One of the first things we felt like God said about our little boy as we were praying for him was that his story would turn hearts to worship. That was why we chose his name: Judah Rise.
Judah means “God will be praised” and Rise felt like a prophetic statement of promises fulfilled. Arise, shine, for your light has come. And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. (Isaiah 60:1)
Two years of believing God for a family landed us in this unique situation with a private adoption, and although it wasn’t what I’d ever imagined, it was the sweetest story I have ever lived inside of. A woman I had invested in through her healing from addiction wanted to give me a gift… and he had this unbelievable evangelism anointing, before he was even born. His story was the glory of God displayed in amounts of grace and mercy that I had never known.
Losing him has washed me in an even deeper grace and mercy than that.
Looking at the calendar that hangs on the wall behind my computer, I get a pit in my stomach at the realization that tomorrow is August 1. The month we were supposed to bring him home. Instead of excitement and joy, my arms are empty and my heart still aches.
I have been angry, because we live in a broken world where sin results in death, and my soul cries out for justice for all that’s been stolen.
I have been sad, because I laid down my life for months, holding nothing back, to fight for a life that God asked me to champion — and in an instant, he was lost.
I have been confused, because I know what God promised for Judah’s life, and then it never even got to begin.
Through the whole journey of fighting for Judah, I felt like God kept bringing me back to 2 Corinthians 5, where Paul writes about the ministry of reconciliation. I was challenged every time by verses 19 and 20, where it says that when Jesus died, he entrusted the message of reconciliation to us. We became ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.
God. Making his appeal through us.
The word “reconcile” is synonymous with the word “reconsecrate” — to consecrate again, to set apart or declare holy. To make something an object of honor.
What Noland and I knew Judah was teaching us, as we gave our lives in hopes that we would get to hold him and tell him he was safe at last, is that we are a people committed to reconciliation. A people unshaken by darkness as we carry the banner of HOPE that God has entrusted to everyone who says they believe.
We do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. (1 Thes. 4:13)
We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (Heb. 10:39)
So our hope banner for Judah looks like doing the very thing we knew his life would be a declaration of: PRAISE.
He went straight to Heaven, and of that I am envious. I envy the fullness of his name that he understands right now, that I won’t know until I’m in the presence of Jesus with him. I envy my grandmother who passed away last week, who gets to be with my boy before I do. I envy the way that he feels no pain while my arms ache more & more every day to hold him.
But we are banner carriers. A people who remember. A people who make alters from stones of remembrance even in our most painful places, because God is still good and He will still be praised.
So on August 8, the day we were supposed to meet our boy, we’re going out and releasing balloons. Balloons because hope always rises.
We aren’t doing it because he needs it. I’m pretty sure he is doing just fine where he is on his birthday. But we are doing it because he deserves it. Because his life is worth celebrating and his story still carries weight in eternity, and we get to be the people who carry his legacy on this side of glory.
We are doing it because we want to be a people who remember.
We are doing it because we want our other kids one day to know that they have a brother in Heaven who was worth fighting for, and that the foundation he helped build our family on is worth honoring.
We are doing it because we want to be a people who recognize and honor that God is worthy of our praise in our greatest victories and our deepest places of lack and loss.
So when we raise our hands to release birthday balloons to Heaven for our boy next Saturday, we will also raise them in praise. Because none of it was in vain. God doesn’t waste our pain and grief has never stolen any of His glory.
We would love for you to join us in honoring the life of our boy and the faithfulness of our God on Aug. 8 — to raise a banner of hope over your own life, in whatever season you may be in. To lock arms with us, and us with you, as we all cry out from different places, “He will be praised.”
If you happen to participate, we would love to see your photos and hear some of your story. Use the hashtag #BalloonsForJudah so we can have all of our hope-cries in one place. To God be the glory!