And they shall be radiant.

My 30th birthday was epic. Yep, I know it’s a totally overused, dumbed down by pop culture kind of word, but I distinctly remember Jon’s enthusiasm.

“Babe your birthday is going to be epic!” 

I think he embraced the words “go big or go home” long before they ever became a catch phrase.

“Mrs. Atkins,

Your full cooperation is needed both today and tomorrow as we celebrate the epic milestone of crossing over into a new ‘decade.’ Your assistance is required. Please DO NOT leave school when you get out at 11:30. There will be a driver arriving to pick you up and transport you to the next stop on the birthday weekend. Your vehicle will be picked up at a later date.

Thank you for your cooperation and have a nice day.
Sincerely,
J. Atkins Cab Co”

And so it began. He had planned an entire weekend of surprises. New boots. Earrings. An afternoon seeing “Wreck it Ralph.” Dinner at The Melting Pot. And the next day, we took a trip to Galena, one of my all-time favorite, quaint towns. He also planned a surprise dinner with friends on another night.

The birthday fun never seemed to end.

Reminiscing about my favorite birthday mingles with a word that tumbles around my mind like clothes in the dryer.

Radiant.

And they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall be like a watered garden and they shall languish no more. Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow…and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 31:12-14.

Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces will never be ashamed.” Psalm 34:5

Life felt radiant on my 30th birthday. Glowing smiles and twinkling eyes fill every picture. I was cherished, immensely loved, and I was excited.

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But there came a day when I wondered if I would ever be radiant again.

In the early weeks emotions were lava. “Lord, these words “they shall be radiant” magnify my sorrow and even make me a little angry. How could I ever be again? I want to reflect your goodness, but how will brilliant light reflect from a shattered life?”

I tumble the word over and over. Beautiful, flourishing, stunning, dazzling, and brilliant: connotations vividly spring to mind.

“Ami you seem exceptionally well these days.”

“Thank you. I am well.” 

How marvelous that others notice! My friend’s recent words penetrate my heart with joy.

I am well. 

The tumbling word greets me like a warm blanket. Radiant A healed heart, gladness, joy and dancing: I am well.

From whence does brilliance come? “Those who look to Him are radiant…”

True radiance results from beholding Christ. Because Jesus is light unimaginable, the gospel spoken and believed has the power to make my life shine.

The grain. He is the Bread of Life.

The wine. He is the Vine.

The oil. He is the Oil of Gladness.

The flock. He is the Great Shepherd.

A watered garden.  He is the Living Water.

My life might have felt radiant 3 years ago, but if it was, birthday fun and being spoiled didn’t cause it. If there is ever radiance, it emanates from Christ alone. It’s not found in circumstances, relationships, money, or things.. Rather, radiance resides in all Jesus is, all He has done, is doing, and will do

“My people will be satisfied with my goodness.”

God is good.

“And we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the LORD who is the Spirit.”  2 Corinthians 3:18

The more I see Jesus, the more I am transformed. O Lord, that my life would be a stunning reflection of you!

33 today. It may not be an epic day, but better than epic birthdays is to be satisfied with the goodness of the Lord. My heart is glad.

I don’t know if my life radiates Christ. Certainly there are times when it doesn’t! I struggle and sin just like everyone else. But I want it to.  

Lord this is my prayer. Make me more like you. Transform me. May your reflection shine more and more accurately from my life.

Radiant

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Vivid memories.

dJsnFx“You kissed my nose,” she flirted, playfully.

The plane cruised, but the fasten seatbelt sign remained lit. There was nowhere for me to go.

Laughing, the girl behind me couldn’t possibly know how the words pierced, the pain so acute it was physical. I laid my head on the seat, still in its upright and locked position, closed my eyes, and let a book fall to my lap. The memory was vivid, as real as the tears beneath my lidded eyes.

Are you going to marry me today?”

He turned, face brimming with delight. Handsome. So handsome in the pinstriped tuxedo. Shyly I met his eyes. Happiness. I spun around, throwing my arms to the sides so he could admire a dress worn only for him.

You are incredibly beautiful!”  He pulled me in and bent down to kiss me. But in his sheer joy, he missed.

You kissed my nose!” I flirted playfully. Rapture. In that moment delight could not be robbed.

I, Ami, take you Jonathan to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for richer or poorer, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.”

On your wedding day, the last phrase rolls glibly from your tongue because death will never “do us part.”At least, that is, until both are old and go sweetly into the night, holding hands.

Yet death showed up, and ripped delight from me. Too short. Not enough time to live through better and worse and richer and poorer. In its wake it left a life radically altered.

I’ll be honest. Sometimes my heart cries out, “Prove it! Prove it God that this is good!”And I can’t say I always feel “radiant over the goodness of the Lord.”Alone. People don’t understand a woman so deeply grieving. They think my life will return to normal. But there is no normal.

When flying on an airplane seems monumental, when couples laugh and touch, when a mindless comment stirs vivid memories, still my heart clings to a figment of grace that flickers in the corner of my mind. God you are good. You are doing good. I will bless Your name.

As the flight continued, I opened my journal and penned all the words you just read, writing them as a widow of seven months. I’ve given a glimpse of life at that time.

Now I’m almost to the year and a half mark. I’m thirty-one. I’m childless. I am alone. Yet, truly I am not alone for God has carried me with tangible grace.

I love the phrase “tangible grace”. For it reminds me that grace is real and identifiable. I could recount innumerable ways God has met me with grace in the depths. He’s taught me to live again, to rejoice in the new normal, to be radiant over His goodness.

Recalling these words from months ago, the grace that leaps to the forefront is this: God already proved it.

He proved He’s good by his Son’s death on a cross. He turned his back on the Beloved, so that I could be beloved.

Romans 8:32 gives words of life and peace. “He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”Think about it. If God has already done the ultimate good through Jesus’sacrificial atonement, will He spare any omnipotent effort to do good to me?

“All things”in this verse doesn’t mean the picket fence, the big house, or the fantastic kids. It doesn’t even mean that I’m guaranteed another husband someday. But it does mean that God will sovereignly use all things for His purposes–redemption and reversal.

If it had been good for God to rescue my husband, He would have. Therefore, somehow grief is good.

He’s already proven it.