Friday, February 10, 2017


In December of 2016 our family was given the opportunity to host a boy from Ukraine for a month long stay over his Christmas break. We welcomed Ruslan, 13, into our home and our family. He lives in an orphanage in Ukraine, referred to as a school, and was able to be part of the Host Ukraine organization. This wonderful organization allows orphans to be with families and have a travel experience during Christmas and summer time. The hope is that they will experience love and family, and just maybe, find their forever family.

This past December, we heard about hosting, decided to host, and were hosting all within 5 days. We heard about the opportunity on Sunday at church and he came very late Thursday night.  We filled out the application, did background checks and paid the fees fast. He had a signifaciant grant to bring him here and someone also blessed all Maine families with an additional $300 grant. We made the decision to invest in Ruslan's life and we're happy to do so.

Needless to say, we fell in love with Ruslan. He is a wonderful and very typical 13 year old (14 on Valentine's Day 2017) boy.  Kenny and Heather Tripp also fell in love with Ruslan. we have the opportunity to host our boy again for 10 weeks this summer.

We have decided to host him together with the Tripp's! 

This way he will get to have more family experiences and more love.❤

We fully intend to host Ruslan again, but are asking our friends and family to consider helping us bring him back.  There aren't any grants this time, so we need to come up with all the fees.

The fees are as follows:

$2,995 + $25 application fee
Or ONLY $2,745 if paid in full by 2/21/17
$250 deposit (plus application fee) due by 2/21/17
The remainder is due by sometime in April.

Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a team to give an orphan a family for Christmas and the summer. Want to be a part of #teamruslan?  Here's how!

You can make a tax deductible donation to Host Ukraine directly with Ruslan /Tarsha Downing in the memo. That way they will know who the money is going toward hosting and you can get the deduction.

You can make a payment to a friend or family member on PayPal to with the memo Ruslan. The money will ALL go directly to hosting fees.

You can give Kenny, Rudy, Heather or myself a cash or check donation. If you want to donate an item for Ruslan that is appreciated too. He will need summer clothing/accessories. However, we will purchase all his needs this summer.

Regardless of any donation you may or not make, please keep us ALL in your prayers!

Thank you for joining #teamruslan on our journey!

Kenny, Heather, Logan & Dayla
Rudy, Tarsha, Sadie, Lil Rudy & Imani

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Laugh Out Loud

I heard a song in the car a few days ago. I laughed out loud and then sang along. The lyrics were catchy. It reminded me of my girl. She's always laughing, emitting joy and singing LOUD! She knows she's safe and loved, by her people and her Jesus!

I heard it again today so I decided to look up the lyrics. 

And to my surprise it starts like this.

I shake my head at my good fortune

As I shake the dust off of my boots

Yesterday I was an orphan
Somehow today I belong to You
Somehow today I belong to You

Ha ha, don't it make you wanna laugh out loud?

Ooh ooh, and shout, "Hallelujah!"

Oh yeah, if you got joy go and let it on out
Ha ha ha ha, laugh out loud!
Jason Gray ~ Laugh Out Loud

I know it's God who we belong to and He who brought us our good fortune. I just love how it's a song about all of us, but before I even knew all the lyrics, I was reminded of my girl. :)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Home is where your heart is!

Imani and I have moved into Harper Joy! The plan is to stay the summer and see how it works for us. After a week, so far so good! Everything has a place and there is a place for everything. Putting them there is key :)  We brought what we needed and our other stuff went to storage or an aunts house to use when we are visiting. Imani was a little scared of the (composting) toilet at first, but has now mastered it. 

Living in Harper Joy has been a dream of mine for nearly 5 years. It was June 2009 when I saw Elizabeth Turnbull's tiny home featured in a magazine and September 2009 when I decided to build my own. I am happy to finally be fulfilling this dream with my girl. It's important to me that she understand simple living and how community works. She loves her people more than stuff, and she only knows spending lots of time with family, but living in the tiny home will make it a reality. She currently thinks nothing of the tiny house, besides wanting to show people. It's got everything we need and we spend about the same amount of time here as we did at the 'big' house. 

                     Our first night!

We still need to build front stairs, come up with a better ladder system to the loft, and finish the floor. But we are living in our tiny house and we feel right at HOME!

Dear Jesus,
Thank you for this wonderful opportunity that you have given Imani and I to live in Harper Joy.  I am so excited to share this experience with her; to teach her living simply by actually doing it and about community. I've said it before, I can't believe I'm the girl in this story. My beautiful daughter, my tiny home, and a family that loves us immeasurably. Thank you for your faithfulness, your provision, and your plans that are always better than mine! Please give us patience and grace to live in such a small space together. Help me to remember she's only 5 and still has so much to learn. Give me the knowledge and wisdom to teach her well and lead her to you. 

In Jesus Name,

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

REPOST: "I will wait for you" by Poet JANETTE...IKZ

First, I LOVE this poem. Second, how did this girl know my story? Oh I'm not the only one whose impatient and takes things into her own hands?! My favorite words come in the criteria she sets for knowing when its 'him' and the promises of where she'll be. Last but not least, I am reminded {AGAIN} that I need to die to self. EVERY.DAY. And I'll be busy while I wait, because these Ladies have BIG shoes to fill.

And I will know you

Because when you speak

I will be reminded of Solomon’s wisdom

Your ability to lead will remind me of Moses

Your faith will remind me of Abraham

Your confidence in God’s word will remind me of Daniel

Your inspiration will remind me of Paul

Your heart for God will remind me of David

Your attention to detail will remind me of Noah

Your integrity will remind me of Joseph

And your ability to abandon your own will, will remind me of the disciples.

But your ability to love selfishly and unconditionally will remind me of Christ.


And you will know me and you will find me

Where the boldness of Ester meets the warm closeness of Ruth

Where the hospitality of Lydia is aligned with the submission of Mary

Which is engulfed with the tears of a praying Hannah

I will be the one drenched in Proverbs 31, waiting for you.

But, to my Father, who has known me before I was birthed into this earth

Only if You should see fit.

I desire Your will above mine

So even if You call me to a life of singleness, my heart is content with You.

The One who Is.

You are the greatest love story ever told, the greatest love ever known.

You are forever my judge and I am forever Your witness.

And I pray that I am always found on a mission about my Father’s business.

I will always be Yours.

And I will always wait for You Lord

More than the watchmen wait for the morning.

More than the watchmen wait for the morning,

I will wait.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Monday, April 7, 2014

My Magnum Opus

Today marks 1 year since my life was forever changed by a phone call.

It kick started my international adoption journey into high gear and gave me my most important title yet, Mommy!

Just 12 weeks from that phone call; the first mention of her name, I held her in my arms.

My daughter Imani Ruth

Our very first meeting ~ June 29, 2013

I wrote this back in November 2013.

Imani adds a great deal of joy and laughter to my life. She is amazing and resilient. Her presence in my life came so quickly and so perfectly timed. She also adds challenges and obstacles that have put me in an occasional tailspin. Being a parent is the best and most challenging gift I've ever received. And with it, God has revealed to me how much I need Him, and His people.

So, as it turns out, I am not a Superhero. Becoming a mom has put the ki-bosh to this charade. I fail. Miserably. Everyday. I am no longer the organized multi-tasker I used to be. Multitask? I can't even task these days!

I left my sisters house with no shoes on. As in, left my shoes at her house, to go to a public place. I didn't even realize I was driving with no shoes until I was closer to the appointment than to her house. I pack my daughters gear for outings and sleep overs, but forget to pack my own. I remember my toothbrush, only cause it's next to hers. I've left my house without my cell phone, my girl's school bag, and so many other things. I've taken to writing things down or dictating to Siri, who can remind me when I get to a location.

Then there is this little person who NEEDS my undivided attention, right when I feel I need to concentrate on something I have previously deemed important.

"No go n-e-wear ok Mommy?" from the toilet (where she sits for ages, especially in the middle of mealtime) and appreciates an audience. Mine, that is.
"Mommy wer-ah you goin?" if I try to sneak away to clean up, organize, or get one more thing done.
"Mommy, you ok?!" if all is quiet for 5-10 seconds and I'm not in her sight.
"Mommy look! Mommy look! Mommy look!" from the living room 10 seconds into my shower.
"Mommy sit!" Says the little one from the table as I try to prepare, set out or clean up dinner.

How do I complete tasks/remember/be a superhero with this competition?! How could I do it alone? I don't. I can't. I'm not. I'm leaning on God to handle the details, the stress and anxiety. I'm learning to care about them less and focus on the most important little person in front of me. My house is messy but my girl is loved. She is going to figure out sooner rather than later, if she hasn't already, that I'm not a superhero. No need to keep up appearances right?! :)

What I am is Imani's mommy; her fiercest advocate and her biggest fan. Superheroes have nothing on this gig!

Fast forward 5 months and I've moved beyond the foggy brain. I'm doing better at remembering and multitasking. We are a team and she likes to help me :) Her English has EXPLODED and she now asks "Mommy what's that mean?!" She's a sponge, listening and watching EVERYTHING I do, then questioning it.  She likes to throw me curve balls too, like "Mommy, can Jesus come here? I want to SEE Him!" My personal favorite is when she throws my words back at me. "Mommy, Downing's DON'T waste!" She's onto Papa, who shows his love by giving change and buying ice cream or candy. She reminded me "Mammy can fix it" when her pants ripped. She told me to call Aunt Tanya when we needed something once, cause Aunt Tanya has something for everything.

Aunt Tracy and Uncle Ben are like second parents, keeping Imani before and after school, teaching her balance (life and literally) and LOVE!

Cousins Quinn 1, and Johanna 11, provide sibling-like relationships for my girl. She loves them fiercely, and fights fiercely with them!

Quinny adores his 'Mani. He thinks she's supposed to be with him everyday. Aunt Trina and Uncle Rob host us lots of weekends so they can have their QT.

Aunt Tricia spoils her to no end! I guess that's her job! Isaac and Liam think she's pretty great too!

Swimming at Sunday River with Hannah, Johanna and Drew

Music continues to be a great learning source for her. She sings and dances to music of all kinds. I love hearing her sing her little heart out and get excited when she hears a song she knows, out of the context she's used to hearing it in. She's seen Frozen 3 times now and has Let It Go memorized. She started piano lessons too! 

Any chance she gets to be with her people, she takes it. Sleep overs, dinners, shopping, hanging out, playing outside in the snow, anything really. She's been ice skating, snowmobiling, and sledding. She doesn't mind the cold and just keeps wanting more! And enjoying herself. Always enjoying herself! :)  She loves the iPad and iPhone because FaceTime is just another way to be in touch with her people. And take selfies or watch YouTube. 

There is this description of an artist's greatest achievement called Magnum Opus.  My Magnum Opus was actually created by God and on loan from Him, but she is by far the best gift I've ever been entrusted with. She's one of a kind and this child, who I get to call my daughter (I still can't really believe it) has forever changed me!

We have been blessed by change, growth, beauty, lessons learned the hard way, and SO. MUCH. LOVE! It hasn't always been easy or pretty, but its all been worth it. So glad God chose me to be Imani's Mommy.

One phone call.

One year ago.

One very special little girl.

Thank You God for my resilient, smart, brave, strong, kind (and most recently a dash of naughty) little lady! I love you to Africa and back Imani Ruth Downing!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

It's Happening

She stopped saying popopcicle.  She just says Popsicle now. 

Dis one, or Dat one is used to reference the person sitting next to her. 

She requested boots like Hannah and Johanna have, except in pink, not brown. This was at 6pm on Sunday night and she wanted to "go shopping now Mommy". 

She answers her own "why" with "cause."

"Please and TH-ank you Mommy?!" When she really wants something!

She's recognizing more letters and colors, zipping her own jacket, and putting her own shoes on. 

"I wanta dis" she tells me, often. 

She's asking hard questions. 

I watch her run off constantly; to go play again after a scuffle, after a bathroom break or after letting her mom get a quick squeeze. The little girl I see running off is not the same little girl I saw walk into the room on June 29. 

Her new favorite things are Docta McFuffins (originally Doc McF**kins), tangerines, and Papa. She loves a sleepover, your house or ours, and is elated when "ev-e-budy" gets togetha.

She says "mommy hold you" as she passes her arms for me to hold her. She's excited for Jesus' birthday and wondered if "Jesus come cuddle" on that day.  She loves love. She loves family and togetherness and Jesus. I think this girl is teaching me more than I am teaching her. 

It's happening. My daughter is watching me and taking it all in. She's growing, in every way imaginable, right before my very eyes. She's learning English incredibly well, speaking and understanding it more every single day. She's learning lots of western ways (many to my dismay) and developing her own little personality. She's physically growing too. She's heavier and taller I'm certain. 

If it's happening this fast already, I can't imagine what the next 10 years will be like. I tell her often that I don't want her to grow up. She laughs and I laugh with her, but a little piece of my heart just doesn't want her to lose more teeth, grow out of anymore of these cute clothes or start saying some words correctly without her little accent/mispronunciation. 

But alas, it's happening. So I'm soaking it all in and enjoying all these moments, making memories with my little girl!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I Love You to Africa and Back!

I was exhausted the other night after a long day. We usually read as many books as Imani can negotiate, but I just wanted to turn the light off and snuggle my girl.  "How about Mommy tells you a story and you try to imagine the pictures in your head?" She agreed with enthusiasm so I turned out the light, snuggled my girl thisclose, and began:

Once upon a time there was a girl named Tarsha. 

Giggle, giggle. 

She was feeling like it was time to do something bigger than her. 

BIG Mommy?!

Yes, BIG Imani Ruth!  Life was good but she was not content in just flying by the seat of her pants so much anymore. It was time for something BIG. She prayed and God told her adoption was indeed the next step in His plan for her. She knew right away there was a little girl in Uganda that was her daughter! She wondered about what that little girl was doing in that very moment and imagined what she looked like too!

Africa? Uganda? {giggling}

She decided this little girl's name was Imani. It means faith in Swahili, a language spoken in Uganda. 


So she got all her paperwork together (it was A LOT OF PAPERWORK) and tried to plan for when she would become a mom. On Sunday, April 7, 2013 at 7pm Tarsha got a call from her social worker Sharon in Florida. Sharon said she wanted to tell her about a little 4 year old girl. 

Mommy, Imani 5!!!

"But you were 4 when I got the call," I said smiling!  This is where it became more intimate, with me as her Mommy telling her our story.

Sharon told me all about you and then a couple days later she sent me a picture.  I couldn't stop looking at it or wait to finally meet you.  I had to wait 11 weeks before I could travel to Africa.

On June 29, 2013 at 10:15am Kampala, Uganda time, we finally met! Do you remember when I came to the children's home to get you?

Yes! And Danny!

Yes, Danny did come with Mommy to pick you up. We took you back to the guesthouse and you took a looooong nap!  Then we all stayed in Uganda for almost 7 more weeks.  We went to court twice, the lawyers office, Cafe Roma, the tooth doctor, the ear doctor, the American embassy, the American Club, on safari, to the equator, the zoo, and we made some really great friends!

Farouk! {smiling}

Yes! Farouk! He wasn't just our driver, but our life saver there wasn't he? Farouk knew where everything was and he helped us find what we needed! He took great care of us and that's why we still thank God every night for him!

Mommy, Farouk Uganda?

Yes, he is still in Uganda. He lives there and helps other new families like he helped us.  But if all works as Mommy hopes, we can see him in America next summer!


Then on August 14, 2013 after getting your very important paperwork from the American Embassy, we finally got to get on a plane home to America! Well four planes actually, until we were finally here right?! Imani liked the planes; we ate in the sky and watched movies! Now we are home; you go to kindergarten and you have a family that really really loves you!


So, that's our story thus far my girl.  And when I tell you I love you to Africa and back, its a true story!

Why Mommy?

Oh my girl...

For mobile

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I don't want to forget Part 2


Our time
getting to know 
one another 

The place I begged God to go. Twice.
So He sent me twice, just like I asked. 
Both times I have returned exceedingly 
aware of my incredible need for more 

I do believe in 
{His plan}

And I don't want to forget!