The Edelbrock Family

Told by Laura Edelbrock

Before Emma was born, my husband and I both had full-time careers in music. I was a high school music teacher, and he had served with the US Army Band for 35 years. Then in 2000, God gave us Emma! We knew before she was born that she would have Down syndrome, and when she reached puberty, we learned that she was autistic as well. We moved from a lifestyle of practice, performance, and perfection to this lovely life we now have with Emma, which we like to call the real life!


When I was six months pregnant, we found out that Emma would be delivered in this beautiful package, and for the next three months we embarked on a journey to prepare our lives and our hearts for her. But we spent many sleepless nights worrying about the future of our family. One such night, when I just couldn’t seem to fall asleep, I decided to read the Bible, knowing that was where I would find the comfort my heart longed for. I was reading a passage in Luke about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. This was a story I had read often, but that night, I heard God’s voice clearly speaking to me.

The two disciples were talking to each other, despondent, when they were met by a stranger. The stranger asked them, “So, what are you talking about?” They simply responded, “We had hoped for something different.” I had to stop reading. That was us! We had hoped for something very different with our pregnancy and with our family. But then as I continued to read the story, I was reminded that the stranger on the road was the risen Christ. Jesus had come for the brokenhearted. He had come for us! My heart cried out, and I started weeping. I looked down at the Bible, my vision so blurry that I couldn’t even make out the heading of the section I had just read—“On the Road to Emmaus.” Through my tears, I saw the word “Emmaus” split into “Emma” and “us.” God had given us her name, and I knew in that moment that we were exactly where we were supposed to be.

Emma was born on a beautiful snowy day. We could feel the peace around us, and on our ride home from the hospital, we felt the need to stop at our church, where we found our pastor in his office. We had been surrounded with love and understanding during our pregnancy, and that afternoon, with our pastor, we dedicated Emma and our life to the Lord.

We knew that from that moment on our lives would be radically different, and for 23 years, God has not stopped writing our story into a memorable tale.

Emma started attending Jill’s House in 2014, but it took us a long time to get to that point. In my mind, I thought Jill’s House was for families who had children with different needs than ours. However, as Emma approached puberty and we began facing new challenges, we were encouraged to reconsider Jill’s House. Not just for Emma but for us!

We cautiously moved forward with our decision. Our intake meetings were successful, but we were unsure how Emma would respond to staying overnight in a new place, away from us. We worked with our intake team to create a “social story” of Jill’s House on her iPad, uploading pictures and videos of the different rooms at Jill’s House and then inserting her own picture into those rooms. The story helped us introduce her to Jill’s House and all the activities she would participate in while staying there.


When Emma’s first visit arrived, we still weren’t sure how her time away from us would pan out. Would we get a call in an hour or late at night? We never received a call, and when we picked her up at the end of the weekend, she was so happy. The staff kept thanking us for allowing them to spend the weekend with her! After a few more overnight stays at Jill’s House, she would barely wait for the car to come to a complete stop before jumping out and running into the building.

The blessing of Jill’s House goes far beyond Emma’s overnight stays—they continue in the form of family retreats, Bible studies, women’s retreats, and marriage retreats. Now that Emma is 23 years old and out of school, we have established relationships with other parents who are in the same situation as we are. We encourage one another and share resources.

Emma is nonverbal, but she is incredibly expressive, so daily maintenance can get busy and jumbled. That’s where Jill’s House blesses us the most! God led us to Jill’s House—a place that lets Emma do what she loves the most while allowing us the time to rest. She would return to a quiet and peaceful home, and rejuvenated, we would be able to completely dedicate our time to her.

Our story took a big turn, but God was so good to prepare us for it, and he continues to keep us close. Emma is such a blessing to our family and to others around us, and through Emma, we have been blessed by Jill’s House.

Thank you for making stories like Emma’s possible.