Fragrant Whiffs of Joy – A Book Review and Giveaway

Fragrant Whiffs of Joy

Fragrant Whiffs of Joy by Dorcas Smucker.  It’s book giveaway!

I have a friend who purchases brand new books to give as gifts. She reads the books first, being careful to open the pages only slightly so the reader will never know that the brand-new book she is given is not “brand new”.  I suppose I could do that with the book  Fragrant Whiffs of Joy that I received from Dorcas, but I can’t imagine reading an entire book with the spine only half-open. I’d get a kink in my neck for certain. Plus, I’ve decided I’ll keep it myself because I’ll want to be reading it again.

One thing I like about Dorcas Smucker’s writing is that she “shucks it down to the cob”.  She does so gently, but firmly. There’s no question about what she thinks or where she stands. There’s also no question that this Mennonite minister’s wife loves Jesus, her family, and her community.

She finds beauty in the ordinary days. All of us have days that are ordinary and we could find beauty in our ordinary days, if we stopped and paid attention. Too often we don’t take the time to really notice the beauty in ordinary days like Dorcas does.

Another thing that I like about her writing is that, as she deftly tells a tale, she uses intricacies that most folks don’t notice to help us see the kaleidoscope of colors that can be found in our days. By the end of her story, she neatly wraps up the pieces she left floundering out there and puts it all together.

I’ve learned a lot from Dorcas. I’ve learned a lot about relationships and being authentic. In the chapter “The Minister’s Wife,” she relates this conversation.

“Are you looking forward to the conference?” my sister asked.

“I guess so,” I said. “Except that nobody intimidates me like a Mennonite minister’s wife.”

“But,” she sputtered. “You’re a Mennonite Minister’s wife!”

“Not really,” I said, and then whispered. “I’m actually just pretending.”

I’ve learned that it’s okay to “shuck things down to the cob” (actually, I knew that already, but Dorcas helped enforce my belief that it is something we ought to do, Mennonite minister’s wife or not). I have been reminded that family dynamics in relationships don’t go away just because we grow up and live in other communities and it’s still important to claim our heritage and our family.

“You don’t have to live someone else’s life or write another culture’s story. You have a life, a history, a story of your own. It is worthy of telling, and no one else will ever tell it quite like you can. . . “

Dorcas’ book Fragrant Whiffs of Joy is just what the title says it is. Small, simple tantalizing whiffs about life, wherein we find the joy that is ours if we but seize it.

The book has thirty-six chapters, but you don’t have to read it as a book. You can read just one chapter at a time and wait for days until you pick it up again. It’s good coffee table material as well as bathroom enjoyment. If you’re like I was when my kids were small, going to the bathroom was a place to go to get some space – and some good reading. It still is!

Fragrant Whiffs of Joy

Dorcas writes about her family and her church. She writes about marriage and adoption.

“What happened next is unknown, but Steven remembers living on the streets, like so many other street children in Isumu, eating leftovers at open-air restaurants and watching the rivalry and violence among the older boys. Someone took him  Into Africa . . .  they couldn’t find any family, anywhere, for Steven.

So we adopted him  into ours.

Dorcas tells secrets that not many of us would tell. I enjoy her tales of her father and the way he sees life in slow motion. I delight in the prayer requests of her Sunday school class – from the hurt finger to the missing cat and the unborn calf.

Sometimes, when you read this book, you will howl with laughter. Other times, your heart will feel softened. And at times, if you’re a woman, you’ll find a tear in your eye.

If you’d like a chance to get a FREE copy of this book, enter your name in the drawing. If you are the fortunate winner, I’ll mail your copy – and it will arrive before December.

Christmas is coming, so if you’re looking for a gift for a special gal or woman in your life, consider getting one of her books. If you’d like to purchase a copy of this book, the cost is $14.00 ($12.00 plus $2.00 postage).

For copies of some of Dorcas’ other books, contact Dorcas at 31148 Substation Drive, Harrisburg, OR 97446.  Checks or PayPal accepted. (

Oh yes, don’t forget to sign up to be in the drawing!  Sign up in the comments below, private message me, or send me an email at  The drawing will take place on Friday, November 17, 2017.  You have until 11 PM to register to win!


A note from Gert: I am so sorry that my social media buttons are not working. If you want to share this post with a friend, you can tag your friend and click on this link.


From “Addled” to Inventor


Thomas Edison was the youngest of a large family. A hearing problem and a disconnect with his attention span (“prone to distraction”) made it difficult for him to learn. Or perhaps, it would be correct to say that it was difficult for a teacher to teach him. At any rate, his school teacher labeled him as “addled”. After twelve weeks of being in school,  his mother pulled her hyperactive child from the classroom and taught him at home.

Instead of stifling her son, she allowed him to fill his appetite for books and for learning.  She managed to do this with him learning independently.

According to the story told by Thomas years after his mother’s death, he was homeschooled after that comment from the teacher. He recalled that his mother did visit the school to speak with the teacher about the term he used to describe her son.

From that day forward, she taught Thomas at home. She recognized his abilities and encouraged him to learn and to stretch himself. She also understood his problem with being easily distracted.

Not once did she treat him as someone who was unable to learn. Not once did she focus on his seeming learning disability. She knew her son, and she knew his capabilities. With that in mind, she encouraged him to learn under her tutelage.

That young boy became a famous inventor. Were it not for him, our world would be so different now. There is no doubt that the response of his mother pushed him in the right direction to use his mind and become an inventor. That boy was Thomas Edison.

As mothers of children who are in school or out of school, there are some things we can learn from Mrs. Edison.

In today’s world, a teacher labeling a child with words like “addled” would send the parent straight to the principal or the school board. No doubt the mother would be blasting it all over social media, developing an instant following whereby she could prove that there was nothing wrong with her child, that the system was flawed, and that the teacher or school was at fault and was failing her child. This child would become entitled, feeling that all the world is a stage and he is the central figure, today and always. All the world is a stage, and the child’s performance is the best he can do and cannot be measured or downgraded by anyone. For, after all, he is a child and the world owes it to him to let him succeed.

Tell me it ain’t so!

This does not just happen among parents who are not believers. It happens in every school setting there is. A child gets his feelings hurt and one or both of the parents rush to his rescue, declaring war on the teacher, the school board, or the school system. Sometimes it happens in our own churches. A Sunday school teacher reprimands a child, and the parent gets upset.

A teacher invokes a consequence and parents get in an uproar. A rule is handed down and enforced, and suddenly the world is unfair and no child should be left behind or be made to endure such a hardship.

Mrs. Edison taught, by her example, that even when life is not fair, we can rise above that unfairness. She took an unfortunate situation and turned it into something positive – and in turn channeled her son’s mind, developing an inventor the likes of which we have not seen since.

What would have happened to Thomas had he remained in that school?  Who knows. Perhaps a teacher would have come along who encouraged him, who saw the potential in his little mind and bolstered it by her support and applause.

For Thomas, it didn’t happen. And he was none the worse for the school system that failed him BECAUSE his mother did not allow this to defeat him or to defeat her.

Her attitude shaped his world and he gave us the light bulb, the telephone, the telegraph, and so many more things. The unfairness of a label did not stifle his mind because his mother did not allow that to happen.

Thomas didn’t know life was unfair, for his mother took the situation and turned it into something positive for Thomas. She rose to the occasion, rose above the unfairness, and succeeded in outfitting her son with developing his full intellectual potential despite the unfairness of life.

Had Thomas Edison been raised to be “entitled” to have the best education, the best help for his mental distractions, the best advantage possible, think how different his outlook would have been. Instead, he had a mother who rose above the label given her son, who didn’t fault or blame the teacher or principle and proclaim it loudly for everyone to hear. We have a mother who faced the battle squarely in the eye and won the conquest.

Not only do we have Thomas Edison to thank, we should also applaud his mother.

Moms – when you think you need to right the wrongs for your kids, when you think it’s time to set things straight, when you want your child to have always and only the best, remember Thomas  Edison and his mother.

Remember that life is not fair – and the sooner your child learns it, the better he will succeed. Help him learn to rise above the difficulties instead of bailing him out. Help him accept what limitations he has, then encourage him to reach for the stars. Cheer and applaud, but don’t trample others underfoot in order to achieve success for your child. Don’t addle your child by focusing on the label. Focus instead of who he really is.

I am not saying that when adults are wrong we should applaud them. I’m not saying that speaking with an adult in private is never in order. I’m simply saying this: when we respond wrongly to what happens to our kids, it can mar them for life. Is that really what we want?

We tend to want to make sure that no one else does something that will mar them, yet we fail to consider how our own attitudes and actions can cripple them. We can raise bridge builders or we can raise delinquents who always expect others to fight their battles for them instead of owning up to their own weaknesses and wrongs.

Choose the high road; help your child respond positively when life is unfair instead of encouraging him to wallow in the mire of a wrong mindset. Teach him that in Jesus, he can do all things. Instead of trying to make an adult pay for hurting your child, model to him that nothing is too hard for God and He can help us rise above what is unjust and untrue.

When you think life is not fair for your child, remember Thomas Edison and his mother. Respond like she did. Who knows, you might be raising a son who, because of your attitude, will contribute a wonderful good to society.



Four Ways to Channel Creative Play in Our Kids


The Thing About a Child’s Play

I’m not a psychologist or a counselor, not a caseworker or a therapist, but I’ve learned a few things about raising kids. The reason could be that I’ve raised six of my own. It could be that I’ve babysat multiple nieces and nephews, or it could be that I spent a lot of my childhood in creative play. I suppose one of the reasons is that I’ve observed hundreds of kids over the years – on the playground at school, in the front yard at my house, and having foster kids in our home.

I am here to tell you that our kids are losing out because they don’t know how to play creatively. It’s not their fault. The fault lies with the adults in their lives.

Watching children at play is so educational. In listening to their conversations I learn so much about them, about their friendships, their family, and relationships. I also learn by watching them at play. This is because children “play” about the things happening in their world. They want to copy the adults in their lives, so they get to do that by playing. We especially find this helpful when we have previously unknown children through foster care in our home. Some of their hurt and heartache spills out into their play. I don’t have to sit down and say, “Tell me what’s bothering you,” because I can listen from another room and sort through their broken pieces, finding a semblance of order from what I am hearing, and a better understanding of their story. I’ve learned things they will never tell their caseworker or counselor because they were uninhibited in their play and didn’t feel responsible to give out information to a stranger.

Playing creatively helps children work at the problems they have. They become problem solvers as they play any role they have chosen that day. A child will develop more completely if he sets up his own complex situation and works through a problem rather than just watching other children he doesn’t even know work out solutions. Watch them, listen to what is happening, and you can learn as well.


So how do we do that? Here are some ideas.

Restrict cell phones, video games, videos, and tablets. In other words, get rid of electronics. Don’t use fidget spinners as a crutch. If you think your child needs it for school, then have it stay in the backpack at home. Help your child be creative, and a lot of his nervous energy will go away. Your kid does not need all those things. He might want it, but it is not a need. The reasons to restrict electronics are many-fold. You can research it yourself, but it’s a proven fact that children who hunker down in front of electronic devices are less creative than those who spend little time with devices. This is because somebody else is entertaining their minds. They don’t have to use their minds to be a couch potato.

Your kid doesn’t want to be outside when it’s a lovely day? Give him chores to do and let him choose between work and play. In a small town where we lived, a neighbor boy told his mom that he loved going to the Slabach house to play because there was always “so much to do and so much fun”. Interesting, because our boys didn’t have the “toys” he had. One reason our guys were having so much fun is that they learned to be creative in providing their own entertainment. It also helped that they had playmate siblings (another reason for having a large family instead of a small one.)

If you own a television or DVD, you’ll find it’s a challenge not to use it as a babysitter. Turn that thing off and have only set times to watch. Our home has never had a television. Our DVD player (purchased when our kids were older) is in the living room where what anybody watches can be seen by anyone. It was not used during the week or when homework was not done, and never allowed as a free-for-all.  Your child does not need to have his own television in his room. It will only alienate him from the rest of the family. Plus, how will you limit his access?                                                                                                                                                                      

Send them outside to play. Provide games and toys that make your kids think as well as move physically. Unless it’s raining or too cold, kids should be playing outside. If you don’t have a yard, take them to a park. (That will take effort on the part of the adults, which is why it often does not happen.) A sandbox, building blocks, Legos, or tinker toys are a great way for kids to develop mobility, dexterity, and design. Watching other kids in play is not the same as making their own design, whether it’s building a clubhouse, a castle in the sandbox, or pretend-cooking over a “fire”.                                                                                                                                                                  If your kids are old enough to do these things but haven’t, then perhaps you should consider why they have never had that opportunity. One day our boys decided to build a “clubhouse”. They took remnants of their father’s construction business and hammered them together. Their creation was lopsided and crooked.  It didn’t look like much of a clubhouse. Their father was not pleased because all he could see was how crooked it was – not the type of work he did in his business! Dave didn’t want anyone to see it because he felt that it was a reflection of him. I thought the clubhouse was great! The boys were 5, 6, and 8. I viewed it as a measurement of their creativity and a case for physical exercise because they spent hours designing and building. It kept them busy outside. They also had to learn relationship skills as they disagreed on how to build this thing. How much better this activity was for them than to be sitting, eyes glued to an electronic device bringing entertainment to them instead of making their own entertainment!                                                                                                                                                                                                                    When I was a kid, we spent as much time outdoors as we could. Being inside meant we’d be tackled with work to do, so we stayed outside. Sticks or old tires for horses, making cookies, cakes, and bread in our sandbox, “churning butter” with fallen leaves or making nests for our “baby birds” out of grass clippings all served to promote agility, ingenuity, and dexterity – not to mention the fact that we slept well at night because we’d been active all day in our play. Folks used to tell our mother that she had such a creative bunch of girls. Our genetics might have played into it a little bit, but I’m convinced our creativity came mostly from our play. We were doctors and nurses, school teachers, and workers in an asylum. Some of us were patients and some of us were the medical professionals. We went on field trips, swam across “oceans” in our uncle’s pasture, built igloos in the winter, and used our mother’s garden rows as different floors in a city skyscraper. I realize now that many things we acted out portrayed what we were experiencing in our lives at the moment. It was great therapy.


Encourage reading and imagination. Begin at birth. Sing and read. He won’t care if you can’t carry a tune in a bucket. It’s your voice he needs to hear. Books will become your child’s friend if he is read to regularly. A child can visit any country in the world by reading. A child who reads a lot will become a better speller and a deeper thinker. Not only will it help your child scholastically, but he will become more balanced in his thinking as he reads about people in other places.                                                                                                                                                                                        Imagination is a wonderful trait for a child to have and to develop. Our family was probably one of the poorest in our church, but my mother purchased one brand new book each month and we got to choose the book.This was our “reward” for working in her bakery and going along to help deliver bread (no allowance here for us!). We didn’t get an allowance, but we shared one book and took turns being the first one to read the new book.  One book for six girls! We treasured each one. Mama also took us to our local library (where we continually helped finance the library by our delinquent returns and were given more grace than we deserved because the librarian knew our deceased father). On snowy, wintry days when it was too cold to be outside, we were well supplied with books and found plenty of ideas to act out in our play. Sir Richard Steel said, “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” Encourage your child’s imagination instead of discouraging his making of messes because you want a tidy house or yard.

All the World’s a stage! Provide and participate (at times) with inside entertainment and problem-solving. Kids need a place where they are free to play and create. They don’t need to take over the entire house, but you need to make sure there is a place their toys can be kept that is easily accessible. Certainly, they need to clean up at the end of the day and put things away. This teaches responsibility for life in addition to giving creativity a boost. On rainy, dreary days, have tea parties (boys enjoy those too), make homemade playdough, build towers to the ceiling, and design new things with Legos or Lincoln Logs. There are board games, puzzles, and other things that can entertain kids for hours, especially if they have the attention of a parent who is participating.

A friend asked me one day how I can stand the mess of kids playing in the house. In that moment, our living room was awash of tents made out of blankets, and her kids were right in the mix. You couldn’t see the floor and there was hardly a place to sit because the furniture supported the tents they had created. “I don’t think of it as a mess; I think of it as creativity, and I just imagine in my mind how nice it will look when it’s all cleaned up,” I said.

Now, on the other side of raising kids, I’d still allow the mess and the distress and I have absolutely no regrets.


You want your children to be able to entertain themselves? You want them to be creative, to develop their minds to their full potential? It can happen, but not without effort on your part. With your encouragement, your child can be fully capable of entertaining himself, no matter where he is or what his circumstances.


The One Thing About Las Vegas


When immoral doesn’t seem so wrong

We are an immoral, desensitized people. I don’t even know the half, nor do I want to know.

What we hear often enough, long enough and loudly enough, we will eventually end up believing as truth. What used to be considered “immoral” has changed to “okay” because so many others are doing it. Even advertisers try to make light of sin. Instead of reckoning with the consequences down the road, sin is beautified. Instead of calling it what it truly is, today’s messages offer immoral behavior as a logical and thus an acceptable alternative.

Why else does a billboard inside the Las Vegas airport have a sign like this?


To deny, in this case, is to lie. Yet, the wrong of lying is minimized by these words, “Deny, deny, deny.”

Why does this sign not say, “Lie, lie, lie.”?

If we’re honest, we know why.

This sign is one of the first things a visitor sees and one of the last he notices when he flies into and out of the Las Vegas airport.

Allow me.

Sin City

Las Vegas. Where people go to gamble, spend money, and participate in events. Where prostitution is rampant, but legitimized by using terms for harlots like “ladies of the night.”

Men who would never consider spending a night with a whore willingly enter “gentleman’s clubs”. What is there about adultery or spending a night with a female that makes it seem right when he enters a gentleman’s club instead of a whorehouse? There’s no difference except for the title, yet somehow, it doesn’t seem so wrong, now does it?

A man has sex with a female who is not his wife. It doesn’t seem so wrong when she is referred to as “a lady of the night.”  Let’s face it. She’s not a lady and he’s not a gentleman.

Airport billboards post signs that encourage men (or women) to be unfaithful to a spouse. “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” one billboard proclaimed.

Vegas is touted as the “sin city” – another way to make what is wrong seem okay, or even something of which to be proud. Is it? Who wants to be a part of a sin city?

What happens in Vegas does not stay there. Even if it’s not talked about after Vegas and even if no one else knows, it stays with the person. Always, there is that conscience that troubles a person. For deep down inside, he or she knows that what happened there was wrong – or else why does he or she not want to tell the world?  Why is it even supposed to “stay in Vegas”?

Little wonder then that, inside the door of the ladies’ restroom in the Las Vegas airport is a sign encouraging girls or women who have been “bought” to get help at a hotline number.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m so grateful that there are places to go for help. I’m just sad that we need to have these places. These signs tell us how sick we really are.


Embarrassment is excused with a Laugh

In our effort to hide our embarrassment, in our inability to know what to do, we laugh. It doesn’t just happen in Vegas. It happens everywhere. A husband flirts with another woman. The wife, in her uncomfortable state, acts like it doesn’t bother her, and laughs. It’s easier to do that than cry.

Girls aren’t sure how to respond to the catcalls of other guys, so they just shrug it off with a laugh. Soon we become desensitized to what is happening. It doesn’t seem so wrong. Women defend their husbands, girls defend their guys, all  in the name of “that’s just the way he is.”

Folks have been harassed and fractured to the point where they think it’s their fault and not the fault of the truly guilty party. People have become “things and possessions” instead of being viewed as a person with an eternal soul.

It’s no laughing matter and we ought not to participate in the downward spiral by pretending it’s okay when it isn’t. As believers in Christ, we should be offering light in this darkness instead of hiding behind our uncomfortable laughter.

It Happens Everywhere

Las Vegas is not the only city or the only town where infidelities and discrepancies occur. It’s just more noticeable there, for there is no attempt to deceive and hide what is happening. Rather, it’s plastered noticeably in many places and so easily noticed that soon it becomes familiar and starts to seem okay; for, after all, that’s just what happens in Vegas.

It’s not okay and the sin of Vegas is everywhere. Sin is never okay. Exploitation is wrong. Objectifying is wrong. So are fornication, adultery, and unfaithfulness.

To deny is the same as to cover up or to lie.

To laugh is saying it’s okay.

It isn’t. Sin is never okay.

Redemption is Free!

Faithfulness is a treasure which many cannot claim. Redemption can claim and restore that treasure. When we are redeemed, we return with singing to Jerusalem. And everlasting joy will be upon our heads. Every single one of us can be free, for the ground is level at the cross of Jesus.

When we are truly redeemed, Vegas will never have its hold on you – and on me.