I don’t recall playing House with my sisters when I was little. We played Star Wars and Star Trek; I have distinct memories of spinning in a fast circle in order to change into Wonder Woman. And I’m pretty sure the Incredible Hulk was in there somewhere as well the Bionic Man (and Woman). We played School, in which I was NEVER the teacher but always the idiot student who ended up in a dunce cap. We also played Barbies, but I can’t quite remember plot lines; I do, however, remember cutting their hair and using safety pins to poke nipples into their mountainous breasts.
So you can imagine my surprise when I was playing House with a friend one day, pretending like I played House alllll the time and was familiar with the common House scnarios, and she stuck a ball up her shirt. She said she was pregnant. I knew what that meant by now, having a baby brother and sister. But I didn’t know what it meant when this little girl laid down on my bed, knees spread, and started groaning and shouting. Suddenly, she was holding a baby doll and the ball was gone from under her shirt. “Say,” she said, “the baby came out and this ball was the baby but now this doll is the baby.”
What the hell. That was a definite party foul in my 8-year-old mind.
My idea of fun was pretending that I was a grownup with long hair (my mother’s brown, elastic-waist, polyester skirt on my head) living in a simple cottage who found a baby on her doorstep with a note, “Please take care of my baby.” Simple enough. Although I called the police, they left the baby with me because obviously I was a most competent mother and the biological mother thought this was best for her baby. I ended up with as many orphans-in-baskets as I had dolls; the word on my make-believe street clearly was that I was the raddest mom out there.
I was quite little when Ethiopia was struck by a severe and tragic famine in the 1980s. I have vivid memories of sitting on our green couch and seeing images of starving children on tv. I didn’t understand what was happening except that these children were far away and they were very hungry. For some inexplicable reason, I believed these children to be orphans, and at night when I couldn’t sleep, I’d cry about the poor children with the big, brown eyes who needed families to love them. Since then, I’ve had a passion for orphan ministry.
And then my siblings and I became orphans.
I was 20, a near-adult, but my little brother and sister were still very young and became the stuff movies are made of, except I can verify that being orphaned is not glamorous as Hollywood makes it seem. One of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made in my life was whether or not my older sister and I should Party of Five our little brother and sister or send them to Texas to live with our aunt and uncle. We decided to send them to Texas, but it broke my heart to do so. They were blessed to have had options for people to care for them—most orphans in this world do not.
This brings me to my friend Shellie. We first met more than 15 years ago in college, not that I remember. Our latest meeting was this fall in Bible study, which I co-lead with Kara. I didn’t recognize Shellie from church so I took a deep breath, forcing my introversion deep down inside. I smiled and said something super clever like, “I don’t think I’ve met you.” To which she replied, “Actually, we went to college together—you’re Blythe, right?”
Oh, man. Every introvert’s nightmare. Now I was having to reply off the cuff and try to save whatever shred of dignity I could scrape up while trying to convince her I’m not a big, fat jerk. But before I could come up with something totally cool to say, Shellie had continued, talking about how she was only at CCU for a semester and there is no reason for me to remember her. Her grace for me in the moment when I felt like such a dork relaxed me and made my heart smile.
We became Facebook friends and I soon learned that she and her husband were in the process of adopting a little boy from across the world. Somehow and inexplicably during this time, I ended up watching “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” and through my sobs during the scene when J-Lo traveled to Ethiopia to pick up her adopted son, all I could think about was Shellie and her baby boy. We started texting about it (she claims to have sobbed through that scene, too—either she is as emotional as I am when it comes to adoption or she just said that to make me feel less ridiculous—either way, she’s incredibly gracious) and then she sent me the link to her blog.
Here’s the deal. I’ve spent my life thinking about orphans and adoption. I’ve traveled across the world to love on them, I’ve supported them financially, and I’ve dreamed of adopting. In fact, my husband and I were actively looking in to it when we got pregnant the first time. But something Shellie said on her blog struck me to my core: in a letter to her precious son Jecoah awaiting his adoption in DRC, she wonders if his caretakers tell him that they love him. I felt my metaphorical wind get knocked out of me. Does this little boy know he is loved? Even if he can’t understand the impending adoption into a loving family who has sacrificed so much for him, does he know in his little bitty heart that he is worthy of love? That he was created to be loved? That passionate love is part of his story?
I broke down, not just thinking about this one baby who maybe has never heard the words “I love you,” but all the millions of other babies in the world, past and present and future, who may never know what a mommy and daddy’s love is. I almost could not catch my breath processing this single thought.
All of a sudden, bringing this baby home to his mommy became an urgent plea of my heart; this little boy needs to be held close by his mama and told a million times how loved he is. He needs to feel the strong arms of his daddy around his little lovable, squeezy body.
Some friends of Shellie’s have organized a fund raiser to help with the last of the funds needed for this endeavor. I have asked to be a part of it; it’s the very least I can do to love this boy and his family, and you also have the opportunity to love them; click here for information.
I implore you to consider helping; while we can’t wrap every orphan in this world in our arms, we can help this one—sweet Jecoah—and ensure he never closes his eyes at night without being smothered in kisses from his mommy, daddy, and three adoring sisters, knowing he is safe in their love.