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.


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.


Three Things About Waves and a Sailboat



Half of our tribe. 2nd, 5th, and 1st. And my man.

Don’t fight the waves.

It’s true when sailing and it’s especially true about real life events and experiences.

The day was overcast as we stepped onto the sailboat for our excursion on the York River. Our captain instructed our guys in steering the boat and in putting up the sail, and we were off.

Each time we wanted to turn, we had to look at the wind vane high at the top of the mast and see which way the wind was going. Then, in contrast to what I would have done, we turned toward the wind, every time.

Our guide told us, “You don’t fight the waves. You turn toward the waves. You lean into them. If you don’t, you can go under.”

I’ve learned that about life.

Fighting what happens only hinders conquest and makes the waves more dangerous. Fighting the waves wears us out emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

We also need to be aware that our keel must be authentic. A keel is the fixed underwater part that provides stability and prevents drifting. For the Christian, the Word is our keel. It guarantees that the boat cannot sink.

Lean Into the Wind

There’s a lesson in scripture about this. Leaning into Truth will direct our course. Instead of focusing on the waves and the turbulence, we need to find the direction God is taking us, and lean into His plan.

The correct way to sail our boat is to claim scriptures that encourage us to believe in the power of God. We need to believe that His purposes are good. We need to give Him the shipwreck of our lives and allow Him to turn it into something good. That is the way we should sail.

It’s not easy. Sometimes it is just plain hard.


Don’t look at the waves. Look at the Master!

Know – and Trust – the Master of the Wind

A few weeks ago, I prayed that kind of prayer. I was on my way to meet Dave in the emergency room of our local hospital.  He was having chest discomfort and it had moved to his jaw, so I knew that meant it was probably his heart*.  Every traffic light (a total of three in ten miles) turned red as I approached, thwarting my attempt to get there quickly.

So, while I sat at the red light in Riverdale, waiting for what seemed forever, I prayed.

“God, You are good. I don’t know what is going to happen with Dave today, but You do. I know that You are good. Even if things don’t turn out the way I want them to turn out, I will still claim You as good. Even so, I ask you to spare Dave’s life – if this is Your will. But no matter what happens, I will claim that You are good.”

I shudder at sharing this because it makes me afraid of a time the waves will seem to overtake my small sailboat. I know that can happen. People can say, “Of course she can say that because her husband lived.”

I have learned to turn to the wind and not fight what happens. Fighting the waves does not change what will happen. It only weakens me and puts my focus on the waves (which will bring me down)  instead of turning my eyes to the Captain of my ship.

Just so, that day on the York River, when the guy at the helm wanted to turn the boat, he had to look at the wind vane high above the mast, notice which was the wind was blowing, and turn toward the wind.

When the sails had to be moved so that the wind would help move the sailboat, the tour guide instructed us, “Stay the course!” Once he looked at me, smiled, and said, “And that’s not just figuratively, either!”


Top Speed!

Stay the course. Don’t jump ship. Don’t fight the waves. Keep your eyes on the horizon and keep going. Don’t give up and don’t give in to the course that is set before you.

I know that every day and all the time, God is good. When life is too hard to bear, when things don’t make sense, and when bad things happen to us, God still is good. He is using those waves for our eternal good and His eternal glory.

Learning to lean into the waves ensures that my ship won’t be overcome. Learning to sail along with what comes my way ensures that I won’t be overcome with what could happen. Learning to lean into the wind and the waves ensures that I will reach my destination.

There are three things I learned on the York River that are just as pertinent to life as they are to sailing.

  1. Don’t fight the waves.
  2. Lean into the wind.
  3. Set your course in line with the wind, for He is the Master of it all.

When we know the Master of the wind, we can trust Him to guide our ship safely Home.


If you are struggling today and the waves are rocking your boat, perhaps listening to this song will be an encouragement to you. To hear the song I know the Master of the Wind, click on the link below.



*(It was his heart.  He survived a heart attack, and after the 100% blockage was removed and two stents put in, he is recovering well. God was so gracious. Please thank Him with us!)










The Two Things That Define Character


Character Defined

In the end, I discovered that my father was right when it came to things of character. My mother was the one who passed it on to us. I can’t tell you how many times I heard her say this:

There are two things that tell the character of a person: 

           settling an estate or building a line fence.

My father had no doubt seen his share of squabbling over line fences, for he was a surveyor and was sometimes called upon to settle disputes. In addition, as a man who served as an executor of many estates, I suppose he had seen and heard it all.

Perhaps that is why he felt so strongly that a person’s true character is shown when it comes to working out differences in our property, our possessions, and our money.


Character in Action

When a fence is put between two properties, there’s always a concern for the right-of-way and who gets which corner so that all is fair. Each party looks out for his interests more than the interests of the other side. That’s our human (sinful) nature.

When it’s time to settle an estate, it matters not so much how things are written in the will to be divided out. What is more important is how we respond when we think things aren’t quite fair. Unfortunately, most times we’re  just selfish enough to keep harboring what we should maybe let go. Sometimes we’re just selfish enough that we don’t consider the other side of the estate.

When it’s time to build a line fence, it matters more that those on the other side of the fence don’t have to fight to get a right-of-way. It matters more how the folks on the other side of the fence might be feeling.


Our Role Model

For the Christian, there are some things to consider because our role model is not our friend or an attorney. Our role model is not our neighbor or our legal counsel.

Our role model is Jesus. The same person Who talked about daily cross-taking to follow Him. The same God Who said we should, as much as possible, be at peace with each other. The same Savior Who gave up His rights so that we can have eternal life. The same person Who said that first,  we are to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Much as we’d like to pass it on to our kids, much as we’d like to keep it in the family when all is said and done, there will be no titles or heirloom pieces in Heaven. We won’t be able to take it with us, so let’s make certain the way we’ve obtained it – whether it’s our inheritance or our line fence –  is good, honest, fair, and true.


The Importance of Character

Today, there are families the world over who have developed a rift over the settling of an estate. They miss out on sharing holidays and family reunions. They miss out on seeing grandchildren or nieces and nephews grow up. They miss out on comradery, all because of the response of one side (or both sides) to the Will or the settling of an estate. Sometimes the rift that occurred in the first generation is carried on to the next, and the grudge is maintained. The chasm is wider and the next generation doesn’t even know what the rift was about, yet in loyalty, they carry on the rift.

There are neighbors who aren’t speaking to each other because of a line fence. Walls are built, stones are thrown, and the cold and silence become deeper and stronger. Hatred spews out, and sometimes there is violence. Is it really worth that pain to be so right?!

When we settle an estate or build a line fence, what really shows is not so much the possessions we inherit or the line on the farm. What shows is the character of those who settled the estate and of those who have built that fence.

What does your line fence say to others about your character?

What does the way you’ve settled an estate tell your family about your love for Jesus?