Sunday, January 8, 2017

It's time to say goodbye...

Four and a half years ago, Jewels of Jesus went live in the blogging world. It started with Esther and Tiffany. Later, I joined the team. Eventually new writers joined, and left, and now only I remain. 

I have been so blessed to be a part of this ministry with all of you. You have been the motivation and passion that has kept JOJ going for so long. Thank you for your encouragement and partnership in this blog and magazine.

I'm writing to let you know that I won't be continuing this blog any longer. With changes in life and commitments on the horizon, the necessary time investment to JOJ just isn't going to be possible.

But I just want to tell you how grateful I am for each of you. For your contributions of time, energy, and talent into encouraging one another through this ministry. For your testimonies of the way JOJ has challenged and blessed you. For your desire and commitment to make Jewels of Jesus the ministry it has been.

The Lord has been faithful in the little details and in the most far-reaching elements. He has done some amazing things, and He isn't stopping here!

With a new year beginning, we have the opportunity to look ahead, and seek God's will for each of our lives. He desires to use us, to work in and through us to accomplish His purposes. 

So keep shining the light of Jesus. Keep trusting His sustaining grace. Keep walking in the truth of His Word. Keep praying in the power of His Spirit. Keep being Jesus' Jewel. 

You don't need to lose contact with me, though. :) Feel free to follow my personal writing blog, Compositions for the King. I occasionally post there, when time allows me to. 

In Jesus, 

Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.
- 2 Thessalonians 3:16 -

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Colossians 1:21-22

Thought I would share a couple verses that really blessed &  encouraged me during my devotions this morning. :)

And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:~Colossians 1:21-22, KJV

Yes. I was a alien of the things of God, and an enemy of God. But He loved me, and through the blood of His cross, He has reconciled me, and now, before His sight, presents me...

-Holy. I am pure before Him.
-Blameless. I am faultless before Him.
-Unreprovable, or as NKJV says, above reproach. Others cannot criticize me, for before Him, I am perfect.

When I really started meditating on this, I was completely overwhelmed. Wow. As Romans 8:35-39 says, nothing can separate me from His love! Nothing can change my standing in Christ, if I continue in Him!

As the next verse after 22 says, "Continue in the faith grounded and settled." Let us press on in the confidence of our standing before Christ!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

You Never Change :: Part Two

A few days after the funeral, Jesse arrived home from work. Walking into the kitchen where Emily was making homemade pizza, he sat down at the table. Emily’s gaze met Jesse’s as he leaned on the table with folded hands. She immediately sensed something was amiss.
“Jesse,” she swallowed. “What’s the matter?”
Jesse’s eyes dropped and he studied his fingernails nervously.
Quickly rinsing her hands of the cheese and drying them, she sat down across from him. “Now, tell me, dear. What happened?”
“Oh, Emily,” he began. “I hate having to tell you this. But,” He clinked the salt and pepper shakers together, not sure how to continue. Looking up into her cerulean blue eyes, he went on. “The company I’m employed with has asked me to relocate from where we are now in Virginia to North Carolina.”
Emily gasped, looking at her husband incredulously. 
Jesse nodded. “That means we either have to move and sell this place, or stay here. But that also means I lose my job.”
It took a moment for what Jesse had told her to actually hit her.
Her heart picked up a faster rhythm and her forehead puckered. Emily questioned in a concerned whisper, “What are we going to do?”
“I don’t know yet.” Jesse replied, squeezing her hand. “What do you think we should do, honey?”
His wife shook her head. “Well, Jesse, I don’t know either. All this change...” Emily propped her chin in her free hand, giving a half sigh.
The two conversed for the next few minutes about their dilemma.  When baby Ian’s cries came from the bedroom, announcing his nap was over, Jesse and Emily stood up. Jesse went to Ian and brought him out to the highchair for a snack of Cheerios.
Jesse was unusually quiet that evening. He had a lot on his mind. After supper and play time, Rosie and Ian were laid down for the night. Jesse and Emily sat together in the living room, enjoying the quiet, books, and their mugs of hot chamomile tea. They also talked about the decision that was facing them: discussing the pros and cons of the two options they had.
After a bit, Emily laid aside the book she was reading, I Dare You, and leaned forward in her tan easy chair. “I think I’m heading to bed. Are you coming?” She asked as she stood up.
“In a little,” Jesse responded, looking up at his wife. “Were you enjoying your book?” He inquired, scratching his nose.
“Oh yes!” Emily answered enthusiastically as she undid her braid and shook out her hair. “Even though I just started it not too long ago, it’s already made me think about how I am living my life, and what lies are out there the devil wants me to believe. I can’t wait to read the rest!”
Jesse nodded with a tired smile on his face. “That’s great! Maybe if you like it that much I’ll read it someday.”
“Are you okay, Jesse?” Emily knew the climax and activities of the past several days were wearing Jesse’s nervous system out. “You need your rest. Please come to bed soon.”
He agreed, telling Emily, “I will, honey. I just…want to do some thinking…” Jesse’s voice trailed off.
Resting her palms on the arm of the recliner, Emily stooped and gave her husband a goodnight kiss.
“Love you, Ems!” Jesse called out gently as she opened the bedroom door, not wanting to wake little Ian sleeping in the room.
Emily looked back over her shoulder and winked, throwing a kiss. He waved back with a faint smile on his face.
The door closed, and Jesse leaned back. He tried to focus on his book again, but the thoughts running through his mind made it basically impossible. Finally, he laid it aside and bent forward in his chair. He squeezed his green eyes shut and ran his fingers through his slightly curly brown hair.
How— I mean, why…why is all this happening? All these changes...I don’t understand. And it hurts. It seems to be just one thing after another!
Jesse propped his elbows on his knees and rested his chin on his folded hands. He took a deep breath.
First it was Mama…so unexpectedly. I still can’t believe it. His eyes grew wet, but he hurriedly wiped them with the back of his hand.
And also there are all the changes in this world. It’s down to Hillary and Trump in the elections, and…and all the issues with abortion and gay marriage…it’s changing so fast and our country is drifting further from God all the time.
Jesse slowly rocked back and forth. Pausing, he noticed a piece of lint on his pant leg and flicked it onto the floor. His thoughts went on.
Then…then it is my job. I don’t know what we’re going to do about this! Are we going to move, or lose our income? Lord, please show me what to do, and please give me peace in these changes!
He felt a prompting to pick up his Bible. Grasping the worn leather cover, he let the pages fall open and quietly flipped through.
Lord, give me a verse. Give me something from You to guide me.
He skimmed the pages and kept praying. Lord, something! I feel so lost in all these changes!
And there it was.
The other verses surrounding this one seemed to fade to the background, as Jesse fixed his eyes on the special words.
For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
     ~Malachi 3:6
His eyes welled up with tears again. Although this time, they were not tears of sorrow, but of rejoicing. Jesse read the verse over and over. Gladness filled his heart.
I am the Lord, I change not... He doesn’t change! Yes, Jesus, You never change! You are true to Your Word and promise to never leave me! How could I have forgotten that?!
Jesse clasped the Bible to his chest and bowed his head in thankfulness.
 Heavenly Father…thank You for that reminder. Thank You that You never change…You never lie. You are always the same yesterday, today, and forever! Thank You that I can trust in You, because You are faithful. You are the Solid Rock I can stand on…ALL other ground is sinking sand! I know my life is completely crazy right now, and I have some pretty major decisions to make in the midst of my grief. But You are so kind, so faithful to meet me in this storm. I’m so grateful that you NEVER change, and I can count on You, even when all around me is failing. Because You are my Solid Rock, I will not be consumed. I love You, Jesus…
Quietly, Jesse laid his Bible on the coffee table. He stretched, yawned, and stood up. The troubled spirit that had haunted him minutes before had all vanished—he was resting in the confidence of his Savior. Jesse went in the bathroom and picked up his orange toothbrush. He moved the bristles back and forth, back and forth, making toothpaste foam that came and decorated his lips. He was still thinking.
He never changes. Wow. That doesn’t mean the world around me will not change, but it does mean I have a foundation to stand firm on. Of course, yeah, I’m still worried about my job and everything, but I can know my God doesn’t change and He is on my side!
Jesse rinsed his mouth out and dried his face on the towel. He studied his face in the mirror for a moment, and suddenly flashed a silly grin at himself.
“Thank You, Jesus.” He whispered to himself. “Thank You that You never change.”

-The End-
By Rachel C. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

You Never Change :: Part 1

Nothing seemed to be going right. At that moment, Jesse thought that his whole life was upside down.
 My life is a tornado! I just don’t understand. Nothing will ever be the same!
Jesse sat in the bleak hospital family room with one main question on his heart.
His green eyes were bloodshot and their usual sparkle was nowhere to be seen. He stared at the ugly blue vase on the table before him, trying to piece the jumble of the past few days together.
Heaving a sigh, Jesse slowly leaned over and buried his face in his hands. Emily, his wife, wiped a tear from her cheek. She put her arm around him and comfortingly stroked her husband’s shoulder. Emily felt a deep weight in her heart as well. She whispered something in Jesse’s ear, and he reached over and grasped her hand tightly. The two sat thus for several minutes.
The sound of stiff fabric rustling together and footsteps caused Jesse and Emily to glance up. It was the doctor entering the room.
Jesse straightened up quickly and stood, studying the doctor’s face. “Doctor, do you have any news?”
Doctor Wallace examined the two in front of him, taking in their current state of emotions. Jesse, with his sagging shoulders and tousled hair…and Emily, with tearful eyes full of concern and questions.
“Please be honest with us, Doctor Wallace.” Emily hoarsely whispered.
“Well,” the doctor began, swallowing hard. “Your mother came through the surgery fine, and is resting now…But—“ Doctor Wallace paused, not sure how to go on. Placing a hand on Jesse’s shoulder, he continued. “But I’m afraid the infection was there long enough to spread throughout her body, and it’s...causing her system to begin shutting down. I tried everything.” His voice broke as he consoled the couple. “I’m so very sorry.”
Jesse could feel the lump in his throat growing larger and his eyes were stinging. He managed to choke out, “How long does she have?”
“I am afraid Michelle has 48 hours or less.”
The last cord broke within Jesse’s heart and tears ran down his flushed cheeks. “My mother…my mama…” He cried, sinking into his seat.
Emily wept hot tears and hugged her sorrowing husband.
The doctor pitifully watched them a moment before turning and exiting the room, letting them have their much needed privacy.
That really is the least favorite part of my job. Doctor Wallace thought to himself as he walked down the tiled floor, back to his patient. I just hate being the one to break the news of a dying loved one.
“It’s just not fair.” Jesse moaned. “She was fine a few days ago! Still the same sweet mama we love and—“ The words caught in his throat and he wiped his wet cheeks before continuing. “And then she had that fall, and wasn’t doing well, and after going to the hospital we found out her gallbladder had ruptured and now this sudden surgery and—.” The distressed words tumbled out of his mouth. “Now…now she’s going. She’s leaving us. Why? Why does this change have to happen to us? Mama…”
Emily reached out and pulled several tissues from the box on the table next to them. She handed some to Jesse, and blew her own nose. “Honey, I love you. And it’s going to be alright.” She made an attempt to speak. “Keep praying about it. God loves you, too.”
Jesse sniffled and planted a kiss on her damp cheek. Standing, he hurried from the room to go to his dying mother’s bedside in the ICU.
Emily sat limply in her chair for a moment, staring at the floor in deep thought. Lord, give us Your strength. A sigh escaped her lips. Keep shining Your love on us. Emily reached into her pocket for her iPhone, and punched in her password. 1:34 am. I didn’t realize it was so late. She proceeded to group text Jesse’s two brothers and his sister, who were traveling as quickly as possible to get to their mother and the hospital. Jesus, help them to get here in time.
Over the course of the next several hours, the siblings arrived, and the foursome stood together by the bedside of their dear parent. Many tears were shed and prayers offered. Even though Mama was in a state of unconsciousness, they spoke loving words to her, held her hand, and tried to make her comfortable.
Then, the call came.
Fifty-two hours after the doctor broke the heartbreaking news; Michelle passed onto glory…and was joyfully greeted by her Savior.
A private family burial was what she had wanted. Michelle…Mama…was laid to rest beside her husband who had gone before. She was lovingly cherished and remembered at her memorial service. Many caring friends brought flowers, meals, and comforting hugs and words to Jesse, Emily and their family.
And then…normal life resumed; or rather, the “new normal”.  Jesse found it extremely difficult coming home in the evenings from work, to find his mother’s room vacant. She will never be there again…I can never speak to her ever again! His heart yearned for her to return. It wasn’t easy to repeatedly answer the question of “Where’s Gramma?” that his three year old daughter, Rosie, asked; while he himself coped with the change.

The changes weren’t over yet.

*stay tuned for part two! =)*

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Last Chance!!!!

Are you looking for a life changing experience? 

Are you wanting to deepen your relationship with your best friend, Jesus?

Is "Study and Memorize the Bible" on your list of want-to-do's, but you just never seem to get around to doing it? 

If you answered yes to at least one of these questions, then I have an answer for you. Let me introduce you to the... *drumroll*

National Bible Bee!

The Bible Bee began in 2009, inspired by the testimony of Shelby Kennedy. Shelby was a young woman who LOVED Jesus Christ and His Word. Unfortunately, Shelby passed away from cancer in her twenties, but her legacy is still changing lives today. 

The Bible Bee is a competition in which young people from the ages of 7 to 18 are encouraged to study and memorize the Scriptures. This Word is life-changing! The Bible Bee provides each contestant with a Study Guide (in which contestants are guided through an in-depth study on a book or passage of the Bible. Last year it was on St. John 1-6.) and a list of passages to memorize (last year, we memorized approximately 40 verses to memorize during the summer). 

I have participated in the National Bible Bee for five years, beginning when I was 13. I truly believe God put it in my life at just the right time. Each year, I've learned many valuable truths and the in-depth study and memorization of the Scripture has truly changed my life!! I can't imagine my life without the Bible Bee, seriously! (And I have a very vivid imagination, too, so...)

This year, 2016, is my first year of being too old to compete, which is very bittersweet to me. But I know there are many of you out there who are within in age bracket of 7-18! So...I want to challenge YOU to participate in the Bible Bee! It will change your life, I promise. 

BUT HEADS UP! Registration for the Bible Bee ENDS SOON! So don't wait around, please! If you're wanting an activity to make your summer worthwhile and life changing, GET INVOLVED IN THE BIBLE BEE! Anyone can do it, anywhere in the world! :) 

Just head over to the Bible Bee website for more information! When you're ready to register, just click the tab that says "Register" to get started! 

If you have ANY questions, feel free to post a comment below, and I will try to answer it the best I can. 

Whether or not you compete in the Bible Bee, I pray that you will find God's Word real in your life and that you will hunger and thirst for Him! 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Upward, Believer!

Rouse thee, O believer, from thy low condition! 
Cast away thy sloth, thy lethargy, thy coldness, or whatever interferes with thy chaste and pure love to Christ. Make Him the source, the center, and the circumference of all thy soul's range of delight. Rest no longer satisfied with thy dwarfish attainments. Aspire to a higher, a nobler, a fuller life. 
Upward to heaven! 
Nearer to God!

~ Charles H. Spurgeon ~

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Whatever the Test...Trust in Him

“Rachel, you’re next!”

My turn had come. The moment I had been preparing for the past four months was here. My heart pounded and my mouth felt as if I hadn’t had a drink for 24 hours. I followed the man who had called my name to the door of the testing room.
One of the testing rooms for Bible Bee Oral Rounds 

“Do your best!” he smiled as I entered the room. My mind was whirling. I felt cold. I was both very excited and very nervous. As I walked up to the front of the room, I looked around for my Dad. Our eyes met and he gave me thumbs up and an encouraging look. I got to the front of the room and stood in front of the table as I had been instructed. My judges, a man and woman, sat behind the table. The woman smiled and handed me the headset. I took it and put it on, adjusting the microphone so it was in the correct position.

She began to give me my instructions for the oral test. “You have up to 5 minutes to quote up to 3 passages. Don’t feel like you need to rush because you will have plenty of time.”

“Yes,” I thought to myself. “Do. Not. Rush!” I let out a slight nervous sigh as she finished giving me 
my instructions.

“When you’re ready, just state your name and the Bible version you will be using.”

I sent up one more prayer for strength and focus. I had to quote these three passages of scripture with as few mistakes as possible, with about thirty people listening to me! I didn’t know what three passages I would be reciting…only that they would be 3 out of the 205 passages I had memorized for the 2015 National Bible Bee. These 205 passages totaled up to over 800 individual verses and the passages all varied in length from 1 verse to 22 verses! And while I had worked diligently to memorize and perfect these verses the last 3 months, I still had those passages I struggled with. I hoped I would not receive one of those passages, but I knew all I could do was my best in God’s
Bethany, Emily, Bella, and I: waiting for testing to begin
strength. And here I was, ready to take my oral test at Nationals 2015.

Somehow, I found my voice.  

“Rachel C-----, King James Version.”

Ready or not, here I go!

The woman gave me my first reference and started the timer. “Please recite: Romans five, one through eleven.”

Taking a deep breath, I shut my eyes and began, in a shaky voice, to recite the given passage. “Romans five, one through eleven. Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. By whom also…”

I quoted the passage, not too fast, but not too slow either…thinking about each word. God showed Himself strong! Just before my oral round, I had a practice session in our room with Daddy, quoting verses and warming up so my mind was “in motion”. During that practice session, I had quoted this passage, and had a brain freeze - forgetting how the passage continued at one point in the middle of it. Because of that, I had gone over this passage several times. Now, I was quoting that same passage, which was fresh in my mind, and I didn’t blank! Praise God!

“…we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. Romans five, one through eleven.”

One down, two to go!

“John twenty, twenty-four through thirty one”, was the next passage I was given to recite.

I swallowed hard. This was one of those passages I had struggled with. But a couple weeks before Nationals, I had found a pattern to the saids and saiths that had confused me, and added hand motions. That helped tremendously. If I focused and used my motions, I could quote it right most of the time. I practiced it often. And here I was: needing to quote this passage for my oral recitation. I knew it was possible, but I must really focus under the pressure. “Lord, help me,” I silently prayed.

“John twenty, twenty-four through thirty-one. But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails…”
Waiting for Opening Ceremony to begin the first evening.
So much fun! ^_^

I was here to do my best. As I quoted the passage, I used my hand motions, careful thinking about each word before I pronounced it. I came to the last two verses, which were especially good ones…

“And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that believing ye might have life through His name. John twenty, twenty-four through thirty-one.”

I breathed a sigh of relief, for as far as I knew at that point, I felt like I had kept it all straight! Praise the Lord! Two passages down, one to go.

The woman gave me my final passage. “Please recite: Psalm sixteen.”

 “Psalm sixteen. Preserve me, O God, for in Thee do I put my trust. O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord…”

This passage was a favorite, and I knew it well. Like Romans 5:1-11, I had quoted this prior in my warm up session with my Dad. God allowed me to have one last run-through of the Psalm.  I also remember, that day, walking down the hallway to go somewhere, and I held a portion of my verse cards in my hand, reading this Psalm. I had reviewed it then, too!

I emphasized the familiar words…

“…Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore. Psalm Sixteen.”

I took a deep breath. I opened my eyes. I was done. As I removed the headset with shaking hands, the woman congratulated me and said I may go sit down. My eyes welled up with tears of happiness and relief, and through the applause of the crowd, I made my way back to where Daddy was sitting. He gave me a hug.

I sat there and sent up a prayer of thanksgiving to my Heavenly Father. God had girded me with strength, and had made my way perfect.1 I had quoted all three of my passages with no passes, no word prompts, and no tongue twist-ups. Glory to HIS name!  I had trusted Him to help me, and He did!

Closing Ceremony evening. Here's the annual "winner!"
picture! Congratulations, Delie! 
At that point, I didn’t know how many points I received, or if I made any mistakes, but six weeks later, I found out my total score of both written and oral recitation tests.

Guess what? I received…a perfect score!!! Praise the Lord! I ended up placing 34th out of all the contestants in my division of 15-18 year olds. All during the study season, I had prayed that He would bless me with a perfect oral score, and I placed my trust in Him for strength. Without Him, I knew I could not have memorized 880 verses word perfectly in three and a half months. I just had to give it over to Him, and trust Him completely for the results. It was totally worth it.

So now, I’m going to give you a dare, but it’s a good dare. I dare you…whatever you are facing in life, maybe with an upcoming test, a trip or an event you’re worried about, or any difficulty; you fill in that blank…Trust fully in God. He promises to never leave you, or forsake you.2 He is our refuge and strength and a very present help in trouble.3 Ask Him for strength. Fully rely on Him. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. He shall direct your path!4

As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. For who is God save the Lord? or who is a rock save our God? It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my high places. {Psalm 18:30-33} 

Oh…while we’re on the subject of the National Bible Bee, I really want to encourage you to compete in it, if you are 7-18 years old. I can honestly say it changed my life for the best. Digging into God’s Word will never return void! Doing the Bible Bee has been one of the best things I've ever done! :) I looked forward to competing each year with great excitement. ;) Registration for the 2016 Bible Bee is now open!!! Click HERE to go to the Bible Bee website and find out more information. If you have any questions, I would be happy to try to answer them for you. =) Blessings!

1: Psalm 18:32. 2: Hebrews 13:5. 3: Psalm 46:1-3. 4: Proverbs 3:5-6.