Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Both my newly-minted five-year old and three-year old decided what they wanted most for their birthdays was to ride a horse.

(as a life-long horse lover, I can honestly say this momma was purty durn proud)

So yesterday, we took a drive about 20 minutes south to Kids and Horses, an organization our neighbors and friends have used for years for riding lessons, where Annie and Bode (and Jonah, even though it wasn’t his birthday!) had the opportunity to ride a bit.

Annie was first, and she had absolutely no fear.  She was in her element from the beginning, smiling from ear to ear and loving every minute.  Even Darla, the lovely woman in charge, noted how naturally she sat in the saddle… like she was born to be there.

Bode was up next, and was surprisingly the most cautious of the three… but he warmed up pretty quickly.  He is still convinced that he first needs to learn how to be a mutton buster before he can work at becoming a horseman.  🙂

Jonah was last.  Normally quite reserved and hesitant in new situations, he didn’t react at all the way we thought he would.  He LOVED it:  the feel of being on the horse, the “bumpy” ride, the dirt, the sweat, the wind… all of it.  At the end of his ride, he wasn’t the only one smiling… Mommy was grinning big.

If anyone local is looking for riding lessons, I would highly recommend Darla and her group.  She was absolutely fabulous with the kids, taught them even in the short time we were there about the parts of the saddle and a few horsecare tips, and her horses are lovers.  Given how much our kiddos loved it — and the fact they’ve been talking about it nonstop ever since — we will definitely be back!


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Yes, we’re still waiting for our referral.

18 1/2 months waiting.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of sitting around feeling angry, or sad, or self-pitying.  I’m ready to DO something.

In lieu of jumping on a plane to Ethiopia (which, by the way, I would love to do, but I wouldn’t know who I was trying to find), our family has decided to spend the Lenten season focusing on understanding maybe just a little more the way people in Ethiopia live on a daily basis.  What dominates their minds each day?  How must they work?  What do they eat?  How does “family life” look different there?  How is it similar?  Why, exactly, are there such struggles there?  Where is prayer most needed?

In other words…

Where can we best invest our time and resources to bring about redemption in a broken world?

So, for the next 40 days — during all of Lent — we are going to try to put our hearts, minds, money, and mouths where are thoughts are: with our daughter in Ethiopia.  We not only will spend time in focused prayer for her and for her country, but will seek out ways to experience life as it is lived halfway around the world.

My husband and I have been encouraged to participate in this 40-day effort by articles challenging our “love” relationship with food and videos focusing on raising “giving” children (and, accordingly, increasing our own generosity), along with a growing spiritual conviction in our own hearts against excess.

Here’s what Lent will look like for us.  We have three small children, so we have adjusted a bit what we otherwise would have done without kiddos involved in the process:

1.  We will daily read of the needs in Ethiopia in Operation World, praying for a specific need each of the 40 days

2.  Twice each week, we will eat a “typical” Ethiopian meal (usually rice and beans with injera)

3.  We will, overall, limit our meal variety… learning to recognize that a “different meal every night” is a Western luxury to which not many in the rest of the world relate

4.  We will read books on African life, visit an Ethiopian market, and generally try to learn as much as we can about our daughter’s native country

5.  As a family, we will research and decide how best to invest certain resources to benefit Ethiopian families

Our Lenten fast may seem radical to some, and to others it may not go far enough.  But it brings us as close to our daughter as we can be right now, and hopefully will bring our family even closer as God brings spiritual fruit to these hard days of continual waiting.

If you are a member of our family, a friend, or even someone who happened by the blog this morning, I want to invite you to join us for the next forty days.  Please pray for our daughter.  Pray she doesn’t have to spend one more day than is necessary in an orphanage, without her family.  Pray earnestly for peace and prosperity in Ethiopia.  And spend some time praying that God would open your eyes to how you can make some small difference… both here at home and around the world.

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Yes, I have pics of the kiddos getting all excited about Christmas (a few of them are below).  But this post is really focused on what Mommy and Daddy were most excited about under the tree this year:

Toy organization.

Also known as:  taming the Lego and tool chaos.

(can I hear a “Hallelujah”?)

Legos are very popular in this house.  They multiply by the thousands, it seems, every time the boys smile at their grandmas.  😉  But the resulting sprawl was getting ridiculous; we had Legos stashed under beds, crammed in kitchen buffet drawers, stuffed in cabinets and nooks and crannies… well, you get the idea.

For the sake of comparison, here’s a “before” pic of the boys’ room… in other words, what we looked at, griped about, stepped over (and on), and fought with on a daily basis:

A trip to IKEA, a can of wood stain, and some creative uses for a long-ago Home-D*pot purchase later, and… wa LA:

How did we do it, you ask?  We split the blue PBK bookcases we already had in the somewhat small room (former floor models, which were a great deal — 75% off — a few years back) and put in between them an Ingo desk ($70) and two wood shelves ($15 each), all from IKEA.  Below the desk are four large containers on casters (also IKEA, $6 each) and a Lego stacking storage unit with pull-out scrapbook-type storage ($59 from Amazon).

The tool organizer mounted between the desk and shelves had been sitting unused in the basement for more than a year.

Total cost for the entire set-up: $174 (plus several hours of work constructing, staining, and installing).  Finished projects are now kept in full view, and out of tiny little sister’s hands.  A large, flat, smooth work surface makes creating easy and fun.  And… every single Lego now has a place that is NOT the floor.

As part of the organizational re-do of the boys’ room, “The Tool King” Bode’s play tool bench and accessories (which he ADORES) was moved from the boys’ bedroom to a corner of the downstairs family room/playroom.  We didn’t want him to feel slighted in comparison to what was mostly Jonah’s Lego extravaganza upstairs… and by the look on his face, I think we achieved our goal:

We took the second of the unused tool organizers and mounted it on the wall, filling it with the assorted plastic screws, nails, etc. that formerly were tucked in various boxes and bins throughout the house… wherever creativity had struck through the years.  A pegboard Bryan had already put on the wall a few years back served as a great place to display the larger tools (the hooks were extras we had from Bryan’s basement workroom).  The large bin for the “kid wood” was simply moved from the bedroom.  Total cost for this little tool corner:  $0.  

It took some work, but the boys love their new spaces.  And Mommy and Daddy love that we can look forward to walking through the house in the dark without piercing our feet on millions of sharp little plastic pieces.  The cost of our reclaimed sanity?  Priceless.  

This year, we could honestly say “Merry Christmas to ALL”, and to all a future of more fun, more creativity, less bickering and nagging… and far less painful nights.  🙂

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He is Risen!

 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 

And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 

Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 

So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 

And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me…

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

-Matthew 20:1-10, 16-20

May you rejoice this day in the glorious salvation given us by our LORD Jesus Christ!


We trust and hope that next year’s Easter picture will be of our family of six!

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Last Friday, April 1, marked our baby girl’s second birthday.

Still shaking my head in disbelief as to how this precious wee thing…

Has grown what feels like overnight into this (almost) running, (almost) jumping, jubilant toddler.

Many of you know the struggles Annie has had during her short life, specifically dealing with a kidney disorder and accompanying concerns regarding her growth and gross motor development.  We have asked for prayers from others… and we have been up countless nights on our knees for her… pleading with God to help her crawl, to gain the strength needed to walk.  We rejoiced at each little sign of progress: when she finally crawled at 15 months old, when she walked a few cautious steps at 21 months old.

And I am beyond pleased to report that at her two-year check-up a few days ago, we heard the words we — and our pediatrician, for that matter — didn’t think were possible so soon:  “Her RTA is gone, and she is tracking normally for a two-year old on her gross motor skills.”

All we can say in response is Praise Jesus, for through Him alone are all things possible.

We could not have guessed how wonderful — and challenging — life would be with a little girl.  With this little girl.  And we wouldn’t trade a single moment.

May God bless you as you continue to grow in Him, our dear Annalie.  May He fill you to overflowing with His grace and mercy… and mold you into a faithful, noble, and kind daughter of the King, just as He designed you to be.  We can’t wait to watch His plans for you unfold.

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Happy New Year!

… from your friendly neighborhood pint-sized chewing machine.

Don’t let that innocent puppy-dog face fool you.  🙂

We wish you all a wonderful, sanctifying, satisfying, jubilant 2011!

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Merry Christmas 2010!

(Below is a copy of our Christmas letter… and reading it, I realize there are a few things I haven’t yet blogged about.  They’ve all happened so quickly!  I promise to catch you all up… but in the meantime, enjoy.  And rejoice!)

“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

* * * * *

For us, this Christmas is one of great joy as well as great expectation.

We rejoice that God has led our family through these last few difficult financial years and has now provided Bryan with a new job (starting in January); we praise Him for giving Nikki, Jonah (6), and Bode (3 1/2) positive and encouraging times in our homeschooling journey; we thank Him, the Great Physician, for healing Annie (20 months) from her kidney disorder with no lasting effects.

As far as “expectation” goes, many of you know that we are in the process of bringing a fourth child into our family through adoption.  We currently are waiting to be matched with an infant girl in Ethiopia, a country with more than five million orphans.  We wait with hope and longing — and sometimes anxiety! — for the day to come when we first see her face in a photo, and later travel halfway around the world to bring her home.  We hope to complete this process by the end of 2011, but we also know the timing is out of our control.

Some may call this radical (or even crazy!).  We feel called by God to care for orphans (James 1:27), to rescue a child from a desperate situation and love her as our own.  Yes, it will change her life… it likewise will change ours.  But this isn’t even really our doing; God alone is the author of adoption.  He wrote this story, not us.  He is the One who sent His Son as the Light of the world, to welcome the poor, the fatherless, the broken and undeserving into His family.  So simply put:  We love because He first loved us.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.” (Isaiah 9:2)

The same Light who brings hope to an orphan in Africa brings salvation to all those who believe… in our neighborhoods and around the world.  He is both our highest hope and our reason for rejoicing: Jesus Christ.

We wish you the merriest of Christmases and a blessed 2011!

With love, the Starrs

P.S. We invite you to follow along — and join us — in our adoption journey!  If you feel so led, we would deeply appreciate both prayer and financial support for what is a very costly and time-consuming — but unbelievably amazing — process.  Thanks so much!

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