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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

he was the sweetest man

November 25, 2013

William “Bill” Robert Rigney (1945-2013)


It’s been a few days now since we received the phone call from family telling us that my dear father-in-law’s six-year battle with Alzheimer’s was coming to an end.  We didn’t know how much time he had left, so we packed up and loaded the van in a hurry.  We wanted to be with our dad one last time, we wanted to say our goodbyes.   I had two goals after we hung up the phone: 1.) get to Texas as fast as we could and  2.) don’t accidentally leave one of the children in Minnesota.  By God’s grace, we were successful in both.

This morning, Joe’s father was taken home to be with the Lord.   It was bittersweet.  Bitter, because we loved him so and feel the loss of a father and grandfather deeply. Sweet, because we know his death was swallowed up in victory.  Our father lost the battle with Alzheimer’s, but because of Jesus, he has won the war over death.

I owe much to this man.  His legacy fills my home with laughter and gentleness and affection and glad-hearted service.  He taught by example how to lay one’s life down for those you love.  I could always count on him wrapping his arms around me, giving me a tight hug and kindly saying “Hello, sweetie, how are your folks?”  He was always thinking of others, never once bringing attention to himself. He was the sweetest man, it’s how I’ll always remember him.

For years to come, I’ll get to watch the sowing of his fatherly affection for my husband bear much fruit in the lives of my own children.

It’s no wonder that, not long after Bill died, my husband had the tickle fight of his life with our boys.

It was the best way to honor him.


October 17, 2013

So about that family update I promised in my last post (when was that? a month ago?).  I find that in order for me to blog these days, two things must occur: I must be by myself and I must have nothing else to do.  And since I am in a season of life where those two things rarely ever occur, the posts around here are pretty spotty.

But guess what?!

As I type these very words, I find myself sitting next to my husband in the Denver, CO. airport with a three hour layover.  Without our children.  I don’t even know what to do with myself. I keep resisting the urge to ask perfect strangers if I may hold their babies for them so they can go grab a cup of coffee.  I’m having a hard time sitting down for an extended period of time without a basket of laundry in front of me that needs to be folded.  Joe keeps telling me that it is not my job to wipe down all of the tables at the airport restaurants.

I suppose if you take a woman out of her home and away from her babies, she’s going to try and set up home somewhere.  It’s half habit, half instinctual.

Joe and I are on our way to Moscow, Idaho to visit friends and attend the Grace Agenda conference.  I’ll also be attending the Table Grace seminar led by the bloggers/authors over at Femina.  After the conference is over, Joe and I will spend a few days at a B&B to celebrate our eighth wedding anniversary.  The trip is sure to be a great time and we’re just so grateful for the time away.  And our boys couldn’t be more thrilled about their grandparents holding down the fort.  Joe and I are taking bets on how many mornings they’ll be served candy for breakfast!

By way of a family update:

Fall is in full swing.  The new school year is well into it’s second month and Joe’s love and appreciation for his job and the opportunity to teach at Bethlehem College & Seminary continues to grow by leaps and bounds.  And as a wife, it means a great deal to follow a husband who couldn’t imagine spending his life another way.  God has been so kind to us.

This year, alongside my dear friend, I’ve been given the opportunity to co-lead our church’s MOMS ministry at the Bethlehem campus our family attends. You could not have picked a more out-of-my-comfort-zone place for me to serve- after all, I’d be required to speak behind a podium with a microphone (I have a history of things going awry when I’m under pressure).   But every time I prayed about it, I couldn’t shake the peace the Lord was giving.  It’s been a real joy so far- despite my fears and anxiety.  At our first MOMS meeting, I told all of the moms that they needed to be real gracious to me since I’m pretty sure I took public speaking online.

Our Sam started preschool this year.  We’re doing a mix of things and so far it’s been working out really well.  I’m homeschooling some every day and then two mornings a week he attends the Children’s House program at Hand-in-Hand Christian Montessori.  It’s been a great balance for us and the best surprise is how much I have enjoyed homeschooling.  It has been very rewarding in ways I wasn’t anticipating and I’m grateful for all that God is teaching us through it.  Sometimes the best school days are the ones spent working on how to be kind to your brother and not break fellowship over a Lego. Or days when we get off schedule because different needs arise.  God is changing my understanding of a successful day.

And now for the traditional school year pic with a sign in front of your house.

Sam Preschool (1 of 1)

And now for our littlest.  Our sweet Peter-punkin’.

He is up to all sorts of toddler shenanigans these days.  He is such a delightful mix of spicy and sweet and silly and shy.  Peter joins Sam and I during school for a bit each day, but spends a good chunk of the day just playing. One morning a week, Peter and I attend a Family Music class at Hand-in-Hand while Sam is in Children’s House.  It’s our time just the two of us and it’s a highlight for me each week.

Peter loves books, food of all kinds, and will stop anything he’s doing for a tickle war or wrestling match.

Peter (1 of 1)

I’m sure there is lots more that I’m overlooking- but I’m going to sit and enjoy this layover.  And maybe find a baby or two to hold.

a great way to spend five dollars…

September 26, 2013

Things have been busy, busy, busy around the Rigney home lately- but in a fun, not-pull-your-hair-out, sort of way, which is great!  I have a family update in the works that I will be posting soon, but thought this fun little bit of exciting news deserved a stand-alone post.

Live Like a Narnian (1 of 1)

Tuesday marked the official release of my husband’s first book entitled, Live Like a Narnian: Christian Discipleship in Lewis’s Chronicles!  It is an incredible, must-read book- especially for those who share a love for C.S. Lewis and his brilliant work.

This little treasure trove of Narnian wisdom, insight, and encouragement has been bouncing around in my husband’s head and heart for a few years now.  Little did he know that the class he taught at our church way back when would actually turn into a book one day.

Here’s a brief description of Live Like a Narnian:

Careful readers of the Chronicles of Narnia know that there is more to the stories than meets the eye. There are layers of meaning in these fairy tales, spiritual gold beneath these Narnian hills. Those who delight in Lewis’s magical world love to journey further up and further in, returning to Narnia again and again so that the same old stories can awaken our minds afresh to the wonder and glory all around us. But just how are these stories meant to change us? When we tumble back out of the wardrobe, in what ways should we be different? 

Drawing upon Lewis’s other writings and the Chronicles themselves, Joe Rigney shows the intricate and sometimes subtle ways that Lewis intended his beloved fairy stories to shape our hearts and minds. In doing so, he commends Lewis’s Chronicles as a fruitful part of Christian discipleship, so that in reading the Narnian stories, breathing Narnian air, and seeking to live like Narnians, we are wonderfully transformed into the image of Jesus Christ—the Great Lion and High King Above All Kings.

This weekend, my husband will be speaking at the Desiring God 2013 National Conference, a conference honoring the life, imagination, and work of C.S. Lewis on the 50th anniversary of his death.  Live Like a Narnian was written and published with this conference in mind.  It would be impossible to unpack everything in a 45 minute message, so be sure to read the book for yourself so as not to miss anything!

How can I buy my own copy?

Buy Live Like a Narnian in print through Amazon here.  Or buy the Kindle or Nook version for $4.99.

What are others saying about Live Like a Narnian?

“As a long-time lover of C. S. Lewis and the world of Narnia, I have read countless books about both. Joe Rigney’s Live Like a Narnian is one of the best. It overflows with an authentic sense of Narnian brightness, wisdom, and wonder. Rigney seems equally at home with Lewis’s fiction and nonfiction. He draws them together beautifully, with truth and imagination. I highly recommend this delightful book!” – Randy Alcorn, author, Heaven and If God Is Good

“Joe Rigney is a writer who really knows how to love something. I am glad that he loves Narnia.” –Douglas Wilson, author, What I Learned in Narnia and Father Hunger

“In our journey to Aslan’s Country, we tend to look to the right and to the left to see who’s coming with us. There is much to share, and in the sharing, we feel the fullness of resolution and the resolution of fullness. This book is stuffed full of the must-share Narnian “Aha!” moments that keep you turning just one more page. Even the moments you’ve only whispered to yourself about. I’m betting that Live Like a Narnian will prove to be a trusted companion to future Narnians who will read and re-read the Chronicles for generations.” — Gloria Furman, author, Glimpses of Grace, daughter of Eve, and a queen of Narnia

“Live Like a Narnian has the quality that all good writing strives for: it is both insightful and delightful.  Joe Rigney captures not only the power and poignancy of C. S. Lewis’s beloved Narnia series, but also its fun and merriment.”  – Devin Brown, author, A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis

“I have long awaited a brief book that labors to excavate the major theological themes in Narnia in a simple and clear format, a book that calls on Lewis’s non-fiction writings as a commentary to illuminate his Narnian stories, and most of all, a book about that bright gold creature more terrible and more beautiful than anything in all of Narnia and this world combined. The wait is over. Live Like a Narnian by Joe Rigney is a masterful achievement.” – Tony Reinke, author, Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books

“It’s evident that Joe Rigney has deeply breathed the air of Narnia for a long time, and he creatively applies Lewis’s masterpiece to Christian living with wit and wisdom.” – Andy Naselli, editor of Themelios Journal

“Halfway through reading Live Like a Narnian, the chapters had already had their intended effect and deepened my appreciation and understanding of Narnia. They made me want to slow down, savor them, and keep learning from them while breathing anew the Narnian air one more time. I heartily commend this book to you.” – Matthew Lee Anderson, author, The End of Our Exploring: A Book About Questioning and the Confidence of Faith

“The immediate effect of Live Like a Narnian: I want to. Written with a fun, lively, muscular style, it succeeds both as a work of popular literary criticism and as a readable call to follow Aslan all the way to the end. If you want to recover the wisdom and beauty of the original Narnia, that vision that captivated so many of us in our youth and that continues to work its edifying magic, dive into Joe Rigney’s stirring introduction.” – Owen Strachan, Assistant Professor of Christian Theology, Boyce College; author, Risky Gospel: Abandon Fear and Build Something Awesome

Other recent interviews and articles surrounding Live Like a Narnian’s book release:

Recovering the Lost Art of Chivalry- Desiring God Blog

Why You Should Breathe Narnian Air: A Conversation with Joe Rigney (Part 1)- The Gospel Coalition

Living Like a Narnian: A Conversation Continued with Joe Rigney (Part 2)-The Gospel Coalition

Discipleship in the Land of Narnia- The Gospel Coalition

Why You Should Read and Live Like a Narnian- Steve Childers

Joe Rigney Wants You to Live Like a Narnian- Jim Hamilton

How to Live Like a Narnian- Faith Village

Live Like a Narnian: Christian Discipleship in Lewis’s Chronicles- Alex Chediak

Live Like a Narnian- Andy Naselli

Live Like a NarnianMatt Perman

minnesota state fair 2013 :: in pictures

September 8, 2013

On Labor Day, we loaded up the van and headed to the Great Minnesota Get-Together for our annual trip to the State Fair.  It’s our favorite way to end the summer (or kick-off the fall) in Minnesota.

In years past, we’ve always gone in the afternoon and stayed late into the evening.  We changed things up a bit this year since the forecast was predicting beautiful weather all day long. We stayed for ten hours and could barely walk to our car when it was over, but we had the best time.

Our boys (especially Sam) were at such a fun age to enjoy everything. We rode rides, visited animal barns, watched the parade, cheered at the rodeo, and tried our best to sample every form of corn the fair had to offer (kettle corn, roasted corn, high-fructose corn)!  A few highlights for us were seeing some of our dear friends throughout the day and securing our boy’s future careers as a farmhand (Peter) and a beekeeper (Sam).

It was everything a trip to the State Fair should be.

State Fair 2013-18

State Fair 2013-15

State Fair 2013-14

State Fair 2013-13

State Fair 2013-12

State Fair 2013-11

State Fair 2013-10

State Fair 2013-9

State Fair 2013

State Fair 2013-3

State Fair 2013-22

State Fair 2013-2

State Fair 2013-7

State Fair 2013-8

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State Fair 2013-5

State Fair 2013-6

State Fair 2013-21

State Fair 2013-20

“Get that corn outta my face!” (name that movie)…

State Fair 2013-19

State Fair 2013-17

See related:

State Fair 2009 

State Fair 2010

State Fair 2011

State Fair 2012

a party for turning two…

August 10, 2013

Peter's 2nd Birthday Party-5

A few weeks ago, we had a second baseball party for our second birthday boy this summer. To celebrate Peter’s special day, we had a very simple little family party out on the back deck of our grandparent’s home in Rockport.

After pizza, cupcakes, and presents (Sam didn’t mind receiving a few belated birthday gifts for himself either!), we headed to Corpus Christi for the evening to see the Hooks play. The Hooks are the farm team for the Houston Astros, so it worked out well that we were able to attend the game with my family, being the devout Houston Astros fans that we are. It was a beautiful evening in Corpus, we all had a great time.

It was the perfect way to celebrate our little boy turning two.

Peter's 2nd Birthday Party

Peter's 2nd Birthday Party-2

Peter's 2nd Birthday Party-3

Peter's 2nd Birthday Party-4

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Peter's 2nd Birthday Party-7

Peter's 2nd Birthday Party-8

Peter's 2nd Birthday Party-9

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Peter's 2nd Birthday Party-12

Peter's 2nd Birthday Party-13

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Peter's 2nd Birthday Party-17

Peter's 2nd Birthday Party-18

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Peter's 2nd Birthday Party-28

photo shoot :: my brother’s beautiful family

July 20, 2013

This past week, we’ve been spending time together with my brother’s family in Rockport.  This vacation provided me the perfect opportunity to take some family pictures for them (something I haven’t done in a few years).  It’s no secret that I enjoy taking pictures for people, but there are few things I love more than taking them for my own family.  Yes, I took the pictures for them, but I really took them for me.

God has given my brother a beautiful, godly wife in Melinda and two delightful children in Colin and Rylee.  My heart swells when I look at their faces- their beautiful faces- with so much love and gratitude to God for their lives and for what he has done in and through them.  When I think about the man my brother has become and the family that God has given him, I can’t help but give thanks for his steadfast faithfulness. He has not once turned away from doing good to them.

“And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.” - Jeremiah 32

Here are  a few of my favorites from our time together.  Enjoy!

Smith Family Pictures 2013-150

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