The eldest member of our congregation, the last here of the generation called Great, Jewel DeLay was given some time ago the nickname, “Jewel Baby” by a beloved friend. And, boy, did it stick.
We learned last year that Jewel Baby joined the church the year her pastor, my husband Jerry, was born. Over the decades, she earned the distinction of being so many congregants’ stand-in Mom. She loved well and long.
Her culinary delights tickled the palates of generations of family and friends, which led to her ability to obtain multiple advance orders for any forthcoming church bake sale. What I never understood is how she was able to sell cakes she never baked. I’m sure, given other circumstances, she would have made a great Fortune 500 CEO, or at the very least a Vice President of Sales. I don’t think anyone could resist her sweet sales techniques. That’s why her orders for church cookbooks were unparalled. Jewel Baby’s efforts in part led to the almost unheard of accomplishment in this economy of her beloved church building a much-needed addition with no debt. I’ve often wondered how much of the concrete, wood, and metal might have had Jewel Baby’s name stamped on it.
Unlike others, I’ve only had the privilege of knowing her for a short time. I wish it had been longer. But in that small span, I’ve learned much from her.
First, I noticed her ability to put a positive spin on any negative comment. In other words, she never embraced a spirit of offense. Wow, if we could just bottle and sell that in our churches, how much stronger the bonds in the body of Christ could grow. It’s the spirit of offense, always looking for a reason to have one’s feelings hurt, that brings much disharmony to the church. Jewel Baby simply overlooked the offense.
Next, her lifelong faithfulness to the church she loved serves as a legacy to those who follow. Faithfulness matters. And it doesn’t just make a difference now; it makes a difference in the future. In a few months, when we open the doors to the addition and begin a new era, we’ll be reaping the harvest of unbaked cake sales and cases of cookbooks sold by a widow who gave her all for Jesus.
Jewel Baby lived out the words, “…the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). When I think about her, I think of a woman bright with God’s joy—a gladness which seemed contagious for all who knew her. Just as she delighted in surprising everyone last Tuesday, the twinkle never left her eyes.
Today, we gathered by her bedside and Jerry read again from Psalm 121. Just moments after he read, “…the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore,” she stepped into forevermore. Forevermore with Him, in joy and peace and wonder.
We’ll lay her to rest under spreading oaks on an autumn day. We’ll hold each other close, remember Jewel Baby stories, and maybe read Psalm 121 one more time.
Yes sir, she was our baby, all right.
But much more importantly, she is God’s.
“You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God” (Isaiah 62:3).
"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints"(Psalm 116:15).