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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Lake Marion Triathlon

I completed my second triathlon of the summer last Sunday in Lakeville, MN. My friend Dave and I raced in the Lake Marion Triathlon. We did the sprint course which consisted of a 1/4 mile swim, 17.5 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run. This tri wasn't as big as the one I did in Chisago Lakes but it was still tons of fun. I think I'm starting to get addicted to these things!

Dave and I. He's my tri mentor who's competed in over 30 of these things!

My goal time was an aggressive 1:25 and I finished in 1:28. I am happy with that. There was an extremely strong wind for the first 10 miles of the bike ride which slowed me down. Also, there was a long uphill for the first mile and half of the run. It was tough, but overall I enjoyed the course. I was impressed with the number and quality of the volunteers helping out at the event. They did a great job!

My pre-race battle plan. And map for Stephanie and kids to try and follow me.

Stephanie and the kids came to cheer me on. It always gives me a jolt of energy to see them and hear them yelling for me.

My #1 fans!

When the race was done I couldn't stick around too long because I had to get back to Northfield to preach at Main Street Moravian Church.

Overall I finished 14th our of 183, and 3/13 in my age division (35-39). The top two finishers in my division were also the top two finishers in the whole race, so coming in third was pretty cool.

Here's a few more action shots.

Making the turn back towards the transition area. I was the 6th bike back after a 17.5 mile ride..
Out of transition and into the run. Couldn't get my arm strap to work so I dumped it off with the kids.
Running hard to the finish. The announcer commented on my 'muscular legs' and then chided me for not having my race number on.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Wow, What a Weekend it Was!

Jacob, Gabe and Charlie watching Andrew's game and waiting for the Home Run Derby.
Last weekend was incredible. It was action packed, fun-in-the-sun, exhausting, and forever memorable.

Jacob swinging for the fences against the River Cats.
It started Friday night with Jacob's baseball team (which I coach). Our team was playing in the Inaugural Northfield Baseball Classic, a local double elimination tournament. In our first game things went back and forth until the final inning when we were forced to do something completely unorthodox. After scoring a couple runs to tie the game and then take the lead in the top of the fifth inning we realized that we were up against a time limit. So, I had two batters in a row intentionally strike-out. It was crazy. We rushed onto the field and our pitcher struck out the batter for our third out just as the time limit expired. Our kids were so excited!

Our next game was against one of the strongest teams in the league. It was a close game with some closely contested calls. Our team tied the game in the bottom of the last inning, and won with a bases loaded walk. All the kids ran out of the dug-out celebrating the walk off win. Unfortunately we lost both games on Saturday morning (one with the bases loaded down by 1 run!) and we ended up in third place for the tournament. Jacob did a great job and it was so much fun to coach those kids. They all played so hard and I am sure they will remember Friday nights action for a long time.

Warming up for the Home Run Derby.
Back, back, back...GONE!

On Saturday afternoon Jacob participated in the Home Run Derby. He hit 2 home runs in the first round as was part of a four way tie. In the second round he only hit one, but it was a great experience for him.

Line drive to left.
Besides Jacob's two games on Saturday morning, there was even more baseball action for our family. Andrew's team was also playing in the Northfield Baseball Classic. Andrew plays in the machine pitch division and this was the first time the kids 'officially' kept score of the games. Having a scoreboard changed the game so much. The kids (and parents) were so engaged in the games.

Andrew has a very good team and we won our first two games to advance to the championship. It was pretty crazy when I found out our opponents were the Maroon team coached by my friend and next door neighbor Brian. His wife Megan has a great write-up about our game on her blog.

Win or lose still good friends.
Coaches going over the rules before the title game.

All I can is "What a game!" My kids were losing 9-1 after two and half innings and they started to get down. Andrew had to leave the game after being hit in the mouth with a line drive. It wasn't looking good for us but the kids never quit playing. We fought back to 9-5, then 11-5, then 11-11, heading into the final inning. What a comeback! The Maroon team scored two in the top of the 5th to go up 13-11. We battled and tied it, 13-13 and had the bases loaded with two outs before our batter struck out to end the inning.

I got drenched by the kids after the win.
So on to extra innings we went. Maroon scored one in the top of the 6th and we came to bat down 14-13. Amazingly we tied the game and then, with runners on second and third, and one out, one of my best hitters hit a line drive single to left field for the walk off win!

The kids went crazy running out of the dug-out to celebrate together. And then as a big surprise they all poured their water bottles on my head and shirt. I couldn't stop smiling! I have such a great group of kids and an excellent coaching staff; what a pleasure it was to coach this team.

The little slugger and I.

The Champs. Black over Maroon 15-14 in extra innings.
As if all that excitement wasn't enough, on Sunday morning my friend Dave and I participated in the TOUGHMAN triathlon in Chisago Lakes. Dave has done all kinds of these but it was my very first one. Let me say, I might be hooked! I had a great time. The environment, the buzz, the swag, the challenge, the feeling of satisfaction - all of it was phenomenal. My goal time was 1:35 and I finished in 1:38, a time I am very happy with. It won't be long before I compete again.

Ready for my next triathlon.
My friend Dave and I post race.

1:38:05 and still smiling, almost to the finish line.
Then on Sunday night I had my last church league softball game of the summer. Playing softball is always a highlight of my week. I had a great game and even had a bases loaded single that ended the game by run limit - another walk-off win! Our team is a great group of guys and it is a bummer to have the season come to a close.

It was definitely a busy weekend and the time flew by. I will remember this weekend for a long time, and it will be the highlight of my 2015 summer. I'd be remiss not to mention my wife who's love, energy and sacrifice made it all possible. Thanks babe! Also, I'd like to recognize Megan, Kristen, Rich, Daniel and the NYBA who put on a fantastic baseball tournament.

Friday, July 03, 2015

My Fantastic Day

I have had a fantastic day today. 

It is Friday July 3rd and since our office was only going to be open until noon I decided to take the day off. I am so glad I did.

First of all the weather has been awesome. 80 degrees and clear skies. But I shouldn't start with the weather. I should start with the start. I woke up Jacob at 7 and he and I went to the Tavern in Northfield for a special one-on-one breakfast. The house was still quiet when I got back so I was able to enjoy more coffee and some time with Andrew laying on my lap (watching Curious George) and my reading a book called The Harbinger. It's a great book.

I decided instead of reading the morning away I would do a little work outside so I went out and spent an hour cutting branches in my backyard. Then I changed clothed, hopped on my bike and did a 22 miles triathlon training ride. My TRI is July 26th and I can't wait.

After the bike ride I had a big bowl of salad for lunch. Next Jacob, Izzy and I went to Menards for fireworks, bird seed and a few others things. Then Stephanie, Jacob and I picked up our van from the repair place in Farmington and Jacob and I grabbed ice cream cones from McDonald's before finding some great clearance deal on men's sandals at Target.

When I got back home from shopping I spent an hour weeding and working in my garden. I picked some radishes and have a great crop of tomatoes and squash coming soon. Then I borrowed my neighbor's truck and hauled away all the wood I cut down earlier this morning. 

For dinner I made homemade veggie tortilla pizzas and I watched Undercover Boss with Jacob. Now I'm headed outside to have a driveway fire and watch the kids light sparklers. 

Like I said, it has been a fantastic day.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Northfield as Base Camp

Yesterday Stephanie and I went to a going away party for some good friends of ours. They are moving to Montana. It is a beautiful place they are going to go, and they are moving to begin a new adventure where the husband has taken a leadership role at a private college in Helena. How exciting is that! The party was a wonderful time celebrating them among family and friends. It was really nice how the man hosting the party (the boss of the wife) gave some beautiful gifts and shared some touching words.

What really struck me during the celebration was how many people mentioned the unique way the people of Northfield love and care for one another. It really is true. Of course I was too young to notice while growing up if things were like this in the town where I was raised but I have a strong suspicion there were not. Northfield is like no place I've ever been. It is a town of 20,000 that seems so connected and tight knit. A place where the people know one another and enjoy being with one another.

Seeing our friends leave is sad because the mean so much to so many people. We have crossed paths on backyard decks, at the swimming pool, in the gymnasium, at the theater, in the classroom, on the neighborhood sidewalk, and at the football field. Now those connections will be much much less, but we are excited to hear about all their new adventures they will have (any maybe some we can go out and have with them!). I love how the husband described the connection between Northfield and now Montana. He said, "Northfield will always be our base camp, the safe place we come back to for rest and encouragement. And it is from here that we will launch out into new adventures!" Isn't that great!

Sunday, June 07, 2015

We Sold Our Townhouse Last Friday!!!!

Last Friday, June 5, Stephanie and I closed the door on a chapter of our lives that began almost exactly twelve years earlier. On Friday afternoon we drove to St. Michael and signed the papers completing the sale of our townhouse in Monticello. It has been a long journey coming to this point and we praise Jesus in how He guided us through the entire process.

Stephanie and I built the townhouse in 2003. We found the property online and worked with the builder to design the townhouse we wanted. It was a wonderful end unit in a cul-de-sac right across the street from an elementary school. We never talked much about the idea of our son Jacob going to school there (Stephanie was on bed rest in the seven month of pregnancy when we moved in) but we loved the location. It was so fun to have our very first home. It was new, it was just how we wanted it and it was beautiful. We hosted many parties, small groups, ministry gatherings and events at that house. We met a couple of great neighbors, invited them to church and continue to watch in amazement at how God has transformed their lives. Becker's we love you!

In 2007 we made the decision to move to Northfield. The year leading up to this decision was a very difficult time for us. There was a lot of pain and growth and change happening and we needed to move out of town to keep our growth moving forward. Packing up our stuff and saying goodbye to the place (and people) we loved was a hard thing to do. It was a sad day. 

For the next 8 years we rented out the townhouse. We briefly tried early on to sell it but the market in Monticello was so bad we knew that we'd lose way too much money if we kept it on the market. God was so faithful in bringing renters. We had three tenants during that time frame. It was hard being a landlord. I learned a lot and I'm not sure I'd want to do it again. I liked having the checks come in each month but I didn't like dealing with the problems and the little troubles that came with the responsibility. There was never really too much to deal with but I always dreaded seeing the renter's number show up on the caller ID.

At Christmas 2014 we wrote down prayers requests for 2015 and one of our family's requests was to sell the townhouse. We saw the market shifting and we wanted to capitalize. We wanted to be done with having the property hanging over our heads and sitting in the back of our minds. My plan was to have the place listed by Stephanie's birthday on March 18. However, my plan was not God's plan. 

Our renters decided to move out in early April. That is when we discovered how much damage they had done to the place. The cigarette smell was horrible. The carpet needed replacing. It looked as though nothing had been cleaned for months, maybe years. The first time back into the now empty townhouse was painful. To see the place we loved so much, the place that was once so beautiful, now so nasty broke my wife's heart. And so we started the processes of prepping the place for sale.

The story of how the townhouse sold is completely a God story. IT WAS NEVER EVEN LISTED!!!!! People this is so amazing. God was so faithful to us. We learned on a Monday (5/4) that the owner of another unit in our cul-de-sac had signed a purchase agreement to sell his home the previous Thursday (4/30). Later that day Jim called and told me that two parties had been very interested in the other townhouse and that the party that lost out on the bid wanted to see our place immediately. We scrambled, completed the flooring and some cleaning, had a showing on Tuesday and then received an offer Tuesday night!!! It was incredible. The next day we countered and by Wednesday night we had a purchase agreement of our own!! God is so amazing!

We couldn't have done it without our realtors Jim and Barb O'Leary. They were so great to work with.  Again and again they went above and beyond our expectations to make sure that our place looked as nice as possible. If you are looking to buy or sell in the northwest suburbs please let me know and I'd love to connect you with Jim and Barb! 

There was some sadness on Friday when we handed over the keys for the last time. The townhouse was a link to Monticello and a link to the past. It gave us an excuse to go back and see old friends. Part of my still lived in that house and as long as we owned it there was always the chance (albeit very, very small) that God would call us back up there to finish the work we started there. That is gone now. I don't know how often we'll be back to Monticello. Although I am relieved to have the weight of being a landlord off my back the finality of it all hurts a little.

Through it all God has been faithful and I am fully confident in the promise of His faithfulness going forward.

I want to thank a few people who mean so much to us and who all helped in one way or another in the sale of our townhouse.

- My mother-in-law Barb
- My brother Aaron
- Jim and Barb O'Leary (realtors)
- Jerry Charlebois (painter)
- Tim Becker (carpet)
- Daryl and Amy Becker (handyman work and emotional support)
- Michael Grose
- Tonya from Home Depot in Monticello

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Triumphal Entry

Found this quote compelling…..

The story of the triumphal entry is [....} the story of the King who came as a lowly servant on a donkey, not a prancing steed, not in royal robes, but on the clothes of the poor and humble. Jesus Christ comes not to conquer by force as earthly kings, but by love, grace, mercy, and His own sacrifice for His people. His is not a kingdom of armies and splendor, but of lowliness and servanthood. He conquers not nations, but hearts and minds. His message is one of peace with God, not of temporal peace. If Jesus has made a triumphal entry into our hearts, He reigns there in peace and love. As His followers, we exhibit those same qualities, and the world sees the true King living and reigning in triumph in us.

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