Alphabet Faith Stories: Joyful Josie

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

J: Joyful Josie. Psalm 119:2–“Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for them with all their hearts.” (NIV)

Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of joyful:

  • Experiencing, causing, or showing joy
  • A state of happiness
  • A source or cause of delight
  • To experience great pleasure or delight

Phrases associated with the word joy(ful):

  • A joyful crowd
  • Joyful faces
  • A joyful occasion
  • Joy in the Lord
  • A joyful sound

J: Joyful Josie’s Story:

“Josie smiled as she passed her grandmother’s treadle sewing machine that she kept in a prominent place of honor in her home. After all, she learned to sew on this machine. Even though 45+ years had passed, she could still remember her grandmother telling her–at the age of five–that it was time that Josie learned how to sew so that she would always be able to make her own clothes as well as sew for other people. All she needed was the desire and motivation to learn this highly creative skill. Even though Josie could barely reach the treadle, her grandmother helped her learn to sew a straight line and other stitches that she needed to perfect.

When Josie attended middle school, a home economics class was offered as an elective. Joyfully, she signed up for the class(es) and learned to use an updated model of the treadle sewing machine. She made an apron, dress, hat, soft carryall, a purse, and a blouse during the three years she attended middle school. In high school, Josie learned more advanced sewing techniques on more updated machines as she learned to make more difficult dress patterns. Her classmates noticed that Josie’s garments looked more “store-bought” than homemade and asked Josie for help in their creations.

Since Josie’s family could not afford to send her to college, she decided that she wanted to become a seamstress and to help other young women learn this skill as well. So she volunteered at the local youth center and taught sewing classes after school and on Saturdays. Josie continued to offer her services to friends and family as well. On one such occasion, her younger sister became engaged and had asked Josie if she would make the bridesmaids’ dresses. Josie had never made anything that “fancy” but instead of saying no, she agreed. She helped her sister choose the pattern and material needed for the dresses and several months later, Josie was fitting the bridesmaids with her creations–soft peach halter dresses with a floral cape. At the wedding, everyone complimented Josie on how beautifully the dresses were made.

After Josie was married and as she and her husband had to move out of state several times due to his job, she continued to seek the Lord for His guidance on what she should do with her life. Once again she turned to sewing. She continued to make dresses and clothes for her daughter from an early age on, until she outgrew “handmade” clothes. At the age of 10, however, her daughter asked if her mom could teach her and her friends to sew. But instead of treadle sewing machines, Josie purchased six brand new electric sewing machines at Walmart and set up a studio where her daughter’s friends could learn to sew. They made aprons, hats, skirts, pants, soft purses, and drawstring bags. By the end of two years, they had all learned the basics of hand and machine sewing. Other school activities/sports began to interfere with attending the sewing classes, but Josie could not have been more proud of her daughter and friends’ accomplishments. All of the parents were thankful that their daughters learned how to sew as this would be a creative skill they could enjoy for a lifetime.

Josie began to look for other ways to pass this “dying art” along to others and offered her services whenever anyone needed something special to wear for a “special” occasion. Her younger sister had moved to another State but contacted Josie about a “special project” she needed help with. Would Josie be willing to make a quilt for her grandson’s first birthday? Wait! What? Did she hear her correctly. Her sister said that when her first son was born someone made a special bear quilt for him, and even after 20+ years he still had parts of the quilt that he kept as a special memory.

After discussing what type of material and the design for the quilt, Josie reluctantly agreed. She would definitely need more advice and help doing this project no doubt. Josie’s daughter knew that her mother-in-law had made numerous quilts for baby showers and for friends/family members. So Josie now had a mentor to call on if she needed some help with the quilt.

After four months, the quilt was finished. It was 42″ x 72″ long and had a bear appliqued on the front of it which looked like he was under the covers asleep. On the back bottom corner of the quilt, her friend embroidered the name and birth date of her sister’s grandson. Josie mailed it to her sister in March and then flew out to her sister’s house in April to help celebrate her grandson’s birthday. When the parents took the quilt out of the box, they were so excited. The quilt did look a lot like the one her sister’s son had been given when he was a baby. What a joyful occasion for everyone that day.

Joyfully, and without hesitation Josie agreed to make something that she had never made before. Although the quilt was time-consuming and she spent many long hours putting it together, she could not help feel that God had given her this special “joyful occasion” to make her heart glad. The joy of the Lord was truly Josie’s strength as, despite her doubts, He would help her accomplish the task He had given her.”

Josie’s story is my story. Self-doubt and fear of doing something new can result in “never” doing what you were meant and created to do. “Let us rejoice and be glad” in whatever the Lord sets before us. He will give us the strength to accomplish all that He has for us to do despite our shortcomings and self-doubts.

May the Lord richly bless you as you continue to be a blessing to others.



Alphabet Faith Stories: Intentional Iris

I can do all things through Christ!

I: Intentional Iris. Galatians 6:9–“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (NIV)

Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of intentional:

  • What one intends to do or bring about
  • The object for which a prayer (mass or pious act) is offered
  • A determination to act in a certain way
  • Purpose with respect to something (i.e. marriage)

Phrases or quotes associated with the word intentional:

  • Intentional living is the art of making our own choices before others’ choices make us
  • Live your every day extraordinary
  • When your intentions are pure, so too will be your success

I: Intentional Iris’ Story:

“An ‘I can do it’ attitude was instilled in Iris from an early age on. When she first learned to draw a picture or ride a bike, she would tell her mom “I can do that” and she often succeeded. She grew up with two brothers who were involved in various sports activities. Iris was always copying their moves and whenever she missed the baseball or couldn’t throw the basketball through a hoop, she always told herself she could. After all, practice makes perfect. She became very competitive and intentional in everything she tried.

Her classmates always chose Iris to be on their team because they knew she would never give up and would try to bring her team to victory. So it was not surprising when she decided to try out for the gymnastics’ team and ended up being on the team that would eventually be chosen to go to the Olympics. All of her teammates had to put in countless hours after school and on weekends to perfect their performances.

Iris always believed that God had a plan for her and often read and quoted Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” She relied on God’s guidance in every decision she made and He always led her in the direction she was to go.

Did Iris and her teammates win the gold medal their first time? Two of her teammates won silver medals and one teammate won a bronze medal. Iris came close to winning the gold medal but lost to another competitor from another country. She couldn’t have been more proud of herself and her team for their outstanding efforts to do their best even if they didn’t bring home the coveted gold medal.

God continued to show Iris that He had a plan for her life. She and her team won numerous world championships before returning to the Olympics two more times. It was during their last time of competing at the Olympics that they brought home the gold medal as a team. God had blessed Iris and her teammates because they prayed together and sought God with all their hearts and were intentional to reach their goals.”

The scripture in Jeremiah 29 continues on with verses 12-13: “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” God wants us to seek Him with all our heart, asking Him what He has in mind for our lives, not just when things are going great, but for plans He has for you when life calls for a change in your current position.

Matthew 7:7-8 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” If you are desiring to know God’s purpose for your life, call upon Him and seek him, and He will direct your path because He has wonderful plans waiting for you when you do.



Alphabet Faith Stories: Humble Helen

Torn pieces of paper with words “Humility”

H: Humble Helen. James 4:10: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (NIV)

Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of humble/humility:

  • Not proud or haughty
  • Reflecting, expressing or offered in a spirit of deference or submission
  • Ranking low in hierarchy–humble positions

Phrases using humble/humility:

  • Humble apology
  • Humble position
  • Selflessness is humility
  • Stay humble
  • Humble like water
  • Knowledgeable but humble

H: Humble Helen’s Story:

“Helen grew up in a very large family (9 sisters and 3 brothers). When Helen’s father was involved in a factory explosion where he worked, Helen’s mother had to rely on getting help from the Salvation Army and other resources in order to feed and clothe her family. It would be months after the explosion before Helen’s father would return to work.

Embarrassed by their situation, Helen often accompanied her mother to the Salvation Army to pick up surplus food supplies such as butter, flour, peanut butter, etc. She never liked to stand in line because she felt she was being judged. Her mother often told her that things would change once her dad would return to work. But, in the meantime, Helen needed to be thankful for the items they received so that her mother could bake homemade rolls and bread. That thought would always bring a smile to Helen’s face because she knew how delicious those would taste.

Helen decided that instead of feeling embarrassed when she went with her mom, that she would try to help another person in some way. On one particular Saturday, she noticed a woman in a wheel chair picking up her food items. The workers tried to put all of the items on the wheel chair but couldn’t do it. Helen kept wondering where her family was but saw no one there to help her. So Helen got out of line and went to help this woman by carrying some of the items for her.

As they walked out of the building, Helen noticed a blue station wagon sitting near the curb. As they approached the vehicle, a much younger woman got out and took the food and put it in the car. She told Helen that she was this woman’s daughter and brought her there every month to pick up the items. The woman saw a puzzled look on Helen’s face, and explained that she was “too embarrassed” to go inside. After all, she didn’t need the food because her husband had a great job and they had the money to buy these things at the grocery store.

The woman thanked Helen for her help and she and her mother left. As Helen thought about this encounter with the mother and daughter, she realized that she did not need to feel embarrassed about her family’s situation. It was because of her father’s near-death experience and not being able to work for several months that brought them to the Salvation Army for help. Helen’s attitude changed that day as she humbled her heart and forgot about her situation when she decided to help someone less fortunate.

Every month that Helen accompanied her mother to pick up the food items, she looked for another person to help and she was reminded that “if we humble ourselves, the Lord will lift us up.” She continued to volunteer at the Salvation Army for two years after her family no longer needed the surplus items and helped countless individuals to feel important by “lifting their spirits” and by being a great role model to everyone she came in contact with. Her selflessness was humility.”

Helen’s story was also my story. I grew up in the projects along with my siblings (9 sisters and 3 brothers) and yes, the accident at the factory was real. My dad had first, second, and third degree burns on his body due to the explosion. Without the help of the surplus foods that we received every month, we would never have made it through our situation. But God knew all about our circumstances, and he humbled my heart to be receptive to His blessings. Along with soups and stews, my mom was able to make homemade rolls and bread which kept our family going until my dad was able to go back to work.

Matthew 23:12 says, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (NIV) Proverbs 22:4 says, “Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life.” (NIV)



Alphabet Faith Stories: Grateful Gwen

An attitude of gratitude

G: Grateful Gwen. I Thessalonians 5:16-18–“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks (grateful) in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of grateful:

  • Appreciative of benefits received
  • Expressing gratitude
  • Feeling or showing thanks
  • Providing pleasure or comfort (scents of tea or coffee)

Grateful (thankful) phrases:

  • An attitude of gratitude
  • Gratitude; my cup overflows
  • Choose to be grateful no matter what
  • Gratitude turns what we have into enough
  • Thankful with a grateful heart

G: Grateful (Thankful) Gwen’s Story:

“Gwen knew as a little girl that she wanted to become a nurse when she grew up. She was often found playing nurse with a number of her dolls. She would check their temperature, listen for their heartbeat, and cover them in band aids and bandages. Her friends would often call her “Nurse Gwen” whenever they played together.

After graduating from high school, Gwen enrolled in the nursing program at her local college where she diligently studied nursing courses and did her semester at the local hospital before taking her nursing exams to become a registered licensed nurse (RN).

Upon graduation, she got a job at the local hospital and worked in pediatrics. She enjoyed helping and working with her patients every day for several years. When it came time for her to retire, Gwen did so reluctantly. Everyone who knew Nurse Gwen, loved her and wanted to give her a going-away party to show their appreciation for her dedication and caring attitude.

On the last day of work, Gwen was asked to come to the nurses lounge where she was greeted with a special surprise party. She was really overwhelmed by their generosity and was truly grateful that they had given her this gift. They handed her a plaque for her years of service and when she read it, her eyes filled with tears of happiness. It read as follows:

‘To Nurse Gwen for her untiring and compassionate service to her patients and fellow co-workers. We will always be grateful for your dedication.’

Gwen’s spirit of selflessness and nurturing attitude was what her co-workers were going to remember her by. They made it very clear that she would always be welcome at the hospital. At that moment Gwen decided that she would volunteer 1-2 days a week.

With a grateful heart, Gwen continued volunteering at the hospital for another five years until she could no longer do so. Gwen had so many fond memories of her years as a nurse and then as a volunteer in the hospital gift shop. She was able to use her other talent and artistic creativity to set up gift displays, recommending gifts for patients’ families, and being available to listen to concerned parents of small children placed on the pediatrics ward.

Gwen enjoyed her life. When someone asked if there was one person that helped her in life’s decisions, she said, ‘I give all the praise and glory to my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of my faith, who helped me run the race, and deepen my faith and walk with him on my journey in life.'”

During this time of uncertainty as many of us face the challenges of “keeping social distance” from everyone due to the virus that has plagued our nation and the world, let us remember all of the first responders and caring nurses and doctors who have served tirelessly during this time to make our lives safer.

God is in control and let us give thanks and praise to Him with a grateful heart as we serve others.