I was on my way to Knoxville today to get ready for the weekend with our kids home and I got teary eyed by the time I reached Dandridge and was full on crying by Strawberry Plains.  Now, I’m huddled in a corner table in Barnes and Nobles because I knew it was time to tell you this story.  So here you go.  (Soon you’ll see me at the MAC counter trying to make my face look presentable again. Don’t judge.)

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Three years and a few months ago, Steve sent me a picture on my phone of a six week old baby boy.

“Oh, he’s adorable,” I replied.  “Whose baby?”

“Maybe ours, someday,” he said.

So I picked up the phone and called him right that minute. He didn’t answer so I sat there alone with my heart racing, waiting to find out what he meant.

I mean, we had talked about adopting before. We’d even been to an attorney and asked her with fear and trembling if we were too old to be doing this  “Oh honey, you’re in your 40’s, you’re spring chickens.  Age is not the thing. Here’s the thing,” she said as she looked at our little-ish girls.  “You’re not going to get kids like that.”

What did she even mean kids like that.  So I asked her.

What I mean is, you’re not going to get adorable, perfect kids like the ones you have. You’re going to get kids with pain and problems and sometimes deep seated issues that are hard to deal with. Well, actually, isn’t that just all kids and all people, for that matter, I thought to myself. But I think I knew what she meant.

We said we wanted to pursue it but then Nick came and we thought we were done.  It was a wonderful and heart wrenching three years. But God worked a miracle (mostly in us) and now we have a budding chemical engineer that’s making all A’s.

Stevie finally called me back.

“Isn’t he adorable,” he said, never a man to get right to an explanation.

“Yes, he’s adorable but what’s going on,” I asked, impatient to find out if I needed to break out the dusty portacrib.

“His name is Thomas and his great-grandmother, one of my patients, is taking care of him and she said she’ll do anything to keep him from going into state’s custody. She’ll probably end up with him, despite her age and medical problems.  She’s a hero, Edie. And she may need our help at some point.”

Oh, okay sure.  I was both sad and relieved.  It made me question whether or not I even really still had the heart and desire for adoption. I thought about how easy my life was and how hard it would be integrating a baby back into the mix.  And I’d been a mom for 22 years already, by then. Maybe I wouldn’t even be very good at it.

But I kept Thomas’s picture on my phone and every three months for the next three years, I got a new picture and an update on our little buddy. Steve was completely in love with him.  He took videos and pictures and talked about the little fella all the time. We talked about him at home, how much he was growing, how special he was.

I remember the day Steve told me he was sitting up, then walking, then starting to talk.  I felt like I was watching him grow up before my virtual eyes and I missed him, if that even makes sense.

Then one day late last Spring on a Thursday, his great grandmother left a letter at Steve’s office asking if we’d take him for the weekend.

Steve brought the letter home and we both cried.  There had always been something so special about this kid for us, in ways that are hard to explain. It was the easiest yes.

I ran to the Knoxville the next day and got everything I thought we’d need to take care of a two year old for the weekend.  Legos, diapers, footed pajamas, a few clothes, sippy cups, and books.  Lots of books. What else was I missing? It’d been so long, I wasn’t even sure.

All day I worried.  I was so scared. Scared he would miss his surrogate mama, scared he wouldn’t sleep, scared we wouldn’t bond, or scared we’d bond too much, making the Sunday separation  a heart break.

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I don’t even know how to tell you what has happened in our hearts over this past year, except to say that we have the most little boy named Thomas—a rambunctious little gift from heaven that is so wonderful that I sometimes have to pinch myself that God has allowed us to love another child.

He jumps on the couch, pees in my shower, throws all the fruit out of my basket every Friday, makes me walk up and down the stairs 10,000 times, makes me sleep with him, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.


He came along in our lives about the time I was rewriting my book for the third time—my book about fatherlessness.  God’s timing was not lost on me and I marvel at how  gracious He is when He chooses the people He knows we need

All I can tell you is this has been the most heartbreaking, wonderful year of my life.

He’s ours as much as any person can be.  We think about him and talk about him all the time. He has a room in our house and free reign of everything.  When he refers to the dogs he calls them his dogs and he does the same with the boat and the four wheeler,  all Stevie’s tools, and everything else in our house. It’s all his. Rightfully so.

Near his third birthday, his mama agreed to let us have him baptized and he sits on my lap every Sunday, wallering (Appalachian for wallowing)  me plumb to death and slowly learning what it means to be loved by such a good father.

When he spends the weekends at our house, everything feels right in the world and when he’s gone, nothing does.

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Last weekend when he left, he cried like a baby.  And so did we. For a solid hour. He doesn’t understand  and I’m sure it’s all as wonderful and confusing to him as it is to us.

But the alternative is not to have him.

So we sit with him in the pain—not promising that we can make it easier, but promising never to leave.

Having him and not having him has left my heart raw, like a wound that never heals, an ache which nothing will ease.

And now that I’ve told you his story, I better dry my eyes and get to  Trader Joes’ because he likes to make homemade pizzas on Friday night and he’s bossy about his cheese.  He also likes to feed his dogs peppawoni’s while he works.

Hope you have a great weekend. We’ll be in heaven with our boy!


46 comments on “When Yes Breaks Your Heart”

  1. Edie,

    What a blessing for him and your family. God is so good and faithful, isn’t he?

    Your Thomas is simply adorable and lucky to have so many ppl that love him.

    Thank you for being vulnerable, honest and opening your heart with Thomas and your readers.

    I can’t wait to read your book in the fall and pray one day we’ll rent your precious cabin in Tennessee. I’ll enjoy a pot of your homemade soup maybe share my story with you.

    Much love,

    Betsy Gordon

  2. I would write some profound statement, but it is hard to type through the river of tears flowing from my eyes. He is blessed! You are blessed! Thank you for blessing us with your heart/life!

  3. What a precious, precious thing God is doing in your lives and in this sweet boy’s life. Thank you so much for sharing your heart. This is something that’s been tugging at my own heart for a while now and I’m still trying to see what God means by it. Blessings.

  4. Oh, Edie. I’m so glad you finally shared this – your, his- story. I have wondered, prayed and watched the little snippets you’ve shared here and there. He’s as blessed to have you as your are to have him. I’ll continue to pray for His story being told through Thomas’ life. Continue wallering in that love. Hugs.

  5. Well, Edie, I had thought I had missed something when you have referred to’ your boy’. Maybe I did! But, anyway, yes, I am a mess right now. He is precious. How can we all not love him? Presents come in so many packages and wrapped so differently, don’t they? May God give you grace and mercy as you help raise this little man.

  6. Edie, thanks so much for sharing Thomas with us. I can just feel the love you have for this precious little boy. And isn’t God’s timing and provision just wonderful. And I loved the part about wallering. Have a great weekend with Thomas and all the rest of your family.

  7. Whaaaaaaaaat? That is amazing! How blessed beyond measure Thomas is to you y’all in his life. I my past life, I was a social worker & know firsthand all of emotions you and your family must have. Parents who do what you do, are the BRAVEST people! ❤️

  8. I just love this, but you might not know it through my tears. I tell you what: love costs. But he’s worth it. Y’all just keep on loving him and then watch what God does.

  9. Oh I’ve been waiting for this story. I knew it was gonna be a good one, the kind that makes your cry happy and feel sad; and the kind that reminds you that God never gets tired of giving us His best gifts. Ive walked this road in a different sort of way and your words—wonderful and heartbreaking—summed it up perfectly. Thank you so much for sharing.

  10. Edie: You are an inspiration. I grew up not far from Talbott, so reading your words rang of the hills: pure, true, consecrated. Bless you and your family as you help Thomas to grow. Wallering and all…

  11. I’m speechless and yet I have so many words. How incredibly wonderful and heartbreaking. Dieing to self to give him love and security. The emotional roller coaster is so hard but so rewarding. I cannot wait to hear more. Now, Go play Legos!

  12. How sweet this is Edie! I need a tissue now. I see how he is blessing you as much as you are blessing him with your love.

  13. tears….i love this chapter in yalls story and i LOVE it that yes ma’am right while you were writing about fatherlessness he came to you. i love you.

  14. Our stories are so similar. A house full of teenagers, an insanely busy husband, days when you feel like there’s nothing left of you to give to another soul…then along comes this little one. The one you build that fortress around your heart for. The one you convince yourself you will not fall hopelessly in love with. Then somehow, these tiny hands, this tiny heart, touches yours and demolishes that fortress. Your heart hurts with all the love it contains for this little one…someone else’s child…God’s child. I KNOW how you feel. I have been where you find yourself at this moment and I have good news. It will work out exactly the way God wants it to. The Lord works all things together for good to those who love Him. Enjoy this time. Big hugs to Mr. T.

  15. I really needed to read this chapter in your life this morning. It brought tears to my eyes. I’m very blessed with a wonderful Christian family. You and your family have so much to offer. God is good.

  16. As I was reading you write about all he has access to it is a reminder of all we have inherited through Him. That alone makes me a bucket of tears, but then your story of Thomas puts it over the edge. How incredible that this child has been brought into your lives so you can love on him, love on him, love on him and point him to Christ. You are sowing big seeds and already reaping a harvest every time you look at him. I will be praying for you!

  17. Dear Edie,
    I have enjoyed your heart and your words for years-thank you for speaking LIFE into my heart. I am 47, a pastor’s daughter, wife of 25 years with 3 babes here (23,21 &16) and one in heaven. After teaching in a Christian school for 12 years I began the joyful journey of homeschooling…next year will be our tenth and last year of this sweet adventure. I appreciate your transparency and pray you know the friends that are genuine will continue to love you, regardless of what “mess” you may have {and don’t we all?!}…and I commend your family for loving this little apple dumplin’! I have longed to adopt, but in recent months have felt I was just too tired, and too old-thanks for the inspiration and the Lord wrap you up tightly in His love today! xoxo

  18. Girl, I have known in my bones that something was going on with you besides writing a book. I’m SO glad it is something so wonderful! That Thomas is one blessed kid. Good job!

  19. I agree sweet woman! You and your family know what it is to say surely your cup overflows !! Know that goodness and mercy will follow you all …,,all the days of your lives , here and there, forever! Love Thomas big BLUE eyes!! Kisses to y’all … My 10th grandbabie, Sadie Rose is due next week… Kiss kiss kisses!!;) xoxo

  20. You are blessed! And so is your precious little one. Hard to form the words when your chest is heaving from the sobs. Those little ones can just cause so much good full of grace kind of chaos. I know you will give him the love he needs. God has chose you and prepared you. I can only say soak up each second of sweetness.

  21. What a blessing you all are to this little boy.

    Each time I read one of your posts I feel a connection to you. I can’t explain it, but I do. Maybe one of these days we’ll meet and I hope to be as uplifting to you as you have been to me. 🙂

  22. I just love you and your raw and honest heart. Your perspective also. I “inherited” 6 nieces and nephews. I am single with no kids of my own. This is THE hardest thing I have ever done, thus far, in my life. Most days I feel like a failure. Am I enough for them? Can I make up for both of my sisters’ choices-especially since they chose drugs over their kids? My constant prayer is that the Lord makes up where I lack.

  23. This week, Tuesday or Wed, a single, pregnant mom-to-be is moving in to our home. We’ll never have her child as our own, thank goodness (not thank goodness because that would be icky, but thank goodness because…), because I know she has a beautifully supportive family and the baby-daddy loves her, it’s just complicated at the moment – like all the best things are. So we get to love on her for at least a few months – and maybe even after that baby arrives! Big changes for an almost-50 mama of 2, but what else am I doing right now anyway? really? I’ve been reading Radical Hospitality at one of your posts promptings, and I feel like it has helped to prepare me for this moment. This giant now. So – thankful for your words, yet again! And love this love that you’re sharing with a darling little guy. LOVE ON!

  24. I have been so curious about this precious little boy! What an incredible story of how God weaved your lives together. I also love how God was preparing your hearts for him for so long. God’s plan is awesome, even though it is usually not easy. We live in a world that seems to value comfort and ease most of all, and so those who truly surrender to God usually have lives that welcome heartache. You are living in such a delicate, vulnerable place. Praying for you!

  25. Thank you beyond words for the message of your love for this lucky little boy.
    (Former Tennessean from Morristown)

  26. God’s timing is always messy. Never convenient. Usually confusing. And in-explicably perfect. May He bless you as you care for His precious child. Thanks for sharing your heart….as always.

  27. Edie, thank you so much for sharing this story. It just makes me praise and thank God again for how he works to care for His people. He is so good, and I worship Him for it. Clearly the blessings go both ways and it will be awesome for you and yours to hear what he says as he ages. The impact that the love of Christ through His people will have on him-it’s exciting to think about. Man, God is so good. Blessings to you all!!

  28. oh my goodness what a story. blessings come in so many different packages. your little thomas is the cutest little muff ever and a lucky one to boot…but then, you are lucky to have him too. thanks for sharing this part of your life with us. it’s special to me, as this month my own little thomas (yes, that was his name!) would be 31~ so hard to believe. so give your little thomas some extra love for ME this weekend…not that he lacks love! 😉

  29. Wow! How precious you all are to answer the call and pour into this child’s life. We all know it will be hard and joyful all at the same time, but never regretful. As I looked at the picture of your family I thought what a great example of unfailing love you are to your children. It will be exciting to see how they follow your example in the years ahead. We need more children watching those who serve with pure abandonment.
    May you be blessed!!

  30. I wanted to sit down and join you the last time I saw you at ChickFilA, but all four of my littles were with me and I honestly didn’t know if you would remember me or not. I used to blog….before we brought our third child home. We met at the blogger get-together at the little tea shop in the upper room in downtown Morristown years ago. Anyways, I had asked Kelly what your story with him was and she so graciously told me. My two youngest are adopted. Ruby Kate is from Uganda and Silas is a domestic adoption. Adoption is beautiful, but so hard. It makes me look to Christ, see my need for Him, and see how I am NOTHING without a Savior all the more. Blessings to you as your sweet family cares for little Thomas!

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  32. I landed here through the advent study and OH MY HEART!!! I work in the school districts helping with Special Ed. There are so many kids that need someone to love on them. Someday I hope to have the opportunity you and your family have been given. Bless you.

  33. I am staying this week in a house on a lake and I found your book. What a blessing.
    This week has been a reunion of our blended family.
    The Lord blessed us to find the perfect peaceful house
    Full of essential oils.
    We return to our home in Az refreshed and thankful.

  34. This. Is. Amazing!! All the heart feels & tears. You and Stevie are amazing!! Tom Tom…more precious than words!! God bless your entire family!!

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