Choosing joy

At the beginning of October, I wrote that my goal for the next month was to practice blessing–to be thankful for the goodness God has given me and to spread the happiness to others.

Exhaustion and heartbreak ran thickly through the month, and I am still struggling to emerge from a season that has tried to suck me down. A few days ago, I was combing the hair of my foster daughter, her damp hair curling around my fingertips. I suddenly realized that I now had not one, but two children with unique needs. I had a houseful of people–six besides me–who needed clothes and food and love, even on the days when sickness plagued me. The homeschooling of unwilling minds, the chocolate milk that must be gotten right now, the little girl looking for a lost mother…it was all too much. Before I knew it, the tears were dripping onto her baby hair.

Still, golden moments flecked my days. Our family had fun helping some people out on the sly. My oldest son brought me coffee in bed one day when I was afflicted with a headache. Will and I had a fantastic time talking and catching up with old friends who came to see us for a weekend. As always, my children provided plenty of amusement. (At a church dinner, my five-year-old startled me when she burped loudly in my ear. I laughed so hard I almost couldn’t breathe!) And the child not born to me melted my heart every time her arms stretched out to be held.

Dorcas Smucker’s book Fragrant Whiffs of Joy connected well with me during this season of my life, because it describes ordinary life in full color, with all the shades of joy and pain. I read the book in snatches on my phone, late at night when the babies were finally sleeping. I read, sometimes giggling out loud under the covers and sometimes wiping a few tears.

The funniest parts of the book included Mrs. Dorcas leaping out of bed to protect herself while watching Gone with the Wind, a stately grandfather unceremoniously dumping himself on the ground at a failed picnic, a coffee-grounds beard, and an unexpected cat on an airplane flight.

The chapters about introspection and heavy burdens, adoption, seasonal depression, and serving the family with joy touched me. I pondered Smucker’s words about telling our own story, and about cultural appropriation. There’s much to think about in this book, but it’s presented in an easy-to-read format, thanks to Smucker’s gift for storytelling.

Fragrant Whiffs of Joy is whimsical, practical, amusing, and thoughtful, all in one. Here are some quotes to tantalize you.

First, one that shows Smucker’s delightful humor:

So the fifteen chicks prospered and grew large, stepping around the field by the henhouse with a quiet but determined gait that reminded me of Amish ladies working in the kitchen before a wedding. If I named the hens after the particular Amish cousins they each resembled, I will not admit that here.

From the chapter about seasonal depression:

The pain of winters past becomes a gift: I not only recognize signs of depression quickly enough in myself to ward it off, but I also see symptoms in others long before they have the ability to say the words for themselves. “This is what I see,” I tell them quietly. “I’m worried about you, and this is what I suggest.”

So far, no one has resented my intrusion. In fact, the opposite is often true. “I hadn’t expected the profound relief of someone noticing,” one of them told me. “It means I’m not invisible … that my pain is not falling on blind eyes all around me.”

If I could pick a favorite quote, it might be this one:

Even when it seems they’ll last forever, hard journeys do eventually finish, when the time is right. You reach the front of the church and remember your line, or at least get it close enough, the long slow walk is done at last, and the chimes ring out in the ancient belfry. As you sit on the pew and rest, you know that it was scary and hard and it seemed it would never end, but it finally did, and you are stronger, better, wiser, and braver for what you’ve just been through.

Reading this book gave me the courage to keep choosing joy, to delight in the odd humor of daily life, and to press on through the difficult spots, trusting that I will eventually be “stronger, better, wiser, and braver” for what I’ve been through.

Fragrant Whiffs of Joy can be ordered from Amazon, or directly from Dorcas Smucker, 31148 Substation Drive, Harrisburg, OR 97446. Books are $12 each plus $2 for shipping. Checks or Paypal accepted, and Smucker’s email address is

Christmas is coming, and this book would make a lovely gift for someone special!

Also, if you haven’t already, be sure to check out Dorcas Smucker’s blog, Life in the Shoe.

And now the good news: a giveaway! Dorcas Smucker generously offered a free book in exchange for this review.  Fragrant Whiffs of Joy will be given to one of my readers. If you’d like a chance at winning this book to cheer your days, please comment with one of these things:

  1. An area in which you have had to “choose joy.”
  2. Something that has blessed you and given you joy.

Giveaway will close on November 19 at 11:59 pm. I will contact the winner by email, and also announce it at the end of this post.

*This post contains affiliate links. If you order through the links, I will make a few pennies off your purchase.

The winner of the giveaway is Dorcas Byler! Thank you to everyone who responded–your words in the comments ran circles around the original post! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being so open and vulnerable. I’d love to respond to each of you personally, but I don’t want to clutter up the comment section, so I may send a few personal emails in the next weeks. I can’t promise, though, since my life right now is busier than I wish it would be. 😉

61 thoughts on “Choosing joy

  1. Rachel Miller

    Choosing joy when my son wakes me up yet again during the night after a week of 3-5hr nights, all while trying to move. My son is a source of joy… Blowing kisses, trying to wink, lighting up when daddy comes home from work, loving the outdoors and the new animals, saying “done” after prayer…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cindi

    What brings me joy? Connecting with people who are committed to God’s call in their life… Knowing something I did lifted someone’s load… My twin toddler’s chubby cheeks and sweetly lisped words and songs…. teaching my children to read… seeing the world through a child’s eyes of wonder… Summer sun and bare feet… my garden and the miracle of a seed becoming a fruitful plant.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovina Baer

    A new book from Dorcas Smucker would bring me joy!:) No, really, one thing that really helps me choose joy is music, not just the music but the message. I am amazed at the depths of meaning waiting to be discovered in the classical hymns. “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” was running through my mind the other day. I know God is the Giver and the Source of Joy, but somehow I got the picture in my mind that day of a JOYFUL God. And in Zephaniah 3:17 it even says He is joyful over His children. This amazed me, because I’m sure I’ve given God a lot of sorrow in my life. But to think that God is joyful about me…THAT gave me joy!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Judy Weaver

    It is the little irritations of life that require that I choose joy or default to frustration. Definitely an area I can continue to grow in – to choose to sacrifice my desires with joy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I realize the giveaway is done and that’s okay but I’m replying late on purpose. I just want to comment about choosing joy especially since that’s the topic of our Bible study.
    I’m choosing joy by always remembering to be thankful for all things. I read in a book that thankfulness produces joy. I can get upset and offended wtith a person who shows up at church with a confederate flag license plate or I can be thankful they are at church.
    I can get really irritated with a neighbors with noisy children or I can be joyful and thankful they have children.
    Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your wise words! I long for the church to be free from racism, and I admire your maturity and perspective. You’re right that thankfulness is a sure road to joy, and I wish you a happy holiday season as well!


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