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. Maria Waglet

    This sounds like a book I could benefit from reading! I would love to enter your giveaway! As to your request for comments, I have to think of recently how one day God used a Scripture to bless me and give me a Supernatural joy in the midst of a highly, distressing and disturbing situation. One morning I didn’t know how I would get through the day and felt completely “joy robbed”. The duties and needs of the day were calling loudly, but I remember crying out to God in desperation for something from Him to carry me through the day as I took a few minutes before leaving my bedroom and opened His Holy Word. It was right there….a special verse from Him that just picked me up and held me close to His heart! As I went through the day, many times as the tears lurked angrily just under the surface and waves of despair threatened to drown me, God brought His special verse to my mind! I also remember being so amazed more than once that day at the deep calm and restful joy I felt in the midst of the turmoil within!! Thank you God for Your great blessings!!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Several things that have blessed me and given me joy… recently we moved from a narrow sunless house to an old house tucked away among some trees with fresh air and a room for each of us. Each day I am still marveling at this unexpected gift from God. I love coming home from school and doing homework at home, and waking up in the morning to the sound of birds. I know that I had to give that up when I moved over here and to have God give it back blesses my heart. Then there was the old man at school, in the canteen area that I love to talk with… I love green tea lattes, and would sometimes order them at his stand but lately he never had any. I knew he felt bad for not having them so I just stopped ordering. Then the other day after a class I was eating a late dinner and he stops at my table with an unexpected green tea, made specially for me! That gave me so much joy. And then there was the family who came tonight to help us finish some final touches on our new house, and then they blessed us with a song before leaving.

    And oh, I would love this book! This is written by the mom of one of my friends that I miss a lot. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, I would love this book! I’m not an “i love to homeschool” woman but I make it work because we need to. And I’ve learned to find the joy of having my children home 24/7, there are so many things we have learned with homeschooling and do it with joy! I’m also learning so much about having joy in the midst of the everyday frustration of moving to a new community.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Bertha Dueck

    Your blog is a blessing to me! That counts, right?
    Also I was just thinking how special a simple “Good morning”, given with a smile by a sixth grader, is to this teacher.
    I enjoy Dorcas Smucker’s writings, and would love to read this book too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Zonya Gingrich

    One area in which I have had to choose joy is in my tendency toward seasonal depression. Reading Dorcas’ blog post several years ago about how she has found ways to combat her SAD helped me tremendously. Things like making sure I’m getting to bed on time, getting outside for walks even if it is cold, and taking Vitamin D have been so helpful in choosing joy in wintertime. And I’d love to win her book. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Verna

    What gives me joy? A few of the many- seeing my younger children (especially the 10 yr old son) take an interest in the preschoolers we are babysitting. Birds at the bird feeders just outside my patio doors. Friendly chats with the teenage daughter who gives me the loudest hassles. A cup of sugarfree hot chocolate in a quiet moment. Our son, who is a chief at Allegany Boys Camp, calling home. Ten children and a fiance posing with us on the oldest daughter’s wedding day, all looking sane and happy and pretty and handsome in the same moment. Winning this book would be another joy, cause Mrs Smucker is my favorite author.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Another Maria

    During this season, what gives me the most joy is my youngest child. Eighteen months old, a tousled curly head, baby voice singing and saying new words all day, hearing her happy chatter in her crib every morning, and seeing her friendship with her older siblings growing. At the moment, she’s lying on her back in a fuzzy winter outfit, holding up a big picture book with the help of her feet, giving a squeaky, running commentary on each page.

    I’m naturally a serious, sober introvert and don’t tend to smile or laugh a lot. I have been deliberately choosing to smile and laugh with her and over her, and that feels really good.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Kristy Goode

    What a great review you have done of this book! Sounds so encouraging.

    Choosing joy isn’t my strong point either. It’s been really hard to do, having my son pass away 15 months ago. Surrounding myself with Truths of Heaven and Gods promises bring me comfort and Joy.


  9. Marlene Graber

    Blessing and joy for my days – we just came through a week of refreshing revivals, and the theme song “Church of God, Thou Spotless Virgin”, each evening was a bonus sermon, so full of meaningful, beautiful phrases: “triune fullness blessing all our pilgrim days”; “far above this world’s confusion”; “leaning on His loving bosom is the Church, His chosen bride”. With that, the thought that Jesus is just anxious to come and claim “His Bride”! Talk about feeling loved!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Jul

    I have followed your blog for some time and have found so many parts of your journey to resonate with me. The post, To Leave or Not To Leave? in particular, was very encouraging at a crucial point in our journey- which continues to present opportunities to choose joy! I also feel blessed that God has adopted us into his family and his children can encourage each other regardless of ones background, present circumstances, etc.
    I enjoy Dorcas’s blog and would be delighted to have one of her books!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Choosing Joy is my every-day quest. Romans 8:28-29 are my life verses and they have helped me to make that choice many many times over! I find my greatest earthly joy in my five children, their spouses, and the 13 grandchildren they have given us (so far)! 😉. I am a big Dorcas fan and I’d love to win.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Heather King

    I really enjoy Dorcas’ books and haven’t read this one. A place where I often have to choose joy is in serving my family their daily physical nutrition. 🙂 Cooking is one of my lesser loves and the hunger of growing boys never ends. 🙂 Joy was given to me on a recent Sunday afternoon when I came down from putting the baby to bed for a nap and the dishes were done by my sweet husband because he noticed that I was tired. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  13. elsiefaith

    Where to begin…? I am so blessed by your writing and the Life coming through… Your boldness to write about the hard things or things not all your readers may want to hear as well..
    Something that has deeply blessed me and brought me joy recently is i went through a very challenging last few weeks on our trip to Israel, climaxing in taking my 1 year old to the emergency room and seeing him experience 7 seizures in one day… through it all I felt a deep peace; a big part of that came from a vision I had seen the day before it happened that was a warning and heads up from God… I felt so incredibly loved that he would let me know what was about to happen and it gave me the confidence that everything would be alright.
    But I wasn’t prepared for the wave of emotions when it was all over… the relief and the tears that came whenever they wanted. I felt so weak and like I was somehow failing God but I couldn’t get away from the emotions I was unprepared for and couldn’t understand…
    But what blessed me was two things– the first was that the people living around me said before I left that they saw me walking in so much peace through it all. I stammered and said… but it’s been so hard, I’ve been struggling so much the last little while! And these dear people replied that they couldn’t even tell I’d been through anything rough! I was so amazed and said “that’s gotta be God!!” And I started realizing that my feelings and my reality aren’t necessarily the same… not my Reality in Christ. That when we are weak, it is possible to actually be living and walking in His strength… that we are “more than conquerors ” in every situation. That our spirit being connected with His makes all the difference! Who we ARE is not how we FEEL.
    The second thing was so very precious too. We were home already and my 5 yr old was walking with my 1 yr old (he was just getting steady on his feet), holding his hand. I couldn’t see them, but as they were walking together, I heard him cry this cry of fear, and I thought surely my baby had fallen! So I quickly asked my 5 year old, “did he fall?” And she said “No, he thought he was falling, but he was holding so tightly to my hand, that he didn’t!!” And immediately the Father spoke to my heart and I knew this was for me about the last few weeks. This was so amazing.. like hearing Him say “you thought you were falling but you were holding so tight to My Hand that you weren’t! That’s not how I see you..” It still brings tears thinking of it!
    Bless you, Rosina, and may Father reveal how he looks at this hard season in your life…

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I love your blog and would love to read the book too! I’ve had the opportunity to choose joy recently in being misunderstood and therefore misrepresented. It’s a blessing to be known of The Father and free to love anyway with His love. So there it is: pain that hollows out deep places in the heart that allow room for Gods love! What an amazing gift! Thank you Jesus!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Frieda Borntrager

    Recently, as we were eating at a church carryin, the ladies around the table were talking excitedly about their grandchildren. I sat and ate quietly: I was widowed young and have no children. Suddenly the lady beside me turned to me and said “Maybe we shouldn’t be talking this way, you might be offended.” I was shocked—” it is ok, I like to hear what others are doing!” I said as I choked down my food.

    I am thankful for the nieces and nephews I have, my siblings and the many patients that I have taken care of through the years. They are all part of “my family” and for that I am grateful.

    Of course, I would love to win a book!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Twila Smucker

    I have found joy in noticing the beauty of God’s creation..growing flowers and meditating on how God must love me even when it’s hard to feel it. He’s created so much beauty and cares for little things and it teches us His character. I’d love the book as Dorcas is in our extended family!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. lynnae95

    I have had to choose joy in going to my work place when I have to get up at a very early hour. I very much enjoy your blog posts; they inspire me. And, this book sounds very interesting. I would love to read it.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. You wrote this so beautifully, Rosina! I’m sorry about the hard. Keep finding joy in unexpected places.

    I’m finding joy right now in how God is gently teaching me to let go of control. It’s so freeing but SO hard. Also, sitting in a coffee shop while the snow falls outside and having blessed solitude makes joy easy for this moment. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  19. peteneros

    I have been filled with joy when sometimes faced with hard situations and my 5 year old daughter says, “Mom, let’s pray about it.” Her child-like faith is stronger than mine sometimes…

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Linda

    I find joy in gathering around the table each evening with my husband and children. In the midst of difficulty, we still have each other and we have hope and purpose in Jesus !

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Catherine Yoder

    I found joy in a very busy season of life when our youth group came and raked my mother-in-law’s LARGE lawn. It is such a blessing to not have to worry about it! And I would love to win a book!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Ruth Anna

    Winning this book would bring me joy!! 🙂 I’m a naturally optimistic person, although I also have depressive tendencies. I get overwhelmed really easily, too, and I’m also a perfectionist, so it can be hard to choose joy during moments when I feel overwhelmed. It is especially tough when I feel stretched thin in my classroom…

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Anna Ruth

    It was hard seeing my teenage daughter make choices that went against what her dad and I taught her. But I choose joy and will love her.
    I am a blessed person and very much enjoyed the tea party today with Dorcas Smucker at my nieces house in Oregon.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Dorcas S

    I find I need to choose joy in the things like doing laundry, sweeping the floor for the 2nd and 3rd time each day, picking up toys, giving baths…this time of caring for little ones can be draining but if I find joy in each day I’ll look back with fond memories. I’m still a work in progress tho and some days forget to take joy but this is my goal. Can’t wait to read Dorcas new book!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Lucy

    We are expecting our second child and I feel incredibly blessed while the nausea lasts to be brought breakfast in bed every morning! Just eating a snack before getting up, then trying to make a real breakfast doesn’t work. I still throw up. So my dear husband kindly makes eggs and serves me. What joy to be loved so completly!

    PS I have only recently been following your blog after stumbling across your series on hearing God and hungrily reading through it. So encouraging to be reminded that God wants us to hear from him! And it’s fun to read thoughts from someone I knew long ago 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Heidi

    It hasn’t been easy to choose deep down joy since my little sunshine brother died just over 7 months ago…but something that has really helped me, is stopping to count the touches of grace that God gives throughout the day, whether they’re big and noticeable, or something small that I so easily miss if I’m not looking for it. I’ve also found that giving to others even when I just flat don’t feel like I have the energy, whether it’s a gift of time, or flowers, or whatever, gives so much joy in return. Listening to music also lifts my spirit, and helps me put my focus where it ought to be…on God instead of myself.
    I am so thankful for my friends who spark a lot of joy in my life, whether it’s discussing deep things, or giggling over some silly joke, they’ve been a big blessing to me!

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Carolyn Yoder

    I’ve wanted to comment on your blog for awhile and this seems like the right time. The book is very tempting! I love to read your posts. Often your thoughts resonate with something I’m struggling with and thinking about. I am on a journey with cancer and it’s only because of Jesus that I can be filled with joy ,though many times I have to choose joy,make a deliberate choice that regardless what happens I am so loved and so blessed. Joy and pain,hard and good seem to often go hand in hand. Cancer is a teacher,and I feel like I’m only in 1st grade. One of the many things it has taught me is how blessed I really am to have all these kind caring people around me.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Brenda

    I have been very thankful for the three children God sent to us through adoption. But I have to again choose joy when I have two sister-in-law’s and a sister who will be adding to their families next month . Why has God chosen to keep my womb closed ?

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Jori S.

    The sharing about difficult times and depression hits home. We have had two very difficult years since our oldest son married a woman who does not like us nor wants to be part of our family and lies about us, says unkind things and influences him against us. It was so unexpected and has grieved us deeply, left a hole in the family, and led to many tears and times of depression. Yet God has comforted, guided and blessed us through His Word and taught us much about praying for them and showing grace and mercy. God is good all the time!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Gabrielle

    1. Recently, I graduated from college. I’m working in my college town, but most of my friends have moved away. Although it often feels lonely, I’m learning to choose joy in the moments of reaching out for new friendships from individuals of all ages and backgrounds. Having a more diverse group of friends is giving me a new perspective.
    2. I’ve been reading “A Circle of Quiet” by Madeleine L’Engle, which has been bringing a lot of joy.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Yesterday we learned that a contract that we had on our house- which we’ve been trying to sell for 6 months- fell through, and since then I’ve had various opportunities to trust God and choose joy regardless of my disappointment. After all, the joy that comes to us by choice, is the genuine article.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Ellie

    The things that bring me joy, and the places I have to choose joy seem to be intertwined. My family brings me so many blessings and so much joy. At the same time, we are in a challenging stage of life where it takes lots of wisdom to guide them, (and lots of food to fill them!) Sometimes I get weary of it all, and then I need to remind myself to enjoy today…this time is so precious and fleeting. I love Dorcas Smucker’s writings, and I would love to win this book.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Mrs L

    Choosing joy is a daily thing. Too often I find myself first doing what’s natural…react; but I need to respond with joy. What gives me joy is when my son says “I can do it by myself now”, when for the past week or more I have needed to help him.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. I choose joy when I choose to be soft toward my husband and children and not shut down in frustration, fatigue, or overwhelm. And I choose joy by taking time to still in the presence of Love. And I am so often gifted joy through my baby whose name means place of joy. His love and delight in me and in life has been such a gift.

    Liked by 1 person

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