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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christmas is coming, and this book would make a lovely gift for someone special!
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:
- An area in which you have had to “choose joy.”
- 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. 😉