Preface & Chapters 1-14
Welcome! I’ve decided to chronicle a journey in this medium. At the onset of my 2020 building buying fiasco, I thought about vlogging or posting pictures to social media, but I really don’t like doing those things.
They are oversaturated and have an artificial quality to them since by design their intention is attention. In my school years I loved poetry, writing, and telling stories. So while this is a memory for me to share with you, it’s also a forgotten journey of literature revitalized for me.
Everything in the following story is true, and only the names and locations have been removed. It was my actual journey in 2020 of the best way to not buy a building. At the start of this adventure in December 2019, I had been operating a parkour gym for over three years at a warehouse tucked away in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. In those three years, I have had two landlords and the current one is selling the place. This means he doesn’t know how much longer he’ll have it and doesn’t want to sign another lease, so I am renting month to month currently. I have an absolute miracle of a deal leasing the space and know that my time with that deal is coming to a close if there is another landlord. I’ve wanted a more hospitable location (if you’ve been there, you know) and have known from the beginning that my current warehouse space is not the permanent home of Axiom Parkour.
Chapter 1: Lost in the Water
I like finding deals. I love finding deals. In fact, I have learned that it isn’t the amount of money I spend that dictates the sale but instead how much I can save from the retail price. I’m aware that I am a sucker for deals, and it seems the purchases that require some elbow grease I am particularly inclined to. Perhaps the excitement of discovering something cast away and forgotten and restoring it to its former glory is the great draw for me. I’m always on the lookout for these treasures. A childhood rife with outings at stores with my mother likely placed shopping and finding a good deal in my blood.
I was nearing the last four months of the lease in the warehouse where I teach parkour and wanted to explore my options, either an improved location or a building I could purchase. Loopnet? No deals there, but Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace have those murky deals. So I would search using keywords like ‘warehouse’ or ‘wearhouse’ or ‘out of bizness’, ‘mooving’, and in the middle of December I found a post for antique “Storage Unit Picking”. What caught my eye was the word ‘warehouse’ in the description. The person that posted it wasn’t the owner, but was described as a friend to the owner and so I messaged her as the weird stranger politely asking if the whole building was for sale. To my surprise, she provided me the phone number of the current owner, and I decided to give the guy a call.
Chapter 2: Something in the Distance
“Can I buy your building?” Is that what I’m supposed to say? I’m not a real estate extraordinaire nor do I want to be. If you ever want to humble yourself, just cold call someone with an offer to buy their entire business.
About mid-December 2019 I gave him a call. He thought I wanted antiques but I let him know I was very interested in the building and property.
“It’s on about 5 acres and it’s about 13,000 square feet. It’s an old schoolhouse on a flood plain. I’ll sell it for 195. But I have a lot of stuff in it so it will be some time before I can sell it.”
Well alright then. That was easy. Beautiful mature land, amazing building with high ceilings, built like a tank from the 1950s and oozing with character… and maybe a little issue with flooding. That’s a deal!
With my lease ending in about four months, I didn’t want to let this slip through my fingers. Where does one start? I’ll tell you what I did. I called him again on Christmas Eve and left a message, because I am inexperienced and foolish, yet eager. He didn’t answer of course.
About a week later I gave him another call and he picked up. This time he said $185,000 is the ‘sweet spot’. I politely told him I didn’t want to be a bother, but that I really wanted to be first in line when he put the place up for sale. He said he’d call around April and let me know.
Which is four months away.
The exact time when my lease is up.
Chapter 3: Apply What You've Learned
I’d be waiting until my lease was up to hear if I could move in to another place? Well, it’s not like it takes long to deconstruct and move an entire parkour gym RiGhT? In January of 2020, I was able to talk with my landlord and he was happy to extend the lease for another four months, giving me until the end of August to figure out if I was going to stay. What a blessing to have that soft buffer!
It seems about every three years my Great Heavenly Father teaches me a perfectly necessary lesson in a most painful way. So this three-year season I was afraid. I really don’t enjoy broken bones or bone broth burns, so I prayed. I prayed that I would be able to see and hear what the Lord was trying to teach me. After two years of this Holy fear, He showed me the lesson: prayer. I never understood prayer. How could I change what the Creator has already deemed to be? It made no sense to communicate to Him what He already knew. But one day it clicked.
I have three young children, and even though my wife tells me what the kiddos did when I was away, I still ask the children to tell me for themselves, not because I need to learn about what they did, but because I desire that closeness in relationship with them through communication. After that day I understood that prayer is just drawing us closer to our Father. He wants that closeness even though He knows everything. Since then I have been praying. Many times I’ve prayed for strength to keep praying, but one main topic I would talk to Him about was the future of parkour and the direction He would have me go.
Now it’s January 2020 with three months left of my current lease plus the four-month extension, and I’ve been praying. I’ve been asking Him for clear direction, that I would have the courage to do what He asks, and to be patient with His timing even if He swoops in at the last moment.
Chapter 4: Explore the Ship
God has placed some amazing people in my life, people with invaluable experience. Through this experience and sharing my story, an abundance of friends with commercial real estate wisdom and specific business knowledge have been revealed to me. I’ve learned from my life that when the Lord really wants to get my attention, He communicates it three times. During February and March of 2020 when I shared my parkour business predicament, there was one resounding message from these friends: everything is for sale. I had never thought of possessions in that way. My gut feeling about this diamond-in-the-rough property was that it was going to sell before ever being offered on the market, and I never knew just how to snatch it up before that happened. Here I had the building owner give me a price and I didn’t make an offer. So I prayed. I gathered my thoughts and words, and I called.
Another lesson to show me that everything is out of my hands. In mid-March 2020 the owner called back and invited me to come take a look at the place. I could not have been more excited!
The future home of Axiom Parkour (and whatever else sprouts up) is in sight. We scheduled the time and I collected my thoughts and questions and prayed about making a great impression. Even though we’d only talked I had a feeling that he was like me, that he has value in his possessions beyond his possessions, that he looks for the right person to sell to and not simply just the sale. I wrote down all my concerns and anxieties and tried to get a good night's rest before making my first impression.
In the morning I drove to his place and less than 3 minutes before I arrived, he called. “I’m not feeling well. We’ll have to reschedule.”
Chapter 5: Lord Be With Me
Reschedule? I was almost there already. I gleaned from his weathered speech that he’s quite old, so perhaps I should respect it and fold, but just before the phone call I said a simple prayer, “Lord be with me and direct my words.”
“That’s fine,” I say disappointedly to him on the phone as I drive. “It really is a shame. I’m only about 1 minute away.” I deliberately press with assertiveness.
“You haven’t left yet? Great. I didn’t want you to waste your time.” It turns out he is pretty hard of hearing.“I’M ONLY A MINUTE AWAY!” I shout into the phone.
“Well, I suppose if you’re almost here I can open up and you can poke around,” he replies sadly. Off to a great start right? Nothing like forcing my way into an elderly man’s building while he’s sick!
This should go well, I tell myself sarcastically. Lord be with me. I arrive at the old schoolhouse and shake his hand for the first time. He doesn’t have his hearing aid in and literally can’t hear anything unless I shout. He doesn’t look happy, but I am smiling ear to ear. Most people might have seen the piles of antiques, stained and dirty floors, rust and mold, but not me. I saw a new home. I saw great potential. I saw the diamond in the rough.
“What did you say? I need my hearing aid,” he states.
“I can just talk louder if that works!” I respectfully reply.
“You just want to holler at me?” He looks a little cross. This seems to be going well...
Chapter 6: A Flood of Possibilities
Perhaps it’s the parkour training, but I get quite excited when there’s a challenge ahead of me. “DO WHATEVER YOU ARE MOST COMFORTABLE DOING. I CAN JUST SPEAK UP OR YOU CAN GET YOUR HEARING AID!” He leaves to go get it. I begin to take a look around and really have no idea where to start. My mission was twofold: make a good impression and see how big the place is. The impression might be a lost cause, but I’ll take some measurements. Ceiling height is the biggest concern for indoor parkour spaces. I wasn’t too concerned though since I would be able to use the land for outdoor classes, but the ceilings are all perfectly tall enough. It is truly a great space and I can see it working. The man returns and we begin to converse.
He shows me around his place, pointing out different antiques and features in the building, and he begins sharing personal topics. The tide seems to be turning and I am able to connect with him. It turns out he does really care about the building and the grounds. He tells me someone offered him more for the property recently and he turned it down. He didn’t like what the guy was going to use it for. I hope this guy likes parkour!
The deeper we venture into the building, the more the necessary repairs are revealed. He shows me things like the ‘raccoon room’ which somehow I can overlook. Eventually, we weave our way to the last part of the building, the gymnasium. We both step into standing water. He reaches down to grab a wet extension cord. “This water is from the roof drain in the corner. I’m having it repaired soon. I just have to plug in the pump.”
Chapter 7: Step Onto (Into) The Water
This is the end of it all. We’re standing in a musty puddle with 60 year old electrical components, and he is plugging in the dripping wet cord. It was nice while it lasted I suppose.
The pump kicks on and the lights flicker dimly in the old gymnasium, and now that I see what it looks like, the smell seems to match up perfectly. He invites me to take a look at the culprit pipe in the corner. I trudge through antiques to discover a crystal glass pyramid flowing with champagne like the ones you see at fancy parties, except this one is 15 feet tall and made of rubbermaid tubs and old cabinets blackened with mold. Lovely. This is fine. I’m not looking for anything more than high ceilings and open space, and the history and character this wonderful schoolhouse adds is a delightful bonus. I finish up my measurements with my handy laser measuring tool and we begin wrapping things up. I ask to walk the land and he agrees.
It’s mature and beautiful, but a little overgrown. There are so many trees ripe for climbing, large open areas, thick woods, a peaceful stream (that threatens doom for the property), and an incredibly tranquil silence.
The owner and I meet again before I leave and he expresses how he likes me. This indeed did go well, certainly better than the death by electrocution it started out as.
Chapter 8: The Calm
And we wait. It’s in the bank’s hands now. All of the paperwork has been filed and I am purely at the mercy of some strangers with pens. I received a call on April 7 from the banker and my loan was rejected, but that’s not the end. The asking price is higher than the assessed value. What? That can’t be. It turns out that I forgot to mention that the neighboring property is included in the price. They are also concerned that the property will not suit proper business needs. Oh if they only knew how perfect this property is for Axiom! I send a rebuttal email within the hour fully explaining, defending, and selling my story.
The biggest struggle is not anxiety, but a continued motivation to maintain prayer. I have some people helping with putting it up to the Lord (you know who you are and thank you!) but it quickly slips my mind and I’m onto the next immediate need, like covid-19. I’m feeling guilt from lack of time in God’s Word and prioritizing aspects of my life higher than they need to be. A quote from a devotion helps:
“When we relate to God out of a guilty conscience, we try to earn our worth by being severely critical of ourselves. Rather than relying on God’s mercy, we struggle to show God how good we are. A sense of inadequacy drives us to prove that we are deserving of God’s forgiveness.”
So April 8th I wake from a dream. Before going to sleep I watched The Bible Project’s video “Water of Life”, which basically is talking about being thirsty and fulfilling that need with the wrong thing. That night I dreamt I was hungry and looking for food. When I decided on what to eat I noticed there was already bread for me to eat. I woke and immediately knew that God had spoken to me, telling me to eat and drink of what has been given to me and stop replacing it for something else. After prayer and some scripture from Isaiah, I had a Deja Vu, and it left me wondering if it might come true.
Chapter 9: The End?
Every chapter up until this one has been written as a reflection. This chapter records it as it is happening, with all the thoughts and emotions. I wake at 5:45 on April 9 and spend some time praying and reading a devotional, and then talk with my wife in bed before the children wake up, which is one of the rarest things to happen. I ask her, “What if I don’t get the gym? What would we do?” She says she hadn’t really thought about it.
Right after breakfast I receive an email from the banker with another decline. “Due to the virus…” But I remember a story.
When I was first starting Axiom, I was contacted by a woman who owned a cheer and tumbling company and she was interested in bringing me in to teach parkour classes. Eventually, she found a great space and everything seemed perfect. However, the landlord did not want to lease to her the section of the warehouse I was going to use, and so I had nothing. I was led by God to what seemed like a dead end. Some days later the idea was planted that I would personally offer to lease that area separately, directly from the landlord, which is the exact arrangement I have today. My idea of a perfect plan was upheaved by God’s perfect plan.
And so, my perfect plan was to secure a loan from my bank and purchase this building, but my plans have been upheaved again. The doubt in my discernment is developing. Why place this into my life? Why have so many Godly people lead me to this place? Why answer my prayers only to stop me at 95%? Surely God has a sense of humor with His timing, but in the midst of it, it doesn’t seem so funny, and I’m not quite sure what the next step is.
Raw thoughts and emotions:I want to spend money now. I want to travel and get a nicer car. I feel selfishness creep in; ‘If I can’t have this then I’ll have that,’ the childish voice says in my head. “If God told me to leave parkour then that’s what I would do,” I have told my students. Am I ready to obey in the way God wants? Lord let me be a vessel for Your will.
Chapter 10: God is Good All the Time
Weeks later and nothing has happened. Nothing to report. Limbo is lame and the surrounding fog is difficult to see through.
These words have been chiseled moments after Chapter 9 in order to concrete real thoughts. Like every experience God has allowed me to go through, this is for my good. I will have published this story after experiencing the ultimate conclusion, so while I don’t know the outcome right now, of the virus, or my family, my church, or Axiom, I do know that God is Good, all the time, every time, in everything He does and I trust that completely. My faith does not stop with unfavorable news and is not hindered by uncertainty. No matter what God has (had) for me, I hope these writings are an encouragement to you to have faith, real faith, faith that stands in all Trials and Tribulation, faith that is unwavering and steadfast, faith that anchors you to the Creator of everything, a Father that knows you and loves you, A God that always wants what is best for you and me.
April 9, 2020
Chapter 11: It's Easy When It's Easy
During the virus I became the live stream technician for my church and one Sunday morning I was experiencing Murphy’s law to its fullest. “If you’re doing something good for the Kingdom of God, the evil one will try to slow you down,” a friend told me that morning. The words sunk deep and my eyes opened with new strength. Creating Axiom Parkour has always been about connecting my gifts to scripture and sharing those experiences. Perhaps this step toward birthing a home for parkour ministry was something really good, so good that I would need to traverse through great adversity to have it manifest.
Steadfast: firmly placed, unwavering, fixed. Let’s see how far I go with roots deep in my foundation. It is in my nature to see signs and signals (whether they are actually there or not) and interpret them in order to advise important decisions, but in this chapter of my life I will not allow insignificance significance. Perhaps, just as with the acquisition of the gym, this will work out better than I will ever expect.
My optimism seemingly generates a reply from the newest bank that I am approved for the loan with no conditions attached. Excited to begin signing paperwork and meet with the owner of the building, I travel down to what is to be the Parkour Oasis, a new home for many.
Homes have neighbors, and what is to be my new home has a new neighbor, except this neighbor, now lives in the yard, in his RV.
Chapter 12: If God Says Go...
“Meet Jeff!” the owner says. “He’s living here for a while. I told him it’s alright.” The conversation develops as you might imagine with an eyebrow raise and false excitement from me. I’ve never had to learn about squatting laws before but it seems I should become familiar with them, as Jeff might wind up having rights to the building. This is fine. I am steadfast and silly signs are not significant.
“I caught a huge snake!” Jeff exclaimes. “Wanna see it? I got it right here in ma cooler.”
And what if a ‘sign’ is the physical representation of Satan?
This is all too much. We get the needed paperwork completed and the owner assures me Jeff will not be an issue, but that’s hard to believe when it looks like he lives there now.
The paperwork is submitted and the bank moves forward with the next steps.
Weeks later the owner calls me. “Hey Travis, the floor dropped a little. You should come take a look.” With a respirator, headlamp, and cell phone I crawl into the belly of the building. No worries, just the main floor beams that are totally rotted, molding, and broken.
“Did you get a new truck?” I ask.
“No. That’s a great Mexican guy. He’s great. I told him he could keep his stuff here,” the owner replies.
“We should really have lawyers involved,” he says, becoming more apprehensive about this situation. “You know I’ve had better offers already but turned them down. Are you actually going to buy this? By the way, Jeff’s got a real bad temper. I kicked him off. He’s a liar too.”
Costs for insurance are going up. Flood insurance is more than I expected. How do I know when to fold?
Chapter 13: Dangerous Prayers
I’ve prayed many different petitions amidst this experience, but one stands out as most dangerous. I prayed that the story of the whole experience would solely point to Him and He would receive the glory, that I would only receive the building if it was absolutely and completely not of my own doing. I found out today that the last chapter is now entirely out of my hands. Over $50,000 in owed payments from the owner to various parties requires absolution before I can legally purchase the property. So as it stands right now, there is nothing I can do to get it. I was also told by the assessor that since it is partially on a floodplain there is a maximum limit of $25,000 I can spend during my ownership for all improvements or renovation or maintenance. This makes the property an impossibility. I have ne’er had such an unfathomably large mountain before me, and in this present moment writing these words, I have discerned the purpose of the high mountain set before me. My Father knows me in full entirety, and He knows that only an all faceted worldly impossibility can stop me, that I will work until exhaustion if there is the slightest sign of success. So He has made the mountain emerge, not to test my faith, but to guide with utmost certainty away.
I have accepted that the building is no more and the possibility of the Parkour Oasis is a vapor that has passed. And it is good.
Chapter 14: He Sees The Future
If there is one gift from parkour that I think about rewrapping, it is unwavering positivity: to see good in every situation. Bad occurrences are real, and should not be willfully entered into or ignored. With infinite positivity, everything will work out, always.
I’m not sure what our lives look like to God, but they might be like a plinko board with infinite holes and finite pegs. He allows us to place pegs into our own path as we travel through it, changing the obstacles we face but never dictating a path. Once a peg is passed, it cannot be taken up to be placed again for that peg becomes part of what we are.
Looking back on the pegs from this story, as I bounced left or right, I reflect on my current place. Writing this chapter a year later, I know that lumber and building material costs have tripled, which would have financially destroyed me. I never could have known, and to me it is God’s foresight and protection, but whispers from the eternal optimist insinuate a lack of faith, that God would have provided amidst the impossible.
In February 2021 I started classes at a local church, blessing me abundantly in many ways, but maybe it’s just the opposite bounce from the Parkour Oasis, the left path instead of the right.
Undisclosed in this story I gave the owner a large sum of money as my commitment to purchase the building. In order to spare myself bitterness, I resolved that the money would never return, favorable outcome or not. I will likely be receiving that exact amount as an unrelated gift, hinting closure to this story as it comes full circle. But echoes from the optimist are heard again as this money might have come as an unexpected blessing needed for building costs. In either situation, I see the money as good.
Some of you might be lost without a conclusive end to this story, but as we travel through our plinko boards, carefully moving pegs to hopefully bounce in the right direction, there are more paths for me to travel. And isn’t that what life is about? Bouncing to and fro with little more than a foot of sight before us? And isn’t that what faith is for? To move with certainty in uncertainty? I think so, and so far it’s all turned out positively perfect.