. In fact, they will often get the opposite message from the world. God has designed the church in such a way that we should not live the Christian life alone, but have close enough relationships with people that we can speak truth into their lives and help one another. Sometimes we donʼt even have to speak, but simply allow younger women to observe us as we strive to live out these biblical concepts. If God has given us daughters, surely we should start there. Do our girls observe us loving and being submissive to their fathers? Are we kind, pure, and self-controlled as we lovingly serve our children and work at home? Let it be so if we call ourselves followers of Christ. Some other ways I can practically live this out in my season of life is by inviting younger women into my home to observe me living life and striving to do these “good” things. I can also invite older women into my home to listen to and gain wisdom. We tend to spend most of our time with women in the same stage of life as ourselves. This is fine, but it means we have to be intentional if we are going to heed the words of Paul to Titus in this passage. Scripture tells us as women to teach (younger women) and be taught (by older women) these things.

As I have reflected this week on the recent death of one of my heros of the faith, Elisabeth Elliot, I am so grateful for her work in writing numerous books that have mentored me through the years. Her calling to write has been such a blessing to the church, and I have benefited from reading her books as well as many other books by female authors. While formal Bible studies for women and good Christian literature are helpful resources, there is no substitute for living life together and helping each other along in practical ways. In one way or another, older women need to be investing in the lives of younger women and teaching them how to live godly lives in the specific ways God has commanded. The list above is not exhaustive, but itʼs a great starting point that has the potential to keep us serving for the glory of God, “so that the word of God will not be reviled.” ———-

Melisa Gaines is the pastor’s wife at Calvary Baptist in Jackson, TN; dental hygienist turned stay at home mom to Alivia (6), Weston (5), Camille (1), and Sawyer (2 months).  She enjoys reading, cooking, organizing, decorating, and sunshine.

“Painted Horse” by Brandi Myers

If I were an animal, I’d be a horse. An Indian paint horse. Wild and gypsy soul, a mane as untamed as the wind that teases it. (I actually have that untamed mane thing, but that’s another story.)

I wouldn’t say I’m an animal lover. I’ve only been around horses a few times in my life.

My Aunt and Uncle had a horse farm growing up, and I remember the distinct smells of hay bails stacked to the tip top of the barn. The swoosh of tails, their soulful eyes…pearl black eyes and long lashes, searching me…trusting me.

In those days I pet their velvet noses, climbed atop their warm back with the southwestern style blanket beneath my tanned skinny knock knees, and let my uncle lead me around the small dusty corral, worn leather straps in his four fingers. (He had lost one in an unfortunate tractor accident)

I was on top of the world back then. The view from up there on that horses back, the cool wind in my hair, well…I think it was the first time I felt like flying!

Seems like a lifetime ago, but can you picture it? I can surly reach out and touch that memory! Wide eyed and fearless!

Today…a zillion and one year later, I have a painting of a horse in my living room. Nothing fancy, just a print I stumbled on it spoke to that 10yr old girl within me. My very own present-day 10yr old jokes, “Momma, that horse reminds me of you!! It has crazy hair just like you!” I feel like that screen shot in Ferris Buellers Day Off, at the Art Museum….staring–staring–staring at the Monet. My Horse print is titled “Freedom” and, yes. I do believe there is a resemblance!

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14 months ago is when I found “Freedom” We had moved again. (3rd time in 2 years)

I remember praying, on hands and knees as I sent my 9yr old off to school crying…again….(the four eyed spike haired kindergarten brother visually sucking in as much air to become BIG brother & protector–these two were thick as thieves since our arrival) 3yr old little sister is upstairs asleep. (momentarily excusing me from her own separation anxiety tantrum) I pray right there, staring out the window at the breathtaking morning and the blue-green hills of Tennessee…”God no fear! I relent! Your will be done!” I tried everything! I thought…I had prayed, but not really. I hadn’t let go. Given myself, my children my husband (worried by the 40 miles each way to work). It’s one of the most successful ways to break this girl…the breaking of my children, my wonderful husband. Each day I woke…Love, encourage, pray repeat–notice I do not say sleep–I was as sleepless as my heartbroken 3rd grader.

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But, days and months went by, bit by bit I was broken. (like breaking an unruly horse). Still fighting to go MY way, in the midst of the uncertainty, I chose.. (although unsteady and with watchful eye)..huffing and puffing resisting, but trusting my Master’s lead. I worked at chucking fear off like a heavy clump of mud on the “soul’s” of my shoes.

Oh, I have so much to learn!

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Today, my children run freely, happy laughter echoing under the cloudless blue Tennessee sky we call home. Music kicking up dust in the sunlight…FREE. I feel completely free, a gift from my Father.

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I still get rebellious, “chomping at the bit” I’m impatient for where I’m headed…what it all means…But, His gentle hand soothes my shivers, guides me home and then releases me! Pure unbridled joy!

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There is so much power in the mind. Trust in love and it will take you where you need to go!

A recent precept (a word I only recently learned! Meaning: “words to live by”…so much bigger than a “quote” if you ask me!)

“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.” ~unknown (sadly)

Oooooh, that’s good, admit it! Yes! Freedom indeed!!

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Brandi Myers is a child of God, daughter of the one true King! Giddy wife and self proclaimed “Southern Momma”. A believer in people, and Love is law. You can catch a dose of her wild heart, photos and precepts on Facebook @ Pretty Head.