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a summer in rockport :: part one

March 29, 2014

I’ve realized lately that I, at times, respond to peoples e-mails, voicemails, and texts as soon as I receive them…but only in my mind.  I have the response all formulated in my head but forget to actually press send or dial the number.

Consider this a post that I meant to press ‘send’ nine months ago, but alas, am not publishing it until now.  It must be the warmer temperatures outside that have me thinking about summer, which then led me to digging up this old post in my draft folder after many, many months of lying dormant.  It’s a two-part post, really. This one with my side of the family and the second with Joe’s side.

I didn’t take many pictures last summer, so these are just a glimpse of the wonderful memories we made with the boy’s grandparents and cousins last summer.  All pictures were taken in Rockport, Texas- our family’s most favorite place to be.

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wintertime in minnesota

March 20, 2014

Sledding 2014

I couldn’t help but laugh when my mom walked into my bedroom and announced,  “Tomorrow is the first day of Spring!”  I laughed, of course, because I was lying in bed next to Sam (who is currently recovering from surgery) watching the snow tumble down from the sky.  What is this “Spring” she speaks of?

According to the Star Tribune*, those who live in Minnesota have just endured the “harshest winter in more than 30 years.” For those who like numbers, here’s a glimpse of the actual weather conditions we’ve recently experienced.

50: Total days with lows below zero.
17: Consecutive days of subzero lows.
21: Days with lows below zero in an average year.
May 3: Last snow of last winter.
Nov. 3: First snow of this winter.
6: More weeks of snow than usual.
9,361: Minneapolis cars towed for snow-related violations.
23: Days with windchill warnings.
Minus 25: Temperature at which windchill warnings are issued.
6: Weather-related school closings in Minneapolis and Rochester …
7: … and in Duluth
700: Frozen home water pipes in St. Paul’s Regional Water System.
159,463: Heating failure service calls to CenterPoint Energy.
225: Frostbite cases at HCMC in January and February.
95.7: Percent of Lake Superior iced over.
61: Inches of total snowfall as of March 19.
24: Inches of snow at its greatest depth, Feb. 21.

“Harsh” is definitely one way to put it and for this Texan-turned-Minnesotan it has been, at times, an honest fight for joy.

I’m not sure when it happened exactly (maybe right between our furnace breaking  and the 20th windchill warning), but the Lord began working a precious truth deep down in my bones and that truth is this:

“…had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there. You are placed by God in the most suitable circumstances, and if you had the choosing of your lot, you would soon cry, ‘Lord, choose my inheritance for me, for by my self-will I am pierced through with many sorrows.” -C.H. Spurgeon

How many days this past winter would I have chosen a different lot? A different place to live?  A different wintertime for my kid’s childhood?  They would have outnumbered the inches of snow.  But divine love did not put us somewhere warmer, somewhere more comfortable to live- He put us here, and in his great wisdom, this is where me and my family will grow.

Around early February, I began making a mental list of all the gifts, both big and small,  we’ve received because of this winter God has given us.  I’m recording a few of them here because they will no doubt be a source of  hope for me come next November.

1.) Sledding. When I am old and gray, I hope I still remember the pure and exuberant joy I felt while watching my children sled down the snowy hills of Minnesota. There is nothing like it.  Our family could sled for hours and never tire, it was the highlight of the winter for all of us.

2.) Snowed-in. It occurred to me one day this winter how much time our family spends together, especially during these cold months.  It seems we are together all of the time.  This of course provides ample amount of time to work on our relationships with one another.  If you spend very little time apart, you are forced to learn how to live peacefully with one another. When I began to feel weary of the dropping temps outside, I was reminded that it’s on these long winter days that our boys are becoming each other’s closest friend- a relationship I pray only deepens as they grow older- and this lifelong friendship begins now in these early years together.

3.) Cabin fever. Staying home for months-on-end has given my boys countless hours of uninterrupted, creative play.  I have seen their imaginations soar this winter. Not filling up our days trying to get out and entertain our kids has been a gift to them, and to us. They’ve learned how to busy themselves with what we have here at home and it’s been such fun to watch their minds at work.  (This doesn’t mean there weren’t days when I wasn’t tempted to plug an extension cord into my hair dryer in hopes to melt the snow because maybe- just maybe- Momma had had one too many indoor sword fights, hockey matches, and archery tournaments and has been found in her bedroom to be rocking herself without a baby.)

4.) Snowball fights.  My boys and I chased each other around the front yard for half-an-hour the other day pelting each other with snowballs. We played until Joe got home and then the boys and I joined efforts to attack Daddy.  We had the time of our lives!

5.) Seasons. Growing up in Texas we experienced two seasons: Summer and Hotter Summer.  Living in Minnesota has given my family the opportunity to experience every season, even if some last longer than others.  A friends of ours recently joked about the weather in Minnesota: “I hope summer falls on a weekend this year!”

6.) Gratitude. When temps warmed up last week, we headed outside in our rain boots to splash in the puddles.  Five minutes in and we were screaming with delight over the five blades of grass we discovered in our neighbors yard poking through the snow .  Spring holds out so much hope for those who live in the land of Always Winter and Never Christmas and we can’t help but be grateful.

And so we are.  For this coming Spring and so much more.

*Thanks to Abraham Piper for sharing this article. 

the day Adrian Peterson showed up in my front yard…

February 26, 2014

(This post has been sitting in my draft folder for almost a year.  For whatever reason, I decided to post it today.  Perhaps this winter has me dreaming of warmer weather and the day when we can take full advantage of the wonderful new playground in front of our house.) 

If you’ve been a long-time reader of our blog (and have a great memory), you might remember a few years back when I wrote about the playground in front of our house being torn down.

Below is an almost two-year old Sam watching the destruction of his favorite stomping grounds.  I’ll never forget worrying that the playground demolition would bring an onslaught of tears along with it, but to my surprise, having a construction site in your own front yard is a little boy’s dream come true. Sam didn’t leave this spot until the entire structure was torn down and removed.  I really should have provided popcorn.

For two years now, we have waited and wondered if anything would ever come from our city’s decision to tear down the old (but dearly loved) school playground.

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 To our great delight, the beautiful, hundred year-old school which has sat vacant for nine years is now under major renovations to be re-opened next fall, and with school renovations under way comes a new playground!

We caught word that not only would the school district be rebuilding a new playground, but that they would also be building new picnic tables, raised garden beds, an outdoor theatre-style classroom for the students, and new benches.

So where does Adrian Peterson come in to all of this?

Turns out, the Minnesota Vikings contribute a large amount of money each year to a community building project in order to provide a school or neighborhood in the Twin Cities with new playground equipment.  And not only do the Vikings donate the funds, they also donate their time to come and help put the finishing touches on the building project.

Last week, there was quite the community event taking place in front of our home. A hundred or so volunteers showed up, rolled up their sleeves, and got to work.  About two hours in, a giant bus pulled up and out poured the entire Minnesota Vikings team along with their coaches and mascot.

I will spare you the details of how utterly clueless I was about the Vikings until my friends quickly gave me a crash course as the players were piling out of the bus.  Turns out, Adrian Peterson was named MVP of the NFL in 2013.  Who knew?! (the entire country, Jen, the entire country.) Apparently it goes without saying, but I don’t follow the NFL very closely.  I’ll watch a college football game any day, but I can do without the rest.  I showed up this day for the new playground and free cupcakes.

I am happy to admit, though, by the end of the afternoon, I was a bona fide Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder (Vikings QB) fan. Not just because they are Vikings or because they are both from Texas, but because they were both so genuinely kind to us and our kids. They were happy to sign autographs and get down on our kid’s level and take pictures with them.  In case our kids forget this day, I’m glad I snapped a few pics to help them remember.

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a few glimpses of christmas

January 5, 2014

It was a different Christmas for us this year.  Two weeks before arriving in Texas, we were in Minnesota unpacking our bags from having just been there for my father-in-law’s funeral.

Knowing we’d only be back in town a short time, we were determined to celebrate Christmas in our home and carry on as usual.  We trimmed the tree, made treats, decorated our home, built a gingerbread house,  mailed Christmas cards, and celebrated Advent in our own traditional way. There was an underlying sadness in it all, the daily mail was filled with more sympathy cards than Christmas ones. Losing Joe’s father during this holiday season, however, made the hope of Christmas more precious to us than ever before.  God gave us his son, the one who would rescue us from sin and death,  and we were going to celebrate.

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Our ornament for Christmas 2013: Aslan, of course…

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Our first Christmas staying at Uncle Robby and Aunt Alison’s new house…

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Aunt Kayla teaching the boys piano…

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Listening to Papa read the Christmas story…

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green with envy

December 11, 2013

The two weekends before we made our trip down to Texas for my father-in-law’s funeral, my husband preached a short sermon series at our church.

The topic of the series? The often neglected, but oh so very important topic of the sin of envy (and all of its ugly cousins: jealousy, covetousness, rivalry, resentment, malice, hatred, flattery, corrupt desire, smoldering anger, perverse comparison, a fixation on the blessing of other people).

God blessed the preaching of his Word during this series and I’d encourage you to watch or listen to these messages in hopes that you will be as helped, challenged, and ministered to as I was.

Here are other envy-related resources from Joe recently published at the Desiring God website:

two weeks ago tomorrow

December 8, 2013

Tomorrow marks two weeks since my father-in-law left his earthly body and went to be with the Lord. How does the old saying go? “You don’t know how much you’ll miss someone until they’re gone.” Turns out it’s true.  We miss our dad more than we imagined we would.  

After my father-in-law passed, Joe’s brother leaned over his “Pops” and said what all of our hearts bittersweetly felt…

“I’m glad you’re home.”   

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{An excerpt from Bill Rigney’s obituary that Joe wrote along with family pictures}

On November 25, 2013, William “Bill” Rigney finished his earthly race and went to be with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bill was a devoted husband, loving father, proud grandfather, and faithful friend.

Bill was born in Oakland, California on July 28, 1945 to Bill and Paula Rigney. Bill Sr. was a baseball man, playing and managing for the New York (and then San Francisco) Giants, the Los Angeles Angels, and the Minnesota Twins. Bill Jr. grew up at the ballpark, rooting for the home team and playing pepper with his hero, Willie Mays.

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He graduated from the University of California-Santa Barbara in 1967 with a degree in History, but chose to follow in his father’s footsteps, working for numerous minor league baseball teams, including the Phoenix Giants, Daytona Beach Dodgers, and the Montreal Expos. In 1975, he took a job with the Chicago Cubs, who sent him to Midland to be the General Manager of their AA team, a position he held for six years.

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1979 was a big year for Bill. The Sporting News named him the AA Executive of the Year for his success with the Midland Cubs. More importantly, he met Greta Reese, daughter of former Odessa Mayor Jim Reese, and the two began dating. Soon enough, Bill had to choose between staying in baseball (and risk being sent all over the country) or leave the sport and chase the red-headed girl from Odessa. Faced with a choice between working in his first love or pursuing his true love, Bill wisely opted for the latter, and the rest, as they say, is history. Bill married Greta on June 20, 1981, and he never got over the fact that she said, “Yes!” and continued to say “Yes!” until his dying day.

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After leaving baseball, Bill spent the rest of his career in the oil business, working for Permian, Scurlock Permian, Phibro Energy, Basis, and then Genesis Crude Oil before retiring in 2007. As successful as he was in the oil business, his deepest passions lay elsewhere. He coached Little League for his three sons, served as a Cub Scout leader, played golf, went fly-fishing, and ate mint chocolate chip ice cream. He could always be found at home games for the Midland Cubs (then Angels, then Rockhounds), sitting with his family in their seats on the third-base side.  Bill served on numerous boards over the course of his life, including the Midland Jazz Festival, Hillcrest School, the Easter Seal Foundation / Permian Basin Rehabilitation Center, and Midland Junior Baseball Association.

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In 1990, Jesus Christ entered Bill’s life and changed him forever. He was baptized at First Baptist Church, Midland, and later became a member at Stonegate Fellowship, where he was an usher and a youth group leader. The gospel of God’s grace had a profound impact on Bill, adding a deep humility and a servant’s heart to his bright eyes, sly smile, and quick wit.

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 A strong faith in God’s sovereign goodness sustained Bill and his family when he was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2007. No one would choose Alzheimer’s for themselves, but Bill and Greta learned that the steadfast love of the Lord enables you to face whatever adventures God sends you with grace, gratitude, and laughter in your heart. His memories may have faded as the disease took him, but none of them were ever finally lost. All of them were written in God’s Book, and his family eagerly awaits the day when we’ll read all of them again with Bill, laughing and celebrating the fact that God really does work all things together for the good of those who love him.

“Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made and I will bear; I will carry and I will save.” Isaiah 46:4.

a family favorite tradition for Advent

December 1, 2013

Advent Books 2013 (1 of 2)

For the past few years, our family has celebrated Advent in a few different ways.  Each night of Advent we give the boys an ornament during devotions to hang on our Jesse Tree (a tradition we began last year and will use again this year).  We use a mix of different books for the Jesse Tree devotions, light a candle on our Advent wreath, and then sing a few Christmas songs.  All in all, this takes about 15 minutes- perfect for the age of our little ones.

One tradition that has become a Rigney family favorite is celebrating Advent with books. We started this a few years back and our boys have really enjoyed it (who doesn’t love to unwrap things?!).  This tradition works so well because you can utilize your library for all of the books and you only need wrapping supplies to pull it off.

We have been growing our Christmas book collection over the years, but are far from owning the twenty-five books needed for the countdown.  I begin reserving Christmas books from the library in November and renew them through the month December. Each night when we are done singing, we give the boys a new book to unwrap and then read it together.  Christmas books fill our shelves by the time December 25th rolls around and I find this to be such an easy and delightful way to prepare my own heart to worship Immanuel, God with us.

Here is the list of books we will be using this Advent season if you’d like to swing by your library and join in the fun.  I’ve been on a search the past few years to find a list of Christmas books that beautifully portray the anticipation and celebration we feel for the birth of our Savior.  I have the writers at Orange Marmalade and Aslan’s Library to thank for helping me fill out my list.

Advent Books 2013 (2 of 2)

  1. Who is Coming to Our House?
  2. Song of the Stars
  3. Little One, We Knew You’d Come
  4. Father and Son: A Nativity Story
  5. Good King Wenceslas
  6. Bethlehem
  7. The Christmas Story
  8. The Nativity
  9. We Three Kings
  10. This is the Stable
  11. The Story of Christmas
  12. Little Christmas Pageant
  13. A Charlie Brown Christmas
  14. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
  15. Humphrey’s First Christmas
  16. The Little Drummer Boy
  17. One Starry Night
  18. Christmas Tree Memories
  19. There Was No Snow on Christmas Eve
  20. The Third Gift
  21. Christmas in the Country
  22. Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale
  23. A Christmas Like Helen’s
  24. Lucy’s Christmas
  25. An Early American Christmas
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