Spirit of God

This song has been a source of encouragement to me lately. I'm leading the music at Midlands on Sunday January 31 (you should come visit us that day!!), and I'm actually going to introduce this song to the set for that day. This is a song by Sovereign Grace Music (visit their website to buy it and download free charts). I hope this song encourages you like it has me. Here are the lyrics:

The blessing of the Father
Gift of grace and love
The promise of the Savior
For power from above
Oh, wondrous gift that’s given
For confidence and mission
Holy Spirit, You make all things new

Spirit of God, breathe on me now
Source of life, come, revive my weary heart
Spirit of God, shine on me now
Light of life, come, ignite my longing heart

Come and lift the dark clouds
Of doubt and unbelief
Shine upon my soul now
For by Your rays I see
Clearer, closer, deeper
The love of my Redeemer
Holy Spirit, You make all things new

Where You breathe hope thrives
The dead return to life
And the dark must flee the breaking day
By Your light I see the glory of my King
Beholding Him I will be changed

© 2015 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)/Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP)

The Testing (and Strengthening) of My Faith through Support Raising

So as I'm sure by now y'all know, back in October we announced that after lots of prayer and counsel and careful consideration we really sensed the Lord directing me into ministry at our church, Midlands. In order for that to happen though, I would need to raise support...$45,000 to be exact. That $45k would serve as my family's primary source of income. Vanessa and I (and more so Vanessa) will also do real estate on the side to bring in additional income for us to be able to meet our normal annual budget we've been living by over the past years, as well as hopefully bring in some extra money as we continue working towards financial goals we have set for our family.

Other than sending financial support to family, friends and acquaintances over the year I don't have any other experience with support raising...especially trying to raise it myself. (Well I've done the whole raise a few thousand dollars for some summer youth mission trips but those certainly pale in comparison to this type of support raising). With that said, by the Lord's might, and power, and grace, and mercy and kindness, since I started raising support back in October, as of today, I've raised around $30,000 (in one time gifts, plus people committing to give money on a monthly basis, or in the near future). From what I'm being told by people who have lots of experience raising support, that's amazing to raise that much in roughly a 3 month period. Again, this is my first time personally raising support of this magnitude, so I don't know any different. But I do know and have seen how hard and long those friends have worked to raise support over the years, so I'm inclined to take their word for it.

I'm of course blown away by God's provision. But I've also been blown away by the generosity of so many. All the support I've received so far has been mind boggling. Some support has so many zeros at the end that it's hard for me to even comprehend, while other support has come from people that I know has meant they are having to tighten down financially in other areas in order to give their financial gifts, and some support has come from people I either barely know or honestly don't know at all. It truly has been humbling and astounding.

Because of the support I've raised so far, I've had enough to allow me to go ahead and begin working at Midlands from November through January. And I've loved it. I love being in this environment. I love the people I work with. I loved working at The Mather Company for the last 6 years, but think that was more so because I loved that I got to work with my best friend pretty much every day, and it was fun experiencing building a real estate company from scratch to eventually having employees and agents in a large building in prime location in downtown Columbia. But working at Midlands Church is different. I feel like I'm in my element here. I truly believe God has wired me for an environment like this.

Over the years when I've talked with people about what I want to do with my life, inevitably the question comes up 'What do you love and how can you make money with it?' When we get to that point of the conversation my standard response (more like a joke) has been "I love Jesus, my family, music and Gamecock athletics, and I don't really know how I can make a living with those things". But honestly, here at Midlands Church I'm getting to satisfy 3 of those loves.

I love that throughout the day at the office we talk about Jesus. We talk theology. And not just in an academic sense, but in a personal sense. We share with each other and encourage each other to pursue Jesus and grow in a deeper love for Him. We also do a lot of planning throughout the week as we discuss church events, programs, etc. And it's not in a numbers sense (how many people can we get there and say that got saved), but how those things will 1) edify our church body and help them grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, and 2) reach our local neighbors with the gospel of Jesus.

As Director of Family Discipleship my job is to be thinking through how our church can help train and equip the parents in our church to disciple their children. We firmly believe that God calls every Christian to be a discipler. We are to sharpen each other as iron sharpens iron. But God also specifically calls on parents to be the primary discipler of their children. In our society it's really easy to lose sight of that one...especially when churches take that responsibility on themselves (and therefore take it away from the parents). So sadly kids Sunday School classes and youth groups often times end up becoming a place that parents view, not just as free childcare, but where the primary discipleship and training of their children takes place, rather than in their own homes. And really that's the churches fault. As church leaders it's our job to 1) show parents, through God's Word, that discipleship of their children is their primary responsibility, and 2) train and equip the parents so that they actually feel ready to take on that responsibility. In doing this 2 things have happened. 1, I've realized how poorly I've been leading my family, and by God's grace it has lit a fire under me to strive to lead them better. And 2, a deep, and honestly viscous, desire is growing within me to see healthy and godly family units.

Family discipleship isn't just doing some devotionals together at night throughout the week. Family discipleship is living and modeling a good, godly and healthy marriage to your children. It's demonstrating, yes on a smaller and broken scale, what it means for a husband to love his wife like Christ loves the church, and for a wife to respectfully submit to her husband. It's demonstrating repentance to your children. When you screw up, own it and confess your sin to your family and pursue repentance. Show your children you must be willing to do whatever it takes to kill sin in your life. It's showing them an unconditional love, even when they screw up, so that they can get a glimpse of the truth that there is nothing we can do to cause God's love for us to diminish. While also lovingly disciplining them so they know there are consequences for their actions.

Since taking on this position a fire is growing inside of me. I passionately want to see the city of Columbia, my city, filled with family units that are brightly displaying the light of the gospel. When trials and hard times present themselves to families, rather than responding like the world does and fleeing from the trials, I long to see families faithfully walk through the fires and storms knowing that God will sustain them. I long to see husbands and wives remain committed and faithful to each other. I want to see children growing up in homes where their parents joyfully embrace the call to disciple them.

As Director of Worship I get to be around music, and I love it. I love each week being able to devote time to reading God's word and selecting the songs we will sing each week. I love trying to find songs each week that lyrically connect with whatever the text is that will be preached each Sunday. I love that with this position I'm able to pull out my guitar and work on music. And of course I love seeing it all come together on Sunday mornings and getting to play music with other really talented musicians, who all have a similar heart and desire to want to see Jesus increase and us decrease.

So as you can see, I love what I'm doing. So what does the title of this blog post have to do with what I've just been talking about? Well, as I mentioned earlier about my support, I have enough raised at this point to ensure that I will be paid my full monthly salary for January. But that's it at this point. And that's honestly a scary feeling.

So the purpose of this blog post is 1, to ask those of you reading to support me financially. I only have roughly $15,000 to go. If 150 people each gave $100 that would get me to $15k. Or if 15 people gave $1000 that would also get me there. I need $15,000 to get me to my goal so that I can continue serving at Midlands Church full time. Of course I covet your prayers. So please keep me and my support raising in your prayers. But if you are financially able to support me, I really need that help as well.

The other reason I am posting this is because I wanted to share this blog post I read last night. Even though I knew my current support was beginning to run dry, yesterday I was reminded of that. And to be completely honest, I was pretty down after that. The doubt started to get in, and I was beginning to question the Lord's plans. Writing this blog post has done good for my soul. It has forced me to remind myself what God has done up to this point, and I'm just reminded again that this is absolutely where He has called me to, and if this is where He wants me to remain then He will allow the remaining support to come in. But back to yesterday. Like I said, I was beginning to feel down and discouraged. I ended up coming across this article and through it the Lord encouraged me.

With the dawn of the new year I decided to do one of those read through the Bible plans. So the other day I read in the book of Exodus, and specifically it was the actual exodus part, where Moses and the Israelites finally left Egypt for good. Interestingly, when they leave it says that God didn't lead them through the land of the Philistines because the Israelites would change their minds if they saw the war (Exodus 13:17). If you didn't know, going through the land of the Philistines would have been the most direct route. But instead God led them around toward the Red Sea (Ex 13:18). God then reveals to Moses His plan saying for the people to encamp in front of the sea. Doing that will lead Pharaoh to say the Israelites are lost and he will decide to pursue them (Ex 14:1-4). And of course we all know what happens next. God performed a miracle by parting the sea, allowing the Israelites to cross on dry ground, and then drown the Egyptians.

So I read that the other day, but at the time didn't really connect the dots. But last night the Lord connected those dots. God led His people on a route that didn't make sense. But He did it in order to test and strengthen the faith of His people. The writer of the article I read said:
"His ways are not our ways, are they? His ways are higher than ours. And they’re wiser than ours. And they’re better than ours (Isa. 55:8–9). Remember this, child of God: our Father often acts unconventionally. He likes to choose the unseen path for his people to walk. But he always has a way to save. Sometimes it’s through the sea. He’ll always provide, but often from sources we would never suspect (1 Kings 17:8–16; Matt. 6:25–34). God is faithful, but he’s rarely predictable."

I was really comforted and encouraged when I read that. The reality of it is, God could allow the remainder of my support to come in in the blink of an eye. But perhaps the reason He doesn't do that is because it might be the equivalent of me going through the land of the Philistines. The Israelites were terrified by the report of the spies they sent into Canaan, and that was after experiencing some pretty amazing things (Red Sea parting and God allowing them to defeat some enemies while wandering in the desert). So if that terrified them, can you imagine how much worse they would have likely responded coming face to face with the armies just after leaving Egypt? They absolutely would have ran back to Egypt. So who knows. Maybe if He let my support come in all at once, I might end up losing sight of Him? Or maybe (and probably likely) He wants to continue stretching and strengthening my faith for what He has in store. I don't know. But I am sure of this. His word tells me that He is good, He knows my needs and promises to always meet my needs (and often times exceeds it), and His ways are not my ways but His ways are so much better for me. Even though I want to doubt, as I look back over my life, and even the last 3 months, I'm reminded that God is not a liar. He has never not once fulfilled what He promises to His children. I'm sure it was scary for the Israelites feeling trapped between a sea and the Egyptians. But I also can't imagine the awe and wonder they felt as they passed through the sea on dry ground, and then the exhilaration and relief they likely felt watching their captors be utterly destroyed and washed away.

I don't know how God is going to provide. But I am certain He will. Maybe it will be some crazy miraculous way, or maybe it won't. But I know He will provide, and through his provision He will display his glory.

You can read the article I referenced here.

Traylor Real Estate Team Website Launch

Look at that good lookin' Husband-Wife Realtor team! Don't you want to use them to help you buy or sell a house!? Haha, in all seriousness though, back on January 1st we kind of officially launched our website. So we just wanted to highlight that over here on our personal blog. Launch is probably an incorrect word to use, because that would imply that our website is pretty much fully functional and up and running, and that's definitely not it. But we at least got some pictures posted on it, and our contact info. But anyways. Head over to www.teamtraylor.com to check it out! And from there you can also find our facebook page. So would you be so kind to take a second and head over there in order to like our facebook page if you haven't already? It would mean a lot to us! And keep your eye out as we continue to update it with the latest real estate happenings!

Support Raising Update

Happy New Year everyone (and a belated Merry Christmas)! We hope y'all had a joyous, blessed, fun-filled holiday season! It's been a while since I've posted an update on the support raising front via our blog, so I thought I would take some time to do that.

I'm currently writing this blog post Saturday evening, Jan. 2. A bowl game is on in the background, we are watching some kids for a friend this evening and so we have 4 boys running around our house shooting at things and blowing things up! Vanessa is cooking something in the kitchen. Not really sure what it is, but it smells good, and it involves kielbasa sausage, so I'm sold! And at the time of writing this post I am at 68% support raised. I don't know the exact number off the top of my head but I know it's in the $30,000 range. So by God's grace when we began raising $45,000 in financial support back in October, in a roughly 2 to 3 month span God has allowed, through the generosity of many, $30,000 to come in! Only roughly $15,000 to go!

I am still blown away by the Lord's provision and y'all's generosity!

Since I began working at Midlands Church on November 1, a lot has gone on! I highlighted a bunch of it in an e-newsletter I sent out a few weeks ago but to quickly recap, I officially started Nov. 1 and hit the ground running hard my first week because our Men's Retreat was that coming weekend, so we had a lot of final prep work required. I had the privilege of organizing the music for the retreat, as well as speaking at one of the sessions. The rest of November and December was spent preparing for the Christmas season and also looking ahead to the coming months of 2016. For Christmas we put on a Lessons and Carols event. This event was kind of my baby and my first big official thing I oversaw from beginning to end. It was a lot of work putting together the scripture texts, songs, organizing the musicians and getting charts together, finding and coordinating people to read the scripture, organizing people to bring desserts to provide for afterwards, plus a lot more. But by God's grace, and the help from a lot of people, it came together, we had a great turnout (almost more than triple than what we were anticipating!) and it went smoothly overall and based on feedback from people, most importantly it seemed to be a time that helped people get refocused on Christ in the midst of the craziness of the holiday season.

The biggest item from these last few months is it was announced towards the end of November that Luke Syfert, one of our pastors, and his family would be moving to Georgia where he would be filling a pastoral role at a church in his hometown. While this was certainly a sad announcement, there is no doubt God's hand has been on this move. 2015 was marked by many changes for our church body. We transitioned from being a campus of a church, to becoming our own autonomous church, we changed our church name to reflect that transition, we moved buildings and had to change our service time. Not surprisingly, when multiple, big, changes happen within a roughly 8 month period, you can expect a percentage of your current people to leave. So as we enter 2016, things such as our budget, look a lot different than last year when entering 2015. This past summer when our leadership began looking ahead to 2016 and the new budget, it became apparent our church would no longer be in a financial position to maintain 2 salaried pastors. As they explored options, only 2 seemed feasible. Either both of our pastors cut back to part time and find additional work elsewhere, or one of our pastors steps down. In the midst of that, the Lord was beginning to stir within the hearts of Luke and his wife to be closer to family. And just days after they first realized one of our pastors would likely need to step down, Luke was offered a similar pastoral position at a church in his hometown. Simultaneous with that, and all of this budget stuff unbeknownst to me, the Lord was making it clear my time as an employee at The Mather Co was coming to an end, and God was beginning to stir my heart with the idea of raising support to come on staff at church. While it is certainly sad for him to leave (he meant so much to our church, and he and his family were dear friends to us), since the time of that announcement God has continued to affirm and reaffirm this decision. God has been faithful through this all. He has been and is continuing to sustain our church. And in actuality, with Luke's departure, our church is in a healthy situation and budget as we kick off 2016.

With Luke now gone, we remaining staff are pitching in to help carry the extra load. As I continue to get settled in I'm taking on more and more of the administrative and operational items that Luke oversaw.

You can read my e-newsletter here for more details, and it includes a link to Luke's letter he sent to our church body with the announcement.

Since the time of that e-newsletter, we had a baby/child dedication which I took part in. I had the opportunity to present the family taking part in the dedication with a gift on behalf of our Kidlands Ministry. It's also become tradition to incorporate The Blessing into our dedications, and so I had the special privilege of sharing with our church body the history of that song. For those not aware, The Blessing is a prayer my Dad wrote and prayed over my sister and I growing up, and along the way my sister put it to music. So it's extra special for me to see that song included in these dedications.

As we kick off January we have a pretty packed month. On the worship front we have some auditions lined up. We've been so blessed over the years with such gifted and awesome musicians. It's always exciting and amazing to see the many different talented people God brings into our body. On the Family Discipleship side, we have another dedication coming up (we've had a lot of babies born, and we have a lot more that are due!!). And on January 31 we will be having a Family Funday. Throughout the year our Family Discipleship (which includes our Kidlands Ministry and our Student Ministry) put on Family Fundays, which provide our families the opportunity to come do something fun and build special memories with each other. We also use the time to provide parents an opportunity to practice discipling their children by providing them with materials and opportunities to lead a simple family devotional. At Midlands Church we believe God calls Christians to be a people who disciple, and He specifically calls parents to be the primary discipler of their children. It's our job as a church to equip and train parents for that calling. So our heart, even behind something like a Family Funday, is to incorporate ways to train and equip the parents within our body. This coming Funday we will be treating our families to a time of roller skating and indoor mini golf!

The other big item on my calendar is that I've been asked to preach on February 28! I'm certainly humbled and excited for the opportunity, but I'm also quite nervous! So please keep me in your prayers. Pray that God would bless my time of study and preparation, and that I would speak His truth clearly, and in love.

As always, first and foremost I praise the Lord for how He has provided, especially when it comes to the financial support. It's crazy that we are so close to be 3/4s of the way through. But we still have a ways to go! Would you please prayerfully consider financially supporting me? Leading up to Christmas I sent out roughly 150 letters that included our family's Christmas card, a support magnet and a commitment card. If every person that received one of those sent $100, then that would be almost $15,000, which would mean I would be fully funded. Since sending out those cards, I have received just over $2,000 in support. Would you please consider joining my financial team?

And of course I covet your prayers. Please pray for the upcoming events that I outlined above. Pray that God would use those to glorify Himself and to further His Kingdom. Pray for our church body as we enter 2016 and begin this new chapter in our church's life, and that our church body would be marked by a deep love and knowledge of God, and a selfless love for our neighbors. Pray for me and that I would serve my church in love and humility. And most importantly, pray that I would love my boys and always make time for them, that I would be continually pursuing and dating and serving my wife, and that I would not neglect my personal time seeking the Lord through His word and prayer.

A peek INSIDE The Traylor Park

I love making our little 1300 square foot home a "home"! I get such joy loving my home the Lord has blessed us with for the last 7 years! While I do struggle with contentment at times wanting a bigger home or at least one with other items on my dream checklist, at the same time, I am forced to let go of things and think about how to make each space work for us in our current season! 

On Instagram I have a hashtag for our home #thetraylorpark I was looking back at the spaces I have loved well in my home this last year and thought you might enjoy the collection here, too! I am no interior decorator! I use what I have or can buy on a budget, but sometimes that's how a home feels most like home!  
Kitchen a year ago (above) kitchen in progress... We hope to do some work in here this spring!  (below) 
Bay window in kitchen
Shelving over fridge 
Between kitchen and dining (no photo of dining room! Sorry!) 
Living room 
Office area in Living room
Play room/school room/sewing room/exercise room
Boys room at Christmas time with our bunk bed we diy'd from a thrift store and built the metal bunk railings/ladder; we also refinished their dresser 
Peek at master bedroom 
And lastly for now, a peek into the master bathroom! 

It's fun to see my home and little places I captured free of clutter throughout 2015! Hope you enjoyed it too! Thanks for visiting #thetraylorpark :)